Feb 17, 2017

Play-Testing Nevera Wars 1: Rhythm and Tempo


Rhythm and Tempo

This is the first official play test debrief of Nevera Wars. I have been fortunate enough to participate in several meet ups of board game designers in my area and now feel I have enough material to commit to a post about my learning. This time will be focused on rhythm and tempo.




Old picture of me using rhythm and tempo in another context

For this particular post, the tempo of a game is essentially its speed, and its rhythm is how much its speed changes or how often it changes. Different games aim for different values of these for different reasons, but ideally the goal is always to be fun, rewarding and engaging.

For Nevera Wars, my goal is for the speed to be quick and the rhythm to not change much. To achieve this I have made a few design decisions such as limiting the number of actions a player can take in one turn and limiting the number of creatures a player can control. There will be some slowdown due to players taking time to make strategic choices, but the goal is to make sure the game does not come to a complete stop.

After play testing at Victory Point Cafe with some generous individuals and fellow game designers, I gained a huge amount of useful feedback that will enhance my game. I will break the feedback and observations into two groups, negative and positive.


Negative

Card Text Volume
Clear feedback came early that the cards have a huge amount of text on them, which slows the game down when reading it all and trying to commit some of it to memory. This means that the learning curve for the game could be too high at the beginning, not because of difficulty but simply because of the volume of information to be digested.

The Whip Ability (Energy Bounce)
One ability that seems overpowered is Whip, an ability which deals some attack damage but also has a 50% chance to force your opponent to take one energy card from the board and put it back into their hand (also known as bouncing). Because the player may only lay down one energy card from their hand each turn, this means Whip is undoing an entire turn worth of progress with that vital resource.

Not a Random Bounce
In addition to the ability Whip requiring the player to take one energy card from the board back to their hand, the game practically stopped as the player picked up all of their energy cards to look through them carefully to choose which one to place back in their hand, as this choice was an important strategic decision. This was when the game slowed the most (several times).

Win Condition
Finally, the current win condition of the game did not seem to factor greatly in the play at all. This might be difficult to describe, but the win condition did not appear to fit the natural rhythm of the game itself and seemed rather... tacked on. But together we brainstormed some different directions to take the win condition that I am excited to try out, this will also hopefully reduce the game length a little.



Positive 

Card Types
One design choice which increased the game speed was to only have one card type. This means the player is only having to gain familiarity with one card layout, and this was generally appreciated.

Ramping Abilities
The players did also mention that the as the game progressed the abilities of the new more powerful cards were more powerful versions of the starting ones, and so becoming familiar with cards early in the game reduced the time to become familiar with cards later in the game, (more on learning curves in a future post).

Action Order
More feedback came that because the players were able to complete their turn's actions in any order it kept a good rhythm to the play. Possibly because they were not having to revisit a guide to remind themselves what order they should be doing things in, but it also kept the turn more free flowing and personal.

Total Game Time
The total time for a game to be played was a little more than the target time for the final game. But it was close enough that I feel I can put it in the positive section of this reflection. The individuals play-testing were very familiar with this genre of game though and this fact certainly had an impact on reducing the length of the game.


Conclusion  

There are many elements of the game which work, which I am very proud of because many of them were devised in at the very beginning of designing the game, and many of them tie directly to the lore of the fictional world I am creating. This means that the need for a great many fundamental changes would have been a huge hit to morale. However there are many elements which do need attention to ensure the game can sustain its fun and engagement across the possible pockets of slowdown, and to make sure those pockets are as infrequent as possible. 

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