Game Design Thoughts #1 - Small Changes, Big Consequences

After reading Jamey Stegmaier's great blog post about writing a blog, Brendan and I have decided to see if we can try to post more often.  We may not be able to do 5 blogs a day for 6 years like Jamey, but we'll start blogging about our design thought processes, painting experiences, and any other cool and exciting things we encounter in this fun adventure designing a game as first time game designers. :)

During our most recent designer playtest of our new Red Dragons faction, we decided to fix a few bits of feedback that came out of our playtest group's experience last weekend.  One of these changes was how CyMS (Cybernetic Mutation Syndrome victims) spawned every turn due to noise generation in the game.  As a quick tutorial, this is a draft illustration I did with powerpoint to show how the CyMS spawn:


The left picture tells you 1 of 6 directions it could spawn from the loudest model on the board.  The 2nd picture assumes it spawns in the "3" direction.  Originally the first CyMS (the circled "1") spawns 3 hexes away from the loud and offensive model.  During our playtest with friends, we realized that the distance was a little too far, and with some of our scenarios having both factions group up in the middle, sometimes the spawn can hurt your opponent moreso than you. 

So we decided to reduce the first CyMS spawn to 2 hexes away instead.  For those of you who are more spatially aware, you can see how if there are 4+ CyMS like in the right picture, they will literally be adjacent to the loud model immediately, which causes all sorts of issues.  We ended up reducing the number of CyMS generated by noise to offset this, but we did get a few learnings out of this experience:

  • Don't assume that a small change won't affect the game much. In this case, our casual change had a huge effect on how one of our factions played, and we spent a long time getting everything in balance again.

  • External playtests (by other people) are invaluable. We've been playing with the "3-hex-away" noise spawn for months now, and after 1 external playtest, we realize it was flawed.

  • Always be willing to "break the game" to try to make it better. If we weren't willing to accept our playtesters' feedback, or were too afraid to "break the game" and didn't make the change, we would have never found a better way to do noise spawns.

So I leave you all with those thoughts.  What are some stories you have about small game changes that had huge consequences?  And did the game get better after you fixed it again?  Let us know!