Tagged: card games

Approaching Beta – improving hel’s BELLEs

More playtesting has occurred. It admittedly feels a bit weird to be trying things out so frequently; in the past it’s been literally months between playtest sessions. That said, the ideas have been flowing, and there are always things that can be done to smooth out the playing experience.
Command tiers. As I mentioned last time, comand tiers were in some trouble, as yellow had been nerfed by a recent timing change. I like the timing change, and so I will probably keep it, which means efforts continue to re-zowie the yellow tier. Last night I tested out the most recent thought, whch was to let opponents ignore a planned move, but it had mixed results. There were opportunities to use it, but just not as many. Or rather, those opportunities simply weren’t very powerful. Mostly the yellow-tiered commands just ended up being cheaper greens. No good.
Next up will be a shot at a simple trumping system, where some command tiers are resolved before others. The nature of turn resolution should prevent it from slowing down the game significantly, while in crucial moments it could be important enough to justify the purchase of one tier over another. Also could make red commands more strategic (they’d go before the other tiers, but would continue to end the player’s turn, as they always have). The colours/codings of the tiers will probably change, but that was always likely, as green, yellow, and red aren’t very colourblind-friendly.
I’ve also made significant changes to the deck makeups, with an eye towards being a bit more consumer friendly where multiplayer expansion is concerned. Previously, while the game was primarily a 2 player duel, I was also working on a 3-4 player expansion that would increase the availability of specific cards to enable multiplayer skirmishes. Much of my effort over the last couple of days has been directed towards changing the deck makeup so that a multiplayer game can be more easily played simply using two decks (whether they be the same one or two different ones). Multiple duel decks would still mean more variety, but multiple copies of one (say, the base game owned by multiple players) would allow for multiplayer without requiring somebody buy a specific expansion. That I won’t be able to fully test without at least a few other people (last night’s playtest only involved 2 of us), but we did give the second deck a go in a 2 player duel and it seemed pretty solid. I have some thoughts regarding cpus and mecha balance that I want to consider a little further, but right now I feel like things are progressing well, and that the game is starting to run much more smoothly.

Keep it or drop it; adventures in game mechanics


Did a bit more playtesting the other day, after making numerous changes to Hel’s BELLEs. Biggest change was the timing resolution that I talked about last time. I cut the individual phases way back (almost halved) while slightly boosting the secondary effects of the cards in question to maintain the value of each upgrade. All of that went really well, and the game played much more quickly and smoothly. All is not perfect though, as the reduced phases have had another effect that hadn’t occurred to me.
The cards that one plays have 3 colour-coded tiers, with each tier effecting gameplay a little. Green resolves normally, red ends the turn, and yellow provides room for an opponent to revise his already-selected actions. I really like this aspect of the game. The yellow effect didn’t become really obvious until later in the game, when an increased number of phases increased the opportunities for revision. Well, now you never get quite that many phases, and as a result I kinda nerfed the effect.
I’ve since come up with a (potentially better) slicker method of revising one’s turn, but in asking one of my regular playtesters, the issue of the mechanic’s validity/necessity came up. He also likes the concept of spontaneous revision,  but isn’t sure whether its really necessary to the game. And if its not necessary, then I shouldn’t keep it around. I agree with the theory, but I’m waiting to see what happens in practice.
With any luck, I might get a couple playtesting games in this weekend. I’ll probably try it both ways with a few different people before I make a decision. I’m tempted to keep it in, even if I need to make it an ‘advanced’ game, but I know that’s partly just me not wanting to let go of something I’m attached to. Wish me luck!



Got a tiny bit of time to myself while we were at my wife’s mother’s house for the Easter weekend. Used a little bit of it for working on Hel’s BELLEs, a little bit for some Zombie Dice (which my sister and her husband gave me for Christmas this weekend; we gave them Archaeology: the Card Game) and a single very relaxing game of Equilibrion. That would be Urbion to most folks, but being as I live in Northern Ontario, and as I picked it up right away, I wound up with one of the early editions, when Shadi Torbey was still calling it by its original name. The first couple times I played this, when I first picked it up, it gave me a lot of trouble, but in hindsight I have to wonder if I was just really distracted. Because it seems just as smooth and easy as Onirim now. Go figure.

Anyway, its a solid little solitaire game, although it seems a little more beatable than Onirim so far. Could be I need to introduce some of the (included!) expansions already. Also haven’t had the chance to try it two-player. Maybe at some point down the line. If I do, I’ll try to remember to mention it, and pass on any impressions I get. For now, I’ll just say that if you’re looking for a quick solitaire game that you can play when you find a quiet moment, Urbion’s a pretty sweet option.

Mille Bornes

Been checking out Mille Bornes the last couple of days and I’ve got some mixed feelings. Fun enough, and I think a four player game with two teams might play better, but I’ve been checking it out 3-player and it suffers. Entire games have gone to 700 and even 1000 miles without drawing a necessary card. One of these I never drew a go card. Another I got wrecked right away and never drew a repair. Allowing for drawing from the discard pile helps, but other players still aren’t obligated to toss what you need.
All in all, it seemed like a perfect example of what I was talking about the other day. Absolutely needing a card and not getting it. 1954’s own version of m:tg’s manascrew.
Like I said, team games might alleviate this, as you’d draw half the deck,  but I still don’t think it would *solve* the problem.

In other news, introduced my sister and her husband to Justified. So good.

Tweaking BELLEs

Making a few more changes to the hel’s BELLEs prototype before moving on into printing a beta version. Terrain has seen minimal use so far; it’s interesting and fun, but doesn’t quite have the appeal damage-wise. Since the goal of hel’s BELLEs is to destroy your opponent’s BELLE (potentially several times over), there can be a bigger payoff in spenig the time and resources in weapons and armour over terrain. With this in mind, I’ve boosted the collateral damage of terrain significantly. It should make it a more viable option (even more so in games involving more players).
When I first started this project, I knew that balancing would be an important aspect of tweaking the prototype, and it has been, but it’s interesting to note that it hasn’t been in the way that I expected. My expectations were that most tweaks would be cost-to-value ratios on various mecha parts, but a lot of it has been related to card economy. Playtesting has really demonstrated what cards – even if decent value for cost, just aren’t as valuable in terms of gameplay. Some stuff has been cut or pushed back into expansion territory (some ideas are solid, but lack the cohesion you’d get with a larger quantity of similarly-themed cards), but some of the cards, like terrain drops and defensive actions, just need a bit more oomph. Often as not, it’s the cards that I was worried would be overpowered that are lacking (I may have removed their teeth in the early stages without realising it).
All in all, an interesting process.

playtesting hel’s BELLEs

Got in a bit of playtesting last night. Felt good. 1 new player, who gave the rules a once over and then tried a game. I went over some stuff, but she actually played a duel against somebody that’s only played twice before, so much of the in-game questions and answers were handled by him. Seemed like a good sign. I need to try and get playtest sessions happening a little more often; I find the first run at it is a little slow each time because it’s never very fresh in people’s heads. This wouldn’t be an issue if hel’s BELLEs played in 20-30 minutes, but it’s more of a 60-120 minute sort of deal, which means we rarely get in more than a couple games in a night. That said, we were clocking much closer to the 60-minute mark this time than we used to, which would seem to indicate that my efforts to streamline the Market/Upgrading were not in vain.

While I am simultaneously considering and developing a 3-4 player option, the base game is a duel between two players, and this is what we focused on last night. There were four of us, but we paired off to play separate games, and managed to get 2 full games in, and well into a third. GroupA’s first game went smoothly, with a couple of questions coming up, all of which are at this point covered in the rules (which need a table of contents or an index!) and could be quickly looked up. Balance between various options seemed good, and the recent tweaks I made to CPU upgradeability were lifesavers. It would have been a much longer trek without. Also had a chance to see the newly-added boot sequence (for when a mech’s entire core is replaced) put to use, and it was well-received all around; previously, mech replacement was a little too much pro and not enough con. GroupB’s game was very Market/upgrade heavy, and ran a little longer as a result, but both players were having a blast customizing their mechs, so this wasn’t a problem. It meant a longer game, but both players were fine with that. Had either one pushed the fight a little more, things would have moved along more quickly; they both enjoyed being able to explore some more options on the customization front (the new player was in this group, which likely played a role in the customization focus). GroupA got a second game well under way before we all had to call it a night, and it was a very close match with both players walking a fine line between customization and combat.

As I mentioned, balance between different aspects of the game seems to be more or less achieved at this point. Next time I expect to test out a new repair procedure (the old one just isn’t efficient enough to make it an attractive option) and make some terrain tweaks. Defending is still up in the air as to whether it’s valuable enough to keep around.