The Game Lab at this years Connections Conference examined my “A2ADventure” game – a fairly abstract game of operational naval combat in an “Anti-Access, Area Denial” context. There was a lot of great feedback that I have attempted to incorporate in an “update 1” version of the game. The “print and play” versions of the game components is available here.
I’m currently working on update 2 with a more conventional hex-based game board and a pre-game technology development “prequel” game. The question is, what are the improvements that can be made to the game?
I’ve set up a forum here to discuss!
Takeaways from the event at Connections were helpful on a couple levels.
First was the dealing with trying to teach and then play a game in a time constrained manner with a mixed group of experienced and inexperienced Gamers. The Game Lab is an opportunity for participants at the Connection Conference to get experience learning and playing a game if they have never done so, and a chance to mentor the less experienced and discuss the game design. Several years ago, as discussed by Rex below, the game design process was conducted as part of the Game Lab. Bringing a prototype game to “jumpstart” the process was the idea this year. It always seems easier than it ends up being!
In a situation such as this it is easy to focus on improving the game design and playtesting it to make it as mature as possible. What is not emphasized is practicing teaching the game to new players. Experienced gamers get used to teaching new games to experienced gamers, but teaching even a modestly complicated game to non-gamers requires some practice to avoid confusion and frustration. Not allocating time for that in the games development was teh biggest mistake I made in preparing for the event.
The other issue when it comes to even experienced players playing a new game, is the time it takes to figure out what to do when someone says “go!”. When constructing the scenario I tried to scope the game playing time at least in general to the time available (somewhat under an hour to “Teach the game” and about 3 hours to play the 6 turn scenario). With 16 units on one side and 24 on the other and about 12 pages of rules the game at the high end of “introductory level”. Trying to consider all the factors in an asymmetric, multi-domain “penetrate the barrier and run the gauntlet” situation has a requisite complexity that sets a certain “floor” to the complexity level of the game mechanics.
What I did not fully consider was the “floor” it set on the decision-making time “just to get started”. Even with a relatively simple objective (chose one of 6 victory locations, move to it and survive there 1 turn) and a small number of units to orchestrate, the time it took to determine a strategy delayed several of the games considerably. Form the point of view of the game generating thought and discussion of the issues involved in an A2AD scenario, it was time well spent, but did not leave enough time to finish the game.
Discussion of the more conventional design issues as we develop the game can be contributed to at the forum above, but the Game Lab format provided challenges I did not expect to be so…challenging!