A story about the Gadget/Technology cards in Invasion from Protospiel. A playtester had just purchased a card with the following 12 words of text:
Move up to 3 of your own or enemy ships to Europe.
Playtester: “I hate this card, this is stupid. Europe isn’t scoring this turn so this is useless.”
Me: “Since Europe isn’t scoring, why don’t you move another player’s ships there?”
Playtester: “You can’t do that with this card.”
Me: “I’m pretty sure it says you can.”
Playtester: “No, it doesn’t.”
Me, now concerned that there is an error on the card: “Can I see?”
As it turns out, reading the card aloud was enough to convince the player that it could be used to get enemy ships out of the way.
This is a difficult situation. On one hand, I don’t want to confuse players, and I want to take playtester feedback seriously. On the other hand, this is not a complicated effect, and I don’t want to coddle recklessness or incuriousity. This player should be beaten by a more thoughtful opponent.
I hope that my change to Gadget cards that makes them public mitigates the effect of a player drawing a card and being frustrated because the right way to use it isn’t obvious; the other players can use the card instead and forcefully demonstrate.
Project #1 for the sabbatical is updating my second-oldest prototype, Invasion, based on the feedback that I got at Protospiel. Here are the changes:
- Rename “Technology” action cards to “Gadget” cards to reflect their single-use nature. Rename “Iron Points” to “Energy”; the old name “Iron Points” is a holdover from when VP (“Gold Points”) could also be spent. This is not a gameplay change, but it will require recreating most of the components.
- The most common criticisms of Invasion are: some players want more direct aggression against the other players; and players complain about buyers’ remorse after purchasing a Gadget card and not seeing an immediate use for it. To address these issues together, I will rework the way Gadget cards work: Rather than being purchased and spent later, a set of Gadget cards will be available to all players, refreshing each turn. On your turn, you may pay for and use one of the Gadget cards, which is then unavailable to the other players; so there will be an advantage to going first. I may even add in free, weakened effects so that being broke does not shut players out of the cards.
- Currently, the turn order bid works like this: The turn order cards are laid out 1-6; dice are rolled to see what cards get bonus action points. Mechanically, this works great, but it requires three sets of components: turn order cards, dice, and bonus action point chips. A Protospiel playtester suggested that I could use a slightly larger deck of turn order cards with bonus action points “built in” to the appropriate fraction of the cards, and thereby make the dice and chips unnecessary. I think this is a great idea, and the cards will need to be redone anyway (to handle the change in Gadget cards) so I’ll give it a try while I’m at it.
- These changes will require a new board and player aids. I hope I still have enough of my old files that regenerating the board is not too hard.
- All of these changes will require an overhaul of the rules and explainer’s script. I may go to the trouble to typeset the rules in LaTeX; I saw some of Gil Hova’s prototype rules done up in LaTeX a few months ago and they looked very sharp.