The State of Forge War - Part 1

September 08, 2013

BRP4UbpCAAEPDeZ After I got back from GenCon, in addition to writing a bunch of posts about my experience, I also sat down and wrote a big, long list of things I needed to change (or should consider changing) about Forge War. As I have mentioned previously, I made the monumental mistake of not getting any of the GenCon playtesters' e-mails, so really the only thing I could take away from that experience was their suggestions on making the game better and more enjoyable. Also, just watching other people play my game all weekend gave me a lot of independent ideas on how to make it better. So I thought I'd sit down and write about this list and these changes, as kind of the first part in a series of posts about where exactly I am at with Forge War and where it is going. Because after GenCon, I also started to realize how close I was to some sort of release date, so I redoubled some researching efforts and modified and solidified my Kickstarter release plans...not to an exact date yet, but, well, we'll talk about all that a bit later. For now, the list: MUST-HAVE CHANGES: 1. Cardboard hexes for designating resources in the mine: This is the single most obvious change I can make. Even before GenCon, I figured I should probably do this, but after pretty much every person I talked to complained about this, it became quite mandatory. You see, the way it is now, I just take resource cubes and place one on each hex of the mine the represent the resource of the hex, but when you start putting down workers and overseers on the mine, as well, it becomes very cluttered, and being cluttered makes it hard to move pieces around and hard to interpret the makeup of the mine at a quick glace, which makes it stressful for picking out your best move and also counting up who has the fewest workers. It really is just a mess and I can't wait to add hexes and remove a significant barrier to making moving around in the mine as fun as it can be. 2. Graphic design of the board and the card: Graphic design has been a no-brainer for a while. I can do all right in the design, but the game really deserves a pro. Right now, the quest cards are hard to read, the icons on the cards are boring, and the design of the board doesn't do justice to the artwork behind it. So I've gone and hired a graphic designer and I am really optimistic about bringing everything up to the next level visually. 3. More information on the market cards: Another common complaint was that what level adventurers could use what weapons was a little confusing. Things like this blow right by me because it's hard to tell what pieces of information are confusing when you've been comfortable with them for months. The same goes for the effect of some of the cards. I wrote out a bunch of non-sensical icons and have to explain them to people, and the thing is, there is plenty of space on the card to solve all these problems. So I wrote out in clear language what each of the cards did and added what level adventurer can use each weapon plan on the plans themselves. Plus I added an icon for how many points each card is worth, since I decided to vary that, as well. 4. The simple game still needs some help: The simple game is what people were playing throughout GenCon, and though a lot of changes had been made since the initial concept, and a lot of changes are still in my head, even with all of that, there is still something missing. I want the simple game to be as epic as possible, so I am constantly thinking about how to make that happen. Because the fact of the matter is that a full 5 hour game is not going to appeal to everyone, so the 60-90 minute simple game still needs to provide the full Forge War experience. 5. Multiple merchant cards: This is another thing that flew right by me. Right now I have a single merchant card with a ton of useful information on buying and selling resources sitting in the center of the board. Of course I have all that info memorized, but other people don't, so I had a lot of suggestions to print out 4 of them so every player could have the card in front of them and actually be able to reference that information. Well, duh. 6. A solution to the adventurer problem: In the first iteration of the game, adventurers didn't have levels. They could use whatever weapon the wanted and unique weapon plans became super over-powered. So I added levels to fix that and also add more depth to the game in the form of level 4 champion titles. Champion titles are awesome, and who doesn't love leveling things up? Adventurers levels are here to stay, but I still haven't come up with an ideal mechanical way to economically and effectively represent them. Currently I've got Agricola fence posts with dots on each side to represent the levels and little homemade capes to stick on them for each title, but this is somewhat impractical and complete non-mass-producible. But I need some way to denote a level (1-3) of up to 60 game pieces and be able to attach to the pieces one of 12 different titles. My best solution so far is cardboard pieces with slots to put a peg into (think Dixit, I guess) and then some sort of larger peg with a word or symbol on it to denote the titles. This might prove expensive and force the player to spend some time attaching stickers, which is never fun, so if you can think of a better idea, please let me know. 7. Reduced market costs: At GenCon, the market cards were priced at what I thought was a fair value, but the problem is that if bidding starts at a fair value, there's not going to be much competitive bidding going on because money in the game is tight and there aren't a lot of occasions to over-pay for something. So I decreased the price of most everything to increase the interactivity of the market phase. 8. Remove tie-breakers from determining turn order and same-color worker switches: In both these situations, the person with the fewest workers in the mine gets the advantage, but if there is a tie for that, we go to a bunch of superfluous tie-breakers that could also be tied and it's a process that just takes a little too long for what it is. So, now if there is a tie for fewest workers, the current turn order is consulted to break that. So if everyone has the same number of workers, then turn order for the next round simply doesn't change. Quick, easy and fair. LIKELY CHANGES: 1. Multi-colored worker cubes: This was suggested by a play-tester who had a lot of great ideas. When an overseer jumps over a worker, instead of removing that colored worker from the board and replacing it with a worker of another color, if the worker piece itself had a different color on each side of it, it could simple be rotated to save time. This also could save costs because you would need to manufacture fewer pieces. Of course, this might lead to more stickers, so I need to consult with a manufacturer before I settle on this idea. 2. Reworking champion titles: My biggest concerns at this point are the things that aren't addressed in the simple game, since these are the things that have received the least amount of player time. Chiefly among them are champion titles, which I feel still require some amount of balancing, especially the fortuitous champion, which everyone always takes first. If something is selected first every time, then it's clearly not balanced... 3. Reworking quest point rewards: Again, mainly concerned with the stage 2 and 3 quests. It sort of gets a little crazy at the end and the points received in the first half of the game are overshadowed, perhaps unnecessarily. One argument is that it allows players to come back from a bad early game, though, so this requires more thought. 4. Players start with the resources of the hexes where they initially place overseers: Just a thought I'm toying with. It would just make things a little easier to start with so that the last player doesn't get completely hosed by a poor quest selection on the first turn. POSSIBLE CHANGES: 1. Overseer breakroom: Another ingenious idea that I am not sold on. Basically it would be an extra circle of hexes around the edge of the board that overseers could move to to jump over workers on the edge of the board, but the trick is that if an overseer is moved from one of those hexes it wouldn't spawn a worker, thus you'd be trading more resources now for less later. It's interesting, but I'm not sure how much it really adds to the game and it would be difficult to graphically implement, given the variable mine size based on the number of players. 2. Further reduce the number of turns: Forge War was originally 30 turns long. And that was too long, so I reduced that to 24, revised all the quests and cut out a bunch of market cards to accommodate the shorter time frame, and I am now happy with that. But it's still kind of long. 5 hours long. If I could cut it another 6 rounds down to 18, then we'd be talking about a more manageable time. I think players familiar with the game could finish it in 2-3 hours. But I have no idea how I would do that and still retain the epicness. It requires some thought, but another upside would be reduced costs through fewer cards. 3. Rename the game: Well, I made a BoardGameGeek page and everything some I might be locked into the name now, but I'm not 100% happy with it. It's good. It sounds cool and has some alliteration and all that, but I'm not sure it accurately describes the game play. I think we'll be okay. I have some other ideas, but those may emerge as possible stretch rewards. So that's it for mechanics and game-play revisions. Most of those will be in the new rules PDF that I will link to shortly (also needing a graphic design overhaul). In this grand Forge War update, I will plan for 3 more posts throughout the next couple weeks: Part 2: The state of the Flash version of Forge War Part 3: My time researching the Internet on behalf of Forge War Part 4: The official plan of action for the next couple months. Stay tuned!

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