The Ongoing Evolution of Wu Wei
The Latest and Greatest
Back in August of 2016, I sent out 8 prototypes around the world to play testers. These brave souls agreed to read the rule book and attempt to play the game while I was not present to explain the finer points of the rules. This is typically called blind play testing and is meant to simulate the customer experience when they open the box and attempt to learn the game from the rule book alone.
Here’s a link to the rules at the time of this post: Wu Wei Rule Book v2.2
I received a number of comments including the following:
Overall, everyone really enjoyed it it. Concept, design and game play are all really solid and made more so by how well all of the elements interweave. You can really tell that the game sprung from a single seed and organically evolved into a full fledged game with interconnected concepts. Really great and EVERYONE who played picked up on it.
Playing the game itself was great, we all enjoyed the balance between planning and randomness. Thinking about it, it really reminds me of playing dominoes…where it’s hard to do much long term planning and it makes more sense to base your moves off of what the other players are doing and what they want. That was really cool and not too common in strategy games, usually you can have more of ‘a plan’ that you execute and only modify slightly based on circumstances. This is cool and different.
Overall we enjoyed the game quite a lot. There were definitely some rules we missed out on, as there are in any game you’re playing for the first time, and I am looking forward to playing again with those rules in mind. We did feel like the direction tiles were somewhat superfluous as they’re printed on the board, so if you were looking for a place to cut costs that’s a good place to do it (I understand that they’re there to hold the octogons in place, but they still felt unnecessary). I also have absolutely no idea what the deck markers are used for.
I didn’t want to put this on the public board, but I wanted to let you know that the group I played with last night nicknamed the game “Kung Fu Cockblock” because of how hard we were working to block each other. And today my wife declared that the new house rule is that every time you block someone you have to yell “WU WEI, I GOT YOU ALL IN CHECK!”
We finally had our first game at the basic level. The biggest first impression we had was that the rules need a major overhaul. There’s things missing, concepts mentioned out of order and sometimes ambiguous wording […]One suggestion is to have the Palace, Temple and Town decks as a single board with markers you slide back and forth. Would make it a lot easier to deal with. But with decks, you don’t actually need deck markers. We just placed the Tiger deck above the Palace deck, the Dragon deck above the Temple deck and the Jaguar deck above the Town deck, and continued that row with the Crane and Snake decks.
The idea of having three levels of difficulty doesn’t quite sit right with me. Can there only be 1 or 2? Currently, it makes the rules harder to read since the different levels are inserted throughout the rules, making it harder to remember what rules is for what level.
More illustrations/examples would be good since some stuff is not immediately clear
Having a full turn overview before starting to explain the rules would be good as it would give context for the rules you are reading
A longer example at the end of the rules would be good to give an idea on how the game flows. I would also encourage you to do so for each level of rules since they transform the game deeply (especially the Emperor level)
As you can see there is quite a bit of material to address in these four comments alone. In a thematic sense, Wu Wei has managed to stay true to its roots. Game mechanics and rule explanation had a couple hiccups. Let me lay out the issues and my resolutions here as succinctly as I can.
- The cards governing the circumstances in the game (the circle, square, and triangle decks) are difficult to relate to the board and a pain to constantly rearrange.
- The directional tiles aren’t quite doing the job of indicating the quadrants of the board.
- People are confused by the rule book in some ways. The different levels need to be spelled out in their own sections. There needs to be a turn overview before and after the rules explanation.
Some time during the iterative process I had prototyped a tracking board for the circle, square, and triangle cards. I had become so used to the idea of the separate decks of cards that the idea of a tracking board felt a bit overwhelming to me. I put it aside and refocused my efforts on the rule book. After receiving feedback about the cards from the blind playtesters I pulled out the design and played around with it. I realized that the thing that made it feel overwhelming to me was that all of the information was in one spot. Then I started thinking about balance and it occurred to me that if I split up the boards and placed them around the board that this would give you a visual cue to help you resolve the problem related to that shape. Squares = change seasons, triangle = place wall/change terrain, circle = change chi element. In accordance with the idea of balance I made the new tracking boards the same height as the animal cards. Last but not least I added shape markers and a sun/moon token.
The change really emphasizes the circle/square/triangle shapes and that makes me really happy. That’s a concept from martial arts that started feeling lost in the shuffle. Now players can associate a shape with an action and each action is placed in its own place around the board. All of this serves to reduce confusion for new players and makes the barrier of entry to game mastery much lower. The sun/moon token reminds players about the importance of turn order. This really is a great step forward in the design. A massive thank you play testers!
The directional tiles are a bit problematic sometimes. I have found time and again that they are problematic but necessary. One big purpose that they serve is to reduce the entrances to the center tile from 8 to 4. They also create permanent impediments that require players to circle the board. This keeps players in accordance with the seasons, the wheel of life, and the movement of yin and yang. They serve as a type of feng shui compass. They hold the octagons in place. The primary thing they do is indicate which quadrant you can place walls or change terrains. Unfortunately, there always seems to be a bit of confusion where the borders begin and end.
To dispel this confusion, I am working on a way to mark the board in each quadrant. For example, the fire palace controls the south and the color for this quadrant will be red. The use of the flame would also be a great way to further indicate the quadrant for the color blind. I have a few options I’m still working on as experiments for this new concept. This can also make great use of the spaces between octagons (in addition to their primary use as a means to flip terrains or place and remove walls).
I have been working on the final layout of the rule book for the better part of a year. Writing a rule book has been one of the hardest things I have ever attempted. It’s hard when you are so close to the material. Getting feedback from the blind play testers has been invaluable. I’m going to make one more pass based on their notes and then I’m going to be getting some help from a rule book professional by the name of Dustin Schwartz. He’s going to help me make sure that the language is consistent and he’s going to be coming to the project cold so a new set of eyes should make it relatively painless to make these adjustments. I’m not really concerned about the number of pages in the rule book as long as it is crystal clear and makes it easy to start playing. I have a relentless drive to make sure this rule book is legit so hang on. It’s almost there!
Gearing up for Kickstarter January 2017
I’m trying to address these final adjustments for the game and then I’m going to be spending a good couple of months prepping the upcoming Kickstarter. This will include a new video and campaign goals. I will likely put out a preview page for feedback in the near future. In addition to all of this I’m looking at finalizing the cover art for the front and back of the box. The list of things to do seems never-ending but every step brings us closer to a finished product that is going to blow people away. Thanks for sticking with me on the journey!