This is really just a follow up to Designer Diary 4 as there hasn’t been any huge changes. Following up on the latest version, I’ve been getting the game on the table and seeing what happens. It’s holding up in some areas but taking a bit of a beating in others.
I got some testing in with the wife. She’s been a lot less keen on Hedron than Ragnarol, as she’s a story-first gamer. It’d been a while since I’d got her to play and she liked this version better, but didn’t get any great revelations out of this test.
Played through with the new points system with my most regular playtester. We tried a few things out, and were able to finesse the drawing of cards a bit. He still has a preference for the elimination system, as do most players who have seen this version, so we gave this a run-through with everything else staying the same after a few points game. The elimination game was quicker but I still feel slightly cheated by the end game. With piece elimination, I feel that it’s more a game of who makes the last mistake, rather than who makes the best move. I’m not sure there’s a problem with this but it feels more
I got the latest version to the table with 3 players (myself inclusive), and played 3 successive games. The system, especially the chain, was engaging for the new players and I was glad not to have push to keep playing. There was a fair amount of analysis paralysis going on, but I’m going to say this is a feature, not a bug. The core concept of the game, and what makes it engaging, is spatial problem solving and this takes mental calculation. It never got to the point where the game felt slow, as each game took about 30 minutes, and while plans could be thwarted, most mental calculations could be done on opponent’s turns. The hidden information also means there’s no perfect moves and there’s always a certain amount of risk involved.
What I got out of this playtest was the cards were working the way I wanted them to. Players felt empowered. they could make risky moves, lay traps and foil their opponents’ plans. I’m still not 100% on the current draw system, and I got a few extra ideas from the testing and the testers, but they still feel extra at this stage. We definitely worked out that the Feedback Jack card was the most useless card.
I accidentally on purpose left out the absorb rule when explaining the game, and it never felt like there was a point when we needed it. Leaving this out simplifies the turn structure and makes the game just that little bit easier to explain.
The testers tried out a few interesting strategies, a noteworthy one being to send the d20 powered-up behind enemy lines, but thankfully none came out as dominant. I found that in the latest iteration, the centre square had become less powerful so reintroduced the previous scoring iteration (1 point for starting turn in the centre, 1 point for ending).
After getting a better idea of how real people play the game, I went back to the table alone and tried out a lot of the ideas that got introduced. I was elated that the elimination mode seemed to just work, but after a few more rigorous tests, it didn’t hold up. I tried several different iterations with different deck balances and draw systems and it boils down to the cards having too powerful an influence on the game. I’m still trying out things and I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to get to a point where you can simply turn a metaphorical switch to change game modes. Currently what seems to be working okay is having the game be simple piece elimination (not d20 eliminiation) and allowing the explode cards to bring peices back, as well.
I tried various strategies from my 3 player tests in my mock games, and came to the same conclusion. They were interesting strategies, but not overpowered. The most dominant strategy so far seems to be to regenerate with your d20, and use this to power your moves, but this doesn’t come without risk. A result of 10 or lower doesn’t give you a lot of options and means you’ll be rolling again on the next turn. A result of 5 or lower, means you’re going to be hiding the d20 or rounding up an skipping your turn. A result of 20 means you’ll be rampaging around the battlefield. Getting in the centre with your d20 is always a strong move, but is also a risky move as a player may have enough cards to take the d20 out before your turn comes around and get 3 points to your 1.
- Player advantage. I want to start locking down the system and noting down statistics to see if there’s any significant advantage to player starting order.
- Cards. The Feedback Jack is out, but I have to work out what to replace it with (if anything). Switching dice postion was an initial suggestion but it seems to have pretty poor utility in initial tests. I’m considering introducing a card which lets you move outside the chain, setting yourself up for better moves or sneakily getting. Now I’ve got an idea of what works, I need to move towards creating a balanced deck.
- Regeneration. A bad roll isn’t as bad now with the energy cards, but it still sucks if you’ve got a hand full of mines. There was less rolling in the 3 player tests, and I see that as a good thing, as it means the players have adequate choices without resulting to long shots. (So, possibly this is acceptable)
- Spaceships. I have a tendency to leave out theme when I’m demoing the game, as it’s pretty light (ethereal energy beings in space). Testers have a tendency to want the hedrons to be spaceships (probably due to the space board), and I may have to pursue this further.
- d20 Swing. The swing of the d20 can have a pretty huge impact on your game (as mentioned above in Final Fight). The difference between a 1 and a 20 is game changing. Perhaps too much.