Thursday, May 21, 2015

Status report: Current active designs

At the moment, I have no fewer than 5 active designs in my prototype bag.

That might be a little bit of an exaggeration, as I am not physically working on all 5 right this minute, but they are all playable, and have all had progress made recently.

Here's a rundown of each of those games and their current situation. If you want to try any of them out, let me know! You can probably find me at a local game store meetup.

Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done

Crusaders is my 45-60 minute euro style Mancala-Rondel game wherein you move your knights around Europe, fighting crusades, erecting buildings, and spreading the influence of your order until such time as the orders become so influential that King Philip disbands them.

Crusaders is in a weird place, as I feel like it's done to a certain level - ready to be pitched to publishers - but there are things that could be added to make the game more complex. In fact, the guys at TMG would like to see the game more like Terra Mystica, where each faction is unique - significantly different than the next... not like now where the factions are very similar but for the faction card. We're talking different upgrades on the rondel pieces, and maybe even different building abilities to build.

I have some thoughts on different abilities which I'd discussed for a potential expansion, but I lack the impetus to change a game I feel is done. So if TMG will publish the game, I'm hoping to pass on the intricacies of unique player boards to the team in Utah to develop.

The Pony Express

Play as a rider for the Pony Express, risking life and limb for profit delivering parcels in the old west!

Pony Express is an attempt at a low-bid auction game, using a variant of a Dutch auction. I was calling it a "count-up auction" - the auctioneer gets $10, chooses a parcel and starts counting up (from 3 to 8). At any point, an opponent can claim the parcel ("I'll do it for that!") and receive the last amount declared (e.g. "3...4...5...6..." "I'll do it for 6!"). The auctioneer retains the other 4.

This game has gone over much better with random players than it has with designer types. It's not intended to be deep and thinky. One comment that's come up a couple of times is that I could replace the count-up thing with a blind bid using bidding cards. I'll give that a try, but I'm not super excited about it because it replaces what I see as a fun, tense dynamic with a quiet, dry one. Sure there's still tension of choosing the right value, and technically it's the same mechanism, but with the cards it really looks like blind bidding, while with the count-up thing it feels less like blind bidding. And nobody in their right mind likes blind bidding! Also, that adds like 28 cards to the game to do a job that currently doesn't require any components.

Other than that, the game seems to be working well at the moment. I need to figure out how to make more delivery cards, especially if I want to bring it back up to 5 players (currently it's only 4). A player had a good suggestion last test - something that rewards doing many deliveries in a round. Kind of the opposite of the Express deliveries which reward being done first. As for the express deliveries, it's possible I should just cut those and reward money based on the order players return.

Alter Ego

A cooperative deck learning game of vigilante heroism. In order to become a stronger hero (necessary to win the game), you must necessarily neglect some aspects of your Alter Ego life: your Job, your Family, or your ties to the Community.

This one has been around for years with no real progress made in a long time. I have always loved the story of this game, but I never liked the state of it. It just wasn't working to my satisfaction. Now I finally have it where I think it needs to be, and so I'm excited to work on fine tuning it and finishing it up.

Michael's always been fond of this one, so TMG might want to publish it - which means maybe Andy will help me finish it up. Currently it just needs some tweaks for pacing and scaling, unique Arch Villain game text and flavor, and possibly Nemesis cards (an idea which strikes me as the kind of thing that would be a Kickstarter stretch goal - a little extra that's not the main focus of the game).

Odysseus: Winds of Fate

Play as the Fates, watching Odysseus' journey from Troy to Ithaca. Place bets on his path and destiny, and use your influence with the gods to try and make your bets pay off.

This is another one that's been around for years and years, through iteration after iteration, and just hasn't been working out. I like the story of this one as well, but so far I haven't been happy with the game experience. The latest version is probably the best one yet, but it still needs some work - and I've got some interesting ideas from the last playtest to try out.

Frontiers [TMG Submission]

Frontiers reminds me of The Oregon Trail, and indeed I feel like it would be cool if we could get ahold of that license for the game. In Frontiers you draft dice to take actions, moving your wagon train across the frontier, collecting townsfolk, specialists, wood (to repair your wagons), medicine (to heal your townsfolk), and cattle. Whichever die is not drafted by players advances one of four disasters, which will affect all players when they occur.

Frontiers is a solid submission, but we're looking at some tweaks to the townsfolk to make them more interesting, and we're examining the specifics of some of the disaster resolution.

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