We played some more games last night at AI Family & Arena and there was an awful lot learned. Although we did fix the Barbarian, he was not tested last night. Instead we focused on fighting a Horde and limiting Helpful actions. As well as trying out a two player game without any extra variant rules. It was loud and noisy at the store. They always have a lot going on, miniatures play, Magic tournaments, and fifteen testers playing four different games. Great energy, but it can make teaching a new game, especially one that’s not completely finished, very difficult.
Two player game. I’m sorry to say that unless we can devise a clean, playable and fun way to make a two player game function, that Kick Down will have to be a 3+ player game. As I had suspected beforehand, there simply aren’t enough options among the heroes to handle many situations. While with the small number of monsters, the progression isn’t hindered, the fights are either much too easy or much too difficult. Our testers suggested many excellent ideas. From each player playing two heroes to having a neutral henchman character that players can spend some kind of resource to keep control of. If one of these options doesn’t work or we can’t think of something that does, it’ll just have to be a bigger game.
Limited helpful actions, higher energy on the field cards and Kobolds.
The Kobold horde was mostly a success, but we found a problem. When the archer has their arrow nocked, there is no other option than to attack. If the monsters are down to their last and wearing armor, that means the archer literally has no option but to shoot to miss. (This isn’t always the case, but it’s a possible scenario.) This is actually working as intended. Sometimes the flow of battle doesn’t work in your favor. However, there should always be a fall back. If a player doesn’t have any options on a turn, then that’s a bummer. However, if a player doesn’t have any options for several turns in a row? That’s just plain frustrating and bad design. By limiting the number of times a player can perform a helpful action. We ran into the problem of giving monsters a loophole that couldn’t be battled. They would have behavior that completely avoided damage and without access to utility abilities like the Barbarian’s Intimidate action, some players had no choice but to sit and wait patiently for someone else to get the kill and move the game along. This isn’t really acceptable. We had increased energy this time around and it was our observation that everything was easier one the whole. However this loop I just described had the effect of energy starving a player. What if that player was the only hero with an attack option to deal with the monster? But being constantly out of energy prevented the special attack to do so.
What we can take from this is a lot of bad knee jerk reactions. The important part to remember is that sometimes abilities can be very subtle. For now, we’re going to just chalk this one down as a glitch. Make some adjustments and watch for similar events to occur. If we can work around the issue without having to overhaul, it will let us keep this core mechanic we’ve come to love. It’s worth another play-test or two to find out.
We did find the need to limit the number of helpful actions in a turn, because if the players happened to stumble upon a scenario where they won’t be reasonably hurt by a monster if they play it smart. They can just farm the valor, in theory, forever. Perhaps, I wonder, there’s another option? Instead of limiting the player, is there a way to simply bypass any loops?
The other thing I personally saw at the test was that the three original characters seemed to have fallen behind a minor power crawl. While this isn’t likely a problem over the long run, it’s something to figure out now. The original three heroes were designed as a prototype for the game. Before many of the game’s mechanics were figured out. They were left behind with the advancement of the game. So we’re probably going to have a balance and overhaul to all of the characters.
The overall energy availibility to players… That one requires more games. But we did nail down the average time per battle. With both a large and small amount of players. 3 or 4 battles before they’re ready to fight that group’s boss seems to be the right pace. This is excellent news because we can now determine lots of other numbers. From the number of valor points needed to the health of each character. A pace has been set, and now with that pace we can manage the player experience down to the specific number.
We’re going to do some in house changes and tests before our official test with Group A on Saturday. So expect big changes in version 0.4!
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—Lead Designer, John