Mar 22, 2010

Extreme Game Makeover - Part 1

I held another playtest for Municipality to confirm whether the anemic population problem that appeared in the previous test was real or a one-time occurrence. The good news is that the latest test had no population problems.

Version 5.0 test 1
  • Total Popoluation: 20
  • Highest Player Population: 8
Version 5.0 test 2
  • Total Popoluation: 66
  • Highest Player Population: 38
The bad news is that it doesn't matter.

I've finally become convinced that I have to deal with some problems I've been avoiding since the earliest versions of the game.
  1. Endgame is too mathematical
  2. Some of the roles are "boring"
  3. Growth is too complicated
These are all problems that I have felt were an innate, if unfortunate part of this game. Sure, I wanted to ameliorate them as much as was possible. However, I didn't think the core design allowed them to be removed completely.

This has happened before. With Titans of Industry, there were a couple of design choices I made early on which I refused to remove. I ignored the feedback of playtesters and even my own gut instincts. I let these design elements fester and waste enormous amounts of playtest time.

One playtest was the straw that broke the camel's back. After that test, I completely remodeled the resource structure for Titans of Industry. In the end, it was a much better game for it.

This past playtest, as well as post-test feedback from the players, has finally convinced me to abandon the elements causing the three problems listed above. Hence, the radical makeover that Municipality will be receiving.

First up: the endgame is too mathematical. Many heavy strategy games see the final one or two rounds lasting several multiples those of the prior rounds. This is not simply because the board is more developed at the end. It is because players begin to completely game out the entire round and every variation thereof.

Even though many great strategy games suffer this problem, that is not an excuse to allow it in my design.

The first step I've taken to combat this problem is pictured above.

Currently, in Municipality, money is hidden information and Political Capital is public information. This means that during the final few rounds, players have been observed obsessively calculating bids of Political Capital in an attempt to predict exactly how much each opponent will have when a crucial role is activated during the final round.

Going forward, both money and Political Capital will be hidden information. To accomplish this, I have designed cards, pictured above, to replace the paper money and Political Capital chips. The cards will have a common back, to further disguise how much Political Capital each player has.

I am confident that, thanks to this change, the amount of time spent on the final three rounds will drop by a third. This will help me keep the total playing time, which has been inching up, within my goal of a 60 to 90 minute window.

Next time, I will tackle the next problem, that of some roles being boring. Hint: M.E.A.


  1. What is the current status of Municipality? Do you have a rulebook for it?

  2. Municipality is "done", but I don't have a current rulebook for it. I have an old rulebook if you're interested.

    I wanted to refine the art for it a bit before putting together the final rulebook since I will obviously need illustrations to explain the rules.

    This game is the most marketable of my designs (along with Pioneer) and I've shopped it to a couple of publishers, but no bites yet.