Thursday, December 15, 2016

The ongoing tale of rules editing

With the Ion Award submissions deadline looming I have been editing my rules documents pretty consistently every day of the month so far. That hopefully means that I will get done on time, but you never can tell.

The Age of Vikings is coming along quite nicely. The document is much better than it was on the first of the month. I have pretty high hopes for this one. The game plays well, and is strategic and fun, however it does tend to take a long time. I think that this is definitely the year to submit it to the contest.

The only problem that remains (as far as I can tell) is the unification of modes of speech - Sometimes I tell the reader of the document to do things (e.g. "If you have 3 coins, Move your ship"), and sometimes I tell the reader that the players will do things (e.g. "Any players that have three coins must move their ship"). I need to make it all the same, so that it isn't jarring when I switch between both modes of speech

In the past I have had the document tell the reader to do things, and I like it better, so I am probably going to do that again this year.

The Dragon's Game needs some more artwork to finish it up. Mainly the treasure cards have too dark a background. I'll probably also do the above mode unification, however I am feeling fairly good about the game, so there will probably not be that much more to do.

Terran League of Defense Robots is the game that I am the least sure about. At the present time I am not ready to submit it, and I question that I will be by the end of the month.

I just had a cool idea about how to modify the game and my first playtest of it didn't pan out. I fear that the time doesn't exist to balance all of the changes that my modification would need, and I don't really want to submit the game unless I can get this change in (because I like it a lot).

If I don't submit it, that means that I will be submitting only two games this year, which is way fewer than I have in the past few years.

It will, however, mean that next year I will have two killer games (as long as I finish up TLDR, and The Madness Place).

In other news: I went to the BGDG of Utah on Thursday, and played a game (I think it was "Knights at War"), and it turned out to be pretty fun. I have considered making my own spin off and retheming it to play with my kids.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The month of rules editing begins

By the end of NagaDemon "The Madness Place" was playable, but not finished by any stretch of the imagination. Alison and I played a game right at the end where we finished the entire game, and though it all worked, the game definitely was too big to take a proper swing at in one month with a full time job and a family.

With NagaDemon over, I have been trying to clean up my rule documents for submission to the Ion Award. I have three games that I will probably be submitting this year: Terran League of Defense RobotsThe Age of Vikings, and The Dragons' Game.

I think that I am furthest along with Age of Vikings, in that one I have finished moving all of the rules around, and I have caught a lot of the grammatical errors. I will still have to do more work, but I am feeling like this one will definitely make it in time.

The rules for Terran League of Defense Robots are currently being shuffled around. I need to look them over for grammar still, and I am not sure if I like all of the prose, but I am pretty sure that they at least have all of the parts, and the game is fair. I have also made some recent art changes, which will hopefully help the game. I darkened the color of the colored backgrounds, and added a more artistic play mat.

The Dragons' Game is the game that I am the least confidant about. It needs some art work, and the rules probably could be fixed up a decent amount. Fortunately it is a 2.25 page rule doc, and the art is not that extensive. Hopefully I can finish it up in time.

I am pretty happy with all of the games, however I recognize that the rule books need some serious work. With that in mind, I am probably going to be spending the whole month of December copyediting. If anyone wants to help I would be super grateful!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

NagaDemon 2016: Day 27

Contrary to popular belief, I am not dead. I just took a vacation and totally worked on my cards a whole bunch during that time. My wife and I got through two entire games of "The Madness Place" (my NagaDemon), so technically I have already won, however I still need a lot more work to make the game play smoothly.

Currently the rules are as follows:

There is a hexagonal board composed of a center room, and 6 surrounding rooms. The board grows during the game. Players have a pawn that starts in the center room, and also a set of completion tokens. Players start with 7 cards from the deck, and a character card. Every player gets three actions a turn, and for their actions they can do any of the following:

  • Move your pawn to any room that there is a clear path to (must be either unnocupied or fixed)
  • Draw a card from the deck
  • Play a card (either build a construct/machine/clank/device or impress a spark/minion). Pay the cost on the bottom of the card to play it.
  • Science! (modify a construct/clank/device/spark/minion), you must have enough spark to balance the new abomination of science.
  • fix room (pay the cost and place a completion token on the room. At the end of the game, you will get points for any rooms that you have a completion token on them which the winning team uses (either Agatha, or Zola))

Once a room is completed, draw and place tiles in any adjacent slots that are not yet revealed. Once any player has completed 6 rooms, the build phase of the game ends, and the scoring phase begins. During scoring, players see where the two "heterodynes" appear, and where they are trying to get to and then they throw in their lot with one of them. They have to help the "heterodynes" complete their final rooms (which are randomly pulled from a stack of endgame rooms, and are much harder than normal rooms.), and the "heterodyne" that completes their rooms the fastest wins, and any rooms along that team's path are scored, (with the team that threw their lot in with that team getting bonus points as well).

Here are some samples of the set of cards I made:

As you can see, rooms are not yet hex tiles. I expect to get to that pretty quickly, and also to the following list of fixes that came up from last game:

  • Dr. Gallaird Prunestoggle costs way too little.
  • The Master's library should require more spark to fix
  • Otilia should say "discarded from play"
  • Needs more machines. Just make up some.
  • Flametongue should have charisma as his pump action
  • there should be a way to decompose something. (perhaps a card that lets you do it? adding it to Science! would seem sort of weird.)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

NagaDemon 2016: Day 17

Things are going at full steam right now (ha ha). I think that I will print off my first version of the cards tonight and try the game out some time this weekend. I have given each player unique abilites, combined clanks, minions, constructs, and sparks into one type of card (so the rules for them are all identical), and I have now only three types of cards: ambulators, machines, and devices.

The ambulators are built by paying the cost on the bottom of the card, and activated by paying the cost on the left. They provide the benefits listed in the on the right, and have the abilities listed in the center. Ambulators have a Spark modifier of 0.

Machines are built in the exact same way as ambulators, however they have a modifier of -2, which makes them easier to build than ambulators. The other difference is that machines cannot be moved unless the person moving the machine spends 1 strength per output symbol on the machine.

Devices are built in the same way as ambulators, however they have a modifier of +2, which makes them more difficult to create than ambulators. One device can be attached to each ambulator at a time, however they can be discarded and replaced for free at any time.

Cards can be tucked to the left or right to make more costs or benefits, but in order to tuck a card the player must have enough "Spark". The spark cost is calculated thus: outputs - inputs + modifier. Each card tucked also requires 1 build.

I haven't actually made any abilities yet, so I will need to do that before the game is complete, however I expect that I can add them as I start playtesting it.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

NagaDemon 2016: Day 11

I sort of took a few days "off", so I am a little behind. I have given stats (but not abilities) to all of the 148 cards in the main deck, and the 12 character cards that currently remain in the game. I haven't yet made all of the room cards, so I still have work on that front. I also have a lot of mechanics dreamed up, which I will outline here:

Players start with a player card that has stats similar to any other normal card. Each player card has a generic backside that gives them +2 "Spark", and perhaps other generic bonuses so they can remain hidden until they want to reveal who they are (and still have a bonus).

Each player card has a special objective that they can complete for bonus points, most of which has them repairing the castle in order to complete it.

Each player can build clanks and add cards to clanks and other core parts by using "build points" which they get based on their cards in play, and which refresh each turn. Clanks have stats, and can help the player do things. They also can move like the player and can be built up (using the same effect building mechanic that I invented for Sorcery, Inc.)

Clanks can be operated each turn one time, and the operating player must provide enough input things to make the clank run. (similar to S,I.). Any card from the draw deck can be used to improve a clank, so clanks can grow to be much larger than they started as. The limit to clank size is Spark, and a clank that produces more output than input requires the player to have sufficient spark to build it. In order to make really cool machines, players will have to build machines that improve their spark.

Constructs are similar to clanks, but they require the player to discard cards with the appropriate symbols on them to put them into play, but do not require the player to pay a maintenance cost whenever they are run. Since they require more input, they are harder to build than clanks, but they work the same in every room of the castle (regardless of the presence of fuels).

Constructs can be modified in the same manner as clanks.

Devices are similar to clanks, however they are carried by a minion/character/spark, and they add bonuses to the stats of the person. They must be balanced by spark, however they also are limited to 1 additional card per device, and they have a natural balance score of -1 so they will normally be less powerful than constructs or clanks, and require more spark to balance.

Machines are like Clanks or devices, but they are large and require strength to carry them around. To move a machine requires 1 strength per card composing the machine. Machines are easier to balance than other cards, with a base score of +1.

Minions are a different class of card - they are played by having sufficient charisma (and possibly paying other cards), and then they provide their bonuses to you. They can be modified exactly like constructs... Perhaps they should be rolled into constructs actually.

Sparks are other mad scientists that you can cow/inspire to follow you, and they will work with you to help you build things that are too hard for you to build by yourself. They require charisma as well as force you to discard cards to play them, however while they are out, you gain fewer points per room completed.

That brings me to rooms: rooms are similar to the end condition in Sorcery, Inc. - they have requirements to complete them (like 20 prestige in S,I.), however they give points when you do, not just make you win. You start with 4 rooms visible, and every time someone completes a room, three more become visible. I hope that this mechanic makes it easier and easier to complete rooms, and brings the end of the game closer more quickly. Once the castle is completed enough, the game will end after one more turn.

I will still complete this game even if I am behind. I hope to get a playable prototype by the weekend.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

NagaDemon 2016: Day 3

I have 294 card names created... All of them are based on actual things from the original comic (people, things, places). Perhaps I bit off more than I can reasonably chew, but I going to try making as many of them as I can.

I will probably end up throwing out half of them.

At least I won't have to come up with that many names of my own :)

Todo: make game abilities for them all...

This is going to be a hard NagaDemon

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

NagaDemon 2016: Day 2

I am beginning to work on my idea - turning it into a game. Right now I am in the "throw all of the ideas together, and then figure out how the mechanics will work. I am thinking that powerful cards will produce 3x the stuff that they take to make, and the weak ones will go nearly to producing 1x as many things as they take.

I haven't yet started on the naming of the rooms. I am just brainstorming all of the cards right now.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Getting geared up for NagaDemon

I played roll for the galaxy and broom service for the first time on Friday. Both were interesting, however I like race better than roll right now.

Broom service was quite interesting. There were elements of set collection, press your luck, and second guessing the other players.

Sunday Alison and I played Forbidden Desert, which seems to me like a better Forbidden Island. My phone wanted to call the game Forbidden Dessert, which would be another game entirely.

I am just about to start NagaDemon for another year. This year I have been thinking of making a Girl Genius themed game that reimplements Sorcery, Inc. But fixes the worst parts of it.

It starts on November first, so I haven't done much more than mull ideas over, but hopefully I can get a lot done by the end of November.

The things that I want to fix about sorcery are the the lack of a scoring method (currently you either win or lose, but you don't really have points), and the overly abstract nature of the resources.

I am pretty excited about this idea. The story is based on Castle Heterodyne (a giant, evil, sentient building) being mostly broken and trying to get itself fixed (the players are convicts that were thrown in there to repair the building as part of their sentence.)

The players will get points by repairing rooms (they have to build whatever machines are necessary to fix the building).
Each player will have unique abilities, and will build clanks (stream punk robots) and constructs (Frankenstein's monsters) to help them. They will also attract minions and lesser sparks (people that can build reality altering machines).

I have a month to make it, so hopefully it can all come together in time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Arika McClure: the first person to punch out a spaceship

I just went to my 3rd Board Game Design Guild Meeting last night. Since there were not enough people who brought games, we ended up playing The Age of Vikings as one of the two games that were played. The people seemed to understand the game and we got through an entire game as well.

The notes that I took (of the comments that people made) were as follows:
  • When someone buys points, following players should have to pay 3 to buy points. (this is sort of against my original idea, however I see why this would seem a reasonable thing to say.)
  • Viking games should have more warfare (This was reiterated at least twice. I need to do some theme work, apparently).
  • Fiddly rules should be on a card (I can totally do this - I already have such a card, and expanding it into a mat wouldn't be that hard)
  • Perhaps there should be disputed territories: when a player takes over an island half way they can block the other player from benefiting from it. (not sure if I love this. I want the game to move along, and I worry that this would slow people down a lot)
  • Shields could be player owned, and removed from the island when it is taken over. (an interesting idea - chieftains are like this already, so there is a precedent in the rules).
  • Perhaps a colonial theme would be better than vikings, since there is not nearly enough warfare. (I like vikings way more than colonists, so perhaps I should instead work to make it more viking appropriate.)
  • Track the use of one time use gods by 'tapping' them (I just added this to the rules)
  • Hammers being worth 2 ships makes the math harder (I have reduced them to 1 already)
  • The number of chieftain tokens should be a hard cap (this is in the rules already)
  • Chieftains may be the wrong name, since chieftains sounds like a good thing. (I have changed the name to Rival Chieftains, so that is fixed)
We also played a game of TLDR at work today, and for the first time we were able to win the game at work. I think that the superheroes are way too powerful if they are allowed to attack alongside the robots in a fight. We ended up saving up 16 alien corpses and building the 8th Power, and the Mothership was a pushover because the superhero provided 4 damage of any type (leaving only two damage for the robot to have to do, and that is super easy to provide).

I will definitely have to change it to either robots or superheros in a fight, but not both. Though, I think that superheroes perhaps should be able to fight as a free action. That would probably not be too powerful.

I need to continue to work on the rule books for both games, but I am certainly feeling pretty good after these positive results.

About Extinction Events: I haven't yet figured out enough rules to make a good first playthrough. I only have 5 days till NaGaDemon starts, so hopefully I can get in a play or two before then.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Extinction Events

Te tried out the chieftains, but they were not balanced. We had to spend way too much effort fighting them off. We have ideas about how to fix that, but I have been working on a new game that just came to my head instead of Age of Vikings.

The new game is tentatively called "Extinction Events" (though that is not really that good of a name). It is about building a species of animal, and using it to survive various extinction events. The player that has the largest population by the end of the game is the player that wins.

The species are collections of cards splayed in various directions (splay mechanic is taken from both innovation as well as chibi mob). The game is still not playable, but it was fun to start it out. Here are what the cards look like at the present time:

I will post here if it becomes playable.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Chieftains to the rescue!

Friday we played another game of TLDR at lunch, and we did much better. We still haven't finished a game yet, but I suppose that the game is a fairly long one, so it makes sense.

I also came up with a new modification to The Age of Vikings - Chieftain meeples. Instead of gaining threat, players add chieftain meeples to their islands, and those meeples reduce the defense of the islands that they are on. Once another player conquers the island the meeples are removed, or the player may spend an action to remove the meeples. This removes and replaces the 'Threat' mechanic completely. I look forward to trying it out and seeing if it works.

Finally, I have been working more and more on Jurassic Galaxy, and I am getting close to making up a prototype and testing it out again. I currently have planet tiles, tech cards, plant cards, animal cards, and contracts. The animals are not completely finished, but it is coming along.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Crushing Defeat

Yesterday we played Terran League of Defense Robots at work for the first time. It went really badly. One player thought it would be funny to play all of the hardest foes that he was dealt, so the players lost pretty quickly. Despite this, three of the players expressed interest in playing again.

The easy mothership
Multiple of them seemed to understand how to build a robot and most of them wanted to try to fight off the alien threat.

The mothership that they drew (which was played on the second turn by the turncoat player) was the easiest mothership possible, so they still had a chance when it came out, but they quickly lost as more and more killer aliens appeared.

I didn't learn nearly anything at all from the playtest that could help the game, so it was almost a complete loss for me. The only two take homes were the fact that I need to balance the motherships against each other, and that I need to stress the necessity of cooperation to the playtesters when I introduce the game. It is hard enough that the players must cooperate or die.

We also played a game of The Age of Vikings, which went fairly well. The players had fun, and they brought up some good points of contention with the game. It needs more work than I thought it did, which is good to know, however sad it is to hear.

We tried the new "half income for the last person to pass" rule, which worked well. We refined it to "Half income round up". We also decided that the "Start Player" marker is useless, and that a "Current player" marker might be useful. We decided that Thengil and Hilmir should cost 1 to draw an extra token (That was already fixed, but I haven't printed cards since I fixed it apparently).

The point bonus for attracting deification followers seemed too much for one of the players. I am considering changing that, but this is a balancing point: if it is too much then the player with a good god benefits too much from having followers (though the followers should really police themselves, honestly). If the bonus is too low, the person that originally deified might not want to do it, since they would worry that their foes would benefit more than they would from the deification.

More than one player also said that Attack and Threat felt disjointed. They said that Threat was not damaging enough, and that it felt like two different systems for losing stuff were too many to keep track of. I am going to have to address this one for sure, since I need to make the game smoother.

I went to the Board Game Design Guild of Utah meetup last night as well, and while there played an unnamed game that was very interesting. It was pretty early on in its development, but the game had a lot of potential. It was an abstract 2 player game where each player tries to make a connected line of pieces from the middle of the board to the farthest edge of the board (and prevent the opponent from doing the same.)

There were three pieces - basic, artillery, and bomb.  Artillery should have been named cannon, since it attacked all the squares in its range, not just the last one. The game played a lot like a mixture of stratego and go, but it had a lot of elements that were all its own. The biggest problem with the game was the likelihood of a tie was really high if the players both played well.

I have also been working on new art for the game formerly known as "Space Game", which is starting to be called "Jurassic Galaxy" again. I have made a bunch of planets for making into tiles (using a really cool website that can render planets from images), and I now have started on revamping the system for planets wanting different animals. I also rewritten the text rotation portion of my card image formatter website. I have made a bunch of icons and uploaded some of them to the Noun Project (though they are all still pending moderation, I have used them myself in my icon font.) 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

A solo game.

I just played a solo game with the Alien Destruction cards in. I added 3 copies to see if it felt right. It was hard, and they are so annoying, but it was doable (and probably easier than double alien meeples), so mission accomplished.

I did, however come up with more balance issues. For one thing, bad draw luck made the final two cards in the part deck the two I needed to defeat five of the first six aliens. That made for a really rough start.

I think that I need to genericize damage in some way, perhaps make any two attack symbols count as one other attack symbol of your choice.

The mother ship was an amazing fight, and also way too hard. I had nearly every tech researched, but I still couldn't defeat her without blowing up parts.

The types that the mothership required were acid fire and lightning 2x each, and there is no weapon that provides that, so I had to use 4 different weapons to get it. I ended up building a monster of a robot that had practically no healing. I blew up three parts, but did defeat her in the end.

New open questions:
Why are there no better researchable repair units?

Should I add wild card weapons? One time use weapons?

Should I clean up the way the aliens move?

Should I add a zero space reactor?

I will stew on this and then post later...

Friday, September 30, 2016

Alien Destruction

Over the last week I played three more games of Terran League of Defense Robots (which also has a lot of other names), and one more game of The Age of Vikings.

TLDR is coming along nicely. The last few games have been pretty smooth. I have added character cards, and modified a lot more about the game. The game is still way too hard, but I have begun to work on adjusting the difficulty in a downward direction. I also have nothing in the rules about how to actually fight, so I need to add that stuff in.

The way that I am decreasing the difficulty might be interesting to some, so I will discuss it now. The game used to get harder each time the deck was shuffled because a new alien meeple would come into play each shuffle, and the aliens would do 1 more things each round than they used to do. This proved to ramp up the difficulty really fast, so instead I decided to add a card to the deck called Alien Destruction.

Players may put any number of Alien Destruction cards into the deck to set their difficulty. They make that hand a little harder by not allowing you to see as many cards as you would normally see, and also they make the game harder from that point onward by occupying a slot that other aliens would go into (acting as virtual aliens that cannot be destroyed). If 10 destroyed cities get into play, the game ends because the next alien cannot be played anywhere.

I have yet to test them out, but I have high hopes for them being a fix for the difficulty woes.

In our game of AoV this week we started at the fourth turn by simulating the first three turns. Using this method we were able to make it through the entire game before the end of the lunch hour. It ended up being a pretty fun game. The last turn was a three way tug of war where the third place player surpassed the other two, and then was surpassed by the (new) third place player, who then ended the game.

Not only was the game fun, but it was also useful. We identified a problem with the game (the penalty for the last player who passes can be really punishing late-game). We decided to change the rules to make it less of a penalty - the player gets half their income instead of no income.

Also, I made new copies of the islands that fit the medium hex tile from the game crafter.

I also recorded a movie of me playing Hungry Oni for a publisher that wanted it.