I was thinking about Over the Next Dune’s terrain, and how it had once been placed entirely randomly but was now spread across the board. Then I thought, “why aren’t the searchers set up that way?”
The answer, I realized, was “because I never thought of it.”
In the first versions of OtND to have both terrain and searchers, both were distributed randomly. Under that system the terrain sometimes fell entirely on one side of the board, or otherwise created a channel that dictated how people moved. Decisions in those games were less interesting than games where the terrain didn’t make such clear suggestions, so the rules were changed to space the terrain out. That proved sufficient to resolve the channels problem. As a result, I never gave consideration to whether spacing out the searchers would also be desirable.
There are advantages to distributing the searchers across the colored starting areas in the same fashion as the terrain. It’s easy to teach, because it’s consistent–each area gets one piece of terrain and one searcher. It also involves fewer types of dice, which is at least convenient.
On the other hand, simplicity isn’t the only value. Intuitively it seems like the game should get more interesting when the searchers start out evenly spaced, since they’re more likely to spread over the board and make players deal with them. However, there’s no way to know without trying it.
I’m not going to make this change now, since testing for the “end run” is still ongoing. However, I’m filing it away for afterward. If you get a chance, feel free to try this change out and let me know what you discover.