Once a week, I get together with other designers and publishers to talk about all kinds of game related things.
Last weekend we were able to play test Dice Inc. The big difference with this test was the fact that we had four players are the table for the firs time. All other tests have had only three people and the auction mechanic we have been using is a very different monster with four players.
Our Goals for this Test?
We wanted to see our two sided auction system function in a similar way to how we hypothesized it would. A big feature of the auction we have not been able to test was the ability to switch sides in the middle of an auction. Now that we had four players, we were able to try out the switch function. We also wanted to try out the bond system we have that replaced the stock system we were using previously. We made the stock to bond change to make the math as simple as possible. We showed the game to Sarcastic Robot and the big comment was to simplify the math. We always knew the math was well, “mathy”; we just had not figured out a system we could use to fix it. Aidan thought up a bond system based on fixed payment amounts per outstanding bond and that makes the math much more manageable.
Who Was Testing?
Aidan and I were at the table along with two of our buddies, BJ and Tim (fantastic artist BTW). BJ is one of our main play tester who is great for his willingness to try out different strategies and is almost always trying to win. BJ has played Dice Inc on two previous occasions and has a strong understanding of the flow and mechanics of the game. Tim was the new guy to Dice Inc and I was particularly interested in how well we could teach Dice Inc in its current iteration. Just a side note, teaching a new game for the first time is a challenge for me. I have to balance my excitement for the game against the clarity required to properly teach a game. As I was trying to explain the game to Tim, I had to stop myself several times and wonder if this was the best way to present a particular part of Dice Inc. I felt bad for Tim, but he was a trooper and learned as we went along. Spoiler Alert: Tim’s post game comments were “That game was really fun, I keep thinking about it.”
What Did We Learn, What Did We Change?
We learned that that all the elements for the game we want to design are in place. The kinds of player interaction we are going for are there, they just don’t happen enough. We learned that while the auction mechanic is great fun, it can take a long time. We learned that there is a problem with front running, and I hate front running! We also learned that there is an inflation problem with each player’s ability to create as many bonds as they want. We learned that the floating effects have a major ability to force players to move around the board to find or avoid certain bonuses.
From these lessons we have make the following changes:
1) Two Round Silent Auction: We are not going to get rid of the regular auction system, but we need to consider the time required to play the game. If players want a quick system, they can use a two round silent auction system. I will save the details for another time since we have not tested with the silent auction. When we write the rules, we will have both systems outlined and allow players to pick what works best for their game night situation.
2) Pinning for Combat: We decided during the next test we are going to allow players to pin others into combat situations. While the on board “dance” that comes from battle mechanics is fun to watch, it was really difficult for players to get into combat. One of the ways for players to catch up is to engage in combat so we need to make combat more accessible. Again, since we have not tried it out, I will save the details for later.
3) Starting with two dice: Currently, we are starting with one die per player at the beginning of the game. Since only one new die is added to the board per round, the board felt empty and the reduced the amount of player interaction. We decided to add a second die for each player at the start of the game because one die seems pointlessly restrictive and having a board with more things on it is more visually stimulating.
4) Limit the total number of bonds per player: Front running was an issue in this game. I was in front for most of the game and my ability to issue as many bonds as I wanted made it very difficult for other to gain more dice. More die adds to a players income levels and as I got stronger my risk levels lowered, so issuing 20-25 bonds for me was not a big deal, and other players had to pay up big time for those bonds. Next time we play, we are going to limit total bonds to 25 per player. When player A wins an auction, the will have fewer total bonds to offer next round’s auction, this will in turn allow other players to have an advantage. Really please with this fix!
5) Ten Dollar hexes on the outer ring: So far, we have been placing all the hexes at random. We have decided to make the outside ring all ten dollar hexes. This is going to “force” players to the more valuable inner part of the board and will therefore increase the chances of player interaction….never a bad thing
6) Add more effects to the board set up: The floating effects made for some great board flow. What was missing was the effects! There were not enough of them on the board for our taste. Next time we play we are going to add 7 effects to the board at the beginning. The catch is that the effects will be face down when the players add their first two die to the board. We are doing this so that players have some unknown risk/reward installed into the initial set up. When all the dice have been placed, the effects will be revealed and play will begin.
Possibly 7) We are toying with the idea of allowing players to pay cash to roll up their die faces. We still need to figure out the cost but we see combat as a way to help weaker players defeat the stronger players and allowing for upgrades of certain die at certain times may serve as a good method.
We are very pleased with what Dice Inc has to offer. We are very early in the process but the base game is almost there. I believe we are two tests away from having a “set” base game. After everyone had gone home, I took the time to upgrade the prototype.