Recent Feedback to Belle of the Ball Prototype O


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UnPub3 was a great experience and I'm really looking forward to the next show. Belle of the Ball felt very well-received and I spent most of my time running demos at my table. I kind of pride myself on being a demo-machine, but this was an even more prolific event than usual. By my best estimate, I demoed Belle of the Ball somewhere around 25-30 times to around 40 people. Several were repeat players who wanted to show the game to their friends.

Feedback from the attendees was excellent. One attendee said that she would have bought a copy from me if I had one with me. Another attendee insisted on paypalling me $10 for a PnP. Meanwhile, I've had couple publisher responses that I incorporated into the second day of UnPub. I call this Prototype O-2.

The main issue regarded the lack of tension in Prototype O. In Prototype O, players had room in each party for four groups and five cards in each group. This created a leisurely pace with scoring only happening once or twice a game for each player. 

In Prototype O-2, each party only has room for three groups and each group only has room for four cards. This makes choices tighter, there isn't as much luxury of a "throwaway" group. Each one matters. Scoring is frequent and in smaller quantities, usually ranging from 5 to 10 points. A natural 12pt group is extremely rare and a very satisfying accomplishment. The lead position often changes throughout the game, usually coming down to a spread of just one or two good groups. I also removed the Belle card that grants you five groups. It just presented no benefit at all.

Other bits of feedback which I have not implemented, but which may influence future tweaks should they occur.
  • Exponential Scoring: For new gamers, it seemed like a 1:1 score for each matching icon was just the right amount of strategic challenge. However, some feedback suggested more advanced scoring: Two matching icons: 3 pts. Three matches: 6 pts. Four matches: 9 pts. This would be good as an advanced option, or perhaps a specialized player role that gets exponential scoring from only one type of icon.
  • Even Icon Distribution: Of course, that inflates the scores quite a bit since the 12 icons are distributed unevenly into three distinct Common/Uncommon/Rare columns. With the current setup, it's relatively easy to get at least one 9-pointer out of each set. Any extra points would be mostly incidental to the singular drive of maxing out each set. If I went for multiplier scoring, I'd prefer to evenly distribute the icons as 4x4x4 columns.
  • Three Distinct Sets of Belle Cards: Some of the comments from euro gamers were that Belle cards felt a little too unpredictable in their behavior. Some are played as "instants" while others go to your groups for your benefit. Still others go to your opponent's groups to their detriment. Euro gamers wanted more predictability, but casual gamers loved the variety. Assume that there are thirty Belle cards. Ten instants, ten that go to your group, ten that go to your opponent's group. You can choose which set to use each time you play or mix-and-match.
  • Three Rounds of Play: Some players wished the game was longer, which is way better than lasting too long. Still, for a longer game, I can see it played in three rounds. Between rounds, you reshuffle the guest deck and play through it again. Each time you do so, you can add a new set of Belle cards to the deck, either predetermined like 7 Wonders' age cards or randomly dealt.
Thanks to everyone who playtested Prototype O last weekend! I think you'll dig the optimizations in O-2.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.