Sunday, January 14, 2018

Jurassic Space again

The gorilla game is moving along. Rea likes it, so we have played a few games (without a traitor, however). We also played two games at work, and it was well received. The players liked the traitor mechanic. The bad guy might be too powerful, because he won handily, but I can always modify the setup in order to weaken him.

Two players were QA, and as such, they came up with all sorts of interesting interpretations of the rules. I need to specifically say that you cannot lay the gorilla down flat on the table when you are loading it up with other animals.

They also showed the need to come up with a timer to stop someone from taking way too long setting up their turn. They would certainly play the game again, and I am definitely going to continue working on it.

I have also been preparing Age of Vikings for submission to a publisher. I finally have a copy of it assembled again. My last copy was consumed in the Iludo game design competition. When the game won 2nd place, one of the stipulations of the contest was that I had to allow them to keep the copy that they played with. I have had a few ideas for modifying the game while the contest was on, and I just tried them out two nights ago.

The changes were mostly to make the game move along more quickly, and to make the players have to remember fewer things. I also simplified the turn order, which should make it a slightly lower cognitive load to play. I will need to play more games to make sure that the game is still solid with these new changes, but they were not extensive, so hopefully I can submit the game before too long.

My son and I have been working together on a remake of an old game that I never did much with: Jurrasic Universe. As a 3 year old he loves dinosaurs, and this game is now "Timmy's game". The rules are way too complex for him to play correctly (the game was along the lines of High Frontier in terms of what was required to play it), however I have simplified it a ton, and he can at least try to play it now.

I pared the ecosystem crafting down to a really simple ruleset, removed the technology deck completely, replaced all drafts with one big (interesting, hopefully) grid based draft with rules regarding what you can draft based on the position of the cards, simplified the planets, and added in a cool mechanic which rewards players both for waiting to launch until they have an amazing ship, and also rewards them for launching immediately to steal the good planets, so players have to determine which reward is going to be the best during the game.

I am going to continue to work on it as long as Timmy keeps asking me to play with him all the time. I think that I will also try to get it played by adults (as I am really making it for them, and keeping it playable by Timmy is a design challenge).

During our second game, he launched four ships to my one, and though I was going to get a lot of points in the long run, he really was making a great score for himself immediately. His favorite thing was to send animals to "Killer Whale", which is one of the planets that he named.

Actually, he named all of the planets but one.

Friday, January 5, 2018

I have a lot of things going on

With the new year, there have been tons of things happening.

I have submitted two games to the Cardboard Edison this year: The Citadel of Madness, and Grab the Loot. The feedback that I got from them was immensely helpful last year, so I am eagerly anticipating this year's results.

I also received a large package of board game parts (which I ordered) in the mail. The most exciting parts was the blue gorilla meeple. I have designed a dexterity game based on it (for the January 24 hour game design contest). It is called "Where there's gorillas there's hope". It is fairly simple, and has a traitor mechanic. When I finally get over this cold, I will certainly bring it to work, and see how the guys like it.

I also have been thinking about the 9 card design contest (I never intended to make a game for it, but one just arrived in my brain yesterday, and it is a really interesting idea. Perhaps you will hear more about it in future posts).

The Icon creation thread has exploded back into life in the new year. I have already created 16 icons, and it is only the 5th.

PlaytestHub is still not seeing as much activity as I would hope. Perhaps I will make some sort of giveaway to give it some publicity. I think that it is a good idea, and that it could help the community, however it just doesn't seem to be getting utilized.

I have also made a New Years resolution to submit 12 games to publishers this year. I will update you all on the progress of that as I start working on it.

Speaking of submitting games: at the end of last year I submitted The Fatal Flaw to Button Shy games. I don't know if Jason has really looked at it yet, but he seemed to be favorably disposed to it. With TFF being submitted, I did successfully submit 2 games in 2017. I also added a solo mode for TPM and TFF, so now I have made four solo games.

Finally, I have made some minor modifications to Micronesia. I need to make more, but life.

Friday, December 22, 2017


The small island game is getting out of hand. I played a second game of it last night, and both players found highly lucrative strategies. One of the strategies snowballed in a really fun way, the other was degenerate, and I am putting in a fix for it. The snowbally one was just crazy awesome.

Here is the end state:

The right player found one stupid trick to gain 6-12 points a turn (Hint: it was 2x exploring every turn and then buying points once he had 30 goods). It only involved 2 specific cards and having three or more workers, so it was pretty bad.

The left player stacked his abilities up until he could labor to: draw 10 cards, settle an island, tuck 3 cards for free, gain a free worker, and gain a point. This net him about 5 points a turn, but on a really good turn he could get 12 points. His strategy reached fruition slightly quicker, and was snowballing faster, so he would have won had he not drawn the entire deck and ended the game early.

It felt like a wild engine building game. I really liked it.

The game currently consists of 88 cards, 25 workers, and 8 tokens. Here are the rules as they currently stand (which is woefully inadequate):
Setup: give each player 5 cards, 5 goods, 1 worker, 1 home island, and 1 leader.
Players take turns taking one action each until someone passes 50 points, or any supply runs out (cards or workers)
For each action: Remove all workers from an island you own. For each action, n is a number that you choose that is less than or equal to the number of workers removed (but no less than 0). After the action, scatter the removed workers - evenlyish divided among islands you own. Don't add two workers to any island until they all had one etc.

Possible actions:
  • Settle: Pay n goods. Settle an island from the top n cards of the deck. Pay goods equal to the cost (number of up arrows on the island) or discard it. Discard the other cards.
  • Explore: Pay n goods. Select a resource card from the top n cards of the deck. Gain goods equal to the number of goods and points equal to the number of points.
  • Draw: Look at 2n cards from the deck. Select a resource card to keep from the cards.
  • Build: Pay n goods to tuck card(s) under the island: 1 for right tuck, 2 for left tuck, 3 for bottom tuck, 4 for top tuck. You may tuck multiple as long as they are all paid for.
  • Harvest: Activate n card(s) tucked right on the island, and gain the goods that they indicate.
  • Multiply: Gain n/2 workers (round up). Place them on the selected island. Do not scatter.
  • Sacrifice: Pay 5 goods. Gain 1 point. Do this up to 2n times.
  • Deify: Pay 8-n goods. Flip your leader over to its god side. Gain a new leader from the top of the leader deck.
  • Trade: Give an opponent 2n goods. Gain n points. You and that opponent may freely trade cards from your hands.
  • Labor: Activate n cards tucked down on the selected island.
  • Promote: Discard your active leader. Look at the top n cards from the leader deck. Select one to be your new leader.
There are some graphical changes I want to make to the score card, I want to add island cards that have more down arrows on them, and there are probably a few more balancing things, but I am really happy with how quickly this game is coming together.

I am also starting to prepare some games to be submitted to publishers. It is lengthy, but hopefully will yield results.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Of a small island game.

I have  been working on a new island themed card game recently. It currently has 72 cards (2 decks), 5 mats, and 9 tokens. Compared to Polynesia's 195 cards (6 decks), 7 mats, and 19 tokens, it seems like a decently smaller game. I have been considering calling it Micronesia, just to call that fact out, however it isn't really related to Polynesia, so I am a little bit hesitant to do so.

I have decided on some basic rules and played a solo game. It is playable, but not balanced. It remains to be seen if other people will find it fun, however I found it to be an interesting exercise. I felt sorry for my right hand player, because, although he tried a few different strategies, he just couldn't compete with the left player who got a good engine set up pretty early in the game and just raked in the points for the rest of the game.

The ending score was 52 to 36. I don't like that. I think that a player that is building up their engine for longer should have a distinct advantage over the player that is just using their engine (at least in terms of how many points they can get per round). That being said, the player that won did set up an excellent pantheon that worked well together, added in some really good economy, and just went straight for the throat.

I need to figure out how to make various strategies viable before I ask my wife to play a game with me. Specifically: settling and exploring seem too weak, laboring seems too weak, building point cards seems too weak. I also want drawing to be able to get you more than one card if you build up to that.

Here are some cards (resource, god, island, leader):
I have also been fooling around with a sports parody game called "Sports Ball", but it is not moving along very quickly.

Also, The Age of Vikings was awarded 2nd place in the Iludo game design competition. This is the third award it has received so far. I am currently cleaning it up a little bit more (mainly focusing on the turn flow), and hope to pitch it to publishers next year. It seems like a game that is popular with industry people, and also a game that works well.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The last stretch

I have been rule editing like a madman. My wife has been helping me (like a madwoman?). We are getting really close to having the Citadel of Madness and Grab the Loot! ready. Terran League of Defense Robots might not make it this year - but perhaps it will. We are hoping that it does anyway.

I have also been making some movies for my submissions to the ION award. Here is the first one that I have completed.

My PlaytestHub is in a semi-open alpha state right now. It still has a few more things I want to do to it before I open it up for a public beta. Most notably, I want to see how it is that one user was able to make two copies of themself in the database.

I have also started working with Chauncy on Deception again. The new changes add some complexity to the game. I really want to retheme it as a sportsball game. The goal would be to either cause all of the opponents "ballmen" to have "career ending injuries", or to gain 5 points first. the game would still require 3 to 4 players to play, and it would still continue till one team was entirely knocked out or one team got enough points.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The lonely Citadel

I was a little bit bored. I was the only person awake, and I didn't want to edit my rules for The Citadel of Madness (formerly known as The Madness Place) any more. I wanted to play a game, but I don't own any solitaire games. I bought a pnp copy of Pentaquark, but have somehow never got around to printing it out.

I have also recently been listening to the Ludology podcast, and I liked their episode on solo games. It made me think I could make one. Given this situation I decided to see if I could come up with some rules to make The Citadel of Madness a solo game.

I came up with a few modifications that made the game into a pretty interesting (in my opinion) solo game:

  • Every action you remove a time token from the game. If they ever run out you lose.
  • Every time you pass do the following:
    • Return all time tokens to the pool
    • Build a new device that is not owned by you -or- modify a device that is not controlled by you (the rules are more complicated than that, but it amounts to that basically)
    • Score a room card for an imaginary opponent. You must win before he does.
I played a game, and it worked out. When I won, the opponent had 14 points to my 16. Additionally, I had only one time token left, so if I had done any worse I would have lost. In fact, if I hadn't won on that action, my opponent would have won after I passed (two actions later).

I know that I made The Citadel of Madness myself, so of course I would like it, but it really seems like I could get a publisher for this. I am thinking of trying to pitch it to a few publishers after I submit it to the ION Awards this year. If everything goes well, perhaps it could be signed before summer :).

Friday, November 3, 2017

We are all Mad here

The rules editing for the Madness Place is finally calming down. The only change to the game's rules during the entire process was making it so that if you do an action it has to have an effect on the game's state for it to be a valid action.

The Flavor test has greatly improved as well:

They called you Mad, but could a madman have created a revolutionary living-brain extractor? Yes! You could, and you did it for SCIENCE!Not only did the fools not understand you, but The Tyrant even called you a criminal and sentenced you to repair The Citadel. A harsh sentence considering your ‘crimes’ were all for the furthering of science. No one has ever escaped this capricious, maniacal, homicidal, and irrevocably evil sentient castle.But, you will show them! After all, you were born with The Madness - a gift of supernatural understanding of all sciences. Build as many twisted abominations of science as is necessary to get the castle repaired so that you can earn your release from this thinking death trap.After that, make them PAY for their insolence!You WILL rule THE WORLD!

I have also been testing out the recent changes to some of the room cards, and I am pretty happy with the balance. Here is the coolest new room card: 
It isn't technically representing a room to repair, but an in-universe action that you could take to almost guarantee victory. Apparently the Tyrant came over to visit the prisoners in the Citadel, and you can assassinate him and throw his entire empire into chaos. It won't get you out of the Citadel for sure, but it probably will (assuming that you have repaired a few rooms already.)

Alison and I have played a few games with the new room cards, and the changes to the balance have been good. The dual cost rooms are cheaper, and the single cost rooms are more valuable, and everything seems to be working in a manner that keeps scores really close.

We did discover that we had too many time rooms in the room deck - a player with a pretty good hand and a really really lucky setup of room cards could win the game on turn 1, which was super annoying. There was about a 48% chance of your hand being good enough, and about a 1 in 1,400  chance of the room draft being good enough (you had to have 3 of the top 9 cards come from a set of 5 cards in the deck), but I have made it so that 7 of the top 11 cards would have to be exactly correct, and pushed the probability down to about 1 in 5,200,000.

It is still possible, but the chances are vanishingly small, and even if it happened, it wouldn't be obvious to a first time player how to take advantage of it. I think that it will not affect that many players of the game.

The reason why we noticed that this was a possibility was that I got a perfect set of three room cards showing up in one of our games by about turn 6, and won because of it. Alison still had a chance, but I had a better chance because I built a time machine and scored all of the high value time cards. For this to happen with the rebalanced room deck would take not just 3 of the time cards showing up, but all 7. If all 7 of any type of card showed up, the player that could score those cards would win for sure, so Time is not unusual in this respect any more.

In other news: I am still making icons, and also still making a playtesting website. The website is almost done, and the icons are a never-ending task, so I will never be done with them :)