Showing posts from 2013

Smarter Dancing Robots AI

My new Dancing Robots AI is now available to play against (here). It should be much smarter than previous incarnations (though still not as smart as I am when I make no mistakes).

I need to decide if my next goal for the website is to make the game play more graphical (add card images and the likes) or if I want to add in dancing animations at the end of the dance off.

As I have been testing the new AI  I have been also testing the feel of the recent rules changes to the game. I like how discarding all the unused cards at the beginning of the dance off makes parts scarcity a bigger problem, but I am not quite sure about the way that that makes saving extra moves impossible (like holding onto the move that you just needed one more part to dance so that in the second dance off you can dance it easily). The changes also makes Bomberman a worse judge. Perhaps I will increase his bonuses to compensate for that.

Nuclear reactors (with the additional heat that I recently added to the multi m…

Creamsicle Pink Hotness

I have been working more on my card art and making the AI play more strongly. I will post a new version of the game to my website after I run a few more acceptance tests on it (so that everyone can be devastated by a strong AI snatching the victory away from them).

Alison reminded me last night that my spacious chassis didn't have a heat capacitance on it. Because of that, I began to fool around with more artwork. I first added the heat symbol (which might need to be bigger to look good), and then made it a creamsicle pink to try to indicate that it is a passive heat capacitance instead of an active heating.

I am starting to think that passive things like provided space and heat capacitance should be in a light color, and active things like adding heat or reducing space should be dark. I wonder if a blue fire symbol might reasonably indicate that the card reduces heat.

The only real worry that I have is that colorblind individuals might not be able to correctly parse that.


DR =? NP-Complete

Andrea got a late Christmas gift from her grandmother. It is a game called 'Herd your horses'. The game is a roll and move game where you play as mustangs and attempt to gather a herd of mares and make it to a safe place called 'Green river valley'. You can take multiple paths to get there, but there are certain choke-points which everyone must pass through. It is seems to have more strategic depth than monopoly, but it is certainly meant for young horse crazy girls as well. It does have the honor of being the first roll and move game that Andrea will play (all other ones we have tried before were way too boring), so if you really want your three year old girl to play board games with you this might be the right one.

We have limited her to 4 games a day since playing it more than that is a bit ridiculous.

I have (over the last few days) greatly improved the AI for dancing robots. My attempts to make the AI better have gotten me to ponder the game greatly. I wonder if i…

More art (Work In Progress)

We played a fairly nondescript game of Bang, and two games of Avalon at lunch today.

I fooled around with artwork some more, but am still fairly unhappy with it. I decided that the basic claw looks OK and that I should start seeing what other types of cards would look like, but when I began to do that I realized that the title text takes too long to make, and is prone to mistakes. I fooled around with various plug ins, but I think that I will have to create my own plug in to be really happy.

As I was fooling around with that, I also considered whether the symbols in the upper right of the card are actually useful. Perhaps I will remove them all together. I also tried to figure out a way to make the positive space provided by the chassis cards look different from the negative space provided by the other parts, but didn't come up with anything that I liked.

Finally, As I worked on those things I also decided that since the Spacious Chassis has no rule text I would have to make it al…

The Wild West Show

Yesterday at a family get together we played a game of each of Two Rooms and a Boom, The Resistance, and Bang (With the Wild West Show expansion).
For the first time ever (that I have seen) Two Rooms was won based on solid logic and not just guessing what was going to happen. We had the bomber, the president, and two other good guys in the room on the second round. We kept both the bomber and the president in the room so that we could send out the bomber on the last round and save the president.
For the game of Bang, we had never tried the Wild West Show expansion before, and it ended up being super overpowered, but still very fun. I ended the game with a volcanic and a card that allowed me to convert any card in my hand to a bang (any number of times). I killed the outlaws and got three more cards and repeated. It was pretty silly.
I talked with Dave about my Dancing Robots artwork. He is still finishing up the other pieces, but then he might make me backgrounds for the cards. The AI…

It's practically here!

I have been working a lot on the AI for my game. Specifically I have been making the AI better able to plan a dance. It now considers all possible combinations of the dance cards that it has, and it will dance the moves that give it the most points, and it will also dance them in the order that gives it the most points as well as damages its robot the least.

I have been sitting on the artwork changes until I talk to Dave tomorrow. I figure he will have something to say (him being a graphic designer and all).

At work we have played more Resistance. We finally combined Avalon with the plot cards of Resistance (that made the game different). I also convinced them all to play 2 Rooms and a Boom, which was well received.

Seeing as tomorrow is Christmas it is possible that I will have a gift worth reporting here. If so, I will report it in my next post.

More Test Cards

This post will end up as a bit of an image dump.

I had a guy (Darin Shepit) commenting on my attempts to make Dave's great looking artwork into playable cards for my game (for those new to this story, I asked my Brother in law Dave to draw me robot parts for my WIP Dancing Robots game, and he just came through with about half of the drawings looking pretty much complete, so I decided that I needed to actually work on the formatting of the cards and so forth.)

To the left is my third attempt to make a card out of the art. Following Darin's advice I tried to remove all borders and place a shallow looking platform underneath the card (I also put one under the rule text, just to see what that would look like.
He also advised me to increase the contrast of the artwork (which ends up making the part stand out more). This is my second attempt, by the way. I ended up exporting this because before I could figure out how to make a good looking platform Alison said that it looked pretty …

The Neural Networks of Slow Learning

For the last few days I have been coding up a neural network for my dancing robots AI so that it can learn how to properly decide when to improvise. It isn't really ready yet, but right now it plays at least as good as the current naive approach to the problem (which is to never improvise no matter what.)

I have been training it for a few hours (which should be enough for a simple neural network at least, but it doesn't seem to be catching on very fast (probably I am not doing a good job of coming up with training data)).

I was figuring that the problem was a difficult one (I didn't want to figure it out personally), but I didn't think that it would be this hard. I will continue to fool around with it a bit, but probably not too much. Perhaps the other stupid parts of the AI will fall to neural networks more easily.

Also, I played some more games of Coin Age.

Another Gimpstrosity has emerged

I have been fooling around with Gimp again.
This card reads:
Claw: This part takes up 1 space. If you spend 2 electricity you gain the ability to dance Tap dance moves this step of the dance.

I am not yet sure about any part of the card, so if anyone has helpful hints about what I should do to make it look better I would be happy to entertain them.

A Robot is Forever

I played some more (5) games of Coin Age, and decided that it is worth pledging to get an official copy of it. The game has a moderate amount of randomness, but also a fair amount of strategic choices that players can make when playing, and for $3-5 it is not that big an expense.

I made some updates to dancing robots today and hope to make more tomorrow. I am wrestling with a way to prevent a skillful player from building a robot that can run forever on photo-voltaic cells, a droid chassis, one of each appendage, and luck (add a capacitor for the ability to also dance the ultimate dance once before blowing up spectacularly).

One thing that I am really not happy about (in terms of the website version) is the AI. It is sometimes passably intelligent, but most of the time really dumb. Hopefully I can fix it soon. Perhaps I will put in a neural network to prevent me from having to teach it myself.

We played some Resistance Avalon today at lunch. I was Merlin for the last game and we rocke…

Coin Age

I was watching the kids today because my wife is sick. When I put them down for a nap I read some more about Coin Age (which is on kickstarter and already funded, with 10 days to go)

It is a very small game where you use coins to vie for control of a land. The game has a map and each player has a set of coins as well.

The unique mechanic is that you shake up to 4 coins and slap them down to determine what you can do each turn. 0 of your chosen coin face and you capture an enemy coin. 1 and you place a coin of your own on the board. In either case you may move any coin stack in the board as well. 2 or more of your face lets you place 2 coins, and if all four are your face you may give a coin to the opponent to place three coins

A very simple set of rules which (combined with the equally simple scoring mechanic) allows for fairly deep strategic play.

I somehow convinced my sick wife to play a game with me and even with her feeling under the weather she beat me by 11. (Apparently my init…

Deterministic endings

I played a few more games of Moar Moai over the weekend. I like the way that things work in the beginning of the game, and I like the way that the recent changes change the ending of the multiplayer game. The two player game still has some tricky bits to work out. The main problem is that the ending can be deterministic. Alison and I thought out some fixes for that which include:

Making an 'interest level' for the explorers and every time that you pass their interest goes down by a random amount. When it reaches 0 the game ends immediately. (This would allow a player that has fewer artifacts to possibly end the game before the player with more artifacts is done playing)Deal a card from the deck out every so often to shake things up
a. After every pass would be too often: you couldn't determine for sure where the explorer would end even with quite a few artifacts.
b. After every turn would be even worse: you might never get anywhere, and if you did get somewhere you would prob…

Here lies Mike the adventurer, killed by a king cobra on level 8 of the dungeon.

I was testing out the balance of Roguelike last night and had a pretty fun game. I took pictures during the process so that I could more easily do a write up.

Starting gear: Potion of speed, Helmet

Level 1: Got a item drop and fought two kobolds (for two more items). I lost one hp to a fox, but other than that remained unscathed. An altar allowed me to curse identify a short sword that I got from a kobold. Also got a wand of sleep (which saved my bacon a few times later on).

Level 2: After getting kicked by a bunch of emus I picked up some potions, a leather armor, a scroll of enchant weapon/armor, and a ring of hunger (though I didn't know that was what it was at the point).

Level 3: Killed a bunch of zombies, Ided my ring of hunger (and uncursed it to make it a ring of slow digestion), got a spear and a ring of attack off of an orc (for big damage). The wolves were really hurting me so I was having a hard time. Eventually I had to flee the level because a giant ant was going to …

New Artwork

I just got some more art from Dave for Dancing Robots, and I am really impressed with it. I will include some highlights at the end of this post. Now that my NaGaDeMon game is 'complete' I will probably go back to working on Dancing Robots more, and spend less time working on Moar Moai, but I still very much enjoy Moar Moai (and will probably continue working on it for a while).
Perhaps I should start working on the layout of the cards. I suppose that I need to test the balance of the game again (after a month of respite I hope to see things with new eyes).
Either way, things on the game design front are going pretty well. Alison and I played two games of Moar Moai last night to try to iron out the idea that Bob instigated after our game at lunch yesterday. The change was having the explorers move a little before the players get control over them. This makes the game a little less deterministic at the end but still allows players who are in the better position to win most of …

A map update, and rules trouble

I just played a game with the new rules, and am not entirely sure that I like them. If one player is winning on the coast and he also has more artifacts than all the other players combined he can be guaranteed to win. This is only a problem really in the two player version of the game since having the most artifacts is much easier in that version.

Also, I have produced (for Bob's sake) a new color version of the map and (for everyone else's sake) a new black and white version of the map.

The files have mostly been updated, however the rules are still in a non final state (because I need to determine what to do about artifacts.)

Here are updated files: Rules, Score Track (color & bnw), Map (color & bnw), Player Mat

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 30: The End

Today is the end of National Game Design Month.

Over the course of the month I designed Moar Moai and Roguelike.

I would say that Moar Moai is pretty darn playable, and that Roguelike is at least barely playable.

Moar Moai has one open point of contention right now, and that is the exact way in which artifacts turn into control over the adventurers. I think that I will end up with players having perfect control over what 'cards' they get (although they might end up as tokens on a specific part of the mat instead of cards), but not know what 'cards' other players have until the scoring round actually starts.

Roguelike is still largely unbalanced, and I have never played games with the new weapon cards that I have invented because I have never printed them up (here in California I do not have access to my card creation equipment). Perhaps next week I will do that. It does seem to work without the tokens (+1 etc), but needs a mat to be printed up to make it really work (s…

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 28

I have made good progress on my NaNo games (both Moar Moai and Roguelike) over the last two days.

We played a few games of Moar Moai, and we had some modifications to make.

First of all, roads have been removed from the game entirely (they seemed to just slow down the speed at which people get their statues out, and they give later guys in the turn order an advantage that doesn't seem to help the game balance out).

Additionally the explorer cards seem to be too random for some players (they do not seem powerful enough, and if you don't get the ones that you want it can suck). We have considered a few possibilities for fixing it:
1) Draw two cards for each token and discard half the cards right before playing the explorer phase.
2) Exchange tokens for cards on a one for one basis, selecting which cards you get (making AAH cards not have additional effects, but making it not known what you can do)
3) Discarding tokens for one of the three explorer effects (Explore, Dig, AAH!) (N…

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 26

We are in the final stretch. I have been changing the rules of Moar Moai a lot, and I was pretty happy about them. After two games last night I am wondering if the penalty of road building is a little too steep (having your roads used by everyone for all time). Perhaps road building should be removed completely. I will test that option out over the next few days and see how that affects the balance of the game.

I am also trying to figure out a way to remove the tokens from Roguelike completely. This will allow for the game to be much smaller. I will test that out some time today and see if I can figure it out.

We played some games of Moar Moai  last night as well as The Resistance and Forbidden island. Everything was pretty fun. Hopefully we can end up playing more games tonight as well.

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 22

Yesterday we played a 3 player game of Moar Moai. With only 6 fish per player the fish ran out too fast. I have to figure out a happy medium (we are working with a very narrow range, since 8 is too many and 6 is too few). Perhaps I will tweak the equation so that I don't have to go to 7 (7 is a messy number since the fish should be divided in half and placed in two zones).

I am sort of getting worried about finding a dominant strategy in this game. It seems as if the person with the most people always wins, and if that is the case, then this game is a very boring one. I need to figure out if there are other viable strategies.

Also, I have been working a little on Roguelike, but it keeps making me play game after game of UnNethack. Perhaps I will be able to focus more on it over the thanksgiving break.

By the way. I really like chess variants. Some of them end up being pretty small (the last one I played was that you could capture your own pieces and that pawns could move backward …

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 20

We played a four player game yesterday with the new rules, and there was a serious problem: Too many fish.

We just couldn't seem to break through the fish barrier to the point where the fish began to be depleted. I have decided to reduce the number of starting fish to 6 per player because of this problem. That will allow a population of 12 people to be supported without a problem, but any more than that will begin to eat up the fish.

A third person also told me that deep sea fish should be worth more... I really don't like the idea, but it seems like a common enough complaint that I need to address it. I just don't know how to do that yet.

Also, as I was complaining about having to separate my cubes at the beginning of every game Bob told me to get more bags. I had never thought of doing that. This, folks, is why it is useful to have your managers play your games with you.

Finally I changed the map to include a place to put the Explorer cards. Not really necessary, but the…

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 19

I have greatly simplified the rules of Moar Moai. I don't know whether they will stick, but I played a game with Alison last night and she liked it a lot.
The bulk of the changes were to remove the ability to mine stone and chop trees, and roll them into the build canoes, build statues, build roads, and move statues actions. This also makes it so that the trees are infinitely more likely to not be sitting around in someone's stockpile during the respawn phase (which is a good thing for the tree population size).
The game ended up with Alison in the better overall position (since she had more statues than me), but I was in a very strong strategic position (I had the furthest advanced statues as well as more cards). She would have won if the explorers made it to the third location or further, but she didn't draw two 'explore deeper' cards, so I carried the day.
If you are interested in seeing the how the game looks currently, the rules document is here, and the image…

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 18

I have been having a hard time finishing my recent rules changes to Moar Moai. For one thing I want to cut out more of the game than I want to cut out (which basically means that I am conflicted about how much to remove.) The game works fairly well, but needs to be simplified to be played in the amount of time that I want to play it.

Also, I have been spending a lot of time with Roguelike (and getting car repairs, but that is another story). I have printed up cards for Roguelike, tried to play it with my wife and found that in order for it to be playable a lot of impromptu rules had to be made. The game was crushingly hard (which was the goal), but I feel that to give it a more Roguelike feel there needs to be more equipment. I probably hurt less than ten monsters during the game because my wife and I had one sword between the two of us, and I was wearing the armor.

We played a game of Ticket to Ride over the weekend with some light gamers. I don't love the game, but appreciate it …

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 15

I worked a bit on the changes to Moar Moai, but then I got side tracked by working on Roguelike.

I think that I am ready to do a first printing of Roguelike and see how it works out. I have already made all of the room/hallway tiles, the mundane/enchantment tokens, and created all of the cards that I can envision needing (at this point in time). The current boss is named the chromatic dragon, and as it stands it should be nearly impossible to kill (it hits first due to its breath attacks, has perfect armor (no sword in the game can damage it, even when it is sleeping), and enough hit points to withstand a blast from a wand of death (the only other monsters that can survive a wand of death are all undead).

The expected way to kill it is to blast it twice with a wand of death, but perhaps enterprising players will find other ways.

I played a game of Moar Moai with Chris this morning. We were trying the new rules (the ones with purchasing cards and such), but during the last turn Chris r…

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 13

Yesterday I didn't get in a game of Moar Moai, but I did rework some of the rules and redraw some of the images. I have uploaded the results to the usual places. For those who don't want to scroll down, the rules document is here, and the images are here: TrackMat, and Map.

I still have a little more work to do before I feel that I am ready for another big playtest, so It might not happen today.

I have been working on Roguelike a bit as well. I have been considering how I would randomize the identities of the potions (wands, and scrolls as well), and I am starting to think that I will have to have "bubbly potion" cards AND "potion of healing" cards. The item deck is full of "bubbly potions" and when someone drinks one (or ids it) they draw a card from the identified potion deck and see what it does. From that point on you place the "potion of healing" card face up in the playing area with a bubbly potion token on it (so future bubbly p…

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 12

Yesterday at lunch we had a four player game:
Players: Taylor, Dave, Chris, Antione
Taylor, Dave, and Chris all started by grabbing four fish and two resources each. This allowed for them to all grow to six people.
Antione opened up by grabbing six fish, so on the second turn he ended up fishing last (his population fell back down to four because of this, and he remained there most of the rest of the game). I have considered changing how things are done to prevent some from getting all the fish that they want and others from getting much fewer fish. Perhaps I will come up with something useful soon.

The early game was dominated by canoe building and starting up building statues.

Taylor, Dave, and Antione all ended up with the same number of statues (8) and people (4), and Chris ended up with two statues and 5 people. The statues were placed such that Chris was winning in positions 1-4 (he was the only guy who moved his statues very far), and Taylor was winning in position 5. There was…

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 11

The weekend was a rough one for my game.

On Friday we had someone leaving the company, so we had a farewell lunch and didn't get any gaming done. At home my wife and I played Forbidden Island (more about that later). Saturday we had sick kids, so most of the day was spent taking care of them, and Sunday was Sunday. Alison's sister Katie (who enjoys gaming more than any of my other sisters or sisters in law) is staying with us for a week as she does some student teaching as part of her training to get a degree, so I am hoping that this week will see a few more plays of my NaGaDeMon game.

Now, Forbidden Island is a cooperative game where you play as a team against the game itself. The story is that you are an explorer trying to gather four mystical artifacts form an island that is sinking into the sea and then escape the island (probably to sell the artifacts for massive zorkmids, but that is beside the point). The game could probably be played by eight year olds without too muc…

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 7

For those who don't want to scroll down, the rules document is here, and the images are here, here, and here.

I played two more games last night trying to emulate Bob and Antoine and figured out about how many of each resource you need to have in order to play the game without running out of anything. I have fixed the rules so that they reflect this (having more statues was a weird side effect of this, but it is possible for a large group of starving people to churn out statues.)

I fooled around with AAAH! cards being added to the explorer deck. They make the explorer phase have way more options. I don't think that they add unnecessary complexity, but I will keep testing them to make sure. They sure seem powerful, though.

The game feels like it is fairly well balanced, however it needs a lot of playtesting to clean it up. I don't know what I am going to do with the rest of this month if I am unable to get enough playtesters to help me out. As of yet I have been pitifully u…

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 6

I didn't do anything last evening, but yesterday during lunch I had my team lead Bob face off against Antoine (another team lead). It was funny to see how they played so differently than my wife and I did.

They both focused heavily on getting more guys than the other player (team leads... go figure). After watching their game I decided to add back in the pieces that I took out two days ago.

I also ordered more pieces to use for the game. They should arrive in a week or so.

It is hard to get people at work to help play-test for me ever since I introduced them all to The Resistance. I am glad that I convinced them to stop playing Bang (as fun as that game can be), but it is sort of annoying to have to fight to get even one person to play your game.

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 5

I played two more games last night. Fairly extensive changes to the rules followed the games.

I realized that permanent canoes are great for the game, so they are a reality right now. This allows players to more easily commit piscicide, and allows the game to end due to not only the loss of all trees, but also due to the loss of all fish.

The number of canoes can be reduced to 8 as long as there are only 32 fish in the game because 8 canoes can entirely empty the deep ocean out in a few turns (assuming that the shallow ocean is also empty)

I also realized that pigs are superfluous, and I removed them. The players have to be a little bit more careful when they are fishing, but the game is still very playable. (perhaps even more so due to the simplification of the rules and the lessening of the number of parts).

Finally, I decided that 16 trees is enough for 2 players. Perhaps with 4 players 32 trees would be better, but until I get four players I don't need to worry about that.


NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 4

I have taken a small diversion and made a map, some mats, and a scoring track. The game rules are still located here.
I think that the next step is to test how the game changes when canoes change to persistent objects.
map: place wood, shallow fish, deep fish, and stone here:
Placement map, cut this one in half and give one copy to each player:
Extra parts and score track. Put the canoes and statues that haven't been built here (as well as the built roads, statues, and the unused meat and dudes.):

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 3

Today Alison and I played a game (first multiplayer game, woo!) The game went fairly well. We fixed up some rules and had to play to the very end to determine who had won.

First of all, we decided that doing a hybrid choose/gather rule (where the first guy to pick is not necessarily the first guy to gather) is a bad idea cause someone can commit guys to doing something (mining for fish, for instance) and then have all the fish gathered out from under him. If this happens because of an event card it is ok, but if a player does it to another player that seems rude.

By the way, I drew on a piece of paper to make the game board. We decided after the game that we need a separate scoring track as well as personal mats. That will be rectified soon.

Alison thought that the game was less confusing than she initially expected it to be (that is a big plus)

With two players who are neck to neck you cant really just chop the last tree (and that can draw the game out, what with the vying for points…

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day 2

Yesterday I decided to make 'MOAR MOAI'. I started coming up with rules and such. I made decisions as to which cubes I would use for which resources. I also counted the cubes. Here are the results:

maroon  16 5 stone/statues yellow  20 stone/statues red     32 meats orange  39 trees pink    37 dudes blue    36 fishs green   33 plant total  213
I got the cubes from a really cheap source, so they are super low quality (also, I got 13 bonus cubes, so I am not complaining.)
I decided today to change the cube coloring a bit, and cut down the amounts for most of them:
maroon  16 Statues yellow  16 Canoes red     32 Pigs orange  32 Stone pink    32 Dudes blue    32 Fish green   32 Trees total  192
I played a few solo games and changed the rules a bit from my original vision of them. As they currently stand, they are here. The first game I played ended with no points having been scored. The second was much better. The third was also better than the second. Perhaps it will be pretty good by Monday (or…

NaGaDeMon 2013 Day -1

Today is Halloween, which means that tomorrow marks the beginning of National Game Design Month 2013.

Last year I created Dancing Robots, which I am almost ready to start pitching to publishers.

This year I have two games that I am considering making:
1) a worker placement game where you attempt to build the most Moai (giant stone statues) which ends(enters the scoring phase) when the island is stripped of all resources.
2) a single/cooperative multiplayer game thematically based on the Roguelike genera of computer games.

The first is currently tentatively labeled 'MOAR MOAI!' (though that will likely change). I have considered how I want the game to play out quite a bit, but haven't yet worked through the math behind it. I am thinking it will take a couple of mats and a bunch of colored cubes. One mechanic that I think would be cool is having the game occur over two phases - the building phase (where you cut trees, feed your people, and build stone heads), and the scoring…