Monday, December 19, 2011

Disastrous setbacks!

We played Taipan last night, and I am sure you have guessed by the title of this Blog, that it did not go well.  But first, we played Europe Airlines.  A neat game that has a lot of similarities to Ticket to Ride but almost none of the "Screw You" mechanic that makes me loath Ticket to Ride.
Bryan teaches and set up the game. 
You play stock out in front of you to build up income to spend on placing airline routes that make the value of your Stocks go up (being how you score in 3 rounds that randomly come up in the Sock Deck).  It is a very clever game that took a little while to wrap my brian around, but once I did, it was too late for me to win, but it was still fun.
Daniel (left) plans out his crushing victory of Gammon (right).
I didn't diversify my stock portfolio enough and while I did win the coveted Abacus Stock, it was not enough to pull me out of last place.  In the End, Daniel took the win over Gammon who was in the lead for most of the game.  Sadly, I did not take a final picture of the board which would clearly illustrate my only real issue with the game.  The absolute mess the board becomes, is near impossible to decipher.  The other problem was that it was very easy to make changes to the board, and then forget to move the Stock value track to reflect the new changes.  The game is very deterministic so its easy (if you have decent math skills) to do an audit of the score and make any corrections.

On to Taipan!   Game Development always seems to go this way.  The first play test is good, the next is amazing (despite the normal problems of a game in development), the third play test is an unmitigated disaster, crushing your soul and leaching your strength and willpower to get out of bed.

The start of the game.

First of all, no matter how much you think you KNOW your game, if you haven't looked at the rules in a week, you are going to forget stuff.  Especially when you have just made a bunch changes.  I would highly recommend after making a bunch of big game changing alterations, to play thought the game by yourself at least a few times.  You are almost assured to find some mistakes that you forgot to change or obvious things that need to be addressed with the new changes.  You will also solidify in your mind how that game plays from the last version of the game.  This is what I DID NOT do, and it wasn't pretty.  I thought I was ready to teach my game to the new players, but I had forgotten half of the changes I made since version 2.  I also missed a few of the new cards in my last run of re-prints.  This ended up being a mess with the players not catching on quickly and lots of questions about rules that I got messed up based on my memory of how the game use to play before I made the changes.  *Sigh* 
Confusion ensues!
The next thing I want to talk about is Realism.  No mater what you think, your game doesn't need realism.    Real is a word that just doesn't have any place at the Game Design Table. The first thing to remember is that this is a game.  Players are always willing to give a little up to play a fun, well thought out game.  If the game is balanced and fun, no gamer worth his salt will scream about how "Unrealistic" the game was.  Fun always trumps realism.  A perfect example: Every game by Reiner Knizia!  They are always about fun game play mechanics and almost never have anything to do with realism.  I am not the biggest fan of the completely abstract nature of a lot of his games, but there is no doubt that they are fun, and they are making FUN more important than realism.  Just take a deep breath and let it go.  It's just a game and everyone knows this.
Bryan wins with the same exploit used by Alex in the last Play Test.
Somehow I missed several things during the last changes I made.  Various cards did not get their new version, so there was some confusion about that.  I thought I had solved the problem of the Event Cards providing to much randomness in the game, but all I did was focus on minimizing the EFFECTS of the cards.  I completely forgot that having one Event Card per player in a game with more that 2 players creates so much change that the game is just non-stop chaos.

The player who won used the same trick that the winning player from the last game used to win.  He never had to venture very far south to have great prices for selling cargo.  THis game had a lot of pirates and a fair amount of combat.  Being that this was the first time it got to be tested, ee found a massive problem with Combat.  Players have no incentive to repair their ship.  The damage doesn't affect their ship past a certain point.  I didn't want players to be eliminated from the game, so they cant be sunk.  But I think I have a solution for that.  If any one ship stat would be reduced to 0, the ship is sunk and the player is returned to Hong Kong.  He looses all his cargo and must by a new ship for 5 coin.  If he does not have 5 coin then he receives a debt token that must be paid off to win the game.

I have a lot more notes of all the problems but don't have time to detail them all out here. I will do another update tonight or tomorrow and hope to include the art samples I was talking about yesterday.  Also, just a quick reminder: 4 Days till the Poll closes.  If you haven't voiced in, you should do that now before friday.

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