FODP (Fear of Disappointing Playtesters)

I’ve had my games playtested plenty of times. By friends, family, colleagues, Fiona, club members, random people at cons, folk at Playtest UK, other designers, Fiona again, and more. And every time there’s a fear that I’m going to let them down. Not that the feedback will be bad, I can take that. Or that they’ll have plenty of recommendations, that’s great (even if they’re not). No, instead I have a horrible feeling I’m about to waste 30-45 minutes of their life. Time they could have spent doing literally anything else. It’s a redundant fear- even with my worst games I’ve never had people have a less-than-enjoyable time. Sitting down playing games is naturally fun, and given my games are diametrically opposed to any kind of take-that victimisation, even if it turns out a little underbaked, we’ve still sat down and had a good time.

 

An underbaked disappointment

 

I write this, because I’m about to head off to Airecon and give this new improved version of 3 Districts its first proper playtesting outside in the big world. Whilst there are still a few things I’d like to change (work commitments have meant the iconography isn’t complete, and some cards have been removed whilst being balanced), but otherwise I’m extremely happy and excited for how it plays, even if the art is still all prototype. Playtesters should have a fun time playing my game (and if not that’s the most important thing for me to find out).

Now I just need to stop being so apologetic when I’m trying to encourage people to play it…

And the game is…

The reason I started this blog (and everything along with it) is because of a game. 3 Districts (name subject to change). I’m going to explain it in broad terms here, and use future updates for reasoning, changes, influences and everything else. There won’t be a full rules explanation here, or finished art, just the ideas I think are important, enough to give you a flavour of the game.

3 Districts is a city-building worker-placement game for 2-4 players. Each player builds buildings and visits buildings, either their own or other’s, until one player has built a set number. At that point, the player with the highest quality city wins. The game takes around 45 minutes to play, and is designed to be straightforward, but with interesting choices and plenty of player interactivity.

Key ideas:

Build your own actions– at the start everybody has the same basic action available to them. All other actions need to be built first. But something you build is available to all other players (at a cost). This means the other players aren’t just blockers, like in traditional worker placement games, but facilitators as well.

But the actions keep changing– it would quickly get overwhelming to have every action space built be usable. Therefore each player only has two spaces to build buildings. When a third is built, one of the previous two are replaced. They still count for victory points, but they’re not longer an action space. This prevents there being too many options, but also takes all players on a journey, and guarantees no two games will be alike.

Pace from an engine– each building pays tax at the start of a player’s turn. As more buildings are built they get more money. This results in a natural progression from the level 1 buildings through to the more expensive level 3 buildings.

The option to jump ahead– The buildings at level 3 are worth more VPs than level 1. Do you build up your tax base by cheaply building a host of level 1 buildings, or use certain building’s to make sure you can afford a level 2 or 3 building, changing the dynamic of the game. Different paths to victory.

All of this done with minimum randomness, genuine options, high interactivity and elegant gameplay. Hopefully you’ll eventually be able to tell me if I’ve succeeded!

What is Radical 8 Games?

I’ve been designing games for a while now, as a hobby, a weirdly enjoyable and stressful hobby, and wanted to blog my experiences, processes and also detail what games I’ve been playing or have influenced me. This is for a couple of reasons, but I guess they’re all really fallout from one reason. I’ve had some great experiences with publishers, even ones who have rejected my games (can’t blame them in some cases), but I think I fancy giving it a go myself. Obviously this is sheer lunacy, why take on all the work, risk and even more work yourself? Because, in spite of everything, I think I’ll like it. I’m not the best at relinquishing control, and whilst publishing in the UK is better than a lot of other countries for accepting submissions, there’s still very few with long wait times. So this blog is a taster for me- do I actually enjoy the non-designing side of the boardgame industry, and a taster for everyone who reads it- If my game hits kickstarter, this blog should give a good idea of whether or not you’ll like the game, and/ or trust me as a person to get it to you.

Well, that’s the rambling intro. I intend to update this every fortnight of so, with details of my game, design decisions, games which I love (or have influenced me in other ways), probability theory- because that’s something I know I can actually do, and anything else that takes my fancy.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Mark

Radical 8 Games.