Once I got enough playtests of New Bedford, I sat down to look at some of the statistics of wins and losses. First the pure numbers: winning scores tend to be around 20 for new players, 25 for experienced players, and rarely get close to 30 in extraordinary circumstances. But there were also some surprising results when I looked into the details of point breakdowns, and used it to tweak the game.
A note before I go any further: the percentages are not exact because I lost my sheet with the original calculations.
In the majority of the games, the player who caught the most expensive whales wins. This is not so surprising, because there should definitely be a reason to go for the best whales. What was surprising was that there was an even better correlation between strategy and the winner. It turns out that the best single indicator of the winner is the player who earns the most bonus points, with a correlation of about 80%. Unfortunately, I didn’t track which specific buildings were built, but it’s usually easy to figure out who had the Factory, Church, and Offices based on scores in other categories.
I designed the bonus buildings to meet a point ratio of about $3:1 point. This works out to very close to the whaling point ratio, when you figure in the cost of the food. But buildings also grant a point just for building them. My first thought was that I needed to balance the bonus buildings in order to make the whaling more important. Then I stopped myself. The game is intended to be about the town first and the whaling second. And the whaling includes a random aspect (that players can somewhat mitigate), while buildings are more deterministic. So I realized that having the bonus buildings have the best correlation to victory is an important aspect, because it puts the strategic and thematic focus on building. I did use these numbers to finalize the building bonus points. The church seems to be the most important (as intended) with the importance of the others corresponding fairly well to their cost. Overall, players seem to build about 4 buildings in a game.
As far as whaling goes, the winner most frequently had at least one sperm whale, but closer to 60% against no sperm whales. I thought that it seemed a bit high, and looked at shifting point values for whales. So I re-calculated scores with each whale giving one more point, or just the cheaper whales giving more points. I found that changing the value of the whales didn’t have a dramatic effect on the winner, which was very surprising. I thought that it would dramatically upset the scores, but it turned out that it only made a difference in something like 10% of the games. This is a very interesting result, because it gives me room to adjust the values without dramatically breaking the game. It turns out that because nearly every player collects whales, you would need to catch a large number of cheap whales in order to shift the balance of points. Players tend to score at least 10 points from whales in a game, and approach about 50% of the total score.
As far as money goes, higher scoring games ended with fewer points from money. This is a great discovery, because it shows how beginning players tend to be more cautious and end with extra money, while playing a tighter game would have paid off in points. But points from money made the difference between two otherwise tied scores in between 30 and 50% of the game.
So what did I learn overall? You can’t neglect building. This is very important to my goal for the game. Success in whaling matters, because sperm whales also give you a good chance of winning. And you can’t completely ignore whaling. No single strategy seems to be overpowered, which means you have a lot of options for different strategies. Again, I didn’t record buildings specifically, so I can’t compare strategies directly but nothing jumped out in particular. And don’t hold on to your money. It reinforces my decision to not have a building that increases points for money (it would have broken money-only strategies) because it would also have rewarded bad play.
If you read this and learn some new strategy, please be kind and share the information with your friends. After using it to crush them in one game.