At the time of this posting, I have 990 Twitter followers. That's not a whole lot, all told, but it seems like a lot to me... so I feel like it's something worth celebrating.
I don't tweet as much as I'd like, and I don't always have something interesting to say... but whenever I ask, the followers who reply invariably mention that they're interested in game news and game design stuff.
So what better way to celebrate this milestone than with a game to play?
Sunday, December 08, 2013
At the time of this posting, I have 990 Twitter followers. That's not a whole lot, all told, but it seems like a lot to me... so I feel like it's something worth celebrating.
Sunday, December 01, 2013
Josh Tempkin is a guy from Maryland who comes into Tucson once a year for Thanksgiving. A few years ago he contacted me out of the blue saying he would be in town and asking if there happened to be a chance to do some gaming while he was here. So every year since then Josh will come over for an evening or two for some games, and since he's a designer type, we'll often play some prototypes. So there you go, when going to a new place, sometimes you can contact the gaming community there and make a new friend, just like that! As a side note, last night I found out that I went to high school with his cousin (small world, I guess).
Friday and Saturday Josh came over and we played a few games, including a dice game of his called Lesser Evil, Odysseus: Winds of Fate, and my attempt at a deeper-than-average microgame: MicroCiv.
Lesser EvilSince this is Josh's game, I don't want to say too much about it (I don't know how public it is). As a dice game, it wasn't my favorite type of game to begin with, and in this case I didn't feel like I had the flexibility I would have liked in using the tools I was given to deal with my die rolls.
There's a dynamic that I dislike in games wherein you are forced to make a choice, then find out later (based on a die roll) if you chose correctly. This dynamic exists in some well respected games such as Stefan Feld titles Macao and Bruges - so it's obviously not a "bad" dynamic... just one I don't care for. Lesser Evil had a bit of that in it.
Finally, as the title suggests, it seems like when presented with a meaningful decision in the game, it's often trying to decide between 2 bad options... which is a feeling I also don't care for.
So all in all, while Lesser Evil was a solid game mechanically, it was really not my style of game, and it served to reinforce in my mind how I don't care for that "insufficient info" dynamic.
Odysseus: Winds of FateAfter the recent playtests of WoF at BGGcon, and the revamping of the game that followed, I was really excited to play the latest version of the game. I spent much of Thanksgiving day updating the prototype, and I was all ready to see a great leap of progress when it hit the table, as I was finally incorporating some of the comments from several years ago that have been percolating but have never been tried.
While some of the additions did feel good, unfortunately the playtest was pretty much a "crash and burn." This was pretty disappointing, because I expected it to work at least as well as last weeks games... though to be honest I did have some reservations about some of it.
Some designers will tell you that you shouldn't change more than 1 variable test-to-test, so that if the game stops working you'll know what broke it. I don't subscribe to that. Not to pat my own back or anything, but I feel like most of the time I can compartmentalize how a given change will (or has) affected the game, and so I don't mind changing multiple variables, and if/when that does screw the game up, I don't mind (I actually kind of enjoy) figuring out which thing (or combination of things) caused the problem. I find that progress is far too slow if I only change 1 aspect or variable at a time. Testing time is a commodity in short supply, and there just isn't time to play a whole game just to make sure one small tweak does what I thought it would do.
In this case, I made several big changes. Some of those did not work like I wanted them to, while others did seem promising. Here are some of the things I tried, based on old ideas from years past, as well as recent comments from BGGcon playtests:
* Change payout for Timeline and Destiny bets.
I had most recently been using 30vp divided evenly between players who bet correctly. Some of last weeks players didn't like how that didn't work the same way a bet on a horse race would work, and they suggested making the payoff based on the total number of bets. So instead of 30vp, make it Xvp divided evenly between players making the correct Destiny bet, where X is some multiple of the total number of Destiny bets placed (correct or incorrect). That way, when placing a bet, you're adding to the prize pool, rather than further subdividing a static number.
I wasn't in love with this idea, as the 30vp seemed to be working the way I wanted it to, and this new system seemed like it would likely be very similar, but more mathy and confusing to explain, but in principle it did seem stronger thematically, so I thought I'd give it a try. While explaining the game I immediately realized it was going to be a problem. The comment had come up late in the game at BGGcon, when there was already a number of bets out there, so there was something to be won by placing a bet. But when there are no bets out there, the incentive to put one out there is very small. There would need to be some starting prize pool, or there's no reason to bet. One solution is to force people to begin the game with some Destiny bets, which might be a good idea anyway. That would seed the prize pool with N bets worth of prize. Another solution to that is to remove the standard 2vp per bet in your inventory, so the ONLY way you can score is by placing that bet... but I don't like that for a few reasons. Another solution is to add a minimum payoff, which is just more pieces and more rules to govern this small piece of the game. A variation on that last solution is to make that minimum 30vp and then never increase it - that is to say go back to what I had that worked :)
* Remove all in-game vp and make it all Bet cubes.
I thought this sounded very elegant, but in combination with another change it caused a bit of a problem. I will see if I can salvage this idea, because if I can avoid a score track, or vp chits, then that would be nice. I'd love to just count up score at the end of the game.
* Cube icon = Get cube OR place bet.
This was a way to get more betting into the game, but in combination with the change above (get cubes instead of vp), there were an awful lot of these icons around, and as a result, players could place an awful lot of Timeline bets and Destiny bets, potentially more than 1 at a time. I didn't like that dynamic, especially if not restricted as to where you can place your Timeline bets. It led to a lot of last second betting on the obviously correct outcome.
* Path bets are all free, and every turn.
Something I tried at BGGcon (in the 2nd game, but not the first) was allowing players to place a 'free' Path bet (from the general supply) each round. This turned out to be a really good addition, and one I'd intended but forgot about. The idea is that path bets communicate your intent and allow for temporary collaboration or alliances between players. When you had to place earned bets as path bets, there were far fewer path bets out there, which was not as good.
Path bets used to pay off 6vp divided between bets, and I liked that level of payoff. However, originally it cost you 2vp because you had to give up a bet chip, so the net payoff was 4vp if you were alone, or 1vp if another player shared your bet. When moving to an "all cubes" payoff/scoring system, the idea was that you would simply collect the cube off the board (which came from the general supply), netting you 2vp. If you were alone in the bet, you get an additional cube (net 4vp). This seems in line with my desired balance. I think I liked this change, so maybe possible to maintain the "score only at the end" format. I might restrict the Path bets to 2 cubes per path, to avoid all players piling on to the same path, further differentiating them, and maybe strengthening the temporary alliance aspect.
* Timeline and Destiny bets are earned, you CAN place Timeline bets where other bets are.
At BGGcon we played that you got a free Path bet each round, AND each round you could place one of your earned cubes onto either a Destiny card or the Timeline. However, I restricted Timeline bets to placing only where no other bet exists. There was some discussion about whether that was necessary. I think it's absolutely necessary at the outset (Troy Encounter) to create player differentiation, but I'm not sure it's really necessary for earned Timeline bets. I still like that restriction though, as it lends a lot of value to the "move Bet" reward tiles, which I even powered up to "move your bet up to 2 spaces" rather than just 1 space.
In this new test I removed the restriction for earned bets, and it became a big problem, especially with the frequency players could earn bets. When it becomes obvious the game will end, you can pile 2-3 bets on the correct Timeline space fairly easily, which is a bit ridiculous - it's supposed to be a long-term, strategic bet. This will get better with more limited opportunity to bet, but I still think I prefer the restriction (especially with the beefed up Move Bet reward).
Rather than giving each player the opportunity to place their cubes as Timeline/Destiny bets each round, I would like to go back to an "earned bet" format, where you have to get some reward allowing you to place those bets. So the main betting will be the free Path bets, and the initial Timeline (and Destiny) bets, and there are several opportunities to place more Destiny bets over the course of the game, just not every turn for all players.
I like that the opportunity allows you to invest early in a particular outcome, but if it becomes clear that another outcome will occur, you can start investing in that one... but if you can get your early investment to come true then you will make out ahead. I don't like multiple Destiny bets at the last minute dropped on to the clearly correct outcome. This will likely fix itself when bet opportunities are reduced.
* Adding God tiles to locations, and gods to the Olympus deck.
A suggestion from the Spielbany group (circa 2009) was to add more gods to the game. They thought there wasn't enough reason to want Odysseus to go to one location over another (which really means my Encounter effects aren't pulling their weight - I've since amplified them, but they're still not enough), and one suggestion to make such incentives was to add god tiles to the locations, which players could collect and score as set collection. I would have preferred if the encounter effects offered players the incentives they needed to drive Odysseus around the board, but I did very much like the idea of adding more gods to the game. Over the last 4 years I'd considered many different ways to accomplish this - restructuring the Help/Hinder decks to include more gods than just Poseidon and Athena, etc.
I finally figured out a way I thought would work better, and I finally updated the prototype to include those god tiles! First of all, the bonus for highest contribution to an adventure is that you get the god tile (rather than a bet chip, or some VP). At the end of the game, each god scores 0/1/3 cubes (which is to say 0/2/6vp) for having 1/2/3 of that god's tiles. In addition, I've added those 3 gods to the Olympus deck (which makes all kinds of sense), and when they come up they trigger an effect for players who hold their tiles: Hades allows the player to choose to have Odysseus lose crew, Dionysus allows the player to choose to have Odysseus gain crew, and Hermes allows the player to draw some Adventure cards.
I like the way this worked, EXCEPT, as evidenced by the speed at which this particular game ended, there isn't enough time to collect these things and have them trigger. So I've got some revisions which I hope will help that out.
There might have been some other details that probably didn't go as well as I would have liked, but that was the main stuff. So here's the new plan, which I already incorporated into the prototype:
* God tiles and stuff...
For one thing, I didn't have a god tile at Troy or Ithaca (and Ithaca is a double adventure), so I made 3 Zeus tiles. Zeus does not give any in-game benefits, but he'll act as a wild for end-game scoring. Maybe I'll limit it to 1 Zeus per 'set,' so you can't get 2 Zeus and 3 Hades and score a bajillion points off of that.
I revised the Olympus deck so that each card has 2 Gods on it. Now each of the triggerable gods appears on 3 different Olympus cards, and therefore will trigger more often.
I added "draw an Olympus card and resolve its effect" to one of the Encounter tiles (I should probably add it to another) to get more triggering in there.
I added Reward tiles that you keep in front of you as a God tile (Hades, Hermes, and Dionysus). I also added Reward tiles that basically trigger your god tiles (i.e. "Lose 1 crew per Hades god tile") which will therefore have variable value for different players.
I added cards to the Help/Hinder deck that you keep in front of you as God tiles as well, so it should be much easier to get God tiles (there are a total of 6 of each), as well as cards that trigger your god tiles (which you would play as a special action instead of contributing to the Help/Hinder total). Side note: I wanted those special actions to count against your personal contribution (toward the bonus, now a god tile), but not necessarily count against your overall contribution to the Help/Hinder total. So what I think I'll try is that if you play any card face up for the special action, you are simply disqualified from the bonus altogether, then there's no confusing negative numbers in there. And of course the value on the face up card becomes 0 as well.
So in the end I think I'll reward 0/1/3/6 cubes (that's 0/2/6/12vp) for 1/2/3/4+ god tiles. I could maybe go on another step and reward 10 cubes (20vp) for 5+ god tiles of a type, but that seems like an awful lot, especially with how much access I've added now.
* Reward tiles...
As I mentioned, I added gods to the reward tiles. I am unsure which way I want to go, so I actually added 2 sets... 3 tiles with just the gods and 3 more with the triggers, and then another 3 tiles that act as both (take this as a god tile, then trigger your god tiles of that type). The latter seems really busy, so I'm leaning toward the former.
A suggestion from a player came up that actually reverts back to one of the original ideas for determining crew loss... instead of all of the reward tiles contributing to crew loss, I could reveal N+2 reward tiles, and have only the unclaimed tiles contribute to crew loss. This does a couple of things...
- It allows players to simply grab the tile they want (then deal with it and discard it back to the supply), which is an instinct that many players have had.
- It allows for later turn order players to get more choice of reward, rather than being forced to take something that may not be useful. This may backfire - if there are enough "good" tiles to go around, then players may just pass early. I guess we'll see. This might be why I moved away from that mechanism.
- It allows players to influence crew loss more directly, especially later turn order players. If you want Odysseus to die, maybe leave the reward tiles with larger numbers. If you want him to survive, maybe prioritize those. I expect this consideration to be secondary much of the time, but it could be really interesting, and it harkens back to one of the original mechanisms which got removed somewhere along the line.
- It might also allow for simpler setup, as if there's always N+2 tiles, then there's a constant average crew loss over the different player counts, so there could be the same starting crew across all player counts.
- With this sort of control over crew loss, maybe it would be wise to simplify the Crew Loss rules to say that no matter whether Odysseus wins or loses, he always loses crew according to the unclaimed Reward tiles... rather than "Lose 1 if he wins, X if he loses."
Another thing I did was add an "Advance Round Marker" reward tile, and a "Place Timeline Bet" reward tile. I'm tempted to keep the restriction of placing where no other bet exists, but as this may be the only way to actually add timeline bets now, maybe it would be acceptable to allow placing where bets already are. Should it be disallowed to bet immediately in front of the round marker (like Path bets are disallowed immediately in front of the boat)?
There are still 2 Reward tiles which offer a Destiny action, and I've added a special action in each deck which allows a Destiny action as well. I added Destiny actions to 3 of the encounter tiles (each player in turn order would take a Destiny action), and I hope that doesn't lead to players all piling onto the same Destiny card. I guess we'll see. I believe I will return to the 30vp prize pool for both the Timeline bet and the Destiny bet.
* Stranded at Sea.
There's always been a concern that it might be much harder to strand Odysseus than it is to kill him or get him home safe. There are several ways to advance the round counter: 1 card in each deck, 1 Encounter that advances it, one encounter that advances it twice, and 1 additional advance each time Odysseus revisits any number of face down encounter tiles in a row. I'm not sure why that isn't "for each" face down encounter tile - I probably thought that would be too much advancing of the round counter. Well, I thought I'd try changing that, and adding a Reward tile to advance the counter as well. Hopefully now the game end will be approximately evenly split between Stranded, Dead, and Home Safe.
* The Death Spiral.
The board includes a "death spiral" - a series of encounters that, once visited, create a loop, and if revisited (by definition taking a Stormy path) will result in the game end, as Odysseus will lose all his crew, 1 by 1. With the addition of an hourglass symbol (which advances the round marker) to the backs of the tiles, now that death spiral does not have an obvious effect. Sure, if he enters the loop the game will be over, and Odysseus will not make it home, but it's not clear on which round the game will end, nor whether it will end due to the crew dying, or due to the round counter flying off the track. I mean, it'll be calculable when it happens, but the point is that depending on the game state (what round it is and how much crew Odysseus has left), the Death Spiral could support either a Dead result or a Stranded result, and it could end the game on a variety of rounds.
MicroCiv (v3.0 PnP PDF)Wow, that got long. I actually started this blog post to talk about the updates to MicroCiv! I played a few games of it with Josh and also Dave and John, and I like the direction it has gone. However, I still felt like certain things weren't right. After the latest games and discussion I have updated the prototype again (see link above for v3.0 PDF). Here's a summary of changes:
I like the mix of Territories, but I thought the 2-cost ones weren't good enough, and 2-cost is almost trivial, while 3 cost requires a little more investment. So I changed all the 2-cost Territories to 3-cost, added a Population (1vp) to each, and gave them colors as well.
I like the 2 different 4-cost territories, one that gives +1 defense but no extra points, and one that gives a lot of scoring potential, but has relatively low defense. I thought it would be good to add a 3rd 4-cost into the mix, which gives a straight 2 Pop, and has 5 defense.
I'm pretty darn happy with the techs, but the +1 Pop tech seemed like something to be avoided, just not attractive enough to give up in-game benefit for. Josh suggested making it 2 pop, but I thought it would be much more interesting (and possibly better thematically) to make it a City instead. So now it's worth 0-2 points, depending on how many Politics cards you've got. Maybe it would be interesting to make it *2* cities... maybe that's a metropolis or something, worth 0, 2, or 4 Population. Too much?
For the most part I'm happy with the cards. I did think it was a little too easy to double up on the Discover action, especially with a Discover icon available in the tech, so I upped that to 4 icons required. I feel that puts it more on par with the big Explore and Conquer actions.
The Politics card (Scout) that says "play another card" - I realized that what I really meant was "play another Action" (in other words, instead of playing a card, you could choose to pick up your discards). So I've made that change. I also added "play another action" to the Culture card that lets you swap with the supply. It seems like that card isn't as useful as I'd hoped, and now it allows you to grab a card that you want and then use it right away, maybe that'll make it useful enough.
The other Politics card (Trade) that attempted to allow a player to trade Territories or Techs with another player or the supply just did not work right. I have redone that card, based on a suggestion from Josh... apparently there's some game which has a similar mechanism, and it has a card that allows you to swap the card with a card from your opponent's discard pile. So why not try that? I am not certain I like it, and I think it'll mostly be used at the last minute to grab up good scoring card (or snatch one away from the opponent), but maybe that's ok. As a Politics card, it also permanently reveals a Territory (owned or not).
The Culture action that lets you sweep the supply just doesn't seem to get used. I beefed it up in the last update to add "play another card" (and of course by that I mean "action"), but I still don't see it being used much. As a complement to the "swap with someone's discard" card, I have tried adding this "While this card is in your discard pile, you get +1 Defense." I'll see how interesting that is (it seems like a really interesting dynamic). Note also that when picking up your discards, you'll lose that defense! Of course you can get it back the following turn.
Finally, for potentially thematic and potentially logistical reasons, I swapped the Culture actions on the Yellow and Green cards. Probably not a big deal.
New print and play files are available, if you are so inclined. I think the game is really shaping up, and is almost "done!"
Monday, November 25, 2013
I got several chances to play and revise MicroCiv while I was in Dallas, and with each iteration I believe the game has become better.
I have updated the file linked from my previous blog post (PDF) to reflect the current version. Please feel free to try it out and tell me what you think. It's only 18 cards and 15 tokens.
For those following this game's development, here's a summary of the changes I've made since the last post:
* Changed the "Pop" icon to a "City" to avoid confusion with Population terminology (originally the "Pop" cards simply scored 1 point, now they score 1 point per card and Territory of a particular color)
* Added 2 cards (Scout and Trade actions which let you peek at the back of a face down Territory (owned or not)). These cards score for number of Cities.
* Changed Technology to less of a tug-of-war. Now the Tech tokens have icons for Explore, Conquer, Discover, +1 Defense, and +1 Pop. With a Discover action, you can take the one you want, or make an opponent discard one back to the supply.
* Drat, I forgot I was going to change "Discover" to "Invent" or some other term that is more different than "Explore". Oh well, maybe next update.
* Significant changes to the Territory tiles (now there are 4 1-cost, 4 2-cost, and 2 4-cost, with more interesting benefits)
That's probably about it. If you print it out and try it, please leave a comment below to let me know what you think. Enjoy!
Odysseus: Winds of Fate is one of my favorite designs. I love the theme and the whole idea of the game, but while I've had playable iterations of the game, I've never found a version that I was totally happy with. It's been a while since I have even thought about O:WoF, and I hadn't really tried the latest changes and ideas I'd had.
This week I dusted off the game and brought it to BGG.con with me, and I got in 2 playtests with some folks (Matthew O'Malley, David Chott, Adam McIver, Peter Wocken, John Clair, Steve Behnke, and Chris Johnson). It was great getting to know the game again, and I got some good feedback. I have a good idea now the direction I'd like to take and what I'd like to try next:
An old playtester comment was that there wasn't enough reason to want Odysseus to go to one location over another. Things I've done and considered to combat that include...
1) Allow a free Path bet each round for each player. The Path bets are the way players communicate their intentions, so the more of them that happen, the better.
2) The Spielbany group suggested adding more Greek gods to the game, and associating each encounter with a specific god (3 each of 3 gods). They suggested putting a god tile onto the encounter, and the bonus for biggest contribution to the adventure would earn the god tile for that encounter (rather than a bet chip, which is the current bonus), and there could be some sort of set collection scoring for getting multiples of the same god tile.
The free Path bets each round helped a lot, and I'm not even sure the god tile thing is necessary... but I'd like to give it a shot anyway - I think adding gods would be great thematically, and I finally have an idea of how to do it in a pretty simple way (I think): I've already got an Olympus Deck, from which a card is flipped at the end of each Adventure. Currently there are only Athena and Poseidon cards in the Olympus deck, which help or hinder Odysseus, respectively. I think a nice way to get more gods into the game is to make this Odysseus deck into more of an Event deck, with more gods represented, each with some effect as well as a help/hinder contribution:
Zeus: +4 Hinder. Reshuffle Olympus deck.
Hera: +4 Help. Reshuffle Olympus deck.
Poseidon: +3 Hinder
Athena: +3 Help
Monday, November 18, 2013
I just packed up a backpack with some games to take to BGG.con with me this week. Plane leaves Tuesday, T-minus 36 hours!
I don't like to bring published games to conventions - other people have published games - con libraries are full of them. Bgg.con in particular has a Hot Games room, which is where most of the game I'll want to play will probably be located anyway. What people won't have is prototypes... not my prototypes anyway. That's why I like to bring the games I'm working on.
So here's what's in my backpack right now:
Odysseus: Winds of Fate is an old favorite design, and one I feel has real potential, but that I never was able to "finish." I brought it up at Sasquatch last week in conversation with David Chott, and it made me realize how long it's been since I've even thought about the game. David thought it sounded interesting, so I've dusted it off to bring to Dallas with me. I recall wanting to make certain changes for a new version, but I don't believe I've done that yet - so if we play it it'll have to be with the old version.
EmDice, my dice game based on Eminent Domain is probably as done as it's going to get. I rebuilt the prototype recently (following the unfortunate robbery of my prototype bag). I haven't played it in a while, but if anyone's interested, I'll have it with me in Dallas.
And of course I'm bringing EmDo with Escalation, it's no longer a prototype, but the ship bearing the production copies of Escalation doesn't arrive for another week, so my advance copy may interest some EmDo fans :)
Belfort: the Expansion expansion is on that same boat, so I'm bringing that with me as well. It'll require a copy of Belfort from the library though, because I'm not schlepping one of those with me!
Rockin Roll, a dice game follow up to Dungeon Roll, is getting closer to finished, but still isn't quite there yet. I'll have the current version with me, and I'll be looking for opinions on what to change (I already have some changes I'm considering)
I've got a current prototype of KoAaS: World Fair expansion, in case anybody wants to see what's coming up for that game in 2014.
MicroCiv, my newest idea - an attempt at a "microgame," with just 16 cards and 15 tokens, this 2 player civ game seems to be working out so far. I'm hoping to find out if people like it or not.
Battlecruiser, by Philip DuBerry, is a card game that plays like a microgame, but with a lot of variability from an abundance of different cards (of which you only use 5-8 per game).
And finally, I've got a prototype of Exhibit: Artifacts of the Ages, my bluff auction set collection game which I'm happy to say has been picked up by a european publisher :)
So, what are you bringing to BGG.con this week?
Sunday, November 17, 2013
I mentioned in my last post that Michael has gotten very interested in microgames. The other day I thought I would see if I could make an interesting game with minimal components, so after giving it some thought I have put together a prototype on Friday, solo tested it that night, and got a chance to try it out with a couple people at the Ides of Gaming game day Saturday. This is just a first draft, and I can already see several things I'd like to update, but for a first draft the game certainly worked, and for the most part I think it worked pretty well. Here's the gist of it:
16 MicroCiv cards
10 Territory tokens
5 Technology tokens
* Shuffle the 16 MicroCiv cards and deal 3 face up into the supply.
* Mix the Territory tokens face down.
* Give 2 Technology tokens to each player and place the 5th token in the center.
* Randomly determine a start player.
Beginning with the start player, take turns adding cards to their hand and playing actions to explore and conquer territories and make discoveries to increase their Population. On your turn, you do the following:
1) Draw a card from the supply, then, if cards remain in the deck, re-fill the supply from the deck.
2a) Play a card from your hand and resolve the action printed on it, then place it into your discard pile. Some actions allow you to reveal additional icons (from your hand, Territories, or Technology) in order to get a better effect.
2b) Return all cards from your discard pile to your hand.
When the deck is exhausted, continue play without refilling the supply when cards are drawn. When the last card is drawn from the supply, the active player finishes their turn and the game ends. Players collect all cards from their hands and discard piles and determines their Population (score):
* Each card has a scoring condition at the bottom, indicating its Population value:
** 1 Population per Territory controlled,
** 1 Population per Territory in Spoils,
** 1 Population per Tech advantage (your Tech tokens minus your opponent's Tech tokens)
** 2 Population
* There are 4 cards and 1 Territory in each color. For each color, count 1/3/6/10 Population for 1/2/3/4+ items (cards and Territories) in that color.
* Some Territories indicate that they score additional Population.
The player with the most Population wins!
Reveal Explore icons and take a Territory with that cost. You may look at your Territories, but keep them face down. You may reveal a Territory at any time to gain its benefit.
Reveal Conquer icons. Choose a Territory (owned or not) and reveal it. if your revealed Conquer icons meet or exceed the Defense value, put the Territory into your Spoils. You do not gain the benefits shown.
Note: Territories owned by players benefit from 1 additional Defense!
Take 1 Tech token from the center OR opponent discards 1 Tech token to the center. Reveal 3 Discover icons to repeat this process.
Any time you have more Tech tokens than your opponent, take the Technology Advantage tile. Technology Advantage gives you 1 Conquer icon, 1 Explore icon, and 1 additional Defense for all of your owned Territories.
There are 4 unique Culture actions.
* Swap this card with a card from the supply.
* Pick up and immediately play 1 card from your discard pile.
* It there is a Tech token in the center, take it. Return 1 card from your discard pile to your hand.
* You may play this action before or after drawing a card. Move any number of cards from the supply to the bottom of the deck in any order, then replace them with cards from the deck.
Michael has been fascinated by the idea of so-called "microgames" for a while now. Ever since Love Letter met with great success and people started saying that games with minimal components are the wave of the future he has wanted to figure out how to produce and market them in a way he was happy with.
As those who follow TMG probably already know, we have a Kickstarter project going on right now for a Dungeon Roll Winter Promo - 4 new Heroes and a punchboard of Treasure tokens - and it's doing very well. There are just 2 days left, and we're over 5,000 backers! This performance has given Michael confidence in the format, and in researching this promo pack he's decided that he's comfortable shipping out microgames as well.
A year or so ago Michael, with microgames in mind, started working on a partial information, deduction game of his own. It's called Templar Intrigue, and it's in the genre of Werewolf and Resistance/Avalon. It plays much faster than other similar games, and uses just 10 cards. At one time the plan was to make Templar Intrigue available as a print and play game, and if it proved popular, Michael could use Kickstarter to print a higher quality version and sell it at a low price. Well, plans changed a bit... Templar Intrigue is on Kickstarter right now, and has over 2400 backers.
Both of these Kickstarter projects have a few common elements. For one thing, they are very short duration Quickstarters, a format that I like a lot for KS in general. Another common thing is the price structure. Michael is asking people to "pay what they want," with a minimum of $2 ($3 internationally) just to cover postage. This has proven to be a fairly popular price structure, and while some people are most certainly taking the opportunity to get the games at the minimum price, enough people are chipping in extra that the average per unit pledge is about $4.50 or so. This is only a tad under the "suggested" price of $5 (what the games would sell for normally).
I know Michael's got a few more microgame projects planned for the near future. The idea of microgames is interesting - in today's age of busy-busy-busy, interesting games that don't take a lot of time or space are a welcome thing. Often there's just no time for a bigger game experience. However, in most cases I find that I prefer a deeper experience than a microgame can offer, so I hope that the gaming world doesn't migrate entirely to these small, quick games... I'm sure it won't. In fact, TMG has another full size game project coming to kickstarter soon. It's for the hottest euro-style game you've ever played: Scoville!
Saturday, November 16, 2013
A few weeks ago I had some game design thoughts, but I never finished the post. Here it is now... I probably meant to write more, but I haven't really thought about it since.
It's been a while since I really did any new game design - with an exception being the game design retreat I hosted last July. Today I thought I'd like to do something new... but what? In general my M.O. is to put tried and true concepts together in new or unique ways, but I kind of want to do something more unique. Something that won't be derided as "derivative" on BGG.
I started thinking about that a little bit today, and so far all I've got is the beginnings of an idea. Imagine a game where you do well by helping an opponent do well. There have been games in which players must cooperate against the game system (lest they all lose), and yet are in competition with each other. One major issue with games like that is that if a player finds they are out of the running to win, they no longer have incentive to cooperate vs the game. In some cases a losing player can decide to bring their opponents down with them, so to speak. My thought is a bit different, more like a game where players are out to better their own position, but also score points based on the ranking of their opponents in various aspects of the game.
For this to work, there would have to be several different aspects of the game at which players could compete or excel. As a player, your score would be the combination of your own performance at each of these, and the performance of specific other players as well. For example, if I were playing a game with Russell, Michael, and Mandy, I might score for Russell's performance in one particular aspect, Michael's performance in another particular aspect, and Mandy's performance in a third aspect.
Civ games tend to have various different aspects, such as Military, Civics, Agriculture, Technology, etc. So maybe that is the way to go. I had mentioned before wanting to re-use the main mechanism from Eminent Domain, possibly with a historical civ type of game. Maybe this is a good fit. I realize I just said I wanted to do something "new" - but the Eminent Domain's "deck learning" mechanism is original, and therefore maybe acceptable to use. I think the desire to help your opponents might be novel and new - I don't think I've seen it done before.
I like the deck management aspect of the Deck Learning mechanism, and maybe there's a way to entangle that with an interactive trading mechanism. Suppose in addition to the cards in your deck/hand, there is some kind of income you receive, or rather resources you get access to via trade. Like Settlers, suppose you could offer to trade a card in hand for a card in an opponents' hand - but rather than exchange actual cards, each of those players would take the card from their hand and place it on their board (face down probably) on a space in their tableau matching the card they're trading for. So you lose the card from your deck, representing a constant export of that thing, and you gain permanent access to whatever you just traded for. Thus you need not fill your deck with that thing in order to use it.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
This morning I had one of those infamous and elusive "AHA!" moments. It's a small idea for a game, but it feels like a big step forward. It went something like this:
There's a game I'm working on for TMG - kind of a follow up to Dungeon Roll. I say follow up because it's a dice game, and it's similar in scope to DR, but it is otherwise completely unrelated. I suspect some of the people who enjoyed Dungeon Roll might enjoy this as well.
In the game, you roll some dice (obviously). Each turn you use some, and re-roll the ones you used but not the ones that went unused. Kinda like I have done for EmDice (Eminent Domain: the Dice Game). This mechanism has a tendency to build up certain die faces until you use them, but if the die face that builds up is not one you want to use, then you have a problem... unless of course you're allowed to re-roll things in some way. The latest rule was that you COULD re-roll some dice, if you sacrifice one of your dice forever. Or possibly score 0 points for the turn.
In addition, there are some cards in the game which can help increase your score for the turn. Originally three was going to be a sort of draft to get these cards, which I'd hoped would allow players to get good synergy out of their cards... but based on the scope of the game, it's quicker and simpler to just deal out the cards. My concern of course was about fairness, and especially the perception of fairness. In a light game, players aren't going to do math or analyze everything to see if the cards are fair, they're just going to either feel like their cards were as good as their opponents' cards, or not. So more important than the cards actually being fair, there has to be something to compensate a player who got a "bad hand."
My first approach to this was to award bonus points for cards leftover... generally speaking you would do better to actually play the card, but if you got a card you couldn't use, at least you get something out of the deal. That seemed OK at first, but in reality that doesn't solve any problems at all, and it introduces questions such as what's a fair compensation? And at what point is it actually better to NOT play the cards? No, that wasn't the right solution. But what is?
This morning I had a minor epiphany about this - one of those "Aha!" moments you read about. There does need to be some compensation for being dealt a card that, in theory, could be completely useless... but rather than points, why not allow players to discard any card they want to re-roll their dice? Like most Aha! moments, after having this idea it seemed so obvious it's tough to imagine NOT thinking of it. As it stands, sacrificing a die to get a re-roll is an awfully high price to pay, but you'd do it a couple times at the last minute to score a few more points, or possibly once early if your roll is atrocious (though that's probably just asking for trouble). So more ability to re-roll would be welcome, and if you have been dealt a card you know won't be useful, then you can happily spend it for a "free" re-roll! If you ave a card that could be worth +1 point, you might even consider whether a re-roll would be worth more than that (based on what you have).
At any rate, I'm pretty happy with this realization. Aha moments feel good, no matter how minor they are or how obvious they feel after the fact. I look forward to testing this game again with this new rule (as well as the updated cards I recently made) :)
What Aha! moments have you had in your designs?