Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Wanted: a faster infinity

I tentatively made changes to The Madness Place recently, but haven't tried the game out until tonight. Here are the new rules:

  • Turns are now one action each (With the exception of balancing a device, which happens as part of modifying the device)
  • After players pass, the player who passed first goes first the next round.
  • Get energy from the castle only at the start of each round.
  • storing keeps energy between rounds.
  • draft and rooms repair refill every round.

We tried out the new rules at the BGDG meeting, and it went fairly well. Here are my notes from the playtest:

  • Make sure to note that Any modify requires balance
    • Balance only the worst balanced device on a swap
  • Using time should be a free action
    • Gain access to another player's device too?
    • Store energy too?
    • Add energy to the castle's output too?
    • Balance a device too?
  • Turns are too small
    • Perhaps group actions?
    • Perhaps spark increases actions per turn?
    • Perhaps minions left on your mat increase actions per turn?'
  • Make a connection between Modify and Balance on the randomizer.
    I thought that the playtest showed some really cool emergent behavior that came from the new changes. The players were worrying that the other player would grab things before them, and this was really fun to see happen. It made the game less of a multi player solitaire, and more of a dynamic interactive game.

    Additionally, there are better and worse flavors of infinite. The player that won had a better infinite engine than the other player. Making something that can net 1 energy of any color in 6 actions is worse than something that nets 1 energy of three different colors every action.

    I think that I want to try and increase these aspects of the game even more.

    Other thoughts:
    • Double color cards? now that all of the effects are on the randomizer, do the cards need effects at all?
    • I need to change how using another player's device works. Perhaps the player can place a pawn on the device to mark it as their own, and then activate it with a meeple. Perhaps the pawn can be moved with another use of the "mind control" ability? Now that infinite speeds matter, this might be fair.
    • Do I want to limit the number of minions that can be drafted a turn? Everything else is limited
    • Should the room cards replenish all the time? NO.
    • Should storing stuff be time always?
    • We played that creating a device created three cards of the device... is this good?
    • Should players be able to pass as their action to only reset their personal stuff? That might be fun to try out.
    I am really happy with how this game is working out. I hope to get it ready for a contest soon. Perhaps even this next Ion award.

    I was planning on playing a 6 player game of Grab the Loot instead of The Madness Place, but we didn't have 6 extra people at the meeting, so we ended up with TMP.

    Finally, I am about to retheme the game as a generic mad scientist steampunk game because it has been nearly a month, and the Foglios have not replied to my email asking for permission to use their setting.

    Friday, August 4, 2017

    Busy times

    I have been doing so many thing recently that I have forgot to write any blog posts.

    For one thing, I have been playtesting a new game that Seth Jaffe (creator of Eminent Domain and other fine games) is designing. The game is called Automatown, and is about building robots that build more robots for you until you have enough robots to take over the world. For an early prototype it is pretty fun and well balanced. I have had an idea that I have been sitting on for a few years about building snowmen that build more snowmen. This ends up being thematically really similar, but my ideas for mechanics were way different than his.

    We have played it at work a few times, and the people are interested in seeing his new changes. Being that today is Friday it might end up being a skateboarding day, so perhaps we will not get to play it, but perhaps we will.

    In terms of my games, I have gotten a few games of The Fatal Flaw in, and also played a game of the Madness Place. I am thinking of giving the BGDG a final look at Grab The Loot before I try and pitch it to Mayday Games. Perhaps Daniel will like it more this time (now that I have made it have more moving parts).

    I have some changed to the Fatal Flaw based on playing it with more than two players, and I expect that more play will lead to more changes. I have also been working on a new game that doesn't really have a name yet. It is another re-creation of the support mechanic.

    I have also submitted games to various contests (I don't really remember which ones right now, but needless to say I have submitted them).

    I need to finish cleaning up Terran League of Defense Robots, but I have been waiting for the results of the "Survival" contest, and they are overdue. Perhaps this means that I am not a finalist in it :(.

    Finally, a new dominion expansion has been announced. I look forward to hearing more about it.

    Wednesday, July 12, 2017

    Another playtest of "The Madness Place"

    We played a four player game of The Madness Place at the Board Game Design Guild meeting last night. Here are my notes (with my current thoughts in bold):
    • Perhaps the current draft mechanism should be revisited.
      • Should we keep all of the untaken cards from the draft? (instead of wiping them each turn)
      • Should each player have their own draft which they can work on during other player's turns?
      • Both? I think that the mechanism definitely wants something to change. Having two players makes the down time pretty small, but with four players it was too long. Having cards to think about during other player's turns would help, but the real problem (I think) is that a turn might take too long.
      • Perhaps I need to restructure turns to make one action per turn? that would be a huge change
    • Why are "green glowy things" yellow? Hmm that has to change. They should perhaps be green.
    • How does using another player's device work when it comes to meeples? This was not well defined, but I have decided that the player that is using the other player's device should provide a meeple in order to do it.
    • Turn order should be nailed down on the randomizer mat. Agreed. What is possible when?
    • Empty hand should perhaps trigger a draw or two. I am fine with that. Slim games would be faster if that were the case.
    • Should the back of the cards also tell what is on the front? Seems like a lot of info to me. People rarely want that info from the back of the card. If other people bring it up I will consider it.
    • Infinite loops are fun. Yay! I think so too.
    • Make it very clear that you don't have to balance every turn or every run - only when you modify. This is a persistent problem.  I need to do this even more so than I have done before.
    • Perhaps a new character that can freeze certain draft cards as an ability. Consider it done.
    • Revisit building and activating in the same turn. I have given this a lot of thought in the past, but perhaps the game has changed so much that this is viable now. I am willing to give it a try.
    The other people liked the game - it is becoming pretty good. I just need to make sure that the rules are easy enough to understand, and that the new cards do not break the balance. If I decide to reduce turns to one action, then I will have to do a lot of balancing, but perhaps that would be better than what we currently have for four players (when turns are thoughtful, and take some time.)

    Friday, June 30, 2017

    The Fatal Flaw

    It was announced that "The Perfect Moment" won the Button Shy wallet game design contest. I have had an idea about making a 18 card standalone expansion to the game.

    I spent a little while brainstorming ideas, and made up some of the cards. I just printed it up and played it with my wife, and it was definitely playable. We had some problems with it (like any first time game), but the game worked fairly well. 

    The expansion is right now named "The Fatal Flaw". My original ideas for card abilities were fairly good (in terms of what would make the game playable with those cards), however I had to change some of the abilities after the first play through to balance them, and to make them more able to modify the state of the game. I also had to make a few changes to the original game to work better with the expansion.

    One change that I had to make was to the original game colors. I needed to change cyan to blue so that I could make the other game the secondary colors (purple, orange, and green.) I also changed Keys to draw a card first, because that makes it work differently than tent, which was pretty similar to keys. Another change was that I made the love story cards red - because people really wanted that. 

    Here are the original cards from the original game, and the cards from the expansion:

    I haven't yet drawn icons for the expansion, so I am just using icons off of the Noun Project right now.

    The expansion plays pretty much identically to the base game, but with different abilities. The real magic is when they are both combined together: instead of just building a bigger deck like in most expansions, in this game both decks are set side by side, and you can draw from either one during any draw. The cards are both used, but they are kept separate, and so the players still have the same chance of drawing a card of the color that they want.

    When players discard, they can discard to any deck, and so the decks will get jumbled up throughout the course of the game. This should be fine, since the backs of the cards are going to be different for each deck.

    The expansion has two new ideas that the base game did not have: one is cards that modify the public objective (which, with the expansion there are two of - the Anomaly, which is the base game public objective, and the Paradox, which the expansion adds).

    The other new idea (and the more interesting one in my opinion) is cards that can score other cards directly as part of their ability. This allows players to either focus on building a good setup to score cards for a lot of points, or it allows them to try to quickly win by flooding their score pile with repetitive small points.

    It remains to be seen if a player with shoes and matches both can defeat a player that is playing without any of those cards. I think that it is possible (likely?) that I will have to do more balancing.

    Wednesday, June 14, 2017

    Burying treasure and removing the Hold In

    I brought Grab the Loot! to the Board Game Design Guild again. This play was testing out buried treasure and coins being valued at 4. We played a game, and then had an excellent discussion about it. Here are my notes (and what I plan to do about them).

    • Some cards need to be reworded: (so, I am going to reword them)
      • Trevyn- should say "to the captain", so that it doesn't affect stolen treasures
      • Gripe- should say "gain an item", so that you don't just shuffle coins around.
      • Sophia- should say "gain from the captain", so that it doesn't affect stolen/donated coins.
      • Bribe- should say "gain an item" like gripe
      • Trick- opposite order is more common for wording?
    • Buried treasures should not get players shot. (This is a great idea. I am going to do it.)
    • Do not "Texas Hold'em" in all of the Captain's greed cards. This spawned a large discussion, and more people were on the side of not "holding in" the cards. The arguments for the holding in were: simplified math, however the arguments against it were: one card was worth 25 points which was the most valuable card in the game by far, and the scores in our game were tighter with the holding in removed. (I did not originally have all of the cards "held in", but added that because Daniel Peterson said that it would make the math easier. With the results of the debate in, I am ready to do a lot of math after each game to determine if the scores are really tighter, but I do agree that that one card being worth 25 points is a smoking cannon which indicates a problem. I will have to fix this either way.)
    • Coins should be worth five points to make math easier (I am sort of scared that this might make them too powerful, but I'll give it a go and see if it works out.)
    • Game wants more interaction (I am always up for that.)
      • Make more cards affect the captains greed.
      • Put player abilities on player cards which can be activated by meeples and give benefit to the player as well as the player that placed their meeple. (I will try it out. It sounds interesting.)
    • Perhaps make some cards that always are available (I am up to try this out)
      • Add an ability to the "Captain Standee", so that players can visit that location no matter what.
    • Player's abilities should be secret until they are used (this sounds fun. I will try it out.)
    • Abilities that can be only used when revealed (this is a combination of the prior idea and putting placement slots on player's cards.)
    • Coins should not be in the greed. (This spawned a debate, and more people were in the "Coins should be in the greed" camp than the "coins should not be in the greed." The root cause seemed to be the following point, which I think that I can fix (even if I make coins still in the greed.))
    • Players should be able to make themselves safe from getting shot without losing all of their treasure. (I have seen three or four players that have (in the quest to not get shot) lost all of their treasure, so I feel for this point even if I have always "gone big" instead of "going home").
      • Add cards to allow players to bury more treasure -which is immune to getting you shot. (I think that this is the solution. Players that are getting antsy can bury their treasure and not lose it all. It wastes their turn, and perhaps is less advantageous to them, but it also prevents their treasure from getting stolen, so it might just be worth it.)
    After the play session was over and the discussion ended I had a few more ideas while driving home.

    • Card abilities to add:
      • flip up top card without having to place on it by paying money.
      • peek at the next greed card.
      • look at all the greed cards that are out of the box (by paying money).
    • Perhaps some characters should have abilities that let them score loot differently?
    All in all, I am going to be doing some more modifications to the game. I really like the way that it is heading.

    In other news, I have been working on "The Madness Place" again (finally). It needs some more polishing up before I print it up again and try to play it, however it is actually going somewhere. 

    Here are how the cards are now looking: There are  fewer energy types, which should alleviate the problem with getting the right energy types, and there are also now scoring rooms, which should alleviate the "one winner and a ton of losers" feel that the game had in the past. I still need to figure out what cards have what on the back sides, but I think that we are practically ready to play it.

    Monday, June 12, 2017

    Making games for kids

    I joined the Haba kids game design contest this week. As part of the contest you get a bunch of parts that they had lying around and have to make a game that uses the parts. I got the following:
    I have tried out two designs so far. The first (which the younger kids liked the most) was a game where you visit the zoo and try to become brave enough to befriend a spooky shirt that is also at the zoo.

    In the second game the players are trying to catch a bunch of gnomes. The older kids liked that one better.

    I might combine them into one game - perhaps you are going to visit a fantasy zoo and need to gather all the small magical animals so that you can return them to the (scary) warden.

    My two year old son is about to have his birthday, and he asked me to design him a game for a present. We got into discussing the theme, and from this was born "Robots fighting Aliens and saving Princesses". His design considerations were the following:

    • Has to have good robots
    • One robot has to be a hero with a gun
    • Has to have evil aliens
    • One alien has to be good
    • There have to be princesses that got stolen by the aliens
    • It needs a map for them to move around on
    I'm thinking right now that the rules will involve placing aliens all over the map (multiple to a tile), princesses in the center, and allowing the players to start in the corners. Players move their hero robots around fighting Aliens and eventually save the princesses.

    If the heroes are outnumbered, the heroes have to go back to the corner to pick up reinforcement robots to successfully clear out a square. The aliens also will slowly move around.

    I have a week until the design is due, so hopefully it all works out and he loves it.

    Tuesday, June 6, 2017

    An idea is budding...

    I just had an idea (which I totally didn't steal from Carl Chudyk (not really, I pretty much stole it from him)) for a new game. I think I am going to polish off the old Polynesian theme and mock something up some time.

    I should be working on The Madness Place, but doing what I feel that I need to do to it will be hard. I really dislike simplifying games, and always worry that I will simplify them too much.