Battle of the Bands – a design diary, #2

Just a little progress with the BotB game to report. I made up my first-draft cards (every single one of the 158 cards written by hand) and I’ve solo tested a few three-hander games.

The card artist deserves a medal.

Yes, I’m aware that my little red symbol for “Buzz” on the cards looks worryingly like an SS rune. I am not an artist, hence the prevalence of text and lack of iconography.

You know what? It works. It’s not irreparably broken on first sight. That’s the first hurdle cleared.

It’s a long way from being any good, though. The rough balancing I did by spreadsheet seems to have worked out OK… ish. It feels blandly balanced at the moment, rather than having the sort of balance that brings about tough decisions. I’ve changed (and need to change further) the mechanism by which the judges for the final round are revealed; it will probably work better if they’re revealed one by one over a few rounds, rather than all being dumped out three rounds from the end. That would give players a little more chance to gear their band towards the desires of the judges.

I’ve already made substantial tweaks to the number of cards that become available (and get ditched from the display) in each round, and I’m going to trim down the numbers of band members and instruments in the game so there’s a bit more recycling of cards. Ideally, I’d like to get down to no more than 110 cards in the whole game. That’s the number of cards in a copy of San Juan, and it seems like a sensible target for what is (conceptually at least) a light, small-box, theme-centred, filler-ish game. Getting down to 110 could be tough, but I’m prepared to get really heavy-handed with this thing. After all, it’s only an experiment to see if I can design a game. If it’s functional, great; if it’s actually fun… even better!

So the next stage is to trim the decks down and then try out some truly degenerate strategies to see if the whole thing falls apart. I’d be surprised if I can’t make it break somehow…

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