After a hearty discussion on social media, a theme has emerged for my latest game idea: the Rondel Role Selection thing.
Players are geneticists (or mad scientists), collecting samples of various species in order to splice them and create hybrid beasts of myth and legend...
For example, instead of combining Red, Yellow, and Blue resources into Orange, Green, and Purple resources, players will collect Human, Horse, and Bird DNA, and splice them to make Centaurs, Harpies, and Hippogriffs.
Rather than buying Buildings which confer benefits, players will consume their DNA samples researching the specimen to understand Traits. Mechanically this is the same thing, you exchange your resources for a card that gives you some benefit.
I currently have an even/symmetric distribution of abilities on buildings. I tend to start that way. Multiple different people suggested changing that to make each 'color' have some character - like one color gives you abilities which help you move around the rondel so you can take the action you want more often or at lower cost, another color helps you collect resources more efficiently, and maybe a third is generally worth more points. I could tie that in with actual traits of the beasts represented by the resources... like birds can fly, so the bird DNA could purchase traits that help you move around the rondel, while Humans have opposable thumbs, so maybe they're better at collecting resources (which in this game means getting samples of creatures).
As I mentioned in the previous post about designing Theme-first vs Mecahnics-first, as soon as you have a theme, it helps direct the rest of the mechanisms in the game. I had originally used just 3 basic resources and 3 secondary resources, because using the color wheel made it easy to remember which resources combine to make what. It's a pain to remember X+Y=A, but everyone knows Yellow and Blue make Green... But now that I have a theme, the color mnemonic is no longer necessary - it's relatively easy to remember that a Horse token and a Bird token combine to make the thing that looks like it's got horse parts and bird parts (even if you can't recall what a Hippogriff is called).
So now that I'm not constrained to 3 primary and 3 secondary resources, I am free to add additional resources to the mix... Snakes, Fish, and Lions for example. That gives a lot of possibilities for secondary "resources":
Man + Horse = Centaur
Man + Snake = Gorgon
Man + Bird = Harpy
Man + Lion = Sphynx
Man + Fish = Mermaid
Bird + Horse = Hippogriff
Bird + Snake = Wyvern
Bird + Lion = Griffin
Fish + Horse = Hippocamp (Sea Horse)
Fish + Lion = Merlion (Sea Lion)
Lion + Snake = Chimera (? usually part donky as well)
Friday, December 20, 2013
After a hearty discussion on social media, a theme has emerged for my latest game idea: the Rondel Role Selection thing.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
I just wanted to update the rules here, for my own benefit, for the Knights Templar Rond-cala game. With my new Rondel game showing promise, perhaps I'll have the impetus to revisit the prototype of this one as well...
Updated: 10/26/14 after first playtest
The Knights TemplarA game of influence and scandal for 2-4 Crusaders
- 64 Building tiles (16 in each of 4 player colors)
- 16 Churches
- 16 Castles
- 16 Farms
- 16 Banks
- 4 Player boards
- 48 Action cubes (12 in each of 4 player colors)
- 16 Knight figures (4 in each of 4 player colors)
- 1 Game board
- 30? Enemy tokens
- 10? Slav
- 10? Saracen
- 10? Prussians
- 28 Troop tiles (7 for each player)
- 150? points worth of Influence tokens
- Each player receives the following in their player color:
- Player board
- 4 Knight figures
- 16 Building tiles (place them in the indicated spaces on the player board)
- 4 Churches
- 4 Castles
- 4 Farms
- 4 Banks
- 12 Action cubes (place 2 in each Action bin on the Player board)
- 7 Troop tokens (numbered 3 through 9)
Starting with the Start player, play will progress clockwise throughout the game. A player's turn consists of the following sequence:
1. Choose any one Action bin on your player board.
2. Resolve the action associated with that Action bin.
3. Distribute the Action cubes from the chosen bin.
1. Choose an Action
Select any one of the six Actions on the Rondel that has at least 1 Action cube in its bin.
2. Resolve the Action
There are six Action spaces on the Rondel, though 2 of them are the same. Each of the Actions resolves differently. In each of the following descriptions, "X" refers to the number of Action cubes in the Action bin.
- TRAVEL: There are 2 different TRAVEL spaces on the Rondel. The travel action allows you to move your Knights on the game board.
- Distribute X movement points between your Knight figure(s).
- Entering any region costs 1 movement point.
- Leaving a region occupied by an enemy token costs 1 additional movement point.
- MUSTER: The muster action allows you to muster troops to take crusading with your knights.
- Each Farm you have erected adds 1 to the number of action cubes in the Muster bin.
- Collect the next Troop token from your supply - its cost must be less than or equal to X.
- Your board has 2 spaces to hold Troops. Each Farm you have erected confers an additional space to hold a Troop token. [might reduce this to 1]
- CRUSADE: The crusade action allows you to fight Enemies, scoring influence and clearing regions to make space for more buildings.
- Choose 1 region containing one of your Knight figures and an Enemy token.
- Determine the Enemy Strength by checking the Enemy Strength track for the appropriate enemy type.
- Each Troop token adds 1 to the number of action cubes in the Crusade bin. If the Enemy Strength is less than or equal to X, you have won the Crusade. Otherwise you have not.
- When you win a Crusade, collect Influence tokens equal to the Enemy Strength and then move the Enemy token to the appropriate Enemy Strength track.
- When you lose a Crusade, do nothing.
- INFLUENCE: The influence action allows you to gain Influence tokens by spreading the word of the Order.
- Each Church you have erected adds 1 to the number of action cubes in the Influence bin.
- Collect X Influence tokens from the supply.
- BUILD: The build action allows you to erect buildings that confer influence and benefits when resolving the various actions in the game.
- Each Bank you have erected adds 1 to the number of action cubes in the Build bin.
- Erect a Building tile costing X or less from your player board onto a region on the board occupied by one of your Knights. (Buildings of level 1/2/3/4 cost 3/5/7/9)
- A building cannot be erected in a region with an Enemy tile.
- Each region may only contain 1 building.
- Only the lowest un-built level of each building may be erected.
- Collect influence equal to the level of the building erected (1, 2, 3, or 4)
- Building Types:
- Bank: Add 1 to the action cubes in the Build action bin.
- Farm: Add 1 to the action cubes in the Muster action bin. You may house 1 additional Troop tile.
- Castle: Place an additional Knight token into play at the new Castle.
- Church: Add 1 to the action cubes in the Influence action bin.
- Building Types:
Take all Action cubes from the bin associated with the chosen Action and distribute them, 1 at a time, clockwise around the Rondel. See example diagram.
"God is not pleased. We have enemies of the faith in the kingdom"
When the last Influence token is taken from the supply, finish out the round so that each player has had the same number of turns*. At this point, the Order of the Temple has become so powerful that King Philip, threatened by the Order and deeply in debt to it, issues an arrest order for all Templar Knights and begins to have the Order disbanded.
* Players may still collect influence after the supply runs out. Keep track of this influence using some other token.
After all players have finished their turn in the round in which the Influence supply runs out, the End Game phase begins. Flip the starting Castle buildings (in the Paris region) face down - they are considered destroyed. Whenever a building (or knight) is destroyed, each player collects 1 Influence for each building of that type they still have in play.
Then destroy all buildings (and knights) in regions adjacent to a region that's already been destroyed. Flip the destroyed buildings face down (simultaneously) and collect influence for like buildings (and knights) each time.
Continue this wave of destruction until all buildings and knights have been destroyed. The player with the most Influence is the winner.
Theme-first vs Mechanics-first design (also Yet Another New Game Idea (YANGI)... Rondel Role Selection)
Theme-first vs Mechanics-first Game DesignFrequently in game design forums, the topic of "Theme-first vs Mechanics-first" comes up. It's a common question asked of designers in interviews as well. In game design circles, this is the Chicken/Egg discussion all over again.
Every designer has their own answer to whether they start with a theme or a mechanism, and many of them would probably agree that both methods are feasible. I've personally done it both ways, but I think my preference is probably theme-first, which tends to make for a more thematically consistent game.
But in reality, I think it's an iterative process. Whether you begin with "I want to make a Civ game" or "I want to make a game with just 16 cards, where each card has an Action, an Icon (supporting one of those actions), and a Color"... either one can end up in the same place. In the case of my recent game MicroCiv, I started with that mechanism, and I needed a theme that could support 4 different aspects. I decided pretty quickly that a Civ game could support that with actions such as Conquer, Explore, Discover (technologies), and Culture. Once I had that theme, I was able to more specifically define each of the actions in my game, and it informed the other components necessary (territories and technologies).
I think most of the time I start with a theme, but even in those cases I might have a main mechanism in mind. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that I often have a main mechanism in mind, I look for a theme to use it with, and then I let the theme direct how the rest of the game shapes up. So even when starting with a mechanism, I pretty much approach a design "theme-first."
That said, I have a new game idea, now fully prototyped and played, and this one has no theme as yet. It's been completely mechanics first, and as a result, the game feels very much like a Eurogame to me... which was kind of my goal, so I guess that's a good thing. However, it's possible the game is lacking due to a missing theme.
Even if you start with a main mechanism, it's best to find a theme early and let that drive later design decisions - it makes for a lot more thematic consonance and therefore a stronger game.
YANGI: Rodel Role SelectionHere's the current status of this new game, which has no title or theme at all, so for now I'll call it "Rondel Role Selection":
I have always really liked the idea of the Rondel mechanism. Mac Gerdts has built several games around this mechanism, and several of those have been excellent - I've liked Antike, Hamburgum, and the best one, Navegador. I didn't as much care for Imperial, but the Rondel works well there as well.
Stefan Feld used a variant of the Rondel in his recent hit Trajan, combined with a Mancala mechanism. When I read about that, I had an idea how that "Rond-cala" mechanism might work (as it turns out, I was wrong), so I have some designs on using my incorrect assumption for the Rond-cala. One of these days I'd like to get back to that. Somehow the idea of a Rondel came back to me the other day, and I started to devise another game...
In this new idea there is a rondel, made up of 7 Action tiles laid out in a circle. There's an 8th spot in the circle which does not have an action tile, in that space a pawn is placed. Unlike other Rondel games, this game just uses 1 pawn, not 1 pawn per player.
On your turn, you will advance the pawn clockwise around the Rondel - the 1st space is free. If you want to move further you can, but you must leave a coin on each space you pass over. Whichever action tile you land on, you pick up... you get to keep any coins that are on that tile, and this is the action you will do. After the action is completed, that tile will be replaced in the open space left by the pawn. So the order of the tiles will change over the course of the game, as players decide to jump ahead on the Rondel.
The actions on the Rondel are actually a Role Selection game. Like Puerto Rico, there's a privilege for the player taking the action, and then there's an action that all players get to participate in. In all cases, players may choose to take a coin instead of the action or the privilege.
The actions in the game are:
* Buy Red cubes for $1 OR Sell Green cubes for money (Privilege = Collect Red cube)
* Buy Blue cubes for $1 OR Sell Orange cubes for money (Privilege = Collect Blue cube)
* Buy Yellow cubes for $1 OR Sell Purple cubes for money (Privilege = Collect Yellow cube)
* Buy any cube for $2 OR Build any building (Privilege = Buy any cube for $1)
* Combine Red and Yellow cubes into Orange for $1 OR Buy a Blue building (Privilege = Combine Red and Yellow cubes into Orange)
* Combine Red and Blue cubes into Purple for $1 OR Buy a Yellow building (Privilege = Combine Red and Blue cubes into Purple)
* Combine Blue and Yellow cubes into Green for $1 OR Buy a Red building (Privilege = Combine Blue and Yellow cubes into Green)
Then there are buildings of each color that give you some points and abilities/benefits which I hope will encourage players to want different actions or specific actions, which will make them want to jump ahead on the Rondel.
The game will end when one of the Building stacks runs out, and at that time players will count the score from all of their buildings, plus 1 point for each Green, Orange, and Purple cubes (no points for Red, Yellow, or Blue cubes)
So far the game definitely works, and while it definitely needs some tweaks to the buildings (and a theme!), I think it's well on the way to being a proper "Mediocre Euro."
In 2012, Lover Letter and Coup came out and grabbed the attention of the hobby game world. These two games have basically defined a new genre of gaming - a genre that's always existed, but until now hasn't really been "a thing." These two games have started a "microgame" revolution, and over the last year more and more people have jumped on board.
What is a "microgame?" Simply put, a microgame is a game with minimal components and a minimal footprint. Love Letter and Coup consist of just 15 or 16 cards and some tokens, they are highly portable, don't take very long, but still provide a fun and interesting game experience. As such, these types of games make excellent fillers - they fit in nicely while waiting for people to arrive, or while another game wraps up. They're also great to take on the go, so you can always have a game on hand. Most of these microgames can be played almost anywhere, not taking up much table space.
Over the last year or so, the whole idea of microgames has become very popular. Many games have been promoted with portability as a selling point, and people are excited to get a lot of bang for just a little buck. As it happens, these low component games tend to come with a lower price tag as well, and when the prices of board games have been climbing, I'm sure the lower cost of entry is a factor. Right this minute I'm listening to Dice Hate Me's State of Games podcast which is all about mini, micro, and portable games, in which Chris, Darrell, and TC each list off their favorite portable games.
Michael is a fan of this format, and to take it a step further he's happy to have found a way to deliver such a game in an affordable manner. So long as a game does not exceed 1/4" in thickness and 3 ounces in weight, the USPS considers it a letter with a non-machinable surcharge rather than a parcel, which makes a huge difference in shipping cost. He's already leveraged this discovery in 2 Kickstarter projects: Dungeon Roll Winter Promo had 5 cards and a punchboard, and Michael's own Werewolf style game, Templar Intrigue, had just 10 cards. Due to the inexpensive shipping and minimal components of these games, Michael has been able to use a Kickstarter format he's been wanting to use for a long time: Pay what you want. He's included a minimum just to cover delivery, but he's allowed backers to pay whatever they want beyond that. Those 2 projects were successful, so TMG is at it again with Coin Age, by Adam McIver. Coin Age is currently on Kickstarter, and it has caught fire - the game consists of merely a map card and pocket change.
Edit: Due to the overwhelming success of the Kickstarter project so far, an additional map has been added, and we're likely to reach another stretch goal to add a 3rd!
This format is beginning to catch on, and mini- or microgames have been seen on Kickstarter from several publishers. Games such as Council of Verona, from Crash Games, for example. Or their 5 card so called "nanogame" Where Art Thou Romeo in the same universe (currently on Kickstarter as well). Patrick Nickell has embraced the Pay What You Want format for WATR as well.
As I've posted before, I've thrown my hat in the microgame ring... MicroCiv is a 2 player (maybe 3 player) civ game with just 18 cards and 16 tiles, which I will eventually re-theme to the Eminent Domain universe. In addition to that, I designed a free game for my Twitter followers called Quick Change, which uses nothing but 10 coins and 3 dice per player. I'm playing around with a card game similar to Quick Change which is playable with a standard playing card deck.
TMG has some more portable games lined up from some of our favorite designers that I'm not at liberty to talk about yet. It's interesting to see the breadth of design space with such strict component limits. At BGDF.com we have a Game Design Showdown each month which similarly challenges designers to come up with a game based on some arbitrary theme, mechanics, or component restrictions. This reminds me of those challenges.
On one hand, it's exciting to see the enthusiasm people have for these small games. On the other hand, for the pessimistic lover of deeper games, it's worrisome that people may gravitate away from the 1-2 hour long strategy games in favor of these 15-30 minute games which are, almost by definition, not as deep or complex. I'm pretty sure that concern is for nothing, but it would be a shame to see my favorite types of games go by the wayside because they're just not as profitable as microgames - they take a lot more time and work to create, they cost a lot more to produce, and they cannot be delivered in any logistically efficient manner.
So when looking at these small games, I try to keep an eye out for that "bang for the buck" metric. I'm personally most interested in games with as much depth, complexity, and replayability as can be packed into these tiny packages. As a player of economic, resource management eurogames, I'm especially excited by one of the TMG submissions we've got right now... it's a small game, just 30 or so cards and some markers, but it plays like a full-on worker placement, resource management, economic strategy game. I'm looking forward to that one, and I'm hoping I can pack as much punch into MicroCiv as possible. On the down side, complexity tends to make a game less accessible, but on the up side, it makes the game more replayable and in my opinion it makes for a much more worthwhile game experience.
One more thing about these PWYW kickstarter projects... I'm happy to find that with such a small component cost, people seem to be willing to pay more than the minimum. That seems to indicate that, so long as the component cost isn't too high, people really do value game content after all! I wonder if that would work for a bigger, more expensive game, or if a "Pay What You Want, minimum $30" would effectively translate into "this game costs $30." At < $5 it's easier to throw in an extra buck or two, but at $30 I'm not sure people will be so willing.
Sunday, December 08, 2013
At the time of this posting, I have 990 Twitter followers. That's not a whole lot, all told, but it seems like a lot to me... so I feel like it's something worth celebrating.
I don't tweet as much as I'd like, and I don't always have something interesting to say... but whenever I ask, the followers who reply invariably mention that they're interested in game news and game design stuff.
So what better way to celebrate this milestone than with a game to play?
When I hit 1000 Twitter followers, I will share with them a new, fun little game that I have designed just for this occasion!
Sunday, December 01, 2013
Josh Tempkin is a guy from Maryland who comes into Tucson once a year for Thanksgiving. A few years ago he contacted me out of the blue saying he would be in town and asking if there happened to be a chance to do some gaming while he was here. So every year since then Josh will come over for an evening or two for some games, and since he's a designer type, we'll often play some prototypes. So there you go, when going to a new place, sometimes you can contact the gaming community there and make a new friend, just like that! As a side note, last night I found out that I went to high school with his cousin (small world, I guess).
Friday and Saturday Josh came over and we played a few games, including a dice game of his called Lesser Evil, Odysseus: Winds of Fate, and my attempt at a deeper-than-average microgame: MicroCiv.
Lesser EvilSince this is Josh's game, I don't want to say too much about it (I don't know how public it is). As a dice game, it wasn't my favorite type of game to begin with, and in this case I didn't feel like I had the flexibility I would have liked in using the tools I was given to deal with my die rolls.
There's a dynamic that I dislike in games wherein you are forced to make a choice, then find out later (based on a die roll) if you chose correctly. This dynamic exists in some well respected games such as Stefan Feld titles Macao and Bruges - so it's obviously not a "bad" dynamic... just one I don't care for. Lesser Evil had a bit of that in it.
Finally, as the title suggests, it seems like when presented with a meaningful decision in the game, it's often trying to decide between 2 bad options... which is a feeling I also don't care for.
So all in all, while Lesser Evil was a solid game mechanically, it was really not my style of game, and it served to reinforce in my mind how I don't care for that "insufficient info" dynamic.
Odysseus: Winds of FateAfter the recent playtests of WoF at BGGcon, and the revamping of the game that followed, I was really excited to play the latest version of the game. I spent much of Thanksgiving day updating the prototype, and I was all ready to see a great leap of progress when it hit the table, as I was finally incorporating some of the comments from several years ago that have been percolating but have never been tried.
While some of the additions did feel good, unfortunately the playtest was pretty much a "crash and burn." This was pretty disappointing, because I expected it to work at least as well as last weeks games... though to be honest I did have some reservations about some of it.
Some designers will tell you that you shouldn't change more than 1 variable test-to-test, so that if the game stops working you'll know what broke it. I don't subscribe to that. Not to pat my own back or anything, but I feel like most of the time I can compartmentalize how a given change will (or has) affected the game, and so I don't mind changing multiple variables, and if/when that does screw the game up, I don't mind (I actually kind of enjoy) figuring out which thing (or combination of things) caused the problem. I find that progress is far too slow if I only change 1 aspect or variable at a time. Testing time is a commodity in short supply, and there just isn't time to play a whole game just to make sure one small tweak does what I thought it would do.
In this case, I made several big changes. Some of those did not work like I wanted them to, while others did seem promising. Here are some of the things I tried, based on old ideas from years past, as well as recent comments from BGGcon playtests:
* Change payout for Timeline and Destiny bets.
I had most recently been using 30vp divided evenly between players who bet correctly. Some of last weeks players didn't like how that didn't work the same way a bet on a horse race would work, and they suggested making the payoff based on the total number of bets. So instead of 30vp, make it Xvp divided evenly between players making the correct Destiny bet, where X is some multiple of the total number of Destiny bets placed (correct or incorrect). That way, when placing a bet, you're adding to the prize pool, rather than further subdividing a static number.
I wasn't in love with this idea, as the 30vp seemed to be working the way I wanted it to, and this new system seemed like it would likely be very similar, but more mathy and confusing to explain, but in principle it did seem stronger thematically, so I thought I'd give it a try. While explaining the game I immediately realized it was going to be a problem. The comment had come up late in the game at BGGcon, when there was already a number of bets out there, so there was something to be won by placing a bet. But when there are no bets out there, the incentive to put one out there is very small. There would need to be some starting prize pool, or there's no reason to bet. One solution is to force people to begin the game with some Destiny bets, which might be a good idea anyway. That would seed the prize pool with N bets worth of prize. Another solution to that is to remove the standard 2vp per bet in your inventory, so the ONLY way you can score is by placing that bet... but I don't like that for a few reasons. Another solution is to add a minimum payoff, which is just more pieces and more rules to govern this small piece of the game. A variation on that last solution is to make that minimum 30vp and then never increase it - that is to say go back to what I had that worked :)
* Remove all in-game vp and make it all Bet cubes.
I thought this sounded very elegant, but in combination with another change it caused a bit of a problem. I will see if I can salvage this idea, because if I can avoid a score track, or vp chits, then that would be nice. I'd love to just count up score at the end of the game.
* Cube icon = Get cube OR place bet.
This was a way to get more betting into the game, but in combination with the change above (get cubes instead of vp), there were an awful lot of these icons around, and as a result, players could place an awful lot of Timeline bets and Destiny bets, potentially more than 1 at a time. I didn't like that dynamic, especially if not restricted as to where you can place your Timeline bets. It led to a lot of last second betting on the obviously correct outcome.
* Path bets are all free, and every turn.
Something I tried at BGGcon (in the 2nd game, but not the first) was allowing players to place a 'free' Path bet (from the general supply) each round. This turned out to be a really good addition, and one I'd intended but forgot about. The idea is that path bets communicate your intent and allow for temporary collaboration or alliances between players. When you had to place earned bets as path bets, there were far fewer path bets out there, which was not as good.
Path bets used to pay off 6vp divided between bets, and I liked that level of payoff. However, originally it cost you 2vp because you had to give up a bet chip, so the net payoff was 4vp if you were alone, or 1vp if another player shared your bet. When moving to an "all cubes" payoff/scoring system, the idea was that you would simply collect the cube off the board (which came from the general supply), netting you 2vp. If you were alone in the bet, you get an additional cube (net 4vp). This seems in line with my desired balance. I think I liked this change, so maybe possible to maintain the "score only at the end" format. I might restrict the Path bets to 2 cubes per path, to avoid all players piling on to the same path, further differentiating them, and maybe strengthening the temporary alliance aspect.
* Timeline and Destiny bets are earned, you CAN place Timeline bets where other bets are.
At BGGcon we played that you got a free Path bet each round, AND each round you could place one of your earned cubes onto either a Destiny card or the Timeline. However, I restricted Timeline bets to placing only where no other bet exists. There was some discussion about whether that was necessary. I think it's absolutely necessary at the outset (Troy Encounter) to create player differentiation, but I'm not sure it's really necessary for earned Timeline bets. I still like that restriction though, as it lends a lot of value to the "move Bet" reward tiles, which I even powered up to "move your bet up to 2 spaces" rather than just 1 space.
In this new test I removed the restriction for earned bets, and it became a big problem, especially with the frequency players could earn bets. When it becomes obvious the game will end, you can pile 2-3 bets on the correct Timeline space fairly easily, which is a bit ridiculous - it's supposed to be a long-term, strategic bet. This will get better with more limited opportunity to bet, but I still think I prefer the restriction (especially with the beefed up Move Bet reward).
Rather than giving each player the opportunity to place their cubes as Timeline/Destiny bets each round, I would like to go back to an "earned bet" format, where you have to get some reward allowing you to place those bets. So the main betting will be the free Path bets, and the initial Timeline (and Destiny) bets, and there are several opportunities to place more Destiny bets over the course of the game, just not every turn for all players.
I like that the opportunity allows you to invest early in a particular outcome, but if it becomes clear that another outcome will occur, you can start investing in that one... but if you can get your early investment to come true then you will make out ahead. I don't like multiple Destiny bets at the last minute dropped on to the clearly correct outcome. This will likely fix itself when bet opportunities are reduced.
* Adding God tiles to locations, and gods to the Olympus deck.
A suggestion from the Spielbany group (circa 2009) was to add more gods to the game. They thought there wasn't enough reason to want Odysseus to go to one location over another (which really means my Encounter effects aren't pulling their weight - I've since amplified them, but they're still not enough), and one suggestion to make such incentives was to add god tiles to the locations, which players could collect and score as set collection. I would have preferred if the encounter effects offered players the incentives they needed to drive Odysseus around the board, but I did very much like the idea of adding more gods to the game. Over the last 4 years I'd considered many different ways to accomplish this - restructuring the Help/Hinder decks to include more gods than just Poseidon and Athena, etc.
I finally figured out a way I thought would work better, and I finally updated the prototype to include those god tiles! First of all, the bonus for highest contribution to an adventure is that you get the god tile (rather than a bet chip, or some VP). At the end of the game, each god scores 0/1/3 cubes (which is to say 0/2/6vp) for having 1/2/3 of that god's tiles. In addition, I've added those 3 gods to the Olympus deck (which makes all kinds of sense), and when they come up they trigger an effect for players who hold their tiles: Hades allows the player to choose to have Odysseus lose crew, Dionysus allows the player to choose to have Odysseus gain crew, and Hermes allows the player to draw some Adventure cards.
I like the way this worked, EXCEPT, as evidenced by the speed at which this particular game ended, there isn't enough time to collect these things and have them trigger. So I've got some revisions which I hope will help that out.
There might have been some other details that probably didn't go as well as I would have liked, but that was the main stuff. So here's the new plan, which I already incorporated into the prototype:
* God tiles and stuff...
For one thing, I didn't have a god tile at Troy or Ithaca (and Ithaca is a double adventure), so I made 3 Zeus tiles. Zeus does not give any in-game benefits, but he'll act as a wild for end-game scoring. Maybe I'll limit it to 1 Zeus per 'set,' so you can't get 2 Zeus and 3 Hades and score a bajillion points off of that.
I revised the Olympus deck so that each card has 2 Gods on it. Now each of the triggerable gods appears on 3 different Olympus cards, and therefore will trigger more often.
I added "draw an Olympus card and resolve its effect" to one of the Encounter tiles (I should probably add it to another) to get more triggering in there.
I added Reward tiles that you keep in front of you as a God tile (Hades, Hermes, and Dionysus). I also added Reward tiles that basically trigger your god tiles (i.e. "Lose 1 crew per Hades god tile") which will therefore have variable value for different players.
I added cards to the Help/Hinder deck that you keep in front of you as God tiles as well, so it should be much easier to get God tiles (there are a total of 6 of each), as well as cards that trigger your god tiles (which you would play as a special action instead of contributing to the Help/Hinder total). Side note: I wanted those special actions to count against your personal contribution (toward the bonus, now a god tile), but not necessarily count against your overall contribution to the Help/Hinder total. So what I think I'll try is that if you play any card face up for the special action, you are simply disqualified from the bonus altogether, then there's no confusing negative numbers in there. And of course the value on the face up card becomes 0 as well.
So in the end I think I'll reward 0/1/3/6 cubes (that's 0/2/6/12vp) for 1/2/3/4+ god tiles. I could maybe go on another step and reward 10 cubes (20vp) for 5+ god tiles of a type, but that seems like an awful lot, especially with how much access I've added now.
* Reward tiles...
As I mentioned, I added gods to the reward tiles. I am unsure which way I want to go, so I actually added 2 sets... 3 tiles with just the gods and 3 more with the triggers, and then another 3 tiles that act as both (take this as a god tile, then trigger your god tiles of that type). The latter seems really busy, so I'm leaning toward the former.
A suggestion from a player came up that actually reverts back to one of the original ideas for determining crew loss... instead of all of the reward tiles contributing to crew loss, I could reveal N+2 reward tiles, and have only the unclaimed tiles contribute to crew loss. This does a couple of things...
- It allows players to simply grab the tile they want (then deal with it and discard it back to the supply), which is an instinct that many players have had.
- It allows for later turn order players to get more choice of reward, rather than being forced to take something that may not be useful. This may backfire - if there are enough "good" tiles to go around, then players may just pass early. I guess we'll see. This might be why I moved away from that mechanism.
- It allows players to influence crew loss more directly, especially later turn order players. If you want Odysseus to die, maybe leave the reward tiles with larger numbers. If you want him to survive, maybe prioritize those. I expect this consideration to be secondary much of the time, but it could be really interesting, and it harkens back to one of the original mechanisms which got removed somewhere along the line.
- It might also allow for simpler setup, as if there's always N+2 tiles, then there's a constant average crew loss over the different player counts, so there could be the same starting crew across all player counts.
- With this sort of control over crew loss, maybe it would be wise to simplify the Crew Loss rules to say that no matter whether Odysseus wins or loses, he always loses crew according to the unclaimed Reward tiles... rather than "Lose 1 if he wins, X if he loses."
Another thing I did was add an "Advance Round Marker" reward tile, and a "Place Timeline Bet" reward tile. I'm tempted to keep the restriction of placing where no other bet exists, but as this may be the only way to actually add timeline bets now, maybe it would be acceptable to allow placing where bets already are. Should it be disallowed to bet immediately in front of the round marker (like Path bets are disallowed immediately in front of the boat)?
There are still 2 Reward tiles which offer a Destiny action, and I've added a special action in each deck which allows a Destiny action as well. I added Destiny actions to 3 of the encounter tiles (each player in turn order would take a Destiny action), and I hope that doesn't lead to players all piling onto the same Destiny card. I guess we'll see. I believe I will return to the 30vp prize pool for both the Timeline bet and the Destiny bet.
* Stranded at Sea.
There's always been a concern that it might be much harder to strand Odysseus than it is to kill him or get him home safe. There are several ways to advance the round counter: 1 card in each deck, 1 Encounter that advances it, one encounter that advances it twice, and 1 additional advance each time Odysseus revisits any number of face down encounter tiles in a row. I'm not sure why that isn't "for each" face down encounter tile - I probably thought that would be too much advancing of the round counter. Well, I thought I'd try changing that, and adding a Reward tile to advance the counter as well. Hopefully now the game end will be approximately evenly split between Stranded, Dead, and Home Safe.
* The Death Spiral.
The board includes a "death spiral" - a series of encounters that, once visited, create a loop, and if revisited (by definition taking a Stormy path) will result in the game end, as Odysseus will lose all his crew, 1 by 1. With the addition of an hourglass symbol (which advances the round marker) to the backs of the tiles, now that death spiral does not have an obvious effect. Sure, if he enters the loop the game will be over, and Odysseus will not make it home, but it's not clear on which round the game will end, nor whether it will end due to the crew dying, or due to the round counter flying off the track. I mean, it'll be calculable when it happens, but the point is that depending on the game state (what round it is and how much crew Odysseus has left), the Death Spiral could support either a Dead result or a Stranded result, and it could end the game on a variety of rounds.
MicroCiv (v3.2 PnP PDF)Wow, that got long. I actually started this blog post to talk about the updates to MicroCiv! I played a few games of it with Josh and also Dave and John, and I like the direction it has gone. However, I still felt like certain things weren't right. After the latest games and discussion I have updated the prototype again (see link above for v3.0 PDF). Here's a summary of changes:
I like the mix of Territories, but I thought the 2-cost ones weren't good enough, and 2-cost is almost trivial, while 3 cost requires a little more investment. So I changed all the 2-cost Territories to 3-cost, added a Population (1vp) to each, and gave them colors as well.
I like the 2 different 4-cost territories, one that gives +1 defense but no extra points, and one that gives a lot of scoring potential, but has relatively low defense. I thought it would be good to add a 3rd 4-cost into the mix, which gives a straight 2 Pop, and has 5 defense.
I'm pretty darn happy with the techs, but the +1 Pop tech seemed like something to be avoided, just not attractive enough to give up in-game benefit for. Josh suggested making it 2 pop, but I thought it would be much more interesting (and possibly better thematically) to make it a City instead. So now it's worth 0-2 points, depending on how many Politics cards you've got. Maybe it would be interesting to make it *2* cities... maybe that's a metropolis or something, worth 0, 2, or 4 Population. Too much?
For the most part I'm happy with the cards. I did think it was a little too easy to double up on the Discover action, especially with a Discover icon available in the tech, so I upped that to 4 icons required. I feel that puts it more on par with the big Explore and Conquer actions.
The Politics card (Scout) that says "play another card" - I realized that what I really meant was "play another Action" (in other words, instead of playing a card, you could choose to pick up your discards). So I've made that change. I also added "play another action" to the Culture card that lets you swap with the supply. It seems like that card isn't as useful as I'd hoped, and now it allows you to grab a card that you want and then use it right away, maybe that'll make it useful enough.
The other Politics card (Trade) that attempted to allow a player to trade Territories or Techs with another player or the supply just did not work right. I have redone that card, based on a suggestion from Josh... apparently there's some game which has a similar mechanism, and it has a card that allows you to swap the card with a card from your opponent's discard pile. So why not try that? I am not certain I like it, and I think it'll mostly be used at the last minute to grab up good scoring card (or snatch one away from the opponent), but maybe that's ok. As a Politics card, it also permanently reveals a Territory (owned or not).
The Culture action that lets you sweep the supply just doesn't seem to get used. I beefed it up in the last update to add "play another card" (and of course by that I mean "action"), but I still don't see it being used much. As a complement to the "swap with someone's discard" card, I have tried adding this "While this card is in your discard pile, you get +1 Defense." I'll see how interesting that is (it seems like a really interesting dynamic). Note also that when picking up your discards, you'll lose that defense! Of course you can get it back the following turn.
Finally, for potentially thematic and potentially logistical reasons, I swapped the Culture actions on the Yellow and Green cards. Probably not a big deal.
New print and play files are available, if you are so inclined. I think the game is really shaping up, and is almost "done!"
Monday, November 25, 2013
I got several chances to play and revise MicroCiv while I was in Dallas, and with each iteration I believe the game has become better.
I have updated the file linked from my previous blog post (and since updated the game further - it is now called Eminent Domain: Microcosm) to reflect the current version. Please feel free to try it out and tell me what you think. It's only 18 cards and 15 tokens.
For those following this game's development, here's a summary of the changes I've made since the last post:
* Changed the "Pop" icon to a "City" to avoid confusion with Population terminology (originally the "Pop" cards simply scored 1 point, now they score 1 point per card and Territory of a particular color)
* Added 2 cards (Scout and Trade actions which let you peek at the back of a face down Territory (owned or not)). These cards score for number of Cities.
* Changed Technology to less of a tug-of-war. Now the Tech tokens have icons for Explore, Conquer, Discover, +1 Defense, and +1 Pop. With a Discover action, you can take the one you want, or make an opponent discard one back to the supply.
* Drat, I forgot I was going to change "Discover" to "Invent" or some other term that is more different than "Explore". Oh well, maybe next update.
* Significant changes to the Territory tiles (now there are 4 1-cost, 4 2-cost, and 2 4-cost, with more interesting benefits)
That's probably about it. If you print it out and try it, please leave a comment below to let me know what you think. Enjoy!
Odysseus: Winds of Fate is one of my favorite designs. I love the theme and the whole idea of the game, but while I've had playable iterations of the game, I've never found a version that I was totally happy with. It's been a while since I have even thought about O:WoF, and I hadn't really tried the latest changes and ideas I'd had.
This week I dusted off the game and brought it to BGG.con with me, and I got in 2 playtests with some folks (Matthew O'Malley, David Chott, Adam McIver, Peter Wocken, John Clair, Steve Behnke, and Chris Johnson). It was great getting to know the game again, and I got some good feedback. I have a good idea now the direction I'd like to take and what I'd like to try next:
An old playtester comment was that there wasn't enough reason to want Odysseus to go to one location over another. Things I've done and considered to combat that include...
1) Allow a free Path bet each round for each player. The Path bets are the way players communicate their intentions, so the more of them that happen, the better.
2) The Spielbany group suggested adding more Greek gods to the game, and associating each encounter with a specific god (3 each of 3 gods). They suggested putting a god tile onto the encounter, and the bonus for biggest contribution to the adventure would earn the god tile for that encounter (rather than a bet chip, which is the current bonus), and there could be some sort of set collection scoring for getting multiples of the same god tile.
The free Path bets each round helped a lot, and I'm not even sure the god tile thing is necessary... but I'd like to give it a shot anyway - I think adding gods would be great thematically, and I finally have an idea of how to do it in a pretty simple way (I think): I've already got an Olympus Deck, from which a card is flipped at the end of each Adventure. Currently there are only Athena and Poseidon cards in the Olympus deck, which help or hinder Odysseus, respectively. I think a nice way to get more gods into the game is to make this Odysseus deck into more of an Event deck, with more gods represented, each with some effect as well as a help/hinder contribution:
Zeus: +4 Hinder. Reshuffle Olympus deck.
Hera: +4 Help. Reshuffle Olympus deck.
Poseidon: +3 Hinder
Athena: +3 Help
Monday, November 18, 2013
I just packed up a backpack with some games to take to BGG.con with me this week. Plane leaves Tuesday, T-minus 36 hours!
I don't like to bring published games to conventions - other people have published games - con libraries are full of them. Bgg.con in particular has a Hot Games room, which is where most of the game I'll want to play will probably be located anyway. What people won't have is prototypes... not my prototypes anyway. That's why I like to bring the games I'm working on.
So here's what's in my backpack right now:
Odysseus: Winds of Fate is an old favorite design, and one I feel has real potential, but that I never was able to "finish." I brought it up at Sasquatch last week in conversation with David Chott, and it made me realize how long it's been since I've even thought about the game. David thought it sounded interesting, so I've dusted it off to bring to Dallas with me. I recall wanting to make certain changes for a new version, but I don't believe I've done that yet - so if we play it it'll have to be with the old version.
EmDice, my dice game based on Eminent Domain is probably as done as it's going to get. I rebuilt the prototype recently (following the unfortunate robbery of my prototype bag). I haven't played it in a while, but if anyone's interested, I'll have it with me in Dallas.
And of course I'm bringing EmDo with Escalation, it's no longer a prototype, but the ship bearing the production copies of Escalation doesn't arrive for another week, so my advance copy may interest some EmDo fans :)
Belfort: the Expansion expansion is on that same boat, so I'm bringing that with me as well. It'll require a copy of Belfort from the library though, because I'm not schlepping one of those with me!
Rockin Roll, a dice game follow up to Dungeon Roll, is getting closer to finished, but still isn't quite there yet. I'll have the current version with me, and I'll be looking for opinions on what to change (I already have some changes I'm considering)
I've got a current prototype of KoAaS: World Fair expansion, in case anybody wants to see what's coming up for that game in 2014.
MicroCiv, my newest idea - an attempt at a "microgame," with just 16 cards and 15 tokens, this 2 player civ game seems to be working out so far. I'm hoping to find out if people like it or not.
Battlecruiser, by Philip DuBerry, is a card game that plays like a microgame, but with a lot of variability from an abundance of different cards (of which you only use 5-8 per game).
And finally, I've got a prototype of Exhibit: Artifacts of the Ages, my bluff auction set collection game which I'm happy to say has been picked up by a european publisher :)
So, what are you bringing to BGG.con this week?
Sunday, November 17, 2013
I mentioned in my last post that Michael has gotten very interested in microgames. The other day I thought I would see if I could make an interesting game with minimal components, so after giving it some thought I have put together a prototype on Friday, solo tested it that night, and got a chance to try it out with a couple people at the Ides of Gaming game day Saturday. This is just a first draft, and I can already see several things I'd like to update, but for a first draft the game certainly worked, and for the most part I think it worked pretty well. Here's the gist of it:
EDIT: Files have been deleted - game has been updated and set in the Eminent Domain universe and is now called Eminent Domain: Microcosm.
16 MicroCiv cards
10 Territory tokens
5 Technology tokens
* Shuffle the 16 MicroCiv cards and deal 3 face up into the supply.
* Mix the Territory tokens face down.
* Give 2 Technology tokens to each player and place the 5th token in the center.
* Randomly determine a start player.
Beginning with the start player, take turns adding cards to their hand and playing actions to explore and conquer territories and make discoveries to increase their Population. On your turn, you do the following:
1) Draw a card from the supply, then, if cards remain in the deck, re-fill the supply from the deck.
2a) Play a card from your hand and resolve the action printed on it, then place it into your discard pile. Some actions allow you to reveal additional icons (from your hand, Territories, or Technology) in order to get a better effect.
2b) Return all cards from your discard pile to your hand.
When the deck is exhausted, continue play without refilling the supply when cards are drawn. When the last card is drawn from the supply, the active player finishes their turn and the game ends. Players collect all cards from their hands and discard piles and determines their Population (score):
* Each card has a scoring condition at the bottom, indicating its Population value:
** 1 Population per Territory controlled,
** 1 Population per Territory in Spoils,
** 1 Population per Tech advantage (your Tech tokens minus your opponent's Tech tokens)
** 2 Population
* There are 4 cards and 1 Territory in each color. For each color, count 1/3/6/10 Population for 1/2/3/4+ items (cards and Territories) in that color.
* Some Territories indicate that they score additional Population.
The player with the most Population wins!
Reveal Explore icons and take a Territory with that cost. You may look at your Territories, but keep them face down. You may reveal a Territory at any time to gain its benefit.
Reveal Conquer icons. Choose a Territory (owned or not) and reveal it. if your revealed Conquer icons meet or exceed the Defense value, put the Territory into your Spoils. You do not gain the benefits shown.
Note: Territories owned by players benefit from 1 additional Defense!
Take 1 Tech token from the center OR opponent discards 1 Tech token to the center. Reveal 3 Discover icons to repeat this process.
Any time you have more Tech tokens than your opponent, take the Technology Advantage tile. Technology Advantage gives you 1 Conquer icon, 1 Explore icon, and 1 additional Defense for all of your owned Territories.
There are 4 unique Culture actions.
* Swap this card with a card from the supply.
* Pick up and immediately play 1 card from your discard pile.
* It there is a Tech token in the center, take it. Return 1 card from your discard pile to your hand.
* You may play this action before or after drawing a card. Move any number of cards from the supply to the bottom of the deck in any order, then replace them with cards from the deck.
Michael has been fascinated by the idea of so-called "microgames" for a while now. Ever since Love Letter met with great success and people started saying that games with minimal components are the wave of the future he has wanted to figure out how to produce and market them in a way he was happy with.
As those who follow TMG probably already know, we have a Kickstarter project going on right now for a Dungeon Roll Winter Promo - 4 new Heroes and a punchboard of Treasure tokens - and it's doing very well. There are just 2 days left, and we're over 5,000 backers! This performance has given Michael confidence in the format, and in researching this promo pack he's decided that he's comfortable shipping out microgames as well.
A year or so ago Michael, with microgames in mind, started working on a partial information, deduction game of his own. It's called Templar Intrigue, and it's in the genre of Werewolf and Resistance/Avalon. It plays much faster than other similar games, and uses just 10 cards. At one time the plan was to make Templar Intrigue available as a print and play game, and if it proved popular, Michael could use Kickstarter to print a higher quality version and sell it at a low price. Well, plans changed a bit... Templar Intrigue is on Kickstarter right now, and has over 2400 backers.
Both of these Kickstarter projects have a few common elements. For one thing, they are very short duration Quickstarters, a format that I like a lot for KS in general. Another common thing is the price structure. Michael is asking people to "pay what they want," with a minimum of $2 ($3 internationally) just to cover postage. This has proven to be a fairly popular price structure, and while some people are most certainly taking the opportunity to get the games at the minimum price, enough people are chipping in extra that the average per unit pledge is about $4.50 or so. This is only a tad under the "suggested" price of $5 (what the games would sell for normally).
I know Michael's got a few more microgame projects planned for the near future. The idea of microgames is interesting - in today's age of busy-busy-busy, interesting games that don't take a lot of time or space are a welcome thing. Often there's just no time for a bigger game experience. However, in most cases I find that I prefer a deeper experience than a microgame can offer, so I hope that the gaming world doesn't migrate entirely to these small, quick games... I'm sure it won't. In fact, TMG has another full size game project coming to kickstarter soon. It's for the hottest euro-style game you've ever played: Scoville!
Saturday, November 16, 2013
A few weeks ago I had some game design thoughts, but I never finished the post. Here it is now... I probably meant to write more, but I haven't really thought about it since.
It's been a while since I really did any new game design - with an exception being the game design retreat I hosted last July. Today I thought I'd like to do something new... but what? In general my M.O. is to put tried and true concepts together in new or unique ways, but I kind of want to do something more unique. Something that won't be derided as "derivative" on BGG.
I started thinking about that a little bit today, and so far all I've got is the beginnings of an idea. Imagine a game where you do well by helping an opponent do well. There have been games in which players must cooperate against the game system (lest they all lose), and yet are in competition with each other. One major issue with games like that is that if a player finds they are out of the running to win, they no longer have incentive to cooperate vs the game. In some cases a losing player can decide to bring their opponents down with them, so to speak. My thought is a bit different, more like a game where players are out to better their own position, but also score points based on the ranking of their opponents in various aspects of the game.
For this to work, there would have to be several different aspects of the game at which players could compete or excel. As a player, your score would be the combination of your own performance at each of these, and the performance of specific other players as well. For example, if I were playing a game with Russell, Michael, and Mandy, I might score for Russell's performance in one particular aspect, Michael's performance in another particular aspect, and Mandy's performance in a third aspect.
Civ games tend to have various different aspects, such as Military, Civics, Agriculture, Technology, etc. So maybe that is the way to go. I had mentioned before wanting to re-use the main mechanism from Eminent Domain, possibly with a historical civ type of game. Maybe this is a good fit. I realize I just said I wanted to do something "new" - but the Eminent Domain's "deck learning" mechanism is original, and therefore maybe acceptable to use. I think the desire to help your opponents might be novel and new - I don't think I've seen it done before.
I like the deck management aspect of the Deck Learning mechanism, and maybe there's a way to entangle that with an interactive trading mechanism. Suppose in addition to the cards in your deck/hand, there is some kind of income you receive, or rather resources you get access to via trade. Like Settlers, suppose you could offer to trade a card in hand for a card in an opponents' hand - but rather than exchange actual cards, each of those players would take the card from their hand and place it on their board (face down probably) on a space in their tableau matching the card they're trading for. So you lose the card from your deck, representing a constant export of that thing, and you gain permanent access to whatever you just traded for. Thus you need not fill your deck with that thing in order to use it.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
This morning I had one of those infamous and elusive "AHA!" moments. It's a small idea for a game, but it feels like a big step forward. It went something like this:
There's a game I'm working on for TMG - kind of a follow up to Dungeon Roll. I say follow up because it's a dice game, and it's similar in scope to DR, but it is otherwise completely unrelated. I suspect some of the people who enjoyed Dungeon Roll might enjoy this as well.
In the game, you roll some dice (obviously). Each turn you use some, and re-roll the ones you used but not the ones that went unused. Kinda like I have done for EmDice (Eminent Domain: the Dice Game). This mechanism has a tendency to build up certain die faces until you use them, but if the die face that builds up is not one you want to use, then you have a problem... unless of course you're allowed to re-roll things in some way. The latest rule was that you COULD re-roll some dice, if you sacrifice one of your dice forever. Or possibly score 0 points for the turn.
In addition, there are some cards in the game which can help increase your score for the turn. Originally three was going to be a sort of draft to get these cards, which I'd hoped would allow players to get good synergy out of their cards... but based on the scope of the game, it's quicker and simpler to just deal out the cards. My concern of course was about fairness, and especially the perception of fairness. In a light game, players aren't going to do math or analyze everything to see if the cards are fair, they're just going to either feel like their cards were as good as their opponents' cards, or not. So more important than the cards actually being fair, there has to be something to compensate a player who got a "bad hand."
My first approach to this was to award bonus points for cards leftover... generally speaking you would do better to actually play the card, but if you got a card you couldn't use, at least you get something out of the deal. That seemed OK at first, but in reality that doesn't solve any problems at all, and it introduces questions such as what's a fair compensation? And at what point is it actually better to NOT play the cards? No, that wasn't the right solution. But what is?
This morning I had a minor epiphany about this - one of those "Aha!" moments you read about. There does need to be some compensation for being dealt a card that, in theory, could be completely useless... but rather than points, why not allow players to discard any card they want to re-roll their dice? Like most Aha! moments, after having this idea it seemed so obvious it's tough to imagine NOT thinking of it. As it stands, sacrificing a die to get a re-roll is an awfully high price to pay, but you'd do it a couple times at the last minute to score a few more points, or possibly once early if your roll is atrocious (though that's probably just asking for trouble). So more ability to re-roll would be welcome, and if you have been dealt a card you know won't be useful, then you can happily spend it for a "free" re-roll! If you ave a card that could be worth +1 point, you might even consider whether a re-roll would be worth more than that (based on what you have).
At any rate, I'm pretty happy with this realization. Aha moments feel good, no matter how minor they are or how obvious they feel after the fact. I look forward to testing this game again with this new rule (as well as the updated cards I recently made) :)
What Aha! moments have you had in your designs?
Monday, October 14, 2013
I've been complaining all week on Twitter, FaceBook, and I.R.L. (is that still a thing?) that my house was robbed (again), and this time the worst thing they took wasn't my TV, or my Laptop, or my iPad... it was a bag full of prototypes! I don't know what use thieves will have with a bag full of prototypes, but be that as it may, they are gone. Probably in a dumpster somewhere by now. And I got to spend much of last weekend reconstructing prototypes for the following games:
Rockin' Roll (follow up game to Dungeon Roll)
* 144 die face stickers to adhere to 24 dice
* 36ish crowd token stickers to adhere to circular tokens
* 50ish 1/2 size cards to cut and sleeve in mini sleeves
* Box (small US Flat Rate box works really well for most prototypes)
Eminent Domain: the Dice Game
* 4 player boards
* 1 Tech board
* 66ish planet tile stickers (I still need to get something to stick them to)
* I still need to collect tech counters in player colors and something to use for Resource/Fighter tokens
* Box (again, small US Flat Rate)
Kings of Air and Steam: World Fair
* 45 Technology cards
* 8 Characters (4 teams)
Sadly, KoA&S was in the bag as well, and I only had that one copy. And we're out at the warehouse. So I need to track down another copy of the game before I can play the expansion again.
* 4 Holiday Heroes
* 8 Hero Booster #2: Legends (under construction)
I had a really awesome Minotaur figure in the dungeon Roll box that was taken, not to mention one of those nice playmats people like so much. Now they're gone.
Exhibit: Artifacts of the Ages
* I had left my original prototype with the European publisher who is now interested in publishing the game. I made myself another prototype, but I didn't have any more color spot dice, so I used regular d6s (which was pretty lame). I finally ordered some color dot dice (a little different, these actually have 1-6 on them, and each side has different colored dots) and I put together 2 prototype copies of this, each one including:
* 5 player boards
* 1 two part folding auction board
* 5 player screens
* 40 Auction tiles (I need to make the 2nd set of these)
* 5 Grant tiles
* 25 player markers
* Box (this one is set up to use a Jab or Train of Thought sized box)
Captains of Industry and City Hall
* Since this one is going to print, I don't think I'll be replacing the prototypes
* A designer had just left a game with me when I saw him at Rincon last weekend, and it was in there as well. That totally sucks. I believe the designer is working on some changes and ideas I mentioned, and after the next update maybe I'll get another copy.
If anyone knows me, then they probably know if there's one I like less than actually having to do something, is having to do that thing again! That said, rebuilding these prototypes wasn't all that bad. Fortunately I had files that were more or less up to date, and this gave me a chance to update any that weren't.
So that's what I was up to all weekend - what were you up to?
Michael Keller Double Feature funded - Captains of Industry and City Hall going to print! So what's next?
Last month I mentioned that we were running a Kickastarter for two games by designer Michael Keller: City Hall and Captains of Industry. That has wrapped up, and we finished with just under $50,000 in funding to print those two games. I put quite a bit of development work into Captains of Industry, and I'm looking forward to its debut! Art for both games is being finalized and sent to the printers for pre-press.
Thanks to everyone who backed the project, I hope you all enjoy the games as much as I do, and for the cost of the Kickstarter pledge you can't really go wrong - I'm sure there will be people who missed out on the project and will want the games when they arrive.
While we wait for those games to go through the long manufacturing process, we will be starting another Kickstarter in November for a game called Scoville, by Ed Marriott.
Scoville is a game about planting, cross breeding, and harvesting peppers to fulfill orders or mix into chile recipes. It's a fun game, and it's been universally well received by every group I've played it with. Ed puts a lot of work into game design, and it really shows in his work. There was almost nothing I felt I needed to tweak in this design, which makes my job a lot easier! I'm looking forward to this one as well, and we'll have demo (prototype) copies with us at BGG.con in November, while the Kickstarter is live, so if you're going to Dallas you can give it a try before pledging.
So watch for Scoville on Kickstarter mid November, and I'll see you all at BGG.con!
Monday, September 16, 2013
The other day TMG launched a new Kickstarter project for 2 upcoming titles:
In this project you can get either game for about 30% off MSRP (save $20)... OR you can get a package deal and get both of them for $70! That's 46% off - save $60... that's 2 for the MSRP of one!
That's a pretty ridiculous deal, and if you are into economic euro style games (and if you're reading this, the chances are good), then this might be the project for you!
I said euro style, and I meant it. But for euro style games, both of these are very interactive. Neither one feels like a solitary experience.
In Captains of Industry the players set the market prices, and they buy goods from each other. This makes the game very interactive as players compete directly with each other on prices, and every game plays out differently.
In City Hall players auction off actions, or pay to take the action themselves. This requires a lot of resource management, evaluation of the actions, and paying attention to what your opponents have been up to.
I like these games, and if you're reading this then I bet you will too. I suggest you check them out, and since it's such a good deal you might consider taking a chance on them. We have some resources available to help you make up your mind - I'll link to the rulebooks below, and there are game play videos and reviews for City Hall online from the previous project. A game play video for Captains of Industry should be ready soon as well.
Just a quick recap, for those interested in what I did at Strategicon. In no particular order:
Special Guest Vlaada Chavtil
I always like meeting the big names in game design, and if you don't mind a name drop or two, I have met such big names as Reiner Knizia, Richard Breese, Bruno Faidutti, Martin Wallace, James Ernest, and Antoine Bauza at various conventions. I also know other, maybe lesser known designers such as Tory Niemann Sebastian Bleasedale and others from the BGDF forums, and of course all the designers I've worked with through TMG (David Short, Scott Almes, Jay Cormier and Sen Foong-Lim, etc). I've met some RPG designers as well (Mark Truman for example), but as I'm not much of an RPG player, I don't worry about that too much. I do enjoy expanding my name dropping ability by meeting th famous board game designers though, and I hope to one day be considered a name that an upcoming designer might drop when posting along these lines in their own blog!
The special guest at Strategicon was Vlaada Chvatil, designer of a wide variety of games (in a wild variety of styles) from the Check Republic. I didn't spend as much time with Vlaada as I'd have liked, but I did check out his new prototype - an abstract game (I'm not really into abstract games) where you place pieces into play trying to satisfy specific patterns which allow you to play cards. These cards have bigger/better effects, and you use them to try to satisfy the conditions on the available scoring cards. It looked like an interesting game, but as I mentioned, I don't generally care for abstract games, and this was pretty abstract. Also, I'm not a big fan of 2 player only games, and this one looked like it was best with 2, if not really a 2 player only game.
Jason Chan came all the way from Hong Kong to his first ever US Game Convention to promote his game, Scribes Arena, which will be on Kickstarter, maybe as soon as later this year! Scribes Arena is billed as a cross between magic: the Gathering and Hangman. I'm not sure that's accurate, it's really more like a Hangman card game - the similarity to M:tG is that it uses cards (called "spells"), resources ("energy") to pay for the cards, and some of the cards ("Counterspells") cancel the effects of other cards.
Scribes Arena is a really cool game. I am pretty bad at Hangman (though usually decent at word games in general), and this one definitely has a unique twist. On your turn you draw a card and get 1 Energy, and then you play cards (which give you chances to guess letters), and finally you get 1 free guess (letter or word) for your turn. If you guess all the letters of a word, you move on to the next one, and if you uncovre all 3 of your opponents words before they do the same to you, then you win.
I look at it like you're dealing damage to the other player. At most, you'll need to deal 26 damage to "kill" each word (guess all 26 letters of the alphabet), but you can do much better by 'aiming' your shots - deducing which letters are likely in the word and guessing those. Guessing the correct letter feels like getting a sort of critical hit, because while it's only "1 damage," you only need so many correct letters before you can guess the word and get a finishing blow.
Jason has obviously put a lot of work into this game, and when it does hit Kickstarter I highly recommend you take a look.
I only played 2 scheduled games this time, which is 2 more than I've played in the last several years combined... Brass, and Village.
I haven't played Brass in a while, and I really enjoy it. I thought I was doing poorly, as every time I had a great plan, I'd end up distracting myself with something else and someone would beat me to it. So I did nothing spectacular, but a lot of solidly good stuff. I managed to win (barely!), and because it was billed as a large tournament I received 10 Dealer Dollars for my efforts!
I've played a fair bit of Village, though none before TMG imported the game, so I am at no real advantage over anyone else who's played a fair bit of Village. Except I'm apparently pretty good at the game, and as it turns out, that's something of an advantage. :) The person running Village didn't really pull her weight, leaving me to teach the new players while she played in the neighboring Thurn and Taxis event. I have done my share of teaching games, and while I hadn't signed up for this event in order to teach it, at least I am well practiced at it. We had 7 players, so 2 tables, and the top 2 from each moved on to the final round. After teaching the game and playing twice, it was a fairly large time investment, but at least I came out on top and was rewarded with another 5 dealer dollars (this one was billed as a Small tournament).
Dealer Dollars and Maximum Throwdown
It has been a while since I collected enough Dealer Dollars to matter, and unfortunately there was nothing in the dealer room I was really interested in. I ended up getting a copy of Maximum Throwdown, a dexterity game where you throw cards into play. I like to throw things, so I figured it was worth a shot. We tried it at Brian's house the following game night, and it was wildly mediocre for us. i was awful at the throwing - in the beginning I missed altogether, and later my cards slid underneath those already in play rather than landing on top of them. nobody was too terribly thrilled with the game, but I think the group isn't one to really get excited about dexterity games to begin with.
Scoville, Battlecruiser, and other TMG playtesting
I played 1 game of Scoville at Strategicon, and managed to win by a mile... but everyone seemed to enjoy the game a lot. I used a new feature which I'd just gotten from the designer, and I liked it a lot - I think it will probably make the final cut of the game. In fact, with that new feature, one of the rules was able to be streamlined away, and I always like when we can do that!
I played a couple sessions of Battlecruiser, one of which was great for comments afterwards - we tried lots of different combinations of cards, and discussed the wording, intent, and ramifications of most of them. I got some great feedback for the designer on that one, and much of it has been addressed in the latest version of the game.
I also playtested a future TMG dice game, which isn't coming along as well as I'd like, but based on the tests and comments, Michael and I were able to theorize a better structure that should work out better (sacrifice one of YOUR dice to re-roll anything you want, not one of your scoring opportunities!) Also, we're thinking that an up-front draft of all the cards (instead of 1 card per round) would be better as well. Sorry to be cryptic about this one, I'm not sure how much info I'm really allowed to put out there for this one just yet...
Hanabi and party games
I didn't play much Hanabi, but I did play some. As for Party games, I finally tried Reverse Charades. It was fun, but I really think the ideal team size is 3-4 people. We had 5 people per team, and I think it was too many.
The 8 hour drive wasn't too bad, with the company of my friends Jeff, Elisa, and Brian. I wouldn't mind doing it again, though I also like the expediency of air travel, especially when the convention is so conveniently close to the airport.
I met up with Tim Fowers briefly on Sunday, and we played our design from the Design Retreat: Now Boarding. It's a cooperative optimization puzzle with time pressure, and this time we used a different version of time pressure - we timed each Departures phase (1 minute), and the rest of the game was un-timed. It seemed to work really well, and it automatically synchronized people and kept them from getting out of phase with each other.
It was nice to see many old friends, and make some new ones... some of whom may be coming to Rincon next month :)
Friday, August 30, 2013
I don't know how or why this happens, but as usual I'm awake mere hours before I have to get up and leave for a convention. This time I'm driving (or riding) to L.A. for Strategicon - mostly because I never got around to buying plane tickets, and now they're ridiculously expensive.
But after the 22 hour drive to Indiana, this 8 hour trip to L.A. should be no big deal :)
I have been so overwhelmingly busy leading up to this convention that I have done no preparation for it whatsoever. No plane tickets, no pre-registration, no scheduling of games... I was pretty close to deciding to just not go. But I'll be there, and I spent all day today preparing some prototypes to take with me.
I'll be bringing 8 prototypes - 9 if you include new Heroes for Dungeon Roll:
Captains of Industry, and City Hall, by Michael Keller
Two great economic games, both coming soon from TMG. Watch for a Kickstarter for these two in about a week!
Scoville, by Ed Marriott
A 2014 release from TMG about breeding peppers :) Cross primary colored peppers to get secondary colored peppers, and cross those to get even better peppers. Fulfill orders and complete recipes to score. So far just about everyone I've played this with has loved it. Watch for a Kickstarter project for Scoville this November (to coincide with BGG.con).
Battlecruiser, by Philip DuBerry
A quick card game, reminiscent of Libertalia, but much simpler and quicker (and therefore I like it better).
Rockin' Roll (in house TMG production)
A follow up to the very successful Dungeon Roll. If things go well we should have a Kickstarter project for this around the end of the year, and hope to deliver in time to debut the game at Gen Con.
Exhibit: Artifacts of the Ages, by Seth Jaffee
The Bluff Auction game. This one is not a TMG game, but it has gotten some foreign publisher interest. However, the publisher has become very busy, so it hasn't moved forward in a while.
Now Boarding, by Timothy Fowers and Seth Jaffee
A cooperative optimization puzzle, which may or may not have some time pressure. I'm having trouble identifying whether players will tolerate a real time game clock.
Eminent Domain: Exotica (and Escalation), by Seth Jaffee
Exotica is just about done, and I'll have my Escalation prototype with me as well. I'll also have the color proofs for Escalation (and Belfort: the Expansion Expansion) to wave around.
Dungeon Roll: Legends Booster and Holiday Heroes
We're working on the next Hero booster pack for Dungeon Roll - Legends. These heroes are more powerful than the original heroes, so they don't level up. These are first drafts, so they're not done yet, but they will likely have flavor and story text on the back, as well as some personal achievements a player can try to accomplish with them.
We've also got a holiday promo planned, with some holiday themed heroes such as Klaus, Saint of the North (Santa Clause!). I have these heroes (also first draft) in case anybody wants to give them a try.
So if you're at Strategicon this weekend, come by and say "hi!" I'll be in the boardgaming ballroom pretty much the whole time. Hopefully I can score a table and just set up all these games to teach to whoever wants to try them.
I'm also hoping to play some games that I didn't have a hand in. I played 1/2 a game of Spyrium at Gen Con (the only published title I even looked at all weekend) and I wouldn't mind playing a full game of that. I haven't played much Hanabi in a while. I picked up The Scoundrels of Skullport expansion to Lords of Waterdeep, but haven't tried it yet. I'm sure there's some other stuff I've been missing out on recently as well.
Ok, maybe there's time for a REM cycle or two before I have to leave. See you in L.A.!
Saturday, August 24, 2013
A little thing called Gen Con happened last week, and I thought maybe people would like to hear about my experience - nay, my adventure in Indiana this year.
I've been to Gen Con twice, the last two years. In 2011 we had a booth, and it was our first time at a big con as a vendor. It was pretty wild, and we didn't know what to expect. We did decently well, and I remember looking across our table and seeing all the titles we had, and thinking that while not all games are for everybody, each of the TMG titles, for its category or genre, is really top of the line. I was proud of that.
In 2012, TMG products were for sale in the Game Salute booth, which gave me a lot more time to experience the con. I played a lot more games, and I met a lot more people. On the down side, with the TMG products sort of buried in the Game Salute booth, I don't think it was a great financial success.
This year we went back to having our own booth. In fact, this year Michael went BIG. We had a 20'x20' space, with 6 or 8 demo stations set up to show our new dice game Dungeon Roll. We had a table (or 2) full of other games (Belfort, Kings of Air and Steam, Ground Floor, Skyline, Martian Dice, Rialto, Village, Village Inn, Il Vecchio, Magnam Sal, and Alba Longa) which ended up selling out, but we focused the demos on Dungeon Roll, as it's much easier and quicker to demo. It turns out that having people commit to sitting down for a full demo of a eurogame is a hard sell, and it's terribly inefficient. Games like Dungeon Roll are much better to demo (at a standing table) as it's quick, easy to demo, and almost every time leads to a sale.
But I'm getting ahead of myself...
On Friday August 9th I flew to Utah, where Michael has moved. He picked me up at the airport and I got to see his new house (which is gorgeous!). Saturday we went disc golfing, and then packed some things into Mike's truck - only to find that the volume of stuff to pack exceeded the volume of space in the truck! Somehow we fit almost everything in, and we only had to leave behind 1 box of folding chairs, and instead of a 6' table we brought a square card table. As it turned out, we could have left behind more chairs and that table, we didn't end up using them.
Sunday we headed out on our +/-22 hour drive. This would be the longest road trip I've ever been on, and it was just me and Michael in the car. I wasn't sure how well this would go... We drove about 14 hours on Sunday, and it went surprisingly well! We didn't get board, we didn't get on each other's nerves, and we made great progress! We also saw an awful lot of corn on the side of the road :)
Monday we finished out our trip with about 9 more hours of driving, and by the end of that I think we were both ready to be done driving. Luckily we got to our hotel around then :)
Tuesday we had some work to do. It costs a fortune to use the unionized company to bring your pruduct in for you, so our product had been shipped to a warehouse, and we had booked a Uhaul with which to get it to the convention center. We picked up the Uhaul and brought it to the warehouse without any problems, but it was a challenge to get 5 pallets of product into the truck. It wouldn't fit! So we put 3 pallets in, and then we un-palletized the other 2 and placed the boxes into the truck by hand. We got a loading dock without hassle, but of course the Uhaul isn't the same height as the trucks they build the docks for, so rather than using a pallet jack or anything, we had to break open our pallets and take the boxes out of the truck by hand and bring it to our booth space.I took a photo of our booth after Tuesday's efforts...
Wednesday we had some help, as our demo team - a handful of college students organized by Chris Schreiber, as well as some other friends of TMG arrived and helped finish putting together the TMG booth. Here's what it looked like after Wednesday's efforts. Here's our booth, ready for the onslaught!
One thing I was kind of excited about was the idea of having a giant Dunegon Roll box in our booth. Here's a pic of the oversized treasure chest prototype I made as proof of concept:
I got artwork sized properly from the artist (Rob Lundy), and dropped it off at an Office Depot Wednesday morning. I was able to pick it up later that night and assemble it. Here's the final treasure chest, full of treasure (Dungeon Roll boosters) as it appeared in our booth. I think it came out great!
I was really impressed with our booth setup, and we got a few compliments over the course of the con as well. Tuesday and Wednesday were tough, and we didn't eat or rest until dinnertime... but fortunately I managed to eat better over the rest of the week.
Thursday morning the floodgates opened, and we were non-stop demoing all day long. our booth was very popular, and we were helping as many customers and fans as we could. Really, that pace didn't let up all weekend. We sold a lot of games, and had several podcasters come by and talk to me and Chris Darden, designer of Dungeon Roll.
Saturday I had an appointment with BGGtv, and recorded 3 sessions, showing off Dungeon Roll, Village Inn, and some upcoming TMG stuff that's not out yet. I haven't seen the video yet, so I'm interested to see how I did!
After hours I spent a lot of time with some friends: Andy Van Zandt and Oliver Kutnik who I spent most of Protospiel with last month, and Ken Gruhl and Quinten, who I've met at previous Prototspiel events. I also attended a Designer - Publisher Speed Dating event where designers set up their games on tables, and publishers would sit for a 5 minute pitch. Then a bell would ring and the publishers would move to the next table. It was an interesting event, but really long. I was there for about 4 hours, during which time I heard about 40 pitches. Of those, maybe 5 or 6 were interesting to me, and even those weren't all TMG material. I don't want to say it was a waste of time, because I think it was actually a really good event, especially for the designers... but I'm not sure it's as valuable to a publisher/scout. James Matthe put the event together, and he was talking about improvements for the next time, which included a shorter timeframe.
Congrats to James for putting together that event, as well as a Designer/Publisher meet and greet!
I didn't get to play any published games, except 1/2 a game of Spyrium demo at Asmodee's booth. But I did see a number of games from Ken and Quinten that were fun little fast games, as well as some of Andy's stuff (which I'd seen before). I also showed those guys a few things I'm working on and got some good comments on those.
I didn't manage to meet Bruno Cathala, but I did have a couple chats with Antoine Bauza, who I met last September at Strategicon in L.A. He's a great guy, and right now he's very popular as a designer, after 7 Wonders won the KSdJ in 2012 and Hanabi won the SdJ in 2013! Speaking of Hanabi, I only briefly saw Nyomi and Sean, who I met playing a 12 hour Hanabi marathon last Gen Con. they met that day, and got married a couple of months ago! I wanted to introduce them to Antoine, but we couldn't find him at the time.
Finally, the convention wound down on Sunday, and of course there were things I didn't get a chance to do. Michael, Chris and I retired to our hotel to relax, and the next morning we would pack up and head out on our 2-day drive back to Utah. One good thing about these 2-day trips is that they provide good "forced meeting" time, where Michael and I were able to go over quite a few things for TMG, from scheduling, to strategy, to game design. Again, the trip back was much easier than I expected, and we were able to get all the way home without getting on each other's nerves or at each other's throats!
Tuesday night at Michael's house I signed a bunch of posters for Dungeon Roll kickstarters - those posters look awesome! Wednesday I headed out to the airport and flew home, and I've spent the entire rest of the week catching up on emails and things that I hadn't been able to do while we were at Gen Con.
So that's basically how my last 2 weeks have gone... what have you been up to? :)