July 23, 2011

Learning the Hard Way and the Second Edition

For almost 6 years now I've made games for my employers. This is totally righteous and I am thankful every day I get to do this  instead of selling paper for a living. That being said, the process of designing and building my own game has been one of the coolest things ever.

But, if you take on all the risk, and if you're the only one doing things, you have no safety net. All my mistakes, and boy it seems I've made some, are on me. I've pulled Farmageddon from the online store where I sell it for the time being to improve the rules from a polish/elegance standpoint, as well as from a balance/design standpoint. The good news is, the cards and art won't need to change.

I tested Farmageddon quite a bit even before I decided to hire an artist. But, you can never test enough! Now that the game has sold a few copies I've gotten a bit more feedback and learned even more about how people play my game, how they interpret my rules, and what they deem fair, fun, or interesting. At some point you have to put your foot down and say NO MORE. This is the game! You cannot please everyone all the time. But, when you hear some consistent feedback, it's prudent in my opinion to address it.

All my self-loathing aside, almost everyone who bought the game in its current state has enjoyed it. I didn't create Daikatana. But, I didn't create Catan, either.


  • The rules have received a scrub to fix some typos. I think these are utterly embarrassing! 
    • I wrote "red Crop Cards and green Farmer Cards." Too bad the Crop Cards are green and the Farmer Cards are red.
    • I explained what every individual Farmer Card did...except the Bumper Crop. Good thing the explanation on the card is sufficient!
  • The rules have received a scrub for clarity and elegance. 
    • I moved the "How to Win" section to the top. I don't know why I didn't do this. Players should see this first as everything else ultimately feeds into it.
    • I've worked really hard to better explain the Crop to Compost conversion.
    • I expanded the Common Questions (i.e. FAQ) section.
    • Overall, it's now better written. You can edit 2 pages 20 times and you'll always find something new to tweak.
  • The game now has customized rules for 2 Players. The game has always worked for 2 players, but it was meant for 3 or 4 players. Unfortunately, I didn't do my due diligence testing or designing for 2 players. Interestingly enough, almost all of my early customers have played the game with 2 players. I guess I assumed that most people would play the game at their once a month casual board game meet up. But, it turns out that the type of people willing to take a risk on a card game are also the type of people that play them all the time with their wives, boyfriends, or roommates. I should have considered that.
    • Players draw more Crop Cards.
    • Players must use more Compost.
    • Players can use more Farmer Cards.
    • Crop Rotation has a special 2 Player rule.
  • Farmer Cards needed to be balanced. Random and chaotic is fun, but I intended the game to have a (admittedly light) layer of strategy. If you're playing a four player game and all four players can play infinite Farmer Cards, well, chaos will occur. This is fun for the winner, not fun for everyone else. Now, Farmer Cards can only be used sparingly. This adds choice (which is what makes games great), it adds limits (which makes games fair), but with four players it will still allow for some chaos (which is something I personally love in a game). 
  • Thresher Farmer Card needed to be re-designed. This is a card that made sense when I explained it. It mostly made sense when folks read it. But, it was also prone to misinterpretation. As it turned out, the misinterpretation was far cleaner and accomplished what I wanted. I've simplified this card.
  • Tokens have been added to indicate ownership. I used pennies and whatnot during the prototype so players knew which cards were theirs. Due to oversight and sloppiness, I forgot to include these (though I corrected it a week ago) for the published version. Now, the game comes with 3 colored tokens for each player to use. 
I'm a little embarrassed that a few folks paid $15 for what now looks like a beta test. If this were software I could issue a patch. But, it's not and that's very serious. Luckily, most of my customers are personal friends or family members. I can mail them the updated rules. Those that aren't are mostly folks who frequent the site where I publish the game. I can get them the updated rules as well. 

For my next game, I'm going to personally test the hell out of the game and balance it, like I did with Farmageddon. Then, I'm going to stomach the cost and mail a handful of friends and enthusiasts a copy and say "go!" 

I'm going to test my new rules. If all pans out, I'll upload the new rules, update Farmageddon to second edition, and give it the shot it deserved the first time around.

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