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Disciples playtest session report

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Brykovian
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Disciples playtest session report

Jeff ... Just wanted to say that this game sounds better and better with each tweak and re-play. Thanks for posting the results of your playtests ... lots to learn (and vicariously enjoy!).

-Bryk

Anonymous
Disciples playtest session report

Just catching up with some of the earlier suggestions.

Getting rid of the die: I love the idea! If the tracks increment well enough on their own and you have a good solution for bringing out events (which it sounds like you do), then it would streamline the bookkeeping aspect of play quite a bit. I remember (scale my input in relation to my relative inexperience) that the bookkeeping was, for me, the most daunting aspect of play. Removing the die just makes sense (and a more elegant game).

Getting rid of the Jews track: Initially I feel that this is a good thing. Again, this will smooth out the bookkeeping to a relatively elegant level that works well with the game overall. Yes, it does add thematically to the game, but I didn't really notice during the playtest in which I was involved. There was simply too much going on for me to even consider it. I might feel differently if my goals were dependant on it in some way, but I don't think there are any (or many) goals that do. Certainly nothing that couldn't be balanced without it. As for balancing events, I'm sure it could be done in other ways.

Scaling back the Judas factor: This seems to be some concern over the power of Judas in relation to the scoring. By mid-game, it seems that Judas' option to betray has become so lucrative that he is almost assured a win. While it is thematically appropriate for Judas to betray Jesus in every game, I don't think it should be a sure-thing that when he does, the player playing Judas will always (or nearly always) win. Of course, the scale of the Pharisees track should appropriately go to 30, but it seems that the rest of the game is scaled too low. Maybe scale the rest of the scoring to balance out the relatively fast moving Pharisees track.

Another idea would be to have non-linear numbering along the Pharisees track so that it starts off low and then by midgame moves to a less-than-middle number and then stays there or close to it for several increments, then incrementing to 30 later. You could extend the track to have more than 30 spaces (maybe 40-45?) with longer stretches of numbers to help reduce the quick rise to power that Judas seems to enjoy currently. Something like this:

0-0-0-1-2-3-4-5-6-6-7-7-8-8-9-9-10-10-11-11-12-12-13-13-14-14-15-15-16-16-17-18-19-20-21-22-23-24-25-26-27-28-29-30

Just to give you a rough idea. This would help give players more control over the middle section of the game. If the track gets all the way to 30 then it is more likely a result of players not being careful enough with the Pharisees track.

I look forward to seeing how the next incarnation of Disciples turns out!

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

fanaka66 wrote:
As for the die, have you thought of using a small deck of cards with the 6 possible outcomes?

No, and that's actually a good idea! But...I don't think it will be necessary anymore, since we're (at least for now) going to do away with the "increment an action track" bit at the start of your turn. So now, the only thing that happens is you flip a Deed and (for now) if it's the same town that Jesus is in, an Event happens. Much simpler.

SiskNY wrote:
I remember (scale my input in relation to my relative inexperience) that the bookkeeping was, for me, the most daunting aspect of play.

Yeah, this is my main lingering concern with the design as well. The die is a small change, but every little bit helps! Eliminating the Jews track would also help this, and your analysis on that was good. It's not a definite yet, but I think I'll at least try it out -- Mike and Tom are likely to be the guinea pigs for that next week!

fanaka66 wrote:

I know I fall into the category of someone who has not played enough, but I still think Judas needs to be scaled back in some way. As it is, he already has the advantage of winning 2 different ways.

SiskNY wrote:

Scaling back the Judas factor: This seems to be some concern over the power of Judas in relation to the scoring. By mid-game, it seems that Judas' option to betray has become so lucrative that he is almost assured a win. While it is thematically appropriate for Judas to betray Jesus in every game, I don't think it should be a sure-thing that when he does, the player playing Judas will always (or nearly always) win. Of course, the scale of the Pharisees track should appropriately go to 30, but it seems that the rest of the game is scaled too low. Maybe scale the rest of the scoring to balance out the relatively fast moving Pharisees track.

I think, though, that given that Judas getting 30 points is "fair" in relation to the scoring potential of other players, then the issue as I see it isn't so much one of needing to scale up the other players as to adjust the *rates* at which people score points. The easier knob to turn to do this is to adjust the rate of advancement on the Pharisees track, and this could easily done by making it longer, or, as you suggest, the payouts more non-linear, etc.

But, the other way it could be handled is for players to refuse to do "Pharisees" deeds. As Mike notes, this still will be present to help the traitor score point, but less than he'd get if the track advances. I claim that to keep the traitor at bay requires the concious, deliberate action of all players. Yet, many of the Deeds with Pharisees consequences are ones you'll want, thus, can you pass them up for the good of the group as a whole? It's a cute psychology excercise, which I'm afraid I'll have to do away with if people won't play "my" way!

The bottom line is this: with only one or two exceptions (events), the rate of advancement of the Pharisees track is *completely* in the hands of the players, (and I have *never* seen Judas get the track all the way up completely on his own). Given that, how could anyone blame the game itself for the Pharisees track moving up too quickly?

Quote:

Another idea would be to have non-linear numbering along the Pharisees track so that it starts off low and then by midgame moves to a less-than-middle number and then stays there or close to it for several increments, then incrementing to 30 later. You could extend the track to have more than 30 spaces

Non-linear numbering might work, but 30 spaces wouldn't, (a) because that's just too long of a track and (b) because there are only 43 Deeds in the game, and of those maybe 10 move up the Pharisees. It could work to have the Deeds move the Pharisees track different amounts...but (a) still makes me want to refine the current system rather than deal with a 30 space track.

Currently, it's: ("C" = can't betray)

C C C C 3 6 9 12 15 18 22 26 30

I could change it to

C C C C 2 4 6 9 12 15 19 24 30

That's a much more dramatic acceleration at the end. I also think it might be just as easy to keep the original track but add one "C" space to the beginning. Or, there's always the option of playing with the distribution of Deed cards, though that's harder to deal with in a controlled way.

Quote:

I look forward to seeing how the next incarnation of Disciples turns out!

Me too! Thanks for the feedback...

Scurra
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Disciples playtest session report

jwarrend wrote:
It's a cute psychology excercise, which I'm afraid I'll have to do away with if people won't play "my" way!

I know I keep mentioning "All for One" which isn't entirely fair as most people here know very little about it, but Seth and I have been experiencing much the same thing: if people won't play it the "right" way, does that mean that there is a problem with the game or with the players?

I really don't think you should be thinking about dropping the whole "does this help the Traitor too much?" business simply because it feels like one of the things you mentioned regarding the goals; that as you learn the game you learn how the various components balance off against each other. If it's all obvious the first time you play then there isn't an incentive to play again.

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

Scurra wrote:
If it's all obvious the first time you play then there isn't an incentive to play again.

But conversely, if it's too opaque the first time, you may not want to play again either. For better or for worse, gamers are very quick to declare games broken or flawed, which I incredibly arrogant; a designer poured his heart and soul into this thing for a year or two, then a company saw something in it that made them want to invest in, they took the time to develop it and sharpen it, spent the money to put it in print, and then you in one playing (or in some cases just from reading the rulebook) are going to call it broken? The nerve!

In all seriousness, I don't typically like "strategy hints" in rulebooks, but this may be a case of a necessary evil; just something like "watch out for Deeds that advance the Pharisees track; too many, and the Traitor will run away with the game!" or something.

So, I continue to think that the game is aesthetically what I want it to be, but if people can't (or won't) figure out how the game is "supposed" to work after a couple of plays, then my "art" obviously isn't communicating.

Bottom line, for now, is: keep testing!

-Jeff

nosissies
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Disciples playtest session report

Jeff et. all,

Regarding conversation on the scoring of the gospel tokens, I was reminded of a thought I had. I was unsure initially about suggesting this, because it feels somewhat clumsy, but I thought I should suggest it anyhow as this seems to be an area of opportunity.

Perhaps if you had fixed scoring for 1st/2nd/3rd/etc. place in terms of gospel tokens. I half imagined a short "track" which would have the number of points given depending on how you placed. .. hmm.. let me give an example...

assume a "track" of values like 2 - 4 - 6 - 8 - 10 (values of course tunable).
example 1: only one player gets gospel tokens. regardless of the number of tokens, they would get 2 points (ie the first position on the track)
example 2: two players get gospel tokens, player A has 5 gt's and player B has 2 gt's. Player A gets 4 points, player b gets 2 points.

-etc ... I think you can see how this would work out.

Well, there it is, do with it what you will... perhaps there is a better way to realize the "spirit" of this type of scoring. Note for one, that there is no "complicated math" to do. Note for another, as sort of a side benefit, that this encourages more cooperative play, since the only way you can score more game points for the gospel tokens you have is for other players to also have gospel tokens. This seems to be different from the current realization where whenever another player gets a gospel token it is most likely to just reduce your potential to score from "gt's."

Looking forward to playing again at our next playtest.

peace,
Tom

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

nosissies wrote:

Perhaps if you had fixed scoring for 1st/2nd/3rd/etc. place in terms of gospel tokens. I half imagined a short "track" which would have the number of points given depending on how you placed.

You want to add another track to this game? Are you nuts?

Completely kidding, of course. This is a great idea. In the original game, there was a fixed payout for 1st and 2nd in Gospel tokens. This seemed to make acquiring Gospel tokens pointless for a player who was trailing by a lot, and I think your system very nicely tries to make sure that everyone gets some tokens.

But, the "fixed payout" was, in the original system, the main problem moreso than the "closeout". The reason is twofold. First, in Game A, let's say the player with the most tokens has 3 tokens. In Game B, the player with the most has 10. In both games, that player will get 10 pts (or whatever), but not only does it not reflect the game-to-game relative level of achievement, but more importantly, 10 points may be a much different percentage of your score from one game to the next; a short game will have relatively lower scores from Deeds and Goals, for example, so a fixed Gospel payout could make Gospels overly powerful sometimes. (and counterintuitively so in this case; you'd think that the longer the game went, the more material you'd have, and the *better* your Gospel should be)

The other concern I have with removing an intrinsic value from the tokens is that while it incentivizes making sure "everybody has some", it doesn't reward you for helping others along; in fact, it just rewards you for getting everyone at least 1 token, then making yourself king of the hill. The "average" system, while mathy, does reward you for helping someone else along, although it's only "the person right below you"; it would be nice if you had to be even more magnanimous, but haven't come up with a way yet.

Perhaps a variant of your system could be adopted whereby there were several tracks with several payout schedules, and perhaps the group traverses from one track to the next based on how many tokens the lowest player has; maybe, for example, it would go:

A: 0 3 6 9
B: 2 5 8 10
C: 4 7 9 11

So as you go from track A to C, the payout for 1st place increases, but the relative payout between first and last decreases. Not sure if I've explained this clearly.

Perhaps the Gospel payout schedule could even be connected to the Political tracks in some way. That might be too convoluted, though.

Anyway, cool idea, thanks! I think it's too much of a change to adopt for this next session, but let's definitely talk it over next week!

Quote:
This seems to be different from the current realization where whenever another player gets a gospel token it is most likely to just reduce your potential to score from "gt's."

This isn't quite accurate; in the "averaging" system, you get the average of your tally and that of the player with the next lower tally. So if I have 10 and you have 6, in fact, I want you to get, say, 2 more tokens so that the average of our tallies is 9 instead of 8. (the only flaw is that I can just as well do this by getting myself 2 tokens, but anyway). If anything, I think your system may have this problem more dramatically, since once everyone has a token, there's no incentive for me to throw anyone else a token for the rest of the game. Or at least I think that's how it is...

Anyway, definitely plenty to talk about next week!

-Jeff

fanaka66
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Disciples playtest session report

Just thinking out loud. What if you got the sum of the GPs of the next 2 people behind? My initial thought is that it would solve some problems but cause others...

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

It’s interesting, sometimes a playtest session makes you feel like you’ve got a masterpiece, and other times you feel like you’re not even close. Our session last night, with Mike, Tom, and myself playing, made me feel a little too close to the former.

We played with 3 players, a first for the system. It held up ok; you have a lot more control over which Deeds you can do, but the overall pacing of the game was pretty successful. By removing the die roll at the turn start, we also reduced the amount of time that the actions tracks spent “pegged”, which was sort of good in that deeds were easier to perform, but sort of bad in that it was harder to call Jesus.

This session, though, was primarily characterized by Mike blowing the doors off of Tom and I. He ended with 49 points, to Tom’s 30 and my 25. It all started in the 2nd turn, when Mike performed 2 Deeds (which wasn’t hard because they were still cheap at that point); I was in the town, as was Jesus, giving Mike a big 6 points and a pretty good head start on the rest of us. Tom and I both made inroads, but we never really found a way to catch up to Mike, and by the end, he just pulled further away. In a sense, everything just seemed to click for him; he seemed to just keep pulling exactly the right action cards from the face-down deck, so he was able to do about a Deed per turn, a pace Tom and I couldn’t match. Moreover, it always seemed to work out that the town with the most Deeds, to which Jesus was traveling, Jesus would reach just as Mike’s turn hit, meaning that Mike would be the first to have the opportunity to go in and perform the available Deeds in that town. I think there were at least two occasions where he cleared a town out of 3 Deeds (between himself and having Jesus perform Deeds). I’m not sure whether it was a fluke, or poor play on the part of Tom and I collectively or what, but man, we got hammered.

All that said, I don’t think there’s too much I’ll change before next time. I’m looking more seriously at “Reveal a Deed” as a new turn action, but I’m afraid that this will burn through the Deeds too quickly; maybe it will have to come at some cost; two like symbols or something? This would help both to give players more options, and to “flood” the board with Deeds so as to redirect Jesus. That was frequently the concern, that it just wasn’t possible to rearrange the “town with the most Deeds” picture in such a way that Jesus wouldn’t move in a way beneficial to Mike. The old rules, where Jesus’ movement was optional helped this effect a lot, but the concern there was that Jesus *never* moved.

A few minor wrinkles here and there; for the 3 player game, I started each track (Pharisees and Rome) 1 space forward. Next time, I think I’ll move both up two spaces. Also, Mike had Thomas’ goal, which is “If you performed fewer Deeds than Jesus, get 1 VP for every 2 you performed; if you performed as many or more, get 1 VP per Deed”. This is way too easy in the 3 player game, Mike got 10 points from it. I like the “tipping point” of the goal, but in practice, I think it’s either too handsome or too weak depending on the game, but rarely "just about right". I may change the second half of the goal to “if you performed as many or more Deeds as Jesus, get 1VP per Deed *that Jesus performed*”. This incentivizes keeping your own tally high, but also making sure Jesus does a lot (probably paying out Gospels to others as well).

Other than that, no big changes are planned till we see how serious this “runaway leader” turns out to be. I’ve seen it before in less dramatic fashion, but it’s an open question as to whether there’s a good way to catch and overtake a leader who’s running away with the game. It will require some creative playing, I think, but perhaps it can be done. I really don’t want to have to add any more rules at this point, though it seems that scaling the payout of Deeds by the relative difficulty of performing them (maybe 1 pt per *card* that you pay to perform a Deed, on top of the regular scoring?), or else ramping up the late game scoring relative to the early scoring in some way, could be helpful. But all of this would require revaluing all of the goals, the Pharisees track, and the Gospel payout, the latter of which would be the most difficult. Bottom line, you don’t want early game fluctuations locking in the later course of the game. I don’t *think* the game suffers from this overall, but this session did to some extent.

Overall, a fun time, and kudos to Mike for an all time high score!

-Jeff

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

Had a solo playtest of Disciples the other night, which isn't worth mentioning except that it's gotten me thinking about a few issues.

One is that removing the "roll a die and increment a category" at the start of the turn is a winner (and triggering Events when the revealed Deed comes in the town in which Jesus is located is working fine), but my new concern is that the tracks now creep up too slowly. Consider, e.g., that in each category, there are 10 or 11 Deeds. That means that for the track to go from 1 to 4, and Jesus to then perform a Deed and reset it, requires 4 Deeds; that means that this whole process will only happen at most 2 or 3 times during the game, and Jesus as a result will perform at most 8 Deeds.

Now, that may not actually be a bad thing. But, if it is, I may need a way to get the tracks up faster. A few ideas include:

1. Shorten the tracks, to go from 2 to 4 rather than 1 to 4.

2. When you reveal a Deed at the start of your turn, if the Deed is in the town in which you're located, increment the track of the category of the revealed Deed.

3. Add "increment one track" as the consequence of one of the ends of the Jews track (or, maybe the middle of the track).

4. Some events increment action tracks.

Of these, 1 is probably preferable because it doesn't require a rule, and it may solve another mini-problem--that of a person too easily cashing in on having Jesus perform a Deed, by turning around and performing another Deed in that category at very low cost (and probably scoring big points for it). This way would make a little planning more important.

2 is nicely symmetric with the current way of triggering Events, but it's wordy to explain it. 4 is probably too random.

The only other lingering concern is that there might be a luck of the draw effect in Deeds, whereby some categories will be "blessed" more than others; the other night, many compassion Deeds came out, but relatively few preach deeds. Thus, the player with the "compassion" goal was probably in better shape than the person with the "preach" goal. Not sure what to do about this, or indeed, whether to worry about it or not...

Anyway, other than that, it went fine. I found that even playing solo, I enjoyed the game, and I think it's a good sign. One would think that a musician would get sick of singing his greatest hits a gazillion times, but I bet that some don't. And a game designer should be the same way, I think -- if he can play his own game a lot of times and still have fun, there's a much better chance he's going to be able to expend the effort to get the game to the next level. I'm happy to find myself still liking this one after quite a few plays!

Hopefully a real session sometime soon, we shall see!

-Jeff

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

Another interesting Disciples session at our Fall Albany "Playfest". On hand were Steve, Dave, Mike, and myself. Dave was new to the game. The only change I made prior to this session was to reduce the Cost tracks in length, from 1-4 to 2-4.

Because it was a 4-player game, I decided to start the Pharisees and Rome track one space forward each. This game, we saw the Rome track scream up to 7 (out of 10) relatively early in the game. We also had “Deed overload”, which I attribute in part to having a Deed come out every turn now; there’s a steady trickle, and you just have to keep ahead of it. We didn’t, and the Pharisees track, as soon as it got out of the “Can’t Betray” spaces, was going to be attractive for the Traitor. I found this to be very satisfying since, from an early point, I had to be choosy about the Deeds I did and to reject the ones that would end the game too early. Dave, not having played, admitted afterward that he wasn’t thinking about this at all. He performed a couple of Deeds that advanced the Pharisees track to 9, and with 12 Deeds showing, Steve couldn’t resist the temptation any more, and ended the game by betraying, scoring 21 points. Mike had been sitting on 12 points up to then, but had done a good job targetting goals, and ended up with 19; I had 16, and Dave 12 or so. So, Steve did win, but it was close. We agreed that it was unnecessary to have started the Pharisees track one space forward, and will probably just start it at the normal starting point next time.

The interesting outcome of Steve’s betrayal was that he really didn’t want to do it -- not primarily because he didn’t want to win (although he did think it would be close, and it was), but because he was enjoying the game and didn’t want to end prematurely. In one sense, that's a good thing! But in another sense, this is one of the weaknesses of the game: that Judas’ betrayal doesn’t, I don’t think, always lead to a guaranteed win, but it does always end the game. If Judas thinks he can win early, he’ll betray, ending the game for everyone else. This is potentially a problem from the perspective of player experience (“we wanted to keep playing!”), but also for those who haven’t had time to make much progress on their goals. Not sure if it’s really a flaw or not.

There also appears to be a definite learning curve in the game associated with the Pharisees track, and specifically, being somewhat picky about Deeds that advance that track. What I think is interesting about the game is that a new player could potentially throw the game to Judas. Again, not sure how much of a “flaw” that is; it just seems to be the way the game works, and must be taken into account when evaluating whether one considers it good/bad/fun/whatever.

Mike gave me a quote that he got from someone else, which I think definitely applies to this game: “It takes 2 people to make a masterpiece; one to paint it, and one to shoot the other person at exactly the right time”. That’s not to say this game is a masterpiece by any means, so much as to say that I’m about ready to consider it done. I think it would be possible to tweak it forever and not have it improve significantly. So, I’ll probably plan to solo test one or two more times, maybe squeeze in one more live playtest, and then submit it. We’ll see how it goes!

-Jeff

Anonymous
Disciples playtest session report

Thanks again for hosting the playtest session! I had a great time and especially while playing Disciples. Gor me it was the highlight of the day. Having only played it once before (and coming away with such a positive impression), I was interested to see if it was going to again enthrall me as it had before. The answer is absolutely--even though I caused the game to end before I really wanted it to end!

As I mentioned at the session, I would pay top dollar for your game as is! Disciples has "that something" that a game needs to have to be successful.

To me, the elimination of the die (and also having had one previous session) clinched it for me. The game is now smooth and well-tuned. The goals all work well, the tracks all did what they were supposed to do and did it well! As you mentione, the only real change I would suggest is not to start the two tracks one space up for a 4 player game. I think that would really put a lot of pressure on the decision to betray that early in the game.

Your other changes have transformed Disciples into a well-tuned product. The cost tracks going from 2-4 worked well. It did contribute somewhat to the deed overload since they were more costly to perform, but that is outweighed by the balance of the rest of the game.

Congratulations on such a well crafted game! I look forward to seeing it in a local game store soon!!

fanaka66
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Disciples playtest session report

Jeff,

Thanks again for hosting! I had fun with all the games, and appreciated the input on mine.

I had a couple of thoughts on Disciples. If moving the tracks to 2-4 does contribute to deed overload, I see 2 other possible solutions. The action card decks: there are currently 5 of them. Four of them are known quantities and one is a wild card. Have you thought about reducing the number to 4 decks? Then you would know what type of card you were drawing, but not necessarily the value. I think it could help, but I don't know if I see it as the perfect solution, since I often end my turn with a draw from the wild card deck if I have no other pressing moves to do. I think it helps with the variety of deeds someone will be willing to do.

So here's my other thought/idea. Why not get rid of the 1-point cards from the wild card deck? Then you would have a choice of picking a single value card that is known, or a multiple value card that is unknown. It would overall get more actions in our hands, but not eliminate the unknown from the wild card deck.

This also brought up a question to me. You always set-up the game for us. How do you determine how many 1 point cards to put in the wild deck? Would set-up be a problem for your players to know which cards go where?

Have you done a lot of blind testing? I could get a group of people together to try it out, if you have a 'final' version of the rules ready. You could either loan me the game, or you could come and watch to see if the new people struggle with parts of the rules. If you are interested, shoot me an e-mail.

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

Thanks to both of you for your kind words. Hosting was no problem on my end; it's really my wife who deserves thanks!

Re: Deed overload. In a sense, I don't necessarily view this as a bad thing; I found it was nice to have several deeds to choose from, in a variety of categories and locations. It made the choice of avoiding Pharisees and Rome deeds more plausible, since there were valid alternatives. The key is for the overload to not lead directly to a Traitor win. Yet even in this case, it wasn't cut and dried -- Steve only won by 2 points. Had the track started one space further back, the situation might have been different.

That said, your idea about tweaking the face-down deck is a good one. I think it's important to keep the 5-deck model, where you can always be sure that you can get what you want (but a less valuable card), but reducing the number of 1-cards in the face down deck would be a good handle to tweak if needed.

As for blind testing, this game hasn't seen any yet. My personal feeling is that I like testing with people I know because their opinions and impressions are a known quantity. That said, the vast majority of people that would play the game, were it published, would be people I don't know, so I might as well find out now what they think! I'd be more than happy to whip up a copy for you to play, if you'd like to get a group together. I can try to have it ready in the next week or so; I'll email you off group. Thanks for the offer!

-Jeff

IngredientX
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Disciples playtest session report

Again, I wish I could have been there. Next time... unless some of you will appear at Ubercon?

I'm glad to hear that Dave underestimated the Pharisees track (no offense, Dave!), simply because I did exactly the same thing my first time playing. I think this will be a very common occurence among new players, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

If you're worried about this affecting first-time players, then perhaps a simple graphic design change might help; make the Pharisees track, and the corresponding Pharisees symbol on all cards, red. This will distinguish it from the others, and perhaps raise a flag in a new player's head, reminding him/her that there is a danger to advancing the Pharisees track.

As far as deed overload, I think it's wonderful. I remember picking Pharisees deeds because they helped me, but perhaps with more choice, I would have been able to avoid much of the Pharisees advancement that I caused.

Here's to October?

Zzzzz
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Disciples playtest session report

No offense taken and I actually did a lot of the deeds by choice over lack of understanding.

For some reason I just did not time my movement correctly (to be in line with where Jesus was going to be), so I just started doing deeds whenever I could, not caring about the Pharisees track. I changed my mind set to just trying to get as many deeds accomplished as I could. As a result the one thing I mentioned to Jeff was about doing deeds alone, it did not seem worth it. I dont think it hurts the game, but if you are put in a position to do deeds without Jesus being in the same town, you should still want to do the deeds, but it does not seem to pay off in the end. At the same I time I feel that if doing deeds "without" Jesus was worth to much (or more), it could easily break the well designed game Jeff currently developed.

Another side note, I also did not know at the time (and Steve and I talked about this on the drive home), the % chance of the traitor card being out (in my mind I did not think it would be a high %, so I was thinking 50-50 or 60-40), but I guess that assumption was wrong. Steve mention to me that the 8 cards were dealt out of a 9 card deck, and 1 of the cards was the traitor, so obviously the % chance on the traitor card being out was higher then I realized. But because I was new to the game I did not know this is how the cards were dealt or the %'s at the time. I would play the game differently the next time, knowing of this, but I might also attempt to do something odd. I like trying to come up with things people dont expect, that is what playtesting is about for me.

As I told Jeff the game is wonderful, very clean and has an enjoyable depth to it. I think this is a result of the great design he did on the game, one that works very well. And a game I would enjoy playing again in the future.

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

Zzzzz wrote:
No offense taken and I actually did a lot of the deeds by choice over lack of understanding.

I'm sure this is true, but on some level, I feel like disregarding consequences is in some sense a "rookie mistake"; your one goal, for example, paid out 4 points if you performed one deed in each category. That's a tough goal, and you need time to do it. Thus, doing something like advancing the Pharisees track, which hastens the game end, was probably not a good idea. I'm not at all picking on your game, just saying that there are some subtleties that I think take a few plays to fully appreciate.

Quote:
As a result the one thing I mentioned to Jeff was about doing deeds alone, it did not seem worth it. I dont think it hurts the game, but if you are put in a position to do deeds without Jesus being in the same town, you should still want to do the deeds, but it does not seem to pay off in the end.

I don't think I agree completely. I think the "best" state of affairs is when you can perform Deeds that both score plenty of points, and that dovetail well with your goals. But really, you ultimately have to strike a balance between these. For me, the key is trying to stay in the mix with the rest of the pack on normal scoring, but also having a lot of goal points at the game end. Mike obviously parlayed that strategy to great effect. A "pure Deed points" strategy will not be effective in the game, in my opinion and experience. You need to balance all three systems, or at least, I've never seen someone win who didn't .

Quote:

At the same I time I feel that if doing deeds "without" Jesus was worth to much (or more), it could easily break the well designed game Jeff currently developed.

I thought about raising the Deed payout to 2 VP for the Deed, 1 Vp if Jesus is in the town and 1 VP if others are in the town. This makes the base Deed payout proportionally more important, but because the winner is the one with the most points, I think that mathematically, it's perhaps a wash. Other schemes could be envisioned, but I think the bottom line is that "staying close to Jesus, and everyone else" is a strategy that the game rewards. I'm not sure whether that's a bad thing or not; there isn't anything that you give up to do that, and maybe there ought to be, to make "staying in less-populated towns" a more viable strategy. I'm just not sure how much to worry about it.

Quote:

Another side note, I also did not know at the time (and Steve and I talked about this on the drive home), the % chance of the traitor card being out (in my mind I did not think it would be a high %, so I was thinking 50-50 or 60-40), but I guess that assumption was wrong.

Yes, in a 5 player game, it's guaranteed. In a 4 player game, it's highly likely. Sorry to have not made that more explicit.

Quote:
I would play the game differently the next time, knowing of this, but I might also attempt to do something odd. I like trying to come up with things people dont expect, that is what playtesting is about for me.

Yeah, it's great to have playtesters who aren't afraid to try new things! I like to do this in regular games, actually; I find it's a good way to learn how the game works and what it rewards.

Thanks again for your comments and kind words about the game!

-Jeff

Zzzzz
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Disciples playtest session report

I cant argue about the "rookie mistake" statement. No matter what, I dont feel that is it possible or reasonable to think a newbie will see the entire picture of a game during a single play. So a agree that the subtleties have to be learned over time(or multiple plays), and my play was not "optimal". So if this makes me a rookie, I proudly admit I am a rookie!

And I guess a positive(?!?! at least for me) that I can add to the discussion, the game interacted with my emotions. And this one of my major desires in any game I play. I started doing the deeds on my own since I felt left out. Ah you ask why did I feel left out? Well I started seeing everyone else moving up the VP ladder, and I never seemed to be in the right place at the right time. So I just started completing deeds to advance myself on the vp ladder.

I admit that I should have refocused on just holding my cards and getting in the same location as Jesus (or at least the other players). But I chose to do some deeds and hoped the traitor was not among us.

I dont think what I did was a bad thing, just not an optimal thing to do in the game, based on the the desired design and optimal way to play. Part of the games design was to have you follow Jesus, and it allowed for that and did it very well, it also allowed you to not following Jesus. And if you dont follow Jesus, the only thought I have is you should not expect to win, since it is not the optimal strategy to play this way.

The rookie is now done rambling! ;)

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

One thing I was thinking about that could perhaps avoid the "clustering around Jesus" effect would be to revert to an original rule I had, whereby being in the same town as Jesus gives you a 1 symbol cost reduction, instead of an extra VP for performing the Deed. You'd still get a point for other players being in the town. It would still be optimal to perform Deeds in a town in which both Jesus AND other players are located, but now they have a separate effect.

I don't think I'll actually make this change, but it might be worth thinking about a little bit, at least. The thing that's nice about not having a Deed cost reduction (and the reason I abandoned it) is that it makes having Jesus perform Deeds more essential. But there would be benefits to having the cost reduction as well -- Deeds would get done faster, e.g. Not sure...

-J

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

It's been a while since I've said anything about Disciples, so I thought I'd give an update...

Seth has been kind enough to playtest Disciples with his group, and he may give us a report about his sessions at some point. One thing that they've found is an impression that the Traitor's position may be too weak. Now, a big caveat is that they have played in games without a player having drawn the traitor card (in games with <5 players, the traitor may or may not be in the game).

To try to accumulate some more data, I ran through a solo test of a 4 player game today. (I like solo tests, as it's usually the only time I get to win my own games...)

I force-shuffled the Traitor into the game, and played him as though he decided from the beginning that he was going to betray. I had him perform a couple of early +1 P(harisees) deeds, and this, combined with another player who did a +1 P deed, and an early draw of +1 Jews deeds, resulted in the Pharisees track being at 3 from an early point in the game. This had a couple of interesting effects. First, because many Deeds were out, it would have led pretty much to an early slam-dunk traitor win, and there were at least 2 turns where the traitor could have betrayed and won easily. I decided to keep playing the game out as if he had not done this, but it was definitely in his interest to do so.

Second, because the other players were still worried about the traitor, they had to be careful to avoid Deeds with Pharisees consequences, which made things pretty tough; there just weren’t a lot of other deeds to choose from in the categories players were targetting for their various goals. Thus, for much of the game, there were 10+ Deeds available around the board. At the end, I believe there were 15. This high total also helped the traitor, and the number of Deeds done per player was rather low.

The final scores were 32/23/23/19, with the traitor coming in last with his non-betrayal goal. Had he betrayed in the last turn, he would have earned 24 points, although it’s possible that I didn’t play him as aggressively in the end as I did in the beginning, so a higher score would probably have been likely for the traitor. But as I said, it would have been a moot point -- had he betrayed mid-game, he would have won easily.

The takeaway message appeared to be that players must be careful to avoid the Pharisees track early on; it may seem insignificant, but the track, just by creeping up a bit, can put the players in damage-control mode for the rest of the game.

This test is just one test, of course, but if confirmed for me what I’ve been seeing all along; that if there’s an imbalance in the traitor’s position, it’s that the traitor is too strong rather than too weak.

I hadn’t played the game in a few months, and doing so reminded me how much I enjoy playing the game. If nothing else, I’ve created a game that I like playing, and that counts for something, I guess...

A couple of changes are likely from my discussions with Seth. They include:

-- reduction of the number of 1-symbol cards in the face-down draw pile.

Currently, the distribution in each category in the inital face-down pile is 4x1, 4x2, 1x3. I think I may reduce the number of 1's in that deck to 2 cards, and add a 2 and maybe a 3.

-- removal of the end-game scoring for lowest number of symbols in hand.

I like the idea of this mechanic, but in practice, it typically pays out either 0 points, or a couple of points. It's just not important enough for the time it takes to explain it. I will likely roll this effect into the Event deck, where there's currently a card that does something similar already.

Other than that, I still consider the game to be basically done, although I'm still interested to hear further results from Seth's tests, and plan to continue testing to further study the "too powerful traitor" effect, and whether it's real or can be averted. Basically, the problem appears to be that the traitor's scoring ramps up faster than the other players, but there's a tipping point where the players can outstrip the traitor if the game lasts long enough. It's just a matter of properly balancing that ramp up so that it takes long enough that betrayal doesn't lead to a quick and easy win more often than once in a while...

-Jeff

sedjtroll
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Disciples playtest session report

jwarrend wrote:
Seth has been kind enough to playtest Disciples with his group, and he may give us a report about his sessions at some point.

And I will, in the next couple of days probably. I'll probably do it BGG style, describing the game a little bit and then how it went. I realise that the specifics of the game are not really available to everyone so I'll try and make sure I don't refer to things that people wouldn't know about, or that they couldn't figure out.

Quote:
A couple of changes are likely from my discussions with Seth. They include:

-- reduction of the number of 1-symbol cards in the face-down draw pile.
A reduction to zero would be best- there's no reason to have to draw a face down card and be punished with a single symbol card. The reason you draw face down is beause you don't want a single symbol card. If you did, you could choose the one you wanted from the face up piles.

Quote:
-- removal of the end-game scoring for lowest number of symbols in hand.

This is the way to go I think, but it's too bad because there's no consequence for having a lot of cards or for having few cards. Maybe a simple negative to your score if you are stuck with cards in hand? Symbols? A penalty for symbols would approximate what you have, with the fewest symbol holder getting the biggest 'bonus'. Question is, do you really want to encourage people not to have cards in hand at the end of the game?

I'll post about my experience with the game in this thread when I get a chance.

- Seth

sedjtroll
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Disciples "Blind" playtest

As Jeff mentioned, I asked him for the files for Discplies. When I first heard of his game I admit I was a bit skeptical of how it would work, as he was very secretive about the mechanics. After the GDW though, I had every expectation that the game would indeed work and be fun to play (and well themed).

December has historically been a good gaming month for me because all of my gamer friends come home for the holidas and I get a lot of chances to play board games. With this in mind, I asked Jeff for the Disciples files a month or so ago so I could put together a prototype of it and try to wrangle some playtesters to try it.

Excited at the opportunity for a 'blind' (semi-blind?) playtest, Jeff did send the files. I printed out the boar full size (17"x17") on the plotter at work and then spray mounted it to some cardboard. I printed the cards and made nice cards out of them with the Xyron in the way that Fastlearner has described before. I gathered the necessary pawns and tokens and I was ready to go... except for one thing. Players.

After last months experience with All for One and Gheos (several playtests of each, with different groups) I was looking foreward to testing this gaem as well, but it took some arm twisting to get anyone to play "the Jesus game" with me. Finally I did get my temporary roomate Steve and our friend Gary to try it.

Steve had never played a prototype, though he may have seen 8/7 Central last summer. Gary was one of the testers of the 'original' All For One that Scurra sent me (he absolutely hated that version), and has played it once since (better but he still didn't like it). I think it's going to be tough to get him to play the latest version.

Anyway, we finally sat down to play "the Jesus game' as they kept calling it. As usual, I used the original rules sent by the designer for the first game, without implimenting any changes- of which I hadn't really thought of any for this game anyway.

The test went OK. Here's something of a session report, in which I'll try to explain enough that the comments can be understood by all even though there's no readily accessible description or game rules to reference:

Acts of the Disciples by Jeff Warrender
Players and Jesus visit 6 biblical towns doing deeds in each. Doing a deed in a town scores VPs, and witnessing Jesus do a deed scores you Gospels, which translate to VPs later. Performing deeds where other players are (or witnessing other players perform deeds) scores extra points. Deeds are performed by paying a cost, and costs are paid by discarding cards with one of 4 symbols on it- each deed is in a category and eah category is associatd with one of the symbols. For example, if I want to perform the deed "Many Samaritans believe in Jesus", a "Preaching" deed, I would have to discard a number of "bullhorn" cards (the symbol for preaching) equal to the current cost of Preaching deeds. The costs are on the Action tracks in the corner of the board.

You score some VPs immediately when you do a deed, and performing a deed can have consequences. For one thing, that type of deed gets more expensive (action track increases) for next time, and sometimes other tracks increase...

There are 3 other tracks: The Rome track advances toward the game end. The Pharisees track steadily increases, and the Jews track either increases or decreases. The Deed card tells you which tracks if any are effected ("Many Samaritans believe in Jesus" says "-1 Jews" for example). When the jews get pissed off (+3 on the Jews track) then the Pharisees track advances. When the Jews are complacent (-3 on the track) an action track gets reduced. In either extreme case, the Jews track is reset to 0. I'll get back to what the Pharisees track means in a second.

The players will each have 2 secret goals in the game. There are 12 total goals, one for each Disciple. The goals are conditions which award VPs at the end of the game, such as "1 VP per Preaching deed you've done, and 1 VP for every three Preaching deeds the group has done". One of the goals is Judas Iscariot. In addition to a (somewhat difficult) VP goal, Judas has an alternate scoring mechanism. He can choose to betray Jesus and collect VPs based on the current position of the Pharisees track.

So the idea is to do lots of deeds, especially the ones that count toward your goals, but you might want to be careful about pissing off the Jews and advancing the Pharisees lest the traitor among you betray Jesus and win the game.

As far as mechanics, you are allowed 4 actions per turn, from a list of 4, with the restiriction that any action can only be chosen twice a turn. The actions are Move to a neighboring town, Draw a card (these are the cards with the symbols on them), Perform a deed, or Ask Jesus to perfom a deed. The Draw action is neat because you can either draw from face up piles of single-symbol cards, or from a face down pile of 2 or 3-symbol cards (random type). You can only ask Jesus to perform a deed if the action track is maxed out (at 4).

SO... We played the game. Many turns consisted of "Move, Draw, Draw, Do a deed", especially the first turn of the game, since the action tracks all start at 2. Based on this I made the suggestion that perhaps the cost of deeds should begin at 3 (with the tracks going from 2-4 still).

None of us ha drawn the Traitor role, but Gary noted that at no time during the game would the traitor have outscored any of us. However, I think that it's probably possible, though in a 3 player game the traitor would probably have to try pretty hard to quickly push up the Pharisees and betray or the other players would get too big a lead.

Starting the action tracks at 3 might slow down the other players by a turn and help give the traitor a fair shot.

After discussions with Jeff it appears to me that the more players in the game, the easier it would be for a traitor to betray and win. There's currently a rule which makes the Pharisees track begin further up for a 3 player game than a 5 player game, which I thin kprobably balances this effect allright, weather it's properly balanced remains to be seen after many tests.

My friends both said the game was allright, and that it was interesting enough that they'd play it again sometime. Gary said he liked it better than All For One (which he'd played), and Gheos (which he hadn't but was badmouthing because it had "Gay" in the title). In fact, that time he even said it was better than 8/7c which he DID like.

Before we were done, another friend Jeremy showed up. He was very amused every time someone announced "Plus 2 Jews" or the like in reference to deed consequences.

That was about it for the first session. During my gaming party I was able to round up another test of Disciples, thoguh the players were reluctant. This time it was Me, Gary again, Jeremy, and Misa (a sister of another friend). We decided there was no good reason to have single-symbol cards in the face down draw pile, so we took them all out. I was goign to force the Traitor deed to be in the game, but decideed against it at the last minute. With 4 players, 8 out of 12 goals would come out, and maybe the traitor would be one of them.

We went about our business doing deeds and asking Jesus to. Misa and I did a lot of deeds together (in the same location) and shared a lot of points and Gospels. Misa ran her score up pretty high by simply doing deeds. I had goals that complimented each other well and so I worked toward those. Nobody seemed to worry about advancing the pharisees too much (I worried a little, but in the end didn't care too much and advanced it anyway a couple times). It turned out that there was no traitor this game either. Gary pointed out again that the traitor was never ahead of the players' scores. I still don't believe him though, he had no basis that I could see for that statement.

In the end, though Misa's in-game scoring was exceptional, her goals didn't pay out very well so I surpassed her there. Gary and Jeremy didn't do as well in-game but scored pretty even with each other (and just a bit less than me) with their goals. With the exception of some goals which might be a little 'too hard' or 'too easy', or maybe the luck of getting complimentary goals, the scoring and the mechanics seem to work just fine.

The biggest problem *I* have with the game is that there are Event cards that occur from time to time which affect everybody, but they aren't very substantial. I love the idea behind them, but I think they need to have abigger impact on the game, and if they have a bigger impact on the game I think they need to not come up randomly but maybe on some kind of schedule. Currently they come up on every other space of the rome track, which is nice because it's the players that advance the Rome track. They also occur at certain random times, which I thinmk could be removed without hurting the game. One deed triggers an event as a consequence, and I think more could do that too.

That's the problem *I* have. The biggest problem with the game OVERALL is that it's about Jesus, and at that there's an element of bribing a player to kill Jesus. Jeff knew this would be an issue for some people and understood that those people simply won't want to play the game. I agree with him there, they don't have to play. The problem is that he's done a very good job of treating the theme tastefully and well, but people hear about Jesus or about betraying Jesus and they assume he hasn't. This is an unfortunate circumstance, and there's nothing that really can be done about it. It's making it hard to find playtesters though, which is frustrating because I like the game pretty well.

Good show, Jeff, and I'll still try to play the game with more people and tell you how it goes. I'd like to see a game with the traitor in it, wheather that's me or another player.

I'm happy to answer any questions about this report, my experience with Jeff's game, or my thoughts on the subject, just post them in this thread.

- Seth

fanaka66
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Disciples playtest session report

I have been lucky enough to play Disciples on several occasions, although I haven't gotten a chance to play in a while :cry:

Your post made me think about it again, though. I agree that the face down pile should not have single value cards in it. I think I mentioned it back on page 7 (wow!?!?! this is a long thread!)

Your description of the game made me think about a different idea that had never occured to me before. It's weird how I didn't think of it while playing, but popped out at me when reading a desciption of play.

Quote:
Doing a deed in a town scores VPs, and witnessing Jesus do a deed scores you Gospels, which translate to VPs later. Performing deeds where other players are (or witnessing other players perform deeds) scores extra points.

Currently during the game you get a VP for doing a deed, an extra VP for doing a deed with another Disciple present, an extra VP for doing a deed with Jesus present, and a VP for being present when another Disciple performs a deed.

On the other hand, you get a Gospel point for witnessing Jesus perform a deed. The Gospel point are translated to VPs later, but are not worth as much as straight VPs.

Why not just give a single VP for doing a deed? Everything else gives you Gospel points. So if you witness a deed, it's a Gospel point, whether it's Jesus or a Disciple performing the deed. If you do a deed you get 1 VP, plus a possible Gospel Point for Jesus and/or a Disciple being present?

This would make doing a deed the most valuable thing you can do. Slightly behind would be witnessing deeds and having others present to witness your deeds.

-mikep

jwarrend
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Disciples playtest session report

Thanks, Seth, for a great SR! Some of this we’ve discussed already, but I’ll repeat some of my remarks for the group’s benefit...

sedjtroll wrote:

Excited at the opportunity for a 'blind' (semi-blind?) playtest, Jeff did send the files.

The main thing was that I wasn’t there to make sure all of the fiddly track adjustments and such were observed. But it sounds like that aspect went ok. Surprisingly, you didn’t mention that in your SR, which I hope indicates that all the “stuff” you have to do after doing a Deed doesn’t detract from the game overall...

Also, I’ll note that anyone else who wants the files, or just the link to the latest rulebook, can IM/PM me and I’d be happy to provide them.

Quote:

SO... We played the game. Many turns consisted of "Move, Draw, Draw, Do a deed", especially the first turn of the game, since the action tracks all start at 2. Based on this I made the suggestion that perhaps the cost of deeds should begin at 3 (with the tracks going from 2-4 still).

There isn’t a whole lot of mechanical variety to the game, I’ll grant. I think that it makes the game easy to learn, and that’s always a good thing. Also, I’ve found in every game that I’ve played that in a majority of the turns, it was hard to do everything I wanted to; that if I had 5 actions, I could do exactly what I wanted, but since I only had 4 actions, I had to choose to do something less optimal, or wait another turn. I haven’t yet found the turns to be too repetitive, but I will keep an eye on it.

Quote:

None of us ha drawn the Traitor role, but Gary noted that at no time during the game would the traitor have outscored any of us. However, I think that it's probably possible, though in a 3 player game the traitor would probably have to try pretty hard to quickly push up the Pharisees and betray or the other players would get too big a lead.

One thing I’ll observe is that you have to be a bit careful about drawing any significant conclusions about the viability of X from one playing, particularly the group’s first, and particularly one in which the traitor wasn’t a player. For one, there are a fair number of random factors that influence the results and make broad conclusions hard (which is a pain when it comes to balancing the game!). But also, there are subtleties to the game that may take a playing or two to appreciate. I’ve had new players call a number of the goal cards “broken” simply because they didn’t score well, yet the goals have shown over time that their payouts are actually pretty balanced. Maybe not perfect, but probably not broken either.

Quote:

My friends both said the game was allright, and that it was interesting enough that they'd play it again sometime. Gary said he liked it better than All For One (which he'd played), and Gheos (which he hadn't but was badmouthing because it had "Gay" in the title).

Oh, is that how you pronounce Gheos? I never knew...

Quote:

Before we were done, another friend Jeremy showed up. He was very amused every time someone announced "Plus 2 Jews" or the like in reference to deed consequences.

It took me a while to get why this is funny...

Quote:
It turned out that there was no traitor this game either. Gary pointed out again that the traitor was never ahead of the players' scores. I still don't believe him though, he had no basis that I could see for that statement.

Yes, this is one of those bits of feedback that’s hard to interpret as a designer, since I wasn’t present for the test. As I’ve said, I’ve never seen a problem where the traitor is too weak. There may indeed be games where because of the way things shake out, the traitor’s position is tough. But I haven’t seen an effect over many playings so far, so while Gary’s claim could be accurate, it doesn’t yet appear to be an actual flaw in the game, barring further evidence. And again, as you know, I personally think (and want) that the traitor shouldn’t be able to win just from the game system coronating him, so if the traitor isn’t in the game and is in a losing position, that’s an indicator that the traitor does have to be proactive to win by betrayal, and that’s a good thing.

Quote:
With the exception of some goals which might be a little 'too hard' or 'too easy', or maybe the luck of getting complimentary goals

There’s definitely an element of luck in terms of drawing well-matched goals. I think that for “serious” players I’d recommend a goal-drafting variant.

Quote:
The biggest problem with the game OVERALL is that it's about Jesus...This is an unfortunate circumstance, and there's nothing that really can be done about it.

Yeah, I think that pretty much all I can do is make the game as good as I can, and beyond that if people won’t want to play without knowing about the game, it’s not something I can control. In a sense, it’s not really something I can get that upset about, either. Some themes just don’t appeal to some people; I’m sure there are some themes I wouldn’t seek to play games about, either.

One thing that’s surprised me in the playtesting of the game, though, is the levels of religious intolerance it has elicited from a very small minority of people. The vast majority of non-believers I’ve played the game with have been very gracious about the game and the experience of playing, but a small minority of players and onlookers have felt no compunction about taking pot-shots at Jesus and Christianity in general. I found this particularly surprising since most knew that I was the game’s designer, and presumably should have guessed that I, myself, am a Christian. I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised, but for some reason, I was. I expected that some people wouldn’t want to play, but not that they would use the game as an occasion to denigrate the Christian faith. It doesn’t really even bother me that much, but it’s kind of an unintended consequence of the game that I haven’t fully come to terms with how I feel about it...

fanaka wrote:

Your post made me think about it again, though. I agree that the face down pile should not have single value cards in it. I think I mentioned it back on page 7

Yeah, I just noticed this in reading through this thread yesterday, and it’s what pushed me over the top to implement Seth’s suggestion. I tried it in a solo test yesterday, and so far, it looks pretty good.

Quote:

Why not just give a single VP for doing a deed? Everything else gives you Gospel points. So if you witness a deed, it's a Gospel point, whether it's Jesus or a Disciple performing the deed. If you do a deed you get 1 VP, plus a possible Gospel Point for Jesus and/or a Disciple being present?

This would make doing a deed the most valuable thing you can do. Slightly behind would be witnessing deeds and having others present to witness your deeds.

This is an interesting suggestion. However, I think it actually has the opposite effect, making Gospel collection more on par with doing Deeds. Currently, you can get 1-3 VPs per Deed, and 0.5-1.5 VPs for having Jesus perform a Deed (1 Gospel = 0.5 points, 2 Gospels + 1 for next-lowest player = 1.5 points).

It sort of seems to me like an idea that would make the game different, but it’s not 100% clear it would be better. I look at it like this: the 3 things that I could have happen when one has other players/Jesus in town with one when performing a Deed include (1) getting extra VPs, (2) getting Gospels, or (3) getting a discount to perform Deeds. Now, between these 3 options, and corresponding adjustment of the cost tracks and Gospel VP payouts, there is a “perfect” game. But the problem is that the current game already works pretty well, and it could take a lot of iterations to explore all of the possible permutations of these different schemes.

This suggestion feels to me like one possible permutation, but with it would have to come adjustment of the Gospel payout and with that, adjustment of the Pharisees track. I just don’t know if it’s worth the investment of effort. But it’s worth thinking about, for sure!

-Jeff

Anonymous
Disciples playtest session report

jwarrend wrote:
Quote:
My friends both said the game was allright, and that it was interesting enough that they'd play it again sometime. Gary said he liked it better than All For One (which he'd played), and Gheos (which he hadn't but was badmouthing because it had "Gay" in the title).

Oh, is that how you pronounce Gheos? I never knew...

No kidding! I have always pronounced it GEE-os. I guess this would be a good contender along with Ys for most often mispronounced game title!

sedjtroll wrote:
None of us ha drawn the Traitor role...

Reading this made me wonder if the disciples cards should be set up so that the traitor is always drawn in the game (I half-remember you mentioning this being a mechanic or at least concieved of at some point). The Pharises track would be more central and more carefully watched if, in every game, there was a traitor. As it currently stands, the track cannot be ignored since there is always the chance that a traitor is in the game. Given the significance of the traitor in Jesus' life, should that disciple be present in every game?

I don't remember the optimal number of player (2-6? 3-6?) but, if you implement the omnipresent Judas, you could make an exception for a 2 player game (since everyone in the two player game would know who the traitor is if there is always a traitor). Then at least a player who isn't the traitor would be left to wonder if the other player was the traitor or if there wasn't one.

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SiskNY wrote:
Oh, is that how you pronounce Gheos? I never knew...

No kidding! I have always pronounced it GEE-os.

Well, GEE-os would be good, but we look at "Gheos" and think "Gay-os", which should be fine except that a large number of people in this country (maybe just this part of the country) use "gay" in a derogatory way, or to mean 'anything bad' or whatever.

It's sort of a bummer because my friends have used that as an excuse not to even try the game.

- Seth

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I’m not 100% sure whether there needs to be a traitor in the 3 and 4 player games. What I do think is that the players have to think that there might be until very close to the end, even if there isn’t, or else a huge source of tension is removed.

There may be strategies such as performing Pharisees deeds to make people think that you’re the traitor, which would then make them cagey about perform Pharisees deeds while you could keep performing them. Of course, this would be a risky strategy given the possibility that there actually is a traitor!

I also think that a “guess the traitor” mechanic, were I to re-insert such a thing, would depend on some uncertainty in the 3 player game, at least, or else random guessing might be too powerful.

It's possible I may go to a deal that guarantees a traitor in every game.

One other note that may be of interest. I ran through a 3 player solo test today with one player as the Traitor, who I had aggressively pursue betrayal. It corroborated for me that the traitor appears to be a viable position in the 3p game. Curiously, at one point the traitor could betray and get 26 points, but his non-betrayal scoring was worth 30 VPs at that point. This was one of the great decision points that the traitor can face -- he has the power to end the game, but is it best to end the game and go for the win? You just don’t know how many points the other players are sitting on, so it’s an agonizing decision.

I chose to have him keep the game alive longer, and in the end, there wasn’t another opportune time to betray. Final scores were 34/33/31, with the traitor player in 2nd place.

One lingering “bug” is that many games seem to be ending with the exhaustion of the Deed deck rather than the end of the Rome track. I’m thinking that it might be necessary to either allow the game to continue to be played beyond the end of the Deed deck, or to shorten the Rome track by 1 space. Currently, it takes 9 positive advances on the Rome track to reach the end, and there are 11 Deeds that advance the track. An alternative would be to adjust the consequence when the Jews track pegs negative to be “advance the Rome track” rather than “move one Action track back one space”. But it would change that track a bit in feel. Currently the negative end is “good”, whereas in the other model, neither end would be “good”, and you’d instead seek to keep the Jews “ambivalent”.

Just some more thoughts and observations. This is more solo testing than I’ve done in a long time, but it’s been quite instructive.

Re: player size, currently it's 3-5. There's no reason 6 couldn't play, but I don't think it would work as well, and I probably wouldn't recommend a publisher printing it on the box; I'd advocate it more as a "chaotic variant", and one in which the Traitor will probably win most of the time. I don't really want to go to the effort of trying to balance the game for that big a group, since I don't think it would work that well anyway...

As for 2 players, I think it should work just fine, but again, the tension of the traitor track is pretty much removed.

And finally, re: Gheos, I say it as "JEE-os", although technically, you could even say "FEE-os"...

-J

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jwarrend wrote:
One lingering “bug” is that many games seem to be ending with the exhaustion of the Deed deck rather than the end of the Rome track. I’m thinking that it might be necessary to either allow the game to continue to be played beyond the end of the Deed deck, or to shorten the Rome track by 1 space. Currently, it takes 9 positive advances on the Rome track to reach the end, and there are 11 Deeds that advance the track.

Well, not all the deeds get done every game. It doesn't suprise me that the deeds run out. either there should be more things that advance Rome, or a shorter rome track. I thin tkhat would make the game better.

Quote:
An alternative would be to adjust the consequence when the Jews track pegs negative to be “advance the Rome track” rather than “move one Action track back one space”.

This is a great idea. I don't know how it fits thematically, but it's no worse thematically than reducing an action track.

Quote:
But it would change that track a bit in feel. Currently the negative end is “good”, whereas in the other model, neither end would be “good”, and you’d instead seek to keep the Jews “ambivalent”.

"Ambivalent," or "Complacent?" Either way, is this so bad? It seems pretty good to me.

Anotehr question- what dod you think of the suggestions of:
1. Action tracks going from 2 to 5, starting the game at 3, and allowing Jesus to perform at 4 or 5.
2. More deeds out to begin the game for fewer players... like 7/6/5 deeds for 3/4/5 players.
3. Static events which have a bigger impact on the game and come at specific (player controlled) times- like on the Rome track (perfect with the above proposed change to the jews track) instead of ineffectual deeds which come up in random order and sometimes at random times as well.
4. Changing the goals so that they don't depend less on what the group does (which you have very little control over) and more on what Jesus does (which you have some control over).

And finally, I have been noticing when describing the game that you get VPs for doing deeds and Gospels for jesus doing deeds, but the Gospels just turn into more VPs. Is there some other way to set them apart?

- Seth

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sedjtroll wrote:

Quote:
But it would change that track a bit in feel. Currently the negative end is “good”, whereas in the other model, neither end would be “good”, and you’d instead seek to keep the Jews “ambivalent”.

"Ambivalent," or "Complacent?" Either way, is this so bad? It seems pretty good to me.

Complacent, I guess. No, it’s not so bad. It’s just a question of whether it would then accelerate the Rome advancement too much. The game is currently a “metastable” thing that appears to be precariously balanced across all its systems, and I’m very paranoid that changing something like this will necessitate more additional playtesting to re-balance.

The key in its favor is that in most games, it seems that the Jews track will only peg to a given end once or twice, so that’s probably about what I’m looking for; it’s equivalent to shortening the track, but it also simplifies the rules regarding the Jews track, and I don’t need to cook up an icon for “reduce one track”. (originally, both ends of the Jews track advanced the Pharisees, but I’m fairly sure that’s too strong for the traitor).

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1. Action tracks going from 2 to 5, and allowing Jesus to perform at 4 or 5.

Not sure I see the justification for it yet... 4 is already pretty expensive for Deeds; 5-cost Deeds would be prohibitive, and it’s not always possible to have Jesus perform a Deed (if he’s in the wrong town, e.g.) to get costs down.

On the other hand, it does have the advantage of giving a bit more variability on the tracks, but I don’t see another justification.

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Starting the tracks at 3,

Not sure whether this is needed; I think you want this change so as to the 1st turn a little more varied, but really, I think it would just mean that your first card draw would be to the face-down pile, and the ones who were lucky enough to draw a 2-symbol card would get to do a Deed that turn. I don’t know whether it’s needed, but I’ll consider it.

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2. More deeds out to begin the game for fewer players... like 7/6/5 deeds for 3/4/5 players.

What would be the motivation for this change?

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3. Static events which have a bigger impact on the game and come at specific (player controlled) times- like on the Rome track (perfect with the above proposed change to the jews track) instead of ineffectual deeds which come up in random order and sometimes at random times as well.

First, as we’ve discussed, calling some of the events “ineffectual” is a matter of opinion. You are referring, of course, to the events that involve players voting to achieve some benefit (or avoid some punishment); I do like those because I find they help evoke the theme for me. Furthermore, I don’t think that they’re necessarily ineffectual across the board because (a) I have seen the events agreed upon in my playtests and (b) agreement will probably be more common in a non-hardcore gamer setting (like a family, e.g.), and I would expect that much of the game’s audience will be more casual players.

The idea of a static event flow, like the Event tracks in Lord of the Rings, is valid, but it seems to me like a parallel move. I think it makes the game more similar to LotR, which I think is undesirable.

I’m also not clear on what you think is wrong with the current system. I actually like the way that Events are triggered when a Deed is revealed in a town where Jesus is. Of course, doing away with this would be one less rule to remember, but I don’t see the impetus for the change other than that.

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4. Changing the goals so that they don't depend less on what the group does (which you have very little control over) and more on what Jesus does (which you have some control over).

I have gone through quite a few iterations with the goals, and I’m actually fairly happy with the current set. I originally had some goals depending quite a bit more on what other players did than the current set does. The bottom line is that it’s hard to find a set of 12 different AND balanced goals in a game with as few mechanics as this one. I’d be happy to hear any suggestions for alternative goals than the ones I have.

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And finally, I have been noticing when describing the game that you get VPs for doing deeds and Gospels for jesus doing deeds, but the Gospels just turn into more VPs. Is there some other way to set them apart?

No matter what, it seems inevitable that Gospels will be converted to VPs at the game end in some way. Having said that, I could envision perhaps a different payout schedule. Here’s one I came up with today:

Let’s say there are 4 players. So you lay out 4 cards, labeled “1st”, “2nd”, etc., corresponding to the rankings of tokens that each held. Then, tokens are allocated to these cards. First each player would give 1 Gospel token to the “1st” card. (forget ties for now...). Then, each player would give 1 token to the “2nd” card. Then the 3rd, then the 4th, and then the 1st again, and so on. Then, players would claim the tokens on the card corresponding to their rank and receive VPs in the amount on the card.

I played around with this a bit today, and it appears to smooth out the payouts more, making them more homogeneous. I’m not sure it’s a good system, but it might be a good mechanic for something...

Another possibility would be to use Gospel tokens as a currency with which to buy something, a la Sands of Time. Maybe you use them at the game end to “buy” the Deeds that Jesus performed, which then benefit you in some way... Or maybe you buy “power cards” that give you some upgrade of some sort or other. Maybe you can even cash them in for extra actions.. I think that any of these would be almost impossible to do without adding complexity to the game, and I don’t want to do that at this stage.

As you know, I’m also making a game about Acts, and one thing I’d like to do is to create a “campaign” game by which you could play the games in succession. So in that game, Gospels could take on some alternative meaning; maybe you use Gospels to buy something at the start of Acts.

I’m not sure what alternative function Gospels could take on here. The only change I could really see making is to alter the way that they pay out. I’ll see if I can come up with something clever.

As you can see, I’m experiencing an overall reluctance to change anything substantially at this point. Part of this is due to a lack of desire to go “back to the drawing board” and re-balance whole systems without a clear-cut motivation as to how a given change will improve the game. But also, the game just feels “done” to me; the 3 solo playtests I’ve run in the last couple of days have all gone really well, and I feel like things are clicking about the way I want them to. So I’m definitely not trying to ignore suggestions or criticisms, it’s just that at this point, I’m not really looking to try out changes that would make things different to see if they happen to make things better; I really only want to know if something is clearly deficient, and then address how to improve that.

Regardless, as you know, I’m very grateful for the excellent suggestions...

-Jeff

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jwarrend wrote:
It’s just a question of whether [Jews track advancing Rome track at the negative end] would then accelerate the Rome advancement too much.

As you say, it only pegs a couple of times a game, and thus would only accellerate the process a little, and then only if players want it to (that is to say they could avoid or specifically go for the Rome and -Jews deeds).

Quote:
The game is currently a “metastable” thing that appears to be precariously balanced across all its systems, and I’m very paranoid that changing something like this will necessitate more additional playtesting to re-balance.
I'm not sure what all that meant, but changing something like this Jews track thing is, to me, constitutes tweaking and rebalancing.

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that’s probably about what I’m looking for; it’s equivalent to shortening the track, but it also simplifies the rules regarding the Jews track, and I don’t need to cook up an icon for “reduce one track”.

Sounds like a win-win situation.

Quote:
Seth wrote:

1. Action tracks going from 2 to 5, and allowing Jesus to perform at 4 or 5.

Not sure I see the justification for it yet... 4 is already pretty expensive for Deeds; 5-cost Deeds would be prohibitive, and it’s not always possible to have Jesus perform a Deed (if he’s in the wrong town, e.g.) to get costs down.

The thought here is that there's not a lot of variety in the tracks. I get the impression that you like people to be able to draw all the cards needed to do a particular deed in one turn most of the time. It seems like the game might benefit from people having to commit a little more to doing deeds, otherwise there's not much difference which deed they do. If they do this deed this turn, they can go do that deed next turn, or something like that. I think that would be fine some of the time, but I think it might be neat to have the costs escalate a little more, so you eother actively persue Jesus doing the deed, or you start saving up cards for it.

I just thought of another thing- if you wanted you could have the VP payoff increase with the toughness of doing the deed... like at the 4-cost you could ask Jesus to do the deed, or just pay 4 for it. But at the 5-cost you could ask Jesus to do it, or do it yourself and earm a bonus VP.

Quote:
Seth wrote:

Starting the tracks at 3,

Not sure whether this is needed; I think you want this change so as to the 1st turn a little more varied, but really, I think it would just mean that your first card draw would be to the face-down pile, and the ones who were lucky enough to draw a 2-symbol card would get to do a Deed that turn. I don’t know whether it’s needed, but I’ll consider it.

Well, not only would it make people's first turn not all be the same, I think it'd give the game a beeter feel in the startup- where you actually have to decide which kind of deed you want to do, and prepare to do it. Maybe you do draw a face down card and let that determine which deed to do, or maybe you take the card you really want so as to do the right deed next turn.

Quote:
Seth wrote:

2. More deeds out to begin the game for fewer players... like 7/6/5 deeds for 3/4/5 players.

What would be the motivation for this change?

It's a possible way to mitigate the potential Traitor weakness problem (if it turns out to be a problem) without f'ing with the Pharisees track.

Quote:
Seth wrote:

3. Static events which have a bigger impact on the game and come at specific (player controlled) times- like on the Rome track (perfect with the above proposed change to the jews track) instead of ineffectual deeds which come up in random order and sometimes at random times as well.

You are referring, of course, to the events that involve players voting to achieve some benefit (or avoid some punishment);

No, I'm pretty much referring to all of them. By "ineffectual" I guess I mean their impact is very small. Even the ones that do something don't do anything very significant relative to other actions in the game. Some of them are nice, don't get me wrong, I'm just saying what if they were bigger and more important, if players had to take them into account more.

Quote:
I’m also not clear on what you think is wrong with the current system. I actually like the way that Events are triggered when a Deed is revealed in a town where Jesus is. Of course, doing away with this would be one less rule to remember, but I don’t see the impetus for the change other than that.

Well, it's not that there's necessarily something wrong with it... it's just that the events seem like such a small part of the game when they could be a more driving force. Currently there's not much motivation to worry about the tracks at all, aside from the possibility of pushing the Pharisees up and allowing a traitor win. Bigger events would make the Rome track more interesting, don't you think?

Quote:
Seth wrote:

4. Changing the goals so that they depend less on what the group does (which you have very little control over) and more on what Jesus does (which you have some control over).

I have gone through quite a few iterations with the goals, and I’m actually fairly happy with the current set. I originally had some goals depending quite a bit more on what other players did than the current set does. The bottom line is that it’s hard to find a set of 12 different AND balanced goals in a game with as few mechanics as this one. I’d be happy to hear any suggestions for alternative goals than the ones I have.

For example, Thaddeus earns a VP for each Healing deed done, and additional VPs if the group does a lot of Healing deeds. You have absolutely no control over weather or not other players do Heling deeds. What if instead it was "1 VP per healing deed and 1vp per 2 healing deeds Jesus does"?

I just had another idea- regarding the action tracks... supopse there were some incentive to pick one over another- in addition tot he political tracks and you goals. Say there were a bonus gospel or else VP available for one deed type each turn, and when you do a deed of that type you get a bonus, and when you get that bonus you decide which track the incetive VP should go on next.

... more to come, but I'm too tired art the moment.

- Seth

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