Updated: Jul 2, 2020
In the early development of Stage 3 the design of the board was based on throwing a dice to move. The board was functional and still incorporated all the elements we wanted in the game including the towns that received infections, the random number of infections, the health cards to take away the infections, limited turns during play, and social distancing.
We discovered that the social distancing mechanic did not achieve the outcome we wanted. The serious purpose of Stage 3 is to teach people the importance of social distancing, and during play it was evident that players did not have to think about where they were moving and the consequence of their movement. This all changed where the mention of taking the dice out of the game and allowing the player to choose where to move their character. With a lot of brainstorming the idea of a smaller board with a hexagon/honeycomb layout might be the solution.
We prototyped the new board keeping the original number of towns, infections, and health cards. After playtesting the new board, we found that the movement of the player was more interactive, and the game played a lot smoother. Yet it was still too easy to avoid the other players on the board and there was no consequences for where the player moved. We decided to decrease the number of board spaces as this will force players to avoid each other. Originally the game was 2-4 players, after changing the board we decided to make Stage 3 a 4-player game. Using less than 4 players created too much space between players and we would not achieve the core game mechanic of social distancing.
Now that we had a smaller board, we wanted to make the player really think about where they were moving. The majority of board spaces from the first prototype either had no real effect on the game or a positive effect on the game by picking up extra health cards. To achieve player decision, we decided to put both negative and positive board spaces throughout. Testing this really showed a dramatic change in the way the game was played. We also wanted to make Stage 3 almost impossible to never have to make a tough decision on the player. We achieved this with the rule of social distancing, if a player is on a board space next to another player, every town receives an infection, and by strategically placing the negative board spaces around the board. On the negative board spaces the player picks up infection cards. At times during play, the players will have to choose to either pick up infection cards or infect all the towns. Next we needed to alter the flow of the game, we tested with different amounts of health cards, different amount of infection cards, and the number value on the cards. We wanted the game to be challenging. After many playtests we found that there were too many infections and not enough health cards making it impossible to win. We added in more health cards and found the right balance. We continued playtesting the balance of health cards and infections and it was perfect, giving the game the right amount of challenge from start to finish. The game was almost complete, there were still a few issues with the amount of items on the board and the clarity to find the information you need.
We simplified the board to only have 4 different spaces to land on. One for health cards, one for infection cards, one to add an ICU, and one to enter the town. Then we added numbers on the spaces to represent how many cards the player picks up, and the number to add to the ICU. All of these next steps were cosmetic, adding in all the art and icons for clarity. We named all the towns (used the Sunshine Coast) and then added some fun cards. Originally the towns were houses and they were only colours so an infection card would simply say: Green house +1 infection. It was a little boring. Now throughout all the infection and health cards are some really fun one liners and stories.
I hope you enjoy playing Stage 3 as much as I enjoyed making it.
Andy Cox - Munch Creative