Several Ongoing Pitch Tag Threads on Google+

Seems like Pitch Tag has really taken off on Google Plus! Here are some ongoing threads.

» Jared Axelrod
» Dev Purkayastha
» Brett Myers

I can already see the challenge of playing Pitch Tag on this channel, though. As the thread ages, it draws fewer new participants to add new life. Eventually the thread fades when the current participants burn out. Granted, that'll happen regardless of the channel, but it seems to happen faster on +.

5 Graphic Design and Typography Tips for your Card Game

Chris Farrell of Illuminating Games just wrote a thorough critique of card games setting their body text to be so small that they cannot be read at arm's length, let alone across the table. Here's an excerpt, but the whole thing is worth a read for any would-be card game designers out there. (Myself included.)

Break out your copy of the base set of Dominion, and look at the Chapel. This has a text box roughly 3.5cm by 4.5cm. It's got a single line of text. That line of text is 1 (one) millimeter high. 1mm! For me, it's only clearly readable at half an arm's length even in the bright light of day. (...) Compare this to a more sane game like Glory to Rome, where the font size is 2-3 times as large (text is 2mm high, keywords 3mm and usually highlighted). I can generally read Glory to Rome cards across the table, and can certainly see the important keywords. To heap insult upon injury, not only does Glory to Rome have far more legible text than Dominion it also has larger art. San Juan also thankfully starts at 2mm, although it could still easily be larger with no loss of aesthetics.

Here are some tips for designers who want to stay on Chris' good side.

1: If it can be said in fewer words, say it in fewer words.
Alright, before we get into any matters of layout, the first thing you have to do is look at how well you're using your text. Survey all the cards in your game and set a benchmark for the amount of text acceptable on any card. I recommend no more than two or three lines. Whenever I come across a card with more text than that, I tend to just ignore it. There are probably other, easier-to-understand cards available elsewhere and I'd rather get to play than puzzle over a miniature wikipedia article.

2: If it's said repeatedly, say it in symbols.
Depending on the kind of game you're making, you'll probably have certain phrases that come up frequently. Instead of repeating yourself and wasting valuable text real estate, just make a symbol that stands in for that piece of text.

"Deal two damage to any monster. Deal an extra damage to any Fire-based monsters." can be replaced with [SWORD] [SWORD] (+[SWORD] vs. [FIRE]).

"Draw two cards. Keep one and discard the other." can be replaced with [CARD with an X] [CARD with a CHECKMARK]. There is always a danger in overcoding your visual language, but if executed well, it'll make your game more accessible and playable.

3: Set the right style for the context.
The first thing young designers learn is that 12pt Times New Roman is the Devil. Young designers then overcompensate for years, insisting on 8pt regardless of context. We all have to get over that eventually and learn that there is no one golden rule that fits all contexts. A little card is different from a game board is different from a rulebook.

Here's a simple rule of thumb, though. Up close, set your body text at 10-12pt. Arm's length, 12-16pt. Across the table, 24pt. Always make your leading at least 1.5x the text size. And always, always choose a classic, legible font without any flourishes. I personally recommend Trade Gothic or Frutiger, but both have a distinctly modern feel that might not jive with your game's theme. You might be happier with Garamond or Caslon.

And lastly, if you simply must have flavor text, it's okay for that to be 8pt. It's an easter egg, not critical to actual gameplay.

4: Choose the right background.
Most card games have consistent block backgrounds in which you'll find the rules text, flavor text and any other important words. For the sake of efficient production, that background block is kept to the same size, regardless of its contents. That means cards with little text may have lots of unused space, as Chris notes in his critique.

That being the case, I highly recommend first taking steps 1 and 2 to make sure you're using text as efficiently as possible. With that base established, set your background block to fit your text. You can do this manually card-by-card, but that's a bit of a pain. Try setting a thick stroke around your body text style so your text effectively creates its own background.

Alternately, you can use a 0-distance, high-spread drop shadow. Either way, the background should be high contrast with very little texture or pattern that would interfere with the text.

5: Choose the right art.
And last but not least, the remaining 80% of card real estate is probably taken up with some gorgeous art, right? Just make sure the art actually communicates what is said in the text. In the chaos of the gaming table, the text "Firehose: Deal 7 damage to fire-based monsters" might get covered up by some other cards or a nacho or something. But if your art actually shows a bunch of fire elementals getting fizzled out by a firehouse, the message is still effectively communicated.

And that's that! Some simple steps you can take to keep Chris from complaining about *your* card game. Personally, I like the design of the cards in King of Tokyo. The titles are all custom designed and there's plenty of room for the awesome, illustrative art. The actual body copy is still a wordy on some cards and could afford to be larger, but for the most part KoT gets card design right.

"Ideas are like Stars..." T-shirts and Outerwear on Sale!

"Ideas are like stars – Numerous and dazzling, but it takes a lot of work to confirm life near one."

That got retweeted a lot yesterday. It's been a while since I made a new t-shirt and this spread fast enough that I decided to whip up a quick little design to put on some cafepress stuff. It's now available on t-shirts and outerwear in a variety of colors, sizes, and styles for men and women.

» "Ideas are like Stars..." Shirts and Apparel

More shirts are available, too!

Cutting libraries in a recession is like cutting hospitals in a plague. - Eleanor CrumblehulmeMy favorite game console is a table and chairs.SageFight T-Shirt

Planning the Utara Kickstarter Pledge Levels and Rewards

Though it is many, many months away, I can't help but look ahead to the next Kickstarter project: Utara. That image above is the snazzy new branding. The big experiment this time is the backer-generated map of Utara. You've heard me talk about the power of naming rights already. I'm stepping that up a bit this time around. Now, backers can create the world of Utara.

Above is a blueprint for Utara's map. It's a grid divided into about 2400 cells, each large enough for a single Utara die. Backers of certain levels will create and name islands, archipelagos, major landmasses, and greater seas. Here's a loose outline...

Goal: $2000 — That covers a minimum order of 2000 dice from the manufacturer with the same specs as the Writer's Dice. I've had some requests for Utara dice to be a more traditional ivory with black inlay design. I'll look into that, but it'll be more expensive per-unit and raise the minimum goal.

30 Days — This game is a pretty major project for a small outfit like mine. I want to give this campaign a good long time to gestate.

At these basic tiers, I'm following the same buy-in structure as the Writer's Dice campaign, with some bulk discounts for large orders. You can also see how the naming rights grow with each level. I would love to offer a printed game board for the $50 tier and beyond, but I'll have to check on the pricing for production and shipping on that.

$5: Lander – You get one Utara die. Roll it and find your way. All backers also get a printable PDF map of Utara. All backers also get credit and thanks in the official rules doc. [International orders add $1 shipping.]

$10: Docker – You get two Utara dice. One for you and your mate to play Utara Lite. You also create and name a small island on the map of Utara. [International orders add $1 shipping.]

$25: Islander – You get six Utara dice. That's one player's full Utara set! You also create and name a big island on the map of Utara. [International orders add $2 shipping.]

$50: Sailor – You get twelve Utara dice. That's a two-player Utara set! You also name an archipelago on the map of Utara. [International orders add $3 shipping.]

At these elite tiers, I'm offering Dragon Chow dice bags, as I did during the campaign for Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. The big new thing is the handmade playmat, though. The design for that playmat is something like this, but ideally with a raised lip to keep the dice from rolling too far.

$100: Seafarer (5 Available) – You get twenty-five Utara dice. That's a four-player Utara set! You also name a sea on the map of Utara. You also get a 36" wide flat fabric map of Utara. You also get an exclusive Dragon Chow Dice Bag. [International orders add $6 shipping.]

$250: Mapper (3 Available) – You get twenty-five Utara dice. That's a four-player Utara set! Your name is listed in the center of the map as a cartographer. You get an exclusive Dragon Chow Dice Bag. You also get an exclusive handmade 36" wide drawstring playmat with the map of Utara printed on the inner lining. The whole kit comes in a polished wooden box. [International orders add $20 shipping.]

$500: Traveler (1 Available) – You get twenty-five Utara dice. That's a four-player Utara set! You name the four cardinal wind-spirits along the edge of the map. You get an exclusive Dragon Chow Dice Bag. You also get an exclusive handmade 36" wide drawstring playmat with the map of Utara printed on the inner lining. The whole kit comes in a polished wooden box. [International orders add $20 shipping.]

$1000: Ruler (1 Available) – You get twenty-five Utara dice. That's a four-player Utara set! You are listed in the center of the map as ruler of all the islands of Utara. You get an exclusive Dragon Chow Dice Bag. You also get an exclusive handmade 36" wide drawstring playmat with the map of Utara printed on the inner lining. The whole kit comes in a polished wooden box. All players of Utara must greet you with a bow and a courteous "Your Majesty." [International orders add $20 shipping.]

So that's the rough plan so far. Any campaign is still many months away, but it's good to plan far in advance. As I've learned with the Writer's Dice campaign, fulfillment can take a lot longer than you expect.

Pitch Tag

This is a creativity game for two or more players inspired by word association exercises and writer jam sessions. You can play this game over any communication medium, including in-person, but I find it works best over email, forum or comment.

Stuff You Need:
2 or more players
If face-to-face, a pencil and paper.
If online, any email, forum or shared document.

Setup: Players agree on what they'll be pitching, whether it be story ideas, character ideas, plots, or inventions. Fred Hicks and I like to use Pitch Tag to generate ideas for new games.

Step 1: Come up with a title. When Fred and I play, we'll assume these will be the title of a new game.

Step 2: The next player pitches a thing with that title. When Fred and I play, we pitch games. We can describe the game as deeply as we prefer, whether it's mechanics, story, or influences. The point is to just generate ideas rapidly.

Step 3 and on...: That player then tosses back another title to the first player. Play continues in this way, with each player pitching games and then challenging the next player with a new title. Keep playing as long as you like. Here's an example of a Pitch Tag session between Fred Hicks and I as we generate new ideas for games.


Small Wages

Small Wages
An InSpectres hack. Budget mercenaries for hire. Consistently win contracts because they're the lowest bidder, but are woefully inadequate for any mission. Nevertheless, they manage to succeed despite themselves. Game mechanics involve bidding to win contracts, but then trying not to go overbudget due to property damages, casualties, etc.

Your next challenge: Christmas Bonus

Christmas Bonus
Board game. Players take on the roles of elves in Santa's sweat/workshop, engaging in a festive, holiday-themed cutthroat corporate melodrama in order to be the top elf and win the most coveted prize of all, the Christmas Bonus: a day off. Players can win by building the most toys, building the most complicated toy, and other ways besides; but watch out for the time-suck that is Reindeer Stable Duty -- and the reversals your coworkers will try to heap on you as they climb to victory. In this game of Christmas mayhem, it's all naughty -- no nice!

Your next challenge: There's No Time

There's No Time
An RPG adaptation of the film In Time. Players are rebels against a nigh-immortal oligarchy directly control the economy of citizens' expected lifespans. The rebels must coordinate and plan as best they can to use the time they have available. As mortality ticks away, there is the looming temptation to turn on each other for just a few more moments of life.

Your next challenge: Rafters

In the world of competitive raft-racing, it's not just about finishing first -- it's about finishing at all! A board game that follows the rough-and-tumble white-water rapids race-course through a canyon, each team is played by two or more players and must coordinate their actions (without communicating) to steer their rafts into the fastest, clearest currents to make it through the course and past the finish line at Camp Kanook. But watch out for the random hazard deck, which can drop trees, rocks, and waterfalls into your path with little warning!

Your next challenge: Gift Horse

[Hot damn. I can definitely design that as a streamlined, all-ages adaptation of Space Hulk Death Angel.]

Gift Horse
An Apples to Apples reskin. The big annual farm festival is coming soon. The horses trot around the ranch trying to figure out what to give all the other farm animals. Each player takes turns being a farm animal while the others take the roles of horses. The farm animal reveals an adjective card that describes the kind of gifts he wants (sweet, healthy, fun, etc.) The horses each have a hand of gift cards (carrots, sugar, toys, etc.) and secretly give one to the farm animal. The farm animal shuffles the gifts, reveals them and chooses one as his favorite. The horse whose gift was chosen gets the adjective card. The first horse to get five adjective cards wins.

Your next challenge: Jasmine Tea

Jasmine Tea
A card game. Jasmine Tea is the name of the owner of a detective agency/fortune-teller business. You play her employees; clients come in, and you opt either to read their tea leaves or solve their case (all clients are looking for both). This divides the players into two teams (always two; you can't all do just one thing). Each team must work together to solve the mystery (match a set of symbols on the customer card from cards in their hands) or tell the fortune (reveal what cards the customer card is hiding underneath). Points scored are divided up among team members. The first to score ten points becomes employee of the month!

Your next challenge: OMG WTF BBQ

Cooking competition card game. It's time for the craziest barbecue competition ever! You and the other players compete to grill up the craziest meats for hordes of picky eaters. Choose from a wide variety of meats and put together your best plate. Everything from beef to buffalo, frog legs to chicken gizzards. If it comes from an animal, it's going on a plate at the OMG WTF BBQ!

Your next challenge: Baba Yoga

Baba Yoga
Baba Yoga is the twisted game of knotty witches. Each player has a set of cards showing various witch body parts contorted into odd positions -- positions achievable only by magic! Each round, a new position card is revealed and the race is on to put your cards together so that your witch matches the picture on the position card. Can you find the right contorted configuration in time? The quickest witch-twister wins!

Your next challenge: Are You My Boo?

Are You My Boo?
You're a ghost trying to scare away the tenants from a room of a haunted hotel. Build up the right combination of scary phenomena and chase away as many tenants as you can. Careful! Some phenomena actually attract thrill-seeking tenants! This is a card-and-dice game. The dice have different scary symbols on them. Each card depicts a different tenant and the things that scare or attract them. Play begins with each player having five tenants in front of them. Tenants move to the left or right each turn, depending on dice rolls. Players try to be the first to clear their room of all tenants.

Your next challenge: Peace Against Force

Peace Against Force
A cooperative team-building game where the players try to overthrow a corrupt, militant regime through peaceful protest and activism. Plays a bit like Shadows Over Camelot: the "clock" moves forward inexorably, and your activism can't succeed in garnering the necessary media attention and/or sociopolitical change on every front, but if you pick your "battles" carefully, you can prevail. Instead of a "traitor", you instead have a temptation: the "radical activism" deck -- gets you cheap-at-first boosts on various fronts, but runs the risk of legal entanglements, compromised ideals, and more.

Your next challenge: So Much For That!

So Much For That!
Card game about building a road system. Each card has a road that either bends, branches, ends or goes in a straight line. Some roads have special features like inns, homes or shops. Players try to complete the most valuable roads and claim points. Cards can be played in an organic arrangement, not necessarily in a grid, so long as the road grows. As roads grow, you might get special sets of features on that road, like two inns or four shops. Roads with two- three- or four-of-a-kind are worth a lot of points to whoever can complete it. Any other feature on that road reduces its value. So, if you have four inns on a road and then place a shop there, the value of that road only counts as if you had three inns. In this way, you often have situations where you just say "So Much For That!" when a high-value road suddenly tanks. [Phew! That was a stretch.]

Your next challenge: The Double-Clicks

The Double-Clicks
A family game. The Double-Clicks (originally Don Double and Cathy Clicks before their marriage, now plus kids Mouse and Pointer) are a family of browsers with a lot of shopping needs for the holidays and not a lot of time! Each round the family members draw a random set of shopping list items and must navigate the World Wide Web (represented as a board) to get it all ordered so it will be delivered in time for festivus. If you use too many moves to hit all your shopping goals, those gifts show up late, deducting points from your score. Who will be the season's swiftest shopper?

Your next challenge: Culture Shock

Culture Shock
Board game, looks like a giant petri dish. Components are assorted blob tokens in a variety of colors. Players try to form a line of their blobs from one edge of the petri dish to the other. If blobs of two colors ever come in contact, they get shocked and any contiguous groups are removed from the board. Players only score points for lines of blobs touching two sides of the petri dish. Players score one point for every blob in that contiguous group. That group is now shock-proof, so other blob tokens can now be placed on top of it without harm. That also means the group of tokens is out of play for the remainder of the game.

Your next challenge: Cloud City Urada

Cloud City Urada
Cloud City Urada! Home to untold riches and hidden terrors. Each player takes on the role of a sky-pirate captain with a small fleet on the outskirts of Urada. You must evade your competitors (and the city's automated patrols) while sending scavenger parties into the city to return with plunder -- if they manage to return at all. Don't run out of crew, and don't get blown out of the sky, and you just might make it home to live like a king! Styled like an anime-that-never-was, of course.

Your next challenge: Designer Drug

Designer Drug
A card-drafting game a la 7 Wonders. Cards have a different ingredient on each one with indicated uses and possible side effects. Chemists compete to file new drug patents to win government contract. Each contract has a typographic themed code name. Contract: Helvetica asks you to create a drug that treats symptoms X, Y, Z without causing side effects A, B, C. Contract: Minion must treat symptoms J, K, L without causing side effects D, E, G. Several contracts are available at any one time. File a simple patent and claim an easy contract right away or try to build up a super-drug that covers multiple contracts at once.

Your next challenge: In Her Majesty's Psychic Service

In Her Majesty's Psychic Service
A tight, focused-scenario, plays in a couple hours story-game a la Fiasco. Her Majesty has only one psychic spy in her service. Triple Naught. It's 000's job to ferret out the thought crime, the conspiratorial intent, the absence of respect, and exert a modicum of corrective pressure to the situation. But to do this, 000 has to get close to the problem. Go deep. Go dark. Triple Naught is so secret, even 000 doesn't know who he -- or she -- is. And there we have our scenario: a conspiracy, infiltrated by 000. And our question: who's the crown's inside man? It won't come out until the endgame, when every thought is compromised, when the knives are out...

Your next challenge: Good Gravy


As of this post, this particular session is still ongoing. As you can see, it takes you in unexpected directions and forces you to create in an unfamiliar space. I can easily pull two or three games out of this short session alone, which will occupy my design schedule for a month or two. It's a great exercise.

Do: The Book of Letters - In Print for a Limited Time!

We have a few printed editions of Do: The Book of Letters leftover from the original Kickstarter drive. Previously only available to backers, this first expansion for Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple is 50+ pages bursting with new letters, new secrets of the universe and tips on writing your own letters to the temple. Only available from Evil Hat's webstore. Also features art from Liz Radtke and Amy Houser. Get 'em while they last!

» Do: The Book of Letters [Print+PDF Bundle]

Writer's Dice IOU Holiday Card

Many thanks to Chris Schreiber for offering this suggestion. For any backers who wanted to gift Writer's Dice for the holidays, here's a simple IOU stocking stuffer with a print-and-fold paper version of the dice. The card reads:

"We wanted to deliver Writer's Dice before the holidays... BUT the Kickstarter was too successful... AND our workshop won't have enough materials in-stock until January... SO please enjoy these print-and-fold dice for now."

Furthermore, look for a mobile app to come out soon. We're figuring out the logistics of how to get the app to all backers for free.

» Writer's Dice - IOU Holiday Card

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple at GameKastle

Colin Creitz tweeted: "Story Games Day @GameKastle - we played Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, and here's what happened!"

A lot happened indeed! Most of it to that poor, poor whale.

James Stowe illustrating Pop & Locke's Last Heist

I'm happy to announce that Pop & Locke's Last Heist features art by illustrator James Stowe.

James is an accomplished and prolific artist in a variety of projects. You might recognize his most recent work in the series of young children D&D character sheets that went viral earlier this year. Check 'em out here!

Like many of you, I was charmed with his poppy, energetic character designs. I'm really looking forward to his new work for Pop & Locke's Last Heist, too.

Thanks so much to everyone who backed the Writers' Dice Kickstarter. You made this campaign more successful than I ever anticipated and gave us the ability to tap such strong talent.

Artist Style Guide for Pop & Locke's Last Heist

As with any project where I hire an artist, I've put together an Artist's Style Guide for Pop & Locke's Last Heist. This is a document I send out to any prospective artists who will work on the project. It lays out the relevant details of the game, including characters, setting, clothes, etc.

A style guide is helpful for three reasons:

1) Gathering and organizing all this reference material forces you to clearly articulate the visual aesthetic for your game. You might have some image in your head, but you need to share that with others and looking at the same document can help.

2) Searching for this reference clues you into a handful of illustrators who you may initially contact for estimates. Even if you can't hire them, they might know others who will be a better fit.

3) Once artists are hired, they won't have to work from a blank slate. Again, using a common source of visual inspiration saves you both time once you start working together.

You can see a previous style guide I put together for Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. Your style guide doesn't need to be so fancy as either of these, but a simple collection of images and text is a great way to start a working relationship with your artists.

Wordcount Jumble

Wordcount Jumble makes a game out of your daily writing session. Play it as you write a novel or participate in NaNoWriMo. It can help take characters to new locations, do unexpected things and interact with other characters in surprising ways.

List Locations, Characters, and Actions
List up ten items in each of the following categories:

Locations in which your story will take place. For example: The deserts of Tatooine. Mos Eisley cantina. The command room of the Death Star. The corridors of the Death Star. The home base of the rebellion. Aboard the Millennium Falcon.

Characters who will be featured in your story. For example: Luke Skywalker, a new hope for the galaxy. Han Solo, the pragmatic rogue. Princess Leia, the rebel leader. Obi-Wan Kenobi, the mysterious elder. Emperor Palpatine, dark ruler of the cruel empire. Darth Vader, loyal right hand to the emperor.

Actions the characters will do in your story. For example: Bond. Argue. Learn. Teach. Fight.

Number-List Each Item
Order the items in each category in a numbered list from from 0 to 9. If you have fewer than ten items in a category, consider which item you'd want to occur more frequently in your story and include those items multiple times in the list. In all cases, lower numbered items will appear in your story more frequently. For example:

0-2 The deserts of Tatooine.
3-4 Aboard the Millennium Falcon.
4-6 The corridors of the Death Star.
7 The command room of the Death Star.
8 Mos Eisley cantina.
9 The home base of the rebellion.

0-2 Luke Skywalker, a new hope for the galaxy.
3-5 Darth Vader, loyal right hand to the emperor.
6 Han Solo, the pragmatic rogue.
7 Princess Leia, the rebel spy.
8 Obi-Wan Kenobi, the mysterious elder.
9 Emperor Palpatine, dark ruler of the cruel empire.

0 Bond.
1 Argue.
2-3 Learn.
4-5 Teach.
6-9 Fight.

How to Play
Now, as you write your novel, keep track of your word count each day. When you're done writing for the day, the day's word count gives you the basic outline of a scene that will happen in your story when you continue writing tomorrow. The locations correspond to the thousands-digit of your word count. The characters correspond to the hundreds-digit. The actions correspond to the tens digit. Optionally, you can use the ones digit as a character to whom your first character will perform that action.

Example: Today, you wrote 2,459 words. Tomorrow, when you continue writing, there will be a scene that takes place on the deserts of Tatooine (Location: 2). There, Darth Vader [Character: 4] will teach [Action: 5] Emperor Palpatine [Character: 9].

Figuring out how to set up, execute and resolve this scene will give you a goal in your next writing session. Even if the exercise doesn't lead to anything useful, it gives you a goal for the day's writing and can help break you out of a rut.

Try expanding and varying the categories, too, like a category for Motivation or for a set of important Objects. You can also try setting your favorite locations and characters at higher numbers, pushing you to write just a little bit more so you can bring them into a critical point in the story.

Particle Panic

Torus Lab is the world's largest particle collider, unleashing new exotic particles unknown to science. Now the lab is out of control! The scientists must input the self-destruct codes or the unstable particles will endanger the world.

Stuff You Need
1-4 players
A pawn for each player
A six-sided die
Two decks of playing cards shuffled together
Lots of particle tokens

Shuffle the deck and deal three cards to each player. (Seen at the corners of the above image.)

Cut the remaining deck into six roughly equal stacks. Arrange those stacks in a circle face-up. (Seen in the center of the above image.) Each stack represents a space on the game board.

Each space is numbered 1 through 6, clockwise from the top as shown in the image on the right. Each player's pawn starts at the space marked 1.

Place one particle token each in spaces 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Finally, keep the die within easy reach of all players.

On Your Turn, you can perform one of the following basic actions and one of the following special actions. (In a two- or one-player game, you can do two of each.)


Move your Pawn: Roll the die. Your pawn may move up to that number spaces clockwise or counterclockwise.

Neutralize Particles: You may remove particles from the space your pawn occupies. If you want to remove a particle, roll the die. If the result is 4-6, you may remove the particle. If the result is 1-3, your hand limit (which is normally 6) is reduced by one and the particle remains. You may remove as many particles in a single turn as you're willing to try. (In a two- or one-player game, you can neutralize particles on a 3-6.)

Collect a Card: If your pawn ends a turn on a space with no particles, you may collect the top card from this space and add it to your hand. (In a two- or one-player game, you may collect the top two cards from this space and add them to your hand.)

In the examples above, you just moved your pawn into a space that contains a particle. You roll to neutralize this particle and get a 5. So, you remove the particle from this space. Now, you collect the top card (a heart) and add it to your hand.


Spend Cards: You may spend as many cards from your hand as you like.
Spend a HEART to reroll a neutralization die.
Spend a CLUB to add 1 to a neutralization die result.
Spend a DIAMOND to move your pawn to an adjacent legal space.
Spend a SPADE to move a particle to an adjacent legal space.
When you spend a card, place it in a discard stack away from the game. It is no longer in play.

Share Cards: You may give any number of cards to another player as long as both your pawns are in the same space. They may not give you cards.

Enter a Self-Destruct Code: You may spend five cards of the same suit to input a self-destruct code for the lab. There are four self-destruct codes total, one for each suit. In other words, you must discard five HEARTS to enter the heart code, five CLUBS to enter the club code, five DIAMONDS to enter the diamond code and five SPADES to enter the spade code.

Particles Emerge
If the lab has not been destroyed, more particles emerge at the end of each turn. Roll the die twice. The first result is how many particles will emerge. The second result is the space where the particles will emerge.

In the example above, the first die result was three, so three particles will emerge this turn. In the second die result was a five, so those particles are now on space number 5.

If a space ever has more than six particles, the extra particles spill over into the nearest adjacent legal spaces. Distribute those extra particles as you wish.

In this example, more particles emerged than could fit in space 5. So, you decide to move the extra particle to Space 1, which still has plenty of room.

Goal of Play
To win, you and the other players must cooperate to enter all four self-destruct codes before the game ends. The game ends if there is no more room for any new particles; if any player's hand limit is reduced to zero; or if a space runs out of cards.

Design Notes
This game originally began as a thought-experiment in how to play ZOMBIES!!! on a smaller, more claustrophobic board. As a commercial product, I can see the cards more diversified. Instead of dice rolls, the cards might handle particle emergence. They may also offer interesting powers when you have them in your hand. For a slightly harder game, try using land cards from Magic: the Gathering. That means you have to input five self-destruct codes.

[UPDATE: Distinguished basic actions from special actions. I also just added some easier variants for small groups.]

Our Judging Process for the Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge

My wife and I are halfway done reviewing, playing and judging the entries to the Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge. (Asterisks note games we've judged so far.) It's been an interesting experience to say the least. I'm glad we've had a few months' time for this phase, because we needed every minute with our busy schedules. Here's an explanation of our judging process so far.

1. Read
Naturally, the first step of the process is reading the rules of the game. If we can understand how to play the game from a direct reading of the rules as written by the designer, then we'll proceed to the next step. We really do give it our best effort to read and comprehend the rules text. Sadly, in a very few cases, some entries do get taken out of contention in this first step simply because we can't figure out how to play from the text.

2. Setup
We gather whatever game components are called for by the text. In some cases, this is as simple as a piece of paper and a pencil. In other cases, the components are extremely specific, unique or numerous. As you might imagine, we have a LOT of game components in our house. If an entry calls for components so specific or so numerous that we can't assemble an adequate play set, that's a red flag for us. If a household with as many game-bits as us can't put together a play set, it's not likely many others would be able to either. Perhaps that policy is harsh, but we have so many entries that create elegant, fun experiences without unique components that we really have to grade based on that context.

3. Play
And then, of course, we play the actual game. We'll play as many times as we can, so that we fully get a sense of how the game feels and to make sure we properly understand the rules. If the game actually stays fun each time we play, that gives us a strong feeling that the entry is a good contender to win the challenge. Throughout play, we take notes in our little journal (seen above, handmade by Sara Hindmarch aka Repaper).

4. Analyze
We ask each other a few questions in a very informal way. – Would you play again? Did you find it more fun the first or second time? Were the rules clear enough at first? How does this entry compare to the other entries so far? Is it more accessible than the others? Is it more sustainable to produce than the others? Is it more fun than the others? – I'm the more abstract player of the two of us. My wife has the strongest sense of elegance and accessibility.

So that's how we're proceeding. We're on track to finish judging the rest of the entries over the next two months. A few of them require three or more players, so I'll rope in some of the local Durhamites to do some playing and judging of their own.

Writer's Dice Kickstarter Successful! 845% Funded

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to this project! It was more successful than I could've imagined. Here are our final numbers:

475 backers raised $8435 in just 2 weeks, a total pre-order of ~1650 dice!

So here's what will happen next: Kickstarter and Amazon Payments are going to charge your pledges from your credit cards over the next week. Most of you have already successfully done so, but a few might have some transaction errors that Amazon will try to resolve until Saturday, Nov 12.

After the pledges are all resolved, we'll place an order for about 1750 dice. We're ordering plenty of extras just in case any get lost in the mail. Once ordered, those will take up to ten business days to produce, according to our vendor. (Usually they're much faster, but we've never ordered this many dice from them.)

When we have the dice here, we'll bundle them up into your individual packages and ship them to you. Estimated delivery for domestic orders should be around the second week of December or sooner. International orders are, understandably, going to take some more time to deliver so I can't guarantee an exact date in those cases.

If anything comes up that would affect our outbound shipping plans, you'll be the first to know. Er… Well, I guess we'd be the first to know. But you'll be the first we tell! :D

Anyhoo, thanks again for your support! Look for more updates as events progress.

P.S. The Writer's Dice Guide PDF and Pop & Locke PDF are still in development. I need to flesh out the former and I just tapped a really great artist for the latter. I hope to send out both PDFs around the time the Writer's Dice go out the door. Again, you'll be appraised of all development milestones. I'm an over-sharer. :)

Get Pop n' Locke's Last Heist with the Writer's Dice PDF Guide

We passed 500% last night! By popular demand, I'm making a game designed exclusively for Writer's Dice. Pop n' Locke's Last Heist will be bundled with the forthcoming Writer's Dice PDF guide at the four-dice level.

Pop n' Locke's Last Heist
Meet the MacGuffins. During a family reunion on Pop's 80th birthday, a strange light imbued his household objects with spectacular powers. A fork-that-freezes-water. A pencil-that-pierces-any-object. A key-that-unlocks-any-door. Each family member took one object with the promise to do good... promises that were soon broken! Now, Pop and his granddaughter Locke travel the world retrieving the objects from their unscrupulous family members. Will they make it out unscathed or is this really Pop n' Locke's Last Heist?

About the Game
Pop n' Locke's Last Heist is a storytelling game about a grandfather and granddaughter pulling off an elaborate heist, sometimes using household objects with strange powers. The game is played in a series of "beats," or simple statements in an ongoing story. After saying a beat, you roll 4dW (four Writer's Dice) and choose a word to lead into the next beat. If your chosen word appears twice in that roll, your object gains a special charge to do some extraordinary feat. For example, if you rolled AS AS BUT IF, then chose AS, a fork-that-freezes-water could freeze a whole river. Choosing three-of-a-kind and four-of-a-kind leads to even more epic feats!

How You Can Get the Game
Any backer of four dice or over will get Pop n' Locke's Last Heist as a PDF download. As with my other games, the PDF will be available as a full-color PDF and a printer-friendly minimal PDF.

Get it now!
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.