Showing posts from 2013

#DS13 in Review

It's been a year since my life took a major course-correction. After eight years, I resigned from my career in the ad business to pursue game design. (I kept freelancing, though. You can see the results on my portfolio .) But as for this blog and my game design in general, let's see what this year hath wrought. Popular Posts of 2013 "What if Someone Steals Your Idea?" How to Run a Small Gaming Business (Video) InDesign DataMerge on SkillShare The One Reliably Interesting Choice in Games Photoshop Sumi-E Tutorial (Video) Advice for the Playtest Hangover Adding some Spice to Roll-and-Move Playing the Fool: Getting Rules Wrong in the Right Ways Tips for Naming Your Game Scoundrels of Skullport and Tragedy of the Commons Published Games Belle of the Ball seemed most ready for prime time, so I brought it to UnPub 3 and PAX East . Fortunately, that goal was met quite early in the year when Dice Hate Me agreed to buy Belle of the Ball in March . S

Review of Designing Card Decks with InDesign's DataMerge [Video]

Hey all! I recorded this Google+ Hangout On Air earlier this weekend and I wanted to share it with you today. This is a very fast example of InDesign's DataMerge functionality for easily designing the cards for tabletop games. In this case, to make a deck of cards for my Mononoke prototype. Here's what the cards look like laid out as a river valley. All credit for this layout trick goes to Jonathan Walton , who is a very clever game designer. You should check out his stuff! I like this layout format because it makes an organic river valley, is unique from Cadwallon's and Spyrium's 3x3 grid, and breaks up the power of the central nodes in a 3x3 grid. If you want to know more about how to make a deck of cards in InDesign, or just the basics of card design, I offer a full online class with over two hours of HD video tutorials. Check it out here: Design Your Own Print-Ready Cards for Tabletop Games

Troll's Dilemma, A Free Microgame in your Pocket

Here's a simple Prisoner's Dilemma party game you can try out with your friends and family, using whatever loose change you have lying around the house. You don't even need a table! Just a bunch of players and some room to walk around. It does help to have a scoreboard visible to the whole group. You should also have a timer or a clearly visible clock. Troll's Dilemma 15 Minutes / 4-30 Players / 10 and up Heads or tails? You decide. You're trying to build a big consensus leaning one way or the other, but you only score points when players disagree with you. So really, you're trying to coerce a major consensus, so you can betray it . But there is a twist! Oh, such a twist. Goal After eight rounds of play, the player with the most points wins. Set Up Each player should have their own coin with clearly visible HEADS and TAILS sides. I recommend Othello chips since they're black on one side and white on the other, but any coin will do. Split up all

Memory Auction Card Game with an "Hourglass" Deck

James Ernest has a couple games that use a "triangular" deck distribution, most notably the very fun 12 Days and the newly released Pairs . A triangular deck means the cards are numbered from 1 to whatever, and the number is also how common that card is in the deck. In other words, the card distribution would be something like: 1 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 5 ...And so on. It makes for a nice scaffold for some interesting mechanics. In 12 Days , if you collect the majority of a number, you score that many points. In Pairs , you're trying to get a low score, pushing your luck to reach the very rare lowest cards before getting a pair of identical numbers. So here's a loosey-goosey idea for an "hourglass" deck, built around two inverted triangles that meet at their lowest numbers. 6  6  6  6  6  6 5  5  5  5  5 4  4  4  4 3  3  3 2  2 1 -1   -2 -2 -3 -3 -3 -4 -4 -4 -4   -5 -5 -5 -5 -5 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6 Here's a simple

Alpha Tests for Princess Mononoke-inspired Board Game

So I pulled together a very barebones alpha test of the core scoring mechanic for this Princess Mononoke-inspired board game. Randomly shuffle 40 cards, in four suits, ranked from 1-10. To start each round, deal a 3x3 grid of cards. Each player rolls four dice and keeps the results. On your turn, place a die on a vertex of the grid. At the end of the round, take any cards for which you have the greatest total sum of dice results surrounding that card. Any dice placed on the edge get a +1 modifier. Any dice on the outer corners get a +2 modifier. In case of ties, the card remains in place into the next round. If any sum of a suit goes over 10, score a number of points equal to your lowest suit. Then discard any cards of the suit that went over 10. Continue until you cannot make a full 3x3 grid and the player who has the highest score wins the game. There was a lot of really interesting emergent behavior in the alpha tests. I worried about letting so much ride on a singl

A New Look for Regime Card Game

After playing the new edition of COUP, I figured my own "futuristic intrigue and deduction" game should probably have a much more distinct aesthetic if it's going to stand out in the market. At first, I was going with a much more photorealistic look, but I do that a lot and it's hard to make my spotty collection of stock photos look consistent. Then I thought it would be interesting if these were more like graffiti stencils sprayed onto a wall. Perhaps double-exposed with a different section of the game's setting. This lets me use just about any stock photo since I would be greatly exaggerating the contrasts and stripping out all color anyway. So what do you think? Cool or hokey?

A Princess Mononoke-inspired Board Game?

Here's a quick overview of the game I'm tinkering with for UnPub4. This could technically be my first board game that could use an actual board! The game focuses on one small valley over the course of several generations, as tribal populations wax and wane, trying to keep a sustainable balance with the local ecosystem. The board is comprised of a 3x3 grid representing a misty valley. In each cell is two randomly drawn cards, one on top of the other. The bottom card is face-down and represents a conditional effect, sort of like "terrain" of the valley. The top card is the actual resource up for bids in an auction. To start the round, each player rolls 3 standard dice. This represents the population of your particular tribe this generation. The lowest total population takes the first turn. On your turn, place one die on a vertex of the grid. You cannot place a die on an occupied vertex. Certain faces have certain abilities based on the reputations you'

Firefly RPG: Echoes of War: Freedom Flyer is now available!

The latest PDF adventure for the Firefly RPG is now available! Echoes of War: Freedom Flyer has our plucky crew meet up with Maggie Miller, who is all set to leave home and find greener pastures on the Rim. She just needs help paying off Ma Miller's medical bills, dodging a bounty hunter, and nabbing a ship from an old flame. You know, little stuff. You an 80+ page adventure for just five bucks. FIVE BUCKS . You can't find a shinier deal this side of Eavesdown Docks. Come and get it!

Family-Friendly Bundle of Holding (now including Happy Birthday, Robot!)

You have just one day left to get a bunch of family-friendly RPG PDFs, including Happy Birthday, Robot! Just go to the Bundle of Holding site and pay whatever you like. Beat the average threshold and you'll get even more RPGs! Here's the complete list on offer: Hero Kids : An ideal introduction to fantasy roleplaying for children aged 4 to 10. Mermaid Adventures : Exciting undersea adventures and strange mysteries. (Ages 6-11.) The Princes' Kingdom : Young heirs to the throne of Islandia, visiting the citizens of their land and solving problems. This bundle is the first .PDF version of The Princes' Kingdom sold anywhere! (Ages 5+, plus an adult.) Happy Birthday, Robot! : The charming storytelling game by Daniel Solis for families or classrooms. (Ages 9+ -- and especially good for grownups.) Adventures in Oz - Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road : A loving journey into the lands of L. Frank Baum. (Ages 8+.) Project Ninja Panda Taco : Jennife

Diminishing Returns Mechanisms in Dice-Based Auctions

I had the pleasure of playing Eric Zimmerman's Quantum last night. It has some very clever abstract mechanics that make it easy to learn and adds plenty of thematic add-ons that greatly expand the tactical options in later turns. Highly recommended. At the core of Quantum's system is an elegant balance between speed and strength. The die face represents how many spaces a ship may move, so a 6 ("Scout) speeds across the board very quickly. However, combat is resolved by adding the number on your ship to a 1d6 roll. The lower total wins, with attacker winning on ties. So a 1 ("Battlestation") is very strong, but cannot move very fast. All other mechanics are built around this skeleton. It got me thinking about other dice-placement games in recent years that incorporated some clever mechanics, notably Kingsburg and Alien Frontiers. Auctions have been on my mind, too, particularly auctions that work well with two players. (Folks on Twitter had several recomm

Royal Draft

Here's a game that originally appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of Casual Game Insider . It's an exploration of the basic half-blind drafting mechanic that I tinkered with earlier this year for Princess Bride 's poison cup mechanic, which in turn was inspired by Antoine Bauza's two-player variant of the Little Prince: Make Me a Planet . You may also notice some familiar turn-order mechanics that I would later use in Nine Lives . This game was paired with an article about how to present a choice between chaos and order to make an approachable filler game. ROYAL DRAFT This simple drafting game has players present chaos/order choices to each other. It requires a standard deck of playing cards with one joker. It takes two to five players and lasts about ten minutes. The goal is to score the most points. It’s quick enough that can be played multiple times with scores tallied across all plays. Setup Remove the four kings and the joker from the deck. Shuff

Penny Farthing Catapult (Alpha Test)

Hey, it's been a crazy-busy week but I just wanted to quickly document the results of the alpha playtests for this even crazier new game PENNY FARTHING CATAPULT. You may have seen me tweet the development for this game over Thanksgiving, but it really had a successful first playstorm session at Atomic Empire the following Monday. Here was the resulting game: Premise You're mannerly nobles who settle their grievances in the time-honored tradition of dueling with catapults attached to old-timey penny farthing bicycles. These contraptions are so rickety and poorly engineered that when you launch your catapult, you get pushed backward an equal distance! Goal Your goal is to have the highest score by collecting valuable trinkets that get launched during the duel. The Deck The deck is comprised of fifty cards in ten suits with five sequential ranks in each suit. The suits are things like "Rubbish," or "Pillows," or "Silverware." Set Up

November 2013 Sales Report

Time for a look back on November 2013 and take stock of how business is going. ( You can see past sales reports here. ) This month saw the launch of Nine Lives in the middle of the month, which boosted overall sales while other products were approaching their long-tail phase of life. That's always the plan, launch a new product right at that moment and hopefully the staggered schedule will be sustainable for my ol' brain. More on that in a bit. First, the numbers. Note month-by-month sales growth is noted in italics. 11-2013 15x Koi Pond: A Coy Card Game -3 from Oct 8x Koi Pond: Four Walls (Promo Card 2) -2 from Oct 7x Koi Pond: Four Winds (Promo Card 1) -3 from Oct 14x Suspense: the Card Game -1 from Oct 19x Nine Lives Card Game $509.40 Retail $197.99 Royalties Grand Totals To Date 459 Products Sold (+63 from Oct ) $2,713.43 Retail (+$509.40 from Oct) $686.04 Royalties Earned (+$197.99 from Oct) Note, I spent about $40 in review copies to send out seven

Koi Pond and Nine Lives 10% for 24 hours only!

Head's up, dealhunters! For 24 hours only Cyber Monday (10am EST Dec 2, 2013 – 10am EST Dec 3, 2013) both Koi Pond and Nine Lives are each 10% off! Koi Pond is a zen-like card game with subtle interactions and emergent tactics. It's great for players who like to get into a flow state while they play. It can also be surprisingly cut-throat, so don't get too complacent! Nine Lives is a much zippier, high-interaction, take-that set collection game. Players are each trying to rescue stray cats from a city alley and trying not to get scratched in the process. Collect majorities of breeds, collect rare breeds, and have the fewest scratches. This is a great game for the kids, too. Thanks very much for your support, everyone!

Do: Fate of the Flying Temple playtest on G+ Hangouts!

Mark Diaz Truman has been designing the Fate Accelerated version of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple we're calling Do: Fate of the Flying Temple. This is a much more accessible RPG format for tabletop gamers, built on the very popular Accelerated version of the Fate Core engine. Mark was kind enough to host a playtest on Indie+ for some Do fans! The storyline in this game is set some time after a pilgrimage, when the pilgrims return to the temple to find it has disappeared! In its place is a single dragon egg that is just about to hatch. It's up to the pilgrims to find out what happened to the temple, how their impressionable baby dragon is involved, all while still helping people and getting into trouble. Here are the pilgrims: Pilgrim Festive Blanket (Aaron) Aspects:    Avatar: Welcoming and open    Banner: You gotta fight for your right to par-tay!    Dragon: Helpful instincts Approaches:     Good (+3): Flashy     Fair (+2): Forceful, Clever     Average (+1): Ca

How to play Nine Lives Card Game [Video Tutorial]

If you've been wondering how to play Nine Lives Card Game, watch this tutorial video just for you! It goes over the basics of set up, bidding, trading, and scoring, along with some tips towards the end to optimize your score. (Watch out for those scratches!) Buy Nine Lives Card Game on DriveThruCards Review it on BoardGameGeek (Music: Ehma - Pizzicato )

What's in the lab for Koi Pond?

Heyo! While things are super busy over here, I thought you'd like to see the card list for Koi Pond: Moon Village, what's shaping up to be a very big expansion for the game. 4-Koi (2 each in Red, Yellow, Blue or White): These cards count as four koi in their color. 5-Koi (2 each in Red, Yellow, Blue or White): This cards count as five koi in their color. Rainbow Koi (4): These koi count as one of any color. Apprentice (4): Play into your pond, score 1 pt for each 1-koi your opponent has in their pond. Monk (4): Play into your pond, score 1 pt for each 2-koi your opponent has in their pond. Abbot (4): Play into your pond, score 1 pt for each 1-koi your opponent has in their pond. Shrine (1 each in Red, Yellow, Blue or White): Place in House, River or Pond to double the number of koi of that color in that space. Given the spiritual nature of these characters, I might need to call this expansion Moon Temple. We'll see. I feel weird having two "temple&q

Nine Lives is Alive!

I'm very happy to announce that Nine Lives Card Game is now available on DriveThruCards . This is a very fun trading and bidding game for up to 5 players, aged 8 and up. Each player is trying to rescue as many cats as possible, especially those of a rare breed, all while also trying to be the least scratched player at the end of the game. Look for a video tutorial in coming days, but it's super easy to learn. Buy Nine Lives Card Game here! Download the rulebook!

Production Update on Belle of the Ball

Hello, ladies and gentlemen! Apologies if it's seemed quiet on the Belle of the Ball front these days. These are the quiet months between funding and actual manufacture where there's really not much news to share. But there is one milestone coming up that you'll be happy to hear: After about a month's worth of final polishing for the county powers, I'm prepping the very final production files for the game! That means final card designs, final rulebook layout, final final final. Yep, it's a fun and exciting time where we have to double-check everything twice over, just to make sure no typos sneak in under our radar, like the mention of "bribes" in those early county cards. Once the files are ready, it'll still be some months for the game to be proofed, printed, packed, shipped on the slow boat from China, go through customs, get to warehouses, then finally distribution to your doorstep. We all appreciate your patience and support! Thank you!

Organic Sumi-e Tree Themed Card Placement Game

I've always liked the idea of wabi-sabi in card game design , but never had the guts to actually release a game that was that organic. After the positive response to the faux sumi-e art in Koi Pond, I knew I'd have to do it again in a new game and this seemed a nice pairing of aesthetic and design goals. So I got to tinkering with some loose ideas. Mainly orbiting around the idea of a card-laying game in the spirit of Carcassonne, but not strictly limited to a hard grid. You've seen a similar mechanic in James Ernest's Agora/Camden, but I'm not sure if it's been used much elsewhere. So I made a quick prototype. Each card shows a branch of a tree. The final art will show the branch entering the card from one edge, splitting and terminating into two, three or four smaller branches that do not extend off the edge of the card. The end that goes off the edge indicates the point of origin, which may have one, two, or three dots to indicate the weight of th

My Game Design To-Do List: Set sail or get off the dock.

It's a crazy-busy time here in the lab. Aside from the stack of freelance projects on my plate, a number of game-related projects are building up and I'm having some trouble prioritizing. Here's a list of what I have so far: Nine Lives : (Due this month) Done, just waiting for proofs to arrive so I can review and approve, then it will be ready to sell. Koi Pond: Moon Village : (Due December) The first proper expansion for Koi Pond will include several new cards that I'd like to get a give a few more rounds of playtesting. I must also do the art for those cards, which is a bit time-consuming in itself. Beyond that, I have a variety of options and obligations. I would like to keep releasing card games through 2014 but I have two other things on my mind. First is UnPub4 in January, for which I've not yet declared which games I will be testing yet. Ideally they'll be games that I can have ready for sale around March, either to pitch to publishers or have

Carcassonne: Roadbuilders

Roadbuilders is a small variant on Carcassonne playable with the basic set or any of the expansions. It makes completing roads worth points even if you do not have a meeple on the road. Use this for some added flexibility when you're out of meeples and need to sneak in just a few extra points. Whenever you place a tile that completes a road, look for any tiles on that road that also have city segments on them. For each pennant on those cities, score 2 points. You can score these points even if those cities are not yet complete. In the example above, the road highlighted in blue is adjacent to two cities bearing pennants. All totaled, there are four pennants on those cities, so the player who completes that road would score 8 points. Also in the example above, the road highlighted in orange is adjacent to two cities with a total of three pennants, whoever completes that road scores 6 points.

I have a new portfolio site!

Hey folks! I have a new site specifically to showcase my graphic design and book layout. It's I've been sending out applications to a few freelance projects that have risen in recent weeks and figured it was about time to get all this stuff in one place. Holy cow, it's weird seeing my old ad projects mixed with my gaming stuff. I'll be adding more work in coming days, but for now it's feeling pretty dang comprehensive.

Expedition-Themed Price-Drafting Card Game

Dice Hate Me games will soon be launching a contest for 54-card games. The winner will be published in a collection of 54-card games later next year. At the moment, I'm pursuing an expedition-themed price-drafting card game for my submission. Players are explorers in some hostile environment that gets exponentially harder and more rewarding the farther you go. Think the South Pole, Mt. Everest, the Mariana Trench, the Moon, that sort of thing. So first, everyone begins with 10 points. (Consider these dollars, if you prefer.) To start your turn, reveal cards from the top of the deck until all three suits appear or five cards appear. Each suit represents different pieces of equipment needed on the journey. Next, set your own price for that bundle of equipment, for example "This bundle costs 4 points." Then each subsequent player has an opportunity to buy that bundle for that price, paying you those points. If it comes back to you, then you must pay the points

Pre-Order the Firefly RPG!

Hello, browncoats! The Firefly RPG is now available for pre-order . Here are the deets straight from MWP: FIREFLY puts you right in the middle of the action of the wildly popular television series, outrunning Alliance cruisers and trading bullets with fearsome bounty hunters, folk who want what you have or want to put out the light of hope that you represent. This game uses a freewheelin’ version of the award-winning Cortex Plus System to bring the ‘Verse to life at your table or online, including extensive rules and guidelines for creating a crew and resolving dramatic action. Also included are ship plans, system charts, an episode guide and more. Writers: Monica Valentinelli, Mark Diaz Truman, Brendan Conway, Jack Norris and Dean Gilbert Additional Contributions: Margaret Weis, Rob Weiland, PK Sullivan, Dave Chalker, Cam Banks, Phil Menard and Tony Lee Developers: Monica Valentinelli and Mark Diaz Truman Editors: Amanda Valentine, Sally Christensen and Alex Perr

SkillShare Update: How to Make a 3x3 Card Sheet in InDesign DataMerge

Let's say you already know how to use InDesign's DataMerge function to create a whole deck of cards from a single spreadsheet. You already know that's way better than making each card one-by-one, but has one obvious drawback if you want to make a print-and-play prototype. It only makes one card per page! What you want is 3x3 card sheets sized just right for a home printer, plus die cuts to aid in trimming. But you don't want to make a whole document with individually placed flat card images. That would be just silly, considering the trouble you went to make the basic deck as variable and automatic as possible. You need the Multiple Record option of DataMerge, which duplicates an individual card layout nine times on a standard letter size sheet of paper, while still maintaining your original variable data elements. There are some tricky things to troubleshoot during this process, like accounting for the bleeds you've set up in the original layout that might in

Early Thoughts on Pecos Bill's Tornado Rodeo

I'm gradually getting into the groove of designing and developing several card games at once, so long as they're relatively simple mechanics with some interesting endgame scoring mechanisms. At the moment, I've still got this idea for a reverse-drafting game that emulates a tornado in the middle of the table, picking up debris and dropping it onto each player. At first the idea seemed way too gruesome for my catalog, but I think I can soften it by adding a cartoonish Old West theme centered around the Pecos Bill folktale. Each player is a tornado wrangler, trying to tame tornadoes in the open plains. Collect the cows, pigs, chickens and other farm animals from the tornado, but watch out for cacti, rattlesnakes and scorpions! Tornado Cards I'm imagining a deck of cards that feature several cartoony animals tossed about in the whipping winds of a tornado. Along the bottom of each card is a contract , showing a specific combination of animals for which you will e

Rulebooks in POD Card Games

The tricky thing about publishing through DriveThruCards lately is the absence of a printed rulebook. There are numerous other options, like the link to the rulebook in PDF format on DriveThruCards' site or making it available for download on BGG. This has the advantage of being a "live" set of rules, which can be updated as questions arise. The average buyer still expects rules with purchase, though. So that means formatting a set of rules that fit on several 2.5" x 3.5" cards, numbered so you can keep them in order while learning the rules. The downside is that once it's in print, it'll be rough PR move to change the deck and explain to previous buyers why their old cards are are faulty. So, just like in traditional publishing, you gotta look over your rules a lot! Here are the rules for Nine Lives, version 1.0, after extensive review from very industrious Twitter followers . Many thanks to all the people who helped out looking over the rules t

Final Tweaks to Nine Lives Card Game

Wahoo! This week's playtests of Nine Lives went very well. I was fortunate to play, tweak, play again, tweak, and play again in rapid succession with several groups of 2-5 players. I can tell when I'm close to done on a game when ties become a problem. It's much easier to adjust a game that is too tightly balanced. In this case, I removed a few scoring methods from the last iteration so it was just the following: If you have the most cards of a breed, score 1, 3, 5, 9, 15 points for one, two, three, four, or five cards, respectively. If you have the fewest scratches total, score 1 point per scratch in your possession.* Score 1 pt per rare breed in your possession. The exception was if two players tied for majority of breed or minority of scratches. In those exceptions, neither player would score. This resulted in tied first-place finishers. Allowing all players to score majority/minority, even if tied, made the victories much more decisive. Odd, but it seemed to

Regime Card Game: Early Thoughts

Since releasing Suspense: the Card Game , I've been considering a loosely expanded idea for another deduction game that works for more players and has more opportunities for interaction and catch-up. I was thinking about the current mini-trend of vaguely geo-political Hunger Games themed games like Resistance and Coup. So, this is Regime , in which you are trying to influence the secretive Leader, the true political power behind-the-scenes in a shadowy, unstable body politic. Lure constituents into your bloc so you're in the Leader's good graces by the end of the game. The Deck The deck is comprised of 30 cards, divided into five factions (suit). Within each faction, three are considered low-rank (no border around the suit), two are considered mid-rank (circle around the suit), and one is considered high-rank (circle and rays around the suit). Setup Deal 6 cards to each player. (5 cards if playing with six players.) The first player chooses one card from his hand

Crystal Ben's Cover for the Firefly RPG

Yay! I can finally show this to you! This a 3d mockup of the Firefly RPG corebook cover, featuring art by Crystal Ben. Crystal was a total pro during the whole process. Here's the backstory of how this cover came to be. Trust me, we went through a lot of options in considering the cover image. When we first got started, I looked at all the past licensed comics, posters, merchandise, etc. I found lots of repurposed publicity shots, which didn't give a sense of the action, drama or humor of the series. I also found a lot of montages that tried to cram in all nine cast members, again to the detriment of communicating the spirit of the series. Thankfully, we had a green light to get original art for the corebook. I thought if we got original art, it ought to depict a new scene that wasn't available from screenshots or 8x10s. I decided we should just focus on a small subset of the main cast who would be most analogous to an "adventuring party:" Zoe, Jayne and Mal