Tuesday, January 02, 2018

2017 year in review

A lot of stuff has happened in 2017 in general, some of it good, much of it bad. In my own life, the good stuff includes getting married in March, and now expecting a little boy next May, so I guess that's big news. But as this is my game design blog, I suppose now would be a good time to take a moment and reflect on my experiences in 2017 on the games front.

I didn't keep specific notes or anything, so I'll just go through my calendar and blog posts and see what that reminds me of:


I started off the year wrapping up development on Eminent Domain: Oblivion, and coordinating art with Brian Patterson for the tech card illustrations and Ariel Seoane for the graphic design. A few people have grumbled online about how they don't like the look of the new tech illustrations, but as I have said in a couple of different threads already:

The main artists we had used for previous EmDo expansions were no longer available, and I wanted a consistent look within this set. Brian Patterson did all of the illustrations, and yes, he has a sort of cartoony style.
Many of the previous cards are a little bit cartoony, and there's a mix of styles from 5 or 6 different artists in them, so I don't think there will be much of a problem adding these new tech cards into the mix.
And as for the cartoony-ness of them, I kind of wanted that -- to an extent, Oblivion is a parody of government, and most of the time government could best be described as "cartoony."

I think Brian did a great job with these illustrations, I like that the expansion art is internally consistent, and I don't think there'll be any problems incorporating this set into the base game (or playing it with previous sets) based on that, but YMMV.
Also in January, Eminent Domain was featured in a Reddit forum called Game Of The Week, Redux. And I posted about a game idea sparked by an episode of The Game Designers of North Carolina podcast -- however, that game idea hasn't gone anywhere, and I don't expect it will. However, as I describe in the comments on that post, it did spark another game design idea which I think MAY actually go somewhere.

In addition, I was wrapping up rules edits for Harvest, and coordinating with Sergi on Pioneer Days art. I was pushing hard to get all three of those into production in time for a potential GenCon release, and failing that, at least an Essen/BGGcon release.

Outside of gaming, it looks like I flew to Dallas for a friend's divorce trial, a stark contrast to the time I spent on my own wedding preparations that month.


After January, I took stock of The List, a sort of compilation of games I've got at the idea stage, design stage, and published titles. I posted an update to kick off February.

Other posts in my design blog this month included:

  • That game idea I mentioned above, which grew from the ideas that came to mind listening to that podcast.
  • A sort-of formal definition of "Deck Learning," the term I've coined to describe Eminent Domain, which I feel is a significantly different type of deck building than games like Dominion, Ascension, etc.
  • A request for Q's for a Casual Q&A, like those Reddit AMA's, but in a more laid back format. Only 1 person asked any questions in the comments.
  • A summary of the beginnings of a new game about Joan of Arc, a design which I'd been tinkering with since Essen. It's intended to be a sort of sequel to Orleans, and spoilers: it did go somewhere, but now I've sort of backburnered it.

Not much else notable happened this month. It looks like I recorded a podcast episode with Isaac Shalev, though I don't think it aired until September.


I skipped SaltCon last year because it was 1 week before my wedding, which is a bummer, because that is a nice, relaxed convention which gives me a chance to hang out and catch up with my TMG cohorts. For the previous couple of years, Michelle came with me, we stayed at Michael's house, and we enjoyed the convention. I hope we can return in the future.

I think of March as the sort of deadline to get files to the printer in time for GenCon, so I furiously tried to finish Oblivion, Harvest, and Pioneer Days to give them their best shot at that.

I continued to think about that Worker Learning game idea, and had a "Eureka" / "Duh" moment about it, and I made a prototype for that Joan of Arc idea I'd posted about in February.


In April I had some promising playtests of the early versions of Joan of Arc: Maid of Orleans, and I updated my prototype accordingly.

I also went to Paris on my honeymoon, and unfortunately got a bit sick there. I did however get my new wife to play a game of Joan of Arc with me at a game cafe though!


I kicked off May by joining Lance to record Episode #3 of the TMG podcast.

Blog posts this month included:

I finished up the month with a trip to Birmingham with Andy, Aaron, and Daniel for UK Games Expo - a neat show, only mildly disturbed due to some terrorist activity nearby the week before.


I began the convention season in England at UK Games Expo, and continued in Columbus at Origins, where Andy and I had a number of meetings with designers to listen to game pitches. Not much interested me there, though we did see 2 things which we ended up signing later in the year.

My own design efforts were focused mostly on Deities & Demigods, which I hadn't tested since January, but which I revived at UK Games Expo and concentrated on throughout June, with a little bit of Joan of Arc thrown in for good measure.


I spent the first 2 weeks of July vacationing in Dallas and then Seattle. I managed to play a few games... Werewords and Wordsy went well at Michelle's family reunion in Dallas, and I introduced some of my Seattle friends to a new favorite: Barenpark. I also showed off a full art prototype of Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done, which finally hit Kickstarter in July!

As could have been suspected, there was a slight backlash to the theme of Crusaders, but to be honest, it wasn't all that much. While the material holds potentially controversial subject matter, I think that game really sidesteps it -- it's not about the Crusades themselves, it's about the so-called "crusading orders," such as the Knights Templar. It's also not really intended to be historically accurate, though it is based on stuff the Templars did.

In July I updated The List again, since a lot had changed in the first half of 2017.


A lot of stuff seemed to happen in August...

  • Crusaders finished funding with 4,162 backers pledging a total of $330,691 of support, mostly for the Deluxified version of the game. That's not TMG's BIGGEST kickstarter project, but it's close, and it makes the $48k we raised for Eminent Domain 6 years ago look like child's play.
  • I worked with a sculptor on knight and building sculpts for the Deluxified version of Crusaders.
  • I also worked with Ariel to get the art and graphic design for the upcoming Homesteaders expansion ready to go.
  • I checked production proofs for Eminent Domain: Oblivion, and found (and corrected) an error with the card backs.
  • And of course, I attended GenCon with TMG, where Andy and I met with a bunch more designers to listen to their game pitches, and attended 2 nights worth of Publisher Speed Dating.

Most of the Publisher Speed Dating events I've attended have been a bit of a bust for me. Out of 400+ pitches, I'd only been interested in a few games, and of those, even fewer turned into TMG products. This year at GenCon, the signal to noise ratio seemed a lot higher for some reason -- just lucky I guess. There were several games I was interested in, and upon closer examination we took several of them home with us, and ended up signing more than one!

In addition to all of that, I started a new game design (Automatown rules), I revived an old game design (Alter Ego) and enlisted a design hobbyist to do some blind PnP testing of it, I re-posted some nuggets of design wisdom from Matthew Dunstan (with his permission) from a Twitter thread, and I revisited the Casual Q&A idea again.


September was similarly busy. This month I...

The big ticket item here is probably getting more organized with playtesting. I have been meaning to do that forever, and now I can much more easily track what gets played and when, and by whom.

I ended September by attending RinCon (Brian had a great geeklist from RinCon this year, and I didn't so I'll just link his), for once as an attendee rather than an organizer. I took on the responsibility of running the convention because I wanted it to happen, and it was very relaxing to finally just sit around and play games rather than answer questions and put out fires. Unfortunately, this reward was short lived, because I had to fly to California for a wedding on Saturday morning, so I was only able to enjoy RinCon for 1 day.


By comparison to the last couple of months, October sounds fairly uneventful:

I skipped Essen this year -- TMG usually sends 4 people, and this year we had a booth, and so wanted to send someone new to help run it, so I stayed home to make space. It's too bad, because two of the games I put a lot of work into, Harvest and Pioneer Days, made their debut at Essen. I hope to return in the future.

Instead of flying to Germany, I finally started updating Terra Prime for a new life as a prequel to Eminent Domain (it will be called Eminent Domain Origins), and I kept working on the Eminent Domain dice game ("Eminent Domain: Chaos Theory"?). I worked almost exclusively on those two games in the month of October.


November was a big month for conventions for me. I kicked it off with a trip to Seattle for Sasquatch, and followed that up with my annual trip to Dallas for BGGcon. Michelle came with me to both of those this year, and we took a day trip from BGGcon to Rockwall for Michelle's 3 year old niece's birthday party.

I wrote a post examining variable player powers, since I'm currently working on adding them to two different TMG games, and I started testing those, while continuing to test Eminent Domain Origins and Eminent Domain: Chaos Theory.

I had another new game idea as well, but this one is not as exciting or interesting as some, so it'll probably just sit in the toolbox, waiting to be combined with something else down the road.


I rounded out the year playing a lot fewer games than I normally do, but I did get a lot of testing done of the upcoming TMG game Embark (one of the summer pick ups) with player powers, and I worked with an illustrator and a graphic designer to get that game put together for submission to the manufacturer. I'll be wrapping that up in the next couple of weeks.


I'm starting off the new year with 1 game project finishing art, two more about to start, two games in production, and two just waiting to be sent to the manufacturer. If things go well, I should see all of the following games (each of which I've had a heavy hand in) on store shelves by the end of the year:
As for my designs, once these are all out of the way, I hope to return to Alter Ego, Deities & Demigods, Joan of Arc, and maybe Automatown.

And of course, I'll be doing development on another couple of TMG games.


Michael Brown said...

If you do decide to go to salt-con this year, we should play something together.

Also, my co workers really liked automatown, so if that went anywhere, you would have a few guaranteed sales.

Here's to hoping that this next year is better than the last!

Josh 'Dagar' Zscheile said...

Hey Seth,

usually I tend to write pretty much on your blog, but I was very short in time in the last months (and still am kind of). There are many posts I still want to answer to, and hopefully will some time in the future.
About what's to come: I am really hyped for EmDo: Origins, the possibility of you coming to Essen this year and my favourite Publisher working together with one of my favourite designers, Philip duBarry! Can you say something about Embark already?

Cheers and a happy new year to you and TMG,