John, Dan, and I met last night for play testing. John brought some very cool spinners and tops made from sculpty clay. The tops are kind of a cone shaped hat that sits on top of a base that is placed in the center of a circle. The circle is then divided up into sections and each section is given a number. The spinner tops represent crew members that can be assigned to Spaceship systems (such as thrusters, weapons, shields, etc…). Some of the tops have one dot to indicate a result, and some have an arc on them increase the chance of landing on two results that are then added together. There will also be tops that have multiple dots on them. One of the very cool things about this is that when a ship is damaged a damage marker is placed on the system that blocks out a particular result. Dan voiced a concern that the spinner tops, and systems when all boiled down still act like dice. My initial concern was just that I did not really like the idea of just looking a spinner with a bunch of numbers on them, but would rather have the sections have icons that represented different results or actions. This is still very early in its development, but I really look forward to seeing the game that John builds up around these mechanics.  


Next we played Dan’s game Venture Fourth in which players are attempting to fulfill their characters personal goals. All of the many different Characters in the game want to do something different. And when they get to do what the want, they go up a level which earns you victory points. The game is a very nice take on the adventure genre. You don’t just score points for killing things, only if that is one of the goals of a character in your party.


The game took about an hour to play, which was about 15 minutes longer than Dan would have liked. I agreed with Dan that there was a point near the very end of the game that it could have ended a little earlier. I was getting a little frustrated that all of the spots to play cards to get a coin were getting filled up before I could to get to them. I know there is already a solution for these issues percolating in Dan’s head.


This is one of the first games that Dan showed me when we first started having game design meetings over 2 years ago. The game has radically changed in mechanics but I think Dan has kept the spirit of the game that he wanted to create intact. All of the hard work that Dan has put into the game really shows.  


The last game of the night was my game Ascending Empires. I got to playtest it last Friday night at Great Hall Games with Jen, Jake, and Jeff. From that test I made quite a few changes that really seemed to pay off in our test last night. In the earlier versions of the game the Landing and Launching of Starships was a separate action. I switched over to a movement points system in which now you can spend a point to land, launch, or flick a starship. This I think improved the flow  of movement a little. However, having a higher movement rate now seems a little more powerful than before. I also took out the restriction of only being able to recruit one troop to planet. That is just one less rule to remember, and this did not seem to change the overall game play much at all.


In previous playtests we have seen a tendency for players to just stay on their planets and build stuff, and only put Starships in space when they need more planets to build stuff on. Dan and I had done some brainstorming last week and come up with all sorts of mechanics that would encourage players to have more ships in space. One mechanic we talked about was a token that player could claim when they were the only player with ships in space. At the beginning of that players turn he gains a victory point if he had this token. I think that might have worked but it felt very forced. Yesterday it hit me that one little rule might fix the problem. The rule is: A planet may not recruit, build, or develop technology while enemy ships are in orbit of the planet. This is called blockading. We played with this rule last night and suddenly we all had ships out in space. Blockades were used several times during the game, but just the threat of being blockaded was enough to always keep some ships ready for combat.

 At the end of the game it looked as if John was running away with the victory but we were all surprised to find out that the scores were John-25, Me-24, and Dan-23. I felt very satisfied with the game. I still need to tweak the tech trees just a little but I’m very happy that the changes I made did not break the game.

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