Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And they're off!

Earlier today John submitted Wizard's Tower to Hippodice via email, and just moments ago I submitted Terra Prime as well... now to wait about 3 weeks and see if they request a prototype or not!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Terra Prime rules update

I've updated the rules for Terra Prime. I'm going to submit this version to Hippodice this week. I have played it a couple times recently, and I think it's in really good shape!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Terra Prime Playtests

I got another couple playtests of Terra Prime the last couple Thursdays at Hat's as well as last Saturday at the Ides of Gaming event. As I mentioned previously, I had some changes I wanted to try. I did put them into effect for the last couple games. I'm happy with how they went. Here they are again, with my current thoughts on them:

1. Swap cargo upgrades. I tried this, and I guess it seems reasonable, I'm concerned that the 2nd upgrade isn't desirable. I might consider the first upgrade costing 3 cubes and the second costing 2 - it sounds odd, but might work out allright.

Edit: After discussing the situation with Sebastian, I think there's a better solution. I will try leaving the extra $/delivery upgrade as the "2nd" upgrade, and I will change the holds a bit. No more "wilds", each hold will have a single side and a double side. When you install one, you install it single side up. The reverse side is accessible when you purchase the 'first' upgrade. The back will have the same colored slot as the front, plus a slot that can hold G/U (or maybe Y/G/U).

Thus, after the upgrade, a Red Cargo tile could hold RG or RU (or maybe RY) and a Yellow Cargo tile could hold YU, YG (or maybe YY). There would also be a U/G hod which would have double U/G on the reverse (or maybe U/G and U/G/Y).

I think this does more what I wanted the colored holds to do, which is differentiate which goods you can carry. Cryo Chambers will be defined as requireg any double-slot hold (so your initial UG hold can carry one, or any hold after upgrading can carry one).

Also, I'm going to try the upgrades as 6 different upgrades, not a linear progression.

2. Initial cargo hold carries 2 cubes or 1 Cryo Chamber. I like this a lot, and I think it's important. I want players to have to buy a cargo hold if they want to carry Yellow or Red cubes.

3. Change second cargo upgrade to "flip over their cargo hold tiles at will". Actually, now that I've considered the cargo hold thing above, the upgrade will be that you use the double side (flip over any holds you have, install any new ones with the double side up).

4. Bonus points for tiles are screwy. I don't know, maybe I'll leave them for now, and see if Delivering is earning too many points or something.

5. The Yellow tile game end trigger is still kinda lame. I like the new version, 12 tiles between Yellow and Red. I'd like to find a better way to represent that. It might involve more components, like chits you take when you explore or something.

6. Make colors (of cargo holds) scarce. See above, I'll make a couple of each, not sure how scarce they ought to be. I'm thinking 2 Yellow, 2 Red, and 2 Green/Blue, is that too few? Maybe 3 Yellow for 5p. I wonder if I need to provide enough holds so that multiple people can buy 2 if they want. most people don't, but maybe that's good, buying a second could jack a player out of a hold... is that good or bad? I guess I could make plenty of G/U holds, so the only copetition os for Y and R.

I am excited about these new ideas. I think I'll go home and update my prototype (and rules!) maybe play it this weekend.

Wizard's Tower box rendering

I got a notification at BGG that someone posted a picture for Wizard's Tower. I figured John must have been playing with his 1984 digital camera again... but I was wrong! Chris D'Andrea from North Carolina was

"reading your great posts on Pillars of the Earth (I just bought it and was reading your strategies) and went to your designer page. I saw that you had box images and figured I would make a 3d render of it for the game. The artwork is very nice and looks great on a box. I am looking forward to seeing how your game turns out."

I think it looks pretty sweet. Thanks Chris!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A really good session report on BGG

I'd like to draw attention to this session report on BGG about the new game Cuba.

First off, I really like session reports like that for games I'm interested in but haven't played. They really give me a good feel for what the game is like. Second, Cuba sounds more and more amazing every time I read about it!

Protecting intellectual property

Intellectual property and the protection thereof is not the kind of thing I put a lot of thought into. However for the last day or so I've been thinking about it a lot. My friend Bo, who I sometimes work on games with, owns a company called Shifting Skies Games. As such he views Game Design a bit differently than I do, and than pretty much anyone I've talked to about it. that's because the designers I know are doing it as a hobby, not as a profession, and they're not inextricably tied to the publishing end of things as Bo is.

My personal process of designing and developing a game involves a lot of open information. I do my best work in the Board Game Designers Forum chat room, bouncing ideas off of people and listening to what they have to say, offering my own insight and suggestions on their projects, and generally just brainstorming. I'm not published at this time, but I think I'm relatively good at what I do (at least some of the time).

The problem is, from a "game design as a profession" point of view, my process is technically unprofessional. Even in the low stakes world of hobbyist board game design, intellectual property has value, and to be as cavalier as I am about sharing intimate details of my game designs with anyone who's willing to listen could cause legal or financial nightmares if and when the game ever does get published, even if only in theory.

My personal philosophy is that it's not worth the effort to steal someone else's game idea, because ideas are a dime a dozen - the hard part is the execution. Also, I don't worry about someone claiming credit on a game I eventually get published because first off, I'm imminently fair about credit where credit is due (or I try to be), and secondly I don't think it's worth anybody's time to sue me over that kind of thing, when it would cost more to arbitrate than either party stands to make.

But then, I'm not counting on board game design to buy my groceries. I have a job as an Engineer and I make decent money at it. One could argue that nobody should try to survive solely on amateur game design, and to an extent that's true... but then there wouldn't be Z-man Games and Rio Grande, and our hobby would die out.

The long and short of this post is that I'm a bit conflicted about whether to carry on the way I always have, or whether to take on a more protective philosophy. I've always considered that the guarded approach is actually bad for the state of game design. Nothing occurs in a vacuum, and in my personal opinion games in general would be better if designers all sort of worked together on them. the problem with that kind of thinking is "who owns the idea?" and therefore "who gets paid when it gets published?"

In the end I believe I will continue working the way I work (open information) with regard to my own designs, but when working on games with Bo I will need to keep things under wraps until the game is at least ready to be playtested. Bo and I make a pretty good team, and we've had a lot of good discussions about various games, It's unfortunate that I need to either work with Bo or work the way I'm used to, and not both.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Building a game based on a core mechanic...

[Originally written 10/22/07, never posted, now edited]
... that is itself another, simpler game.

Zooloretto won the Spiel de Jars a few years ago, it's a game built on the mechanic that is the game Coloretto. I mentioned in a previous post (in another forum) some thoughts on a game built on the mechanic in Reiner Kinizia's eXXtra, a die rolling mechanic which makes for a neat mini-game in itself, but could perhaps be used in a bigger game.

I've thought before that it might be interesting to build a game out of the mechanic of Liar's Dice, which is my favorite bluffing game. I mentioned it to Bo one night, and we talked about it and brainstormed and came up with some ideas as to how to build a game based on Liar's Dice. In the end, we never finished any co-design using this mechanism.

Because I was going to work on it with Bo, and he is particular about intellectual property and online posts, I had respectfully withheld the ideas as to structure of the game based on Liar's Dice. I have recently revisited the idea, and decided to cull anything that Bo had contributed and use only the parts of my own design and create my own game using this Bluff Auction mechanism. As such there have been many posts in my blog recently on the subject of my own re-themed and re-structured Bluff Auction game.

I had this post from 3.5 years ago written but not published, and I don't like keeping those around - so I have edited it, updated it, and published it for posterity - feel free to ignore.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Prototypes at BGG.con

A lot of people seem to be surfing to my blog lately from this thread at BGG. It's true, I'll have a copy (maybe 2!) of Jeff and Steve's Lost Adventures game with me at the convention. I'll also have a number of other prototypes of games designed by myself or my friends - I started a sign-up list at BGG for people interested in checking them out.

The games I'll be bringing are...

  • Lost Adventures by Jeff Warrender and Steve Sisk
  • Terra Prime by Seth Jaffee
  • All For One by Seth Jaffee and David Brain
  • Blockade Runner by Seth Jaffee and Boyan Radakovich
  • Acts of the Disciples by Jeff Warrender
  • Homesteaders by Alex Rockwell
  • Wizard's Tower by John Heder and Seth Jaffee

Friday, October 19, 2007

Magic: the Gathering - Lorwyn Constructed follow-up post

The last deck I wanted to mention is probably my favorite of the decks I made, but it's probably actually the second best of the bunch - the Green/Black deck is a powerhouse. The last deck is Blue/black Faeries, with flash creatures and counterspells.

All blue ever needed was creatures they could play at the end of their opponent's turn, rather than having to commit resources to during their own turn. That way they can always have all their mana open for tricks and countermagic, and if they don't need it then they can put a creature in play. And in the case of Faeries, one of these creatures actually counters a spell when it comes into play. Another acts as a Vampiric Tutor, bringing any Faerie card to the top of the deck. These creatures stick around and attack as well, so no need to fill your deck with boring "win conditions" that don't actually do anything...

The down side to the Faeries is that they are fragile, and the deck has little or no ways to remove more than 1 creature or draw more cards. The only card advantage that can be gained is by countering a spell with the Spellstutter Sprite, or hard casting a Shriekmaw (which of course means tapping land on your own turn). My build does use Wydwen, the Biting Gale, a 3/3 flying faerie which can bounce to my hand for BU and a life, which could create card advantage as well.

I still think the deck is good, but it needs a little something to gain card advantage, or to deal with a dangerous permanent that gets past a counterspell. I believe there's a 4cc creature that has a control magic effect... I don't think it's a faerie but it might be good enough anyway. There's an expensive creature (6cc) with Evoke (1UU) which bounces a creature when it comes into play, but like Shriekmaw it hasn't got Flash.

Shriekmaw is one of the better cards in the set I think, as it's in the same color as one of the very best cards in the set (Nameless Inversion), it can be cast for 2 so it means early creature D vs crazy things like 2cc 3/3 Elves, and later it can come into play and stay there, which in some games can make a huge difference.

There exists a black faerie which costs 3 for a 1/1 flier, and when it comes into play it makes your opponent discard a card. The effect is interesting, but the cost and power/toughness are very unexciting. There's also a 1cc black faerie which is 1/1, flies, and can't block. A 1cc faerie is attractive because it can lead into a turn 2 Stuttersprite, but it means playing enough Swamps to reliably cast it on turn 1.

I can't figure out what in the deck needs to come out to make way for better things, and I also can't quite figure out what would be significantly better. Here's the list as it stands... I think there might be too much land in the deck with the Twigs in there, but I'd hate to not draw enough:

15 Island (2 should be Secluded Glenns)
8 Swamp (1 should be a Secluded Glenn)
1 Secluded Glenn (obviously 3 more go in)
4 Wanderer's Twig
4 Ponder
3 Broken Ambition
4 Nameless Inversion
4 Spellstutter Sprite
2 Familiar's Ruse
4 Faerie Trickery
3 Pestermite (maybe fewer)
1 Scion of Oona (should be more for sure)
3 Faerie Harbinger
1 Wydwen, the Biting Gale
3 Shriekmaw

After playing a few games with people using the 5 decks I made, I have come to the conclusion that I have indeed been overvaluing Moonglove Extract. I took them out of the Elf deck, as well as the Final Revel, and replaced them with Twigs. I'm not sure if I'm sold on the twigs or not, but they still seem like a fine idea in theory.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Terra Prime (revisited) (again)

I got a chance to play a 4 player game of Terra Prime tonight. The rules explanation went well, and the game plus rules took about 1 hour 15 minutes - which is probably a little quick. The game did seem to end abruptly as we ended up exploring all of the Yellow tiles quickly while no one was doing a lot of delivering.

Here are the things I'm going to change for next time:

1. Swap cargo upgrades. Currently the first cargo upgrade is one that increases (doubles) the capacity of 'wild' cargo holds (which can hold any type of good, including a Cryo Chamber). The second upgrade is an extra 10 credits (1 unit) per delivery. I think those are backwards, and I think holding 2 Cryos per tile is too much. I'm going to switch them so that the first upgrade is the extra money per delivery, and the second one increases carrying capacity.

2. I'd like to see the initial cargo hold 2 cubes or 1 Cryo Chamber. I think the best way to represent that is to print the pre-printed one sorta like the other boxes on the ship, with a big diagonal line through it. On one side it will show a green and a blue cube, and on the other it will show a single 'wild' cube. Thus, a player from the outset can carry either a blue and a green cube, or a Cryo chamber, but not both at the same time.

3. While I'm adjusting how the Cargo Holds work, the second upgrade will be changed to simply allow players to flip over their cargo hold tiles at will. The front side has 2 boxes of specific color and the back has a single 'wild' box. Cryo Chambers only go in 'wild' boxes. Making this change to the upgrade means that the upgrade allows you to increase your Cryo carrying capacity as well as your cube carrying capacity rather than having to choose when you buy your hold. I think this needs to be the second upgrade, because as a first upgrade it seems that all players will just buy a 'wild' hold, then immediately get the upgrade to increase the capacity. AS a second upgrade I hope it'll introduce more of a decision as to what you want to do with your cargo holds. My concern is that it might not be a good enough benefit to warrant getting that second upgrade. I guess I'll have to wait and see.

4. Bonus points for tiles are screwy. I thought I had decided that the bonus should be X-1, where X is the number of cubes on the tile, but they appear to be X on the tiles I have. I may reduce that before I demo the game at BGG.con

5. The Yellow tile game end trigger is still kinda lame. The next idea to try is to mix in some Red tiles into that game end trigger. I think if the trigger is something like 12 Yellow/Red tiles total, then it could encourage exploring Red tiles more, and could make the game end trigger a little nicer. It means at least 3 Red tiles MUST be explored, and it's also possible to trigger the endgame with several red tiles explored and not all the Yellow tiles explored.

6. Make colors (of cargo holds) scarce: I'd like to eventually reduce the number and types of available cargo holds so that they're not all available all the time to all players. If there's only, say, one of each combination, then that might make for more player differentiation. It might also make for a more interesting cargo hold purchase in the early game.

These are the only changes I'm going to make at this time, I hope to test with those changes really soon. I want to send the rulebook off to Hippodice ASAP.

This post is about Magic: the Gathering. Feel free to skip it.

Lorwyn Constructed thoughts

I've been thinking a lot about Magic lately, having had a lot of fun playing in these Lorwyn tournaments. I mentioned last post that I made maybe 5 different decks for Lorwyn Constructed - a format that may never really exist in the tournament environment, at least not until the next set comes out. In fact, Aaron Forsythe of WotC research and Development (I think, maybe it was someone else) said something to the effect of "Lorwyn wasn't designed or tested to be played in Block Constructed all by itself" - which, if its true, I think is a huge shame. My favorite format was always Block Constructed.

The format that is relevant at the moment is probably Lorwyn Standard, which is the new Type II, after Lorwyn rotates in. State Championships will be that format, and they're coming up like this or next weekend. I think this weekend is too soon for me, but if it's next weekend I may consider going to States... but if that's the case I'll have to get some cards to supplement the Lorwyn cards I have made decks out of, and I should probably do my due diligence and look at which cards are legal and etc.

I'd much rather just take my sub-optimal Lorwyn Constructed decks to Friday Night Magic and pit them against the Type II decks people use there. I'll probably lose to the good players, but I bet I wouldn't go 0-4... at least 2 of my Lorwyn decks are probably good enough to do alright at a local tournament (where the competition isn't necessarily top notch).

Lorwyn is all about Tribes. Each color has about 2 tribes represented, and each tribe is represented in about 2 different colors. A quick search on Wikipedia will show a little chart indicating which tribes are in which colors, etc. Here's a quick rundown of the decks I made, more or less from worst to best...

There are a lot of Merfolk in Lorwyn, some of them sound pretty good such as Silvergill Adept, a 2/1 Merfolk creature for 1U (a pretty good start) which says When Silvergill Adept comes into play, draw a card. That's probably the best Merfolk ever printed. Aside from the Adept, the card that will probably make any successful Merfolk deck is Merrow Reejerey - another "All Merfolk get +1/+1" card like Lord of Atlantis, but this one also lets you tap or untap a permanent when it comes into play. At first I figured that ability would likely be used to tap blockers (and indeed, in limited play that's probably what happened) - but then I realized you could untap a land with that ability. In constructed play that's likely going to be a popular use of the card... it allows Merfolk to be played with a rebate, meaning you could play them out faster, or you could play Merfolk and still keep counterspell mana untapped.

This particular pile of Merfolk I put together doesn't seem particularly good - it's just a mess of Merfolk with 3 on the high end of the mana curve, and splashing Oblivion Ring and Nameless Inversion - 2 of the best removal cards in the set. As an experiment I replaced a few lands with Wanderer's Twig, a 1cc artifact which you can sac to get a basic land into your hand. I'm not sure if I like it or not, but I figure it's nearly as good as a land as long as you have 1 land already, and it thins land out of your deck so you don't draw it. On the down side, it's slow.

There exists a 6cc Merfolk that does something like "Whenever ~this deals combat damage to a player, take an additional turn after this one." It seems like there should be a way to take advantage of that in a control style deck and basically take infinite turns. However it does require that you have at least 1 Merfolk in play when you play that guy... I don't think he'd fit in this "super low casting cost" version of a Merfolk deck, but maybe in a more regular one. Today I was actually thinking there could be a Green/Blue deck with a lot of Changelings in it which runs the Time Walk Merfolk (and of course, Silvergill Adept) - it could also use the Shapeshifter guy which changes any Changeling creature into a copy of any creature on the board, so once the Time Walk guy is in play, you could theoretically be attacking with several of them.

Current decklist:
14 Island
4 Vivid Creek
3 Wanderwine Hub
4 Wanderer's Twig
2 Runed Stalactite
4 Ponder
4 Tideshaper Mystic
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Deeptread Merrow
3 Nameless Inversion
2 Merrow Reejerey (should be 4)
4 Paperfin Rascal (should be 2, or none)
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Faerie Trickery

The Giant Package
Aside from an amusing name, there's a subset of Giant cards that strikes me as a good, solid base of a deck. There's a "package" of about 10 cards that could comprise part of a deck - 4x Blind Spot Giant, 3x Thundercloud Shaman, and 2-3x Giant's Ire. Along with these there are some staple red removal spells (Tarfire and Lash Out) which are obvious for just about any deck with Mountains. And the common red Free Agent (Fire-Belly Changeling) is a pretty good deal for the casting cost, so he should probably be in the deck as well. I hadn't thought about the bigger Free Agent (4cc, Haste, Champion a creature), but I suppose that wouldn't be bad either.

I initially wanted to try this package with some of the Kithkin white weenies, as the Greatheart guy synergizes well with the Giants, the Runed Stalactite would help the 2 teams play nice, and White means Oblivion Ring. My first attempt may have leaned too far toward the Kithkin White Weenie side though, as the new White Knight (Knight of Meadowgrain) and the Crusade on Wheels (Wizened Cenn) both require WW to cast, which probably wants a mono-W land base, or at least doesn't go well with a deck that would like to case Blind Spot on turn 3. My second attempt was more an attempt at forcing as much direct damage on my opponent as possible by combining with Black. Adding a few Goblin spells - Mudbutton Torchrunner, Nameless Inversion, Boggart Harbinger, and Fodder Launch) might be the key to a really fast and dangerous deck, but I doubt it. Giant's Ire + Fodder Launch does bring a lot of burn to the a table already littered with Tarfire and Moonglove Extract, and the Torchrunner acts as either direct damage or creature D that the opponent really can't do much about.

In any case, I think the key card in the Giant Package is not the 3 casting cost 4/3 creature, but the 5cc 4/4 Wrath of God. Thundercloud Shaman is the only reason I really want to play Giants at all.

Current decklist:
16 Mountain
5 Swamp
3 Auntie's Hovel
4 Tarfire
3 Lash Out
2 Nameless Inversion
4 Fire-Belly Changeling
4 Blind-Spot Giant
4 Boggart Harbinger
4 Mudbutton Torchrunner
4 Moonglave Extract
2 Giant's Ire
2 Fodder Launch
3 Thundercloud Shaman

Kithkin WW
Some of the more attractive cards in the set are white and cost 2 or 3 mana. The most notable of them might be Knight of Meadowgrain and Oblivion Ring. I'm personally a fan of Kithkin Greatheart as well, but that may be because I also like Runed Stalactite, and attacking for 4 with 1 creature on turn 3 seems like a good deal. The rest of the deck doesn't seem as stellar - Neck Snap is effective against those nasty fatties or 3/3 Deathtouch elves, but it costs a lot of mana. I chose it over Crib Swap because (a) it doesn't leave a blocker, and (b) I actually didn't have any Crib Swaps on me when I made the deck. I seem to put Moonglave Extract into just about every deck I build, but I'm not sure if the 3cc price tag is really worth it - in a creature rush deck I think you could do worse for creature D. Of course the Kithkin weenie deck will be using the new Savannah Lions (Goldmeadow Stalwart) and the Crusade (Wizened Cenn, but the creature options after that are questionable. I'm trying Kinsbaile Skirmisher in the first draft, and a couple Avian Changelings - mostly because they are Free Agents and therefore immune to the Elf Terror (and nice to play after Greatheart), and because I liked them a lot in Sealed Deck. Yes, I realize that's a bad reason to use a card in a constructed format. Finally, Surge of Thoughtweft seems a natural to go in the deck, but in the end maybe that Kithkin Militia enchantment might be better.

Current decklist:
22 Plains (too many?)
3 Runed Stalactite
4 Glodmeadow Stalwart
4 Knight of Meadowgrain
3 Wizened Cenn (4 if I had them)
4 Kithkin Greatheart
3 Kinsbaile Skirmisher
3 Surge of Thoughtweft
3 Avian Changeling
4 Moonglave Extract
4 Oblivion Ring
3 Neck Snap

G/B Elves
Green/Black is probably one of the best decks I can think of. Outside of Oblivion Ring, Black has the best creature D in the set - Nameless Inversion can be tutored for with any Harbinger, Eyeblight's Ending flat out kills anything except Elves and Changelings, no matter how big, and Shriekmaw kills just about anything the Elf Terror doesn't - and it leaves a 3/2 creature in play! Green's creatures are amazing, and this time even more than usual they work together really well. Initially there were Fertile Grounds in the deck, and between them and the Leaf Gliders, one could easily play a turn 3 3/3 that makes Elf tokens, or 5/5 that makes Wolf tokens. Since then I dropped the enchantments in favor of more good creatures. With the potential for so many elves in play, the Jagged-Scar Archers seem like a good deal at 3 mana. Wrens Run Vanquisher is a powerhouse on turn 2, and bombs like Wren's Run Packmaster and Vigor seem to fit well in the deck. At the pre-release I opened 2 of those legends which make your opponent discard at random and put an elf into play every turn - seems like they should go right in the deck, but as yet they're not in there (I forgot!) Finally, there are 2 cards which I'm trying out in the deck which I think are pretty solid... Final Revels can be a Wrath of God in a match against Goblins or Kithkin (or other Elves!), even if some of my creatures are susceptible. The fact that it can turn into a finisher if I happen to have a number of Elves/Wolves in play I think makes it definitely worth playing. At the moment I only have 1, but I think I'd like to go to 2 at least. The other card I'm trying out, which I think I'm going to really like in general even if not in this deck, is Hoarder's Greed. A deck like this doesn't mind drawing cards, and if you win 1 clash then it goes from being an "OK card drawer" to a "really good hand refill". Anything more than that just gets better, with the slim possibility that you'll be in a situation where you effectively kill yourself by playing it. I bet that'll be rare though.

Current decklist:
13 Forest
7 Swamp
4 [B/G dualland]
4 Nameless Inversion
4 Leaf Glider
4 Wren's Run Vanquisher
3 Woodland Changeling
3 Jagged-Scar Archers
2 Elvish Harbinger
2 Eyeblight's Ending
3 Moonglove Extract
3 Lys Alana Huntmaster
2 Wren's Run Packmaster
2 Hoarder's Greed
2 Shriekmaw
1 Final Revels
1 Vigor

And, saving the best for last...
[This post is still under construction, I will come back and finish with what I think is probably the best deck idea to come out of lorwyn]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Recent gaming - Long time, no post!

I've done very little in the way of game design lately. No playtest sessions on Sunday mornings, no new game designs of my own (Red Colony is still rolling around in my head). Here's what I have been up to in the last 2 weeks (in no particular order):

On the design/developement/prototype front...

I have played some more Lost Adventures. Jeff and Steve are sending me a prototype of it made by them, which in theory will be a bit nicer than the one I made. I'm going to take it to BGG.con with me, where I intend to play a lot of prototypes!

I made a geeklist at BGG for people to sign up to play prototypes. Gil Hova (IngredientX) will be at the con and is signed up to play Terra Prime. A couple other people expressed interest in TP as well, enough for a full game which is now tentatively scheduled for Thursday afternoon the first day of the con.

I also put together a prototype of Scott Slomiany's Sir Reginold's Fabulous Country Manor, which entailed cutting out about 250 stickers and applying them to the faces of 3/4" wooden cubes. The game seems like a really fun idea - you build a fancy mansion with the cubes in order to satisfy the Desires of Sir Reginold. Scott is still working on the scoring system, but in general if you satisfy his desires, you score points, and he who satisfies the desires "the best" scores a bonus. I think the premise is sound, and the idea is fun, but the game needs some work. I think Scott has actually made some changes for entering the game into Hippodice, a big game design contest in Germany - I haven't played it again since the changes, but they sounded like a step in the right direction.

Speaking of Hippodice, I have never really entered that contest. David submitted All For One once, and it did pretty well, but he is the one who did everything for that and I didn't really see it. I am always hesitant to try and do things I have no idea how to do or that I'm not familiar with. There's no reason I shouldn't send in an entry (or 2!) to Hippodice, and resolved to do just that this year. I have until November 1st to send in a rulebook for something... I'm not sure what to send. Probably Terra Prime I suppose. I told John we should enter Wizard's Tower, and I think he started looking into it. I emailed Alex and suggested he enter Homesteaders.

Of course since making that resolution, I haven't even looked at any of my games :/ I think I'll try extra hard to wrangle people from my game group to play Terra Prime this Thursday.

On the game playing side of things...

I've played Phoenicia a few times now, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I start to think there's something to it, then I play it with some people and we talk about it and it seems like it's contrived and boring. Then I play it again and it seems like it might be alright. I think it's one of those games that needs to be played with a full compliment of experienced players, but my problem is finding people who want to play it enough times to become "experienced".

I've also played several games of Caylus Magna Carta, which I might like even better than Caylus. I think Caylus is the better game, but CMC might have a better fun-per-unit-work ratio, and it's similar enough that it satisfies in some of the same ways. It's also much shorter and more compact, which is a plus.

The game I've probably played the most recently has been Magic: the Gathering. A couple weeks ago, Jake, Tyler and I went to Phoenix for the Lorwyn pre-release tournament (the new set that just came out). None of us have played Magic seriously in a really long time, but we're all pretty good. We went home with 90 packs of prize between the three of us - that's 2-1/2 boxes, more prize than we used to get when we played all the time! I went to Amazing Discoveries (a local shop down the street from my house) and played in another Lorwyn sealed tournament last Saturday, and I sorely missed building decks - so I built about 5 Llorwyn Constructed decks out of the common and uncommon cards that have piled up from these sealed deck tournaments. 2 of them are really good, and if I decide to play in any upcoming tournaments I'm sure those will be the ones I use. One of them is Green/Black and has some really good creatures, like a 2 casting cost 3/3 with the old Basilisk ability (which is now called Deathtouch). The other is a Blue/Black deck based on Faeries, all of which have an ability called Flash, which means you can play them whenever you could play an Instant. Blue has needed creatures like this forever, as it means they can always leave Counterspell mana open, and if they don't need to counter anything, they can play a creature at the end of the opponent's turn! As if that's not enough, one of the Faerie creatures actually counters a spell when it comes into play! Another one searches out Faerie cards, and one of the counterspells is a Faerie card... I'm certain this will be the best deck I can come up with.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mars in a new light

As mentioned in the previous post, there may be a better way to go about Red Colony - from a plausible point of view rather than a fantastical one. In looking into it I was turned onto this Wikipedia entry (thanks Dylan!) which sounds to me like a lot of really good structure for a game about colonizing Mars!

To paraphrase:

The attractiveness of Mars Direct does not rest on a single cost-effective mission. Envision a series of regular Martian missions with the ultimate goal of colonization. As initial explorers leave habitat structures on the planet, subsequent missions become easier to undertake.

Large subsurface, pressurized habitats would be the first step toward human settlement; they can be built as Roman-style atria underground with easily produced Martian brick. During and after this initial phase of habitat construction, hard-plastic radiation- and abrasion-resistant geodesic domes could be deployed on the surface for eventual habitation and crop growth. Nascent industry would begin using indigenous resources: the manufacture of plastics, ceramics and glass.

The larger work of terraforming requires an initial phase of global warming to release atmosphere from the regolith and to create a water-cycle. Three methods of global warming are best deployed in tandem: orbital mirrors to heat the surface; factories on the surface to pump halocarbons into the atmosphere; and the seeding of bacteria which can metabolize water, nitrogen and carbon to produce ammonia and methane (these would aid in global warming). While the work of warming Mars is on-going, true colonization can begin.

Any Martian colony will be partially Earth-dependent for centuries. However, Mars may be a profitable place for two reasons. First, it may contain concentrated supplies of metals of equal or greater value to silver which have not been subjected to millennia of human scavenging and may be sold on Earth for profit. Secondly, the concentration of deuterium — an extremely expensive but essential fuel for the nuclear power industry — is five times greater on Mars. Humans emigrating to Mars thus have an assured industry and the planet will be a magnet for settlers as wage costs will be high.

It feels almost as if like that article wrote the game for me! I'm going to ponder it a bit, and see if I can build an interesting game system based on the the basic idea of The Case for Mars (the book that article is about).

On the down side, this might play havoc with the original idea of the game, which was to customize your income stream while exploring and building up your colony. But I think a more plausible premise might make for a better product overall, and I'm not sure the basic ideas would have to change all that much.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Maybe this Mars game isn't a bad idea at all...

I was informed that perhaps a game about the possibility of colonizing Mars would actually be very marketable, as NASA is interested in educating people about Mars in order to keep interest up and maintain funding for their projects.

That might be really cool - I'd like to look into what's known about Mars, and if the game could be fairly plausible then I think that could work!