Friday, November 30, 2007

Last Night's Playtest

So, last night I playtested the game with my roommate. We didn't have time to finish before he had to stop, but we did get like the first three turns in. For the first time we used the full-blown character creation system. What really struck me about this game is that basically, it worked, and we hardly had any real problems. Not only that, but we both picked themed parties of our own accord. I mean, we've now tested only a handful of abilities, but still, it's nice to see that the system works.

I've been pondering a lot about group actions. So, in my game, each turn both players are limited to a certain number of actions (usually 5), when the must control 10 people. However this can be somewhat circumvented by using "group orders." In a group order, a player tells a certain group of characters in close proximity to do the same thing. For example, "Hey you three over there, run forward!" In some ways this encourages specialization, and I had hoped it would give players additional choices when planning. However, I worry that it might be unbalanced. Here are my concerns:
-Group orders can only be given on move actions, shooting, and a few special abilities. It cannot be given to things such as casting a spell. My main worry is that this overpowers archers, who I have already been seriously thinking are too strong. I also worry that it will take something out of more specialized parties, since they will basically need to ignore one board in order to act.
-When I designed a game with only a limited number of actions per turn, my goal was to create a need for strong planning. Basically, when you have 10 things you want to do, but can only do 6 of them, it really puts you in a pinch, and you need to rank how important each action is. I worry that with group actions, it takes something out of that (since rarely do I not have enough orders to do everything I want).
-A major reason I don't have certain orders available for big groups is how specific they need to be. For example, to program a construct, you need to name a character, her constructs, and what order they'll be given. In some ways, this doesn't work for groups, since they couldn't all target the same construct. I have considered making the game less rigid, so that you don't need to declare a target when making an order, and this would solve that problem. However, I worry that that takes a lot of the planning out of the game.

The best way to figure this out is just to playtest a game without group orders, and see how it changes (and whether players revolt). However, I've had a few thoughts on how to improve them:
-Make more things available as group actions. For example, multiple characters can throw the same spell. (I mean, I guess this is reversing an initial problem: The first time I played the game, one player gave everyone Teleport, and just overwhelmed his opponent with group orders. The solution seemed to be limiting it, so that if you really wanted to do something special with a lot of people, it would cost you several orders. Maybe I went a little too far...)
-Alternatively, I could consider making shoot no longer a group action (however, that means I basically have "move" and "retreat", which seems kind of crappy).
-Lastly, I could make it easier to move with summoned creatures. In my last game, each of my vessel characters had a pack of summoned creatures they were ordering around. Because of that, to move an entire party, it meant that I needed to use 5 actions (each using a command summoned creatures ability). Maybe it would be better to do that differently, where moving with your summoned creatures counts as a move action. My worry though is that it would somewhat overpower summoned creatures (because now you can group them up), which are already fairly powerful to begin with. Maybe not though.

A final thought: I was talking to the roommate a few days ago, and I brought up removing group actions. He said I should leave them in, since it's very much in the theme of my game. Orders represent the head prisoner barking commands at her lackies, so why shouldn't she be able to say, "Hey you three, kill that!" It made me wonder, is a game mechanic worth leaving in, just because it fits so well with the theme?


“‘Where to we go from here?’ ‘Who says were’re here?’” – George Carlin

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