Post by: Grant Rodiek
I’ve reached a minor milestone with my newest game, Poor Abby Farnsworth, and I wanted to take a moment to write about its development so far. I just ordered my first print version of the game with nicer cards and some rough, but passable graphic design and iconography. I decided to spend the time and money to do this because my testers are sick of index cards. Furthermore, I think the game is far enough along that it’ll be useful to send it out to blind testers for feedback.
Simply put, I believe the foundation of the game is strong and I need a great deal of independent testing to verify the rules are well written, the foundation is strong, and the game is full of interesting choices. I hope my testers can verify that a.) the game is fun (or can be) and b.) it’s unique. If these are mostly answered in the affirmative, we can begin diving deeply into card balance and strategies.
I believe the game can sufficiently stand on its own at this point. By that, I mean it’s not a <insert deckbuilding game> clone. The game is definitely iterative and firmly on the evolutionary side of the spectrum, but I think it can grow to ultimately be a worthy addition to the growing library of deckbuilding games.
- Cards are drawn from a central deck in placed in 4 stacks of 2 cards each. Players can vie for each of these sets by essentially bidding on them with Influence cards (the game’s currency), or buy the top card of a set outright for 4 Influence. The bottom card is then trashed and the set is replaced.
- The central deck, referred to as the Trial deck, contains 45 unique cards. I sought to make all 45 cards useful and powerful AND there’s no cheap take that gameplay. The work of designing these cards to provide several viable strategies is by far the most challenging thing still before me.
- The game has various entities (Judge, Magistrate, Witch, Witnesses, Jurors) that can be bribed for powerful actions. Bribes are bought with coins and each player only has 6 for the entire game.
- Witnesses are obtained like the other cards from the Trial deck. However, the Witness that is currently summoned provides a new Bribe action.
- Points are primarily earned by playing Argument cards, which require certain conditions be met before they can be scored.
I’m a HUGE fan of the work of artist Brett Bean. He was the primary illustrator for Farmageddon and I couldn’t be happier with his work. Obviously, I’d love for Poor Abby to find a publisher, which means the art and graphics are out of my hands. But, that doesn’t mean I cannot dream about my ideal art style!
I love Brett’s human characters. Check these out, especially the colonial gentleman on the top right:
I thought those humans were pretty snazzy, until Brett posted these two characters to his blog:
These characters make me squeal with delight. They are beautiful, hilarious, and overall outstanding. They remind me of the Walt Disney animated Robin Hood…ooo da lalay! Just imagine the jackass (donkey) judge, the fox prosecution attorney, the defense attorney as a pig, all Jurors are sheep…all with wigs, of course!
I’m drawn to humor, imaginative worlds, and overall, silliness. In my ideal world, Brett would be the one to make that happen.
Interesting and Bad Ideas from Previous Iterations
While preparing to write this post, I thought about all the interesting and bad ideas I’ve had throughout the course of Poor Abby’s development. Some of the neat ideas listed above may very well find themselves on this list before it’s all said and done!
- Originally, players rolled dice to determine their purchasing power. I tried to counter the randomness by making it such that Influence could augment dice rolls. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the tuning right and the dice were clunky. Note to Designers: Taking a genre and swapping out components is not an innovation. (As a result of removing the dice, I thought to remove cost from cards entirely and players must bid to fight for them based on their perceived value. I think this has been great for streamlining the game AND differentiates it from other deckbuilding games.)
- At some point, certain Jurors, when controlled, would provide a special benefit. It was implemented in a clunky way, but I believe was the forefather to the current Bribery feature that I really enjoy. I tried a bad idea and it evolved into a good one!
- All cards in the Trial deck used to belong to one type of evidence: Spiritual, Physical, and Hearsay. Cards within an Evidence type tended to lean towards a particular strategy, but they also dictated which Jurors could be affected. The idea was somewhat neat and I may bring back elements of it, but ultimately it added an insignificant layer to the game that just added unwarranted complexity.
- During one test, Jurors all had abilities that could augment the state of the Jurors adjacent to them in one way or another. This would have been neat if players controlled Jurors in a more permanent fashion. But, as the game is tuned currently, the feature was entirely ignored. And again, it added undue complexity.
- The game used to feature Objection cards, which were randomly drawn global modifiers. I couldn’t get them to fit into the game well, which is typically a sign the feature needs to be removed. The idea appeals to me, still, so I’ll keep it on the back burner.