Suffice it to say that "Movie Plotz" is a hilarious game that takes very little time to play but makes for a great social exercise. I suggested that it would be a good mechanism for a team-building event in a corporate setting, and Alex said that he had already applied it successfully in that context. Normally I don't like social open-ended creativity games that "make up a story," because they feel too unstructured for my left-brained rules-lawyer game-mechanics engineer-designer head. But "Movie Plotz" works very well, and we had a great time with it.
East India Company
Every "EIC" game session is different, largely by design. The colony tiles are intended to gradually form a supply-and-demand market that varies within a structured framework. Lower-priced, more common commodities with smaller profit margins usually (but not always) emerge in the Atlantic colonies while higher-priced, more profitable products come out in the Indian Ocean and Chinese colonies.
|English (red tokens) tied for lead in |
dividends but burdened by debt to
Photo by T.C. Petty III
But strangely, it was Darrell's Spanish company that won the game without buying any new ships at all. He had started with a single medium ship, and early in the game he took the Gulf Stream to North America and picked up load after load of tobacco. Most of the other players were preoccupied with the ivory and silver markets, which would normally be more lucrative, but they were saturated by the middle of the game. By contrast, European demand was able to keep up with Darrell's sole supply of tobacco, so he was always able to sell it at full price. He varied his strategy as other markets opened up, but he was able to pay dividends early and often and never went into debt, so he finished with a strong cash position.
I was very glad to have this playtest session for three reasons. First, the game took way too long, about four hours and 20 minutes. So I am back to struggling with game length. Now, in this case, there were five players, and the very maximum possible number of tiles were necessary to trigger the end of the game, and there was quite a bit of rules explanation since the game was new to all five players, so I can consider 4:20 to be an "upper bound" - the maximum any game could be expected to last. Still, it's way too long.
Second, I am very concerned that Darrell won without buying any ships. That result suggests that under the current rules, buying ships is not cost effective. The counter-argument is that T.C. had a strong second-place finish with a large ship, but in fact a number of player's ships, including some of T.C.'s own other ships, sat in Europe empty because people did not have enough operating cash to load on the ships and send them out to colonies to buy goods. So I think I have to revisit the ship cost-vs.-benefit situation. One suggestion I received is to provide for "upgrading" a ship, perhaps by treating it as a source of lumber for the new ship (rather than having to buy lumber for every new ship). Now, this game might have been unusual because no cheap lumber was available from colonies, so all lumber for ships had to be bought at higher European prices. Nevertheless, I like the upgrade idea and will probably incorporate in the next iteration of rules.
Third, despite the game length, everybody spoke very highly of the game. I got tremendous positive feedback on the fun and intensity of the game. I have no doubt that "EIC" will end up a real winner, once I solve the (perfectly fixable) problems that came out. I was very, very gratified to have such thoughtful game designers and players really bang on this game in a good, thorough playtest session. I can not overstate the value of yesterday's feedback and interaction. It was truly a great day.
Alex Strang posted a number of photos from Congress of Gamers, including shots from "Movie Plotz," "East India Company," "Phobos," and "Diamond Ninja."
Upcoming post topics:
- Up on the rooftop, quick, quick, quick: "Diamond Ninja" and Alex Strang's dangerous business of Ninja time travel
- We, Robots: Mining and making money in Brad Smoley's underground caverns of "Phobos"
- Gentlemen, load your weapons: Dice-rolling derring-do in Josh Tempkin's game of gearboxes and gunplay, "Death Dice Rally"
- Coming out of nowhere: Aaron Honsowetz and Austin Smokowicz introduce their horserace-investing game, "Pole Position," which emerges as Sunday's surprise Unpub entry.
- The fish are jumpin': Jesse Catron's "Salmon Run" (nee "Pond Farr") and the not-so-lazy river
- Sales and acquisitions - more shelf space and new options for cocktail hour gaming
- Collaborating with Josh Tempkin on the next big thing