Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody! Whether you’re happily attached or happily single, remember that this day is all just commercialism anyway! So smell the overpriced roses, there’s going to be heavy markdowns on candy tomorrow.
But we here at Rogue Princess Squadron know what is really important this day and any other day—games.
Many of you fine readers may have already read Alana’s review of DPH Inc’s game, Cache Me If You Can! Today, I will give you a sneak peak of their new card game to be released this spring of 2014, Psychological Warfare. There is also a little interview after my review, so check that out as well.
I playtested Psychological Warfare at Running GAGG earlier this month with my friend Kat. It kicked off a great start to our con-going experience. Dan and Marty of DPH Games Inc. did a great job with the demo, and it was just an overall good game.
Psychological Warfare is a strategic card game. Players must balance and attempt to earn high ranks in each Need Category to earn Victory Points while simultaneously finding ways to drop other players’ ranks in Need Categories so that they suffer Neuroses. The score cards keep track of the players’ current values in the Need Categories: scores of 1-8 for Freedom, Fun, Belonging and Power. Once a player’s score in a Need Category falls to 1, they suffer the effects of a Neurosis: 1 in Freedom makes the Depressive Neurosis take effect; Histrionic for 1 in Fun; Schizoid in Belonging; and Obsessive-Compulsive for Power. If you are lucky and you are playing the Altruist Archetype, you don’t suffer the effects of Neurosis. (Guess which Archetype I was dealt! Whoohoo!) Each Archetype comes with its own strengths and weaknesses, and those strengths and weaknesses can mean the difference for final victory. For instance, the Hero Archetype can discard a Phobia in play anywhere (even if it’s not their card) and add 2 to any of their own Category scores.
It takes about 30 minutes to play and can be played with 2-4 players. We played with four players—Dan, Marty, Kat and myself. Given the flow of the game and the interactions between players, I would recommend playing this game with at least three players. Playing with only two people is do-able, but there is a greater variety of interactions, reactions, and the possibility of creating alliances (temporary, of course, because betrayal is sudden and indeed inevitable) with a three or four person game. A four person game is definitely ideal for maximum enjoyment.
Getting ahead in the game revolves around the cards you hold, how you use your Psychic Energy, and how you deal with things like Baggage, Phobias, and Defense Mechanisms. There are some really clever and fun cards in the deck including Witty Comebacks and Backhanded Compliments as well as cards that let you stage an Intervention for other players, forcing them to go into Therapy. Some cards only affect yourself; others affect yourself and one other; other cards can affect everyone at the table.
For a full description of the rules of play plus the advanced option rule for Nature/Nurture effects, check out the DPH Games Inc. page for Psychological Warfare here.
Overall, the gameplay throughout our playtesting experience was solid. Dan and Marty said that changes were made to minimize limitations for play. For example they said: We have simplified the mechanics significantly since you played. This has been accomplished without giving up the feel of the game. Psychic Energy is played out of your hand instead of a separate pile. During your turn, you either play cards or go to Therapy to clear out your baggage, defense mechanisms and phobias.
They’ve also been busy redesigning the look of the cards—my friend Kat had plenty of feedback there involving color categorization and design—and they have also been reworking the flavor text. Mmm, mmm, flavor!
I can’t wait for this game to come out, and I will probably get my own copy of it. It looks like it will have a lot of replay value, and I can’t wait to introduce my gamer friends to it and see it in action with different groups of people!
Interview Time With Dan at DPH Games Inc!
How long have you and your crew been working on making games?
We formed the company early in 2013 when we created Cache Me If You Can! It’s a geocaching board game for a market where no board game that simulated Geocaching really existed. Prior to that I was involved in organizing a couple of LARPS (one was a Pirate themed adventure), and for about 15 years I would create a crime scene with witnesses and physical evidence each year. What these things taught me was how to balance a game between being difficult to succeed, but not too difficult. Probably our hardest game to win in the Zombie Expansion pack to Cache Me If You Can! But it is intentionally so. When you do win that one as a human, you really feel a sense of accomplishment.
Which games have been your favorites?
Cosmic Encounters, Diplomacy, Werewolf and Pandemic have been my favorites. There are many others that I like a lot, but those are at the top of the list.
Is there anything in particular you want mentioned about you specifically or about Psychological Warfare itself?
What I really like about Psychological Warfare is the way the game feel an mechanics match the actual psychological events that they represent in a fun way.
How was the idea for Psychological Warfare conceived?
When we formed the company, one of our shareholders said to me, “If you are creating a company, you will need to create more games.” He pushed me to come up with some ideas. I went home and thought about areas where I have knowledge ? I think that it is best to design games around things that you know. I have a degree in Psychology and Sociology. After I came up with the basic idea, I searched around and discovered that there really isn’t a game that takes on this topic directly. I can’t remember where the name came from 🙂
About how long did it take to come up with the game mechanics/rules, and how long have you been play-testing it?
The concept for Psychological Warfare has been around for about a year. I would write down an idea or two every few weeks and keep it in a file. Our energy was mostly being focused on developing the Zombie Expansion pack at that time. Last fall I went to a gaming day/night at a friends house and we played a variety of games. There was one train themed board/card game that gave me an idea of a mechanic that I could use for Psychological Warfare. I started building around that. The funny thing is that now PW has evolved so much that you would be hard pressed to find any remnants of that idea. We have been actively play-testing for the past few months.
I know you are also in the process of fine tuning the game and redesigning the cards as well, so what did you think of the feedback you’ve received from beta players like Kat?
The feedback from beta players has been great and valuable. Players have commented on game play, the design and card layouts. Kat in particular mentioned changing the color of our SPECIAL cards and having a tapestry watermark behind three cards that line up. We have incorporated those suggestions. One of the things that we have heard along this journey, is that we listen to our beta testers and have responded to their suggestions. I guess that doesn’t always happen. I really welcome it.
Which particular cards are your favorites, and why?
The Drama Queen card is easily my favorite! Mostly because it mimics real life so much in a funny way. When you play this card, you gain Psychic Energy from all of the other player’s Psychological Baggage.
I also like the comment on one of the Backhanded Compliment Cards – “I always feel more intelligent after listening to you” The comments themselves add flavor, but the replay-ability of the game will ultimately come from them many decision points in the game. Playing one of the 8 different Archetypes helps change things up too.
I think the archetype that is most fun to play is the Outlaw. He is doesn’t receive many end game bonuses, but while you are playing you gain points for subtracting points from others.
That’s it for today– peace out, I’m gonna go see the new Robocop.