Okay, let’s race out the gate with some design goals!
- Hedron’s key concept is the chain, creating the right chain to meet a specific outcome feels like puzzle-solving and solving puzzles is rewarding
Hedron is a brain-burner, you need to think about what you’re going to do Hedron has entropy, the game inevitably heads towards an end game state
- Hedron rewards skill and offers enough depth for repeat players but is still accessible for new players
- Hedron is print and play
I’ve got the latest version on the table with new players as 3 player game and with my superstar playtester as a 2 player game, in addition to a lot of solo testing. It went a lot better in the 3 player game, but its hard to say whether that was a general impression of a new concept or an actual appraisal of the refined system (I’m guessing the former). It felt a little diminished in 2 player form. The points system creates a drive to the middle and eliminates much of the blow-for-blow tension of piece elimination. There was also a tendency to just take little hits at one another in the 3 player game. The puzzle of the chain didn’t really grasp the new players. There may also be a 1st player advantage and 3rd player disadvantage but I need more tests to be sure.
I wanted to re-emphasise the chain and create more dynamic player interaction. The point systems and piece regeneration was designed to create a game that felt like a big war game on a compressed scale, that encouraged aggression and interaction. It wasn’t quite there.
Iteration 1: Special Cards
I developed and worked through a card mechanic. The cards were designed to give the players more dynamic choices, with one-off uses and permanent abilities. Except for the first player’s first turn, players simply drew a card each turn. If they had eliminated hedrons, they drew one extra card per eliminated hedron, but still only kept one (rewarding players that fight and giving players on the wrong end of the battle a boost). But the cards were too plentiful and too specific to provide much utility. The mechanic vaguely worked but didn’t actually make the game more fun. This is also where I really realised that the chain was losing its utility.
Iteration 2: Less Special, More Chain
So, it followed if the cards were too specific then they could be improved by being more general. I simplified most of the cards to a 1, 2 or 3 energy boost for one segment of the chain. The boost followed through the chain, so could be used to add distance throughout, add damage at the end, power up end hedrons or a combination. It added a bit of mystery information as it was no longer 100% predictable what a certain player’s limitations were, and provided a lot more utility. I left a few special cards in. A bunch of automatic explosion cards (one for each hedron), a damage reduction card and a card that let you damage any hedrons on scoring hexes. Overall the cards seemed to work pretty well as they opened up possibilities without greatly adding to the complex of the game. The damage reduction card tended to stay in the hand, so it won’t be coming out again.
I actually played through the warp rules with this iteration as well, and after a little bit of mid-game tweaking to make warping less of a shot in the dark, it worked well, opening the possibilities for long shot attacks (long in odds and distance). The other thing I added in was a little reward for chaining, as my general philosophy is to use the carrot rather than the stick. If you use all hedrons in a chain, then the ending hedron gains energy equal to the amount of energy used to start the chain. This rewards using a full chain but with the in-built limitation that longer chains are harder to connect, so players don’t just favour turtling and playing with them selves in the corner to power up.
Iteration 3: More Energy!
I also tried a suggestion from Anthony of using the d20 to determine initiative and energy supply, removing it as a playing piece. The energy was a bit too much and quickly became the focus of the game, making it a quick race to maximum power and then just all out attack. I’m not opposed the idea of initiative or removing the d20 (as the power differential between it and the rest of the dice is quite large), so I’d like to see if I can get this into the game in another way.
I’m reasonably happy with Iteration #2, but have some reservations which I’ll need to test through with real people. I think the game might lean towards being longer with a fair amount of analysis paralysis and perhaps too sudden an ending.