November 6, 2011

The Status of the Expedition

My current lead design project, Frontier Scoundrels, has traversed some difficult terrain lately. I finally played the game from start to finish, which was excellent, but also showed me just how far I needed to go.

The feedback from the test was as follows:
  • Explorers didn't have enough interesting choices. They were basically pawns while the Expedition Leader and War Party battled it out. They had little incentives for either outcome, as well.
  • Event cards (now Action cards) played almost no role in the game. They were too hard to obtain and didn't matter much.
  • Resolving Hardships was too easy.
  • The Land mechanic was interesting on paper, but nobody really liked it as executed. During the test, each Explorer selected 1 Land card (from a hand of 3) and gave it to the Expedition Leader face-down. 
I tried to solve these problems in a few ways.
  • I made it so that Explorers played a Land card in clockwise order. Instead of the Expedition Leader choosing the order, the Explorer picked it. This actually simplified the game, sped it up, and made the Explorers' choices more interesting.
  • I modified the Land to benefit the Explorers more and the Expedition Leader less. This made it so that Explorer's could play cards that leaned in their favor.
  • I made it so Explorers earned points as well as the Expedition Leader (though fewer), but also would gain more dice to use throughout the game. 
  • I gave players more Action cards at the start of the game and added several ways to get them (primarily tied them into Land to once again make the Explorer's choice more interesting). 
  • I made Hardships more difficult by increasing/decreasing the numbers and putting more restrictions on how the dice could be used. I also cleaned up the mechanics here to be more consistent. Just a better change overall. 

I sent these rules and content to a design friend who has been incredibly helpful for past games. In addition to cleaning up the words and flow of the rules, he gave me the comment "I think as an Explorer I'd be bored." That's pretty much the worst thing I want to hear, so I went back and realized I needed to change the flow of the game.

Before his comment, the Expedition Leader chose who would come along (i.e. which Explorers would help and play Land cards). The Expedition Leader would then dictate who would have to assist him with the Hardship. 

No more!

Now, the Expedition Leader chooses who comes along. Then, the Explorers play the Land cards, in order. The Land cards have received yet another scrub to make the Explorers' choices very interesting as there are now multiple paths to victory (i.e. earning points) and the Explorer can lean into one or the other. Finally, multiple Explorers now work to resolve a Hardship...if they choose to do so.

Only the Explorer who played the Land card must participate in the Hardship. Therefore, the Explorer is picking their arena when playing the Land card. This Explorer may play up to three of their own dice. Then, in clockwise order, each Explorer may choose to participate, or not. If they choose to do so, they can select one die to roll. Once all Explorers have had their say, the Expedition Leader may distribute dice to the participating Explorers to use. I'll explain why these choices matter.

If the Hardship is successfully resolved by the Explorers, the Expedition Leader earns 2 Points and may attempt the next Hardship.

If it's successfully resolved, the Explorer who played the Land card earns 1 Point. 

Finally, if it's successfully resolved, the player who rolled the best earns a reward; +2 Points or the ability to Add/Trade/Steal 1 Die. Note that an Explorer may earn the bonus even if they played the Land card.

The Explorers are competing with each other to earn points. They are competing with the Expedition Leader to help him (while they help themselves) or hinder him. They may side with the War Party...or not.

This shift makes it so that everyone is involved the entire game. It means players choose how they want to succeed. It actually cleaned up several of the more fiddly aspects of the design. I'm very excited about these new changes. 

I realize that your knowledge of Frontier Scoundrels may vary greatly, which means this post may be interesting or indecipherable. I've written about Frontier Scoundrels before:
But, if you aren't interested in trawling through my old posts but ARE interested in the game, post a comment in this thread or send me a message via Twitter and I'll send you the rules. I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback. 

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