I have been working on getting the latest incarnation of “Dogfight” geared up for playtesting. One of the major new components is a game board, for what was originally meant to be a card game. This board makes the tracking of altitude and speed for the various planes much easier, and allows players to see their relative positions at a glance. Pilots need to be able to tell quickly whether or not they meet the prerequisites for playing an attack set, and this game board helps tremendously with that.
My other goal is to remove the need for the pen and paper type book-keeping involved during gameplay. I have a concept for “Aircraft Status Boards” to take the place of the existing “Plane Record Sheets”. These boards will have the plane attributes shown on slider like scales. To keep track of current status, each pilot will slide a token along that attribute’s track. Again the goal is to make it easy and allow for other pilots to see the status of an opposing plane at a glance.
More rules tweaks and rulebook writing additions are in the immediate future as I try to reconfigure the game and get back to playing it.
I have been out of the IPG loop for awhile now, as we had a new baby in January.
Lately I have been working to get “Dogfight” cleaned up a bit more, fully implementing all of the changes cooked up during the Con of the North playtesting. The cards have been uploaded to the DriveThruCards website and I am awaiting a final (?) proof set before they will become available.
The implementation of the board game like grid for shared altitude/speed has thrown a bit of a monkey wrench into the game design, as I now need to whip up this board and (eventually) figure out how to provide such a thing for those who’d like to buy the POD cards.
I also need to focus some more energy on the missions and scenarios side of the game. I like the flight and damage models, but now we need to clarify why we are zooming around shooting each other. Things like: how to win, how to start out, campaign play, etc.
As one of my brothers-in-law pointed out to me the other day, it is somewhat funny that I can go this far into the development of the game and still not have the “What are we doing here?” side of things nailed down completely. Of course, the short answer has always been clear: “Shooting each other down!” The longer answer, one that could lead to good replayability and sustained fun, is more difficult to flesh out.
Sunday saw another 8 pilots take to the skies for more ‘Dogfight’ action. This was an excellent event, from a playtesting point of view, with an eye-opening group of players who, to a person, pursued a defensive minded strategy the likes of which I have never seen before in this game. See the forum for some of my ideas for rules changes based on the weekend’s games. One of the rules changes I implemented before the weekend games might help to explain the longer play times seen on Sunday as well (the defensive flying change).
The two Sunday games were again two on two, this time featuring French pilots in SPAD S.VII against German pilots in Pfalz D.IIIa. In the end, after a long (too long) pair of games, two Germans were shot down in fiery fashion on one table, and the other table fought to a bloody draw.
It all comes down to the Draw Action. As the rules are right now, each player has the choice of selecting one of the four face up cards from the card drafting area or choosing two random face down cards from the draw deck.
I, personally, have always played a very offensive minded version of this game. Namely, I have always tried to make attack sets and use them against my opponents as soon as possible. Thus, I usually make use of the ability to select a single face up card if it matches my current ambitions, and only “settle” for two random cards if I am desperate. I also tend to pepper the opponent, whenever possible, with cheap attacks (‘Crossing Shot’, anyone?) in order to drain defensive cards.
To be fair, I almost always lose when playing ‘Dogfight’, so perhaps my strategy is terrible!
This group of wary fliers did the exact opposite. They always drew two cards, as they knew that cards can be used offensively and defensively. They figured more cards = better. And I see they were right, at least in terms of plane survivability!
The game slowed down considerably, however, in terms of damage dealt and general mayhem inflicted. This was for two reasons, both unintended from a game design standpoint. First, since they were content to draw two random cards each round, it took much longer to build valid attack sets. Second, since every player had a huge pile of random cards in their hand, including defensive flying type cards, it became very difficult to make an attack set “stick”. Thus, a further chilling effect on attacks, since even if you had a complete attack set in your hand, it seems like a waste to use it since it will likely not cause damage.
One player noted that seeing an opponent’s large hand of cards was “intimidating”, as the likelihood of their opponent having numerous defensive cards added another dis-incentive for playing attack sets.
In the end, the games both took 2 hours, and only one of them was completed in terms of one side clearly winning. Three fighters (all German) started on fire, including one plane which had two fire markers on it! (See the forum for this rule change/clarification).
The effect of the change I made with respect to defensive flying is also (or mostly?) to blame for the length of these games. Namely, I implemented a scheme whereby defensive flying can be done in the normal way (using the numbered Defensive Flying icon present on a deliberately restricted subset of cards) or by discarding a card of the same type as the attack set. This plays into the ‘Draw Two’ action noted above…if you get a large, well-stocked hand of random cards your likelihood of having a card matching the attack set played against you is very high. This has a disproportionate and unintended effect on your defensive flying abilities and further encourages random card hoarding.
So, to combat the low fighting sort of long game I saw, I am tempted to change some things.
Getting rid of the new alternate way to fly defensively is the first step.
I am also tempted to change the draw action to the following choice (to encourage more use of the card drafting area):
You can choose one face-up card from the drafting area or one random face-down card from the deck. (will make the game slower as well)
You can choose two cards (any combination of face-up and face-down). (higher speed game, but remove the unintended “Sheer Number of Cards” type incentive for random drawing…This should encourage set collection more directly, as you are not penalized for drafting the cards you want).
Two introductory games of ‘Dogfight’ were played yesterday at our favorite local game convention, Con of the North!
Each match up pitted a pair of Sopwith Camels against a pair of Fokker Dr.I triplanes. In the end, 3 of the 4 Fokkers were shot down and the 4th was forced down with a wrecked engine. At one point in the mayhem 4 planes were on fire! In total the Camels only lost one of their number, but the loss was dramatic. Late in the game, long after his wingman had been shot down, and after an impressive two against one defensive flying showcase, the German pilot decides to play the ‘Head On Shot’ attack set. Neither plane is able to fly defensively and so the damage is dealt to both sides. The Camel is dealt a ‘Structure x 2′ result…his machine breaks up in midair for a clear cut kill! The return fire damage is dealt…and the German draws the dreaded ‘Pilot Killed’ result! Within the span of a few seconds the game went from three planes to one, for a British victory.
We have another episode of ‘Dogfight’ running today at the Con, so stay tuned for another update. I will be changing the German plane type to something a bit less fragile than the Dr.I to see if we can’t level the playing field a bit more.
I am very pleased to announce that the first two card games, “Third & Long” and “Knock Down, Drag Out”, have been launched on the Print On Demand website DriveThruCards!
Over the next few days I hope to have these first two products joined by the “Dogfight” card game and the “PFL: Part 1″ expansion for “Third & Long”. Stay tuned for more information along those lines.