Something old, something new, something borrowed

This has been a bit of a tricky post to write. Trying to get the balance right in a couple of ways. I'm not sure I've succeeded. You judge.

So a couple of weeks or so ago I received a proposal from a friend and fellow game designer, Tom Coldron, who had a game that he had got working but wanted someone else to spend some time looking at it, and was wondering if I would be interested in this, and in exchange he would do the same for one of my games.  This sounded like a great idea to me, so I sent Tom the files for Boogie Knights (which works, but isn't really satisfactory), and he sent me a game called Elvic.

Elvic is a small game designed to fit in a mint tin, and is what I would describe as an area control game with action selection.  Slightly less jargony: each round players have access to a card which gives them a couple of options, and they select the way they use that card to put tokens onto cards representing regions in the kingdom, then you score points at the end of the game according to whether or not they have the most tokens in each region.

Mid-game for our first play at the Jugged Hare.
I got to try the game out with one of my local groups, and found that we liked the game in general but were frustrated by one particular aspect, and we experimented with tweaks to this in a second play. These changes didn't really do what I wanted it to, but at least gave some ideas for me to work with, largely due to some great suggestions from the playtesters.

This is the bit I've been having trouble with as I don't want to put down Tom's work at all (he's made -- aside from that issue -- a cracking game that I enjoyed playing and that I wouldn't have made myself) or say that I have solved his problem, or even that the issue we saw was one that existed for any other group.  I've been finding it really interesting to explore someone else's design and tweak it to see if it suits me (and my playtesters) a little more.

Anyway, a few days later, and with a slightly modified game, it was a day for a trip to London for playtesting, so for the first time I went along bearing somebody else's game. We had a four-player game that took the lower end of what I was expecting the play time to be, and my colleagues kindly agreed to have another play straight away. 

There was actually relatively little feedback articulated at the end, just a few relatively minor points, and play involved some furrowed brows and growling at a number of the decisions.  Normally it's good to have a decent discussion about the game, but I'd picked up plenty of information through play, and we wanted to move on to allow another designer to test their game after I had been hogging table time.  In both plays of Elvic, over the last couple of rounds there was a certain amount of counting up potential scores in order to optimise moves, which didn't take long, and suited the headspace the players were in, but might be a negative for some players. I think this is largely just a feature of this style of game, trying to optimise your endgame to eke out those last few victory points.

Overall this was a really encouraging session and suggested that the game might be moving in the right direction (it was pretty close beforehand) but I want to see a few more playtests, with assorted player counts (I've not yet tried it with two players) and levels of gaming experience (remember that this day's testers were all game designers) before I hand it back to Tom to see what he makes of my suggested changes. Thanks for the opportunity, Tom!

I'm also really looking forward to see what he thinks of for Boogie Knights, as and when.

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