Beyond Race for Points: Moving out of my Comfort Zones in Game Design

"Most significant work comes out of misunderstanding." — Milton Glaser

If there is a big ancient tree at the center of the lush rainforest of graphic design, Milton Glaser is probably it. He's been at the design profession for decades, so he speaks wisdom on the subject. He describes a professional getting good at drawing Cocker Spaniels, then getting hired to draw more Cocker Spaniels, and eventually just getting burned out. Then he switches to drawing goldfish. In the transition, he'll make mistakes and have misunderstandings. In those misunderstandings, great work can happen.

In my case, I've designed a lot of games that boil down to a race for points. The central victory condition is earning the most points, usually measured on an actual track. The means by which you earn points can be quite different, but it's still all about who has the most points. Then there is a conditional endgame, like a deck running out, a certain number of constructs being created, or a certain number of rounds. Then you and the other players compare your scores. Whoever is in the lead at this moment wins.

And that's okay! Points are an extremely useful tool for game design. Points are a commonly understood goal that eases the mental overhead. It allows players to focus on what makes your game different from all the other race-for-points games. Like a haiku, variation within constraint can still make a significant work of design.

But eventually you get burned out on that constraint. It becomes more of a crutch than a tool. So let's explore the alternative. Let's marry endgame conditions with victory conditions. This is pretty tough to do well! You must consider pacing and game balance in the same mechanic. Unlike race-for-points, you do not have the luxury of giving players options to slow or speed up the game. Whoever hits that endgame first wins. 

  • Checkmate: You win if your opponent has no legal actions available. This tends to be a longer game and very frustrating if you're in the losing position. [Chess, Go]
  • Partial Checkmate: You win if your opponent cannot take a particular legal action, like movement, even if he could still take other in-game actions. This is a somewhat unusual victory condition, but I'd be happy to hear some examples.
  • Total Elimination: You win if your opponent has run out of a particular asset, like chessmen, dice, or a particular resource. Again, can lead to a protracted endgame phase where a runaway winner is clear. [Risk, Checkers]
  • Partial Elimination: You can win if you eliminate just one key element of your opponent's assets, like capturing a flag or coercing a majority vote. [Any examples?]
  • Board State: Positioning assets in a particular state, such as building colonies on five planets or getting three-in-a-row. [Cosmic Encounter, Pente, Tic Tac Toe]
  • Asset State: Gather a particular number or combination of assets. [Examples?]
  • Asset State and Board State, aka "Pick-up and Deliver": Gather a particular number or combination of assets, then return the game to a particular board state. [Forbidden Island, Race to Adventure]
And there are many more, I'm sure. Combining endgame and victory conditions is an interesting game design challenge and one I ought to explore more thoroughly in the future.

Race to Adventure on Kickstarter and the Value of a Good Demo Video

Heyo! Remember when I posted some early previews of the Race to Adventure card designs? I'm happy to announce that the Kickstarter has launched and the game is ready to pre-order! There are so many awesome rewards in this campaign, folks. Pins, patches, expansions... Evil Hat has really outdone itself with some of this stuff.

I really want to draw attention to the awesome demo video they released. Sure, it's become something of a norm to see highly polished promotional videos for successful campaigns. It's quite another thing to see such a well executed demo video for a Kickstarter campaign.

If I was a newcomer to this product, with no exposure to Evil Hat or Spirit of the Century, this video shows several things:

  • It clearly explains the game, first and foremost. That I fully understand the game after watching the video shows that the team has taken good time to fully test and develop it.
  • It shows that the creators have already invested the time and treasure to produce key graphics and art. This isn't absolutely necessary, especially if you're a small, independent developer, but it's still great to see a game that is pretty much complete at launch.
  • It gives me an idea of how to teach this game to my friends who may not have been exposed to any part of this campaign. This is extremely valuable as a marketing tool. When you email your buddies saying "Hey, let's play Race to Adventure at lunch!" you can share this video or just follow its example face-to-face.

I can say from experience that teaching games is one of the harder tasks of game design. You might be a great player, a great designer, or even a great rules-writer, but actually teaching face-to-face or in a video is an entirely different task. Evan, Fred, Jeremy and Paul did a fantastic job here.

Actually, everyone involved in this game has done A+ work and I'm honored to have had a small part in this process. Now, Race to Adventure!

Belle of the Ball - Prototype J - New powers, new backgrounds.

Phew! It's been a long couple of months during this round of playtesting, but I'm happy to release the latest prototype for Belle of the Ball. This prototypes updates include some big presentation changes and a handful of new additions to the list of powers.

Download the Rules
Download the Cards


Complete list of powers in Prototype J

  • The card backgrounds have been redesigned and polished up.
  • All Belles grant 10 bonus points.
  • All Ribbons grant 5 bonus points.
  • BFF and friend terminology scrubbed.
  • "Matches" are now fully described relationships between those characters, with a subtle Victorian flair. These are tentative.
  • "Friending" is now "grouping." It's more grammatically correct and easier to parse in game terms.
  • You may now use powers of a single guest or group of guests.
  • New powers added: Shove, Reject, Peek, Befriend, and Breakup.
  • Many, many power guests have powers. The only ones who don't get powers are usually those with 6 popularity.
  • Mingle revised to be exclusively within your own clique. Symbol restriction is lifted, though.
  • Consolidated the complete game rules onto one double-sided 8.5" x 11" sheet. The third and fourth pages are extra, are an example of scoring and space for any forthcoming FAQs/credits.
UPDATE: I answered some questions about symbol-matching and dueling. Hopefully these make things a bit more clear. I'll add these notes to the rules doc shortly.

  • Renamed "Duel a Guest" to be "Call a Guest" since it seemed to make more sense based on what you're actually doing in the game. Unfortunately, that made the Dueling bonus make less sense, so I removed it. The benefit is that it makes the call a direct popularity contest.
  • Because the Dueling bonus is lost, some element of unpredictability is lost in the procedure. So, now you're allowed to reveal more than one card at a time and total their popularity.
  • Expanded and cleared up the wording of Mingle and Befriend actions.
  • Clarified that claiming a ribbon is an automatic thing. If you have the most of that symbol, you get that ribbon.

That time Lyndsay and Daniel made a Sidekick Quests Card Game [In the Lab]

We had the great pleasure of visiting Calgary last week. We spent a few days crashing with Lyndsay Peters and had lots of fun playing Lords of Waterdeep, No Thanks, Small World, and Ticket to Ride. In various measures, all of these games share a mixture of long-term secret goals and buy-pass mechanics. Somehow, Lyndsay and I merged those together into a weird hybrid card game.

We first built from the primary buy-pass mechanic in No Thanks. You drop a chip onto a card if you want to buy-pass it. If you accept the card, your score is the number on that card minus how many chips built up on that card from previous turns. Your goal is to have the lowest score. Thus, you face a simple choice with lots of permutations to consider. It's a great, elegant game, so of course we just had to mess with it.

We began by splitting up those chips into three categories: Weapons, Spells, Equipment. So, when you spend "spells" to buy-pass a card, what does that mean? Perhaps the card is a monster, who does damage, and spending that resource reduces the damage done to whoever finally takes that monster? If that monster is particularly weak against spells, perhaps any spells spent would reduce its damage by even more?

Perhaps the player can take all the resources spent on that monster. Thus, we have a vector to share key resources to other players. Does that imply this is a co-operative game? Do you *want* the next player gets a spell in his supply? Why? Perhaps he has a long-term quest that requires he possess a certain combination of resources?

And so on... We kept designing along this route, figuring out different types of encounters, different victory conditions and ultimately it all melded into a coherent theme.

Players are apprentices to master adventurers. This is their final test. They must accomplish their mentor's requests before time runs out. In doing so, they compete and co-operate in equal measure. We called it "Dungeon Quest Jr." or something like that. Actually we first called it "Monster Hole," but that wasn't very marketable. :P

This theme reminded us a lot of James Stowe's Sidekick Quests webcomic. We asked if he'd be cool with sharing that IP with us. He agreed, so that's how we're proceeding. For now, you can see the raw bleeding guts of a game on Google Docs!

Original rules document
Original card spreadsheet

We're all super-busy folks, so we're not promising anything soon. It'll be nice to develop a traditional fantasy adventure game some time in the future though.

Microgames for the Level 99 Minigame Library [Kickstarter]

You may have seen my past sojourns into the world of card game publishing and how quickly those costs can add up. So it's with great interest that I follow the Kickstarter campaign for this minigame library. David B. Talton is publishing four card games at once, plus several postcard-sized microgames. Disclosure: I've licensed a handful of my own abstracts to this project: Pebble Rebel, Pip•Pip and Minoqaur.

I asked David to share his thoughts on what makes publishing four games at once different than just one at a time.

"You notice that many games that are just cards come in vastly oversized boxes. This is because to make profit after what the distribution model costs, you need to charge around $40 for a game. To charge $40 for a game, you have to have a big enough box to say 'this is $40 of gameplay.'

"I decided to try a different approach than filling a box mostly with air, and just deliver $50 worth of games in my $50 box. As individual tuckboxes, I'd have to charge $15 or $20 to cover distribution. As a big box, I only need to charge $50 for the set.

"It's still economical for me to sell single games on my site, but in stores, only the bundle will be available."

Sure enough, the Kickstarter tiers allow you to order just one game or the whole bundle at a higher level. Now that's an interesting model in the long-term, especially for small games that might get lost in the noise of the average game store shelf. So far the project is trending steadily towards completion. If you want to support this ambitious plan or just sup.port me getting more games licensed, pledge your support to the Level 99 Minigame Library.

Further Feedback and Changes for Belle of the Ball

Wow, I'm so pleased to see the feedback for Belle of the Ball so far. I've got feedback from Fred Hicks and Jason Innes (designer of Empyrean, Inc.) Here are some findings:
  • It's Fun: Response has been really good from a mixture of gamers. The mechanics fit the theme and it's lots of fun to build clever combos of guests, then see how they stack up later in the game. There are some edits that could be made to make it a little more accessible, case in point...
  • Edit for Clarity: There is some wording that could be a little bit more clear, such as "a single guest's powers may not be activated, it must be in a group." Whenever I run into those issues in a rules document, my impulse is to just remove that rule rather than re-write it for clarity. This will be the case in the next draft, so "You can activate the powers of any guest in one group, in any order." I'm also going to restrict the "Mingle" power to a your own clique.
  • Adjust Power Distribution: When you're lucky enough to draw guests with high popularity, it's overkill if that guest also has a useful power. So, I'm redistributing the powers so that they mostly go with guests who have low or negative popularity.
  • Broaden the Friend Bonus: The Friend bonus counts for each other guest in the group. So, yes, it does stack. 
  • Remove the First Player Token: This is a tentative change. I introduced the First Player token in an earlier prototype when the threat of dueling made any singleton very vulnerable. Thus, turn order was very important. Now, the token may not be as necessary, especially in a two-player game.
  • Increase Power Density: A lot of the game's fun comes from building clever synergistic combos, so I'm adding some more powers and making them much more common in the deck. These include:
  • Reject: Discard your whole hand.
  • Shove: Move one guest from your clique to your opponent's clique.
  • Breakup: Remove one or more of your guests from one of your groups.
  • Befriend: Combine two or more of your guests to form a group.
  • Peek: Draw the top three cards from the draw deck, re-arrange them as you wish and return them to the top of the deck.
  • More extra invites.
And that's about it! If you want to test out the game and offer your feedback, please check out the links here. Soon, I will export a new set of cards and get them printed out along with a new rules doc.

New Art for Belle of the Ball from Morgan McLamb!

Morgan turned in some new line art for Belle of the Ball! I'll just shut up and let you click the image above to admire her work. It's pretty dang awesome.

By the way, I'm still eager to hear more feedback on the current prototype. Give it a play and send me your thoughts! We've got some good input from designers and players alike.

So far, it looks like the game is something like 95% complete, but it's always those last little details that need to get hammered out by persistent playtesting. The question is: Launch the Kickstarter before those details are resolved or after? I usually advocate not starting a game project funding campaign until the game is "mostly complete" and Belle certainly qualifies at this point. Main design questions that remain:

  • Limit the Mingle power to just your own clique? It's basically a free steal at this point, and it makes dueling less powerful. Keeping it to your own clique makes it an optimization tool and a way to swap out powers in the middle of a turn.
  • Should there be a "Discard" action where you  can dump your whole hand? I originally had such an action in an early draft, but struck it when players just cycled the whole game. At the time, reaching the end of the deck was an endgame condition, so cycling was more problematic then.
  • Should powers be more common and/or more varied? Setting up synergistic friend-groups is clearly one of the more fun aspects of the game. Making more opportunities for that to happen might be a good direction, but will lengthen the development process as those powers get playtested and balanced.
So yup! Progress, progress, progress.

Clark Valentine and Kids play Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple

Clark Valentine kindly shared his family's play session when they played Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. Check it out below!


Pilgrim Loud Frog, played by T. (age 9) . Pilgrim Loud Frog gets into trouble by waking people - or things - up. He helps people by jumping high.

Pilgrim Tall Thinker, played by C. (age 39). Pilgrim Tall Thinker gets into trouble by bumping his head into things. He helps people by giving wise advice.

Pilgrim Creative Dancer, played by M.R. (age 11). Pilgrim Creative Dancer gets into trouble by thinking too far outside the box. She helps people by being clever, flexible, and athletic.

The Pilgrims received a letter from a young girl named Agatha, who had a monster under her bed and a sister sleeping in the next room; the letter can be found on Page 9 of The Book Of Letters. Here is the story they all wrote together.


Pilgrim Loud Frog jumps into the rafters above Agatha with Pilgrim Creative Dancer, and ties ropes around Pilgrim Creative Dancer's ankles. Pilgrim Creative Dancer lowers herself to try to free Agatha from the monsters.

Unfortunately, Pilgrim Tall Thinker bumps his head on the rafter, falling under the bed with the monsters, and also knocking Pilgrim Loud Frog off the rafter. Pilgrim Loud Frog hits the floor so loudly that Agatha's sister wakes up!

Pilgrim Creative Dancer lowers herself even more so she can stick her tongue out at the monsters, grossing them out so they let go of Pilgrim Tall Thinker. Instead, the monsters pull the blanket from the bed and tangle up Pilgrim Creative Dancer!

Pilgrim Tall Thinker, now free of the monsters, tells Agatha's sister an old, sleepy story, and she falls back asleep. But the sleepy story also makes Pilgrim Tall Thinker fall asleep.

Pilgrim Loud Frog leaps back into the rafters and unties the ropes holding Pilgrim Creative Dancer. He shouts "You're free!" which attracts the monsters' attention. Pilgrim Creative Dancer tries to distract the monster using Poldo, Agatha's stuffed bear. This makes Agatha angry. Pilgrim Creative Dancer says sorry and does flips to distract the monster instead.

Pilgrim Tall Thinker wakes up, and remembers old lore that the monsters can be bound to leave by Agatha fearlessly ordering them to. In his haste to tell everyone, he bumps his head on Pilgrim Creative Dancer, and falls on Capt. Fluffy Ear, Agatha's other stuffed bear.

Pilgrim Loud Frog jumps back to the rafters, and recruits birds to help chase away the monsters. But he speaks so loudly that he frightened the birds, who start pecking at him! Meanwhile, Pilgrim Creative Dancer tells Agatha to order the monsters away, and she does.

When the monsters are gone, everyone was happy and they had a great feast. THE END.

Haunted House Deduction Game [In the Lab]

Haunted House
This is an odd little deduction game I am noodling at the moment. It's very rough, but here's the loose outline.

You and the other players are trapped in a haunted house, chased by ghosts. Each of you has a unique path you must take to escape the house. Though of you is trying to be the first to escape, you are forced to stay together. Will you convince others to join you on your path? Will you compromise your path for the greater good?

The deck is comprised of door cards, treasure cards, and goal cards.

Door Cards: Each card has a closed door on one side bearing three signs. The reverse shows an open door showing one of those three signs. Some of those cards also show a ghost. Scary!

Goal Cards: Each card shows a sequence of 7 signs.

Treasure Cards: Each card shows 2 signs at the top and some game information at the bottom.

Vote Cards: Three cards for each player, each showing LEFT, CENTER, or RIGHT.

Deal a set of vote cards to each player. Deal one goal card to each player. Keep it secret. Draft two of three treasure cards to each player. Deal three closed doors in a row in the middle of the table like so.

The LEFT door may have an X, triangle, or star.
The CENTER door may have a X, square or circle.
The RIGHT door may have a hexagon, triangle or star.

Vote: The players debate which door to open then place their votes. All votes are revealed simultaneously. If there is a tie, the second-place choice is the winner. Flip over the chosen door card and discard the others.

The players voted for the LEFT door, which turns out to be a triangle.

In time, a whole row of door cards is revealed and placed in a continuous row called the PATH.

An example of a complete path.

Ghosts: Several ghosts lurk in the haunted house. If a ghost is revealed, keep it in the path.

Treasure: Players may play a treasure card if the path shows the signs at the top of the treasure card. When you play a treasure card, place it in front of you. Thereafter, certain signs may count as other signs just for you.

Goal: You're trying to make symbols in the path match the symbols on your goal card.

The goal card on the left shows that you're trying to get two Xs, two squares, one triangle, one star and one circle.
The treasure card on the right shows that you need two stars in to play it. If you do, a star or circle may count as a triangle or square just for you.

The game ends when there are ten cards in the path, when a player wins, or if four ghosts appear in the path.

If the game ends because of ten cards, the player with the most symbols in the path matching her goal card wins the game. Each symbol only counts once, so if your goal card shows two stars, there must be two stars in the path. The exact order doesn't matter.

If the game ends because of ghosts, all the players lose. No one escaped the haunted house. Boo!

If there all the signs in the path match your goal card, the game ends immediately and you win. You escaped the haunted house!

This game is ideally suited for a "crystal mandala" deck design. This allows the players to memorize the exact probability that a ghost lurks behind certain doors. However, the voting mechanics, treasure cards and hidden agendas add enough unpredictability to spice things up. That's the idea, anyway.

Dr. Remedy Grove: Environmentally Friendly Family Games with Legacy Mechanics [In the Lab]

Dr. Remedy Grove Masthead
When producing a retail board game commercially, you need to keep your unit costs very, very low. That often forces you to go to an overseas printer, where the economy of scale is friendliest. This can be very problematic if you're trying to be environmentally conscious or keep shipping logistics simple. Producing a game with chipboard, bamboo or vegetable inks can be more expensive, and ultimately make a product that doesn't look as polished as the glossy four-color boxes you see on shelves. Unless a buyer is willing to pay a premium out of the goodness of her heart, it seems the market for such a product is pretty meager.

But, hey, I'm a marketing guy. Here's my wild eyed, ivory tower proposal.

First, we can't market these games just on the appeal of environmentally responsible production. That is too distant, abstract, inside-baseball for the casual family game-shopper to consider. Instead, let's just use environmental themes in the game itself. Set the games in natural environments or put players in caretaker positions for the natural resources around them. Expanding the Dr. Remedy Grove brand to a whole series seems to make sense. Dr. Remedy Grove can be the Mario-like avatar representing a certain game experience.

All games in the line would be produced with environmentally responsible materials and in ethical working conditions. That generally means they would look something like Pinball Publishing's designer cards or the business cards seen above. Sturdy chipboard with natural imperfections and a limited color palette. This definitely stands out against the glossy four-color production values on game store shelves, but could be positioned and priced as a "boutique" or "artisinal" product.

The aesthetics and price would already make these games a niche product, so the game experience should be worth it. The games should be accessible to the whole family, but with enough substance for the grown-ups to enjoy over several sessions. I lean toward strategy games, as you might expect. The mechanics ought to also be a metaphor for individual choices having long-term impact. Again, this gets across the environmental themes without making an explicitly "educational" game. Toward this end, I think Legacy mechanics would be a nice fit. The natural textures and limited palette make the components ideally suited to coloring with crayons, drawing doodles or writing names.

Dr. Remedy Grove presents the Secret Cure
Players help Dr. Remedy Grove discover new medicines from rare Amazonian plants. See more details about this idea here.

Dr. Remedy Grove presents Endangered Rescue
A version of Pandemic where you're trying to preserve the cubes rather than eliminate them. Protect four endangered species around the world from poachers, disease, and human expansion. Each game changes the board and affects certain mechanics in future games.

Dr. Remedy Grove presents Sloth Sanctuary
A sort of emergency ER game where players nurse injured sloths back to health to be released into the wild. While the sloths are in the sanctuary, they attract tourists who provide funding, but you only earn actual victory points when the sloths are released.

So that's the idea! Maybe some day it'll actually come to fruition.

Belle of the Ball on The Dice Section Podcast [Interview]

Listen to this episode of The Dice Section as we discuss Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple's latest award, examine the state of crowdfunding and play the latest version of Belle of the Ball. I am so pleased with how this session turned out. Here are key highlights so far.
  • There are several paths to victory, some of them convergent with each other, some of them divergent from each other.
  • The first time you play, you're constantly just on the edge of fluency. There are one too many gears turning for you to keep track of in the first session, but that is fun for many people.
  • Thought you don't achieve fluency in the first game, you get so close and the game is short enough that it calls for one more play.
  • The theme really fits the mechanics well. So much so that it even got past Micheal's skeptical first impressions.

But let's hear the guys speak for themselves!

» The Dice Section: Episode 6 - Belle of the Ball

Third Degree Custom Business Cards

Just wanted to share these really quick. I helped redesign my agency's business cards. We only have a few people in the agency who need lots of business cards, but we had been in the habit of printing hundreds of cards for everyone.

In the new system, we have kraft chipboard shells with generic information for our two offices. You check the box for your office and fill in the space for your extension. Each employee has a custom printed sticker to fit onto the card. When we get a new hire or promotion, we can just print new stickers instead of whole new cards.

Apparently these cards were a big hit at a conference recently. In an environment where attendees are swarmed with free trinkets, they were coming to our booth specifically for our business cards. Neat!

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple wins the Vanguard Origins Award

Well, this was interesting news to hear last night! The Origins Award occasionally gives a special prize to innovative games that don't quite fall into an existing category. The Vanguard Award doesn't go out every year, which always makes it a surprise when it's announced. Sure enough, I was surprised to hear about it!

I can't take credit for this award, obviously. True credit goes to the entire team who helped make the game possible. My uncountable thanks go out to...

Fred Hicks, Rob Donoghue, Lenny Balsera and Evil Hat Productions for publishing and support. The game wouldn't be what it is without your guidance.

Ryan Macklin and Lillian Cohen-Moore for editing. You honed my soft words into sharp crystal.

Liz Radtke, Kristin Rakochy, Josh Roby, and Dale Horstman for art. You're what compels people to turn every page.

Ben Lehman, Myles Corcoran, Dev Purkayastha, Kirk Mitchell, Peter Aronson, John Wick, Richard DiTullio, Ryan Macklin, Jared Sorensen, Colin Fredericks, Sophie Lagacé, Evan Franke, and Nick Wedig for your letters. I just tried to make a game that lived up to your contributions.

Ralf Achenbach, Jen Armstrong, Lenny Balsera, Chris Box, Jeffrey Collyer, Myles Corcoran, John Cottongim, DeWitt Davis, Jonathan Davis, Rob Donoghue, Adam Dray, Haggai Elkayam, Alex Ferguson, Matt Gandy, Kaylee Goyer, Brett Grimes, Rory Grimes, Shannon Haggard, Jesse Harlin, Fred Hicks, Liz Hooper, Shane Jackson, Marie Lane, Peter MacHale, Ryan Macklin, Samantha Mullaney, Megan Raley, Shreyas Sampat, Kate Sheehy, Greg Stolze, and Remi Treuer for playtesting. The game wouldn't be what it is without your input.

Annie Rush, Jonathan Walton, Kynn Bartlett, Doug Pirko, Peter Aronson, Ben Woerner, and Patrick Shulz for special advice throughout the development process.

Thanks to all the kickstarter backers!
  • The Reverent Keeper of the Exalted Tome: John Hopper
  • The Four Giant Flying Turtles of the Universe: Matthew Bishop, Russell Hoyle, Rick Neal, Anders Smith
  • Twin Dragons of the Cosmos: Scott Acker, Nick Bate
  • Venerable and Wise Transcendent Masters: frosty, bbmeltdown, nathan, 2percentright, Joe Beason, Shaun Bruner, devi brunsch, nelson cambata, Grant Chen, Robert Cooper, Don Corcoran, Raven Daegmorgan, Steve Dempsey, David Elliott, Chris Gunning, Eric Johnson, Jason Johnston, Garrett Jones, Aaron Leeder, Flavio Mortarino, DivNull Productions, Josh Rensch, Sean Riedinger, Tim Rodriguez, John Rogers, Eric Smailys, Paul Tevis, Edwyn Tiong Yung Ron, Bruce Turner, David Tyler Hunt, Aaron W, Tim White, Jennifer Wong
  • Pilgrims of the Flying Temple: maelic001, Chris, Cgeist7, Saladdin, ronbunxious, FelTK, Rocha, Lucias, Catherine, ShamZam, Kevin, Kobal, Buddah, Loretta, greatkithain, Marcelo, Colin, Mendel, Reed, deadlytoque, Michael, darkliquid, Morgan, melibabe, divaD27182, ringmaster, Emelyn, eggdropsoap, craigp, Dominique, Matt, Heuhh, Sebastian, Tucker, AmyMGarcia, anderland, Jonathan, arajski, Aaron, Amaquieria, Albert, Yragael, Zack, Jimhug, Windmilling, john, John, Temoore, Jordan, junloud, ayvalentine, JackFractal, Ishmael, HiddenJester, HPLustcraft, aufrank, James, Arvor, David A Hill Jr, David A Wendt, Vasco A. Brown, Angus Abranson, Scott Adams, Brendan Adkins, Ariele Agostini, Joe Aguayo, Clint and Cassie Krause, Sandy Antunes, Peter Aronson, Ken Arthur, Scott Askew, George Austin, Jared Axelrod, David B, Candice Bailey, Giulia Barbano, Harrison Barber, Dana Bayer, Brian Bergdall, Karsten Blechpirat, Antoine Boegli, Scott Boehmer, Adam Boisvert, Julia Bond Ellingboe, Logan Bonner, Travis Bryant, Laura Burns, Tom C, Geoff Carr, Susie Carter, Robert Cawley, Daniel Cetorelli, Dave Chalker, Edwin Chan, Bay Chang, Stuart Chaplin, Joanna Charambura, John Chatham, Donnie Clark, Wayne Coburn, Patrick Coleman, Stephen Cooke, Brian Cooksey, Chris Costello, Colin Creitz, Josh Crowe, Mike Curry, Matt Cushman, Matthew D. Gandy, Justin D. Jacobson, Mikael Dahl, Neal Dalton, Guillaume Daudin, Jesse David Wan, Adam David Pinilla, Tracy Davis Hurley, Jonathan Davis, Mark Daymude, Jim DelRosso, Mark Delsing, Scott Dierks, Jonathan Dietrich, James Dillane, Richard DiTullio, Mario Dongu, Rob Donoghue, C√©dric Jeanneret, Josh Drobina, Rasmus Durban Jahr, Richard Durham, Herman Duyker, Jeff Eaton, Corvus Elrod, Jack Everitt, Keith Fannin, Metal Fatigue, Scott Favre, John Fiala, Kristin Firth, Wilhelm Fitzpatrick, Daniel Forinton, Evan Franke, Eric Franklin, Jeremy Friesen, Iacopo Frigerio, Leslie Furlong, Brendan G Conway, Marcella Ganow, Bryan Gerding, Brandon Gollihue, Marcello Gorla, Gr√©gory Bernal, Stephen Granade, Jonathan Grimm, Jacqueline Gross, Jack Gulick, Michael Harnish, John Harper, Michael Harrison, Seth Hartley, Ed Healy, S Hefley, Chris Heinzmann, Jim Henley, Darren Hennessey, Fred Hicks / Evil Hat Productions, kitt hodsden, Jonathan Holmberg, Quentin Hudspeth, Dan Hust, James Husum, David Inacio, Jonathan Ingsley, Brian Isikoff, Tim Jensen, Ren√© John Kerkdyk, Seth Johnson, Aaron Jones, Jonathan Jordan, Cecil Juan Robinson II, Clay Karwan, Jeremy Keller, Sean Kelly, patty kirsch, Andy Kitkowski, Adrian Klein, Matthew Klein, Jody Kline, James Knevitt, Jon Knight, Shane Knysh, Jeremy Kostiew, Mischa Krilov, T. Kurt Bond, Annie Kwan, Jason L Blair, Mur Lafferty, Wade Lahoda, Leo Lalande, Justin Lance, Rusty Larner, Nora Last, Sage LaTorra, Matt Logan, Davide Losito, Rob Lowry, Kurt Loy, Connie M. Allison, Steve M., Daniel M. Perez, Matt Machell, Marc Majcher, Griff Maloney, Josh Mannon, Amichai Margolis, Tiago Marinho, Mr. Mario, Manu Marron, George Martinez, Rick Mason, Gregory Matyola, Jonathan McAnulty, Luke McCampbell, Kyle McCowin, Michael McDowell, Shane Mclean, John Mehrholz, Ezio Melega, David Miessler-Kubanek, Diego Minuti, Nicky Moore, John Morrow, Julian Murdoch, Skeeter Murphy, CE Murphy, Liam Murray, Ilan Muskat, Lukas Myhan, Mary Neff, Piers Newman, Maxim Nikolaev, Christian Nord, Herb Nowell, Jo√£o Mariano, olven_oil, Ryan Olson, James Orr, Michael Ostrokol, Jim Pacek, Stephanie Pakrul, JF Paradis, Simon Parker, Brian Paul, Michael Phillips, Brian Pilnick, Jason Pitre, Yan Prado, Geoff Puckett, Jesse Pudewell, Dev Purkayastha, Tim Quinn, Clinton R. Nixon, Renato Ramonda, Erin Ramos, Ross Ramsay, Nick Reed, Luca Ricci, Carl Rigney, Jorge Rodr√≠guez Araya, Fraser Ronald, Kristine Roper, Sean Rose, Aaron Roudabush, Keith Rowe, Nathan Russell, Tim Ryan, Pj Saad, Robin Sanford, Arthur Santos, Anne Sarver, Rennie Saunders, Ernie Sawyer, Crystal Scott, Greg Sewell, Mark Sherry, Mark Shocklee, Simon Silva Jr, Robert Slaughter, Scott Slomiany, Justin Smith, Bob Smith, Monica Speca, Popov Square, Charles Starrett, David Steiger, Mike Stevens, Irene Strauss, Cameron Suey, Matthew Sullivan-Barrett, John Swann, Jim Sweeney, Seth T. Blevins, Tara Teich, Gail Terman, Doyce Testerman, Jesse Thacker, James Thatcher, Owen Thompson, Ken Tidwell, M.Tip Phaovibul, Brian Todoroff, P Tracy, Chris Tulach, Alan Twigg, Julian Tysoe, Scott Underwood, Tyson Vanover, Alan Venable, Jonathan Venezian, David Walker, Euan Walker, Amy Waller, Steven Watkins, Craig Wayling, Greg Webster, Paul Weimer, Greg Weir, Wayne West, Daniel Westheide, Donald Wheeler, Heath White, Chris Wiegand, Harry William Bullen IV, Brian Williams, Victor Wyatt, Joshua Yearsley, Roy Zemlicka, Daniel Zenon Klein, Reed Zesiger
  • Suspicious-Looking Troublemakers: mitchw, Jeanne, Madu, Motipha, Scott, Omer Ahmed, Jens Alfke, Daniel Bayn, Eric Behrens, Sam Brown, Jonathan Campbell, Doug Daulton, Jason Dettman, Ben Durie, Steve Ellis, Michael Hill, Amy Houser, Justin Koopmans, John Loughlin, Duncan Merkert, Guy Shalev, Michal Smaga, Alden Strock, Robert W. Calfee, Michael W. Mattei, Nick Wedig, Paul Worthen
  • Learned Scholars of Worldly Fauna: Tronk, Michael, Xavid, MtFierce, Zencore, Ralf Achenbach, Vincent Arebalo, Maggie Arroyo, Renee Aubuchon, Luke Bailey, Russell Bailey, David Bednar, Nathan Black, Noah Bogart, Ian Borchardt, Nick Brooke, Samuel Carter, Francisco Castillo, Ross Cowman, Alan De Smet, Nick Desimone, Mark DiPasquale, C. Edwards, Sven Folkesson, Daryl Gubler, Derek Guder, Rick H, Gilbert Isla, Eric J. Boyd, Ignatius Jopy, Josh Jordan, Max Kaehn, Stephen Klein, Bess L. Walker, Kit La Touche, Eloy Lasanta, Daniel Levine, Erich McNaughton, Scott Messer, Marshall Miller, Mike Olson, Maurizio Paoluzi, Wes Price, Denis Ryan, Mike Sands, Andrew Smith, Alfredo Taranc√≥n, Derrick Vidal, Christopher Weeks, Brad Wilke, Alexander Williams, Kam Wyler, Derek Yap, James Yasha Cunningham, Mike Zwick
  • Groundling with a Heart of Gold: Aaron Poeze
  • The Teeming Masses: lovekickstarting, Harold Taylor, James Scriven, Jhenne Tyler Beauford, Jim Ryan, Kathleen Donahue, Overflow Cafe, Patrick Gingrich, Rainy Day Games, Roland Bahr, Stephen Parkin, ThatGuy
  • and thanks to Kickstarter itself. You make small projects come to life.

Matt S. Wilson for his awesome musical score. Your talents never cease to amaze, sir.

Fred Hicks, Mur Lafferty, Megan Raley, Anders Smith, and Jenn Wong for lending their voices to the Kickstarter video.

Ralf Achenbach, Rin Aiello, Tresi Arvizo, Matt Bishop, Alden Bradford, Ezra Bradford, Lola Bradford, Joanna Charambura, Donnie Clark, John Cocking, Jen Dixon, Rob Donoghue, Matt Gandy, Clay Gardner, Brett Gilbert, Michael Harrison, Amy Houser, Quentin Hudspeth, Justin Jacobson, Chris Kirkman, Jonathan Korman, Chris Leader, Marc Majcher, Chiara Marchesi, Flavio Mortarino, Lyndsay Peters, Renato Ramonda, Corey Reid, Josh Roby, Tim Rodriguez, Anders Smith, Greg Stolze, Craig Wayling, and Matt Widmann for lending their handwriting to the Kickstarter video.

And thanks to my patient wife Megan for putting up with me all these years.

It's a good thing I wasn't at Origins to accept, because they would've pulled me off stage with a giant novelty hook before I got through with this list!

Three Best Practices of RISK: Legacy-Style Game Design

RISK Legacy:  The Russians and Germans are in a heated struggle - Looks like my RISK: Legacy post got some traction on Google Plus and BGG. What's funny is that the key attributes of Legacy mechanics are something that most traditional RPGs take for granted. In-game choices having persistent effects in future sessions? Pretty standard stuff in the RPG realm. 

Granted, that process usually doesn't involve destroying the actual object.

I think "destruction" is a misnomer in this case. Yes, you do change the game, but whether you consider that "destruction" is a matter of perspective. When I design a new game, I prune off many paths in the process. What Rob Daviau has done in RISK: Legacy is stop juuuust shy of that point in the process.

For example, in the very first game, you have a choice of two faction power stickers to put on your faction card. The one you don't choose is torn up and thrown away. Is that sticker destroyed? Yes. Is the game destroyed? No. The players are simply making the last decisions about how to arrange point values, terrain effects, and faction powers. They join Rob in the game design process. When faced with a choice like the one above, I really feel like I'm creating the game, not destroying it.

So, here are some best practices for making a Legacy-style game as far as I can tell.

1 | Creation
When you can name or label something, that act is satisfying in its own right, even without any mechanical effect. It can be a simple channel for vanity ("Georgetown") or something that reflects actual events in the game ("Dead Man's Valley"). There is great power in naming the unnamed. Don't feel compelled to tack on mechanical effects. Sometimes the warm feeling of seeing a continent named after your child is all you need. Speaking of which, this principle a great way to get kids involved. Kids love naming stuff.

2 | Persistence
Make some choices have repercussions in all future games. The key to making this work is recording that data. This is where computers have an advantage on humans. Still, a good sharpie and some clear terms can help a lot. Who won the game? Make that mean something. Who hasn't won yet? Make that mean something. Are there features on the board to claim? How often is that done? Make that mean something. Are there unlockable components? How often do they get opened? The trick is pacing those changes. Know your game's probabilities and pin your game's dynamism to that curve.

3 | Stasis

There is an endpoint where no further changes can be made to the game. This could be an organic endpoint, like stickers running out or spaces being filled in. It might also be a relatively arbitrary endpoint, like a certain number of sessions. Whatever your terms, this is the point where the players are done designing the game. Make sure the game is playable after this point, just not changeable. You'll still get those voices from the balcony grumbling about wasting money on a game that can't be played after a certain point. Just ignore 'em. ;)

So, am I right? Totally off base? Sound off in the comments!
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.