Saturday, August 12, 2017

Alter Ego: first test in 2 years

So... Today I got in a (2p) game of Alter Ego with one of my testers. David had played an earlier version, but it's been several years... I haven't even touched the game since updated the rules in August of 2015 (see previous post. I'd link it, but I'm on my phone, and that's too annoying to do right now)!

David remembered that he didn't like the game last time he'd played, and that he generally doesn't care for cooperative games at all, but he did enjoy it this time, and he said it did feel like we were cooperating - especially with the teamwork tokens. So that's good.

The game took about 60-75 minutes, including rules. We brought the Anarchist into play, and it was the version where we needed triple wits over and over to beat him, which is the one with the fewest tokens (5 tokens for 2 players). We really didn't have much trouble building up, getting rid of all the henchmen and staying on top of that situation. We got the Anarchist in play without fear of bringing anyone else in too, and we won pretty handily.

The game worked, but I fear it may be too easy. That's one of the issues I've had - either it's trivially easy, or you just lose all of a sudden. I wonder if there's any loss that doesn't feel sorta lame. I guess Pandemic is like that to an extent.

The overall structure of the game is solid, and works well. There are some details that need to be addressed though:

* Strength curve. Ideally, I'd like the Arch Villain to come into play JUST when the players are ABOUT to get on top of the henchmen situation... earlier if they play poorly, and never later (because later means it's trivial to win).

* Teamwork. I think it works well now, but could use more testing. A Teamwork token allows a player to join your "team" for the turn, and players on a team may spend their fight icons together as one unit to take out henchmen or hit the Arch Villain. Currently, the Teamwork token also gives you a fight icon of your choice. I'm not sure why I decided on that, it seems a bit extraneous. Maybe at one point it seemed hard to get the right mix of icons to beat bad guys or something. I'd like it if that didn't need to be the case. Maybe removing that rule would address the "game is to easy" issue.

* Penalties. Currently, if you don't play a job/family/community card, then you get a penalty token for that phase, and if you get enough penalty tokens, then you are penalized -- you're required to take a card of that type from the stacks instead of a hero card. This is supposed to be bad in the short term because you can't fight as well next turn, and in the long term because it waters down your deck a little bit. But frankly, I'm not sure this penalty is doing the job. David suggested that as you pile up penalty markers, you should LOSE icons, which would be a more consistent, more palpable penalty. Then maybe taking that card from the stack (or playing it from hand) could remove penalty markers, restoring your abilities.

For example: For every 2 Penalty markers, you get -1 income/AE card/henchman icon, which means you get less money (to buy and use equipment), fewer cards to choose from for next turn, and fewer henchmen to choose from - minimum 1, you must always bring a henchman into play, and it's pretty bad to be "off the top" (without any choice)... so if you pile up 4 penalty tokens on the Community phase, then you're at -2 icons, meaning if you want to even draw 2 and choose 1 henchmen, you'd need 4 icons.

I like the sound of that, and I might say that anytime you DO play job/family/community cards, you remove a penalty counter (or 1 per card, maybe, so you can take a turn off of fighting to really clear out some penalties?) or maybe not... maybe the penalties stick around for the most part, and you temporarily remove their effect by playing cards?

I could see it working both ways, need to try it to decide... either you only collect penalties, or else you either remove or add 1 penalty marker each turn (depending on whether you played a card of that type or didn't).

* Family phase/card draw timing. Currently the phases are 1. Income, 2. Support (where you draw cards for next turn), 3. Patrol, 4. Fight, 5. Recoup (where you play cards drawn in phase 2 for next turn). It has been suggested that the Support phase move to just before recoup, so that you never have cards in hand, you just draw some, play some, and discard the rest.

I've been happy with the phases as-is, because you can get Teamwork tokens before fighting this way, and you can use Events (cards played from hand) this turn. But maybe I should make the Events into cards you put into your display (or I could say you put them in play, and they don't count against your display limit), and the teamwork tokens would just be delayed until next turn.

It also means you wouldn't know what you may be playing next turn until after you've made all your fighting decisions... is that good or bad?

* Equipment/Events. Are they too strong in general? Should the events be played from hand as current rules say)? Go into your display? Get played like display but not count against your limit? I might try mixing this up and seeing which feels cleanest.

I look forward to playing again. I don't think I'll change the prototype just yet, but I can try different penalty rules and I can nerf that Teamwork token thing and see how that goes.

Off to the store. Maybe someone will be there to play with me!

1 comment:

Michael Brown said...

So, I have printed up all of the things to try this game out.

I will cut it out soon, and then tell you when I get in a play.