Friday nights is one of the regular game nights with friends Twiaz and Effulgent_Inara. They were nice enough to give Martian Sands a trial run. There were several good surprises and a lot of excellent feedback.
I was happiest with having the base mechanics validated. The move & explore with players making the map as they played was easy to pick up on and use. We also went through the entire deck of hexes. So I have room to increase that number and give the players a variety of terrains to experience.
Here are a few shots from that night:
There was a few weaknesses explored. The environment deck needs some work, especially since it is predicated on a version of the rules not used since I first thought it up. These cards, which are like the Mythos cards in Arkham Horror, are used to tweak the game world and give the players an additional challenge. The problem we ran into was that the cards all did the same thing, taking away from the players’ action pool. There is a lot of room for these cards to work in and it should be relatively easy to come up with a broader set of alterations to game play. I’m thinking this may take a couple of weeks to messing around with it to have a solid set to go back with.
Another weakness was not having the buildings and resources distributed well. We found problem during the endgame, when we looked at the win conditions. According to the rules, we needed two more buildings than I had indicated on the sectors. To resolve it, we decided to build wherever was available. For me, this means I need to go back over all of the sectors and look at to distribute it better. It is going to involve some math to make sure I have the right balance. Ideally, the players should be able to screw themselves if they’re not paying attention but it shouldn’t be so hard to strategize, only spending a few minutes every turn to plan. This should take about a week of evenings to get balanced properly.
But the best part was being able to play out the entire set of sectors. According to my notes this happened in round seven, most of the way through the game. I was afraid that 52 cards was too many for players to get through. I was shown that it could be too few. This can be fixed with a few additions, but those may come later. I want each game to be different, not just in where or how the sectors get played, but in that the players are treated to new sights the first three or four times they play. There seem to be two directions to test here. The first would be to set a limit on how many sectors can be put out each turn. The other would be to add more sectors to the play deck. I’m leaning towards the latter. Something else to check on the playtest trail.
A few other design notes:
The hex sectors are split up into different groups. They are currently labeled A,B, and C. The original idea was to use these as part of the environment card. Some event only affecting the B sectors and things like that. However, Tiwaz pointed out that this was also a way an explorer might prioritize or categorize the explored area, each designation indicating some sort of availability of resources or building sites. This makes a lot of sense, so here a few ideas that have been bouncing around my head since then.
A — Highly desirable sectors. Most of them have the room and geologically stable ground to build multiple buildings and are home to several resources to take advantage of.
B — The second most desirable sectors, they share many of the same qualities as A sectors; Geological stability, and so forth, but do not have the same abundance of resources or building sites. Most B sectors allow for only one building to be constructed or for one resource to be utilized within its bounds.
C sectors are hard to navigate due to difficult terrain. These sectors are primarily composed of drifting sands of unknown depths that have caused the robots to become stuck in sand pits. When exploring C sectors players need to roll to see if they become stuck and have to spend an extra action getting themselves unstuck.
D — These are unclassified sectors and often have anomalies associated with them. Anything can be found in a D sector, their contents are scattered and random. These are replaced with a special set of different sector cards when playing this game competitively.
With this sort of setup it becomes easier to adjust the difficulty of the game by adding in or removing certain sectors. But adding in that little complication can come later, after I’ve got the game in a stable, playable state.
- Dev Blog: Martian Sands (brewngames.com)