Sunday, October 14, 2012

Heading to Essen, and some "spring" cleaning

Tomorrow I leave for Essen.

I've been waiting several years to say that, and I'm really excited to go to Germany and see the spectacle that is the Essen Game Fair! I'm not sure I'm prepared for the enormity of the show, but that's OK - I count this first trip as a sort of scouting mission to see how Essen goes. I am not sure if or when it'll happen, but I suspect in the future TMG might have a booth there, and it'll be nice to know what to expect before having to do the show "for real."

I got a little lucky with this trip, as I didn't really expect to go and I didn't prepare in advance at all. When it looked possible, I posted online that I was thinking of going, and I got an email from someone offering me a place to stay. I'm pretty sure finding a hotel would have been problematic, so I was happy to get that offer! In exchange for putting me up for the week, my host has asked me to spend some time in his booth, signing copies of Eminent Domain... sounds like a win-win to me!

So if you are at Essen, swing by LocWorks booth (4-230) and say hello! I'll probably be helping demo Ground Floor, and if you buy a copy of Eminent Domain, I'll sign it for you :)

In addition to spending some time in the LocWorks booth, I look forward to seeing what the rest of the con has to offer. I'm not sure I plan to do much in the way of shopping - I know a lot of people rush to buy their most anticipated games, but frankly I'm not sure how I'd get them home, and the one's I'm interested in will be available in the US before too long (specifically T'zolkin: the Mayan Calendar, which will be released by Rio Grande Games before too long). I do have a short list of games I'm interested in checking out though. I hope to see a few of those at the show.

One game I might actually pick up is the new version of Hanabi. I love that game, and have not got a proper copy of it. I like the cards in the new version - the first version is unavailable, and the 2nd edition - even if available - has square cards that are a pain to use. From what I've seen this new version should be easier to read and use.

In other news... 

I've been doing a little bit of "spring cleaning" (only a couple months out of season). I cleaned out a shelf where I kept some of my unpublished prototypes. Some of those are prototypes of my own design, some are prototypes of other people's games. Like an archeologist uncovering an exciting find I came across a wealth of interesting things!

8/7 Central - I came across 2 different prototypes of this card game about running a TV network by my friend Mohan which I worked on with him for a summer several years ago. This game always seemed like a good idea to me, but it also always suffered from the same problem. I think that problem boils down to information overload - it's difficult and cumbersome to try and track each player's schedule of shows, even if you've only got one 1-hour time slot, 5 days a week. I do think the core concept worked, and I remember having fun playing the game though, and if I had infinite time I would definitely like to make this game work.

Moctezuma's Revenge - A game about collecting treasure and avoiding curses. I liked the idea of this one too, and I recall playing the prototype... not sure what stopped me moving forward with it. I think I'm not a big fan of push-your-luck mechanisms, and this game had quite a bit of that in it. This is another one I'd like to revisit sometime.

Blockade Runner - Originally designed for a card game design contest (never entered), then co-developed with another designer, this game was intended to be published by a publisher at one point but that fell through. Then later it was intended to be published by another publisher, and I sold my rights to it in order to facilitate that. I notice the game is not out, which means I believe the rights have reverted, but I'm not sure what good that does me. This quick game of bluffing and double think seems destined to live on the shelf :/

Nursing coop game - I came across a prototype I made of a game my friend Brian wanted to make. He's a nurse, and he had an idea for a cooperative game set in an ER. I thought it sounded cool and I liked the main mechanism he had in mind, so I went home and made a prototype. We played through it once or twice, but then kind of forgot about it.

Reading Railroad - Originally to be titled Conjunction Junction (and I submit that could be a good name for an expansion), Reading Railroad was an idea I had with an online BGDF friend Scott Slomiany. I maintain that it's a fabulous idea, combining a word game with a connection/railroad game. You gain money by spelling words with Scrabble-style letter tiles, and you spend that money to buy track to connect cities. Connecting cities allows you to collect a different type of letter tile (I would actually like them to be little tiny alphabet blocks, with 3 different letters on each). Your final score will be based on words you can spell using those Alphabet blocks. But this game is intended to be one that wordsmiths can play along with their vocabulary-challenged friends, so the end game scoring words are actually found on reference cards - so really you are just collecting specific sets of cubes. You see, a wordsmith could do well making larger words with their Income tiles, leading to more income for buying track, but a player who is not good at word games could still do well with strategic connections and set collection without needing to make big or complicated words.

I entered Reading Railroad into a game design contest once, and it didn't go over very well - even though I actually had people playing and enjoying it at game night. The judges thought it was some underhanded ruse to sell the game to 2 different demographics (word gamers and strategy gamers) - which in a way could be true, but really it was an attempt to make a game that players from both of those genres could enjoy together. I really want to get back to this one some day, as I think it has real potential.

Odysseus: Winds of Fate - A game about making bets on outcomes (of encounters as well as the entire game), then trying to make sure your bets pay off. I tried pretty hard to make this game work, and I was never really happy with it. I think it's got potential, and I'd like to revisit it again sometime.

All For One - One of the oldest designs I ever worked on that was worthy of being published. I'm actually not sure why this one never did get published! David Brain's original design, which I worked on with him for years, was very well received at conventions I brought it to, but never found a publisher. Now I feel like it might be a little old fashioned and in need of an overhaul. One day I'd really like to see this game in print!

Templar - I've been putting some thought into this, my most recent project. Based on what I thought Trajan's mechanism would be, Templar is about a year old at this point... and while I have a prototype made up, I've not tried a playtest yet!

I even found prototypes of published games, such as Gil Hova's Prolix, Alex Rockwell's Homesteaders, Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim's Belfort, and my own Terra Prime! And amongst all that, I found prototypes of other people's games as well:

Smoothie King -When in London 7 years ago, I met Ian Vincent, and played his game based on Power Grid. It was about making Smoothies, and I liked it quite a lot. He sent a prototype home with me, and I frequently wonder why I don't play it again.

Roman Emperors - Another BGDF member Juan Carballal had a game I found very interesting in which players take turns running the Roman Empire. It's not a cooperative game, you want your stint as Emperor to be remembered as the greatest time in Roman history - but since players take turns controlling the Empire, the resources are largely shared. I think the game has a ton of potential, but I don't think the designer and I were seeing eye-to-eye on some of the specifics of how it should work. I'm also not sure what the designer did (if anything) with it since I saw it. I think it would be fun to one day take a stab at making "my version" of that game, and then send that to the designer and seeing what he thinks of it.

Admirals of the Spanish Main - Another game by Juan, we were trying to make a "dice building" game which did a better job than Quarriors, and he came up with a game about hunting pirates in the Spanish Main. It was a good start to what I was looking for, but it was too random, and my friend Andy Van Zandt and I worked on trying to mold it into what I was really looking for... in the end though, many playtesters said that if they're playing a pirate game, they want to BE the pirates, not hunt them, so we eventually gave up on it. I think the game had some good things going for it, but for whatever reason it just wasn't all the way there.

Equilibrium - Shea Parks had a game that I thought was really interesting called Equilibrium. It was like a response to the Deckbuilding craze... each player starts with the same deck, and over time you remove cards from it. Quit when you want, each card in your deck is worth -1vp, and cards played are worth positive vps (most of them based on which cards remain in your deck). I like this game, and think maybe it deserves another look...

Lost Adventure - More friends from BGDF, Jeff Warrender and Steve Sisk, made a deduction game with an Indiana Jones theme which I think is fantastic. The only real problem with it might be that the end game phase seems too different from the majority of the game. Also, originally it was "too Euro" and could use a lot more theme to immerse players in the Indiana Jones action. I fear the designers may be overdoing it with the changes they've been making along those lines, but I haven't really been keeping up with their blog about the game as much as I'd like.

It was fun running across and thinking about all these games. Makes me want to spend more time working on them!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

TMG is rocking and rolling this year

I got word that inside the latest issue of Buyer's Guide/GAMES 100, Belfort, Village, and Martian Dice have been listed among their picks for the best games of the year!

In addition, Tasty Minstrel Games has some games nominated for Golden Geek awards over at BGG:
* For The Win is up for Abstract Game
* Belfort is up for Art/Presentation and Strategy game
* Eminent Domain is up for Card Game
* Martian Dice is up for Children's Game and Party Game
* Village is up for Family Game, Strategy Game, and Innovative Game
* Train of Thought is up for Party Game

Way to go TMG! Take a look and cast your votes!