The first major change in version 3 was that I gave players more than 1 ‘Action’ on their turn. They could play a card simultaneously as normal, OR they could take back the card they played AND take back another card from their Board or Discard. This was to solve the problem that a player could literally run out of options once they had used all their cards
There was a danger in introducing this mechanic however. If a player’s ‘cost’ for using ‘Stare’ cards to set back their opponent was to lose said ‘Stare’ cards, then giving players a way of getting them back consistently meant that the game could run on forever. Also, ‘Flashback’ and ‘Special’ cards became far stronger if they could get used over and over again. This made balancing difficult.
When thinking about a solution, I decided to reexamine my reasons for giving players more than 1 action. I wanted players to have the knowledge that they could have done something differently to save themselves, and I wanted to give them the option to push their luck to gain an advantage if they were prepared to risk getting shot.
My response was to create the ‘Quickdraw’ card. This card would kill your opponent if they had 4 less card on their Board than you did – no ifs, no buts, no ‘Stares’. This way, if an opponent used their turn to take a card back from their Discard, where ‘Stare’ cards tended to end up, it would place them 1 card behind. If they took any cards from their Board, it would place them 2 cards behind; they couldn’t do that twice.
What was very interesting with this card was that it created a second type of minigame within the game – it gave a new objective. Suddenly, countering 3 ‘Ready’ cards with just 1 ‘Stare’ card was a huge deal, because the card advantage alone almost won you the game (your opponent removes 3 ‘Ready’ cards and a ‘Bang!’, you just remove 1 ‘Stare’ card). It also meant picking up cards (the ‘Recovery’ Action) was a bigger decision – could you risk it when not only could your opponent shoot you, but they could also pull some kind of card advantage on the Board that won them the game.
Peter from ITB gave me very good advice on another game that you’ll all likely see some time in the future: If you want to make a tug-of-war game more interesting, add another resource – leading to a victory condition – which players need to consider, but which also tied into the rest of the game. In this case, I had added card count as that resource.
A new ‘Special’ card called ‘Twitch’ was introduced which let players stop the card that was just played. I had felt 1 ‘Special’ card was too few, so I wanted to try it with 2. I have kept the result of this experiment to the current version, as it worked well, and didn’t detract from the core game.
The game seemed to exist in almost perfect balance (though more playtesting may have shown otherwise). There was always a palpable sense of tension as to what your opponent is going to play, and there was never a correct answer as to what to do next. Playing into an advantage you had garnered could actually work against you if your opponent was expecting it, and there were certainly no problems of a game lasting forever.
The only problem was that the game felt a bit samey after a while. You’d play it a few times, but after a while you’d pretty much seen it all. I didn’t mind this so much, as a lot of games which appear boring after a lot of play can become exciting again after a break period. However, Peter at ITB had different ideas, and pushed me to increase replayability to make every play spicy.