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Fishmonger - Feedback Request on 1st Ever Game Design Attempt

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dcnole24
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Joined: 06/15/2015

Hi all:

I've been working on my first ever game design and having fun learning from this process. I am finally at the stage where I am ready to overcome my shyness and share my draft rules with those beyond the inner circle of close friends and family with whom I have been playtesting the game. In that spirit, I turn to the experts of the BGDF community. I would LOVE any feedback that people are willing to offer. Since this is my first effort, I expect that there is much to improve, so I welcome all positive and negative comments. My rule book is currently under 8 pages so hopefully it won't take too long to get through.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEBJTvlDTcXNWx2VTlJVmROT3c/view?usp=sh...

As for an intro to the game, FISHMONGER is a fairly light resource management and economic game that is mostly a card-based game with some additional components. For now, the game is only for 2 or 3 players, and play time seems to run somewhere between 40-60 minutes.

As stated in the rulebook linked above, in FISHMONGER, each player is the captain of his or her own small commercial fishing vessel competing to make as much profit as possible in the final week of the fishing season. Players will earn money by selling fish to the Fishmonger’s Shop and fulfilling his Orders. But it takes money to make money. Players must buy their bait and equipment at the Marina so that they can catch specific types of fish on the world-famous Fishing Grounds in and around the Florida Keys. Then players must time the sales of their fish to the Fishmonger in order to maximize the ever-changing prices of the volatile fish market. The captain with the most money at the conclusion of the seven-day sprint to the end of the season will be the winner.

One word of caution: From a visual appeal perspective, these rules are pretty rough. I don't really have any experience with (or access to) graphic design programs or even photoshop, so I literally used the basic Paint program on my Dell laptop to do all the prototype card work (plus "borrowing" generously from google images) and the rules themselves were created in MS Word. In other words, everything you see here is purely temporary. I do not own the rights to most of the images you'll see, and the overall quality of the pictured components as well as the layout of the rules would need to be improved dramatically at some later time. But for prototyping purposes, what I have has gotten the job done. So, the feedback I am most hoping for is that which is focused on mechanics, theme, and clarity of the rules, not the game aesthetics (which I know are sub-par).

Here's the link again: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEBJTvlDTcXNWx2VTlJVmROT3c/view?usp=sh...

Thanks!
-DC

kos
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Joined: 01/17/2011
Decent resource management

Overall this game looks like a decent resource management game. The limited nature of the bait/fish/orders should create non-trivial decisions on what to go for first.

There seems to be a strong first player advantage, which is acknowledged by having less money to start, but I wonder if there would be some better way to deal with it. Especially in the first 2 days, it seems that the Marina and Fishing Grounds would be more important than the Fishmonger (since nobody has any fish to sell), so the 3rd player really gets it tough since he misses out on the best choice for the first 2 days.

I assume that sold fish are placed into the Logbook, although I couldn't find where this was stated.

For a "light" game you certainly wouldn't want to go past the 1 hour mark.

Initial Game Setup should be moved up near the start of the rules. Also watch out for terms used before they are defined; there are currently many such terms.

Good luck with your game.

Regards,
kos

dcnole24
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Joined: 06/15/2015
Thank you for the feedback,

Thank you for the feedback, Kos. I'll move up the initial get set up.

Regarding 1st player advantage, as you detected, I am aware of this potential issue, which I have tried to address in a few ways. The most obvious is giving the later players more start money, which you noted. But one other thing I added into the rules during play-testing which may not be so obvious but does help mitigate some of the 1st player advantage is the fact that each player starts the game with three red/crab bait. Not only does this prevent player #1 from strategically buying out the available bait to block the other players on the first day of the game, but this starter bait also allows players #2 and #3 to go straight to the Fishing Grounds on the morning of Day 1 and catch a fish without fist having to follow player #1 into the Marina. I chose 3 crab bait because 3 crab bait is enough to catch either a Red Snapper (x2 crab) or a Cobia (x3 crab), which are the two most plentiful fish in the deck. Because Red Snapper and Cobia constitute almost 60% of the Fish Deck, on about 90% of every 5 card draw from the Fish deck there will be at least 2 combined Cobia or Red Snapper, meaning both player #2 and #3 will almost always be able to catch a fish immediately if they so choose.

Getting a fish immediately also has indirect benefits as it allows for more efficient selection of Fishmonger Orders. Where player #2 has grabbed a fish on the morning of Day 1, player #2 has the interesting decision on phase 2/midday of Day 1 of either: (1) going to the Marina to get the best Marina cards left behind by player #1, or; (2) going to the Fishmonger to get first choice of the available orders. Player #3 will almost always choose what Player #2 does not, which puts players #2 and #3 on relatively equal footing. Meanwhile, player #1 is frequently getting last cut at both the Fishing Grounds and the Orders (which are often totally gone by his third action of Day 1). So it's not all roses and puppies for player #1.

The starting money difference is also more impactful than it may seem because the cost of cards relative to starting money ($25) is pretty high. There are a lot of good cards in the Marina deck and few useless ones. The most desirable Permanent Action cards are expensive. Half of them are $15+, which is a big price early on when you start with only $25 and also need to buy bait. So just buying one of those good cards puts player #1 pretty close to going broke until he sells fish, which leaves more good instant action cards for other players. Moreover, there are certain strong permanent action cards with buying restrictions ("You cannot buy this card if you already own one of these other permanent action cards"), so sometimes the first player on the day has no choice but to leave a good card for someone else.

On top of all that, many of the instant action cards directly relate to grabbing extra fish (catch two fish for the price of one), or fish from the discard pile, or paying lower bait costs for a fishing action, such that there are always ways to get fish even if you're not playing first. On average, I have found that each player is selling 13-16 fish in a 3 player game and 16-20 fish in a 2 player game.

All this said, I definitely believe the game is better for 2 than 3 at this point. I have struggled to come up with a way to cure that and I am certainly open to suggestions. What I can tell you for 2 player games is that the extra $10 + the starter bait seems to have equalized the player advantage. I have detected no pattern in the play-testing, and I was specifically tracking this issue.

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