Design Update


This shall be the start of a weekly update from me on the current development of games which I am working on. This is both to show my development process and how i work, and also for use as a record for myself of the work I have done and the change and evolution my games have gone through from beginning to end.

Recently, I have been spending most of my time putting together a prototype for The Botswana Bushmen Boardgame. I put together two playtests over the past week, testing player numbers and gameplay. The first playtest occurred on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 4-5pm, and was played by three people total, including myself. We had a period of a little less than an hour to play, and were only able to play through the game once. I was able to change the board and rules as we went, fixing various areas which broke the game. I also found that the game is easily broken with only three players, and hoped to have 5-7 players for the next playtest. My second playtest occurred on Sunday, February 1, 2009 at 10-11pm, and was played with 5 people including myself. Both playtests, I played as a Bushmen character, allowing a tester to play as the government.

The original rules for the game are as follows:

One player plays as the Botswana Government (BG), with the remaining players as Botswana Bushmen. All players begin at the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) starting point in the center of the board.

The government starts the game with three BG cards, and will always have three cards in their hand. Each turn, they roll a d6 and moves that amount of spaces either forwards or backwards. If they pass another player on the board, they may play a card from their hand on the player. Only one card may be used per turn, and if more then one player is passed, the government player must choose which player to take action upon. Once a card is used, it must be discarded, and a new card must be drawn.

The bushmen players begin each with a Parent card and 2 Food & Water cards. Each turn, a player rolls a d6 and moves forward that amount of spaces. If they pass an Age space, they must draw a CKGR card, preform the action as stated by the card. When a player reaches an age space which has a family member, they take the new family member card. Family goes in the following order: Parents, Siblings, Marriage, Children, Grandchildren. Age spaces go up to age 80 which is the last square on the CKGR path.

If a player is relocated to the Rehabilitation Camp (RC) they must move to the starting point of the RC path. Play continues like before, with the same rules applying to movement and age spaces as on the CKGR path. Each age space on the RC path equals 1 year. If a player is able to return to the CKGR, they take their age when they were relocated, and add the amount of age spaces they passed on the RC path, 1 year for each space. They then move to the nearest CKGR age space to that calculated player age.

Response and Changes: January 28, 2009

First off, as I stated before, my game does not work very well with only 3 people. It makes the game incredibly slow, and people get too far away from each other to really make the government player make sense. Still, I was able to find several pieces of the gameplay which needed work.

Movement was a big problem right from the start of the game. It was difficult for the government player to catch up to the other players, and the whole game just ran really slow. To fix this, I gave the government player a d10 instead of a d6, and made a new rule stating that bushmen players must now stop at each age space, even if they have remaining movement. This fixed the problem quite well.

The other major change was the addition of bonuses to Family cards and the trading ability with Food & Water cards. The cards needed some kind of meaning to them, and a reason for why players would care about having and losing them. Each family card now has a specific bonus they give the player while they have them, which is lost if the family member is relocated or killed, or if the player is relocated themselves. These bonuses range from movement bonuses, to extra resources, to immunity from certain actions. The player can also trade Food & Water cards for rolls and immunity. Trading in two cards gives the player an extra die roll for their current turn, and trading in eight cards gives the player immunity from all actions against them for one turn.

There was also an issue with the way age worked when players went back and forth between the CKGR and the RC. It simply didn’t make sense the way it was working, and was too confusing for the players. The age spaces on the RC path were changed to “pick up a card as you pass” squares, and now when players are allowed back to the CKGR path, they move to the government player’s current location. This allows for the concept of aging while in the RC to still be there, without the confusion of trying to figure out how old you are. As the government player will move along with the other players, the fact that they can move backwards along with forwards should not affect this concept.

Response and Changes: February 1, 2009

A few things were pointed out during the second playtest. First off, I had forgotten to change the RC cards when I changed how the age worked on the RC path. There were still cards which stated “advance to next age space”, which of course, there weren’t anymore age spaces. The cards now read “advance [varied number] amount of spaces”. I also realized a problem with having cards in the CKGR which made players advance to the next age space. It caused a few players to get way too far ahead of everyone else, and issues with the government player’s movement, needing larger numbered dice just so they would be able to catch up to everyone. I also finally decided to remove a specific card which allowed a bushman player to force the government player back to the starting space, as it was breaking the movement of the came.

During the test, there were various different ideas posed by the testers. Giving the government player a choice of die per turn, allowing the government to choose whether they want to move or stay in the same location, and allowing the government to discard a card and draw again if they are unable to play a card. Some other thoughts I had were to have players not pick up another card when they receive an “advance to next age space” card upon drawing when landing on an age space; starting with no Food & Water cards at the beginning of the game, and taking off the last age space. I also ended up adding the the number of cards in several of the decks, as cards were repeating much too frequently, especially the CKGR cards.

Even though I stated at the beginning of the game that the goal of the game was for the government to get the bushmen players to the rehabilitation camp and to the end as fast as possible, and for the bushmen players to survive; I found it quite interesting that the bushmen players consistently seem to forget this fact. The forward movement of the game causes them to want to reach the end, getting excited when they are able to get ahead, and concentrating more on running away from the government.