Archive for category 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.
Unpub 4 is tomorrow, and I’ve been doing a lot of preparation, but I was able to put together an overview of the game as it is currently. After the changes from the previous test, I got through a game of 10 Acres with 4 (in a bit more than 10 minutes, but it was a learning game) by increasing the number of cards and restocking at a fixed rate. Unfortunately, I discovered that resupplying was too slow, hampering some strategies. But I got some great advice, and the resupply rate will probably be set by tokens, to have the right number of goods added to the game. I also discovered that unlimited special harvesting could make a game last forever. So the special rules are probably becoming one-time use tokens.
I also rearranged the rule cards a bit, and I’m finally happy with their format, so it’s time for an overview of the basic products in the game. I’ll start by explaining the ones I have been using since the beginning.
The basic animals are Cows and Sheep. Cows are the most valuable product in the game, and are worth 2 points when harvested. Sheep are worth only 1 point. They also share growth behavior, giving 1 new for every 2 existing. Location doesn’t matter, so it’s just the total number that counts. In addition, new cows or sheep can be placed on any space that already holds one of the same animal. However, only 2 cows can be kept on a space, while there can be up to 4 sheep. This means cows are slow to grow and max out quickly, requiring constant attention, while sheep are less intensive. As another trade off, cows are worth only 1 point per 2 cows at the end of the game, while each sheep space is always worth 1 point.
On the crop side are grain and vegetables. Grain and Vegetables are similar because they each grow at a steady rate. Grain is the more flexible crop, and benefits from having a long time to grow, giving 1 point per grain. Vegetables are more fickle, and can only be harvested for points when fully grown, but give 5 points when harvesting the whole space. Grain left at the end of the game is only worth half as much, while vegetable spaces are worth 1 point, even if not fully grown.
Fruit is slightly different from the other plant crops. I haven’t decided if it should represent apples, strawberries, or something else, but in any case, they do not “grow” in the same sense as the other plants. Since each turn is basically a year, fruit generates points by “regrowing” year after year, instead of by replacing them. Because of that, fruit is worth nothing when harvested, and very little at the end of the game.
I am mostly happy with the different mechanics for each of the basic products. I would love to have sheep to generate points during growth, like being sheared for wool, but I haven’t been able to make it work so far. It also gives me room for an expansion like Alpacas.
I also have some extra crops I was looking at adding into the game. So far I have ideas for Beans, Flowers, Pigs, Chickens, and Alpacas as I mentioned above (but I’m out of cube colors). I’m also working on some special actions that involve farm improvements that a player could construct instead of a normal action: fences that break adjacency on your own or another player’s board for some direct interaction. And some Barns and Greenhouses, which are expensive to build, but generate extra points for animals and plants, respectively.
I’m not going to give the full details yet so you need to come to Unpub 4 to get the first look and help test these new concepts.
Over the break, I had a chance to work on 10 Acres. I was not 100% happy with the action card game mechanic, because it was a little limiting. (This was intentional to keep the game quick.) It was somewhat random, and not particularly “compelling” but I thought it worked for the weight of the game as a fairly light filler. The main problem was that players were mostly playing alone, and there was very little interaction. My wife helped me work on this.
The first idea for how to add interaction was to use a larger shared board, so players were directly competing on the same board, but this got away from the original concept, and had some challenges for resolving conflict resolution. So if players aren’t competing on where to place things, there must be competition on how to pick them up. Simply limiting the quantity aggravated a rare problem from the original game of what to do when there aren’t enough tokens, and what order it happens in.
I found myself practically forced to give up simultaneous play, which I am reluctant to do because it will likely slow the game down. But several ideas that were bouncing around in my head started to form into a workable shape. If players take turns, then resources can be limited, accumulating slowly on the rule cards. Then the card action phase can be removed and the actions can be taking the resources directly, and this limits the number a player can take at a time. Taking one would prohibit another player from taking the same thing. It was immediately obvious that a player could not take all of the resources that had accumulated, or the entire game mechanism fell apart, so we added a twist. Unlike many action selection games, the player can only take as many resources as he or she can place, and the others remain for the next round. This allows for some more complicated strategy of what to take, when, and whether the other player will take it before you can, leaving you without enough to place.
The next day, I fleshed out the idea even more. The number of players could be increased if the goods restock at a fixed rate (i.e. 2 per player). The cards I had reluctantly gotten rid of could serve as the mechanism for that, providing some randomness and more strategy for what goods are available. Add more types of crops and animals to play with more people. The “last resort” actions now become viable options, if your desired action is taken.
I’ve also worked on some of the preliminary art in advance of Unpub4. The card action art changed several times, but now I’ve got something easily understandable. I also have a Title, but I don’t know if I like it yet. Now to test it with these new changes, and more players.
I realize it’s been a while since I first introduced the game, so I wanted to show off some game details, and show the current state of the game.
First, the cards have been updated with more useful action icons. The default action now shows a cube being placed and the potential harvest action. This made it easier to include the more complex actions for some of the expansion crops and animals. Here are some of the revamped cards:
I’m starting from cubes, because I think small cubes will be easier to use, and cheaper, which means you can add more to the game box, which means even more players could be possible!. But on the other hand, it would be really awesome to include animeeples and vegimeeples in the game, and would make game easier to use, in addition to looking cooler. I may dig around and see what pieces I can round up before Unpub 4.
Rule cards have been updated to show the associated actions and limits, with the harvest, grow, and end phase behavior ordered more logically. The limits for animals have been decreased, because they were running out frequently. This also balances the more powerful ability to place grown animals in any location. I formalized the special rules and scoring into a rule card as well.
From playtesting, the balance of the “Place any one” and “Harvest any one” actions were adjusted. The action card showing only those two actions was eliminated, because it was always the least desirable “Old Maid” of the cards. This has the benefit that every card allows you to place with a normal action, and reduces the number of cards to a nice round 20, so when the pile ends, the game ends (in two-player play).
I’m working on developing some extra animals and crops, and formalizing some “alternate” actions ideas into rule cards, as well, so I’ll cover some of them next time.
10 Acres is a simple game about farming, designed to be played in about 10 minutes. Start by choosing your farm from unique arrangements of 10 empty plots. Over 10 turns, you alternate between playing a card you choose, and one your opponent has chosen for you. Each card gives you the choice from a pair of actions to add crops and animals to your farm. Harvest adjacent plots to make room for the new goods. At the end of each round, everything grows. The player who harvests the most profitable goods wins.
Gameplay takes elements of tile placement, time management, drafting, and resource conversion and squeezes it into a game that is fast and easy to learn and play.
The game is also designed to have plenty of variables to keep each game fresh and different. Special abilities, extra actions, and multiple crop and animal types will make each game different. 10 Acres is planned to debut at UNPUB 4. Watch for more posts about the process of designing this game.