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.
Some changes for Hel’s BELLEs
Had another playtest last night. Once again forgot to snap a photo (I swear I’ll remember one of these days!). Had a new player out, which was fantastic, as it lead to a pretty productive discussion afterwards. He liked it very much (yes!) and had some thoughts regarding streamlining some aspects of the timing. Good stuff, and they look to work really well in conjunction with some ideas I was already messing around with.
At this point I think most of the changes are going to be related to streamlining the gameplay. The game works well, but takes a while. Which isn’t a problem in itself. What I don’t want is for it to take longer than it *needs* to. If 2 hours is what it takes to get the best experience possible then I’m fine with 2 hours. But if 1 hour can accomplish the same experience, then that’s how long it should be.
Right now, simultaneous turn resolution can combine with highly individualised mechs to create a syncopated turn effect that slows gameplay, especially over the available number of phases in a given turn. I had already been looking at methods to eliminate most of the syncopation, but hadn’t wanted to decrease the phases because it would limit customisation options, and I think that the on the fly customisation is a huge strength of the game. Last night’s discussion resulted in a method of decreasing phases that would work with my de-syncopation ideas while maintaining high customisability.
The other thought that my new playtester really liked was the idea of using maps and miniatures/tokens in addition to the cards. Not a new idea – I have it in the ruleset as a potential variant – but his intensity really demonstrated how nice it would be to do that, and I don’t disagree with him. Early iterations of hel’s BELLEs used all of those ideas. I made them an optional variant (or future deluxe version) because they aren’t totally necessary, and they drive the potential cost way up. Right now, hel’s BELLEs fits in a small box (think onirim or chronicle) and requires you to use some dice or scratch paper to keep track of some details. Adding tokens, counters, miniatures, dice, maps, playmats and so on would look fantastic, but would also mean a game that cost much more and took up a lot more space. I really like the idea, I’ve even thought about what those parts would look like and how they’d enhance gameplay, but when it comes down to it I just don’t think it’s feasible at this point. I’d certainly be up for the enhancements if I was in discussions with a publisher, but as I’m more likely to be self-releasing the first edition through gamecrafter, keeping costs down is pretty important to me.
Plus, I love the essential portability of the game in it’s current form.