How to balance a bear?

I hope the past month has been good for you! It certainly has been for me.

I’ve spent as much of the month play testing and implementing play test feedback as I could. As a fan of games that have strategic depth, this is a phase of development that I have been really excited for.

I want every player’s choices to really matter, feel fun, and be thematic, while still maintaining the light and approachable nature of the game that brings players of all kinds together at the table.

If you are one of the 91 who’ve been able to help me in this process by playing the game on tabletop simulator, thank you so much! An extra special thanks to those who’ve sent me recordings of their games– it’s helped a ton in clarifying the rulebook and seeing which cards need some help.

What’s changed due to play testing?

I’ve essentially been focused on three areas of the game this last month, the rulebook, the board layout, and balancing cards.

The biggest change is the rulebook, which is no longer just a text doc with a few component pictures. You can check it out here.

Play testing revealed that there were several rules that players skipped over during gameplay– a couple of which nearly ruined the experience.

To solve this, I added an F.A.Q. page, as well as streamlined the Playing the Game section of the rulebook, so that when you learn or teach the game you can get a consistent experience from the first round.

The park tiles received some significant changes too. Some tiles used switchbacks leading to rest areas and on the rare occasion your path could end abruptly. These mechanics have been removed because of disuse due to a lack of value or were overly punishing to the player in the lead.

In their place? A tight-quarters, windy walking path, some unavoidable bramble, and slightly more accessible rest areas. It’s not just a beautiful park any more– it’s also a naturally occurring obstacle course!

Balancing the cards is a bear of its own, but I’m getting there.

I’ve always known certain cards like “Long Rest” and “Energy Drink” were must-play cards, and others like “Steal” or “Startle” were more situational.

What I hadn’t yet realized until this month was that these cards didn’t just need to be balanced against each other, but also against their value as discard cards (which speed you along to survival).

To balance this, I added a new mechanic to the game called “CHAIN” which lets you play a card after playing certain weaker cards, buffed certain cards to increase their consistency, and gave terrain based equipment positive effects.

The card balance is still a work in progress. It’ll be receiving a lot of attention over the next couple months. But it’s actually pretty huge to be at a point where balance is the focus of play testing instead of playability.

What’s next?

For the next several months, I plan to continue leaning heavily into play testing. So if you have some free time to check it out, I would love to get your feedback! Just reply to this email if you can.

I also need to keep the community growing, so if you have any friends who will like the game please ask them to check out this website and sign up for the mailing list. Seriously– each new subscriber puts my bear one step closer to your living room!

Speaking of of my bear being places, it also looks like I’ll be showing the Outrun the Bear at Dice Tower West. The dates are March 3rd – 6th, so if you’ll be there– or know anyone who will– come over to one of the demo tables and say “hi!”

Well, that’s all the news that I have for now. To get these updates in your inbox, be sure you’re on the mailing list… which reminds me, I’m thinking of sharing some real-life bear encounter stories with the community. I know I have a couple that are simultaneously scary and hilarious, but if you have one that you’d like to share I’d love to hear it too!

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two trees
  Andrea Allemanno