Hedeby – First VASSAL Test

Last night I hosted my first live test of Hedeby on VASSAL. This was also the first test I conducted with the updates I made to version 0.8.0 which were a few tweaks to some buildings and a few rule changes… specifically the end game. We are now back to pile-depletion being the endgame trigger and I’m much happier with it than a deck-depletion mechanic which feels uncontrollable and arbitrary.

We had four players: Chris Warder, Sky Copeland, Matt Worden, and myself.
Firstly, playing on VASSAL was a good analog of playing the game in real life. It was an enjoyable experience. That being said, I would say that VASSAL roughly doubles play time. We concluded the game at roughly one and a half times through the deck and real-life testing tells me that’s about an hour and a half. The VASSAL test, on the other hand, took around three hours. This is in part due to the way we play things with two hands in the real world as opposed to with a single mouse in the engine. Moving tokens around one at a time is clunky and time consuming but it is a limitation of playing in a digital space. Ultimately, I am pleased with the VASSAL experience because it allows me more opportunity to play the game, but I am looking into some options that will help speed up the game play.

As for the actual game, some of my changes worked pretty well, others… not so much.

I unrestricted the purchasing of Favors (which I want to keep) and added them as an end-game score opportunity with the Feast Hall: At the end of the game, Feast Hall is worth 3 VP per Favor and 1 VP per Worker in your hand. Chris handily exploited this change by getting one of each Land card early, and a Feast Hall on turn eight or so… after that, he was able to buy 2-4 Favors per turn and lock the rest of us out of them. He ended the game with 11 favors and the pile was empty for the last 5 rounds or so. That was frustrating.

Sky tried a different approach, getting control of the dice early on with the Smithy and Chapel then transitioning into cube dominance with Traders. I didn’t mind Traders when I made it, but it was also more difficult to get goods tokens then. Now that there is a Wood building that allows it, he was generating 9 goods a turn with dice and land and dumping them all on the Traders… which meant that the dice were essentially meaningless to him.

Matt and I… well… we just tried to stay afloat… and we ended up in 3rd and 4th.

The final scores:
Chris – 71
Sky – 64
Matt – 54
Me – 49

What I saw and what I’m thinking about changing (and what others suggested!):

I’m going to try a few things at this weeks test session, but I’ll leave the VASSAL module alone for now. There are a few minor bugfixes which I’ll roll out this evening, but the cards and rules will stay for the rest of the week I’d guess… maybe longer. I may just wait until I’ve done more testing internally before I update it. It’s still a VERY valid test to play on it… I’m not convinced anything I’m detailing here is broken yet… it’s all just gut reaction.

1) Running out of Favors sucks – I didn’t like restricting you to buying one Favor a turn, but it’s also not good when the pile runs out because someone bought too many. I have a two-part ‘fix’ for this. One of these fixes addresses this problem AND Traders:
– I’m going to adjust the wording on the Land cards: “Once per turn, you may place a # or # ON A WORKER” This will prevent you from using your land to gain Favor, meaning that it’s back to the dice to get them which is how it was always intended. The original wording on the Lands were that they reduced the cost of a Worker, but I hated that wording. This is essentially a hybrid of the two systems. This also means you can’t store these cubes on your Trader, which helps limit it a bit.

– I’m going to add this rule: “If you attempt to purchase a Favor, and there are none remaining, take the Favor from the opponent that has the most. If there is a tie, you may choose.” (or something like that) This will allow the players to control Favor hoarding without me needing arbitrary rules like “You can only have 5 favors at a time.” It also means that the Favors are pseudo-limitless. When the pile ran out last night, it wasn’t fun that you couldn’t use your doubles for something. Favors were intended to be a reward for rolling and I want that reward to always be available.

2) Traders, while not broken, make the end-game un-fun – the Trader is not inherently broken, but when you can store all your cubes there every turn, then rolling the dice becomes meaningless. I don’t want the dice to ever be meaningless. Changing the Land cards will help combat this, but I’m also going to restrict the Traders to being able to hold a maximum number of goods. I’ll start at five and see what happens.

3) Nobody bought the Dock (because it’s not good) – Currently, the dock lets you trade a Craftsman with one worker on the board. If you take this early on (if you’re lucky), you can wreck players by stealing their stuff… but AT THE COST OF A CRAFTSMAN. So, I’m going to lift that restriction. You should be able to use any Worker in hand. Trading up should be a thing. This will bring it in line with the power level of the other Stone buildings.

4) Guild Lodge is the easiest stone building to get – I thought it would be more difficult because it takes three Craftsman… but BECAUSE it takes ANY three, it’s easy to get quickly. It’s also one of the more powerful cards. I don’t mind that, but I’m considering swapping it with the Dock or Inn in for costs. This will make it slightly harder to obtain while making one of the less-used buildings easier.

Aaaaaaand that’s about it. Hopefully some of the other testers will chime in with stuff I missed or just plain skipped over. We played late and I had difficulty sleeping, so I’m rather exhausted right now. I recorded the entire session and plan on uploading it to YouTube this week… assuming the laptop didn’t die this morning trying to compose the video from the raw data.

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