Packer’s First Prototype
As promised earlier this week, I recently plopped the revised prototype for Packer’s Last Resort onto the table for a playtest. It was a cold, lonely playtest in which I myself played the parts of four different players, like some sort of game-designing Peter Sellers. It’s fine, though. I prefer to keep these initial playtests strictly internal. If the game metaphorically explodes and catches fire, I’m not putting anyone else at metaphorical risk.
So how did it go?
I’m glad you asked.
The Good: The game didn’t explode; that’s good. And there were moments of drama and interesting decisions (what some might call “fun”); that’s even better. So I know this isn’t a terrible design, and worth pursuing for a bit.
The Bad: As commonly happens with the first drafts of rules, I forgot to include some key instructions. Like when to draw cards, or when cards are discarded. (Turns out these things are kind of important in a card game.) I also neglected to include “give each player some food so they don’t starve on the first turn” in the set-up section of the rules. It was easy enough to just scribble the hot-fixes onto the rules (“Draw cards here you idiot!”), but that’s one more reason I prefer to test by myself at first.
The Ugly: For a game about people so desperate and starving that they’re willing to kill and eat each other, there wasn’t much desperation or starvation. There was, in fact, a surplus of food. It was like each round, the players found another food station at the local Old Country Buffet. Without food as a motivator, the rest of the game systems just sort of… sat there, bored and mostly unused. For the next iteration, the players will start with less food, and lose more over the course of the game. Trudging your way through snow-covered mountain passes is hungry work.
I’m sure there are issues in the game beyond food levels, but that’s the most glaring problem. Once I’ve turned that dial to where I want it, I can start tweaking the others in order to maximize the fun.