Sunday, February 26, 2012

Taipan Testing and Design Changes

This past Thursday I got to play test Tiapan.  It was a good group of players including my friend and fellow Game Designer CW Karsten, the creator of the recently Kick Started game 'Dragon Valley'.  I have been trying to get him to play Tiapan for a while now.

The game played well and we played all the way to the end.  Things seemed to play quickly and despite a few big problems and lots of little ones, there were no game stoppers.  Also, I got one of the best compliments I could ever get.  'I like this better then Merchants and Marauders'.   If you have been following this Blog since the beginning you know that M&M is the game I frequently referenced early on in the development o Taipan.  So for one of the players to say that was a nice ego boost to hear.
After the initial Set-Up, the game is underway.
For the first few turns things played really well.  Right off the bat, players scattered to the four corners of the board, so that felt like a big win since early versions of the game everyone always went straight to the top closest ports.  I think one of the things that helped with this is the new City Cargo Values and players getting the Free upgrade of their choice.  

Things are about to start going very bad.  Let the Brokenness commence!
And then the first big problem happens.  One of the players draws an Event Card that doubles the sell price of a random type of cargo.  A cargo he just happened to be carrying, and in the city he just happened to be going to.  This let him sell those 2 Rice Cargo for 10 each instead of 5 each.  This got compounded when he took that money and upgraded his ship twice, a rule I will need fix by saying players can only upgrade once per port visit.

To fix this problem I am changing the card to a +1 per cargo sold.  I was going to do a +2, but there are also City Modifier cards this card might stack with making to the total possible bonus to be up to +4.  This feels like too much of a possible bonus, so I am keeping it small.  This is a good general rule about using multiplication in game design.  Unless you have some way of controlling it, don't use it.  The numbers get too big to fast, so its always better to use smaller additive bonuses.

CW trades in some Cargo to Upgrade his Ship.
The next big problem game a few rounds later when the same lucky player (John) drew the 'Gift in Hong Kong' event card.  This allowed him to pick a single cargo of his choice.  Before the last round of big changes this wouldn't have been that big of a deal since the most value he could have got would have been 8 coins (still broken but not as bad).  With the new changes I made to the City Cargo values, he got a value of 12 coins, and if he wanted to take an extra turn moving to another City he could have got 15 coins.
A gift in Hong Kong? What a coincidence, I just happen to be in Hong Kong!  =)
After the game, we discussed the problem of 'A Gift in Hong Kong' and came up with an interesting idea.  Players can sell 2 cargo of the same type and get 1 of the next highest cargo for free.  What I like about this is that it forces the player to have to do something to make this happen, it doesn't just happen for showing up in the right place at the right time.  The down side is that if a player sells Black Powder (the highest cargo type), what does he get?  Now I have to come up with some special rule for that?  I think I will revert to what it was originally 'Players gain the Ship Upgrade of their choice' with the added mechanic that they have to sell 2 Cargo of the same type to get the benefit.
John (the guy on the right) just got lucky and goes on to with the game.
After this it was clear who was going to win.  He had gained so much money there was no real way to catch up, but everyone was happy to keep playing to see what they were able to achieve before the game ended.  Near the end of the game I realized that my Captain's special ability required that I get into combat to use it.  He can repair 1 damage once between Port visit.  Bus since there were a total of 4 pirates the whole game, it never really got used.  I am hopping this will get fixed in the next game when I have more Pirates starting in the game, and make some adjustments to the Event Deck to fix some of the unevenness.
My Captain is only useful if I get into enough combat that I need to repair a lot of damage.
Other issues included: Not enough pirates, some copy paste errors and poorly phrased descriptions that made understanding some of the cards difficult, Cargo Token colors not matching the Cargo colors on the cards, and Players being able to buy more than one Ship Upgrade a turn.

Some challenging problems and lots of small, easy fixes! I just wonder how many I will find in the next play though.  =)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The forgotten taste of free time!

I have been working long hours, and when I do come home I spend my free time with my girlfriend.  (Pro Tip: Spending time with your girlfriend makes them happy.  Do not put them off to work on your game, its never worth it).  This does not leave a lot of free time to work on my game or write about it.

Needless to say, I have been working very hard on Taipan, but as my past posts discouraging you from working on art would indicate, the second you start adding art, the development time suddenly becomes takes much longer to keep focus and maintain your development and testing pace.

This past week I got to print my cards and get them cut out and sleeved. The total process took almost a full week, but that was mostly because I was doing it an hour at a time when every I had a little free time.
It took me 2 days to cut all of the print outs.
Cutting the cards wasn't difficult, just boring and time consuming.  In the end I didn't make the guides small enough so some of the cards wouldn't fit in the sleeves.  This required more cutting as I was trying to slide the cards into the sleeves.  That was frustrating.
In the end, the leftovers look like this
Here all the cards before they got put into their sleeves.
The final count is 5, Ship Cards, 14 Captain Cards, 34 Cargo Cards, 32 Combat Cards, 48 Event Cards, and 29 City Cards.  I also printed out a new version of the Map using the new art and the new cities that I added.  The map and all of the cards look great.
The final product looked great.
This past Thursday night, I left work early to attend the Dragon Valley release party.  My friend CW just got the first print run of his game Dragon Valley that he got funded through Kickstarter.  It looks great and I am very happy for him.  When Taipan is ready to go, I will have to pick his brain about the whole Kickstarter process.
Dragon Valley is now available.
While I was at the Dragon Valley party, I got a chance to sit down a play a partial game of Taipan.  I say a partial game because I didnt have a lot of time, so I quickly came up with a rule that I thought would make the game take about half as long.  I was right, a game that I thought should take about 90 minutes took about 45.  Just enough for the game to get going, but not enough to get a good sense of the flow of the game.
The start of the first game of Taipan I have played in about a month.
It did help to identify a few new problems.   Not enough threats from Pirates allowed for player to hang on to their money instead of spending it on upgrades or paying off their Debt.  Some Event Cards still reference the old Cargo type Medicine which has been replaced by Tea.  Upgrades were too expensive in the cities other than Hong Kong.

With all the new rules and mechanics, I am not surprised there are all new problems to solve.  Well, I guess its back to work.  I will try to have an update about the new changes soon.