I don’t quite remember how I found out about the Congress of Gamers, but I am so glad I did. When I saw that the event was being held in Rockville, MD, I had to see what it was about. Having grown up in that area it was the perfect excuse to visit with an old friend and check in on the parental units. The event was scheduled to start at 9am and I managed to make the drive and arrive a little after 10am. Walking in, I suppose I didn’t come in the right door because I walked to what appeared to be the demo room with at least 10 tables and it was also where Labyrinth Game Shop was setup.
A board layout that caught my eye was a cycling game. It wasn’t Glory Gears or Pro Tour… (or so I think) it had a lot of peg holes for what must have been for the checkpoint flags. I’ll leave it to others to comment about what the game could have been. The other game I remember seeing was this large car-racing prototype that took up about 4 tables and had what seemed like 7-8 players. The table talk was animated and it looked fun but I was unsure how the cars would actually get moved around the table.
I eventually found my way registration table and subsequently into the Break My Game room. There were 9 tables setup in the room, on which I 4-5 already setup. One was a galactic space supply and delivery, another was a kind of cake-Tower of Hanoi card game and another that had these interesting pyramid screens that each player used to hide their treasures. I setup at one of the tables in the middle of the room and was able to run through 4 games with various people. We managed to put together 2, 3 and 4-player games which was perfect for covering testing scenarios.
The highlights of my testing yielded some great ideas to consider before the next print-run:
- Pace – Action Cards in #refugee are the basis for player interaction, it is important to mitigate the amount of time people feel like nothing is happening. Players without Action Cards have limited options on their turn and can feel like the other players that do have Action Cards are in full control of the game.
- Dead Cards – There are two Action Cards in the game that are purely response cards. These pairs are: Natural Disaster -> Shelter and Outbreak -> Inoculation. If a player finds themselves with only Shelter and Inoculation cards, it can feel frustrating that although they have Action Cards, they just can’t “do anything.” Another example is increasing the likelihood of having Vetting Cards that can be combined for bonuses.
- Messaging – There is something to be said about having players being able to connect with the game. Being able to feel the theme of the game while you are playing contributes to post-game buzz and player satisfaction. Although there is a certain amount of levity (flavor-text) in #refugee, there needs to be a proper balance the overall theme.
- Card Synergy – The Refugee Cards actually have a lot of connections between the characters. Could these connections be leveraged somehow? Siblings, family members, heirloom objects?
- Delayed Scoring – The focus on a point system based on vetting points works, but there are alternative win conditions that could add to the overall theme of the game. For, example would be establishing a type of refugee admission quota to serve as the end of the game ending the game– then the scores are calculated. By removing the turn-by-turn scoring, players are less likely to be targeted for purely having a high number of points. Players with a high number of admitted may not be seen as a threat because players would only remember generalities about the refugees that have already been admitted.
If I had more time, or if I was actually local to this event, I would have stayed much longer and more than likely returned for day 2. I think for the next session in January 2018, I will have to plan it as an over-night trip.
The bottom line is that if you have a game you are designing, bring it here to get some great feedback from other game designers and players. If you don’t have a game of your own, there was no shortage of people in the game/demo rooms that you could pull up a seat to and try it out.