So the truth is, I haven’t played Disaster Outpost since the last playtest with other people. That was a couple years ago. Basically, no one else had fun, so I knew I had a lot of work ahead in order to fix it. Luckily, I was easily able to recall the rules from before (never wrote them down) based on the cards and the gameboard. This blog post is basically so I don’t forget my thoughts on the game.
Because I still believe this game has potential – lots of potential – I broke it out last night and ran it through a few new solo playtests with some minor changes. The most important change was fixing how the disasters spread. In the original version, disasters on the board doubled if the spread mechanic was triggered. But we had a hard time keeping track of what went where. It was confusing. So I made it so that they doubled and spread up one number grid. Much easier, but the doubling of a disaster still felt like too much to me. I literally lost a game within 20 minutes. So the next change I tried was that instead of doubling, you just add more according to the Disaster Meter Level. It makes the game much more manageable. Still need to play around with it though.
Another change I made: taking the total disasters of each color from 60 down to 40. The disasters don’t spread as fast, and having 60 made it impossible to get close to losing. The game dragged on for like 2 hours. It was too fast before, now it’s too slow. That change, along with something to speed it up, will probably help out. I may increase the total Disaster cards 11, just to increase the odds that those appear as well.
Another issue is the process of putting disasters out. Rolling the dice on every single one is tedious, but I don’t mind it. I’m thinking of giving every player percentile dice so they can put the disasters out together.
Movement Range and Actions
The second important change I made was to get rid of the range dice. You used to have to roll to see how far you could move your guy. No thanks. Now there is just a hard number of range and actions each character can use. I also added a greater disparity between characters. For example, previously all characters but a few had 5 actions and 1 range. Driver was the only one with 2 range. Kinda boring. Needed more flavor, so I tweaked those and I prefer the new way a lot. It still needs some tweaking, though. The characters probably need more special actions as well. I’m thinking 2 each instead of just 1. Thirdly, I need to include some sort of meter to keep track of how many actions and moves you’ve made (on the reference cards). It really comes in handy.
Another thing I noticed was that structures come out much, much faster when you have the Supply Sergeant (which is exactly as intended). But it’s almost way too fast, because I also made it so the Supply guy can take structure cards from players at no action cost. Maybe I’ll tweak that. Anyway. Was able to get all 3 structures of 1 color out and still had structure cards left over. So now you can put out a new structure or upgrade an existing one (to cover a range of 2 rings, etc.). Worked out nicely. Second, I needed a way for disasters to effect structures, so if a structure shares a grid with 2 disasters, it gets destroyed. I also made it a rule that the JTAC can’t take out those disasters with air strikes. (But I’m going to add Danger Close to it so that it just costs more actions to do.) Last note on structures: they work. You don’t notice them at first, you think “why is this even in here?” but you will come to appreciate them, especially if you have a Supply Sergeant.
Another problem, some of the fortune cards don’t get used much. I didn’t use the Claymores at all. Spoils of War is on the chopping block unless it can prove useful (I still need to try it without having a Supply Sergeant in play). Another thing I did not consider: Turn the Tide takes the Disaster Meter down one level. There are only 9 Disaster cards, so if you started at Level 1 and you play TTT, it would be impossible to win the game. Need to add another Disaster card to have 10 in the deck. I also want to change the Barracks card to Ripit (or whatever) and Chow Hall to MRE.
Another problem I’m noticing is the tokens. Dropbox, LZ, resources. I’m still not sure about those. The LZs don’t really get used. I’m thinking two LZs, one Dropbox, and one “commisary” should be permanent on the board, but that you start out with extras, which can be destroyed if a disaster spawns there. That would eliminate the LZ cards from the deck, which would help change the odds that the important cards will come up more often. The Spread Meter token also needs an arrow on it so you can remember which direction it’s traveling along the spread meter.
Barricades. Something I want to try for sure, but after last night’s game, it might be too much stuff on the board.
The Brig, CCP
The Brig. So I wanted to make better space of the game board by adding a Brig space on there, similar to the Rally Point space. I was going to have a card called War Crimes that got you sent to the Brig for 2 turns, but I changed my mind. You can’t really avoid it because it’s a mechanic that relies solely on luck, and I’d rather have that kind of misfortune happen because of skill (a player could have avoided it). I’m going to change it to CCP – casualty collection point – and you can get sent there if you have 3 disasters with you on the same grid. If it happens twice in one game, your character dies and you have to swap it out. I like this idea a lot better.
Slowness between turns. Big problem, people will think it’s boring. There is a lot of waiting when it’s not your turn. I need to incorporation “instants” that people can use when it’s not their turn to help other players out.
After the Adjustments
Once the mechanics are finalized – it’ll take a while – my next order of business is figuring out how to make it PVP so players can go head to head. Some play task force, some play infiltrators. It’ll be fun. For now, though, back to the drawing board.