Monday, November 25, 2013

MicroCiv update

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 - revived and updated!

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

Hades: +2 Hinder. Odysseus loses 2 Crew.
Dionysus: +2 Help. Odysseus gains 2 Crew.
Hermes: Each player draws 2 Adventure cards.
I'm not sure the best reward for collecting multiples of the same god tile... it could be as simple as just collecting 1/3/6 points (or bet chips) for 1/2/3 matching god tiles. It might also be cool if the different gods behaved differently - that could potentially be accomplished by adding some effect on the Odysseus cards. For example, instead of the above it could be:
Hades: +2 Hinder. Each player may choose to have Odysseus lose 1 Crew per Hades god tile in their possession.
Dionysus: +2 Help. Each player may choose to have Odysseus gain 1 Crew per Dionysus god tile in their possession.
Hermes: Each player draws 2 Adventure cards (1 of each type) per Hermes god tile in their possession.

I would like to try that - the effects in the Olympus deck, as well as the scoring.

Speaking of the Path bets... currently the payoff for a successful Path bet is 6vp divided between the bet chips placed there. A great suggestion from John Clair was to instead reward the bet chip to the player... so now each round players would place bet chips from the general supply onto the board, then if Odysseus passes over them, the players take those chips into their personal supply where they are worth points, or can be placed as Timeline or Destiny bets. That's nicer and more elegant than having to track VPs throughout the game. Similarly, the rewards for passing are currently 4vp/2vp for the last/penultimate passer... that could be changed to 2/1 bet chips instead. Then all scoring would be simply based on bet chips at the end of the game.

I am fairly confident that these changes will pan out, and I'm excited to give them a try.

I see in my prototype that I used to have an Adventure card value range of 2-4 or 2-5. At some point I changed it to 3-5. I wonder if that's too narrow a range. I think I'll open it up and make it maybe 2-5 or 2-6. I'd like player who wins the bonus and the player who passes last to be different players much of the time! 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Packing for BGG.con - What are you bringing?

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

MicroCiv (my attempt at a microgame)

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:

A tiny, epic game for 2 players

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.

Game Play:
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.

Game End:
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!

The Actions:
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.

Dungeon Roll Winter Promo, TMG goes "micro", and "pay what you want"

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

I'd like to do something new... but what?

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.