Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's tricky to rock a rhyme, to rock a rhyme that's right on time - it's tricky!

Yesterday a thought came to mind about trick taking games. To start with, I HATE trick taking games. I just don't think they're fun at all, and I'm terrible at predicting how many tricks I will take, which is the measure by which many trick taking games are scored. So if I hate them so much, why give them a moment's thought?

Well, somehow in thinking about 7 Wonders, and reading something (probably on about trick taking, this idea popped into my head:

"What if the cards from the trick you've won went into play in front of you?"

I think I would like a trick taking game better if the trick taking mechanism were merely the way you go about improving your board position and getting an interesting combination of effects. Imagine a trick taking game in which the cards of each suit, in addition to having a numeric value, also had some game effect printed on them. Maybe a character (a Champion?), some Equipment, some Artifacts, and some Events. The Character would go into play and provide the ability to do something later. The Equipment would attach to the Character and be useful, but if you don't have the character in play it would be discarded. The Artifacts would simply go into play and have a static effect. The Events would have an immediate effect and then be discarded. Thus by winning a trick, you would get some cards which would all come into play and/or have their effect. Or perhaps from your trick you choose 1 card to put into play and save the rest for some other purpose (or just discard them).

Of course the game would have to offer something to do with these items once they're in play. Maybe after several rounds of trick taking, you then resolve some battle, or economy, or whatever based on the stuff you have in play. Maybe this is iterative, and the results of this resolution are how you get cards for the next round of trick taking. Maybe it also scores points. Or maybe something that's good at scoring points is bad at getting you more cards, while things that help you get more or better cards are not worth as many points.

A dynamic I've been interested in using in a game (and indeed, was using in the Liar's Auction game I was working on before) is this: In a game with several different categories, having collected something in one category makes you better at collecting more things in that category, but rewards for doing so suffer from diminishing returns, so that for scoring you would rather have things from a variety of categories.

In the Liar's Auction I was using the item you got for winning the Red auction made it easier for you to win more Red auctions, but each time you win a Red auction you get fewer points than the last time. So for scoring you'd rather win 4 different auctions (20vp in this case: 5+5+5+5) than 4 of the same auction (14vp in this case: 5+4+3+2).

This could apply here, where winning a Spades trick could put cards in play that make it easier for you to win future Spades tricks, but the rewards in the game are better if you win a variety of tricks. Perhaps you can only have 1 Champion of each suit in play, so if you want another Champion you have to win a trick of another suit, etc,

Eminent Domain: Expansion thoughts (and Prestige Planets)

I had already been thinking along the lines of something I'd like to try for Eminent Domain. I think the game works nicely and is solid as-is, so I considered these additional thoughts to be a potential expansion item down the road.

I'm a firm believer that an expansion to a game should be more than just more of the same kinds of cards. I think an expansion should offer a new play experience, such that the game with the expansion should feel like a new game, similar to the original, but not just more of the same. Basically, if the Eminent Domain expansion ever happens, it will looks something like this:

The main thrust of the expansion would be Agendas and the Politics role. There would be a Role stack of Politics cards, just like the one you start with in your starting deck, and there would also be a deck of Agendas. The Role for Politics would be to choose one of the (probably 3) available Agendas and bring it into play. Through Boosting and Following, players would be able to somehow vote on whether the Agenda passes and takes effect, or perhaps which of the Agenda's effects take effect. My current inclination is that each Agenda would have multiple possibilities, and based on which icons you Boost/Follow with, you attempt to get the one you want in play. This would be clearer with an example or two:

Example #1
Agenda: Each player gets +1 VP for each planet of one Type - vote on which type:
Colonize/Harvest icons count as votes for Fertile planets,
Trade/Research icons count as votes for Advanced planets,
Survey/Warfare icons count as votes for Metallic planets,

Example #2
Agenda: All Settle costs are increased/decreased by 1
Warfare/Research icons count as votes for increasing the Settle cost
Colonize/Survey icons count as votes for reducing the Settle cost

So based on your strategy (and that of your opponents) you might try to make things better for you or harder on them.

I would round out the expansion with some other stuff too (all of this, of course, is subject to change):
- Extra Action/Role cards to accommodate a 5th player
- New Planet Types:
  - 3 Prestige Planets (available with Kickstarter pre-orders)
  - 6 Utopian Planets (1 with each action icon, 2vp each, ability to harvest ANY resource, and counts as any planet type you already have in your Empire)
- Potentially another (double sided?) Level 2 and/or Level 3 technology card of each type.
- Maybe even cross-color technologies (level 2 tech cards requiring a specific pair of planets in play)
  - Fertile + Metallic
  - Fertile + Advanced
  - Advanced + Metallic
  - Fertile + Advanced + Metallic

I am finding it very interesting thinking about an expansion before the original game is published. I like it, because it allows me to set the framework for the expansion with the base game - it allows me to plan ahead. For example, if adding a 5th player down the road, I'm pretty sure I'll want to add VPs to the supply. As such, I can provide 30 VP tokens in the base game, useful anyway in case the supply runs out and people still collect VPs, and later if I add a 5th player we don't have to manufacture more Victory point tokens - I can just say "use all 30 that came with your game."

Yesterday I finally went through and created one version of these Agenda cards, and John came over to give them a try. First we played a game without the agendas, but with the Prestige Planets (I had not played with them yet) and the Utopian Planets I'd just invented. That went pretty well. I am really happy with the Prestige Planets. I'm fairly happy with the Utopian Planets as well, but I'd like to play with them a little more to make sure they're not TOO good.

Then we played a couple games with the Agendas. The Agendas were weird. John didn't like them, but I think that might have been mostly due to unfamiliarity. I was definitely trying to think of ways to use them, and I did benefit from them. In one game John started with one of the standard openings: Politics for Warfare, Warfare Role. I had gone first, and had chosen not to commit to either Warfare or Colonize in my first turn, and now that John had started Warfare, in my 2nd turn I proposed an Agenda that increased or decreased warfare costs, and I boosted with 2 icons toward Increase. I realized that I hadn't stated what happens in a tie, but I think it's pretty obvious the person who's turn it is should win ties. In order to out-vote me, John would have had to play 3 icons, either Warfare or  Survey, and I knew he'd just spent his Warfare and couldn't have 3 Survey icons, so he wasn't going to be able to outvote me. Thus, attacking planets became more expensive by 1 Army for the rest of the game.

John didn't like this, but again, I think it's mostly because he didn't see it coming and felt lie he couldn't do anything about it. Later I think another Agenda came into play, but I don't recall which or how big an impact it had. I think it was +1vp per Trade Role if you trade at least 1 resource of a specific type, and I won the vote for it to be Food. I had started with a Food producing planet in play.

In our second game with Agendas, I finished an early turn with 3 Survey cards in hand, and was prepared to follow a Survey Role. However, John elected to go for an Agenda which gave +1vp for each planet of a certain type, and he boosted with 2 Harvest icons voting for Fertile - the type of his starting planet. I had started with a Metallic planet, so I followed with my 3 Survey cards, decimating my hand, but ensuring the Agenda would reward Metallic planets. I began doing Warfare, and later John proposed another Agenda, attempting to make Warfare more expensive on me. Again he boosted with 2 icons, and again I outvoted him by following with 3 icons, thereby making Warfare actually less expensive instead of more expensive! I went on to Survey and Attack a number of planets, even Colonizing a couple as well. Probably 3 of my planets were Metallic so I got an additional 3 points from the Agenda and won that game handily.

I kinda liked the Agendas. They need some work, and right now I just have 9 of them - and 1 was just because I had space on the page to print it, I invented one on the spot that removes all Agendas from play, and just needs a minimum total number of icons to be played (any type) - different minimum for each player count. I do think they would be more interesting in a game with more than 2 players.

Finally, John and I went to Hat's Games, where they were having a sort of Halloween party. Pulp Gamer representative Derek Rex was there, and we played a 3 player game of Eminent Domain with him. We didn't use the Agendas, but we left in the Prestige and Utopian planets. This was the most evenly distributed game I've ever seen, as the piles were ALL down to just a few cards left if any when the VP pile was exhausted. While finishing out the round, the Research pile was also used up, and everything else had just a couple of cards left. For a 3 player game it was a very long game (turn wise), but only took an hour. An interesting and fun game!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Eminent Domain Kickstarter Progress

I found out about Kickstarter on July 20th, and have been suggesting that we utilize it to fund Eminent Domain (or some other game) ever since that date. As you know, we have finally started that process, and in the first few days of the Kickstarter campaign I must say that I am VERY surprised and VERY impressed by the progress so far! As I write this, we are about 3.5 days into our 30 day campaign, we've got 85 backers, and we've raised $5,745 toward our $20,000 goal! That's about 28% of the way there already!

Despite the fact that we've not done such a campaign before, and therefore didn't really know what to do or what to expect, I feel like we're doing very well. I also feel like we were a little under-prepared and could have done even better! It may be premature to call the campaign a success already, but we're doing better than I thought we would. I attribute this to a couple of factors:

* We studied previously successful Kickstarter projects and tried to learn from them.
* I crafted rewards specifically for various archetypal consumers that I expected to see.
* Michael has built a network for direct marketing, and has set up several avenues to disseminate information throughout that network.
* We are offering a product that doesn't suck!

It remains to be seen whether we reach all the way to our somewhat lofty funding goal, but I think we cobbled together a fairly strong Kickstart. I have been particularly surprised by the fact that in the first 3 days we're almost sold out of the $200 reward - the ability to name one of the technology cards in the game. I figured we would sell 2, maybe 3 of those over the course of the campaign. But it turns out we've sold 12 of the 15 available already. That means 12 people laid down $200 apiece to support our cause and the opportunity to name a card. They also get a Limited Edition copy of the game (with a special LE cover) and 3 regular copies, each with a set of exclusive Prestige Planet cards which won't be in the regular game (but might be in a future expansion). I'd be very interested to know if the people pledging that $200 amount are doing so primarily because of...

* the fact that they get to name a card,
* the fact that they get a Limited Edition copy of the game
* the fact that they get a total of 4 copies of the game

I would like to know this for the next time (if there is a next time) so I can optimize rewards better for people. I'd also like to know how many of those people would still have pledged if it were $250 instead of $200, or if they only got the LE copy and not 3 other copies of the game, etc.

I'm a little surprised that so many single copies of the game have sold rather than people finding a buddy and going in together for the $60 2-copy bundle - but not really. Many people just shop for themselves.

And finally, I'm a little surprised that we haven't seen groups of people overseas getting together for a 6-game bundle (because otherwise the stupid shipping premiums make it cost too much). but it's early yet - I wouldn't be surprised if we see some of that later in the month.

I doubt anybody will go for the $2500 reward where Mike and I fly out and host their game night, but I wanted to include that because I think it's fun to think about, for me as well as for people who read it and think "that would be cool, but I am not in a position to pay for it." I think it represents our attitude toward our customers, which is that we like them and want them to have fun, and would like to come hang out with them.

Anyway, I'm excited at the progress we've made, and I have reason to believe more orders will be forthcoming. I just hop it's enough to hit our funding goal!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Well folks, it's a go! The Kickstarter fundraising campaign for my latest game, Eminent Domain, has begun! It will run for 30 days.

Check out the Kickstarter page at the link below, but before you order, consider getting together with a group of friends and going for one of the bundles:
* 3 Limited Edition copies at $30 apiece, or
* 6 regular copies at $25 apiece!

I've played this game with a number of you, and I know some of you have printed copies and played yourself. I think it's fair to say that Eminent Domain is a lot of fun. Every time I see my friend John, it's all he wants to play! I can't argue with that...

There's lots of info on the page, and the rules are posted on Tasty Minstrel's website.

Thanks for your time, and any support you want to give - including spreading the word about the Kickstarter campaign!

Here are some links:
Eminent Domain on BGG:
Kickstarter page:
Eminent Domain rules:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Eminent Domain: A 3rd party review!

Tasty Minstrel fan and Eminent Domain playtest volunteer Tom Gurganus has posted a review of Eminent Domain on his blog! Tom has been playing Eminent Domain for some time, and says he enjoys it a lot. I was pleasantly surprised to read his review, and he dos a good job of describing the game.

As Essen winds down, you finish watching all of the videos from the BGG booth, and you're still in the mood to check out new games, can check out Tom's review of Eminent Domain. The rules are available on Tasty Minstrel's website.

Tomorrow we're starting a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to fund production of Eminent Domain, and if that is successful, the game should be out around April!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Eminent Domain: Rules and Kickstart

I have posted the rules for Eminent Domain on Tasty Minstrel's website. Of course they're not all done up nice by an artist yet, but you can read them and get excited about the game... then you can pre-order via starting Monday!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Kickstarting Kickstarter

There's a website called which helps people raise funding for creative projects. I've been wanting to utilize that ever since I saw how well it worked for Clever Mojo Games funding Alien Frontiers. Michael was skeptical, but I have finally convinced him that it's a good idea, so we'll be launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund Eminent Domain.

Michael has made a video explaining why we need the funding:

He also started a thread on BGG about it. On his blog he listed the rewards we're considering, and I'll do the same here. Please leave a comment with your opinion on the rewards! Which are good? What would you like to see that's not listed?

  • Copies of the games (at various quantities).
  • Limited edition cover of the game which would be digitally numbered and signed by the designer and artist.  Either 100 or 250 of these available total.
  • Promotional Eminent Domain T-Shirts – my current favorite ideas are: “I <3 Eminent Domain”, “I <3 ED”, and “Eminent Domain for President”.
  • Tasty Minstrel or Eminent Domain Polo Shirts (nice collared shirt with the logo embroidered on the breast.)
  • Poster of the box art.
  • Name in the rules at various supporter levels, such as bronze, silver, gold, etc.
  • Tasty Minstrel Games sponsored game night.  Expensive and Awesome!
  • Shipping outside of the USA.  This would be to cover additional costs for sending things outside of the USA.
  • Your name on one of the Tech advances.
  • Prints of the original art for Tech cards
In addition, we will also be having some sort of contest for one person to have their name or their likeness on the game box cover.  You will get entries for this, by spreading the word about the project on Kickstarter. Maybe the guy in this concept sketch of the box cover could be you!

We'll be kicking off this kickstarter campaign in a week or so. Thanks for your support, and please leave comments about the rewards!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Eminent Domain facelift and new techs

Because I still like the name Eminent Domain, I thought I'd try one more thing before giving up on it. I have better defined the themeatic aspects of the game, and have changed some terminology so that my original vision of the theme is better represented. Now we'll see if the "name doesn't fit theme" complaints subside at all. I think most of those complaints are stemming from some literal, focused definition of "eminent domain" when really I just want to convey the feeling of 'taking land.'

* Instead of the Colonize role (Colonize/Colony/Settle) there is now Influence (Influence/Incorporate)
* Instead of the Warfare role (Warfare/Attack) there is now Annex

I also added three Level 3 techs and three Level 2 techs - I simply made the "stay-in-play" techs double sided, so I haven't had to add any cards to the game. When you purchase one of those, you choose which of the 2 sides you want to come into play.

Here are the current Level 3 (and stay-in-play Level 2) technologies. I also gave them names:
- (Level 3) Hyperefficiency: Remove any number of cards in hand from the game before choosing a Role.
- (Level 3) Adaptability: Play any 2 matching cards to follow or boost any Role.
- (Level 2) Streamlining: You may remove 1 card in hand from the game before choosing a role
- (Level 2) Mercenaries: You may trade Armies as if they were resources (for 1vp each)
- (Level 3) Dissension: Draw an additional card when not following a role.
- (Level 3) Bureaucracy: You may Incorporate and Annex when following Influence and Annex roles.
- (Level 2) Fertile Ground: [Influence][Harvest][Research] (icons)
- (Level 2) Improved Storage: Each of your planets can store 1 additional resource.
- (Level 3) Productivity: Play an additional card for its action effect during your Action phase.
- (Level 3) Logistics: Play the Action and Role phases of your turn in any order.
- (Level 2) Industrialism: [Survey][Trade][Annex] (icons)
- (Level 2) Abundance: Planets you Incorporate or Annex come into play with resource slots full.

I also made some concept sketches for the box art. My original efforts were just OK, but I think it evolved into something really cool.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Eminent Domain: Name again

My dad suggested perhaps just "Eminence" for the name. Thoughts on that?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Eminent Domain: Naming the Technologies

There are 15 Technology cards that will need names. I'll list them here, and if you can think of anything that sounds accurate, awesome or reasonable, please leave a comment and let me know! Also, if you have modifications that you think would be good, or wording that you think would work better, I'd love to hear it!

Fertile Technology Actions:
F1: Occupy 2 Cities on a planet. If that planet is fully Occupied, Annex it.
(Formerly "Add this card as 2 colonies to a planet. If that planet has enough colonies, Settle it.")

F2: Take any 2 Role cards into hand.

F3: Collect 1 VP for each type of resource Harvested this turn.

F4: Each planet can store 1 additional resource.

F5: Draw an additional card when not following a role.
(This is likely to change)

Advanced Technology Actions:
A1: Draw 2 cards, then remove any number of cards in hand from the game.

A2: Collect 1 additional VP for each type of resource Traded this turn.

A3: Choose 1 type of resource. That resource trades for 2vp this turn instead of 1.

A4: You may trade Armies as if they were resources (for 1vp each).

A5: Remove a card in hand from the game before choosing a role.
(This is likely to change)

Metallic ("Mining") Technology Actions:
M1: Take the top card of the Planet deck and put it into play face down.

M2: After Surveying this turn, Attack a planet.

M3: Attack up to 2 planets.

M4: Planets you Annex (formerly Settle) or Attack come into play with resource slots full.

M5: Play an additional card during your Action phase.

Eminent Domain notes

This is for my own reference:

- Change "Metallic" to "Mining"

- Change "Colonize" and "Settle" to "Annex"
-  Change "Colonize" and "+1 Colony" to "Influence" and "Settle" to "Accede"
-AND PERHAPS- change "Warfare" to "Annex"

- Change "+1 Colony" to "Occupy" (?)

- Label all Level 1 Tech cards "Advanced [Annex/Research/Harvest/Trade/Survey/Warfare]"

- Create names for all Level 2 and Level 3 Tech cards

- Research Action has become "Remove up to 2 cards in hand from the game (may include this card)"

- Advanced Research Action has become "Draw 1 card, then remove up to 3 cards in hand from the game (may include this card)"

- Find replacements for Level 3 Advanced and perhaps Fertile techs. Possibilities include:
  1. "Remove any number of cards in hand from the game before choosing a Role"
  2. "Play any 2 matching cards to Boost or Follow a Role"
  3. "Play the Action phase and the Role phase in any order"
  4. "You may Annex/Attack when following an Annex/Warfare role"

- Consider alternatives for Politics card:
  1. Change Action to "Boost your Role this turn by 1, then remove this card from the game"
  2. Start each player with only 1 Politics card (9 card starting deck)

- Consider what needs to be done to support Eminent Domain as a name, because in addition to my liking it, Michael does too. In other words, represent the theme well.

The players in Eminent Domain are, thematically, like the Emperor in Star Wars - in charge of a space empire, and determined to make it grow and improve. To be clear, in Star Wars, the Emperor had other agendas, so that you lead a space empire is where that similarity is intended to end.

Also, it's not a "space game" so much as a game that is set in space. How do I express that graphically to people?

OR - do I cave in and change the name of the game, perhaps to Manifest Destiny or Manifest Destiny 3012 (which doesn't excite me too much, and in some ways has garnered the same complaints that Eminent Domain did)? If so, how do I express THAT graphically?

What should the box art look like? Also, the tech cards - I guess some of them will depend on the name.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

RinCon 2010 recap

As has been mentioned, last weekend was RinCon 2010 - "Arizona's Gaming Mecca." RinCon started 3 years ago, and about doubled in size last year, but it seemed to me like the main thrust of the con, or the largest demographic of attendee anyway, was the Role Playing crowd. Most of the special guests were RPG authors and things of that nature. There were LARPs and RPGs left and right, people dressed up like gypsies, etc. By contrast, the board gaming seemed pretty weak. Nobody was really in charge of the board games, there were some events that people had signed themselves up to run, but there wasn't really any organization at all. Games were played, but overall it was unspectacular, and many people I talked to thought it would have been a lot more cost effective to stay home and play games with their buddies.

This year I volunteered to be in charge of board games. I ended up taking on a lot more responsibility than I'd expected or wanted to, and while I was supposed to have a runner or someone to help out, I really was on my own the entire weekend. The bad news is that I didn't get to play as many games or participate in all the events I wanted to, but the good news is that as a result the entire board game portion of RinCon was much improved this year! At first I was worried because some of the scheduled games weren't happening because no one showed up, or because there wasn't someone to run them. I may have been overly concerned because 2pm on a Friday is pretty slow at any convention. I set my concerns aside when one of the convention organizers mentioned, in a sort of surprised and impressed way, that a whole lot of board game events were happening.

A lot of events and tournaments went down, and the board game section was fairly full pretty much all the time. There were even some interesting events like a Space Alert tournament (3 teams of 5 playing off of the same audio CD at the same time), and a Duplicate Pandemic event, where 2 teams of 2 players went head to head trying to save the world with a pre-stacked and matching Draw deck and Infection deck.

Some of the things I was really interested in were the Game Design Events I'd dreamed up and planned. I'm happy to report hat all three types of Game Design events were a smashing success! I didn't get to participate in the Gamesmiths sessions like I'd hoped to, because I had to man the Boardgame booth and make sure events were running. However I did manage to get into the Friday session and get Winds of Fate tested. I saw a ton of people participating though, and a large number of games being tested - more than we had signed up. I put David in charge of those sessions and he said they all went really well.

The Pitch your Prototype event was also successful I think, even if only 2 people were there to do it. Myself, Mike Nickoloff (of Sorvent, a sort of game agent), and James Ernest sat on a panel and listened to the pitches for no more than 5 minutes, then gave feedback and advice to help them improve their pitch for when they are actually going to talk to a publisher. One guy had never pitched his game before, but was interested in doing just that - I think we had some good advice for him as to what to say and how much detail to go into. The other guy had a much more succinct pitch, but I think we still had some useful advice for him too.

Finally there was the Game Design Workshop - and I wasn't sure exactly how that would go over. I was a little late to it because Mikey talked me into a game of Eminent Domain, and when I got there, James Ernest and a WHOLE BUNCH of people were sitting around already talking about how you go about designing a game! We talked a little about the process, and afterwards I gave people a "game design kit" with a variety of bits in it - meeples, cubes, discs, roads, index cards, pens, poster board, paper money... the idea was for them to play around with these bits and see what kind of game design they start to come up with. We had a follow-up meeting on Sunday where we talked a little more about game and mechanism design, then 4 people who had come up with a game design shared it with the group and we talked about each one for 15-20 minutes. I was impressed at some of the stuff people came up with - a few really solid starts. One group used every single piece in the bag (and no more), and even playtested their game a few times and made some revisions! The game looked pretty solid as well! Here's a breakdown of the 4 game ideas people came up with:

2 of them were based on the idea of Dinosaur Island - which was sort of the example we came up with as a group in the first session. The intent of the exercise wasn't really to design a Dinosaur Island game, but it worked out anyway. One of the Dino Island games was a roll and move, see what happens sort of affair. the other was a face paced hidden identity thing where you try and move your colored meeples off the island, or move Dinosaurs onto other colored meeples in order to eat them.

The third game was amusingly entitled "The best 4-12 years of your life" and was about the despair and frustration of scheduling college classes. There were 20 classes offered in total, on cards that were shuffled and placed into a schedule for the semester. Each player would choose classes in 4 of the 5 time blocks each round, and it was more difficult to get into classes when someone was already in there. Each higher level class had prerequisites of course, and you would have to take them in order. The player who took all of the appropriate classes first would graduate and win the game. I really liked the sound of this game idea, and could think of lots of different ways to approach it.

Finally, a father-son team made a game about couriers in perhaps Venice - there was a grid of rivers on the board, and players could use Bridges and Ferries to help them move around to pick up items which are in demand and deliver them. It seemed like a really solid game already!

This event went better than I'd hoped it would, and seemed to be very well liked all around! I was very pleased with all of the game design events at the con.

I also got to hang out with James Ernest a bit, which was fun. I did not however get into one of his demos of Lord$ of Vega$ which according to Tom Vasel is the best game of the year. I had been super excited about trying it ever since seeing a demo at Kublacon, and on Saturday night I finally played a game with Thomas and one of the Pulp Gamer guys. Sadly, for the length of the game and value of the decisions in it, I really thought you didn't have enough information to make informed decisions. in short, I can't argue too hard against people who complain of luck in the game. It's not ALL luck, but I do feel like there's too much luck of the draw for the length of the game and the depth it appears to be trying for. Or maybe the depth I was hoping it would be going for.

I think I may have given James the idea that in my mind, games have a specific definition, and that's the narrow scope of games that I like. I do recognize that games like Killer Bunnies and Flux exist, and that people play them to have fun and not to win - I'm just not interested in playing or designing those types of games. In fact, I do kind of think of those as more like a 'fun activity' than a 'game' - in my mind part of the definition of a game is that you can win, and the social contract involved in playing a game is that you're trying to win. I'm not saying that people should try to win rather than try to have fun - I don't think those should be mutually exclusive. On the contrary, I think they should be mutually INclusive - a game SHOULD be fun, or people won't want to play it, and a game should be played to win, by definition.

In any case, James recommended to me a book called Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud. I haven't read the book in full, but that preview I just linked gave me a pretty good idea of what it's about - breaking down the common, narrow "definition" of what a "comic book" is and understanding how much more extensive the medium can be. It seems really interesting and neat and I might just pick up a copy and read it in full. Thanks for the referral, James! (I wonder if he ever reads this blog)

A little love for Terra Prime :)

At RinCon last weekend, a member of the RTEAM Gamers (Bill Andel) ran a game of Terra Prime. I walked by during the game and people seemed to be enjoying it, and afterward I described the expansion for them, and explained how I'd like for that to be published but until more copies of the game sell we can't justify it. they all seemed to like the expansion ideas as well.

I had noticed that Game Daze had a copy of Terra Prime in their booth, as did another vendor who'd come in from L.A. On Sunday I noticed that both of those vendors had sold their copy! One of the guys who was in Bill's game bought the copy from the L.A. guy, who mentioned that I'd sign it if he wanted, so he came and found me and asked for my autograph on the game. He also gave me the best compliment I could have gotten - I forget the words he used. but the general gist was "thanks for making this great game, it's the most fun I've had in a long time!" I later found out that a third copy also sold - one of the other players in that game had gone home and ordered the game online.

So overall, a good convention for Terra Prime! Thanks to Bill for running that game, and for all the players for having a good time and supporting Tasty Minstrel by picking up copies of the game!

Eminent Domain: Politics alternatives?

One thing I'm still a little worried about for Eminent Domain is game length and game end conditions. The last thing I want to happen is for a game to end too quickly and not be very rewarding - and that's very possible in certain cases - mostly it involves newbies or poor play, but frankly, everyone will be a newbie the first time they play, and until you gain some experience, many people will play poorly because they don't know any better.

In particular, I worry that newbies in a 3 player game will drill down to the bottom of the colonize stack way too quickly, ending the game early with low scores all around and a disappointing feeling of not having had time to get anything done. In a 4 player game the game end condition is *2* piles, so the concern is lessened there, but I also worry that if everyone sort of copies each other and takes the same couple of roles over and over, that game could end prematurely as well. Simply adding cards to the piles doesn't really fix the problem - because it adds significantly to the production cost, but more importantly because then when players don't drill the same stack, the game drags on far too long.

I've currently got the following distribution of cards in the stacks:
Colonize: 20
Research: 20
Hearvest/Trade: 16
Survey: 16
Warfare: 16

And it has been working alright. In order to try and ensure that my concerns don't materialize, I would like to find an alternate use for Politics - one that maybe does the same thing the current Politics card does, but doesn't remove cards from the stacks. Here's the current card text for Politics:

Action: Remove this card from the game, then take any 1 Role card into hand.

The idea here is that the Politics card helps you customize your starting deck, by effectively turning into one of the other Role cards of your choice. I like the dynamic there, but would like to find a way to do that without actually removing cards from the stacks, which shortens the game length.

One idea I had was to change the wording to this:
Action: Boost the Role played this turn by 1. When this card would go to the discard pile, remove it from the game instead.

This is exactly the same effect, only you aren't left with a card of that type in your deck. I liked the sound of it at first, but it's a little wonky when you look at the Colonize Role - technically, if the Colonize role is boosted, that would have to be noted somehow. I suppose the politics card could be placed behind a planet as a colony, then when the planet is flipped, the Politics card could be removed from the game at that time - but that's very clunky and counter-intuitive.

Any other ideas? Please post them in the comments! I wouldn't even mind other effects that the Politics card could do, different from the current one.

I have some thoughts floating around for an expansion which would come with a stack of Politics cards, and would add Agendas to the game - the Politics Role would be how the Agendas come into play. Then the Politics card would be in your deck, and later when you draw it you could use it for it's "Action:" effect. I suppose that doesn't matter much for the current problem though.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Eminent Domain - Level 3 technologies

The current level 3 technologies are as follows:

Metallic: Play an additional Action during your action phase
I think this one's cool and appropriately powerful.

Fertile: Draw an additional card when not following
This one isn't bad, though it may be a little boring.

Advanced: Remove 1 card in hand from the game before choosing a role
This one is kind of weak. I'm OK with the Advanced Level 3 tech being the weakest of the three, because it's the easiest to get (all the cards you get en route can have Research icons - and there's the Research-Research tech at level 2)

The following are possible alternatives for the Advanced level 3 tech (and perhaps the Fertile one as well). Leave a comment with your thoughts on these - especially if you've played the game before!

- Remove any number of cards each turn
(often won't be more than 1 or 2 anyway)

- Use any 2 matching cards to boost any role
(makes your deck more efficient once it's filled with crappy or useless cards - this is a sort of alternate way to "rid your deck of bad cards")

- Play the Action phase and the Role phase in any order each turn
(this could be a lot more efficient, timing-wise)

- You may Settle/Attack while Following a Colonize/Warfare role

In related news, I've been testing a slightly improved Research action because the original one (remove 1 card in hand from the game) really didn't do much. You have to add a card to your deck each turn, so removing just 1 doesn't seem like progress. I have been testing an upgraded version of the basic Research action: "Remove up to 2 cards in hand from the game" and it does seem better. This change necessitates an upgraded Tech-Research card (formerly remove up to 2 cards) - I've been trying "Draw 1 card, then remove any number of cards in hand from the game." I guess that's ok, but I wonder if removing ANY number is too good - I figure often it won't be more than 2 cards anyway, but for example tonight I removed 5 cards that way. Is that OK?

the Level 2 Research-Research tech card says "Draw 2 cards then remove any number from the game," and I think that is good enough even with the upgrades to the other cards. That card having 2 Research icons is already quite a boon.

Finally, while most people haven't registered any complaint or comment about the name, at least 2 people have lashed out about "Eminent Domain" as the title of this game. I really like that title, and I think it's thematically appropriate (exception: Warfare doesn't really fit very well). Yet these 2 friends insist that the name does not evoke the right images for the game.
Please leave a comment if you have an opinion on Eminent Domain as a title, or if you have an idea for an alternate title. I do really like the current title, so unless I really like a proposed alternate, or unless a lot of people have strong negative reactions to Eminent Domain, I doubt I will change it. However one proposed alternative, Manifest Destiny, isn't terrible. It was also suggested that a year be added, like Manifest Destiny: 3012 or something. Generally speaking I hate game titles with a year just stuck in there, but I do see how it could help some.

I don't normally say this, but for those who follow my blog, thanks for reading. I hope to see your opinions in the comments!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sales and popularity of Terra Prime

After an slow start to begin with, owing largely I think to rumors of poor production, and not helped by rumors of "luck" due to the presence of dice in the game, sales of Terra Prime dwindled down to around zero for the month of August, but I'm happy to report that they seem to have picked up a bit in September! At this point only about 1/2 of the 2000 copies printed remain in the PSI warehouse.

More good news, I've started a campaign to get Terra Prime implemented online at, an online portal for many great board games. I drummed up enough support to really impress the webmaster over there, and I think they are willing, even anxious to get to work coding up an online version of Terra Prime! I'm sure it'll be a lot of work to implement the game online, but I also think it's a perfect game for the format. It might take a while as they have to wait for a developer to become available, and then it'll probably take a long time to code the game. but I think it will be worth it! I think it will improve the visibility and popularity of the game, and it might be a good way to get the expansion out there and gauge demand for a print run. I would like to one day do a 2nd edition o the game and include the expansion in it, as well as print a few copies of the expansion by itself for those who are happy with their first edition games and don't want to upgrade.

So while Terra Prime didn't make as big a splash as I'd hoped when it first hit the scene, I think it's coming into it's own over time. Hooray!

Video Review of Homesteaders

Tom Vasel, the worlds most prolific video reviewer of board games, has posted his review of Homesteaders. And he liked it! Go take a look.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

2010 Golden Geek Nominees... Homesteaders!

The 2010 Golden Geek nominees have been posted at, and Homesteaders has been nominated in the Strategy Game category!

So get over there and show your support for Alex Rockwell and Tasty Minstrel Games by voting for Homesteaders! Click "Strategy Games" at the top, and rate Homesteaders a "1" (or as high as you think it deserves), and let's see if it doesn't pull down the award in the Strategy Game category!

Thanks for your support!

More, bigger games to playtest!

Last week I had a Tasty Minstrel Submission Testing night, and I tested a number of smallish card games. Fortunately I did get a chance to play Winds of Fate again that night (even though it actually isn't a "Tasty Minstrel Submission" at this point).

After that WoF test I gave it some thought, and tonight I updated my prototype and got Winds of Fate ready to try again. I updated the Encounter tiles, Reward tiles, and rules, and filed away all the old stuff that's no longer being used. By the way, as long as I'm linking, here is the board as well.

In addition to Winds of Fate, I received a game from Michael Keller called Titans of Industry to try out. I have read the rules already and it certainly has potential to be a game I really enjoy. It remains to be seen whether the game really shines, but I look forward to trying it. If nothing else I really like the name :)

And as if 2 board games wasn't enough, I finally got around to printing out and putting together a copy of a game called Roman Emperors by a BGDF member.
I'm looking forward to the next chance I get to test these games - and I hope I didn't wear out all my playtesters last week! RinCon is coming up, and there will be a lot of prototype testing there, so that's good.