legal game: playtest 1

now in session

After the first round of playtesting, the legal game needed a fair amount of work: I streamlined the statistics and simplified how closing and court work. Each card needed updating to work in the new system, and this was a good chance to start distinguishing the areas of law a bit more as well. Everything was looking good going into the playtest to answer new questions, this time with player-built decks:

How long did trials last? Upon starting a trial, each player built a case consisting of ways to persuade the jury (such as questions or material evidence), and the longest case determined the trial length and, indirectly, the cost of a trial. Ideally, I was hoping to see multiple strategies in building cases with goals that didn't necessarily include winning each one.

In the test, trials tended to last two turns. This was partly a result of each player choosing low-powered attorneys, so they didn't have the option to make longer cases even if they wanted to. Further, there was some confusion about the cards that could comprise a case and those used during the trial.

Did the new closing system lead to negotiating? Closing this time was meant to be an explicit way to earn money more quickly for both sides instead of going to trial.

We didn't end up testing this mechanic because neither firm represented the opposition directly in the playtest, leading to clients essentially representing themselves.

Did the new court system better represent the theme? In creating a case before starting trial and then using objections to each attempt at persuasion, I was hoping to make court resolve quickly while also being sequential. Trials also varied in how difficult they are to win, with criminal cases being more difficult than, say, family law cases.

The new system looks promising. Players eventually understood why they might create cases in certain ways, and the resolution system was easier to understand than the previous version. So the new system seems to be worth pursuing.

How many turns did the game take?

We stopped the game after three turns. Each firm had started a case each turn, requiring a large amount of space to track state. This is already a problem with two players, and I can only imagine the issues with more.

How much money did each player make?

One firm had made enough money to return to their starting cash, while the other was one point less. While not necessarily bad, continuing this trend would make winning very difficult.

The post-game discussion quickly turned to whether or not low-status lawyers were underpowered—whether they had any use at all, in fact. And people were interested in more options in court, too, such as ways to better deceive their opponent.

The next revision will need to clarify lawyer usefulness while also reducing the amount of space the game requires. I'd also like to see more firm interaction, both with closing and in trial.