Monday, September 29, 2014

EmDo 3rd expansion... what's in a name?

I've been getting back into Exotica lately, soliciting outside playtesting to help finalize and wrap that expansion up. Pretty soon I'll dig up the ideas I've had for the third (and final?) EmDo expansion - the one with the Politics role, Agendas, and Clout tokens.

That said, I might as well choose a title, or at least a code name, for this final expansion - that'll help me refer to it later. I'll ask for feedback on the following thoughts:

1. Eminent Domain: Oblivion

2. Eminent Domain: Corruption

3. Eminent Domain: Despotism

4. Eminent Domain: Agendas

5. Eminent Domain: ??? MAKE A SUGGESTION!

Remember, the thrust of the expansion is the Politics role, through which players will bring global effects (Agendas) into play, and they will use "clout" tokens (I imagine this as throwing around your political clout) to help boost roles.

I kinda like Oblivion ("the state of being unaware or unconscious of what is happening") as a bit of a joke or comment on politics, and it sounds ominous and cool.

Despotism ("the exercise of absolute power, especially in a cruel and oppressive way") sounds cool for an EmDo expansion, but maybe not one about a Politics role...

I'd love to hear what you think about this, and I'm excited about the prospect of working on new EmDo stuff!

Friday, September 19, 2014

More Deck Learning?

I've mentioned before that I've wanted to explore more uses of the Deck Learning mechanism from Eminent Domain, and I've had a couple of general ideas as to what kinds of game I'd like to try with it...

The other day I started putting some real thought into how a Railroad Tycoon style network building/pickup-deliver game driven by a deck learning mechanism might work. I ended up with some interesting, maybe clever ideas as to how to do cities, connection costs, and deliveries in a certain way, and on the airplane yesterday I fleshed those ideas out pretty well, but I did run into an issue. More like a question, really...

Does the Deck Learning mechanism necessarily require Role Selection? Or is it enough to use the stacks and card drafting outside of a Role Selection game?

I'm not sure I know the answer to that yet, but my first thought was that the Role Selection provided almost all of the interaction in EmDo, so the only way I could use the deck learning in a non-RS game would would be to use some other form of interaction.

So with the ideas I have right now about this rail game (what should I call it? Manifest Destiny... ha ha... Or how about Eminent Do-Train? EmTro? EmTrak? Man, I amuse myself!), my first thought was to use the Role Selection, and each player would build up their own little mini-map. But my current thought is to have a common board where players compete to build cities onto the map and deliver cubes from city to city, and try it without Role Selection.

As a player, would you expect a deck learning game to work more like Eminent Domain (using Role Selection)? Or no?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Holy Stretch Goals, Batman! Bomb Squad blows up!

Michael just released Update #4 for the Bomb Squad kickstarter project, announcing the new stretch goals plan. I'm sure everyonw will be very happy to see what's in store!

Here's the list:

$40,000 - Bomb Squad FUNDS!

$45,000 - Additional 7 Role Cards for Bomb Squad (moved up from $60,000!)

$50,000 - Additional Missions, 2 More Robots, Additional Floor Tiles

$55,000 - App Upgrade - Professional voice actor will read each mission briefing to help set the mood.

$60,000 - Bomb Squad Academy additional game for all backers! ($20 MSRP, one per copy of Bomb Squad ordered)

$70,000 - App Upgrade - Annoyance Option with multiple levels (0/1/2/3) where BURN infiltrates the timer audio to distract you while playing.

$80,000 - Community created missions will be solicited, curated, and made available via PDF after the campaign ends.

$90,000 - App Upgrade - Additional soundtracks for the ambient app music

$100,000 - Robots get upgraded to be plastic miniatures

$110,000 - Bomb Squad gains wooden hostage and bomb tokens

Saturday, September 13, 2014

TMG Playtest Day! Kilauea lives, Mini Civ (not to be confused with MicroCiv), and Steam Works

Today I had a great playtesting day! Russell, Talia, and Dave came over for about 7 hours and we played 3 prototypes. Each playtest went well, and I got good commentary and thoughts on each game:

Kilauea


Kilauea is an old design of mine from 2006 that I haven't touched in years. It uses a Mancala mechanism, so I thought I'd revisit it now that Mancala games are popular. Apparently I'm a hipster designer, because I used the Mancala mechanism before it was cool :P


This game went OK in that it seemed like it was worth pursuing, but it was clear that I have some work to do on it. The players had some ideas that could make for a more varied experience (board that's not radially symmetric, spaces which act like satellite villages where you can get more tribesmen onto the board, etc), and I've made some notes on that. I will likely update the game/prototype and try again soon.


Small box civ game


Not to be confused with MicroCiv, the next game we played was a TMG submission that Andy and I found at one of the Designer Speed Dating events. It's a light civ game with a small footprint, maybe about the "size" of Harbour. The game is still rough, and still needs some work, but I think it's very promising!

Steam Works


Steam Works is an upcoming TMG worker placement game by Alex Churchill, a designer from London Cambridge. It's a steampunky game where your workers are Mechanics (and one Automaton). I realize "Steampunk" as a theme has been done, and it's even been done by TMG... but the thing about Steampunk is that it's just a setting. I mean, Fantasy has been done, but it's not like people are finished playing games in a fantasy setting! Steam Works actually feels like it should be Steampunk themed because you literally build the worker placement spots out of components, and supply them with Clockwork, Steam, or Electrick power.

I really enjoy this game. The core game is awesome, and while a couple of the component tiles need tweaks, it's mostly just the characters/player powers that need balancing at this point. We just got art quotes, and this one will be coming in 2015 for all you TMG big box game fans!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Strategicon: Gateway 2014

About a week ago I went to Strategicon's Gateway event in Los Angeles, as I've one for the last 10 years or so. This time was a little different, for 2 reasons:

1. I was invited to be Special Guest.

2. I brought a "plus 1".

I wasn't sure what to expect as Special Guest, and as it turned out the convention went pretty much the way it would have otherwise for me. It was nice of them to pay for my hotel room though, and it was nice to be recognized by attendees as the guest :)

The much bigger difference was bringing Michelle with me. I have never brought a significant other to a convention before, and I was very worried it wouldn't go well. When I'd extended the invitation I hadn't considered just how busy I'd be, and that I wouldn't have time to hang out with Michelle. Fortunately, it actually went quite well. Michelle met some of my friends, learned Eminent Domain from one of them, spent some alone time in the room and at the pool, and otherwise seemed to enjoy the convention just fine. What a relief! Because I was busy running Bomb Squad, Gold West, an EmDo: Legacy tournament, and Aquasphere, playing prototypes for TMG consideration, and hoping to play a few games for myself as well as visit with all the friends I've made at those conventions over the last decade.

I managed to play 10 different games on the weekend, some of them more than once:

Dog - Upon arriving at the convention, we ran into my old friends Steph and Chris. I asked them to teach us a game, so they pulled out the partnership game Dog. I'd seen them play this before, it looked like some kind of souped up Sorry... and it kinda was. Not too bad a game, but not the kind of game I really want to play often.

Got it! - Steph and I used to always compete at a few rounds of Got It! - which is like Set, but rather than looking for patterns, you're looking for math equations that resolve to a certain number. I got to play a couple of rounds of this, and it reminded me how much I like the game and how I ought to play it more often. It's tough to find people who really want to play this with me though. I'm glad Steph was up for it because we've always been pretty evenly matched, so it's always a good game!

Hanabi -Andrew and I played a few hands of Hanabi with a young woman who's name escapes me at the moment. We played 4-5 hands trying to get a perfect score (30, including the rainbow suit). Luckily, it only took us a few hands!

Train of Thought - I have been playing Train of Thought a lot lately because Michelle loves it. That just reminds me how much I really love it too.

Five Tribes - I played Five Tribes twice - once with Andrew and Michelle in the middle of the night at Denny's, and once the next day with 4 other players. I had one major concern going into the game: with all the possible combinations of moves on any given turn, I suspected a great deal of AP, or just people taking a long time to figure out what to do on their turn. In fact, I was surprised to hear it was so popular at GenCon, rather than hearing people complain left and right that turns drag on and on... after playing that 4 player game, I can confirm that it's very easy to take a long time on your turns. The game is still pretty cool, and I might play it some more, but I don't see that issue going away - if anything I see it getting worse as players know the game better.

Downfall - I got together with John Clair to play Downfall, an epic, post-apocalyptic game driven by an awesome card draft mechanism which TMG is planning on publishing. It was a 6 payer game and it took about 3 hours, which seems about right. Despite the fact that the big, epic, long games aren't usually my style, I really did enjoy playing Downfall.

Oceanica - I got together with Mark and Christina Major, of the League of Game Makers, to play a prototype which TMG was looking at for publication. I love the theme of that one, and the general structure of the game is sound, but currently I don't think the neat aspects are shining through properly so I returned the game to him with some comments. I hope he will address them and resubmit - I look forward to playing it again.

Unpublished Prototype -After Oceanica I played another prototype of John Clair's that had a really interesting format. Might be tough to produce, but it was certainly neat. I am trying not to talk about other people's prototypes (in case they don't want me to), so I'll leave it at that.

Concordia - On Monday morning I played in a Concordia tournament, which turned out to be just 1 round - the top 3 scores from 2 games claiming 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. I don't know if I really knew I was doing this, but when in a position to trigger the game end, I chose not to - dragging the game out a few more turns. This allowed everyone at my table to score more points... seems a little weird to use that as a strategy, but with that format it makes sense!

Glass Road - After picking up Subway lunch with Andrew, I spent the last hour of the con playing Glass Road. It took a little longer than expected, and I literally had to leave before the game was actually over. I calculated my score to be 19.5, which turned out to be just good enough for 3rd, I think. Not a very good performance, but at least I made my plane!

Let's talk about some published games for a change!

I tend to talk a lot about prototypes (such as Watch It Played, Mech Fight, Alter Ego, and Knights Templar), and upcoming games (such as Exotica, Microcosm, Aquasphere, and the now-on-kickstarter Bomb Squad). I don't talk a whole  lot about published games I've been playing, or even TMG releases once they come out! SO let's take a minute and look at a few games I've gotten to the table recently.

TMG Releases

I recently received a pack of microgame envelopes from TMG, and since they've arrived I've played quite a bit of Burgoo and Coin Age with my new girlfriend Michelle.

Michelle hasn't played a lot of games, and I may be overwhelming her with new titles, but so far she has enjoyed them. She even taught Burgoo to her mother!

Both Coin Age and Burgoo are even better than I remember them - solid little games for their timeframe and footprint. I'm proud to call them both TMG titles!

I have yet to play This Town Ain't Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us, but I suspect I'll get it to the table this weekend. Templar Intrigue isn't really my favorite type of game, but I might give that a try this weekend as well, if the players are up for it.

Scoville isn't out yet, but we had advanced copies at GenCon to demo, and it is gorgeous! I didn't play it, but I taught the game many times, and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

City Hall has just arrived - I see on BGG that backers have started receiving their copies. I've had an advance copy for a while, and have played a couple of times. I taught the game at GenCon as well. I would not mind playing this a bit more.

Captains of Industry isn't out yet, but at GenCon I got a surprise advance copy to look at (didn't get to keep it)... it also looks gorgeous. I'm sensing a pattern here :)

In addition to Coin Age and Burgoo, Michelle has really been enjoying an oldie but a goodie from TMG: Train of Thought. I've played quite a bit of Train of Thought lately, and it reminds me how much I really do like that game!

Non TMG games I've been playing

In an effort to ease Michelle into the hobby game world, I've been trying to go with some simpler to learn games. A month or so ago at the last Rincon fundraiser day I introduced her to Ticket to Ride. Ticket to Ride is a really good gateway game, as it's only got like 3 rules to it, and yet it continues to be a fun and interesting game.

On a similar note, I bought a game at the Strategicon flea market because I thought it would be another easy one to teach... Lost Cities: the Board Game. I have the card game, but I remember liking the board game, and I generally like multiplayer games better than 2 player games anyway. We played this at Michelle's co-worker's house, and it went over fairly well.

That night we also played Tokaido, one of the many great games by Antoine Bauza. I made an awful decision right at the beginning to stop at a village and shop for a souvenir, which was the beginning of the end for me. Michelle managed a win, and she also won Lost Cites - so she had a good night!

Speaking of Strategicon, Michelle came with me, and I talked her into trying Five Tribes with me. This was a more complicated game than Ticket to Ride and Lost cities, but not much more complicated. It didn't help that we learned it at 2 in the morning over Denny's food, but she managed to win that one too :)

I played another game of Five Tribes the next day, and my main concern for the game did show through... with all - of the possible moves you can make, there is a real tendency toward Analysis Paralysis. Maybe that's not true... AP really means you simply can't choose between a couple of options. In this case it wasn't necessarily that you couldn't choose between a few options, it was just that it took forever to go through all the possible options looking for which one would be best.

I also played Concordia at Strategicon. I've played quite a bit of Concordia, and was sorry to see it lose the KSdJ to Istanbul - I think Concordia's a better game.

I guess I haven't been playing a whole lot of published games lately, but I hope to rectify that, as I've received several from Kickstarter and they're just sitting there gathering dust (specifically Zombie 15' and Battle Merchants).

So... what have you been playing? What should I be checking out?


The bombs are live and the clock is ticking!

It's been a long time coming, but Bomb Squad is finally up on Kickstarter!

Bomb Squad is an intense, thematic cooperative game in which players are members of a Bomb Squad, relaying information to each other from different sides of a building so that they can program a diffusal robot to navigate the building, rescue hostages, and disarm bombs.

I got my friends Russell, Mandy, and Tim together and recorded an intro...



And a full runthrough of Training Mission Bravo...



If this looks like your kind of thing, and you'd like to know more, there's lots of video content on the kickstarter page - including videos from Tiffany Ralph (TheOneTAR), Joel Eddy (Drive Thru Review), Forrest Bower (Bower's Game Corner), and a spectacular montage of candid reactions from players after demoing the game at GenCon 2014.

There's also an overview of Bomb Squad from the BGGtv GenCon live stream on BoardGameGeek.com, and a forthcoming Rahdo Runthrough as well.

I'm very excited about this one!

Friday, September 05, 2014

Eminent Domain: Exotica -- Back in motion!

With Eminent Domain: Microcosm all wrapped up (until next month, when we'll release a PnP version for players to try while a Kickstarter project is underway), I've finally gotten a chance to start wrapping up Exotica. I have updated my prototype files, and now I'm soliciting illustrations and planning on getting this game ready for a GenCon 2015 release!

Now that I have updated prototype files, who among you would like to print and play with them?

Email seth at tastyminstrelgames dot com with the subject EmDo: Exotica Playtest and I'll send you the PDFs. All I ask is that you play a few games and then respond with any general comments you might have, as well as answer a few specific questions I have.

I look forward to your feedback!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Aquasphere rules posted to BGG! Also, BGG is awesome!

Aquasphere rules posted

Just a quick note to let you know that you can find the web version (low res) of the final rules for Aquasphere (English TMG edition) on BoardGameGeek!

Public Service Announcement

BGG is an invaluable resource for me personally, for TMG, and for the rest of you gamers out there. They host a website CHOCK FULL of content on every game imaginable, they hold an AWESOME convention in Dallas every year (which I haven't missed yet!), and they work tirelessly at (and before) GenCon and Essen to bring LIVE, up to the minute coverage of the events to those sitting at home unable to attend.

BGG is terrific, and it's run by terrific people. You probably already know this, but if you don't, then go check it out. And if you're not already a supporter, consider pitching in - if you care about games enough to follow this blog, then you'll get your money's worth. If not for BGG, I might not be the published designer I am today!