I’ve only one word for you: Playtests! Ok, maybe I’ve got two words for you: Playtests and Options. Really, maybe one more word: Tightening. Essentially that’s the essence of this past two weeks. Roadtrip! remains the same at it’s core; playtests continue to be successful, ‘Fun!’ as most describe it. But, I have been up to more than playtests….
Join Me at Celesticon!
I’m bringing Roadtrip! to Celesticon’s Celestispiel: Labor Day Weekend, 4-7 September, Fremont, CA. Please join me for some hilarity and hijinks! I’ll be testing both of the two new options listed below, as well as running Introductory games. Come see what all the other 33 designers have to offer too!
Playtests & Possible Gameplay Options
Since the last This Week’s Roadtrip! I’ve done another four playtests (6 games): Stanford Campus Playtesting, Heretic Games‘ Home Brew Game Night, a Freewheelers Car Club social event, and a game at a Starbucks. As to the latter, I really think just schlepping your game around to various coffee houses or books stores with a friend is an overlooked market for building interest. During these playtests, two ideas were suggested as potential ways to overcome what was perceived as predictability of the winner. Because players can always calculate what every player’s Fun score is, concern was expressed that it might make the game too predictable in the last few rounds. Now, as the designer and one who has played the game hundreds of times, I can vouch that the game is not as predictable as it might appear. A carefully played Highway card can, in fact, snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Additionally, I’ve seen many an eyebrow raised towards the end of a game when it became apparent that a few lazy decisions earlier did handicap a player more than expected. As I’ve said before, the game is deceptive, despite its apparent openness. To experienced gamers, it is even more deceptively simple.
Nevertheless, in essence the core of the suggestions was to broaden a player’s Itinerary. Even though in each game every player’s Itineraries were different and unique, the restriction of always only visiting a specified set caused some consternation. Granted they were all playing the Introductory, Short version of Roadtrip!, but just adding more Passengers or more Destinations, won’t change that perception. And perception is everything. Earlier versions of the game allowed for more variance, but in my drive to streamline play, I may have taken out too many options. So, I’ve added the following new options for playtest. Since they don’t detract from the core game, if they don’t work, I can just pull them out.
- Hidden Goals. This mechanic has gotten a lot of press of late. I’d say the majority of board games on Kickstarter these days either have hidden goals as a core mechanic or a stretch goal. Honestly, I had never thought about it for Roadtrip! It makes sense though; and, I believe, would add an interesting twist. I am still working on the first draft of them, but I’ll have that done before Celesticon. My initial idea is for them to have two parts, one which grants +3, the other which grants only +1 to your Fun score. In other words, fulfilling the entire goal would grant the same bonus as if you arrived home first; fulfilling only part of the goal would give you a smaller bonus. For instance: Penny-Pincher – If you end the game with at least $10 remaining, add +3 to your Fun Score. If you end the game with between $6 and $10, add +1 to your Fun Score.
- Billboards. The rules as they stand do not disallow a player from stopping at another Destination not on their Itinerary. However, allowing a player to halt the game long enough to flip through all of the remaining Destination cards, find one, and then ponder about its potential, takes far too long. It’s, as one playtester put it, analysis-paralysis. So, instead, why not flip over three Destinations at the start of the game that are out there for anyone to visit? Why not indeed? In fact, this brings the game closer in theme to the way I had originally intended it. Thus, I have added a Passenger trait (Eager – discard a Highway card, to flip a Destination), 3 new Highway Cards (replace 1, 2, or all 3 Destinations), and added ‘Billboard’ Tokens to the board.
Playtesting Roadtrip! has also pointed out all of the little problems with card directions and minor mechanics. You game designers know what I mean; that rule that sounded great when you thought of it, but implemented horribly. In any case, I’ve ironed out the Highway Cards further. I pulled out the Weather Road Hazards (for possible inclusion in an expansion) and added the Billboard and another money gain Travel Boon cards. This had the added net impact of rebalancing the positive-negative-neutral from 20%-50%-30% to 25%-45%-30%. If Hidden Goals work, I will probably pull out the Family Road Hazards and a few Roadside Attractions to compensate for needing to add more cards. Gotta keep to that 108 card count!
Finally, I’ve redone the Passengers again. Those seem the most volatile of the cards because if you change the mix of Highway cards or implement a new rule, it tends to require Passengers to shift. And once you shift a couple of the traits around, you need to shift most, if not all, of them.
- Colin Thom, designer of Survival – Thank you for organizing so many playtest events, including the Stanford Campus Playtesting, and for playtesting Roadtrip!
- Games of Berkeley – What a great monthly event you have in Locally Grown Game Sundays! I can’t wait to more fully participate with Roadtrip! on September 20th and October 18th.
- Heretic Games – Thanks for hosting the Home Brewed Game Night! I can’t wait until your next one!
- Ameritrash Games – I met Jason Topolski and bought his game Camp Grizzly almost before I had sat down to play it. He is a designer after my own heart – lots of theme, lots of humor! If you have a chance to play Camp Grizzly, please do. It’s everything about a horror movie that you ever found ridiculous all rolled into a hilarious strategy game.
Coming soon in This Week’s Roadtrip!
- Playtest results from Celesticon, alongside other cool game reviews from Celestispiel!
- A Female GM?! Lessons Learned and Funny Stories from around the RPG Table
- More information on a Print-on-Demand Version of Roadtrip!