Thousand Year Game Design Challenge - August Update

The Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge
Phew! It's a busy time over here. We're moving across the country tomorrow, so I have to do a one-day-early round up of entries so far. Here's everything we've received in August as of the 30th! If you enter your game on the 31st, expect to see it in one last round up after we arrive in Durham and have internet access again. But heck, there are plenty of games to check out in this post alone, so let's get to it!

Nomad by Kirk Mitchell
Kirk describes Nomad as "a game of topographical manipulation, balance and nonviolence, inspired by geological strata, Go and other difficult games." I certainly like the materials used in his prototype! Quite lovely.

ZoxSo by David Weinstock
David enters this two-player abstract he bills as a "new ancient" game. David home-produced a run of prototypes for this game, but I let it slide past the "not-previously-published" restriction since it was such a limited run.

Tricala by Myles Wallace
Text rules for Tricala can be found here. I haven't played enough of the mancala family to really figure out the deeper strategies, so I'm curious how we'll handle a version with additional dimensions and colors. Should be interesting!

Arena of Heroes by Jeremy Southard
This is one of the few straight-up card games in the challenge. Looks like this one was already in development (even has a Kickstarter page) and tossed into this Challenge much like a gladiator into the arena. Fitting!

Hand Covers Bruise by Andy Clarke and Grethe Mitchell
This two-person team enters a game based on bluffing and guessing of raised fingers. They say, "We have tried to devised the simplest possible game." I'm surprised there aren't more entries using hands and other elements of physicality, but hey there ya go. This one will definitely be easy to prep!

Muros by Enrique Sánchez
Enrique enters another two-player abstract, this one with lots and lots of bits n' pieces. Multi-colored stones, colors, and so forth. Curious how Megan and I are going to find enough props around the house to play, but it'll certainly be colorful! You can also find a Spanish version of the rules on his blog here.

Turning Points by Joseph Kisenwether
Well, Joseph sure knows how to make a game look like it's been played for a thousand years! Take a look at those sea shells on the beach. The rules are quite minimal, which gives me some hope for emergent complexity. You can also play an online demo on the link above.

Sygo by Christian Freeling
Christian describes Sygo thusly: "Sygo is a territory game based on the Symple mechanism and Go-like capture with an 'othelloanian' flavor. It is designed to be much faster than Go, and finite, and without the ambiguities regarding life, death, multiple ko's, four-bend-in-the-corner and the like, that make its ancestor such a great game to argue about." Example Game | Playable Online

Rule of Three by Chris Sakkas
This is one of the few non-board games entered into the challenge. So far, those outliers have been very interesting variations on storytelling motifs. Chris offers some insights into his thought process in this post on the Story-Games forum. There he also links to a longer document explaining the game and an example game, too. The only document we'll use to judge is the shorter rules doc linked above.

Hunters & Haunts by C. Casey Gardner
Casey didn't just design his game, he also elaborated on the world in which the game exists. Speaking of the game's murky 1,000-year history, he drops little hints of the world of 3091 and some major historical changes between now and then.

Kickbones by Frywire, LLC
Ah, a blissfully minimal rules set! "Kick Bones is a dice game for two players. Each person starts with 25 points. Your goal is to make your opponent's points go below one (1). When it's your turn, you roll the dice. If you don't roll doubles, then you pick one die to add to your points. With the other die, you kick your opponent, and they subtract this amount from their points. If you roll doubles, then you refer to the Specials Sheet to see what you have to do! It's then your opponent's turn to roll the dice."

Flume by Mark Steere
Mark easily takes the prize for the most boastful entry into the challenge. He says, "I haven't looked at the other games in the contest, but, that being said, I'm sure they will all be obsolete in well under 100 years. Never mind 1000. Flume is here to stay, as are many of my games, which I designed for the centuries."

Bluffing Style Chess by Tyler Tinsley
Tyler says, "I'm entering a chess variant because the games that will last 1000 years are the games that we were playing 1000 years ago, just changed a bit by time and taste. This game is more inline with modern values then chess, you win with lies and half truth instead of planing and reason. In 1000 years I imagine this game will still be played face to face with physical pieces, the pieces just have a strange way of changing shape and color to fit whatever game you want to play. That person your face to face with, maybe they are just a projection made from the same stuff as the pieces."

Playable Online
Catchup is an interesting stone placement game set on a hexagonal board. The quirky part of it is the conditions on which you can place one, two or three stones on your turn. It's playable against human opponents in realtime here, where the game is known as "Catchup 4.0"

Luis describes Yodd thusly: "It's a very elegant connection/territory game with no draws. You can place stones of both colors. The object is to end up with less groups than your opponent. At the end of a turn, there must be an odd number of groups on the board. This is a very intuitive and fluid game. The odd groups restriction spices up tactics in an unexpected way, without interfering with clarity. "

Neighbors by XiFeng
XiFeng has one of the few non-board game entries to the challenge. This one is a hand gesture game in the tradition of Rock-Paper-Scissors. He says, "When Daniel Solis announced the thousand-year game design contest, I saw in it an opportunity and a challenge to design a game that could capture a few of the things that make my favorite games special, in a form that is not encumbered by technology (like video games) or expensive equipment (like change ringing)."

GUCKOY by Mark A. Tiroff
Mark enters the challenge with this game full of colorful stones on a board made of concentric rings, rays, and nodes at the intersections. As with Muros, I suspect that this may be somewhat cumbersome game to construct on our own, but perhaps the actual play experience will justify the setup.

Millennium Saga by Brian Suda
Throughout the competition, I was curious when someone would enter a game that actually takes a thousand years go play. Here comes Brian with this game. "Millennium Saga is a long term game design to draft a poem describing and spanning 1,000 years of history. The framework is to guide the participants into creating a collective work to be publicly performed as a form of oral history." Here is further background information about the thought process in designing it and his inspiration.

Hexiles by Derek Hohls
Derek enters an abstract game comprised of custom shaped tiles with abstract patterns. These tiles form a new kind of deck of universal gaming props with which you can play many new games. Like C. Casey Gardner, Derek constructs a whole backstory behind the creation of these bits n' pieces. As with the other entries that require special props, we're eager to see if the play experience justifies the prep work.

Hot Wire by Phil Leduc
Phil says of Hot Wire: "It is a simple game the requires pencil, paper and a straightedge for neatness. As long as there are study halls and long car or plane rides this game will have a niche. The game is played on a 7 x 7 grid, players connect points of the grid and try not to be the last to draw a line."

Crowns by Sovereign Games
This is one of the few (possibly only) entries that comes from a group! Sovereign Games says of Crowns, "It requires 598 words to explain (plus 307 in this little intro), but allows for more unique games than there are atoms in the observable universe (email us if you’re interested in the math). It’s a kill-the-king type game with a historical battlefield theme, and the rules are quite robust for competitive play. We like to play sets of games, best 3-of-5, to make setup strategy more impactful."

Megan and Daniel on the Road

We're on the road for the next several days, on our way to Durham. Our internet might not be up yet for a few days after we arrive, so posts will be a little less frequent, too.

Re: The Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge, it's unfortunate timing that our move begins the same day as the last day of entries. But hey, that's how things happen. I'll post a round up of entries as of the 30th tonight and a later round up with the entries as of the 31st. That post will come as soon as we have internet access again.

Re: Game Design: I'll tinker with some stuff for For The Fleet as well as other games in the lab while we wait for internet access. There is no shortage of stuff to work on, so I suspect there will be plenty of new developments to discuss.

Wish us well on the long drive! We'll see you in North Carolina!

Retheming For the Fleet [In the Lab]

As BGG noted, one For the Fleet's biggest similarities to BSG is the premise. So we need a new theme. I don't want to move away from scifi, though. Folks were really creative with those ships!

A retheming should also explain the victory condition, which in For the Fleet is a little odd. You'd think the victory condition should simply be surviving for X rounds. But in For the Fleet, you're trying to earn X victory points before Y rounds. A subtle difference, but one that should be at least make sense with the new theme.

So here's a quick stab at a new pitch and new theme.

Pitch: It's Zap Brannigan's Catan with a dash of Han Solo. The kind of game where carelessly throw red-shirted henchmen into the harm's way. The kind of game where you might shout "Stop dying, you cowards!"

Theme: You're captains of a ragtag rebel fleet – a mish-mash of antique military ships, smuggling freighters and retrofitted pleasure yachts. You're on a supply run for the rebellion, pursued by imperial forces. The rebel fleet can warp ten times before being caught, so make the most of it!

Altered Terms: The Jump Deck is renamed the Warp Deck, to distinguish from BSG a bit. Instead of harvesting asteroid belts and uninhabited planets, you raiding the empire's ships, colonies and outposts.

Art: I see the art being a bit cartoony, like Futurama meets Team Fortress 2. Exaggerated features, puffed up chests, cunning winks, and evil goatees.

Notes For the Fleet [In the Lab]

A handful of spaceships survived a planetary disaster. Now, what remains of the fleet is on its way to Sanctuary, a fabled planet on the other side of the galaxy. Will they find enough resources along the way? Why do so many crewmen where red shirts? The brave captains will give it all FOR THE FLEET!

[UPDATE: This has been slightly rethemed, but rules are essentially the same.]

Each player draws one card from the Ship deck. Every player is a captain of that ship, with some crew at her disposal. On your card, you'll see details about your ship, how many crew you have, what it costs to jump to the next star system, and special abilities you can use.

Sample Ships
Name: Goliath
Description: Damaged battlecruiser, barely survived the catastrophe. Highly trained, but desperate crew.
Crew Aboard: 15
Jump Cost: 2 [Fuel] 1 [Food] 1 [Water]
Spend 2 [Tech]: Ignore 1 [Death].
Spend 1 crewmen: Create 2 [Food].
Spend 4 [Tech] 2 [Fuel]: Earn 1 Victory Point for the group.

Name: Bright Field
Description: Fragile science vessel with cracked hull. Crewed by AIs with valuable knowledge, but only one organic shell to share among them.
Jump Cost: 1 [Fuel]
Crew Aboard: 1
Spend 3 [Tech]: Target ship reduces jump cost by one for the rest of the game.
Spend 4 [Tech] 1 [Food]: Create 1 Crewman
Spend 6 [Tech]: Earn 1 Victory Point for the group.

Name: Quirk's Delight
Description: Pleasure yacht on a tour of distant space during the catastrophe. Not many useful skills, but plenty of manpower.
Jump Cost: 1 [Fuel] 1 [Food]
Crew Aboard: 20
Spend 6 [Food]: Earn 1 Victory Point for the group.

Using Abilities
Each ship has special abilities, mostly involving paying an amount of one resource to gain another. Unless otherwise noted, you can use these abilities at any time as long as you have the resources to spend.

How to Play
The game is divided into a series of Jumps – faster-than-light sprints across vast stretches of interstellar space. Each Jump lands the fleet in a different star system with new resources to harvest and dangers to overcome.

To start a jump, each captain spends a number of resources noted on their card under Jump Cost. Some ships are huge and require a lot of resources. Others are more spritely, requiring few or none! If this is the first jump of the game, you can ignore fuel cost. It's assumed you had enough fuel to make it at least this far.

After a successful jump, draw three new cards from the Jump deck and place them face up on the table. These are the noteworthy features of this region of space and, more importantly, what can be scavenged. Each card describes a region of space, how many crewmen are required for a harvesting mission, and lists possible resources to harvest.

If you do not have enough resources to jump, the group loses.

Sample Jump Cards
Name: Orion's Whip
Description: Unstable asteroid belt with explosive minerals.
Crew Required for Harvest: 4
1-4: [Fuel]
3-4: [Water]
5-6: [Death]

Name: Minerva
Description: Icy giant with a liquid sea full of algae.
Crew Required for Harvest: 7
1-4: [Water]
5: [Food]
6: [Death]

Name: Derelict Ship
Description: Drifting vessel. What's inside?
Crew Required for Harvest: 3
1: [Fuel]
2-3: [Tech]
4-6: [Death]

Each card requires enough crew to be harvested. So, each captain volunteers however many crewmen they would like to send to the mission. The total gathered crewmen must meet the minimum noted on the card. You can volunteer more than that minimum, of course, but once you've declared your crew, that's all you have for this particular harvest. For example, the players want to harvest from the Derelict Ship. This requires at least three crewmen, so you volunteer five crewmen for this mission. Sam volunteers three of his crewmen. Emma volunteers two. That brings you all to a total of ten crewmen for this mission.

For each crewman you volunteer, gather one die. For example, you volunteer five crewmen for this mission, so you gather five dice. Sam volunteers three crewmen, so he gathers three dice. Emma volunteers two, so she gathers two dice.

All players roll dice at the same time, but keep the individual dice groups separate from each other. Compare all the results to the card you're harvesting. Remove any [Death] from your dice supply. That represents one crewman you lost during the mission. From the dice that remain, collect one resource token as noted from the card. So, in the Derelict Ship, if you rolled 1 1 1 3 6, you would lose one crewman, but collect 3 [Fuel] tokens and 1 [Tech] token. Sam rolled 1 6 6, meaning he loses two crew and only collects 1 [Fuel]. Emma was even more unfortunate, rolling 6 6, meaning she has no more crewmen in this harvesting mission. Fortunately, she still has some aboard her ship, so the game is not entirely lost.

All players may re-roll remaining dice as many times as they like. Collect more resources with each re-roll. But beware, each re-roll risks the remaining crewmen in the process. You cannot add more crewmen to re-rolls. So, continuing the example from the previous paragraph, you now have five dice left. You roll again and get 2 2 3 3 6. You lose one more crewman, but collect 4 [Tech] tokens. Sam rolled 6, meaning has no more crewmen in this harvesting mission. Fortunately, he still has some aboard his ship. Emma cannot re-roll, because she lost her crew during the last roll.

If the number of living crew in this harvest falls below the minimum required, this is a BUST. The whole harvest is lost and no player can collect any tokens from this card. So consider whether it's worth the risk to push your luck. For example, you decide to re-roll against the Derelict Ship again. You only have four dice left. You roll 1 2 6 6. That means you lose two more crewmen, reducing the total number of living crew below the minimum required to harvest. That means you, Sam and Emma lose all the tokens you all harvested from the derelict ship.

Once a harvest is complete, flip over that card so it is face down. It cannot be harvested again.

The group can continue harvesting any of the other cards.

Sharing Resources
After harvesting, players may exchange resources with each other in any amount. There will likely be some negotiation here, as some players will want to keep resources for their own use while others would need them for bare necessities. Barter, deal and negotiate as best you can. Remember, you're all in this together.

End of the Turn
If the group would rather not harvest any more cards or if there are no more available cards to harvest, then continue to the next jump.

Goal of Play
The goal is for the whole group to reach 10 victory points before you reach ten jumps.

Otherwise, if you end the tenth turn without enough victory points, the whole group loses. The whole group may also lose if any player cannot pay her ship's jump cost to make it to the next turn. The whole group also loses if any player loses all her crew.

This game has drifted from a social deduction game to one of resource management and ethical dilemmas. I'm okay with that, actually. I like the tension of deciding whether to keep resources for your own benefit or for the benefit of the fleet.

Instead of hacking Don Eskridge's the Resistance, I'm mixing up a little Catan Dice Game with Zombie Dice and a teeny bit of Pandemic.

There is still plenty to tinker with, though. What types of ships ought to be included, what types of resources ought to be available, and what space stuff ought to be in the jump deck.

» Photo: CC BY-NC-ND roBurky

My Life for the Fleet! [In the Lab]

Some loose notes on a hack of Don Eskridge's The Resistance, a most excellent variant of traditional Werewolf/Mafia games.

My Life for the Fleet!
Players are captains of ships that barely escaped a planet-wide hostile alien attack. The only sanctuary is a fabled planet on the other side of the galaxy. The fleet is on its way there, but must collect what few supplies they can along the way. Some of the crew, even the captains themselves, are secretly covert operatives for the alien menace.

The basic structure of Resistance remains the same. A series of missions, each requiring different subset of players to be team members pending majority approval, then execution of the mission in which spies can sabotage the whole thing.

The twist is that each mission asks players to volunteer a certain number of crewmen for each mission. Each mission requires a certain number and any captain can offer as many crewmen as they wish. Each mission has its rewards, including essential supplies to last the fleet until they reach sanctuary.

Each mission also has unexpected costs, that get worse if the spies sabotage the mission. A mission can still succeed despite the costs, if the captains are willing to sacrifice more crewmen.

So this is can go a lot of ways. It could be almost a co-operative game, in the spirit of Forbidden Island, where the captains need certain artifacts to chart the course to sanctuary. It could be like Catan, where collecting certain resources allows you to buy gear that improves the chances of a future mission's success. Heck, each player could be the captain of a different kind of ship, each providing different powers to the rest of the group.

Now, I haven't played the BSG board game, but I know there is a strong "Are you a Cylon?" element in it. If this loose idea is too close to that game, I'll toss it in the heap for later mining. If not, I can pursue this for further development next year. Your thoughts?

A little gift for my thousandth Twitter follower

Last week I noticed I was inching ever closer to a thousand Twitter followers. It thought, "Hey, I should do something nice for Mr. or Ms. 1,000." Turns out it was Mr. Matt Bogen who sent my count over two milliwheatons! As thanks, I'm sending him signed copies of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple and Happy Birthday, Robot!

» @MattBogen

The Blinking Game

The Blinking Game by Kathleen Shannon and Daniel Solis.

Here's a new game that my friend Kathleen taught me a while back. Because I couldn't help myself, I hacked it a bit to add some points and a simple endgame mechanic. See the video above for a demonstration. The rules are below!

Getting Started
You and your opponent face each other. A third player will sit aside to be the timekeeper. You and your opponent will take turns being chased and being the chaser. The game begins with you and your opponent keeping your eyes closed. To begin, the timekeeper repeats the phrase "Blinking Game" over and over again at a steady, consistent rhythm. Yes, it is unnerving.

How to Play
You and your opponent will open your eyes at random intervals. When you open your eyes, you must keep them open long enough for the timekeeper to say "Blinking Game" once.

When you are being chased, the object of the game is to open your eyes as many times as you can before being caught. Each time you open your eyes without being caught, you earn one point. It's easiest to keep track of your points with your fingers.

If the chaser's eyes are open at the same time yours are, you are caught. After you're caught, switch roles with your opponent so that you are now the chaser and she is being chased.

Whoever reaches five points without being caught wins the game.

Ten Days Left to Enter the Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge

The Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge


Only a Few Days Left to Enter Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge
Ambitious Contest Challenges Designers to Create Games to Last Lifetimes

On New Year's Eve 2010, game designer Daniel Solis issued a challenge to the entire game community: Design a game that people will still play in the year 3011. And he offered $1,000 of his own money, just to make it interesting.

Since then, the Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge attracted new game designers from all over the world, as well as industry stalwarts Greg Stolze and James Ernest.

"I entered the contest because I liked the idea of designing games that aren't intended for sale." Ernest said. "We tend to identify game design as product design, but they are really two disciplines. Unfortunately, if it can't be sold, it typically never gets made. So this was a great chance to do that."

The Challenge has also drawn praise from games scholar and Gameful co-founder Jane McGonigal. She tweeted it "gets people designing beautiful ambitious games." Even the Long Now Foundation, builders of the epic Ten-Thousand-Year Clock, helped spread the word to their longevity-minded community.

Now there are only ten days left for game designers to submit their creations to the Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge. This contest awards $1,000 to the creator of a game that will still be played in a thousand years. The deadline for entries is August 31st.

Daniel Solis is an award-winning game designer of Happy Birthday, Robot! and Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, both co-operative storytelling games directed at young players. By day, he is Associate Creative Director at Third Degree Advertising.

SageFight Goes International!

Oscar Iglesias of Spain organized a few rounds of SageFight wearing Hawaiian grass skirts. Yes, this actually happened. Stick around to the end of the playlist to see a new generation trained in the ancient, months-old art of SageFight. So cute.

» Via Psitopía and Francisco Castillo

The No-No's of Game Design [Seminar]

The No-Nos of Game Design by Daniel A Solis

Thanks to Jason Pitre of Genesis of Legend Publishing, we have a recording of another GenCon 2011 seminar: The No-No's of Game Design. I had no idea what to expect with this panel, but it was a blast. A great smattering of little tips here and there for aspiring game designers. This panel includes Stan!, Jeff Neil Bellinger, Matt Forbeck and yours truly.

» Via Genesis of Legend Publishing

Patronage and Kickstarter: How to Get Paid Up Front [Seminar]

Patronage and Kickstarter: How to Get Paid Up Front by Daniel A Solis
Thanks to Kobold Quarterly and Neostrider, here's the recording of the Kickstarter and Patronage panel from GenCon 2011. Listen to the monsters of game-related Kickstarter projects answer audience questions about crowdfunding, public design, and the new trust-economy. The participants are Wolfgang Baur, Greg Stolze, Gary M. Sarli, and yours truly.

» Via Kobold Quarterly's Wolfgang Baur

10 Tips for a Kickstarter Video for a Game Project

Here is some general advice I've figured out while running Kickstarter campaigns for Happy Birthday, Robot! and Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. Bear in mind that this is focused just on the Kickstarter video for a game-related project, though a lot of the advice is broadly applicable, too.

1. Prepare well.
Your video shouldn't look like you recorded it in one take and posted it without any further thought. Taking the care to make a good video shows that you value your backers' time and attention. First and foremost, Know your audience. When you write, plan and outline, throughout it all you should have a strong sense of who your audience is for this video and for the project as a whole. Consider whether this audience prefers funny content, dramatic content, straightforward content or what.

2. Outline your video for time.
Keep the video under 90sec. Spend 30sec as a short ad for what your project will produce. In other words, a TV ad for your game. The following 60sec is spent talking about the Kickstarter campaign itself. You can go longer than 90sec, but you should have a really compelling reason, like making a trailer or a funny skit.

3. Write a script and know your stuff.
Ideally, you don't want to memorize, you want to internalize. You want to know your project and your cause so well that you can speak to it knowledgeably and comfortably.

4. Plan a storyboard.
Storyboarding and scriptwriting are all massive skills on their own, beyond the scope of this post. However, you should at least plan a simple sequence of visuals that will be in your video. No need to be a master artist here, especially if you're working on your own. Just know what will be on-screen, in what order.

5. Answer the right questions.
Questions you should answer: Who are you? What are you doing? What's in it for me? What's in it for others? Anyone noteworthy involved with your project? What will I get at extra pledge levels? What else is in it for me? Any past successful projects? Questions you should not answer: How is each penny spent? What are the specific production hurdles? What is your personal history? (Unless it's relevant.) Remember that you have other channels available for more detailed content. Keep the minutiae to the project description or updates.

6. Don't make a "talking head" video unless...
You are standing and/or moving. You are relevantly dressed. You are in front of a relevant background. You are one of several talking heads (possibly talking to each other). You keep any continuous shots under 10sec. A simple way to make a good talking head video is to introduce a speaker on-screen, then cut to other relevant video content while the voiceover continues.

7. Save the demos for later.
It's tempting to include a demo of your game in the main video, but these often take a long time to properly demonstrate. Save that content for video updates as the campaign progresses. You want to"express," not "explain." By all means, you can show your game being played, especially if you can show people having fun playing it. You want to entice curiosity, not satisfy curiosity.

8. Post video updates.
Video updates are great and can be less production-intensive than the homepage video. In my case, I posted weekly 30sec video updates about the project's status, new production milestones and new unlocked pledge levels. While I refrained from being a talking head in my main video, I did allow that luxury in the weekly video updates. However, these updates were heavily edited to be less than 30sec. (Aside: When Amelia Raley dedicated fun, surreal video performances to high-level backers. Great way to create new content during the campaign and encourage further support.)

9. Choose the right music.
Find music that is relevant to your project's theme and make sure you have permission to use it. What qualifies as the right music is highly subjective, so this is where it pays to know your audience well. When you mix the music with your video, make sure it doesn't interfere with any voiceovers or dialogue.

10. Speak clearly.
You don't need a pro-quality microphone, but make sure you at least enunciate clearly, speak in a reasonable pace and have as much quiet in the background as possible. This saves you trouble when mixing it with video later. Look up some advise from podcasters.

When I create a Kickstarter video, my goal is to let a potential backer know they're a potential backer. We've had some monumental advances in video production levels since I ran my last campaign, but don't be intimidated. The point is to do the best you can with the resources you have. The one resource you have a lot of is time. Take the time to consider and plan all of these details for your video before you launch. That video will be your hero during your whole campaign.

» Kickstarter's Own Advice for Video Production
» Photo: CC-BY-NC-SA Nathan Gibbs

New Reviews and Actual Play for Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple

Reviews for Do are flooding in since GenCon.

MTV Geek: Lessons in Compassion and Mischief from The Flying Temple
"I soon discovered was something far more inspired than I could have possibly guessed... These letters are a really clever way to quickly pull characters into the story, with several example letters included... The system for Do is astoundingly elegant."

Tabletop Manifesto: Whale Tales to be told
"I'm just delighted to have bought a print copy. My bibliophile urges are satisfied. This is a gorgeous artefact."

Nick Bate
"The art totally captures the happily meddlesome whimsy that I love so much about this game. It's just an absolute joy to flip through... The premise of Do just makes me want to hug it... Underneath all of this loveliness, I think it's fair to say that Do is actually a really great tool for teaching people about writing stories."

[UPDATE: New review from Flames Rising!
"I like this setting; furthermore, I like the pilgrims that players take. These are heroes with enough trouble of their own to keep them busy, not to mention the troubles of the people they seek to help."]

And now for some actual play!

Dave City
"So example time: Yellow Clock, on my first turn, helped Melanie, the little girl living on the little planet inside the whale, get her house ready for the journey out of the whale. But, the troublemakers decided, my cheerful presence put her in such a good mood that she went off to play, and I ended up following her around picking up after her. Silly, yes, but sweet, I think, which is what I was looking for from Do."

The Space Turtle: Vomiting Whales and Poor, Poor Kitties
"We had a great time... lots of setting to paint the worlds and skies the pilgrims play in, and explains each bit of the game fantastically. The art is top notch, as well."

Happy Birthday, Robot!'s Ennie Awards and Indie RPG Awards

Happy Birthday, Robot! was up for several awards at GenCon 2011.

First up, HBR didn't win any of the categories in which it was nominated – but an awesome thing happened instead. Every time HBR was nominated, the presenters would each make a complimentary comment about the game. Heck, even the winner of Best Game took the time in his speech to talk about how much he wanted HBR to win. I also got some personal compliments from the host, so that was even more awesome.

HBR had a very strong showing at the Indie RPG Awards, winning second-place in a number of categories. Here is the placement and judges' commentary from each category.

Indie Game of the Year: First Runner Up with 21 points
"Zagging when everything else zigs. I love that I'm seeing games aimed as intro games--and for youngins--that are less crunchy and more Narrativist. I've long wondered what the RPG world would look like if the jumping off point had been, say, fanfic rather than wargames."

Best Support: First Runner Up with 23 points
"I've been hearing people talking about this game since it came out."

Best Production: First Runner Up with 40 points
"Saul Bass-flavored goodness! Beautiful. The whole package is a glorious presentation for children and adults alike. A beautiful book - the art, layout, and instructional sequences are all top notch. This raises the bar for everyone else. Happy Birthday, Robot! has outstanding production values. So slickly done. A delightfully cheerful burst of colour and fun in a games marketplace saturated with the dull and the obvious. A beautiful, happy book."

So that's HBR's awards haul this year! Our happy robot was up against some big dogs like Pathfinder, Dresden Files, Freemarket, and Apocalypse World. I'm pleased as punch about how much of an impact the game's made so far. Well done, Robot!

Obsidian Portal's Expeditious Interview

Expeditious Interview - Daniel Solis from Obsidian Portal on Vimeo.

Right after a seminar, the dudes from Obsidian Portal did an expeditious video interview. Why did I choose to do the interview under harsh convention lighting instead of moving over to the giant bay window just a few feet away? Ah well. Watch as I decide who would win in a fight between Harry Potter and Optimus Prime.

Videos of SageFight at GenCon 2011

Above is a playlist of 9 separate SageFight videos recorded at GenCon 2011. Let the beauty and rhythm wash over you. Observe the subtle grace of an ancient tradition. Respect. Trust. SageFight!

» Rules of Sagefight
» Official SageFight Site

Thank you for an undeservedly amazing GenCon.

The past four days are a blur of seminars run, games played, hands shaken, sagefights fought, autographs signed, drinks imbibed, strangers befriended and friends bonded. To everyone who I met and talked to, especially the crowd who gathered on Saturday night, it was an honor to be in your company.

Actual Play of Happy Birthday, Robot! from Google+

Awesome! Alexander Williams ran a marathon three-session run of Happy Birthday, Robot! at the Tower. (You may recall his last report from this post.) This time, he played with a group that was almost entirely kids and it ended up being the craziest, weirdest story yet.

Mikael Dahl posted this actual play report from playing Happy Birthday, Robot!

Happy Birthday, Robot!
Robot, asleep, was dreaming of cogs and gears - but slept through the alarm!
Robot was late for the party, and everyone but Sally was already leaving the place.
Sally ran to Robot's room, trying to save the party, but tripped.
The crash only just woke Robot up.
Sally got off the floor and sat up, shouting "Robot!"
Together, they found the party and called their friends back, but the cake was a lie!
Robot gasped in surprise and said "Sally, let's elope".
"Yes", replied Sally, and held Robot close; "but first you should open your present".
Robot danced and cheered and quickly, carefully, unwrapped Sally's secret gift but then he dropped it!
The golden spanner hit Sally's foot, but she quickly recovered and they left together laughing.
Sally and Robot eloped, but they invited all their friends anyway.
And they lived happily ever after.
The End!

Awww. I love a nice wedding.

Actual Play of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple

As more of the Kickstarter backers get their books, we're hearing a strong uptick in reviews and actual play reports. Everything has been positive, from the layout, to the tone, to the game itself. Here's a sampling of the radio chatter.

Cheryl played Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple with her four-year-old Lila and Lila's imaginary friend Salamander. A little younger than the target audience, but still successful! Clever four-year-old. Read on.

Rick Neal played Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple with his regular gaming group. Based on that experience, he observed: "Fiasco is for actors, Do is for writers." I think of both games as cousins. Both focus on structured, procedural play to create stories with a distinct theme. Different themes, thus different structures, but the game design philosophy is the same. But heck, I'm just pleased as punch to hear the comparison.

And last but not least, Doyce Testerman has this very sweet tale of visiting his family in South Dakota and getting them to play Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple together. Here's what happens when a gamer, his wife, his sister, his sister's 12-year-old son, and his mom become pilgrims.

UPDATE: Even more actual play! This time from Evan, who says "Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple opens the way to fun for the whole family."
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.