The first somewhat formal play-testing session was a huge success and a big thanks to those that participated!
There are still many elements of the game that need tweaking, but from the feedback I’ve received I believe that the most important areas of the game mechanics to continue to work on are:
- Action Cards
- Event Cards
- Energy/Horniness Levels
The Action Card Deck being used for this play-testing session was created last week. The breakdown of the cards was just over 40% usable on the player themselves and around 45% of cards being used on another player. The remainder of the cards directly affected visitors on the table or the towel.
The biggest change being made to Action Cards in this version though is that there is now a new category of when the Action Card can be used. With many cards being restricted to be used within a specific part of a player’s turn the aim of this was to encourage players to follow more closely the activities of other players and create tactics based on the cards they have in their hands. This worked to some degree, with many of the cards appearing to be playable at a large portion of the time. The challenge is, players are not playing them. I put this down to a few reasons:
- Players want to know that the cards they play will have a real impact on the game. It’s not always obvious if this is the case, and many cards being played did actually turn out to have no effect at all. Improving this to ensure that cards have a real impact, even if this is a very small effect, I think is the best option.
- Players aren’t always paying attention to the rounds of the game, meaning some cards with a very short time-window can be tough to get right. I don’t want to make it too easy, but there’s improvement to be made for sure.
With a beginning hand of 3 cards and a maximum of 5 cards in any hand there is also a little innate motivation to ensure that players are not hoarding their cards for too long.
As with most of the previous games, there’s still lots of room for improvement, with players still finding it difficult to determine when best to use their cards. Additionally, there are still many unclear cards (due mainly to the way in which they are written), but I have also discovered some rule specifics (such as re-rolling) that break the mould I had in mind for the way they should be used.
I also created an updated Event Card deck for this play-test. The Event Cards are the first part of the game to start to receive “storytelling fluff” with snippets of narrative being added to each of the cards to give a better impression of what is happening and to add some more humour to the play-run.
Overall this worked great (I learned a good lesson around the card design and the order of the text, so the next version will certainly read better) and I felt there was enough diversity in the events themselves as well as the shuffle element to moving visitors around.
I’m still not happy with a couple of things though. Firstly the Event Cards are pretty generic, with all of them resulting in a +1/+2/-1/-2 horniness result for a set of players. While this provides me with a guarantee of balance in the game, I feel this could do with spicing up a little with more odd-ball results. Balance could be tough to maintain, but I think the effort will be worth it. The main thing I have in mind here is to give some reaction, so not just move a dial improving a score, but requiring players to make some sort of decision and choice. It’s going to take some work and a lot of feedback so I hope you all have some thoughts and ideas to give me.
The other are of Event Cards that needs work is very much tied in with the 3rd point above, Energy and Horniness levels.
Version 1 of Gay Sauna the Board Game had 4 attributes: Courage, Horniness, Energy and Soberness. I loved this concept, and should the game develop into some dungeon wandering RPG, then for sure these will all come back. But for now, it seems to be very much evolving into a hilarious and fun casual party game, so simplicity is hugely important.
Since then I’ve reduced down to only 2 attributes: Energy and Horniness. I very much like this as it gives the game an extra dimension of control and randomness. In version 3 of the game, impact on Energy and Horniness has been separated. Energy is almost exclusively modified by the rooms that visitors go into. This gives players the option to develop an Energy strategy. Playing with the specifics of how much energy is gained and lost per room, as well as the starting values, I have a good command over how energy can be used.
Horniness however is a different animal entirely. With constant modification due to the Event Cards being drawn, as well as large penalties to Horniness that come from the Sex Dice, players have consistently found it challenging to ensure they maintain the required level of horniness in order to continue to prowl the Sauna. Admittedly, the drawbacks of running out of Horniness have been reduced and this has given a little hope to those players lagging behind in the game, there is definitely a missing part of the game: a way to fix yourself if you run out of horniness early in the game.
For this, I don’t think there’s only one thing that can resolve it completely, so I think this will come in the form of quite a few small changes that hopefully will all together give the right level of control to players so they can have fun even if their chips are down.
- Event Card changes will have a big impact. By keeping the Deck about the same size, but introducing a good portion of non-attribute related results, I can reduce the consistent horniness bombardment that players face with the current set.
- Pick Me Up: The rule to buy something to gain some horniness has been a concept since the beginning, but the specifics still need to be ironed out. Currently it’s possible to skip a turn of energy in the Bar to gain 3 horniness. As the only option for knowingly improving your horniness, the price for this boost is a little high. I can potentially see some option of splitting the rewards between the two attributes (but some arbitrary division is probably more convenient for the game). Whatever it ends up being, this rule is certainly at he cornerstone of horniness management.
- Action Cards can also provide some more benefits here – having multiple cards that can boost horniness of a player could be a good way to get players to play the cards in their hands, provide plenty of Hell No! options as well as give players that chance to fix a losing situation. This however is of course no guarantee, players may simply not draw one of these cards and while I’ve toyed with the idea of giving players specific cards to start the game, I like the much more variable aspect of a random deck.
- Sex Rolls are the biggest offender in the current version for ruining the player experience. With 2 results that give players either a null-turn next time by preventing match rolls for a turn, or by throwing all of their horniness out of the door when shooting their loads, players have a good chance things will end badly. Now I don’t want to ease up too much here, I think there should be some penalties for players that are Matching; after all if you’re matching, you’re winning. The first change will be Shooting your Load will only incur a penalty of 4 horniness. The second change is the Love Affair result, which will change from no matching on your next turn, to you can only match with visitors of the same type as your last conquest in your next turn. The flavour is kinda nice here too: You’ve kind of gotten a crush from this guy, so you get blinkers for only guys that look the same.
- Room options are a final item I think can be useful here and have also given me something in the game mechanics that I was missing: a way for players who are falling behind to not get left behind. Room impact at the moment is entirely focused on Energy modification. I don’t want to change this much, but I will be introducing an additional rule to each room that comes into effect when a player does not successfully match with a visitor in their turn. For Energy Sapping rooms like the Dry Sauna and Steam Room, there will be a small horniness bonus for players that fail their match rolls. Whilst in the Bar, there will be a horniness loss should players fail a match roll. A little added complexity, so I’ll be sure to keep an eye on this as well as ensure players are provided with clear turn-order instructions.
There are of course other areas of the game that I know need a lot of work. The game instructions and other published materials are still a big pain both create as well as produce (my printer hates me about 75% of the time). The instructions I provided for v3.1 were certainly an improvement with a visual example of the matching process included; however the order of how information is provided as well as determining the right way for this to be portrayed to a group is still very much a work in progress. Short of recording a video, there doesn’t appear to be any golden egg (and I will produce a video asap, but the written rules need to also exist). For this, I think the next step is to try several iterations of the rules and then publish them here to get feedback from you all on how to refine.
So, thanks again to the play-testers! None of this would be possible without them. If you’re interested in joining the fun and becoming a play-tester, sign up to the newsletter at http://localhost:8888/gaysauna and I’ll be posting January Play-testing dates before the New Year.