Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Knights Templar - inaugural ride

I've posted before about my Knights Templar game, using a Rond-Cala mechanism sort of opposite the way Trajan works. I've had trouble getting this prototype to the table because I have struggled to make a board for it. I find that is a weak point in my skill set.

Long ago I found a map online that I figured would make a good basis for a game board, but I haven't been able to get that into a proper game board. The other day I posted it to twitter and asked if anyone was bored, if they could overlay a hex grid... Twitter follower @johnlonnie -- who I met at Kublacon playing Bomb Squad and his game Galaxagos -- came through with the following:

So today I printed that out and set up the prototype, and John and I gave it a go.

Like any first play, it was not perfect, but I'm happy to report that as first plays go, it worked pretty well!

I started with a pool of 50 VP tokens, but quickly decided that wouldn't be enough, so I added another 50. After that 100 points was gone we ended the game, finishing out the round so that each  of us had the same number of turns. In the end I feel like that wasn't enough - it felt like we were still in the midgame, not quite making late game plays. For 2 players I might try 140 or 150 points next time.

I also felt like we had developed in much the same way. That's one of the potential problems I foresaw about the Rondel mechanism: by it's very nature it might just make everyone do the all the actions and maybe work against player differentiation. But I'm not giving up on it yet - I think the timing and order of the actions will make the game action vary enough player to player and game to game.

In our game John scored 54 points during the game (erecting buildings, crusading, and spreading influence) to my 50 points. End game scoring favored John, 11-5, for a total score of 65-55.

John built: Bank, Church, Bank, Castle, Farm, Castle

I built: Church, Castle, Bank, Farm, Castle

John immediately ran to the far side of the board while I built some buildings closer to Paris - which I suppose is the obvious thing to do. I'm not sure I liked that, as I had envisioned players fighting their way across the board. I want players to be able to get to the type of enemy they want to fight though, so my plan is to modify the movement rule such that it costs an extra point of travel to leave a space that's occupied (by an enemy token). That way it should be harder to get across the board without doing some crusading.

Another thing I might alter is the number of troops you can house without building a Farm. Currently that number is 3... but if it were fewer then you'd have to build farms in order to house enough troops to really help you crusade a lot. Next game I might reduce to 2, but I wonder if just 1 might be enough, or if perhaps you should have to build a farm before you can hold any troop tokens at all.

I started each enemy out at 2 strength, but perhaps I should up that to 3.

This morning I was thinking about the possibility of turning the Travel actions into Travel+Build (at the top of the rondel) and Travel+Crusade (at the bottom). In these cases, you'd have to use the cubes in the action bin for both traveling and building/crusading, but it means that (a) there'd be 2 options for each of those on your rondel, and (b) if you have enough cubes, you could move to a location that an opponent just cleared out with a crusade and build there, or where an opponent just moved, and snipe their crusade. I don't think I'll try this just yet, but I think it might be an interesting dynamic, so I'll try to keep it in mind.

I look forward to playing this again. I'll probably bring it with me to Sasquatch this week.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Essen 2014 - notes for next time

I'll probably write up a bigger blog post about my exerience at Essen this year at some point, but in the meantime, I wanted to jot a few things down that I will want to know this time next year!

* Best Western Ypsilon on Martinstraub (3 stops south of HBF) was a decent place to stay, but the room was kinda small (especially for 3 of us), and it was about a mile walk to the underground (though bus access was good).

* According to Patrick Nickell, Motel One was only 69 Euro per night. It's a really nice hotel, right by the underground station, like 1 stop north of Essen HBF (Messe is stops 4 and 5 or so south of HBF). I think he said breakfast was only a few euro there.

* There's a sweet Chinese place on the corner by Martinstraub station where I ate with Sebastian. 16ish euro for all you can eat Buffet AND Mongolian BBQ. And it was delicious. Also, they had Kangaroo, which tasted kinda like beef.

* TMG might have a booth next year, so that will be cool. Exhibitor badges get you free publc transit all week long. If we don't have a booth, the first thing we should do is talk to a friend (such as Patrick or Phil Eklund) to see if they have extra Exhibitor badges they're not using... That would have saved us quite a bit on admission to the fair as well as train fare.

* German McDonald's has awesome breakfast sandwiches, and German Dunkin Donuts is pretty tasty (though different than here). Both are in Essen HBF.

* The Delta flight was surprisingly comfortable, even flying coach. However, it was $1400. Patrick said he got his ticket for ~$800 (flying from San Francisco). Maybe that was due to booking early, I should check on that.

* It was mugh nicer having a German speaker with us. Last time we didn't, and everything was much easier to navigate this time.

* We got a cab from the hotel to the airport on Monday, rather than walk/bus/underground/train with our bags (including a box of games that we obtained). The hotel had a deal which was like 42 Euro (normally like 60 or something). We paid for a larger car (47 euro) just in case (we didn't know how large the cabs were, and we didn't want to risk anything -- I think that was a good choice), and just gave the guy a 50. Train tix would have been at least 40 euro I think. So cab was definitely the way to go, we should plan on tat next time. Maybe on the way in as well?

* Uwe (sp?) from Academy Games was on our flight, and hooked us up with some discount on train tix on the way in... he paid 32 euro for 4 of us (Tom Vasel paid 33 euro for just himself and Ryan Metzler at the kiosk). We should randomly get on his flight again next time :)

* Uwe also mentioned staying at some university, which he swears by. He said it was cheap, and had lightning fast internet, and good breakfast (though not included).

* We ate breakfast at a grocery every morning (some salami and cheese mostly). It was good, didn't cost much, but they're closed Sunday (go go gadget McD's Chicken Bacon, Egg, and Cheese McMuffin!)!

* Terminal E is the place to be in the Atlanta airport. Tons of tables, food court with lots of options (including McD's and Aarby's), and free WiFi.

* Essen Warm-up event requires signing up ahead of time, and apparently it sells out. ~25 euro for dinner and entry - basically all day if you want to stay there, and you can eat as much as you want (I didn't always like their options though).

* Regarding a booth, I THOUGHT sharing with someone like Stronghold would be awesome, but Ted Alspach says they charge you up the wazoo for sharing space, and he recommended getting our own space. I just don't want Michael to overdo it the first time out.

* Meetings: Unless we have exhibitor badges, maybe we shouldn't schedule meetings right at 10am. 10:30 or 11:00 would be better, so we can get into the hall in time.

* Meetings: When requesting that Mischa set up a meeting with someone, we should really give him an agenda so that he has some idea how much time would be needed, and can schedule appropriately.

* Mischa made a great schedule spreadsheet. Next time I'd like to see multiple columns or something on the same sheet, so that for example I can see a meeting for me as well as a meeting for Michael.

* Remember to change dollars for euros in the states, at a bank, before leaving. It costs a lot to exchange currency there. Also, do a lot at once, because there's a fee to make the transaction.

* I brought a camelback so I'd always have water, and that worked pretty well. Though obviously it would be nice not to have to carry it. And this time water seemed more available in general (though it's expensive!)

* Next year I should schedule time to meet with people like Matias (playtester) and Sebastian. Maybe also schedule time to check out new games (like Staufer Dynasty this year).

* T-Mobile apparently has data roaming included, so I had full access to the internet on my phone all week, which was AWESOME. Last time I was disconnected, and it was awful. This time I could text Mischa to find him, I could look up our games on BGG to show people in meetings, I could communicate with people who were looking for me, and I was able to stay in touch with the rest of the world as well (for example the Microcosm kickstarter project).

* Reiner Knizia took meetings in his hotel room, which was a neat idea. Much more quiet and peaceful (though less convenient).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I'm leavin' on a jet plane... (cue music)

In a minute I board my flight to Atlanta, where I'll meet up with Michael and Mischa from Team TMG for a connecting flight to Dusseldorf.

Yes, that long, silly city name means I'm headed to Europe :) Germany in fact... for Essen Spiel. I attended Essen with Michael 2 years ago, and it was really fun and interesting (despite coming home to a missing washer and dryer). I look forward to seeing the spectacle that is the Spiel again.

This time I won't be playing in the Euromasters Challenge, but I do have some meetings with designers set up to see their games. I don't feel too optimistic about some of them, but there's at least 1 that I suspect I'll ask them to submit if they want.

I also have a scheduled time to meet up with my friend Sebastian, who I kept missing last time. I met him online at about 10 years ago, and met him in person 8 years ago when I went to London. Now he's had several games published under his own name (Prosperity, Keyflower, and the new Black Fleet), and I believe Facebook told me he was about to be a father as well.

Someone hooked me up with a ticket to the sold out Essen Warm-Up event, so I'm looking forward to that. I'll have to figure out how to get there...

Well, time to board. See you on the other side (of the Atlantic)!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Eminent Domain: Microcosm - on Kickstarter through October 17th!

Two months ago I presented Eminent Domain: Microcosm, inviting you to play the game with full art prototype copies at GenCon in the TMG demo room.

Now I'm happy to announce that as of this morning, Microcosm is on Kicksarter!

* For a mere $10 you can pick up a copy of my newest game.
* For only $6 more you can get a 2nd copy!
* While you're at it, you can acquire Eminent Domain for just $30...
* And Escalation for only $20...
* Or both for only $40! what a smokin' deal!

In addition, there's a pledge level where you get 2 copies of Microcosm, as well as a limited edition (Kickstarter version) of Dungeon Roll, complete with the Mimic box and all the Kickstarter extras. That pledge level is $46.

Why is there a Dungeon Roll pledge level? Good question! And I have an answer for you...

Inside the Microcosm box you'll find not just the 34 cards for the game, but several TMG promos as well:

* 5 New Base Game Scenarios for Eminent Domain + 3 Politics cards
* 5 cards for the upcoming Eminent Domain: Battlecruisers card game by Philip duBarry
* And 1 Time Traveling hero for Dungeon Roll!

Is this a sneaky way to sell more copies of Dungeon Roll? Well, maybe... but isn't everything a company that sells stuff does really just a sneaky (or not-so-sneaky) way to sell more stuff?

I prefer of it as a sneaky way to sell Microcosm to people who like Dungeon Roll :)

A word on shipping...

As everyone knows, shipping is very expensive. The additional charge to ship Microcosm internationally (anywhere non-US) is just $4, which sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Unfortunately, due to logistics and shipping, the add-ons of EmDo & Escalation, and the Dungeon Roll pledge level, are all US only.

The good news is that the existing games (EmDo, Escalation, and Dungeon Roll) will ship just 4 weeks after the close of the kickstarter project! Only Microcosm needs to go through the manufacturing process.

So check out the Microcosm kickstarter project, and if it looks good to you, back it! Heck, those promos by themselves would cost $15 or more, and for $16 you get 2 sets of them AND 2 copies of Microcosm! It's like we're just giving it away!

But you better hurry up - we're using that Quickstarter format again (I really do like that format), so the project will only be live for 9 days. So tell your friends to check it out!