Monday, December 31, 2007

The List

Viable game ideas to work on in 2008 (and what needs doing on them). Not all of these will be finished, or even looked at, but this is the current list of stuff I've got in mind. In no particular order:

Hot and Fresh
- Create board
- Create Order cards
- Test rules as-is
- Redesign Order mechanics and End Game conditions
- Revisit rules after testing

- Create list of Tech Upgrades with costs made up of 8 different resources
- Create game board dividing China into probably 16 regions, 2 associated with each resource
- Test rules as-is
- Re-examine Leader actions
- Revisit rules after testing

Time is Money
- Consider theme and scope of game
- This is more a mechanic/structure at the moment, not a complete game. Maybe find a complement game in which to use this system.

- Test again as-is
- Superimpose square grid on Hawaii map
- Revisit rules after testing
- Enter in KublaContest this year?

Investigative/Tabloid Journalism
- Create Lead and Follow-up cards of each category
- Test rules as-is
- Revisit rules after testing

8/7 Central
- Dust off and test again
- Revisit rules after testing
- Redesign auction mechanic

Red Colony
- Consider theme and scope of game
- Write rules

Rodeo Drive
- Test more
- Revisit rules after testing
- Re-examine board placement/scoring

Reading Railroad
- Decide if it's worth pursuing (see if Scott wants to pursue it)
- Write rules
- Prototype and test
Edit: I did pursue this with Scott, I entered it in the KublaCon design contest - it didn't fare too well. It could use finishing touches, but I rather like the game. I think the cross section of people who would be interested in this might be small though.

Clash of the Kingpins
- Re-imagine the game as a non-CCG
- Discuss with Tom Lehmann, see if he's interested in working on it with me (he mentioned he might be, that would be cool)

New "games played" record?

On BGG you can record games played, and I've been faithfully doing so since June 2005. I play a lot of games. By way of example, in the last 2.5 years I played an average of 49 games per month, with some months as low as 14 games played, and some as high as 89. My current record month is Feb. 2007, when I played 89 games. I went to a game convention in Los Angeles which helped, and in that month I played more games than a friend who went to *2* conventions! It's also amusing to me that my record plays occurred in the shortest month of the year.

As of right now (3:48 pm December 31, 2007) I have 89 recorded plays for the month. Some friends are coming over for New Years Eve, so it's likely I'll break the record this month. I'm actually surprised I haven't, considering all the games I've been playing this month!

89+ games in one month - that's about 3 games a day on the average. And I actually spent 6 days this month not playing games! I wonder if I'll ever break 100 plays in one month (without doing something cheesy like playing 30 games of Brain Freeze in a row and counting them all).

Edit: In the end I recorded 95 games played for December 2007!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sedjcon 2007

My Holiday Game Party - affectionately known as SedjCon - doesn't start until tomorrow, and I've already played 8 games! Luke, Steve, Tyler, Mikey (and family), Jeremy, Amelia, John, and Nick came over today and we played

People will be arriving between 10 and 11 am (that's just 6 and a half hours away!) for more fun, games, and BBQ. I'm looking forward to a really fun weekend :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Word game as a mechanic?

Word games are popular among certain types of people, and are generally maligned by others... likely the people who enjoy word games are people who can spell and have a reasonable vocabulary while those opposed can't or don't.

I happen to have a reasonable vocabulary, and I can spell alright, so I'm not frightened off by word games. I'll play Scrabble, Boggle, Upwords, Anagrams, Buyword, Quiddler, Palabra, etc. anytime anyone wants to... which seems to be almost never. My mom used to go to a Scrabble club, and sometimes I'd go with her - those little old lady's were really good, having memorized 2 and 3 letter word lists, tons of "vowel dumps," and words containing the letter 'Q' (with or without a 'U'). I couldn't match them in word knowledge, but I could stay competitive through tactical tile placement for higher scores (triple letter score on a 'J', going 2 directions for example). Also, they let me cheat sometimes and use their Scrabble dictionary computer thingies.

My friend Gil made a word game called Prolix which is interesting because rather than having to use only the letters you have, you can use whatever word you want and you get rewarded for using the letters on the board. It also has neat gamery stuff like variable point values for the tiles, so there's some incentive to use some of them over others for a better score, and sometimes there's actually incentive not to use certain tiles because it would make them more valuable to the next player. I like Prolix a lot, but it's still a word game, and word games seem to share at least one trait - they're about making words for the sake of making words. You just make words and score points.

Actually, Buyword is a little different. In that game you're trying to buy-low-sell-high, buying letters and selling words, but it still feels like words for words' sake.

I think I'd like to see a different type of word game. One where the word building - which is really just fancy set collection - is a mechanic, but not the end goal. Here are some things I'd like to see in this new type of word game:

  • With word building as a mechanic, someone with good vocabulary and spelling skills should be able to do well based on that
  • There should be tactical play such that a player without a good vocabulary or spelling skills could do well another way.
  • Obviously a player with both language and tactical placement skills should excel at this game.
  • The game should have a point that's not simply "make words to score points." Rather there's some game (or theme) goal, and the way you go about it involves word building as a mechanic.

I've been discussing and considering the possibility of a game which is sort of a marriage of Scrabble and Ticket to Ride or Railroad Tycoon... originally suggested by Doho123 in the BGDF chat room, probably as a joke. At first I was also joking, but the more I think about it, the more different ways I could see a train game with word building as a central mechanic working, and maybe being fun and interesting. If Doho and I can get it to work, I'm sure you'll hear more about it here or at Meeplespeak.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My first rejection letter!

I received an email today stating that Mayfair Games is "unable to accept outside submissions at this time due to a backlog of submissions."

I had sent an email about All For One to a generic email address I found on their website, addressed to "Mayfair game submission contact." I was skeptical it would be read by anyone, really. This response letter is actually a pleasant surprise, and although they are not interested in my game, I now have 2 different specific people's email addresses at Mayfair (the letter was CC'ed to someone), as well as a phone number. So I somehow feel like I've come out ahead :)

To be fair, this is really my 2nd rejection letter. I had sent a letter to Days of Wonder after All For One finished 2nd in the KublaCon design contest last year. They said they'd already done a game loosely themed around the Three Musketeers and they don't like to revisit themes.

Also, though it wasn't a submission perse, Zev from Z-man played a version of All For One about a year ago, and had some comments on it. He did say he would play it again once those comments had been addressed - and now he is


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Time travel is hard!

Khronos won the Advanced Strategy Game of the Year award, so my friend Jeremy was really interested in playing it. I have played Khronos a few times and I like it pretty well, so I picked it up on Friday and we played it at the Ides of Gaming event yesterday.

The verdict? Time travel is hard!

Khronos is a cool game, but it's very difficult to figure out. It's about time travel, so there are bound to be some confusing elements - time traveling in any genre will create some paradox, and in a game there have to be rules to govern that paradox. Many game rules can mirror real life physics, but that's tough for Khronos since the physics of time travel hasn't been worked out just yet....

In short, the game works like this. There are 3 Eras - Age of Might, Age of Faith, and Age of Reason. They occur in that chronological order. Each player has 2 pawns which can travel through time between those 3 eras.

On your turn you can spend cards (of which you have 4) to build buildings. There are 3 types of buildings, Military (orange), Religious (purple), and Civic (blue). When a building is built, it casts a "time shadow" onto later eras - that is to say a building built in the Age of Might is still there in the Age of Faith and the Age of Reason. This part isn't too complicated, you build a building on one board, it appears on all later boards as well, and you put your control marker on it to show you're the one who built it.

There are a few rules as to where you can build a building such as "you can't build on a river except with a blue building," which aren't a big deal, but there are 2 rules which must be followed that are very difficult to wrap your head around and recognize on the board:

The Rule of Dominion: You may not connect 2 domains except with a Civic (blue) building.

A domain is a clump of adjacent buildings. If you want to join any 2 clumps, you can only do so with a blue building, not an orange or a purple one. It sounds simple enough, but on practice it's relatively easy to accidentally break this rule.

The Rule of Hierarchy: The most prestigious Military and Religious buildings in a domain must be unique.

Each type of building has 3 sizes, 1x1, 2x2, 3x3. The larger the building, the "more prestigious" it is. So the Rule of Hierarchy is saying that there can be only 1 building of the largest size in each domain... if there's already 1 2x2 orange building in a domain and no 3x3 orange building in that domain, then you're not allowed to build another 2x2 orange building in it. You can build a 2x2 orange building elsewhere, you can build a 3x3 orange building in that domain, and you can build a 2x2 purple building (as long as there's not already a 2x2 purple and no 3x3 purple there already)... and you can always build whatever size Blue building you want.

You see how confusing that is? There can be only 1 of whatever is currently the biggest orange building in the domain. Same for purple.

Once you have those 2 rules down, you can build buildings and reasonably know what will happen... until someone builds on the Age of Might and the "time shadow" of the building in the Age of Faith would break the Rule of Hierarchy... than what happens? Well, in that case the building just doesn't ripple. Same for the Rule of Dominion. You're allowed to build a building as long as it's a legal play on the board you're building on, and if the ripple of the building would break the rules, it just doesn't ripple.

One more thing... There might be a building on the age of Faith board that isn't also on the age of Might, because it was built later. If someone builds in the same space on the Age of Might board, what happens to the building in the Age of Faith? Well, since there was a building there already (because someone went back in time and built it), they would ever have been able to build the Ag f Faith building, and therefore it comes off the board (as well as it's time shadow in the Age of Reason, of course).

The game lasts 7 rounds, and at the end of your 4th and 7th turns you score your position. You score where your pawns are, so you can only score for your position on 2 of the 3 boards. On the Age of Might board, you score points for all the blue buildings in any domain in which you own the largest Military (orange) building. Same for the Age of Faith, except on that board you score if you one the largest Religious (purple) building. The Age of Reason is altogether different, on that board you don't build buildings at all, but instead you spend blue cards to put cubes on the blue buildings, and you score for the orange and purple buildings in any domain in which you have the most (tied for most is ok) cubes.


So you see, even though there's only 2 rules to the game, the Rule of Hierarchy and the Rule of Dominion, there are all kinds of specifics that govern those rules, and it's tricky to (a) learn them, and (b) follow through with them while also trying to formulate a strategy.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Idea for Hot & Fresh - traffic light operation

First thoughts on Hot & Fresh in quite some time!

In H&F players are driving around town to deliver pizzas, and they are in a hurry because as time goes on their tip (score for delivering) goes down as well. The idea is to (a) be efficient in your path when making deliveries, and (b) press your luck by breaking traffic laws.

One of the main aspects of the game - the original thought that started it in fact - was a system of traffic lights which serve to create a dynamic board. As lights change over time, routes also change. Originally I was going to disallow running a red light, so the available routes on the board would literally change, but when traffic laws entered the game it made sense to allow breaking that rule - at a high price.

I had some grandiose ideas for a gimmicky way to represent the status of the traffic lights at different intersections around the board, as well as making them change at different rates. It was a really neat idea which would take care of everything very simply for the players. It involved a "color wheel" beneath the board with circular strips of color alternating Green/Yellow/Red. Holes in the board at the traffic light locations would reveal the color beneath, and rotating the wheel 1 notch would change some of the lights as the strip of color would either continue, or change color, at that location.

While novel, that particular idea has posed a problem in prototyping. I had come up with a proxy solution using 6 sided dice, 1 per intersection, labeled with color (G/Y/R) and an arrow. At the appropriate time the dice would be flipped in the direction of the arrow and the new face would indicate the state of the light. I didn't love the solution, because (a) you could see whether a yellow light would stay yellow or turn red next time, and (b) I realized each light has 2 states, really - depending on direction of travel (a potential downfall to the color wheel as well).

I came up with another, better proxy - which may well be the best solution for the game. Square tiles that look something like this:

These tiles indicate the state of the light (G/Y/R) in each direction. when it's time to change the lights, you either flip (maintaining orientation) or flip and rotate the tile as indicated, so green changes to yellow, yellow to red, and red to green.

I think it's relatively important that the traffic lights aren't on a strict schedule. I want players to wonder just how long that green light down the street will hold out, or whether the yellow will still be there next turn or if they need to stop at the light. Today I had a further thought as to how to make the lights progress properly but not calculably:

Let's say there are 12 intersections in the game, each labeled 1-6 (2 of each number). When it's time for lights to change (maybe at the end of a round), roll 4d6 (maybe 6). Each intersection who's number comes up advances (flip or flip/rotate as appropriate). The Flip/Rotate side could have a "+/-1" on it, meaning intersection 5 if green/red would advance if at least 1 5 was rolled, whereas that same intersection if yellow/red would advance if a 4, 5, or 6 was rolled.

Thus yellow lights are more likely to change than green lights. Lights have a pretty good chance of changing each time, but there's no guarantee. It might well be that the numbers are off - maybe yellow's too likely to change that way, or maybe there should be more dice rolled, or maybe there should be 9 intersections and d10s should be rolled... but the theory I think is sound.

I've resolved (or will resolve in a couple weeks) to finish this prototype and play it, so I'm sure I'll be posting more about it in the near future!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I've noticed a lot more people reading my blog lately, some due to searches for Magic: the Gathering stuff, and some linking in from - several people check regularly from across the world - Vienna, Netherlands, even as foreign a place as Texas!

I just wanted to say "Hi" to whoever it is that's reading my blog, and encourage you to post a comment telling me at least who you are, if not how you came across my blog or whether you enjoy it.

It's good to know I have an audience :)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Recent Gaming

Yesterday I played games for about 12 hours...

Starting with a 5+ hour 5 player game of Starcraft. We randomly selected teams and I ended up with Aldaris. I started with my base on the 2 Conquest point area of a planet with 4 areas. My other planet option was resource rich, and had much fewer ways in, so I likely should have started there. My plan however was to rush to 15 VPs, and I thought I might be able to protect my base long enough to get there. I did protect it for 2 or 3 rounds, and oddly I didn't build a single unit for 2 or 3 rounds. eventually Jim Raynor successfully took over that base, but I had set up 2 others on the Conquest areas of 2 other planets (1vp apiece). When the game finally got to Phase III, I had 14 Conquest Points - just shy of victory. Jim Raynor ended up fulfilling his Special Victory condition - and surprisingly no one else did.

All game long, the Queen of Blades did nothing but complain that Raynor was going to win, and I maintain that the best way to have kept that from happening would have been for the Queen player to have built a transport adjacent to Raynor (in any of the 3 build orders he did on the planet), which would have put some pressure on Raynor's back door. In some respects that would have been a bad play because it would have put the Zerg in a 2-front war, but then again, without doing so the Zerg player was sure Raynor would win... maybe that's a catch 22. I personally would have liked it if the Zerg had done something to distract the Terran at all, as that might have bought me 1 more turn of 2VP from the conquest area on my home base. As it was I as fighting a 2-front war the entire game.

Oh, and I could note that without an event card that allowed Jim Raynor to place 2 Marines on my home planet for free, I don't think he could have attacked my base for another whole game turn - thus I would have gotten 2 more points and would have won.

I am not a fan of long, so called "epic" games, and Starcraft is no exception.

Next we played a turbo-quick game of Puerto Rico while waiting for John to arrive with pizza. We decided ahead of time to only play until he arrived, then finish out the round and see who's got the most points. Tyler (who played Jim Raynor in Starcraft) adopted his strategy and played for the game to end early. Jeremy and I (the 2 Protoss players from Starcraft) played more as if the game would end normally. I thought we'd be able to get through it. it turns out we didn't and Tyler wrecked us! He had 3 Big Buildings (2 manned) and a total of 36 points. I had 27 and Jeremy had 26.

While we ate pizza, John explained his new game, Amyitis. Jeremy took an Irrigation strategy, earning 2vp for Irrigating, and mooching a couple points off of most of the planting for the irrigation bonus. I only planted 1 tree - I tried going for improved income right off the bat. I thought however that the 3rd level offered an income of 3 instead of 2, so I was disappointed when I bankrupted myself to get the 3rd advance in a particular round, expecting my income to increase, and it didn't. I also tried to pile on the cards which give you more and more VPs as you get them. I got to the 4th level there, not too amazing.

I like the tech tree represented by the cards, but the game felt pretty dry and not terribly fun.

Finally, we played a game of Railroad Tycoon. There was a Service Bounty to Jacksonville available first turn, and I bid 4, willing to take 2 shares. i should have bid 9, to take 3 shares - which is what Tyler did. I decided I didn't want to go with 4 shares for that bonus (though perhaps I should have bid up, as there was also another Service Bounty in the area). I decided instead to try something I've been meaning to try - I took a total of 5 shares to upgrade my train all he way to level 4 in the first round. next round I built on to Jeremy's route and delivered a 3-link delivery. That cost me a 6th share, but I took no more the rest of the game. We play where you get your choice of 2 Tycoon cards, and I declined the "New York to Chicago" tycoon card, thinking Io wouldn't be building near New York. Instead I held onto the "Most Money" tycoon card - a bad idea if I was intending on taking 5 shares on turn 1!

In the end I did complete the New York - Chicago Major Line for 10vp, and made a number of 5 and 6 point deliveries, but I did too much building and not enough delivering, as I had a number of potential deliveries left at the end. Tyler delivered all the cubes on his network except 1. But Jeremy ended up winning with his 2 shares, fewest Shares bonus, and fairly uncontested Northeast network. John got third place with his mid-western track, and his Mobile-Minneapolis Major line for 10vp. I ended up dead last.

That's the third game of Railroad Tycoon in a row where I've done miserably!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Holiday Game Party

I love the holiday season for a number of reasons. things are often laid back at work, people are generally in a holiday mood, and many of my friends are back in town for Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year.

For the past few years I've had a big-ish holiday game party the day after Christmas with board games, a poker tournament, and other assorted fun and games. This year Christmas day falls on a Tuesday, so due to the Tuesdayness of the holiday, this year's game party will be the weekend before.

The party is generally (or was originally) an all night thing, and it feels almost like a mini-convention. This year I'm trying to be just a little bit structured about things. The poker tournament seemed popular before, and I like it as a chance to play poker for a prize without having to put up actual money, so I'm going to do that again. I'm scheduling that for sure. I'm going to try and schedule some Werewolf and/or Time's Up! for late Saturday night, and there's a fun party-ish game that I've never actually tried called 1000 Blank White Cards which I think I'll try and schedule as well. Those are all fun party games for late night... during the day I hope to play more strategy games. Maybe since it's a long party I'll play some longer games I don't normally get to, like Warrior Knights or the new Starcraft board game!

There may well be Guitar Hero and/or Karaoke as well :)

Since it amuses me, there will be prizes for the Poker tournament as well as the following categories:

  • Most games played
  • Most unique games played
  • Most games won
  • Most unique games won
  • Most hardcore - most hours spent at the party!

The first year I kept track of everyone who came, about how long they were there, what games they played, who won each, and I actually did have a prize for the winningest players... myself not included... I have an unfair advantage, being there the whole time while other people might leave and come back. I hope this year it's at least as much fun as previous years :)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Lorwyn Constructed decks

It seems I have visitors!

I'm getting a lot of hits from people searching the net for Llorwyn Constructed decks. Block Constructed was always my favorite format, I like building decks, and I like the openness of building whatever you want but the restriction of having to use cards from one set - which presumably have been designed to go together in some way.

In Llorwyn they seem to have really set that up by overlapping the colors and the tribes - so now you can play a "Black/Blue" deck, or you can play a "Faerie deck" which is Blue with Black, or Blue with white, or you can play a Merfolk deck... the possibilities are many, and there are lots of ways to go about each type of deck. Do I want my U/w deck to be about Merfolk? Or just good U/W control cards? Do I want a WW deck? Or do I want a Kithkin deck (similar, but concentrating more on the tribe stuff)? Do I want to fill my Green/Black deck with Elves which synergize, or just a lot of big creatures and creature D?

I'm not as into Magic as I used to be, so I don't scour the 'net looking for who's playing what, or what decks have won which tournaments. I'd be interested to see what people are building though. A while ago I posted 5 decks I threw together out of the cards I had from the prerelease. Most of them turned out to be pretty bad. One of them though seems very strong and it wouldn't surprise me if a deck like it were starting to win tournaments here and there.

That is if there are tournaments here and there for Lorwyn Block Constructed... I was very disappointed to read that they didn't plan for or test Lorwyn for Block Constructed at all. I guess there will be no "official" LBC tournaments, though I'm sure there will be plenty of local ones. I'm annoyed that such an interesting format is categorically ignored by the entire Magic design team. I guess they were too busy wetting themselves over their big secret that they're changing the block structure to 2 big sets and 2 small sets per year, which are distinct but related. Yipee.

So if you're reading this based on a search for Lorwyn Constructed stuff, leave a comment with a deck idea you're working on - preferably one you think could be a tournament winner or would dominate the format (if there were a format to dominate). My money's on G/b Elves.