Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Playtesting at Realm of the Dragon!

Going over the Actions and Interruptions play
cards as I set up the scenario.
Photo: Nathan Wenig

Back in July I sat down with my buddy Nathan and play tested a couple of scenarios at his home. He seemed to really enjoy himself and it had been a while since I had done any playtesting so I was looking at the game with fresh eyes. We talked about how the games went and my mind started cranking on his feedback and feedback I had gotten in May/June from a playtesting group in Spain headed up by @Robh, one of the Kickstarter backers. My brain was processing various changes I wanted to make and I was excited to dive back into the ruleset and start making tweaks. A short while later Nate started pushing for me to run an event at Realm of the Dragon in Wauwatosa, WI. I happily said, "Yes!"

Passing out the new Character Dashboards
designed by Sam Alcarez.
Photo: Nathan Wenig

During the weeks before the event I set up an event on MeetUp.com and let my new semi-regular board gaming group know about the event as well. I knew there were a few people coming, but was ecstatic and a little overwhelmed to walk into a packed house of gaming enthusiasm. It was also Warmahordes night so the crowd for that combined with the 7 people who showed up specifically for Broken Contract had me feeling a lot less relaxed than I expected so I rushed my way through getting everyone set up and roughly up to speed.

Breakers rushing up two adjacent passages while
Officer Hickley moves to the middle so he can be
supported by his fellow Officers.
Photo: Nathan Wenig

Once everyone was set up and assigned a character we got into the scenario. This wasn't one that I already had written, I had walked in the door planning to run "It's Time!" but with the large crowd I wanted to go with something a little bigger that required more movement so I threw together a scenario on the fly with a bunch of board sections I was going to use if we made it to a 2nd scenario that night. With the pressure on though I decided to go with what I thought would feel more like a big game and give them some options.

The unsung hero of the day, Ari Gaylen, moving to rig the keypad
to call the freight elevator down.

In this scenario two groups of Breakers were moving up adjacent tunnels towards two potential objectives. To the left in the above photo was a storage area with a jersey barricade and some barrels in storage. The storage area masked an old passage that has been sealed over and is now used for smuggling contraband into the mines. Only the criminal, Nells Turnbull, knows about this exit. If he died, that option for escape would be lost. To the right in the above photo was the freight elevator, its door closed and the elevator sitting on another floor elsewhere in the mines. To call the elevator they would have to steal the key card off of Overseer Billins or attempt to rig the control pad to bring the elevator down. Ari Gaylen was ignored by the Prods so she rushed past and set the elevator in motion.

Officer Tulson moving into position to spray the
oncoming Breakers with rubber bullets.
Photo: Nathan Wenig

Over the course of 7-8 turns Characters maneuvered and fought their way into each other. In the end Officer Tulson and Officer Hickley lay unconscious, bleeding out, and Overseer Billins retreated from the fight. Meanwhile, the Breakers left no one behind and got everyone onto the elevator and shut the door behind them. Of course, this would only be a brief reprieve  as there would still be a whole lot of ground to cover and Prods to fight through to make their exit to freedom.

Trest the Gen-Mod taking a beating.
Photo: Nathan Wenig

It was a great night and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I was particularly happy with how the new Character Dashboards worked even if several of the components weren't completed prototypes yet (for example the chits for Actions, Wounds, and Effects weren't double sided so I had to constantly hand people counters). Watching people play is always informative and I got a good read of how people seemed to be grasping the game and how they interacted with it. Also, special thanks to Devan B. for attempting a different Action or Interruption every turn to find out how they all worked. This rarely happens so many of the Actions and Interruptions have only been tested in the field once or twice. It was great to see these commonly ignored options get put through the motions. Some of them are situational but extremely useful in those situations.

It was a great night and I can't thank Nathan and Realm of the Dragon enough for inviting me to do some playtesting. And of course, thanks to all of the playtesters who came out and gave it a whirl. Nathan was already asking about bringing me back in September so keep an eye out for that. By then I should have more models and professionally printed materials to better showcase the game, and probably some new scenarios too in case any of these playtesters make a return visit.

My next outing to show off the game will be at Brainstorm Comics in Chicago, IL on September 12th. This is a special event so it will get it's own post in a couple days. More info to come!

Thanks for reading!
-Nick


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Design Discussion: Counters

Dead counter by Sam Alcarez

One thing that most miniature games have in common is the use of counters. I fell in love with miniature gaming because of the immersion that comes with the visual experience. One of the things that has always detracted from that visual experience though is all of the on board clutter that comes from counters littering the field of battle. There have been some more artful approaches like upright blast markers, but cardstock or plastic counters have a hard time preserving the look and feel of my game area.  I am one of those extremists that has an assortment of fully modeled counters for some of my armies just so that I can maintain an attractive play area.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I love in-game effects like being drugged, set on fire, knocked unconscious, shocked, etc. When you have a lot of in-game effects, you need counters to keep track of them all. In my early playtesting of Broken Contract, the field was littered with ugly counters to keep track of. And they got in the way of the models too, so I started studying other games to see what I liked about them.

Character Dashboard by Sam Alcarez

Some games use lists making counters an absolute necessity. Others use cards that you can sleeve and check boxes on with a dry erase marker, but the cards are playing card size or smaller and don't account for every in-game effect. Others use mid sized character dashboards where some wounds and effects are logged on the dashboard but others are still marked on the board with counters. And finally, there are no more than a handful of games I know of that strive to keep all notation on the dashboard. After playing some of these games, I started to feel strongly that this was the way for Broken Contract to go.

Restrained counter by Sam Alcarez.

We're working to make sure every in game effect has a corresponding counter to place on the Character Dashboard. The exception will eventually be dropped equipment and prone models. The equipment pack that was the last reward added to the Kickstarter will be ideal for dropped weapons and prone models can currently can be laid down. Ideally they should get sculpts to represent them so people who paint their models don't get them all chipped up.

I think for those like me who got into miniature gaming because of the look and feel of the models played on fully modeled boards will really appreciate this attention to preserving that. Though I know, without a doubt, some will use the game cards, without the dashboards, and will litter the table with the counters just like they always have. This will give everyone the option of playing the type of game they want to play.

Our first public play testing session in the Milwaukee metropolitan area is this Thursday at Realm of the Dragon in Wauwatosa, WI. You can get the full details here:

Broken Contract Playtesting at Realm of the Dragon

Thanks for reading!
-Nick