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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Havoc History part 2

So back to my short series on how Havoc: the Hundred Years' War came to be. When last we left our heroes, we had a basic design concept, some prototypes with some basic art, and the game having benefited from some great input from my regular game group, RipCity Gamers.

Next came a lot of purposeful playtesting with people I didn’t know, starting through my local convention, Gamestorm. It was good to try the game with adults, with a group of teenage boys, and with a family of four with 2 daughters. Next came playing the game with local game groups (thanks to Jay, Ben, Nate, et al.) One of these turned out to be a huge 6-player game with a bunch of folks who took Havoc into role-playing game territory. Though the game lasted 2 hours, they seemed to like the possibility of playing the mercenaries who were selling their services to the French or the English for a few measily Victory Points.

I also took the game to conferences I attend for work in Traffic Safety. In one game, I had a traffic judge, a driving school instructor, a traffic cop and a high school teacher. One of the fellows said he didn’t play games much. After, he said this might be a good game to have out at the duck blind when they went hunting. I guess that was good…

So here’s what changed and what didn’t with all this playtesting. What I appreciated was people being willing to say what they didn’t like in particular, since that’s where some improvements might be considered. In that they offered a new perspective, they saw things we didn't.

1. WAS: you could enter Battle by playing a single Dog.
NOW: “play 2 cards to enter Battle” – simpler, makes Dogs a little less powerful

2. WAS: Dogs could retrieve other Dogs in Battle or from the Discard Pile.
NOW: Dogs can’t take Dogs. It made playing the “first” Dog too powerful

3. WAS: Peacekeeper is given to the person to the left of the Havoc Caller after a Battle. This was originally made to keep the player card “income” constant but was confusing.
NOW: Peacekeeper goes to whoever won the Battle. Fits the theme better.

4. WAS: Dogs could only be used in Battles.
NOW: Dogs can also be used during recruiting to fetch an additional card. Seemed to go along with the theme and gave the Dogs more choices.

We then sent Havoc out to a bunch of good game groups we knew from BoardGameGeek, Spielfrieks and other friendships. In this group, I particularly want to thank Iain Cheyne, Ed and Susan Rozmiarek and Mike Frantz for their input and help. Admittedly, there were some changes asked for that didn’t get done, at least in this round. So here they are:

· Need to have a hand limit
· Should draw more cards than just 1 for staying out of a Battle
· Shouldn’t get free cards after the first few Battles unless you were in the Battle
· The next player after a Battle ends shouldn’t be able to cry Havoc! right away
· Agincourt shouldn’t be worth so much
· There shouldn’t be so many allowable Battle Hands

Many of these got debated, tried, argued over and tried again. We usually tried to err on the side of less rules or cleaner rules, and we may be able to improve on the rules for a second print run (hoping there is one.)

Notice that none of this story speaks to actually getting the production design ready and finding contractors for cards, box, rules, etc. That’s another chapter.

Meanwhile, last bit, Havoc was named Game of the Month for November by the Westpark Gamers, who we met at Essen this year. They are a fun bunch of gamers, and I’m very pleased that Havoc has been a hit for them.


  • At 8:16 PM, Blogger ginn5j said…

    Hey KC...interesting how the rules evolved over time. Prior to some of them, the game must've played considerably different than it does today. However, it sounds like you received great feedback that only made the game better. I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the story. You should take this content and turn it into design notes on your Havoc page kinda like what Christian Petersen (and others) does at Fantasy Flight for the games he designs. It makes for a great read and as a player, I have a deeper understanding of why the game works the way it does. Thanks!


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