Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Showing posts with label East India Company. Show all posts
Showing posts with label East India Company. Show all posts

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Numerical analysis of "East India Company"

At UnPub 3, during the three-player playtest of "East India Company," Ben Rosset expressed concern that in the game, the dividend track wasn't rewarding enough to justify the cost.  He felt that in general, money can be better spent on ships and goods that will yield a better return on investment than declaring dividends.  It was an observation that I took very seriously; I hadn't had a playtest in which anybody completely ignored the dividend track before.  I wondered if it was a weakness that would emerge with extensive play and end up being a superfluous element of the game.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

PrezCon 2013 - Saturday

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery
On Friday, during my walk-through of the vendor area, I'd seen Spartacus (designers Aaron Dill, John Kovaleski, and Sean Sweigart; artist Charles Woods; publisher Gale Force 9) laid out at the Gale Force 9 booth.  In fact, it was the only game that GF9 was selling at PrezCon.  The demo at the booth had given me a mistaken first impression:  The rep behind the table started talking about the combat mechanics, which seemed good but not great as skirmish mechanics go.  He kept saying, "There's a whole lot of other stuff with influence and bribery that's really important, too," but the impression that I left with was that the combat was central and that there was some kind of wagering that went on around it.  I just wasn't impressed.  That is, until Saturday...

Friday, January 25, 2013

UnPub 3 Part III: Three players, four publishers, and plenty of pancakes

East India Company - Three-player playtest
Ben Rosset (left) and Stephen Craig clearly enjoying the
game playing excitement that is "East India Company"
Late on the first day of UnPub 3, designers Ben Rosset and Stephen Craig joined me for a three-player game of EIC.  This game unfolded in a couple of unusual ways.  Ben gradually built up his fleet until he had four ships - two small, two medium - and fell into a pattern in which his four ships went to four different colonies, bought four different goods, and returned to Europe to unload all four ships in the same turn.  It was kind of an odd cycle, but it worked, because the diversification of commodities meant that he wasn't competing with himself.  Stephen tried a couple of different things before he eventually invested in a big ship and started making the long China spice run.  I think he might have made that trip twice by the end of the game.  I decided to try the "chaining markets" strategy of buying tobacco in one place, bringing it to another colony that bought tobacco and sold ivory, buying ivory to bring it somewhere else that bought ivory, and so on.  My method must have worked, because I ended up winning in a pretty narrow range of scores.  Although the game ran 150 minutes (a little on the long side for a three-player game), I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

UnPub 3 Part II: Pig Pen, Playtesting, and Post Position

Kevin Kulp (left) explains Pig Pen to Jesse
Catron (right) and another gamer at UnPub3
Pig Pen
I first met designer Kevin Kulp at Congress of Gamers last October, when he playtested "East India Company."  He'd mentioned his set-building card game Pig Pen, but I never got to try it out at CoG.  So I was glad to find him and learn the game in a three-player session.  Pig Pen is just a fun, crazy draw-one-play-one game of assembling a pig pen consisting of four fences or walls, a gate, and a feed card.  Once those pieces are in place, a player can draw a pig and keep it in the pen - at least until something bad happens, such as an opponent taking a chainsaw to your wooden fence or detonating dynamite on your brick wall.  Then you've got one turn to repair the damage, or your pig runs away, potentially into the waiting arms of another player.  Oh, the betrayal!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Family playtest of East India Company

My mother-in-law Agnes enjoys the occasional boardgame, and she is not afraid to try out something new.  She was even one of my early playtesters of East India Company in its most rudimentary form.  Sunday afternoon, she agreed to revisit the game in its latest rendition, along with my wife Kathy and son Patrick.  I am grateful to get this shakedown of the current form of rules about three weeks prior to the Unpub 3 event in Dover on Martin Luther King weekend.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rules redlines

East India Company
prototype photo
Just a quick note that I've made some modifications to rules to "East India Company" based on the 8 November playtest.  The most drastic change was to move all the ship operations and unloading steps from the end of the turn to the beginning of the turn.  "Mike from Boston" made this recommendation after having read the actual rules while watching us play.  It makes a lot of sense for several reasons.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Trade triangles in "East India Company"

Perhaps the most infamous trading triangle, slaves
for agricultural products for manufactured goods
Source: African Cultural Center USA
A very brief note on a subtle change to "East India Company" tonight:  In my last playtest, Mike R. recommended that I modify some of the commodity tiles, deliberately duplicating some of the key production or buying tiles so as to strengthen the probability of creating a "trading triangle."  Most students of history are already familiar with the concept - a product is purchased in Port A and shipped to Port B, where it is sold and the proceeds used to purchase B's product.  That product is now shipped to Port C, where it is sold and the proceeds used to purchase C's product.  That product in turn is shipped back to Port A, where it is sold to restart the cycle.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Running the numbers in East India Company

I've mentioned several times that I'm worried about game length in "East India Company."  Each turn has a "New Colony Phase" in which a tile is drawn from a bag and added to one of the seven colonies on the board.  There are 21 tiles, three for each colony.  My previous rules held that the tile draw would trigger game end when all seven colonies had at least two tiles.  But the Congress of Gamers playtest ran the maximum possible length, when the second China tile didn't come out until all 18 tiles on the other six colonies had been drawn.  That turned out to be too long.

After-school special: East India and Tsuro of the Seas

My friends Frank Hodge, Keith Ferguson, and Mike R. and I got together this evening for a couple of games at Game Parlor in Chantilly, Virginia, after work today.

East India Company
The guys were gracious enough to agree to another playtest of "East India Company."  It was Mike's first time with it, but Keith and Frank had each played at least once.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I increased the ship speeds, allowed for ship upgrades as an alternative to building ships, and added a new game-end trigger condition.  The first two measures were intended to improve the cost-effectiveness of investing in ships, and the third was intended to shorten overall game length.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Playtesting preparations

Tomorrow after work I plan to bring my prototype of "East India Company" to Game Parlor in Chantilly, Virginia, for a playtest session with some of my gaming buddies.  One problem I had with this prototype at the UnPub ProtoZone event at Congress of Gamers last month was that the labels I had made for the ships didn't stick well to the spray-painted basswood ship pieces that I'd made.  So I spent this evening re-gluing all the labels with Elmer's white glue.  I'll leave them to dry overnight in the hope that they won't start peeling off again tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Congress of Gamers: Unpub Protozone Report, Part 1

This weekend saw a two-day session of game design playtesting at the Congress of Gamers in Rockville, Maryland.  CoG was the venue for an Unpub Protozone event in which several designers convened to have prototypes playtested and to compare notes on game design, development, and publication.  I had a terrific time with a number of energetic, imaginative game designers and saw some clever prototypes.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Quick note on Congress of Gamers

A very quick note after the first day of Congress of Gamers 2012:  I spent most of the day in the designers room.  Detailed notes to follow in a subsequent post.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Prototype photos

At last, I've finished the second prototype of "East India Company," right down to the makeshift box art and player's aids.  This will be the copy that I bring to Congress of Gamers in Rockville, Maryland, this weekend.  I hope to gain a lot of feedback and really refine this rough cut gem into something special.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Prototype fever

Prototype art for English galleon game piece
As I mentioned Monday, this week is prototype week for "East India Company."  I've designed the stickers that will go on the ships and player tokens.  I picked up some bass wood and spray paint at Michaels craft store.  Last night I uploaded some updated gameboard art to the Superior POD website so they could finish my order and, I hope, ship it by tomorrow.

This evening I cut 25 "ships" out of the 1/16"-thick bass wood.  The next step will be spray painting all the wooden pieces in the five player colors.  I'm having a lot of fun spending time on the physical components; my first prototype was a very rudimentary hand-drawn paper affair - functional, not pretty.  It's nice to take the time to put together something that I hope will be nice looking as well as fun to play.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Prototype progress

The last week has seen a lot of preparation for Congress of Gamers and the UnPub ProtoZone event on Columbus Day weekend in Rockville, Maryland.  I've been putting together a new prototype for "East India Company" in anticipation of getting some playtesting and exposure of the game in an exhibition environment.  My son helped me with the basics of Adobe Photoshop to put together a nice map layout.  I've got an order in to Superior Print-on-demand (Superior POD) for a mounted version of the mapboard that I hope will be ready in time for CoG.  Meanwhile I've been assembling materials to make up some nice game pieces.  So it has all been coming together, and I look forward to showing off my work-in-progress.

My focus has been more on constructing the prototype than on refining the gameplay, so the rules tweaks that will be in place are the ones I identified at the last round of playtesting at WBC.  I hope to get more comments and improvements out of the CoG designers room.  From there I should get a sense of how close to pitch-ready the game really is.  I'm getting pretty excited about EIC, and I look forward to sharing my excitement in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

WBC: Designers' forum

One of the great things about a convention like the World Boardgaming Championships is having the opportunity to interact with fellow designers.  The open gaming room at WBC was practically an informal design laboratory of demonstrations and playtesting.

TC Petty III's Viva Java
Image courtesy of
Dice Hate Me Games
My friend Keith F. and I had only the briefest chat with one of my favorite designers, T.C. Petty III, whom I met at WBC last year when he was demonstrating the semi-cooperative Viva Java, a game that has already seen its successful Kickstarter campaign and has a Dice Hate Me release expected this month.  T.C. is working on a couple of ideas that sound characteristically original and off-beat.  It will be fun to see what creations find their way to production out of his unique perspective on game design.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

East India Company: Turn sequence re-work pays off

After work today, I got a fourth playtest of "East India Company" with my friends Brian G. and Frank H.  Earlier this week, I'd completely reworked the turn sequence to improve the flow of decision-making and order of events, plus I added a couple of commodity tiles to the initial set-up to open up the early game.

Monday, July 30, 2012

East India Company: More playtesting, more adjusting

My family and I did another run-through of "East India Company" this weekend with my wife, my 19-year-old son, and my mother-in-law, of all people, who isn't afraid to learn something new from time to time.  I made some adjustments to correct the issue with the pace of the game this time, and I wanted to see how effective they were.

Monday, July 16, 2012

East India Company playtest

While on vacation, I arm-twisted my family into playtesting my work-in-progress "East India Company" again.  I'm not proud of it, but it was necessary, and it was fruitful.

In this round, I incorporated a number of notes from our previous playtest.  I drastically - and successfully - simplified the process for declaring dividends for bonus points.  Also, since the previous game ended just when it seemed to get going, I lengthened the game from a minimum of 11 to a minimum of 15 turns.  I made this adjustment despite my general concern about the overall playtime.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tale of Two Game Designs

Burton ship, image courtesy of
I've actually had two game designs in work.  I've already mentioned one, "East India Company," and today I typed up a number of rules changes based on the Father's Day playtest session that went so well.  I feel like just a few minor adjustments have really improved the initial setup (making sure that the initial commodity-colony tiles are not too far away from Europe), end game (going through two-thirds of the tiles rather than just half), dividend declaration mechanic (simplified to a table-read of dividends-to-points), cheaper ship construction, cheaper colony investment for taxes, and more appropriate physical component sizes.  I'm almost ready for another playtest.

I haven't mentioned the other work-in-progress, which I actually put together sooner and playtested a few times already.  This earlier design has the working title "Supply and Demand."  The board is a matrix with axes indicating supply (horizontal) and demand (vertical).  A cross-reference of each index yields a commodity price on the board.  A transparent marker on the board shows the current price of the commodity.  Players get partial information into cards that show positive or negative movement in supply and/or demand.  Players then buy and sell "contracts" among each other at whatever price they think will earn a profit when all the cards are played face up and the final market price resolved.  Players who bought markers have to sell them to the bank at the final market price; those who sold markers to other players have to buy them back at the final market price.  So a profit is made when a player bought lower or sold higher than the final market reconciliation price.  After two playtests (one at home, one with my local gaming group), I made some simplifications and other improvements.  I think the result is pretty smooth and ready for some serious attention.

The problem is that I just read on Seth Jaffee's blog about a very similar-sounding game called Panic by James Earnest, Greg Parsons, and Mick Sullivan.  This seems to be the story of my short game-design life.  I could dedicate an entire blog post to games I've designed just in time to discover another professionally made game that already does what I was trying to do, better than I did myself.

Oh, and now I find that there is already a computer game with the title East India Company, so I guess I will probably have to change the working title of my colonization-trade game, too.

Nature of the beast, I guess.