Just when you think you’re out, they drag you right back in. The latest playtests have been growing pretty well, the game feels tight and is proving to be engaging to pretty much anyone I can convince to sit down and play with multi-sided dice, but it doesn’t feel quite finished yet. I was hoping (and trying very hard) to get the game done and dusted before the Toy and Game Expo in July, but it doesn’t look like I’m going to make it. Anyway, let’s get back to those 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
Based on the latest plat through, there are still a few things that aren’t working as smoothy as I’d like. Some of these are must fix problems, but one of them may be intrinsic to the game
- Turn order / explosion – just a little too fiddly, players seem to be a little hesitant to attack with exploding, lest they be interrupted
- 3rd layer advantage – the stats are still pointing to this, but it’s hard to pinpoint the cause. The current working theory is the third player has more opportunity for juicy attacks.
- Climax – the end is is just a little anti-climatic. I don’t think this is a game killer.
- Dice placement sad face – the addition of a dice placement mechanic helped trim down setup and rebirth but has created a new problem; players can roll their dice and then not to get place any of them.
First of all, I went back to the drawing board with the cards. I haven’t felt quite right about having to separately explain how explosions work, they’re fun and enjoyable and add an equal mix of perfect planning and perfect thwarting, but they seem quite distinct from the rest of the cards. I’d come to the conclusion that they needed to be explained separately in the rule book and this led me to thinking of the cards not as their current instances, but examples of different types of cards, namely attack, move and interrupt cards. Once I got to this stage, I brainstormed some new card ideas, that tied in with the next revisions and helped bring some interesting decisions back in the game.
Hedron is an atypical dice game, in that I’ve tried to limit the
somewhat difficult to deal with. Pushing your luck with rolls on Generate have always out a sour taste in my mouth. Up
The mix of skill and luck in Hedron has been a difficult balancing act. Introducing the dice placement mechanism was a necessary step and prevented a further instance of analysis paralysis, but the hateful rolls reared their head again. When you get a good roll or have a couple of Hedrons which you can choose to place, the mechanic works really well, but being being locked out by a bad roll stings pretty bad, because the player is completely deprived of choice. They roll a dice and a bad thing happens to them. So, I’m revisiting a trimmed mechanic to give the players their agency back. A few versions ago, players had the opportunity to choose not to place hedrons in return for card draws, this got trimmed out because while it gave the players a choice, it wasn’t particularly a great choice; it made much more sense to bench a d4 that a d20..
I needed to make the choice harder and more interesting for this to be an enjoyable mechanic, I needed to give a player a reason to choose to leave bigger dice out of the game. The bigger dice are better for two reasons in Hedron: one, they have a greater maximum energy and, two, they have a greater chance of rolling higher. I’ve used this by integrating a new concept into the cards, fluctuating energy (or flux). During the game, players can tap into extra energy to use for their powers that is generated from unplaced hedrons, they simply roll all their unplaced hedrons and use the highest result for the power. The thing I like most about this mechanic is that it ties in really well thematically to the world of Hedron. The destroyed hedrons aren’t gone, just merely off the battlefield, aiding their comrades by feeding energy back into the set. It helps explain why they don’t just reappear or regenerate themselves immediately, and ties the power cards into the core Hedron system more tightly.
Now, after rolling their dice, players have some decisions to make based on the roll. Those decisions can be limited by the dice roll, but instead of a bad thing happening to them that they have no control over, now players get cool powers.
Experimental Turn Order
This is the one I’m least confident about. Kevin Nunn recently did a small series of posts about player advantage, that provided a variety of different solutions to addressing player order advantage. I combined Keven’s insight with some ideas from playtesters and a little bit of sleep deprivation to come to a new solution that puts the power back in the hands of the players. Turn order is reset each round, with the player with the lowest points deciding the actual order with an order card for each player. The order cards are also used to determine interrupt order; lower numbers take their turn first but explode last. This not only gives the players an interesting choice but also nudges them towards understanding that going after your opponents can be more advantageous, and may lead to some interesting tactical bluffing.
The change has also helped shape and clarify the newly created interrupt class of card powers, giving players more solid information on the possible outcome of a planned manoeuvre.
Hedron progresses towards an end game state with an accumulation and that end game state can be a little anti-climatic when it becomes obvious that one player is going to win a turn or two in the future (as acquiring a single point per turn is far from difficult). This is not a problem unique to Hedron. Many Games with a set a mount of victory points as a win condition suffer from this, the game can turn into a mad race or a lazy step over the finish line. One of my favourite filler games, Get Bit, suffers from a similar problem. The winner of the game is decided a turn or two from the game end by the remaining amount of resources. The bulk of the game is really enjoyable and the end doesn’t detract from the enjoyment, but it doesn’t leave a slightly bitter taste behind, and it means that you’re unlikely to play the game over more than two or three times.
The player order solution was really a sneaky solution to the climax problem as well. When playing with 3 or 4 players, the win condition of 90 points is no longer an immediate win, instead the game ends whenever a player is at 90 points at the end of a round, with any ties are broken by awarding the win to the player with highest number order card (whoever went last). This gives players who are just a little behind at the end of the game a chance to steal victory if they can pull of an elaborate multi-point move, and pushes players towards make multi-point plays for a more climatic finish.
I’ve sent the revised version out for a few blind playtests, which I’m waiting to hear back on. I’m also going to be doing a demo day at the Toy and Game Expo to try get more gamers interested in playing the game. I wanted to have Hedron done and dusted by this point, but it looks like I’ll be tweaking for just a little longer. My plan is to get the dice rolling and the game launched some time in July. Expect a less vague update around the unspecified time!