Sunday, January 19, 2014

VI. Broken Contract - Play Testing and Revisions

Breaker with pneumatic drill concept sketch by Oliver Zavala.
Up until sometime last week, Broken Contract had only been played by me, alone in my living room. I've sent the rules to ten of my trusted gamer friends for scrutiny and got a good amount of feedback and commentary - much of which has be used to refine my ideas. Still, nothing gives you a true sense of how the rules play than seeing them in action. Its actually fascinating to watch, to see how easily people pick up on the rules and what choices they make during the game that you did not expect. Last week I finally got to experience that when my friends Chuck and Monkey came over to try the game.

I read through the scenario narrative text to give them a sense of where they were and what they were doing, handed them a list of Actions they could take in the game, and had them roll for Initiative.

Less than 5 minutes in I found my first flaw. Each Character on the board has their own randomly determined Initiative. In solo play testing I had tried alternating initiative, rolling by side and choosing initiative order, and also trying rolling 2D6, 3D6, and 4D6 for each individual model. No matter how many dice you roll, certain numbers came up all the time, forcing a need to re-roll. Each new Turn in a group setting saw the Initiative taking 2-3 minutes as we rolled and re-rolled for each Character. This needed a better system. The next morning it came to me: A shuffled deck of uniquely numbered cards, If there are 8 Characters on the board you use a deck of 8 cards numbered 1-8, shuffle them, and everyone playing draws a single card for each of their Characters. This presented a seamless and quick solution to Initiative.

As the game progressed Chuck and Monkey were clearly having fun but I felt like certain Actions were ignored, gear was forgotten, and in one case, a weapon I expected to be really effective, a Repeater Rifle with Rubber Bullets, just didn't perform how I planned. Some of these occurrences can be chocked up being new to the game, but seeing a part of the game used and not perform how I intended was clearly an issue so I re-wrote it.

This prompted me to do a read through of all the current rules documents I have assembled for the game in order to purge, consolidate, simplify, and preserve the continuity of. That one night of play testing was invigorating for me. Seeing people have a good time playing a game that I designed was hugely rewarding. I can't wait for the next play testing session, which happens to be Monday (tomorrow) evening. 

In addition to all of the rules tweaks that were inspired by that first night of play testing, I've had my brain cranking along on the contents of the game, where I want the story line to go, and what sorts of expansions could evolve from that story line. Finally, I've mapped out the scenarios, created a rough draft of how I envision the mining complex, and sketched in where the various scenarios I had brainstormed would take place so I know what board sections to make. All in all, its been a very productive week. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and what inspiration it will bring forth.

More later in the week!

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