Stormy Night Games
Apr 20, 2016
Let me preface this entry by saying I had done a lot of thinking after the previous week's test play. Two nagging ideas had crystallized and reinforced each other. One was that the game would have limited success if it could not be played with three players, or even two. I had also heard on multiple occasions that there ought to be a "timer" in the game. Something like the Doom Track in Arkham Horror or the Darkness Track in A Touch of Evil. I had resisted the idea thinking that running out of cards was enough of a timer.
After my three player test play the week before, I had been thinking all week about how to make the game work with a smaller group. The traitor mechanic breaks down a bit with only three players and certainly with two. It just didn't seem to make sense to start the game with a traitor in those cases, and from experience I know that without a traitor, the game is too easy to win. So then my thought was, can I have people play the game without a traitor, and just make it harder to win? It would be a different sort of game, almost entirely cooperative, though there would still be a chance that someone might become a traitor later in the game. And here is where the timer came back to mind. Maybe the game wouldn't be so easy if there was added urgency to the game.
I ended up making two changes to the rules. The first was specifically for 2 and 3 player games. Instead of one face down card to start on each location, there would be two. Not only would this add more uncertainty to infiltrations and slow them down, it would also cause the deck to run out faster. But that didn't seem like enough and I resolved to add a timer. I didn't want something completely random, but I didn't want something the players could exercise complete control over either. Finally I decided to use red tokens. Red tokens would appear any time a card with a value of 5 was revealed (positive or negative). The Protagonist would then have to place the red token on a Location. The first token would do nothing but the second token would mean that Dracula's influence on that location had become so strong, players could no longer interact with it at all. Over time, more and more locations (and their abilities) would get blocked off and the players would become increasingly squeezed as time went on. So those were the new conditions we were testing.
My friends Scott and Renee came over Saturday afternoon specifically to test the game and we ended up playing 3 rounds of it. Neither were familiar with the game so I had to explain the rules which wemt unusually smoothly. Hopefully I can remember how I did it for future games. Scott was the Protagonist and was playing Jonathan Harker. I also gave Jonathan a new power. He could reveal and discard red cards from his hand to gain a green token once per turn. Since the Protagonist tends to end up with a lot of cards anyway (via Bermondsey) he used this a lot and acquired a lot of tokens. I'm not sure he made the best use of them, but both he and Renee were learning the game and made some mistakes. In the end, we won and it felt like a good close game. No one went to the dark side and maybe 1 of "the Fear Grows" cards made an appearance. We had loyalties of 3 and 5 so that didn't really come close.
I had decided before the game that for a 3 player game there would be one protagonist and the other two players would have a Resolve between 1 and 6 and I left out the "Clarity of Purpose" card. I think now though that I would use the Protagonist, one card between 1 and 6, and one card that is always good. In the three player version, you're really fighting the game more, and if there was a case where two people went dark and it was 2 on 1, the Protagonist would have no hope at all. I think they could handle a 1 on 1 situation so for 2 players I would have a Protagonist and 1-6 Resolve card.
The second game I was the Protagonist and we absolutely breezed through it, winning in about 30 minutes with no opposition. I believe this was mostly because Scott and Renee got the hang of the game and once everyone knew what to do, it was still too easy to do. We decided the game need to be harder still. We decided to ,ake it so that if a Location had 1 red token on it, you would have to spend a green token or a green card to interact with it. We also decided that "The Fear Grows" card would result in two red tokens being played. However we also decided to not impose red tokens for Green 5's as that just felt unnatural and annoying.
In the third game we ended up having the same characters from the first game, but this time Renee was the Protagonist. I had a Resolve of 3 and actually ended up going dark. In all 5 of "The Fear Grows" cards came out, but Scott had a Resolve of 6. The game felt tighter and more intense with the initial red tokens having more meaning now. In the end it was a close game as they managed to destroy all the boxes with 1 card left in the deck and my turn coming up next. I didn't turn until pretty late in the game so I don't think it was my mischeif that made the game feel closer. People don't typically have a lot of cards or get a lot of green tokens, so having to spend them to use a Location is kind of a big deal, or at least it feels like one. Jonathan Harker and Van Helsing have a little better access to tokens, so it may be watered down with them in the game, but time will tell on that.
Afterwards we questioned whether there should be a way to get rid of red tokens. If a spot becomes blocked off, it's possible the Heroes could lose if a box gets moved there later on. Or perhaps they found out someone was lying to them about the location of the Hidden Crypt and it's actually in a location that has been blocked off. There are a couple of locations whose abilities are very rarely used so we though maybe there could be a location that removes red tokens at some cost like 5 green tokens perhaps.
Going forward, I'm going to try and do some more 3 player testing and even some 2 player testing. I may continue to look for some ways to make the game tougher to win in general, or at least for 2 or 3 players.
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