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Test of games the 21 May

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Johan
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The 21 May we where 4 players did get together and tested games. We had 5 prototype games on the menu (we also played some other games in between).
The team started 09.15 in the morning and ended the session 23.15 (that was a long day).

We prototypes that was up for test was:

Devils deeds:
A fast card game that was tested for the 3rd time. Game time 45 minutes.
This game was my own and I was pleased that the game got the highest score this day (but a score for 7.5 for the highest one is not so high).

Europa:
A conflict game in the style of Britannia or History of the world. We tested it for a game company and I have to write a report on this one, It took around 4 hours and after that we had a 30 minutes session on discussion around the game. The problem with the game is it was to unbalanced.

Here we tried. To get in the mood for a new game we played "My dwarf can Fly". (That game was really boring and took to long time for a filler).

Sands of Time:
Civilisation game. The test was stopped after 3 hours. See game notes.

8,7 Central:
A TV casting game. The test was stopped after 45 minutes. The game will get a new test next time.

Deer base:
Sport game for 2 players. This game was removed in the last minute (as the last game we played a well known game instead). This game will be tested Tuesday instead (since it is for 2 persons).

// Johan

Johan
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Test of games the 21 May

Our group use nearly the same grade system that Board game geek does (score between 1-10). A grade over 5 is but not more. Normally our games end up with grades between 6.0 and 8.0.
The highest score has Pirates Cove with 8.58 followed by Ticket To Ride (8.56), King ME! (8.43) and Tigris & Europhat (8.33). There are only 9 games that have a grade over 8.

Sands of time by Jefff Warrend

Sands of Time received a grade of 3.5 (observe that we always grade the games for what it is and not for its potential).

Comments from Janne (one of the tester): This is not his first game and the designer knows how to design. There is a good game in there. I can feel it but I cannot see it.

We took nearly an hour extra with the game to take it apart and find the errors.

The rules
The problem with the game is not in a single rule. We took the game apart, rule-by-rule and did not find anything. Then we tried to see how the rules work together and no problems there either. When we took out all the rules and looked at them at the same time, we could see some problems:
- One of the problems with the game is that this is not one game. There are at least 2 maybe 3 games in there (it all depends on how you cut it). You have a war game, a empire building game, a civilisation game and a game where you collets points to achieve some tasks. Streamline in needed.
- There is a flow but it is to slow. You have to get people, production and movement to get achievement tokens. After that you have to get achievements to build in your areas. Buildings are needed to build cities and the cities are needed for the trade.

Rule description
A lot of times we had to stop the game to read the rules, and that took time. Quick reference for each player would be a good thing. Examples should also be added to the rules.

Components
The biggest problem with the game is the components: The amount of components is not the problem but the set up. After the set up we had:
- 3 Gaming boards (The map, the caravan and the scoring board). The game board started with 54 tokens and 28 units).
- 4 Personal gaming boards (the players mats). Each of them had 6 markers (one for each gold, crops and unrest and 3 for the prefects).
- 15 piles of cards and 4 extra achievement cards face up.
- 1 pile of achievement tokens.
- 1 pile per player with peasants and warriors.

This amount of information did make the game hard to get an overview of. We tried to be as fast as we could when we did our turns, but this game suffer from the analyse paralysis syndrome.

The map
The map has to be redesigned. There was a lot of down time in this game and the main reason for that is the map I think that you could win 25% of the gaming time just to print the gold, crops and capacity on the areas. Then use markers to show the ownership of an area. The envelopment of the areas and the cities has to be solved.
I can understand that you want to be able to have different set-ups, but not to the price of playability. Right now it is nearly impossible to get an overview of the game board.

Finally
I am glad that we had opportunity to test this game. I find a lot of interesting solutions (as the achievement cards and the chronicle cards that changed goal nearly every turn, the handling of unrest, the selection of the advance cards, the prefect selection and so on). If you do a rework of the game I would like to test it again.

// Johan

Johan
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Test of games the 21 May

8,7 Central by Seth Jaffee:
A TV casting game. The test was stopped after 45 minutes (including game description. I send the rules to one of the other members of the gaming group (he normally read all the rules on new games) and I handled the components. With both Sands of time, Deerbase and Europa, I wanted someone else to take some of the games. That was a mistake.
Since he had not seen the components before the game session we went off really wrong. After a lot of discussion we took a diaper look in the rules and did find out that we had run the game the wrong way. We stopped the game. I will read the rules and do a walk threw to the next time.
I hope that this is Ok with you.

One comment: You should reorgonize the rules. With proper headlines, a little bit better examples and some pictures, ythis game will be a lot easer to understand.

// Johan

jwarrend
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Test of games the 21 May

Johan wrote:

Sands of time by Jefff Warrender

Sands of Time received a grade of 3.5 (observe that we always grade the games for what it is and not for its potential).

Ouch! Not exactly a ringing endorsement, eh? My apologies that the game didn't appeal to your group.

Quote:

The problem with the game is not in a single rule. We took the game apart, rule-by-rule and did not find anything. Then we tried to see how the rules work together and no problems there either.

That's one of the real issues that came up in the GDW. Some folks said "there's too much complexity", but there's no one system that is the obvious culprit. If I had to hack something, it would probably be the "caravan" system, which is pretty new. Yet, I like it because it offers interaction. Maybe it could be considered a "variant". I'll also note that I have actually done a fair bit of hacking and streamlining since the GDW; any further changes would be to remove core systems (like resource production, or combat, etc.) I'm not sure I'm ready for those kinds of changes yet.

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- One of the problems with the game is that this is not one game. There are at least 2 maybe 3 games in there (it all depends on how you cut it). You have a war game, a empire building game, a civilisation game and a game where you collets points to achieve some tasks. Streamline in needed.

I agree that the game forces you to manage a few different things, but this is really the whole idea of the game, that you can steer your civilization in a variety of directions, and choose to focus on expansion, or development, or production, etc. There's a certain baseline of complexity that is needed to enable that.

But on the other hand, the game has a certain idea to it, that the "goal" of an empire isn't merely to do big deeds, but to also pay attention to building up a "legacy" so that people will remember your deeds when you're long gone. In that sense, the game could probably be cut into either a fairly standard Civ-building game where you build/produce/fight, OR it could be cut into a game just about the history-writing aspects. But I like having the game be about both.

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- There is a flow but it is to slow. You have to get people, production and movement to get achievement tokens. After that you have to get achievements to build in your areas. Buildings are needed to build cities and the cities are needed for the trade.

This is a valid concern. The "ramp-up" of the game is something I'm still calibrating. It's very hard to get people to test this one due to its length, so there hasn't been nearly enough tweaking done. My sense is that the "quick start" setup might have appealed to your group more, as it gives you a few upgrades from the very beginning of the game. The game's rules as written are probably more appropriate for people who like to "start from scratch" and spend a few turns just deciding and defining in which direction their empire should go. I really think that the full version of the game is best for people who have played a few times and have some ideas about strategies.

Quote:

A lot of times we had to stop the game to read the rules, and that took time. Quick reference for each player would be a good thing. Examples should also be added to the rules.

Yeah, I just made up a little reference card yesterday, too late to benefit you. I did make up a book of illustrated examples; I thought I sent it to you? That might have helped, but surely, there's still room for improvement in the explanation of the game.

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This amount of information did make the game hard to get an overview of. We tried to be as fast as we could when we did our turns, but this game suffer from the analyse paralysis syndrome.

I don't think the game actually has that much of an analysis paralysis problem. Rather, I'd say that it has a learning curve -- there is a lot going on, and it takes some time to understand and internalize how everything works.

I was mentally rehearsing a rules explanation for the game yesterday (we had a playtest session, but didn't end up playing) and I said to myself "wow, this sounds pretty involved!" But once you get the feel for the game, there's actually not all that much going on.

Quote:

The map has to be redesigned. There was a lot of down time in this game and the main reason for that is the map I think that you could win 25% of the gaming time just to print the gold, crops and capacity on the areas. Then use markers to show the ownership of an area. The envelopment of the areas and the cities has to be solved.
I can understand that you want to be able to have different set-ups, but not to the price of playability. Right now it is nearly impossible to get an overview of the game board.

This is an interesting dilemma; to me, the variability of the setup is something that has been part of the design since day one, and it's something I really like. I've played the game probably 10 times or so now, and I don't have any problem translating the information from the boxes on the edge of the board to the actual territories on the map. It's useful, then, to hear that this was a problem for your group, as I hadn't heard that particular complaint before, although I do understand it.

One thing that I think is interesting about the variable setup concept is that you can see how different strategies emerge from different geographies. For example, a region with several large Crops territories is a good place to spring up a militaristic empire; a region with several low-capacity territories can be a good place to try to spring up a few cities.

The game is really meant to give historical flavor without explicitly trying to recreate history, and the variable board really serves a key role in facilitating that. And the information boxes are a necessary evil, in that sense, because putting markers on the board would just clutter it up too much. But printing on the board might not.

Hmm... this is a tough call; it's a shame to have the game turn people off after one playing, yet I suspect that people who play 2 or 3 times wouldn't have a problem with this aspect of the game. Does one design a game around the needs of the first-timers, or of the "veterans"? It's a challenging decision.

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I am glad that we had opportunity to test this game. I find a lot of interesting solutions (as the achievement cards and the chronicle cards that changed goal nearly every turn, the handling of unrest, the selection of the advance cards, the prefect selection and so on). If you do a rework of the game I would like to test it again.

I appreciate your playing the game, and your insights and candor in your comments. My feeling about the game is that it has a bit of a learning curve, and I'm unfortunately not surprised that your first time playing was slow going. I do suspect that if you played again, now that you understand the game better, your group might enjoy the game more, but I realize that it's a big investment of time and wouldn't ask you to make it.

I'm not sure what's going to happen with this one. My guess is that there's a decent chance it will end up in the scrap heap; I don't really have access to a group that can/will playtest it regularly enough to try out changes, so even if I could mentally come up with a set of changes as sweeping as what it sounds like you're advocating, I don't think I'd ever be able to test it.

Thanks again!

-Jeff

Verseboy
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Test of games the 21 May

jwarrend wrote:
Hmm... this is a tough call; it's a shame to have the game turn people off after one playing, yet I suspect that people who play 2 or 3 times wouldn't have a problem with this aspect of the game. Does one design a game around the needs of the first-timers, or of the "veterans"? It's a challenging decision.

Of course, to get to those second and third tries, they need to see something in the first try that makes them want to give it another go. I've played numerous games where the first time or two (or five) was spent coming to grips with all that was there. But when I keep coming back to a game that I haven't felt entirely comfortable in, it's because I can sense that there's something there for me, I just have to get a handle on it.

It sounds like excellent and thoughtful feedback from Johan's group. Of course, you wanted them to proclaim it the best game they had ever played and that it was ready for Days of Wonder to publish! (I'm sure you didn't expect that, but a part of you had to be hoping...) I hope you'll step back for a bit and then attack the game with new vigor. It would be a shame if it ended up on the scrap heap. Just understand that because of the difficulties of getting the appropriate playtest group for the game, the development process will take a lot longer. And in between sessions for Sands of Time, keep working on other things.

Good luck.

Steve

jwarrend
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Test of games the 21 May

Verseboy wrote:

Of course, to get to those second and third tries, they need to see something in the first try that makes them want to give it another go.

Yes, of course. I think there's also a sense in which designing a game that works very well and one that is easy to play right out of the box are two different aims (though obviously, you want to achieve both if you can).

But I think Johan's comments about the game board are a useful example of my dilemma. Let's say, hypothetically, that the mental effort associated with the board layout I'm using is, indeed, too difficult, and 3/4 of everyone who plays the game will be so irritated by the board that they won't want to play again. But for the 1/4 who will play the game 2 or 3 times, they will find the board aspects managable, and will like the variability aspect. Given this, what is the right thing to do?

To my mind, there isn't an obvious answer to this question; the variability is something I feel strongly about, yet if I could bring myself to sacrifice it, I could broaden the appeal of the game (maybe). It's a tough call; it really forces you to ask "who am I designing this for?"

Quote:
It sounds like excellent and thoughtful feedback from Johan's group. Of course, you wanted them to proclaim it the best game they had ever played and that it was ready for Days of Wonder to publish!

Surprisingly, no -- in my experience, the most useless playtesters are the ones who drool all over the game. It's flattering, but not terribly useful, particularly when you know that the game is flawed, and believe me, I have no illusions that Sands, as is, is anywhere close to perfect. The tricky bit for me is separating the "learning curve" aspects associated with becoming familiar with the game, and the "this game doesn't work" aspects. I think that Johan's feedback sounded like a mix of both.

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I hope you'll step back for a bit and then attack the game with new vigor. It would be a shame if it ended up on the scrap heap.

Well, maybe "scrap heap" was too dramatic a term; "backburner" might be a better term. It just might end up on a real low simmer. And I should make it clear that it's not going there just yet; my point was simply that, if Johan is right and the game does indeed need (yet another!) severe overhaul, it will likely be quite a while till that happens...

Quote:
Good luck.

Thanks!

-Jeff

sedjtroll
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Test of games the 21 May

Verseboy wrote:

Of course, to get to those second and third tries, they need to see something in the first try that makes them want to give it another go.
I second that emotion :)

jwarrend wrote:
Let's say, hypothetically, that the mental effort associated with the board layout I'm using is, indeed, too difficult, and 3/4 of everyone who plays the game will be so irritated by the board that they won't want to play again. But for the 1/4 who will play the game 2 or 3 times, they will find the board aspects managable, and will like the variability aspect. Given this, what is the right thing to do?

To my mind, there isn't an obvious answer to this question; the variability is something I feel strongly about, yet if I could bring myself to sacrifice it, I could broaden the appeal of the game (maybe). It's a tough call; it really forces you to ask "who am I designing this for?"

I'm not sure it's merely a question of "is the board irritating" or "is there a learning curve in understanding what the heck is going on in this game" or "Is this game so deep that you have to play it a number of times before you can really play it"...

In addition to those questions, it sounds like the layers upon layers of systems are working to bog down the game. Obviously I'm not too familiar with the game itself, as I have not played it, but from all the comments and test sessions I've read it sounds like each step of the way it's "Well, this is sorta complicated, but once you get used to it it's not so bad" and "This part has a steep learning curve, but it's a necessary evil" and "this part's a little complex, but not THAT complex..."

It's natural for a designer to defend his game, and I know exactly where you're coming from (having just discussed All For One duelling the other night in the chatroom). But the answer to your question "who am I designing for?" appears to be "Jeff and his 5 closest friends, who are the only ones who would play this game enough to appreciate it." Which is a perfectly reasonable answer, though I don't think it's the answer you intend.

Quote:
Well, maybe "scrap heap" was too dramatic a term; "backburner" might be a better term. It just might end up on a real low simmer. And I should make it clear that it's not going there just yet; my point was simply that, if Johan is right and the game does indeed need (yet another!) severe overhaul, it will likely be quite a while till that happens...

I like the basic ideas/goals you've described for this game, so I hope you do continue to work on it. It sounds like you're looking to make an Epic Civ Building game that's streamlined and playable in 2 hours or so. I'm not sure how you're going to do that in a way that Tigris & Euphrates or Vinci hasn't already, but I really like your Historian/Chronicle idea... the idea that it's not how big your Civilisation is at the end that counts, but how "big" it gets at different times throughout the game. I think you could probably concentrate on that aspect - which is really the original element, isn't it? - and streamline some of the stuff that doesn't directly support it (even if it's stuff you like), then the game might be easier to take in and still accomplish your design goals.

I'd actually like to give this one a try, so I could give you more meaningful comments rather than "It sounds to me based on so-and-so's comments..."

- Seth

sedjtroll
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Test of games the 21 May

Johan wrote:
8,7 Central by Seth Jaffee:
A TV casting game. The test was stopped after 45 minutes (including game description... we went off really wrong. After a lot of discussion we took a diaper [I hope you mean "deeper" ;)] look in the rules and did find out that we had run the game the wrong way. We stopped the game. I will read the rules and do a walk threw to the next time.
I hope that this is Ok with you.

Of course this is OK with me. Bummer it didn't go smoothly. I'm curious to know what was played incorrectly. I thought the rules, though not well organized, covered everything pretty well.

Quote:
One comment: You should reorgonize the rules. With proper headlines, a little bit better examples and some pictures, this game will be a lot easer to understand.

Will do... can you tell me what parts weren't easy to understand?

Thanks for taking a look,

Seth

jwarrend
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Test of games the 21 May

sedjtroll wrote:
"Is this game so deep that you have to play it a number of times before you can really play it"...

I think this is actually a big part of the "problem", to the extent that there is one. The game presents you with a fair number of mechanics to learn up front, and it can take a little time to acclimate yourself before you're really following a plan. I don't think it's that different, or that much more involved, than other comparable games.

Quote:
In addition to those questions, it sounds like the layers upon layers of systems are working to bog down the game. Obviously I'm not too familiar with the game itself, as I have not played it, but from all the comments and test sessions I've read it sounds like each step of the way it's "Well, this is sorta complicated, but once you get used to it it's not so bad" and "This part has a steep learning curve, but it's a necessary evil" and "this part's a little complex, but not THAT complex..."

I don't think that there are really "layers upon layers" of systems, except in the sense that the game is pretty integrated in the sense that this affects that affects this other thing. And each individual system is, in and of itself, quite simple; the whole issue is that there are a fair number of systems. But, that's because there are a fair number of things that I want you to be able to do. In the game, you can: build, produce, fight, expand, advance, manage unrest, migrate, populate, and record your history. Obviously, with that many things, there's a fair number of net rules to accomodate all that, but each individual system has simple rules governing it. And there really isn't a clear answer to which of those systems the game could do without; take any out, and the game changes fundamentally.

So I think that's why I find it hard to know which way to jump based on SR's like Johan's, or feedback in the GDW. People say "it needs to be streamlined", but when you ask how, no one has any ideas, and indeed, will even grant that each system is relatively simple.

That's why I think that the true "problem" of the game may be that it just takes a game or two to become familiar. But if the game itself works, that may not be a problem at all.

Quote:
But the answer to your question "who am I designing for?" appears to be "Jeff and his 5 closest friends, who are the only ones who would play this game enough to appreciate it." Which is a perfectly reasonable answer, though I don't think it's the answer you intend.

Actually, were I still living in Boston, this would be the answer -- my group there liked playing the game when it was a 5 hour game!

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It sounds like you're looking to make an Epic Civ Building game that's streamlined and playable in 2 hours or so.

Well, 3 hours, but hopefully with a fun 2 hour variant...

Quote:
I'm not sure how you're going to do that in a way that Tigris & Euphrates or Vinci hasn't already, but I really like your Historian/Chronicle idea...

You just answered your own question! Tigris and Vinci are both very good games, but they're both very abstract and pretty one-dimensional. I think Sands will be distinguished from them by its more ambitious scope, yet I don't think the playing time will actually be that much longer that those games.

Quote:

the idea that it's not how big your Civilisation is at the end that counts, but how "big" it gets at different times throughout the game. I think you could probably concentrate on that aspect - which is really the original element, isn't it? - and streamline some of the stuff that doesn't directly support it (even if it's stuff you like), then the game might be easier to take in and still accomplish your design goals.

Yes, that's exactly the thing to figure out, is what parts of the game are extraneous to the historical aspects and what parts are essential. As far as I can tell, the whole thing seems somewhat "essential", in the sense that you have to actually do some stuff so that you have something to write about! But the idea is to balance your attention paid to great exploits with spending time and energy recording what you've done. You're right that this is the core idea in the game.

Quote:
I'd actually like to give this one a try, so I could give you more meaningful comments rather than "It sounds to me based on so-and-so's comments..."

Yeah, I really feel like this one may need to be played to be understood. I do think it's a game that "sounds more complicated than it is", but I'm sure I've made it clear how biased I am in that regard!

-Jeff

FastLearner
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Test of games the 21 May

Perhaps a comparison to a recently-published game with a similar scope and length would be handy. A couple of weeks ago I played Martin Wallace's new Struggle of Empires with 5 players.

jwarrend wrote:
sedjtroll wrote:
"Is this game so deep that you have to play it a number of times before you can really play it"...

I think this is actually a big part of the "problem", to the extent that there is one. The game presents you with a fair number of mechanics to learn up front, and it can take a little time to acclimate yourself before you're really following a plan. I don't think it's that different, or that much more involved, than other comparable games.
It's certainly different than SoE. Don't get me wrong, it's got lots of stuff going on, but by the second turn everyone understood all of the rules and how to use them. We referred to the rulebook for a couple of niggling things over the next hours, but maybe 3 or 4 times, and only on niggling bits.

Quote:
I don't think that there are really "layers upon layers" of systems, except in the sense that the game is pretty integrated in the sense that this affects that affects this other thing. And each individual system is, in and of itself, quite simple; the whole issue is that there are a fair number of systems. But, that's because there are a fair number of things that I want you to be able to do. In the game, you can: build, produce, fight, expand, advance, manage unrest, migrate, populate, and record your history. Obviously, with that many things, there's a fair number of net rules to accomodate all that, but each individual system has simple rules governing it. And there really isn't a clear answer to which of those systems the game could do without; take any out, and the game changes fundamentally.

But for recording your history, the same things are done in SoE.

Quote:
That's why I think that the true "problem" of the game may be that it just takes a game or two to become familiar. But if the game itself works, that may not be a problem at all.

Here I'd argue, though. I haven't heard a good argument from you as to why it's ok to take multiple games before one is sufficiently familiar. Potential reviewers are going to pan it if they don't understand it fairly quickly. Game retailers who play it at a convention or what have you aren't likely to buy it if they think it's likely to be returned because people didn't understand it the first time.

All of that assumes you're interested in publication, of course.

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Quote:
But the answer to your question "who am I designing for?" appears to be "Jeff and his 5 closest friends, who are the only ones who would play this game enough to appreciate it." Which is a perfectly reasonable answer, though I don't think it's the answer you intend.

Actually, were I still living in Boston, this would be the answer -- my group there liked playing the game when it was a 5 hour game!
Which makes me wonder if your pespective isn't a bit skewed.

Quote:
You just answered your own question! Tigris and Vinci are both very good games, but they're both very abstract and pretty one-dimensional. I think Sands will be distinguished from them by its more ambitious scope, yet I don't think the playing time will actually be that much longer that those games.

As we've discussed before, game length isn't a huge deal if everyone's enjoying themselves throughout, at least for many people. For comparison purposes, it took us about 5 hours to play SoE the first time. Future playings with 5 will probably take 4 hours, maybe 3.5. Familiarity with the various power and upgrades is what will make the difference, as it will be easier to rule certain upgrades out more quickly once you're familiar.

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Yes, that's exactly the thing to figure out, is what parts of the game are extraneous to the historical aspects and what parts are essential. As far as I can tell, the whole thing seems somewhat "essential", in the sense that you have to actually do some stuff so that you have something to write about! But the idea is to balance your attention paid to great exploits with spending time and energy recording what you've done. You're right that this is the core idea in the game.

Perhaps, and not having played the game I certainly cannot say, having the recording thing plus a full civ game might be a bit much. Perhaps the civ part can be lightened up a bit, eliminating one or two mechanisms/systems.

Just an outsider's perspective. SoE tells me that it can certainly be done, Euro-concepts, civ building, constant fun, reasonable time frame, and I and my group would love to have another good one to play that fits those criteria, so here's hoping you can make it all work!

-- Matthew

jwarrend
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Test of games the 21 May

FastLearner wrote:
Perhaps a comparison to a recently-published game with a similar scope and length would be handy. A couple of weeks ago I played Martin Wallace's new Struggle of Empires with 5 players.

Well, if I have to out-design Martin Wallace, I'm in deep trouble!

Actually, another (and possibly better) comparison will be Wallace's upcoming game "Tempus", which is a 2 hour Civ building game that is already pretty highly touted. It will, most likely, kill Sands' chances at publication. I still think that Sands will have some aspects that Tempus appears to lack, but this may not be enough to justify its additional length and complexity in the minds of companies or players. On the other hand, it might. Time will tell.

jwarrend wrote:

I think this is actually a big part of the "problem", to the extent that there is one. The game presents you with a fair number of mechanics to learn up front, and it can take a little time to acclimate yourself before you're really following a plan. I don't think it's that different, or that much more involved, than other comparable games.

It's certainly different than SoE. Don't get me wrong, it's got lots of stuff going on, but by the second turn everyone understood all of the rules and how to use them. We referred to the rulebook for a couple of niggling things over the next hours, but maybe 3 or 4 times, and only on niggling bits.

Well, I think there's a sense in which this discussion is perhaps a bit silly; Johan's comments were very helpful, but they are the opinions of one group who played the game one time. I need to be careful not to codify them as objective facts about the game, at least not without further study; I'm merely trying to offer possible explanations for what he observed in his playing. Your group might have absolutely no trouble picking up Sands in one turn. Who knows?

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I haven't heard a good argument from you as to why it's ok to take multiple games before one is sufficiently familiar.

Well, again, I'm not sure that this is in fact the case with this game or not -- I don't think it is -- but my argument is merely that there's no reason why it's not ok, either. Or let me put it differently; I'm trying to make a game that works and is fun to play. That isn't necessarily the same thing as a game that is easy to learn. Making the game simpler could make it easier to learn, but also could come at the expense of some of the aspects I find fun. For me, the fun factor of the game as played by "experts" is more important, at least at the moment (since the game isn't done yet), than the appeal to first-time players. (And yes, I get it, you have to have people like the first playing enough to want to play again. I get it. Really, I do.)

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Potential reviewers are going to pan it if they don't understand it fairly quickly. Game retailers who play it at a convention or what have you aren't likely to buy it if they think it's likely to be returned because people didn't understand it the first time.

I am sorry for how jerky this is going to sound, but I really, really don't care about this. If the game doesn't get published, it's fine by me. I'm sick to death of the conventional wisdom that every game has to be as simple as Ticket to Ride or some such or else it's not worth playing (I understand that you're not saying this, but it is, I claim, a dominant mindset out there). I have heard the "too many games, too little time" argument more times than I care to recite. There is a place in the world for complex games. Sands is a game in the Avalon Hill tradition, games like Republic of Rome, Dune, Civilization. These are not games that you can play like a pro at in one playing; they reward an investment of many playings to appreciate their nuances, and indeed, to internalize their mechanics. Those kinds of games don't appeal to everyone, but that doesn't invalidate them as good games.

I am trying like the Dickens to make Sands a streamlined version of these classic games, to make it playable and accessible, but if a publisher/reviewer/player wants to complain about the game because it has more complexity than Ticket to Ride, well, there's just only so much I can do about that.

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Actually, were I still living in Boston, this would be the answer -- my group there liked playing the game when it was a 5 hour game!

Which makes me wonder if your pespective isn't a bit skewed.

I'm not sure what this means. Skewed relative to what? "Skewed" has a negative connotation. Why is its use justified here?

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Perhaps, and not having played the game I certainly cannot say, having the recording thing plus a full civ game might be a bit much. Perhaps the civ part can be lightened up a bit, eliminating one or two mechanisms/systems.

I think that the history chronicling stuff is really the only hope of distinguishing the game from the many other excellent Civ games out there, so that can't really go. It's certainly possible that the Civ building aspects can be lightened up a bit, but doing so is proving to be, at the moment, the sticky wicket, though doubtless there are opportunities. I'll have the game at PowWow, and would be happy to have you in a game if it interests you! (and of course, no hurt feelings if it doesn't appeal...)

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Just an outsider's perspective. SoE tells me that it can certainly be done, Euro-concepts, civ building, constant fun, reasonable time frame, and I and my group would love to have another good one to play that fits those criteria, so here's hoping you can make it all work!

Thanks! I haven't played SoE yet, and it sounds more like a war game than what Sands is likely to end up being, but I do hope to play it at some point, as it does sound quite good.

-Jeff

Brykovian
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Re: Test of games the 21 May

Johan wrote:
Deer base:
Sport game for 2 players. This game was removed in the last minute (as the last game we played a well known game instead). This game will be tested Tuesday instead (since it is for 2 persons).

Hi Johan ...

I assume this is the game that you and I have traded e-mails on. If so, I just wanted to point out that the title of the game is "DareBase", not "Deer Base" ... it's a "Dare" -- as in convincing someone else into taking a risk -- that's involved in the game.

("Deer", in English, are larger brown animals, like Bambi, or Santa's Reindeer. Having deer involved changes the theme of the game a bit. ;-D)

In any case, feel free to call it what you want -- I'm just happy to see that you plan on testing it!

Cheers,
-Bryk

Johan
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Test of games the 21 May

Hello

First of all: Sorry Brykovian. My English did it again.

I do some board game reviews for magazines. When I write the review I have always want to played the game at least 3 times with 3 different groups. That gives me some perspective to the game.
In a case of a prototype (my own or others) I run the game once (Chicago we did 4 times with 4 different constellations but a game that game took 20 minutes to complete). After we always grade the game (for what it is right now) and discuss how to improve the game (and the things that did not work).
In case of my own prototypes, I listen very carefully of what the testers say. I do not always agree of the solutions, but the problems will always be addresses. Only I as the designer can decide how to change the game, but I can not make players to like my changes or my game.
As a game designer I don’t see any test of games (prototypes or published games) a waist of time. I see that as an opportunity to see how other designers have solved there problems. Since we do a review and have a discussion of the game after each game (and once more in the end of the session) this gives me a lot of experience and ideas in different game mechanism and alternatives. Nowadays I start with a theme, decides the length, for whom the game is for and the components (type of components). Then I start to make a mechanism around the game. For me a test of another designer's prototype is a win-win situation. The designer gets there game tested and I get more experience.
For the record, I never steal another designer's work, but if you let another designer to see your work, there is always possibility that he will get some ideas that he can use in his work (you can not prevent people to think).

In the case of Sands of Time, I was the one that initiated the test (I love these kinds of game and one of my absolute favorite game is Republic of Rome). I hope I get an opportunity to do a retest of the game (with the shorted version that Jeff presented some weeks ago and the quick reference). Jeff can use the information he got or not. It is up to him. I just hope that he don’t drop the game from one bad review. I still think that there is a really good game in there.
The only thing I did not like in this debate is the questions of the "level" of the test group or if it was the right test group. That is not relevant. If the group fulfills some pre-stated conditions, you have to take the result from a blind test just as it is. That is what a blind test is for.
For the test, I used 5 hours for printing, cutting and put the game together (I did a lot of mistakes with the double sided cards and the game board was really tricky). Another 2 hours to read the rules and the group use 4 hours each (that is 12 hours) for test and review and finally 1 hour to go threw my notes and write some kind of review). I would not do that kind of work if I did not think the game was nothing for the test group.

// Johan

jwarrend
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Test of games the 21 May

Johan wrote:

The only thing I did not like in this debate is the questions of the "level" of the test group or if it was the right test group. That is not relevant. If the group fulfills some pre-stated conditions, you have to take the result from a blind test just as it is. That is what a blind test is for.

I hope that nothing I said in my remarks was construed as raising this kind of question, as I certainly don't feel that your group's reaction was because your group is at the wrong "level" or something.

But at the same time, your group's reaction is, as I said to FastLearner, the opinion of one group who played the game one time. Your opinions are valid and extremely useful, but obviously I shouldn't change the game dramatically without establishing a broader consensus on some of the aspects you found problematic (since some of the concerns are ones I have not heard expressed previously).

Here's an example that might help to make my point. I had a playtest of a different game the other night that usually takes about 1 hour to play, but because of one "perfect planner" in the group, it took 2.5 hours. His complaint after the game was that the game had too much for him to think about, and should be simplified. Now, this guy is an experienced gamer and a good player, so I take his comments seriously. But at the same time, I recognized that his reaction to the game may have more to do with his particular play style (methodical planning) than a flaw in the game itself. So I probably wouldn't change the game without first finding out if more people felt this way.

In this sense, it's interesting to decide how to interpret the comments of a group that played any game for the first time. Of course, in the case of Sands, one of your comments was that it's hard to play the first time, which is useful!

I do sincerely appreciate the time you invested in giving the game a try, and I hope that it one day ends up in a finished state that your group would find fun. (and preferably, that that day would be sooner rather than later!) If you did choose to play the game again, I'd be very interested to hear whether your impressions changed after that playing: whether you became more familiar with the game's mechanics, whether you were able to make meaningful decisions and develop a strategy, etc. The question I'm struggling with right now is, "Is the game simply hard to learn, or is the game itself flawed even once one has internalized how it is played?" (And the answer could be "both"!)

Again, my sincere thanks for your time and input! It's been very, very helpful.

-Jeff

Johan
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Test of games the 21 May

Hi

jwarrend wrote:
I hope that nothing I said in my remarks was construed as raising this kind of question, as I certainly don't feel that your group's reaction was because your group is at the wrong "level" or something.

Both Yes and now. I got the feeling that you wondered if this was the right game for this group and I would say yes.

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But at the same time, your group's reaction is, as I said to FastLearner, the opinion of one group who played the game one time. Your opinions are valid and extremely useful, but obviously I shouldn't change the game dramatically without establishing a broader consensus on some of the aspects you found problematic (since some of the concerns are ones I have not heard expressed previously).

Agree. You should try to get at least a couple of more opinions before you do some dramatic changes in the game.
On the other hand there are always some solutions that can give both sides what they want. You can look for alternative soulusions.
Example: One of the problems in the game was the down time (the time we spend on searching for information on the information boxes around game board. and checked if they are). We found this annoying. That will probably be better next time, but still it take a lot of time from the game (every time you have unrest, building cities, produce or move your units (to see how many you can be in an area and who is the owner).
A solution to this problem can be to have the game board divided into 4 pieces that are forming the game board. Each piece has 2 sides with a different setup. You will with this small change both have the information printed on the game board and at the same time 16 different board setups.

Quote:
I do sincerely appreciate the time you invested in giving the game a try, and I hope that it one day ends up in a finished state that your group would find fun. (and preferably, that that day would be sooner rather than later!) If you did choose to play the game again, I'd be very interested to hear whether your impressions changed after that playing: whether you became more familiar with the game's mechanics, whether you were able to make meaningful decisions and develop a strategy, etc. The question I'm struggling with right now is, "Is the game simply hard to learn, or is the game itself flawed even once one has internalized how it is played?" (And the answer could be "both"!)

As I see it, the time I invested was to see how other designers has solved (or not solved) problems in there games. I have to dig deeper into problems and try to see how I have solved problems that I did not know existed. This is really a Win-Win situation. More designers should try other designers creations.
...and yes, we are planning to test this game once more, but with the quick setup.

// Johan

jwarrend
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Test of games the 21 May

Johan wrote:
I got the feeling that you wondered if this was the right game for this group and I would say yes.

I didn't mean to give this impression. You had previously told me that your group like History of the World, Civilization, etc, so I figured that it would be a good group to try Sands.

One other question that didn't occur to me before; was the fact that all of the game's components are in English an obstacle for anyone? Even if you all speak and read English, is it as easy to play as if everything was in Swedish? (I'm not bilingual, so I have no experience with this kind of thing...)

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A solution to this problem can be to have the game board divided into 4 pieces that are forming the game board. Each piece has 2 sides with a different setup. You will with this small change both have the information printed on the game board and at the same time 16 different board setups.

Hey, now that's a great idea! I think that 16 different setups would probably be plenty. I'll start thinking about how this could be achieved. There are a couple of minor obstacles, such as that the four "quadrants" don't each contain the same number of territories, and the fact that some territories have to be removed for the 4p version, but other than that, it should be doable...

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As I see it, the time I invested was to see how other designers has solved (or not solved) problems in there games. I have to dig deeper into problems and try to see how I have solved problems that I did not know existed. This is really a Win-Win situation. More designers should try other designers creations.

I agree!

Quote:

...and yes, we are planning to test this game once more, but with the quick setup.

If you don't mind a little more printing and cutting, it would be no problem for me to create a version of the map board that had the capacities and resources printed right on it. It wouldn't have the two-sided, variability aspect, but unless you're planning to play the game a dozen times, the static board would be sufficient to play and would hopefully solve one of your concerns. Let me know if you'd like me to do this, it would require relatively little time on my end.

Thanks again!

-Jeff

Johan
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Test of games the 21 May

jwarrend wrote:
One other question that didn't occur to me before; was the fact that all of the game's components are in English an obstacle for anyone? Even if you all speak and read English, is it as easy to play as if everything was in Swedish? (I'm not bilingual, so I have no experience with this kind of thing...) .

No not at all. That is something we have to live with ;). Over 90% of all games (board games, card games, RPG and table top games) we play are in English.

Quote:
If you don't mind a little more printing and cutting, it would be no problem for me to create a version of the map board that had the capacities and resources printed right on it. It wouldn't have the two-sided, variability aspect, but unless you're planning to play the game a dozen times, the static board would be sufficient to play and would hopefully solve one of your concerns. Let me know if you'd like me to do this, it would require relatively little time on my end.

If you have a new map I will bring the game with me at the session at June. To that session I will do some small changes in the components (I will create ownership markers for the map and add one cards for each area that each player can have) (remove the boxes around the board). It will not change the game, but I think that we will get a better overview). Hope this is OK with you.

// Johan

jwarrend
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Test of games the 21 May

Johan wrote:

If you have a new map I will bring the game with me at the session at June. To that session I will do some small changes in the components (I will create ownership markers for the map and add one cards for each area that each player can have) (remove the boxes around the board). It will not change the game, but I think that we will get a better overview). Hope this is OK with you.

Ok, I'll get something ready for you in the next week or so.

You're more than welcome to modify the components in whatever way you want if it makes the game easier for your group to play!

In the very early stages of the design, I envisioned having each territory have a corresponding card, and the buildings built in that territory would go with that card. But I worried that having to switch all those cards when someone conquered another player's territory would be a pain.

The version I'll provide to you will probably still have an info box for each territory at the edge of the board (but with the 3 white boxes removed). Obviously, if you want to crop those out, you're welcome to do so!

I'll keep you posted on the progress with the new board...

-Jeff

sedjtroll
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Test of games the 21 May

Also, instead of info boxes and instead of a 'modular' board... you could do it like Settlers, or like the Mobile Scoreboards in El Grande.

So you'd have little chits with the possible info on them (the combinations) and those would sit on the board.

In fact, is there a reason you don't put the chits on the territories rather than the info boxes?

- Seth

jwarrend
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Test of games the 21 May

sedjtroll wrote:

So you'd have little chits with the possible info on them (the combinations) and those would sit on the board. In fact, is there a reason you don't put the chits on the territories rather than the info boxes?

The main reason was a fear that the chits would be easily jarred as you moved the playing pieces around. That, and that some of the territories (Gracia, e.g.) wouldn't be big enough to accomodate both the chits and the citizen pieces. Printing on the board alleviates both of these, but loses some of the customizability. I like Johan's idea as an "in between" solution.

Doubtless there's a "perfect" solution for this, but it's not really something I've ever worried about much, since the information boxes haven't ever presented much of a problem when I've played. I figured that if and when the game got published, the board wizards could come up with the ideal way to physically implement the game.

-J

Johan
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Test of games the 21 May

sedjtroll wrote:
Also, instead of info boxes and instead of a 'modular' board... you could do it like Settlers, or like the Mobile Scoreboards in El Grande.
So you'd have little chits with the possible info on them (the combinations) and those would sit on the board.
In fact, is there a reason you don't put the chits on the territories rather than the info boxes?

jwarrend wrote:
The main reason was a fear that the chits would be easily jarred as you moved the playing pieces around. That, and that some of the territories (Gracia, e.g.) wouldn't be big enough to accomodate both the chits and the citizen pieces. Printing on the board alleviates both of these, but loses some of the customizability.

This game will have around 3-8 tokens per area (representing peasants and warriors). We will also have a marker for whom controlling the area, the type of production and the production capacity. Over this there are also expansions in the areas.
There are around 30 areas on the game board. It is not possible to have everything on the game board. The boxes were one way to solve this.

jwarrend wrote:
You're more than welcome to modify the components in whatever way you want if it makes the game easier for your group to play!

OK. I will do some component modifications to our next game session. I still believe that the main problem with this game is in the components and that the information is on a lot of places.

// Johan

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