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Playtest report #1: draw mechanic totally broken

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Sorry, no pictures, but it's not really relevant for this report anyway since we discovered the current draw rules DO NOT WORK.

You run out of cards on turn 2. BOO.


Game 1:
We drew our first hand and immediately encountered problem #1. First play must be a habitat. J drew no habitat cards. Consult rules... doesn't tell us what to do.

We briefly debate Magic vs Babylon 5 mechanics and opt for B5. She randomly discards a starting card and instead searches deck to add one habitat to her hand. (more later)

Go over the available actions and quickly determine one of them just isn't going to work. Discard 1 card to draw 1 isn't going to work so well in a game where you only draw 1 card per turn, but can play 3. We agree to go with discard 1, draw 2.

We get to about turn 4 and we both have empty hands and are now drawing one card, discarding for 2 as an action, and then playing those 2. Urgh.


By mutual agreement we up the draw to draw 2 per turn and you can discard 1 to draw 3. This does sometimes still result in you only having 1 card in hand at the end of turn, but is WAY less frustrating. There's now so actual chance of planning for the next turn.


A trend quickly emerges with the Invasive species. I had an Grassland/Forest deck and J. had an Urban deck. This meant we both had a lot of Invasive bird species that could invade each other... or themselves. Ditto plants.
Thus at one point we ended up with a stack of Invasive birds 7 deep... 4 of which were Pigeons. My pigeon! No, mine! No, mine!

Since it was first playthrough I'd only included one Event card, Habitat Loss, which made a HUGE scoring difference for J. Wiping that out my grassland and turning it to Urban she could use resulted in a final score of 25 to 50. She got twice as many points as I did. (about samed game #2) If I had same thing in deck, it probably would have been more even.


Game #2: now for the messing with each other!

By mutual agreement we swipe a page from Babylon 5 and will be preselecting 3 cards for an opening hand. We agreed value should not exceed 9, including Habitat value. (which varied from 3-4 on the ones we had)

We also agree to play entire game as draw 2 at start of game, and it will be discard 1 to draw 3. This worked well for the entire game.

Draw 2 at start of turn gives us the same initial 5 card "opening hand" but there's less muttering at the cards this way. Overall the 2/3 allows for options of building a larger hand for more stategy or if you do nothing but play, you have to discard 1 for the extra draw every 3 hands or so.

This time around I opt to build less packed chains and leave gaps in my layout. Last game I'd often gotten hit with the Habitat Loss and couldn't move species away from it (despite them having move) because the grid was too packed. There was nowhere for them to GO.

This time I left space, intending to use it for species to move into.

This ALSO did not work. The move value are generally just too small to actually allow you to DO anything with it. In 2 games of around 15 turns each NEITHER PLAYER MOVED A SINGLE CARD.

However, leaving space for movement did let me save some species that would have been wiped by Habitat Loss by backfilling a new species into the hole that could use the new Urban habitat. So it allowed me to make a new chain to save them from the giant cascade.

Again we ended up with the giant pile of invasive birds and plants. There was a stack of multiple Policeman's Helmets at one point as we traded control back and forth.

Again, at end of game, score was near identical. Me 27, J. 50 That Event made a HUGE difference.


CONCLUSIONS:
Draw mechanics as written (draw 1, discard 1 for 1) currently do NOT work and you end up choking and dying after a few turns. This is incredibly frustrating. Draw 2 and discard 1 for 3 seemed to work about perfectly so it neither choked nor flooded your hand.

Invasive species probably shouldn't be able to displace THEMSELVES. That or our Pigeons are mutating awfully fast and becoming Giant Mutant Death Pigeons.
J. favored not letting Invasives displace other Invasives. I have personally seen kudzu choke to death Japanese Knotweed (which is actually fairly tasty, I've eaten it), so you can have invasives displace invasives in the real world, but for simplicity's sake, it may be easier to say they can't displace other Invasives.

Move was really useless. The current movement rules don't give you enough movement to actually make it worthwhile. Move values should probably be doubled on everything to make it A) possible and B) useful. I did have some creatures with move 2 and unless their habitat got destroyed on turn 1 or 2, they were soon blocked in and couldn't move anywhere useful. That in two games neither of us moved anything despite playing things that COULD move, sort of speaks to this being underpowered.

Spread was also a little confusing since it reuired a polinator to do... but because of the placement rules, the polinator often ended up blocking in the plant so spread was useless. J. though allowing a polinator and plant to be moved as a block might work.


Each game took us around half hour, but game will probably run faster in it's finished version. Decks were only 36 cards vs the suggested 40 because they printed out easier that way.

Unless there's a lot of discarding going on this game ends up taking up a LOT of table space.

Since this is intended partially for use by school kids, I'd suggest trimming the deck size to 30. This will speed play time (so they might play 2 games in a class period) AND will make it fit on a standard school desk.

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Mirrored over on BoardGameGeek:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/5079540

Phylo's main BGG article:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/71594/phylo

There's tools on there so if you have a BGG account (free!) you can record plays, Like it on Facebook, post to Twitter, etc. Handy.

View user profile http://www.rainydaypaperback.com
Thanks for doing this (this is awesome!). O.K. will draft a new version of rules within a week. Any other comments from the forum?

The invasive angle in particular.

Fenrislorrai: do you have a sense whether doubling MOVE stats would help, or would a triple work better. As well, given how drastic an event could be (for points), do you think you may play things differently (map things so that there is the odd escape route) to be strategic of movement?

Thanks again. I'm going to put this post up on the website.

cheers
dave

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The main issue I found with move was that species generally had to have at LEAST 2 move to get anywhere because they'd frequently be unable to move out of touching range with only one. 2 was okay... but the problem was everything with 2 was chained to something with 1 that died and took the 2 with it. The 1s were worthless for movement.

I'd say add +2 to all current move values and that'll probably be around right.

I found in game 2 I was sort of playing things backwards. I'd start with habitat, play the 1 plant, play a 2, drop another plant on that side, then play another Habitat. I ended up making a lot of horseshoe shapes in game 2.

it ended up looking a lot like a fractal pattern at points. Neat tidy blocks only worked if your opponent didn't have any way to change habitat types.

Since plants can also be played next to anything they match, animals frequently ended up having plants built off them. We concluded they were scattering seeds as they went.


I should hopefully have another report this weekend.

View user profile http://www.rainydaypaperback.com
I agree that for simplicity's sake invasives not effecting other invasives would be a good compromise.

What is your opinion on how the game would play if the two players had drastically different habitat based decks, such as a grasslands vs an oceans match? Also, how do you think adding more variety in the events cards available would change the game?

Hopefully I'll get a chance in the next week or so to playtest. Also, could you give a short card count on how your decks were built? It would be interesting to see how different iterations play out.

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Maybe, a way to keep the flowing without discarding so much is to have players always have a certain amount if cards in their hands. If they are missing cards, they draw until they have such amount and if they more then they discard till their hand is of the correct size.

Also about moving, maybe if you could have species moving in groups, you could move them faster and wouldn't need to alter move values.

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O.K. I've doubled all the MOVE values. Was nice actually, since now some of the slower organisms can have a value of 1 (instead of 0). Like the kakapo and sloth.

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