Okay, so there’s this scene in Die Hard 2…yeah, okay, I know it’s a terrible movie, and I haven’t seen it in forever, but there’s this one scene at the end that is stuck in my head and I seem to reference it all the time. Bruce Willis is fighting this dude on the wing of a plane, and before he get’s the crap beat out of him and thrown off into the snow, he manages to unscrew the port to the gas tank, which spills a line of fuel in the snow as the bad guys drive away, thinking they’ve finally neutralized this annoying do-gooder and are on their way to freedom.
See, these jerks have been holding this airport hostage, and a bunch of planes in the sky are unable to land because they turned off all the runway lights in the middle of a blizzard. So now the terrorists are on their way to freedom with their money (or whatever they were after) and all these civilians in the sky are going to crash and die because the planes are in holding patterns and running out of fuel.
And this explanation is going on way to look, but, anyway, Bruce Willis is lying there in the snow, bloody and bruised, and he takes his lighter and ignites the line of fuel leading to the terrorists’ plane. Fire streaks across the field and the next thing we know, the army of bad guys is one giant fireball.
Bruce Willis is rolling around in the snow laughing. He is pleased because he finally got the bastards. And because the line of fire in the snow can be used as a runway to land the planes.
“There’s your f-ing landing lights!” The solution to one problem has become the solution to another problem, as well.
All right, so there are a number of small things I wasn’t happy with in Forge War. And maybe they’re not even little. For one, the game is too long. I mean, I don’t mind the length because I could play this game for a week straight if I had other people willing to play that long. But obviously 5-6 hours is not going to fly for most people. I mean, I was trying to justify it to myself by saying, “Well, awesome games like Twilight Struggle and Through the Ages are super-long and nobody seems to care.” But people do care. A lot of people. And is that really the game I want to make? If I can provide the “Forge War Experience” and have it take 3-4 hours instead of 5-6, wouldn’t that be better? Would Twilight Struggle be better if you got the same experience but it took half the time? Long length is necessary in some games, but it’s not a desirable feature.
I’ve also got this problem of the market phase bidding and how it’s really not all that interesting. I just added it because I felt it was unfair if cards were just purchased in turn order and the guy at the end of the turn order had no way to get a card he really wanted if someone else took it.
And I’ve always felt like the gaining resources in the mine has been a little detached from the rest of the game. Sure, getting resources is how you do everything else, but another layer of connective tissue would be good.
Okay, so anyway, I start working on making the game shorter. The go-to solution I’ve tapped in the past has been to reduce the number of turns in each stage. At one point it went from 10 to 8, and now I’m going from 8 to 6. Some quests will need to be shortened, but that’s doable.
The real concern is that I don’t want to reduce the diversity of market cards available. Fewer turns means fewer purchases and fewer things to purchase. Fewer purchases is okay, I think. It causes you to really only get what you need and it lessens the power of buying up all the market stalls. But if I had to cut out 25% of the cards, well that would be hard, but what about instead if I just put down an extra card each turn – so 4 for 2 players, 5 for 3 players and 6 for 4 players. The I’d only have to cut out a few cards.
Yes, but then that would make bidding even more useless because there are so many options on the table. Well, great, then let’s just get rid of it! That’ll shorten the game even more if people can just buy the cards and not have to go through an auction for every one. And with more card diversity each turn, the chances of someone else grabbing what you want are less. But those chances are still there, and getting rid of auctioning all together still seemed a little unfair.
Until I realized I could make one small, obvious change and solve all my problems at once: decide turn order directly after moving in the mine instead of before moving.
You see, with that change, people have the same amount of control over where they are in the turn order, but they have much more incentive to exercise that control because now they know exactly what it gets them. Before the repercussions of how they moved in the mine weren’t realized until a full turn later when they saw what the market and quest cards for the next turn were, but now those repercussions are immediate.
I mean, let’s say the turn starts and a market card you really want comes out. You now have a much clearer choice between making a small movement, collecting a single resource and generating fewer workers in the mine to make you earlier in the turn order, or make a big move, get lots of resources and end up much later in the turn order. It gives the movements in the mine more weight, brings balance to the market phase and makes the game shorter.
There’s your god-damned runway.
I’m inspired by this change and running with it. I’ve been neglecting the digital version over the weekend (I know there are still a lot things that need to be fixed with that) because I’m redesigning all the cards so I can print them all out and test these changes on the table as soon as possible. I really want to see where the full game play time is at with these changes, but I expect it will be a lot better and the game will play a lot more smoothly.