It’s been three years since the last Foom Devlog (and since the last major revision to Foom). In that time I helped build and ship the HTC Vive and SteamVR, so I guess being distracted from this side project isn’t the end of the world.
Last week on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2017 I had the chance to playtest and revise the game again. This post will be about where it was before the cruise. The next post will be about the revisions I made as a result of the on-board playtests. Here are the cards I started out the cruise with.
Learning to play again
One of the big problems with taking three years off from your unpublished game is that if you don’t write down the rules, you can forget exactly what they are. That is exactly what happened to me. There was a major revision after devlog #3 and I didn’t write any of it down. I’m going to rectify that “didn’t write the rules down” problem going forward. In the meantime, here’s my attempt to record the rules I started out the cruise playing with.
- Shuffle the project deck and deal four projects face-up in the center of the table in the “in-progress projects” area. Players will work together to complete these projects and gain the power listed on the project.
- Each player takes a rule card and the matching worker deck for their color, along with a pile of worker cubes to match that color.
- Each player shuffles their deck and deals themselves 2 cards.
- Each player draws one Upgrade card from each phase. These are kept secret so the other player don’t know exactly what their competition is going for.
- Choose a player at random to start.
The unclaimed worker decks and rule cards won’t be used. Set them aside for the duration of the game.
Each player takes these steps and then play passes to the player on their left:
- Player takes a number of coins equal to their Income. This includes the income from their base rule card, any completed upgrades, and any projects owned by the player.
- Player draws a number of cards equal to their Draw. This includes the draw count from their base rule card, any completed upgrades, and any projects owned by the player.
- Play a number of workers from their hand up to the number specified by their Play. This includes the play count from their base rule card, any completed upgrades, and any projects owned by the player.
- Pay coins to activate any number of powers. This includes the three powers listed on the base rule card, powers on completed upgrades, and powers on any projects owned by the player. A single power can be used any number of times per turn.
- Discard down to the Hand limit as specified on their base rule card, upgrades, and owned projects.
Each worker card has an icon that indicates what kind of worker that card represents. Workers are played on projects to move that project closer to completion. When a player wants to play a worker on a project, they discard a worker card from their hand and put one of their worker cubes over a matching worker icon on any in-progress project. Worker cards with a question mark in a square are wild cards, and allow the player to place a worker cube on an open icon of any type.
When the last worker icon on a project is covered, that project is completed. The player with the most worker cubes on the project gains ownership of the project and access to any powers or stat bonuses on the project. If one or more players is tied for having the most cubes, the player who placed the last cube decides the owner among the tied players.
At the end of the player’s turn, replace any completed projects with new projects from the project deck.
Upgrades and Winning the Game
Each player has three upgrades to complete. A player immediate wins the game by finishing their third upgrade.
To complete an upgrade, the player needs to acquire projects to match the requirements listed on the upgrade card. When a player gains control of a project that satisfies an upgrade, they immediately complete that upgrade.
Problems encountered on the cruise
These rules worked pretty well, but they exposed a number of problems:
- Players didn’t want to play on projects they weren’t likely to win. My first attempt to solve this was to give non-winning players one coin at project completion for each worker cube on the project. This helped, but wasn’t really enough. In the later playtest when I eliminated money, I tried “draw one card” for this, but that didn’t work well at all.
- Player contributions to projects were too diffuse. My solution here was to reduce the number of projects to be the same as the number of players. (I had three players in each of the three playtests I managed to have on-board.) That definitely helped during the early game. It may be necessary to increase that number as the game progresses.
- Four worker types was too many. Players often went through turns where they couldn’t play a worker because there were no matching open spots. I ran a test with all the gear workers removed from the worker decks, and gear icons on the project cards acting as wild spot that would accept any kind of worker. That seemed to help quite a bit, so I’m going to test more with that rule.
- Once a player got ahead in upgrades it was hard to catch them. I tried to deal with this by giving any player who hadn’t already upgraded to that level some money, which helped but wasn’t quite enough.
- Powers that remove cubes (and projects full of cubes) slow the game down. The whole point of escalating capabilities on projects with fixed costs is that the game is supposed to accelerate. The fix here is to change “remove cube” to “move cube to another project”, which means that progress is inexorable.
- The last phase took way too long to finish. One game took almost two hours, and I’d like the game to be under an hour. I have some ideas here that I’ll test out in future versions.
- A bunch of the powers were useless. And a bunch of others were stupidly over-powered. And because of the rules we were playing under they could be used multiple times in a turn. The powers definitely need a balance pass, but the bigger fix I want to do here is more fundamental. The third on-board playtest eliminated the money mechanic from the game entirely. This was a promising direction that I’m going to explore in the next revision. It was roughly:
- Upgrades that gave extra income were converted to extra draws.
- All upgrades and powers on projects where ignored
- A new deck was added (by hand-modifying the purple worker deck) that contained powers.
- These power cards were added to a player’s worker deck, which introduces something of a deck-building mechanic.
- A player could play any power in their hand instead of a worker when they made a play.
- It’s hard to tell what worker type is under a cube, and often powers require knowing that. This is probably going to drive a visual design change in future versions.
By the end of the cruise, the cards where covered with scribbles, which is a definite sign of progress being made. Now I just have to go back and turn all that feedback into a new card revision.