Pitch Tag 2013 Vol. 3!



Welcome once again to Pitch Tag, the creative exercise where Fred Hicks and I will take turns tossing absurd titles at each other, then respond with somewhat sensible game ideas using that title. We keep doing this until we plotz. This year's Pitch Tag session is documented in the first and second installment. Today's installment includes streetwise ballerinas, Incan foot messengers, breakfast cereals and spicy mobsters.


Daniel:
TATTUTU

It's STEP UP, the deck building game! You're playing out the archetypal "teacher saves a class of troubled urban youth" fantasy, this time by teaching a group of rabble-rousing hoodlums to dance ballet. Each player is a teacher with his own "classroom" of cards, which begin with your standard set of suboptimal cards. In time you acquire dance lessons to win acclaim from the dance world, but must still fend off the dangers of the streets like gangs, drugs, and so on.

Your Turn:
DOILY


Fred:
DOILY

DOILY capitalizes on the popularity of Downton Abbey. (I don't watch it, so I'm extrapolating wildly.) It's a crumbling-empire game where each player takes on the role of a "Dowager Countess" bent on making sure that her family's historic and wildly expensive to maintain home isn't lost to said wild expenses. Or rather, most importantly, that every other player's homes are lost first, making hers the last one standing (for at least a few months more).

Each turn actions must be taken to keep the estate solvent. If all actions could be taken, there might even be a chance of keeping the whole thing afloat. But you can only take a few, and you have to keep moving around the various tasks to keep them from being vulnerable. The other players are maneuvering, using windows of opportunity to "place a doily" on some unsightly task you haven't had the chance to address recently (tasks left undone after two turns become targetable). They're just helping you keep up appearances, dear. Of course you dare not disturb the doily, so you're locked out from doing that task for one more turn. Did you build up enough of a buffer to survive the enforced neglect?

Your Turn:
CEREAL MONOGAMIST


Daniel:
CEREAL MONOGAMIST

Each player has a hand of Cereal cards featuring various fictional brands. Sugar Shock. Fiber Blast. Etc. Each card has nutritional information noting the vitamins and calories available from the featured cereal. (Each card is uniquely numbered.) To set up, each player is dealt a hand of three cards. Simultaneously, each player reveals one card from her hand and places it face-up in front of herself as a "serving" to the other players.

Thereafter, play is as follows: Each player reveals one card from her hand and places it face-up in front of her as a *second* serving. Each player only has room for two servings, so if there is ever more than two after this reveal, the oldest serving becomes "soggy" and must be discarded.

Whoever played the card with the most calories takes first turn. She may take one of another player's face-up cards or a card from the top of the deck. Then she may place it in her private collection, or into her hand, or discard it to make a space for a *third* serving in an opponent's tableau. (In other words, there are six possible moves in your turn.) (There cannot be more than three servings per player.)

Whoever played the next highest calorie cereal gets next turn, and so on, until all have had a turn. Any remaining face-up cards are discarded.

The game ends when the deck runs out. At the end of the game, check who has the most of each vitamin in his collection. (Ties are okay.) The scoring player wins the sum of calories from cereals with that vitamin in his collection. No other vitamins are scored.

Thus, you're trying to win dominance over one or two suits, but in vying for first pick, you potentially serve a high value card to the other players. Going second or third gives you opportunity to take more calories, but they may not be of a vitamin you actually want. Throughout this, you're also trying not to run out of cards in your hand, so you periodically need a "breather" round to replenish your supply.

Your Turn:
CHASQUI (The Incan relay running messengers)


Fred:
CHASQUI

Players run a network of chasquis, Incan relay running messengers, in a cooperative effort to make sure that the Inca Empire's goods and messages are delivered quickly as possible, so as not to do a disservice to the Sapa Inca, ruler of the empire.

The board is a networked map of routes covering the empire. Each route has its own travel times and challenges. Each round unforeseen events can show up to complicate things (rope bridges breaking down, outlaws along roads, cattle hazards, inclement weather) along certain routes on the board. Other times the gods smile.

Each player has a small number of meeples representing their chasquis. The board is divided evenly in all cases depending on the number of players. Within a given part of the network, a player places one meeple at each of their controlled tambos (relay stations), and has a limited budget of spares that he may place at some of his tambos in order to double up. Then play starts

Each round starts with an event draw and a number of messages or packages originating at various tambos (relay stations) around the board. If an available (upright) chasqui meeple is at that tambo, it is available to take the item to its destination (also indicated on the card). Each individual meeple only runs from one tambo to the next on his turn; the card are small (half sized, like Timestream), so they move along on the board with the meeple. At the end of the turn, any laid-down meeples stand up. Any meeples that ran a message or item on their turn are then laid down. (They must rest.) Only upright meeples may pick up a relay on the next turn.

On the following turn, the cards at that tambo are picked up by upright meeples there and carried off to the next stop along the route, etc.

Messages and items are scored for the players upon reaching their destination. If a card cannot travel in a turn, a marker is put on it, reducing its value. If it already has a marker, the card is put into the "disfavor" pile. If "disfavor" grows too great, the players lose the game. Otherwise they're trying to get the score pile to a certain total for a victory.

The challenge comes as the pace of the game picks up and more messages and items are put into the system than the chasquis can easily handle. Additionally chasquis operate under certain limits: a single chasqui can carry multiple messages in his quipu (see Wikipedia), but only one or two objects in his quëpi (again, Wikipedia) depending on size, so if you get an object pile up you could need multiple meeples to process it.

A limited number of rested chasquis that are not running messages may be redeployed from tambo to tambo *without* laying down after their travels. You can also make a "sacrifice move"

Can you organize your network of chasquis such that all messages and objects are delivered as fast as possible? Or will you face the displeasure of the Sapa Inca?

(With the right mind designing it this could be a hell of a eurogame.)

Your Turn:
WRECKED ANGLE
(say it out loud, fast)


Daniel:
WRECKED ANGLE

This is a co-op dexterity-based abstract puzzler that features lots of wooden blocks in various shapes and colors. Players are trying to build the tallest structure after three rounds of play. "Structure" here is used very loosely, as it can be a very finely crafted tower or a big wreck, but it must be kept within the bounds of a very small circular board.

Start a timer for 30sec and BEGIN! Roll dice to determine the quantity blocks you may use from the supply. Then you must take one block and place it on the board or on top of another block. You may only use one hand at a time and hold one block at a time. Once you have used all of those blocks, the next player rolls to add more blocks to the structure. Once he's done, the next player does the same, and so on... until the timer runs out, or all players have completed a turn, or any blocks fall outside of the board (even just a corner).

If the timer runs out before all players have had a turn, the group takes a point penalty card for each player who did not complete a turn.

At the start of the next round, the next player who would have had a turn in the prior round goes first. The game continues as described above until all blocks are gone from the supply. At this point, players use any blocks that are already on the board to add even more height to the structure.

After three rounds, the team's score is one point for each block in the height of the structure, minus any penalties incurred.

Your Turn:
QUINOA CORPS


Fred:
QUINOA CORPS

In the dark distant future, vegan fights vegan in a war for control of the planet's most humane crops! This is a comedy miniatures battle game, where you play members of the Quinoa Corps, hunting down rogue carnivores, and battle those members of the traitorous ovo-lacto splinter factions. Your troops are armed with a variety of weapons. Nonlethal weapons, of course, and as such each battle resembles a very, very healthy food fight. Captured troops from the opposition get a very stern talking to and a steady diet of granola -- and quinoa, of course. It is a superfood! They will be converted!

Your Turn:
RELATION CHIPS


Daniel:
RELATION CHIPS

This is more of a puzzle challenge game for one or more players. Each member of a very large family is featured on a cardboard chip. One side shows just the relative's face, the other shows his or her parents. At the beginning of the game draw two chips at random. Your goal is to find the shortest path long the family tree between these two relatives. To set up the game, set all the chips face-upon the table in any order. On your turn, you can pick up any chip and look at its under side. You may take notes if you wish. At any point in the game, you may announce a number and then pass any remaining turns. Play continues until all players have done so. No one may announce a number that has already been announced. This number is your prediction of the shortest path between the two relatives. If you are closest to this number without going over, you win. If there is a tie for predictions, the player who took the fewest turns wins.

Your Turn:
FRAMED


Fred:
FRAMED

This is like a version of Hearts with one or more Queen of Spades in the mix, only you want to take the tricks ... so long as there's not a "frame" in there, indicating that you've been set up. Cards represent various valuable art-pieces (suits are sculptures, paintings, artifacts, etc) sought by the thieves (players). Cards are played, tricks are taken, points are scored, with the high score indicating the winner.

But if a "frame" card goes down on the "job" (trick), the points of the trick count *against* the total of the person who wins it. Once a a "frame job" has been taken, everyone passes their hand to the left, and play continues; essentially, whenever someone gets set up, the whole scenario changes, and the assets you thought you had are now in someone else's hands.

The deck has 79 cards (a prime number), so there's always some number of cards not in play no matter how many players you've got going. Breakdown probably goes like: 3 frame cards, and 4 suits of 19 cards each; or 4 frame cards, and 5 suits of 15 cards each. Cards would be ranked 1 through X (10?), plus "face" cards ranging from minor work through masterpiece, or something along those lines.

Your Turn:
FREE COUNTRY


Daniel:
FREE COUNTRY

In the heady days at the turn of the last century, several experimental communes and artist retreats dotted the North American countryside. One of these was called FREE COUNTRY and you're going to help it run!

This is sort of a classroom exercise more than a strategy game. The community of FREE COUNTRY is a blank slate at the start of the class. No laws, no responsibilities, but still plenty of needs for its citizens. These needs include food, shelter, the basic stuff -- All represented by a deck of cards, one drawn on each game-day. Citizens of FREE COUNTRY are represented by cards showing their picture, a description of skills and family relations.

The players must decide how to deal with these challenges as best they can. If any solutions call for prerequisites, the teacher should remind the players of that. For example, if the citizens need food, that food must be grown at home after a long wait, hunted from nearby forests, or purchased from neighboring towns. Citizens may be assigned to various tasks, but eventually the demands will outweigh supply.

The teacher should describe to the players the consequences of their decisions, even as new challenges come forward in the following days. These may serve as an entertaining simulation of the challenges of the democratic process and civil discourse. Fun.

Your Turn:
FLATUS QUO


Fred:
FLATUS QUO

Each of the countries of Flatland like their geography the way they've decided it's always been. Thing is, none of them can agree on what the original geography was in the first place.

This is a competitive geometry-placement game where players take turns putting down abstract shapes representing the geography of Flatland. Each player has a card that shows the ideal layout of the geography, with points scored for particular objectives. ("All red areas must touch each other, gain 1 point for each red area that shares a border with another") These objectives are kept secret. Each player has a small number of coins they can spend to change pieces already placed on the board. To spend it, they must declare "that's not how it's always been!" and pursue the flatus quo by revealing one of their objectives and spending one coin per shape altered or replaced to satisfy the revealed objective. Each change made must be something that takes a piece from *not* satisfying the objective, to a state of *definitely* satisfying the objective. (This may also satisfy other still-hidden objectives, but that's just a fringe benefit.) Other players may bid coin to increase the paying player's cost, but even if outspent the player still gets to make one single change. Play continues until the board's full of stuff and nobody wants to spend any more coins to change things.

Your turn:
PEEKS AND VALETS


Daniel:
PEEKS AND VALETS

The seedy underworld of valet parking holds many riches... if you know where to look.

This is a game that puts honest work up against sneaky double-dealing. There is a line of cars waiting to be picked up by a valet. There is also a line of meeples, several of each color, each color representing one player's team of valets.

Turn order is decided by whichever meeple is at the head of the line. On your turn, one of your valet meeples picks up the first car and drives it to the parking lot. This is represented by simply by keeping the card face-up in front of you.

It takes a certain amount of time to reach the parking lot and run back home, represented by how far back in line your meeple is placed. Players may take a turn out of order of the line to play an action card, that will rearranged the meeple order or the car order.

Once all cars have been parked, they must be returned to their owners in a speedy fashion. Then it's a race again to deliver the cars on your turn and not keep owners waiting too long. The car's value minus time spent waiting equals points earned.

Your Turn:
SPICE RACKET


Fred:
SPICE RACKET

In the not too distant future, all organized crime tries to go legit by moving into the boutique spice shop trade. Old habits die hard, though, and as soon as territorial disputes arise, mob instincts rule!

Each player represents the interests of the head of one of the Spice Families. Play Don Cinnamoni, or the deadly Pepper Patrón, etc. Each family starts out with one particular spice monopoly, and options to buy additional monopolies over the course of the game.

Cards go out on the table representing popular restaurants. Each has a variety of dishes it might want to serve its demanding clientele, and the spices needed for each dish. Players leverage their monopolies to extort the biggest payment out of those restaurants. Money equals score at the end of the game, but you'll need to spend it to claim more territory (monopolies) from the "free" spices at play (there's a list, represented by a board, and you'll place markers as you expand your exclusive territory out from your first monopoly).

The order in which a restaurant will pay out in order to fund a particular recipe depends on card order (of the recipes attached to a restaurant) and ingredient order (most needed to least needed) on each recipe card itself. Many dishes can still be served so long as the first few ingredients can be bought by the restaurant. But any given restaurant only has so much money to spread around.

If one of the restaurants is doing particular well for those *other* families, you can employ tactics to put the squeeze on them and force them out of business. New restaurants spring up all the time, after all. It's like fashion.

Your Turn:
THIS SIDE UP

Collect the tiny pandas! [Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple | Play Report]

Amy Houser - Tiny Panda
(Art by Amy Houser from Do: The Book of Letters)

Yesterday I ran a very fun session of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple for a group of five players! Together, they answered a letter from a third-grade class asking for help with a big problem. Actually, lots of small problems. Small, adorable panda problems.

Dear Pilgrims,

My name is Sam. I am in third grade, and our class is having a lot of trouble with our classroom pet. Our teacher, Miss Hollsworth, asked us what kind of pet we would like this year, and we decided that we would like to take care of a panda bear. It took some time to find one, but this morning we came to school, and there he was! We decided to name him Xing-Xing, and everybody gave him lots of hugs.

When Miss Hollsworth left to get our morning snacks, we were playing with Xing-Xing and climbing on him, and someone accidentally knocked him over. We were very surprised when he broke into ten thousand little pieces when he hit the ground! It’s okay, though, he wasn’t really hurt — but now there are ten thousand teeny tiny pandas crawling all over the school, and we need to find them all and figure out how to put them all back together into one big panda before our teacher comes back and figures out what happened. We don’t want her to think that we are careless with animals!

We have been trying very hard to collect up all the teeny tiny pandas, but it’s a lot of work! We have some of them in a shoebox in the classroom, but there are still so many more to catch! I know that a bunch of them must have gotten outside, and we’re not really allowed to go out there in the schoolyard and into the park without a teacher with us, but we thought that it would be okay if there were some Pilgrims with us! There are lots of places for a panda that’s the size of your thumb to hide out there - in the statue garden, on the rocks in the fish pond, underneath the jungle gym, up in the bamboo grove, out by the bicycle racks, up on the roof, so many places!

There’s no way we can do this by ourselves, and even if we did get every single little panda back in the classroom, we have no idea how we’d put Xing-Xing back together into one big huggable panda again! Please help us, Pilgrims! We don’t want Miss Hollsworth to think that we can’t be trusted with a nice pet!

Many thanks to Marc Majcher for authoring that letter! You can find it in Do: The Book of Letters. These are the goal words that the players will try to use in the story before time runs out.

Panda
Panda
Panda
Xing-Xing
Xing-Xing
Miss Hollsworth
Miss Hollsworth
Sam
classroom
shoebox
window
bamboo
pond
fish
statue
garden
playground
roof
park
pocket

These are the pilgrims of our story:

Pilgrim Flighty Ukulele (played by Jamie Sue)
Gets into trouble by being too distracted
Helps people through music

Pilgrim Stumbling Beaver (played by Seth Harris)
Gets into trouble through his natural clumsiness
Helps people through his hard working nature, also has buck teeth

Pilgrim Silly String (played by Kate Niman)
Gets into trouble by causing hijinks, nothing too serious
Helps people with ropes and knots and lassos and stuff

Pilgrim Bright Flower (played by Ariana Ramos)
Gets into trouble by being too loud and brash.
Helps people by brightening people’s lives.

Pilgrim Spinning Candle (played by Shoe Skogen)
Gets into trouble by getting hyper and zoomin’ about.
Helps people with her inner fire: her passion and warmth.

And this is the story of how the Pilgrims helped... kinda.

Pilgrim Bright Flower grabs an armful of pandas at first sight. PANDA!!!

Pilgrim Flighty Ukulele lures the pandas with her ukelele into her pocket. The pandas swarm into her Ukelele!

Pilgrim Silly String knocks over the shoebox of pandas! She re-strings the ukelele and captures all the pandas still in there!

Pilgrim Stumbling Beaver searches Miss Holsworth’s desk for the panda invoice, finds the Curio Shop, knocks on the door. He finds a sign at the window saying the store is closed, disappointing the children who feel abandoned.

Pilgrim Spinning Candle zooms about, gathering bamboo. She builds builds a cage for the pandas in Spinning Ukelele’s..ukulele. Only...she was moving too fast to notice that some of the bamboo belonged to playground equipment! 

Pilgrim Bright Flower has scared the pandas into the neighboring park. She grabs the shoebox and collect all the pandas.

Pilgrim Flighty Ukelele gets distracted by a shiny goldfish in the pond.

Pilgrim Silly String flies to the roof and finds the frightened owner who is scared of all the pandas. She talked him down from the roof but couldn't resist a prank, and dumped a bucket of water on his head. PIIILGRRRRIIIMS!!

Pilgrim Stumbling Beaver calms down the furious owner, getting him to explain that Xing-Xing can be repaired at high velocities. The owner is calling Miss Holsworth to tell her everything about breaking the panda!

Pilgrim Spinning Candle asks the magic fish to bring all the pandas into one location, thereby also distracting Pilgrim Flighty Ukelele with her clever plan – and it happens!

Pilgrim Bright Flower sneaks into the classroom, drops off the shoebox, pretends to be the teacher while she picks up the call, gets the information. Sam sees her throwing pandas at each other! OH no!

Pilgrim Flighty Ukelele softly sings “Pandas love to be smashed together!” to calm down Sam. She abandoned her duties though, and the pandas are swarming on the statue of the school founder, which is now buckling and teetering under all the weight.

Pilgrim Silly String plays with a crystal bowl in the curio shop’s garden, causing the pandas to scream – this does not look good to the children. Pilgrim Silly String makes cute little boats out of string to calm down the pandas and get them into one place.

Pilgrim Stumbling Beaver flies to the teetering statue to hold it up as a bridge to the roof, which is just high enough to be dropped at great speed! The pandas merge together suddenly and crush Stumbling Beaver beneath Xing-Xing’s great weight!

And at this point the goal words were all used! Hooray! A Parades ending! Here's how it all got resolved in the end.

Pilgrim Spinning Candle bakes a cake to thank the fish for gathering the pandas and provides counseling to the children.

Pilgrim Bright Flower helps fix the statue and Stumbling Beaver’s injuries.

Pilgrim Flighty Ukelele plays a song, and calls upon the magic cake-sated fish to fix all her wrongs: He arises from the pond, brings the playground to life and heals all injuries.

Pilgrim Silly String disassembles the bamboo cage and makes an even more dope panda accessible playground.

Pilgrim Stumbling Beaver assists the owner in fixing up his shop to save the Pilgrims’ reputation. 

 Many thanks to Ariana, Jamie, Kate, Seth and Shoe for playing yesterday!

Beyond the Books: Next Steps for Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple and Happy Birthday Robot!

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple - Product Shots

It's been a while since the news that Do and Happy Birthday Robot would be going out of print. We're working to set up our files for print-on-demand for those who still want to get their hands on a physical copy, but any new hardcover copies are not planned for the foreseeable future.

Beyond the books, I've been thinking about whether either brand would be a good candidate to enter  the burgeoning storytelling board game market. In particular, Do may be well-served by converting many of the mechanics into card components. I can see a deck of cards expediting several parts of the storytelling process without changing any of the core rules.

But would a direct port of Do into a card game be a worthy endeavor or should a Do card game be its own unique thing? Still set in the same universe, of course, but with entirely different mechanics more akin to a co-op strategy game? Happy to hear your thoughts on the matter!

This Complete Breakfast: A cereal themed card auction game [In the Lab]

i eat my sugar cereal but it makes my teeth bacterial

Fred and I are still playing Pitch Tag and this little idea came up that was too much fun not to share on its own. This has that combination of casual strategy and fun art direction potential that seems to be my sweet spot. Sweet. Heh.

Here's a very rough overview of how it would play.

Each player has a hand of Cereal cards featuring various fictional brands. (Sugar Shock. Fiber Blast. Etc.) Each card has nutritional information noting the vitamins and calories available from the featured cereal. (Each card is uniquely numbered, maybe?) To set up, each player is dealt a hand of three cards. Simultaneously, each player reveals one card from her hand and places it face-up in front of herself as a "serving" to the other players.

Thereafter, play is as follows: Each player reveals one card from her hand and places it face-up in front of her as a *second* serving. Each player only has room for two servings, so if there is ever more than two after this reveal, the oldest serving becomes "soggy" and must be discarded.

Whoever played the card with the most calories takes first turn. She may take one of another player's face-up cards or a card from the top of the deck. Then she may place it in her private collection, or into her hand, or discard it to make a space for a *third* serving in an opponent's tableau. (In other words, there are six possible moves in your turn.) (There cannot be more than three servings per player.)

Whoever played the next highest calorie cereal gets next turn, and so on, until all have had a turn. Any remaining face-up cards are discarded.

The game ends when the deck runs out. At the end of the game, check who has the most of each vitamin in his collection. (Ties are okay.) The scoring player wins the sum of calories from cereals with that vitamin in his collection. No other vitamins are scored.

Thus, you're trying to win dominance over one or two suits, but in vying for first pick, you potentially serve a high value card to the other players. Going second or third gives you opportunity to take more calories, but they may not be of a vitamin you actually want. Throughout this, you're also trying not to run out of cards in your hand, so you periodically need a "breather" round to replenish your supply.

Four States of Play: Hone, Learn, Watch, Flow

States-of-Play

I recently saw this video of Richard Garfield speaking on the subject of luck and randomness in game design. More interesting to me were the four states of play he mentions in passing, but doesn't really dive too deeply into during the course of this discussion. He describes these as a kind of gamer, but I think it's more useful to consider these simply states of mind.

An individual can transition through any of these several times during the course of a single game or even a lifetime. You might even extrapolate this further, identifying cultural trends towards one state over another across generations, but that is outside the scope of this blog post.

Identifying these as states of mind during play are also more practically useful for any aspiring game designers. You can certainly create a type of play, but you can't create a type of player. (If we could, we'd all be selling a lot more games!)

First, it helps to identify two axes along which these states are ordered.

On one axis, we have Passive and Active. In this context, the extreme Passive condition can be described as minimal effort for maximum effect, often characterized by very light, fast, noisy games. By contrast, the extreme Active condition can be described as maximum effort for minimal effect, most often seen in cut-throat zero sum games that take many hours to complete.

Along the intersecting axis, we have Mechanical and Social. The extreme Mechanical condition can be described as a completely solitaire experience between the player and the game, without input or influence from any other players. The extreme Social condition can be described as complete interaction between players with only the thinnest scrim of actual mechanics guiding that interaction.

All that said, here are the four states of play as best I can describe them based on my understanding of Richard Garfield's outline.

  • Hone: (Active+Mechanical) Optimizing a single strategy to its fullest extent. 
  • Learn: (Active+Social) Or "Explore." Testing different methods, finding the boundaries. 
  • Watch: (Passive+Social) A spectator taking actions simply to see what happens. 
  • Flow: (Passive+Mechanical) The joy of playing a game you already know how to play well.

Most games encourage two of these states either in gameplay or in the culture surrounding gameplay. For example, Richard Garfield cites Magic: the Gathering as a prime source of Honing, as you try to refine your deck, and Exploring, as you discard one strategy for a completely new play style.

Party games are good for Watching, but you can even enter a Watch state in a hardcore strategy game when you make a random decision because you're not sure what else to do. This is the fun of watching the Jenga tower fall, for example.

I find Flowing is by far the most difficult of states for board games to achieve, simply by the nature of the medium. Video games do this well because you're wrapped in a cocoon of light and sound generally as a solitaire experience. It's hard to completely enter that trance state when you're the one who is unboxing all the components, moving chips, negotiating with other players, and so on.

Still, it's possible. Watch a speed chess game and you're likely to see two players in complete immersion of the Flow state. It generally requires a complete knowledge of the game's eccentricities and often the support of a thriving play culture.

Once you've identified these four states of play, you start spotting the patterns in your own preferences. In my case, I realized that Koi Pond is very much a Flow and Watch game, which may not be interesting to someone looking for a Hone and Learn game.

Koi Pond version 1.3, plus plans for Koi Pond: Moon Village!



I'm back from Toronto! Lots of stuff to share, but first I'm updating the rulebook for Koi Pond on the DriveThruCards page. I've also sent along this message of thanks to those who have picked up the game so far.

-----

Hello Koi Pond Players!

First, thanks so much for picking up this first game from Smart Play Games. I hope you've had a chance to play and enjoy it with your friends and family. With luck and spirit, this will be the first of many clever little card games to be released on DriveThruCards.

One of the great things about releasing games through DTC is that I can respond to your questions by updating the live rulebook. Version 1.3 answers two main questions that were left a little ambiguous in 1.2.

Q: If multiple players have hybrids in their rivers, who decides their hybrids' suits first?
A: This can be a tricky situation if an opponent has a turtle that could score from one of your hybrids, depending on which suit you decide. This is a somewhat rare occurence, but can happen often enough that a turn order system ought to be established. So here it is: The start player decides the suit for his earliest hybrid first, continuing clockwise until all players have decided the suits for all their hybrids, one at a time.
Q: Should the lake be a separate deck? Is there a "top" of the lake?
A: This was left far too vague in the last rulebook. To be clear, the lake is meant to be an undifferentiated loose pile of cards comprised of the previous round's river cards. There is not "top." All lake cards are accessible to the active player during their draw phase. I've revised the setup diagram on page 1 to more clearly show this pile of cards.

These notes are now incorporated into the main rulebook.

In addition, I've added a print-and-fold tuckbox for your Koi Pond cards. It's sized to fit your complete deck, plus extra space if you want to sleeve your cards. Hope you dig it! Thanks again.

Lastly, I'm testing some bits for Koi Pond: Moon Village, an expansion that would add a fifth player, add new "Villager" cards that score if they're in your house at the end of the round, and add a new Ribbon type: Challenges. They'd all be formatted as bonuses for winning a round on certain conditions:

    •    "Win a round scoring koi in all four suits."
    •    "Win a round without using a cat, crane or turtle."
    •    "Win a round scoring koi of only one suit."
    •    "Win a round scoring only scoring with a cat, crane or turtle."
    •    "Win a round with the most Koi of X suit in your house."
    •    "Win a round without drawing cards from the lake."

These are still very early in their development, but intended to be pretty modular. So if you like Challenges but not the Villagers, you can use them independently of each other.

Thanks again for your support! Please share your reviews and comments with me directly at gobi81[at]gmail[dot]com or on the official Koi Pond BoardGameGeek page!

Yours,

Daniel

-----

P.S. If you're having trouble downloading the 1.3 rulebook from DriveThruCards, you can also get it here.

Pitch Tag 2013 Continues!



Hello again! Here's the second installment of our Pitch Tag report. A long time ago, Fred Hicks of Evil Hat Productions and I decided to shake each other out of our game design ruts with a little creative exercise. One person "tags" the other with an absurd title, to which the recipient must reply with a sensible pitch for a game with that title, then tag back with a new absurd title. We do this until we stop. So far we haven't! Here's what we've pitched since our last update.

Daniel:
CREATIVE BRIEFS

This is a game about art requests getting lost in translation between a series of middle managers. It's best played by email. Each player has an assigned "receiver," such that all players are effectively around a virtual table. Each player writes a 500-word description of a random image from Wikipedia. Each player emails the description to their receiver. Upon receipt of a description, a player must cut that description by half, down to 250 words, then pass that on to their reciever. Upon receipt of that description, a player must cut the description down to 125 words, and pass it on to their reciever. Upon receipt of a description below 125 words, each player must draw whatever is being described to the best of their ability and comprehension. Laughter ensues.

Your turn:
HOT BUTTERED ROLLS


Fred:
HOT BUTTERED ROLLS

This is a set-building dice-rolling game where you can't use your hands around a theme of hungry eaters and slippery food.

Players must use an assortment of difficult tools -- slick plastic chopsticks, their elbows, a single spoon, chin-and-neck, etc, as randomly indicated by a spinner -- to roll your dice.

Game play starts with six dice in the middle of the table, rotated to show each of the six numbers.

You only get one attempt per turn; if you can't manage to pick up a die, it stays as you've found it. Collisions with other untouched dice and cause those dice to change facing is counted as a legitimate reroll of those other dice!

If the dice showing build a set of 3 or more (3 sixes, etc) you can move them -- carefully -- to your side of the board (your "plate") using something other than your hands to move them (somewhat easier since you don't pick them up, you just slide them).

If dice in one of your sets gets jostled by you or someone else's play and it breaks the set, any dice on your plate no longer making a legitimate set go back to the middle of the board (the "hot zone")! (This also applies to dice that tumble onto your plate and don't fit an existing set, or dice that land outside the hot zone but don't land on anyone's plate.)

Any time the hot zone has fewer than 6 dice in it, new dice are added in to bring it back up, but must be put down on a facing that doesn't automatically create a set.

First player to get (and keep) ten dice in legitimate sets on their plate, wins!

Your turn:
FANCY-PANTS


Daniel:
FANCY-PANTS

This is an old school silly kids game. Each player wears a skirt of velcro strips dangling around their waist, like a grass skirt. Each player is armed with a bucket full of colorful soft fuzzy balls. The goal of the game is to have as many of your balls stuck onto an opponent's skirt as possible before the clock runs out. Play may occur indoors or outdoors. Running, jumping and throwing are encouraged. You just can't intentionally remove a ball from your skirt. Once it's stuck, it's stuck.

Your Turn:
WHERE'S MY MOUNTAIN?


Fred:
WHERE'S MY MOUNTAIN?

Card game for at least 4 players. Players are old, near-sighted mountain hermits who came down from their mountains to forage, only to lose their way back. Each player has an identifiable, unique, "my mountain" card which they pass to the player across from them. There's a duplicate of this card which is put face up in front of the player so it's clear whose mountain is whose to everyone else.

Multiple rounds of card-passing take place before play formally begins. You can't ever pass someone their own mountain, so by the end of all the passing, nobody should actually know if their mountain is still with the player across from them -- could be with any of the other players.

Other cards in the game have abilities and point values on them. On your turn, you play a card for its ability. The ability is most commonly "take and reveal one card from the player to your [left or right]". Some cards have "telescopic" or "prescription glasses" cards that let you reach further out than to your immediate left or right to take a card. Others let you take and reveal two, or very rarely three cards.

The player who you target gets the card you played in his score pile. You get whatever card or cards you took and revealed. If you reveal someone else's mountain, you score no points for that, and it's put in the middle. If you reveal yours, you get a big point bonus.

If someone has no cards when you target them, you instead target the next person one space further around the table form you in that direction, and so on. That said, the original person you targeted is the one who gets the card you played.

A player with no cards in his hand, on his turn, may play one of the cards from his score pile instead, or pass.

When everyone's mountains are revealed, the game ends and points are scored.

Your turn:
DON'T THROW THAT NOODLE!


Daniel:
DON'T THROW THAT NOODLE

Emphasis on "THAT." This is a dexterity throwing game in which each player has a handful of rubber "noodles" of various lengths and colors. Each player on their turn will choose one noodle to throw into a central play area. If her noodle touches another noodle of the same color, she scores one point for each noodle in that contiguous group. Play until each player has only two noodles left in hand. Each player scores one bonus point for each shorter noodle in an opponent's hand. Thus, players may reasonably groan and say "Don't throw THAT noodle!"

Your Turn:
CHAIR


Fred:
CHAIR

(Capture, Hide, Advance, Infect, Run)

This is a two-player strategy game of zombie plague and uninfected survivors, utilizing a bit of the Battleship and Escape From the Aliens in Outer Space vibe. Everyone is on the same map, but not everyone has the same view of that map. One side plays the survivors, one side the zombies.

C H A I R is the phase order:

Capture: Zombies capture any revealed human in an adjacent space on the board.

Hide: Humans who did not run (see below) last turn may hide, making them undetectable by nearby zombies. A hidden human is signified by a flipped-over token. If a human is already hiding by the time this phase begins, flip them over; they must run this turn (see blow).

Advance: Zombies move. The zombie player announces the coordinates of each space that a zombie moves into. If that space or an adjacent space to the zombie contains a human who is not hidden, the human player must reveal one of those unhidden humans by announcing his location.

Infect: Captured humans are turned into zombies.

Run: Humans move. The human player may move any number of human tokens. If a human was hiding before they moved, they are no longer hiding. If a human token moves more than one space, the human player must announce one of the spaces his token moved through (he makes noise).

Play ends when over half the humans are infected (zombies win), or when over half of the humans make it to one of the exits on the far side of the board uninfected (humans win).

Humans move a little faster than the zombies and can hide and start out with more tokens than the zombies do. Zombies start in the middle of the board; humans start on the far side of the board from the exit options.

Your Turn:
THE GREAT RATSBY


Daniel:
THE GREAT RATSBY

In the rat race of the 1920s, only one rat can be king. Will it be you? Players are rats in the Gilded Age, scouring city alleys for the best garbage while avoiding the cats and exterminators that lurk below the glittering lights. All players are trying to secure the most cheese, bread and scratch for themselves, but in doing so they must make some amount of noise which will attract some kind of danger.

Each player plays a card from her hand simultaneously. The Noise number on this card determines how many cards you're going to draw and keep that turn from the tableau or deck. For each noise card higher than yours, you may draw one extra card, but you must only keep as many cards as your noise card. Any unchosen cards are placed in the tableau.

Any Dangers must be resolved as soon as they're drawn, then discarded. Dangers force players who have made the most/least noise this turn/game to keep fewer cards when they draw next. Thus, making the least noise gives you the best selection and is the safest, but also forces you to give other people more reasonable options. Being the noisiest makes you the most prone to danger, but allows you to theoretically keep all of the cards you've drawn, so long as a danger isn't revealed.

Your Turn:
WEDDING KELLS


Fred:
WEDDING KELLS

Set in Kells, Ireland, this is a game about your wedding day (with some commentary on the insanity of the wedding industry), and how things don't always quite go the way they're planned. Each player plays a couple set to get married in Kells on the same day as the other couples. Each couple has a different set of "must-haves" and "nice-to-haves" that differ from what the other couples want, with some degree of overlap. Multiple rounds of planning occur, as players negotiate with each other to get the best possible location, officiant, decoration, cake, photographer, and so on, to suit their must-haves and nice-to-haves; failing to get a must-have will decrease your score, while getting a nice-to-have will boost it. All objectives have their own point value as well. (I say "point value", but it's probably called something thematically appropriate, like "impressions" or "memories" or whatever.) Once all the components of the wedding have been acquired, the Big Day arrives, some random events befall some of the elements of the schedule, backup plans are put into play for resources that suddenly leave the table (sorry, your photographer is dog-sick! but he's sent a friend...). The resulting ceremony and following party are then scored.

You can double the player count supported by turning each player into a two-person team, each half of the couple responsible for arranging for half of the couple's objectives, each getting an additional "nice to have" that isn't revealed to anyone -- including their partner!

Your Turn:
HURRY UP AND LEAF


Daniel:
HURRY UP AND LEAF

A timed card-dropping dexterity game inspired by Smash Up. Players are trees in a forest, competing to spread their own offspring along the forest floor.  Each player is armed with a deck of seed cards and leaf cards.

Each seed card card has a number, representing the amount of leaf litter it needs to be fertilized. Each seed card also notes how many points will be awarded to the first, second, and third-place player who fertilized that seed. Each Leaf Card has a varying number of leaves on it. Each player's deck is color-coded so ou can tell which card belongs to which player.

Each player arranges their seed cards on the ground as they prefer. Start a 60sec timer to start play. Players may hold a deck in one hand and one card in the other at a time. Players must raise their arms up as high as possible, like a tree. Players must be at least three feet away from each other. Players must stay rooted in place, like a tree. Players may only release cards from their free hand, one at a time.

At the end of play, check if any seeds have leaves on them. any seed with over its required number of leaves will award points. The highest reward goes to the player who dropped the most leaves on it. Second reward goes to the player who dropped the second most leaves. Third goes to the third, and so on.

Another twist, all cards are double-sided, some of which are identical while others have slight variation. So a card can never fall face-down, but it may not land on the face you wanted. Some leaves give penalties to the high scorers or bonuses to the middle scorers.

Your Turn:
CONTRACTS


Fred:
CONTRACTS

This is a long-form social boardgame inspired by Diplomacy and "competence porn" shows like Leverage. Players represent various grifters, hackers, and thieves, all hired for a job. Each player is given a contract listing their requirements for succeeding at the Job. There's a fixed number of turns during which players must try to fulfill their requirements (represented abstractly with heist-thematic tokens, cards, actions, which can be traded amongst the players under specific conditions).

If you fill all the requirements, you get your part of the Job done, and get away with it. If you fill only a majority, but not all, your part of the Job is successful, but you end up caught. If you fail to fill a majority, your part of the Job fails, which causes problems for everyone: everyone else has to pull off one more requirement than usual to succeed. If enough people fail their parts of the Job, the whole Job fails (because success would require filling more requirements than folks are contracted to fill), and nobody wins. Otherwise, the whole Job is a success despite a few hiccups. If the Job is a success, then the winners are those who got away with it. If nobody got away with it, then the person who filled the most requirements turns evidence on the rest, and wins.

Your Turn:
CAT, MAN, DO!


Daniel:
CAT, MAN, DO!

This is a simple game of match-3 in which opponents are trying to create a row of tiles featuring two characters and an action that would result in sentences like "CAT, MAN, DO!"

Players acquire tiles through a 7 Wonders style drafting mechanism. Drafts result in each player having six tiles in two rows.

Each tile features a categorical icon. Creating a row with two matching icons allows keep one of those tiles in your collection. Creating a row with three matching icons lets you keep two of those tiles. If a row exactly matches one of the pre-written goals on your secret cards, you can discard that card and keep all three tiles. Each tile is worth different amounts of points, scored at the end of the game which lasts three rounds.

Your Turn:
CEASEFIRE


Fred:
CEASEFIRE

Kind of a grim game about the moments of calm in the middle of war. To blunt that a bit, it's given a fantasy overskin, blended with World War II visuals, so it's a little Warhammer 1944. Players represent a variety of despicable battlefield scavengers -- rat-folk, goblins, imps, orcs, what-have-you -- who must venture out onto a map during a short cease-fire to try to gather up resources (matched sets that follow a 1-3-6-10-15 scoring pattern). You get a certain number of draws from the card deck depending on where you land on the map during your move. Seeded into the card deck are three "event" cards signifying the resumption of hostilities. If you're caught outside of a "sheltered" space on the map when one of the cards comes up, you lose a certain number of points (signified by a penalty card). The number of points lost increases the later into the game it is, and the number of spaces that are considered sheltered decreases with each new phase.

Your Turn:
INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE


Daniel:
INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE

It's a reality game show competition two people go on their first date... A race around the world! Each player has a date with a randomly selected partner for a one-week race around the globe. Throughout the trip, you're trying to achieve three key goals: Develop a connection with your partner, Win challenges and prizes, and Win the race.

Each round, players are dealt a hand of cards. Cards feature Challenges or a variety of suits including Hearts, Muscles, Brains, Money, and Footsteps. On the first turn, each player must choose one to keep, then pass the remaining hand to the left. Thereafter, keeping a card is optional. You can keep a card or just pass it on and wait for the next hand to come around. When everyone passes, the round is over and each player builds his or her itinerary for the day.

An itinerary is your personal tableau of cards. If you kept a Challenge card, place it in front of you. Each Challenge shows a certain required combination of suits required to accomplish it and a reward if it is accomplished. To pursue a challenge, simply place other cards onto it. When the requirement is met, win the noted reward.

All other cards may be sorted two separate piles. One pile begins with your partner card, the burgeoning romantic connection to your partner. Any cards with the partner's preferred suits in this pile will help develop this romance.

The second pile represents your current budget. Any cards in this pile only count as the amount of money shown on the card. Money can be spent for various effects, like drafting extra cards, moving cards between piles, speeding up the rotation of drafting, and so on.

At the end of the game, points are earned for money saved, romance developed, plus a graduated scoring scale for having fewer total cards in your tableau than your opponents.

Your Turn:
LOOMSDAY


Fred:
LOOMSDAY

It's a huge showdown among the titans of knitting, done up in the style of a professional wrestling show-down! Who shall reign supreme?

Garments, blankets, and other knittery objectives go down on the table in a tableau. Players employ various gambits to get the necessary combination of stitches and other techniques needed to create a garment. The first to do so successfully claims the item from the tableau and scores its points. A new item is dealt to the tableau. Pacing is such that the person who claims an item is likely to have the least number of cards in their hand, so the others have a chance to catch up and claim items of their own. There's a luck component, but also an efficiency component here: some objectives should be skipped in the interests of creating other lower-scoring objectives requiring fewer stitch and technique cards, making it possible to do rapid combos that will score better for you. Play continues until all players have at least two items in front of them, or the objective deck runs out.

Your Turn:
TRICKY-STICKY


Daniel:
TRICKY-STICKY

Easy! It's a live-action "Hey! That's my fish!" with a "Floor is lava"  cover a floor with sticky notes, adhesive side up. On your turn, you may take one step onto at least one sticky note. As turns proceed, fewer and fewer sticky notes are going to be available for stepping. Your goal is to make your opponent fall over, probably when they try to take a really *big* step over to a distant sticky note.

Your Turn:
BOAT


Fred:
BOAT

The box art features a variety of aquatic life fleeing before the looming bow of a gigantic (to them) speedboat; sinister looking speedboat driver at the helm. Anthropomorphized, all their mouths are open, and they're shouting, in unison, the name of the game: BOAT!!!

The board is an underwater scene. Each player controls a variety of different meeples that are moved around the board as they attempt to gather up items from the board or perform certain activities in various locations. You might send the fish to nibble at the coral field. You might have your crab gather up coins from the sunken pirate ship. That sort of thing. All of this is "on the clock", though, as at semi-regular intervals a BOAT event comes up , with a particular route it must traverse across the board. (Players can see where the routes *might* be by looking at the board.) When the event comes up and the route is defined, a big boat piece is placed on the board and pushed in a straight line through the route. Any meeples in its way either get pushed to the side or pushed off the board. If pushed to the side, they end up wherever they end up, and must use their moves to get back to where they need to be. If pushed off the board, those meeples are out of commission for a turn, then return one of their starting location options.

The game is a pretty simple "gather these resources/your points most efficiently" game, with the BOAT as the big chaos factor that you can only sort of plan around.

Your Turn:
DISCO DISCOMBOBULATION


Daniel:
DISCO DISCOMBOBULATION

It's the height of the disco craze and you're going to milk the fad for all it's worth before everything collapses. Each player is a slimy opportunist peddling Music, Fashion, Media and Vice. At first, the Music is the most valuable commodity of all, but in time Fashion, then Media rise while the others fall in value. Eventually Vice trumps everything, only to descend into diminishing returns itself. Throughout it all, players can invest and trigger cultural touchstones that will temporarily spike or dip the value of various goods. (Ex: SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER brings music and fashion to middle America, raising their value tremendously.) Play lasts from 1970 through 1979. At the end of the game, players may lose points for owning commodities whose value has dipped into the negatives. (You don't want to be Disco Stu in 1980.)

Your Turn:
SPACE CHIPS


Fred:
SPACE CHIPS

Board is a set of concentric rings representing stable orbital paths around a central star. Poker chips styled as planets and planetoids are placed into these tracks, and move on a set/automated rate in orbit around the star each turn. Between these rings are other objects which you're trying to pull into the orbit of a planet you control. On your turn, before movement, you may place one of your chips on top of an existing planet. Doing so increases the gravity of that planet (equivalent to the height of the stack). Then the planets move on their set track, and capture any nearby objects within a range as indicated by current gravity. (So the higher the stack of chips, the further out a planet can reach to capture.) Points are scored for captured objects according to whose chip is currently showing on the top of the capturing planet's stack. Each track's planet has a different maximum gravity. You can still place another chip on top of it, but that causes a collapse, and the stack is cleared after movement and capture. New capturable objects are put onto the board after each round. Play continues until all players' chips have been utilized.

Your Turn:
TATTUTU

Koi Pond Tuck Box - Free Print-and-Fold Download

Tuckbox-Web

By popular request, here's a Koi Pond tuck box available for free download. It's sized to accommodate the complete basic Koi Pond deck, plus wiggle room for your card sleeves. Below are two PDFs. The first has the art and guides on one page. If you're feeling fancy, the second link has the art on one page on its own with the guides reversed on the second page, so you can print this PDF double-sided and have a nice clean finished product.

» Tuck Box with Guides
» Tuck Box with Guides on Other Side

Rank these cats for 9 Lives!

CatRanking

You've heard me talk about my card game 9 Lives a bit already. Well, I've been fortunate enough with Koi Pond's success on DriveThruCards to have enough in my budget to order art from an actual professional rather than doing it myself. Above you can see the nine cats drawn by Kristina Stipetic, each with its own personality. Now I just need to decide, how will they be ranked?

The game's cat theme is fairly loose to begin with, so the numbers 1 through 9 don't really mean much mechanically. Though I suppose you could look at the math and say that 1s will be least likely to come into play while 9s are most likely. Note that it is not a measure of actual rarity in the deck, just how useful they are in play.

All things being equal, I figured I'd open it up to the public. So, now taking your recommendations for how to rank the cats above from 1 through 9. Feel free to use whatever logic you wish. Age? Mood? Energy level? Take your pick!

Pre-Order Gaming in the 'Verse, the Firefly RPG Gen Con Exclusive



We've been working hard on getting the Firefly RPG project flying over at Margaret Weis Productions. This is the highest profile job I've had so far, but hopefully I'll do y'all proud.

On my end, my duties mainly involve laying out the books, designing various promotional materials, and recruiting artists. So far I've got a kickass art team that includes Kurt Komoda, Jenn Rodgers, Robert Wilson IV, and Ben Mund. I also put out a call for more women artists on the team that eventually reached Whedonesque and, wow, do we have some amazing talent waiting to get started. HIRE ALL THE ARTISTS!

But here's how it is... I can't keep spending MWP's money hiring all the artists forever. We need to light a fire in this capitalist engine to keep bringing top talent into the team. So Margaret Weis Productions has announced a pre-order for Gaming in the 'Verse, an anthology of gaming material set in the Firefly universe.

 Including...
  • Sample Art and Full-Color Map Previews
  • Select Chapter Previews
  • “Wedding Planners” a playable Echoes of War adventure written by Margaret Weis
  • “Shooting Fish” a playable Echoes of War adventure written by Andrew Peregrine
  • “Serenity Crew” a collection of stand-alone characters compatible with the Echoes of War line
  • Chinese pronunciation guide
  • …and more!

All built around the Cortex Plus system that has evolved through Leverage, Smallville and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying development. Gaming in the ‘Verse is limited edition and will not be sold in retail stores. If you can't make it to Gen Con, you can have it shipped to you after Gen Con or order the digital edition from DriveThruRPG. Alright, let's get to the links.

»» Pick up Gaming in the 'Verse at Gen Con (includes PDF)

»» Get Gaming in the 'Verse shipped to you after Gen Con (includes PDF)

»» Pre-order the digital version, available the day of Gen Con 

Thanks for your support, everyone! It's a real honor to be working on this license and with such an amazing team at MWP.

The Sorting Hat Effect: Avoiding the Hazards of Endgame Scoring

Quest_Fantasy_Exhibit_Opening-3952

I've been playing Ascension on iOS for a few months and in that time I've had a lot of fun... Until the endgame, wherein I discover all my efforts have been in vain as my opponent has doubled or tripled my score. I can deal with consistent loss in a game, but consistently losing when I think I will win is frustrating.

This speaks to the value and purpose of endgame scoring in general, I think. As all modern gamers would recognize, hidden endgame scoring keeps all players engaged until the very end. There's always this chance that you'll beat the odds, because you've had a clever engine building for the whole game. There is a lot of dramatic fun in pulling back the curtain to reveal your grand idea, even if another player ends up beating your score.

When designed well, these endgame mechanics can be learning experiences for players to try again with a slight adjustment to their strategy. However, they can also appear to be black boxes, capriciously deciding a victor after the fact.

I call this the Sorting Hat effect, after the hat who decides the dormitory for each student at Hogwart's regardless of their input. Richard Garfield uses "Randochess" as an example of this phenomenon. In Randochess, players play a full game of Chess, then roll a die. If it results in a 6, the loser of the chess match actually wins the whole game. Why does this suck? The winner of Randochess doesn't feel like they earned it and the loser feels like they were cheated.

Here are some other examples of endgame scoring:

  • A lot of people dislike Carcassonne because the farm scoring is so opaque that they get blind-sided when a more experienced player wins the game thanks to some well-placed farmers. But at least in that case, the information is public, and, more importantly, can be manipulated mid-game.
  • In the case of Lords of Waterdeep, each player gets an endgame bonus for having accomplished tasks in certain categories. That can have very drastic swings in endgame, but they very rarely comprise more than a third of a player's final score, so it still feels like you have control over your fate to some extent.
  • In the case of Seasons, I also lose pretty handily every time, and the endgame score can be almost half of a player's final score. However, there is a lot of fun happening mid-game by building engines, timing actions, and interfering with opponent's engines.

So, this indicates a rule of thumb for myself when I design an endgame scoring mechanic.


  • Visible: The endgame state should be visible to all players, even if it is a little complicated for a newcomer to decipher.
  • Adjustable: The endgame state should be adjustable mid-game, so clear leaders can be recognized and targeted accordingly.
  • Small: The endgame state should comprise about a third of a player's final score. More than that makes the game too swingy, less makes it feel like an afterthought.

I can deal with an endgame score that follows at least two of those three rules of thumb. (ex: If it's too big, I can deal with that because I saw it coming and could have adjusted for it.) Those are my takeaways anyhow. What are yours?

Watch: Wood for Sheep: The What and Why of Board Game Culture



Can't believe I'm just now finally getting around to posting this on the blog!

The video above was taken at Wood For Sheep, a panel on board game culture I was lucky enough to be part of at PAX East. We cover a broad spectrum of topics including culture's impact on board games, their impact on culture, what they'll be like in the future, plus some silly gaming jokes.

The panelists are Mackenzie Cameron [Founder, Going OverBoard: The Board Game Webcomic], Samuel Liberty [Co-founder, Spoiled Flush Games], Kevin Spak [Co-founder, Spoiled Flush Games], and the inestimable Emily Care Boss [Green and Black Games].

Appearing at the MESH13 Conference in Toronto, Talking about My Golden Ratio


I'm on a panel at the mesh13 conference in Toronto May 16th at 2:30! The panel speakers include Mark Story, Karl Schroeder and Melanie Gorka. Corey Reid will be moderating the panel:
Faster Iterate, Faster!
All that really matters is iteration speed. Faster iterations, from start to finish, mean better solutions faster than any other process.
It sounds like it will be a free-flowing conversation. I will mention my rapid game design iteration cycle and how it's changed over the years. You'll probably hear a few points from my reckless prototyping post from last year, too. I actually want to really mention my personal golden ratio of game design.
I consider my game successful if the total time spent by others playing it exceeds the time spent designing it.
In other words, if I spend 100 hours making a game, I will consider it a success when one hundred people play it a average total of ten hours each, or when one hundred people play it an average of one hour each, or one thousand people play it six minutes each... And you begin to see why I design such short, casual games at a rapid pace. It's the most efficient way for me to achieve my golden ratio.

I'll also be paying a visit to Snakes n' Lattes, but I'm not sure when just yet. I'll keep you appraised and maybe you can join me there!
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.