The Case Study: Playtesting “The Wall” – Analysis

Following up on last time: here are the results for playtesting the “end run” with the tracking mechanic:

Game    Middle    End-Run    With Tracking
1            W/8/1    W/7/0         L/5/7
2            W/7/2    W/7/0         W/8/0
3            L/3/2      L/5/5           L/7/5
4            W/8/3    L/3/2           W/10/5
5            L/6/3      W/7/0         W/7/2
6            W/6/1    L/7/3           L/”11″/9 – players lose by timeout
7            W/6/0    W/5/0         W/7/0
8            W/9/3    W/9/0         W/7/3
9            W/9/4    W/5/0         L/6/5
10          W/8/3    L/4/1           L/6/4

The end run has been a problem for a long time. Is that good enough to call it resolved?

Facts:  As above.

Issue 1: Is the end run still a dominant strategy?

Issue 2: Is the end run an interesting strategy to play?

Rule: Decisions the players make must be interesting.

Thinking it through: Based on these numbers, the “end run” no longer appears to be the dominant strategy. It actually lost five out of ten games, which is quite a bit worse than just going up the middle!

My feeling is that tracking weakens the end run in two ways. First, it’s hard to keep track over the course of a turn of all the angles and possible turns searchers might make. It’s easy to miss something, and end up making a critical mistake that either ends the game or puts the players in an extremely difficult position. Second, the need to avoid making dangerous trails slows progress–especially when using “the wall.” Put those together, and you end up with a good chance of tripping up without much time to recover.

Anecdotes aren’t evidence, but I’ll venture to say that the feel of the end run matches the data in this regard. The wall sounds foolproof, but it’s no joke to make it work in practice. Balancing the need to stick close for rescues with the need to make progress up the board is tricky.

What I especially like about this solution (and this plays into issue 2) is that the end run is a lot more interesting than it used to be. How the players move is important; managing trails is a unique and challenging part of the game. This is especially true when searchers close in and it’s necessary to trick them out of the way without creating a trail that will lead them right back to the group. In addition, there’s much more tension in the race forward; players are much more likely to be captured, and as a result the group moves more slowly. The ending can be a nail-biter.

Overall, then, I’m marking this a success. It may be that further playtesting will show that the end run is still too good, or that there’s a specific way to approach it that breaks the game. For now, though, it looks like this is a solved problem.

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