The Big, Huge Playtest Feedback for 9 Lives



Hey! Remember those cute cats I was trying to herd in the game 9 Lives? I released Prototype B for public blind playtesting a while back to some mixed results.

The response was mostly mild and quiet, which said to me that it could be put behind some other games in development that were drawing much more interest. That's mostly how I decide what to develop first, whatever strikes my interest at the moment or what seems to excite the public... hopefully both at once!

But then came this excellent, long feedback from Tournevis where he and his group dived deep into some structural problems and emergent bugs. Further feedback came from Kristina Stipetic, Scott Messer's family, Caroline-Isabel Caron.


  • There is limited engagement between players beyond the bidding phase, which itself isn't a problem except...
  • Too many cards are available once you've won the bid, meaning that there's a lot of analysis paralysis and gaps between moments of multiplayer engagement.
  • Mid-game scoring in the Reward phase interrupted the flow of play and wasn't clearly communicated in the rules, so that too created gaps between moments of engagement. 
  • Oddly, another group found the Reward phase not just easy, but vastly preferable since it earns so many more points than Adoption. Either way, that phase of play is becoming a problem.
  • With so many cards available, it became difficult or impossible to block an opponent from getting something they wanted.
  • Also, tracking turn order in the adoption phase became difficult if the bid cards were available for adoption.
  • Presently, the strategy is too thin for 2 players and the choices exponentially too many with 7-9 players. 3-6 may be the sweet spot, pending revisions. 
  • Aside from actual gameplay, cards should be designed with clearer suits instead of using the cat art shrunken down to a thumbnail. Stars should be lined along the edge.

In particular, some good ideas came out of Tournevis' group discussion that I'd like to test further in a new prototype. Below is my current revision to their suggested procedural changes.

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THEME:
Players trying to rescue nine stray cats and bring them home while getting scratched as little as possible. (I'm replacing stars with scratches.)



SETUP: 
3-6 Players. Shuffle the whole deck and deal five random cards to each player and set the rest as a deck in the center of the play area. Each player should have space for a card tableau and a method of keeping score.


PLAY:
A GAME of 9 Lives is 5 ROUNDS. Each round is three PHASES: The Search phase, the Rescue phase, and the Escape phase. A player who has most total points at the end of the five games wins.


SEARCH:
Exactly the same as the Bidding phase as in Prototype B

RESCUE:
Starting with the player with the lowest bid and proceeding in ascending order, each player takes a corresponding turn marker, indicating their turn order. 

On your turn, you may taking one card from the center of the play area, from the cards other players have bid, or from the deck. Regardless of where you take it from, acquired cards are kept FACE UP in your tableau.

Discard any remaining bid cards, but keep any cards in the center of the table in place.
ESCAPE:
In the same turn order as noted above, each player takes turns doing one four actions. On your turn, you may:
  • Exchange two cards with the same number of scratches between one opponent's tableau and your own tableau,
  • OR exchange cards with the same number of scratches between one opponent's tableau and the center.
  • OR discard a card in an opponent's collection and replace it with the top card from the deck.
  • OR do nothing.


BETWEEN ROUNDS:
Draw the top card from the deck and add it to the center of the play area. The game continues with four other rounds until all five cards in all players' hands have been played.


SCORING:
Variety Bonus: Each player scores 1 point for each sequence of two or more matching cats. Single cat cards do not count towards this score.

Reward Bonus: Now, players may score points for each cat, but only if they were scratched the least by that cat. For each cat, the player with the fewest scratches from that cat earns 1 point for each card in their tableau featuring that cat. If some players are tied for the fewest, all tied players score their respective points. 

At the end of a game, all cards are shuffled back at the bottom of the deck and a new game is set up.


ENDGAME:
The final score is tallied over the course of five games. The player with the most total points wins!
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.