Tuesday, October 29, 2013

One of those "Aha!" moments...

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

If you build it, they will come. And if they come back, you'll have to rebuild it...

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.

Dungeon Roll
* 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

Chimera Station
* 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!