Game Design

Lessons from my latest playtest

I recently changed the theme and reconfigured quite a few of the elements of the game. It took a lot of thinking outside of the box to get the game to where it is now. Some of the biggest changes include:

  • I changed the theme from a Roman Republic to Empire type game, to fictional anthropomorphized animals of a woodland nation. (Think Animal Farm meets Redwall. [I’ll post some of the concept artwork in a future article!])
  • I made the Incident Cards that the nation will face more structured around different types of behavior and more open to multiple ways to resolve them. Some can’t be resolved, you’ve just gotta suck it up and try to improve your resources.
  • I’ve split up the cards that you use to form policy into tiny Input and Output cards. Now, players have many options to choose from when forming a policy.

After playtesting this version of the game recently, I noticed a lot of balance issues that need to be remedied:

  • The game is still too long. I’d like it to be about 45-60 minutes and I think it’s about 60-90 minutes. I’m going to look for ways to make things go by more quickly.
  • Incidents are still too difficult for players to solve. I’m going to soften the blow a bit on them.
  • Having twice the number of Outputs as Inputs is a great balance to form policy.
  • Outputs don’t provide enough resources, I need to up the ante on all of them.
  • It’s difficult for players to hit their conditions to Overthrow the government. I’m going to work on reducing the criteria they have to meet, and possibly allowing multiple criteria options. (You can Overthrow the government after x types of Incidents are resolved OR you get x number of a resource or unit for the nation.)

I’m excited, as this game is coming together well. These tweaks are minor. The concept artwork is fun! (I’m going to make the General of the Armies a frog, you guys!) After all this time, I’m glad to see this take shape.

The biggest challenge so far here is that I have to create 6 unique, challenging, and punishing (but balanced) forms of government—one for each type of character that you can play in the game. That means that I have to create 6 mini-games on top of the core game!

I definitely bit off a large chunk of work here. It’s taking a while to chew, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

Stay tuned for some early concept art!

By Neutrino Burrito

A writer and board game designer currently puttering about the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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