28 November, 2012
NaGa DeMon: Day 28
Something has struck me over the course of the playtesting sessions (both my own and the feedback I've received from other people)...the notion of variable game length based on the number of players.
It links in well with the themes and the setting of the game, so it makes sense to include this sort of thing. The setting is a desolate and decaying city where the nightmares of a bygone age linger in the shadows striking out at the unwary. The scavenger communities exist on the edges of the ancient ruined cities, if these communities grow too big they attract the presence of quantum manifestations (typically known as spirits), their combined observance collapses quantum probability waves at a level that is felt through the subatomic flux (Powerful spirits used this to their advantage in ancient times, inspiring rituals among mortals that would cause collective belief to collapse quantum probability waves into pre-defined patterns...thus manifesting miracles in the physical world). If a community grows too small, it becomes easy prey for the spirits that have managed to manifest in our reality.
Lone wanderers in the wilderness are often reported missing as the boundaries between the natural and supernatural worlds prove begin to blur.
Travel between cities is dangerous, successful travel by those unaccustomed to the road is rare. That's why the scavenger communities send their brave ones into the midst of the cities. There may be monsters within the ruined rusted canyons, but at least they are monsters that can be dealt with. People have been at this for a while and they've learnt the tricks necessary to confront the nightmares, cryptids, mutants and beasts.
When a few scavengers go into the cities, they can often do so quietly and without too many problems; their dreams and unconscious throughts barely register above the background static of ghostly echoes. When a lot of scavengers go into the one place at the one time, and when their emotions are tense, the beasts and spirits are alerted far more quickly.
So it makes sense for the setting, but does it make sense for the game?
Taking the first scenario as an example, there are 12 locations that can be visited. In a two player game, if nobody runs, it will take at least six turns for the players to search the whole map...and the whole map must be visited to ensure the highest location card is found...but on turn six, bad things start happening...by the time bad things start happening, one or more of the players probably won't be anywhere near the bank that they are looking for. The game is basically a bust for them. If someone decides to run, they lose valuable fatigue points and it will probably be on turn five that they'll identify the bank location. One extra turn and they'll be weakened in the process.
If there are three players, it will take at least four rounds to search the area (probably more because there will be more obstacles preventing easy passage through the danger zone)...in which case, the scavenging characters get two rounds to get to the bank and start searching.
If there are four characters, it will still probably take at least four rounds to search the area because there will be so many obstacles slowing the scavengers down in their searches.
More player on the table means more chance of characters coming into conflict with each other, but in this scenario (and other fixed term events) the external tensions can become less.
The other factor in play is the time taken to resolve a scenario. Let's say it takes each player an average of one minute to be dealt cards and sort them out, a minute to move their scavenger during the movement phase and two minutes to work out an action to perform then resolve the performance of it (combat probably takes a touch longer). That's four minutes per player per turn, and with these numbers a two-player six-turn game would last 45 to 50 minutes. A three-player six-turn game would last 70 to 75 minutes. A four-player six-turn game would last 90 to 100 minutes.
I think for the purposes of game duration, I'll be modifying this particular scenario making the spirits arrive after "ten turns minus the number of players". This mean that a two player game sees the spirit arrive on turn 8, a three player will see them arrive on turn 7, and a four player game sees them arrive on turn 6.
It extends the length of the game a substantial amount in the case of two-player games (from 45-50 up to 60-65 minutes), and slightly in the case of three player games (from 70-75 up to 80-85 minutes).
It's refinements like these that get highlighted in playtesting...while I've generally finished the design for this game, continual testing will see it improve.