Things don't always go that way so I'm just really enjoying it. Frontier Scoundrels and Space Encounters were both huge struggles with no end in sight, so it's nice to see some positive rays. Dice, deckbuilding, witches...what's not to love (at some point)?
After my fourth test I think the game clearly works at a functional level. We played an entire game, the pacing was right, there were cool choices, a little strategy, it was fun. But it's not fun enough and it's not different enough. Remember that there are several outstanding games with deckbuilding: Dominion, Eminent Domain, Ascension, Quarriors, plus games like A Few Acres of Snow and the upcoming Princes of the Dragon Throne include DBG engines. Now that the structure and foundation of Poor Abby are strong, I'm going into fine tuning and skunk works mode. I'm just going to start trying crazy stuff to make the game incredibly unique and streamlined.
Here are some of the things I have or will be testing shortly:
- Iconography and Layout. One of the problems of any deckbuilder is that a player must learn many cards on their first experience. This isn't fun and I'm trying to test and improve my layout and iconography to lessen the burden of the first play experience. I'm still using index cards and pencil scratches but even there it's possible to refine these things, which saves me time/money when I begin printing real prototypes.
- Cutting Cards. After four plays and lots of design time I can already see the weaker cards. I removed 12 cards from the deck this morning and have about 5 or 6 more I think I can easily extricate. I don't want any fat or filler cards. I want everything to create interesting choices and if I can already see the card as boring, my players will too.
- Custom Dice. I've been trying to lean more into the dice element of the game in good ways. I don't want the game to have some dice and also have some cards. Previously, there would be 3 Jurors in the game that, when controlled, would convey an ability. This meant you had to read more cards! Now, you trade in your regular d6 (which means you lose some flexibility) for a custom die based on the controlled Juror (which means you gain some abilities). After one test this made the game simpler and more fun!
- I'll need to play around with this to ensure it's necessary. Custom dice are great, but they increase the cost of the game to develop.
- Lawyer Abilities. A tester/good friend/published designer suggested I add Lawyer abilities. Basically, the prosecution player has an ability and the defense player has an ability. This will hopefully add a layer of strategy to the game, provide some asymmetrical gameplay and depth, and a little replayability.
- Court Events. I want to make the Witch Abby and Judge stronger characters for thematic and gameplay purposes. What if the witch lit somebody on fire in the middle of the trial? Or if the judge made some sort of sweeping declaration? I think I'm going to design some cards that emerge from the draw deck. They will create an opportunity to exploit that is available to both players. I'll have to see if I can make this work.
I'm not going to post an updated version of the rules just now (they might change in 20 minutes and I'm being a tinge lazy at this second), but I will soon. They read really cleanly and are now only 6 pages long (and that includes visual diagrams).
I'm going to being the photoshop work for a better prototype layout this weekend. Hopefully that means in a few weeks I can send some folks early versions to test and help me improve.