Monday, June 30

Where's My Week Gone?

Seriously. I have no idea. I had hoped to make some progress on Zombology, ahead of tomorrow's Newcastle Playtest session, instead I made none - I didn't even get to play it during the week. It's been a long time since I had a week without a game of Zombology.

In fairness, my vanished week was largely spent playing rather than designing games. Tuesday I went to Manchester on the train for work, which meant six hours playing games on the iPad with my boss and Mal. Thursday was Games Night and Friday my brother and his girlfriend came to stay for the night on the way to visiting some friends. We played a few games of Rumis at the end of the evening after spending some time talking about what they could get to play as the next step on from Carcassonne - their current game of choice. Since they are about to move to Oxford, they needed some that plays well with two as they won't know anyone there initially. They really enjoyed Rumis and made a note of it.

Saturday after my brother and his girlfriend left, our friends from York: Paul, Lisa and their ten year old daughter came to stay for the night. We played a couple of games of Coup with the three of them before Their daughter went to sleep, then a game of Chinatown with the four adults. Paul had introduced us to Chinatown a few weeks ago when we went down to visit them and we'd both really enjoyed it - so much so that I'd tried to buy it the next day but it's currently out of print. When it's reprinted in the autumn by Z-Man I'll be rushing out to get a copy - it's an excellent game. After the ladies went to bed, Paul and I played a few more games. Paul was interested in Rumis (he'd never played it) so we played a few games (Paul loved it too) and then a game of Carcassonne: The Castle to round things off.

Sunday, during The. Daughter's nap, Paul taught us Hab & Gut (another great game!) and then we played four games of Coup.

All of this means that I only have tonight to prepare for tomorrow's Playtest session. I've a new version of Zombology half done on the computer which needs finishing off, printing out and assembling. It's changed a bit since the Newcastle Playtest crowd last played it a month ago - I've been playing it for a couple of weeks now with new rules but out of date cards, so it would be good to have the cards to match the rules! I foresee a busy evening ahead...

Monday, June 23

Back On The Case

I spent last week in Baltimore for work. It was a hectic week, working Saturday, Sunday and then Monday through Wednesday.

I had hoped to make it to a local games venue and get some gaming in like I did when attending the same show in Minneapolis last year. Sadly it was not to be - I was unable to arrange anything on BGG beforehand and I was incredibly busy, working 9am to 11pm several days with a 7am start one day. So I would have struggled to fit anything in.

I did have a few hours free on the Thursday morning before our flights home, so I'd been thinking I might head over to Canton Games and maybe grab a small game. Come Thursday morning I was understandably knackered, but I decided I'd drag my sorry carcass out of bed and head on over, only to find out that it didn't open until noon - when we were leaving for the airport. So that was a wash out too.

So not much gaming to speak of. Ian, my boss and travel companion for the week, and I managed to get nine iPad games in on the way over and a couple more on the way back, so I didn't go completely cold turkey.

Now I'm back and over the worst of the jet lag and I want to get cracking on Zombology again. I'm in the middle of doing some more art for another version that updates it to the latest rules I've been playing. I've also got to respond to the feedback I've received from the version I made available a few weeks ago and start collecting some win/loss statistics on the latest version. I need to get a decent number of games played so that I can begin to work out the likelihood of winning, maybe twenty games or so, but I need to do this for each number of players the game supports so 120 games or so. Time to get cracking!

Paul and Lisa are coming up next weekend, so I'll see if they are up for some more...

Monday, June 16

Not Gaming in Baltimore

I'm in America at the moment for work, like I was last summer. Last year I arranged to go to the Fantasy Flight Games Event Centre a couple of times and get some gaming in, and I did it without getting axe-murdered, which was an achievement. I had two great nights hanging out with Alfredo, Jay and Fred and got to experience the FFGEC and The Source which is a huge US games shop.

I had hoped to repeat the experience this year in Baltimore, but I'm a bit busier in the evenings at the convention we're attending, and my attempt to arrange some gaming action on BGG was unsuccessful. So no gaming for me :-(

Of course, when I say no gaming I'm not including the 13-15 hours of travel each way, during which I'm strapped into a plane seat, with my boss Ian beside me and an iPad full of games in my hand. Ian's a Games Night attendee, so we played a bunch of games on the way over and will probably play a bunch more on the way back.

Other than that, there's not much to report, I got the first set of feedback from the blind playtesting release of Zombology just before I left, so I'll have to go through that properly on my return. I'll amend the rules to hopefully answer so of the questions they've raised and work out which ideas the play testers suggested to incorporate in the game. Interestingly, some of the feedback tallies well with the feedback I'd had from Paul last weekend, so that's nice confirmation that Paul's ideas are good ones.

Monday, June 9

Getting Some Data

Another busy week for me. It started with Newcastle Playtest on Tuesday, then doing Zombology artwork while babysitting on Wednesday evening, Zombology playtesting on Thursday lunchtime, Games Night and then finally a weekend in York with Paul and his family.

The Newcastle Playtest was a really good session. We had eight people - the second highest attendance yet. We had a new designer (Graham), Olly again, my mate Dave for the first time plus the usual five of us. We started with a couple of 8-player games of Zombology (seeing as it technically goes up to eight players, but I'd not played it with eight for months and months). We lost both games, pulling the average win/loss ratio even further from my ideal 70/30, but everyone seemed to enjoy it, with Dan (fresh from having given a couple of his prototypes to a major publisher at the UK Games Expo) saying that it gets better and better each time he plays. Nice feedback, but there's still a way to go before it's awesome.

I made some changes in the version that I made available last week, including adding another card to each suit and moving the Cure from a 5 to a 10 (which is the amount of points it's worth at the end). The 5 to 10 thing was because there wasn't enough impetus to Cure a suit you weren't backing. If someone else had played the 3 and the 4 then playing the five would just hand them the victory. If the top card was a ten instead, then there's a strong impetus to Cure a suit since you'll do very well from it. Of course, once we tried it, it had gone the other way, and playing the ten was almost always a game winning move. In one of our games on Tuesday, Dan intentionally destroyed the Cure in the only suit he'd played all game because letting someone else play it would hand them the game. Clearly ten was too high.

As the week wore on I tried a couple more things out. Someone had suggested making the Cures value 8 at the Playtest session so, while babysitting for a couple of friends' sleeping kids on Wednesday, I started doing the layout for another version with 8 as the top card.

Next up was Thursday lunchtime playtesting. We played with the Cures as 8s that seemed to go ok. We played three games: a couple with six players and then another with four. We won two out of three, pulling things back in the right direction. This is the first time I've had a version of the semi co-op that there's actually a chance of it going either way. The first attempt way back in February was played twice, lost twice and there was no apparent chance of winning. I made a bunch of changes, and then through the next five or ten versions we've not had a single loss. And to be honest, it never felt like there was much chance of losing with those versions.

This version is clearly in the balance. As a scientist finding a cure is possible, there's something to strive for and work towards, while you try to work out which of the available suits could potentially lead to a cure. By the same token, there's a real risk of the zombie apocalypse leading to everyone's deaths. It is, after all, an apocalypse. There's got to be some chance of everyone dying. Is the balance right? Probably not. But I'm now at the point where I've got a version I can start tweaking to get the balance where I want it.

What I really need to do now is start collecting some hard data. I've started recording the win/loss results and graphing them, but what I really need is a lot more data - loads more games. Then, finally, I might have enough information to be able to make the correct decisions rather than just flailing around changing things at random in the hope the next game goes better than the last!

Monday, June 2

Zombology - Get It While It's Hot!

Off the presses that is. Zombology, my 20 minute card game about the science of the zombie apocalypse for 3-8 players is now available for download again. I've decided to make the blind playtest of Zombology freely available here in the hope I'll get more people to download it and give it a try. As with the NaGa DeMon versions, I've put links to the PDFs of the game cards (in A4 and A3 sizes) and the rules at the bottom of this post. It's 5 double sided sheets of A3 or 12 double sided sheets of A4. Plus one doubled sided sheet of A4 for the rules. Please feel free to print and cut out a copy and give it a bash.

Please note that this is a playtesting copy featuring basic artwork and while I'm reasonably happy with the way the game is progressing, this version hasn't been extensively tested and isn't finished - this is a work in progress made available to get feedback and for testing. I've only played this version a few times, so there are a few things that are possibly flaky. I'm slightly concerned that this version makes it too easy for a spoiler to make a player win impossible, so that's something to be aware of. The game is a semi co-op with the players trying to beat the game, but with only a single winner. In the last few versions the players always won, which to my mind was a bad thing - there was no risk and no feeling of striving to beat the zombies before time ran out - the players always won comfortably with plenty of time to spare. In this version we've played four games, and won two. I'm aiming for a 70% win ratio, so 50% is a little worrying, but based on far too little data at this point. In one of the games one of the players was acting as a spoiler, trying his damnedest to force a loss on everyone. He succeeded. I hope that experienced players would be about to overcome that (at least 70% of the time!) but I'm concerned that as it stands it might be too easy, which could make the game less fun for everyone else.

If you do download it please comment on this post letting me know that you've downloaded it so I can get some idea of how many people are taking a look and if you play it I would really appreciate it if you would take some time to provide me with feedback via email.

Please email me at jackson dot pope at gmail dot com with Zombology Feedback in the subject line and answers to the following questions:

  • How easy was it to get people to play the game?
  • Did you like the theme?
  • Who played the game? Were they gamers?
  • How clear were the rules and the examples in the rules?
  • Do you have any rules questions?
  • What did you like most about the game?
  • What did you like least about the game?
  • Do you have any ideas to improve the game?
  • Did the players enjoy the game?
  • Would they play again?
  • Would you be interested in buying a copy of Zombology with decent art and production quality?
  • If so, how much would you pay for it (in your currency)?

Many thanks in advance for taking the time to try it out and provide me with some feedback. I really appreciate it and hopefully you help will make Zombology a better game.

Here are the links to the files:

Thanks again for your help, I look forward to receiving your feedback!