As an aside, it is generally more effective to sit out and observe a playtest, which allows you more easily to watch what the players are doing, and make notes as you go along. I find, however, that at this stage of a game's development, where it is changing quite rapidly, being involved can be a very effective way to get a feel for how the game plays, even at the cost of weaker in-play notes.
|My usual blurry photography (not got effective shake compensation on the phone), |
but going for more interesting angles this time.
As it turned out, the game ran smoothly, and these two players were really enthusiastic about it. There were a few areas where the rules were less than perfectly clear and I had to re-explain a few times, and we cut the game off at about an hour of play, as it looked like it would run maybe another twenty minutes or so before ending.
A few really useful take-aways from this session:
- Adding a full set of crew abilities so that every crew member had some text ability paid off, and I think most of the abilities in play were actually used at least once. Some fun combo play emerged, but I'm going to need to go through the possibilities carefully (and some of the details of card play) to ensure things don't get out of control.
- Thinking of the details of card play, I have a couple of suggestions on how to tidy things up, and one of the players instinctively found a really efficient way of laying out their card tableau.
- The game, as I mentioned before, was running long, which is partly because as it stands, player-versus-player combat just tends to make the game longer. I have a couple of ideas to help here, including ways to keep the treasure and merchant decks ticking over, but also...
- The treasure deck as it stands is just a regular deck of playing cards, which has been more or less adequate so far, but now really needs to be rethought. My feeling at the moment is to have a smaller deck, containing three "suits", with many cards providing treasure for more than one suit, to make set collection both easier and more interesting.
- As for the p-v-p combat, this went down remarkably well, with one of the players building a crew that made it effective for them to attack other players, while I managed to build a crew that could generally evade attacks and recover quickly if that didn't work out.
Overall, while we didn't find deep problems (I always feel suspicious when that happens), this was a really positive experience, with both testers giving me a lot of encouragement to keep moving forward. I'm sure to find more problems in the coming weeks and months (I'll certainly be looking!) but it's nice to know that even in a flawed form, the game can, at least sometimes, entertain. That's a great place to be.
So my focus for the next iteration is to get the playing time down. I would really like the game to play in less than an hour -- and if I can get it down to within 45 minutes I'll be a lot more confident about it's future.
After the first round of testing, there was a bit of disruption due to our usual venue having a large party booked from the later part of the afternoon, leaving no space for us to stay. During the first round of testing, our esteemed leader had taken a trip to another nearby pub and negotiated a room for us to use. So we went on a short walk to the new place and a function room that was comfortable, spacious and quiet, perfect for our needs.
Once we were relocated I only really had time to play one other prototype, but it was a fun one, inspired by Japanese hanafuda cards, and made into a game of prehistoric hunting and gathering. Very enjoyable.