After we developed our initial iteration of Nomad’s Land, it was time to test the game and get feedback on our ideas. After having our game tested and testing others’, we received a lot of valuable feedback, which gave us a few ideas for improvements to make to the game.
The most common criticism was that the Oasis was too strong and too easy to get to. Since the Oasis restored 5 group members and there were only 3 traps for any given way into the Oasis, it was almost always “profitable” to go to the Oasis, especially if the weather was good and the player got not-terrible rolls for the traps. This led to a situation where the Oasis was essentially becoming a win condition since it almost always had a net positive effect. To solve this, we first increased the number of traps required to get into the Oasis, increasing the chance of getting a trap that stops all movement. Additionally, we added a new type of tile called “Quicksand” which uses all of the player’s movement when they move to it, and surrounded the Oasis tile with it in all four directions. We believe these changes will cause players attempting to get to the Oasis to get hit with the hunger penalty more often, which is much more effective at killing off group members than traps.
In addition to the Oasis, we also received feedback about player interactivity and about the game board in general. As a result, for our second iteration, we did another pass of the game board, attempting to balance it and create more scarcity so that players are forced to interact more. Additionally, we swapped all tiles that used to be “Walls”/”Blocks” to be quicksand in order to allow more possible movements and to make every tile unique (since walls and mountains were functionally identical before). We also decided to change the game from two teams with two players each to a free-for-all where there are no explicit teams.
In order to try to reduce randomness, reduce symbolic complexity, and allow more planning by players, we also decided to change food zone selection from completely random to a system where there’s a set order of the zones and at the start of the game, the initial position in the order is randomly chosen. This allows the game to have different zone orders each time, and also allows players to know which zone will be next, allowing them to plan ahead.
Another criticism was that while players were learning the rules, they constantly had to look things up in charts in the rules. To help alleviate this, we added additional simplified infographics for the most common charts, like tile effects, weather effects, trap effects, and zone names, directly onto the board.
Other than that, we believe our first playtesters misinterpreted some concepts, specifically the difference between food, which moves according to the food die, and water, which does not move and is always valid across the entire board. As a result, we reworded that rule in an attempt to make it clearer. In general, another pass was done on the rules to make sure it was clear when events happen and how to handle them.