The Sage Welcomes You

So, here you find a blog about life in general, but with a focus on family, games, books and creativity. Other "stuff" will creep in from timt to time.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Playtest: Zeppelin Armada - Phase 2 (Game 2)

Continuing my family's playtest quest with Evil Hat's card game in development, Zeppelin Armada, I, my son and my father (retired mathematician born in the 30's) sat down to play a game. Dad is a good game player and a good sport, but a game with this many different bits is not generally up his alley. Nonetheless, for his son and his grandson, he was willing to give it a try.

We decided this time, at my son's demand, to choose our flag ships. He really wanted to play Der Blizmann. My dad chose the Mathmagician, Dr. Mathuselah, and I chose Kahn, Gorilla Kahn!!!!!!

It was no problem to explain how the game starts and getting dad to lay out his Zeppelins. My son and I got our armadas arranged and we started with our dealt hands. We rolled a die to determine who would go first, and the die came up with my dad's numbers. I took the lead in helping him sort through the different kinds of cards. We each took a fairly conservative approach to our opening game, but I got a card that forced me to attack every turn or lose a Zeppelin, so I started blasting away fairly early and the rounds of back and forth attacks never really ceased.

I was able to play more strategically this time, often using my ability to yoink attack cards (due to fast fleet speed) to just get attacks I did not want to see used against me off the board and then discard them in favor of trying to draw cards that were of more help.

My dad was fairly even handed in his attacks, pounding both my armada and that of my son. However, he did (properly) assess that my son was the more dangerous opponent, and soon began concentrating more on him.

On the other hand, my son pretty much concentrated on wiping me out. I was able to pull a few tricks, such as pulling one of his best Zeppelins from the "dead" Zep pile with a reaction card to put in my fleet, but in the end, I went down in flames. The thing about the game, though, is that playing is plenty entertaining, so losing, for me, does not have to terrible a sting. I was out for about another 20 or so minutes as the regular game finished up.

Naturally enough, I became my dad's advisor, and pretty soon we had taken my son's armada down and finished his flag ship off with an Event that does non-attack damage to any Zeppelin. That was a clean and clear win for my dad.

My son, however, always the designer and never without an opinion of how a game can improve, felt that he should have been able to use a special power of his damaged flag ship to shift damage to his other remaining Zeppelin. The text on the flagship pretty clearly forbids this, as it only works on attack damage and the Even card was specifically non-attack.

However, he persuaded us to continue to play a "what if" scenario. If he had been able to shunt damage over, then what. Well, we exteneded our play out another 15 minutes to find out. He staged a little bit of a comeback, but by the end of the 15 minutes, he was down to just his flagship, which my dad decisively took down again.

So, much to my son's chagrin, the what if was answered that, after 15 more minutes of suffering, he still would have lost. Still he believed that the change would be a good one. This I dutifully included in the formal playtest report.

One other "new" think for us in this game was that we used cards (probably because of our more aggresive discarding) much more rapidly, such that we had to reshuffle the deck after we ran out of attack/event/reaction/character cards. The Zeppelins, once out of play, don't, as a rule, come back. So we did reshuffle the non-Zep cards and created a new draw pile. I am not sure if this was specifically covered in the draft rules, but it seemed to make sense.

The bottom line was again that the game was good fun. It is a lot to track for a card game, and one thing about some cards that stay in play is that they all seem to have different triggers for leaving play. One will have to be discarded when a new Zeppelin is played, another if you play a Reaction. This can get to be a lot to track and remember. I think we may have had at least one instance where a card did not get immediately discarded when it was supposed to because of the complexity.

Still, this is not the most complex game out there, and if, as my son has suggested, the final version has something like a checklisted "reminder card" included for each player, that would mostly eliminate these issues for the casual or beginning player.

Though my dad won, he was a bit amused and bemused at the whole process. He definitely participated in and enjoyed the game, but it was not his kind of game. I would not want to pidgeon hole anyone based on age or any other characteristic, but I think there is going to be only a narrow slice of my dad's contemporaries who will have much interest in Zeppelin Armada as a regular game to play. Still, the playability and fun of the game ought to appeal to a broad spectrim of game players.

Hopefully, our responses back to Evil Hat will assist in fine tuning the game and getting it to market that much quicker.

I want to thank Fred and Jeff and all the other hard working members of the Evil Hat team who made it possible for us to play. It has been a very interesting experience.

So, it is possible there will be no more playtest posts, but, stick around. I might have one or two other things to say, and they might even be interesting.

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