Quartiles: Minor conceptual alterations

I think what I’m going to do to speed up the gameplay for Quartiles, is a fewfold.  I mentioned at least one in the previous post.

  1. Allow adding/subtracting of values on squares to obtain a desired chip of the given result (I play a 4 next to a 2 and receive a 6 chip), as I have no cards that require a 4 or 2 but, say, two cards that need four 6s total.  This will help make it easier for players to get chips quicker
  2. My initial thought with that was to have that ability but not able to gain stars if doing so.  But that’s an artificial restriction that doesn’t necessarily serve a purpose other than encouraging direct matches.
  3. I also feel like my original vision of giving stars to only matches beyond the first match was also a bit too much and slows the game down, both by restricting collection of stars and by forcing people to calculate (however simple a calculation is) how many stars a player receive.
  4. We further found that, with 4 players, even with the amount of stars I had, there were still a few shy of what we really needed.
  5. Then for some reason it hit me:

Remove the “beyond the first match in a turn” requirement to receive stars.  I wanted to encourage matches, but the game encourages that itself.  There’s no reason NOT to make a match if it’s one you need.  And you’re always gonna wanna optimize the maximum tokens you can if possible.  I shouldn’t need to incentivize something that already incentivizes itself.

So now, players receive stars on any match.  But then I thought, that adds MORE need for stars.  Then I thought…

Why have separate star tokens?  In keeping with my dual-use theme (with the cards themselves having both a points/ability) make the tokens map that to their operation.  You can pay a token as a number for a set for points OR you can pay a token as a star.  This means even numbers you aren’t using become useful.  But it might hurt you in the long run if you get new cards down the road that do have that requirement so there will be some extra strategic thinking.  This may be bad, but if it’s less tedium overall (calculating/counting star tokens) – removing artificial barriers and getting on with the game, I think it’s a winner.

It’s funny how even upon the first iteration if things go well, there are still some massive changes in how a game can develop that completely alter how you play it.

Quartiles: 4p testing w/4-draws

So – My goal was to get the game down to maybe 1 hour… On the one hand I’m not hitting the mark.  On the other, for the most part it’s not *too* draggy feeling, however.  There is still some drag.  Some of it is due to analysis paralysis.  Not terrible paralysis.  I think 3/4 of us had at least one play that took 5-10 minutes to figure out what we were gonna do.

One of the issues is that, unfortunately, I forgot a few things about print vs screen design. Print is darker.  It doesn’t help that the fonts I used were hatched so only 50% of the font was color (even if they were thicker/wider fonts.  Half of them were empty).  The little bit of white chalkboard texture was completely lost.  I suppose that’s fine.  But it’s a shame since I originally wanted to have a bit more of a feel of chalkboard with that white residue of wiped off chalk.  Though it’s probably easier to read with just pure black.

Anyways, part of the slowness, I think came from the darkness of the colored numbers + smallness.  So I just revamped it using a different font that’s thicker and increased the size of the font.  Here’s pictures of the old and new.  I made the red a bit more pink in color just for contrasts sake, but not sure I like the look of it, exactly.  Though my other colors are generally brighter, too (like the blue and purples aren’t pure dark blue or dark purple).  My main issue there is I don’t want it to get too much in the way of purple, but I think they’re different enough (and the “1” shape is CERTAINLY different enough from the “6” shape of purple) that it shouldn’t be an issue.

I may actually make it even larger yet.  I put the square boundaries inside the “make sure it’s in here if you want to guarantee it’s printed, because they want to reduce registration errors, but that makes the info on the tile a lot smaller, and it’s clear there’s still plenty of room for printing for the most part (I could probably eek out another 1/8 in. on each side for an extra 1/4 in total of printing size.  We’ll see.

Anyways, here’s the old and new tiles side by side.  You can see a clear difference/contrast now and I think that will make a HUGE difference when it comes to figure out what you’re going to do.
One thing I’m also thinking of doing, though not sure if it’s going to be a power or a universal ability:
Instead of just matching squares/numbers in order to gain a token of that number,  I’m thinking of letting players add or subtract so that way, if you don’t have the number you need, you can still play a tile and gain tokens.  Maybe it won’t count towards the star limit so it won’t be *too* powerful.  That way if I have a 5 and a 1, and need a 4 but there’s no 4 squares, I could match the 5 & 1 and get a 4.  That might help speed up the flow – I mean, there’s some math there, but it’s just adding and subtracting, not too complex.  That should help speed up the flow by giving more options for matches.

In terms of powers/abilities, I’m going to refine them by reducing options.  I want options, but I feel I’m giving players too much choice (+1 OR -1 to 2 squares) or “pick two”.  I need to give a clear and direct choice.  Play for power or points, and the power should just be one thing.  The costs on powers also still need to be refined as well.  It’s getting closer, I think, but there’s still some obvious discrepencies.  And the verbage on cards that I caught after I sent it for printing.  That said, it’s getting closer and I’m generally pleased with the quality.  The game *mostly* has the flow I want, but just need to tweak.  I’d really like to make it so the game takes no more than 60 minutes with 4 players.  I’m not quite sure that’s possible.  The fact we only played 2 rounds with 4 players and it was about 80 minutes (some of that was explanation/rules debates – but that happens in a lot of games, even ones you know and play many times and are published — I need to account for that, and not just assume players will perfectly play the play they want/have right away).  Basically it seems if you break it down that’s 20 minutes/player, divided by 2 rounds, that’s about 10 mins/player/round.  There’s 4 tiles/4 cards, which means about an average of 1.25 minutes per decision of play on ones turn per tile/card strategizing.  I guess that’s not bad – but still is long when looking to use 4 max players and WANTING 4 rounds (quarters), but clearly pulling off only about 2-3.

Quartiles: Playtesting & Redesign process.

Well we tested Quartiles today.  My roomies and I.  One had played before and the other was their first time.  It took an hour for the first round. I’m wanting to get that down quite a bit.  That hour was primarily due to rules explanation and helping grok the process along.  Of course, more kinks discovered, the need for clarification and consistency on rules, text on cards and costs of some powers.

It’s definitely clear that we need to get some color running on the prototype stat.  I currently don’t have numerical labels on the colored chips I’m using that I bought cheap. We also ran out so it’s clear I’m going to need more than just 10 chips of each color/value.  I created the tokens tonight and started the card redesign.  Well the design of the tokens, they’ll be made by The Game Crafter, of course.

The other thing I’m going to do, due to the length of the round, is reduce the number of tiles and cards drawn each round.  My ideal goal is 4 rounds (keeping with the quarter theme).  I was having players draw 5 tiles and then draft 5 cards.  Based on the average length of the subsequent rounds (the first was an hour or so, the second 2 were about 40-45 minutes, which is waaaaaay too long), I’m going to make it 4 tiles and 4 cards (also keeping it consistent with the theme of fours).  The issue of course is that these tests have been 3 player games.  I admit that half way through the second round I got a bit bored as did one roommate.  The third round picked up once the new player started figuring out strategies to use for gameplay.  In some sense it dragged the play out further, but in others it made it interesting to see what she was going to do.  I think this will be a game that will get quicker with play once you get the gist of it.

That said, we only played 3 rounds and it took 2.5 hours.  Started at 2:50 and ended at 5:20.  That’s waaaaaaay too long.  Again some of that is expected on a first play but not that much.  I’d *like* to have it play up to 5 players, but I’d be satisfied with up to 4.  One thing my roomie who’d played before reminded me was that we made it so you can turn in 3 stars to get a single number so it helps if you’re missing some numbers and want to complete a set, but don’t like any of your power/abilities on the cards.

The more I think about it, the more I think I want to have more uses for star tokens.  We have it as “extra credit” with the cards (you choose between using a card as a score or paying star tokens to use it as an ability/power – so there’s a tradeoff — I *really* can’t wait to test this out with game designer folks to give a more mathy/nuanced critique and approach, since I’m kinda sucky at combinatorics and the economic side of design (which is not the best considering games are fundamentally about math).

Here’s an example of the new token design and card back design.  Keeping with the Quartiles/School theme, and as a parody of Five Star notebooks (and the star motif).  The tokens will be circles, the black exterior portion of the square is just the extra coloration for bleed.

Just now I designed the gold star token/sticker look for those stars (so they look different from the 1-6 token), so I’m attaching it as well.  I think it looks pretty decent for a gold star sticker appearance.  The little edge gives it that “peel-off” look.

The front of the cards will be notebook paper (I think I mentioned this previously).  I’m thinking the box would either have art that looks like a backpack or perhaps a school with chalk written QUARTILES on the board with 25, 50, 75, 100 – a piece of paper on a students desk with a grade and outside window showing kids playing 4 Square.  I think the latter idea probably conveys the total concept more and is less bland than just a backpack appearance so will probably go with that.

My next goal will be to get the layout of the new card design (making sure everything is within the print borders), I think I’m going to go with the Minicards instead of the Microcards.  I was thinking the full sized cards, but I think mini might be large enough.  Once the layout is reconfigured it shouldn’t be too hard to finish it up since it’ll basically just be more of what I’ve done.  I may or may not use the method of conditionals than Nand used in his example (see previous entry for link to BGG post he made). It requires an understanding of a keyword of Nandeck that is different from what I’m used to, coding wise, so it’ll just be a little more work to grok.  But it’s probably more powerful, as well.  It’s certainly fewer lines of code than the ridiculous number of IF statements I required previously.  And an image of the tiles as well.