Cram @ Gen Con: Takeaways Between One Year

 

Hi!

Phil, Cindy, and I are still here, I promise you. We’ve been working on the game as best we can. What really helped us came from Phil’s two trips to the table-top gaming con Mecca known as Gen Con. And they have been very important trips to the game’s development.

Truth Bombs at Gen Con 2015

When Phil took the game to Gen Con 2015, it was very different.  The 2015 version of the game had Influence cards, which players could use to draw cards, gain points, etc.  At that point, Phil considered the game completed. There was some complexity to it, but it had solid mechanics that let you do interesting things once you figured it out.

He presented the game to some designers at the Game Crafter Community Game Night (they’re the ones that print our game). It was there where fellow designer Andrew Voigt – designer of Perspective – delivered the strongest criticism about the game it had ever received.

“If I went over to a friends house and they asked me to play this game, and after we were done they asked “do you want to play again?”, I would say “no thank you”.

Phil said it hit him so hard that he still remembers it.

 Andrew explained it further.There was too much decision space in the game. All the choices and different directions that find the best way to win were mentally draining. The game was overloaded with effects, most of it coming from the Influence cards.

 Scrapping, Stripping, and Simplifying

After the criticism, the options were to either accept the game as is or do some major fixing. That very night at the hotel Phil started working (with Emma‘s help) on making the game a simpler one. The focus was finding what were the key interactions of the game – and cutting out the ones that weren’t.

After feedback with the different Gen Con crowd, this was how the game changed:

  • We cut Influence and Cultures as cards from the game.We are now using the word “Influence” to mean victory point. Cultures are now just a flavorful aesthetic for your cult.
  • Shrines are now part of a player’s starting setup and are the focal points for interactions.
  • Followers are now the main currency of the game. You work to attract and use them to “power” your actions.
  • Relics are the only way you can score points now, so you need to interact with them to win.  They are now center stage in terms of the game theme as well.

The game now now has a much more simple core gameplay loop Now that the heart of the game centers on three types of cards instead of five, it’s more accessible.

What Happened One Year Later?

This year at Gen Con 2016 Phil had playtests with this leaner version of our game, and the reports are that it went well. Two of the groups managed to get through two full games. One three-player group got it done under 30 minutes, which is awesome.
There was still room for improvement, of course. Here’s a few of the major points of feedback that Phil collected:
  • There is some confusion and/or loopholes on some of the cards. They aren’t major but they need to be fixed for clarity and to plug any exploits.
  • We’ve still had issues with a tiebreaker option. Phil asked the groups that played for good ideas on a tiebreaker, and he thinks he has figured it out.
  • One game had a problem where a player was essentially eliminated from play because they did not attract enough followers. This might turn off new players, so Phil has a potential fix for that as well.
  • Everyone loves the art and the flavor.
  • The game description was appealing and drew people to come play it.

The most important aspect of this feedback is that it’s coming from regular players. The help of other designers has been essential to getting the game this far. However, game designers are always looking to give you feedback and they aren’t always interested in the kind of game you’re making. This event was nice because the people who played chose to play it. In the end, you can’t beat the satisfaction of watching people enjoy your game and have fun.

Revamped Designs Means Revamped Cards!

We’ve been working on major changes to the game in the months since our last post. Phil made great strides on the mechanics from playtests. His updates meant there was a need for new changes in the card design, and Cindy delivered. Here is a preview of the new deck design.

RevampCard1

The most important changes come from Phil’s removal of a lot of components from the previous prototype. There were a lot of things on the left sidebar that are gone now, and as Cindy said, ” less complexity is always a good thing.”

The deck is neatly divided by the colors of the back of the cards. The backgrounds and back of cards all have a weathered aesthetic to fit the theme and Cindy’s art.

RevampCard2

Here is the before and after of one of the Influence Cards, Revisionism. You can see the changes in font, icons, background color, and size of the text boxes. The overall dark tone of the new card helps push the dirty look we are looking for. It works great with the Follower and Shrine cards.

While they’re not include in these photos, I had some updates of my own. Since the design changes also affected the Culture cards, I made sure that those made sense thematically. Those were rewritten as well. Stadium, one of the Shrines, also needed a flavor text change since Phil made extensive switches on it. I also fixed the title of a Relic that’s been bothering me since I got on this project.

There’s the matter of one more major change left. The three of us would like to change the name of the game – the more we’ve pitched the game to others the more we’ve come to the conclusion there’s a better name we can use. When the time comes, we will release that as well. Hope you enjoyed the update!