Each dungeon ecology in the game has four special locations that can only be discovered by configuring the map tiles in a specific combination. These Legendary Locations provide expanded text descriptions and art, and often hold special encounters and treasure. They also always provide a nice little pile of experience points, something the players are always after given the many useful ways it can be spent.
So Legendary Locations are meant to be rare and special discoveries, which the tile configuration requirements creates. Players are aware up front about what it takes to build their existence into the map, and they need to pay attention as they place map tiles if they hope to successfully "locate" one of them.
Until recently, the specific combination had to do with pairing matched symbols on map tile edges. Each Legendary Location had a specific symbol associated with it, and only that symbol could be paired with another like it to create the location. Players have loved the overall concept, but a comment I heard in back-to-back play test sessions was that it would be better if the symbols were more generic and interchangeable in some way. In other words, these players were asking for more flexibility in creating the locations.
As another game designer once shared with me, "The first time you hear a comment it's an opinion. The second time you hear it it's an idea."
So I gave it some thought, and I've come up with a solution that's been testing very well so far. The essential change is that now the tile combination requirements have to do with linking multiple tiles together to create a specifically configured shape. Before it was about matching one of the two available tiles with a specific symbol on it, with the other tile with that specific symbol on it. Now there are multiple "end" pieces, "straight middle segments," and "L's" that can all be used interchangeably to form any of the configurations. The pieces are limited, and some locations are mutually exclusive, so they still feel rare. They also still take thought and skill to create, so they give a nice sense of achievement when you've built one. Lastly, the process is just more engaging now.
You can see what I'm talking about in the prototype images above. The top picture shows the cards for all four Legendary Locations from the Ruins ecology. In the bottom right corner of the cards (in the green circle) you can see the old symbols from the previous matching method. The hand-drawn black and white diagrams I've slipped into the card sleeves at their tops show the new tile configurations. The two bottom pictures show examples of what it looks like to have the map tiles configured correctly to match specific locations.
These kinds of changes are great. The core mechanic stays intact, things don't get any more complicated for the player, and play is experience is enhanced. I love it! :)
Stay tuned for the next post, which will talk about the other great change I've implemented due to tester feedback...