Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

East India Company: First prototype playthrough

Sir James Lancaster, commander of
the first East India Company voyage
This new game design project "East India Company" really has lit a fire under me.  In two days I put together a rough prototype and conducted a solitaire run-through to see what works and what doesn't.  I took some notes for immediate rework, like adjusting the commodity market prices to make them more profitable.  (No sense in sailing all the way to east Africa and back if you can't turn a profit on a shipload of goods.)  I also need players to each have his own colored ships (rather than common ships with player markers to distinguish who owns which).

I finally learned why so many games use tile pulls rather than card draws for some randomization functions.  It's very difficult to shuffle cards that have information on both sides without inadvertently compromising the randomness and uncertainty.  So right away I know I'm going to replace the 21 colony-commodity cards with tiles in a tile bag.  (I'm not sure how I'm going to do home-made tiles for my next prototype; I'm open to ideas if any reader has some.)  Right away, that fixes the two-sided card problem, plus tiles will take up a lot less room on the board.  My first prototype map was enormous (three-quarters of the dining room table), but now I have a way to scale everything down to much more manageable dimensions.

A lot went right in this play-through, though.  The mechanic I came up with for pirates and rebellions works very well - significant enough to require some risk management, but not an outrageous random turn of fate that shifts the balance of the game.  I think I like the way I have trade routes laid out on the map.  There is a nice conundrum between shipping cheap timber in from colonies to build ships, or to pay for the timber in Europe at premium prices to save time.  Many things seem to have worked right the first go-round on the table.

I think I should type out all the rules before my next play-through.  I found that I kept changing the order of events in the market phase, which means I haven't got a clear idea of how it should really go.  Putting it down in writing should clarify my thinking on that part of the game.  I'm also happy with how the loan mechanism works.  I had one "player" go into debt to finance an expedition, but the interest payments started exceeding his cash flow, to the point where he needed a subsequent loan just to finance the first debt.  Classic money management problem.

The bottom line is that I've accomplished more in about three days with "East India Company" than I did in many months with "Gold on Mars."  I'm really excited about this project.  More to follow, I'm sure.

No comments:

Post a Comment