Jan 22, 2006

Dreamation 2006 - Saturday

I arrive just as a RoboRally game is starting. I'll play this while waiting for Andy's call.

Michelle Martin 6th
Bob Murphy 4th
Herman Jurist 5th
Robert Martin 3rd
Jennifer Howland 1st
Michael Keller 2nd

We're playing the old copy of the game. These pewter pieces are a million times cooler than the cheap plastic ones from the copy I bought at GenCon 2005. I'm playing my favorite character, Twitch, a.k.a. Johnny 5. It seeems there are also rules differrences between the old and the new versions. I like the rules for the new one more.

I immediately met Zev afterwards and while waiting for Andy we're testing someone else's game submission. It's okay, but we spot at least one game-breaking mechanic.

We finished that playtest, had lunch, now it is time to test Programmer. I also want to show Zev Black Market, so I'm gonna not play so there's only five of us and reduce the victory condition to 8 points.

Programmer is going well. Everyone learned it fast enough. Only a couple of confusions. Also, I forgot to remove some cards from the previous version that don't work in this version. That was embarassing.

They had alot of suggestions at the end. I am definitely going to implement a couple of them. Zev said he sees this as a filler game, but that right now it requires too much thinking for a filler game.

They've started playing Black Market.

Okay, Black Market did not go well. They all overbid early in the game, were losing money left and right because the price wasn't going up fast enough and went down too fast when anything did get sold. It appears I sorely overestimated the strength of the market rules I came up with. One of the playtesters, Norm, suggested a possible reason that this group overbid while my others didn't was that I wasn't playing this time. In my other groups when I played the other players might have taken their bidding cues from me. This time they were taking their bidding cues from the current market price, which is a terrible strategy as you are not likely to make much money if any. Also, they said the game moved way too slow for a filler game, which is what Zev felt this would also turn out to be. That was a bit of a dissapointment. I felt that this would be a more serious game. Not Die Macher serious, but not fluff either.

Some changes they suggested included selling the goods each turn as a single lot, increasing the odds at which plutonium appears, changing the bidding from secret to once-around, and lowering/altering the special abilities of the goods and not requiring three goods to use the ability, but just one or two. Andy also suggested changing the way accomplices work. Someone said that maybe when a robbery occurs, a player could discard a gun to get the proceeds of that robbery. Also, maybe brining an accomplice increases the total proceeds from the sale, so that the accomplice fee isn't such a big deal.

Some of their criticisms hurt alot. At times it felt like I was being personally attacked, even though I know that is not at all what they were doing. While I've gotten feedback from my two regular playtest groups, it never felt this rough. I do greatly value this feedback and will without a doubt incorporate their suggestions into my next version. But still, it did sting to hear such stark evaluations. It's something I'll have to get used to, I suppose. I should probably encourage my playtest groups to be more forthcoming about problems with my designs.

Zev had to leave at 6, and he said that he was more interested in Programmer than Black Market, unless I made major changes to it. I guess it is a good thing that he is at least somewhat interested in Programmer. And it was nice to not have to wait forever to get a response of some sort, like the three months it took Out of the Box to turn down Programmer and the at least two weeks it will be taking Deciper to decide on Battle Stations.

I showed Andy my unnamed moon colonization game. He liked alot of the concepts of it. He said he'd like to play it sometime. Right now he's off somewhere, but they're coming back later to play some games, maybe Reef Encounter. I talked some with one of the testers tonight, Paul Gerardi, who works for Zev. Turns out he was the very first level 3 judge for Magic: The Gathering.

We're in the middle of Caylus, 3rd round, which came out of nowhere to dominate the BGG scene for some reason.

The game seems alot better now that I kind of "get" the strategy. We're almost done, and I'm far in last. But I do understand the flow and I'm glad about that.

I decided to abuse the Favor victory point track and am now in third and the spread is only 7 points between first and last. I'm thinking about my moves now, but I still don't understand the massive hooplah.

Final Scores:
Emma Strowger 62
Norm Hill 61
Andrew Parks 67
Jeff Englestein 68
Michael Keller 69

I can't believe I won. Especially after I essentially wasted my first round and then didn't build a single wood, green, or blue building (and only one stone building) the entire game. Take that, Caylus!

Alright, home now. It was a good day. I'm grateful Andy got me that meeting with Zev, even if it didn't turn out the way I wanted. At the very least it will help me improve my games. I've also become conscious of the relative simplicity of my games. Perhaps I should add some sort of technology tree to Black Market. I plan to add one to the colonization game.

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