Out of Turn Actions – Playtest

In the last couple of posts I talked about changes to A Taste for the King to address down time. The first was an attempt at a form of concurrent play which went rather poorly. The second was Out of Turn Actions which I’ve since called Observer Actions. The idea of these is to keep players engaged and give them a little strategy between turns. I was able to playtest this iteration last night at the Board Game Designers Online Discord playtest event.

The first iteration of Observer Actions used the following actions

The first generation observer card.

Brazen Theft – Once per game you may steal a dish from another player’s table. Score it immediately then discard it.

Recall – Once per game you may take a discarded dish and score it.

Displacement – Once per round you may steal a dish from another player’s table. Reveal the top 3 cards from the deck, score the dish if you can replace it with a dish of the same course, otherwise return it. The player keeps all revealed dishes.

Assassination Attempt – Once per round you may choose one dish from the deck to be poisoned. Each player may only be targeted by this action once per round. Mark the dish on the full menu and remove it at the end of the current turn.

Devil’s Delight – Once per round you may look at the top 3 cards and request something in exchange for information.

The playtest was interesting. For a lot of the session I thought the players disliked the game in its current state. As with wagers, a previous attempt at increasing out of turn engagement, the actions didn’t see much use but it wasn’t all bad and as the game went on people tried using the actions more. One player didn’t use the actions at all. It transpired at the end, during feedback, that this was because he found watching other players turns engaging enough (which is great!) and he didn’t like the wall of text involved with the actions in their current state (not great).

The biggest comment about the current selection of actions was that Dishplacement was too luck based and it felt unfair potentially forcing a bust. I think they would prefer that only dishes are kept as that makes it fairer and more of a risk for the player using Dishplacement. Another was that Devil’s Delight was too vaguely worded, which was intentional in the hopes of getting some feedback to improve it. My original intent was you would look at the cards and say please give me your [specific dish] either from the table or the player’s menu but I wanted to see if this could be refined to a specific mechanism.

This playtest also re-introduced showing discarded cards (recently removed due to the introduction of wagers and gluttony mechanics) to other players which all participants seemed to enjoy and we all tried our hand at taunting and goading the player based on their discard choices.

Future of Out of Turn Engagement

In the end I came away with several ideas for further refinements for engagement:

  • Hanabi-style revealing of cards during a players turn. If you’ve not played Hanabi, it’s a co-operative game with limited communication. Each player can see everyone else’s hands but can only see the back of their own. This would increase engagement and even MORE opportunities for taunting in A Taste for the King. I’m intrigued to try this, however online playtesting platforms such as Screentop don’t make this especially easy to do and as such I’m hesitant to try it unless I feel it’s really needed. I think it would certainly increase engagement but it may increase play time a bit too much with taunting/mind games being played on every hand.
  • At the start of a turn or round, each player circles a dish on their menu that they want. If the current player draws that card and it’s not poisoned, each player that circled it can score it. I am tempted to add this as it is a very lightweight way to increase engagement, making sure each player actively wants to watch the action unfolding before them.
  • An alternative wager mechanic that I will likely cover in a future post.
  • If I keep out of turn actions, maybe give each player less but a unique selection of actions. This is similar to an idea I had considered and shelved for a possible expansion so perhaps I can look at re-implementing this.

While I’ve been asked before to keep the game to 8 players if I can, to cater to party settings, the general consensus is usually that 8 player would be too much, as a result I think I will officially reduce the player count to 4 while Observer Actions are in the game. I suspect if they are removed the game may have to move to a more concurrent style of play and if that happens the game may suit 8 players again but I worry that the feel of the game will change too much and it may lose some of its uniqueness as a push your luck game.

Overall this was a very positive playtest experience, all seemed to enjoy it despite the issues with the out of turn actions.

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