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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

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markmist
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Joined: 12/31/1969

This is my first submission to the GDW for the week of Apr. 25.

Before getting to the game, here is a little history....

I found out about the wonderful world of "euro-style" games when I purchased Carcassonne a few years ago and thought it was such a cool idea for a game that I had never seen before. This led me to do more research on gaming. My 2nd purchase was The Settlers of Catan, which was even more intriguing. I introduced these games to my friends and they loved them too and I went on to buy several more (Bang!, Citadels, Lost Cities, etc.) You see, Americans are stuck with the mindset that boardgames consist of role and move games like Monoply, party games like Cranium, and simplistic war games like Risk. Discovering and learning about new games became my new "hobby".

The more I played new games, the more I thought I could design one. I set out to make a game that would be MY perfect game, one that brought together alot of the mechanics and theme that I enjoy in a game, but in a way that came together and made sense. Needless to say, this has been a great challenge, but a very fun one. I have spent countless hours the last 6 months or so, designing, finding art, revising, playtesting and getting absorbed into the making of this game.

Two weeks ago, I stumbled upon the board game designers forum and thought that this would be a great place for people like me to see my design and provide me with comments and suggestions.

Now more about the game....

It started with an idea that could cut down the risk versus reward concept commonly used in games into the simpliest of forms: for every 1 of something you go for, you have to face 1 of something. I didn't know what the somethings could be, but that is what I started with. I later realized that this mechanic would work wonderfully with stealing items from a castle and having to face guards. If you try to steal 1 item, you face 1 guard, if you try to steal 2, you face 2 guards and so on. The rest of the game kind of formed around this idea, and as I added further mechanics (card management, trading, currency) it all just seemed to fit together. I later added a supply and demand mechanic (that is just demand now), characters, and a way to affect other players (sabotage).

The game has been playtested only a few times, but we have worked out the biggest kinks (game length, flow of play, set-up). I actually started out this game making over 300 cards, but during playtesting, it became apparent that is was just too much, and I was able to cut back to 220 or so without hurting the gameplay. Still more cards then any other game I am aware of, but they are pretty much all needed in my opinion.

So, without further adieu.. here are the links to the files:

http://www.bgdf.com/files/My_Uploads/markmist/Castle_Raiders_Rules.pdf

http://www.bgdf.com/files/My_Uploads/markmist/Castle_Raiders_Materials.xls

A few concerns I have about the game: length of time to play, the amount of luck, balancing the characters, too many components.

I hope you like the design. I look forward to your comments and suggestions.

Brykovian
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Hi Mark ...

Great theme, with good flavor added throughout the game ... However, it seems a bit complicated on my first read-through. I'm guessing things all fit together when actually playing, it just felt like there were all these extra little bits to have to keep in mind.

With the exact distribution you're trying to achieve for each castle, I can see why you put the cards together the way you did. However, I'm wondering if you could possibly combine cards together in order to reduce the number. For example, you could have a single pile of guard cards, and each guard could show its level for each of the 3 castles ... this would allow you to cover all 3 castles with 1 central stock of guards and still retain your wanted distribution (kinda). It probably wouldn't cut down your guard cards to a third of the current number, but would reduce it quite a bit.

If you wanted to be able to do something similar with items, then you'd have to give each player a tracking board to keep track of how many of each thing they have in their inventory. For example, an item card could simply show that in Castle 1 you get item X, in Castle 2 you also get item X, but in Castle 3 you get item Y. The the player would update their personal tracking board and discard the item card. Again, you'd have to play a bit to see if it would work as well as the system you have.

(These suggestions only matter if you really want to work at reducing the number of cards in the game.)

I'll give it another read-through later and comment more after that.

-Bryk

Hamumu
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Mark, you sound exactly like me last year when I discovered Carcassonne! Except for Lost Cities, I've got all those same games (and others as I'm sure you do). I better get Lost Cities soon!

Notes:

- The explanation of how you pick characters is totally opaque to me, not a clue what it means! After reading more of it, I think I see what it's trying to say, but I'd heartily recommend rewording it a whole lot.

- The activation cost of skills isn't explained - what are the 3 different numbers, and what are they measured in, silver?

- I don't see any conversion from silver to gold... I presume X silvers=1 gold? If it's 3, which I somewhere got the impression it might be, then why does Castle 2 pay out 3 silver income per raid instead of 1 gold?

- It sounds like a pretty cool game, but overcomplicated. For instance, why is there a bonus raid? Why not just play twice as many turns? If the number of items involved in trading/etc is the issue, I think it would be better to tune the game toward stealing twice as many items than to have more phases to lose track of. Or a less drastic idea is to simplify it by simply saying that the Raid phase allows a player to conduct 1 or 2 raids if they wish (and aren't captured the first time). That's the same as a bonus raid, but less steps for players to think about, I think. And similarly, there are 2 rounds of trading for some reason... would it not work well with just one? And does the Honor Among Thieves card add much? I'm not sure the demand stuff adds much either, but I also don't quite understand how it works.

- Not that it affects complexity any, but I'd combine phases 6 & 7 to say you can buy and sell goods and unlock chests all in the same phase. Just less to keep track of. It would just be the Market phase. Maybe throw the trading in with it and you've got a real market phase, with a real conundrum - buy new stuff, steal stuff, sell, or trade? I'd allow at least 2 rounds around for such a mix of stuff though, maybe 3. Since it's squeezing 3 of your phases together into 1, that's still simpler.

- A lot of elements of how a raid work, most notably Capturing, are pretty unclear to me. I can generally piece them together, but more concise explanations with charts and especially examples would help. I guess you face the guards all at once, since one at a time would be trivial to survive. But the part about recruiting guards says you can deploy them against an unrevealed guard.

- I think you should take out all the explanations that are inserted into the turn order part. Cut that to just a direct list of all the phases with a short description of how they work, including terms in bold or italics that can then be explained after the turn order. Like what you have now says "1) Raid Castle:.... Guard Cards:... Item Cards:.... 2) Bonus Raid:". It takes you out of the simple description of turn order to have those explanations in there. I say hit the whole turn sequence, then hit the details of what the elements in the turns mean.

- Some things would be a little clearer in the instructions if you'd always capitalize (and possibly bold or italicize) them. You mention "If a player owns talisman" a bunch of times, and I kept thinking there was a reward for owning the board game! Granted, capitalizing wouldn't fix that, but an indefinite article wouldn't hurt. Anyway, I'm a sucker for consistent notation, and uncapitalized things just don't look like official game elements.

Anyway, my main thing is what I say about any game more complex than War - I think it could be greatly simplified and a more fun, and even more strategic, game for it. I'm not the designer, so I can't tell you exactly how that should be done, but it's my critique (try some salt on it, it adds to the flavor!). I like the idea, but I feel like it could be implemented in a really simple and straightforward manner (in fact, probably with nothing but a couple decks of cards and some coins), while what you have involves a ton of complexity. Of course, not every game should be super simple, and there's a market for more involved stuff, this is just my angle on gaming.

markmist
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Notes:

Quote:
The explanation of how you pick characters is totally opaque to me, not a clue what it means! After reading more of it, I think I see what it's trying to say, but I'd heartily recommend rewording it a whole lot.

This was very difficult to explain, it worked better with the pictures, but because I was concerned with copyright issues, I left them out of the rules.

Quote:
The activation cost of skills isn't explained - what are the 3 different numbers, and what are they measured in, silver?

Yes, I need to explain this better.

Quote:
I don't see any conversion from silver to gold... I presume X silvers=1 gold? If it's 3, which I somewhere got the impression it might be, then why does Castle 2 pay out 3 silver income per raid instead of 1 gold?

5 silver = 1 gold and 5 gold = 1 emerald. I will specify this somewhere. Emeralds are used just to have a higher denomination and keep the number of stones down.

Quote:
It sounds like a pretty cool game, but overcomplicated. For instance, why is there a bonus raid? Why not just play twice as many turns? If the number of items involved in trading/etc is the issue, I think it would be better to tune the game toward stealing twice as many items than to have more phases to lose track of. Or a less drastic idea is to simplify it by simply saying that the Raid phase allows a player to conduct 1 or 2 raids if they wish (and aren't captured the first time). That's the same as a bonus raid, but less steps for players to think about, I think. And similarly, there are 2 rounds of trading for some reason... would it not work well with just one? And does the Honor Among Thieves card add much? I'm not sure the demand stuff adds much either, but I also don't quite understand how it works.

Yes, I added the bonus raid phase so that everyone would have more items to trade during the trading phase. The description of this can easily be worked into the first phase. Great comments, this the type of feedback I am looking for! 1 round of trading might work, but I think I wanted the option for all players to make a 2nd action should they have 2 traitor cards or really need to make a 2nd trade that round. I have not playtested the current setup of the Honor Among Thieves card, but thought it would be fun to add a little blind bidding into the game. I think its purpose is when you absolutely can't lose any cards in your hand, but I am not sure how often that might come up. Will have to rethink, any other suggestions on this one? The demand stuff makes the game more complicated and I even had a disclaimer that you can take this part out for a simpler game (but my playtesters really liked that part so I left it in).

Quote:
Not that it affects complexity any, but I'd combine phases 6 & 7 to say you can buy and sell goods and unlock chests all in the same phase. Just less to keep track of. It would just be the Market phase. Maybe throw the trading in with it and you've got a real market phase, with a real conundrum - buy new stuff, steal stuff, sell, or trade? I'd allow at least 2 rounds around for such a mix of stuff though, maybe 3. Since it's squeezing 3 of your phases together into 1, that's still simpler.

Yes, Phases 6 and 7 should be combined. An earlier rule concerning players who had the most currency got to buy stuff first required that I split the phases, but since I changed this - they can be combined again.
Hmm.. I will have to think about combining the trade/steal phase with the sell/buy phase - that could be a great idea!!!

Quote:
A lot of elements of how a raid work, most notably Capturing, are pretty unclear to me. I can generally piece them together, but more concise explanations with charts and especially examples would help. I guess you face the guards all at once, since one at a time would be trivial to survi. But the part about recruiting guards says you can deploy them against an unrevealed guard.

Yes, I will add a section trying to explain this better and provide examples. You must face all guards that you chose, but you reveal them one at a time, so that you can make some tactical decisions between guards. Such as, should I use my avoid trap skill and pay 2 silver to avoid the trap even though I have only 1 guard left to reveal and I have him beat unless it is a pikeman and there is only 1 left in the deck? Because you are tracking what is left in each castle, the odds of winning varies with each card that is revealed.

Quote:
I think you should take out all the explanations that are inserted into the turn order part. Cut that to just a direct list of all the phases with a short description of how they work, including terms in bold or italics that can then be explained after the turn order. Like what you have now says "1) Raid Castle:.... Guard Cards:... Item Cards:.... 2) Bonus Raid:". It takes you out of the simple description of turn order to have those explanations in there. I say hit the whole turn sequence, then hit the details of what the elements in the turns mean.

Good idea. I will try to do something like that.

Quote:
Some things would be a little clearer in the instructions if you'd always capitalize (and possibly bold or italicize) them. You mention "If a player owns talisman" a bunch of times, and I kept thinking there was a reward for owning the board game! Granted, capitalizing wouldn't fix that, but an indefinite article wouldn't hurt. Anyway, I'm a sucker for consistent notation, and uncapitalized things just don't look like official game elements.

So what you are saying is that I should capitalize all components? I originally had it like this, but then made them all uncapitalized. I guess I should switch it back.

Quote:
Anyway, my main thing is what I say about any game more complex than War - I think it could be greatly simplified and a more fun, and even more strategic, game for it. I'm not the designer, so I can't tell you exactly how that should be done, but it's my critique (try some salt on it, it adds to the flavor!). I like the idea, but I feel like it could be implemented in a really simple and straightforward manner (in fact, probably with nothing but a couple decks of cards and some coins), while what you have involves a ton of complexity. Of course, not every game should be super simple, and there's a market for more involved stuff, this is just my angle on gaming.

Thanks for the great tips on simplifying the game. It is a goal of mine to get the game and its description as simple as possible without losing any of the gameplay that makes it fun.

markmist
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Brykovian wrote:
Hi Mark ...

Great theme, with good flavor added throughout the game ... However, it seems a bit complicated on my first read-through. I'm guessing things all fit together when actually playing, it just felt like there were all these extra little bits to have to keep in mind.

This was my 2nd attempt to write a rulebook and it is still too complicated. I think that adding examples could greatly help the understanding. I think I am going to move the character descriptions to the reference section as the character descriptions introduce alot of concepts that are not yet explained.

Brykovian wrote:
With the exact distribution you're trying to achieve for each castle, I can see why you put the cards together the way you did. However, I'm wondering if you could possibly combine cards together in order to reduce the number. For example, you could have a single pile of guard cards, and each guard could show its level for each of the 3 castles ... this would allow you to cover all 3 castles with 1 central stock of guards and still retain your wanted distribution (kinda). It probably wouldn't cut down your guard cards to a third of the current number, but would reduce it quite a bit.

There is a very good reason for separate guard decks, although it will not be readily apparent to you after just reading through the rules once. The three separate decks represent the 3 castles and the distribution of guards is different for each. As guards are revealed, players mark off what is revealed on their guard frequency sheet, so they always have an updated count of what is left in that deck. For example, say most of the tough guards have been revealed and there are only easier guards left in a particular castle. A player may attempt to steal more items because there is less risk. The same goes for the other direction, more tough cards left, take fewer items than normal. Players must adjust to this constant change in odds which will keep the raids from feeling static or stale and also give players some information to go on rather than it be blind luck what they draw.

Brykovian wrote:
If you wanted to be able to do something similar with items, then you'd have to give each player a tracking board to keep track of how many of each thing they have in their inventory. For example, an item card could simply show that in Castle 1 you get item X, in Castle 2 you also get item X, but in Castle 3 you get item Y. The the player would update their personal tracking board and discard the item card. Again, you'd have to play a bit to see if it would work as well as the system you have.

Because items are later traded, stolen, and sold, I don't think there is any feasible way to reduce the number of item cards without adding unneccessary complexity. I am actually fine with the number of cards now and don't see it as a problem. At over 300 I had a problem!

Yogurt
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

I think I'd like this game, but the rules and the rulebook both need streamlining.

Some of these comments may repeat others' notes here, because they're all so dang fast.

RULEBOOK

The overview needs to be simplified. Don't try to cover every aspect of the game. These are the points you need to communicate, as briefly as possible:

    - Players are bandits who raid castles to get treasure. - Choosing high-risk raids brings high rewards.
    - The money and experience earned in raids will make the players stronger, allowing higher risk raids.
    - You're not the only raider around. You can trade with the other players, rob them, or betray them to the authorities.

Throughout the rulebook, important rules show up in surprising places. The rules for escaping from capture are buried in the middle of a paragraph. Stealing money from guards is under hand size! Recruiting is a knot of different topics.

Go through and make sure each section is focused. Each paragraph should deal with one topic, and that topic should relate to the current section. Important topics should have their own section. Aim for paragraphs that are about five lines long or less to allow easy skimming. Use many headings.

Don't try to cover all the card exceptions, such as the Talisman, in the rulebook. Just note that "some objects or followers can affect your roll. See the card or the reference section at the end of this rulebook for details."

GAMEPLAY

Minimize the number of rules. The heart of the game is raiding and player advancement. Tie as much as you can into these elements.

For example, allowing players to change the demand of goods doesn't fit with the theme, adds new components, and seems tangential to the heart of the game. I'd just have the demand increase automatically each round and decrease whenever large amounts of a good are sold.

Other examples:

Do you need so many weapons?

Thieving isn't that painful, since you get to pick what you lose. Is there a need to have the blind bidding for Honour among Thieves?

I'm not a big fan of card counting. It feels like work. Is there another way for players to estimate the challenge of a particular castle? What about just looking through the discard pile?

Would players trade that much? There would be other opportunities for players to exchange goods through the Capture/Ransom rules. That could scratch the trading itch.

One sabotage rule would be plenty.

I don't think you need different currency types. Just include coins worth 10, 100, etc, like Monopoly or Puerto Rico.

THEME

Since there's a Robin Hood feel to the game, the player interaction struck me as dishonourable. I'd rather have the "traitor" card be called "clever bartering" or something. Someone plays the "clever bartering" card and all the other players must put out an object. The Clever Barterer gets first pick, and then the trading happens just like your stealing round.(Failing that, call it "Steal" for clarity.)

Sabotage also seems out of keeping with the theme of raiders vs castles. Perhaps the player is simply distracting a guard from his castle to another. If it happens to make things tougher on the other players, well darn the luck.

The castles need more imposing names. :)

Yogurt

[/]
markmist
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Thank you for your suggestions. It appears I have alot of work to do ;)
At first glance I thought the rulebook was great, but I realize that there are many flaws with it and it can be majorly streamlined. It is hard to see that until someone makes comments, so I am glad that I submitted my game.

Now to your specific recommendations:

yogurt wrote:

For example, allowing players to change the demand of goods doesn't fit with the theme, adds new components, and seems tangential to the heart of the game. I'd just have the demand increase automatically each round and decrease whenever large amounts of a good are sold.

This is a case of adding complexity to the game just to try different mechanics out. It does not really fit with the theme, so despite the amount of work I put in and the fact that is does work mechanically, I am thinking of taking the demand aspect of the game out all together.

yogurt wrote:

Do you need so many weapons?

This is one area of the game where your character becomes more powerful. I am not sold on the fact that using weapons is the way to go, maybe some sort of track showing their raiding abilities getting better (but it has to tie back into the currency somehow, so weapons made the most sense in that regard). As for the number of weapons, the defending strength of the guards seem to justify using the range of values that I chose. Further playtesting will reveal this to be true or not.

yogurt wrote:

Thieving isn't that painful, since you get to pick what you lose. Is there a need to have the blind bidding for Honour among Thieves?

At this point, there does not appear to be a high need for this card or mechanic. However, it made sense before I changed the way the traitor card works (from direct stealing to everyone but the last player getting a card) However, I like the concept and if there is a way to make it meaningful, I would like to leave it in. Suggestions?

yogurt wrote:

I'm not a big fan of card counting. It feels like work. Is there another way for players to estimate the challenge of a particular castle? What about just looking through the discard pile?

Using the guard frequency sheets, you don't have to card count. These sheets are intended to be written on (like Clue sheets for example). As soon as players reveal guards, you mark off the numbers on your sheet. I should explain this and show an example in the rules.

yogurt wrote:

Would players trade that much? There would be other opportunities for players to exchange goods through the Capture/Ransom rules. That could scratch the trading itch.

We have not playtested the new traitor card which involves all players getting a card except the last person. Because these cards are somewhat limited, I think there will still be opportunities for trading, although this will be revealed in further playtesting.

yogurt wrote:

One sabotage rule would be plenty.

I had the original idea to affect a certain player, but decided to add in another option to affect all players. I think I like the 2nd option better and may decide to keep only that one.

yogurt wrote:

I don't think you need different currency types. Just include coins worth 10, 100, etc, like Monopoly or Puerto Rico.

This depends on if I want to go with cardboard coins or use the glass stones. The stones were easier to get and I like them better so I went that route for playtesting. As far as producing the game though, it will probably be cheaper to use cardboard coins in which I can use different values.

yogurt wrote:

THEME

Since there's a Robin Hood feel to the game, the player interaction struck me as dishonourable. I'd rather have the "traitor" card be called "clever bartering" or something. Someone plays the "clever bartering" card and all the other players must put out an object. The Clever Barterer gets first pick, and then the trading happens just like your stealing round.(Failing that, call it "Steal" for clarity.)

Thanks for this idea. Like I said before, the traitor card was initially a straight steal card, but I liked the idea of everyone getting a card. This changes the theme of the card however and it needs a new name.

yogurt wrote:

Sabotage also seems out of keeping with the theme of raiders vs castles. Perhaps the player is simply distracting a guard from his castle to another. If it happens to make things tougher on the other players, well darn the luck.

Like I mentioned earlier, I agree and will likely take out the direct sabotage option.

yogurt wrote:

The castles need more imposing names. :)

Agreed. Should I make them up or use well-known names?

markmist
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

I have already starting making changes to make the rules easier to read and follow, so if you want to hold off from reviewing my game, I should have the updated rules up sometime in the next few days.

Thanks,
Mark

Scurra
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

markmist wrote:
I have already starting making changes to make the rules easier to read and follow, so if you want to hold off from reviewing my game, I should have the updated rules up sometime in the next few days.

That's what we all say...

Part of the deal with the GDW is that we all get a good laugh at how bad everyone else's rulebooks are (mine are particularly unusable...) while we try to pick them apart and make sense of them.

My first impression is that you've done a fine job of integrating your theme and mechanics, but that there is way, way too much going on. I suspect that an awful lot of it could be removed/compressed/simplified without sacrificing the essential core of the game.

I'll reserve my further comments until I see the next draft ruleset.

Yogurt
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

markmist wrote:
It appears I have alot of work to do ;)

I hope I didn't discourage you with my brusque flurry of points! Like I say, I do think this will end up being a game I'd like to play

markmist wrote:
As for the number of weapons, the defending strength of the guards seem to justify using the range of values that I chose.

I think players might be more excited to get a new weapon if there were a big jump between the strengths ("Finally! I have a broadsword! Watch out rich guys!"), instead of incremental improvements. Cutting out every other weapon might make the remaining ones more distinct.

markmist wrote:
Using the guard frequency sheets, you don't have to card count. These sheets are intended to be written on (like Clue sheets for example). As soon as players reveal guards, you mark off the numbers on your sheet. I should explain this and show an example in the rules.

I did get it, actually. I just thought it seemed like paperwork. Everyone's sheet would have the same info, right?

markmist wrote:
Should I make them up or use well-known names?

Made up names. Something that suggests their progressive difficulty. e.g. "The Gatehouse" "The Manor" "The Citadel" or "Castle Pumpkin" "Castle Ironhorse" "Castle Doom"

Looking forward to the next version.

Yogurt

markmist
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

yogurt wrote:

I hope I didn't discourage you with my brusque flurry of points! Like I say, I do think this will end up being a game I'd like to play.

No, you did not discourage me at all!! :) It's just that revisions take alot of time and I have a regular day job :(. I wish I could get them all done in one day.

So far the comments I have gotten here have been very constructive and made me rethink some things. Of my playtesters, one is my wife, one is too nice to say anything, and the other loves complexity and many choices. This has kind of shaped the game to this point, but for a broader audience, I think it needs several changes.

yogurt wrote:

I think players might be more excited to get a new weapon if there were a big jump between the strengths ("Finally! I have a broadsword! Watch out rich guys!"), instead of incremental improvements. Cutting out every other weapon might make the remaining ones more distinct.

I will take this into consideration. I do need to keep enough weapons in the game so that a player won't get locked out from getting a weapon in his price range because there are none left.

yogurt wrote:

I did get it, actually. I just thought it seemed like paperwork. Everyone's sheet would have the same info, right?

Yes, everyone has the same info. It is paperwork but is very minimal and did not seem to impede the fun of the game. Basically all you have to do is mark off the number in a row. For example if there are 8 archers in a castle and 2 are revealed, then you x off the 8 and the 7, so now your sheet shows a 6 in that row. The only problem with this method is that someone will forget to mark off their sheet and they won't have the correct numbers. Then some time is required so that everyone can figure out who has the correct numbers.

What do you think of a central guard tracking board instead? The drawback to this method it has to positioned in a way that every player can see it and constantly rotated to face the right direction. Because the card decks have to be positioned in the middle of the table, the tracking board would have to be off to one side which would create problems for the players on the opposite side of the table. Any other component ideas?

markmist
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Updated rulebook

I have finished updating the rulebook. Not only did I reformat, I made substantial deletions and changes as there was just too much going on. I had to say goodbye to some good ideas (maybe use them in another future game?), but they were just cluttering an otherwise solid game design.

Here are the links:

http://www.bgdf.com/files/My_Uploads/markmist/Castle_Raiders_Rules.doc

http://www.bgdf.com/files/My_Uploads/markmist/Castle_Raiders_Materials.xls

Thanks for all your great suggestions up to this point. I am sure you will have many more :)

P.S. Yogurt, I am still thinking about names for the castles. I will most likely make this change at some point down the road, but for simplicity's sake I think I will leave it as 1, 2, 3 for now.

Brykovian
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Wow Mark ... much, much better! :)

A couple of things that I really like ...

  • The character selection mechanic is really nice now ... perhaps the only thing better would be to allow each player to draw 2 characters and keep the 1 they like the best. But, the random pick works nice, I think.
  • I like the metal/alchemy combination ... if you get a bunch of metal, it will likely make you change your mind as to what enhancement to buy ... but will it be a "wasted" purchase instead of taking something that would simply boost your raid value ... those are the kinds of decisions that make a game fun!
  • The way "donate to the poor" is carried out is a nice little sub-game of its own.
And, a couple of questions ...
  • Is it only weapon + enhancements that determines raid value? I assume that experience points do not add raid value, nor do I see any characters with a +1 to raid value as their special power.
  • Can traps be avoided in any other way than having the special character power?
  • Why give an extra reward for achieving a certain experience level? Wouldn't striving for that higher level already be part of the game? And, having achieved that level, wouldn't the player already have been rewarded with more items, etc.?
  • What happens if you exceed the handsize limit at the end of your market phase turn? Is it assumed that the player will donate/sell down to the proper handsize limit?
  • What do the player boards all have on them?
  • Would it be easier to have the player immediately trade-in any "silver coin" or "gold coin" cards for the equivalent currency as soon as they obtain them? I notice that holding them and taking them to market in sets doesn't give any special bonus like normal items do.
  • What happens to items that are sold? Are the cards removed from the game?
Nice work ... looks like an interesting game.

-Bryk

[/][/]
DSfan
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Hi Mark

From what I have seen while skimming over it, It looks like a very clean, fun-sounding game.

I love the pictures in the rulebook, and they really help me get a feel for the game, without actually playing it, or even seeing a prototype. The rules also look very organized and clean.

Hopefully I'll be able to get a futher look at the gameplay in a little while.

-Justin

markmist
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Brykovian wrote:

The character selection mechanic is really nice now ... perhaps the only thing better would be to allow each player to draw 2 characters and keep the 1 they like the best. But, the random pick works nice, I think.

Maybe I didn't make this as clear as I could, but the idea is that each player selects characters until there are none left, meaning that each player will have multiple characters to choose from (2 for a 4 or 5-player game, 3 for a 3-player game, and 5 for a 2-player game).

Brykovian wrote:

Is it only weapon + enhancements that determines raid value? I assume that experience points do not add raid value, nor do I see any characters with a +1 to raid value as their special power.

Yes, you are correct. I originally had some characters with a +1 to raid value, but while playtesting we always forgot to add in this bonus. Instead, these characters start with more powerful weapons. Getting the characters balanced so that no one character is clearly better than the other will be a challenge and require some playtesting.

Brykovian wrote:

[*]Can traps be avoided in any other way than having the special character power?

I originally had in skills that you could earn as you gained experience, avoid trap being one of them, but I couldn't find a good way to limit their use. I could charge an activation cost, but it doesn't make sense to pay money to use a skill. I could limit it to once per raid, but that seems arbitrary. I also could make it unlimited use, but then it becomes too powerful. I am not against the idea of learning skills, so if anyone has suggestions for how I might incorporate them, let me know.

Brykovian wrote:

Why give an extra reward for achieving a certain experience level? Wouldn't striving for that higher level already be part of the game? And, having achieved that level, wouldn't the player already have been rewarded with more items, etc.?

This is more a reward for charging forward into the next castles first, regardless of strength. Some players may play it more safe and stay in Castle 1 a few turns even though they have reached 12 experience. That being said, I should just reward a bonus item to the 1st 2 people to raid Castle 2, and the 1st 2 people to raid Castle 3.

Brykovian wrote:

What happens if you exceed the handsize limit at the end of your market phase turn? Is it assumed that the player will donate/sell down to the proper handsize limit?

Yes, since you have 3 rounds to get under the handsize limit by selling or donating, there would be no reason to have to discard. However, if a player is still over after 3 rounds, I guess they would be forced to discard down to the limit.

Brykovian wrote:

[*]What do the player boards all have on them?

Can you open the excel file I uploaded? They are shown there, along with the guard tracking sheets. Right now it is just a square grid from 1 to 24. Each player uses a marker to chart their experience. I probably should just call them experience point charts, but opted for player boards at this point in case I add anything else to them later on.

Brykovian wrote:

[*]Would it be easier to have the player immediately trade-in any "silver coin" or "gold coin" cards for the equivalent currency as soon as they obtain them? I notice that holding them and taking them to market in sets doesn't give any special bonus like normal items do.

Good question. Yes, they don't give a special bonus. However, they can still be used in trading and bartering. So therefore, if you want to trade them in for currency, it must be done if you take the sell/buy action. During this action a player can sell any number of different items, so as long as a player takes 1 sell/buy action out of the 3, they will get a chance to trade it in for actual currency.

Brykovian wrote:

What happens to items that are sold? Are the cards removed from the game?

Items that are sold are placed on the appropriate item discard pile (Castle 1 items go in the Castle 1 discard pile, and so on. When the item deck for any castle is depleted, they are shuffled and the deck is replenished. The same goes for donated cards.

I also want to clarify the donation mechanic and ask if you guys could come up with any ways to make it even better than it is. The idea was to have a secondary way to earn prestige, but it would come with a tradeback, you have to give away your items for free instead of getting much needed currency to get stronger. Only the top 2 earn prestige, but EVERY player has to turn in any donated cards for no payment.

There are a couple of interesting strategies I see here. If you get the right goods, it might be a good idea to be the 1st to 4 cards as you might catch the other players off guard in which they can only play 1 additional card and you are guaranteed prestige.

You could try to get the 2nd highest value, but this would be more risky. Two other players might donate higher value than you and then you would lose out.

You could ignore the donation altogether and focus on getting your character stronger, but you forfeit the chance to get the Prestige and you will need to finish first in defeating guards and/or amassing wealth to have a chance to win.

I was thinking of adding another strategy to this, that of the bluff. In this scenario, a player could donate any good to the poor. Once one player donates his 4th good, and the items are revealed, players receive back the goods that are not on the donate list. I am not really sure how this would really help a player though, so I am seeking any suggestions.

Brykovian
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

markmist wrote:
Maybe I didn't make this as clear as I could, but the idea is that each player selects characters until there are none left...

After re-reading I realized that it's very clearly in there, but it didn't stick in my swiss-cheese brain. Yeesh -- sorry about that ... I'm not sure how you could make it any clearer. ;-)

Quote:
This is more a reward for charging forward into the next castles first, regardless of strength.

Ah -- that makes sense.

Quote:
Can you open the excel file I uploaded?

Sorry ... I completely overlooked the link to that file. Again -- my oversight ... sorry.

-Bryk

Yogurt
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Hi Mark,

What an impressive revision in such a short time! Well-organized and refined.

In answer to your question, I'd leave out the bluffing in the donate to the poor. There's enough mystery already and with a refund option, it seems like people would always be bidding up to the max, robbing the phase of some of its tension. I think the phase works well as it is.

Yogurt

Yogurt
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Oh, one small theme suggestion: the card "Captured!" makes me want to know "what? how was I captured? I had all these weapons and powers! I could beat any guards! Bring 'em on!"

I'd change the card name to something against which the raiding party would have no hope, like "Barracks!" (i.e. the raiders walk right into where the guards sleep) or "Grond the Mighty" (the one guard no one can seem to beat). The text of the card could still be "You are immediately captured."

It might be fun to have a different disaster for each Capture card, actually.

Yogurt

Scurra
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

markmist wrote:
Brykovian wrote:

The character selection mechanic is really nice now ... perhaps the only thing better would be to allow each player to draw 2 characters and keep the 1 they like the best. But, the random pick works nice, I think.

Maybe I didn't make this as clear as I could, but the idea is that each player selects characters until there are none left, meaning that each player will have multiple characters to choose from (2 for a 4 or 5-player game, 3 for a 3-player game, and 5 for a 2-player game).

At the risk of sounding like a one-trick pony (I suggested this for Jeff's Disciples game and I use it in my own "Heist" game!), how about a drafting mechanism for character selection? I've got 11 characters in my game, and the system I use works as follows: player draws three cards from the deck, keeps one, discards one and puts one back on top of the deck. This works for up to five players (and with 2 or 3 you can draw four characters instead.)

Can I clarify one thing: if a player helps another player to escape, they not only get 3 silver but an experience point as well? That seems rather too good at first glance.

I did have to read the "Donation" bit several times to understand what it was about - I couldn't see how a player could ever donate 4 cards when there were only three actions! It's certainly a nice little subgame although the restrictions on the cards that can be played seems to diminish it a little (see my comment below.) However, I certainly understand why the poor wouldn't want a Harp or a Helmet!

Quote:
I was thinking of adding another strategy to this, that of the bluff. In this scenario, a player could donate any good to the poor. Once one player donates his 4th good, and the items are revealed, players receive back the goods that are not on the donate list. I am not really sure how this would really help a player though, so I am seeking any suggestions.

I suspect that this might be necessary given the limited range of point values currently available - all the Castle 1 goods are worth the same regardless of type, and the same is true of the Castle 2 goods. And given that two of the same type of Castle 2 good beats all but four of the same type of Castle 1 goods, you'd have to assume that someone donating Castle 1 goods was playing four of the same type.
Or have I completely misunderstood the system?

markmist
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

yogurt wrote:
Oh, one small theme suggestion: the card "Captured!" makes me want to know "what? how was I captured? I had all these weapons and powers! I could beat any guards! Bring 'em on!"

I'd change the card name to something against which the raiding party would have no hope, like "Barracks!" (i.e. the raiders walk right into where the guards sleep) or "Grond the Mighty" (the one guard no one can seem to beat). The text of the card could still be "You are immediately captured."

It might be fun to have a different disaster for each Capture card, actually.

Another great design idea. Thanks! Something that I don't have a problem with is injecting a bit of humor into the game. Not over the top humor, but more subtle.

markmist
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Scurra wrote:

Can I clarify one thing: if a player helps another player to escape, they not only get 3 silver but an experience point as well? That seems rather too good at first glance.

This may be too much, but since the captured player gets to choose which player to help him escape, he will often pick the person who he perceives to be in last place (which helps to prevent anyone player from falling too far behind).

Scurra wrote:

I did have to read the "Donation" bit several times to understand what it was about - I couldn't see how a player could ever donate 4 cards when there were only three actions! It's certainly a nice little subgame although the restrictions on the cards that can be played seems to diminish it a little (see my comment below.) However, I certainly understand why the poor wouldn't want a Harp or a Helmet!

I need to specify that you can donate more than one card during an action.
I don't think the poor would need potions either, I might need to change that item type. Any ideas?

re: donation mechanic

Scurra wrote:

I suspect that this might be necessary given the limited range of point values currently available - all the Castle 1 goods are worth the same regardless of type, and the same is true of the Castle 2 goods. And given that two of the same type of Castle 2 good beats all but four of the same type of Castle 1 goods, you'd have to assume that someone donating Castle 1 goods was playing four of the same type.
Or have I completely misunderstood the system?

Not completely, just partly ;) Players are donating castle 1 goods to win 1 prestige point. The first player to donate 4 cards leads to everyone revealing their donations. The top 2 donaters in value win the prestige.

This process would begin anew in castle 2 for 2 prestige points. This time each player is donating castle 2 goods.

Players that donate "like" items have a better chance of winning. If you donate 4 of 1 item (for example 4 food) - your value is 9. If donate various items (for example, 1 food, 1 clothes, and 1 poultry), your value will only be 3. However to prevent any ties, I think one type should trump the other types (food is better than clothes which is better than poultry).

Other options include changing the values of the goods, so the ones donated don't all have the same values. Or have a separate scale altogether for donating.

What I am striving for is a way to make this part of the game strategic with a potential possibility for bluffing. What I don't want is someone winning these points just because they got lucky card draws.

Scurra
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

markmist wrote:
Scurra wrote:
Can I clarify one thing: if a player helps another player to escape, they not only get 3 silver but an experience point as well? That seems rather too good at first glance.
This may be too much, but since the captured player gets to choose which player to help him escape, he will often pick the person who he perceives to be in last place (which helps to prevent anyone player from falling too far behind).

It seems more likely to create a king-maker problem to me, since the players that get caught are surely going to be the ones that took risks because they needed to try and catch up? Result: they have to give even more to someone who is ahead of them...

(I shall have to think further about the donation mechanic - but my feeling is that all the goods need to have slightly different point structures to enable a flexible enough system.)

Zzzzz
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Very interesting game...

And while I was trying to re-read the rules so I could post more specific and useful feedback, I had to quickly post that I honestly feel the rules seem to be very very long for some reason. I am not sure why, but it seems to read on and on which concerns me.

As a result I would be worried that players would lose interest in a game with so much to read and digest. You might try to rework the wording to be more concise, if possible.

Sorry for such a petty issue, and I may be way off here, but this was the feeling that I had when I read the rules the first time.

Once I have a chance to re-read the rules I will hopefully post more useful comments.

markmist
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Zzzzz wrote:
Very interesting game...

And while I was trying to re-read the rules so I could post more specific and useful feedback, I had to quickly post that I honestly feel the rules seem to be very very long for some reason. I am not sure why, but it seems to read on and on which concerns me.

A possible way around this issue is to pull out all material that is not required to know HOW to play the game and place it in the reference section or even a separate book altogether. Another option is to have a separate "quick play rules" which highlights what you need to know to play.

Zzzzz wrote:

As a result I would be worried that players would lose interest in a game with so much to read and digest. You might try to rework the wording to be more concise, if possible.

The game play is actually pretty simple (now that I have taken out unnecessary complexity). Explaining all of the various rules is another matter. Trying to write rules that are comprehensive but concise is a challenge and I know I need to improve in that area. Do you have any specific suggestions on how to be more concise?

markmist
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Last update

As my week in the GDW winds down, I have made one more update for anyone to comment on.

New changes include:

    *The reintroduction of avoid trap and evade capture in the form of a 1d6 roll based on character ratings. For example if your character has a avoid trap rating of 4 and a trap is revealed, they roll the die and 1-4 they avoid it 5-6 they don't. I have added 2 new enhancements that enable a player to either improve their avoid trap or evade capture ratings.

*I altered the donate goods mechanic a little (you can donate any good now). I think I like it, but will have to see during playtesting.

*Everyone gets 2 raids now. I decided the Twice idea to get a 2nd raid was not going to work too well. You do have a choice if you take both raids back-to-back or wait until everyone takes their 1st.

*I took out the bonus good idea for reaching certain experience levels, and getting an experience point for helping someone escape based on feedback I received.
I would like to thank everyone who had comments, (Brykovian, Hamumu, yogurt, Scurra, and DSfan). Hamumu, your comments were especially useful and I think your suggestions will GREATLY improve the game.

Here is the link to the update:

http://www.bgdf.com/files/My_Uploads/markmist/Castle_Raiders_Rules.doc

[/]
markmist
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Castle Raiders Rules

Castle Raiders is nearing completion after a trip to Protospiel, several playtests, and several design and rules changes. Any other changes after this point will be tweaking and not full-fledge rule changes. Now, I am seeking any assistance with organizing and simplifying the rules into a format that would be submission-ready to a publisher.

The current rules have been playtested as is, except for the new Prince role and missions. I added this element to introduce more hidden information and hopefully extend replayability. I will have to see if this pans out in my next playtest.

Here are the latest rules:

http://www.bgdf.com/files/My_Uploads/markmist/Castle_Raiders_Rules_v3.doc

Any other comments are appreciated as well. Thanks for your help. I will return the favor to anyone that helps me out.

DavemanUK
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Guards matching Weapons

Hi Mark,

Just a quick comment on theme consistency that the difficulty of guard types should match the pts values of weapons. E.g. the sequence 'dagger -> short sword -> bow&arrows -> crossbow' should mirror a sequence of the guards who would wield such weapons like 'squire -> pikeman -> archer -> crossbowman'. Thus you may want to change 'pikeman' to 'swordsman' for even more consistency between guards and weapons.

Best wishes,
Dave.

Nestalawe
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Hey Markmist!

Whats the current status of this game?

I am keen to go through the rules with comments etc when I have a moment, but one small comment would be to have names for your two castles rather than just naming them 1 and 2. As long as players know which is harder than the other then I think it will add to the theme of the game.

markmist
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Hey Nestalawe!

Thanks for the interest. I have had a few playtests since the last rules posting. After first thinking that there would be no more MAJOR rules revisions, I have actually made some MAJOR rules revisions.

I am just about done with those, so I can post the new rules very soon if you would like to take a look.

One of the major changes I decided on was to consolidate all castles into 1 castle - so the naming castles is not an issue anymore. This required a large amount of rework in design (which I didn't want to do), but I finally realized that it was the best move.

Now THE castle will have some low-ranking guards and peasants to start. Then each round, 2 new guards and/or traps or captureds will be added to the deck. So as the players get more powerful, so does the castle defence.

I hope to playtest a new version soon and will post results in my journal.

Mark

Nestalawe
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Game #69: Castle Raiders by Mark Mistretta

Hey MM,

Sounds like some good changes there. Definatley let us all know when the new rules are online and when we can help you with some playtesting ;)

Nestalawe'

markmist
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New rules

The latest rule set is available for your review:

http://www.bgdf.com/files/My_Uploads/markmist/Castle_Raiders_Rules_v4.doc

I have split up the rules into two sections (the main rules, and a reference section). The main rules will tell you "how to play", while the reference section contains important information on the "components" of the game.

At a later date, I would make the reference section more graphical in nature by showing actual components in the game, rather than taking up so much space with tables.

Thanks,
Mark

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