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Author Topic: [The Gay Recruitment Squad Wants YOU!] Conpulsion playtest  (Read 4908 times)
Graham W
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« on: March 25, 2007, 11:29:51 PM »

Another playtest at Conpulsion. There were three players: the staff by the sign-up sheets were offering free fingers of Fudge to anyone signing up. It seemed thematically appropriate. I've, um, forgotten everyone's names. I'm really sorry. I'd met two of the players the day before. The other guy was new to me.

It was a useful playtest: people seemed to enjoy it, and said they did, but it raised lots of issues. Which is exactly what I needed.

Here's what went right: it was a good atmosphere, it was fun, the core mechanics worked. The idea of "baggage", which I'd added to create an occasional bittersweet tone, worked well.

Here were the issues:

  • There was only one rallying cry throughout the whole game! This was concerning, at the time, but it's just a question of setting the difficulties a little higher.
  • There is no advantage to having additional cards. I've been kidding myself it's useful, but it's not. Players don't play for it.
  • There was only one black card played throughout the whole game! Big problem. My initial idea, with these cards, was that they lose the conflict but gain a bonus. Problem was, no-one wanted to give these cards, since they'd screw the other player over by making them lose the conflict.
  • There was confusion over what happens when you actually lose a challenge. In our previous playtest, there was no problem: I'd asked the player what they thought should happen and there was always an answer.
  • There was a sense of embarrassment over starting seduction scenes. Well, OK, there were two parts to this. Firstly, the embarrassment itself: there's no way round that and I'm not sure I'd want there to be. Secondly, the fact that people were unsure what to do.
  • There was a potential problem with multiple challenges: what happens when someone issues a challenge that uses, say, both a guard and a security device?

And some solutions:

  • The rallying cry solution is easy: just up the difficulties.
  • I'll take out all the references to extra cards and add some other sort of bonus. One of the players had an idea for this: "Highs", which I'll describe below.
  • There needs to be some mechanical determination of what exactly happens when you lose a challenge: you get captured, you get another attempt, etc. Something definite. It's not a difficult problem. Players can override the default if they like, perhaps.
  • There needs to be structured guidance, for the player, on how to run a seduction. The "Seduction Style" on the character sheet goes some way towards this. Perhaps it needs more things like this: even a list of seduction skills, perhaps. Or chat-up lines. Well, not quite chat-up lines, but something like that.
  • I'm unsure about multiple challenges. There's two answers, of course: make up some rules for them (one of the players had a good idea for this) or, in the interests of simplicity, don't.
  • Bonus cards mustn't lose the challenge. Perhaps, when you turn a bonus card, you get the bonus and may turn another card. I'm not quite sure how that works with baggage: one of the nice things about baggage is that it makes you lose the challenge.

One of the players (I've forgotten his name and feel guilty about it) had useful suggestions. The first was to have pregenerated guards, straights and security devices. This is definitely something I need to do: the group can make up their own, but if they don't have the time, there's a pregenerated option.

His other suggestion was "Highs". Basically, it works like this: each character has, say, three Highs. Every time you lose a challenge, you lose one, and what happens to you depends on how many Highs you've got left. Each time you win a challenge, you get a new High. There's an appealing possibility that Highs could be represented by the same counters as Guards, so that when you defeat a guard, his counter becomes your High. And there's also the possibility of spending Highs on extra card turns, etc.

I like this but I've got reservations. On the positive side, it's rather interesting and I like it. On the negative, it's another thing, and I'm trying to keep the number of things in the game to a minimum. And I'm worried it's a mechanic I don't actually need.

Oh, and he suggested I look for plastic minatures on eBay, instead of counters. I must do that.

Do let me have any reactions to the proposed rule changes, especially if you played the first playtest. And, of course, if you played this playtest, tell me how it went for you.

Graham

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Rich Stokes
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« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2007, 06:36:27 AM »

Graham,

I don't get over here much.  I was hoping you'd post something about what you tested at Conpulsion though.

Ah, another distraction from constant Umlaut re-writes!

Here's what went right: it was a good atmosphere, it was fun, the core mechanics worked. The idea of "baggage", which I'd added to create an occasional bittersweet tone, worked well.

How exactly did Baggage work?  I think it was discussed when we played at Conception, but it was pretty nebulous and wasn't at all clear.

I think there was a slightly different style of play from before (to be expected with different people), which might explain two of the problems you had:

Quote
  • There was only one rallying cry throughout the whole game! This was concerning, at the time, but it's just a question of setting the difficulties a little higher.

This was distinctly not a problem when we played.

Quote
  • There was only one black card played throughout the whole game! Big problem. My initial idea, with these cards, was that they lose the conflict but gain a bonus. Problem was, no-one wanted to give these cards, since they'd screw the other player over by making them lose the conflict.

Neither was this.

I can't help wondering if the two factors combined: We had plenty of Rallying Calls during the game because people kept losing challenges.  People kept losing challenges because they kept turning over objects instead of numbers.  So if you encourage more object cards to be played, you'll get more fails, which leads to more Rallying Calls.  Perhaps make it clear that the steaks are lower in some conflicts?  So that these conflicts can be lost with little or no consequence.  That way, it's actually GOOD to play those blacks on people when the stakes are low: They'll have a tool to use later in a conflict that actually means something.

Quote
  • There is no advantage to having additional cards. I've been kidding myself it's useful, but it's not. Players don't play for it.

Nyer nyer, told you so ;^P

Quote
  • There was confusion over what happens when you actually lose a challenge. In our previous playtest, there was no problem: I'd asked the player what they thought should happen and there was always an answer.

I think when we played, there was no problem caused.  That is, you fail to de-activate the security device, you can't get past.  Next person to reach it tries.  Continue until someone succeeds.  Maybe the consequence of losing to a guard is different to losing to a normal straight bloke?  As in, the guard boots you out or locks you up, but the straight bloke just ignores you?  That feeds into your idea that defeating guards gives you a bonus point, because the risks are higher.

Quote
  • There was a sense of embarrassment over starting seduction scenes. Well, OK, there were two parts to this. Firstly, the embarrassment itself: there's no way round that and I'm not sure I'd want there to be. Secondly, the fact that people were unsure what to do.

Examples of play would help, but remember that in most groups only one person actually reads the rules of a game.  So sample lines sounds good.  Possibly a handful for each character?
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The poster previously known as RichKS
Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2007, 07:50:03 AM »

Hey, what's up with rallying cries?  Yes, you can up the difficulty, but is it an at-table social thing?  Were there impediments outside the mechanical?  Because that seems like a fun bit, so I'm wondering why people didn't go for it because it was fun. 
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Graham W
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« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2007, 05:44:27 AM »

Jason,

I'm fairly sure it was a mechanical thing, rather than social. Mechanically, you only do a rallying cry when you lose a challenge. Problem was, there were very few challenges lost, because I'd set the difficulty too low.

Rich,

Quote
How exactly did Baggage work?  I think it was discussed when we played at Conception, but it was pretty nebulous and wasn't at all clear.

When you turn over a Baggage card, you lose the challenge, and must narrate how your Baggage caused you to fail (e.g. the man you were trying to seduce mentioned you were looking old and you lost heart).

But you add that Baggage card to your Baggage Pile. At any time, you can choose to get over your baggage. Then you stop adding cards to the pile, but all cards currently in the pile can be used to turn an extra card in challenges.

It worked pretty well, when people actually gave Baggage cards.

Quote
I can't help wondering if the two factors combined: We had plenty of Rallying Calls during the game because people kept losing challenges.  People kept losing challenges because they kept turning over objects instead of numbers.  So if you encourage more object cards to be played, you'll get more fails, which leads to more Rallying Calls.

That's a very interesting point. Hadn't thought of that. Of course. Nice ideas on handling failure, too.

Another post following, with an idea.

Graham
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Graham W
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« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2007, 05:48:24 AM »

So, I have an idea, but it's a radical one. It relies on a tried and tested formula: if in doubt, steal Emily Care Boss' mechanics.

One problem I've noticed is that, in a strange way, there's no structure to the seductions. A player plays out a scene; he's not sure how long to go on for; eventually, I fade the scene ("And let's leave it there"); then the players score it.

In Breaking The Ice, things work more elegantly, because you give bonus dice throughout the scene, not just at the end. This gives a natural structure to the scene: a player keeps working until he has all the bonus dice and then the scene fades out.

That's the mechanic I'm thinking of stealing. Instead of playing one card, at the end, to score the scene, each player will be encouraged to play his card when he sees something attractive or funny in the scene. When all the cards are down, the scene fades, and the player of the scene turns over cards as before.

To facilitate this, I'm thinking of turning the cards face down. So, instead of playing a card from your hand, you hold a face-down pile of cards and deal a card from the top. That card is random. So you no longer show approval or disapproval by playing high or low cards; you show it by withholding the card until you see something you like in the scene.

This also solves the problem of people being unwilling to play Baggage cards. Now, they won't know they're dealing a Baggage card. It'll just turn up. And I like the idea of cards turning up randomly. It's much more board-gamey.

What do you think? It's rather radical, but I think it's more elegant.

Oh, by the way, if you played the game at Conpulsion, I'd still like to hear your general thoughts on the game.

Graham
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2007, 05:59:17 AM »

Graham, that strikes me as an elegant solution.  You'll have to test it to see if the randomness overwhelms or sucks out the fun, but I suspect it won't. 

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Simon C
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Posts: 495


« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2007, 06:17:21 PM »

I haven't played this game, but this change sounds right to me.  It feels more like a seduction, where you're trying to say the right thing to get the desired response.  The fact that you might get dealt the wrong card (something goes wrong that accidentally triggers your baggage) feels right to me too.  If it's good enough for Emily, it's good enough for me.
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Bryan Hansel
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« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2007, 09:42:55 PM »

To facilitate this, I'm thinking of turning the cards face down. So, instead of playing a card from your hand, you hold a face-down pile of cards and deal a card from the top. That card is random. So you no longer show approval or disapproval by playing high or low cards; you show it by withholding the card until you see something you like in the scene.

I like this idea. It will really encourage some outrageous antics when players hold back the cards until they see something they really like. And if it is good enough for Emily...
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Graham W
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« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2007, 07:16:55 AM »

Yes, it's my favourite method of game design. Steal from Emily's games. You can't go wrong.

Thank you, that's useful. I'm convinced on changing that mechanic; if anyone else has any other reactions, let me know; otherwise, let's let this thread go quietly down. (Insert joke as appropriate).

Graham

P.S. I really mean the thing about learning from Emily's mechanics.
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