Buckets – Grand Strat Washup

June 7, 2011

What went right?

Sometimes you forget the things that go right, because they do not cause you any stress on the night.

  • Venue was good, with excellent lighting
  • Map creation went okay (about three hours), helped by players who found errors on the between map movement routes
  • Printing was all done when I got there
  • The assistant GMs were all awesome under pressure (Thanks Will, Jan, and Tim)
  • Volunteers who helped with counter/card preparation were also much appreciated
  • Counters were okay
  • Late sign ups were heartening
  • Gameplay, things starved and plagued in a satisfying manner
  • Combat felt a bit more stremlined than last year
  • Most of the players seemed to be having a good time
  • Raiders seemed to work okay
  • Support from my hosts (Jan and Rose) with a place to stay and transport to/from event was a great help
  • Player behaviour was pretty good.

What went wrong?

This is a longer list.  I think I should preface the list by saying: “Dillon needs to stop being a hero, and start sharing some of the design work for these games.”

  • Adding a Victory Point penalty for having the Demon unit, and not telling people about it, was a big bad dumb GM move
  • Map Design: the central team should have been given more assets on the Southern/Northern maps, as it was Texarkana and the Neo-Federals were playing in somewhat of a vacuum
  • Resource Spawn: feedback from the GMs was that this was the most time-consuming part of processing each player turn at a game map (at least early on
  • Not enough to do: there was very little to do during map turns, except wait for a turn at the map
  • Meta-gaming: there was a bit of meta-gaming play around manipulating the queue mechanic, and some attempts at filibustering with Presidential speeches
  • Raider unit Off-Map movement: a lot of players wanted to move Raider units between maps as part of a move, and the ‘Off-Map’ phrase did suggest that this was not an unreasonable expectation for them to hold, although it didn’t actually say ‘Between-Map’ move … the reason I did not allow this is it would have made Raider units too powerful, essentially gaining the ability to teleport between any empty space on the map.
  • Player:Map table ratio was out of equilibrium.  The original design was for twenty players (the number of sign ups a week before the con), which would have worked for the three tables, once there were almost 35 players, the waiting times for actions grew too long, especially on the crowded “Western” table, this also links to…
  • Too many action tokens: based on last year, I thought we could get through sixty action tokens a turn with three map tables.  I dd not properly account for adding more options for gameplay into each player turn.  In theory non-presidential players had 4-6 decisions to make in sixty seconds, which was a heroic assumption on my part for people who might not have played such a game ebfore, or even read most of the rules.  This also links to…
  • Too many players: we had close to 15 signups on the day of the game, and with that many players there needed to be more maps and more things for them to do.  I should have had more faith in my earliest expectations about sign ups and kept working up a game for for five teams of 6-7 players each.  As it was I had already thrown a few things out and merged other roles together, and it was too late on Saturday to retro-fit it back in.
  • Treaties were hard to enforce: some of them were barely legible, pre-generated forms would have helped here.  I’m not sure if they helped or hindered gameplay, but the Diplomacy phase did give the GMs a much needed break.
  • Assassins: not sure if these helped or hidnered the game either, they had about a sixty percent chance of success and teams got about two attempts each if they submitted RFA forms (again, these should have been pre-generated, I mis-read the target on one form).
  • Quality Assurance: rules and components could have done with one more QA pass by somebody who was not Dillon.
  • A few players seemed to leave early – suggests they were not having a fun time.

Initial Thoughts for Next Time

First, recruit a few co-GM/designers early on.  Second, set a clear date for pre-registration for the game and an absolute cap on the number of players (probably somewhere in the 25-25 range).  Third, find mini-games that they players can do when not at the map tables, which can be resolved between players or with a very light GM footprint.  Those are probably the big three things I want to do next year.

Some more specific ideas:

  • One minute timers at each map table
  • Use a Holistic Action Token System (i.e. draw action tokens from a HAT to determine which faction moves next at that map table, so each team wants one person at a map table, not three people waiting in line)
  • Collect e-mails during pre-registration, and e-mail the rules and all other supporting game materials to players no later than one week before the game
  • Try to tie the LARP to the Grand Strat (if the ideas are strong and its not going to break either game).

Next post, I will work through some more specific themes and ideas for next year.