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.
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.