Invasion Playtest Report

Tonight was the first playtest of my post-Protospiel changes to Invasion. I was pleased that all the changes seemed to be more or less successful, although a few changes are in order.

  • The previous iteration had players choose any free region to place their Mothership in on the first round of the game. This iteration has each player choose a Portal card, which indicates a location for a mothership and two bonus ships. This narrows the choices and jump-starts the game, so I approve. This playtest version also granted some Energy based on the relative desirability of the Mothership spot. I will remove that as too complicated in the next iteration; any players sophisticated enough to care about the small difference will settle it through bidding.
  • The previous iteration used turn order cards 1-6, refreshed every turn, and used dice to distribute bonus Action Point chips between them. This iteration uses a small deck of turn order cards 1-16, some of which have bonus Action Points built in. This works well; it not only cuts down on the components but speeds the turn up slightly. Some of the cards gave bonus Energy in this iteration. That will change to a discount in Gadget cost to encourage using those and also to reduce the amount of component-shuffling.
  • I replaced the large and small washers that served as money with red and yellow plastic winks (transparent bingo chips). This worked great; players had no trouble remembering which was which, they look classier, and the game term “Energy” works much better than “Iron Points”. I replaced the pennies that indicated increased region value with small laminated paper chips with a “2” on them (the amount they increase the value by). This worked great except that they were too small, so I’ll print some slightly larger ones for the next iteration.
  • The big new change in this iteration is that the one-shot Technology cards, purchased in one turn from the deck and used later, were replaced by Gadget cards, which are refreshed at the start of the turn and are purchased and used immediately. They also have variable costs. This ended up working very well, infusing some more “action” into the game. However, some specific changes are in order:
    • Remove all the cards that don’t directly affect the board. One gained energy, one gained VP, neither led to an interesting situation or decision.
    • Rebalance card costs or effects to account for the fact that destroying or moving enemy ships is generally more powerful than moving or deploying friendly ships. (It lets you focus more strongly; it doesn’t lead to increased casualties; it makes it easier to lean on a leader.)
  • A secondary effect of the Gadget cards is that going earlier in turn order is now better than it used to be, because it gives a better choice of Gadget cards. I already accounted for this somewhat by reducing the spread of Action Points available between high- and low-numbered cards; I’ll keep an eye because if it makes the cards too equal, I’ll need to de-equalize them again to make bidding more interesting.
  • As the last player on the last turn, I found myself in a kingmaker situation: I could stop one of two opponents from winning, but not both. This is not ideal, and the possibility of such kingmaker situations is the worst problem that has plagued Invasion since its inception. I think the game is good enough to survive with this flaw, but I’d still like to see it resolved… somehow.

Thanks to Paul Jacobs, Eric Steiger, and Carla Schober for playing!

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