Monday, September 16, 2013
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 :)