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Crystal Heroes: More playtesting of the NEW Tactical Layer

Over the holidays, I have been playtesting the NEW and improved Tactical Layer. It features the use of Pawns (one per player) and moving around the Grid that is made from the Game Tiles in play. What makes this new Tactical Layer "work" is a Lord/Lady Resource Sequence that must be collected. This sequence is unique to each Lord/Lady and obviously means that NINE (9) Resources need to be collected to win the game.

Some early conclusions to report:

1. My first game with this new Tactical Layer was won in the 9th Round of play.

2. My second game was won early with a 6th Round of play victory.

3. My third game (last night) was won in the 10th Round of play.

All of the games were reasonably close except for the 2nd game which was sort of a blow-out. Yesterday's game was off by 3 points only... This demonstrates that even though the game is normally well paced, it is possible to win early and late and that the games are more or less very close in scoring (usually off by 2 to 3 points).

The NEW Tactical Layer is AMAZING! However at times there are crystals left over and I need a way of BETTER "collecting" Ex-P Gems because sometimes there are more of them on ONE (1) Game Tile (and no other Gems of interest, for example...) And I think collection should be made off of ANY Game Tile (meaning if Player #1 is ahead of Player #2 and Player #1 collects one Gem, Player #2 should collect an Ex-P Gem from any Game Tile in play).

It makes somewhat more sense this way... Otherwise we can land up with orphaned Ex-P Gems and that is pointless since they could be USEFUL to the trailing player to get the jump on an opposing Game Tile.

Although three (3) Playtests seems like not that much... Believe me I've done over a dozen playtests BEFORE with the earlier scoring mechanic and the NEW Tactical Layer is still just as good (from the limited but predictable game plays that I have conducted).

It is SOLID from my playtests... And even the third (3rd) Game could have been a DRAW but Player #2 was only 3 points behind ... And it could have gone either way since there were two (2) Blue Gems (Bloodlust) and all that was missing was to collect a Yellow (Greed) or Green (Select-A-Gem) to advance the outcome for the First (1st) Player.

So still very close... That's it for now... I will maybe do another Playtest later in the day today and see how that goes. Although I am confident that the NEW Tactical Layer works WELL... I figured I'd give it another TRY to boost my confidence that all is well with the current Design!

Cheers all.


My main reason for more playtests was...

To determine if the new "Resource Sequences" would BREAK the game ... Making there be more ties than victories. So far, this has NOT been the case and I am very pleased that this is true. Why? Well I was worried that maybe the players would get STUCK hunting down resources and the correct ones would not be in play.

As such, this could lead to a sort of BLOCK (and yeah it does sometimes...) But that is the ROLE of the NEW Tactical Layer: to spread things out a bit and force players to make decisions as to what they collect and leave behind.

Obviously the MORE you CAN collect, the more a player will... But since the goals may be different, the "excess" Gems may be sufficiently good for another player (for example) to advance his/her agenda (in terms of fervor).

I'm very pleased that things are working very well together and that the NEW Tactical Layer presents interesting options to the players through-out the game.


Hmm... Not to be too optimistic

But I think I was using the Action Points incorrectly. Each turn, the players get Five (5) Action Points and may use at most three (3) of them on the SAME action... But I think I was doing 3 APs for each Action instead. The two (2) Actions are Move & Collect.

So what I was doing incorrectly was performing 3 Move and 3 Collect which equals SIX (6) Action Points and NOT five (5) Action Points as initially designed.

While it's not the BIGGEST problem (1 extra AP), it could have maybe impacted some of those closer games that were off by like 2 VPs...

I will conduct some more PLAYTESTING this week... To see if this is not a valid concern. I mean 1 AP per turn isn't the end of the world TBH. But could have impacted some scoring.

We'll have to wait and see... Cheers!

3 is the magic number

Have you tried any games when reducing the number of available AP to 3? How has that affected gameplay?

No ... but I'm pretty sure...

That three (3) Action Points is TOO LOW. See while moving around the play area sometimes uses three (3) APs, the number of loot that may be collected therefore becomes only two (2) loot collected. Now while the "Loot Sequence" may be a bit different between players, that's where I need to conduct some additional tests to ensure that the game plays SMOOTHLY with ONLY five (5) APs.

Just moving around can cost three (3) to four (4) APs depending on the starting position and the destination. Remember that with 2-Players, the grid is at most 5 x 5 (25 Game Tiles) in position. It takes about five (5) APs to go from a corner to the center. So three (3) turns from one side to another given three (3) APs...

But usually players are in much closer proximity to the Crystals being dropped. The thing is that moving three (3) spaces and then collecting three (3) Crystals is SIX (6) APs... So I'm pretty certain that the game will be a bit more fluid and may open up a bit more with only five (5) APs per turn.

There is still an element of "chance" (or RNG) with the Crystals and I am fine with that... Everything cannot be purely deterministic... I mean there are Game Tiles you draw and that is randomized by shuffling. So sometimes LUCK can be a factor too (like my 6 round game)...

Also ...

Just because you do NOT collect any loot on a particular turn, does not mean that you do not move your Pawn closer to the future location of a Crystal drop... So there is some "thought" that goes into how far you travel from the center of play and where there are Crystals left over to collect depending on the nature of the Player's "Loot Sequence" (which means you have sufficient APs to collect the nine crystals required to win).

So I think FIVE (5) APs is the sub-optimal choice where six (6) is the ideal... But we want to make it just a bit harder to play and lower it by 1 AP. Again more playtesting to do with the CORRECT number of APs...

Cheers and thanks for your input!

Some early thoughts...

I have been wondering about the Ex-P Crystals. I know they work to augment the capacity of the Game Tiles you choose to "Enchant/Curse"... The real question around them is:

questccg wrote:
How should the Ex-P Crystals be collected???

Again this is "tweaking" after the playtests from the earlier version to today. I really do LIKE the trailing player collects the Ex-P Crystals when the opponent chooses to collect another resource token. That works...

What is a bit broken is when there is a tie and then one (1) Ex-P Gem gets left-over... What to do with this??? I don't want to overcomplicate matters when it comes to collection.

Other ideas by the wayside include:

  • "Scrying" Game Tiles
  • "Warping" to certain locations
  • "Banishing" an opponent
  • "Hoarding" of resources

I've just been testing the BASICS and I wanted a SIMPLE method of play. I'm still not 100% certain about all those EXTRA actions that may be taken. I will focus on these SOON enough.


Okay ... So I want to add Reference Cards for each Player

If these Jumbo Reference Cards are Color Coordinated, I can re-introduce one of the other Actions: "Warping" around the Play Area. If these Reference Cards also list the "Turn Order" and "Actions" available to the players, that means I could also re-introduce some of the other "Actions" to have the following:

  1. "Moving" around the play area (1 AP per Tile)
  2. "Collecting" Crystals from a Game Tile (1 AP per Crystal)
  3. "Warping" to the Nexus location (1 AP)
  4. "Banishing" an opponent (2 APs)
  5. "Enchanting/Cursing" of a Game Tile (2 APs)
  6. "Scrying" Game Tiles (2 APs)

This will allow player to have a Reference Card to review the options available to them on each Turn. This is very important because WITHOUT the reference cards, players will surely FORGET what they can do with their Action Points (APs). It's easy to remember "Move & Collect", but "Warp, Banish and Scry" are less obvious...

Please share with me your thoughts! Let me know what you think about adding Reference Cards to the list of components used by the game...!

Here is the preview of the Reference Pad...

Here is the sample (Blue Player) of the Reference Pad I will be using:

I unfortunately had to order a TGC version with a couple errors. But in any case it doesn't matter. When I re-order a NEW version of the entire game, I will get the corrected version.

Cheers all!

Actually uploaded the corrections and...

Bought the NEWEST version of the Reference Pads. For ~$15 USD... Made the order RUSH for ~$2.75 USD. No big deal. Shipping is more costly that the price of the product (4 Jumbo Reference Pads).

Should be shipped out on January 3, 2022.

I could have WAITED... But I figured, might as well get the LASTEST and "greatest" version (with all the corrections)!

Happy New Years 2022 to everyone! I know people in our "neck-of-the-woods" are not really celebrating due to COVID-19 (And Delta and Omicron) which are on everyone's list of things to avoid.

My wish to everyone is GOOD HEALTH and PROSPERITY in 2022.

Since it seems like Vaccinations aren't enough to suppress the virus, they seem effective in reducing the amount of hospitalizations (except for non-vac-ers)... However it seems like Delta and Alpha are still around and the majority reason for hospitalizations is those two variants (or original and variant).

I will be having a meal with Family (the three of us...) tomorrow on New Years Day. I already know what is on the menu: General Tao with rice (all homemade). Desert will be Lemon Meringue Pie with some Fresh Pineapple and Cantaloupe.

It's the holidays... We all deserve a break from this stupid Pandemic and how the cases are rising YET AGAIN! There have been new restrictions and now gatherings of six or less people is permitted. But NOT after 10 PM and 5 AM! So no New Years Celebration this year... What else could go wrong???

Again wishing you all GOOD HEALTH and PROSPERITY for 2022! Cheers.

Note #1: We may be having Roast Beef instead... If so, this means Mashed Potatoes with Brown Gravy au Jus. IDK... My Aunt mysteriously mentioned that she might want to "switch-up" the meal tomorrow... Hehehe!

In any event, I hope you all are taking this time to spend it with Family even with this Global Pandemic and all the Variants (Alpha, Delta, Omicron, et al.)

Again wishing you all THE VERY BEST in 2022! Mostly GOOD HEALTH and PROSPERITY we all know how financially this Pandemic has struck many businesses HARD. We need some kind of "Bounce-Back" in 2022... And hopefully like the Yearly Flu, COVID-19 is just an annoyance with mild to no symptoms.

More thoughts on the Ex-P Crystals...

I had this idea about a "Press-Your-Luck" Mechanic for the Ex-P Crystals. Here is more on that:

questccg wrote:
How about when ONE Player decides to collect an Ex-P Crystal, he/she collects ALL Ex-P Crystals in the Realm (Play Area)!

It's sort of a "Press-Your-Luck" because you have to figure out WHEN is the BEST time to collect the Crystals. For example, if there are 3 Ex-P Crystals in play means that one of the players may collect 3 Crystals with one Action Point.

But at the same time, 4 or more could be BETTER. But do you WAIT or COLLECT?!?!

That's the whole "Press-Your-Luck" mechanic forcing players to risk or not...

Thoughts??? Comments, Feedback, Questions are all welcome! Cheers.

I decided to CHANGE my colors

Instead of Red, Green, Blue, Yellow... I am going with Red, Green, Blue, Purple.

Why? Because Purple looked better with the available color palette... And this means I needed to CHANGE the Avatar from Yellow to Purple. Done. Good.

I also decided that the 2 AP actions REQUIRE 1 Ex-P Crystals each time you want to use those Actions. Gives more purpose to the Ex-P Crystals too.

This of course brings up more THOUGHT (unfortunately)!

I DON'T think the "Press-Your-Luck" mechanic with all of the Ex-P Crystals being gathered by one Player work in this context either. I really think that the "Catch-Up" mechanic is BETTER in this particular context. Why?

Well to explain rather quickly, it gives more OPTIONS to the Player who is trailing in the game. More "options" is exactly what CATCH-UP is all about. So you can boost a Game Tile or Scry a card or even Banish an opponent.

All very COOL "options" to have... So you need to use them WISELY. Adds more STRATEGY and "depth of play" because it is more about out-smarting the other player(s). And when you are behind in a game, having some EXTRA options is really good to TRY to get ahead of the pack.

Given that you have more "options" the Ex-P Crystal are also MORE VALUABLE too!

But I'm still undecided how "collection" should be done. Still more thinking to be done... Get back to you all once I have a firmer decision.

Some early thoughts...

I had the idea that instead of ZERO (0) Ex-P Crystals, each Player starts with 2 Ex-P Crystals and Player #1 get a BONUS +1 Ex-P Crystal (total of 3) at the start of the game. As they get used up, they go back into the pouch... And can be re-drawn at a later time.

This is COOL because it means that everyone has some "OPTIONS" as to HOW they want to put their Crystals to "Good Use"!

I really like this since with 4 Players, it means Player #1 gets 3 Ex-P Crystals and the other players each get 2 Ex-P Crystals (for a total of 9 Crystals). Just enough crystals to spare! Fantastic.

And obviously for 2-Player Duels, there are only 5 Crystal at the very start. I like this direction... Much more flexible and FRESH!

Feel free to comment and share your thoughts with me... This is sounding real cool that instead of starting with NO Ex-P Crystals, it's sorta the opposite!

Very clever and interesting...

Note #1: I think this idea of starting-off with Ex-P Crystals is pure genius... It gives you two (2) choices and then the collection of Ex-P Crystals can be NORMAL after they get used. What I mean is each player starts off with a couple of them and then players USE them and THEN they go back into the pouch... To be drawn again like BEFORE.

This means that the collection of Ex-P Crystals is like ANY other resource. It costs 1 AP and at most 3 APs to collect on one turn.

But since the Ex-P Crystals can be used for MULTIPLE purposes ... Their value is greatly ENHANCED and makes for an interesting option when picking them up.

Love THIS^^^!!!

The problem with taking the game from 90% to 95% is...

I need to RE-WRITE the Rulebook due to minor changes. From a design-perspective, it is relatively easy to comprehend the "small" differences in implementation.

But from a RULES-perspective, it requires changing a bunch of stuff in the rulebook ... And that doesn't make me exactly "thrilled" to have to re-format an entire rulebook. Every small detail needs to be documented. And that is a real pain for that last 5% extra...

I guess that's how it goes. Writing rules is part of the design effort. And there is nobody but me who can do it ... Because I comprehend the actual game better than anyone else and HOW it needs to be documented.

Ah... This month is set aside for the rulebook. I will continue the editing effort (I already started over the holidays). And I got some EXTRA effort in taking the design from 90% to 95%... Almost there... Just need to work to complete the rulebook (that's probably the final 5% to match the extra changes in the last couple weeks).

I guess if I want to DESIGN, I need to take the GOOD (designing, prototyping, and playtesting) and the BAD (rules writing, marketing, and sales) also!

I also plan to send a copy to Joe...

Joe mentioned that he would take a look at the game sometime in a few months, down the line... He's rather busy at the moment with his new home near Philadelphia and his Fiancée just opened a Nice Java Coffee Shop about 10 minutes from their new home.

I'm happy that Joe still wants to help out with "Crystal Heroes" (CH) because he is a cool dude and I appreciate his INPUT and any help with the various people that I will be dealing with to "get-the-word-out" about CH.

I don't want to have a bomb of a campaign considering not enough PROMOTION of this new game could have IF I don't get serious about getting it MORE out-there. I seem to make the same mistake (repeat) in trusting people to do a good job and somehow they always manage to "screw-me-over".

I am terribly disappointed that OLG had to fold (due to Mike's passing)... I thought this partnership would have let to more opportunities down the road and maybe collaborate with more people. While I am going to TRY to pitch some projects to other "designers", I know a lot of people prefer working on their own. Even with expansion ideas... You really need to REACH your audience to get a fair "shake" and the opportunity to present your ideas in further detail.

But I'm not averse to HELPING other people. I do that regularly on as this is part of my duties as a owner and Administrator of this website. I will of course let you all know how my future projects evolve.

Cheers all.

Resource Pooling

questccg wrote:
It's sort of a "Press-Your-Luck" because you have to figure out WHEN is the BEST time to collect the Crystals. [...] But do you WAIT or COLLECT?!?!
The first time I saw a resource-collection mechanic like this was in Agricola. But I also saw it just a couple of days ago in a 2021 game which I personally recommend: Mike Fitzgerald's Football Highlights - The Dice Game. Although the two games have a very different feel, the mechanic works excellently in both cases.

To sum it up: there are more categories of resources than there are players, so when they're able to take only one set of resources at a time - even a big mass of them - the others slowly build up. Eventually the pile of items in that category becomes so large the player decides that it's time to capitalize on the possible opportunities that come with acquiring that larger quantity all at once.

It helps diversify tactics within a player's strategy, and I think it'd definitely a popular and effective method.

More on Resource Pooling

let-off studios wrote:
The first time I saw a resource-collection mechanic like this was in Agricola [...] To sum it up: there are more categories of resources than there are players, so when they're able to take only one set of resources at a time - even a big mass of them - the others slowly build up. Eventually the pile of items in that category becomes so large the player decides that it's time to capitalize on the possible opportunities that come with acquiring that larger quantity all at once.

Indeed that was one idea. But I figure the distribution of Ex-P Crystals at the start of the game is more "compelling". It gives more merit to decide WHEN to use them AND it actually encourages players to think in terms of overall strategy also. I'm pretty certain that this is the better of the two options.

Not to say that an "increasing" pool of resources would make for an interesting option also... I just think having some resources PRIOR to gathering them adds to the depth of strategy and makes these gems more VALUABLE.

However it is EXCELLENT to know that other games have used this form of "Resource Pooling" in their games. It means that I am not alone with this thought process ... I'm thinking in terms of what makes for a BETTER game! Cheers.

I had to take a look to see how it was implemented

let-off studios wrote:
The first time I saw a resource-collection mechanic like this was in Agricola...

Indeed Agricola has a similar mechanic in that different choices offer up different amount of resources. I watched a Dice Tower review because I wanted to see if for myself. Very COOL, thank you for directing me to take a look at this game.

Your other mention "Football Highlights" (2021) was a more recent production, was a bit more focused on Dice Pooling rather than Resource Pooling... But yeah I can see some similarities between both. I, personally, wanted to stay away from DICE because let's face it: The Game Crafter sucks when it comes to dice.

They don't even have standard 16mm dice with rounded edges which are STANDARD to dice companies like "Chessex" or "Koplow Games" which wholesales dice to people who want to re-sell them. It's quite ridiculous. I truly wish they had something better in the tank TBH.

I just ADDED the "Reference Pads" to REMIND Players of the Available choices during a Turn and especially when using up Action Points and Ex-P Crystals...

ATM that Football dice game looks pretty cool... And I'm keeping some of those mechanics in my repertoire of possible uses. The whole TRACKS thing is very interesting and maybe I could work with something like that in the future.

Again thank you "@let-off studio" for sharing these games with similar options.

To tell you the truth

I think each Player starting with his/her own POOL of Ex-P Crystals makes for a much more STRATEGIC game. Sure, if you collect an Ex-P Crystal from a Loot Drop is perhaps the only outcome (in some cases), but some of those 2 Point Actions are a bit "dramatic". I mean "Banishing" a Player is pretty AGGRESSIVE game play.

I'm not saying that a Player may not choose this option; at the same time I don't want players to be able to CONTINUALLY muscle their opponents just by using two (2) Action Points. It seemed a little bit EXCESSIVE.

But balancing it with the use of Ex-P Crystals makes it a DIFFICULT choice... And one that could be used "just-in-time" or "when needed". You just can't go around the Realm "Banishing" players left-and-right. Much too easy.

I think I have struck the best possible BALANCE. With the use of some APs and one (1) Ex-P Crystal.


I will playtest this NEW method of playing...

Tomorrow! I figure it might be wise to TEST the minor changes FIRST to ensure that there are no "hiccups" with the new system. I guess I need a FEEL for the type of PLAY this encourages and increases my odds of pulling out at STRONGER design.

If however it DOES NOT go as planned... Some kind of problem (not sure exactly) but the idea is if distributing some Ex-P Crystals at the START of the game causes the game to BREAK (somehow?), I'd much rather re-think than require to RE-EDIT the rulebook.

When the dust settles and all is well with the 95% design... Then it will be time to document the changes and have a full 100% game!

Cheers all.

Tonight I will be playtesting the NEW method of PLAY!

After supper, I'll take to my bedroom and setup the Plexiglass to make for a FLAT surface to play on. It's the only "surface" that is not already storing anything since I need to sleep on it (LOL)! The Kitchen table is a little busy with the Centerpiece (that has all my cooking times) and such... Plus the table is rather small comparing to the bed! The only problem with the bed is that its surface is NOT flat... So I bought some Plexiglass and place it over the bedcovers.

It works GREAT! But it is temporary since I need to store everything before going to bed... So it keeps for a clean (and temporary) play area/surface. One 24" x 24" clear sheet of 3mm Plexiglass cost about $50 bucks. However I cannot argue that it work fantastic and storing it is rather easy!

I'll get back to you all later tonight! Cheers.

This game is so exhilarating ...

The game was won in the 9th Round by Player #1 who collected three (3) Chaos Crystals to take the Victory from Player #2... Had that purple crystal not shown up, Player #2 would have won the game on the very NEXT turn!

It was SO CLOSE!!!

Unfortunately the small element of chance played into the joyous benefit of Player #1.

And nobody used ANY Ex-P Crystals even if Player #1 had 3 of them and Player #2 had 2 of them... Believe me, I was searching for options to use these Crystals, but unfortunately none were available.

So in this last playtest the Ex-P Crystals were NOT a FACTOR in deciding the outcome of the game.

Cheers all!

Note #1: I'm being very honest... The game is VERY FUN. I'm not a big "chess" player, but the STRONG Area Control mechanic reminds me a LOT of chess. And playing the game is rather simple, if you have the Reference Pads it will be easier to remember the Turn-Order and Available Actions. But I really LIKE the way the game PLAYS.

Remarkably there is sufficient VARIABILITY to make the game Balanced and Tight in terms of the Design. Clearly the game is 95% done. All that remains is finishing up some art, fixing the rulebook and creating the Official Game Tiles to be sent to Reviewers...

Seeing as this is my 3rd game design...

You would hope that my understanding of Mechanics, Tighter Designs, and just a "knack" of making GOOD (and maybe even GREAT) games is what I do best (in life). I'll be the first to admit that it takes a LONG time to make a design... But in retrospect, the challenge of making it all WORK-TOGETHER is the real important part...

None of the games that I have designed thus far are in anyway "similar". They are ALL very DIFFERENT and there is a REASON for this: I didn't want to be pegged as a one-trick-pony... And solely focus on TradeWorlds.

No, I wanted different game designs to mature into different GAMES that are unique and varied that play is different from one game to another.

I'll get to more playtesting over the weekend as I have other responsibilities during the end of this week (duty to other designs).


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