Travels along The Spanish Road – onside report
Ben Moores onside report on the latest playtest for his forthcoming Megagame The Spanish Road (16th July 2016) at the May CLWG meeting. (See previous reports on testing The Spanish Road articles).
Along The Spanish Road
This weekend Chestnut Lodge helped trial the Burgundian segment of the upcoming “The Spanish Road” a 16th century megagame. The Burgundian part of history is commonly known as the Dutch Revolt and overlaps with Elizabethan England. The Dutch revolt is central to The Spanish Road because it was driven by many different factors; including class, economic, ethnic and religious tensions. It’s relative easy to see the conflict as being a binary war of independence, but I wanted to ensure I captured all the factors. So the design also had to incorporate those other tensions too. As such it formed the foundation for many other countries. It was exciting to see those tensions being played out this weekend.
When I look at all the different paths that the civil instability could have taken it’s really hard to predict were the game might go but this weekend’s trial suggests that I am on the right path as we saw Catholic reform tension, debates on trade, insecurity on changing religion and a touch of nationalism. The bottom up revenue flow went well with players actively thinking hard about what types of revenue they wanted. My economic “bath plug” of building great houses worked well too with players choosing that path for a second game in a row.
As usual I learnt a lot by play testing the game. The Anabaptists certainly need to play a greater role in the story, they far outnumbered Lutheran protestants in 1565, so I have added some interesting cards that will help move the story along.
We didn’t have enough players to have the Jesuits and Calvinist preachers represented but just having them in the game as umpire controlled made everything take on an extra dynamic. I feel excited about how that is going to play out in the final game, some of those roles are going to be a lot of fun. The game ties players to provinces and this definitely created some stress as regions changed owner due to religious differences. It was a little too easy to simply give provinces back so going forwards I have closed that loop-hole.
I learnt that the briefings need tightening up. After 9 months of reading around the topic it’s all too easy to start assuming that everyone has a basic knowledge of religious change in the 16th century. It’s going to be important that I can find a way to quickly convey the crucial issue at hand to someone in a paragraph or in under 30 seconds of explanation. I have a tonne of background information prepared but I am going to need more introductory level information in the personal briefings.
This is the third outing for The Spanish Road and I have managed to strip back more of the game. It’s now about 15 pages of actual rules when I exclude the overview or event information. Much of that is explanatory as I have made around 80 unique event cards that are held by players and I have made many of the rules for naval and land the same. The number of concepts and mechanics in the game haven’t gone down but the complexity of each has definitely decreased. I am going to put a lot of those rules on the power point slides on the day so that people can just turn their head to grab information quickly.
We didn’t get a chance to try out my slightly tougher siege mechanics but we did see a little bit of movement and by and large I don’t see movement being as tough of an ordeal as I had foreseen. Generally people are not going to move around that much and I suspect that when they do it will be fairly climatic, hopefully taking the strain off the control team.
With the bulk of the building work now complete for the game I can continue to just improve on the mechanics and briefing materials. I am hoping that this also have the spin-off bonus of identifying any weaker roles that need bolstering to ensure that everyone has a very busy and fun day.