Ragnarol Designer Diary 3

I’ve had a few nights of playtesting with a few different people and some comments from the internet. Though most enjoy the game, there’s still definitely something missing. Some of the feedback, I’ve been getting is:

  • We’d like more asymmetry
  • We’d like to have cooler guys (a hero), and less genericism
  • We’d like experience points
  • We’d like more gotcha! moments

On my latest playtest night, I was playing with a couple of friends and was pretty exhausted from a long day at work and didn’t have my usual enthusiasm or eloquence when running the demo. They said they liked the game and came up with some helpful feedback but I didn’t see the same spark that I have had with most other players. This gave me a bit of a wake-up call that the game is far from done yet.

Before going any further. Let’s go back to Ragnarol’s design goals.

Ragnarol Design Goals

  • You can play Ragnarol with almost anyone, not just gamers
  • Each game of Ragnarol tells a story
  • You have choices and these choices matter
  • Ragnarol has a good mix of luck and strategy
  • Ragnarol rewards strategy and adaptation to changing game circumstances

I’ve always wanted Ragnarol to be highly replayable and variability is one of the best ways to keep a game feeling fresh. Ragnarol comes with a few moving parts that can easily be re-allocated to create a new game experience. You can increase the number of stores to increase the length of the game and the number of rolls to make the game more rewarding to long term strategies (more rolls actually means less variation from the norm, and so less luck). You can also choose your warriors to emphasise a certain strategy. I believe this is enough to create a game that’s moderately replayable, but I’m getting the feeling from playtesters they want more.

One of the most thrilling moments of simultaneous action selections is the reveal, where you discover how well you predicted your opponent’s move. I had one playtester comment that they thought Ragnarol lacked this moment as he believed there wasn’t a strong counter-action you could take to any move. I tended to disagree and was taken aback as this was the first time I heard anything like this comment. I do believe that Ragnarol is very much a game of playing your opponent and adapting to the game’s conditions. I could think of lots of instances where you could create gotcha moment (by predicting your opponent would leave no warriors at home or that they would strongly defend), but I did very much trust this playtester’s opinion. After a few more playtests and some more feedback, I started working on an addition that would address this perceived problem and provide asymmetry, variability and gotcha-ness.

The next iteration that I’ll be playtesting through is Heroes and Clans. These are two variable elements that add both strategy and luck to the game. The clans each provide a player with a specific scenario that gives them a specific benefit, such as winning a raid or even losing a raid. If a player succeeds in achieving the condition than they get a leg up over their opponent but this condition is open information, so opposing players can choose to allocate their defender and raiders so the condition is not met, but players know that their opponents know what their condition is, so they can then allocate their warriors more aggressively based on the presumption that their opponents will allocate their warriors in such a way as to avoid the condition, but the opponents also know that the players know they know so they can allocate their warriors in response, except the players know that the opponents know that they know and so on….

At least, I’m hoping that’s how this goes. The other element centres on a single dice/warrior that becomes a hero. As opposed to the clan, which is based on a specific condition that can be engineered by players, the hero’s benefit is based entirely on luck. If the hero warrior gets a certain result something cool happens. Of course, if your hero gets killed, you can’t use his ability anymore. This introduces another prediction aspect, as if you can predict what your opponents hero will do and counter that action enough to win that battle, you can take away one of their advantages. A negative aspect of this addition is that killing a hero early might lead to both a demoralisation of your opponent and remove one of the big luck elements, making catch-up less likely.

As Ragnarol progresses and evolves under feedback the idea of an April Kickstarter is looking both scarily close and very far away (in terms of achieving it). Introducing asymmetry or variablity through cards is something that I’ve shied away from now for a couple of reasons. First of all, it increases the amount of moving parts and requires more playtesting and playtesters, which I’m still finding difficult at the moment, and more moving parts also makes the game more complicated. The other reason is quite simply cost. I want to make Ragnarol a game that sits at an attractive price point, and cards not only adds extra printing costs (that will blow out my initial pricing), it also increases art costs and pre-production time. That said, I’m committed to making Ragnarol the best game it can possibly be, and that means letting feedback guide the evolution of the game and only releasing Ragnarol when it’s ready (which might mean giving up on my target funding date).

Once, I’ve got the current additions properly playtested and implemented I intend on revisiting the riles and giving them good, hard copy edit to ensure terms are consistent and clear, as I think things may have got a little messed up with all this extra stuff.

One thought on Ragnarol Designer Diary 3

  1. kotzur says:

    Self-comment! Loki’s Son is a bit OP and confusing. We recommend printing doubles and leaving him out

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