LONDONI just returned from a 12 day trip to Europe. An old online friend, Sebastian Bleasdale, got married in London, and he was kind enough to send me an invite. I suspect he didn't think I would come, but I called his bluff! I had a really good time at his wedding, and though I didn't get too much time to catch up with the busy groom, I was able to get some quality time in with a number of UK designers that I rarely see such as Matthew Dunstan, Tony Boydell, Brett Gilbert, Ian Vincent, and even caught a glimpse of big names such as Reiner Knizia and Richard Breese!
A gathering with so many designers would be nothing without a little playtesting and prototypes. I was able to play upcoming TMG title Pioneer Days (something like an Oregon Trail themed board game) with one of the designers (Matthew Dunstan), as well as test a drafting game by Tony Boydell, play an excellent mancala-rondel game by Sebastian and Ian based on my Crusaders rondel mechanism, see an interesting deck building (ish) game by Matthew, and even get my latest Deities & Demigods to the table.
DEITIES & DEMIGODSI had some good discussion about Deities & Demigods with Matthew, who has expressed interest in co-designing that one with me, and I decided on some BIG changes -- some of which have been hanging around waiting to be tried, and some new ideas that came u in those conversations. The big changes include cutting out Hera, Poseidon, and boats altogether, and attaching the the manipulation of the Olympus deck to the initiative track itself. The original initiative track was intended to be for turn order, and there was supposed to be incentive to care about turn order. We decided that it may be easier to just have clockwise turn order from a start player, and we could reassign start player at the end of each cycle based on the initiative track. The new version has a few rewards that you get as you advance up the initiative track, and then the markers reset for the next cycle. Without Poseidon, there are simply troops that navigate the board. When we get the game working better we can add texture by saying things like "moving over water costs extra" or something. These changes worked out pretty well, as you'll see if you read on...
PARISAfter the wedding, I headed to Paris where I saw a number of touristy things including Notre Dame, the exterior of the Louvre, Ferris Wheel, Arc de Triumph, Eiffel Tower, and even Euro Disney. I enjoyed each (well, the Eiffel Tower was disappointing), even Disneyland was more fun than I expected. But I enjoyed Notre Dame most of all. In fact, looking at the stained glass windows, I came up with a new game idea... and in the following days I have pieced together a new game design, ready to be prototyped and tested! The game is a simple set collection game about building attractive stained glass windows. Watch for a future blog post about that one.
ETOURVYWhen I found out that Bruno Faidutti was having a gathering during the time I'd be in France, I was excited at the prospect of attending. Bruno was kind enough to invite me, so I took a quick trip by train and got to see people like Ignacy Trzewiczek, Bruno Faidutti, Bruno Cathala, as well as other French gamers and industry folk. At the event I got a chance to play Crusaders with some folks, as well as Deities & Demigods with all the new changes. The players were great sports as I stumbled through the playtest with brand new rules, and they said they enjoyed the game a lot. The changes worked out alright, but were a little wonky, so when I got home I made a few adjustments, and managed to get two 2-player tests in on Tuesday which went very well.
ROCK & ROLLIn Etourvy I also played a pirate themed press-your-luck dice game which someone thought TMG might be interested in, and then I pulled out my press-your-luck dice game, Rock & Roll. The latest version of Rock & Roll (with changes based on Game Design Attack #4) has players rolling dice to play songs and satisfy the crowd. I had been allowing players to lock in more than 1 die at a time where possible, but there was something unsatisfying about that... after this test comments implied that a better format might be to allow players to lock in only 1 die at a time. So every time you roll the dice, you first lock all Gaffes, then you must be able to lock the next die in the song or else you bust. Even if you have more matching dice, you can only lock 1 into the song, then you must either stop and score, or roll again.
This new format makes a lot more sense, and if the songs are designed such that they start fairly flexibly then they'll naturally get harder and harder as dice get locked. Players may press their lock going for more crowd tokens, completion bonuses, and making it harder for opponents to "outperform" the song. Or they can play it safe and stop early, risking that another player outperform their song and take the card away from them.
I suspect this is the correct format for the game. All that remains now is to tweak the cards to fit the new format, redesign the songs, and see if it's really any fun :)