It’s been a while since I blogged about Bread and Circuses, although I’ve been working on it quite a bit since then.
When I last wrote about the game, I had just finished Prototype D. This ended up being the last purely Print-and-Play Prototype, as the next prototype was printed and sent out as part of Grant Rodiek‘s Prototype PenPal Program. The external playtesters who’ve looked at this game (especially Chevee Dodd and Phil Kilcrease) have been really helpful in getting needed revisions into the game and preparing the current prototype.
The biggest change over the last few iterations to the game was to the Motivation cards. The entire Motivation mechanic in Prototype D (and in a couple subsequent prototypes) wasn’t very well balanced. Many of the cards gave too great an effect for too little cost. There was no way to get rid of a poor Motivation card. Someone with easy Motivation cards was able to get a number of Motivation cards completed quickly, making it extremely difficult for the other players to catch up. I started to address this by adding a “purchase” option for Motivation cards, which both reduced the ability of a player to rapidly accumulate Gold by meeting Motivations and allowed players to “buy out” of a Motivation they didn’t like. The cards themselves also got tweaked, with some unbalanced cards getting tweaked and others getting removed entirely. The revised Motivation cards were really popular with playtesters – to the extent that they wanted more cards in the deck. The deck of Motivation cards was increased to 20, and the general mechanic was left alone.
A second major change to the game was in the Negotiation rules. In very early playtesting, some less-than-social play made some restrictions on negotiation and bribery necessary. In particular, rules were created that required players to give *an* answer when asked about their selection and required players to play on promised bribes. The social negotiation part of the game proved to be very popular in external playtesting, and I’ve made some changes that opened up even more player options – with the original restrictions available as optional “regulated bribery” rules.
The third major change came about from an e-mail from a local friend who was doing some strategic analysis of the game. He pointed out that there was basically no reason to be honest when declaring what resource was being played – it only caused you to give up the only information advantage you had. I’m trying to resolve this with the addition of a Disclosure mechanic. Players have the option during Negotiation to openly declare what resource they’re playing by placing their selection tile (still face-down) on the Bread icon or Circus icon in front of them, and if they do in fact play that resource, they get extra Gold. This not only provides an incentive for players to play honestly, it also provided a game component that provided a visual reference that allows players to easily see which players are offering which resource – and which players are being deceptive.
Other changes were either cosmetic, addressing smaller elements of the game, or adjustments based on other changes. Currency changed from the chips from Prototype E to paper currency chits to decrease component costs. The rules were clarified in many places. The Gold-based end game condition changed from 4 times the number of players to 5 times (makes the game slightly longer and adjusts due to the addition of the Disclosure mechanic).
With luck, I’ll be able to generate another print prototype after this one for a final round of external playtesting before sending the game off to a publisher. If you’re in Southeast Michigan, I’ll be bringing my copy to the International TableTop Day at Stay and Play Games and Hobbies in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan, on March 30, 2013 (exact time to be determined). If you don’t want to wait that long, or don’t live in Southeast Michigan, you can download the rules, cards, and a playtest questionnaire. I hope you enjoy the game!