Last Saturday at Wellycon X, I ran the Aquila Rift Megagame, with the assistance of five control players and the enthusiasm of 26 players. A lot of the game files are available online, if you are interested in taking a look. Aquila Rift was intended to be more of a casual Megagame, and none of the players had played one before, and only a few had heard of them before Wellycon – although one player had watched the Shut Up & Sit Down Watch the Skies video several times.
Setup started around 1100 and took a bit over two hours with one other person helping. Travis was also heaven sent when another member of the Control team texted to tell me he had rolled his ankle that morning while tramping. Travis volunteered to drive out and do a pick up so we would not be shorthanded.
We had around 19 signups before Wellycon started, so we picked up several people on the day, and also had four last minute cancellations – they felt that they could not commit to a four hour game.
A live action game of Codenames ran over time, so we started late (~4.30pm) and played through to 8.30pm. All up we got through 18 map turns and six committee phases. I was pretty happy with how the interaction between the map game and the committee game worked. There were problems, but in general I think the concept works for the kind of low player number Megagame I can run in Wellington. Every player gets to wear at least two hats. If I could get 60+ players I would focus more on one role per player.
One new thing I did this time was to get some video. We did not have a spare person to run the camera, so I just left it in place with a Tripod. I will be teaching myself how to edit video this weekend and then I will try and put the highlights of game play and end of game speeches up on YouTube.
While law and order was maintained in some sectors, in others it collapsed, and pirates were able to “put the sector on farm”. The Viceroy gave good speeches, but teams were more united in the search for lost relics than in cooperating for the development of the sector. Some player feedback though t there were too many pirates. There were twice as many pirates as other roles, but only about one more Pirate than there were Patrol and Governor players.
The top five end of game plunder scores in the bank were:
- $1,163 – Alya
- $986 – Zachary
- $708 – Richard
- $698 – Jack
- $557 – Hannah.
On the whole I was happy with how the game system worked. Combat was the complicated bit, but it seems to have worked out okay – but one person did give feedback that it was too complicated. Where I was surprised, was just how much plunder appeared in the game – it was quite a bit more than in the playtests. This distorted the committee a bit, so if I run Aquila Rift again I would look at the plunder economy first, rejigging the committees second, and making combat simpler as the third priority. The search for the lost ships also seems to have been a good unifying element for teamwork in the game.
Number Crunching from the Feedback Forms
I got 20 responses to the feedback survey form. Not to future self, have a few biro pens lying around for this – dry erase pens are not good for writing feedback. People were asked to rate things from 1-5, and high numbers were usually good.
- Enjoyment 4.55 (high)
- Briefing 3.6 (room for improvement)
- Difficulty 3.2 (easy for some, hard for others)
- Rate of Play 3.45 (not too fast for most)
- Control 4.125 (good job guys!)
- Involvement 4.45 (good but several suggestions for more)
- Value 4.35 (good value).
I am very happy with the 4.55 rating for enjoyment! In terms of support for future games, 85% said they would like to play a Megagame again, and were willing to pay an the average of $27.65 for a whole day game and $18.50 for an evening game. Fourteen people also said they would like to help Control in the future. I think about 75% of the player and control team had read at least part of the game rules before the game.
I intend to recycle a lot of the game structure from Aquila Rift in The Galaxy Will Burn. Some players gave feedback on Aquila Rift that they wanted more politics, intrigue and an expanded faction game. TGWB will definitely have that.
My thanks go out to Wellycon for giving us the space to play in, to my control team of Alan, Dutton, Travis, John and Alistair, and to all of the players for an enjoyable game.
Hey, after reflecting on the experience (and getting some sleep O.o) I have some more feedback I’d like to share about the game. Wasn’t sure what the best place to put it was, so here I am! I hope you see this :D.
A few things made killing people hard:
Only being able to fire once a turn
Instant free regeneration at a base
Pursuing required guessing where they were headed, which was very inconsistent
While it would be important to make sure people can escape, these factors combined together made it almost inevitable, unless they either don’t try to escape or got very unlucky.
Also, I didn’t ever feel like there was a reason to fill in one of the red boxes to cause a secondary effect, except for the last few damage. Perhaps there could be some random allocation of damage? System targeting?
There wasn’t much differentiating the pirate, patrol, and governor players. All basically did the some thing – find a big stack of ships and go there alone.
I feel like this could differentiated a bit, for example:
Pirates could take all the ships if in a sector by themselves, or just take 1 if in a space with anyone else (i.e. they take all the loot).
Patrols could get smaller loot, but gain a bonus for fighting off pirates (i.e. they get paid for protection, more if they are successful)
Governors could get income for having a system with a lot of ships in it, but don’t get any plunder for going to places with many ships.
Perhaps adding to this, you could make certain committees role-specific. Only pirates could go to the black market, patrols go to patrol committee, and governors are at home in the senate. This could either be a rule (with some exceptions, e.g. perhaps a governor ‘knows some people’ at the black market and can get in), or just give bonuses – e.g. patrols get rank for going to the patrol committee.
The idea is to make pirates act like pirates, patrols like patrols, and governors like governors. So you reward pirates for stealing, patrols for protecting, and governors for governing.
Of course, these are just my suggestions from someone who’s played the game once. I don’t if these ideas would actually be good. But hopefully they’ll give you some ideas on how to improve TGWB! And I hope I get a chance to play it and see what you’ve done with it :).
Thanks for the feedback! COMBAT: Yes, I did make it deliberately hard to kill people – losing all your upgrades and plunder was a significant loss. In a game where players commanded multiple units, I would have a combat system more likely to take tokens off the map. There was an upgrade that allowed the attacker to allocate some of the damage, but it may not have turned up in the game. In hindsight, I think I could have started everyone with a free upgrade card. ROLES: Yes, the roles were fairly light, which did leave room players to create their own goals. I allowed open access to the different committees to represent corruption, but restricting the access, and then placing things players really want behind a barrier could lead to interesting negotiations. TGWB will use a similar system, but I will take the lessons from Aquila Rift and hopefully produce something that is engaging and facilitates emergent play.