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"Chariots of War" Playtest Report

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DarkDream
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Joined: 12/31/1969

I went ahead on Tuesday and play tested my "Chariots of War" game with my girlfriend's next door neighbors. I wanted to have four players of two teams (red and blue faction) so my girlfriend played as well. The other three players was the dad, his son and his son's friend. The two boys were around 14-15 years old. It turned out that all three of them turned out to be avid role playing players.

Since posting the game on the BGDF, I have made some fairly significant changes:

    Used the gear-shift-and-roll-die-according-to-the-color-of-the-current-gear mechanic as seen in "Formula De".
    Eliminated the use of cards and used dice to simulate skidding, damage and ramming
    Did the auction with a total of five cards where 3 are face up and the other 2 face down (a suggestion borrowed from Joe Huber)
    Took out the betting for now
    Made the circus track a little bit shorter
    Added some rules on not having enought energy
    Changed the rule for changing lanes to make it easier
Anyway, the testing went great! Everyone quickly got the jist of the rules, and they were all soon in to it. The game went at a fast pace, with one of the boys shooting like a rocket from the starting gate to take the lead. The other three chariots battled for position, continually passing each other. The dad played more conservative around the corners and went over the safe speed only a few times. The one boy with the lead, was real daring and managed through luck to avoid serious skids. The other boy held back saving his precious energy.

The boy who got the lead to begin with won, and the other boy lagging well in behind made a gallant top speed gallop which resulted in him skidding out but ended up to involuntary hit his dad's and my girlfriend's chariot that allowed him not to swerve too far off course.

His dad made a final charge to the finish line as did his son who had exhausted his energy causing damage to the horses. They both crossed the finish line equally and the son winning as he was more in the inside lane. My girlfriend finished last by about 3-4 lengths.

To summarize after getting feedback on the elements of the game:

    Auction worked well
    Basic move mechanics worked great with the energy allowance
    Skidding around corners worked great with the dice, however, may need to make sure that it is more of a risk to go over safe speed
    The amount of damage down to all of the chariots was fairly significant, but am going to look at increasing the odds of damage.
    No voluntary rams were done! (This is a little bit of a worry)
    Still need to test out the ramming die mechanics and may adjust it
    Might be a problem with the runaway leader
Being a rather creative testing group they offered the following suggestions, which I think some I will definitely incorporate:

    In case of a tie in position after the finish line, instead of using the greater inside chariot to determine the win, use the chariot with the most energy.
    To help avoid the runaway leader in terms of money (the winner will get the most money then get better horse teams and win again and so on) by giving money to the chariots placing based on their popularity (rough estimate of chance of winning). For example, the top contender should place first and will get a small bonus, an average player places well (maybe 2nd position) and gets a large monentary bonus. The point is if a poor charioteer places well, he could win as much as the winner. The excuse would be that he got a small share from the betting winnings.
    To stop a runaway leader problem with the auction (most money gets the best stuff) give the option of a player after the auction to throw a flat fee down and pick up the topmost face down card which they would keep regardless of how good or how poor the card is. This would be explained by a faction having a training program and pulling out one of there best potential farm charioteers or horse teams.
    Another great suggestion was to have different size tracks. This would help players just learning the game (or people want a quick one) to use a smaller track. A larger track would be for the grand championship in the Circus Maximus.
    For multiple races in the game, allow individual charioteers and horse teams to gain popularity or some other denomination, which then would translate in the game to being to maybe re-roll dice or something. The point would be to give a charioteer or horse team another dimension where player's could build them up and so player's would get attached to them (not a suprising idea for role players).
    Have the possibility of a charioteer getting killed, if the chariot collapses. This will make player's think twice about doing risky things with their best player's. This would help the underdog.
    Make the damage more extreme for more extreme speeds going around corners.
    Have a blind bid for last two cards.
    Be able to sell cards at value on card to get some extra cash to buy other charioteers or teams.
We only played one race and it took about an hour for the whole thing.

This group was very enthusiastic and had great fun playing it. These guys were veteran RPG players. From your guys' experience, do these types tend to have more fun playing board games?

Any comments, questions and/or suggestions would be greatly welcomed.

Thanks,

DarkDream

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Anonymous
"Chariots of War" Playtest Report

In my opinion, the roleplaying crowd tends to be more receptive to somewhat less mainstream board games because they are used to somewhat more complex mechanics and don't feel totally boggled when the rules of a board game are more than roll a dice, move that many spaces. Of course, this is my opinion as a roleplayer.

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
"Chariots of War" Playtest Report

Sounds like a good playtest, DarkDream. It's always great when people are having fun when playing a game designed by you.

I think most RPG players are definately "gamers". Most people I regularly play games have have played RPG's in the past, or still do. RPG veterans will not be scared by a game with a lot of rules an/or complex rules, so they make an ideal initial playtesting crowd.

Anyway, good luck with "Chariots of War" and I hope you'll keep us up-to-date on this one.

- René Wiersma

Scurra
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Joined: 09/11/2008
"Chariots of War" Playtest Report

Glad to hear it went well. And yes, like others have said, role-players find it easier to get into strongly themed games (as yours clearly is.)
Be careful about getting too complicated though: although the "campaign" mode would benefit from extra atmosphere, you have to make sure that the "quick-spin" doesn't suffer as a result.

Verseboy
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Joined: 12/31/1969
"Chariots of War" Playtest Report

It sounds like a very productive playtest.

First, I want to say I am not an RPGer and have very little experience playing games with those who are. Any time you can get feedback as good as they gave you, you're way ahead. I just want to strike one cautionary note that makes sense to me in the abstract:

Make sure the changes you adopt serve to improve the game for the audience you intend to target. RPGers are likely to be undaunted by complex rules. If, by incorporating their feedback, you make your game more complicated than is ideal for your ultimate audience, then you haven't helped yourself. Does that make sense? I equate it with the Democratic presidential primaries. To win the nomination a candidate has to lean hard to the left in order to curry favor among the party activists who dominate the process at that point. But once nominated, the candidate needs to slide (if not gallop) to the center in order to have a chance at being elected.

In no way am I suggesting that RPGers can't provide good feedback, don't love their mothers, or anything else. It's obvious they did a great job testing your game. I'm just reminding you to keep your ultimate target audience in mind as you make adjustments based on one set of feedback. I guess that's good advice for all of us any time we get feedback.

Steve

DarkDream
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Joined: 12/31/1969
"Chariots of War" Playtest Report

Thanks for the comments and advice.

I think it is a good point about RPG gamers willing to settle for more complicated rule sets and things. However, I don't think my rules were too complicated but this would be better tested on a less savy group of players.

I will definitely keep in mind the fact of my target audience and the tester audience. My target audience is really my girlfriend, her family and her kids. In otherwords, non-gamers to occaissional gamers. As such the rules must be simple and the game go fast.

Any changes I make I will have to have this audience in mind. Thanks for reminding me of this Verseboy.

Because my audience is role-players I have to keep in mind the suggestions they make will tend to be more complicated and will tend towards RPG ideas (as gaining popularity like experience points). However, there were definitely some suggestions made that were really good that add to the game without necessarily making it more complicated nor taking it away from the target audience.

For example, the idea of making the winner in a tie situation the one with the most energy is a good suggestion.

Another one is having the charioteer have the possibility of dying so as to prevent good charioteers taking too much risk.

What this experience has shown me is the importance of trying to test your game with all types of people. If gamers like it, it is definitely looking good, but the proof of the pudding will be with the non-gaming audience (as is my goal).

I have a formal play testing session arranged for people at the end of this month at a local game store. I will definitely let you guys know how it went.

Again, thanks for all your comments.

All the best,

DarkDream

DarkDream
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Second Play Test Session for Chariots of War!

On Saturday I went to my local game shop to give my game a spin. The following changes I did to the game were:

Made the lane change cost 1 movement instead of 2 to encourage more ramming.

When a player skidded it would not cost any movement.

Used the new skid/ram dice with the explosion, arrow and shield symbols on all of them. I referred to them as outcome dice.

If a horse team ran out of energy when traveling at a specific speed level, there would be no disadvantage.

There were not too many people in the shop, only around four. The storeowner was there and he stepped up to play with two other guys. Once I mentioned it was a chariot racing game, they quickly agreed to play.

We played the game a total of two times over a three and a half hour period which was punctuated with interruptions of random people coming in and asking questions like, "Did you just get bored one day, and decide to make this game?" Also the shop owner had to attend to customers. There was also a lot of discussion and sometimes argument going on between the two players on the same team (“Why do you get the best chariot? “ “I want it.” “Gives it.”).

The auction part worked well, and the players seemed to like having to figure out how much cash they had and how much they could buy with. They also liked the variety and choosing the combinations to form chariot-racing teams. Everything went fine here.

The choosing of the starting lanes the players liked. The race started up fairly swiftly and each player soon got in to the hang of things of using energy and rolling the corresponding movement dice. On my second or third turn, I got rammed in to the wall, which decimated me in one shot. The crashing into the wall rule I definitely had to change to something more like roll a number of outcome dice equal to the speed level plus how many squares pushed into the wall. We decided to revoke my demise and invoke my new rule on the fly.

A couple more rams occurred, and it seemed somewhat counter intuitive to one of the players that the shield did not defend off damage from the attacker. I explained to them that you multiply the number of explosions by the number of shields (if defender) and number of arrows (if attacker). Maybe an idea is to give them the choice to nullify an arrow or a shield. Or even a shield will apply for attacker against a defender’s damage, and one of the explosion symbols has x2 for damage. Hmmmmmm. I'll think about that one.

Anyway, the cornering needed some work. When people skidded they would only skid so far (because a square did not contain a minimum speed number) and be safe. This made it stupid if you traveled at speed level five going at above a speed level of 2 and only possible skidding a maximum of two squares because the third square did not have a number on it.

The question was also raised on the difference of changing lanes opposed to being pushed on the curves. In the straight, if you get pushed aside you go directly sideways and when you change a lane you move diagonally. Well, on the curves I thought of the player having to move to the hindmost square when being pushed and moving to the foremost square when changing lanes. This turned out to be counter intuitive (the players did not like it) and it turned out you could go back and forth between squares (stupid). I think for the future the push and lane changes will be to the same square unless notified on the board with arrows.

Also with no movement being lost through skidding, you could skid all over the place without it hindering your movement through the game. It just seemed unrealistic and it made skidding not a bad thing at all. It was a bad idea for skidding to cost anything. The issue was also raised of the possibility of a player not having any movement to pay for the skid.

The movement in the curved squares was a problem throughout the two games we played that really spoiled things.

Another rule I made which may need to be revised, is if you skid three consecutive squares, the chariot overturns. This happened twice in the game, and it was believed that it should not be automatic but a roll should be involved.

For the first game, there was a come behind win by me, followed in the next game by a front-runner running away with the second win. It was noticed that almost no one went at the highest speed level of 5 as it cost too much energy. Also, as the owner pointed out, that if two horses were side by side and one went at one higher speed level than the other it was impossible for the horse at the one lower speed level to win. For a fairly close race, you could know before the next few turns you would loose.

If, however, there were overlapping amount of moves on the different speed dies then the chariot at the lower speed level would still have a sporting chance. For example, instead of the speed level 5 having a movement of 10-12 and the level 4 movement of 7-9, it could be changed to level 5 movement 10-12 with a level 4 movement of 6-10. This seemed like a good idea. The basic horses also needed a chance to beat a good horse with a max speed of 10 (the basic had 9). So I will definitely have to increase the basic horse teams max speed to 10.

The fact that the amount of energy for the speed levels was not distributed rights where no one went at a speed level five, indicated a possible revision here.

Another thing the players did not like was the fact that if a horse had no energy for a speed level it could still go at that speed level and keep subsequently going down speed levels (again not having energy to pay and moving at that level). It then made it advantageous to go really fast at the end so as to get some free movement.

I thought about it later, and came up with a solution where you would go the minimum amount of movement for that level if you had no energy. The crux of the matter was that there needed to be some penalty.

Besides these things, the players seemed to enjoy it and one guy wanted to play again after the second run. The shop owner said that if “Formula De” could be sold, this could definitely be sold.

I think if I fix up the minor rule glitches, sort out the skidding around curves part of the game and possibly tinkering with the outcome dice, I’ll be in good shape.

Any questions, comments or further ideas would be greatly appreciated.

--DarkDream

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