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Gheos: playtest session

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zaiga
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The game I will talk about here is described more fully described in my journal: http://www.bgdf.com/modules.php?name=Journal&file=display&jid=256.

I held a little playtest day last Sunday. Jan, a regular playtester, and Franke and Siebe, two new playtesters, showed up.

The first game on the table was "Gheos". This was my entry into the doomed civ contest in which it tied for first place. It's a tilelaying game in which each player represents a "god". Players form continents, inhabit it civilizations and try to gain followers in those civilizations, which score points. By adding or replcing tiles players can invoke wars between the civilizations or cause them to migrate to another continent.

I just got the game back from "Hans Im Gluck" who said they had enjoyed playing the game, but thought it was not strategic enough for their tastes (ie. you couldn't really plan ahead) and that often the game was decided in a single "big" turn. They said they would sometimes score 30 or even more points in a single turn.

Now, having tested the game a lot I can agree with the sentiment that it is a fairly tactical offering. However, I fail to see how one can score over 30 points in a single turn. Twenty is already really high. I wonder if they misplayed a rule, or if they used some strange playing tactics. Unfortunately, this is hard to check.

Anyway, I changed one rule that I thought would make the game a bit more strategic and I was eager to try it out. The rule change was that you didn't automatically refill your hand up to 3 tiles at the end of your turn. Instead drawing two tiles would cost an action. I thought this would make the changes between turns a little less dramatic, which would allow for a bit more strategy.

After having tested this rule change, I'm not really satisfied with it. It does add some interesting decisions to the game as to when to draw new tiles and such, but the game doesn't really need more interesting decisions. The game is already full of such tactical decisions. I didn't feel it added much in the way of strategy. A nasty side effect of the rule was that it became unclear when a player was done with his turn. Refilling your hand at the end of your turn was a nice "I'm done" signal and now people had to ask if somebody was done with his turn, which was a bit clumsy, and costs a lot of time.

All in all I think the rule of drawing tiles at the cost of an action is not a good idea and I'll revert back to the old "refill at end of turn" rule for the next game. I don't think I can make it much more strategic, because it's simply not that kind of game. It's unfortunate that I'll not be able to please the HiG people. Perhaps I'll have to find another publisher for the game.

Other observations:
The rule explanation went well. Aside from a few details the new players picked up the rules to the game quite rapidly and had little trouble understanding them.

Playing time with four people was as expected, slightly over one hour.

No pyramids were ever played, because they weren't drawn. Kind of a statistic fluke really. There's not much you can do about such things in a game where you draw tiles at random, but it does make the game a bit less interesting.

There weren't many wars initiated. I blame this on the configuration of the board which made it harder to start wars. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make the game a bit more peaceful.

Franke and Jan liked the game a lot and would certainly want to play it more. Siebe didn't like it that much, at least not this particular playing of the game, because he had a hard time coming up with good plays and lost horribly as a result. He doesn't dislike the game per say, but would like it more if he would be better at it.

All in all I'm quite satisfied with the game. Improving it even more will be hard. I guess the best thing to do is to get it played by more people and see what kind of feedback it gets, and to just keep on trying to get this game played by publishers as well.

Any comments and questions are welcome.

- René Wiersma

Scurra
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Re: Gheos: playtest session

zaiga wrote:
I don't think I can make it much more strategic, because it's simply not that kind of game. It's unfortunate that I'll not be able to please the HiG people. Perhaps I'll have to find another publisher for the game.

Yes, this seems like one of those "squaring the circle" issues: people who complain that a game isn't what it wasn't meant to be are always going to be difficult to please (iyswim ;-)

I must admit that I'm generally entertained when I hear back from a blind-testing group that they did something I'd never dreamed of - the real test is whether that broke the game or not... As you say, it's annoying not to know what they were actually doing though, which makes it hard to decide if you need a patch or not.

My feeling is that such a positive response from HiG (i.e. that they enjoyed the game even though it wasn't suitable for them) should be quite an encouragement to you in terms of submitting it to other people though.

FastLearner
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Gheos: playtest session

It's been a while since I read the rules to Gheos, but it seems like there could be some additional strategic planning added to the scoring, something with game-wide goals like (for example) creating a certain number of continents, or such. It could involve different goals for different players (balancing, yuck) or it could just be end of game bonuses for "player with most x" and "player with least y," that kind of thing. While it wouldn't be dramatically more strategic, it might add enough.

Of course my memory (and laziness of not clicking the link) could be failing me, and either it's already in there or it can't be done in the game. Or maybe it's just lame. :)

-- Matthew

zaiga
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Gheos: playtest session

Quote:
My feeling is that such a positive response from HiG (i.e. that they enjoyed the game even though it wasn't suitable for them) should be quite an encouragement to you in terms of submitting it to other people though.

That's true, of course, and now I do see it as an encouragement. However, when you get a reply from a publisher and what you hear is: "Sorry, but... ." it's hard to be not disappointed at first. I'm over it now, though ;)

Quote:
It's been a while since I read the rules to Gheos, but it seems like there could be some additional strategic planning added to the scoring, something with game-wide goals like (for example) creating a certain number of continents, or such.

It's good that you bring that up. I came up with a few ideas in the same vein a while back, but had forgotten about them. My worry is that introducing such goals might make the game more complicated, and it already is somewhat hard to "get". On the other hand, giving the players a clear long-term goal might actually make it easier for them to formulate a plan. I will have to think about how to incorporate such a long term scoring ability into the game.

Thanks for your comments!

- René Wiersma

jwarrend
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Gheos: playtest session

This is one of those games I've been itching to see the rulebook for a while, and hoped it would get picked up and published so I could finally see it!

I think your post raises an interesting issue for me. As I've said before, I don't really view games as "art", yet I do in some sense see the designer as an "artist" who has final say over the status of the game. It's kind of like if you take your album to the record company and they say "no, it's not radio-friendly enough; go change it." I think there's a sense in which games are the same way; certainly, if a publisher tells you "it's broken; such and such strategy is too powerful", that's a concern and flaws do need to be addressed. But what if it's just an aesthetic point? Like, "we want the game to be more [insert adjective: strategic, chaotic, gamer-friendly, non-gamer-friendly, whatever]"; what do you do about it, if you consider the game "done", a masterpiece that needs no further brushstrokes? Do you "sell out", or maintain your "integrity"? This isn't a question for which I expect there to be an objective answer, just a point of discussion that I find interesting -- how much should you modify your game to accomodate the desires of the publishers and make it more likely to get picked up? Is there a line that you shouldn't/won't cross?

Anyway, continued best of luck with the game, you sound like you're very close to breaking through with a publisher, just keep trying! Can't wait till the published copy hits my table over here!

-Jeff

phpbbadmin
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Gheos: playtest session

jwarrend wrote:
Like, "we want the game to be more [insert adjective: strategic, chaotic, gamer-friendly, non-gamer-friendly, whatever]"; what do you do about it, if you consider the game "done", a masterpiece that needs no further brushstrokes? Do you "sell out", or maintain your "integrity"? This isn't a question for which I expect there to be an objective answer, just a point of discussion that I find interesting -- how much should you modify your game to accomodate the desires of the publishers and make it more likely to get picked up? Is there a line that you shouldn't/won't cross?
-Jeff

Interesting. Alan Moon's game Elfenland was a supposedly more consumer friendly version of his self published game Elfenroads for Rio Grande. It did not get nearly as critical acclaim that Elfenroads did, so they released the Elfenroads expansion which made it more like the original Elfenroads game. It's funny how that worked out. Wouldn't it have been easier just to release Elfenroads originally?

-Michael

Scurra
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Elfenland...

[OT]
Yeah, but Elfenland won the SdJ, so who cares about "critical acclaim"? :-)

Speaking personally, I think that Elfenland + Elfengold makes a nice short game overcomplicated (rather like Cities & Knights makes Settlers overcomplicated.) That doesn't make it a bad game, but I can play plenty of other overcomplicated games, given the choice.... Whereas I will play Elfenland with non-gamers (it's excellent for that, since final scores are usually very close and it takes a bit of experience to realise that the gap between, say, 17 and 19 is actually a vast gulf, so everyone can feel quite good about it. Amusingly, the last time I played Elfenland was to teach it to a German family!)

sedjtroll
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Re: Gheos: playtest session

zaiga wrote:
I just got the game back from "Hans Im Gluck" who said they had enjoyed playing the game, but thought it was not strategic enough for their tastes (ie. you couldn't really plan ahead) and that often the game was decided in a single "big" turn. They said they would sometimes score 30 or even more points in a single turn.

Did you ask how they were able to manage 30 points in a turn, and mention that you'd never experienced that? Maybe they will tell you what went on if you ask.

Did they provide any additional feedback- any playtest reports, comments other than "fun but not strategic enough"?

When thinking of Carcassonne I see the mid-game scoring when completing cities or roads, then I see the endgame scoring of Farms. It sounds like that's what they're looking for... I wonder f Carcassonne didn't have a similar thing happen- suppose the Farm scoring wasn't in the original version, and the publisher said "We want it to be more strategic," so the Farm scring was added later. It wouldn't suprise me if that were the case. It might explain the awkwardnss of scoring (which I complained about in another post).

- Seth

zaiga
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Re: Gheos: playtest session

sedjtroll wrote:

Did you ask how they were able to manage 30 points in a turn, and mention that you'd never experienced that? Maybe they will tell you what went on if you ask.

Well, the first email I got from them was the standard "Sorry, but...". I asked for a few more details and that was when they came with the "big turn" and "can't really plan ahead" comments. I didn't ask for more details though. Perhaps I should have, I don't know.

Quote:

Did they provide any additional feedback- any playtest reports, comments other than "fun but not strategic enough"?

No, just a polite email explaining me why they decided not to go with the game in a few paragraphs. I didn't really expect much more from them. It's a company that gets many prototypes for review and they can only publish so much games. They don't have all the time in the world to keep trying out my game, that should be my job as a designer.

Quote:

When thinking of Carcassonne I see the mid-game scoring when completing cities or roads, then I see the endgame scoring of Farms. It sounds like that's what they're looking for... I wonder f Carcassonne didn't have a similar thing happen- suppose the Farm scoring wasn't in the original version, and the publisher said "We want it to be more strategic," so the Farm scring was added later. It wouldn't suprise me if that were the case.

That is a possibility. I'm trying to come up with something similar for "Gheos". We'll see how it goes.

Thanks for your comments!

- René Wiersma

zaiga
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Gheos: playtest session

jwarrend wrote:
I think your post raises an interesting issue for me. ... But what if it's just an aesthetic point? Like, "we want the game to be more [insert adjective: strategic, chaotic, gamer-friendly, non-gamer-friendly, whatever]"; what do you do about it, if you consider the game "done", a masterpiece that needs no further brushstrokes? Do you "sell out", or maintain your "integrity"? This isn't a question for which I expect there to be an objective answer, just a point of discussion that I find interesting -- how much should you modify your game to accomodate the desires of the publishers and make it more likely to get picked up? Is there a line that you shouldn't/won't cross?

This is a very tough question to answer. I think it all depends on the game and what the publisher is asking. In this particular case, the publisher asks me to make the game more strategic. I agree with them that it could be a better game if players could formulate more of a long term goal, so I don't mind trying a few things out to make it more strategic. Maybe I'll come up with a mechanic that makes the game even better and that makes the publisher so happy that they decide to publish it. In my mind that would be great.

Right now I just want to get a game published. Perhaps once I have a couple of designs published I could get more "picky", because I know I could sell the game to another publisher more easily if a particular publisher doesn't want it.

Quote:

Anyway, continued best of luck with the game, you sound like you're very close to breaking through with a publisher, just keep trying! Can't wait till the published copy hits my table over here!

Well, it doesn't feel like I'm close to getting something published! But thanks for the kind words, Jeff!

- René Wiersma

IngredientX
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Gheos: playtest session

This is a very interesting issue. What happens if a game your playtesters enjoy gets turned down by a publisher? How much do you change it?

This happened recently with "Get Nifty," which will be the official Sluggy Freelance card game. Rob Balder (cartoonist of the very funny "Partially Clips" webcomic) was designing the game, and Steve Jackson was prepared to publish it.

Apparently, Steve Jackson wasn't happy with what Balder submitted. But Balder and his playtesters were quite pleased with what they submitted, and didn't like Jackson's proposed changes.

So instead of having a long, drawn-out argument (perhaps ending in court), they have decided to part amicably. Balder is looking for a publisher, Steve Jackson won't release a game he's not happy with, and Sluggites everywhere will have to wait.

Rene's situation is a little different, because Hans Im Gluck wasn't on board to publish the game originally. I understand that many game companies are very liberal when it comes to changing game elements... not just theme, but rules and mechanics!

Geez, I hope I don't sound like an ogre here, but I think if Hans Im Gluck liked your game enough, they may have taken it and made the tweaks they wanted to. They may have felt that turning the game into something they wanted to release (not necessarily "better," just something that fit in with their previous games) would have been too much work and negotiation.

I wouldn't be surprised if they got the rules wrong. And either way, publishing companies in the role of "gatekeeping" have blown these kinds of calls before. Remember Decca records, which told a young Liverpool quartet that they wouldn't be signed because guitar rock was out of vogue? ;)

Anonymous
Gheos: playtest session

zaiga wrote:
Perhaps once I have a couple of designs published I could get more "picky", because I know I could sell the game to another publisher more easily if a particular publisher doesn't want it.

You'll know you're at that point when publishers come to you looking for a design!

zaiga
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Gheos: playtest session

If you are interested in printing out the rulebook and the components to try out the game, or if you simply want to take a peek, drop me a PM and I'll give you URL's. I appreciate any kind of feedback.

- René Wiersma

Chad_Ellis
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Gheos: playtest session

Darkehorse wrote:

Interesting. Alan Moon's game Elfenland was a supposedly more consumer friendly version of his self published game Elfenroads for Rio Grande. It did not get nearly as critical acclaim that Elfenroads did, so they released the Elfenroads expansion which made it more like the original Elfenroads game. It's funny how that worked out. Wouldn't it have been easier just to release Elfenroads originally?

While there are certainly exceptions, I think that making games more consumer-friendly often really means dumbing them down. Risk-aversion sometimes leads to helpful simplicity or removing of real problems, but at least as often it leads to mediocrity.

Hugs,
Chad

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"Fixing" Gheos

The main problem with Gheos the way I've played it (i.e. without the pyramid chits) is that every single turn, every single player counts every single player's score to determine if they should play ascoring tile. This is a real drag in an otherwise very elegant game.

I have not tried the new changes Zaiga made, but I have a suggestion that might help (in either case).

At first I thought as nifty as the mechanic is, the player decided scoring rounds needed to go. BUt then I had an epiphony. Keep the player edtermined scoring, but make it hard or impossible to know exactly how many points everyone will get!

In other words, make followers hidden information.

In addition to that it might (or might not) be a good idea not to cap the total number of followers of each color at 5. Although if you do, then you can tell if someone's cheated (accidentally or on pupose) whena civ dies- wouldn't want followers hanging out behind screens. Potentially an increase in the cap might be in order.

So the idea is, you'd have to decide to score based on YOUR situation, not everyone's score.

Hey, just thought of another option... if there were 2 or 3 different things which scored, then you could invoke the scoring round and choose one of them... like "I'll score cups." Thus, you'd want to have a presence in each scoring type (in case someone else scores), but you also want to have a bigger presence than others in one so you can score.

... Just some ideas. Let me know what you think.

- Seth

Anonymous
Re: "Fixing" Gheos

sedjtroll wrote:
The main problem with Gheos the way I've played it (i.e. without the pyramid chits) is that every single turn, every single player counts every single player's score to determine if they should play ascoring tile. This is a real drag in an otherwise very elegant game.

This is not so much the case. Well, I take that back, it might be for you, but not for many normal people. Besides the fact that it is easy to determine the point values for followers. The game now isn't so much about knowing the point values of everybody, but more so knowing when to play a scoring tile. I have played games under the new rules where I lost 8 to 6, and games where I have won 75 to 42. There was also a game which I played in which I got very far into the lead, talking up like 40 points, and then lost to a first time player because his scoring tiles were played late in the game and were worth more points. So definitely for the average player it will not be so muich about counting everybody's points every turn. In fact if somebody existed that felt they needed to count points every round but did not want to do this, I would be tempted to tell them either too bad, or don't play.

Quote:

I have not tried the new changes Zaiga made, but I have a suggestion that might help (in either case).

At first I thought as nifty as the mechanic is, the player decided scoring rounds needed to go. BUt then I had an epiphony. Keep the player edtermined scoring, but make it hard or impossible to know exactly how many points everyone will get!

In other words, make followers hidden information.

In addition to that it might (or might not) be a good idea not to cap the total number of followers of each color at 5. Although if you do, then you can tell if someone's cheated (accidentally or on pupose) whena civ dies- wouldn't want followers hanging out behind screens. Potentially an increase in the cap might be in order.

So the idea is, you'd have to decide to score based on YOUR situation, not everyone's score.

Hey, just thought of another option... if there were 2 or 3 different things which scored, then you could invoke the scoring round and choose one of them... like "I'll score cups." Thus, you'd want to have a presence in each scoring type (in case someone else scores), but you also want to have a bigger presence than others in one so you can score.

... Just some ideas. Let me know what you think.

- Seth

The funny thing is this. There is no need to fix such a good game. now, let us figure out how to fix Puerto Rico, Settlers, or Go.

Bah

sedjtroll
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Re: "Fixing" Gheos

DrMayhem wrote:
This is not so much the case. Well, I take that back, it might be for you, but not for many normal people. Besides the fact that it is easy to determine the point values for followers.

While it may have been an exageration to say that people would count all the scores every single turn, it's not a huge one. In my experience, each player counted the score a far greater times then he or she played a scoring tile. It contributed to a large portion of the game time. At least 1 of the playtesters commented to me about it as well.

Quote:
The game now isn't so much about knowing the point values of everybody, but more so knowing when to play a scoring tile.

And how are you supposed to know when to play a scoring tile without counting up the scores? You seem to suggest that playing scoring tiles later is better than sooner, which may well be true, but that doesn't say amything about the decision at the end of your turn to score or not.

Quote:
I have played games under the new rules where I lost 8 to 6, and games where I have won 75 to 42. There was also a game which I played in which I got very far into the lead, talking up like 40 points, and then lost to a first time player because his scoring tiles were played late in the game and were worth more points.

I prefaced this by saying I hadn't played under the new rules, however I fully expect the same issue to occur. Your play (however good or bad) neither confirms nor denies the length of time it takes nor the process of deciding to play a scoring tile or not.

Quote:
So definitely for the average player it will not be so muich about counting everybody's points every turn.

Your conclusions don't follow from your arguments, logic boy ;)

Quote:
In fact if somebody existed that felt they needed to count points every round but did not want to do this, I would be tempted to tell them either too bad, or don't play.

Heh, that's one way to approach selling games. As it turns out the problem isn't with the fact that I might want to count points frequently to decide weather I should score or not. The problem I'm talking about is the ability for people to count points, meaning that SOME PEOPLE will, which might be slowing the game down unnecessarily. I know it slowed our games down.

Like I said, I haven't played by the new rules, but I understand the scoring works the same way, which means some people will count points frequently rather than play the game.

I'd like to know what Zaiga thinks of all this, as it's his game to begin with. Maybe his intention was for people to be able to know the possible scores at all times.

I'll also note that when I first played Peurto Rico, my friends had the rules wrong- we played with face up VPs. It took forever for people to take their turn because they were constantly counting each other's scores.

- Seth

Anonymous
Re: "Fixing" Gheos

sedjtroll wrote:
DrMayhem wrote:
This is not so much the case. Well, I take that back, it might be for you, but not for many normal people. Besides the fact that it is easy to determine the point values for followers.

While it may have been an exageration to say that people would count all the scores every single turn, it's not a huge one. In my experience, each player counted the score a far greater times then he or she played a scoring tile. It contributed to a large portion of the game time. At least 1 of the playtesters commented to me about it as well.

Isn't this the case with every game that is played by at least semi-competant players. They think about what they are going to do before they do it. Unless of course the game is of a poor design allowing for an unlimited number of actions, where choices don't have to be made. Wouldn't this compulsive need to count up the points be a sign of a good game in such a case?

Quote:

Quote:
The game now isn't so much about knowing the point values of everybody, but more so knowing when to play a scoring tile.

And how are you supposed to know when to play a scoring tile without counting up the scores? You seem to suggest that playing scoring tiles later is better than sooner, which may well be true, but that doesn't say amything about the decision at the end of your turn to score or not.

Quote:
I have played games under the new rules where I lost 8 to 6, and games where I have won 75 to 42. There was also a game which I played in which I got very far into the lead, talking up like 40 points, and then lost to a first time player because his scoring tiles were played late in the game and were worth more points.

I prefaced this by saying I hadn't played under the new rules, however I fully expect the same issue to occur. Your play (however good or bad) neither confirms nor denies the length of time it takes nor the process of deciding to play a scoring tile or not.

Even granting an extreme counting overload in gameplay, the game is still comepletable in approximately one hour.

Quote:

Quote:
So definitely for the average player it will not be so muich about counting everybody's points every turn.

Your conclusions don't follow from your arguments, logic boy ;)

I was not trying to make a deductive claim, but rather an inductive one. In which case my conclusion does properly follow from what is given. It is just not necessarily the case that given the premises being true that the conclusion is true, the conlusion could be either true or false. This however does not mean that the form is invlaid.

Quote:

Quote:
In fact if somebody existed that felt they needed to count points every round but did not want to do this, I would be tempted to tell them either too bad, or don't play.

Heh, that's one way to approach selling games. As it turns out the problem isn't with the fact that I might want to count points frequently to decide weather I should score or not. The problem I'm talking about is the ability for people to count points, meaning that SOME PEOPLE will, which might be slowing the game down unnecessarily. I know it slowed our games down.

Of course I wouldn't say that. But I would be tempted. Personally I feel the game was designed to allow for perfect knowledge of what will result for a scoring tile. Without this, the game would be even more about remembering what color followers each player has taken.

Quote:

Like I said, I haven't played by the new rules, but I understand the scoring works the same way, which means some people will count points frequently rather than play the game.

I'd like to know what Zaiga thinks of all this, as it's his game to begin with. Maybe his intention was for people to be able to know the possible scores at all times.

I'll also note that when I first played Peurto Rico, my friends had the rules wrong- we played with face up VPs. It took forever for people to take their turn because they were constantly counting each other's scores.

- Seth

zaiga
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Gheos: playtest session

Seth,

Thanks for the comments. I think what you are bringing up is a valid concern. It is indeed possible to count each other player's possible score every turn. However, this has always been an important feature of the game and I don't think the game would work as well with hidden followers.

The problem with your solution is that threefold. Firstly, it is too easy to keep track of who has which followers and how much. I like the mechanic of hiding information that could be tracked with perfect memory, but only when there are a lot of transactions so that it becomes impossible for most people to keep track of it. In Gheos there are relatively few transactions and thus it becomes possible to keep track of it with some effort. In a sense you replace the counting mechanic with a memory mechanic, and I don't think that's a lot better.

Secondly, tracking how much followers everyone has would be made even simpler by looking at the remaining followers in the supply. You can easily see how much followers are missing and backtrack who picked which follower.

Finally, even when it would be possible to somehow obscure the number of followers players have in some way or another, I think it would make playing a scoring tile, and realising you remembered wrongly how much follwers everyone had, a very unsatisfying experience. It might work in some games, but I don't think it will work in Gheos.

That said, there are a few things I changed in the new version of Gheos, that somewhat lessen the effect of counting points every turn. I removed the "double" scoring tile. This makes the math a bit simpler. I also made the game a bit more volatile and reduced the number of cups, which causes slightly lower scoring and simpler math. You can still count all the points, if you want, but it will take a bit less time.

Besides that I think the counting becomes less with more experienced players. Experienced players know that it's often best to save the scoring tiles for right after a devastating play, such as a migration or a war, and this dramatically reduces the number of times when you would want to count points. The game really is about building up towards such plays, so you often know when you might want to score, or when you certainly don't want to score.

In my experience, analysis paralysis hasn't been a huge problem in Gheos. Yes, it is technically possible to count all the points all the time, just as it is possible to spend a large amount of time thinking through all the possible permutations of role selections and their effects in Puerto Rico. That's one of the downsides of (almost) perfect information games. Smart players will use their downtime to do the number crunching in Gheos an dthat will keep the game moving at a crisp pace.

Anonymous
Gheos: playtest session

I would just like to say.... BOO YA!

It would suck. You should have just believed me.

sedjtroll
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Gheos: playtest session

Fair enough, it's intended. And perhaps the changes you mention are enough to alleviate any perceived problem.

Just out of curiosity, what did you think of the other idea, where you score a particular type of thing... like say there are Cups and Gems (or maybe 3 different things), and you choose one to score when you play the scoring tile.

It's even more of a deviation than the other change I proposed, but it's prettyinteresting I think.

regarding remembering who has what... have you played El Grande? In that there are regions where you put your cubes, and then you score based on who has the most cubes in a region. There's one region where you can't see who has what, you only are told who put what in there when they place them. This seems like a lot less to remember than how many followers EACHPLAYER has, and yet it's a successful mechanic.

- Seth

Anonymous
Gheos: playtest session

sedjtroll wrote:
Fair enough, it's intended. And perhaps the changes you mention are enough to alleviate any perceived problem.

Just out of curiosity, what did you think of the other idea, where you score a particular type of thing... like say there are Cups and Gems (or maybe 3 different things), and you choose one to score when you play the scoring tile.

I would just like to note that this would increase your problem with the game Seth.

Quote:

It's even more of a deviation than the other change I proposed, but it's prettyinteresting I think.

regarding remembering who has what... have you played El Grande? In that there are regions where you put your cubes, and then you score based on who has the most cubes in a region. There's one region where you can't see who has what, you only are told who put what in there when they place them. This seems like a lot less to remember than how many followers EACHPLAYER has, and yet it's a successful mechanic.

- Seth

Never played the game

sedjtroll
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Gheos: playtest session

DrMayhem wrote:
sedjtroll wrote:
Just out of curiosity, what did you think of the other idea, where you score a particular type of thing... like say there are Cups and Gems (or maybe 3 different things), and you choose one to score when you play the scoring tile.

I would just like to note that this would increase your problem with the game Seth.

Only if you can see how many followers each player has.

- Seth

zaiga
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Gheos: playtest session

sedjtroll wrote:
Just out of curiosity, what did you think of the other idea, where you score a particular type of thing... like say there are Cups and Gems (or maybe 3 different things), and you choose one to score when you play the scoring tile.

It's even more of a deviation than the other change I proposed, but it's prettyinteresting I think.

It's a cute idea, and I've toyed around with something like that as well. However, in the end I think it doesn't really add much to the game, except some unnecessary complexity.

Quote:
regarding remembering who has what... have you played El Grande? In that there are regions where you put your cubes, and then you score based on who has the most cubes in a region. There's one region where you can't see who has what, you only are told who put what in there when they place them. This seems like a lot less to remember than how many followers EACHPLAYER has, and yet it's a successful mechanic.

I think it is important to make a distinction between two different mechanics:

1) Obscuring trackable information by hiding it
2) A pure memory mechanic

Mechanic 1 is a trick used in games to obscure information. It is used when the designer wants the players to have a general idea of how everyone is doing, but doesn't want the players to know the exact count of another player's holding. It is used mainly to prevent analysis paralysis and overt kingmaking situations. The idea behind this mechanic is that players aren't supposed to keep track of this information, and there should be so many transactions in the game that is becomes impossible for the typical player to do so.

Mechanic 2 is used when the designer wants to reward the player with the best memory. It's seen a lot in children's games, because children are often quite good at memory games and thus might be able to beat their parents, who will probably do better at other game mechanics.

The problem with El Grande's tower mechanic is that -- aside from the fact that you could deduce the number of cubes everyone has in the tower by looking at their remaining supply of cubes, it would be pretty anal to do so, but then again, as you pointed out yourself, such people do exist -- I think it is supposed to be a "hiding information" mechanic, but there are so few transactions that it isn't too hard to keep track of how much cubes everyone has in the tower, making it, for me, a memory mechanic.

Now, there isn't anything inherently wrong with memory mechanics, they have their place in some games. However, I do want to point out the difference between these two mechanics. I think hiding the followers in Gheos would turn it into a memory game, and that's simply not the direction I'm willing to go into. Even if it were somehow possible to obscure the number of followers each player has succesfully, it would turn scoring into some sort of crap shoot, and that would make it a very unsatisfying experience.

Perhaps a good analogy would be Puerto Rico. I know that VP's are hidden in Puerto Rico, but imagine that also player's doubloons, goods, plantations and buildings were hidden. The game might still work, but selecting a role would become purely guesswork and the dynamics of the game would change dramatically. The game is simply not designed to work with hidden resources. It's the same for Gheos.

sedjtroll
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Gheos: playtest session

zaiga wrote:
I think hiding the followers in Gheos would turn it into a memory game, and that's simply not the direction I'm willing to go into.

I heartily agree that a memory mechanic like you describe would be terrible. I don't think it's as clear if hidden followers would turn into this mechanic or not. Having not tried it I can't really say.

Quote:
Even if it were somehow possible to obscure the number of followers each player has succesfully, it would turn scoring into some sort of crap shoot, and that would make it a very unsatisfying experience.

Again, crap shoot scoring would be unsatisfying, for sure. But then again, people like Ticket to Ride... heh.

But again I'm not convinced hiding followers would turn it into a crap shoot. Especially in the case where you'd choose what kind of scoring to do out of 2 or 3 options...

Quote:
Perhaps a good analogy would be Puerto Rico...The game is simply not designed to work with hidden resources. It's the same for Gheos.
Well, except it is designed to work with hidden VPs, so people spend their time playing the game rather than counting the points. This is where I was coming from in the first place.

On a completely different note, another part of the game (which is hidden, isn't it?) is the tile hand/draw. Last rules I saw each player had a hand of 3 tiles- though that may have changed. The last game I played with 2 others, we tried instead a face up pool of 3 tiles. I wanted to see if it allowed people to know some of their opponents options and better plan their plays. I'd say it wasn't really that great, but it wasn't really worse than an individual hand of tiles either.

More recently I was thinking perhaps a better way to both reduce the possible plays (reducing analysis time), and inject a little planning, players could have a face down hand of 1 tile, and there could be 1 tile face up. Then your turn could be basically pick up the face up tile and then play either it or your other tile. At the end of your turn you'd flip a new tile face up. This seemed a little nicer with regard to Epoch tiles (though they may be gone now) as they'd come up face up, and one at a time... doesn't really make a difference in truth, but anyway...

I know privately you mentioned that you didn't like the idea of faceup tiles. I wondered about the details of that. Especially in such a 'perfect information' game ;)

- Seth

zaiga
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Gheos: playtest session

sedjtroll wrote:
Well, except it is designed to work with hidden VPs, so people spend their time playing the game rather than counting the points. This is where I was coming from in the first place.

There's a difference. Hiding followers is not the same as hiding VP's, as followers can be considered more of a resource than VP's. Hiding followers in Gheos would be like hiding the goods in Puerto Rico. "Does George have a Coffee left? I'm not sure. Perhaps he has, and I don't want to take the Trader then. Should I Captain then? But did John have 3 or 4 Corn?? If he does, and Pete still has those two Tobacco, I'm screwed". It might work, it's simply not the direction I want to take.

Again, I want to stress that counting points hasn't been a huge problem during playtesting. I don't see the point trying to solve a minor issue when the solution only seems to bring other problems with it.

Quote:
On a completely different note, another part of the game (which is hidden, isn't it?) is the tile hand/draw. Last rules I saw each player had a hand of 3 tiles- though that may have changed. The last game I played with 2 others, we tried instead a face up pool of 3 tiles. I wanted to see if it allowed people to know some of their opponents options and better plan their plays. I'd say it wasn't really that great, but it wasn't really worse than an individual hand of tiles either.

More recently I was thinking perhaps a better way to both reduce the possible plays (reducing analysis time), and inject a little planning, players could have a face down hand of 1 tile, and there could be 1 tile face up. Then your turn could be basically pick up the face up tile and then play either it or your other tile. At the end of your turn you'd flip a new tile face up. This seemed a little nicer with regard to Epoch tiles (though they may be gone now) as they'd come up face up, and one at a time... doesn't really make a difference in truth, but anyway...

Players now have a hand of 2 tiles. It gives them a bit choice, but not so much that they drown themselves in endless thought over what tile to play.

As for other ways of drawing tiles, I tried simply picking one facedown tile, a la Carcassonne, but it wasn't as satisfying. Having two tiles in hand makes it possible for players to plan ahead a bit during their downtime. It's not hard to come up with other fancy mechanics of drawing tiles, but simplicity is really a very good thing. The current mechanic is simple and works very well, so why change it? It feels like you are trying to tinker with it, simply for the sake of tinkering.

The reason why tiles in hand are hidden and not face up is simply because I don't want players to worry too much about what their opponent's might do in future moves. Face up tiles would increase the possibility for analysis paralysis without adding truly that much to the game. Besides, weren't we trying to reducing analysis paralysis instead of finding ways of increasing it? :)

jwarrend
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Gheos: playtest session

I haven't played Gheos yet, and I haven't read the latest version of the rules, so, grain of salt and all, but I think Seth raises a legitimate point that, in general, a perfect information game in which players initiate scoring could lead to AP. A perfect example of this is Vinci, which is one of the worst AP games out there. Now imagine if, in Vinci, you were tracking how much everyone else was going to score as well. What a nightmare!

I'm sure Gheos has this problem less than something like Vinci, and indeed, if you haven't seen it yet, that's a necessary -- but not sufficient -- condition to demonstrate that it may not be a problem. But zaiga, I hate to use this line of argumentation on you, but a while back you complained about Balloon Cup being "flawed" because, on occasion, the game can lock up. Isn't it a flaw that, when played with counters, Gheos can bog down? It's not the same category -- a semantic flaw rather than a game breaking flaw -- but still, there's some similarity.

Anyway, if it does become a problem that counting slows/ruins the game, possible routes you could consider:

-- Make tracking easier. If I'm not mistaken, scoring works by each Civ paying out VPs to the people who have the most stake in each. What if you simply tracked, via a scoring track, how much each Civ would pay out at any given time per influence token or however they pay out? This would require some more effort during the game, but would make the scoring computations much faster.

-- Make scoring more uncertain by only scoring a subset of the scoring avenues per scoring event. Maybe instead of across-the-board scoring, you only trigger scoring in one Civ, or in one category. This could amp up the tension: "Joe is heavily vested in Blue, so he's likely to score them; I need to get in on Blue so I can get points off of Joe's scoring event as well."

Think of the Action Cards in El Grande that trigger partial scoring events; what make those interesting is that there's some tension as to who will take them based on the kinds of regions they score. I'm not advocating such a model here, so much as saying that subset based scoring is potentially interesting. You could even drive strategies by having, say, 8 different scoring cards, which score different things, and give each player 2; that way, they'd seek to be vested in Civs based on what their scoring cards are.

-- Players only trigger their own scoring. This makes the game more of a "press your luck" factor. It certainly makes more sense mechanically, and could mitigate a runaway leader. After all, there's nothing more frustrating in PR than having to choose captain when everyone else is going to get more than you. I could see Gheos having a similarly frustrating scoring.

Just some ideas, if it becomes a problem. In general, though, I think Seth hit on an interesting consequence of player triggered, across-the-board scoring events. Even if it doesn't affect Gheos, it still might be helpful to someone at some point.

-J

zaiga
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Gheos: playtest session

Hello Jeff, thanks for your comments!

jwarrend wrote:
I haven't played Gheos yet, and I haven't read the latest version of the rules, so, grain of salt and all, but I think Seth raises a legitimate point that, in general, a perfect information game in which players initiate scoring could lead to AP. A perfect example of this is Vinci, which is one of the worst AP games out there. Now imagine if, in Vinci, you were tracking how much everyone else was going to score as well. What a nightmare!

I did say that Seth raised a valid point. I just think that his proposed solution wasn't a very good one, and that it just raised other issues.

The Vinci comparison isn't wholly of the mark. It's much easier in Gheos to calculate each player's score, but it still is a possible time sink if each player does it every turn.

Quote:
I'm sure Gheos has this problem less than something like Vinci, and indeed, if you haven't seen it yet, that's a necessary -- but not sufficient -- condition to demonstrate that it may not be a problem. But zaiga, I hate to use this line of argumentation on you, but a while back you complained about Balloon Cup being "flawed" because, on occasion, the game can lock up. Isn't it a flaw that, when played with counters, Gheos can bog down? It's not the same category -- a semantic flaw rather than a game breaking flaw -- but still, there's some similarity.

I'm sorry Jeff, but I fail to see your point here. The flaw in Balloon Cup is a fundamental, mechanical flaw -- the game's mechanics can lead to the game locking up -- a cardinal sin in my opinion. It's like a computer program that crashes with an overflow exception. It simply should never happen; it's bad programming. Gheos' flaw is more like a user interface that works a bit slow and counterintuitive for people who aren't used to it. The program still works properly, but it would be nice if it could get fixed.

Quote:
Anyway, if it does become a problem that counting slows/ruins the game, possible routes you could consider:

-- Make tracking easier. If I'm not mistaken, scoring works by each Civ paying out VPs to the people who have the most stake in each. What if you simply tracked, via a scoring track, how much each Civ would pay out at any given time per influence token or however they pay out? This would require some more effort during the game, but would make the scoring computations much faster.

Scoring for each player is the number of followers of a civilization times the number of cups of that civilization. It's easy to see how much followers everyone has of each civilization and how much cups each civilization has. A typical score computation for a player would be (1*2) + (2*3) + (1*0) + (2*2). Nothing too complex, but doing it for each opponent as well as for yourself might be a bit cumbersome, especially when you want to do it every turn. This is where Seth's complaint stems from.

Quote:
-- Make scoring more uncertain by only scoring a subset of the scoring avenues per scoring event. Maybe instead of across-the-board scoring, you only trigger scoring in one Civ, or in one category. This could amp up the tension: "Joe is heavily vested in Blue, so he's likely to score them; I need to get in on Blue so I can get points off of Joe's scoring event as well."

I like this idea, and it wouldn't be too hard to implement such a thing. Every player could start the game with a tile that scores for one specific civilization.

Quote:

-- Players only trigger their own scoring. This makes the game more of a "press your luck" factor. It certainly makes more sense mechanically, and could mitigate a runaway leader. After all, there's nothing more frustrating in PR than having to choose captain when everyone else is going to get more than you. I could see Gheos having a similarly frustrating scoring.

Good idea. In the current version of the game each player has three scoring tiles, two of which score across the board, and one which just scores for the player himself. I could just try to replace all the "across the board" scoring with "personal" scoring and see how that works out. If that works, but I still want to juice up the scoring, I could try out the civilization specific scoring.

Quote:

Just some ideas, if it becomes a problem. In general, though, I think Seth hit on an interesting consequence of player triggered, across-the-board scoring events. Even if it doesn't affect Gheos, it still might be helpful to someone at some point.

I agree. And thanks for the suggestions!

sedjtroll
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Gheos: playtest session

zaiga wrote:
Again, I want to stress that counting points hasn't been a huge problem during playtesting. I don't see the point trying to solve a minor issue when the solution only seems to bring other problems with it.

Well, obviously the intention isn't to produce more problems.

Quote:
As for other ways of drawing tiles, I tried simply picking one facedown tile, a la Carcassonne, but it wasn't as satisfying.

I imagine it would be unsatisfying.

Quote:
It's not hard to come up with other fancy mechanics of drawing tiles, but simplicity is really a very good thing. The current mechanic is simple and works very well, so why change it? It feels like you are trying to tinker with it, simply for the sake of tinkering.

Actually, the reason I was thining about it was this: HiG said the game was "not strategic enough" or "too tactical" or whatever. Along those lines, if you could see some of your opponents options when placing your tile, then you could make a better informed decision- maybe that could add srtategic depth. Then again maybe not.

I did try it with a pool of 3 faceup tiles and no hand tiles, and I didn't like that much. It did definitely add an element of 'I can't do that or it gives the next player a great move', but that's not exactly what I was after. So I thought about a few other ways to have some of the tiles 'public' and some 'private' so you could have a couple options but also have an idea what someone else could do.

Evidently that's the opposite of what you intended:

Quote:
The reason why tiles in hand are hidden and not face up is simply because I don't want players to worry too much about what their opponent's might do in future moves. Face up tiles would increase the possibility for analysis paralysis without adding truly that much to the game. Besides, weren't we trying to reducing analysis paralysis instead of finding ways of increasing it? :)

More accurately, what I was trying to do was focus the analysis on playing the game rather than on scoring.

jwarrend
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Gheos: playtest session

zaiga wrote:

I'm sorry Jeff, but I fail to see your point here. The flaw in Balloon Cup is a fundamental, mechanical flaw -- the game's mechanics can lead to the game locking up -- a cardinal sin in my opinion. It's like a computer program that crashes with an overflow exception.

I think the point I was trying to make was that you complained about a rare-event bug in BC that you hadn't ever seen happen, but that theoretically could happen, but were dismissing Seth's perceived flaw in your game on the grounds that you hadn't seen it happen yet (but neglecting that, in theory, it could occur).

Yes, I agree, it's not the same category; the BC flaw is more "catastrophic". But as a designer, you don't want any flaws at all, if you can help it.

Moreover, the reason I rejected your BC analysis (that the flaw destroys the game) is because you never demonstrated that the lockup happens at any particular frequency. If it only happens once per 100 games, surely that is "less bad" than a flaw that comes out once per 10 games, or every game?

My point is this. It's overwhelmingly likely that there will be more instances of your game being played by perfect counters than instances of BC locking up. So even if BC's flaw is in the design and yours is in the players, I contend that yours is the one more in need of being dealt with, if there even is a flaw; I haven't played, and don't know.

Quote:

I like this idea, and it wouldn't be too hard to implement such a thing. Every player could start the game with a tile that scores for one specific civilization.

Or one tile for each Civ, but they can only use each one once during the game (or perhaps they MUST use each once during the game)

Quote:

I could just try to replace all the "across the board" scoring with "personal" scoring and see how that works out. If that works, but I still want to juice up the scoring, I could try out the civilization specific scoring.

It might be worth a try in a solo playtest, to see what it does to the overall game.

Good luck!

-Jeff

sedjtroll
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Gheos: playtest session

Those are all interesting ideas which address the comment I made, good ones Jeff!

With respect to scoring 1 civ only, there are several ways that could be done. Which is the most interesting?
[ul]
[li]Each player gets one of the 5 colors at random (face down), each scoring tile is to be used only once each game
[li]Each player gets 1 each of the 5 colors, each scoring tile is to be used only once each game
[li]Each player gets a couple (3?) scoring tiles in one color, each to be used once per game (i.e. they always score Red when they score)
[/ul]
I'm sure there are others as well.

It might be difficult to impliment 'everyone has to use all their tiles each game' unless the game didn't end til they were all used- but without some method to force scoring then the game could drag.

Another idea along this line is each time an Epoch tile comes up (or whatever), each player chooses a color- that civ gets scored. So not all civs will score. If the same color is chosen more than once, you'd probably not double score it. This choosing should be simultaneous I think- it would be neat to be in a position where 2 people benefit equally from scoring Blue, so they have to decide to choose blue and make sure it scores, or choose something else and count on the other player choosing blue.

This would involve counting up scores, but only at scoring instances, I think it would be pretty interesting (and El Grande-esque, which could be good or bad depending on your opinion of El Grande).

I'm glad I started this discussion, even if it has ne end effect on Gheos.

- Seth

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