Going through changes

For as long as the game isn’t being printed by the manufacturer, it’s in development and I’ll continue to be changing and improving where needed. This continuous cycle of modifications is a challenging process as so many of the elements are connected together and while some things seem to be very much in flux – such as the Action cards, others, like the dice results, have been consistent for a very long time.

One thing that has been in visual design flux for a long time is the board; however it’s been some time since I made any non-cosmetic changes to the board. I have a huge array of balancing formulas and calculations that I use to determine the impact of some changes on key aspects of gameplay, and the consistency of the board has been really useful in keeping this workload manageable.

Based on recent feedback though, I’ve been through a long process to look at the impact of reducing the overall size of the board and I am overjoyed with the result of this investigation and resulting design process. I present to you, the new Gay Sauna the Board Game playing board:

The latest game board is quite a bit smaller than previous incarnations, measuring in at 72x52cm.

This latest version has some dramatic changes applied. With the removal of the Bar area, and the reduction in the size of the Dark Room, not only has the board shrunken from a massive 90x60cm to still a large 72x52cm, but also now has dedicated space for the placement of the 3 card decks in the game and their respective discard piles.

The rules have been shuffled around a little as well as the removal of the barriers to entry for each of the rooms that goes hand-in-hand with a complete rewrite of the game rules as a whole that returns gameplay on a single player round and focuses attention on improving the action and pace of the game.

All of this will be wrapped up in the launch of the 9th full version of the game that I’m hoping will be finalised in the coming week or two, when the next playtesting sessions will be planned in and I’ll get to try this all out with a real audience of players.

It’s nerve wracking making such big changes to the game, but I really hope that this all is worth it. I guess I’ll find out real soon.

Kickstarter Lessons – Part 4

Next up for this series of documenting all the things I learned suffered greatly from me not being ready (part 1), and that is missing information on the pitch page.

In the run up to the campaign launch, I spent a lot of time trying to pull together a promotion video. This wasn’t focused at all on the gameplay, but was aimed at providing something really fun and enticing that would spark interest.

Things didn’t quite work out as planned and I dropped the idea less than a week before launch. I wasn’t too worried about losing the video, after all it would have been just a nice-to-have rather than a necessity. However, the time spent there did mean that there were quite a lot of other pieces of information and media missing from the pitch page.

While everything that potential backers told me was missing that would be necessary for the pitch was known to me and sat in a list on my notebook, I had (wrongly) assumed that adding information throughout the duration of the project would be sufficient for the community. Looking back now I can’t quite imagine what made me think that first impressions weren’t the most important…

The list is quite embarrassingly long and includes pretty fundamental things like gameplay footage and details about size of the box and comparisons to other games. I knew these things were needed, but I hadn’t quite understood how essential they were for many to even consider buying the game.

I put a lot of these things into the campaign page as I pulled them together, but it was all a little too late. For my next campaign these are clear deliverables that must be prepared before I can even think about pushing that big juicy go live button!

Printing and Playing

In this past month I’ve seen lots of changes, with a brand new updated logo I’ve started the busy work of getting offline materials printed, starting with these awesome new business cards!

Coming next week are the first promotional flyers, simple A5 pages with a page of text briefly explaining some of the things to expect in the game. I’ve even been able to add some of the fantastic new artwork to these, so I can’t wait till they arrive.

Next up I’m looking at Keyrings and Towels – and there’s a possibility I’ll be able to put up some of this merchandise for sale on this site, so keep your eyes peeled!

With the next Playtesting sessions already planned, I’m also pulling together an update for the game materials including a new set of visitor cards. Unfortunately they’ll not yet have new updated artwork, but with a revised set of balanced metadata and a slightly new and improved visual design they should make all the difference for new and existing players.

I’ve still got some really interesting new mechanics to try out, so if you want to get in on the action, check out the Events Page and sign up!

Play-testing v3.1

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

Action Cards

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Still 

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.

Event Cards

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.

Energy/Horniness

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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://gaysaunatheboardgame.com and I’ll be posting January Play-testing dates before the New Year.

Adrian

Getting into the Data of Action Cards

Hi all,

Today I’ve been really getting into the details of what the action cards are about and what would make the perfect action deck for the game. My data set is a de-duplicated list of the version 3 Action Cards. My intent is to ensure that all Action Cards (apart from the Nope equivalent) should be unique in the deck.

If you want to see the current Action Card deck, you can download it here.

I first took a look at the target of the card, whether the card is played on the player themselves, on another player, or on visitors on the board.

While I think this makes a nice graph, the split between yourself and other players I don’t think gives the game enough interaction, so I think I’ll work to tilt it more towards using cards on other players. Maybe to around 60-70%.

I’ve also taken a look at the part of the game the card affects. This is similar to the target, but here I looked at does the card affect the matching process, player attributes or rooms for example.

It’s pretty clear at the moment there’s a strong trend towards card that impact the matching process, whether that’s improving your own chances or reducing another player’s. This is the core of the game, and so I think this will always be the more dominant part here, it does make me think that some other areas could benefit from some action card attention.

Finally for today, I looked at frequency of use. Primarily, how often would players have the chance to play the card. This is kind of difficult, as many cards are dependent on factors within the game that could or could not arise; however I’ve taken a shot at categorising them into the following:

1 – Anytime: Can be used pretty much any time (e.g. stealing a visitor card from another player)
2 – Frequent: Can expect to be used at least once in a round or on your own turn most of the time (e.g. force another player to re-roll a successful match roll)
3 – Sometimes: Should be possible to use in one or two rounds (e.g. add a kink for a single roll)
4 – Rare: Could be once per game (e.g. if you reach 0 horniness, gain 1 horniness now)

Here I think is where a lot of attention should be focused. I believe the Rare and Sometimes should make up a total of around 25-40% of the deck, ensuring that players with a couple of cards in their hand should be able to use at least one of them during a round. With a little work, it should be possible to improve the usability of many of the existing cards and ensure that’s a focus for the new ones that will be added.

So what do you think about the Action Card deck? What kind of percentages do you think should be for the split for target, affect and frequency? Or is there another trait you think I should be looking at or would like to see the data on? Let me know in the comments below!

Action Cards

While Action Cards (the cards you hold in your hand and can use on yourself or other players) were not part of the original version of the game, by version 3 I have seen them rise in importance to probably be the most vital element that needs work to perfect the gameplay.

Play testing so far with regards to Action Cards has given a huge amount of insight, and I’m looking at several aspects to refine the way they work.

Some key findings:

  1. Action Cards are the primary mechanic to ensure players are not playing solo games
  2. Players want to have a variety of cards in their hands at all times
  3. Cards should be generic enough to be usable most of the game
  4. Players need incentives to use cards and not to hoard them
  5. The base probabilities in the game are too low for high impact Action Cards
  6. Action Cards need to be simple to explain and remember but interesting and engaging

I’ve had some ideas following on from this, I was thinking about potentially making each Action Card dual purpose – so it can be used on yourself as a buff or an opponent as a nerf – but discussions highlighted this could invalidate point 1 above which I believe is probably one of the biggest weaknesses of the game in its current form.

As a result, my next step for Action Cards is to develop a new set that will consist mostly of small nerfs (negative effects) that should be played on other players at specific times – such as during the selection / matching / post-matching steps of the turn. There will also be additional buffs for yourself, and some form of ‘nope’ will need to be present.

This structure of specific timing during a turn, but hopefully a generic effect that is applicable during most of the game, should encourage players to use their cards when they can as well as pay close attention to what the other players are doing. Hoping to support points 1, 3 and 5.

Small additions to this include a starting hand of 3-4 cards and a maximum number of cards a player can hold in their hands, covering points 2 and 4.

So the final action is to cover point 6 and ensure that the Action Cards themselves have the right level of detail and flavour to spice up the interaction in the game. I guess I’ll get to work!

Getting started…

Hi everyone, the first update on here from me I guess should be about this site. I’m putting this together to have a place to communicate to the growing fanbase for Gay Sauna the Board Game, as well as to start documenting the journey I’m going through as this game goes from the rough sketches of a game to something resembling a fully fledged idea in reality.

I’m super excited to be able to work on this project now, and while it’s still early in the process, I can’t wait to get moving on all the things that I need to do.

To give a bit of an insight, at the moment I’ve categorised my tasks into:

  • Game Mechanics
  • Art & Design
  • Background & Character
  • Marketing & Promotion

My biggest focus at the moment is still on the Game Mechanics, as this is ultimately the core of the game and will make or break it, but given that the project is evolving and the play-testing is going well, I thought it was about time I branched out into some of the other categories to flesh out the project and get things moving.