Colonising London

This weekend saw another trip to London for a Playtest UK meetup, and this time I took along Invaded, my game of indigenous tribes in a land being invaded by a strong colonial power.  These particular meetups start at around 1pm, and comprise a series of 90 minute slots with a few minutes' break between each.  There are generally three slots in the day (I think four have been known), usually with three or four tables running during each slot.   I was invited to run my game in the first slot, and got three volunteers to try it out.
A first ever 4-player game, including a slightly reticent colonial power.
I set out the prototype and stumbled through my rules explanation, and got surprisingly few questions.  That doesn't tell me anything in itself; it's what happens later that counts.  So, what did happen later?...

Well, the biggest thing that came out of this test is that the colonial forces took far too long to actually engage with the players, and only really did so as the game was coming towards an end. The activities of the non-player force is pretty much the raison d'ĂȘtre of the game, so its influence should begin to be felt pretty much from the beginning.  In discussions across the table we came up with a couple of relatively simple things to try and that, combined, should take us in the right direction.  First, there needs to be incentive for players to set up near the colonial landing ground, something which can be done by making those lands more productive from a resource point of view.  Secondly, the colonials need to be more proactive in moving forward and not have cards in their deck which often have no effect.  The plan for this second point is to put more than one action on the cards in the colonial deck, so each card is effectively of the form: "Take this action; if that is not possible/relevant, take this other action."  The next iteration of the game will be testing these tweaks.

There were plenty of other issues that came up, most of which are entirely relevant, but I am judging to be of lower importance right now.  Here are some of them...

  • The "press your luck" aspect to gathering resources worked fine, but the consensus was that the fact that you were effectively gambling with your action opportunities didn't seem right and it should be more about what resources you are looking for.
  • Gaining colonial favour could be made more interesting if, say, the player with the most favour could have some influence over colonial actions.
  • The resource market is uninteresting, and only really came into play a couple of times.
  • Gaining enmity from other tribes seems an interesting concept, but the downside to it is very small at the moment.
  • The balance of victory point rewards from objectives is completely wrong, and there is not enough variety in the objectives.
There was also an interesting comment that the game is very different to most other hobby games.  Whereas players are generally used to building something and developing greater efficiency throught a game, Invaded starts with players in relatively strong positions and things tend to go downhill from there.  Or at least they would if the colonial power did anything interesting.

Aside from the various comments and criticisms, the general flow of the game went well, downtimes were short (mostly longer while I was taking notes about something), and the overall concept really grabbed everyone's attention.  This was another great session for me: I got a feeling that I am definitely right to be working on this game, but we found some problems and identified directions for me to take in its future development.  I'm definitely looking forward to moving it along some more.  Huge thanks to J, W and M for their help.