GenCon report: Erfworld card game playtests
I was fortunate to be able to join Rob Balder and gang at GenCon to playtest a couple of card games inspired by Erfworld. Having designed and published several games of my own, I felt that I provided a different perspective from most of the other playtesters there. There were about 15 of us gathered, so we split into smaller groups to test and evaluate several games.
The first game that we looked at was "Pimp My Unipego", which we picked out of the pile mainly due to the name. In this game, players had to build their unipegataur out of a deck of cards, with different values being assigned to different parts (torso, horn, legs, wings, etc.). Players in turn drew a card, and decided whether to use the card in their unipegataur or wait for a better card. At the end of the game, the sum of the cards used for parts was added together, with a bonus for finishing earlier in the game.
A dwagon watches to make sure no one is cheating
We started off by reading through the rules, and making sure that everyone understood them. Some people had suggestions or questions, and we noted these on the rules as we went through them. Some people wanted to tweak things right away, but we decided to play the game through at least once as written, to understand what the designer was intending, before we made any changes.
As we played our first game, several of us realized that the game as written was too luck-based. While we liked the concept and the general play, the luckamancy factor was too high to make for any strategy. In addition, each player had his or her own deck, so there was no player interaction at all. Several players thought that this made the game less intense and interesting. We collectively decided that the concept was good, and tried to work on improving the rules to reduce luck and increase player interaction. We tried streamlining down to one or two common decks. We also tried adjusting how cards were used to reduce luck. After several more quick plays, we felt that we had made improvements, which we noted, but that the game still wasn't quite ready. Wanting to try another game, we decided to set this one aside with our notes and try another game.
Several Erfworld games being playtested at once
The next game that we tested was called "Hegemon!" This was a very interesting game where the Hegemon tries to outwit the other players, or coalition. The Hegemon plays 3 cards from a hand of 10, and the coalition must match the values by using cards from their hand added or subtracted together. For example, if the Hegemon plays a 4, the coalition can play a 7 and 3 card to match (7 - 3 = 4). If the coalition matches all 3 cards played by the Hegemon, he or she is deposed and a new player can become Hegemon. If the coalition does not match all 3, the Hegemon gets points for each unmatched card.
We played this with 4 players, the minimum recommended. The general consensus was that we liked this game, and it was challenging and had much more interaction and less luck than "Pimp My Unipego." As we played, we wondered about the game balance with more players, as there would be more opportunities for the coalition to match the Hegemon's cards. We felt that it would need to be tested further with more players, to see if the number of cards played would need to be adjusted. Overall though, it seemed to be fairly balanced, as any number of cards could be used to match the Hegemon's cards. We realized through play that the Hegemon would definitely want to play cards at the extremes, to try to force the coalition to use more cards to make a match.
At that point, I had to move on to another scheduled event that I had. Others continued to playtest games, and all the notes were collected by Team Erfworld. It was great fun and I'm glad that I was able to participate!
Matthew Duhan is President of Gozer Games and creator of the card games Zombie Ninja Pirates and Vampire Werewolf Fairies. Gozer Games has also published Titans of Industry, which was funded in part thanks to Erfworld.