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Disciples playtest session report

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jwarrend
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Since my latest game "The 12 Disciples" was recently up for discussion in the Game Design Workshop, I thought I'd provide a session report for all who are interested in hearing how the "alpha" playtest went.

For those who want the short version, it went well.

Now, for the more detailed version. I'll comment first on the session, and will specifically address some of the comments that were made during the workshop. Some of the playtesters are members here, and may chime in on the discussion.

We had 6 players for the game -- Vitas, Rich, Chris, myself, and Preston/Mindy (played as a team). All except Mindy have playtested several of my games before. Mindy was a friend of Preston's, and it was great to have her along. They played as a team, which worked quite well, and, I think, potentially doubles the effective number of players in the game (and it works thematically, since all players represent "teams" of disciples). Plus, both Mindy and Preston are ordained ministers, so I was constantly looking for them to shout "blasphemy!" They never did -- a good sign.

This session was without a doubt the best alpha test I've ever had, and quite possbily the best playtest session I've ever had, period. The game works really well. Everyone learned the system easily, and there are a lot of cute decision points. I took hpox's suggestion and changed the actions from "do these in order" to "do any 4 actions". This worked really well, and gave players a lot of flexibility, which was really needed. I also took Matthew's suggestion, and had Jesus move at the end of the turn, towards the town with the most Deeds, but this was optional. This worked in an interesting way; you could try to position yourself in such a way to be in the town that Jesus was going to be in, to hopefully capitalize on other players selecting the "Jesus performs a Deed" option. There are also a few Events that give Gospel tokens to players who are with Jesus, and as a result, there is definitely a desire to "follow Jesus". There also seems to be an effect of "following the Deed cards"; it seems players were very commonly clustered at one end of the board or the other, depending on where the most Deed cards were located. That was interesting as well.

One thing that was rather surprising was that the Action Tracks spent the majority of the game maxed out at 4. This wasn't too big of a hindrance, since the costs could be reduced by one if others are in the town, but it seemed like people were being a bit "cagey" with having Jesus perform Deeds to reduce the action tracks. Even so, Jesus performed 7 Deeds during the game, more than any player save one. So...I think I may need to drop the rule about "at the start of your turn, if you reveal a Deed card, advance one Action track".

The big bummer in this game was that there was no traitor. There are 12 "Goal" cards, one of them says "you are the traitor", and 10 are dealt out. The possibility that one of us was a traitor was a very satisfying source of tension for most of the game; there were quite a few points where the Traitor track had creeped up to a point where someone could have betrayed and probably come out pretty well based on the level of the Pharisees track and the number of unfinished Deeds showing. And the "guess the traitor" mechanic worked just fine! There were several incorrect accusations, some of which were met with surprise and some with suspicion ("Are you just accusing me to deflect attention from yourself?") Chris tried to use this to his advantage by deliberately acting "suspicious", taking several actions that advanced the Pharisees when others were available. I was very close to accusing him, which was what he wanted, as it would have gotten him a card draw. In fact, at one point, he started moving towards Jesus, and I was fairly sure he was going to betray Jesus and end the game. The level of tension that created for me was somewhat analogous to what one feels when marching across Mordor in Lord of the Rings. I found it very satisfying.

However, there's an event that says "reveal the last 2 Goal cards", and when we did, and found that there wasn't a traitor, we were all kind of like, "Oh, ok. Huh." It really was a huge anticlimax, and made the rest of the game somewhat lame, because the tension in performing Deeds that move up the pharisees is gone.

So...this needs a big change. First off, I think we either need to ensure there's a traitor, or dramatically increase the probability that there is. The obvious way to do this is to, during setup, pull one of the 11 "good" cards, and then shuffle the Traitor in with the remaining 10, then deal everyone 2 cards. This means there's only a 1 in 11 chance that there isn't a traitor, which is probably more appropriate. 1 in 6 is just a little too likely. Also, I think we'll have the event that says "reveal the remaining 2 goal cards" be a game ender, which is fitting since it's "The Last Supper". What I think I'll do is shuffle this card into the last 5 or 10 cards of the Event deck, and when it comes up, the traitor *must* end the game by betraying Jesus. (or, if there's no traitor, it just ends and players score out normally).

Other interesting notes...The final scores were Vitas 19/Chris 18/Rich 16 (I think)/ Mindy-Preston 15 (I think)/Jeff 10 (maybe). Once again, I lost my own game! Yes! Actually, in this case, it was because I drew a goal card that was "broken" -- it was "Get 2 pts for each deed by which you exceed the traitor", obviously no good when there is no traitor! The goals will need some tweaking, but they did have a big impact on the game (by design). Vitas was the Gospel writer, collecting 9 gospel tokens and earning "best Gospel" accolades. But, he also had the "get 1 vp for each Gospel token you hold" goal, which was hugely successful for him, and won him the game, despite having only performed 2 Deeds. Chris took a balanced approach and made good progress on both of his goals, pulling off a very close 2nd. Interestingly, at the game end, the Pharisees were at 16, and there were 2 face-up Deeds, meaning that the Traitor, had he been in the game, would have been very much in the running, but would not have won. I think that the pharisees track may be better balanced than I thought!

Most of us hoarded cards, and all had 6 or more symbols at the game end, except for Chris, who had 2, giving him 2 VPs at the game end. I like this mechanic a lot, but it made Rich feel that we should disallow "passing" as a turn option -- you MUST take 4 actions, he argues. I'm inclined to agree tentatively -- otherwise, you can be a little too cute with keeping your hand low, or with positioning yourself to be set up for Gospel tokens.

We found that the Pharisees track increased rather slowly, and as a result, the turn option "discard 2 symbols to move the pharisees or Jews back 1" was a little too powerful. No one had taken the action, but we decided to remove it from the table, and I think we'll probably keep it that way. If it comes back, it will probably be "pay a performed Deed to move the Pharisees back one", ie, it will cost you some VP to do it. It may be necessary as a "last resort", but it needs to be costly.

The Jews seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time at "-3". Rich suggested extending the tracks to +5 and -5 and having 2 points on each side that move the Pharisees, rather than just one. I like this in principle, but it might create too much motion on the pharisees track. The better option might just be to look more carefully at the card distribution and remove some of the cards that move the Jews backwards.

And finally, comments on the "last turn". In this game, it was superfluous, because there were no Deeds that anyone could perform, so we all wrote Gospels. I'm thinking that the Goal cards, combined with "symbols in hand" may be sufficiently difficult to calculate (particularly since they're secret) that the traitor's position is always uncertain, and having the extra turn may be superfluous. I may wait and see, but tentatively, I think it will probably get the boot.

So, in summary, the session went very well, and we're scheduled to play again next week. I don't exspect any huge rules changes, but I will likely tweak the goals a bit, and may make Rich's change of "you must take all 4 actions", or maybe even reduce it to just 3 actions per turn. And, I expect that I'll get rid of the "advance an action track when you draw a Deed card". But other than that, everything is working remarkably well. I'd be happy to answer any other things that came up as concerns but that I've forgotten to mention here, but basically, I think this one is off to as good a start as I could have hoped for. Again, my sincere thanks for the great suggestions that you all made during the workshop. I'll keep you posted on the progress with this one!

Best,

Jeff

zaiga
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Disciples playtest session report

Jeff,

Congratulations on a great playtest!

One thing that caught my attention:

Quote:

The big bummer in this game was that there was no traitor....

And then you go on describing what a great source of tension the possibility of there being a traitor was.

Quote:

However, there's an event that says "reveal the last 2 Goal cards", and when we did, and found that there wasn't a traitor, we were all kind of like, "Oh, ok. Huh." It really was a huge anticlimax, and made the rest of the game somewhat lame, because the tension in performing Deeds that move up the pharisees is gone.

Wasn't that the real problem then? If you just remove this card, wouldn't thatr fix the problem?

Again, congratulations and I'm looking forward to hearing how this one develops!

- René Wiersma

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

zaiga wrote:

One thing that caught my attention:

Quote:

The big bummer in this game was that there was no traitor....

And then you go on describing what a great source of tension the possibility of there being a traitor was.

Quote:

However, there's an event that says "reveal the last 2 Goal cards", and when we did, and found that there wasn't a traitor, we were all kind of like, "Oh, ok. Huh." It really was a huge anticlimax, and made the rest of the game somewhat lame, because the tension in performing Deeds that move up the pharisees is gone.

Wasn't that the real problem then? If you just remove this card, wouldn't that fix the problem?

It would fix the "anticlimax" problem, to be sure. Luckily, in this game, that card came out fairly late in the game. Had it come out early, the game would have been broken.

But I think that overall, the systems of the game are pretty heavily invested in there being a traitor in the game. So, I think that my reworking of the "Last Supper", to have it be a game-ender, fixes the game length, forces the traitor to "hurry up" a bit (because the game could end unexpectedly for him as well!), and removes the "anticlimax" problem, yet the game isn't left dangling forever while players wait for a traitor who isn't there. And, I really think that the chances of there being a traitor in the game need to be higher than 5 out of 6. 9 out of 10 might be best, but 10 out of 11 is probably easiest to machinate algorithmically (though they're both easy), so I think we might try that in the next game (or just "load the deck" so there definitely is a traitor, since we really need to know whether the traitor scoring is balanced or not).

Thanks for the note!

-Jeff

Torrent
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Disciples playtest session report

Quote:
This session was without a doubt the best alpha test I've ever had, and quite possbily the best playtest session I've ever had, period. The game works really well.
Then you go on to describe suggestions you used. Did you use these suggestions as rules for the entire game or just slipped them in during the game.

Do you think having your game in the GDW helped this be your best Alpha test or do you think it was due to a solid game before hand? IE was the GDW worth it doing before Alpha playing, or would you have been happier having it now after a first run through?

Andy

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

Torrent wrote:
Quote:
This session was without a doubt the best alpha test I've ever had, and quite possbily the best playtest session I've ever had, period. The game works really well.
Then you go on to describe suggestions you used. Did you use these suggestions as rules for the entire game or just slipped them in during the game.

With the exception of the removal of the "move the pharisees back" as a turn option, I used all the rules I described from the beginning of the game. I don't like changing the game midstream unless it's absolutely necessary.

Quote:

Do you think having your game in the GDW helped this be your best Alpha test or do you think it was due to a solid game before hand? IE was the GDW worth it doing before Alpha playing, or would you have been happier having it now after a first run through?

This is a great question. I think that the rules changes from the GDW were minor and subtle, yet they conspired to have a big effect on the game. The two biggest "improvements", I would say, were Matthew's idea of a better movement system for Jesus, and hpox's and zaiga's suggestion of allowing actions to be taken out-of-order. Those simple changes added a lot of interesting decisions to the game, and made a lot of interesting maneuvers possible, and I don't think that would have been the case had I not changed that. I also think zaiga and Scurra's suggestion of having "scalable goals" was much more successful than the fixed goals system I originally had. The possibility of "no traitor" is theoretically interesting, but stunk from a "first playtest" standpoint. Your suggestion of tidying up the last turn worked well, but it may even need to be tidied out of existence! But changing the "penalty" system for having too many symbols to a "reward" system is one of the things that I like best, as it's a nice source of tension -- you constantly want to get cards out of your hand, and drawing from the face-down pile may get you good cards, but it may also get you cards you can't use and which will fill up your hand with symbols, making you ineligible for the end game bonus. And, as a pleasant confirmation, the "guess the traitor" mechanic was actually fun, though penalty for a wrong guess will need to be tweaked.

So, am I glad I did the GDW before playtesting, or would I have waited? I think I'm happy the way it worked out. The GDW basically enhanced my enthusiasm for the game, and made me want to rush to playtest it. Before the GDW, I was planning to playtest this in late February, but since the workshop went so well, I scrambled to get it built to play yesterday. And after testing, I don't really feel that there's much left that I need GDW feedback on. There are certainly some things that need tweaking, but I think it's more a playbalance issue than "I need a new mechanic to achieve X" kind of issue.

So, I'm very pleased with the results of the GDW. The mechanics suggestions and changes worked well, they got the game much closer to what I wanted it to be while retaining the core ideals that I started with, and most importantly, the session got me excited enough to want to put this game in the "fast track" on my playtesting agenda (though I now have two games that I want to be in that "fast track", not sure how I'll juggle that...)

Thanks for your comments and some great questions!

-Jeff

Torrent
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Disciples playtest session report

Quote:
The GDW basically enhanced my enthusiasm for the game, and made me want to rush to playtest it. Before the GDW, I was planning to playtest this in late February, but since the workshop went so well, I scrambled to get it built to play yesterday.
This is one of the things I hoped you would say. In that the GDW helps in two ways, it gets you in gear to present something rational, and it brings some excitement back to a project that may have stagnated.

I noticed it with Sedjtroll in the chat working on his Flatball and SVan now in GDW talking about the excitement generated by the forum. I don't mean to steal your thread, but I see these all as wonderful testimonies as to the use and wonderfulness of the GDW. Also as something unique to this site. It acts almost as an Anti-Writers Block sort of thing.

The really frustrating thing for me is that I have to wait several months to get back to my prototype materials and playtest group. But I'm patient.

Quote:
(though I now have two games that I want to be in that "fast track", not sure how I'll juggle that...)
Throw one up and catch it with the other hand and do the same thing with the other one. If you spin the board a bit it is easier to catch. Beware of cards though, if you don't rubber band them together they just go everywhere. ;)

Thanks for letting us know how your playtest went.

Andy

SVan
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Disciples playtest session report

Quote:
The GDW basically enhanced my enthusiasm for the game, and made me want to rush to playtest it. Before the GDW, I was planning to playtest this in late February, but since the workshop went so well, I scrambled to get it built to play yesterday.

Quote:
This is one of the things I hoped you would say. In that the GDW helps in two ways, it gets you in gear to present something rational, and it brings some excitement back to a project that may have stagnated.

I noticed it with Sedjtroll in the chat working on his Flatball and SVan now in GDW talking about the excitement generated by the forum. I don't mean to steal your thread, but I see these all as wonderful testimonies as to the use and wonderfulness of the GDW. Also as something unique to this site. It acts almost as an Anti-Writers Block sort of thing.

I would like to comment on this as well. When I released Nova in the GDW, I was getting a little burnt out on it. (Working non-stop almost all the week before after already working a full time job to get the rules out of my head and into the computer was a big factor in that.) I was seriously going to push them game as far back as possible.

But that's not going to happen now. I plan on building the proto ASAP, so I can test it. My excitement for the game went from negative to positive just by allowing the feedback on it. I think sometimes we're scared to see "our babies" get ridiculed, but nothing of that sort happened for me and I don't believe I've seen it at all.

Thanks, Jeff, for sharing your playtest experience with us. I plan to do the same in a few weeks after I get a proto built and played.

-Steve

FastLearner
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Disciples playtest session report

Glad you had such a great playtest!

On the Jews track always being spiked to one end: you could make that track circular, where pluses move it clockwise (shown with an arrow) and minuses move it counter-clockwise (shown with an arrow). The "Romans move forward" could be triggered when the marker hits the 12:00 point, and it could start at the 6:00 point (with however many spaces in-between that you wanted, like 3 or so).

-- Matthew

hpox
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Disciples playtest session report

Congrats on what seemed like an awesome playtest.

Maybe the pharisee track didn't advance quickly only because there was no traitor. With a traitor in the game, it might advance too quickly. So usually, I'd drool over axing an action but in that case trying a game with a traitor first might be wiser.

I'm glad the "guess the traitor" worked as you wanted, didn't catch from the rules that there was an advantage at being wrongfully accused. Indeed, this adds something interesting.

When is your next playtest? Looking foward to reading it.

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

hpox wrote:

Maybe the pharisee track didn't advance quickly only because there was no traitor. With a traitor in the game, it might advance too quickly. So usually, I'd drool over axing an action but in that case trying a game with a traitor first might be wiser.

I think the idea was that to advance the Pharisees track requires performing Deeds that have "advance the Pharisees" as a consequence (or performing Deeds that cause the Jews to hit either end of their track, which is probably a little less common).

The problem was, almost all of the Deeds in the game were performed, so I don't think it was just a collective avoidance of "dangerous" Deeds effect. Additionally, having cards in your hand seemed easy, and indeed, since you get rewarded if you have few cards in your hand at the game end, paying 2 symbols to make life harder for the traitor is a no-brainer, and is too easy. I think having to pay a completed Deed is the better choice, so I think we'll leave in the option, but with that as the cost instead.

Quote:

I'm glad the "guess the traitor" worked as you wanted, didn't catch from the rules that there was an advantage at being wrongfully accused. Indeed, this adds something interesting.

It wasn't in the rules at the time, but I decided based on Fast's comments, among others, that there was no penalty to guessing. What we're working on is identifying whether the card paid to the "incorrectly accused player" should come from your hand or from the deck. It seems that because of the "unused symbols score points for the player with the fewest" mechanic, we're having a hard time identifying whether cards in your hand are necessarily a good thing or a bad thing!

Quote:

When is your next playtest? Looking foward to reading it.

Should be next Thursday, if not before. I will keep you guys informed. Thanks again!

-Jeff

Scurra
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Disciples playtest session report

Well since I thought the game was pretty well constructed to begin with, I'm not surprised the alpha test went well :)

I'm very glad to hear that it did though, and am more interested than ever in seeing the bits and pieces that we didn't get first time round (Events and Deeds).

I still feel that the possibility of not having a Traitor is important - but I can see why you want to increase the tension a little. Do I assume that the "Last Supper" says to reveal all the unused goal cards? (to take account of fewer players.) I like the idea of shuffling it into the bottom five events though - that's always a good way of adding a bit of tension to an endgame.

One thought I discussed tonight was perhaps having a sort of "drafting" mechanic for the goals - a sort of mini-Verrater/Citadels. Player one would draw two Goal cards, choose one and put it face-down and pass the other on to the next player. That player would draw an additional card, then choose one of those two to put down and pass the other on, and so on. This would go twice around the table, with the last player putting their remaining card on top of the undrawn goals. That would offer the possibility of trying to guess what Goals players had based on what you saw and passed on. However, it may be slightly too "gamer-like" to work at the level you want it to work at!

Once again, it's great to hear when a playtest goes well - now all we have to do is to teach you how to say "done!" instead of tinkering with them forever ;)

sedjtroll
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Disciples playtest session report

I'm glad, as everyone is, that the game is working out. From reading your desciption though I have to say a couple things-

First, as someone else pointed out, the complaint about there not being a traitor is unfounded. Evidently everything was perfect up until the Last Supper card was drawn, thereby revealing that there was not a traitor in the game. Without that, then it doesn't matter that there's a 1/6 chance of there being no traitor...

That said, shuffling it into the last 5 cards and then calling it the game end could be interesting. I personally hate rules like that because they just sound so arbitrary and fiddley... but I understand what it's intended to do and it really does make sense. Also, it's the case that the traitor NEED NOT betray, correct? And thereby if he's doing better than other players, or in fact better than Betraying would do, then chances are he wouldn't bother. Is that good? Or SHOULD the Traiter be forced to Betray- maybe when the Last Supper is drawn (if he hasn't already of course). So the Traitor only has so much time to beef up the Pharisee's track, and must do so rather than simply not Betraying.

Finally, about the "Ha! You're the traitor!" mechanic. I still think it feels flimsy and pointless. To begin with, a false accusation gives a player a card? 1 Card in the course of the game? Does that really make a difference? As you said, cards can be either good or bad- maybe near the end of the game you decide to Accuse someone just to stick a card in their hand so they don't get the scoring bonus... is that legal? Soudns like, although I don't know if it would ever come up. It certainly doesn't sound like what you want. Also, what's the benefit for actually correctly accusing? Is it worth it to even try? If you're NOT the traitor, then you could effectively play like anyone else is, and it doesn't matter if you know for sure or not.

And I don't know if I buy that your friend did actions X and Y so as to draw suspician on himself just to get a card draw. Isn't there a way to get a card that's a lot less work? I don't mean to say you're lying about it, but it seems like if someone is willing to do that, then actions X and Y must be decently lucrative in and of themselves or why bother... you know what I mean? So sure, he did those actions, knowingly increasing the Pharisee track or whatever, thinking he might get a card draw out of it. Unless he had somehow deduced that there was no traitor, then that strategy could theoretically backfire, right? He could help the traitor more than himself.

Which brings up another point... since everyone (except the traitor) is trying to keep the traitor down, IS it really dangerous to 'help out' the traitor? I guess that's the point of the game, and I think that's where you should concentrate your efforts. Make it so everyone individually, as a matter of course, WANTS to 'help' the traitor, because they already want to keep him down as a group. That sounds to me like a good source of tension (much more real than the guessing game of who's the traitor).

All in all this sounds like a good game in the making. My post may sound critical, but I am really impressed that you have gotten a game to work well in this theme.

- Seth

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

sedjtroll wrote:

First, as someone else pointed out, the complaint about there not being a traitor is unfounded. Evidently everything was perfect up until the Last Supper card was drawn, thereby revealing that there was not a traitor in the game. Without that, then it doesn't matter that there's a 1/6 chance of there being no traitor...

This is a fair point. I guess the problem is the players cannot find out until the exact moment the game ends if there isn't a traitor. But even so, trying to figure out which of us it was was a nice source of tension, and when it turned out to be none of us, it just fell flat. The game is, for better or for worse, built around one player being the traitor. "It's possible that there isn't a traitor" is a GDW-inspired change, and I'm not sure yet whether it works. Even if players don't find out till the end, it's just kind of like "Gee, we've been fighting so hard against this person who turned out not to exist at all." Which maybe is the point -- working too hard to "prevent" the traitor from cashing in could cause you to miss other opportunities that you could have taken had you not focused on the traitor so much. I don't know. I do think the next game, we'll "force" there to be a traitor.

Quote:

That said, shuffling it into the last 5 cards and then calling it the game end could be interesting. I personally hate rules like that because they just sound so arbitrary and fiddley...

I don't think that's true in this case. The Event/Deed deck contains 60 cards. That means, if the Last supper is card 55, hypothetically, each player will have taken 11 turns. At this point the game ends; it's a pretty natural alternative ending condition, actually (and in fact, the game sort of needs to end about when the deck runs out, or else players could run out of stuff to do). Have you ever played Lowenherz, by Klaus Teuber? It's basically the same thing -- when a certain card comes up, the game ends. It's an uncertain game ending. I don't think it's fiddly, per se, where by "fiddly" I commonly think of rules that are "exceptions" to a simple system.

Quote:

but I understand what it's intended to do and it really does make sense. Also, it's the case that the traitor NEED NOT betray, correct?

Right, and this will be true of the endgame as well. The "Last Supper" will simply be a forced decision point -- Judas: will you betray, or not?

Quote:

And thereby if he's doing better than other players, or in fact better than Betraying would do, then chances are he wouldn't bother. Is that good?

Sure. In the game we played, had the Traitor betrayed on the last turn, he would have had 18 points, and come in solidly in 2nd place. You have to remember that the Traitor only has one goal, and other players have 2, and these represent a pretty good chunk of your points, so he's pretty well handicapped by that. That, combined with proper tweaking of the values on the Pharisees track, and the traitor should generally want to end the game by betraying. I do think that a game end via Rome will be more viewed as a "failure" by the traitor than as a "decision to be nice", but certainly, the option exists!

Quote:

Or SHOULD the Traiter be forced to Betray- maybe when the Last Supper is drawn (if he hasn't already of course). So the Traitor only has so much time to beef up the Pharisee's track, and must do so rather than simply not Betraying.

Absolutely not. The whole point is that the traitor must choose to betray. Your proposal is one I considered, and it works ok from a game standpoint, but not so much from a thematic one, and that's an important ingredient of making the traitor work. In fact, this is a pretty unique element, I think -- one player has the ability to decide when the game ends. If it works, it will be cool!

Quote:

Finally, about the "Ha! You're the traitor!" mechanic. I still think it feels flimsy and pointless.

But of course, you can't possibly "feel" this without having played the game, right? In all seriousness, this mechanic is "atmospheric" more than "strategic". The other day, it gave the game a little injection of drama, but doesn't get in the way of the rest of the game. The game isn't meant to be "Clue", but it is fun to pay attention to the other players and see if you can figure out who might be playing for "the bad guys".

Seriously, I have taken so much heat for this one little mechanic, but I just don't see the basis for people's objection. It seems like there are a couple of possible objections:

-- It rewards guessing too much

The idea to mitigate that is to "penalize" incorrect guessing with a consequence. Right now it's "give away a card", but another could be envisioned.

-- It won't be "fun"

This is speculative guesswork, it's not something one can say without playing. In fact, you're still arguing about the mechanic when I, who have played, am telling you that it *did* add something to the game. I guarantee that if I polled the playtesters and said "should I toss this system", all would say "no". Of course, the real test will be if people still feel that way after playing 5 times.

-- It's a meta-game element in a strategy game

Again, I see this as more of a family game than Tigris or Puerto Rico. I think strategic play is overwhelmingly rewarded in this game. The winner had 19 points, and 2nd place was at 18. The 3 point bonus, had someone claimed it, would only have been 1/6 of people's points, but would have been just enough to make a small difference that could maybe win someone the game. Of course, the bonus can be reduced if it's "too powerful."

But again, what I'm trying to reward here with this mechanic is a slightly different skill than "being strategic" -- this mechanic rewards paying attention to other players and what they are doing.

Quote:

To begin with, a false accusation gives a player a card? 1 Card in the course of the game? Does that really make a difference?

It certainly can, but of course, leave the "false accusation reward" somewhat in the abstract, since it will of course need to be balanced such that people are willing to take a guess if they think they have an idea, but won't guess haphazardly.

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As you said, cards can be either good or bad- maybe near the end of the game you decide to Accuse someone just to stick a card in their hand so they don't get the scoring bonus... is that legal? Soudns like, although I don't know if it would ever come up. It certainly doesn't sound like what you want. Also, what's the benefit for actually correctly accusing? Is it worth it to even try? If you're NOT the traitor, then you could effectively play like anyone else is, and it doesn't matter if you know for sure or not.

Quite so, I think you can completely ignore this aspect of the game and still do well. But, 3 points could be the difference between winning and losing, and so it's to your advantage to at least try to figure it out.

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And I don't know if I buy that your friend did actions X and Y so as to draw suspician on himself just to get a card draw.

Hey, you callin' me a liar?

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Isn't there a way to get a card that's a lot less work? I don't mean to say you're lying about it, but it seems like if someone is willing to do that, then actions X and Y must be decently lucrative in and of themselves or why bother... you know what I mean? So sure, he did those actions, knowingly increasing the Pharisee track or whatever, thinking he might get a card draw out of it. Unless he had somehow deduced that there was no traitor, then that strategy could theoretically backfire, right? He could help the traitor more than himself.

This is obviously the danger in his strategy. You have to remember that this was our first playing, and what I love about my group, in all games, not just my playtests, is that they constantly push the envelope, exploring new approaches to games and being unafraid to try radical moves just to see if they work. In this case, you're right, acting suspicious does help the traitor. But, it could lead someone to accuse you incorrectly, which uses up their chance at a guess that would be more accurate, AND, perhaps helping the traitor drives the game closer to completion which is maybe what you want (if you're doing well) AND getting a free card isn't necessarily a bad thing. I don't know if we'll see this happen in many games, but, whether you believe it or not, it's the way it went down.

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Which brings up another point... since everyone (except the traitor) is trying to keep the traitor down, IS it really dangerous to 'help out' the traitor? I guess that's the point of the game, and I think that's where you should concentrate your efforts. Make it so everyone individually, as a matter of course, WANTS to 'help' the traitor, because they already want to keep him down as a group. That sounds to me like a good source of tension (much more real than the guessing game of who's the traitor).

Why can't it be both? Again, in a game where one of us is the traitor, there's always a guessing game involved -- you're inevitably going to want to figure out who tht is. This game gives you 3 points for it. What's the big deal here?

Anyway, yes, with the Deeds as they are, it's inevitable that you will have to "help the traitor" by performing Deeds that advance the pharisees (and if you shun those Deeds, that just helps the traitor as well because he gets points for face-up deeds that haven't been performed). So, someone is going to have to "help the traitor", because if you don't perform Deeds, you can't win. The dilemma is all about when and how much.

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All in all this sounds like a good game in the making. My post may sound critical, but I am really impressed that you have gotten a game to work well in this theme.

Thanks, I do appreciate the comments. I won't apologize for being a bit defensive, because I do think I'm taking a lot of heat for the "guess the traitor" mechanic that does, in the first playtest, seem to accomplish exactly what I intended. But, I do appreciate you guys voicing your concerns, I just don't feel that anyone has articulated terribly well why this mechanic is inherently "bad". The closest anyone has come, I think, has been hpox -- "I'm afraid this aspect will fall flat." But that's obviously something only playtesting can reveal. "Fun" is very difficult to quantify, and games that sound "dull" to me on paper often having glowing session reports about what a blast they are to play. Keeping in mind that the game is meant to be light, keeping in mind that one of the players is a bad guy, it just seems natural to me that a meta-game will develop, and the rules throw a small bone to the person who "wins" that meta-game. It's not remotely something I'm ready to toss out yet without more playtesting, but obviously, I'll keep you guys posted as the game develops, and I may end up saying "you were right all along." If that's the case, I give you all full permission to say "I told you so!"

Thanks again, I appreciate your feedback,

-Jeff

FastLearner
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For what it's worth, I think the traitor mechanic is very clever and seems like an excellent addition to the game, both thematically as well as mechanically.

My only concern with it is that some people might hate the idea of betraying Jesus and so might either dislike the game or might never betray, but as noted in the GDW discussion, that's just something that you'll need to find out over time.

I love the tension of the idea, though: delicious!

-- Matthew

sedjtroll
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jwarrend wrote:

The game is, for better or for worse, built around one player being the traitor.

Yes, but even when there's a traitor there may not be a traitor...

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Even if players don't find out till the end, it's just kind of like "Gee, we've been fighting so hard against this person who turned out not to exist at all." Which maybe is the point -- working too hard to "prevent" the traitor from cashing in could cause you to miss other opportunities that you could have taken had you not focused on the traitor so much. I don't know.

Isn't that the case when the traitor decides not to betray? This is why I think maybe the traitor would HAVE to betray. But I see your point that it should be a choice by the player.

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I do think the next game, we'll "force" there to be a traitor.

As wel you should, it is important to see if all the traitor mechanics work or not. I think it was probably good to have a game without the traitor, but clearly you need to try it both ways.

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sedjtroll wrote:
That said, shuffling it into the last 5 cards and then calling it the game end could be interesting. I personally hate rules like that because they just sound so arbitrary and fiddley...

I don't think that's true in this case... it's a pretty natural alternative ending condition, actually... I don't think it's fiddly, per se, where by "fiddly" I commonly think of rules that are "exceptions" to a simple system.

I don't think the effect is fiddley. I think having to find the card, shuffle it in with 4 random cards, then shuffle the rest of the cards seperately and put them on top is what's fiddley. Like I said- it makes sense and it works, that annoying setup stuff is just a pet peeve of mine.

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In the game we played, had the Traitor betrayed on the last turn, he would have had 18 points, and come in solidly in 2nd place.

Well, if there had been a traitor, he may have done something a little differently and the Traitor score might have been a little higher or something. But that's neither here nor there.

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I do think that a game end via Rome will be more viewed as a "failure" by the traitor than as a "decision to be nice", but certainly, the option exists!

I don't look at it as a 'decision to be nice,' rather a balance of the player's current score, and the score he would get by betraying.So the question becomes- do you want the Judas player to have that option, or do you wan their course to be set at the beginning of the game (they will betray, period). Historically (I feel I ought to put that in quotes, but that's another discussion alltogether) Judas was not able to 'opt out' of his destiny. Yes, he CHOSE to betray Jesus. But wasn't the prophecy at the Last Supper that SOMEONE was going to betray Jesus? Not Judas perse.. that's why I had suggested before that the game allow any player to be the traitor.

But the point is, do you really want people to be able to NOT betray. It sounds like the answer is yes, but this is what I would watch when you play ith a traitor in the game. I see what you are saying about the Judas player having only 1 other goal, and therefore probably not being able to do well without betraying, and maybe you're right that it would be best for the game to allow the Traitor an 'out' in case everyone else teams up on him too much. This is what remains to be seen from testing.

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sedjtroll wrote:
Finally, about the "Ha! You're the traitor!" mechanic. I still think it feels flimsy and pointless.

But of course, you can't possibly "feel" this without having played the game, right?

Ok fine, "I still afraid this aspect will fall flat."

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In all seriousness, this mechanic is "atmospheric" more than "strategic". The other day, it gave the game a little injection of drama, but doesn't get in the way of the rest of the game... I think strategic play is overwhelmingly rewarded in this game. The winner had 19 points, and 2nd place was at 18. The 3 point bonus, had someone claimed it would have been just enough to make a small difference that could maybe win someone the game.

So which do you want, something that doesn't affect the game, or something that does?

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Seriously, I have taken so much heat for this one little mechanic, but I just don't see the basis for people's objection.

Don't look at it as "you are taking heat"... look at it as "there might be a problem with the mechanic". You're right, there might NOT be something wrong with the mechanic, but either way we're giving the mechanic heat, not you. The fact that there is so much 'heat' about this mechanic makes me think that it is suspect just as much as anything else makes me think its suspect.

I 'took a lot of heat' on 8/7 Central about the random-seeming hit numbers on the Program cards. I'm sure I got defensive about it, and in the end kept them. In that case there was a specific, game-related reason for having the numbers as they were (namely so that 2 competing shows of similar popularity would hit independantly). If you have a specific reason to keep your mechanic, then by all means keep it. Maybe we're just not seeing that reason.

Which brings me to my next point...
The argument here, or MY arguement anyway, is not even really weather or not to have this mechanic. Personally I don't think it's necessary, but if you DO intend to keep it then I think it just needs to be implemented in such a way that it's sufficiently dangerous to guess wrong and sufficiently worth it to guess right. As it is I don't think the rewards/penalties are worth it. Well, the reward is good, but the penalty for an incorrect guess is iffy. You could argue that by guessing incorrectly you're giving other players info on who the traitor is, so in a way you're giving away 3 points... But you could also argue that it is almost kingmaking- in th same way people complain about Kingmaking in Mystery of the Abbey.

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Hey, you callin' me a liar?

Of course not, as I went on to say in the next paragraph.

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...in a game where one of us is the traitor, there's always a guessing game involved -- you're inevitably going to want to figure out who tht is. This game gives you 3 points for it. What's the big deal here?

Is that true? If youare not the traitor, then does it MATTER who is? It may matter weather there is a traitor or not, but if there's always a traitor and it's not you then I don't see a difference between knowing and not knowing who it is (outside of he bonus for guessing). I also think it's out of theme for he Disciples to run around accusing each other. When I asked that before you said 'yeah, they knew there was a traitor in their midst because Jesus said so at the Last Supper.' If that's the case, then maybe the best way to implement the 'guess the traitor' mechaninc and still keep it equitable and in-theme is what someone said before- when The Last Supper comes up, everyone secretly and simultaneously indicate who they think it Judas, then whoever got it right gets a bonus. This isn't very fair to the Traitor perhaps because if everyone figures out who he is then they all get a bonus relative to him. Of course that could be balanced with the traitor scoring... if you want it could be made so that NOT guessing the traitor makes it tough to outscore the traitor.

- Seth
P.S. It so happens that I like to argue, so don't take all this too personally. If everyone on here thinks there may be something wrong with the mechanic, then maybe it needs fixing (not necessarily nix-ing).

jwarrend
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sedjtroll wrote:
jwarrend wrote:

The game is, for better or for worse, built around one player being the traitor.

Yes, but even when there's a traitor there may not be a traitor...

Careful; I didn’t say it was built around there being a betrayal. The point is, if no one is the traitor, then all the tension associated with the Pharisees track was a farce -- it never mattered all along. I think the game, in general, stands on the premise that one player has a special level of control that the others don’t have, and that if in fact there is no such player, one could easily feel “let down.” I think it’s valid for it to be possible that there be no traitor, but it should only happen sometimes -- enough that you suspect your own suspicions, but not likely enough that very many games shake out that way.

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Isn't that the case when the traitor decides not to betray? This is why I think maybe the traitor would HAVE to betray. But I see your point that it should be a choice by the player.

Yes, I agree. It has to be a choice.

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I don't think the effect is fiddley. I think having to find the card, shuffle it in with 4 random cards, then shuffle the rest of the cards seperately and put them on top is what's fiddley. Like I said- it makes sense and it works, that annoying setup stuff is just a pet peeve of mine.

Gotcha. I agree, weird setup algorithms are annoying to write, and annoying to implement. But, it’s probably a necessary evil here. (Or, it could just be “the game ends when the draw pile is exhausted”. A little less “when’s it going to end” tension, but again, I don’t think many games will get to that point anyway...)

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I do think that a game end via Rome will be more viewed as a "failure" by the traitor than as a "decision to be nice", but certainly, the option exists!

I don't look at it as a 'decision to be nice,' rather a balance of the player's current score, and the score he would get by betraying.

Sure, sure...I used “play nice” as a hedge phrase for what you say. Obviously, there’s no real moral content in being the traitor, it’s just a game.

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So the question becomes- do you want the Judas player to have that option, or do you wan their course to be set at the beginning of the game (they will betray, period). Historically (I feel I ought to put that in quotes, but that's another discussion alltogether) Judas was not able to 'opt out' of his destiny. Yes, he CHOSE to betray Jesus. But wasn't the prophecy at the Last Supper that SOMEONE was going to betray Jesus? Not Judas perse.. that's why I had suggested before that the game allow any player to be the traitor.

This becomes something of a philosophical and theological argument. My feeling is that, yes, Judas had to choose to betray Jesus, and that it wasn’t written in some stone as some immutable fact of the universe that he, or anyone else was required to do so -- he wasn’t dancing to God’s strings, wasn’t coerced by God to betray. BUT, God is a Being whose abilities far exceed our own to the highest degree imaginable, and one ability that God has that we do not is the ability to know “the end from the beginning”. So, when Jesus said “one of you is a devil”, He knew exactly which one of them it was. Yes, Judas had to make the choice, but God already knew, and in fact, knew from the beginning of the universe, that this was going to happen.

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But the point is, do you really want people to be able to NOT betray. It sounds like the answer is yes, but this is what I would watch when you play ith a traitor in the game. I see what you are saying about the Judas player having only 1 other goal, and therefore probably not being able to do well without betraying, and maybe you're right that it would be best for the game to allow the Traitor an 'out' in case everyone else teams up on him too much. This is what remains to be seen from testing.

Exactly. I want the game to steer the traitor towards betraying -- the prospect of betraying should be a difficult “temptation” to resist. Yet, as you say, if the players collectively gang up on the traitor, he should still be given a chance to win.

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sedjtroll wrote:
Finally, about the "Ha! You're the traitor!" mechanic. I still think it feels flimsy and pointless.

But of course, you can't possibly "feel" this without having played the game, right?

Ok fine, "I still afraid this aspect will fall flat."

Fine, fine, but my point is, the “fun factor” is not something that can be ascertained by analysis, but only through actual playing. So, if I tell you “hey, this mechanic does seem to be fun in practice”, I’m afraird you have to take my word for it, in some sense. So far, it’s working just fine.

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So which do you want, something that doesn't affect the game, or something that does?

Something that affects the game a little bit. Not enough to make it the focus of the game, but enough that, all other things equal, the person who guessed the traitor would have a little edge towards winning.

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Seriously, I have taken so much heat for this one little mechanic, but I just don't see the basis for people's objection.

Don't look at it as "you are taking heat"... look at it as "there might be a problem with the mechanic". You're right, there might NOT be something wrong with the mechanic, but either way we're giving the mechanic heat, not you. The fact that there is so much 'heat' about this mechanic makes me think that it is suspect just as much as anything else makes me think its suspect.

I understand that you guys aren’t attacking me personally; what I’m saying is that I don’t think ther’s a consistent reason that people object to it; people don’t like it, but not for the same reason. And some of the objections, I feel, are premature...

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Which brings me to my next point...
The argument here, or MY arguement anyway, is not even really weather or not to have this mechanic. Personally I don't think it's necessary, but if you DO intend to keep it then I think it just needs to be implemented in such a way that it's sufficiently dangerous to guess wrong and sufficiently worth it to guess right. As it is I don't think the rewards/penalties are worth it.

That’s a perfectly legitimate concern, but it really is a play-balance issue, and playtesting will certainly enable me to get the balance right. I’m not too worried about being able to do that.

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Hey, you callin' me a liar?

Of course not, as I went on to say in the next paragraph.

I was just kidding...I guess sarcasm doesn’t always come through, and my refusal to use “emoticons” probably doesn’t help...

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Is that true? If youare not the traitor, then does it MATTER who is? It may matter weather there is a traitor or not, but if there's always a traitor and it's not you then I don't see a difference between knowing and not knowing who it is (outside of he bonus for guessing).

First, it’s just human nature that when you’re presented with a “mystery”, you’re going to want to solve it. 2nd, of course knowing who it is matters, since the traitor betrays on his turn, and must be in the same town as Jesus to do so; those facts make it in your interest to know whose turn the betrayal could happen on...

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I also think it's out of theme for he Disciples to run around accusing each other.

I agree, this is a slight thematic excursion for the sake of what I think will be a fun meta game.

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When I asked that before you said 'yeah, they knew there was a traitor in their midst because Jesus said so at the Last Supper.' If that's the case, then maybe the best way to implement the 'guess the traitor' mechaninc and still keep it equitable and in-theme is what someone said before- when The Last Supper comes up, everyone secretly and simultaneously indicate who they think it Judas, then whoever got it right gets a bonus.

Certainly a possibility, thanks!

Thanks again for your thoughts and analysis!

-Jeff

FastLearner
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Oh, btw, I meant to point out earlier that if you use the "1 in 11" method, those calculations only work with 5 players.

And I think "shuffle into last x cards" is just fine -- enough games use it that it doesn't seem fiddly to me.

-- Matthew

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I'd like to say that "shuffle into the last X cards" is a perfectly OK mechanic too (I used it myself in the Fate of Atlantis game!)

As for the probablility of having a Traitor, it depends on whether it proves to be a key component of the game or just a nice feature. From a theme pov, it seems that you would always want one, but from a gameplay pov it may be important that it may not happen. My feeling is that in a three-player game you probaby don't want a Traitor since the dynamic is different to that of a five-player game in which you want one frequently - but I really don't think you have to have one. Of course, there is the caveat that I haven't played it, so I obviously don't know...

And I'm pretty sure we don't want to get too far into scriptural issues here: I genuinely like the idea that Judas can choose not to betray. despite that not being, shall we say, "sound" theology :)

jwarrend
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Scurra wrote:
I'd like to say that "shuffle into the last X cards" is a perfectly OK mechanic too (I used it myself in the Fate of Atlantis game!)

I agree, but I also agree with Seth's point -- things like "shuffle the cards, then remove 5, then shuffle this in, then do this, then that", etc, just lend themselves to possible confusion points, but I think once you understand the algorithm it's not so bad, particularly when it's only in the setup.

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As for the probablility of having a Traitor, it depends on whether it proves to be a key component of the game or just a nice feature. From a theme pov, it seems that you would always want one, but from a gameplay pov it may be important that it may not happen. My feeling is that in a three-player game you probaby don't want a Traitor since the dynamic is different to that of a five-player game in which you want one frequently - but I really don't think you have to have one. Of course, there is the caveat that I haven't played it, so I obviously don't know...

I think you're right, and this is certainly my plan as well. I think I could even envision a 2 player version of the game with no traitor, and a 6 player version where there's definitely a traitor, and with increasing probability of there being a traitor between 3 and 5 players. I originally envisioned this one as a 5 player game, and as I rarely have trouble getting 5 players together to playtest (we have a big enough weekly group), I suspect I'll just optimize the game for five, and possibly try it with a smaller size a few times as well (but perhaps, leave the "tweaking" details of that to the publisher, should it get published. Since, if it doesn't, and I'm always playing with 5, I don't have to balance it for 3 or 4 anyway...)

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And I'm pretty sure we don't want to get too far into scriptural issues here: I genuinely like the idea that Judas can choose not to betray. despite that not being, shall we say, "sound" theology :)

Indeed, this could be quite a theology debate -- I would say that theologically, there had to be the chance that Judas couldn't have betrayed, or else how could he be "guilty" if he was forced to betray?

That said, your point is well-taken; it's important to remember this is a game, not a simulation. I'm striving for something that is "atmospheric", but not literal (for example, I have the disciples performing actions attributed to Jesus!). That's why I think some liberties are ok (the "who's the traitor?" guessing game), but some are not ("any of us can betray Jesus" -- definitely a no-no). Of course, it's my own subjective opinion as to which I feel are ok and which I don't, but then, that's how it works for anyone designing a game. I think it's just important to make sure no one is offended by the game, or rather, as few people as possible are, since that will completely ruin the goal of the project-- namely, to give people a chance to interact and play a fun game which also happens to have a theme that is positive and affirming of religious faith.

And hey, if a good theology debate breaks out when people are playing the game, that certainly won't be a bad thing!

-Jeff

sedjtroll
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jwarrend wrote:
I agree, but I also agree with Seth's point -- things like "shuffle the cards, then remove 5, then shuffle this in, then do this, then that", etc, just lend themselves to possible confusion points

Yeah, those are the kinds of things that make me not want to play a game in the first place.

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I think I could even envision a 2 player version of the game with no traitor, and a 6 player version where there's definitely a traitor, and with increasing probability of there being a traitor between 3 and 5 players.

Is this different from just shuffling the 12 cards and dealing 2 to each player?

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I would say that theologically, there had to be the chance that Judas couldn't have betrayed, or else how could he be "guilty" if he was forced to betray?

This depends on your definition of "guilty." For the people who believe in manifest destiny and that everything is preordained: who is guilty? The man who pulls the trigger? Or the 'force' which guides that man? This has nothing to do with the game.

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I think some liberties are ok (the "who's the traitor?" guessing game), but some are not ("any of us can betray Jesus" -- definitely a no-no).

I still don't see how or why that's definitely a no-no. As far as the game's concerned I can see how it could go wither way- someone's a traitor from the beginning vs anyone COULD be the traitor. The latter is especially true if the Desciple cards are generic, maybe less good if they are specific. We wouldn't want non-Judas Disciples turning the tables on Jesus now, would we.

Scurra
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No, Seth, the theme argument is that none of the other disciples did betray Jesus, even though the situation was such that it might even have been reasonable for them to; a lot of them were martyred for their faith later after all.

Hence building a mechanic into the game that makes it become a value judgement ("do I betray now before someone else to get the best return?") is inappropriate but having a little bit of paranoia ("Only the Traitor would do that!") probably isn't. (You have to remember that the evidence of the Gospels is that most of the disciples were pretty dumb too :))

But since we've been arguing this one for a week (as if people haven't been arguing this one for two millennia ;)) I think Jeff is entitled to say that this is how he wants the game to work, both for thematic and gameplay reasons. There might be good cases against it on both grounds, but they are not so strong or compelling that they are obviously superior.

(That's not to say that I don't think Jeff shouldn't try some tests with it working that way, or with any of the other variations that have been suggested: I just suspect that they won't radically improve the game whilst running the risk of introducing a level to the game that it doesn't need.)

jwarrend
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sedjtroll wrote:
jwarrend wrote:
I agree, but I also agree with Seth's point -- things like "shuffle the cards, then remove 5, then shuffle this in, then do this, then that", etc, just lend themselves to possible confusion points

Yeah, those are the kinds of things that make me not want to play a game in the first place.

Well, I hope it won't come to that in this case! But it's true, the presence of such elements in my games usually suggests to me that there's a simpler, more "elegant" solution that I just need to think harder to come up with. In this case, probably just "the last card in the stack is "the Last supper" is a good way to go -- maybe even print it on the board so people can't screw it up. The latter is the concern, I guess; not so much that the mechanic is a pain, but that if people do it wrong, it will skew the outcome of the game and give a negative impression of the game...

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I think I could even envision a 2 player version of the game with no traitor, and a 6 player version where there's definitely a traitor, and with increasing probability of there being a traitor between 3 and 5 players.

Is this different from just shuffling the 12 cards and dealing 2 to each player?

That would be one way of doing it, but again, I think there needs to be a better than 5/6 chance of there being a traitor in the game for 5 players.

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I would say that theologically, there had to be the chance that Judas couldn't have betrayed, or else how could he be "guilty" if he was forced to betray?

This depends on your definition of "guilty." For the people who believe in manifest destiny and that everything is preordained: who is guilty? The man who pulls the trigger? Or the 'force' which guides that man? This has nothing to do with the game.

As much as I want to respond to this, I'll restrain myself as it really is unrelated to the game (but certainly in the spirit of what playing the game could lead to -- an interesting conversation!)

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I think some liberties are ok (the "who's the traitor?" guessing game), but some are not ("any of us can betray Jesus" -- definitely a no-no).

I still don't see how or why that's definitely a no-no.

It's a no-no for me, for reasons I won't restate. Again, it could work from a game standpoint, but doesn't work for me personally, who, unfortunately for that mechanic, has veto power...

jwarrend
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Scurra wrote:
(You have to remember that the evidence of the Gospels is that most of the disciples were pretty dumb too :))

This is something I definitely wanted to build into the game, but man, it is a tough thing to incorporate into a game system -- how do force the players to be "clueless and inept"? I wanted a way to have Peter have to be brash and overbearing, Judas to be a liar, Thomas to be skeptical, etc, but I don't know if it's there yet. I thought of doing this as giving each player a "special ability" that allowed them to use their "bad quality" to their advantage in some way, but it just didn't feel right. I guess, conversely, I could give each player a "special handicap", but that idea hasn't gotten too far, as I think it would add needless complexity for the sake of theme, which I'm trying to discipline myself not to do...

The only mechanic I have that I think pulls it off is there are a couple of events where players must collectively agree on something positive or else all suffer something bad. (example: Choose one player to reward with 2 cards, otherwise all lose one card). These kinds of things sort of capture the infighting that the gospels record as having happened among the disciples, but as for the "inept-ness", I just don't think I have it in there yet and don't know if there's a great way to get it in...it would be so cool if I could, but one must settle for a certain level of abstraction, I guess.

-J

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Disciples playtest session report

jwarrend wrote:
I thought of doing this as giving each player a "special ability" that allowed them to use their "bad quality" to their advantage in some way, but it just didn't feel right.

On the surface that sounds bad. AS you say, using a drawback as an advantage 'doesn't feel right'.

Can you make the goals somehow incorporate to different desciples' drawbacks? Like rather than just positive goals, make some anti-goals... things which players will end up having to do, but will want to keep at a minimum (and they'd be different for the different players).

Like if you're 'brash', then maybe you get penalized somehow for every deed of a specific type that you do... I don't know what the deeds are, but maybe some involve showing patience or something...

- Seth

Scurra
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Disciples playtest session report

sedjtroll wrote:

Can you make the goals somehow incorporate to different desciples' drawbacks? Like rather than just positive goals, make some anti-goals... things which players will end up having to do, but will want to keep at a minimum (and they'd be different for the different players).

That seems like it might be possible - although without seeing all the Goal cards it's difficult to judge. But having a "positive" and "negative" Goal on each card (such that players who aren't paying attention could lose points) might be do-able.

Having said that, it risks slipping too far into simulation mode that way, and I think that one of the virtues of the game design as it currently stands is that it has found a nice balance between abstraction (play cards to perform good deeds) and simulation (don't annoy the Jews and the Romans). Introducing what could be considered a minor bit of role-playing too seems to me to be over-egging the pudding (IYSWIM).

sedjtroll
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Disciples playtest session report

Scurra wrote:
Introducing what could be considered a minor bit of role-playing too seems to me to be over-egging the pudding (IYSWIM).

Mmmmmm... pudding.

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A list of all combinations

Have you got a list of the possible traitor setups, e.g.?

1) Randomly assigned 'traitor card' at beginning of game.
2) Randomly assigned 'traitor card' during the game.
3) Players choice during game to choose traitor action.
4) Players choice at beginning of game to take a 'traitor card' (qualifying them for #3).

etc.

Just to see all the possible combinations :)

Dave W.

jwarrend
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More playtesting...

We've playtested this one a couple of times since my last report, and have begun to expose some things that are working well, others that need tweaking. I'll discuss the sessions briefly then talk about the rules.

Session reports

In the 2nd session of the game, players were Cindy, Vitas, Theresa, Dan, and myself; only Vitas and I had played. This one felt tough; the action tracks were pinned at 4 the whole game, and we kept getting Event cards, meaning few Deeds were available. Theresa correctly identified Vitas as the traitor, at about the time that the Pharisees track had crept up to about 13 or so. Vitas was able to get the track to 16, and was about to betray on his turn, but then drew the Event card "no player can be in the same town as Jesus this turn", which prevented him from betraying. This gave the rest of us one more turn to max out our actions, but in his next opportunity, Vitas betrayed and ended the game, earning 18 points -- 13 for the Pharisees, + 5 face-up deeds. (He could have had 20 had he performed a Deed that would have moved up the Pharisees, which was available...). Theresa, however, had performed a ton of Deeds, and by earning Gospel points and having guessed the traitor, she won with 24 points. Once again, I came in dead last with 8 points, having made little progress towards my (probably too difficult) goals.

In last night's session, I took the option of me losing off the table by sitting out of the game, so that Tony, Preston, Karl, Vitas, and Theresa could play. Tony and Karl were new to the game. Tony started the game acting quite suspiciously, refusing to vote with the majority in Events that require a unanimous vote for something good to happen, and performing Deeds that advanced the Pharisees. He drew an early accusation, but it was incorrect. This game actually featured a flurry of accusations, with Vitas accusing Preston, Karl bizarrely accusing Vitas, Tony accusing Theresa (thinking Karl's accusation had been legit), and then Theresa finally successfully identifying Karl as the Traitor, earning her 3 points. It was pretty funny, but maybe a bit too easy towards the end (but that, I guess, is the risk of accusing -- you are making the other players' guesses much easier).

The pharisees track was well-positioned for Karl to betray, but the other players successfully moved Jesus to Jericho, more than 2 spaces from Cana where Karl was residing. However, your ability to play keep-away is not unlimited, since Jesus can only move towards towns with the most Deeds. And, as Karl discovered, planting himself in Samaria places him 2 spaces from any town on the board, meaning that he'd be able to reach Jesus in the next turn. He did, and ended the game with the Pharisees track maxed out, earning 22 points (2 face-up deeds + 20 for pharisees). Tony negotiated his goals very successfully to achieve 22 points as well, and Preston had a respectable showing with 18, as did Vitas and Theresa who tied with 13. There's currently no tie-breaker, but maybe there should be; something like "if the traitor was identified during the game, he loses the tie-breaker, but if he wasn't, he wins the tie-breaker" and probably ties involving non-traitor players just sharing victory.

The feeling was that again, there were just too many events and too few Deeds, making choices restrictive. Moreover, in this game, because of the Deeds we happened to draw, the pharisees advanced very quickly but Rome did not, thus there wasn't much tension for the traitor, as the game end was well in his control throughout the game. And, not surprisingly, some of the goals seem "better" than others, but this is the subject of some further review.

Rules changes

A few things have changed. After the 1st game described above, we decided that having the tracks maxed out for the whole game was bad, so at Dan's suggestion, I changed the rule from "If you get a Deed, you must advance one action category" to "if you get a Deed, roll a die and advance the indicated category." Since some categories will be maxed out, the levels of the non-maxed out categories weren't forced to increase by default, and thus, there was a great deal of flux in the action tracks this time. I was very pleased with this change.

In the draw deck, there are 37 Deeds and 16 Events, meaning the chances of getting an event are a little less than 1 in 3. The game seems to depend on players having meaningful choices of Deeds to perform, and so more Deeds, it seems, need to come out. The obvious change is to modify the distribution in the deck, but this is tough for me because I feel the Events are nice and add a lot of flavor to the game. A better change, I think, will be to take a suggestion Tony made, and separate the Deeds and Events into 2 decks. At the start of your turn, roll a die -- if it's a 6, draw an Event. If it's 1-4, increase the appropriate action category track, and draw a Deed. If it's 5, increase any one track, and draw a Deed. I think this will retain the simplicity of the current structure but also increase the number of Deeds.

Also, we found the Jews reached the end of their track a lot, which increases the Pharisees. Lengthening that track a bit may help with this.

Goal cards

The biggest problem in the game seems to be balancing the goal cards. Not that any are imbalanced, but more "can you actually work towards this goal." As an example, many of the goal cards have language that rewards you depending on what other players have done. For example, "Receive 1 VP for each Healing you performed; receive 2 VP for each player with more Healings than you."

The problem is twofold -- (1) Can you actually influence the actions of the other players such that you can 'work towards' this goal? (2) Does the number of players dramatically affect the relative balance of the different goals.

Tackling problem (1) first, the current answer is, yes, but only a little -- For example, if I want other players to perform Healings, I can plant myself in towns with Heal deeds showing, thus making those actions cheaper. Or, I can have Jesus perform Heal deeds when that track maxes out, thus making the actions cheaper. But, this might not be enough. The obvious answer would be to make the goals fully player-centric, but I like the idea that they're trying to get across, and I think it's pretty unique, so I'd like to first explore whether there are simple ways to add the ability to "help" other players take actions that you want them to take. I think a few options are available:

Option 1: A "card exchange" mechanic, suggested by Theresa. When you're in the same town as another player, you can give them an Action card (or trade cards).

Option 2: Allow the action tracks to exceed 4 indefinitely, but now, the cost of performing a Deed is reduced for each other player in the town (currently, it's just a one-symbol reduction if one or more players are in the town).

Option 3: Allow for "collaborative deeds." Currently, you can, during your turn, have Jesus perform a Deed if he's in the town. Why not allow you to have another player perform the Deed? In that case, you would pay the symbols, and give the Deed card to the other player.

Of these, option 1 is probably conceptually the easiest, but requires some thinking. Should it be a "giveaway", or a "trade"? Can the other player refuse? Late in the game, this could be a way to get cards out of your hand, thus qualifying you for the "fewest symbols" bonus, and I don't want a mechanic that promotes card-dumping. Option 3 is probably the most direct way of working towards your goals. If you have a goal that benefits you if other players have performed Deeds of type X, and you can actively throw them Deeds of type X by having them perform them, on your dime, then clearly this could be a direct way to influence your goal progress.

I'm not sure which of these is best, or if reworking the goals to be all about "if you did this, get X pts" might be better. It would certainly be simpler, but I potentially like the idea that your bonus is tied up not just in you, but in other players. And moreover, that many of the goals aren't about "perform more deeds of type X than other players", but in contrast, are about performing *fewer* deeds of type X than other players.

That said, the scaling factor is a concern, and perhaps the way to deal with that is to change the goals from "receive points for each player who did X" to "receive Y points if all other players did X", or a majority of other players, or whatever. That way, the goals will still work in different sized games.

Anyway, there's the latest word. I believe this one will get tested twice next week, and I'll probably put some of these changes into practice to see how they work. But so far, the game is coming together very well, I feel like we're converging on it being "finished" mechanically, but still with plenty of room for balancing. As Karl noted, the traitor is always in the running for victory, which is good but also means that being the traitor is potentially a good thing. I think the solution will just be to have more Deeds coming out, so that players can choose Deeds that don't benefit the Traitor (or at least, can choose 'bad' deeds with a lower frequency).

We shall see how it goes, but so far, so good!

-Jeff

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Re: More playtesting...

jwarrend wrote:
I potentially like the idea that your bonus is tied up not just in you, but in other players. And moreover, that many of the goals aren't about "perform more deeds of type X than other players", but in contrast, are about performing *fewer* deeds of type X than other players.

I like the idea of your bonus being tied in with other players actions... in theory. That is to say it sounds nice, but if you tihnk about it I don't know thta it's necessarily fair. Are all players expected to know all of the secret goals for all of the roles, then make some decision about which deeds to perform such that they don't help their opponents too much?

Also, if you implement the 'make other people do deed of type X' mechanic, and you score for other people doing those deeds, then isn;t that the same as you just doing the deeds and then scoring for them? I understand it also monkies with the other player's score, and in the case where their goal might be to dew few deeds of type X then you could be really messing up their plans, but not in a good way.

I think players should be the only people controlling their own disciple, rather than players forcing other players to do actions- even if it's not on their own dime.

- Seth

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Re: More playtesting...

sedjtroll wrote:

I like the idea of your bonus being tied in with other players actions... in theory. That is to say it sounds nice, but if you tihnk about it I don't know thta it's necessarily fair. Are all players expected to know all of the secret goals for all of the roles, then make some decision about which deeds to perform such that they don't help their opponents too much?

Yes, this is a third aspect of the dilemma here, and is a corollary to the dilemma "can I actually influence what other people do?" -- can I, by my own actions, influence how people score their own goals? I think it probably is in your interest strategically to know what all 12 goals are, and that to some extent you probably could plan accordingly based on who you think is holding which goal. But, my guess is that in casual play, these kinds of considerations will largely be ignored, though I agree, among serious players, they could be factored in.

Quote:

Also, if you implement the 'make other people do deed of type X' mechanic, and you score for other people doing those deeds, then isn;t that the same as you just doing the deeds and then scoring for them? I understand it also monkies with the other player's score, and in the case where their goal might be to dew few deeds of type X then you could be really messing up their plans, but not in a good way.

I think players should be the only people controlling their own disciple, rather than players forcing other players to do actions- even if it's not on their own dime.

I agree; this is one of those things that "sounds good" -- it sort of seems like by doing this, you're actually collaborating -- but in practice, its devoid of the actual substance; you're just performing a Deed, and throwing it to another person in an attempt to get more points for yourself. If we do try to add a more "cooperative" mechanic, it will probably be just something like "you can give a card to another player."

The question will then become, can you really, by doing this, affect what others do?

I think the bigger problem, as one of the playtesters raised, is, do you gain anything for actively trying to influence the other players' actions as opposed to just scoring "randomly" based on whatever they happen to do of their own volition? I think, in the end, the goals will be restructured such that you can get a couple of points based on the performance of others, but that your main scoring avenues are in your own hands.

So, the goal I listed above might change to "Receive 1 Vp for each 'Healing' you perform. Receive 2 VP if you are not the player with the most 'Healing' Deeds." This means that your main goal is to perform healings, but you can net a few extra points if you can get someone else to perform more than you. It's a smaller percentage of your points than under the current system...

Thanks for the comments!

-Jeff

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Re: More playtesting...

jwarrend wrote:
So, the goal I listed above might change to "Receive 1 Vp for each 'Healing' you perform. Receive 2 VP if you are not the player with the most 'Healing' Deeds." This means that your main goal is to perform healings, but you can net a few extra points if you can get someone else to perform more than you.

Why in the world, in this game especially, would you want to reward someone for doing FEWER deeds than other people? I thin I see your plan, you want to balance out the desire to score points (by doing healing deeds) with the desire to score a bonus (doing only as many deeds as you 'have to')... but frankly, wouldn't you be just as well off if you just did 2 more healing deeds and didn't get the bonus?

The mechanic as written I think won't matter too much, and thematically I think it goes against the rest of the game.

- Seth

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