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Civ lite playtest session report

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jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008

Hi all,

I thought it might be cool to have a forum for playtesting reports, and it seems that the admins have created one -- or maybe it was here all along and I never noticed it? Weird!

Anyway, we had a playtest session for the "Civilization building" game I've been talking about for some time. This was the fifth overall session we've seen, and though we've had different players every time, this session was played with most of the "core group" of playtesters who've been in or associated with the project all along.

The game seems to be sort of long -- it's never clocked in at under 4 hours, despite my strong belief that it can be played in 3. As we all know, a game that can be played in X minutes will take at least 1.5 X minutes to playtest, so that's probably part of it.

We've had most of our sessions at the local Thursday night game night at a store, and the result has been we've had to abort many games just before the last turn. This session was held on a Sunday, with an open ended time slot, so we finally played the game to completion. It was very good that we did!

To give an overview, the game features many of the elements common to civ building games -- building structures and cities, advancing your culture, fighting wars, producing resources, trading, etc. There are a few twists, but I think these can be best understood by articulating what I see as the "shortcomings" of other comparable games. The 4 that come to mind are Vinci, History of the World, Mare Nostrum, Civilization, great games all.

Vinci is very abstract, and relies solely on territorial conquest as a victory condition. History of the World involves too much luck in combat, is too long, and relies solely on territorial conquest. Mare Nostrum (though I haven't played) and Civilization both have a system where "resource production" translates directly into "progress" -- ie, when you can cash in a "set" of resources, that corresponds to giving you access to [this cultural advance]. And all of these games have a map board that is a plan-view of the Med.

So, my game seeks to fix all of these "shortcomings". I won't supply the details here, but am happy to go into more detail offline for anyone who's interested, and could even send you a rulebook.

This game had 3 players who had played the last iteration and 2 who hadn't played in a few iterations. We quickly found that there was a "learning curve" in the new rules, as after the first scoring round, the 3 experienced players, who had built cities early on, were at 8/8/7 compared to the other two players at 2/0 in Victory Points. This gave us some concern that "city building" was too powerful a strategy.

But the real shocker was in the end game. Because the game ends after a fixed number of turns (and it has to, because the turns are long), we found players doing "weird" things to max out their VPs. Players converted their production territories to cities for big points, since there was no longer a need to produce. Players vacated whole territories in hopes of setting up big combats that would gain them key territories or key military victories.

This endgame "cashing in the chips" effect was a big problem (in part because it introduces a turn order effect, in part because it's so athematic), and we're still working out ways to fix it. I think there are two predominant approaches -- make the endgame cashout undesirable, or make it difficult. As examples of the former, we've talked about possibly adding an endgame production round and have that be a VP category. So, to abandon your production base will cost VP. I don't like this because each player is producing enough resources that it will be sort of hard to track in a way that makes for useful decisions. We could also go to a "supply" effect where you need to have enough resources to supply your cities, eg, but that's very derivative of La Citta. As an example of the latter, we've considered changes to what is necessary for you to be able to build a city -- maybe you can only build one per turn, eg. In the end, I think we'll go to a combo of the two -- some VP categories will be made more difficult to achieve, and some will become interwoven in such a way that advancing yourself in one advances everyone else in the other.

My game has 4 VP categories, and what's been difficult is to make them all separate and yet interrelated. You don't want any 2 to become inherently connected, because then a "best" strategy can emerge. But you also don't want them to be too far divorced, or else it won't be possible to develop a strategy in the first place -- you'll just have to pick one of the four and go for it. So that has been the interesting thing about the game -- the mechanics have been easier to develop than the goals! We're still iterating over what the "best" set of VP categories ought to be, and I'm not sure we're there yet, but they've been changed a lot and are getting closer.

I'm also finding that while I really thought the game was getting close to "done", there really is still room for making pretty sweeping changes. I think this is good in a way, because sweeping changes are easily identifiable as "good" or "bad". Subtle changes and "tweaking" are more difficult to evaluate, particularly because you can't always be sure how a change in this will produce a change in that.

So, the key things I learned from this session were that in a long game, actually playing and testing the end game is absolutely crucial, as it reveals things about the game as a whole that the mechanics themselves won't reveal. What was kind of cool was that the final scores were 15/13/12/11/3, with the player who had started with 2 points ending up with 11. I was pleased with this, because it suggested that it's definitely possible to come back and get right back into the game. We did find that it's a little too hard to take down the leader, primarily because too many combats resulted in ties, but also, because it's just easier to hit a weak player as to hit a strong one. The key play balance issue, then, will be to remove the effect whereby a player can be "effectively" eliminated from an early stage, and have to sit and watch the rich get richer. I think that the changes I'll be making will mitigate this somewhat.

With the holiday season coming up, I'm not sure I'll get to playtest this one again before the new year, but I'm very pleased that with the 5 sessions we've had now, the game has improved dramatically, and it feels a whole lot more coherent -- this was the main observation of the guys who haven't played since an early stage -- that the game really "gels" a whole lot more, that it feels tighter and more "finished". I'm a bit surprised that we've kept as much of the initial game as we have, but what I think it reflects is that the game has always been built upon a few core principles and mechanics, and we've retained those while modifying everything that was obstructuing those "good" principles and replacing it with things that do a better job of evoking the atmosphere the game tries to create. In the early stages, it felt like things flowed too easily, but now it's really starting to feel brutal -- that I really must choose whether to do "this" or "that".

My residual concerns, then, are simply the game length, which is too long, the combat system, which is close to done but still needs tinkering, the end game, which is decidely ahistorical, and the appropriate set of VP categories, which is converging but not yet perfect.

So, there's my pretty long session report. I realize I didn't actually describe "John did this, then Chuck did that" kind of analysis, but since you don't know how the game works, it seems like that wouldn't have made as much sense. For what it's worth, we did find that different kinds of empires were possible. Andrew built an empire of small cities, giving him good flexibility. Chris had a sprawling empire that could strike far and wide. Matt and I had cultural centers, and Tony had an isolated but resource-rich corner of the board. That was really what I wanted for the game -- to be able to pursue different strategies but to have a means by which to compare them. I should observe that the game doesn't (yet) have a "historical" setup. It isn't that one player is Egypt, one is Rome, one is Babylon, etc. But what I think the game does offer is the flexibility to try to pursue a strategy like that of Rome, or of Egypt, or the Mongolian horde, etc. And I'll probably create a "fair" historical setup somewhere down the road, just for fun...

Anyway, hope you enjoyed my (pretty long) report!

-Jeff

FastLearner
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Civ lite playtest session report

Jeff, that sounds fantastic! Congrats on the game coming together and your new inisghts.

What's your goal for game length, since you mention it? Is there much downtime?

The game sounds like a lot of fun. Very cool.

-- Matthew

jwarrend
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Civ lite playtest session report

FastLearner wrote:
Jeff, that sounds fantastic! Congrats on the game coming together and your new inisghts.

Thanks. I've basically stopped all progress on all games except this one, in the interest of really getting it finished. Which is kind of ironic since it's the longest, most involved game I've designed (making it more of a pain to playtest), and it requires the most components (making it more expensive, and therefore less likely, to publish/self-publish). But, I don't worry about that stuff nearly enough, I guess -- I'm just trying to design a good Civ lite game, which I think would be a genuinely nice thing to have...

Quote:

What's your goal for game length, since you mention it? Is there much downtime?

I wanted the game to be 2 hours, but that is turning out to be absurd. So, my new goal is that for 5 experienced players who are committed to trying to play quickly, the game should be playable in about 3 hours.

There is almost no downtime at all, because the turns are broken up into phases. This is good and bad. In a 3.5 hour game, it's sometimes nice to have a ten minute stretch where you can walk away and take a bathroom break, etc. But I think having less downtime is probably better than more, so that's how we're doing it.

Unfortunately, having a lot of phases also creates a lot of points for players to make decisions, and so "perfect planners" can really bog the game down. That's why I think the "3 hour" time necessarily reflects an experienced group of committed players -- there are some things that are worth thinking long and hard about, but sometimes heads-up play and making decisions in advance can speed those decisions up.

Quote:

The game sounds like a lot of fun. Very cool.

Thanks. I'm pleased to be finding that it is indeed fun to play. I think as we learn the game better, we'll get to the point where we can start trying out different strategies. Despite being a fairly simple game system, there does seem to be enough depth to allow for strategic planning, although the resources are tight enough that to get those great cultural advances, you really need to plan ahead for them!

I considered workshopping it, but I think it's a little too long for that. It's actually not all that complex -- the systems fit together pretty straightforwardly. But, since I'm in pretty heavy playtesting right now anyway, I don't really think it would be appropriate to workshop it at this point, as the feedback I need is more about play balance than about "brainstorming". Although, I definitely need rulebook help, so maybe I should workshop the game after all...

Anyway, looking forward to hearing about others' playtesting exploits as well!

-Jeff

zaiga
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Re: Civ lite playtest session report

Jeff,

Some ideas to fix your endgame problems, which you might be able to use depending on how your game exactly works:

- Award some victory points for "most resources left over at the end of the game" (and some for second and third most, perhaps). This gives players an incentive not to irrationally (or a-thematically) waste all their resources. Tweaking this bonus is important, because you don't want to make hoarding resources a viable strategy (that would be a-thematically too).

- Make resources a bit scarcer. If players do not have a large surplus of resources, they cannot irrationally spend it either.

- Restrict the number of things players can purchase each turn (this might be a good idea regardless). This way players have to plan ahead more, because they can not limitlessly spend their surplus of resources on anything they want.

Anyway , good luck with Civ "medium"! :wink:

- Rene Wiersma

jwarrend
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Re: Civ lite playtest session report

zaiga wrote:

Some ideas to fix your endgame problems, which you might be able to use depending on how your game exactly works:

Thanks for the suggestions!

Quote:

- Award some victory points for "most resources left over at the end of the game" (and some for second and third most, perhaps). This gives players an incentive not to irrationally (or a-thematically) waste all their resources. Tweaking this bonus is important, because you don't want to make hoarding resources a viable strategy (that would be a-thematically too).

We've considered this; the problem is making it trackable, because all of the other scoring categories can be pretty easily tracked. So, we don't want a scoring system that is inherently difficult to track players' standing in, because either perfect planners will bog the game down trying to keep track, or players won't really be basing their decisions on this info, making it a less interesting category. I've also considered a "supply" effect like La Citta but don't think that's a great solution either...

Quote:

- Make resources a bit scarcer. If players do not have a large surplus of resources, they cannot irrationally spend it either.

- Restrict the number of things players can purchase each turn (this might be a good idea regardless). This way players have to plan ahead more, because they can not limitlessly spend their surplus of resources on anything they want.

These seem to be the other options -- make things more difficult, or make them less desirable. I'm not sure which we'll settle on; probably some combo of the two. I like the idea of limiting what a player can buy "all at once" -- it definitely works thematically. You can't build the pyramids, the hanging gardens, and the colossus all in one year, no matter how much money you spend. The only concern I have is that it's perhaps bordering on being "fiddly", but not too much so.

I think the rule we'll end up with is to connect two of the offending mechanisms in an inverse way. So, to advance in one category will throw points to other players in the other category. This, plus a tweak in how categories are scored and a mild restriction on building should, I think, mitigate some of the endgame "cashing in the chips", though it probably won't solve the "vacate all my uncontested territories" effect.

Quote:

Anyway , good luck with Civ "medium"! :wink:

Heh, yeah, I guess Civ Lite is too much to hope for with this one! Anyway, thanks for the great suggestions!

-Jeff

jwarrend
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Civ lite playtest session report

Ok, we had another session of my "Civ lite" game which is turning out to be, as zaiga said, "Civ medium". Players were Tony, Matt, Preston, Andrew, Chris, and myself. Preston was new to the game, others had played.

This session went well in one sense. The changes we made last time were pretty successful, and people pursued pretty different strategies to pretty good success. Andrew was the "war-monger", building a big military and being pretty unafraid to use it, giving him unequaled possession of the "warfare" victory category. Tony, on the other hand, built slowly and steadily, achieving some nice cultural advancements and building a nice empire. These different strategies resulted in these players tieing for 2nd place. Matt took the game commandingly by adopting a peaceful, culturally rich strategy that couldn't be matched. We were afraid that there might be no "hit the leader" effect, but no one really tried to hit Matt until it was too late, so maybe it's not a problem.

I won the "worst performance ever by a designer in his own game", coming in dead last, even behind Preston who hadn't played before! I had some early losses that proved devastating to me in the long run, as I just couldn't get anything started. We discovered the game has a "table order" effect-- the player to your left will go after you in the turn sequence for much of the game, and since he will move after you, he can control where he will be stronger than you from a combat perspective. This was very problematic for me with Andrew, the war-monger, seated to my left and also geographically close to me on the board.

This is partly due to the "Settlers-style" setup of the game, rather than a "fixed setup" like Mare Nostrum. But, I sort of like the variation inherent to the former, even though at some point I'll probably develop a "fair, historical setup" just for fun. But, the table order is also the culprit, so I'll probably whip up a quick and simple way to shuffle up the turn order a bit (I already have a simple mechanic to achieve this).

But, for me, the big problem is that the game is still absurdly long -- about 5 hours for this session. To be sure, a big part of this was the slow play by certain members of the group, me included. (And also, the fact that the Patriots game was on and was an irrestible siren call for some of the players, distracting them somewhat!). I estimate that a good hour of the game was a result of slow decision making. But, many groups do play slowly, and for this game to be fun for those groups, playing time will be a factor.

So, I'm faced with a bit of a dilemma -- should I keep tweaking the game and get it to work as-is (and it's very close to working as-is!) or start hacking?

My hope is that I can find some middle ground. For example, the game currently has 9 actions per turn that each player takes, which, for a 6 player game, leads to 54 different decision points each turn. The actions themselves can be done quickly, but each requires thinking and this takes time. My plan to reduce the time somewhat is to restrict the number of actions a player can take -- he must choose 3 of the 9, for example. This would have the effect of giving you the same flexibility to pursue your strategy, but to force you to be more selective. I think the game perhaps suffers a bit currently from a "you can do everything every turn" problem. The sheer length of the game has forced us to reduce it to 6 turns total, which just doesn't feel like enough. Truncating the individual turns might allow us to add a few more turns without losing any of the flavor, and without having to cut out mechanics that we/I have worked so hard to fine tune.

So, my hope is that something like this can work. The danger is that it will start to feel too much like Puerto Rico or perhaps Wallenstein. Wallenstein is actually probably my "closest similar game" at this point, though that is more of a wargame than mine will be.

The other problem I'm having is that the very nice combat system I developed with your guys' help is perhaps too elaborate for the role that combat plays in the game. Perhaps I'll save it for a more combat heavy game if I develop one some day.

Anyway, despite my hope that each playtest will bring the game closer to completion, I find that each session reveals a need for an even more sweeping set of changes. But, I feel like I've finally come to a crossroads with this one -- keep tweaking, and make a "perfect" 4+ hour game, or start making big changes, and get the length down (but also risking needing some sweeping changes).

As you know, for me, I sort of view my designs as "essays", so I really do want to try to make this game "the perfect Civ lite game", to the extent that it's possible for me to do so. That means that I'm not afraid to make big changes from session to session, but it also means that the convergence of the game towards "done" can be a slow one. Still, I think I'm getting there, although that may change dramatically if I make the set of changes I'm considering...stay tuned!

-Jeff

Scurra
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Civ lite playtest session report

jwarrend wrote:

I won the "worst performance ever by a designer in his own game", coming in dead last, even behind Preston who hadn't played before!

No, this is an open category since I come last in my own games almost all the time. (Which is strange, as I usually come second in multi-player games...)

jwarrend wrote:

I think the game perhaps suffers a bit currently from a "you can do everything every turn" problem. The sheer length of the game has forced us to reduce it to 6 turns total, which just doesn't feel like enough.

I shall be interested to see what you think of the approach I have made to this problem in my GDW game (even if you won't be seeing it for six weeks or more!) But I came to the same conclusion, which was that allowing players "to do everything every turn" was going to slow the game down too much. In my case I have gone almost the opposite way and limited the players to just one free choice of action per turn but this is on top of a prior action which has been forced (it's too complicated to explain.)

My suspicion is that reducing the players' options to three actions might actually increase the AP issue though, as I imagine you will always really want to do more than that in a turn, and calculating the best result could be an issue.

As for your point about "essays" - I tend to agree, but then again I also think that there comes a point when you have to stop working on a game because although it isn't perfect (it never can be), you are too close to it to be sure that the changes are improvements. Then again, I suppose it depends upon whether you are planning on trying to publish it, or just keeping it as a local group game.
And in any case I find that there are also too many other games jostling for my attention at any one time :)

jwarrend
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Civ lite playtest session report

Scurra wrote:

jwarrend wrote:

I think the game perhaps suffers a bit currently from a "you can do everything every turn" problem. The sheer length of the game has forced us to reduce it to 6 turns total, which just doesn't feel like enough.

I shall be interested to see what you think of the approach I have made to this problem in my GDW game (even if you won't be seeing it for six weeks or more!) But I came to the same conclusion, which was that allowing players "to do everything every turn" was going to slow the game down too much. In my case I have gone almost the opposite way and limited the players to just one free choice of action per turn but this is on top of a prior action which has been forced (it's too complicated to explain.)

Sounds interesting. Looking forward to it!

Quote:

My suspicion is that reducing the players' options to three actions might actually increase the AP issue though, as I imagine you will always really want to do more than that in a turn, and calculating the best result could be an issue.

Possibly, and it still needs some thinking -- it really is a sea-change for the game. But, currently, the 9 action happen in order. I'm wondering if I should have the 3 actions still have to follow that order, or let people just take them in whatever order they want. The problem with the latter is that it's more prone to the AP problem, but with former, that there's more of a chance for a turn-order effect (which the game currently seems to have...)

Quote:

As for your point about "essays" - I tend to agree, but then again I also think that there comes a point when you have to stop working on a game because although it isn't perfect (it never can be), you are too close to it to be sure that the changes are improvements. Then again, I suppose it depends upon whether you are planning on trying to publish it, or just keeping it as a local group game.

I think in either case, with this game, a 3 hour game is just going to hit the table more than a 5 hour game.

Quote:

And in any case I find that there are also too many other games jostling for my attention at any one time :)

This, at least, is not my problem -- I've been trying to focus all my design efforts on getting this one "done". But you're right, that might be too much focus for one game, and it might be tough to idenitfy whether a change is an improvement. Maybe I need some time off from this one, not that I'll take any!

Thanks again,

Jeff

Scurra
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Civ lite playtest session report

jwarrend wrote:

Possibly, and it still needs some thinking -- it really is a sea-change for the game. But, currently, the 9 action happen in order. I'm wondering if I should have the 3 actions still have to follow that order, or let people just take them in whatever order they want. The problem with the latter is that it's more prone to the AP problem, but with former, that there's more of a chance for a turn-order effect (which the game currently seems to have...)

Could you devise a mechanic whereby people choose which three actions they want to take secretly and then they are revealed together? That way no-one would get an easy advantage by waiting to see what the player on their right did before choosing to exploit it. (e.g. player B would have to choose the "warfare" action before seeing if player A was going to put themselves into a vulnerable positon.)

I suspect however that this would change the spirit of the game rather fundamentally. (Sounds like a cool idea to me though :))

jwarrend
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Civ lite playtest session report

Scurra wrote:

Could you devise a mechanic whereby people choose which three actions they want to take secretly and then they are revealed together? That way no-one would get an easy advantage by waiting to see what the player on their right did before choosing to exploit it. (e.g. player B would have to choose the "warfare" action before seeing if player A was going to put themselves into a vulnerable positon.)

This is relatively easy to do with the "action selection system" I'm envisioning, but I'm not sure whether it's desirable or not. Clearly, it needs some more thought. This is kind of like the action selection system of Wallenstein/Game of Thrones, which I very much like, but which, if I appropriated, would be "less original." My thinking is that being allowed to take the actions outside of the context of a rigid turn order will give you more flexibility and probably more tactical depth, though strategically it might not change the game much either way. For example, maybe I hold back my "warfare" action as a threat should someone try to attack me, for example.

I think AP is certainly a concern, but reducing the number of actions slightly may combat this a bit.

I've already started overhauling the rulebook just for fun to see what kind of a change it would make. For one thing, I've already cut a full page from my rulebook just by making this change! That has to be a good start...

Thanks again,

Jeff

SVan
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Civ lite playtest session report

I agree with the idea of actions being formed secretly and then revealed at the same time. It, however, may make the game longer, and more complex. Diplomacy has that same way of resolving each player's turns, and it works great, except it is a little too complex and time consuming.

zaiga
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Civ lite playtest session report

Nine different possible actions does seem like a lot. Is it possible to cut it down to seven or so? Seven always is a magical number when it comes to number of choices. Then allow players to carry out only two orders, that seems like a recipe for some great agonizing decisions.

As Scurra mentioned, perhaps you can reduce downtime by letting players select actions simultaneously. If you use cards for this, then you can print unique numbers on each card. Actions are then executed in the order of the numbers, a bit like in RoboRally. This both reduces a bit of downtime and at the same time solves the seating order problem. I wouldn't worry much that this is too similar to other games, your game is probably different enough in other area's to distinguish them from those games.

I noticed that you played the game with six players. I can imagine that playing with less players reduces the playing time? Perhaps it is an idea to just scale the game down to 5 players max?

Just some thoughts.

René Wiersma

Scurra
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Civ lite playtest session report

jwarrend wrote:

This is kind of like the action selection system of Wallenstein/Game of Thrones, which I very much like, but which, if I appropriated, would be "less original."

Hey, just think of it a comment from someone who submitted a Rummy variant to the Doomed Civ competition ;)

Frankly, there really aren't that many different twists to the "select an action" mechanic; although having said that, it shouldn't be too hard to find a twist that fits your game. Perhaps you could allow players to have a number of "joker" actions during the game when they can choose not to take an action they had chosen but to change it according to circumstance. If this is restricted (say, three of them if the game lasts six turns) then it shouldn't allow too much freedom to the players, whilst still letting them react appropriately at the right time.

sedjtroll
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Civ lite playtest session report

jwarrend wrote:
The danger is that it will start to feel too much like Puerto Rico or perhaps Wallenstein. Wallenstein is actually probably my "closest similar game" at this point, though that is more of a wargame than mine will be.

I don't know about Wallenstein, but it's certainly nothing like Puerto Rico- even if it's 'choose X of the 9 actions' which sounds like a great idea to me. In fact, before doing ANYTHING else to the game, If I were you I'd play it again AS IS, but with the restriction that you only get to do 3 of the actions. maybe even just *1* of the actions each turn, then have a lot of turns...

- Seth

zaiga
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Civ lite playtest session report

sedjtroll wrote:

In fact, before doing ANYTHING else to the game, If I were you I'd play it again AS IS, but with the restriction that you only get to do 3 of the actions. maybe even just *1* of the actions each turn, then have a lot of turns...

I agree. I would like to know how the game goes if you play with the restriction that you only get to do 2 actions per turn (or 1 or 3, whatever seems most appropriate to you).

If I were you I would also try to play the game with less players, four or five probably.

- René Wiersma

DavemanUK
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halving 9 actions

9 actions does sound a lot, I'd like to know if these actions are always valid or not.

For example, in a game I'm working on there's 6 actions but because 3 of them require GPs in order to make a purchase then they aren't always a valid option :) (similarly 1 of the 6 actions isn't valid if the other players have no GPs and 1 of the actions isn't valid if you have the max GPs allowed).

This relates to another posting I made about 'binary tree' action trees whereby one desicion (e.g. "Do I want to spend or earn GPs?") can cut the overall number of actions in half :)

Dave.

jwarrend
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Civ lite playtest session report

Thanks to all for your comments and thoughts. To respond to them all in one shot...

Quote:
Quote:

In fact, before doing ANYTHING else to the game, If I were you I'd play it again AS IS, but with the restriction that you only get to do 3 of the actions. maybe even just *1* of the actions each turn, then have a lot of turns...

I agree. I would like to know how the game goes if you play with the restriction that you only get to do 2 actions per turn (or 1 or 3, whatever seems most appropriate to you).

This seems, based on the info I've given, to make sense, however, I don't think it would work in the context of the game structure as it currently exists. That said, your other comment, zaiga, is well to the point, and I plan to reduce the total number of actions to about 7. I also plan to make these somewhat "dichotomous" such that taking action A means you can't take action B, so you don't really have full freedom to choose any permutation of the 7 actions you want. And, not all actions will be available because some cost resources that you may not have. This is all in keeping with what DavemanUK said. I hope that will restrict things a bit.

But, doing so is going to require reenvisioning a lot of the way the game turn works, although I think I can do it without getting rid of the basic systems of the game; the implementation will just have changed a lot.

As for your suggestion of playing with fewer players, yes, I think this makes a big difference. I think going to a 5 player game will be about ideal. 4 should work, but the board may be a bit too "loose" with only 4 players, although this can be mitigated by making some territories "off limits". But yeah, having a 3 hour 6 player game with a lot of depth is quite ambitious! I guess I'll settle for 3 hours as a 4 or (I hope) 5 player game, with the 6 player game feasible but not as economical.

The other issue we've run into is player elimination. In the game we played the other day, the poor stayed poor for the entire game; there was no clear way to get back into it. The thinking seemed to be that the best way to mitigate this might be to have the turn order reflect the scoring order (since there seems to be a bit of a turn order effect anyway). Other than this, I fear the game will need either an explicit "catch the leader" mechanic (which I don't think I want), or perhaps a proviso that, hey, in a 6 player game, someone is going to be pretty weak; be prepared for this possibility!

Thanks again for your thoughts.

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Civ lite playtest session report

If you reduce the number of actions per turn and they are pretty short and punchy then I think that will already take care of a lot of the turn order problems. It might even lessen the "poor stay poor" effect because it becomes easier to react to another player's moves.

- René Wiersma

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Civ lite playtest session report

In principle, you would think so. That was what I thought about the game as is -- sure, there are 9 short, punchy actions, but hey, they're short and punchy! The problem was that it's just so many decision points, that even if the action is quick, giving people something to think about means some people will spend a LOT of time thinking about it, no matter how quickly the action can be executed. So, I agree, going to fewer actions will hopefully mitigate this a bit.

I think the "turn order" problems in the current game also arose from the rigid structure of the turn sequence. Example, if one player always, by virtue of table order, moves after me, then he can always set up combat situations so that he's got the advantage. In contrast, in the new scheme, actions can happen in any order. This gives more stuff to think about, and thus, more decision time, but also will reduce the turn order effect dramatically, I think.

Thanks again!

-Jeff

GeminiWeb
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Joined: 07/31/2008
Some ideas ...

Okay - so the discussion was a fair while ago, but I've only just discovered the site!

Two things.

Firstly, about the big sell-out at the end of the game (which you've probably fixed by now), it brings to mind an interesting different idea for a different game where you actually want this to happen ... sort of like preparing for Ragnorok ...

Secondly, earlier this year I wa slooking at shortening a game I had been working on (and is nearly finished) and found the following useful (which may or may nort be relevant for your game):

(A) Have an accelerated start-up. In my game, players are given 3 cards from a resource deck and 3 cards from a technology deck. Then they can immediately trade in one tech card for a tech advance in the related technology (which usually requires 3 of a kind).

(B) Scale down things. In my game, (which is about building houses and buildings in a growing city) this meant reducing the resources required to build things.

(C) Increase available resources. In my game, the initial resource deck had too many low value resources, so it took too long to accumulate enough resources to do things.

Just some ideas anyway ...

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Re: Some ideas ...

GeminiWeb wrote:
Okay - so the discussion was a fair while ago, but I've only just discovered the site!

No problem. As I'm sure you'll find, most of us are all too happy to talk about our games no matter how far after the fact! Thanks for thei nput!

Quote:

Firstly, about the big sell-out at the end of the game (which you've probably fixed by now), it brings to mind an interesting different idea for a different game where you actually want this to happen ... sort of like preparing for Ragnorok ...

Certainly not a bad idea, but probably not the direction I want the game to go in. Originally, I had an uncertain game ending, but we found that the turns were taking so darn long that it was necessary to go to a fixed number of turns. But, this ruined some of the suspense in the endgame. I've since shortened the turns, and reintroduced the uncertain ending, which I think will help things...

Quote:

Secondly, earlier this year I wa slooking at shortening a game I had been working on (and is nearly finished) and found the following useful (which may or may nort be relevant for your game):

(A) Have an accelerated start-up. In my game, players are given 3 cards from a resource deck and 3 cards from a technology deck. Then they can immediately trade in one tech card for a tech advance in the related technology (which usually requires 3 of a kind).

(B) Scale down things. In my game, (which is about building houses and buildings in a growing city) this meant reducing the resources required to build things.

(C) Increase available resources. In my game, the initial resource deck had too many low value resources, so it took too long to accumulate enough resources to do things.

Yeah, there are sort of two different effects. The one I was most worried about was the turns themselves taking a very long time -- over an hour per turn for all 6 players. That was just too long, and reduced the total number of turns the game could accomodate and still be reasonable.

But there's the other effect of "ramp-up", ie, how much do you give people at the start so as to get to the "interesting" part of the game as quickly as possible? I haven't completely nailed this aspect down yet, since each playtest is simultaneously testing the start positions, turn mechanics, and victory conditions. It's a bit hard to evaluate the whole package all at once, but I'm hoping that now that I have a turn mechanic that will work (I think) I can focus more on the details of starting positions. I tend to err on the side of being too brutal (because that's the kind of game I like), but that gives me a good starting point from which I can relax the restrictions and give players more "stuff" at the start, as you suggest. Hoping to have a session of this in the next month or two, I'll keep the group informed!

Thanks for the input! And, welcome to the group!

-Jeff

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