For anyone interested and paying attention, I had a great playtest today. 3 players (Stacie, Fiki, and Hilary) gave the game a shot. This is version 1.2, with a couple of tweaks to the starting decks since the inaugural 2p game I played with Michelle.
It went well. Better than I thought, in fact. I got a chance to see several specific areas where I could make improvements:
* In the first play I allowed 1 free movement point per turn, so you could always move Joan around the board. Many turns it seemed like we didn't have the right weapons to win any battles, so moving didn't really matter, and I don't like a player being asked to make a decision that they don't care about or don't have any way to choose 1 thing over another. So when I updated the starting decks, I added a lot of movement points, and I removed the automatic one. I wasn't sure that would really make much difference, but overall I thought I added enough movement that when the board got sparse, there would be enough movement to get where you wanted to go.
I don't think I like how this played out. There were many turns when players couldn't fight a battle, even if they had the right weapons, because they just didn't have any movement. One turn in particular in the mod-late game, one player had a turn where she had the weapons for ALL of the remaining battles except 1, and even had some movement, but not enough movement to reach any battles!
I think the solution may be to allow players to PURCHASE movement with gold. I could keep movement points in the decks, but as a standard maybe players should be able to buy movement... it comes with the opportunity cost of not being able to buy anything else with that gold, and it might add the flexibility needed.
I'm considering making 2 gold be the cost for anything (any 1 weapon, 1 movement point, etc) to make it really easy to remember, but for movement I feel like it might be appropriately costed at 1 gold per movement point.
* You're allowed to buy any 1 weapon for 2 gold, and I like that. I wondered whether it should be allowed to sell 2 matching weapons for 1 gold as well. In fact, should there be a universal rule that you can 2-for-1 anything into anything else? After we talked about it, I don't think that would be good. A sword is a sword, the thing about gold is that it's flexible (but inefficient).
* It seemed a bit difficult to get enough gold to buy tiles on a regular basis. I blame this on the starting tile mix... out of 12 tiles, 8 of them have a gold on them. But only 5 have the gold on the back side (you get that by moving over a tile)... 3 of them had the gold on the front side (you only get that if you land ON the tile). Too often this meant there wasn't enough gold coming up.
I had gone into this with the typical deckbuilding mindset of having weak cards in your starting deck (or weak tiles in your bag in this case), with the point being to buy better tiles and improve your bag so you get better hands. However, I wonder if a better plan wouldn't be to have your starting deck actually be GOOD at the early game stuff, but bad at late game stuff, and then the tiles you buy will make your bag better at the late game actions (fighting). The way this could manifest is to have gold on the back of EVERY starting tile, maybe in ADDITION to other things (like Gold+Sword, Gold+Move, etc). That way you can buy guaranteed to afford tiles in the early game. I think it might be interesting that way, as your deck would fairly quickly get diluted with "better" tiles, causing you to necessarily get less gold each turn... UNLESS you specifically buy tiles that have gold on them to keep your money high. But if you do that, it's at the expense of other symbols, such as weapons.
I think I will give this a try in the next test.
* Another idea to help the money situation is to create Gold tokens, and allow them to be bought, say for 2 gold. These tokens would be stored, and you could spend them on a future turn. This way, if you only get 2 gold in a turn, you could sort of bank it (as 1 gold for later), to build up to buying a more expensive tile. Again, this would be at the expense of buying a tile, or a weapon, that turn.
* Fiki had an interesting idea for a tile action that lets you automatically train Joan of Arc. I think I would make 1 of each type ("Train Swords at no cost" for example). This would allow you to advance the sword skill track (as if you had paid) and collect the points. It's like saying "+2 Swords, but only usable for training". This would probably cost 3 or 4 gold, depending on what's on the back.
* Stacie thought it would be good to have some way to re-shuffle your bag early. This could be a tile action (like Dominion's Chancellor), or as she suggested, it could be something you get to do when you arrive at a space that's been cleared of its battle. That might be interesting in the mid-game, if you can't fight a battle, maybe you could move to a space with an arrival action you'd like to do... reshuffle your deck, cull 1 tile, swap two adjacent tiles on your rondel, +1 gold this turn... stuff like that.
* Hilary really wanted a way to cull your deck. There are some tiles that let you do that, but they hadn't come up. I'm not sure that would really be desirable, especially if I make the starting tiles "better"... but it could be something players want... I could see adding 1 front-side starting tile action that says "cull 1 tile from our rondel", just in case people want to use it.
* Currently, the Skirmishes are all worth 5 points and nothing else, while the major Battles - while they cost 2x as much - are worth 10 points AND they give you an ability. I really think that needs to be the other way around. The Skirmishes should be worth next to no points and come with a useful ability, while the ate-game battles should be worth more points, with little or no ability. Of course, that doesn't preclude the potential for a weird Battle with an insanely god ability that's not worth many points, or a Skirmish or two with a lousy (or no) ability that's worth more points than the rest of the skirmishes.
I look forward to tweaking the game and trying again, hopefully soon!