Game Makeover: Nines Micro – Round 5

Design Workbench

Design Objective

In this round I will try to address two seemingly unrelated observations: The “1” Action (Reveal/Peek at any card) does not get used much and a player may run out of time sooner than they want. According to the major objectives for this game, both of these observations may not be recognizing negative conditions, but they may be more pronounced than desired. Let’s break them down a bit into what is actually positive about these observations and what might be negative:

“1” Action

  • “Is there really a problem?”
    • The 1 Point card is intended to have the least valuable action and therefore should not get used much.
  • “Yes, but…”
    • It should get used occasionally and I don’t think it is used at all.

Player Running out of Time

  • “Is there really a problem?”
    • The game is intended to be a race and quick, so players should run out of time.
  • “Yes, but…”
    • Some players (mostly Perfectionists) prefer to have more time to organize their tableau better.
    • Some manipulations just take a few rounds to complete.
    • As long as both players are cool with another round or two, what’s the harm. A player that wants to keep the game a race can still do that.

Playtest

Prototype

There is a simple change to the prototype for this round. Simply add the word “Conceal” on the 1 and 2 Point cards.

Playing

The expected use of the conceal action is to slow down the opponent:

  • A player always has the ability to conceal a card by using its action, so buying time this way is always available anyway.
  • This action can break an opponent’s combo.
  • This action can slow down the opponent long enough to essentially extend a combo across turns.

We saw this action used immediately in the first games played with the new rule, so something is right. Better yet each time it was used the player performing the action had a sense of success and the player acted upon had to modify their strategy. Though the action wasn’t met with frustration or anger, but more of a, ”Nicely played.” After a dozen or more playtest with two different groups this looks like a positive change.

New Rules

The rules changes to accomplish these tests are really simple. Add the word “Conceal” to the rules and on the cards as such:

  • 1 Point Card: Reveal, Peek, or Conceal any card in any Grid.
  • 2 Point Card: Reveal, Peek, or Conceal two cards in your Grid.

Working It Out

This change was intended to have two specific effects, but have I made any general progress with these changes?

  • Unmitigated Randomness
    • Players have a little extra leeway in rearranging their grid to overcome the input randomness.
  • Few Decisions
    • There is now a “real” decision for the 1 Action.
  • Multiplayer Solitaire
    • The new conceal action is mostly used on the opponent, so keeping track of their grid is now more important.
  • Game Length
    • From early playtesting, these changes appear to extend the game on average by about one action.
  • Redundancy
    • A player can use the conceal action to break the opponent’s repetitive combo.
  • Wasted Cards (Chaff)
    • The 1 Point card plays into more strategies.
  • Frustration
    • The “Take That” aspect of concealing an opponent’s card may cause some consternation, but so far it doesn’t appear to be frustrating. However, one playtester admitted that he was sheepish the first time he used the action on his opponent, who also happened to be his wife. Once she had a chance to use it effectively, though, the gloves were off.
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