Geekinsight at GFBR has been playtesting Death Mesa and wrote 2 reviews of his experience at Giant Fire Breathing Robot. His first review noted both positive things about the expansion and some of the downsides of it in his initial estimation. The second corrected some of his remarks in the first review, while also aptly noting where Death Mesa could use some improvement.
As for the first review, Geekinsight noted the following positive things about the expansion:
Death Mesa does a good job with keeping the dead players in and feeling useful. After all, if the dead players felt like they couldn’t impact the game, then they would be just as bored as if they were out of the game completely. I also like the idea of a separate “dead man’s deck” of powers that the dead players draw from.
However, Geekinsight also noted some defects. He felt that some of the cards were "completely overblown with power," and so the ghosts were too powerful, distorting teamplay. He also thought the concept of the "buried goods" needed some work.
But he added:
Still, as an “Alpha” version proof-of-concept piece, I like it. I’ll be watching for a revised Beta version hopefully in the near future.
Read the full initial review here.
I was a little confused by the cards that Geekinsight thought were overpowered, and so I asked him which ones in the comments section of the review. He noted Seance and the East Wind as being too powerful, but he understood them incorrectly. He thought that Seance stole 2 cards from a living player and gave them to another (instead of simply showing them to another living player), and the East Wind bled cards from 2 rivals and potentially prevented them from attacking team mates (versus simply making it more difficult for 2 rivals to attack one another). I blame this on my poor wording of the cards, which I will update in a 1.02 patch.
Geekinsight and I began a good e-mail correspondence back and forth with one another about Death Mesa. I clarified the seemingly overpowered cards to him and he thought the cards were much better balanced afterwards. We found out that he also forgot to play with the rule that living players could play BANG! to discard Dead Men's Deck cards from ghosts. He was very positive and thoughtful, helping me envisage some new ways to play with, gather, and disseminate the "buried goods," which I agree with him needed some work. He kindly noted, "With just a few kinks to work out, I think it would be an absolutely mandatory expansion [to BANG!]." He playtested Death Mesa again with a better understanding of the cards and the rules, and wrote a second review.
In the second review, Geekinsight claimed he "had a much improved experience." In some detail, he observed:
With the clarifications personally provided by the creator, as well as an additional rule that we overlooked allowing living players to force dead players to discard, the ghosts ended up being at just the right level of powerful. Frankly, in our first games we were hoping our teammates died. They had a much improved impact on the game as a ghost. Now, that changed. While ghosts were still a factor, and certainly able to influence play, they were not the unstoppable juggernaut. It was always better to have a living teammate than a dead one, even if a dead one was still able to provide some aid.
This is exactly what I hoped Death Mesa would do with the ghosts, in terms of their level of power. Besides this, Geekinsight noted that the "buried goods" mechanic still needs some work. I will be introducing some different options to improve this mechanic soon, some of which were provided by Geekinsight. These too will appear in the 1.02 patch. The review concluded:
It’s certainly playable, and I think even in its current form, it improves the Bang! experience. But it isn’t perfect just yet. Still, that shouldn’t stop you from downloading it and giving it a play. I’ve found Martin to be exceptionally open-minded and willing to discuss any feedback. Perhaps with all the input we’ll get a new and improved Beta version.
I think Geekinsight's estimation of Death Mesa is correct, and I hope that with both his and many other's help that it can be much improved.
Read the second review here.
Geekinsight also has scheduled an interview with me about BANG! and Death Mesa tomorrow evening. I will provide a link to the interview when it is completed.