Penny Press still won the Deathmatch, thankfully, but after we were notified of our win (and after Robert and I had come down off the ceiling!), Cards Against Humanity flew us out to Seattle so we could spend the day with Mike Selinker, one of the TTDM judges. Rodney Thompson, another TTDM judge and Seattle-based designer, sat in on a game towards the end of the day and graciously offered his feedback as well. The goal of the meeting was to make sure Penny Press worked well mechanically.
We played the game several times, and the verdict was interesting and unexpected: Penny Press doesn't have a worker placement mechanic as much as a bidding mechanic, and that bidding mechanic works just fine!
In a typical worker placement game, players take turns choosing actions. Those actions are often claimed using ‘workers,’ or game pieces, of which players have a limited amount. In Penny Press, players assign their reporters to stories, which looks like worker placement, but there’s no action associated with the placement. When players go to press, whomever has the most reporters on the story takes it for their newspaper.
Mike and Rodney were right -- assigning reporters was a form of bidding, and not worker placement.
It was easy to get confused. Bidding is usually done with money or resources, not workers. And the way reporters can be assigned and reassigned to stories sure makes it feel like worker placement. When Robert and I applied to be part of the Tabletop Deathmatch, we even listed ‘worker placement’ as one of our game’s mechanics, and while some earlier iterations of Penny Press had locations where reporters would active powers, we’d left that needlessly-cumbersome aspect of the game far behind. Thank goodness we had Mike and Rodney around to set us straight.
Having game gurus like Mike and Rodney play Penny Press at that stage was incredibly helpful, and it gave us the confidence to push on with development. In the end, Penny Press's mechanics proved solid, even if they weren't what they first appeared.