So we managed to fit a playtest in during the Holidays. Some things worked well, some things did not, and as usual we only got halfway through the game before we ran out of time (after a four hour delay to the start of the game). People had fun, and I think the point of maximum fun was the interactions in the political round. So that is something to concentrate on for the next iteration.
The initiative sequence was a bit confusing, and a fixed initiative would mean less time was wasted. Perhaps I can resurrect the Hegemon portfolio as an initiative decider, as was the case in earlier versions of Housewar.
Leader variability was crucial to voting, two players with leaders could have vote totals of 4 and 20 respectively. When it was possible for just two players to dominate voting, they usually did so. So perhaps I should incline the game engine towards a narrow distribution range for vote totals, so that a dominate coalition is likely to require a majority of the players to participate.
Confidence: went down nicely, but the Emperor did not change for six turns or so, which is too infrequently. Perhaps a bit of the First president syndrome in Junta. Because the Emperor was not changing blame was not being assigned. Glory at least, was moving upwards for everyone at a reasonable pace.
Sinecures: needed to come out faster, a deck management issue, we simply didn’t have enough player money in the game.
Transitive cost mechanics, presenting players with a cost-benefit chart was an inducement to headache inducing math calculations. better to work out the break points before hand and just have them as fixed costs.
Crises were manageable, in part because the players had twice the military strength of the republic in Republic of Rome, but the same purchasing power to build more units.
Bribes needed to be easier to work out. A lot of the mechanics I tried proved to be too fiddly, so need to be simplified or eliminated.
Thoughts for next time.
Playing the deck building game dominion (largely a solitaire, positive feedback loops, game) was interesting. I still tend to shy away from deck building games for the principle reason that a deck of cards is the most expensive component in a boardgame – I think every 50 cards or so would add $20 to the retail price of a published small print run game. I spent part of the week playing around with deck building ideas.
One set of ideas was to have four decks of cards for each of decadence, politics, and combat, with a house tapping leaders to buy cards from the various decks. A Rank I card might cost one leader point, a Rank IV card might cost ten leader points. That would factor in transitive costs, but at the risk of lower rank decks being too easily exhausted, or require a very large number of cards.
A second set of ideas was for each house to have their own deck of cards. This still requires quite a few cards, but it does have some useful things it could do. Such as making a choice to use a powerful one use per game card ability, permanently weakening your deck. If each House has a slightly different deck, or unique power,
A third idea, which does not conflict with the previous two, was making the Decline deck be a straight draw of six cards per turn, all the cards being bad shit that hits the Empire. Trying to mix player benefit cards, and disaster events, always leads to an uneven spread of events. So one turn nothing bad happens, the next turn ten rebellions break out.
Tonight’s brainwave is that eliminating a decadence phase could speed up play. But decadence can be kept in, by allowing a player to invoke decadence when “passing”. So in the Senate, when you see that a group of players has a dominant coalition and will control everything this turn, you just start passing and scoring +1 Glory each time a vote is held.
Needless to say, players would try and game the system, but with a voting mechanic I think that can self-correct over time in a way that is harder to do with auction mechanics (which is traditionally how I have handled Decadence in Housewar).