It takes a long time to create a game. The review copies need to go out months in advance, which can be a problem if you have even the tiniest change to make to your game.

I’ll discuss game development in another diary, but today I want to talk about the reviews Geode has had and why only a few of them actually review the final “finished” game.

I printed the review prototypes back in September 2019, after months of testing. They were shipped out to reviewers and I genuinely thought they were getting the final version of the game.

Roll on to February / March when the reviews started coming in… while a lot of the reviewers loved Geode, there were others that felt the game was too luck-based and that there wasn’t enough agency.

Ouch. As a professional columnist of over twenty years, I’m no stranger to criticism. People think they can be as cruel as they like about the things you create, and when it’s done online, it’s as though there’s a magic veil which protects them from the repercussions of their often cruel and thoughtless comments.

Ultimately, you have to think REALLY carefully before taking any criticism to heart. It’s easy to make snap decisions, making desperate changes based on the comments of a few reviewers (especially ones that go out of their way to be negative – which happens a LOT).

So… Do I take the comments seriously? Do I make changes to an already complete game? That’s a hard dilemma…

Fortunately, I had a solution. I had already designed a complete set of Bonus Cards that would mitigate the random variance in the game and give players that little bit more agency. I intended to add them as a mini expansion to the game with the Kickstarter (simply because the cost of the tiles massively increased the cost of the game – it’s already £5 cheaper than Carcassonne and has more components).

To compensate, I made all the non-Exploration Tiles cards, which allowed me to cut down the cost of the game and keep things affordable, even with 60 additional cards.

What Changes Did I Make?

I tweaked the Contract Cards so now there’s always a face-up card, which allows you to take the card you can see, or risk taking an unknown card from the stack. That again removes a tonne of luck from the game by increasing your chances of getting the Contract Card (number) you want.

Original Vs Revised Contract Card Set Up

Bonus Cards

The Bonus Cards are set of one-use cards that are given to each player, who can use them to gain an advantage in game, OR they can keep the guineas for themselves at the end of the game (each card is worth a variable amount of guineas).

Right the game features the Blocker Tile, the Two Contract Cards Tile, and the Play Two Exploration Tiles card, but there may be more on the horizon…

They really add to the game, giving you a whole lot more options that you didn’t have before. Now you can block another player, draw two face down Contract Cards (and choose the one you want), and the Play Two Exploration Tiles (in the same turn). There are a lot of options there.

Reviewer Says No…

The problem then was that the reviewers didn’t see the Bonus cards, or the slight tweaks to the game that I made to make the game a little easier (and to mitigate the luck element). I did send out copies of the new parts, but most reviewers had already reviewed the game and didn’t want to go back and make changes. BIG problem!

Were it a computer game I could just have issued a patch, but with the time constraints and the fact you’ve got to get your review copies out months and months in advance, it can be a problem for a work in progress.

So bear all that in mind when you read the reviews. I’ve got more coming throughout the campaign, but it’s not been easy.

That said, what you have now is a much stronger game, with lots of elements and agency.

I think you’ll be really happy with the choices I’ve made.

Explorer Stewie

Master of Spelunking

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