The second playtest was done with seven players over four hours. In that time we got through seven turns. That was good, but still about twice the speed that the map game requires. EDIT: should be half the speed. So it needs more work, a bit more than I was hoping for, but there is still three months to go for playtesting and refinement.
Feedback – Keep
Players liked the monster, and liked the decision-making around which card to play on which option when governing their home cities. They liked the distinction between troops you could build and troops you could move (but there was also comment around how hard it was to verify the second part).
I think that using an exploding d4 for combat worked well. Mostly the bigger armies won, but there were a couple of upsets. I have 40 12 sided Roman/Greek numeral dice numbered 1-4 on the way to me now. Much easier to read than the traditional pyramid shaped dD4.
Feedback – Stop
Swapping Technology cards was annoying – players would have preferred a more consistent set of cards each turn. This might be mitigated in actual play, as I was swapping the cards around each turn so everyone got to see a range of game abilities. I was also swapping player roles around for the same reason. It was noted that the Lawyer has no map game ability, making it feel under powered.
While the movement phase was one minute long, the attempt to make all players move at the same time did not work well. Too much hanging back on final troop commitments. I need a system that is otherwise sequential, or allows all players to plot movement at the same time.
Trade – was not working as a tool for giving players something to do each game turn. Once you had a good trade deal, you stuck with it for most of the game. I think I am going to have to admit failure, and go back to something like a commodity card based trading system. If I do this, then it may make sense to create a Merchant role among the players.
City improvements were spiky, and luck with card draws dominated the early game. It looked like players preferred the Orichalcum upgrade path for slow but steady city improvement.
Comparing research scores between all players was another step where the counting was taking too long. While I was trying for a mechanic that prevents people from getting too much or too little research, I need a faster way of implementing this in the game. The DOOM input was also too time consuming (as it turned into an auction, that involved calculating square numbers).
Feedback – Start
I need to create some sticky labels for troop counters, so that the number of tokens in play is reduced to the minimum needed. Once people had >10 tokens in a region a lot of time was spent on counting tokens. Other feedback from the players: more monsters, more uses for money and a faster way for resolving diplomacy.
I am thinking that I should have Colossi involved in the game from the beginning, and provide more choices around how they are powered up. I did think about having a “King of Tokyo” mini-game, but don’t see a way to insert it without it costing more time.
I spent a bit of time on Sunday mulling over the feedback and scribbling ideas down. I think the way forward is to expand the role of the home city and its options, making them the core of the map game.
The idea here is have eight options on the player’s city map. Each map table will then have a number of regions that players can compete over (might be eight, might be 13). Each player gets a set of numbered objective tokens, so that we can determine which armies are going where.
The Tarot cards, rather than being used to represent city improvements, are instead used to represent Victory Points for controlling a region, and with Major Arcana cards also spawning Orichalcum (which is then used to upgrade cities). The deck will need to be reshuffled after about six game turns.
The ordinary playing cards, continue to be used for city options. Players should get six cards to allocate between the eight options. My thought here is to divide the options into two main types: actions this turn, and preparations for next turn. I am thinking about being able to use cash in place of a card, e.g. you can spend $10 to replicate a value 10 card. If money is scarcer than it has been in the first two playtests, this could be an interesting option. but if money is too easy to find, then its not going to make a better game.
Possible Map Turn Sequence
- Allocate Governance cards and Objective Markers (one minute)
- Reveal cards/markers (one minute)
- Move Hoplite, Trireme, Leader, and Colossus tokens from City option box to the Map Region that matches their objective marker (one minute).
- Resolve conflicts (if any) (ten minutes)
- Players not involved in conflicts can do other map admin work (e.g. handing out research cards)
- Collect rewards from winning conflicts (VP cards, cash, orichalcum, one use vote cards, trade cards, etc). (two minutes)
I was thinking that letting players challenge each other to combat would be cool and fitting with the Greek theme, but I see too much risk of it extending the time taken to resolve each turn. I really need map game turns to take no more than 15 minutes.
Just a quick idea: cap the number of Research points at the game turn number. This avoids the problem of comparing player scores, and puts a hard limit on how much research each team can do.