Friday 12 April 2024

boardgaming in photos: Ali Baba and Ra

The game I am planning to publish this year under Cili Padi Games is Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. It has gone through many rounds of playtesting, but I still needed to get it cold tested. I asked Julian and his gaming group to cold test for me, i.e. I hand them the game and the rulebook, and they learn to play by themselves without me guiding them or answering any questions. I was there, but they pretended I wasn't. The cold test is an important test for the rulebook and the game component design. I can't be there to teach every person who buys my game, so the rulebook and the components must be as fool proof and conducive to understanding the game as possible. 

Just to make sure I don't set wrong expectations - the game on the table is A Feast for Odin. Only what's in Julian's hand (left) is Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

I observed and learned a lot by just watching them play. Which rules they were unsure about and how quickly they were able to clear it up by looking up the rules or by referring to the game components were all important information for me. In their first game, it took only one round for Arief to win. That was a short game. It has happened before. That particular round they made it to the higher rewards. It was a little sudden. Maybe it is a problem. I decided not to implement any unwieldy additional rules to eliminate the possibility of short games. Just let that be a possibility. 

The group quickly proceeded to start a new game. This time the length was more normal, about 6 to 7 rounds. As they played, they came up with suggestions on how to modify the components. They even started implementing some of their ideas. That copy of Ali Baba had no component to help keep track of the current sum of all face-up cards. Players have to keep track of it in their heads. It's just one number. If you forget, you have to count again. Julian's group took out a 12-sided die to do the tracking. However after a while they found it tedious to fiddle with the die to find the right number, and they abandoned it. After the game, they gave me more suggestions. This was a very fruitful playtest session. 

Once I got home I started making improvements. I added a yellow background colour to cards with sun and moon icons. This provides a much stronger visual reminder to players to check for the presence of both a sun and a moon. I also added the Cave card (bottom left) to help players keep track of the sum. Initially I was worried whether it would be tiresome. I tried playing with it, and it turned out okay. I may test this more with other groups. 

I asked younger daughter Chen Rui to help me test the various 2-player variants of Ali Baba. She was the one who did the most playtesting with me when I designed Dancing Queen. That's the convenience of designing 2-player games. It's easier to get playtesting done. At one point I planned to make Ali Baba a 3 to 6 player game. I felt it wouldn't be as much fun with 2 players. Later on I decided to tweak it to support 2 players. I knew with less than three some dynamics would be missing, so the game needed to offer something interesting for two. Adjustments were necessary. I came up with several ideas, and tried them all. Having now compared them, the variant I will go with is when drawing from the deck, you draw two and pick one to apply. If you draw the Boss, you must apply the Boss (i.e. you will lose that round). Using this variant, I give a bit more control to the players. In a two player game, you only have one opponent and thus only three face-down cards you can reveal. Your options are limited. Drawing two from the deck and picking one initially felt overpowered. However after some playtesting, I found it wasn't as overpowered as I thought. The Boss rule makes drawing from the deck riskier, balancing things out a little. 

Dancing Queen is going to Hungary. This couple is gamers from Hungary visiting Malaysia. They bought some games from including my Dancing Queen. I am always excited to see Dancing Queen reach new countries. 

Ra is a game I played a lot of when I first became a boardgamer. Julian has a copy of the latest deluxe version, with art by Ian O Toole. The Ra marker is huge. I should have put my hand in the photo for scale. 

The tiles in the game are not cardboard but wood. Red in this game means something bad. The first tile is a Ra tile, i.e. the countdown mechanism in the game. The other three are disaster tiles - drought, war and earthquake. 

The tiles in the first row are not Ra tiles, although they do look like the Ra tiles in previous editions of the game. These are actually the backs of the tiles. Yes, this edition has art on the backs. Previous editions have blank backs. The tiles in the next two rows are the monuments. 

First row, from left to right - pharaoh, god, gold, flood and Nile. Second row is the five different civilisation tiles. 

The Axis & Allies series will have a North Africa game! I call myself an Axis & Allies fan, but I have not been playing it for a long time. I still own many games in the series. I'm still a supporter because nostalgia. When I eventually get this, it will probably get one play and then sit on the shelf for a long time. I still haven't played Rommel in the Desert again. #firstworldproblem #toomanygames

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