Monday, June 27, 2011

Brain Freeze iPad app is live!

It's been in the works since December, and finally it's done... the Brain Freeze iPad app is in the App Store! It's a free download, so give it a shot and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


At KublaCon I played some of my prototypes (Dice Works, Bluff Auction, and Eminent Domain) with some people who write for some board game blogs, and since then they have posted their convention reports, each with a section about my games! I thought I'd go ahead and link to them here:

Ian Noble (The Noble Gamer)

GeekInsight (Giant Fire Breathing Robot)

Also, Chris from mentioned Mike and I in his podcast - you know, the one about getting kickstarted.

Enjoy the links!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Bluff Auction progress

I have played a number of games of Bluff Auction over the last few weeks, and have been making tweaks and changes left and right. I believe I'm quickly zeroing in on a finished product. What I'd like to avoid id having a game with a great central mechanism, but underdeveloped structure around it. I recently learned a game called Pergamon (which, oddly, has a similar theme to my Bluff Auction game) which I think suffers from that a little bit. The central mechanism there looks very clever, but some of the scoring incentives and mechanisms look a little tacked-on, fiddly, or underdeveloped. I want my game to shine a little bit more than that as a whole package.

In a recent post I considered 4 tweaks - here's my current thinking on those:

1. Receive 2 new dice when Exhibiting a set rather than 1.

I was never sure about this tweak to begin with as I feared it would bring to many dice into the game too quickly. I believe I've found a better way to bring dice into the game at a more appropriate rate - see below.

2. Change the Extra Bid Token to some other power: "Regrowth"

I have done this, and so far I've been happy with that change.

3. Art scoring
Currently players are allowed to score leftover tiles in their museum as if they were sets, and they get a bonus set of star icons from their Art tiles in play (which is independent, so the art tiles could be parts of different sets). I think it might be better to simplify and reduce that - I would like to try final scoring like this:

Players get 1 point for each tile in their Museum (unexhibited,including special tiles), and each Art tile that is face up is worth an additional 3 points.

I believe I've found a slightly better way to do scoring - see below. It does involve 1vp per tile left in your museum storage, and it does involve 3vp for face up Art tiles... in your exhibits.

4. Go back to disallowing 2 bids on same track. While in some ways mechanically interesting, I think allowing 2 bid tokens on the same track is anti-thematic, and I don't like the dynamic it creates enough for the rules complication it requires.

Indeed, I have decided that 2 bids on the same track is not a dynamic that I want in this game. The current rule is that you may place a bid or move a losing bid on your turn, or pass as long as you have placed all of your bid markers.

One idea that came up when consternating about losing ALL of the powers when displaying a set was that perhaps you could stack the tiles FACE UP, so that you get to keep one of the powers. This immediately turned me on the the probably more appropriate rule, which is that you don't get the powers AT ALL until you display an exhibit! This makes you decide directly between displaying a small set for powers (and dice), and waiting for a bigger set for more points. Perfect! It also reduces the number of active powers in the game at a time, which actually feels kind of disappointing, but I think that's because I'm used to using all of the powers as I get them. This is probably a better rule all around, and it also reduces the power of having won more tiles - by winning 2 tiles in a round you don't necessarily get more powers than the guy that only won 1 tile.

So I've been using that rule for the last couple of games and I thin it's gone well. You can store a certain number of tiles in your Storage, and at the end of each round you may display at most 1 Exhibit (set of any number of tiles sharing at least 1 attribute).

I have removed any bonus for sets that share multiple attributes. They have a built-in benefit because they are easier to add to. This way the triangular scoring does what it's supposed to do - rewards a larger set more than a smaller one.

If you choose to display, you stack those tiles in your Exhibit area leaving the top one visible. The tiles visible in the Exhibit portion of your player mat are active and their powers count. The only funky thing about that is that the Purple tiles (which in production might end up being a different shape let alone a different color) need to take up space in your Storage, and yet be active when in your storage. I'm hoping a different shaped tile will help keep that from being too awkward to grasp or pay attention to.

For a while I had gone to a 3-tile-minimum requirement for sets, but that was in response to not liking how the double-set-bonus was working. Removing that bonus obviates the need for a 3-tile minimum restriction on sets. Now you can turn in any number of tiles, and of course the larger the set, the more points you get for it.

When displaying an Exhibit, you also get a new die to roll. I fully expect players to display a 1 tile set in the first round to get access to some power as well as a new die to roll, but I fear that when starting with 3 dice (which seems to be the best solution so far) that might put too many dice into play too quickly, especially in 4 or 5 player games. Based on a comment from my friend Chris, the solution might be to stagger when you get dice - for example, maybe your first Exhibit does not get you a die, it just gets you the power of the top tile. The second exhibit could get you another power AND a die. Etc. I'm not sure what the best pattern is, but it probably involves no die on the first Exhibit and 1 die on the second. after that it could either alternate, or simply be 1 die for each exhibit after the first (to a max of 6 or 7). I think that would slow down the influx of dice in the early game, and would separate the 'many small sets' strategy from the 'fewer, bigger sets' strategy fairly well. With fewer total dice in the pool, an extra die means more than when there are more dice in the pool.

I have also been considering another tweak that was mentioned by a playtester - what if all players always had to be outbid by 2? With a lot of dice out, I think that rule could be good - but with few dice (early game) I don't like it. It could be easily represented by double-wide bidding tokens, and those tokens could be placed on end when bidding for Purple tiles (and therefore you don't need to be outbid by 2 for that auction) since there's no additional color counting for Purple. I don't really think this is necessary, but it might be nice. Another idea is that it could be a benefit added once you've cashed in several sets (like instead of a die for your 4th set, you get the ability that you must be outbid by 2). That way it'll come into play later in the game, when there are more dice in play. I'm not sure if I want to add powers like that (for Exhibit thresholds), they just make it more tempting to make 4 1-tile sets and then go for a bigger set. but maybe that's OK.

I'm really happy with how this game is coming along, and I hope to get some more tests of it in soon!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

KublaCon 2011 report

I posted a con report in GeekList form over at BGG. Check it out to see what happened over the course of the weekend. In short, I had a lot of fun, played a lot of games, hung out with a lot of people, and of course, wish it could have lasted a few days longer.