September 8, 2011

Frontier Scoundrels: Second Playtest Results

I got tired of waiting for friends to have a chance to playtest Frontier Scoundrels (people are busy!), so I played a four player game against...myself. It seems silly, but it was an incredibly useful act and I made some good changes because of it.

Here are a few things I learned about the game...

I really enjoy the Explorer bonuses (i.e. which dice you roll) combined with the Command cards. Command cards are assignments dealt by the current Expedition Leader. Players with Command cards roll dice to try to win a Hardship. However, each Command card conveys different bonuses and abilities. For the Expedition Leader, assigning them is a great choice that is fun but not too heavy. You have to quickly scan to see what the challenge is, who is participating, how many points everybody has, which dice they can bring, how the bonuses will change this, and then think about who can do the most damage with the bonus contained on a card.

The challenge is that you must give out Command cards, but which ones and to whom? You must involve the others! The other great part is that sometimes you get Command cards that are basically duds, which restricts your choices even further.

I was really pleased with this mechanic.

It was difficult to test the Frontier Scoundrel cards by myself. Each player has a set of them and different cards can be played at different times. Some are offensive, others defensive, and some can be used in both ways. What I did learn, however, is that three of the nine cards I had were worthless and never seemed useful. I cut these three and swapped them out for two new cards: one allows a player to wager against the current hardship (which is especially great if you aren't participating in the current turn) and the other allows a player to counter another Frontier Scoundrel card.

The cards I did use were useful and entertaining.

I really enjoyed the two different dice mechanics the game currently employs. I fiddled with the tuning on some of the cards, but I thought the current weight and probability of the dice felt pretty good. Two of the Eight Hardships tried were failed. Another two were almost failed, but a good roll and some well-placed Frontier Scoundrel cards fixed things. Perfect! Well, I may actually want 3 of 8 to be failed, but we can see how that goes. Dice will be dice...
The current mock up for Hardship cards...
I'm currently worried the punishments for failure won't affect the game enough. I added a -1 Point penalty for Expedition Leaders when Hardships are failed to make them sting just a little bit more. I did this for another reason as well, however. I noticed that later in the game players didn't have enough options by which to gain the lead. I think this -1 point loss will give players another way to hurt the leader in hopes of taking the lead themselves.

I tweaked a lot of the numbers pertaining to most Hardships, re-wrote a few of the punishments, and tweaked some of the tuning on Frontier Scoundrel cards. The score was fairly tight, which I enjoyed. I really like the current bonus mechanic and how it's an advanced strategy to try to figure out who will get the bonus to stop them from getting it.

A bit surprisingly, I found out that not one, but two other designers are working on exploration games. One is even working on a Lewis and Clark themed game (dammit) titled Corps of Discovery, which was the first name for Frontier Scoundrels. And there I was thinking Lewis and Clark was a fairly safe bet for a unique theme...

1 comment:

Benny Sperling said...

I play a LOT of my prototypes solo, i.e. against myself playing all four or five players. It is difficult to produce multiple "players" when you know what's in all of the hands. But it is a good place to start. I feel if it is compelling at that point then I want to put it in front of other people. My wife is instrumental in this help as she will play two players and I will play two players. My buddy Donnie is also helpful in this regard. Playing alone and dividing your attention among 4 sets of actions, cards, dice is a challenge, but it helps ferret out the weaker stuff to let the playtesters focus on the more important elements. Good job!!