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Monster Keep — First Prototype

Alright ... so I've been patiently waiting for "The Game Crafter" (TGC) prototype to arrive. And well it did this morning at 10:00 AM! I was super excited to see what the cards, stickers and dice looked like. Here are some of my observations:

1. Dice Stickers are TOO SMALL.

Indeed it seems like the indented die is LARGER than your standard d6s. And the stickers that go on the die are SMALLER than expected. What does this mean??? Well I might need to go with CUSTOM SVGs to have my stickers done professionally at TGC.

2. The game REALLY NEEDS a scoresheet.

Scoring is hard to remember and with all of the bonuses and/or penalties it becomes HARD to follow. Now if I had a scoresheet, I might more easily be able to record what is going on at each turn of the game.

3. The game is "interesting" but I'm NOT super-excited.

This seems like a bit of a LET-DOWN... And it's because I got the impression that the game was going to be more EPIC than any of my other designs. Well it turns out that the game is "interesting"... But IMHO not FAST enough due to all the MATH...

4. Do we like or hate MATH???

That's a good question. Doing the MATH actually SLOWS DOWN the game. I mean don't get me wrong, it's exciting to beat the opponent... But quite frankly ... the math feels too excessive TBH.

5. The cards are well balanced!

A good thing seems to be that cards are for the most part BALANCED. That's some good news because an unbalanced game would make for a very "swing-ish" type of gameplay. Luckily from my card planning, this is not the case... The game is balanced and sufficiently challenging (with the right amount of Take-That).

And so I've got some thinking to do... With Question like:

1> "How do I speed up gameplay?"

2> "How do I reduce the level of math required?"

3> "Let's see how the game compares WITH a scoresheet...!?"

The more "meat-on-the-bone" abilities which allow you to replace a card or force an opponent to discard one ... are VERY interesting during play. In my recent playtest those cards have been very EXCITING during play...

But if we are going for "SIMPLICITY" ... Something needs to be done to speed up gameplay FOR CERTAIN.

If anyone has ad-hoc ideas, wants to share (in the frustration), or would like to post some other questions, feel free to comment!

Cheers.

Note #1: The part about the game being "interesting" is TRUE. It's cool procedurally and the abilities + bonuses/penalties are cool too. Instead of a scoresheet... Maybe we could have TWO (2) JUMBO cards which could allow for easier computation of each Round (multiple turns: 2 to 4).

It's NOT boring. It just feels a little SLUGGISH ... Got to put on my "Thinking Cap" and focus on IMPROVING the overall speed of the game.

Comments

Some early thoughts...

So I ADDED the concept of "turns" to each Round. This also changed the layout of the game by displaying one (1) card each turn. This TURN concept is also slowing the game down.

The reason I ADDED the "turns" was to improve the overall strategy so that it wasn't purely about LUCK. It would become a case of "partial information" being what you see on the table and "hidden information" the cards that remain to be played in the Round.

The "turns" also allow you to REACT to your opponent's play too. Meaning that it wasn't "absolute" when you play an earlier card, you can still react to this card in a later "turn" further along in the Round.

So what can I do???

My first idea is to shorten a Round by 1 turn.

I know doesn't sound like it makes a deep impact. But it would shift turns to be from 1 to 3 turns (instead of 2 to 4). Like I said, the game is "interesting"... Just needs some tweaking to streamline the game a little bit...

So you PLAY your Monster + 1 Enhancement on Turn #1. Instead of requiring two (2) turns for a die roll of "+1", you only now will need one (1) turn.

Right now that's as far as I have gotten tonight. More tomorrow and Sunday ... Where I'll probably design the scoresheets for the game...

About the 1. Dice sticker

Well they're not exactly too small... They're shaped as "squares" and the dice would be more presentable with a ROUNDED square. The "rounded" square would need to be SLIGHTLY bigger than it's default square counterpart.

It's just if the stickers were a bit bigger, it would be EASIER to stick them onto the Indented Die. Them being a bit smaller means that when you do stick them to the die, there is can be some drift from either sides or the top/bottom.

Nothing major... But they should be 9/16 inch versus 8/16 inch (0.5")...

In the games I play I avoid

In the games I play I avoid math as much as possible. I love games that have a simple calculation (Kingdomimo) or clear win condition such as finished first or more points.

A short turn will keep the game engaging. Splendor turns take about 2 seconds if you plan while other people are playing. You don't want to risk giving players the opportunity to take a break between turns.

What is an example of the math in a typical turn? Can the feel be accomplished without any numbers? Can you keep all digits below 10?

Trick-taking Games

Seeing and playing your game "in the flesh" the first time can be underwhelming, and that's unfortunate. But at least the good news is that you saw this yourself and you know your own design has some ways to go. Hopefully you'll have more use out of these components now that they're in your hands.

Some observations on trick-taking games, and the presence of math (since I attended a designer's meeting last night and we did a heavyweight play-test of a trick-taking game in process).

There is math involved in trick-taking games. However, in most cases it seems like there's a single, weighty calculation involved in a turn. Addition of larger numbers typically occurs once: at the end of an entire round, when you calculate points each player receives or loses.

A trick-taking game can be heavy, with a "master stroke" of card play on a player's turn, shifting the balance of victory one way or another. This also true when it's a team-based game, and you have little table-talk permitted.

...Not sure why I'm mentioning all this here, besides the fact that a game can still provide opportunities for both deep thought and dramatic plays with little down time, simply because there's a lot invested in a single decision. Math can be kept to a minimum and a game can still be satisfying in several ways.

Oh... That, and I can totally empathise with the struggle of playtesting. :)

Keep your chin up. :)

Hmm

1> "How do I speed up gameplay?"

Maybe you don't need to speed up gameplay, but make each turn more interactive? I think this question gets asked a lot, but players don't necessarily care about a long game, just about how long others turns are.

2> "How do I reduce the level of math required?"
Simplify, reduce, delete. Increase player choice and interaction and remove the math to the lowest amount required for the desired effect.

3> "Let's see how the game compares WITH a scoresheet...!?"
Scoresheets are good, but visual cues showing who is in lead as part of the game mechanics is better. This is really hard to achieve, though.

Thanks for all the feedback, it's nice to know you ppl care!

Warklaxon wrote:
1> "How do I speed up gameplay?"

Maybe you don't need to speed up gameplay, but make each turn more interactive? I think this question gets asked a lot, but players don't necessarily care about a long game, just about how long others turns are.

That's the thing, turns are ALL SIMULTANEOUS. Both player during a turn can look over their cards and figure out WHAT card they want to play on Turn #X... So it's not a question of waiting...

Warklaxon wrote:
2> "How do I reduce the level of math required?"

Simplify, reduce, delete. Increase player choice and interaction and remove the math to the lowest amount required for the desired effect.

That is the CRUX of the game. The MATH is what drives the game (currently). Don't get me wrong, the problem is NOT the math... It's knowing a METHOD of HOW to "calculate" which seems like a problem...

Warklaxon wrote:
3> "Let's see how the game compares WITH a scoresheet...!?"

Scoresheets are good, but visual cues showing who is in lead as part of the game mechanics is better. This is really hard to achieve, though.

The problem I BELIEVE is NOT with the game... It's knowing HOW TO COMPUTE the score. Why??? Because there are a lot of "numbers" to think about. And you need to know what STATE your opponent is in. For example: "Is it better to lower your opponent's DEFENSE or increase your own DEFENSE?" Things like that... Or be able to COUNTER: "Because your opponent lowered your ATTACK, it might be wise to BOOST it back up!" Things like this NEED to be OBVIOUS. You need to KNOW "each" player's STATE to make meaningful decisions.

And this is the issue IF you need to "RE-COMPUTE" the STATE EACH TURN ... That's where the MATH becomes a problem. Since each turn the STATE of each player gets modified ... There is going to be WAY TOO MUCH computation that needs to be done. And you need to do it TWICE, once for yourself (to figure out how to better your position) and once for the opponent (to figure out how to weaken his/her position)...

This is the REAL problem: too much MATH. Or logically, no player aids to figure out what the SCORE is during ONE (1) TURN!

And then it happens for up to 3 TURNS... OMG... Just TOO MUCH MATH. And then there are TWO (2) BONUSES for the RPS-3s in the game: 1> An ATTACK bonus (+1,500 ATK) and 2> A DEFENSE bonus (+1,500 DFS). Some times they cancel each other out (again good to know), some times they are compounded (bad for one player) or at other times only one of the two RPS-3s is applied and lastly NO BONUSES period...!

The bonuses are LESS of a problem IF you knew/know the STATE of a player a each TURN. The "Enhancements" and how you PLAY them make it DIFFICULT to keep score IF you DON'T have a Scoresheet (for example).

It takes an example to understand... But it's easy to see...

Juzek wrote:
What is an example of the math in a typical turn? Can the feel be accomplished without any numbers? Can you keep all digits below 10?

I ALSO think the game has TOO MANY "cards" too. I made it 54 cards (3 x 18) and then each player discards 3 cards, making each Deck = 24 cards...

I'll give you a REAL-WORLD example... (with regards to the MATH):

1> Player #1 rolls a "2"... meaning Hand Size = 3 cards (1 + 2)

2> Both players draw 3 cards from their Deck (of 24 cards)

3> Player #1 gets a MONSTROUS hand with 2 "Red Dragons" (Second strongest card in the game). So 5,000 ATK and 6,000 DFS.

So Player #1 looks at his 3 cards. The other "Red Dragon" card can either penalize the opponent by -2,000 DFS (in a defensive usage) making it HARDER to defeat Player #1 "Red Dragon" or inflict "2x Flama ATK"...

Logically the Monster will be "Red Dragon" + "2x Flama ATK" + "-1,000 ATK x Die Roll" for the opponent...

4> Player #2 gets a CRAPPER of a hand with 2 "Gremlins" (The weakest cards in the game). So he will choose his "Giant Stingray" with 2,000 ATK and 2,500 DFS. (See all the MATH that is going on...)

He has no clue what Player #1 has... But logically the Monster will be "Giant Stingray" + "+2,000 DFS" + "+2,000 DFS".

5> Both players REVEAL their initial Monster + 1 Enhancement.

Player #1: "Red Dragon" + "2x Flama ATK" = 10,000 ATK and 6,000 DFS.

Player #2: "Giant Stingray" + "+2,000 DFS" = 2,000 ATK and 4,500 DFS.

6> Of course at this point Player #2 realizes that his/her Monster will be DEFEATED (10,000 ATK is MONSTROUS!!!) compared to 4,500 DFS. And moreover, Player #2 only has 2,000 ATK compared to 6,000 DFS...

Both Monsters are FLYING... So no ATTACK Bonus.

BUT Player #2 Aqua Monster beats Player #1 Flama Monster... Player #2 gets a DEFENSE Bonus ... So +1,500 DFS.

So now 10,000 ATK (Player #1) versus 6,000 DFS (Player #2)...

Still there is no way Player #2 is beating Player #1 Monster... But let's CONTINUE the Round with the LAST TURN.

7> Player #1 rolls a "3" and this means "3x -1,000 ATK"... Player #2 has 2,000 ATK - 3,000 ATK = -1,000 ATK (less than 0).

Now Player #2 adds "+2,000 DFS" to his/her Monster... And NOW YOU SEE the MATH DEBACLE... How HARD it is to keep everything in PERSPECTIVE.

Player #1: "Red Dragon" = 10,000 ATK and 6,000 DFS.

Player #2: "Giant Stingray" = -1,000 ATK (0) and 8,000 DFS.

8> Player #1 WINS the Round and KEEPS all three (3) of Player #2 cards! Player #1 discards all six (6) cards used in the Round (go into his/her discard pile).

So you can SEE ... From this EXAMPLE, how "challenging" the MATH really is. It's KINDA cool too... This was an EXTREME case of STRONG vs. WEAK... But you still see that it was "almost" a DRAW for both players surviving the Round.

IF you could simply PLUG in the NUMBERS and compute things so that it's NICE and NEAT ... Maybe it would be EASIER to FOLLOW. Trust me... That's how CONFUSING a Round can get...

Feel free to share your thoughts and/or advice!

Like I said, the game is "INTERESTING"...

It's NOT a complete failure... It's pretty simple ASIDE from ALL the math.

I think it has a LOT of potential. But something has to be done to organize the math (I think). @Jay103 (Jason) suggested that I offer a FREE PDF doc that is a Spreadsheet template, players can download and print. That's a cool idea... And it could help...

But I was thinking of a "re-usable" Scoresheet for one (1) Round with place to input numbers from a bunch of turns.

Perhaps if you did this... It might be more EASY to keep track of things and better react to your opponent's cards.

For the little bit of cards in the game... They offer a *SERIOUS* punch!

So 54 cards is just TOO MUCH...

The Deck size is prohibitive for actual "Game Play". I'm going to TRY to scale back to 36 cards with 12 for each player and 12 cards for the Graveyard (33% total card count) and see how this quantity will flow with the 2 Player Duel.

So instead of have 3x each Monster, you get 2x each Monster. And they are of course "balanced" because I have not removed a "odd" amount of cards.

I will see if this card count makes for a more interesting game... Remember I'm going for a LITE game, very accessible and simple to play. Having too many cards was in a sense prohibitive...

Get back to you good folks soon... Cheers!

Remembering the score is also a PROBLEM...

With regards to the "Scoresheet" idea... When you play, once you compute the scores, two things immediately happen:

1> You need to remember the scores for 4 variables.

2> If you forget one of the variables, you need to re-compute it.

These two (2) points are "bad" observations. You've already got enough MATH and now you need to keep REPEATING it IF you should ever forget ONE (1) of the variables important to the game.

Those four (4) variables are: 1> Your ATK, 2> Your DFS, 3> Opponent's ATK and lastly 4> Opponent's DFS!

Forget just ONE (1) of these and BOOM... You need to do MORE MATH AGAIN!!!

Order of card play IMPORTANT

Another after effect of playing "Enhancement" cards is the ORDER in which the various "Enhancements" enter play. For example the two (2) RPS-3s bonuses are applied on the LAST turn. This means that a +1,500 cannot become a +3,000 bonus by some multiplier (2x) that could occur on an earlier turn.

Very interesting too... I've completed a DRAFT of the "Scoresheet" and will need to finish it up later tonight.

But I think IF this game is to be SUCCESSFUL, it NEEDS a Scoresheet, something that is re-usable and has a UV Coating compatible with a Dry Ink Marker that will be included with the game.

Keep you all in the loop as I figure more out about this design!

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