There is a bit of clichéd advice from the writing world that has carried over to the field of game design: "Kill your darlings". The idea is that if there are characters, plot elements, etc. that you love but don't further the overall story, then they should go. In the case of game design, that mechanism or component that you feel is totally awesome but which gets in the way of the intended play experience... axe it!
One of the more contentious parts of The Village on the River -- the "flip and write" game I am working on with Chris O'Regan -- is the way that resources are gained. The game was initially designed to work with a standard deck of playing cards, where the number cards of three suits represented resources that you could acquire, with the twist that each number indicated a unique "block" of that resource. So, you could claim the 7 of Diamonds card and circle the 7 of Diamonds spot on your playsheet, which meant that you gained a unit of money which you could spend later. There were some other ways to gain resources too, which meant that you could choose a spot to circle regardless of that number. If, on a previous turn, you had gained money and represented this by circling the 7 of Diamonds, then if the matching card came up later, you could not choose to take it as that block was already claimed.
This was something that grew out of the use of the playing cards, and stayed when we revised the game to use custom cards where the "suits" were actually people, stone and money rather than Hearts, Clubs and Diamonds. Spades became construction actions, if you are interested. Also the numbers turned into letters, but that is even less relevant.
|My playsheet from the latest test. And a win!|
Anyway, some players have enjoyed the quirkiness of this system and the texture it imparts to play, but overwhelmingly players have bounced off it, sometimes because they just find the rule unintuitive or hard to understand, and sometimes for other reasons like it feeling like the game was sometimes randomly punishing them for choosing the wrong thing and having no information about that choice in advance.
So... Eventually we decided that we could at least try the idea out. All we needed to do is play the game but ignore the letters both on the cards and on the play sheet and see how it went.
The first play doing this felt OKish to me, but a bit wrong to Chris. One of the things we had observed was that the method we had built in for players to keep track of the resource cards that showed up in the game (should they so wish) now felt really wrong, and our standard ways of playing just didn't feel quite right.
We left it a few weeks after that, with both of us doing other things and not getting around to further work or meetings. Then the next time we played, with a little distance from the original decision, everything pretty much fell into place. The resource tracking still didn't sit right for us, but otherwise we both felt that the game was easier to play but still felt like it had decent levels of challenge.
Our current thinking is that we will try testing the game with other people with the simplified rules, which looks likely to become the "standard" way to do things. We think that the "resource letters" may be kept as a sort of advanced play mode, but we'll see how things go.