Jun 14, 2010

NYC BGD Meeting - June 2010

I previously asked for opinions on a new, alternate way to show the interactions between building types in Municipality. The response was shockingly negative. Even though I was skeptical before I even showed it, the uniform response against basically obligated me to actually try it out. I was worried that this reaction was the effect of viewing the diagram in absence of the game itself.

I am not rarely accused of being a contrarian. I usually deny this.

This weekend the NYC board game designers met again and I used the occasion to see if this diagram is actually as bad as you guys claimed.

First game tested was Master Spy by Mark Salzwadel. There were some things I liked about this and some I didn't. It will surprise absolutely no one that I liked the analytical gameplay but hated the die rolling. That's just who I am.

Next we tested Municipality. While I did have a couple of relatively minor gameplay changes from the previous test, I really wasn't interested in them. The game is mechanically where I want it to be and am generally more than happy with how it plays out. My top priority for this test was to see how best to present the growth information to the players.

To the right is what I used to test this. On it are both the original growth chart as well as the new diagram which was universally booed. In addition, I added something suggested in the comments of that prior post. Between the chart and the diagram I put a text description of the interactions. With all three methods presented on the same player card, I'd let the players play and discover the one to which they pay the most attention over the course of the game.

Here are my findings:
  • The diagram is utterly incomprehensible
  • The chart's blank spaces make it difficult to read
  • Text is by far the best method
This completely surprised me. I thought that people would recoil from the text and prefer the most visual method. I am wrong again.

After Municipality, we played Tristin's cash-accumulation game. I don't think my feedback was very useful, as I am too far from this game's target audience to be of much analytical help.

Next we tested a new version of Dan Cassar's game from last month. He has simplified the more-complicated scoring rules somewhat, but it still needs some tweaking.

That was followed up by another round of Master Spy, with different maps.

Finally, we tested an extremely early version of a drafting game by Dan. I can see where some interesting decisions can appear in this game, but it's mechanics make the decks players draft far too fragile.


  1. I don't know, I completely get the diagram, and I think I might like it better than the chart (though I don't know if I love it). I don't know if I would have grasped it so easily if not for the text also - but then I have no idea whatsoever how to play the game.

  2. Honestly, I think people are just going to have to memorize it.

  3. I suspect the problem with the diagram is the same problem with the icons in Race for the Galaxy. It makes sense, but only AFTER you've learned what the symbols mean. To have to learn how to read the diagram AND the game at the same time can be too much. Players want to learn how to play the game, and the requirement that they be indoctrinated into an esoteric visual language is a barrier to getting me into the gameplay, which is supposed to be the interesting part. The text is the simplest and the clearest in this case.

  4. Jeff, that comparison helps tremendously. I've been consistently confused by the difficulty people have had with the chart. But now, thinking about the difficulties I had learning Race for the Galaxy, it makes sense.

    Anni, I fear that you are correct. Memorizing the relationships (with the text available on the player aid) will just have to be part of the learning curve of the game.