Here's one microscopic example of some of the balancing decisions I make during Belle's development.
In the early phases of Prototype M, I decided that the basic Belle bonus should follow this rule of thumb. "Each Belle wants you to collect exactly one third of a particular suit. For example, there are 12 teas, so the tea Belle wants you to collect 4 teas."
I chose the arbitrary point value of 20 for accomplishing a Belle's condition. It's the nearest round number higher than you could possibly earn from the most well-matched group of guests. That makes it enough to be worth pursuing, but not so much that it would tilt the whole game if your opponent matched guests well enough.
Here's the problem: A guest with a red Charm requires that guest be ejected from a party in order to activate that charm. This makes a red-charm guest's suits a little bit harder to collect than others, because a red-charm guest more likely to leave the game early. Any Belle who wants those suits should offer slightly more points, otherwise they're at a slight disadvantage.
So, I listed all the guests with red charms and broke them down by suit.
Flirt, Book 12 each
Sun, Gem, Moon, Shield, Fish, Tree 5 each
|Harrison Gristlepav has a red charm, meaning that he might leave play early should his host decide to use this ability. Thus, any player whose Belle wants Flirt, Book or Gem guests will be at a slight disadvantage.|
Snub 18 points
Flirt 12 points
Book 24 points
Tea 12 points
Cake 0 points
Music 12 points
Sun, Gem, Moon, Shield, Fish, Tree: 15 points
At first glance, those values seem high. Especially if I add them to my baseline of 20 points per Belle. Upon consideration of the current rules, a guest needs to be paired with at least one other guest with a matching suit in order to score points. Thus, I could halve these values (rounding down) to make them a little bit less drastic. Then, added to the base 20 points, the Belles are as follows:
|A disproportionate number of Book guests have red charms, meaning that this Belle should award more points if for a host who manages to keep them in her party.|
Flirt Belle: Collect 8 flirts to earn 26 points
Book Belle: Collect 6 books to earn 32 points
Tea Belle: Collect 6 teas to earn 26 points
Cake Belle: Collect 6 cakes to earn 20 points
Music Belle: Collect 6 musics to earn 26 points
Sun, Gem, Moon, Shield, Fish, Tree Belles: Collect 4 to earn 27 points
These may seem like minor changes, but it can be a big deciding factor in play. At first glance, it seems like the Book Belle or the rare-suit Belles are the most valuable, but those suits are also disproportionately rare in play because they can leave the game far sooner than any other suit.
Now, does that mean the Belles are balanced? Or more importantly, do the Belles *feel* balanced? Hard to say, that's what playtesting is for. Even with all these minute calculations, nothing beats playtesting. So, I'm playtesting these changes tonight!