game goals

We playtested the zombie boardgame on Sunday. I think it was a lot of fun, even though we didn't get past the first room and at no time did it really feel "balanced." I learned some specific things and some general things.

Specific things:
-threat needs to scale with players.
-blundering is no fun, or at least it was happening too often.
-balancing the stats was very difficult, nerve seems mad OP, melee weapons were not compelling.
-gear is not yet well understood.
-controlling spawning via line-of-sight can be grossly unfair and forces the humans to do weird counter-intuitive things to maintain sight lines. Which also kinda breaks the story a bit. Perhaps all spawning should be "when an area is revealed" or via "exterior points" (i.e. windows, etc.)

But with all that, the core mechanic seemed fun.

General things:
The game needs a thesis. Or, it needs a story. When you sit down to play it there should be a shared expectation of where the game will go. With this game specifically, I wrote it to be a game about the heroes getting inexorably worn down by zombies. So they start strong, but by the end of the map they just barely escape with their lives. But I think the playtesters expected to start weak, and get stronger while facing increasing danger over the course of the map. So, either I need to adjust my perception, or I need to find a way to adjust the perception of the player. It might be possible to do this by calling on various genre tropes in the way the game is described. Or, perhaps my perception is simply out of step.

The game doesn't handle player death very well. We have a cool mechanic where when a stat drops to 0, you're "bitten," you get a +3 bonus on all rolls, but you can't win, and the next hit kills you. But after that there's no way for dead players to participate. If death is permanent, then the maps need to be really short. If death is temporary... then that needs to be designed in somehow. Descent has a concept of "Conquest" that deals with this problem rather neatly, but I don't know if there's a corresponding horror genre trope.

So I know what I need to focus on for the next iteration.

2 comments:

  1. Two of the ideas that stuck with me from reading Art of Game Design (highly recommend!) seem like what you need to balance here:

    1. Everything serves Theme.
    2. Make the Game fit the Player, not the other way around.

    When a solution fits both of these ideas, it is definitely on the right track.

    Seems like, more specifically, you could set up rival teams so that dead players are part of the Zombie team - reinforcing the "heroes are hopelessly outnumbered" kind of feel you want to achieve.

    Sounds fun, want to play! :)

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