#DS13 in Review

It's been a year since my life took a major course-correction. After eight years, I resigned from my career in the ad business to pursue game design. (I kept freelancing, though. You can see the results on my portfolio.) But as for this blog and my game design in general, let's see what this year hath wrought.

Popular Posts of 2013

Published Games
  • Belle of the Ball seemed most ready for prime time, so I brought it to UnPub 3 and PAX East. Fortunately, that goal was met quite early in the year when Dice Hate Me agreed to buy Belle of the Ball in March. Since then we've had a lot of great art from Jacqui Davis, a very successful kickstarter, and we're now wrapping up production files for delivery to China. Not bad for one year!
  • Koi Pond, a zen-like card game about raising koi. Look for more expansions to come. This originally began with a completely different theme, but it eventually became a very cool little scoring mechanism.
  • Suspense, the brain-burning microgame which first had its origins as a back-pocket entry to UnPub3.
  • Nine Lives, a trading game about rescuing stray cats from an alley while trying not to get scratched.
  • Royal Draft was published in the summer 2013 issue of Casual Games Insider. 
  • Espionage is in development with a super-secret publisher.
  • A Princess Bride-themed bluffing/set-collection game is being developed by Game Salute.

Undeveloped Games
  • The River Ancient: A tentative title for now, but this Miyazaki-inspired dice-placement game is what I'm really focusing on for the next few weeks leading to UnPub4. We'll see if it does as well as Belle of the Ball.
  • Mansa Musa: Mansa Musa, the richest human in history, single-handedly caused massive inflation when he passed through a city with his gigantic retinue.  I wanted to depict Mansa Musa's trip as a kind of progress, going all the way to one end of a path, then back again, with some modular worker-placement stuff along the way. This eventually got too complicated for me to tackle at the time, but I'm feeling a little more confident now.
  • Zheng He and the Monsoon Market: I was curious about the vast and vibrant Indian Ocean trade network that existed for hundreds of years before Europeans arrived. Chinese mariner Zheng He sailed the world's largest fleet of the world's largest wooden boats, not to conquer or convert, but to trade. I adapted some bits of 7 Wonders with Sushi Go to make a drafting card game. I need to refine this to a new public prototype.
  • Train Town: This was a very rushed prototype sent to a Korean family board game design contest. Shockingly, it advanced to finals. Not so shockingly, it didn't win. I still like the basic idea of a 2x2 Tsuro-style tile-laying game where the goal is making compatible paths rather than moving a pawn.
  • Dung and Dragons: This game is about raising dragons for their gold poop. It's been my white whale for a long time, since well before 2013. I'm embarrassed to say this game was at the top of my 2012 year in review. I need to get a prototype out and on the table ASAP so it's not just lingering in my head. I've dallied far too long.
  • Noodle Roll: My misinterpretation of the rules in Martian Dice led to a whole other game idea about serving various noodle dishes to customers at a ramen shop. It has some interesting scoring mechanics and dice-placement interaction, but needs way more playtesting to be at all worthy of even a pitch to publishers.
  • Puppy Pile: A simple trick-taking game about puppies piling onto treats. This might be inspired by my volunteer work at the local animal shelter.
  • What's in the Egg?: A pretty loose idea for dice-based based on one of my earlier designs. The longer you sit on an egg, the more maternal attachment you have to it, but you're never certain what will actually hatch.
  • Schrodinger's Cabernet: Further exploration of an older idea about wine collectors trying to pawn off counterfeits to unwitting dupes.
  • Feather: A card game that I'm going to tinker with a bit more, possibly with this hourglass deck.
  • Kigi: A path-building game that isn't based on a hard grid, instead you just grow branches on a sumi-e painting of a tree.
  • Tornado Rodeo: A drafting game about wrangling farm animals out of a tornado.
  • Expedition: This was what I was initially going to pitch to the Dice Hate Me 54-Card Game Design Contest, but the price-drafting ended up being problematic.
  • Penny Farthing Catapult: This was what I submitted to the contest instead. An ultra-light game of Newtonian physics and poorly built catapults.
  • Trickster: A Reverse Trick-Taking Game: An odd little idea for a drafting game that in effect becomes the opposite of a standard trick-taking game.
  • Planet Builder: Speaking of trick-taking, I liked this method of building a planet in four cards, with a touch of worker placement and set-collection.
  • Spheres of Influence: AKA Alien Embassy, another card-based tactics game that grew out of an interest of adjacency mechanics. This time, I was interested in using card-orientation to represent ownership.
  • Tyc: In one of my weirder tangents, I decided to make a "Gamer's ____" version of Tic Tac Toe, but it ended up being as solved as standard Tic Tac Toe.
  • Regime: Which I'm coyly describing as "Super Suspense." Similar gameplay, but a little less punishing, room for more players, and a more of a theme.
  • Troll's Dilemma: A prisoner's dilemma party game that I'm still testing, mainly because it's so simple to whip out at any gathering. I have some tweaks to make, but this actually feels pretty solid.
  • This year I spent a lot of time thinking about auction mechanics and how the value of goods changes with their rarity. Probably one of the more developed versions of this notion was this abstract auction game. It's something that will probably linger for a while.

I'm happy to say that we've decided to give this crazy experiment another year to play out. I'll keep on designing games and self-publishing them on a regular basis. In time, I hope my sales from games will outpace my freelance work. That's a very long-term goal, but it seems more feasible now than it did a year ago. Let's go!
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.