Increasing Player Agency

Nice phrase, isn’t it?  Player Agency.  Sounds like a place to get players, like an adventurer’s guild or something.  It’s not, and I think it’s even cooler than that.

Player agency is about giving players opportunity to make meaningful decisions in a game. (Okay, it can be about a great deal more than that, but this is the extent to which I’m using it.)  In a très brief and oversimplified nutshell, as we move a game from the randomness end of the spectrum towards the decision-driven end, we increase player agency.  As more aspects of play become player-decided instead of pre-set, again we increase player agency. And, so long as we avoid tediousness, repetition, and excess complexity, that can be a pretty good thing in game design.  There’s a place for the pure randomness of Snakes and Ladders, but I think it’s been covered pretty thoroughly.

Estate of Confusion has been targeted, as friend and fellow game designer Corey Young has put it, in the mid-Atlantic zone, somewhere between the genres of Euro and American (“Ameritrash”) games.  So we have reaction, random elements in the Room Card draws and the location-availability of valuable Claims, and hand-management, strategic-decision elements in the Action Cards.  The actual mechanics of the game being quite simple (move, react to Room events, grab a claim, trip up a competitor, etc), the game is quick to learn and easy to grasp.  Feedback from players is strongly positive, which is of course *awesome* to receive!  However, suggestions for tweaks are not always in the same direction, and modifications require analysis and more playtesting to see how they work out.  Additionally, changes that improve the game in some players’ eyes make it less fun to others.

This is where we are currently with a question of player agency.  There are a couple of ideas on the table for consideration regarding player differentiation (i.e. making the selection of player character a more meaningful and strategic decision) and movement (from pre-set to a variable, perhaps economic one).  I’m going to go ahead with the former, at least for the next rounds of playtesting/demos.  The latter is more in question because it would increase the number of decisions each player has to weigh every round, thereby slowing the game down. Slower is okay if everyone’s busy at the same time and having fun, not so much when it’s downtime.  Waiting for someone else to decide where they’re going to move is pretty solidly downtime.

So that’s where things are at present – making play-affecting changes to the player profiles, and more thinking about changing the  movement mechanic.  Oh, and planning our launch, of course! 😉

Estate of Confusion at Origins 2015

Estate of Confusion at Origins 2015

The Excellence of Origins Game Fair

Although a good handful of board/tabletop game conventions are several times its size, the Origins Game Fair can be daunting to many.  At 12,000+ attendees it’s an order of magnitude larger than most hobby-gamer gatherings we see the rest of the year around the country, with thousands of events from which to choose across its 5-day schedule.  The volunteer-run Columbus Area Boardgaming Society brings a library of 1,000 games for people to check out and many manufacturers and publishers demo and teach their own games as well.  Teaching is a big thing here; groups such as the Grand Gaming Academy run multiple teaching tracks every day, and kid-specific events also abound.

With all of this going on, you might think a little independent game design team like Grisleigh End might get missed. Au contraire, we ran packed sessions of Estate of Confusion on both days we attended, receiving both rave reviews and great ideas for tweaks to the game!  Several also made good suggestions for promoting the game when we kickstart its publication next Spring.

The Grisleigh Wrydding newsie delivers The Coroner

The Grisleigh Wrydding newsie delivers The Coroner

We largely reserved Sunday for the walk-and-talk business, and had some very good discussions, including a talk with the folks at Ravenwood Castle about a possible Grisleigh End event there and several with publishers with possible interest in bringing Estate of Confusion to the market.  Their initial interest may have been partly attributable to the effectiveness of our newsie, who delivered many copies of The Coroner to attendees around the convention, or to seeing The Big Book of Grisleigh End, a delightful piece of art created by our own Jon Anderson (Book shown here open to display interior and contents).

The Big Book of Grisleigh End

The Big Book of Grisleigh End

An exhausting and exhilarating experience, that we look forward to attending again next year.  If all goes as planned, with stacks of Estate of Confusion in tow!

In the meantime, we have another event for which to prepare.  Hope to see some of you at IndyPopCon!

It’s ON for Origins!

Were there ever a game convention to attend, the Origins Game Fair this week would be it!  Thousands of games and over twelve thousand players, and Grisleigh End: Estate of Confusion will be front and center in the Board Room.  Not on the event schedule, though, so look for us in the CABS space Thursday, Friday and Saturday!  No tokens or ribbons needed to play.

Our very own Jon Anderson, from whose twisty-turny brain Grisleigh End was born, will be there, showing more of his artwork and answering questions about the story of Grisleigh End.  Be sure to ask for his autograph your very own copy of The Coroner, newspaper of the Village Wrydding (watch out for the urchin hawking copies).  And Baron Viktor von Krakenjaeger will be running demos, of course, so keep a weather eye peeled for the cephalopod rising.

GE at OGDE 2014 (2) (631x800)

Jon Anderson

Viktor von Krakenjaeger

Viktor von Krakenjaeger

 

SEE!  The new board and decks!
HEAR!  The howls of anguish (and laughter) of the players!
FEEL!  The tension mount as the struggle for the fortune grows round by round!
TASTE!  The sweet flavor of victory as you carry the prize from amidst the weeping heap of your fallen foes!
SMELL!  The great pizza sold in the promenade!  (it’s pretty tasty.)