Little And Large

Yesterday’s Dungeon Saga playtest day went well, with lots of happy faces and people having fun – which is what it’s about.

We’d divided the group into those who had played before and those who were new to it. The new group found hardly any things to change, which was good. They did have the desired reactions to the various scenarios they played though, noting the ramping of difficulty and the varying designed balance of different missions. Of course, as any designer will tell you, you can carry on tweaking and finessing almost indefinitely if you’re allowed to. Luckily this will be put to bed reasonably soon.

The veteran group were playing the expansion scenarios, and having been less tested there were more issues here to contend with. Mostly these were small balancing issues of timing and exact numbers in specific rooms. Some scenarios worked fine from the off, where others needed more help. Again, as expected. Lots of useful feedback though, and well worth the test day in itself.

One of the most enjoyable moments came when I happened to be watching a play through of the final scenario in the Tyrant of Halpi pack. This is the showdown between the Heroes and the Tyrant (a Dragon). In previous scenarios the Dragon has turned up briefly, but never stayed to fight it out to the last. Now it will.

Dragons aren’t to be messed with lightly, and this went right down to the wire. Finally, with the Dragon on a single wound, 3 Heroes dead, and the Halfling Thief wounded and surrounded by incoming Thralls, a lucky cast with a throwing knife killed the beast. With that, the Dragon’s Thralls collapsed, and the lone Hero was left alone in an ancient tomb filled with blood and gold…

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22 Responses to Little And Large

  1. Quazai says:

    Thanks for the update Jake. Sounds like it was a lot of fun.

  2. Smud says:

    I’m glad that you tested the dungeons of the expansions as well and especially the fight against the dragon sounds interesting. Has some one taken videos? 🙂

    And will you make another playtestday? This time with maybe 3 components, so core campaign, expansions and random dungeons? 🙂

  3. Smud says:

    Sorry for pushing on the advanced rules testing…
    To my excuse, do you know myth? I fear something simular in the advanced rules will happen. Interesting game but it felt untested. To many rules were simply not tested by other persons than the designer himself (and his family). So no clarifications at all! As you probably know for the designer the intention of a rule is obvious even though the text says something slightly different that can create hugh chaos…

    That’s what happened in myth. When you want to look for some specific things in the rules in most cases you don’t find it or didn’t even exist. The cards has no common textes on them, sometimes the keywords were different and so on. Plus some traps are simply unplayable and much more…
    Way to frustrating to get people to play it more then two times.
    I have to admit that the designers of myth released a knew written rulebook, which is supposed to be much better readable (the writter of descent revised it).

    But for a boardgame that’s simply to late in my opinion… It should be playable out of the box with no need for house ruling, no tweaking of balancing problems and such. It’s not like a miniature or roleplaying game were the players a willing to put personal effort into it to get the things they don’t like changed. When they don’t like it, they simply stop playing it. Most time you don’t get another chance for the game. There are just to many other games out there.

    Enough off topic ;)… I hope you get a lot of helpful feedback and not to much to much stuff to worry about and had/have a nice free sunday!

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I know of Myth, but I didn’t back or play it. On a work level I was designing DS at the time, and on a personal level the game play videos didn’t make me excited enough about the game to stump up the cash.

      DS is being tested by many more than just me. There is a very keen group at Mantic within the staff, plus they also have an external group of testers that I have nothing to do with. That distance is great for getting clarity as I’m not there to ask if something is unclear. So they flag up what’s not working and we fix it 🙂

      Then there have been two of these public test days that give us another angle and include many more people who have previously had no exposure to the rules. So they test the clarity again.

      Overall, I think the rules should be pretty clear and relatively bug-free when they come out. Of course, when it is released to many thousands of gamers across different cultures, languages and experiences we’re bound to have some more things crop up. That is pretty much inevitable. However, I expect that these will be in the order of a few details rather than anything major. Of the many adventures we’re writing (somewhere between 3-4 dozen, I think), some will be more balanced for your group than others. But experience with them shows that most of them are balanced fairly well overall. The important thing there is “in your group” because that’s something a designer cannot really account for. Same as any game. My experience with the first Dwarf Kings Hold was interesting as it showed this clearly. I’d be at a convention and someone would come up and tell me that scenario 1 was unwinable as the Skeletons. We’d sit down and I’d show him that it was, in fact, winnable with them. Five minutes after he’d left, someone else would come up and tell me that the same scenario was unwinable as the Dwarfs. Almost every time, the reason they were stuck was that they had missed a single subtlety of the tactics rather than the rules. In fact, having kept track of over a hundred plays through that particular scenario with all sorts of different groups, I can say that overall the win rate is very even for both sides. It’s interesting how far the individual group perceptions can differ though.

      • Danny says:

        The only thing you missed by not indulging in Myth, was some cool mini’s. Everything else was a nightmare, in my opinion.

  4. Shane says:

    Is the tyrant of halpi unique in being able to play past a hero being crippled or is that a final mission thing, or both?

  5. Smud says:

    Well it’s good to see so much testing, but it always sounds like you’re only testing the written scenarios. Sure that’s good and needed, but it’s less my concerns. My concerns are still the advanced rules. Do you test them too? Have some of your groups tested the selfmade dungeon with selfmade heros with the new items and spells? Is the AI tested a lot? The random dungeon?

    These are the sections I’m worrying about bugs or major balancing issues. Sure there are always the problems “in your group”. I know them very well and there is nothing a game designer can do about them but that’s not my fear with the advanced rules.
    I fear more common rule issues and major balancing problems.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Yup, all of it is being tested. We’re talking most about the scenarios and the core game because that’s where it all starts. Also, when you have a group of people for a day, who don’t know the game, then you can’t really start them off with DIY dungeons 🙂

      Basically, we’re testing the whole game as much as we can. Would I like more time to test? Well, of course. Is any designer ever happy with the time they get to work in?Does anyone ever say they’ve had as much as they could possibly need and there is nothing more that could be done? I doubt it.

      • Smud says:

        That’s the fist time I hear that theses rules are tested and I glad to hear it. I hope they are tested a lot. )
        Yes you probably can’t start with the DIY on the first day, even though a system which makes this possible would be great ;). But it should be possible to start with a random dungeon.

        If it would depent on my it’s ok to see a delay on Dungeon Saga to get it tested a lot more and of course I would like to see the majority of this testing to be the advanced rules. 😉

        • Quirkworthy says:

          You don’t have to convince me 🙂

          As I said above, designers aren’t usually the ones saying that they’ve had all the time they need and can we get it all printed. They’re the ones coming in at the last moment with “just one more” tweak to polish things even more.

        • Smud says:

          😀 I guessed so, but the people who need to be convinced are not reachable.

          Oh and while you are reading, what about those articles about the advanced rules in detail? 😉

  6. G Man says:

    Bit of a random question here, and not one I’m sure you’d be able to answer yet as I don’t know how much (if any) involvement you have on the Kings of War 2nd ed, but there’s a few minis in the KoW2 Kickstarter I’m interested in picking up for use in DS, namely the Abyssal Champian, Abyssal Fiend (the big winged thingy) and the Greater Obsidian Golem (to go along with the smaller ones as maybe a boss).

    I’m just checking to see if those things have DS stats in the advanced rules, or are these not being included as they came after DS?


  7. Nigel Dickens says:

    I took my 7 year old son to the Mantic workshop for the beta testing of the rules and he loved the whole thing (as did i). We played with LOKA models on photocopied pages with black and white rules but already he can’t wait till the end of the year when the game comes out to get stuck. What Jake and Luke showed that day shows that all KS backers and retail buyers are in for a real treat.
    PS the dragon model absolutely rocks. Huge beast standing over its golden hoard. Dungeon Saga is in good hands.

  8. Mike Jarvis says:

    Hey, I just found this. I was Overlording playing the Tyrant in the dragon adventure mentioned. I should add that we playtested it again, after the play in which the halfling killed the dragon (leaving the halfling on one health!). Again we ended up with only the halfling alive, with both shorty and the dragon on one health. This time though, the dragon was victorious. Perfect play balance, only one health seperating the victor from the loser in two games, with two different winners. Fantastic fun, too.

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