I had a chance this week to test out the idea for the 3-part game I’ve been working on about mining and railroads. The first part was a fully playable prototype with the rules mostly firmed up. The second part had all the components at least functional, but not all of the rules were ready. We tried both games with mixed results.
The first one was functional (as expected from the more complete nature of the prototype). By the end, it became apparent that one player (me) couldn’t possible win, because selling resources would be blocked. And the intended mechanic of riding the elevators up and down wasn’t important at all. I think I can fix both of those at the same time by having goods get sold only when you ride the elevator up. That way you can’t be blocked, and you have to keep traveling back and forth to make it work.
My next goal is to figure out how to make each play of the mining game different. I’ll write a post about what I mean, but the short version is that it looks like most of my games will play out the same way, with some variation in luck from game to game, but there isn’t enough variation to make the choices interesting from game to game. Accomplishing that is going to be a challenge, especially without growing the number of pieces too much or making the game overly complicated. A deck of cards seems like a big addition at this point, but it may open up a lot of gameplay possibilities.
The second game wasn’t quite as successful. I think part of the problem is that towns were too close to each other, so you were doing something on every turn. The second problem is that there isn’t any real struggle. There is no competition for deliveries or running trains on the same track. There is no reason not to attempt the closest delivery on every single turn, so the player has no real choices about overall strategy. I need to reexamine some other pick up and deliver games to see how they do it. Or I can make the game more development based, and potentially add some more interesting conflict there.
Overall, the concept seems to work so far. If nothing else, this has been a good exercise in simplifying components. But at least I know it’s worth continuing to develop these ideas, and that’s really what a first playtest is all about.