Monday, January 05, 2009

ESNA playtest

Yes, I'm still screwing around with ESNA (Epic Solitaire Notebook Adventures). I just took my first playtest spin with it tonight. Granted, it's a first test, but some notes....

It ran pretty smooth. It ran pretty short, because I got decimated pretty quickly.

As you can see if you click to enlarge the picture on the left, I managed to explore my little Kingdom out to 9 different Regions, eventually meeting my demise in Hillyhills on my return from the dead-end otherwise known as Icabod's Roost due to a particularly strong pair of Armored Snakes. One of the interesting features that developed was that I only drew the "+1" twice; my first use was creating the useless Level 1 Temple in Caroyln, the second use was developing my Village in Alyndale up to a Level 2, since I was watching the terror of continuous hordes of level 1 creatures just CONSTANTLY gnawing on my extremities with every turn.

In general, I felt that the development of the Kingdom went well, with enough "0 Additional Path" cards drawn to make my life a pain to move around in, but not so much that I felt trapped. The Region of Byzantine, Diamonddale, and Icabod's Roost were the Regions that "dead-ended" out; Diamonddale being particularly damaging as it was a central Region, and it canceled out one of my 4 gimme routes out of Alyndale.

Clicking on the left picture here shows my Creature List. Since I didn't even come remotely close to being able to advance to a new level, all of the creatures encountered were also Level 1. Overall, there were 9 total encounters, plus the two Building Advances, and I think a single "no event happens" phase, which leaned against me slightly in terms of expected probabilities.

Early on, I defeated a Flying Kitten, which, aside from a tiny amount of gold, netted me a treasure, so I opted for a +1 Crown of Flying (+1 due to the Kitten being a Level 1 creature, this allows me to add +1 level against all flying creatures during battle) to place upon my pretty little skull. Sadly, the very next encounter, which I believe was against the Armored Dumpling, wound up putting a curse on my crown.

Defeating the Stinky Jackalope netted me the +1 Bodice of Stinkiness (again, +1 level for me against Stinky creatures). But sadly, by this point, even though I increased my village to 2, I was not able to really rescue enough hit points to continue on.

The second encounter of Armored Snakes (which now doubled their damage because there were, well, two of them due to being it's second encounter) did me in nicely.

Finally, I guess as creatures go, even though typically I like my Undead to be zombie-like slow, I guess if they are Undead Rebel Bikers, their bikes would explain their higher speed rating.

As you can see by my character sheet, there's not much to be filled in. Pity the poor nameless wanderer, for nature has run it's course on thee.

Obviously, in one playtest, there's not enough data at this point to determine if "the numbers" are out of whack...but my intuition tells me that the game leans pretty hard into the player (at least at the starting level) at this point, just based on the fact that the encounter/improvement Event occurances are relatively close for a small sample. I started with 50 hit points...perhaps that's not enough to start with.

But I think that the need to advance levels quicker that the creatures can multiply is of prime importance. Also, I was playing with an Initiative rule where when a creature is encountered I would check a Battle Result number from my Level against that creatures speed. Losing that check gave the creature a free hit on Nameless Wanderer, which didn't help.

On the other hand, this is what I assume it felt like playing a 1st level Magic-User in the first editions of Dungeons and Dragons:

"Oh yeah, ok guys, you go off and fight that monster and I'll be huddled in the corner over here, keeping my one stinking Magic Missile around in case we REALLY need, but otherwise, I'll just be Cowering. Occasionally shaking my staff at the the monster."

Too bad this is a solitaire game.

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Blogger Tim said...

I'm very much looking forward to this game. I found myself thinking about it over Christmas, the one present I couldn't yet open. - Yogurt

8:30 PM  
Blogger SDS said...

Sorry about that. Things keep getting in the way. But I'd like to get this finished so I can move on to other things. So I do really need to spend some time focusing on this!

10:36 AM  
Blogger Jeremiah said...

This really does look amazingly cool, and each little bit more you share with us is only making me more interested.

I love the idea that this is creating itself as it goes along, that's just fantastic.

Very much looking forward to playing this one.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Kaptain Kremin said...


I've found my way here via BGG and PocketCiv (excellent! Why aren't you pushing it harder?).

ESNA looks great. I've had a couple of run throughs and - for what it's worth - here's some feedback.

What I liked

1.Card driven. Good card/info combination

2.Reputation system (eg. how am I doing with the various factions in the world?) - this could be fleshed out a bit more perhaps but the design as is works well once you are past the initial 'dance of death'

3. Quests. You've made these interesting, despite the simplicity. Love the negotiation one and the daughter / prisoner ones where you can tackle them different ways.

4.Victory conditions. Full agreement with your modified approach here. Good job.

5.Levelling / clock system with the monsters. Great. Gives tension.

6.Ability to build the world as you go, eg. villages, castles, temples. Innovative and fun.

Areas that didn't grab me

1.Combat. Basic combat is too basic. Clever system with the cards which is good but the lack of decisions points and the generic monster stats make it a bit bland.

Your introduction of Combat tactics (forgot the name) is a step in the right direction and making them one use per level is an excellent touch but I feel that either combat or the monsters need to be livened up a touch.

2. A personal viewpoint but I think you need to introduce an additinal element into the game that provides another layer of depth and meaningful decision points for the player in order to lever up the game's potential from merely
good to great.

Whether this is enhancing a current aspect of the game or tossing in something new to the mix I couldn't say but having enjoyed the deceptive simplicity & depth of PocketCiv I feel that you need a few more herbs and spices.

Don't take any of this as critiscism as you've done a hell of a job to date with what you've got already and I'm mightily impressed.

Kaptain Kremin

3:44 AM  

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