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Disciples playtest session report

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jwarrend
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Re: More playtesting...

sedjtroll wrote:
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?

In fact, I think that this game is likely one of the few thematic settings where such a mechanic makes sense. The idea is that while the game is "competitive", I want to avoid scoring systems that are all about being "superior" to the other players. I like goals like the one mentioned above, or variations on that theme, that require you to "put other players before yourself." Of course, whether you can actually do that with the mechanics as they are is open to debate, but the idea is that you want to help yourself, but you want to help others along as well, and this kind of goal mechanic explicitly rewards you for that.

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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?

Sure, the specific implementation I gave may have its own attendant holes; it's just an example to illustrate a point, at this point...

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

Actually, I think it works well thematically, but *mechanically*, it may go against the rest of the game. ie, if you are supposed to be rewarded for "helping other players", but there's no good way to do that, then whether you get the bonus VPs or not is somewhat out of your hands. That's probably ok if it's a very small correction to your score, but if it's a large percentage of your score that's being determined, in some sense, by luck, then that's probably a bad thing.

-J

Scurra
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Disciples playtest session report

(for Goals rewarding helping others:) It certainly does work better thematically, and I'm assuming that there would be matching goals for the other types of deeds.

(for Deeds vs Events:) This sounds a bit like random playtest hell to me; the only way you can test this properly is by "fixing" the deck so that the cards come out in roughly the correct proportions (obviously only for testing!) But it does sound as though you need to reduce the ratio to something like 36 Deeds for 12 Events (so that it is 1:4 rather than 1:3.x). I can understand why you don't want to reduce the number of Events (it will lose some of the flavour) but I really do think that you need a better solution than a die roll, which can lead to even more bizarre games than the ones you describe...
Plus anything that requires cards to be sorted at the start of the game adds to the set-up time, which is a Bad Thing (tm).

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

Scurra wrote:

(for Deeds vs Events:) This sounds a bit like random playtest hell to me; the only way you can test this properly is by "fixing" the deck so that the cards come out in roughly the correct proportions (obviously only for testing!)

As one of the playtesters noted, it might be worth trying to write a little computer program that can "shuffle" and "deal" out the cards 1000 times and see what the averages are like. But indeed, we need to be careful about changing things fundamentally based on statistical fluctuations, but it's also difficult to play enough games to see all of the fluctuations.

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But it does sound as though you need to reduce the ratio to something like 36 Deeds for 12 Events (so that it is 1:4 rather than 1:3.x). I can understand why you don't want to reduce the number of Events (it will lose some of the flavour)

And moreover, will lose some of the variety. If we have 16 Events and you see 8 or 10 in a game, then each game will feel slightly different (although, it becomes a problem if the game hangs on any particular combo of events being in the game for it to "work"...)

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but I really do think that you need a better solution than a die roll, which can lead to even more bizarre games than the ones you describe...

Actually, the die roll works well, as it's already a part of the game anyway. Again, originally there was a rule that at the start of your turn, you flipped a Deed/Event card, and if it was a Deed, you had to increase an action track. We changed that to "roll a die, and increase the indicated action track", and found that this was quite successful. 1-4 each correspond to one of the categories, 5 was "choose one" and 6 was "don't increase a category". The change I'm proposing is that 6 will now mean "flip an event card", and 1-5 will mean "flip a Deed card, and increment the indicated track". It's just a simple switching of the card flip and the die roll. Another reason it's better is that currently, the die roll is easily forgotten since it only happens when you flip a Deed. If it's the way that you determine whether you get a Deed or Event, it will be easier to remember...

Sure, it will lead to some randomness and maybe some strings of events, but at 1-in-6 odds of getting an Event rather than 1-in-3 (or so), the chance for "weird" results is dramatically reduced...

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Plus anything that requires cards to be sorted at the start of the game adds to the set-up time, which is a Bad Thing (tm).

But the idea is just that there are two separate decks of cards that never get mixed. There's no sorting required, it's just "shuffle the Deeds, shuffle the Events, and place them in their respective spaces". Nothing in the game causes them to be mixed or the like, so they're always separate; no set up problem.

I think you're right that the random nature of the deck means that every game will be different, which is good, but also means that a lot of test games will be needed to evaluate the game, which is less good. I think that the game seems to be working just fine, though, even with the randomness; in fact, the variety is one of the strengths, in some sense. The bigger problem seems to be the goals at this point, and it's probably what I'll work most aggressively on for the near future.

Thanks for the reply!

-Jeff

hpox
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Disciples playtest session report

If you want to keep all the Events for variety, you could add more Deeds to adjust the ratio.

sedjtroll
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Disciples playtest session report

jwarrend wrote:
[regarding a die roll to see if an Event is activated]Sure, it will lead to some randomness and maybe some strings of events, but at 1-in-6 odds of getting an Event rather than 1-in-3 (or so), the chance for "weird" results is dramatically reduced...

Hmm... reducing the chance of an event to 1-in-6 is OK, but to 1-in-4 (by reproportioning the deck) isn't? Heh.

I think splitting the deck into two wouldn't be too bad. It IS one more stack of cards, which has it's down side asthetically and with the initial 'boy, look how much stuff there is to deal with in this game' factor... By the way, on a die roll of 6 you're saying ONLY an Event occurs, right? Not a Deed AND an Event? Just checking. If it were both then you wouldn't have to sacrifice having a deed in order to have an Event. The die roll rule could be "roll a die, 1-4 increase the indicated track and flip a deed, 5-6 flip an Event and a Deed" (or on a 6 it's just an event or just a deed or something).

I also agree that the goals are the main thing to deal with. I still think it's bad to have your score determined in large part by something another player does. Last night my friend told me that the game Chrononaughts (which I have never played but always wondered about) is 'sorta fun but usually the person who wins does so because someone else accidentally makes them win'. That seems particularly lame to me.

Why don't you list your current Goals here, and we can see if we have any ideas to help 'fix' them?

- Seth

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

sedjtroll wrote:

Hmm... reducing the chance of an event to 1-in-6 is OK, but to 1-in-4 (by reproportioning the deck) isn't? Heh.

My point is more that I don't want to change the deck. I've got 60 cards, and I'm happy with all of them, so I'd prefer to explore options that don't require changing it for the time being...

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I think splitting the deck into two wouldn't be too bad. It IS one more stack of cards, which has it's down side asthetically and with the initial 'boy, look how much stuff there is to deal with in this game' factor... By the way, on a die roll of 6 you're saying ONLY an Event occurs, right? Not a Deed AND an Event? Just checking. If it were both then you wouldn't have to sacrifice having a deed in order to have an Event. The die roll rule could be "roll a die, 1-4 increase the indicated track and flip a deed, 5-6 flip an Event and a Deed" (or on a 6 it's just an event or just a deed or something).

That's a good point. I think it will be ok with the 1-in-6 chance of there not being a Deed, but your point is well taken, it may not be necessary to view these as "either-or".

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I also agree that the goals are the main thing to deal with. I still think it's bad to have your score determined in large part by something another player does.

I agree, and let me be clear; my aim is that the majority of your scoring is within your control, to whatever extent the game affords you control over your destiny. But if a small portion of the Goal gives you a bonus based on the actions of others, I'm ok with that for now, though the specific goals themselves may need quite a bit of tweaking...

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Last night my friend told me that the game Chrononaughts (which I have never played but always wondered about) is 'sorta fun but usually the person who wins does so because someone else accidentally makes them win'. That seems particularly lame to me.

Haven't played the game, but I agree, "winning because someone played badly" can be unsatisfying. On the other hand, having a small portion of your scoring being somewhat out of your hands would certainly work ok thematically, but the key is that it has to be small.

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Why don't you list your current Goals here, and we can see if we have any ideas to help 'fix' them?

Ok, sure, here you go. Some of these are still in flux, but this is where I'm at for the moment. I've toyed with an idea of goals that reward other players as well as you. For example, Matthew might be "Get 1 VP for each Compassion deed you performed, and everyone with fewer compassion deeds than you gets 1 point." But, it might be tough to make this work across the board.

The problem with the goals, as I see it, is that they're quite asymmetric. Some are based largely on how you compare to other people; some are about how close you came to hitting a "target", and give you a fixed reward; some scale with how much you've done. The problem is making these all balanced. I think the idea will be that perhaps not all the goals will have the same scoring potential, but the key will be that getting 5 points from a goal will be equally difficult whether it's possible to get 4, 6, or 7 points from that goal, or whether it's "fixed" at 5...

Anyway, here you go:

Matthew Receive 1 VP for each “compassion” Deed you perform
Receive 2 VP for each player who has performed more “compassion” Deeds than you.

James Receive 1 VP for each “exorcism” Deed you perform
Receive 2 VP for each player who has performed more “exorcism” Deeds than you.

Thaddeus Receive 1 VP for each “healing” Deed you perform
Receive 2 VP for each player who has performed more “healing” Deeds than you.

John Receive 1 VP for every 2 Gospel tokens you hold.
Receive 2 VP for each player who has performed more Gospel tokens than you.

Peter Receive 2 VP for each town in which you performed a Preach deed.

Simon Zelotes Add up the total value of the consequences of the Deeds you’ve performed that moved the Jews track. Receive VP equal to the absolute value of the sum

Andrew Receive 3 VP for each Town in which you performed more Deeds than any other player.

Phillip If you performed more Deeds than the Traitor, receive 2 VP for each Deed difference. If there was no Traitor, receive 2 VP for each player who performed fewer Deeds than you

Bartholomew If you performed at least one Deed in each Action category, receive 3 VP.
For each other player who performed at least one Deed in three categories, receive 1 VP

James Receive 2 VP for each town in which you performed at least as many Deeds as Jesus

Thomas Receive 4 VP if you performed as many Deeds as Jesus. Receive 1 VP for each other player who performed as many Deeds as Jesus

Judas Iscariot You are the Traitor.
On your turn, if you are in the same town as Jesus, you may end the game.
If you do not betray, receive 1 VP for each Deed you performed that did not increase the Pharisees track

Torrent
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Disciples playtest session report

Quote:
Matthew Receive 1 VP for each “compassion” Deed you perform
Receive 2 VP for each player who has performed more “compassion” Deeds than you.

James Receive 1 VP for each “exorcism” Deed you perform
Receive 2 VP for each player who has performed more “exorcism” Deeds than you.

Thaddeus Receive 1 VP for each “healing” Deed you perform
Receive 2 VP for each player who has performed more “healing” Deeds than you.

John Receive 1 VP for every 2 Gospel tokens you hold.
Receive 2 VP for each player who has performed more Gospel tokens than you.

These four I think will have a very different effect with differing numbers of players. At 3 players, it very well may be good to go about gaining deeds regardless (more or less) of the rest. For 5-6 players it is almost better to ignore those deeds altogether. If I do no deeds of a type in a 5 player game that is 8 points, assuming each other player performed at least one of the type. I don't exactly know if this is good or bad, I'm just noting it. Same sort of thing with John, its in his interest to avoid Gospels. Basically I worry you are giving reasons to avoid things they shouldn't avoid thematically.

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Peter Receive 2 VP for each town in which you performed a Preach deed.

Basic vanilla scalable Goal. Spread yourself out and Preach away. I think these may be less interesting, but mechanically better. However there is a cap at the number of towns right? And if statistically no Preach deeds end up in a specific town, you are cheated from those points.
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Simon Zelotes Add up the total value of the consequences of the Deeds you’ve performed that moved the Jews track. Receive VP equal to the absolute value of the sum

Pretty complex math in my opinion. If he is supposed to be the Balancer of the Jews, maybe something simipler: 2VPs for every pair of Deeds that move the JewsTrack in opposite directions. It could be worded better, but basically pair up your deeds and count. Just don't get too many of either direction.
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Andrew Receive 3 VP for each Town in which you performed more Deeds than any other player.

This one also may run into Player Number Scalar issues. If you are playing in a 5 player game, you have to beat four others, as opposed to only two others in a 3 player game. Also I imagine you actually perform fewer deeds because you get fewer turns in a five player game, so it may then be doubly hard. Also compare to Peter, who by solely performing one deed of a specific type gains 2 vp, where poor Andrew has to perform possibly quite a few in a town to get 3. Also as my namesake, I think Andrew should get a break.
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Phillip If you performed more Deeds than the Traitor, receive 2 VP for each Deed difference. If there was no Traitor, receive 2 VP for each player who performed fewer Deeds than you

This is one of those all-or-nothing ones. If you happen to not guess the traitor, or just don't get as many deeds as him, you are 0 points. It's certainly not scalar like some of the others. And just barely beating the traitor, gives you so few. While it may be in the Traitor's interest to be down on deeds, I don't think necessarily so. Again with the player scalar thing, 5 players gives you more players to be ahead of, but also more players to try to beat. I'm a bit split on this one.
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Bartholomew If you performed at least one Deed in each Action category, receive 3 VP.
For each other player who performed at least one Deed in three categories, receive 1 VP

This one I really like. There is a portion you can control and a portion you can't. Also, you aren't all or one. There is still a bit of the player scalar thing, but not major. The thing this one lacks in the internal scaling. You get your 3 VP's, and really have no more incentive on this goal. A small suggestion may be VPs proportional to your fewest deeds in an Action Category. So you get 0 if you haven't done one in all categories, but you can work towards more.
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James Receive 2 VP for each town in which you performed at least as many Deeds as Jesus

Thomas Receive 4 VP if you performed as many Deeds as Jesus. Receive 1 VP for each other player who performed as many Deeds as Jesus

The two related to Jesus and his works. Again I compare James to Peter. Peter can perform one deed of a type for his points, while James must beat Jesus at several places. Certainly some towns won't see Jesus as much and be easier.
For Thomas the question is EXACTLY as many or again Atleast as many. Getting a tie might be hard, especailly if Jesus is running low in numbers and your other Goal is a high-deed one. Also no real internal scaling possible, an all-or-nothing one.

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Judas Iscariot You are the Traitor.
On your turn, if you are in the same town as Jesus, you may end the game.
If you do not betray, receive 1 VP for each Deed you performed that did not increase the Pharisees track
I think there has been enough comments on Judas, so I'll leave him alone.

I know most of these come across as pointing out problems. I mean this more as things to think about with each one than bad things. Overall, I like Bart the best, Peter the next. The biggest worry I have is that some goals will outshine others with different number of players. Maybe that means that you explicitly remove specific goals for fewer players, but I didn't think you wanted that.
In my opinion, the best ones are going to be those that can get a fixed/scalar amount of points for something the player does, with a scalar amount based on the other players. If every Goal had this, then the overall effect wouldn't be noticable. The All-Or-Nothing guys can be troublesome. Linked with the number of players thing, there importance flucuates some.
First look you have some good ideas. I really like the tying of them to the names of the Disciples. It certainly makes me wonder about the amount of work I have in store when I start doing the goals for Tourney.
I'll sleep on this a bit and get back later if I have any more ideas.

Andy (see namesake is Andrew)

sedjtroll
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Disciples playtest session report

jwarrend wrote:
if a small portion of the Goal gives you a bonus based on the actions of others, I'm ok with that for now

Well, I think you should lok at it as more black and white. Either you want other people to randomly effect your score, or you don't. I dont think it's ok to say "well, it sucks, but as long as it's just a little bit it's ok"... that kind of rationalizing is ok if you are, say, describing a game you have played and like. But here you have the opportunity to make the game such that those comments don't exist. You're designing the game, you don't have to rationalize stuff you don't like- you can design it out.

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Haven't played the game, but I agree, "winning because someone played badly" can be unsatisfying. On the other hand, having a small portion of your scoring being somewhat out of your hands would certainly work ok thematically, but the key is that it has to be small.

Well, in the case of Chrononaughts, it wasn't because someone played badly. Evidently you do stuff which changes timelines and has ripple effects. So the player causing my friend to win did not realize he would win- he had no way of knowing (the players have secret goals).

This is very similar to how you are talking about Desciples right now. Albeit a player won't necessarily win because you accidentally did more Healing deeds than they did. but if a player wins by 1 point, and you happened to do more healing deeds than they did and gave them a 2pt bonus, then that is exactly the case- your inadvertant action has effectively Kingmade.

Regarding the goals- here are some cursory thoughts on them. I'll probably have more to say later, but on first glance...

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Matthew Receive 1 VP for each “compassion” Deed you perform
Receive 2 VP for each player who has performed more “compassion” Deeds than you.

Matthew and other similar Desciples- it appears they get rewaded for completeing deeds of a certain type. That's fine, then it would make sense to award points for each deed of that type, plus possibly points for every player who doe FEWER deeds of that type. As discussed before, I don't htink it makes sens to award points for other players doing MORE deeds of that type. If Matthews the Compassionate guy, then he should be rewarded for being compassionate, not for being less compassionate than others.

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John Receive 1 VP for every 2 Gospel tokens you hold.
Receive 2 VP for each player who has performed more Gospel tokens than you.

First, it should be 'who holds more" not "who has performed more". Second, same as above regarding fewer then/more then.

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Peter Receive 2 VP for each town in which you performed a Preach deed.

I like this, of course the question is balance. I forget how many towns there are. How many towns would you have to do a Preach deed in to win? All of them? Most of them? I guess this has to account for 1/2 your score because you get 2 characters...

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Simon Zelotes Add up the total value of the consequences of the Deeds you’ve performed that moved the Jews track. Receive VP equal to the absolute value of the sum

That's a lot of verbage. Just to clarify... do you take the absolute value of each, then add them? Or add them and then take the absolute value? Aren't some negative and some positive? Wouldn't that lead to a low score?

This seems to reward advancing the Pharisees (indirectly), or I suppose keeping the Jews in balance. Could be either way. This in combo with Judas might be nice :)

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Andrew Receive 3 VP for each Town in which you performed more Deeds than any other player.

This one sounds pretty good. Rewards moving around the board to do deeds.

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Phillip If you performed more Deeds than the Traitor, receive 2 VP for each Deed difference. If there was no Traitor, receive 2 VP for each player who performed fewer Deeds than you

This one rewards people for doing deeds in general. Seems ok to me. Again the number might or migh not be right.

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Bartholomew If you performed at least one Deed in each Action category, receive 3 VP.
For each other player who performed at least one Deed in three categories, receive 1 VP

Sounds like the numbers are off here- how many action categories are there? Also, the max score for this guy is only like 7 points, which sounds low compared to the rest.

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James Receive 2 VP for each town in which you performed at least as many Deeds as Jesus

Compare this to Andrew. Should it be less? How many deeds does Jesus perform in any town? Also, does Andrew count Jesus as another player? (I assume not).

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Thomas Receive 4 VP if you performed as many Deeds as Jesus. Receive 1 VP for each other player who performed as many Deeds as Jesus

Again, this one's max score is 8... is that enough? It rewards total deeds done (about 50%) and other peopel's doing deeds (50%)... hmm.

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Judas Iscariot You are the Traitor.
On your turn, if you are in the same town as Jesus, you may end the game.
If you do not betray, receive 1 VP for each Deed you performed that did not increase the Pharisees track

I don't know if I like the alternate score for not betraying. MIsn't that a lot less points than everyone else?

Also, put the score for betraying on the card (also, it should read "... you may betray Jesus and end the game")

- Seth

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

Torrent wrote:

These four I think will have a very different effect with differing numbers of players.

Indeed, this is the concern with these. I think a non-scalable "auxiliary" goal might be better, something like "Receive X VP if the sum of deeds of type Y performed by all other players exceeds your own". (but worded better, obviously). The idea is that you're trying to put others before yourself, not just scoop up all the Deeds so you can get mega points. The current goal is meant to reflect this, but I agree, it has game size issues that probably are too problematic...

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Peter Receive 2 VP for each town in which you performed a Preach deed.

Basic vanilla scalable Goal. Spread yourself out and Preach away. I think these may be less interesting, but mechanically better. However there is a cap at the number of towns right? And if statistically no Preach deeds end up in a specific town, you are cheated from those points.

There are 6 towns, so this one could be worth 12, but actually, that would be a lot of points to get from one goal. I think 6 will be nearly effortless, and 8 shouldn't be too bad. I think I might need to tweak the value here. But yeah, this is a nice, clean, simple goal.

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Simon Zelotes Add up the total value of the consequences of the Deeds you’ve performed that moved the Jews track. Receive VP equal to the absolute value of the sum

Pretty complex math in my opinion.

Nah, it's not so bad. Let's say you have 3 Deeds that affected the Jews: +2, -1, +1. The sum of those is +2. Take the absolute value, which is 2, and that's how many points you get.

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If he is supposed to be the Balancer of the Jews, maybe something simipler: 2VPs for every pair of Deeds that move the JewsTrack in opposite directions. It could be worded better, but basically pair up your deeds and count. Just don't get too many of either direction.

No, this goal is all about going in one direction or the other. This guy is Simon the Zealot; you're being rewarded for rabble-rousing (either by making the Jews happy, or mad). This goal was inspired by Preston (e-dad). It's one of the ones I like best of all the ones I have.

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Andrew Receive 3 VP for each Town in which you performed more Deeds than any other player.

This one also may run into Player Number Scalar issues. If you are playing in a 5 player game, you have to beat four others, as opposed to only two others in a 3 player game. Also I imagine you actually perform fewer deeds because you get fewer turns in a five player game, so it may then be doubly hard. Also compare to Peter, who by solely performing one deed of a specific type gains 2 vp, where poor Andrew has to perform possibly quite a few in a town to get 3. Also as my namesake, I think Andrew should get a break.

Indeed, this one may be too difficult; it should probably be "as many or more deeds than other players". But, that may make it too powerful. I think it's actually priced about right, but it's difficult enough that you may not get the points even though they are pretty fair...(maybe)

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Phillip If you performed more Deeds than the Traitor, receive 2 VP for each Deed difference. If there was no Traitor, receive 2 VP for each player who performed fewer Deeds than you

This is one of those all-or-nothing ones. If you happen to not guess the traitor, or just don't get as many deeds as him, you are 0 points. It's certainly not scalar like some of the others. And just barely beating the traitor, gives you so few. While it may be in the Traitor's interest to be down on deeds, I don't think necessarily so. Again with the player scalar thing, 5 players gives you more players to be ahead of, but also more players to try to beat. I'm a bit split on this one.

This is probably the goal I like the least. In each game we've played, we have identified the traitor, but you don't find out till late in the game who it is, and so your approach with Phillip is just "do a ton of deeds", which I guess is valid but maybe not that interesting; it becomes a bit of a lucky outcome as to who the traitor was. This one's probably on the chopping block...

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Bartholomew If you performed at least one Deed in each Action category, receive 3 VP.
For each other player who performed at least one Deed in three categories, receive 1 VP

This one I really like. There is a portion you can control and a portion you can't. Also, you aren't all or one. There is still a bit of the player scalar thing, but not major. The thing this one lacks in the internal scaling. You get your 3 VP's, and really have no more incentive on this goal. A small suggestion may be VPs proportional to your fewest deeds in an Action Category. So you get 0 if you haven't done one in all categories, but you can work towards more.

Something like this could definitely work, but the other night, just getting one Deed per category was tough, so I can't see ever getting 2 or more across the board. Still, something along those lines could be valid and interesting...

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James Receive 2 VP for each town in which you performed at least as many Deeds as Jesus

Thomas Receive 4 VP if you performed as many Deeds as Jesus. Receive 1 VP for each other player who performed as many Deeds as Jesus

The two related to Jesus and his works. Again I compare James to Peter. Peter can perform one deed of a type for his points, while James must beat Jesus at several places. Certainly some towns won't see Jesus as much and be easier.
For Thomas the question is EXACTLY as many or again Atleast as many. Getting a tie might be hard, especailly if Jesus is running low in numbers and your other Goal is a high-deed one. Also no real internal scaling possible, an all-or-nothing one.

It's "at least as many". Thomas' goal is quite difficult, and it's quite difficult to control since other players can have Jesus perform Deeds. Still, I think it's a nice goal, just the price needs to be right, and indeed, it's an all or nothing proposition. I agree, currently, James is tougher than Peter, but you do have the advantage of not needing specific kinds of Deeds in contrast to Peter who's somewhat restricted.

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I know most of these come across as pointing out problems. I mean this more as things to think about with each one than bad things.

Yes, of course, and I really appreciate your articulating the issues you see with the goals. I've seen some of them myself, but it's quite helpful to hear someone else point them out as well. Thanks!

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In my opinion, the best ones are going to be those that can get a fixed/scalar amount of points for something the player does, with a scalar amount based on the other players. If every Goal had this, then the overall effect wouldn't be noticable.

Yes, this is part of the problem, that the goals are different from one another in character. If they all worked the same, it would be much more seamless, yet coming up with 12 goals that are functionally similar yet all different has been quite difficult thus far, thus the mixture. I think the best I can hope for is that in each case, the difficulty of getting X points from a goal is the same across all goals, but beyond that, I fully expect that the scoring potential of the different goals could be different, and I'm not sure whether that's a big problem or not. If I have a card that maxes out at 5, and you have one that maxes out at 7, but for both getting the 5 points is equally hard, then this may be ok, given that there are other avenues for scoring. But, we'll just have to see. Certainly, if one goal maxes out at 4 and another at 12, that's not fair. But if they're all pretty close, maybe it's ok...

Thanks again for your thoughts, I really appreciate them!

-Jeff

Torrent
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Disciples playtest session report

Some general thoughts..

I think maybe you should decide how many points a goal card should be worth on average. If I remember correctly each performed deed also scores a point right? So goals that require more deeds to get a bonus could be different than those that require fewer.

You should also attempt to quanitfy at some level what difficulty to achieve means. This might help you decide whether goals are balanced on the difficulty dimension. I don't know about your Deed distribution, but if one type is more plentiful than another it is less difficult to do. Also the Peter Goal, look to see which towns if any have very few Preach deeds. This will make his job harder. Which may be ok, especially if several towns are easy to get and then get increasingly harder.

In the balancing efforts, I would caution you to watch out for Goals that might be mutually exclusive. So if a player gets two goals but cannot gain points for both, this may be a problem.

Specific thoughts..

Simon the Zealot will probably end up drawing Traitor accusations. As it is in hi best interest to avoid balancing the Jews track and thus inadvertantly increasing the Pharisees.

I like the Peter type thing, and think maybe the top three guys might benifit by being similar. Instead of doing more than others, just doing it it various towns is good.

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Something like this could definitely work, but the other night, just getting one Deed per category was tough, so I can't see ever getting 2 or more across the board.

How many deeds, in an average game so far, does a player gain? In the vein of watch for mutual exclusivity, I relized that withe each player having two goals, some of these 'more than others in a category' things may mean that the other goal needs to be ignored depending on what it is. This may be perfectly fine for the game, again just giving thoughts.

Andy

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

Ok, here are some possible changes I've been kicking around...

Quote:

Matthew Receive 1 VP for each “compassion” Deed you perform
Receive 2 VP for each player who has performed more “compassion” Deeds than you.
James and Thaddeus similar...

Changed this to "Receive 1 VP for each X deed you perform, and 3VP if the other players combined have more X deeds than you" (X = compassion, healing, or exorcism)

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John Receive 1 VP for every 2 Gospel tokens you hold.
Receive 2 VP for each player who has performed more Gospel tokens than you.

Changed to "1 VP for every 2 Gospel tokens, and 3 VP if you have at least one Gospel token for each Deed Jesus performed." (some events also give you Gospel tokens, the idea is that this guy will have to follow Jesus for most of the game).

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Peter Receive 2 VP for each town in which you performed a Preach deed.

Too powerful, I think; changed to "3 VP for every 2 towns you preached in".

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Simon Zelotes Add up the total value of the consequences of the Deeds you’ve performed that moved the Jews track. Receive VP equal to the absolute value of the sum

Happy with this one as is, no change.

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Andrew Receive 3 VP for each Town in which you performed more Deeds than any other player.

Torn about this one; could change to "2 VP for each town in which you performed as many or more deeds than any other player". Makes it a bit easier, but a bit more lucrative (right now it's difficult, but has potential for a big payout if you can corner a couple of towns...)

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Phillip If you performed more Deeds than the Traitor, receive 2 VP for each Deed difference. If there was no Traitor, receive 2 VP for each player who performed fewer Deeds than you

Changed completely, to "In the category in which you have your most Deeds, receive 1 VP per Deed that you performed, and 1 VP for each Deed Jesus performed in that category."

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Bartholomew If you performed at least one Deed in each Action category, receive 3 VP.
For each other player who performed at least one Deed in three categories, receive 1 VP

Changed to "If you performed at least one Deed in each category, receive 4 VP. For each category in which all players performed at least one deed, receive 1 VP".

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James Receive 2 VP for each town in which you performed at least as many Deeds as Jesus

Unchanged for now.

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Thomas Receive 4 VP if you performed as many Deeds as Jesus. Receive 1 VP for each other player who performed as many Deeds as Jesus

This goal is hard. Changed to "4 VP if you performed as many Deeds as Jesus, and 1 VP for each Deed by which you exceeded Jesus' total". (The 4 VP may even become 5 VP, this one is quite tough...)

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Judas Iscariot You are the Traitor.
On your turn, if you are in the same town as Jesus, you may end the game.
If you do not betray, receive 1 VP for each Deed you performed that did not increase the Pharisees track

Unchanged.

So, as you can see, all of the effects of rewards scaling with number of players are removed. Yet, some goals will still be easier or harder in a smaller game, perhaps, though I need some thinking to see which is which. I welcome any comments on these revised goals...

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

Torrent wrote:

I think maybe you should decide how many points a goal card should be worth on average. If I remember correctly each performed deed also scores a point right? So goals that require more deeds to get a bonus could be different than those that require fewer.

I think that in general, each Goal should give you between 3 and 7 points, with 7 indicating that "I focused a lot of effort on this Goal" and 3 being "I made some progress towards this Goal." Of course, you should also be able to get 0 points for a Goal for which you did nothing, but that should be less typical.

Quote:

You should also attempt to quanitfy at some level what difficulty to achieve means. This might help you decide whether goals are balanced on the difficulty dimension.

Sure, and I think the way I think about it is in terms of how much attention to have to pay to performing Deeds that will lead towards this goal, to the exclusion of other stuff you might want to do. For example, the other night, the player who drew Phillip and Bartholomew said that there were a few cases where he had to pass up doing a Deed that he could have done so as to focus more exclusively on Deeds that would contribute towards his Goal.

My one concern is that with 4 actions per turn, the game may be a bit too "loose" right now; it might be just a little too easy to be able to do whatever Deed you want to do. I'm not sure. But I think the idea should be that to get points for a Goal should mean that a player who actively worked towards fulfilling the goal would get more points than a player who was choosing his Deeds randomly. And I think the game certainly has that right now. But the nice balance is that the Deeds all have consequences, so sometimes, working towards your goal will expose the whole group to negative effects.

The other effect we may see is that "1 pt per Deed", while nice and simple, may not be lucrative enough, but that has yet to be seen.

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I don't know about your Deed distribution, but if one type is more plentiful than another it is less difficult to do. Also the Peter Goal, look to see which towns if any have very few Preach deeds.

A good point. Two of the towns have only one Preach Deed, and a couple (Jerusalem, Jericho) have quite a few. I think getting 8 pts for Peter should be pretty easy, which is why I've changed the goal as mentioned above. I think 6 points is probably a better reward.

Actually, with many of the goals, a "pyramid scoring" scheme would probably be more appropriate, but this is a family game, and I want to keep the scoring as simple as possible. And I do think that "get X points for each Y" is better than "get 1/2/4/6/10 points if you've done 1/2/3/4/5/6 Y". I think it is, anyway.

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In the balancing efforts, I would caution you to watch out for Goals that might be mutually exclusive. So if a player gets two goals but cannot gain points for both, this may be a problem.

Excellent point. I don't think this is a problem now, but I could be wrong. Certainly, getting Matthew and Thaddeus, say, are mutually exclusive, which might be a less fortunate draw than, say, Matthew and Simon or Matthew and Andrew. But, I'm not sure how much to worry about it.

Also, it's possible that I will provide a variant where the Goals are "drafted" a la Citadels, per Scurra's suggestion. This would be good for the gamers who would really care about whether two goals complemented or clashed. For a light family setting, a little bit of luck-of-the-draw effect in the goals shouldn't be a problem.

Specific thoughts..

Quote:

Simon the Zealot will probably end up drawing Traitor accusations. As it is in hi best interest to avoid balancing the Jews track and thus inadvertantly increasing the Pharisees.

Yes, I think you're right. Not necessarily a bad thing. And since the Deeds stay face-up, a savvy player may notice that this guy is choosing an awful lot of deeds that move the Jews, and might recognize he's Simon. Of course, if the player is ALSO Judas, then the "Simon" could be a nice smokescreen, assuming the other players are really astute and can tell the difference between actions that "look like" Simon and those that "look like" Judas...

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I like the Peter type thing, and think maybe the top three guys might benifit by being similar. Instead of doing more than others, just doing it it various towns is good.

It may be good to make all four of the "suit based" goals similar in this way. I'm not yet sure...

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How many deeds, in an average game so far, does a player gain?

So far, the player with the "most" Deeds typically has 7 or so, and some players may have as few as 3. But, I also think the games have been a little too short. I'm hoping my little changes will require more time for the Pharisees track to creep up, making the game last longer. More changes may be needed, though, to the cards themselves...

Quote:

In the vein of watch for mutual exclusivity, I relized that withe each player having two goals, some of these 'more than others in a category' things may mean that the other goal needs to be ignored depending on what it is. This may be perfectly fine for the game, again just giving thoughts.

Absolutely. It's tough because I'm testing 5 or 6 different things with each playtest, so it's hard to tell if problems are due to Deeds being too few, consequences being too severe, Jesus' AI being too restrictive, or one or more goals being imbalanced. Each test, we're taking steps in the right direction, but there's still room to improve, to be sure!

Thanks again for your thoughts,

Jeff

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

sedjtroll wrote:

Well, I think you should lok at it as more black and white. Either you want other people to randomly effect your score, or you don't. I dont think it's ok to say "well, it sucks, but as long as it's just a little bit it's ok".

Well, don't misunderstand me here; I'm not trying to apologize bad elements away by saying "at least they're not too bad." Rather, I'm trying to incorporate some unconventional scoring concepts into the game, and questioning the extent to which that can be done. I think that a game where your score is a little bit "out of your hands" will no doubt irritate the hard-core gamers, but it could work very well thematically. The key is that it has to be fair, and I'm not sure I've achieved that yet, or whether I can. If not, then though I like the idea, it will get jettisoned before the game is done. But, I think it's worth a try for now...

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This is very similar to how you are talking about Desciples right now. Albeit a player won't necessarily win because you accidentally did more Healing deeds than they did. but if a player wins by 1 point, and you happened to do more healing deeds than they did and gave them a 2pt bonus, then that is exactly the case- your inadvertant action has effectively Kingmade.

This is a fair point. I do think that the fact that there are 12 different goals presents a learning curve for someone who wants to take those kinds of things into account when planning their actions. I do think that the more experienced players should be able to see signs of who has what goal and plan accordingly -- for example, "Gee, Seth is performing all of his Deeds in just two towns; perhaps he is Andrew", or some such.

Also, see my recent post about recasting the goals that scale with what the other players did. I think that there shouldn't be too much kingmaking going on, at least I hope not.

Quote:

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Matthew Receive 1 VP for each “compassion” Deed you perform
Receive 2 VP for each player who has performed more “compassion” Deeds than you.

Matthew and other similar Desciples- it appears they get rewaded for completeing deeds of a certain type. That's fine, then it would make sense to award points for each deed of that type, plus possibly points for every player who doe FEWER deeds of that type. As discussed before, I don't htink it makes sens to award points for other players doing MORE deeds of that type. If Matthews the Compassionate guy, then he should be rewarded for being compassionate, not for being less compassionate than others.

Right, but again, this is a philosophically different concept I'm trying to exploit. For perspective, the original goal was "Receive 2 VP for each player with more compassion than you." But obviously, this leads to the "just don't do any compassion deeds!" approach, hence I added the 1 VP bonus for each compassion deed. What I'm asking players to do is put other players before them -- to not try to beat or bludgeon the other players, but to help the other players to succeed. That's what these goals are meant to reflect. Clearly, they have problems; they won't scale well with different player numbers, and there might not be clear enough ways that you can help the other players directly. But the philosophical concept behind these kinds of goals is very different than other games with similar goal-oriented scoring.

That said, it may very well not work in practice. But I think the "revised set" of goals I posted may solve some of the issues. Paying attention to the actions of others and trying to influence them may net you a few VPs. And the ways I believe you can influence others include: Giving them cards (a new mechanic), Planting yourself in the same town as a Deed you want them to perform so as to give them a discount, and having Jesus perform Deeds in a category that you want to make cheaper for everyone else, increasing the chance that they'll want those kinds of Deeds.

There should be an inherent dichotomy such that some people want to specialize while others want to diversify, yet both can benefit from the other. For example, as Peter, you want to specialize in preaching, yet you need to go to different towns to do so. This sets you up to have fewer Deeds in any town than Andrew, thus helping him out. Yet Andrew, by needing to perform a lot of Deeds, may end up helping Matthew or perhaps Bartholomew, etc. I think that the Goals, when properly balanced, will have a nice interdependence where pursuing your goal will also help someone towards their own. But, I'm not sure yet how to get there...

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If you do not betray, receive 1 VP for each Deed you performed that did not increase the Pharisees track

I don't know if I like the alternate score for not betraying. MIsn't that a lot less points than everyone else?

This is a change I made to address a concern of a Christian friend who felt that drawing Judas and being "forced" to betray was unsavory. Yes, the system doesn't "force" you to betray, but it heavily leans towards you doing so by only giving you one goal. This was an aspect I actually liked, however, I'm trying the goal with this change so as to hopefully make the game more acceptable to believers without losing any of the tension in the game (since in general, it really will be more lucrative to betray). The idea with the alternate goal is that you have to lock in your approach from an early time. If you are going to not betray, then Deeds that move the Pharisees and would thus help you to betray are not going to be rewarded -- only Deeds that don't help towards betrayal will be rewarded. So, Judas has to decide whether he's going to be "good" or "bad".

Thanks again for your thoughts!

-Jeff

sedjtroll
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Disciples playtest session report

jwarrend wrote:
I'm not trying to apologize bad elements away by saying "at least they're not too bad." Rather, I'm trying to incorporate some unconventional scoring concepts into the game

I like the idea you are going for. The unconventional 'score for helping others' thing is ery interesting. I still don't think that the way you've tried to implement will work the way you want it to. I see you have revised the goals such that in order to earn the bonus you have to have done fewer of 'your' deeds than everyone else combined, and that it's static- no incentive to simply not do those deeds. This seems better, but it may not be better enough.

What if he bonus were based on a different type of deed than your main score? Then there isn't some artificial cap on the type of deed yuo are supposed to want to perfom, but there is incentive not to perform (or to help others perform) other types of deeds? I don't know if that will solve anything, but maybe it's worth some thought.

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I think that there shouldn't be too much kingmaking going on, at least I hope not.

What I'm worried about here is inadvertant kingmaking. I don't think you have a problem with one player intentionally throwing a game to another. But the scenario I used as an example is a different case. Through no intention of your own you may throw the game from player A to player B (either of which could be you).

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And the ways I believe you can influence others include: Giving them cards (a new mechanic), Planting yourself in the same town as a Deed you want them to perform so as to give them a discount, and having Jesus perform Deeds in a category that you want to make cheaper for everyone else, increasing the chance that they'll want those kinds of Deeds.

This is the kind of helpng other players that I think is good. Maybe my suggestion above will help in this way as well... if alternate goals are things like 'score based on how many deeds Jesus performs' then it's in your interest to have Jesus perform deeds, making them cheaper for others. If your alternate goal is to score fewer of a deed (that isn't your main deed) than someone else, then you could go to a town where a deed of that type is up, and not do it (making it cheaper for someone else). In fact, each 'main deed' could have an 'opposite' so like the Compassion guy might not want to do Healings and vice versa. Or, if it makes more sense, it could be Round Robin: Compassion guy wants to not do Healings, Healing guy wants to not do Exorcisms, and Exorcist guy wants to not do Compassion stuff.

Similarly, each 'suit' could have a complimentary and an opposite- where if you're the Compassion guy, you score bonuses for having done healings and for NOT having done Exorcisms... or something.

Those thoughts are off the top of my head, so I don't know exactly how much help they'll be. Hopefully they will help.

- Seth

Scurra
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Disciples playtest session report

jwarrend wrote:
Quote:
If you do not betray, receive 1 VP for each Deed you performed that did not increase the Pharisees track
I don't know if I like the alternate score for not betraying. MIsn't that a lot less points than everyone else?

This is a change I made to address a concern of a Christian friend who felt that drawing Judas and being "forced" to betray was unsavory. [...] So, Judas has to decide whether he's going to be "good" or "bad".

I think this is a great "fix" for this concern - probably better than removing Judas entirely. I wish his goal could have been less generic, but it's one of the few combinations you don't use so I suppose it works. I would make some comments on the other goals, but most of the issues have been addressed. What matters is that they roughly max at the same levels with an approximate similarity in difficulty. The fact that in one game some goals will prove much more lucrative than others will be balanced by the next game which plays out in a different way.

Balancing secret goals is always a nightmare though (I'm exploring a design now that uses them and it is threatening to kill the game completely!) But they add a lot to replayablility and ensure that each game is different to the last without adding to the complexity level.

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

A good week, with 3 playtest sessions. First the session reports, then the rules issues/changes:

Session Reports

Session 1 was a five player game with Preston's youth group, which this time around included 3 boys, age 15 or so and one 13 year old girl who sat out to watch. The game played fine and with no major flaws, and I think the youth liked the game. It was rather looong, taking over 90 minutes to complete. I think part of this was due to slow play by the players, but part was also due to the "openness" of the system, perhaps -- "take any 4 actions you want" is perhaps a lot for some people to handle, particularly younger players. But, 15-16 is not that young, and it shouldn't have been a big deal. Perhaps it's about exposure to games as well; I think these guys are relatively new to gaming, and for someone who hasn't gamed much, Disciples may be overwhelming (although it's really not supposed to be...). Preston won handily with 24 points, having drawn two goals that complemented each other well and working them to great effect. I came in fourth, just behind 2 of the other players. This worried me, since I was trying pretty hard, and I felt (correctly or not) that the other players were making their plays somewhat "at random" (ie, they weren't really aggressively pursuing a strategy), so I worry that "good" play may not be rewarded more than "random" play. Not sure yet. Mysteriously, with only a 1 in 11 chance, we still managed to have no traitor in this one.

2nd session was a 2 player with my wife, to see if it would work. I don't know if she liked the game much, but it did seem to work fine as a 2 player system. You have much more control over what deeds you'll perform, but you also don't have many other players who, by being in towns, can get you discounts on the deeds you want to perform. For the traitor, we changed things completely. Now, instead of rolling one die to start your turn, you roll 4, and sum them. If this is less than the number on the Pharisees track, the game ends immediately. We never actually made it to the game end, but I think the experiment was a success -- a 2 player variant should work fine.

Last night's session was with my regular group, and featured Tony, Matt, Cindy, Karl, and myself. This game also took very long to play, lasting about 90 minutes or so. Yet, in number of turns, it was about right; we all had enough turns to do 5-7 deeds, and all felt like we were working towards our goals. Matt accused Cindy of being the traitor thinking she wasn't (and thus hoping to dump a card), but actually, she was! She said she had been trying to arouse as little suspicion as possible, and had succeeded in doing so, but it didn't work in the way she intended. By her last turn, the Rome track was at 9 and the Pharisees track was at 13. She decided she could get more points by moving Rome than by betraying, and she did this, ending the game. Because the Judas "non betrayal goal" is "get 1 VP for each deed that did not move the pharisees", she netted 7 points for this, which propelled her to victory with 20 points. I was close on her heels with 18, which was satisfying to me because I felt that I had tried really hard to work towards my 2 somewhat difficult but potentially lucrative goals. I also composed the best gospel. Matt was third with 17, then Tony with 16 and Karl with 12. Karl's score was directly attributable to a rough goal, and I'll address this below.

Comments on various issues:

Goals

I feel like we're actually converging on a good set of goals, and that the relative values are good. The "Judas non-betrayal" goal is too powerful, because only 7 of the cards in the the deck (out of 43) advance the Traitor. Thus, this is too easy. I may change it to "1 VP for each deed you performed that didn't advance the Pharisees OR Jews".

Karl's goal, John, was "1 VP for every 2 Gospel tokens, 3 VP if you have as many gospel tokens as Jesus performed Deeds." Now, I think the first part of this is tough but fair, since you have opportunities to get Gospel tokens on other player's turns. The 2nd part is tough; while many Events give you gospel tokens, they all require you to be in the same town as Jesus, and since others can move Jesus, you can't always control this. So I think this one needs to change, but I'm not yet sure to what.

Chaos

I'm finding that in the 5 player game, you have some control over the game but there's a lot that's out of your hands. Since all players are competing for a limited number of Deeds, the Deed that you really want may be scooped up before you get a chance to perform it. I think that 4 players may be a better size for the game, although it works fine with 5; you just have to accept that the game is a bit chaotic with that many players.

There's also some luck of the draw in Goal selection; some goals fit together very nicely; some are very contrary. I like the idea of working towards your goals as best you can, but for someone who really cares about their score, this luck aspect may be unsatisfying. A simple Draft variant is probably needed.

Traitor

I think we're finding that while "no traitor" is theoretically interesting, in practice it just falls flat. I think we need to force there to be a traitor in every game. I'm not sure whether to do this in the 3 and 4 player game as well, but in 5 players, I think it just doesn't work that well if there's no traitor. It continues to be a big anticlimax when it happens.

Deed distribution

Right now there are 43 cards, and 17 have no consequence on the tracks. This is probably just a few too many "safe" events. In fact, only 7 Deeds advance the Pharisees, meaning that it's difficult for the traitor to actively advance the Pharisees track even if he wanted to. (and there's the corrolary problem where players don't really need to actively avoid + pharisees Deeds, since there aren't that many anyway). He can do so by moving the Jews track to either end, but we've extended that to +/- 4, making it more difficult (because at +/- 3, the Pharisees track moved too quickly). While the easiest solution is to just truncate the Pharisees track, I think the better solution is to add more consequences to the Deed cards, probably 2 more that advance the Pharisees and 2 or 3 that advance the Jews. That will help a lot.

Game length

This one is a paradox. In time, the game is taking too long. In number of turns, though, it's pretty decent. I think the time issue is related mostly to playing with slow players. Think of it like this; there will be about 40 turns in the game. If everyone takes 90 seconds on his turn, 60 minutes is easy. In fact, I think a minute a turn shouldn't be that bad. Yes, there are 4 actions, but since you're somewhat limited in what you can do, it shouldn't be that bad, particularly if you've spent the other players' turns planning your move (which you can't do perfectly since things change, but you can have a rough sense). So currently, I'm inclined to blame this on the players, which may or may not be accurate.

That said, I think the game may have a pacing problem. What seems to happen is that towards the end, the action tracks pin at 4 and the Deed cards all but disappear. Currently, an average of 4 out of 5 turns will reveal a new Deed card (with the others revealing an event). This seems to keep about 3-5 Deeds on the table in a typical turn for most of the game, but they still run out eventually. Maybe a Deed needs to come out every turn (but have some of those also reveal Events). This would make the game shorter in number of turns, but I think that might be ok. Although, I think that increasing the number of Deeds with consequences would also accelerate the game and maybe keep us from getting into the area where the Deeds are depleted.

Another possibility I'm considering is adding a simple rule where at the start of your turn, if there are less than X Deeds showing, you reveal enough so that X are showing. This has 2 problems; one, it gives the traitor a guarntee of X points for betraying. 2, it's fiddly. And in a sense, it's not needed; there's a natural ebb and flow, and when we ran out of face-up Deeds last night, within 3 turns there were 3 showing. It heals itself. But the problem is, the end game should feel like we're spiraling to a conclusion, not like we're lurching to one.

Since players can control the position of the Action tracks by having Jesus perform deeds, I'm less inclined to worry about the "action tracks maxing out" effect. Moreover, since the face-down draw pile, once it's reshuffled, becomes all "2's and 3's", I think paying for expensive Deeds should be realistic. But the game depends on having choices of Deeds to perform, and I fear that this may not be fully optimized yet. If the Pharisees track did/could advance a little faster, that would no doubt help.

Crazy suggestion

I had a "crazy suggestion" from one of the regular testers that may have some merit. His idea was to merge the Rome and Pharisees track into one, with the idea being that when the track reaches its end, the game ends via Rome, and the traitor can't betray. This creates a kind of "press your luck" effect where players want the track to reach its end so the game can end, but doing so potentially makes betrayal more lucrative. Similarly, the traitor wants to get the track high so as to get mucho VPs, but doing so risks the game ending before he can betray. The additional suggestion was to make the end point "movable", a la Sauron in Lord of the Rings. Maybe in response to the Jews, the Rome marker can move "back", and when the Pharisees and Rome markers meet, the game ends.

I think this would work, but I'm not sure it's a good change. It would simplify things a bit, but I think it would lose a bit of the flavor that the game currently has (although it's already an abstraction, so a little more abstractness might be ok). I also think it's more overtly similar to Lord of the Rings, which this game already has vague similarities to anyway, and maybe that's not such a good thing.

I don't know. It's a big enough change that I think it's worth thinking about but perhaps not actually making just yet.

Anyway, there's the report. Hope you enjoyed reading the latest update!

-Jeff

SVan
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Disciples playtest session report

Quote:
Crazy suggestion

I had a "crazy suggestion" from one of the regular testers that may have some merit. His idea was to merge the Rome and Pharisees track into one, with the idea being that when the track reaches its end, the game ends via Rome, and the traitor can't betray. This creates a kind of "press your luck" effect where players want the track to reach its end so the game can end, but doing so potentially makes betrayal more lucrative. Similarly, the traitor wants to get the track high so as to get mucho VPs, but doing so risks the game ending before he can betray. The additional suggestion was to make the end point "movable", a la Sauron in Lord of the Rings. Maybe in response to the Jews, the Rome marker can move "back", and when the Pharisees and Rome markers meet, the game ends.

When reading this it does sound like it would be a good change, in practice, at least. It simplifies things, plus it gives the traitor some tention towards the end: score points now, or risk the game ending. It may not seem like much, but the game will save a little bit of time just by eliminating one of the columns, and it will make it easier to learn as well.

It's probably hard to lose something though that you feel makes the game more closer to the theme, but you have to decide if the theme or the game is more important and then go from there. I don't think it loses too much of the theme in my eyes, and it could make the game faster, easier and more interesting. Maybe you can test it.

-Steve

sedjtroll
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Disciples playtest session report

jwarrend wrote:
I had a "crazy suggestion" from one of the regular testers that may have some merit. His idea was to merge the Rome and Pharisees track into one, with the idea being that when the track reaches its end, the game ends via Rome, and the traitor can't betray. This creates a kind of "press your luck" effect where players want the track to reach its end so the game can end, but doing so potentially makes betrayal more lucrative. Similarly, the traitor wants to get the track high so as to get mucho VPs, but doing so risks the game ending before he can betray.

As crazy as this idea may be, I think it's a really good idea. I don't see how it loses any of the theme.

Quote:
The additional suggestion was to make the end point "movable", a la Sauron in Lord of the Rings.

This I don't like at all.

- Seth

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

Svan wrote:
When reading this it does sound like it would be a good change, in practice, at least. It simplifies things, plus it gives the traitor some tention towards the end: score points now, or risk the game ending. It may not seem like much, but the game will save a little bit of time just by eliminating one of the columns, and it will make it easier to learn as well.

sedjtroll wrote:

As crazy as this idea may be, I think it's a really good idea. I don't see how it loses any of the theme.

I guess my concern about this is that currently, the separate Rome and Pharisees track symbolize, in some sense, two alternative endings for the game; they represent the idea that even if the traitor never took the payoff, still Jesus would have attracted enough attention from Rome that they would have crucified Him. So the idea is that some of your actions will anger the Pharisees, and some will cause Rome to take notice of you, (and some will do both), but there's a clear sense of which is which, which is what the two tracks represent.

Without this clear distinction, I'm just having trouble wrapping my head around what the track means. I guess the closest I can come is that it would represent the Pharisees only, and when they reach the end of their track, they've gotten so mad that they've bypassed the traitor and have found someone else to betray Jesus. It sort of works, but it does lose the flavor that I was trying to go for, that the political situation in Israel was balanced on a knife-edge in those days. That said, I'm not sure how well my current game captures that anyway; whether the current 3-track system conveys this sense, or not.

My other concern is one of gameplay. I worry a little that if both sides (the "good guys" and "the traitor") both need to advance the same track for the game to end, then there could be an endgame lockup effect where no one wants to perform deeds that do so. In a sense, it will become a game of "chicken", where the "good" players have to set things up so that they can run the table and max out the track before the traitor's turn comes up so he can betray. (I'm assuming an endgame where the traitor has been discovered, which will probably be typical. In fact, maybe too typical; maybe the game actually is more fun if no one really knows till the end, even if the "guessing game" is fun. Maybe you guys were right after all...)

Anyway, I think that a lot of the tension in the end game currently is created by the "race" aspect of wanting the game to end via Rome prior to the traitor's ability to max out the track and betray. (Which is a bit odd thematically, I admit)

This "race" aspect would be replaced by a "press your luck" aspect which sounds interesting on the surface, but I do worry about the "who's going to blink first" aspect, which the game really shouldn't have.

I think part of the problem is that I just am having a hard time envisioning how the game would work with this change. Would there still be a Jews track? What would it do? What would it represent? It's easy to see intellectually what the three tracks represent now, but if they merged into one, the difficulty in representation that this creates for me is making it hard for me to see how to consider implementing such a thing mechanically. For some reason, I just don't like it but I'm having a hard time saying exactly why...

-J

SVan
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Disciples playtest session report

Quote:
I guess my concern about this is that currently, the separate Rome and Pharisees track symbolize, in some sense, two alternative endings for the game; they represent the idea that even if the traitor never took the payoff, still Jesus would have attracted enough attention from Rome that they would have crucified Him. So the idea is that some of your actions will anger the Pharisees, and some will cause Rome to take notice of you, (and some will do both), but there's a clear sense of which is which, which is what the two tracks represent.

Without this clear distinction, I'm just having trouble wrapping my head around what the track means. I guess the closest I can come is that it would represent the Pharisees only, and when they reach the end of their track, they've gotten so mad that they've bypassed the traitor and have found someone else to betray Jesus. It sort of works, but it does lose the flavor that I was trying to go for, that the political situation in Israel was balanced on a knife-edge in those days. That said, I'm not sure how well my current game captures that anyway; whether the current 3-track system conveys this sense, or not.

When I read it, I got the feeling that the two ends could still happen from the combined track; the betrayer can betray whenever they want and get points from it, or if it gets to the end, the romans get tired of the it all, and the game is over, and the betrayer doesn't get any points he would from betraying.

From my experiences of reading the NT, the jews were the ones that seemed to have the final say. They were asked if the romans should crucify Jesus, and they answered yes.

So my way of thinking that fits with this theme, is that the jews track pushes the combined romans/pharisees track up by one when it reaches one of the ends. (Similar to the Roman track already.) I don't know if the deeds will make the romans/pharisees track go up much faster than you wanted. This will allow the betrayer to work through the jews to get the pharisees track up, which was a concern you said before (that the betrayer didn't have enough influence on the pharisees track, i believe)

Quote:
My other concern is one of gameplay. I worry a little that if both sides (the "good guys" and "the traitor") both need to advance the same track for the game to end, then there could be an endgame lockup effect where no one wants to perform deeds that do so. In a sense, it will become a game of "chicken", where the "good" players have to set things up so that they can run the table and max out the track before the traitor's turn comes up so he can betray. (I'm assuming an endgame where the traitor has been discovered, which will probably be typical. In fact, maybe too typical; maybe the game actually is more fun if no one really knows till the end, even if the "guessing game" is fun. Maybe you guys were right after all...)

This is a valid concern. Maybe another ending condition could help satisfy this?

The guessing game is a good idea, but in the times of the Apostles, no one knew until it was too late. Jesus pointed and talked and gave the most visible clues possible but they didn't get it. I thought it was a good idea, but if you change the game in this way, it would seriously handicap the traitor.

Hope this helps. This game is getting better everytime I read about it.

-Steve

Scurra
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Disciples playtest session report

SVan wrote:

From my experiences of reading the NT, the jews were the ones that seemed to have the final say. They were asked if the romans should crucify Jesus, and they answered yes.

I think you should ask Mel Gibson about that... :)

There are a lot of different ways to "read" those passages, both with and without the help of centuries of biblical scholarship.
Confusing two of the key factions in the story runs the risk of Jeff probably being accused of some of the things he is working hard to avoid!

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

Scurra wrote:

Confusing two of the key factions in the story runs the risk of Jeff probably being accused of some of the things he is working hard to avoid!

It's funny, that was a partial concern, that people would think, by merging the tracks, that I'm saying "the Romans and the Pharisees were in cohoots!". But I didn't worry about it too much because I think there are plenty of other aspects of the game that people will find a way to get upset about if they really want to! I think with this one, it's very important to enforce a wall of abstraction between the game and reality; people who are unable or unwilling to do that will obviously think I'm the devil, and I'm prepared for that.

Still, while the game is NOT a simulation, I think it would be good if it did a decent job of at least trying to evoke the theme, and I felt like the 3 track model was a good way to achieve that. But caution is certainly advised; while I obviously have a particular view of the Biblical text, it's important that I not ram that down anyone's throat with this game. And neither do I want people to get the impression that I'm doing that. That's why I sort of like the idea that the tracks are more of a "game clock" than anything else. It might work just as well to have there be a "confluence" effect, like when the Jews, Pharisees, and Rome tracks all sum to X, they kill Jesus, but I think something like that would be much more incendiary, whether or not it's accurate.

Thanks again,

Jeff

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3/11 report

Interesting session last night. We had 6 gamers trying to choose a game, and totally without any prompting from me, Disciples was requested. That's always a good thing. I sat out and moderated so Vitas, Teresa, Cindy, Karl, and Chris could play. All are "veterans" to the extent that this is possible in a game where the rules change every week!

We made a couple of changes to the game before playing, the biggest being a tweak in the die roll algorithm at the start of the turn. Ordinarily, you roll the die; if it's 2-5, you flip a Deed and increment an Action Track. If it's a 6, you flip an Event. If it's a 1, you reroll. We felt this still gave too few deeds, so we added that when you roll a 1, you also flip a Deed; that means it's possible to have more than one Deed come out on a turn.

I normally start with 6 Deeds showing on the board. Unfortunately, our die didn't feel the need to behave statistically last night, giving about four "1"'s in the first 7 rolls, and by the time we had gone around the table once, there were 13 Deeds showing, and the Pharisees track was at "1", meaning the traitor could betray and basically be guaranteed a win (since no one had 13 points).

We decided to abort and start over with fewer Deeds initially, and with a different die. Thankfully, it behaved better and we got through more of the game. Teresa decided to try something different and, as the Traitor, betray relatively early in the game. Unfortunately, she tried to do so by moving Jesus into the town she was in and then ending the game; but, I ruled that once you move Jesus, your turn has ended. Perhaps to remove ambiguity, "betraying Jesus" should require a turn action for the traitor. Probably makes sense. Unfortunately, this "outed" Teresa which made the "guess the traitor" superfluous. No big deal there. Two turns later, she betrayed and ended the game. The Pharisees track was on 5, and with 5 Deeds face up, she got 10 points. Cindy had 11, and Vitas had 9, so it seemed Teresa was in the mix. But...Karl had 21 and Chris had 15, coasting to first and second.

The reason leads to the interesting rules issue. The Goals Karl and Chris had are "configurational" rather than "incremental". For example, Karl had the goal "Receive 5 VP if you performed as many Deeds as Jesus and 1 VP for each Deed above and beyond". Since it was somewhat early, and since people were being unusually cagey about calling Jesus for help, this one got 8 points for Karl. His other goal was "3 VP for each town in which you have the most Deeds". Since only one Jericho Deed had come up and he had performed it, 3 of the 6 points he got for this Deed were pretty effortless.

I think Karl, having performed the most Deeds, probably did deserve the win, but it was interesting that he probably wouldn't have increased his score all that much over the course of the game, at least not from the Goals themselves.

That leads to an interesting dilemma; I believe that in a "long" game (ie, a game with at least 30 turns total), all the goals are (or will be) equally tough to achieve and score points proportional to the difficulty (though, as I've discussed, in a discretized way) -- Karl's goal really is a tough one in a normal-length game. But, in a short game (20 or 25 turns total), the game heavily favors the players with the "configurational" goals -- "Get X points if you have more of Y than other players/Jesus" -- as opposed to the incremental -- "Get X points for each Y that you do."

Now, what we seem to see, in each game, is that one goal will emerge as the one that scores mucho points, and that player will typically win; so, it always seems that the game state seems to find a goal that it prefers and rewards it accordingly. I think it will require all players knowing all the goals to be able to really harness this and manipulate the game state so as to prevent players from scoring big off of certain goals. Of course, this will be something "serious" players would do anyway, whereas "casual" players probably will just have fun playing the game (and it is fun...).

So, I wonder if I need to rethink the "configurational" goals to be more "incremental". It may be possible, but man, coming up with 11 unique goals in such a simple game system is proving tough.

Another curiosity is that my group seems unexpectedly cagey about calling Jesus; it seems that Gospel tokens aren't enough of an enticement; people only want to call for help if doing so will reduce an action track that they can then perform a Deed in. I think it's a group peculiarity more than a flaw in the game...

Other than that, after 7 playtests I still haven't changed the numbering on the Pharisees track or the length of the Rome track. I think Rome may need to become one space shorter (maybe) and the left-most space on the Pharisees track can probably go (since the "move back the Pharisees" rule is gone). I've changed the deck distribution a bit, and the goals have been changed a lot. But basically, it's been the same game all along, and it continues to be fun to play, with one caveat; I think, like any game, when it slows down due to perfect planners, the fun slows down to. But with a lively and quick group, it's fun. So, a little tweaking yet to do, then I'll probably call it "done".

Hope you enjoyed reading the latest SR; I'd particularly welcome comments about the two different styles of goals. My inclination is probably to leave it since what I think we saw was that the Traitor betraying too early probably isn't a good bet. But on the other end, the players should legitimately feel like the Traitor could betray and plan accordingly, so maybe if the goals are all "progress"-based rather than "configuration"-based, everyone will be in the same boat of trying to slowly and steadily work towards something, and betraying "early" isn't always a non-starter for the Traitor...

-Jeff

SVan
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Re: 3/11 report

jwarrend wrote:
Interesting session last night. We had 6 gamers trying to choose a game, and totally without any prompting from me, Disciples was requested. That's always a good thing.

That's a great sign! You know you have a good game when people are asking to play it.

Quote:
I normally start with 6 Deeds showing on the board. Unfortunately, our die didn't feel the need to behave statistically last night, giving about four "1"'s in the first 7 rolls, and by the time we had gone around the table once, there were 13 Deeds showing, and the Pharisees track was at "1", meaning the traitor could betray and basically be guaranteed a win (since no one had 13 points).

You know sometimes the weirdest things happen. It happen to me last night too in my playtest, where the game ended too soon, but at no fault to the design at least in my eyes.

Quote:
That leads to an interesting dilemma; I believe that in a "long" game (ie, a game with at least 30 turns total), all the goals are (or will be) equally tough to achieve and score points proportional to the difficulty (though, as I've discussed, in a discretized way) -- Karl's goal really is a tough one in a normal-length game. But, in a short game (20 or 25 turns total), the game heavily favors the players with the "configurational" goals -- "Get X points if you have more of Y than other players/Jesus" -- as opposed to the incremental -- "Get X points for each Y that you do."

Now, what we seem to see, in each game, is that one goal will emerge as the one that scores mucho points, and that player will typically win; so, it always seems that the game state seems to find a goal that it prefers and rewards it accordingly. I think it will require all players knowing all the goals to be able to really harness this and manipulate the game state so as to prevent players from scoring big off of certain goals. Of course, this will be something "serious" players would do anyway, whereas "casual" players probably will just have fun playing the game (and it is fun...).

I think you're right, it's more important that the game be fun than it to be balanced. But on the other hand, there are people, which unfortunely I am too, that don't enjoy the game if there isn't enough competion in it.

Also, since you said that Karl got the most deeds and realy worked hard, at his goal, maybe the goal isn't that bad. But if it gives the other players no chance to catch him, then it could be a little too high. 5 points in your game seems to be a lot. I wonder if it should be reduced to 3 instead (I remember you changing some of the goals before, and can't remember if this was one of them.)

Quote:
So, I wonder if I need to rethink the "configurational" goals to be more "incremental". It may be possible, but man, coming up with 11 unique goals in such a simple game system is proving tough.

One thing I've noticed from your goals is the different amount of points they can give. One can give a few points, but may be easier, where another one may be tougher but give a lot of points. What may help to make them more balanced is to make each one give a minimum and maximum of points that are as close as possible.

That would help against this scenario:

A player gets 2 easy goals, but only scores 10 points. That player cannot end the game very easily, so the other players who have harder goals all pass him by with harder goals which yield a lot more points. I don't know if this really happens, but this is what I thought I have seen.

Glad you had a good playtest. Hope I've helped.

-Steve

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

I had what will probably be, sadly, my last regular playtest session with my regular group last night; my wife and I are moving at the end of next week, so it's time to start looking for a new group!

Still, we were able to get one last session of Disciples in, this time with probably the biggest change we've implemented yet, and which I discussed a bit in my GDW thread. The idea is that now, instead of being worth a flat 1 VP at the game end, Deeds score immediately, and are worth 1 VP + 1 if Jesus is in the town +1 if other players are in the town; if they are, they each get 1 VP as well.

I tried this out with a "solo" playtest 2 nights ago, and it seemed good enough to try with the group. The results seem to be quite favorable. This rule change added a good bit of tactical depth and player interaction to the game -- you really need to think now about what deeds you want to perform and where you want to perform them. Since your actions will give points to other players, you want to strike a good balance between scoring more VPs and throwing VPs to other players. But of course, performing a Deed in a town with other players also gives you a (possibly much-needed) discount...

Naturally, this boosted the scores quite a bit. We played with 5, myself, Preston, Cindy, Karl, and Frans. Frans was new to the game. Two firsts for me -- the first time I drew "Judas", and the first time I won! The Rome track increased quickly from an early time, and I knew we were heading for a short game. Despite not having performed a lot of Deeds I managed (or, I would say, machinated!) to be in the right place at the right time to score points off of other players' Deeds, and thus I stayed close to the lead on the VP track most of the way. This led to some interesting tension for me, since I really wasn't sure whether betraying was going to be as lucrative as letting the game end naturally. It's interesting, I was actually sitting on more points for "non-betrayal", but betraying would have given me the opportunity to freeze other players' scoring right where it was rather than letting them score more; a nice dilemma.

A little later in the game, I was all set to betray, but Frans ended the game by moving up the Rome track. I had the lead in Gospel tokens, and this dovetailed well with my goal, which was Gospel-token oriented, thus I came out with 28 points, 2 less than I would have received for betraying. Preston was close on my heels with 25, followed by Frans and Cindy with 24 and 23. (Preston would have had 28 if he had performed as many Deeds as Jesus. He had, up until Frans chose to have Jesus perform a Deed as his last action). Karl, having played before, didn't really pay attention during the rules explanation and thus sort of missed the major change in Deed scoring. He was never really in the right place to score many points from his or other players' Deeds, and didn't make enough progress on his goals to accumulate many points.

I think the big plus is that the Deeds are a little more important than goals right now, which is good, because it feels like you're choosing between working towards your goals or performing Deeds that might net you more points. People still seem to choose Deeds with consequences pretty freely, but later in the game they obviously begin to pay more attention to the consequences of the Deeds.

My only real concern about this change is whether it adds a layer of complexity to decision making that is just too much. For example, the things you have to think about when choosing what deed to perform include: the position of the Action tracks (can I perform the Deed?), the location of other players (both in terms of cost reduction and point scoring), the current score of yourself relative to those players, the possible consequences of the deed, and the goals you are working on.

This, to me, is the kind of thing I really relish -- a slightly complex problem space that is resistant to "perfect planning". But of course, some people still try to perfectly plan no matter how complex the parameter space gets. Still, I didn't feel, and I don't think anyone else felt, particularly lost or overwhelmed at this point; since your choice of Deeds is somewhat restricted (people seem to have about 6 to look at each turn) and since some will be physically out of reach, it's pretty easy to choose among the remainders which work best for you.

My only other concern about the game is that there are a few "steps" to the Deeds action, and the more steps, the more things to forget. For example, after performing a Deed you increment the corresponding action track, you score points for yourself and others in the town, and you adjust the anger tracks (if necessary). This doesn't seem so bad, and with 5 people involved in the game usually someone remembers all the steps even if you forget, but still, it's a mild bit of complexity, though it's probably necessary in this case.

Overall, I feel that other than continuing to tweak the goals (which are nearing being "done", at least conceptually), and perhaps playing with the consequence distribution, we're very close to "done" with this one. I hope to have it playtested by a few more groups, and to do some more solo tests to balance a few aspects, then it should be just about finished!

Hope you enjoyed my latest report...

-Jeff

SVan
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Disciples playtest session report

jwarrend wrote:
My only other concern about the game is that there are a few "steps" to the Deeds action, and the more steps, the more things to forget. For example, after performing a Deed you increment the corresponding action track, you score points for yourself and others in the town, and you adjust the anger tracks (if necessary). This doesn't seem so bad, and with 5 people involved in the game usually someone remembers all the steps even if you forget, but still, it's a mild bit of complexity, though it's probably necessary in this case.

Maybe you could make a player reference for each player. In my playtests I find that no one actually reads them until I point the stuff out to them, but after that they look at it instead of asking me.

The game sounds much better with the different VP for deeds. It does sound like their is a little more strategy in deciding which town to be in and if you should do a deed or not.

Good luck with your game and the move.

-Steve

jwarrend
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Session 3/20/04

I had the opportunity to playtest Disciples with some very respected members of the gaming community yesterday -- these are names that many of you would certainly recognize.

The game went pretty well, I think. The action tracks were maxed out for the majority of the game, yet people were still able to perform Deeds; many had consquences that moved the Rome track up pretty quickly. The Pharisees track finally caught up and finally maxed out at 30. As the Traitor, I hoped to betray on my turn and net the 36 points that were available, likely securing me the win, but alas, the game ended just before my turn. That’s the 2nd time that has happened; I find it interesting, and satisfying. On my previous turn, I probably could have betrayed and been in the mix but I couldn’t reach Jesus from where I was. In the final analysis, I came in dead last, but the winner scored a quite respectable 30 points with 2nd place close behind with 27. Once again, the leader got about 18 or so points from Deeds, a little higher than previous games but about in the right ballpark. Only one player did a good job targeting his goals (2nd place), earning about 9 points for both; other players were only getting 1-3 points for each goal.

It was kind of weird; no one actually said whether they liked the game or not. The closest anyone came was one player (the one whose opinion I was most interested in) said “My reaction was neither particularly favorable or unfavorable and I have to think about why that is.” Hoping he’ll get back to me with the answer!

Some concerns that were expressed:

The game is too complex for the family market. This is definitely a possibility, yet I think the complexity makes the game rich enough that it’s not worth simplifying. I think that a variant set of rules would be the answer, and from my solo playtests, my feeling is that ignoring the Anger tracks altogether (and forgetting the Traitor) retains the fun of trying to meet your goals and score for deeds.

Because Jesus moves at the end of your turn, and because He moves towards a town with Deeds, moving Jesus can often result in creating scoring potential for other players, and as a result, people are being a bit hesistant to actually move Him. This only cropped up in this game, really, and it’s clearly attributable to the rule change that you get “1 VP for a Deed, +1 if Jesus is in the town, +1 if other players are in the town, and others also get 1 VP”. This means that having Jesus in the town is a big boost to your scoring; it also somewhat disincentivizes having Jesus perform Deeds (since you score more points of off Deeds than Gospel tokens), although the action track cost reduction should be incentive enough.

The proposed changes were either to have Jesus move at the start of your turn (don’t like it) or to have Jesus’ movement be automatic rather than volitional. I think I’ll at least playtest the latter to see how it goes; since Jesus doesn’t move if He’s in the town with the most (or tied for the most) Deeds, there will still be plenty of times where He won’t move, and anyway, taking a decision away from the players could be a good thing...

What I’m beginning to think about is the role of the traitor. It seems that the Pharisees track rewards the Traitor with VPs in a way that doesn’t directly correlate with the Traitor’s actual performance in the game; in other words, he’s not actually scoring based on his own skillful play. To me, this mechanic works so well thematically that it’s worth keeping this aspect of the game, but I wonder if more avenues for the traitor to have to influence his score are needed -- the only thing I can really come up with is to have the traitor keep his scoring from Deeds performed, but then score bonus points based on the position of the Pharisees track (which would have to be scaled). This would just make the Traitor a different (but potentially more lucrative) goal as opposed to a whole different scoring system altogether. Not sure whether I’ll go in that direction.

So, from my perspective, this was a successful game -- it played out well, was tense and interesting, and I learned a couple of things about the game. I didn’t really get much feedback as to whether people enjoyed the game, but it was still a useful experience nonetheless...

sedjtroll
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Re: Session 3/20/04

jwarrend wrote:
I had the opportunity to playtest Disciples with some very respected members of the gaming community yesterday -- these are names that many of you would certainly recognize.

And what, you're not going to tell us who it was?

- Seth

Joe_Huber
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Re: Session 3/20/04

jwarrend wrote:
I had the opportunity to playtest Disciples with some very respected members of the gaming community yesterday -- these are names that many of you would certainly recognize.

...and then there was me (possibly recoginizable, I suppose, if not very respectable...)

Quote:
It was kind of weird; no one actually said whether they liked the game or not.

Ah, I've trained them too well. The fact you got comments about the game means it wasn't a _not_, but in the vast middle area.

For me, it was definitely in the middle. Nothing broken, nothing inspiring.

Quote:
The game is too complex for the family market. This is definitely a possibility, yet I think the complexity makes the game rich enough that it’s not worth simplifying. I think that a variant set of rules would be the answer, and from my solo playtests, my feeling is that ignoring the Anger tracks altogether (and forgetting the Traitor) retains the fun of trying to meet your goals and score for deeds.

As I just said in email - as it stands, the game isn't gamer-friendly enough to fit that type of group well (I think your comparison to Terra is apt), or simple enough for Christian families. I'd be tempted to make the variant rule set the default, in fact, and include the current version as the variant...

Quote:
Because Jesus moves at the end of your turn, and because He moves towards a town with Deeds, moving Jesus can often result in creating scoring potential for other players, and as a result, people are being a bit hesistant to actually move Him. This only cropped up in this game, really, and it’s clearly attributable to the rule change that you get “1 VP for a Deed, +1 if Jesus is in the town, +1 if other players are in the town, and others also get 1 VP”. This means that having Jesus in the town is a big boost to your scoring; it also somewhat disincentivizes having Jesus perform Deeds (since you score more points of off Deeds than Gospel tokens), although the action track cost reduction should be incentive enough.

If and only if you take advantage of the track cost reduction yourself.

Joe

jwarrend
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Re: Session 3/20/04

Joe_Huber wrote:
jwarrend wrote:
I had the opportunity to playtest Disciples with some very respected members of the gaming community yesterday -- these are names that many of you would certainly recognize.

...and then there was me (possibly recoginizable, I suppose, if not very respectable...)

Yes, Joe was nice enough to offer his group for me to test the game with. We've been discussing the game via email, but I encouraged him to post his thoughts here on the chance that something might come up that would be of interest to the rest of the group to discuss. And I think this is what I find most interesting in his comments:

Quote:
As I just said in email - as it stands, the game isn't gamer-friendly enough to fit that type of group well (I think your comparison to Terra is apt), or simple enough for Christian families.

The second part ( the game isn't simple enough for Christian families) I'll accept without further debate for the time being, whether or not it is actually true.

As for the first part, though, I think it draws a bit of a false dilemma; there is, to my mind, a LOT of real estate between what you're calling "gamers" and "Christian families."

As I've said, this one is aimed at the mid-level strategy game "genre" -- something like Carcassonne, Pirate's Cove, etc; it's not what I'd consider a "gamer's game" like Tigris & Euphrates or Puerto Rico. Yet, wouldn't you consider someone who commonly played Mystery in the Abbey, or Pirate's Cove, or Settlers, a "gamer"? I wouldn't consider them a "hardcore gamer", and so if you're saying "this game won't appeal to hardcore gamers", you may be right. But what percentage of "gamers" are "hardcore gamers", do you think? Wouldn't you say that the mid-level strategy games are overwhelmingly a bigger percentage of the market than the "gamers' games"? (Note that for simplicity, I'm referring specifically to "German games", and thus ignoring the argument someone could make that would say "what about Monopoly players? Aren't they gamers?")

At any rate, it would be interesting to hear your view on what about the game makes it fall short of being "gamer-friendly." I think it could be either that the game engine is a bit simple (it basically revolves around doing Deeds), but what I think you might be referring to is more the idea, as we've discussed off-group, that it appears to reward a slightly more "selfless" play style than gamers typically adopt. For example, having Jesus perform Deeds is necessary to make the game "easy" to play, yet hard-core gamers will only take this kind of an action if doing so clearly benefits them immediately more than any other player.

Two comments about this: one is that I don't think you could say there's a problem with the game if it doesn't respond well to the kind of play style a player wants to force upon it. (But of course, that player may not want to play the game again...) And the other is that the notion that "I'll only do X if it will clearly help me more than anyone else" is antithetical to the theme, so in a sense, it's a good thing that the game engine doesn't reward this. I feel like the game, to play "easily" (action costs low, Pharisees track kept in check) requires a concerted effort on the part of all of the players. If the players refuse to do this, they will find the game "tough", but you can't really blame the game for this, can you?
(this really isn't meant to be a rhetorical question -- I'm quite interested in people's responses...)

I know we're sort of having this discussion in parallel with email, but I'd be interested if others here want to chime in on this issue. What constitutes a "gamer"? What audience can/should we target our games to? How much do we worry about alienating a particular audience? How much can be blamed on the game if the players "won't play right"?

This sort of gets back to the topic Joe raised a while back on "design intent" -- I think the issues I'm raising here kind of flow naturally from it. However, in this case, I don't think I need to communicate my design intent to the players -- the game system does that just fine. Players who won't play "right" will find the game "difficult". The question becomes, will they modify their play style, or just complain that the game is broken? Which should they do? How much do I, as a designer, worry about it?

Thanks again for playtesting, and for your comments about the game!

-Jeff

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