Friday, May 25, 2012

KublaCon 2012 - Here I come!

I stayed up all night preparing a full art prototype copy of Ground Floor to bring with me to KublaCon today. If you're going to be at the convention and you would like to try out the game before deciding to pledge for a copy, find me and we'll make it happen!

I'm also bring my prototypes for the following upcoming TMG games:
* Belfort : the Expansion Expansion
* Eminent Domain: Escalation
* Kings of Air and Steam
* Titans of Industry - NOT Titans of Industry! I guess we need a new title for this one :(
* Alter Ego

As well as a couple old standbys that may or may not be upcoming TMG releases (at the moment they are not officially "on the list," but they may be soon):
* Exhibit: Artifacts of the Ages
* Dice Works
* Wizard's Tower

I've been known to bring more than this in the past, but this is it this time. Unless you count Brain Freeze on my iPad :)

I posted a geeklist of stuff I might like to play, but it's pretty half-hearted this time, including mostly those prototypes I am bringing. I just want to hang out with people and play something fun, I don't even know what. I would like to play Trajan though. And of course I intend to show Ground Floor to people and encourage them to pledge on Kickstarter. David and I even made business cards with a URL and a QR code leading to the KS page for Ground Floor - they look awesome!

I'll also be promoting RinCon while I'm there - which really just means mentioning it, and potentially handing out some flyers we made.

T-minus 6 hours and counting!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Themestorming session #1 (Exhibit): Success!

I had a nice long chat with Clive and John in a G+ Hangout to do some Themestorming for Exhibit: Artifacts of the Ages, with the goal of getting thematic names for the special tiles. I think it was rather successful, here's what I've got now:

1) Government Grant
2) Research Assistants
3) Professor Emeritus
4) Antiquities Broker
5) Expanded Vault
6) Deadbeat Shill (maybe there's a better name for this)
7) Philanthropist
8) Premium Show Case (or Premium Display)
9) Holy Grail

I am wondering if I need to worry about creating individual (real or imagined) artifacts, or if it'll suffice to say that "that tile is an Early Roman Tool."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Alter Ego, Exhibit, and Theme-storming

I was up in Phoenix this weekend, meeting with Patrick Nickell of Crash Games, Fred McKenzie of Clever Mojo Games, Nathan Kohatsu, and Tory Neimann - and we got a chance to play a couple of prototypes:

Alter Ego

Patrick, Nathan and I went through the current version of Alter Ego, with the fresh new organizational format I thought up in the car on the drive up.

I was disappointed in how fiddly the turns seemed to be last Tuesday, and how complicated it sounded to get Teamwork Tokens and Call the Cops. I figured a player aid would help the situation, but I hadn't made any yet - and while it would be a reminder, it would not actually simplify anything. I'm really happy with the idea I came up with in the car. Imagine a player board, approximately 4" tall by 11" wide, divided into 5 columns as follows (with the following information in each - probably abbreviated and/or iconized):

1. Income Phase (skip if no cards are played to this column): Collect 1 $ token for each $ icon you have in play. Job cards, some equipment, and some Henchmen have $ icons.

2. Support Phase (skip if no cards are played to this column): Draw 1 card for each [card] icon you have in play. Family cards, some equipment, and some Henchmen have [card] icons. Collect 1 Teamwork Token for every 3 Teamwork icons you have in play.

3. Patrol Phase (NEVER SKIP! 1 Henchman icon printed on board): Draw 1 Henchman card for each [henchman] icon you have in play. Put 1 of those into play, discard the rest face down. Community cards, some equipment, and some Henchmen have [henchman] icons. For every 4 [henchman] icons you have in play, you may call in an Anonymous Tip (discard a henchman and rescue any hostages on him).

4. Fight Phase (skip if no cards are played to this column): You may spend Hero icons that you have in play to rescue Civilians. Hero cards, some equipment, and some Henchmen have Hero icons. You may give up to 1 Teamwork Token to each opponent in order to use 1 Hero card in their display. You may discard 2 Teamwork Tokens in lieu of any 1 Hero icon for the turn.

5. Recoup Phase (NEVER SKIP!): Discard all cards in your display and all $ tokens. Take a new card from the table and place it in your display. Play 4 cards from your hand into your display. Discard the rest of your hand. Draw 4 cards, plus 1 more for each Henchman you have defeated.

The way I wrote it above reads more like a rulebook, but that's really because I'm not sure the readers of this blog are super familiar with the rules so I wanted to be more clear. I imagine it would be more reminder rather than rules text-y. I even think it could be awesome artistically. I imagine a sort of panorama which starts with morning: in a suit going to work at the left end (Income), afternoon: guy at home with family (Support), evening: patrolling the streets (Patrol), nighttime: fighting a bad guy (Fight), and maybe dawn: battered hero returning home (Recoup).

I have not played Sentinels of the Multiverse, but from the day it was announced I had feared that Alter Ego may not be viable anymore because the theme and game sounded similar (cooperative superhero card game). However, Nathan assured me that Alter Ego may be viable after all, and he mentioned that even in its present state (which I think is still too fiddly) he thought it was much more streamlined than SotMV. Sentinels seems to be enjoying great success, as evidenced by the blockbuster Kickstarter performance of the expansion. Hopefully I can get Alter Ego to a point where I'm happy with it - it sounds to me like sentinels is a much different game anyway.

Exhibit: Artifacts of the Ages

This morning on the way out of Phoenix I had lunch with an old friend Chris and his wife Becky. They were nice enough to try out a TMG submission I had brought with me, and then we played the latest version of Exhibit. Chris had played the game a while ago (and liked it at that time). Not much has changed since then - just the Consolation bid for not winning any auctions, the multiple tiles in an auction when nobody wins one, and the new Grant idea (one shot "wild weapon" of which each player started with one). Long ago I decided that I liked the Consolation bid. More recently (which is still about a year ago!) I decided I liked unclaimed artifacts sticking around for the following round (when the top 2 bids without going over will get one). The new idea is the Grants.

The first time I tried these I gave every player 1 Grant for each color (except Purple). That seemed like overkill - people didn't use very many, and it amounted to 35 components which didn't seem worth it. My plan for the next time was to give each player 3 Grants that can be used on any color other than Purple, however at the last minute I decided to just try 1 such Grant per player. the single grant seemed to work just fine, and I don't think I need to add more.

I think Exhibit is about done. It does tend to take a bit longer than I'd like, so I'm going to try starting the game with 2 Artifacts in each auction for the first round. I expect that to do 3 things - first, it will cut a round off of the game which will reduce the play time by at least a little bit. Second, it should help with the same thing the Grant was helping with - making it easier to get something going in the early game. And finally, it will give more players an Artifact going into round 2, and therefore a reason to want 1 artifact over another.

Other than that mall change to the beginning of the game, the only think I need to do is some Theme-storming in order to attach some meaning to the Purple tiles, and maybe the artifacts as well.


I think that a hallmark of a good game - and something I think Tasty Minstrel Games has going for it - is having a great look and feel in addition to being an interesting game. Theme and art factor heavily into that, so I need to add chrome to the parts of the game that are still abstract or are placeholders. This holds true for all of the games I'm working on, so I think it would be good to get some help with it. I'd like to start holding Themestorming sessions, on IRC, or a G+ hangout. If you'd like to participate in those conversations, then please feel free to do so! Leave a comment and I'll make sure I let you know when it's going to happen. Thanks!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Under the Hood: Belfort

"Under the Hood" is a series of strategy articles about the inner workings of games developed for Tasty Minstrel Games. Watch for these posts a couple months after the release of the game so that players have a chance to explore the game for themselves first!

Under the Hood: Belfort

Belfort is a game with a jovial and lighthearted theme – as a Master Architect, you direct a workforce of fantasy characters who toil to erect buildings which make up the city of Belfort. But don’t be deceived by the cute elves, dwarves, and gnomes on the box! Belfort is a heavy game of resource management, area control, and strategy!

Large vs small workforce
Like many worker placement games, Belfort rewards players for increasing their workforce. While it’s possible to win without your full complement of Elves and Dwarves, it’s very difficult if you don’t at least hire 1 or 2 more workers. With no upkeep cost, the only real down-side to hiring is the upfront cost – a placement and 2 Gold to go to the HR Department. After a point, the return on that investment diminishes – if you hire a Dwarf in round 4 for example, he’ll only provide 3 placements before the game is over. A round 4 Dwarf will pay for itself, and may contribute to resource majorities and points, but it’s nowhere near as useful as a turn 1 Dwarf! And while a turn 1 Dwarf is awesome, it does cost a significant portion of your starting capital. So be sure to hire when the opportunity arises and you can afford it, but also make sure you’ll get your money’s worth out of your new employee!

Gardens and Pubs are good Properties when working with a small workforce. They are inexpensive, they increase your income, and by turning a worker into a Master, they allow you to increase your resource gathering ability.

Income generation vs Taxes
There are 3 types of buildings in Belfort – Properties, Guilds, and Walls. Properties have a wide range of cost and effects. Guilds are expensive, but do not require a card – meaning you can build them in whichever district you want. They provide income when used, and that income comes at an interesting time: during the Placement phase. Walls are moderately priced, but provide no income at all, making them very poor choices in the early game. The strength of a wall is in the late game, when you know which district you’d like to build in, but do not have the correct card to build there.

Deciding which Property to build is one of the interesting things you’ll do in a game of Belfort. You’ll want to consider the ability – would you like to use many building powers and fight for Gnome majority? Maybe the Tower is a good choice – but you should also consider the income of the Property. The Inn is a good building for expanding your workforce, but with no income it can really hurt when tax time comes around. The Keep is expensive and only good for scoring, but it does give 1 gold income as well.
If you can produce more income from buildings than you are paying in taxes, then you’ll have a lot more gold to spend on things like Gnomes and Guilds!

Majority scoring
It’s easy to forget while building properties and collecting resources that you only score for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd majorities in each district. Placing additional ownership markers in a district where you’re already way ahead may be a waste of resources! Also, keep in mind when hiring new workers that there are points to be had for controlling the most Elves, Dwarves, and Gnomes.
One more note about area majority scoring – it’s better to score 2nd place in two districts than it is to score 1st place in one!

Belfort has another area majority mechanism in addition to scoring – bonus resources from the Forest, Quarry, and Mines. Being the last player to pass gives you the advantage of seeing where other players have sent their workers, but every placement spent stalling means 1 fewer worker to send for resources. Earn majority bonuses where you can, but make sure you’re getting the resources you need to build this turn, and don’t forget about your taxes!

King’s Camp
Turn order in Belfort is unusual – it doesn’t change unless you go to the King’s Camp and change it. And when you do that, you get to CHOOSE your turn order. It can be advantageous to go first for the best worker placement choices next round, but that can also make you a target for another player to take your turn order crest. You could choose to go 2nd, hoping that a future player will choose to take the turn order crest from player 1 rather than you, while still getting an early placement order. You could even choose to go last, which is especially strong in a scoring round so you can see where other payers have placed their ownership markers. However, going last runs the risk of the spots where you’d like to place drying up.
Some guilds, such as the Thieves’ Guild and the Bandits’ Guild, make the King’s camp a much more important consideration, so it’s important to look at what guilds are in play when you decide how you want to deal with turn order. Maybe a trip to the King’s Camp is the right play!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Alter Ego Rules - v2.4

Alter Ego
By Seth Jaffee – Rules v2.4
A cooperative deck building game of vigilante heroism

You won't see Crime City on any map, but that's how people have come to know your hometown. Sadists, Anarchists, and the Mafia each carving out portions of the city they call their own. Hundreds of innocent bystanders caught up every day in their turf wars, or held under their oppressive thumbs. Precious few have the time, the money, the guts, or the wherewithal to do anything about it. You're one of those few... Of course it means you'll have to give up that happy home life, or that cushy job. The paper paints vigilantism in a negative light - you'd be viewed by the community as a monster. But your city bleeds... the city bleeds and it calls your name. Will you answer?

You're a vigilante hero, one of the few in Crime City who have come together to put an end to the reign of terror the city's been trapped under. Banding together, you'll fight through a swath of henchmen in order to find and defeat several Arch Villains. But as you get stronger as a hero, you'll have to neglect some parts of your Alter Ego life - your family, your job, and your community.

50 Hero cards (5 types)
75 Alter Ego Cards
- 25 Family Cards
- 25 Job Cards
- 25 Community Cards
XX Henchmen Cards
9 Arch Villain Cards (3 types)
XX Nemesis Cards
XX Equipment Cards
XX Civilian (CIV) Tokens (3 types)
XX Teamwork Tokens
27 Arch Villain Tokens
[XX Cop Tokens]

1. Shuffle the Henchmen cards to create the henchmen deck. Place this deck in the middle of the table.
2. Randomly choose 1 Arch Villain of each type. Those will be the Arch Villains used this game, put the rest back into the box.
3. Sort the Hero and Equipment cards by type and place them in piles in the center of the table, accessible by all players.
4. Give each player 4 of each Alter Ego card (Family, Job, and Community). Sort the rest of the Alter Ego cards by type and place them alongside the Hero cards.
5. Each player shuffles his deck of 12 Alter Ego cards and deals 4 cards face up into his "display" area, then draws a hand of 4 from the remaining cards in his deck.
6. Sort the Civ tokens by type and create pools of each. Also create a pool of Teamwork tokens.
7. Deal each player 1 Nemesis card, which they keep hidden from other players.

Terminology: In order to make it easier to describe the steps of the turn, the term Trophy will be used. A Trophy is an icon on a Henchman card that you have defeated.

Player Turns:
Players take turns one at a time resolving each phase of their own turn before the next player plays. Each turn consists of the following phases, in order:
1.       Income phase: Collect income from your Job:
* For each Job card in your display, collect $1
* If you have at least 1 Job card in your display, collect $1 for each $ Trophy in your play area.
You may spend these $s to buy or activate Equipment this turn.

2.       Patrol phase: On your turn you must first bring a henchman into play:
* Draw 1 card from the Henchmen deck.
* If you have any face up Community cards in your display, draw 1 additional Henchman card for each Community card.
* If you have at least 1 Community card in your display, draw 1 additional Henchman card for each Community Trophy in your play area.
* Choose 1 of the drawn Henchman cards to put into play, and discard the rest in a face down discard pile.
* "Call the Cops" - If you have at least 3 Community icons in play and played at least 1 Community card, then you may [discard a Cop token from the group's supply and] remove 1 Henchman card in play from the game. Any hostages on that henchman are considered rescued and are returned to their supply pools. No player takes the Henchman card into their play area.

When a henchman comes into play he takes some civilians hostage! Place CIV tokens on the Henchman card as indicated. If a CIV token must be taken but the supply is empty, then the game is over and the Villains win!
3.       Support phase: After a Henchman has come into play, you may gain support from your family, allowing you to draw cards from your deck:
* For each Family card in your display, draw 2 cards from your deck.
* If you have at least 1 Family card in your display, also draw 1 card from your deck for each Family Trophy in your play area.
* If you have at least 3 Family icons in play and played at least 1 Family card, then you may collect 1 Teamwork token from the supply.

4.       Equip phase: You may spend money on fancy equipment to make you a stronger hero:
You may spend $s to buy as many new Equipment cards as you can afford. Place these cards in your discard pile, unless the card indicates that it should be placed directly into play.

5.       Crime-fighting phase: Now that you have geared up and garnered the support of your friends and family, it's time to go fight some crime!
* Hero cards in your display may be spent to rescue CIV tokens currently being held on a Henchman card. Hero cards spent must match the icons depicted on the Henchman card. The rescued CIV token is returned to the supply UNLESS that henchman’s Arch Villain is in play. See Arch Villains below.
* If you have at least 1 Hero card of a particular type in your display, you may use the matching Hero Trophies in your play area.
* You may "request help" from another player. Give an opponent 1 Teamwork token in order to use one of the Hero cards in their display (they need not discard it). You can only request help from each opponent once per turn, and each request requires a Teamwork token.
* You may discard 2 Teamwork tokens to the general supply in lieu of any 1 Hero symbol.
* If the last CIV token on a henchman is rescued, that henchman is DEFEATED, and then you may keep that henchman in your play area and gain the printed benefit (Trophy).
* Whenever a henchman is defeated, check to see if it has any Arch Villain icons. For each Arch Villain icon, place an Arch Villain token on the matching Arch Villain card. Once enough Arch Villain tokens are placed on an Arch Villain card, that Arch Villain will come into play and terrorize the city until he is defeated! (See Arch Villains – below)

6.       Recoup phase: After you're all spent from fighting crime, you get a chance to recuperate and plan your next turn.
* Discard all cards in your display.
* Play 4 cards from your hand face up into your display.
* For each Display icon on Equipment or henchmen you have defeated (in your play area), you may play an additional card face up into your display.
* Choose a Hero or Alter Ego card from the supply stacks and place it face up in your display.
* Discard the rest of your hand, then draw 4 new cards from your deck (shuffle your discard pile as needed) plus 1 card for each Hand Size icon on henchmen you have defeated (in your play area).
Play continues with the next player in clockwise order. 

Arch Villains:
When Arch Villains come into play, they take hostages just as Henchmen do. Place CIV tokens on the Arch Villain card as indicated. If a CIV token must be taken but the supply is empty, then the game is over and the Villains win!
While an Arch Villain is in play, Civ tokens rescued by defeating henchmen are removed from the game instead of returned to the supply. Civ tokens rescued from the Arch Villain card are returned to the supply as normal.

Game End:
When the last Arch Villain is defeated, then the game is over. The Heroes have saved Crime City from the clutches of evil and everybody wins!


When the last Arch Villain is defeated, then the game is over. The Heroes have saved Crime City from the clutches of evil! Any player who has defeated their Nemesis wins a Personal Victory, while all players win a Cooperative Victory.


When the last Arch Villain is defeated, then the game is over. If all players have defeated their Nemesis, then the Heroes have saved Crime City from the clutches of evil and everybody wins! Otherwise, the Nemeses who were not defeated rise up and overtake Crime City!


When any player defeats their Nemesis OR the last Arch Villain is defeated, then the game is over. If the game ended because a Nemesis was defeated, then the player defeating their Nemesis wins. If the game ended because an Arch Villain was defeated, then the Heroes have saved Crime City from the clutches of evil and everybody wins!

If at any time a CIV token must be taken but the supply is empty, then the game is over and the Villains win!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Alter Ego update

I finally have gotten around to creating a first draft of proper Arch Villain cards! At this point I'm not terribly happy with the Equipment cards, but they'll do for a playtest at least.

Time to get someone to try the game with me. Things to watch out for and determine:

  • Number of Civ tokens in each pile
  • Cost of Henchmen
  • Number of Henchmen required to trigger Arch Villain (AV)
  • Cost to damage AV
  • HP of AV
  • Cost to buy Equipment (Eq)
  • Cost to activate Eq
  • Usefulness of Eq
  • Usefulness of Cop tokens and Teamwork tokens.
I'm excited to finally try this out!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

New blog technology

I thought it might be about time to update my blog with some of that newfangled social media gadgets... so I did. tried anyway.

Leave a comment with what you like and what you don't like - what gadgets you think I should add and what I should get rid of. I got rid of that stupid AdSense thing, because as far as I could tell I wasn't actually getting any sort of money or credit. I probably was and just don't know how to access it, but not knowing how to get at some small amount of money is functionally equivalent to not having it, and I'd just as soon not have the ugly ads on my blog!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Blast from the past: Hot & Fresh

I was just reading through an old blog post - something called "The List," which is how I keep track of old game designs. I read the bit about Hot & Fresh, and got to thinking a little bit about the game.

The most recent idea (and at this point, it's not all that recent anymore) was to add a system of 'shortcuts' - players play tiles in the space between the main streets which represents paths that they are familiar with and their opponents are not. So you can drive on your own tiles, but you cannot drive on an opponent's tile unless you connect a road to it with your own tile first.

This was a big step forward, I think, and when I first implemented it I finally was able to get a playtest in. However, the fundamental problem is that as far as distance is concerned, these paths are not really 'shortcuts' - they're more like 'same-distance-cuts.' Therefore they're only useful if the traffic light happens to be red, and then just to dodge the corner.

It had been suggested - maybe more than once - that there should be some semblance of traffic modeled in the game. I had hoped that worrying about traffic would not be necessary, and that the dynamic routes created by changing traffic lights would be enough to drive route planning decisions. I like the idea of the shortcuts, but I think I have to face the possibility that the whole idea of red lights doesn't really work unless traffic builds up behind them. With that in mind, I thought about how I could model such traffic in a simple, intuitive way. Here's what I came up with:

Currently, if I recall my own game correctly, every so often some of the traffic lights advance from Green to Yellow to Red. The lights that change are noted on the delivery cards that come up. Suppose that after adjusting the appropriate lights, each intersection resolves some "traffic." Add a Traffic token to the street behind any red light (line them up if need be), and remove 1 from behind any green light.

When moving through these Traffic tiles, players will have to spend more movement points, so the effect of the traffic is to cause delays. These delays will build up at intersections as their lights are red, and will slowly diminish as the lights are green. I think this sounds like an easy enough system (though a bit more fiddly than it was), and I think it may give the feel of changing routes that I was going for in the first place.