Replacing Voting in A Taste for the King

I recently added voting to A Taste for the King. The idea was to give players more to do outside of their turn. To give incentive for voting, players would get to score dishes or regain abilities based on how the player responded to their votes. In general, people really liked this addition to the game, however it presented two different but related problems. The first is that it became very hard to balance the game, people would either score more dishes on OTHER peoples’ turns or not give any information away unless it really benefitted them. Trying to reduce the amount of voting only gave less incentive to vote or stalled the active player’s turn as they lost information that was otherwise freely given. You can read more about voting in the latest newsletter.

The second problem is that people started looking forward MORE to other peoples’ turns than their own because they were in control of other peoples’ outcomes not their own and they could potentially do better when not the active player and to make this worse in one iteration players could run away with dishes on other peoples turns just by being honest which was not the intention.

One suggestion during a voting playtest was to remove action cards because they don’t benefit voters, most only trigger in specific circumstances and they were largely cluttering the deck, making it harder to vote in a useful way. To keep the deck balanced I replaced all the action cards with “null” spilled/dropped cards. These are cards that are just immediately discarded.

One suggestion during feedback (and the focus of this post) was to replace voting with the older form of players taunting each other, removing the voting tokens. In this iteration, if a player discards one or more cards, one of these discarded cards must go to another player. This, in theory, may give the game more strategy and fun interactions as taunting players may gain a dish or suffer poisoning.

At the monthly Board Game Designers Online playtest session this weekend I tried two changes, the above mentioned discarding mechanism and an additional setup stage where each player gets 1 or more poison cards. They try to memorise their poisons and then they get shuffled back into the deck with the rest of the dishes and poisons. The idea of this was to give each player just a little information about poison composition in the deck, hopefully allowing them a little more chance to see through any bluffing. Personally I liked this, however it proved too difficult for each player to remember their poisons as the game went on. I think this would require additional thought to work as intended, perhaps a way to mark the information on the menu without giving away the information to other players.

Overall I think we found this variation of discarding worked well, though some balancing still needs to be done around players running away with additional scoring on other peoples’ turns (this is a little balanced by the risk of being poisoned and losing “stolen” dishes but in theory there’s still more chance of scoring dishes than of losing them). It still feels that in most cases the active player may do better by ignoring taunts or doing the opposite but I feel that it’s a definite improvement because taunting players don’t want to get poisoned by their own actions.

One suggestion was to add action cards back in to the game, that benefit any player that receives them. Either the active player when they play it, a player that receives it through a discard OR both the active player and the discard receiver. The idea of this would be to push it further and potentially force temporary alliances between the active player and one or more taunting players/voters to generate a sense of trust.

A final suggestion was to make a single voting token that would lend credence to a particular “taunt” which could be used strategically and then be passed to another player.

Overall this was a very interesting playtest with a promising update to the rules. My biggest concern is that the game would no longer work for 2 players which would be a little sad but not devastating to the game.

If you would like to playtest this latest revision, feel free to reach out on Discord or any of the Drentsoft Games social media channels.

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