Jun 22

Game Design Diary #2

Last Thursday night was the first play testing session for the game I am designing tentatively titled, “The Realm” A very brief description would be that it is struggle between powerful families attempting to be named heirs to the throne of a fantasy kingdom whose king is without a successor. Using worker placement mechanics to represent the assignment of tasks to various family members, players compete to increase their family’s honor, influence, and glory. Families acquire these attributes by performing tasks in the borderlands, at court, in the tournament, completing quests, and by going on pilgrimages to the holy land.  These attributes allow families to gain victory points in pursuit of the crown!

Adam Pressnell took on the role of the wealthy and corrupt Malkavians.  The merchant lord Nickolai Malkavian was recently elevated to the nobility and his ambition knows no bounds!  Will he seize the throne with his wealth, minions, and influence at court?  We shall see.

My wife, Heather Hamm, played the pious and brave Tintagels.  A family steeped in honor and glory who would see to the defense and continued protection of the realm.  Will they manage to emerge from the viper’s nest and protect the realm from those with less pure motives?  Only time will tell.

I would be playing the infamous Borgions.  A family that is only more feared than it is reviled!  They are well-known for their never-ending machinations and treacheries at court in their ongoing quest to further the power of their family.  They seek to finally seize the ultimate prize and lay claim to the throne.  Will they succeed?  The realm shudders at the thought!

In my initial design the game was planned to last 12 turns.  We only played through 4 turns on Thursday as our unfamiliarity with the rules and strategies led to slower than expected play.  It was suggested that the game length be shortened to cut down on the length of the game.  This is being taken under consideration and will be determined with further play testing.  The Malkavians were able to win an early tournament and by defeating the black knight add him to their ranks.  This turned out to be very important as they dominated the tournament throughout the rest of the game.  This coupled with hiring the bard to sing of their glorious victories proved to be a powerful combo.  Court was proving to be a stalemate as all players voted on the same side of every agenda item to protect their influence rank.  True to form, the wicked Malkavians did little to defend the realm in the borderlands, and thus the brave Tintagels and even the scheming Borgions were left to keep the people safe.  Though their families gained great honor for these actions, it only served to balance the ledger with the glory gained by the Malkavians in the tournaments.  The Tintagels and Borgions attempted to gain an edge in glory by undertaking quests in defense of the Realm.  The Tintagels defeated the evil necromancer Malthraxas by over coming his undead minions and taking his head and staff.  In later rounds the Borgions solved the Sphinx’s riddle to allow continued pilgrimages to the temple, but sadly the on the final turn that we played Lucilla Borgion was killed attempting to defeat the witch in her enchanted forest.

In our shortened game the Malkavians were victorious with 16 victory points followed by the Tintagels with 10, and the Borgions with 8.

Observations from this one game of testing:

Game may need to be shortened.

Money seems more powerful than initially thought.  The employing of hirelings translates to additional actions and thus gives the wealthier families a distinct advantage.  It may be necessary to shrink the gap in income between the various families.

The bard was too powerful!  He no longer doubles the glory gained through a character’s action but rather only increases the gain by three points.

The fortune-teller was by far the weakest of the hirelings.  This has been increased dramatically and will be discussed in diary three.

The power of the “build border fortifications” was too great.  The bonus to border strength has been cut in half from 10 to 5.

While not discovered during this session, I have come to realize that there are serious issues with how the endgame would play out in a full game.  This is in the process of being resolved and may be covered in diary three.

All in all, the response was entirely positive!  Sure there were bugs as to be expected, but everyone agreed that they had a lot of fun and would definitely play again in the future.  Adam even went so far as to say he thought it was, “Better than 80% of the games at GenCon.”  High praise indeed!  Hopefully with some refinement and a lot more play testing I will be able to craft “The Realm” into truly high quality game worthy of being published or funded on Kickstarter.


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