Gloom of Kilforth: Fantasy Quest Initial Play-testing - some thoughts

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fantasy Quest Initial Play-testing - some thoughts

Fantasy Quest Play-testing

Okay, some of this is pretty stream of consciousness, but I need to get it down asap!  Any questions, please ask…

Tuesday 12th July – 3 players

Note to self – create a cheat sheet for Fantasy Quest!  Played a 3 player game and it was tough going explaining all the rules and various options available each turn – moreso than any other game I’ve taught my friends.  I think the pressure was on because this time it was my own game.

We settled on the “quick-start” game variant with no Sagas, no Ancients, and with a simple competitive race theme – the first to 30 Victory Points wins.  VPs = all the Gold you have plus the Gold value of all the cards you have in play (not in your hand).

One or two rather ambitious options I’d made available to players quickly emerged as overly complex: Reconnoitring (Studying a Place before you enter it) and Rallying the Locals (Influencing the outcome of a Quest by getting help from the locals).  I think options like these need to be shelved or put aside for an ‘Advanced Fantasy Quest’ maybe.

Consolidated numerous ‘Questing’ Actions (Exploring a Place, Influencing a Stranger and Studying a Quest) down into one universal “Quest” Action for ease of reference.
The argument between Consecutive successes adding up on an ongoing Action over the course of your turn - versus having to succeed at a Questing Action all in one go – ended in ‘Consecutive successes’ winning the day.  So you now get multiple attempts at the same Questing Action in one turn (by spending your Actions on it) and add up all your successes over the turn to try and beat that encounter (Quest/Stranger/Place).  Makes things a lot easier for the players, but these guys are supposed to be heroes after all.  Also, it seems fair that if you keep throwing resources at something you should succeed eventually, rather than possibly spending your entire heroic life searching for that Giant Statue which is stood right in front of you!

Lots of stopping and starting and questioning and explaining rules meant things moved slowly.  I openly invited feedback on everything, although a bit of fluff-related banter slowed things even further.

‘Gloom’ mechanic seems not prevalent enough.  Gloom spreads through the land in Fantasy Quest and will eventually engulf the world the heroes are exploring, thus ending the game.  This is represented by an ever-depleting Night card deck.  But the slow going made it seem like the Night card deck would never end.  Furthermore, Gloom locations need to be more obvious and impacting.

Great suggestion: quick routes between connected locations so heroes can ‘jump’ across the Map at certain points.

Minor spelling mistakes, card layout issues, and clarity of mechanics here and there.
Game resulted in a tie after a couple of hours as time ran out.  Concerns about game length and rules complexity.

Worrying suggestion: Sagas (which we didn’t use, but we discussed at length) might need to be much simpler if Heroes are ever to achieve them.

Wanted to avoid Magic Realm levels of madness and deliver easy, quick-playing pseudo RPG Fantasy fix.

After all this time, have I failed?

Wednesday 13th July – solo play

No one to teach the rules to, so things just clipped along nicely and at a pace tonight.

Human Male Warrior enters the Kingdom looking for the Sceptre of Power.  Decided to include all the rules I’d intended, so needed to complete my Saga, find the Sceptre and face down the Ancient all within one month (25 Night cards).

Started off okay with a nice Martial skill that doubles my hits if I throw sixes.  (Too powerful?)

Gloom began to descend as I explored, meeting some interesting strangers and some places that were far too complex for my fairly simple warrior to overcome.  In the mountains I found a number of enemies to test my mettle and metal against.  A Beastman was the first to fall.  His demise brought with it tales of the Necklace of Wealth, which I chased down in due course.

Running around the Map, resting to heal at safe locations when I could, I steadily amassed wealth and a number of items including a certain awesome Sword and a nice and friendly ally, the Illusionist.  Checking off my list of keywords on my Saga I realised that my goal was achievable.  An ‘Item’, a ‘Place’, a ‘Stranger’, etc.  All stuff that was readily available on the board, when Night card events weren’t chewing them up (e.g. storms sending Strangers running indoors or freezing hail causing Places to become uninhabitable).

Each Saga has two specific Keywords that are harder to chase than the rest.  These are subcategories of other Keywords.  Mine were ‘Shadow’ and ‘Demon’.  For Shadow I could just amass enough wealth to train up in a Shadow skill - I’d need 10 Gold instead of the usual 5 Gold to train up in a Skill that didn’t match my own Martial class.  Luckily the Necklace of Wealth provided me with this much needed coin and shortly I developed some Shadowy skills to call upon.

Then there was the ‘Demon’ (keyword) to catch.  I explored the Mountains, which are more likely to contain enemies, searching for potential demon enemies as the clock ticked on and days turned into nights turned into days.  By the time I’d collected all my other keywords I was starting to despair about the evasive Demonic encounter.  Are Sagas too tricky/complex to beat?

But then the current weather card (a Fierce Storm) abated and the Strangers came back out of their hiding holes.  One of them was a Lycanthrope.

Lycanthrope Keywords: “Stranger, Badlands, Demon”.

I raced over to the Misty Fens where this poor creature was rumoured to dwell, and sought him out.  When my Influence failed and he revealed himself to be no other than my very own Ally, the Illusionist, battle ensued.

Through Skills, Items and a little luck I brought the were-creature down and claimed the card into my hand.  Travelling to the Verdant Fields I played a Reward action and declared my Saga complete, revealing my eight cards with keywords matching my epic Saga.  Flipping my Saga over I claimed its Totem – the Sceptre of Power (which doubles your hit points, like all Totems) and the Ancient revealed itself to be:

The Black Orc Legion.

The Legion swarmed out of the Wretch Bog and I set out to meet them head on.  The battle was swift and bloody, and I quickly lost 4 Hit Points (the maximum that Heroes start out with), which would have felled any mortal man.  But the Sceptre (with its extra Hit Points) allowed me to fight on and with my skills, allies and trusty sword I was able to overcome the Ancient Orcish Legion and free the land from its tyranny.

Checking the remaining Night card deck, I had three turns to go before certain defeat - so it was a pretty darned close run affair as you can see in this photo, taken after the final turn:

So was my Warrior lucky?  Would a Wizard, for example, fair much worse?  Are the classes unbalanced?  Is the game only fit for solo play?  Do my rules-explaining skills just suck??  Only more play-testing will tell.  Hopefully up for a two/three player game tomorrow…


JayJ said...

Wow the game sounds bluddy awesome great report! Something I would have designed myself as I'm a big fantasy nut as well.

Looking forward to the files to hopefully try it out. 85 pages doesn't scare me, unless you put it on Artscow!


Jay (jayjonbeach)

p.s please add me to the list of people to send the files to or people to geekmail when they are ready to download

GamesBook said...

"After all this time, have I failed?" In no way. Think of the game design as a Quest itself. The obstacles and issues you encounter on the way are "monsters" to be overcome or "traps" to be avoided. Keep your HP (morale) high and push onwards.

(On a practical side-note, I always like this quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery- "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." You may just have "too much" in your game; the hard part now is to get it to the essence or core of what makes it special/unique, and to be brave enough to take out the non-core bits that you so carefully have added!)

Ninjadorg said...

Thanks JayJ, I was worried that the report would come across as overly negative, because I’m being hyper self-critical. I’m certain that there’s a great game there floating just beneath the surface of my insecurities about it and dissatisfaction with the play-time - I wasn’t trying to design another Runebound after all!

The 85 pages includes the card backs, so it’s not too bad and I’ll make it available for printing the PDF and Artscow to cover both options.

If you’re on BGG it would help greatly to post your interest there as I’m collecting a list of play-testers from the Fantasy Quest threads. Is 'jayjonbeach' your BGG username?

GamesBook – your comments are very considered and encouraging: thank you. It certainly does feel a bit like I’m climbing my own Mount Doom with this one. Although I hasten to add that I’m also enjoying myself a lot more than Frodo or Sam! Just got to be ruthless and keep chiselling away at it to lose the ‘chaff’, as hard as that is. But I’m already much happier with the improved Actions list and Combat.

My chief gaming buddy has already agreed to another session tonight so hopefully more info soon...

JayJ said...

Yeah I would echo Gamesbook's comments as well, crikey you are just getting started!

From my own experience I think the better problem to have is too much stuff rather than not enough, and then trying to figure out what to add. Through Playtesting things that don't really add or add the wrong ways will become mostly obvious, though the decision to cut them can still be tough...

Yeah that is my handle there, I've been logged off for awhile (trying to manage my time better :( ) but when I get on there next I'll post something on the Game's page.

Cheers and happy testing


p.s - Would prefer to get the full game and rules in the raw first edition possibly bloated form (ie before things get separated for the "Advanced" game [likely a good idea] for reasons I stated above :)

Ninjadorg said...

Thanks again for posting, Jay. I get nervous at the idea of game length heading towards Runebound levels, which is why there are a number of ways to play Fantasy Quest. The very basic version is a quick race to 15 Victory Points, which is currently running to 30-40 minutes play time for those that want a quick adventuring fix. And then there are various elements of the ‘Advanced’ game as it were, which you can introduce one by one. Each will potentially increase play time but add greater depth and variability to the experience.

So in response to your request - the Advanced version will definitely also be made available, I’m just putting some elements to one side until the main game is humming along nicely first. And after tonight’s sessions I can safely say: it’s getting there…