February 9, 2012

And a two and a three (Poor Abby)

I've been hustling (and taking advantage of my hour long shuttle ride every day) to test and update Poor Abby Farnsworth. I was able to work in a second and third playtest this week. These tests incorporated the feedback from the first test.

Before I discuss the tests and the changes, you can read the updated rules for Poor Abby Farnsworth here. Feedback is appreciated! 

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery 

This quote has been a guiding phrase for Poor Abby's development. I find that every playtest I streamline or remove a feature and it is improving the game every time. I noted offhand this morning that if my rules are longer after I incorporate my feedback I did it incorrectly, but it's somewhat accurate.  

After the third test, I feel we have some fairly refined core mechanics. Not refined as in "I'm shipping this soon," but refined as in I think we'll be digging more into the content (cards, balance, strategy, tuning) which will inform the decisions I make on the game's structure.

I feel the fundamental focus of the design are shining through: a new way of doing things (not revolutionary, but evolutionary). A faster deckbuilding game. More player interaction. More traditional board game entities to wrestle over. I'm excited and I hope I can push the game further from its contemporaries (Ascension, Dominion, Alien Frontiers) and more towards its own beast that players are excited by.

Second and Third Test Reactions
Parts of the second test worked better. It was easier to control Jurors, but the cards specifically designed to control Jurors were awkward.

The dice mechanic, whereby a player had to assign a die to control the Juror, was a good trade off. But, the cost of Court Actions was so high that it basically meant a player could never do them. Furthermore, summing the Influence cards plus die made some Jurors impossible to re-take, which stalled the game (and therefore grew boring).

I inflated the costs of cards too much, which meant players couldn't do enough. Also, the overmax mechanic was interesting, but poorly implemented. Now, once you reach a pair, it only costs 1 Influence card to increase the value. For example, if I have a 3 and a 2 rolled, I pay one Influence to turn the 2 into a 3. Now I have a pair! For each Influence I play now, I increase the value of that pair by 1, which makes it easier to manipulate Court Actions (and purchase cards).

Another problem was the scoring. There was an overly complicated mechanic involving one type of Evidence (now streamlined to one point per). You'd also receive points for having control of a Juror but ONLY at the end of the game. This meant you always wanted to claim a Juror, then fortify, then sit and drain Influence. Now, each player has one card (that they start with). This card allows you to score 2 Points for each Juror you control (up to 2) with at least 2 Influence cards. However, you lose control of the Juror. So, players can earn points throughout but there's a trade-off. You still earn points at the end of the game based on controlled Jurors, amount of Influence used, and a few other factors. But, now it's far more dynamic.

Here are some other quick notes:

  • Players freely mixed steps 1 (court actions/dice) and 2 (play cards). I combined them for test 3 and it actually simplified things. 
  • We made it such that a higher pair trumps an existing court action, giving players a way to circumvent a block
  • I reduced overall Influence cards (again) from 15 to 10 to shorten the game and make Influence more precious.
  • I removed the "play to control juror" cards and tweaked their functionality. Now there are (essentially) two types of Evidence: Play in front of you (somewhat like Ascension Constructs) and Play then discard (like every card game ever).
  • Play in front cards cannot be used to control Jurors
  • Removed Summon a Witness court action. It required too many dice (3) and was too powerful. 
  • Remove the ability to summon a witness, so now, there are three Jurors and the other 5 cards are set aside for the duration of the game.
  • Now, the player who Controls the Juror must still assign a die, which means he cannot roll that. But, the number on the die is irrelevant. The player may take advantage of the action on the Juror once per turn. The actions are quite nice and are called Juror Actions.
  • Several cards, like Blasphemy, needed to be balanced. Others needed to be improved to be more viable. I'll be doing things like this for months

I apologize if you haven't been following the game incredibly closely. For the sake of keeping this short and focused, I'm assuming you've read the previous posts. At the very least, the previous post should help familiarize yourself with the premise. Not to mention the rules!

Thanks for reading.

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