Development Continued: Use Every Second…

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a big believer in using every last second you’ve got to keep trying to improve a product. While it can be a pain, I believe this almost always results in a superior product. However, there are downsides. To-print schedules can slip if you’re not careful; it can mess up layout’s schedule as you’re asking them to ‘tweak just one last thing;’ it can actually cost money if you’re making those changes on the printers proofs; and so on. So every time you push for changes at the end after files have rotated into the final proofing/heading-to-print stage you have to weigh the pros and cons of what you’re doing.

With Leviathans that was especially a careful balance that needed to be maintained. At this year Origins Game Fair a few weeks back, usually after midnight, Jason was proofing final Shadowrun Street Legends layouts and then I was proofing and signing off on final Leviathans work after that; both final material Matt was wrapping up, as well as digital printer proofs direct from the manufacturer.

With all of that swirling along I had a good, long conversation with Robert DeHoff, who was direct captain of the Leviathans gaming at the Origins Game Fair. While we’ve demoed the game at several conventions over the last two years, this was the first time that a “final” set of rules was put through such a large scale of play. What I mean by that was the running of a “grinder” event, where the game ran for 12ish hours, with a dozen ships on the playing area and people moving in and out of the event; i.e. it’s designed to maximize the number of people that can leap into the game for a quick 20 to 40 minutes to get a flavor and then leap back out if they wish (course we had some people that played almost that entire time straight).

As such, the system in all its aspect was tested more than it’s ever been tested before. I was extremely gratified with the enjoyment people had and that at the end of the day really only two subtle issues arose.

1. Destroyers. I’ve blogged about this one several times, but getting destroyers to ‘feel right’ power-wise within the game has been exceptionally difficult. They can’t be too weak or why take them, but they can’t be too powerful or it hurts the feel of the game when you move the battleships across the playing area…and all the while they’ve got to mesh well with the fleet-style play.

The entire last 9 months of final production, as we took the time to continue to playtest things, were dealing with Destroyers. The last two rules tweaks made during that time period were specifically to increase power of larger ships and decrease the power of Destoyers: both of those tweaks involved the Bracketing Fire and Saturation Fire abilities in the Commander’s Manual and that now you re-roll any Slot die for such attacks that indicate a Miss Slot.

However, after the first two days at Origins there was a feeling that the Destroyers might still be a hair two powerful. Saturday offered us the chance to use two grinders as one last play test to prove the point, or not, about the Type 1s (and to a slightly lesser degree some of the Type 2s).

Ultimately I decided after reviewing the data with Rob that indeed the Destroyers were still a little more powerful than I wanted. As such, literally right at the proofing stage I introduced a final rule into the Commander’s Manual that when you’re making a Breaking The Keel Roll, you add an additional +1 modifier for any Miss Slot in the Location struck. That seems to be the final, little tweak that fully brings the smaller ships right into line where they should be.

2. The second tweak revolves around the aerial torpedoes. What’s even more amusing is that the idea came up ages and ages ago during playtesting. However, at the time I didn’t like it as it was suggested as a “core rule” and I felt it changed the feel of what I wanted for the torpedoes too much.

However, a few things changed since then.

First, we had to remove all the Captain’s Manual material from the box and so I turned around and created a “Captain’s Manual Excerpt” in the Commander’s Manual that offered several optional rules.

Second, at Origins in the grinder, with so many people involved and so many ships, they started running into a situation where movement was taking too long as people tried to carefully maneuver around all of the aerial torpedo lines. Now that’s the exact flavor I love about that aspect…but games already take longer when you keep adding in people, and combining that with what is potentially one of the largest time sinks in the game…it was becoming an issue.

To solve it at the convention, Rob and his crew simply flipped the Target Hex markers over so no one had any idea which Launch Hex markers went with which Target Hex markers. It was a great, great way to resolve a situation at the convention and ensure the games kept moving forward.

However, my experience over the years is most fans (particularly if you’re talking a tournament) want play with rules from the rulebook, not rules they have to learn specific to a convention.

Since I abruptly had the opportunity to include that exact rule, but do it in a way that leaves it optional, but there to be used as needed, I quickly folded in a Fog of War Torpedo rule.

Below you’ll find two of the twelve sets of torpedo markers found in the Core Box Set. The front is used when players are playing standard Commander’s Rules, but then the option is there to flip over the Target Hex. It creates the needed solution to use at any convention without having to introduce a rule a player hasn’t seen before, while also adding in one more way for players to tweak the rules as they like, which I love.

Torpedo Markers_Front.jpg

Torpedo Markers_Back.jpg

Once again, huge kudos to Robert, Amanda and their crew for being willing to speak up and then run with the impromptu playtesting…and of course to those players that unwittingly helped to improve the game, all while just tossing dice and having a great time.

See ya next duty shift!

Randall

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