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my playtest review - overall a great game.


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#1 commoner

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 05:17 AM

Hi, new to this section of FFG, as I usually post in other forums.  I finally got a chance to play this game.  I have been playing Arkham Horror for years so when I saw this was coming out I was very excited about it.  I am happy to say that the game is pretty solid and my group enjoyed it a lot.  I was the keeper so I can only review it from that standpoint. 

Overall, I will say the game plays very well.  I really like how fast turns can go, the story elements were surprisingly well written - which I was happy to see as the game completely depends on them.  Players have a good number of options of things to do, which was also great.  The system really didn't take long to pick up at all and all the steps were very straight forward.  It did a good job building suspense and it felt, at times, it was a lot like Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu, except without all the roleplaying stuff thrown it.  But it did remind me of those bi-gone days when I would run RPG modules of Cthulhu.  It really does do a great job of capturing the feel of Cthulhu.  Though there are mechanics (as many of you know) that are very descent based, the mythos cards are absolutely better handled.  I really liked the fact players had an opportunity to make checks to avoid my more powerful cards.  Also, it seems like Threat builds up more slowly, giving the players more breathing room.  I always hated, in descent, when Overlords would try to pound you to death in the first few rooms and it took hours to get through it.  These games, with the keeper having so much power, can often feel like the players are there to entertain the overlord/keeper at times.  I did not at all find that to be the case with MoM.  Again, I really did think it played very well and smoothly.

To be a bit more critical of the game, this is what I found to be troublesome.  On one hand, the players have a lot more freedom to split up, but it does seem, with the 3 clue mechanism that one player takes the brunt of the "story" work and the other two players are simply there to support them.  Sure, there can be trading of necessary items, etc.  But it does lend itself to that style of play.  One of my players didn't find much to do at all and got a little bored since the story did not engage him as much as it did the other two players.  I feel there needed to either more clues or more things for the other players to do that could contribute to the story.  I know that the guy who whacks tons of monsters did a lot of stuff, but to the function of the game, he wasn't really participating in the main game, which was, to uncover/solve the story.  Which could be how the story mechanism itself is designed.  You are supposed to go from point a to b to c, then solve the problem.  Exploration seemed very linear to me and exploring beyond the three central clues seemed somewhat pointless, other than better gear.  This could have been fixed simply by the Keeper being able to place at least one of the vital objects where they wanted to, but instead, those are all scripted based on choices.  I also think the game could have benefited from sub-plots.  For instance, there are the three main clues of the game.  However, there could be a sub-plot the other players could be involved in that would in someway help them find something that would be useful toward their final win condition.  

My next problem was keeper set up.  I don't know how to say it politely, but its not well done.  For those who play Arkham Horror with an expansion, I think you might get what I mean.  First off you have to build your decks.  Which would be like before every new game of Arkham, you had to pull one expansion from your game.  Then, based on your choices, you have to find locations all across the board and put very specific cards in over a dozen rooms.  These list change as well based on the choices you made, so you have to check and double check to make sure you are placing the right choice cards in the right room.  The cards are also listed in the book not in the order they should be placed, but in reverse (i.e. lock cards, which should go on top of the pile are not listed first, they are listed last).  The exploration cards also have no guide to tell you what scenarios they are going to be used in so you have to first sort a deck, then seperate that deck, then place them where they belong.   There are a number of fixed items and random items in the game.  The random items could have been one deck that is set up off to the side and the key, fixed items could have been set up in a pile.  This way, the players could have drawn the random items...well, randomly and the fixed items could have been triggered when players explored certain rooms as it is now, without having to do all that card sorting.  Honestly, I don't think that would have changed the game very much.  

Lastly, the puzzles.  They are an alright mechanism, and I can tell the designers put a lot of top notch work into them.  However, I never really saw them doing much to change the game.  My players were always capable of solving them in one turn and then the game moved on.  I will have to play it more to really say one way or another, but they didn't seem to pose a real challenge or a threat.  My player's didn't like them at all.  I didn't mind them, but I was a keeper so I didn't have to do one.  However, it did seem like the game lost momentum every time one came up.  We'd be going strong, then a puzzle was triggered, and there was a 3-10 minute wait for the player to solve the puzzle (which was done in one turn), then the game moved on.  Maybe they are better used in other scenarios, but in this case, I just didn't see it.  

One thing I would have also liked to have seen is the use of hands.  I know it's picky, but I would have really liked to see how many hands items and equipment took up, that way players could use a pistol and a sword, etc.     

I would have liked to see an item limit on the number of items the investigator's could carry.  This could have been done with a simple printed number on a character sheet.  This way, players would have to make more critical choices and the drop item function might have come up more.  But I will admit, I am a huge fan of survival horror (which is how I've always viewed Cthulhu), so I guess I just found that missing.       

My final thoughts are that this game didn't bring a whole lot of new dimension to the Keeper vs. group style of games.  It is an absolutely great game, don't get me wrong, I just didn't see it push new ground in that direction, except for the story being the motivation of the game.  Hopefully future expansions will add more dimensions to that (more than just new scenarios/equipment/and gear).  Overall, I give the game a 7.   



#2 VonSwarzenhausen

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 01:11 PM

An exceedingly thorough review, Commoner, and I can easily see where you're coming from...

My first experiencekudos to Brady and his brother!was a smashing success. However, setup is long and linear; the master has to place nearly everything by him/herself. In contrast, when we play vanilla Descent, everyone pitches in on map setup; players prepare their heroes while the overlord prepares his deck (and other nasty surprises). Fortunately, in MoM, setup only takes about 10 minutes, so it wasn't a big issue for us.

As for the clues, we found that the fastest person got the first clue, and the rest of the group responded appropriately afterward. The trick was keeping the group "together" because our keeper was horrifyingly adept at punishing us for splitting up.  >D

The puzzles were a fun addition to an already cool game, but they all focussed on intelligence and did somewhat slow down the quick pace of the game. Possible solutions include a dice roll against intelligence or agility, much like a check to open a stuck door; or a special set of dice specific to puzzles. Obviously, these solutions mean scrapping what's already in place, and that ain't gonna happen.

We had issues with the drastic loss of sanity, and without the soul pact we didn't see another way to recover it. I've been considering this issue more than the others because it was our #1 issue, and my best offer is different levels of difficulty (as in Arkham Horror). A beginner's difficulty might allow investigators a +1 bonus on sanity checks or extra skill tokens. A maniacal difficulty might penalize rolls or no starting skill tokens...

I like Commoner's suggestions of hands and limitations on how much an investigator can carry, but I expect these will be house rules... 8D

A great game, all in all, and I'm counting the days until I own my copy!



#3 Mal Reynolds

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 02:15 PM

Nice to see you here Commoner. that was a brilliant review.

I too am very excited about the the game.

 

 

good gaming



#4 Kazi

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 06:34 PM

I've also been the keeper (twice) and here are my two cents.

 

One: To speed along setup the players can actually set up the mansion (all except for the cards) and in fact it is recommended in the books to do so.

Two: Yes, the order to place the cards down in the books does look a bit strange but actually it's right. If cards A, B, and C are in this room you take A and place it face down, then B and finally C (which is usually a lock or something). I know that I really wanted to put A at the top but if you are finding the cards and placing them down as you find them it actually works really well.

Three: So many cards! I've used plastic baggies to sort cards into different groups to make my setup a bit faster. All character stuff in one bag (so I can just toss it at the players and let them have at it), all the plots in their own bag and then I placed them all in another bag with the question tokens, the item cards, locks, obs and house tokens are all in another bag, a bag with the attack cards, a bag of Keeper setup cards (like the traumas and special powers), and then there is a bag of status effects and a bag of wound and madness tokens..... yes I know there are a lot of bags but I can actually find everything this way. This does not mean it will work for everyone or that there is not a better way to do it (in fact I'll probably change it a dozen time before I'm completely happy with it).

Puzzles slowing down your game? Use the optional egg timer rule in the back of the Keeper guide (and maybe allow 2 flips for really intelligent characters or those using a skill point). This will add a feeling of urgency to the puzzle, as well keeping the game moving and keeping the others from getting board.

I would have liked to see an item limit too, and maybe a backpack item that let you carry some extra stuff, but with cards that can already limit the amount of stuff that can be carried and with everyone working against the clock I'd hate for the players to lose just because they had to go back for something (though a way around this would be to make all the plot/lock required items take up no space, I guess it all depends on how hard you want it to be).

 

Other thoughts on speeding up setup and stuff:

Something else you could do about the setup (though without having actually play testing it is hard to say if it will be easier or not). Make a check list of the rooms in the scenario and the cards that are in them (this way you can mark them off as they are explored), and then make a list of the random cards left over for each ending (they can roll the die to see with one they get, going to the next available one if that number was all ready rolled). Then all you have to do is let the players sift through the deck and pull out the right item. Though I'd still place the locks and obstacles on the board. Keep the clues next to you to read out when required. If you make the list on you PC you can always print off more copies.

If anyone tries this let me know how it goes, I'll probably give it a try myself just to see if it speeds things up or not. (I'll post results, and if it works well my lists of cards/rooms too)

Also I've been thinking about going through and writing a small bit a flavor text for each room (and then it may have to be scenario dependent I'm not sure yet, and this maybe a good way to add in a subplot as well) but if it is well done this can help heighten the suspense of the game plus be something additional for those who have wandered off by themselves.

 

 



#5 jhaelen

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 08:36 PM

Personally I'm hoping to see lots of houserules and fan-written scenarios that are way cooler than what comes with the box. That's what I'm really looking forward to.



#6 Jayhotep

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 04:46 AM

I like the "subplots" idea for something else for investigators to look for & a way to expand the story a bit. Maybe they'll include that in an expansion. Only concern is you'd mainly need to use them on the larger map combinations so that players wouldn't be tripping over them left & right.



#7 dvang

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 10:44 AM

I think it was a nice review. I agree with a lot of what was said.

I only played one game, as a player, so my comments can be taken with a hefty grain of salt.

Re: Engaging in the story
Players will get out of the game and storyline what they put into it. From what I could tell, combat is NECESSARY in many cases. Playing Jenny, I realized that my role, having the .45's, was to protect the brainy people. Additionally, we had maniacs jumping out of the darkness and grabbing samples. We *knew* that we didn't want the samples to get away (besides the fact that the sample always seemed to be a bit of Jenny's hair ripped from her scalp, so she was personally motivated) or else bad things would happen (even if we didn't know exactly what). So, Glenn and I gleefully sprayed bullets and everything else we could think of to take down and disable the various monsters that showed up to protect our two friends that were trying to reach the clues. We were involved in the story as much as the others. Sure, we weren't the ones going to the clue locations, but we knew we were important to the group. (Especially since no monster I've seen can easily be taken down with a single attack, practically requiring at least 2 people attacking it)

Re: Setup time
I will repeat what some others have said... while the Keeper is making his decks and choices, the players are supposed to be setting up the map tiles, reading the scenario fluff, and choosing their PCs. So, it isn't all on the Keeper. I expect as the Keeper gets more experienced his set-up will get a lot faster and easier, and that the position of Keeper benefits more from experience than players do.

Re: Puzzles
We never found the puzzles to be time-stopping or distracting. Some of the puzzles were solved quickly, but only because we had Kate (high intelligence) go to where the puzzle was. I played Jenny, and with my weak Int of 4, the one puzzle I attempted I couldn't complete in just 4 moves. In fact, most of the puzzles I saw required more than 4 to solve (although they were generally 5-7 from what I saw). Maybe a turn if the brainy characters are solving the puzzles (as they probably should be), but the less intelligent will be caught up for a turn or two when they try it. That sounds about right to me. Remember that group members cannot talk/assist the puzzle-attempter. I'd also agree that if players are taking a long time to solve a puzzle then you should implement a short timer.

Re: Item limit
In my game no one acquired very many items. We would have 2 or maybe 3 at most, which included a starting item. I don't see a need to have a limit, as it is already difficult enough for the players and the amount of items gained during the course of a game seems pretty minimal.

 

 



#8 Senik

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 12:57 PM

Commoner, Kazi and Dvang, thanks for your reviews.

How log did your game last?

Setup time?

Playing time?



#9 commoner

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 03:46 PM

Hey Mal and Dvang,

Good to see you guys too!  Thanks for everyone's input on the review.  I have a few rebuttles (as those familiar with my posts I often do).  Jenny Barnes was our major problem-solving force.  We had Joe Diamond, Jenny Barnes, and Harvey Walters as our three investigators.  Jenny simply threw her skill points at them, ended up with a 6, and solved them no problem.  As a matter of a fact, Harvey barely managed to find his way out of a freezer, then, when he realized where the final clue was raced to get there, only to arrive and realize, he couldn't get passed the final lock.  Joe Diamond picked up some gear and bailed Jenny out at the last minute...but every puzzle, but one was solved by Jenny.  We also never made passed third event (in the first scenario).  That's how fast they just plowed through it.  Even with m 

I am running this again tomorrow night (I wanted to play, but based on time and experience, I'm at the running helm...which I'd rather leave for other games ;)).  I will try the timer on the puzzles as it did seem to absolutely kill the momentum.  It was the only time I lost the other players attention on the game.  I do like your example of the sample situation.  I wish I would have used more of them, but I didn't use them at all...not fully being aware of how I could use them.  The game definitely needs red herrings and I wish there were more of them throughout. 

Set up time: 

My players did help set up.  They did everything you listed Dvang and they were done well before I was.  Plus, I couldn't place cards until the map was set up which they did last (which I now realize they will be doing first.).  To answer the question about set-up time, it tooks us 2 HOURS!  Now wait, before your jaw drops completely...we were playing with a store copy left over from a demo that weekend.  It was a mess.  So 45-50 minutes of that was sorting and letting investigators choose their characters.  Also, I had only read the rules online, never cracked the keeper guide beforehand, so I really didn't know what to expect.  It was not nearly as intuitive as I wanted it to be. 

I know the cards are right in the face down option as well on the page, but I'm not sorting the cards face down!  LOL!  I don't quite know how I'd find them that way, to be honest, as the backs don't really tell me what the card is on the other side.  Hahahah!  Honestly, they should have listed it the other way.  It would have made sorting a bit faster.  But, I now know to read the entries backwards, so there you go. 

One other layout thing they could have done for it would be to organize the entire sections off of the objectives, in chart form with pretty columns.  So you just had to look down your row and cross reference based on room.  The page lay out is actually a nightmare, in my opinion.  I see why they would have chosen to sort by room, by objective but really, your sorting by objective by room.

Sanity: 

Sanity I messed up until our first break, Mal, and I fully admit it.  I reread the rules and I was like oh, that's how it works.  Yeah...they weren't taking sanity checks for maniacs...I know, I know, bad Keeper.  Oh well.  We still had fun with it.  I will keep my eye on it though Mal. 

Item Limit: 

No, it isn't 100% necessary...but again, it would help with the division of labor between the party.  Making who carries what more of a critical decision and may give other players more use.  Plus, in future expansions it could matter.  It is also a bench mark of horror, those critical choices.  Do I the fire extinguisher for the shotgun.  Oh no, three turns later there is a fire and I stupidly dropped the fire extinguisher.  It would help build tension, suspense, etc by building pressure.  This is necessary for horror and for great storytelling.  All films and most books feature very important items...many of which become more important as the story develops.  Having players back track to get an item just at the most tense moments, truly would increase that drama. 

So no, not necessarily needed for real equipment limitations...but highly necessary to increase the tone, feel, and story of the game as well as player's critical choices and not knowing what comes next.

Play Time: 

It only took us a little over an hour to finish the first game.  They just blew threw it.  Grant it there were breaks, but the system is very fast and very intuitive.  It was a great time all and all.  All in all though, 2 hour set up, 1 hour of breaks and roughly over an hour of playtime + clean up and I'd say 4 1/2 hours.  Now the set up is a bit of a misnomer and it was our first time, so I'd say roughly 3 hours.  About as long as a game of Arkham Horror (if you play that senik). 

So now that I've opened the box and own the game: 

I figured I should come back here and give a further review now that I own the game.  It does not change my initial opinion of it...however, I don't know if the price is right for it.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the components and they really are exceptional, I just don't know, as a stand alone product if I will get 80 dollars worth of replay out of it.  Replay is really the big limitation here.  I hope FFG pumps out scenarios (or some die-hard fans) online.  But the thing is, there are roughly 15 different outcomes in the game, roughly...(3 outcomes for 5 stories), yet there is a lot of repetition about how those final moments play out.  There are tons of things that could have pushed this further already in place in the game...I just see players beginning to fade interest when the play is very similar. 

Now, I know this may sound weird as a follow up, but for roughly 10 dollars more a customer can get Arkham Horror and 1 big box expansion.  Honestly, the replay value there is huge.  I have played easily over 100 games of Arkham and am still not bored with the thing.  It's not so much that the win condition changes, but the lose condition changes...the whole dynamic and my involvement really changes.  Even without that additional expansion, Arkham is so vast and interchanging that I feel this game sort of lacks that level of complexity.  Sure, it definitely makes up for it in simplicity and really the mechanical design is top-notch, I just don't find quite the value = to the price...which I usually get out of FFG games.  

Now when compared to descent I find it way more engaging overall.  I mean, it is the nature of the Dungeon Crawl beast, but this really has a way more dynamic, story driven format that I think a game like descent could easily have.  It also plays faster and limits the keeper power so their actions don't become ridiculous.  Two of my players hate descent.  One of them loves this game...the other, well, she can't get behind, "games that are designed toward playing out the most boring parts of roleplay...the systems!"  Hahahah!  Her words, not mine.  She did admit she liked it better than descent.  

A part of me would have liked some Descent type dice in there (or the Arkham dice), but I still sit the fence on that one.  It would kill the speed of play...which so reminds me of Chaosium's COC.  

Overall, I still think it's a great game.  And I will post a further review after a few more games.  Maybe issues such as replay may dwindle based on how my next few sessions go on.  

All and all, my review may sound critical...but these are minor things and simple concerns.  The game is good and if you like Descent style play or like Cthulhu rpg or a great horror/suspense board game...it's a good game.  Seriously.  Lol! 

Oh, and one easy way they could have done equipment (backpacks) is with a series of sockets on the cards...that attach to other cards...and you are limited by the number of sockets the cards and your character have to the number of items you can carry.  This could vary based on character card you choose...some items could even have sockets that come off those items so other items can link into them.  While larger items (such as shot guns), have no additional sockets.  Gee, I wonder where that idea came from?  

 



#10 dvang

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 07:57 PM

Rebuttal for the Rebuttal! (hehe)

Jenny simply threw her skill points at them, ended up with a 6, and solved them no problem.

I think you played this wrong. Jenny only has 2 skill point tokens for the entire game, and only adds her luck (2) to her intelligence. That means, TWO times in the game she can add +2 to a roll, or her intelligence for a puzzle. There is no way she was solving every puzzle. Trust me, I played Jenny in my demo. She essentially has 4 puzzle moves, unless she blows one of her 2 skill tokens to get 2 more.  4 moves, from the half-dozen puzzles I've seen used, is not enough to solve a puzzle in a single turn. I'd be hesitant, especially with only 2 skill tokens, spending them both to solve a pair of puzzles when Harvey is around to do them, or take a second turn.

Setup:

Yes, the players should set the map up first thing, *then* choose PCs and read the scenario stuff. Our set-up for the demo took about 25 minutes, which included sorting out all the tokens, basing miniatures, and the Keeper player sorting out cards and making choices and figuring out how to make his stacks. IT wasn't too bad, really, and I think will just take practice as well as having things like the tokens separated out ahead of time.

Item Limit:

Are you suggesting a max of 2 items, or something radical like that? In my game I don't think anyone had more than 3 items at a time, and that was because one of the PCs got killed by the Keeper and their stuff dropped (Nun's holy water). I honestly don't think the investigators will tend to have enough time to grab a lot of loot, so this doesn't feel necessary to me.

Play Time:

Wow, your game was short! Our game took about 3 hours, although some of that was learning and checking the rules, and the Keeper was a little slow dealing the combat cards (he got busy trying to explain stuff to the next game's Keeper, and looking at the rules). We did have a full 4 investigators and a Keeper, and we (the investigators) did take some time coordinating our moves. Personally, I see with a little bit of organization and experience this game taking about 2.5 hours to set up and play total. Probably about 15 minutes to set up and 2 hours or so to play. From what I gather, the first scenario (that we played at the demo) was on the shorter side and some of the later scenarios are a bit longer.

But the thing is, there are roughly 15 different outcomes in the game, roughly...(3 outcomes for 5 stories)

This is actually a bit misleading. Scenarios have 3 clues. One of them determines the final objective, which is where you are getting the 5x3=15 from. However, the other two choices that the Keeper makes will alter where the clues are. So really, while there are only 15 "outcomes", there are 5x3x2x2=60 variations (this is also assuming only a choice of 2 cards for the other two clues ... I think at least some of those are actually a choice of 3), and you never know which of the 12 variations/combinations (for that particular scenario) the Keeper has chosen until you've revealed them. Combined with variations of investigator character choices, random Keeper cards, random dice rolls, random cards on the map, etc, it is really more replayable than people think, as far as I can tell.

Of course, I've only played it once. Hoping my copy does arrive tomorrow so we can give it a go Saturday night.
 



#11 Brine

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 08:24 PM

My game lasted about 1.5 hours including setup. Although I did do the Keeper choices and room cards before hand, which is not figured into the time mentioned.



#12 Kazi

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 10:25 PM

I've run through scenario 1 once with 2 players (which I had no clue of most of the rules while running it) and that took about an hour to 90 min to play (setup has been taking me a long time because I'm always double and triple checking things to make sure I have them in the right spot in the right order and I've been doing it all myself usually long before game starts so I don't hold anyone up)

I've also run scenario 5 once with 4 players (I had a slightly better grasp of the rules) As there were more players, it was a bigger map and a longer time between "timed" event. So I think this one took about 3 hours. On a side note it ended fairly disappointing for everyone as well basically one of the players was cheating (he basically ignored what his face down card said) and won the game for the other players while making both of us lose. No one was happy about this not even the other players who technically won. But live and learn.

I've just finished writing up flavor text for all the rooms in scenario 1 using the answers 1a 2a and 3a (though most of the flavor text can probably be used for all the question variations, some probably will require slight tweaking and the occasional copy and paste as items change rooms, but who knows I may end up having to rewrite almost all of them for each variation), and will be play testing the additional text with my brother (and possibly one other player) and I'll also be play testing the not putting the cards on the board thing to see how it goes.

 

 

 

 



#13 FrostyWolf

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 01:12 AM

Wow what a crazy setup time, lol.  Once you have this game bagged and tagged, our setup up (even on our first play, I had bagged and tagged before hand) from opening box to starting game took at most 10 mins.  

Item limit in a game that plays this fast would break flow and make it extremly hard on the investigators, epesically when you only have 1 or 2.  With the event cards flying off the stack, there is no turns to be wasted back tracking.

There are 204 ways the game can play out, not 15.  http://www.fantasyfl...=1&efidt=455107

 



#14 dante42

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 03:15 AM

We started using a timer on someone's cell phone for the puzzles. We agreed that ten seconds per intellect point was fair. The big guns get more choices and more time, and the not so smart folks are rushed without as many options. It helps to put that added pressure on.






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