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Renovating the Castle

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Brykovian
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Now that I'm getting settled into the new house, I am starting to slowly get back into the game design groove again. Besides working on a couple of new games, I am working on some tweaks to "Castle Danger". Although the game seems to click pretty well for abstract game players, other gamers find it a bit "constricted", and my own experience with it shows that it could use a bit of balancing in some areas.

I will detail some of the adjustments I'm thinking of below ... I will be play-testing some of them out during lunchtimes with a friend at work, but I'm curious if any of you might have some theory-level feedback for me.

If you need an introduction or refresher, you can find Castle Danger rules (and a free PC game version) here: http://www.mwgames.com/cd.htm

I see the following potential changes:

  • Bigger Board ... I'm almost certain to make this change. Just by adding a couple extra rows and a couple extra columns, each player's area will grow about 60% -- from 28 squares (4 x 7) to 45 squares (5 x 9). This should help out the "cramped" feeling that occurs pretty quickly in the game.
  • 2 Portals per Side ... Instead of a single Portal centered on the player's side, I'm thinking of putting a portal in each corner. Then, the question becomes, should the player get to add 2 pieces per turn? Or should they still only get to add 1 piece, but get to choose which portal to place it on?
  • Wizard Power ... Right now, each additional Wizard on the board gives the player 3 extra moves to add to their base of 3 moves. Should the amount of available moves be raised? 5 base + 5 for each Wizard?
  • Increase Defense Costs ... It's *much* cheaper to be on the defensive than on the offensive in the game. Each wall only costs a single move to build, while firing a cannon costs 1 move for each space that the cannonball flies. I was thinking of increasing the cost of building walls as follows -- building a new wall in a line of squares from the player's edge of the board to the river costs 1 move for every wall in the line (including the new one). So, the first wall will cost 1 move, the second wall in the line will cost 2 moves, etc.
  • Decrease Offensive Costs ... In response to the same issue (either "instead of" or "in addition to" the previous point), I'm wondering if the cost to fire a cannon is too high. Should the cost be based upon how far the ball flies? Should it, instead, have a consistent cost (like 3 moves) no matter how far the thing flies?
I have a new board prototype almost ready for consideration that takes the larger board and corner-based Portals into account ... I should have a link to it later tonight.

In the meantime, any discussion is appreciated.

Thanks,
-Bryk

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Brykovian
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Renovating the Castle

Here's a pic of the new (work-in-progress) bigger board:

The inner rectangle encloses the original-sized board. The portals in the corners would be used with the bigger board, the ones in the middle would be used with the original-sized board.

-Bryk

phpbbadmin
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Well

Bryk,

What sort of problems do you feel like the game has now? I've only played the computer version, and that was some time ago, but I thought it was pretty good. What made it decent was the agonizing decisions of how to spend your AP and which units to bring out each turn. I think if you 'open up' the game system like you proposed, won't it make it too much like a 'shoot em up' (for lack of a better term)? I mean, if the players get 5 actions per wizard and 5 base, and shooting is cheaper, won't they just come out with guns blazing? I understand you will still need some strategy as both players will have access to these benefits. I guess you are trying to undermine the 'dig in' strategy of building tons and tons of walls that might turn into a stalemate?

For the decreased attack costs, have you considered an 'exponential' mechanic? I.E. it costs 1 to shoot 1 square, but if you spend 2 you can shoot up to three squares (1+2), if you spend 3 you can shoot up to seven squares (1+2+4) and if you spend 4 you can shoot to anywhere on the board (1+2+4+8)... Just a thought. I don't think it's a good idea to give unlimited range on just 1 AP. Maybe you can even include a special unit that can shoot a volley over a wall or another unit at increased costs.... I.E. indirect fire. Possibly also include a rule that states that units directly 'behind' a wall can not be hit with indirect fire.

It's hard to say about increasing the costs for building walls.. If you decrease the costs to attack then the walls could be picked off rather easily. It's a balance issue and probably something that won't come out until you playtest. That's all I can think of right now.

-Darke

Brykovian
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Re: Well

Darkehorse wrote:
What sort of problems do you feel like the game has now?

I'm mainly responding to 3 "problems" (or, I suppose, you could say "features") with the game:
  1. As pointed out in reviews by both Tom Vasel and Greg Schloesser, the board quickly becomes congested. While this was one of the original challenges I wanted to put into the game, it seems that only true abstract players are finding enjoyment in it. "Normal" strategy gamers find it frustrating ... so I feel a need to open up the space a bit.
  2. Also pointed out in the reviews is that feeling that a player doesn't actually "win" as much as the other player makes a mistake and "loses" ... the tension involved in trying to not be the first one to make a mistake might lead to some good games, but probably won't serve up a lot of satisfaction in winning. So, I feel a need to inject a method to allow players to come up with "winning strategies" instead of just "non-losing strategies" ... does that even make sense?
  3. Finally, it's very easy to turn the game into a sluggish thing and lumber off to a draw (if you're playing with a limit in number of turns). I think this is because of how easy it is to build up your own defenses as opposed to how expensive it is to tear down your opponent's defenses. So, I feel a need to balance out the expense between the two.
As for your suggestions ... I don't plan on adding any new piece types -- there is a sequel in the plans that does a couple of the things that you mentioned (shoot over walls, etc.) plus a few other fun things and I want to save the new piece types for that game.

I agree with you that extra moves each turn probably isn't needed -- and playtesting will prove that out for sure. You are correct that the balance between building walls and shooting cannons is probably the big one that needs to get worked on. I want to keep the math easy enough for players to quickly do in their heads. Your exponential distance versus moves spent might work with a quick reference card for the players (I already have one to help them keep track of how many moves they have left in their turn).

Thanks for the feedback -- hope I cleared-up what I'm after.

-Bryk

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Brykovian
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Renovating the Castle

Something I don't think I stated here, yet is that I plan on keeping the current board and rules defined as the "classic" game, and then add any board/rule changes as an "expanded" game.

-Bryk

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