Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Leavin' on a jet plane - don't know when I'll be back again..." BGGcon 2014

In a few minutes I'm heading out to the airport for my annual pilgrimage to Dallas for BGGcon. This is the 10th year they've held the convention, and it's the 10th year I'll attend. I remember the beginnings - a 300 person, 3 day con - BGGcon has now grown to 2000+ people which runs from Wednesday through Sunday, with people showing up Tuesday for the unofficial pre-con.

My friend Brian lives in Dallas, and I'm looking forward to seeing him this week. I'll see Mike and the TMG crew (Andy and Daniel) as well.

I hope to play more of the new hotness that I saw/played at Sasquatch a few weeks ago... games like Orleans, La Granja, Versailles, etc. I didn't try Zanghuo and would like to. I might like to play Mysterium again as well.

I'm bringing some prototypes, as usual... I've got the following in my bag:
* Odysseus: Winds of Fate
* The Knights Templar
* Deck Building Rails
* Dungeon of Fortune
* Steam Works
* Frontiers
* Microcosm
* Eminent Domain: Exotica
* Bomb Squad
* Exhibit: Artifacts of the Ages

Aaaaand my ride is here!

I look forward to seeing you in Dallas :)

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Appropriate vs Inappropriate Social Media Marketing," or "Right and Wrong Ways To Promote Your Kickstarter"




I have a pet peeve about direct marketing... it's been triggered before, and I'm sure it'll be triggered again. It has to do with all these newfangled social networks, especially when combined with this newfangled crowdfunding stuff you hear about.

It just so happens that this came up last week, and again this week, so I thought I'd vent a little bit by writing a blog post about it. Basically this post is to plead with you about how NOT to go about promoting your Kickstarter project...

Last week (Nov 9th) a Twitter account called Soccer City (@SoccerCityGame) sent me a tweet - directly to me (notice the @sedjtroll at the beginning, meaning it triggered my notifications but didn't appear in their public feed):
"@sedjtroll You will to love this game [KS link] Please RT and help everyone have the best soccer board game ever THKS!"

This person obviously does not know me. I couldn't care much less about soccer, and I find it highly unlikely that I'll love their greatest soccer board game ever. I'm also unimpressed with the typo ("will to love") which they copied and pasted into many, many tweets.

They got well over 100 instances of that same or very similar message out before myself and maybe a few others replied that it wasn't appropriate. I did get an apology (as did 2 or 3 others), and I see a sort of public apology as well, and after Nov 9th I don't see any more direct tweets of that nature. At least these guys seem to have learned their lesson!

I'm a little surprised this doesn't happen more often and when it does I wonder if I'm overreacting when I reply asking them not to reach out to me personally and directly, asking me to help them push their project. But I feel it's an important principle. Especially when a week later it happens again:

Yesterday (11/16), WhatWeMake (@WhatWeMake) sent this tweet, again directly to me (see the @sedjtroll at the beginning):
"@sedjtroll if you like miniatures, card play, sci-fi and spaceships you might LOVE this: [KS link]"

At least this one equivocates... they don't presume that I'll love their game, they just suggest that I MIGHT, given other factors. Is this better or worse? If @SoccerCityGame legitimately thought I would like their game, based on knowing me and my personal likes and dislikes, I think their message might almost be appropriate. @WhatWeMake's message was flagrant "I have no regard for your feelings toward my project, but I'm going to bother you, and ask you to bother all all of your friends and followers, about it" self promotion.

Curious, I clicked on this user's name and checked his "Tweets & replies" thread - no fewer than 128 instances of the exact same or very similar text, tweeted directly at famous people like Wil Wheaton, small publishers like @TastyMinstrel and @DiceHateMe, big name designers such as @toinito and @eric_lang, board game media people such as @TheOneTAR and @UndeadViking, and indie designers/twitter personalities such as @PuppyShogun and @HyperboleGrant. 128 instances in a day... and checking again now I count no fewer than 54 more such messages just in the last couple of hours!

In that time I saw maybe 3 or 4 appropriate tweets about the project.

Here's the thing. Nobody likes intrusive marketing. If you knock on my door, interrupting my dinner, trying to sell me a vacuum cleaner, I'm not going to be happy about it. If you call me on the phone, interrupting my day, trying to sell me magazines, I'm not going to be happy about it. I'm not thrilled that my physical mailbox acts more like a trash can than a method of communication... Nobody is.

In the digital age, this extends to the personal inbox, of which we all have many. Nobody likes Spam email, and companies that provide email services do their darndest to preemptively filter Spam out for you. Have you ever looked in your Spam folder? Imagine if there wasn't automatic Spam filtering, and your email was constantly cluttered with 100 messages a day from people offering you sex, drugs, and fake timepieces that look just like the real thing!

If you can imagine how much of a pain it would be to manage one inbox while sifting through a torrent of unwanted advertisements, then you can probably imagine it for several (yahoo, gmail, BGG Geekmail, FaceBook, Twitter, work email, etc), and you can probably see where I'm going with this rant.

In case it's not clear how invasion of a personal digital inbox is analogous to a more personal phone call, consider that many people have notifications sent to their email, tablet, and/or cell phone whenever someone sends them a private/direct message, or even just tags them in a Tweet or FaceBook status. In that case, by tweeting @sedjtroll you're not just sending me a message that I will see. You're reaching out from the internet and tapping me on the shoulder saying "lookoverhere, lookoverhere!" And depending on the method you use, you might be - literally - doing it from 3 directions at once, as my computer beeps at me, my phone vibrates, and my tablet plays a soft tone from the next room. All while I'm trying to work, read, enjoy a TV show, or - god forbid - design a game!

Today's social networks make it easier than ever to connect with other people, but this larger surface area with which to interact can be a double edged sword. It's also painfully easy for people to contact you even if you don't want them to. Therefore it's important that we respect each other's personal space - and that includes the personal space in the digital world. Just like you don't want your phone ringing from a telemarketer offering a "great deal" on a home refinance, you also don't want your twitter notifications blowing up to let you know about this "great new soccer board game."

I can't help but think about the extreme here. I am immersed in the world of board game design and publishing, and many of my Twitter followers, and people I follow, run Kickstarter projects for their games all the time. If I got three announcements (phone, computer, and tablet) every single time someone I knew launched a kickstarter project (in addition to all the other notifications, email, and things I've actually subscribed to), the internet would be literally unusable! It would be very much like trying to maintain an email box without an automatic Spam filter - in fact, maybe 3 such inboxes.

Nobody wants that!

So please, Please, PLEASE heed my request... do not directly contact people with what amounts to Spam!

"But Seth!" I hear you cry... "I need to get the word out, or my Kickstarter project will fail! Not everyone has the reach of TMG!"

There are appropriate ways to do internet or direct marketing. It's true that not everybody has the reach of a company like TMG, but you know what? No too long ago, TMG didn't have that kind of reach either. And you can check whatever histories you want to, you won't find hundreds of instances of direct requests to share TMG Kickstarter projects.

Michael was very transparent as he went through the journey of a fledgling publisher, and one of the big things he talked about was Permission Marketing. Sending emails directly to someone about your kickstarter is OK if they have specifically opted in and requested it. Collecting emails of people interested in your project, and getting their permission to email them directly... THAT'S an example of appropriate direct marketing.

Tweeting and posting about your project and asking for retweets, without tagging any innocent bystanders, is also perfectly appropriate. You will find that our friends and fans will likely share the message on their own, which is their prerogative. Assuming of course that they do so in an appropriate way.

The best thing to do is to grow your tribe ahead of time, so that when you do post about your crowdfunding project, you'll have people willing to hear you. There are many ways to do this, and most of them include contributing something to the community you're trying to turn into an audience. Write a blog, do game reviews, make some videos, or start a podcast. Build an audience ahead of time and you will find it much easier to get the word out about your kickstarter project.

I feel I need to take a stand against unsolicited Spam coming from my personal friends and followers! I think there needs to be a way to fight back, to show offenders that this type of behavior is inappropriate, and nip it in the bud - make sure proper etiquette and protocol is out there so that we don't need to go through this type of thing every time a new kickstarter is launched.

How can we do this? I'm open to ideas. I'm considering composing a universal, generic response (140 characters or fewer) which could be used on any social network, politely informing the offender that they've broken etiquette, and warn them against repeating their offense. Perhaps something like:

"@xxx Spam is inappropriate and inconsiderate. Please don't do that, you're ruining the internet for everyone else."

Because I'm a little vindictive, and because my temper for this type of thing is short, I kind of want to encourage a "retro-smash," where a response like that could bear a hashtag such as #HowDoYouLikeIt, and when an offense occurs, the response bearing that hashtag could be sent by tens-to-hundreds of people, with the offender tagged of course, which should hopefully drive home the point. Of course this type of retro-smash would have to be used appropriately as well - mob justice is only OK if it doesn't get out of hand :)

Down with personalized Spam! 

Who's with me?

Leave a comment below, I'm curious how you deal with personal requests for promotion.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Exhibit: first game in AGES!

Today I attended a Raytheon Game Group picnic, where I was invited as a "guest of honor." We played a few games, ate some burgers... it was a great time. I managed to win a game of Five Tribes - one I've played a couple of times but not done too well at, and then Eisen and Jonathan played a game of Exhibit: Artifacts of the Ages with me. I haven't played that game in quite some time, and it was fun!

A real nailbitier too... Jonathan and I had just about the same stuff, 2 1-tile sets, 2 2-tile sets, 2 leftover artifacts, and 1 larger set. My larger set had 5 tiles, while his only had 4. However, only 2 of my sets were art, while he had 4 art exhibits. Art exhibits confer no benefit, but are worth an additional 1 point at the end of the game. My 5-tile set was worth 3 more points than his 4-tile set, so I ended up winning by 1 point!

It used to be the case that Art exhibits were worth 2 additional points, but when I shortened the game to 5 rounds, I lowered that to 1 point, since there's less time to use Tools and Weapons... I didn't want the extra VP from Art to overpower the usefulness of the other powers. However, I don't think I'm happy with that. At only 1 additional point, I think players will simply use Tools or Weapons early, and Art late. I would like Art to be worth enough that a player might CHOOSE to make an Art exhibit early, in lieu of something that confers an ability. So I think I'll revert the value of Art back to 2vp.

This game is still in the hands of the European publisher I talked to at Essen 2 years ago. They still want to do it, but (a) they've been busy, and (b) there's a small hiccup that we need to deal with. Those who follow my blog may remember that the main mechanism for Exhibit, the bluff auction, originally was one a friend and I came up with together for another game. We worked on that other game together until he left town, and stopped replying to my messages. After several years with that game on the shelf (since I couldn't very well continue to work on it without him), I decided it was a shame not to use that mechanism, so I started over and made a new, different game with it: Exhibit. I have chronicled the development of Exhibit on this blog.

Upon hearing that I'd sold Exhibit to a publisher, said friend appears to believe that the game I'd licensed was the same game he and I had worked on. I disagree, as described above, but I don't want this situation to blow back on the publisher in any way so at this time I'm waiting for my friend to forward his design notes from the game we worked on together so that the publisher can asses whether they think the two games are too similar or not. It's been a year, but I hope this happens soon... and that the publisher (and their lawyers) agree with my assessment, so that I can finally announce that a game of mine is being published by a 3rd party (i.e. not my friend Michael)!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Deck Learning Rail Game

Deck Learning Rail Game

A deck Learning game for 2-4 players by Seth Jaffee


I finally got a prototype together for the Deck Learning Rail Game I've been talking about... check it out!












Components:
* 108 Role cards - Put in stacks by type (Build, Deliver, Fund, Upgrade).
* 4 Engine cards - Give 1 to each player, return the rest to the box.
* 27 City cards - Separate by Stage, shuffle each stage and stack Stage I atop Stage II atop Stage III.
* 18 Upgrade cards - Shuffle and reveal 3 to form the Upgrade pool.
* 36 Route cards (6@1vp, 12@2vp, 12@3vp, 6@4vp) - Shuffle each set and deal each player 6 Route cards (1@1vp, 2@2vp, 2@3vp, 1@4vp).
* 40 Track tokens (10 each in 4 player colors) - give each player the Track tokens in their color.
* 50 cubes (10 each in 5 colors) - Set aside in a supply.
* 26 coins - Set aside in a supply.
* 26 VP tokens - Set aside in a supply.

Setup:
* Each player should create a starting deck by taking 2 cards of each type (Build, Deliver, Fund, Upgrade). Shuffle your starting deck and draw a hand of 4 cards.
* Place the top City card into play, and place the cubes indicated on the card from the supply.
* Reveal the top 3 City cards from the deck to form a City pool.

Game Play:
On your turn, follow these steps:
1. You may play a card from your hand for its Action effect. Alternatively, you may use the Action printed on your Engine card, or any of your tech cards in play.
2. You must choose a role from the stacks. Take a card from the stacks and put it into play. You may boost the role by playing additional icons from your hand or from techs in play.
3. You may discard any cards you want, and keep any cards you want, then reset your hand to 4 cards.

This game is not a Role Selection game though, so there will be no Following or Dissenting like in Eminent Domain.

Actions and Roles:

Build:

Action: Place one of your Track tokens adjacent to a City card in play.
If there are as many of your Track tokens adjacent to a City cad as the number printed on the station on that side of the card, then you may Build a Station (see below) instead of placing track.

Role: For each Build icon played, place one of your Track tokens adjacent to a City card in play. If there are as many of your Track tokens adjacent to a City cad as the number printed on the station on that side of the card, then you may Build a Station (see below) instead of placing any track.

Building a Station: Reclaim your Track tokens and place one of the City cards from the supply in that location, oriented as you choose. Replace the City card from the deck to return the pool to 3 cards.
If another player also had any Track tokens in that location, return them to their owner along with $1 for each.

Deliver:

Action: Move 1 cube in play to an adjacent City card. If that City card has matching demand, you may Complete the Delivery (see below), but Stations do not pay out when using a Deliver Action.

Role: Each Delivery icon played gives you a number of movement points to spend moving 1 cube in play [to a City card that has matching demand]. The cost to move from one city to the next is 1 movement point, plus the difference between the numbers on the stations between the cities.

For example, consider that the board looks like this:

[City A][2][5][City B][4][3][City C]

Moving a cube from City A, through City B, to City C would cost (1+(5-2))+(1+(4-3)) = 6 movement points.

Delivering a cube to a city with matching demand Completes the Delivery (see below). When doing a Deliver Role, Stations pay out: When a cube passes through a pair of Stations, the owners of those stations receive a reward. One of the Station owners receive $1, the other owner receives 1 Victory Point. The active player chooses which Station pays out the $1 and which pays out the 1vp.

Completing a Delivery: When moving a cube to a city with matching demand, you may choose to Complete the Delivery. Remove the cube from the game and claim the Delivery bonus printed on the City card.

Fund:

Action: Buy a Station (see below) or Collect $1.

Role: Buy a Station (see below), or instead, collect $1 for each $ icon played.

Buying a Station: Pay the total $ cost (as described below) and then place one of the City cards from the supply adjacent to a City in play, oriented as you choose. The total cost is the amount listed on the Station on the adjacent (existing) City card PLUS the difference between the numbers on the Stations of the new city and the adjacent (existing) city. If you cannot pay this amount, then the whole move is illegal.
Replace the City card from the deck to return the pool to 3 cards.
If another player had any Track tokens in that location, return them to their owner along with $1 for each.

Upgrade:

Action: Buy an Upgrade from the Upgrade pool by paying its cost. Alternatively, you can discard any number of Upgrades from the Upgrade pool and replace them by drawing 1 more than the number discarded. If the Upgrade deck runs out, shuffle the discards.

Role: Buy an Upgrade from the Upgrade pool by paying its cost, less $1 per Upgrade icon played.

Upgrades: Upgrades give you static abilities such as discounts on buying Stations or Upgrades, additional money when your Stations pay out, and the ability to place additional Track when placing track. These abilities are always on, and apply whenever it makes sense.

Game End:
I am notoriously bad at game end triggers, so I'll just make something up for now and I'll likely have to change it later.
The game end will trigger when one of the Role card stacks or the City card stack is exhausted. When this occurs, finish the current round and play 1 final round before the game ends. Players count their VP tokens and add end game bonuses from their Route cards and any Upgrades that apply. Highest score wins!


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Pony Express

I've always thought The Pony Express would make a good game theme, but what kind of game? Presumably pickup/deliver or maybe some kind of network building game.

Premise: Players represent young riders for the Pony Express, braving dangerous terrain to deliver letters and packages to make money in the old west. Maybe there's another aspect of route building as well?

Mechanic: Count-up auction, like Merchant of Amsterdam's count down auction (like a Dutch auction?)

There should be a map with towns and routes between them, each route having certain hazards. Maybe you'll make the delivery no matter what, but the hazards makes it take longer, which will cost you in points somehow, or make you miss out on other benefits.

I imagine all players start in the same location, and there's an auction phase where some number of parcels are auctioned off. Players 'bid' to take the deliveries in a count-up auction. As soon as you have 1 delivery, other deliveries become worth more or less to you, since you will have to work them into a path.

Count-Up Auction:
Turn up some number of parcel cards (like twice the number of players) - these are the items that need to be delivered. Players take turns as the Auctioneer. The Auctioneer chooses an item and the other players will bid as follows: The Auctioneer starts counting up at $1, and on to $2, $3, etc until a player speaks up and takes on the delivery. In case of a tie, use turn order to decide. I suppose this means P3 could say "I'll do it for $5" and then P2 could say "eh, in that case, I'LL do it for $5" and take the delivery. Maybe the player who takes the delivery becomes the Auctioneer and selects the next item. If nobody claims the delivery once the Auctioneer gets to the max value (like $10 or something), then the Auctioneer is stuck with it, at that value ($10 in this example).
 
The dollar amount bid is awarded to the auction winner in addition to the parcel. out of this money the player will need to pay costs associated with delivering that parcel.

Once all of the items are claimed, players will have to brave the wild trails of the old west to make their deliveries. This involves choosing a path through the board which visits each of the destinations required by the deliveries (and back to the post office). Each path would have a hazard tile on it (placed face up at the beginning of the game - maybe more are placed over time). There would be a cost associated with the path, and an additional cost associated with the hazard, which the player would have to pay - therefore they want to claim deliveries at dollar amounts which will make them a profit.

Each town could also have a tile placed at the beginning of the game, which indicates an item players can buy (or get for free) at that location. The items would help pay the costs of the various hazards. For example, you could get a Pistol, which would fend off Bandits (who would otherwise rob you of some money). Or you could get an Indian Companion which could help you get past Bears rather than having to pay to get around them (hiring a tracker each time). [is that racist?] Or you could get a Guide, which reduces the cost of some trails (or maybe you discard the guide in lieu of paying for the trail altogether, so you'd use it on an expensive trail).

So you'd visit these towns en route to make your deliveries and pick up the helpful tiles. Maybe there's one of each tile, and the first player to get to a town gets it? Or maybe any player visiting that town gets that item? You can probably only have 1 of each item, or maybe some you can stack them up... I'm not exactly sure at this point what would be best.

So thinking about all that, I guess I'll sketch out an outline of the game:

Game Structure:
* Set up round: 
 - place tiles on towns and trails
 -  reveal parcels
* Auction parcels (what happens if a player gets none? They should still be able to visit towns to get items)
* Delivery turns (or simultaneously figure out your path and just do it? Is competition good? What turn order do you use? Maybe tie turn order into parcels...)
End of round

Play some number of rounds (until parcels are delivered/deck of parcels runs out?)
You'd be required to deliver all parcels, so taking one for too little money will cost you. If you don't have enough $ to deliver something, then I guess you're losing anyway. Maybe you have to go last in turn order next round as a penalty... In fact, maybe turn order is set by returning from the previous round's deliveries. There could be items that mess with turn order, such as something that lets you take 1 delivery turn before the regular delivery round begins (superseding turn order).

The player with the most money at the end of the game is the winner. Use turn order as the tiebreak.

And for future reference, some thoughts on items and hazards:
Hazards:
- Snake (Torch? Medicine?)
- Bear (Shotgun?)
- Bandit (Pistol)
- Lost (windy trail?) (Map)

Items:
- Torch (scares off snake?)
- Medicine (for snake bite?)
- Shotgun (Bear) (why wouldn't this work vs Bandits too though? Maybe it does, but it costs more?)
- Pistol (Bandit)
- Map (Lost/windy trail)
- Guide (spend in lieu of travel cost for 1 trail) ... 1-shot
- Guide ($1 discount on all trails) (or is that a map?)
- Bonus money (tip?) (set amount? Variable based on stuff? Like +$1/delivery, or just +$5, or +$1/item you have).. this would be a 1-shot

Knights Templar - playtest at Sasquatch

I'm happy to report that I did get The Knights Templar played once at Sasquatch... a 4 player game with myself, Brian Frahm, Irwin Dolobowski, and Aaron Curtis.

This test went OK. I used 250 vp tokens (50 + 50/player) and the game lasted about 70 minutes. Scores ranged from 87 (Aaron) down to 61 (Brian). We were able to play the game to completion, but I'm not sure that multiple strategies were really coming through. There were some comments that the Rondel was forcing everyone to do the same things.

I think I know how to kick this game up a notch, separate strategies, and make the game more interesting. Basically, I think what I've got might have been interesting enough 2 years ago, but now that other games have been exploring the mancala mechanism I feel like there needs to be more to it. I like how in my game, each player has their own personal rondel, but I think that will become more interesting if players gert a chance to personalize or modify their rondel, modifying the actions on it in some way. Things like...
* "you may use Travel as [X] action"
* the ability to replace or augment the action spaces in some other way
* add bits to the rondel

A thought I'd had before was simply to turn the Travel spaces into Travel+Build and Travel+Crusade (I think I'd mentioned that before). If not a standard, that may be the kind of thing players could upgrade to.


I figure these upgrades could be done via the Build action, with basic upgrades costing 3 to build, and other more potent upgrades costing 5, and/or requiring an earlier upgrade of some kind.

In addition to this type of personalization of your rondel, I think the game needs a little something to differentiate strategies from each other. My current thought on doing that is to add bomb-like effets to the 7 cost buildings which would reinforce a strategic path. Things like:
* Farm: You may use Travel actions as Crusade actions
* Bank: You may use Travel actions as Build actions
* Farm: Your knights count as troops
* Church: Put a certain type of Unique building into play
* Church: Replace one space on your rondel with another action
* Bank: Put a Level 1 (3-cost) building into play

I've got to think about this some more of course, but I think it will help make the game kick a bit more if players can personalize their rondels a little bit, and if there were more difference between one strategy and another.

I also plan to eventually add player powers to add a little bit of asymmetry with abilities such as:
* Once per turn when distributing acion tokens you may drop off 2 tokens at once
* Only distribute tokens actually used for an action - you may leave the extras behind (this may be too good)
* You may choose which direction to distribute your action tokens

I'm excited that this game is moving forward, and I look forward to being able to post about it again soon :)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Knights Templar - inaugural ride

I've posted before about my Knights Templar game, using a Rond-Cala mechanism sort of opposite the way Trajan works. I've had trouble getting this prototype to the table because I have struggled to make a board for it. I find that is a weak point in my skill set.

Long ago I found a map online that I figured would make a good basis for a game board, but I haven't been able to get that into a proper game board. The other day I posted it to twitter and asked if anyone was bored, if they could overlay a hex grid... Twitter follower @johnlonnie -- who I met at Kublacon playing Bomb Squad and his game Galaxagos -- came through with the following:



So today I printed that out and set up the prototype, and John and I gave it a go.

Like any first play, it was not perfect, but I'm happy to report that as first plays go, it worked pretty well!

I started with a pool of 50 VP tokens, but quickly decided that wouldn't be enough, so I added another 50. After that 100 points was gone we ended the game, finishing out the round so that each  of us had the same number of turns. In the end I feel like that wasn't enough - it felt like we were still in the midgame, not quite making late game plays. For 2 players I might try 140 or 150 points next time.

I also felt like we had developed in much the same way. That's one of the potential problems I foresaw about the Rondel mechanism: by it's very nature it might just make everyone do the all the actions and maybe work against player differentiation. But I'm not giving up on it yet - I think the timing and order of the actions will make the game action vary enough player to player and game to game.

In our game John scored 54 points during the game (erecting buildings, crusading, and spreading influence) to my 50 points. End game scoring favored John, 11-5, for a total score of 65-55.

John built: Bank, Church, Bank, Castle, Farm, Castle

I built: Church, Castle, Bank, Farm, Castle

John immediately ran to the far side of the board while I built some buildings closer to Paris - which I suppose is the obvious thing to do. I'm not sure I liked that, as I had envisioned players fighting their way across the board. I want players to be able to get to the type of enemy they want to fight though, so my plan is to modify the movement rule such that it costs an extra point of travel to leave a space that's occupied (by an enemy token). That way it should be harder to get across the board without doing some crusading.

Another thing I might alter is the number of troops you can house without building a Farm. Currently that number is 3... but if it were fewer then you'd have to build farms in order to house enough troops to really help you crusade a lot. Next game I might reduce to 2, but I wonder if just 1 might be enough, or if perhaps you should have to build a farm before you can hold any troop tokens at all.

I started each enemy out at 2 strength, but perhaps I should up that to 3.

This morning I was thinking about the possibility of turning the Travel actions into Travel+Build (at the top of the rondel) and Travel+Crusade (at the bottom). In these cases, you'd have to use the cubes in the action bin for both traveling and building/crusading, but it means that (a) there'd be 2 options for each of those on your rondel, and (b) if you have enough cubes, you could move to a location that an opponent just cleared out with a crusade and build there, or where an opponent just moved, and snipe their crusade. I don't think I'll try this just yet, but I think it might be an interesting dynamic, so I'll try to keep it in mind.

I look forward to playing this again. I'll probably bring it with me to Sasquatch this week.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Essen 2014 - notes for next time

I'll probably write up a bigger blog post about my exerience at Essen this year at some point, but in the meantime, I wanted to jot a few things down that I will want to know this time next year!

* Best Western Ypsilon on Martinstraub (3 stops south of HBF) was a decent place to stay, but the room was kinda small (especially for 3 of us), and it was about a mile walk to the underground (though bus access was good).

* According to Patrick Nickell, Motel One was only 69 Euro per night. It's a really nice hotel, right by the underground station, like 1 stop north of Essen HBF (Messe is stops 4 and 5 or so south of HBF). I think he said breakfast was only a few euro there.

* There's a sweet Chinese place on the corner by Martinstraub station where I ate with Sebastian. 16ish euro for all you can eat Buffet AND Mongolian BBQ. And it was delicious. Also, they had Kangaroo, which tasted kinda like beef.

* TMG might have a booth next year, so that will be cool. Exhibitor badges get you free publc transit all week long. If we don't have a booth, the first thing we should do is talk to a friend (such as Patrick or Phil Eklund) to see if they have extra Exhibitor badges they're not using... That would have saved us quite a bit on admission to the fair as well as train fare.

* German McDonald's has awesome breakfast sandwiches, and German Dunkin Donuts is pretty tasty (though different than here). Both are in Essen HBF.

* The Delta flight was surprisingly comfortable, even flying coach. However, it was $1400. Patrick said he got his ticket for ~$800 (flying from San Francisco). Maybe that was due to booking early, I should check on that.

* It was mugh nicer having a German speaker with us. Last time we didn't, and everything was much easier to navigate this time.

* We got a cab from the hotel to the airport on Monday, rather than walk/bus/underground/train with our bags (including a box of games that we obtained). The hotel had a deal which was like 42 Euro (normally like 60 or something). We paid for a larger car (47 euro) just in case (we didn't know how large the cabs were, and we didn't want to risk anything -- I think that was a good choice), and just gave the guy a 50. Train tix would have been at least 40 euro I think. So cab was definitely the way to go, we should plan on tat next time. Maybe on the way in as well?

* Uwe (sp?) from Academy Games was on our flight, and hooked us up with some discount on train tix on the way in... he paid 32 euro for 4 of us (Tom Vasel paid 33 euro for just himself and Ryan Metzler at the kiosk). We should randomly get on his flight again next time :)

* Uwe also mentioned staying at some university, which he swears by. He said it was cheap, and had lightning fast internet, and good breakfast (though not included).

* We ate breakfast at a grocery every morning (some salami and cheese mostly). It was good, didn't cost much, but they're closed Sunday (go go gadget McD's Chicken Bacon, Egg, and Cheese McMuffin!)!

* Terminal E is the place to be in the Atlanta airport. Tons of tables, food court with lots of options (including McD's and Aarby's), and free WiFi.

* Essen Warm-up event requires signing up ahead of time, and apparently it sells out. ~25 euro for dinner and entry - basically all day if you want to stay there, and you can eat as much as you want (I didn't always like their options though).

* Regarding a booth, I THOUGHT sharing with someone like Stronghold would be awesome, but Ted Alspach says they charge you up the wazoo for sharing space, and he recommended getting our own space. I just don't want Michael to overdo it the first time out.

* Meetings: Unless we have exhibitor badges, maybe we shouldn't schedule meetings right at 10am. 10:30 or 11:00 would be better, so we can get into the hall in time.

* Meetings: When requesting that Mischa set up a meeting with someone, we should really give him an agenda so that he has some idea how much time would be needed, and can schedule appropriately.

* Mischa made a great schedule spreadsheet. Next time I'd like to see multiple columns or something on the same sheet, so that for example I can see a meeting for me as well as a meeting for Michael.

* Remember to change dollars for euros in the states, at a bank, before leaving. It costs a lot to exchange currency there. Also, do a lot at once, because there's a fee to make the transaction.

* I brought a camelback so I'd always have water, and that worked pretty well. Though obviously it would be nice not to have to carry it. And this time water seemed more available in general (though it's expensive!)

* Next year I should schedule time to meet with people like Matias (playtester) and Sebastian. Maybe also schedule time to check out new games (like Staufer Dynasty this year).

* T-Mobile apparently has data roaming included, so I had full access to the internet on my phone all week, which was AWESOME. Last time I was disconnected, and it was awful. This time I could text Mischa to find him, I could look up our games on BGG to show people in meetings, I could communicate with people who were looking for me, and I was able to stay in touch with the rest of the world as well (for example the Microcosm kickstarter project).

* Reiner Knizia took meetings in his hotel room, which was a neat idea. Much more quiet and peaceful (though less convenient).