Excalibur's Zone Gaming

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DieCiv Pre-Alpha Report #1

Today, in addition to playing some FUN commander games, I was able to sit down with my friends L and C (until I get permission to use names, I’ll use letters for the playtesters) for another pre-alpha playtest. The focus of this game was to see how other players felt about what was going on with the core mechanics of the game.

The results? It took a few turns for everything to click, but luckily I was there to explain things. I believe the core mechanic is sound but there needs to be a concrete, documented explanation of the terms, zones, and actions that can be taken during a turn. I had to explain how the dice worked more than a few times and I kept going back to the core mantra that I set for the game. I was hoping it was a simple one…

The big hurdle was understanding what active dice were and how limiters worked. After a bit, we were able to push a turn around and go. There were still questions about what should be done with dice, what order things should be purchased in, what is the strategic value of this or that. But, after a while, I started seeing L and C start to think about where their dice should be spent, given their limited resources at times.

L said he had a fun time and enjoyed the game. C said the game was something he’d play if it was offered but he wouldn’t rush out and buy it. Mainly, C only saw a small portion of the game and we didn’t get to any of the stuff I’m still working on.

We were able to:

  1. Gain 2 VPs each by completing a technology,
  2. each research a tech,
  3. use the Wonder cards for their start player effects,
  4. and see all of the Tech Level 1 techs.

Some lessons learned:

  • There are still too many technologies being displayed for each tech level in order for the game to be considered speedy.
  • Players are initially very confused about the core success/failure mechanics and the value mechanic.
  • Players are initially very confused about how to use dice as successes on technologies (as Research Dice) and when to use them for actions (Action Dice).
  • Players are confused as to what can be done with dice if you don’t have any successes or are severely limited by the number of successes allowed.
  • More of the game has to be designed (the technologies and wonders at the very least) so that players can have a better view of the game.

To that end, here is a short intro about the game I’m working on. Not the particular mechanics, per se, but an overall description of the beast:

Die Civilization is a game about civilization building using dice. Dice represent production, manpower, military prowess, espionage, agriculture, think tanks, and other aspects of a civilization. Technologies are cards that represent milestones in human development from the stone age to the medieval era. And finally, you can build the seven wonders of the ancient world.

You win the game in one of three ways: Collecting the most victory points by researching and acquiring technologies, finishing your wonder before anyone else, or by completing the majority of the achievements available at the end of the game.

I’m still up in the air about achievements. Initial plan is to have them face down and hidden throughout the game. You can use dice and production to look at them throughout the game, but I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not.

The number of technologies available aren’t moving fast enough on a per-tech level basis. I think I’m going to revamp the initial deck to have less techs in the “play deck”. Currently, you draw twice the number of players for each tech level, shuffle them, then stack them with tech level 1 on top and 5 on the bottom. I think I’ll go to number of players + 1. That might be a better route to go and speed up the game. Everyone advances tech level at the same time–when a higher level technology hits the table. I think this is the most balancing way to do it, though the person who starts their turn with the new tech in play is going to have a small leg up over everyone else. But I have to see how well this works before I make the final call.

Technologies really need to be designed next. I want them to have two benefits that the player has to choose from when they complete it. Then they place their tech under their tableau in such a way that the benefit they chose is displayed. Other players still need to be able to research the tech as well. So I have to figure that one out. Technologies give a free die and 2 benefits for completing it. The die is for the one who completes it first. You’ll want to complete it for the benefits and possibly for the achievements as well.

Wonders need to be designed. They are an ongoing project which is another place to dump dice. Each has a number of stages that need to be completed and each stage provides something interesting to the player completing them. I was going to have players draft their wonders, but then I realized that may break balance if someone has played a particular wonder enough to figure out tricks and grabs it every time they play (to go first, second, last, whatever). Random distribution is the best bet here.

One last thing on the dice: I’m debating making dice a limited resource and it may enforce player interaction to gain those resources. I like the idea, but I have to figure out if it’s feasible.

I hope with the initial game that there is enough randomness and components that the game has a lot of replayability. The game is being designed for 2-4 players with a customized 54-card deck of cards, a number of dice, and 10 cubes (or meeples) per player. That’s quite a number of components. So I may look at going into a digital version first and a physical version after. Again, something I’m examining.

Back to dev and work! Hope my meanderings are somewhat interesting to you!

Updated: November 17, 2014 — 7:48 am
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