I just took my Colonies of the Jump Gate prototype for another solo-testing ride tonight … this will likely be the last one before I need to pack-up and head off to GenCon.
The main pieces of the game are starting to come together. I think my latest attempt at the action-selection system (“Tech Array”) is starting to work. You start with 6 cards out of your 13-card “Tech Library” and 2 Rockets in-play. Throughout the game, you’ll have a way to add up to 2 more Rockets, and with each Rocket you add, you get 2 more cards in your Tech Array. Each card has an action or two on it that you can take.
When you take an action, you need to mark the card with one of your chips and tip over the Rocket that took the action. You can continue taking actions as long as you have a card in the Tech Array without a chip on it and a Rocket standing upright. Certain actions have requirements around where the Rocket is located — so that can limit you as well. Once you’re done taking actions, you remove a chip from one of your Tech Array cards. Your Rockets are always stood back up at the start of your turn, but since you start with 2 Rockets in-play, you generally will take 2 actions and then clear 1 of them … over a few turns, your Tech Array becomes more and more limited. So, you can choose to “Rest” on your turn instead of taking actions … and then your Tech Array becomes completely cleared and ready to use again. (more)
The other thing that is working is the resources, the markets (there’s a central market and each player’s colonies can sell to other players as well), and what things are traded-in to accomplish things in the game. And how the end-game scoring works to make there be something of a decision to be made.
What’s hard to tell when solo-testing is whether the option to trade with other players is going to be something that people do or not … it might not matter to have direct trading, if buying through the Colonies and the Central Market will work just as well. That will be something I’ll be watching for during our playtests at GenCon.
The second thing that is difficult to tell if it’s balanced right or not is the “Black Hole” versions of actions. Players with “Black Hole” resources in their collection are allowed to use each of them once to take a specialized version of an action … essentially, these are rule-breaking “bad guy” things — they give you a distinct tactical advantage during that one action. When you take one of them, you mark one of your Black Holes with a chip. If you still have it in your collection, it takes away from your ability to score in the end. However, they can be used toward “Weapons Research”, which gives the player with the most in that area a scoring bonus. It’s supposed to be a double-hinged mechanism … and it’s tough to know how it works until I get other people trying it out.
Finally, I think one of my game-end triggers might end things too early … it felt like it did in this last game. There are 4 different triggers and any one of them going off signals the final round of turns. I might try a game with out it and see if it’s better to have players continue to battle for a bit longer until one of the other 3 triggers goes off.
In this test, the end-of-game score is shown off to the right. The player with the most Colonies actually came in second, because one of the other players put together some nice resource collections that scored well. In the final round, the 3rd place player was in position to steal a Colony from the 2nd place player, but lacked the Black Hole resource to allow it … so that was a nice little bit of angst in the end-game.
Cannot wait to have other people play this one, break it, and let me know what they think this coming weekend in Indy!