Hexploration – Close to the Finish

First few turns.

The title for this article is a little misleading… on purpose. While recent tests of Hexploration have been successful, I am no where near ready to call this game done. What IS almost done, however, is the base system. This weeks playtest, only changed a few minor things over last weeks test. We tried a different market system, which worked very well. A flash of inspiration brought a new buying system for taking over someone’s mine and that also worked a charm. I modified the payout schedule a bit, which didn’t work out all that well, but that’s okay. In short, we changed a few little things and this is how I know we are approaching a finality for this point of the project.

You can find this weeks rules here: Hexploration Rules v4

To summarize the rule changes:

  • End game payout is increased from $2/tile to $3/tile
  • You can now place multiple score markers in an area
  • To take over a mine, you must pay $2/tile x # of score markers there
  • The players may now set the price of tiles in their market
  • Slightly modified payout schedule

A few turns in.

The base system is almost stable. There are a few more tweaks and odd rules I’d like to try before calling this portion of the game done. So, what now? Well, that’s the thing. This game works and isn’t a drag to play. It seems fairly balanced with the rare exception that one player gets perfect tile draws each turn without spending much money. I have basically achieved my goal of making a tile laying game where the player has some control over the randomness of tile draws… but, I think the game is lacking. This must be emphasized. My playtesters, do not feel the same as I do. They are fine with the game the way it is and have rejected my ideas to spice things up a bit.

Buying from another player.

What I see is a neat little abstract. That’s fine, but it’s not what I want. As it stands, play is very linear. Typically, on your turn, you draw a few tiles and place them on the board in hopes of expanding the areas you already control. You might spend a few dollars to influence your tile draws a bit, then you get paid. Repeat. Every so often, you may abandon the mine you are currently working on to start a new one, but that’s infrequent at best. While there is a great deal of tactical decisions and maybe even some strategy to think about during this process, there is really no exciting moments. The most exciting thing that happens is when the lucky player gets two perfect draw turns in a row and everyone berates them for it.

What I would rather have is more horizontal play. I would like for there to be more reason to spread horizontally around the center starting tile and threaten each others mines. I would like for there to be more takeovers… more area-control… more movement. To be fair, the last test had more of this. It is actually amazing to me how minor little rule tweaks completely change the dynamics. I thought that increasing the end-game payout would encourage more struggles for mines, and it should have, but by increasing the maximum mine-payout by one, it became more advantageous to park on your mines and collect money. So, that’s going back. Movement is also a problem right now. Being able to move a single area is too limiting and almost never worth it. Why should I skip across the board and take over a mine when I have to spend three turns to get there? It’s much more comfortable to just build my own little areas and stay to myself… and let the leader keep on leading.

One of my playtesters is very enthusiastic about the game. He stated last night: “I want to have this game solid by the end of GenCon!” I agree with him. I like that goal. At the same time, “solid” to me means that the base is complete and I can start adding more elements that make the game horizontal. I’ve heard neat ideas like specialty tiles and contracts that players can fulfill for additional or optional income. I like both of these ideas and may explore that more, but for now, I just want to get the current game solid first.

End board.

I will be bringing this to GenCon 2012 and would appreciate any additional playtests I can get in there. If you want to try it, feel free to contact me through email or Twitter and we can figure out a time to get together.

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