Playtest – Team Ginger

24th June 2016 by Frank West0

This session took place in May 2016, following on from Team Purple.

TEAM GINGER

Team Ginger included Scott and Luke who had played the original paper prototype over 8 months ago and we were keen to see how the new version would compare.

In many ways the second playtest was scarier than the first, the session with Team Purple went so well and we knew at some point something would have to go wrong…

Again we explained the rules and let them begin, Scott and Luke’s familiarity with the core of the game helped speed up this process and they were soon on their way.


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THAT’S ODD

One of the most interesting parts of watching people play is seeing them do completely unexpected things. For instance, several of the team took intellect as their first upgrade, it made the game difficult for them and caused much discussion at the end of the night.

There are no right or wrong decisions when it comes to stats but we had to ask, should we allow you total freedom from turn one, or should we be more restrictive to stop players from making bad decisions?

My view on this is players will learn, next time they play they are likely to choose a different stat and that is part of the experience. They lasted 2 hours 20 minutes, getting to a similar place to Team Purple so the decision can’t have hurt them that much, even if they felt it had.

THE FEEDBACK

HOW DID YOU FIND THE EXPERIENCE?

It was like the first time I played Pandemic and lost and just wanted to play again and beat it.

  • Tougher than last time, didn’t feel like we could repair.
  • It was OK, enjoyed it but it felt a bit unfair.
  • I like the character sheet.
  • I really liked it, it’s the kind of game I know I enjoy and know a lot of friends who would enjoy.
  • Even though we lost it was fun to lose that badly.
  • Way harder, in a bad way.
  • We made mistakes but we couldn’t have done much more.
  • Really liked it, really want to play again.
  • It was like the first time I played Pandemic and lost and just wanted to play again and beat it.

This was really interesting, the 2 players who were new really enjoyed the experience whilst the 2 players who had played the game before had a more negative opinion.

We questioned why this was and came to the conclusion that last time the game was much easier and they beat the game first try. This time however they got to around 40% and weren’t expecting it to be that much more challenging. Of course, there were other factors as well but this was a critical thing for us to understand so we could use the feedback effectively.

Let’s dive a little deeper…


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HOW WAS THE LEARNING CURVE?

  • The new creature inserts were good, worked way better than last time.
  • It was a lot to take in.
  • The base concepts are easy, there are a lot of things to understand.
  • There are a lot of options early on.
  • Compared to last time it was easier to understand.
  • It was hard at the start but you get an idea after a couple of players have had their turn.
  • It was much easier to learn than Twilight Imperium.

It will be interesting as we move into the blind playtests to see how feedback to this question changes.

WHAT WORKED WELL?

  • The tiles are fun.
  • The character sheets were clear.
  • It was streamlined, the artwork helped.
  • I enjoy how you control enemies.
  • Mechanically it’s really good fun.
  • Setup is good.
  • Player rounds are very simple.

Generally good feedback, no stand out comments but they touched on the simple rounds and enemy control system which we’ve been focussing on as stand out features so that’s great news.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK?

  • The shields were hard.
  • Scaling seemed off.
  • Shields was too much.
  • Items, we didn’t focus on them.

The first 3 comments were all caused by creature shielding, we have made a few tweaks to the creature stats since then to help counter this.

It’s a difficult balance though as experienced players will easily be able to handle this mechanic once they’ve learned the correct strategy.

WAS THERE A POINT WHERE YOU WERE BORED OR FED UP?

  • Nope
  • It went quickly
  • When I got stuck in the bog
  • It felt a long time but in a good way, I was very in to the game and enjoying it.

The bog comment is very interesting, there are very few features of the game which reduce player options and I want to see if this becomes a bigger problem for more people.

We’re trying to encourage players to team up and travel in groups, if you venture off on your own then the bog will have a far larger impact.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE CITY OF KINGS TO A FRIEND IN ONE SENTENCE?

  • Fantasy Pandemic.
  • Nightmarish fantasy team fight worker placement.
  • Action adventure, questing, exploration, fighting.
  • A cooperative exploration game.

Fantasy Pandemic is good enough for me!

WHAT GAMES DOES IT REMIND YOU OF?

Dead of Winter mixed with Forbidden Island

  • Runebound
  • Descent
  • Dead of Winter mixed with Forbidden Island
  • Pandemic
  • Talisman

ANY SUGGESTIONS?

  • Change shields
  • Force players to upgrade primary stats
  • Quests felt pointless, they should be better
  • I wonder if there should be a team wagon

We’ve already discussed a change in creature balance to address the shield concern and right now I don’t want to restrict what stats players can upgrade.

The quest comment was interesting and when I dug into this I started to understand what was meant. Right now quests are very binary, you can either complete it or you can’t. There’s little interaction or choice and this stops it being fun when compared to the rest of the game. We’ll certainly be looking into options and coming up with something to address this.

The team wagon concept is intriguing; it would certainly be another step towards a totally shared cooperative version of the game but perhaps it is a step too far? Right now workers have been one of the most loved features of the game so I don’t think we’ll be looking into this.


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FINAL THOUGHTS?

  • The placemats are good.
  • We’d all play it again now.
  • Length wasn’t an issue.
  • Can we play it again now?
  • I didn’t enjoy the difficulty but maybe it would be different next time.
  • Base mechanics seem solid.
  • There is so much to do, it feels like bigger games, loads of strategy and progression but cooperative.
  • Comparable to very famous games already.
  • Really impressed.

Lots of great feedback there, Team Ginger were keen to play again straight away but it was too late at night.

SUMMARY

There was a lot to learn from Team Ginger, they seemed much more concerned with balance than Team Purple but that’s to be expected at this stage.

Each time we watch a group struggle with various concepts it helps us understand at what point things should be introduced into the game. For instance, the skill tree (and intellect stat) had a big impact in this session and we’ll certainly be keeping it out of the first few levels.

The feedback about quests hurt a little, we’ve put a lot of time into trying to make these exciting and to be told they were boring was hard. With that said, we don’t feel it was a direct comment on what we had done, but more reflecting what we hadn’t. We already have some great ideas for what we can change for quests and see the updates as a massive upgrade to the game.

Frank West

Frank West is a gamer and designer based in Bristol, UK. He published his first board game, The City of Kings, in 2018 and now works on other games and organising events in the local area. His goal? To design and publish games focusing on immersive themes, fun mechanics and beautiful components. If you have any questions or would just like a chat, feel free to get in touch at any time!


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