Plans for 10 Acres

It has been a crazy week here, having some house problems and losing power for a few days. But it’s time to move on with my plans for 2014. I’ll start with 10 Acres.

I only had two real plays of 10 acres at Unpub 4. But that was enough to show me that there is still something missing. Josh Tempkin graciously listened to my explanation of the mechanic and immediately quipped “I didn’t hear a game in there.” Right now, the “game” only consists of a neat mechanic and a conceptual theme. It’s not even an incredibly elegant mechanic.

I got some help from Eric Handler, playtester extraordinaire, to improve the actual tracking of growth, to make it less fiddly. Using each hex as a “clock face” to tell the current number of resources looks more workable.

The deeper problem is a need to increase interaction. Since the game is taking longer than expected, maybe I can just make it 20 acres, going to a shared board with 20 spaces. Competing to harvest the same space definitely would increase interaction, but that might limit the game to 2 players again. And some of the feedback I got from my quick pitch with Game Salute was to make a bigger deal out of the player boards, and give each one a unique feature or power, instead of just a different arrangement. That appeals to me as a designer and a player.

I also got some feedback that the simple farming game genre is a bit over-done. While I initially conceived the mechanic as a representation of farming, there are some other directions to go. A farming/adventure hybrid, a la Rune Factory was suggested. A new theme is something I definitely have to consider.

So I’m back to interaction in how resources are obtained and used. The action selection mechanic didn’t really work out sensibly. And the way resources are introduced, the 3rd player in a 3-player game really seemed to get the short end of the stick, when it came to numbers, so I’m back to the drawing board. I see two possible approaches. both involve bringing cards back into the game. The first is to have a common draw and discard pile, and play sets of matching cards to plant and harvest. This has a neat side effect that whenever you play a card to plant it, it becomes available for the next person to pick up and harvest. I’m not sure this is strong enough without direct interaction between farms. The second option is to return to a simultaneous drafting mechanism, but starting from a full set of cards, instead of just 2 at a time. This probably makes more sense with a single action per card, instead of two.

The real ask ahead of me is to decide whether to address the theme, rework the mechanics, or use it as a small part of something more complex. Each path gives me some good jumping off points for new directions of design. In any case, I need to let the idea steep for a while while I work on other things.

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