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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 69 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Me and the Rat] Good cheese with a few holes  (Read 1268 times)
Jasper
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Posts: 466


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« on: February 13, 2006, 07:05:08 PM »

A few weeks ago I played my Ronnie submission Me and the Rat with a few friends. The game had changed only a little from contest submission, with some points juggled and a few rules changes (IIRC). Since the game is built for four players, I explained the rules acted as organizer throughout. I dished out the tokens, reminded everyone whose turn it was, etc.

The four other players are old friends of mine from high school, and we used to role-play together. Most of us get together to play board games around the holidays; two of us more regularly.

Everyone immediately grokked the basic premise of the game and had interest in the spy motif. They actually got really into discussing the goals and strategies of the characters: I explained what each character wanted, and this led to about 20 minutes of excited talking about how the charact rs could win.  With everyone turning things over out-loud, it became clear that no single strategy was obviously superior, and then they settled down. I'm glad I didn't interrupt this process, because I think it helped them get into it, and get ready for the trading to come.

On the other hand, explaining some of the basic mechanics took a bit; they just weren't immediately intuitive. The alternate outcomes being the prime example. All the resources, and the three actions, plus some special actions, seemed a lot more complicated when I explained them verbally. Further rules clarifications were needed throughout, so apparently I still didn't explain things well enough, or fully enough. I planned to keep things simple at first, and then explain more later, but this was only partly successful. I also neglected to give the exact point values for the win conditions, and this was a sore point for one player near the end.

I won't recount all the specific moves -- even if I could remember them! But there were several things I noticed, mostly because they didn't go quite as I'd imagined.

First, there was very little evidence on the board. At one point we had two pieces, but usually there wasn't any. Partly this was because Sierra and Benjy didn't create a whole lot: they traded to get Data and Access rather than do the potential evidence-creating alternative. I think their opposition should have stopped some of this, and would if we played again, but there's more to it than that. Additionally, even when Evidence was created, it was so rare, and thus so valuable, that each player's action -- should there be Evidence on the table -- was automatic: collect the evidence. There was really no alternative.

Evidence is supposed to be an important and ever-present aspect of the game, so this was a little disturbing. It also revealed to me just how important turn order is. Sierra and Benjy are potential evidence-leavers. If either Terry or Jacob goes after one of them, they'll always get the Evidence, and use it against Benjy/Sierra. Since Evidence is too valuable to ever really be traded back, this order makes Evidence boring. On the other hand, if Benjy, frex, follows Sierra, he can always sweep up any Evidence she leaves behind. This is slightly more interesting, because he could potentially decide that some other action is more important, but still features far more certainty surround evidence than I'd like.

one result of my not announcing the point-based win conditions was that various requirements (or their details) came as minor shocks to the players. Terry and Jacob's players decided at one point that it would be impossible for them to complete their conditions. Even when I pointed out that they still had other conditions that were possible, they still seemed bummed. However, since Jacob's player eventually won, I think this was merely a miscalculation on his part, or a wrong expectation: unless you're Sierra, you can't expect to win with all your victory conditions.

In the immediate aftermath of this late-game disheartening came me pointing out that Evidence is a resource like any other, and can thus be requested in trades. This led to Jacob and Terry demanding Evidence from Sierra. They didn't get enough to convict her, even this way, but did keep her on the defensive, and prevented her from getting her Data. I think now, however, that this might be a bad idea. As it's now written, Benjy and Sierra have infinite pools of self-incriminating Evidence. It makes sense that they can trade this for other valueable resources, if they want. However, allowing other players to request this is too much: that move becomes much more worthwile than most other moves. I don't really like having a special exception in the trading rules, just for Evidence, so I'm thinking of eliminating the Evidence sinks entirely, and thus restrict any evidence that's traded to evidence that's left and then collected. This may mean it's not traded much though.

One more rules issue. It was unclear in the rules whether a gift could be part of a trade (i.e. the alternate outcome to a trade). Having forgotten my thoughts on this, I made a snap judgment and allowed it. However, this led to unpleasant situations, whereby Jacob and Terry would team up and force a gift of Evidence from Sierra (that sounds very wrong somehow). Even if Evidence isn't involved, this doesn't work. Trades are supposed to be trades, not gifts. In the future, they'll be mutually exclusive.

In the end, everyone had a pretty good time.  One player strongly suggested I keep developing it, and gave some advice on the token allocations. Terry's player was characteristically a bad loser, but still had fun, I think. The whole exercise took a little longer than planned, at about 2 hours. I want to get some thoughts on some rules issues, but I'll either post again here later, or start a new thread in Indie Design.
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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
Jasper
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Posts: 466


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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2006, 07:13:34 PM »

The 24-hour RPG / Ronnies submission is here: http://www.1km1kt.net/rpg/Me_and_the_Rat.php
The Ronnies feedback thread is here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17113.0

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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
Jasper
Member

Posts: 466


WWW
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2006, 04:18:19 AM »

Okay. There were two other omni-present issues I've seen that also need to be cleared up -- and I'd appreciate advice on one of them.

First, there were too many tokens out at once. Players tended to hoard tokens and then pile them on all at once. A common tactic was to spend just enough tokens to gaurantee a swamp of the die roll. Fewer tokens in general, plus using slightly larger dice, clear this up though.

The other issue is more serious, perhaps even fundamental to the game now. It's partly caused by the rarity of Evidence, but is wider than that too. Some resources are simply more valuable than others, namely Evidence and Data. They're valuable in part because a lot of win-conditions are tied to them, but moreover because they're hard to acquire, and therefore rare. Yet trading is fundamentally restricted to a equal-measure for equal-measure paradigm (it has to be, really). As a result, no one really wants to trade in Evidence. It's too valuable to give away as a brokering tool. Data suffers a little less, but similarly. Unless I change what Evidence is, I it'll  always be rare. Yet this seems to make trading not really 1-to-1, because even if the units are literally equal, the values of the two resources could be quite different.

Is this a problem? In playtesting it, Data got traded only a little; Evidence not at all. I'd like them to have more of a role. Does anyone know of games with equal resource trading, but where some resources were acknowledged to be more important than others? Where other restricting rules brought in, or what? (And did these games work, or did they fail?)
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Jasper McChesney
Primeval Games Press
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