|TC Petty III's Viva Java|
Image courtesy of
Dice Hate Me Games
|Cherilyn and Chris Kirkman of |
Dice Hate Me Games
Don't let the cute smiles fool you.
|Chris and Mike determine turn order while Richard and I,|
ineligible beardless competitors, look on
Photo by Cherilyn Kirkman
East India Company
Later that evening, Keith and I started a two-player playtest of my work-in-progress "East India Company." I modified a couple of rules based on the last playtest the preceding Wednesday at Game Parlor Chantilly with Frank H. and Brian G. I added the ability to insure ships against piracy, which mitigated the risk of losing a ship altogether (and a reflection of the actual practice of Lloyd's of London at the time). I also increased the speed of full-rig ships to motivate their construction. Both modifications seemed to improve the game noticeably.
UnPub mastermind John Moller of CarTrunk Entertainment and his girlfriend Katherine (whose last name escapes me) for the first-ever five-player playtest of EIC. This was also the first playtest in which I was not a player. I almost didn't bring EIC to WBC because the prototype is so rudimentary, but Chris coaxed me into opening the box (okay, without much arm-twisting).
Fortunately, even with five players, the game moved along nicely. The first turn or two were a little uninteresting, as all five players took almost the same actions. But strategic variety emerged before long, and it was great to see the players (especially John) agonize over the decisions. Perhaps the biggest surprise to me was when Chris took out a loan after having sworn up and down that he hated to take loans. Poor Katherine was beset by pirates twice and lost both her ships in the process. Insurance notwithstanding, she was reduced to declaring dividends every turn until the end of the game - clearly a deficit in the rules that I needed to fix. John ended up as the winner, which I think came as a surprise to him. As I recall, he and Cherilyn tied for dividend points, but he had the greater cash reserve to achieve the win.
|Making spices more available|
Public domain image
I think I can accelerate and add variety to the early game by giving players the option to start with a larger ship and less money. I will probably give players the choice of having ten Indies and a small brig or six Indies and a medium galleon. That should make the early game more interesting (although I'll be watching to see whether the galleon is so enticing that there is little motivation to take the money and the brig). Finally, Katharine's fate convinced me that pirates are still too devastating, so I shall change the piracy rule so that they strip a ship of cargo but leave the ship itself intact. At least in that case, a player can still conduct commerce, even if the proceeds of trade are lost.
All in all, I am tremendously pleased with the progress I have made with EIC in just five playtests. My next step (besides the rules update) is to make an improved prototype. I'd like to have something nicer in place for Congress of Gamers and perhaps for a mini-UnPub if it should come to Washington again, or even Chantilly.
|(c) Nevermore Games - used by permission|
Another designer I am always pleased to see is Benjamin Rosset, whom I first met at PrezCon when he was demonstrating his survival game "Stranded." This year at WBC he was showing off his Steampunk supply-and-demand game Mars Needs Mechanics, planned for production by Nevermore Games. I subsequently found out that he had earlier demonstrated this game at UnPub in a previous form as "The Market." He has re-themed the game to a gaslight-style mechanism-market experience. I really appreciated the subtle workings of price fluctuations in this game of timing and market manipulation. I'd love to play it again, and I look forward to seeing this clever design in publication.
***One of the most thoughtful and innovative designers I know is Josh Tempkin, whose strikingly original War Time was picked up by Valley Games at WBC last year. I love trading ruminations on design principles with Josh. During our conversation last week, he surprised me with a proposal to collaborate on an idea that he had been kicking around, so I'm now looking forward to following up with him in the fall and seeing what we can come up with.
All these interactions with designers are what really make the convention experience more than just game-playing. I love meeting the people behind the games and sharing their company, if only for a few brief days out of the year.