Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tweaking the Tile Game (Dot)

I have been playing and tweaking my tile game that I posted about last week.  The initial design had a flaw that I felt would be easy to address:  The first player to take a turn had a noticeable disadvantage.  The problem is that generally you want to get two points from placing a tile and there are very few options for the first tile to achieve that while the second tile played has significantly more choices because they can score off of the first tile.  The second player seemed to have consistently more and better options throughout the game and also won by 1-2 points most of the time.  One solution I considered was to simply give the first player a bonus 1 or 2 points to begin the game but that seemed somewhat inelegant and also left the game playing very differently for the two players which I wasn't especially happy with.  

In the previous post I talked about having the players place 3 tokens on the board before the game starts each of which was worth 1 bonus point.  The idea of that was to give player 1 more places to play and some bonus points but it ended up working out badly; player 2 had ways to play that negated the advantage and still retained the upper hand.  My latest and best solution to this problem is to place 2 bonus points on the tiles that are located diagonally from the centre tile.  There are two ways to do this:  The first is to place 2 bonus points on all 4 of the tiles that are diagonal from the centre tile and the other is to place 2 bonus points on just 2 of those tiles instead.  

These 2 options produce very different boards and strategies.  With 4 different tiles with bonus points the play is all over the board at once and the game becomes largely about maximizing your personal point return with little regard for your opponent.  There are numerous places for each player to play to get 2 points on their turn so they just pick one of them.  When only 2 tiles have bonus points the game becomes much tighter with fewer options but it allows for more defensive play.  It is feasible to play extremely defensively trying to deny the opponent good plays while scoring few points yourself because your opponent does not have very many useful things they can do.

It feels a bit like Scrabble.  The 2 bonus tile game is like expert Scrabble - you spend a lot of time denying your opponent and trying to gum up the board and balancing personal gain vs. opponent's gain is crucial.  The 4 bonus tile game is a lot more like beginner Scrabble where everybody plays big words and there are endless options for playing your own things.  I am bad at Scrabble so I can't really play the expert game at all but I really like the idea of making tradeoffs between offence and defence so I am going with the 2 bonus tile game for now.

I have been really pleased with the reactions to the game so far.  Everyone who has played it has given positive feedback and the good reactions have come from both hardcore gamers and people who aren't particularly into games.  I think I need to squeeze in a little more variety in tile powers still before the game will be done but it is feeling really positive.  This is the sort of game that is much more marketable than FMB as it is simpler to learn and doesn't have the excess of pieces and tokens that drives prices up.  My current working name for the game is Dot, though I am very much open to better suggestions!

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