I’ve been able to sneak in a few more playtest rounds of Over the Next Dune. So far, the win rate for a six-turn game is hovering at about 60%. That’s lower than the rate for longer games, which is good; it suggests that we’re succeeding in increasing the difficulty. Sixty percent is still pretty high, however, and the player powers are yet to be incorporated. OtND is going to have to get harder.
Further reducing the number of turns is tricky business. As the amount of time the players have to reach safety declines, their choices regarding their movement become more and more restricted. (At four turns, every player’s every move would have to be in one of the three forward directions!) So on the one hand, having less time makes the players’ decisions more interesting because each one is very important–but on the other hand, they have fewer options to choose from. Limiting the players too severely risks leaving players feeling like there are not enough strategies available, or like the game is boring simply because it’s impossible to win.
I’m going to try going down to five turns and seeing how that affects play. There’s a point on the dial where we tip over from “interesting challenge” to “frustrating exercise.” Locating it will tell us exactly how much the difficulty can be increased by shortening the game, and how much weight will need to rest on other tools.