Thursday, November 14

NaGaDeMon 6: Local Minima

In my last post I made available a Print and Play version of Zombology. Seeing as NaGa DeMon is only a month long, I need to get the game playtested as many times and by as many people as possible, to find the wrinkles fast and iron them out, but also to crowdsource new ideas and incorporate them into the design.

For the first version I'd made a quick (though admittedly not quick enough!) prototype and taken it along to Newcastle Playtest. We'd played a couple of six-player games back to back. The feedback from the first game was that there were too many suits (each of which represents a potential treatment for Zombyism), so in the second game we discarded five of the twelve suits and it was much better. Of course this left me with only 70 of the original 120 cards, so I could only play with up to six players. I want the game to go up to ten players and be a quick filler like 6 Nimmt! So clearly, I needed to make another prototype. This one has only six suits, but with more cards per suit, so the game still goes up to ten.

With the limited opportunities available to me to try the game out myself, I posted this second version as a print and play game before trying it out, which I wasn't particularly comfortable with, but needs must - the clock is ticking. In fact this whole NaGa DeMon thing has taken me out of my comfort zone from start to finish. With my previous game design efforts (and in fact the games I published on behalf of others) I kept things fairly close to my chest while the game was in development. Of course, I tried to play them a lot, and with lots of different people, but I didn't widely publicise the theme or mechanics or anything until I was pretty much ready to go. With NaGa DeMon, I've been posting the rules (and multiple versions thereof), and making the prototypes available P&P which is a first for me.

To avoid wasting the time, expense and effort of my willing P&P playtesters (who has downloaded the PDFs, printed them out or played it? Anyone? ... Anyone?) I want to try to keep changes to the components to an absolute minimum, so they don't need to print out a new version (and cut it out, etc.) every few days. Because of the short window of NaGa DeMon I'm turning things around far quicker than normal. So I'm trying to limit myself to improvements that change the rules rather than the components.

Anyway, back to the point. I got a chance to try the new version out during my lunch break yesterday with a couple of my Games Night attendees. There were potentially eight of us, but three weren't in the office, one was prepping for a quality audit and one couldn't spare the time, so that left only three. In theory the game plays with 3 to 10, but until now it had only been played with six. A couple of the changes I thought would improve the game with fewer players, so I was interested to see how it would go.

The good news was that it worked as a game, nothing broke spectacularly and it played in the right sort of timeframe. We played two games, one lasted 12 minutes (including scoring) and the second eight minutes. Scores were 14, 13, 13 in the first game and 13, 6, 4 in the second.

The bad news was that both Dave (one of my core Codename: Vacuum playtesters) and His Nefariousness (my boss) didn't like the way that the cards went round so quickly. It's a drafting game played over 8 rounds, so with 9 or ten players you will never see all the cards in play. With eight players you'll have seen all the cards at the start of the eighth round and with fewer players you'll have seen them all sooner. With three players, you've seen all the cards in play at the start of the third round, and you'll see each card two or three times. They didn't like that. Dave also raised the point that it was possible to start a round with a handful of cards you couldn't play, since some of the cards have pre-requisites that might not have happened yet. It didn't happen in either of our games, but came pretty close at one point.

So now I need to think of solutions to those problems, ideally without changing the cards as provided in the P&P PDFs. One idea for the first one is to make the game 5 to 10 players instead of 3 to 10, another is to somehow get more cards into play as the game progresses if you're playing with fewer players.

Any ideas? There's PIPs for good ones...

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