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Zoo Contest Playtest

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Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014

Zoo Contest

This game tied for second in the December Showdown. Matt, from MSP Games, has asked me to put together a PnP version for evaluation and possible publication. I'm pretty excited about the opportunity, and I'd like to get feedback from all you guys, to make it work as well as I can. (This is at Matt's suggestion.)

Instructions and board: http://zag.net/ZooContest/InstructionsAndBoard.pdf
Print 'n' Play Cards: http://zag.net/ZooContest/ZooContestCards.pdf (Print this two-sided.)

I would welcome suggestions for changes to the game, changes to the instructions, everything but the artwork. This artwork is just a place-holder for the real artists -- this is just clip art. (You're welcome to offer suggestions for the future artwork, but just understand that what I have here is not intended as the final version, or even close to it.)

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
Some possible rule changes

Anybody?

These are some rule changes I've considered. (A couple are suggestions from the critiques thread of the challenge.) However, none of them seem to be improvements, from my own testing (primarily solo, but I did get a friend to play a couple games against me).

* A mouse can either move or spawn another mouse, but not both, and they can still only spawn laterally.

* Only have three mice available per side, rather than four. (Or maybe five, but I'm pretty sure that will get too crowded.)

* Allow a player to remove one of his own mice from the board in order to move his elephant.

* Allow monkeys to move any two squares. (i.e., they can make a chess knight's move).

* A monkey visiting his friendly elephant is safe from the other elephant, so can ignore the move restriction and the retreat requirement. However, that means that moving his own elephant might require him immediately to retreat his own monkey. (This could be used strategically, since the retreat is not always a bad thing -- it's a free move, after all, even if it is restricted. If this were chess then this move would have a fancy French name.)

* A monkey that moves two squares tosses out opposing mice from both the square he moves through as well as the one he lands on.

JTAshby
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Joined: 12/07/2014
I'll try to playtest it ASAP

I've been meaning to playtest this and one or two other games from the GDS, but my regular playtesting partner was out of town for the holidays. He's back, so I might get a chance to playtest it this weekend and give you feedback. Are there any of the variants that you want tested specifically? I think I was the one that suggested the smaller number of mice and the move or spawn choice, so I'll definitely test those out.

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
Thanks!

Thanks! I'm looking forward to your results.

In the only blind playtest I've done so far, with two friends from work, I saw some confusion about the retreat rules...

I started typing out exactly how they were confused, but I guess that it would be a better idea to let you play from just the description, and tell me if you find any of it confusing.

As for variants, I'd like you to start with the rules as written, but if you see issues, go ahead and try what you think will help and let me know how it works for you.

The biggest concern Matt from MSP (and I) have, is that after a couple of games that players will find that there is only one winning strategy, and it just becomes boring. This hasn't been my experience, but that is mostly just playing against myself.

Again, I really appreciate it. I'll owe you one -- if you ever have a game you want playtested, contact me at zag .at. zag .dot. net (with the obvious substitutions) and I'll be glad to give your game a whirl. That goes for anybody who gives any game of mine a try and gives me some feedback!)

JTAshby
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Joined: 12/07/2014
Playtest results

I playtested Zoo Contest yesterday with a couple of people, and here's what we learned:

- overall, the game was enjoyable, the person who helped me test the variants and a potential high-win starting move liked the overall thought process of the game.

- we tested several of the mouse variants, and we found that the number of mice and the simultaneous move-spawn ability was quite balanced (we also felt bad for the mice based on the image - that mouse looked a bit shell-shocked from being tossed around all over the place :P)

- one concern that we did find was that, if player 1 used his first move to move the elephant one space towards the center (thus, blocking the monkey off from a large chunk of real estate), the first player generally won. That might be something to look into further on your end, as the only counter that we found for it was to mirror the movement with player 2's elephant. This could potentially be alleviated by either allowing the monkey knight-style movement, or by limiting the elephant to orthogonal movement only.

- we didn't play the royal variant, so I don't have too much feedback on that yet. We did find it a bit unusual that the rules (as we were interpreting it, at least) made it so that they royal animals could no longer interact with the non-royal animals? Were we just misreading that?

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
Thanks!

Thanks for the feedback.

Yeah. I've found that the elephant one diagonal step seems to be the best first move, though I haven't found it to be quite as conclusive as you suggest. But it's enough that I think that some restriction might be in order.

It was not the intent that the royal versions were any different at all. It was just intended as a way to signify that the piece had reached the far end, just to make it easier to keep track which pieces have made it. So I guess that it wasn't clear, if you read it that way.

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
Updated

I've updated the instructions a bit, taking into account the feedback above, plus some other feedback I've received.

The new versions are still at:

Instructions and board: http://zag.net/ZooContest/InstructionsAndBoard.pdf
Print 'n' Play Cards: http://zag.net/ZooContest/ZooContestCards.pdf (Print this two-sided, preferably on card stock.)

I'm still eager to hear from anyone else who is interested in trying it out.

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
Elephant's first move

@JTAshby: I'm considering adding the rule that the elephant's first move (only) may not be diagonal. It makes this sort of like castling in chess, that you can't do it if either the king or the rook have moved (even if they have since moved back).

On the other hand, it feels like a bit of a kludge.

Zag24
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Joined: 03/02/2014
Updated

Well, I went ahead and added the first move restriction. I'm not terribly happy about it, but I am less happy with the situation that there is a single best first move and anything else is simply a mistake.

I toyed with another first move -- bringing the monkey to the center of the board, with the threat of taking the opponent's only mouse. If the opponent moves his elephant diagonally then you can retreat forward, gaining one square towards a race. But even with this consideration, that player lost all three of my solo games trying it. In any case, I'm not that happy about there being only two specific moves that are reasonable as the first move.

With the rule change, I see at least 5 different first moves that are reasonable, without each of them having their own advantage.

The new versions are still at:

Instructions and board: http://zag.net/ZooContest/InstructionsAndBoard.pdf
Print 'n' Play Cards: http://zag.net/ZooContest/ZooContestCards.pdf (Print this two-sided, preferably on card stock.)

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