Last night was another round of live testing, and we had about 10 people playing and observing the game - good times.
I think we're getting very close to polished here.
I can honestly say that I walked away from that evening with only several minor things I wanted to tweak, but generally speaking the Flow of the game has improved immensely and players seem to be enjoying themselves.
1. I love the battle between nerfing and buffing gladiators. People grow very attached to their favorites, which is great. It's personal! :)
2. Another thing about testing is that generally speaking everyone is still very new to the game. It's perfect for feedback on the rules, and learning curve, and stumbling block - but it's much harder to get a feel for things like average game time, and advanced strategies. Anyhow, I noticed that this time when two expereinced players sit down to play it moves much quicker and games are much closer to the target 30 minutes.
3. I added a late mechanic to the game called "Crowd Favorite." Whoever has more Cheer, is the current favorite. I was a little nervous about this mechanic because it felt, on the surface, like it might reward those with more resources, helping the "leader.". But it doesn't play out like that at all. It actually adds a good deal of depth as you manage resources and maintain favor as long as you can to pull off certain moves. It's something I look forward to exploring better in expansions.
4. There is seriously nothing more rewarding than watching players unlock strategy and combos in this game.
5. A couple slight card tweaks and a touch more piercing damage, and this time the high-armor gladiators were crumbling at much healthier pace. Feels about right.