Showing posts from March, 2013

Playing the Fool: Getting Rules Wrong in all the Right Ways

Yesterday morning Lyndsay Peters and I played Martian Dice via Google Hangout, which is when I discovered that I have been playing it incorrectly this whole time. I thought if you wanted to capture humans, you had to capture them before cows and chickens. If you captured cows or chickens first, you couldn't capture humans in a later turn. However, you could capture as many cows or chickens as you liked until you busted a roll or ended your turn. This wasn't the case at all, as it turns out. You may capture humans, cows and chickens in any order you like, but you couldn't take one type if you had done so earlier. I'm still not sure how I got that so wrong. I think it's because there was a line break in the sentence explaining that rule. But really, it's just silly how wrong I got that. Sheesh! There are no rules so short and clear that everyone will follow them as intended. In fact, the shorter rules are just as prone to misinterpretation. But on the

What's in the egg?

Back in 2011, I posted this simple push-your-luck dice game called Bombs Away that could be played with one die. I soon discovered some similarities to a 1994 casino-themed dice game called Sharp Shooters , which was later reimplemented by Ravensburger as Royal Casino and Temptation . The basic mechanic still appeals to me, though I've since taken as a personal challenge not to design any games with violent or combat themes. So, the bomb has to go. Curious about alternate "ticking timebomb" metaphors would work with this mechanic, I kind of like the image of a mystery egg. Players are taking turns sitting on an egg until it hatches. The longer you sit on the egg, the more claim you have over it, but what comes out of the egg may not be what you expect! The egg is represented by one d6. You roll the die to sit on the for one day and place one of your colored cubes in an open space beside the result. 1     [   ]     2     [   ]     [   ]     3     [   ]    

More Playtest Findings from PAX

While I was at PAX East, I playtested three other prototypes currently in various stages of development. Princess Bride Drafting Game has been long in development, but finally hitting a breakthrough now that it has departed from strictly simulating the Battle of Wits. It's now a drafting game in which players bid for milestones and landmarks to complete their personal quests while also trying to bluff their opponents into drinking poison. It's a drafting game where you're not just bidding for resources, but also turn order on the next draft and how many resources you'll get to draw. Most feedback was positive and I hope to formalize this prototype into something more pitchable soon. Retheme the cards slightly so that there are more main character options, including the villains of the story. Make the secondary characters in the deck landmark locations. Give the main characters unique abilities, like The Man in Black's immunity to poison, or Fizzik's gr

The Nature of Low-Interaction, Head-Down, Multiplayer Solitaire Games [Koi Pond]

UPDATE: Koi Pond: A Coy Card Game is now available on DriveThruCards! I tested a lot of games at PAX last weekend. Let's talk about Koi Pond Prototype C first. It was mostly well-received. People liked the fast, simultaneous gameplay, and it seemed couples liked the low-impact interaction that the predators provided. Everyone loved the "balance" scoring mechanic, too. But there was one comment that stuck with me. A playtester found it was "fundamentally uninteresting." By that he meant there is no necessary interaction or even a desire to interact. It's very much a head-down, multiplayer solitaire game. Furthermore, in the last two turns, you have too many cards in your hand to sort through, which also contributes to the head-down nature of the game. You're so focused on organizing your mountain of assets that you have even less reason to pay attention to anyone else. Now, I could justify this type of gameplay by simply pointing at the theme. K

Titles and Counties of Ludobel Isle [Belle of the Ball]

I'm fleshing out the back story for some aspects of the world of Belle of the Ball. Specifically the title for each character and their county of origin. For example, Lord Marmalade Megablade is the Ace of Jamshire and Lady Radioactive Rendermum is the Barge of Jamshire. All the titles/counties are silly things like that, but they're distributed very deliberately through the deck. For example, each county only has one Lord and one Lady. Each county has only five guests. Each title only appears three times through the deck, so not every county has every title. I embedded this supplemental information in the guest cards for use in later expansions, but they're also useful for art direction. Of course, that means the titles have to actually mean something. Any things you imagine would be true of these titles and countries, just by the sound of their name? TITLES Ace Barge Cape Drake Eye Fool Gem Inch Jack Key Lance Quill Rock Wall Zest COUNTIES Angl

Games I'll have at PAX East

I'll be in the board game area with prototypes of some of my upcoming games soon to be published over the next few months: Koi Pond  is a draft placement game where you're building a koi pond. Lots of difficult decisions and a satisfying scoring mechanic. Players really love the art. I'll have a few expansion cards to test as well. Belle of the Ball  will be published by Dice Hate Me Games, this is a great game for for fans of Guillotine, Bohnanza, and ridiculous Victorian names. Play it cutthroat or Euro style, it's got tons of replay value. Suspense: The Card Game , soon to be rethemed, is a brain-burning deduction microgame with just thirteen cards. You're deducing the victory condition while also trying to meet it. This one is really popular. And in addition I have two playtest prototypes straight from my lab: Mansa Musa  is my first economic game and it's an odd one. The King Mansa Musa is on a religious pilgrimage, spreading his gold in every cit

Koi Pond - Prototype C

» Download the Rules » Download the Cards UPDATE: Koi Pond: A Coy Card Game is now available on DriveThruCards! Howdy folks! I'm happy to show off Prototype C of Koi Pond. This includes several refinements and polishing bits to help play go a little more smoothly. Predators always score from the opponent to your left. No more switching between rounds. (I mean, you can if you want to, but explaining that was cluttering the rules presentation and otherwise didn't change the game mechanically.) Hybrid koi now have an extra outer circle around their suits to help color-blind players notice them more easily. Hope that's sufficient! Several people wanted predator cards to have a diagram or art showing where they score points from. I'm not ruling that out yet, but I'm compromising for now by including reference cards for use during play. This explains scoring at-a-glance. The scoring example diagram is more organized and clearer so you an see which suits of koi

Stuff in development for Koi Pond - Prototype B

UPDATE: Koi Pond: A Coy Card Game is now available on DriveThruCards! I've had Koi Pond in private beta testing for the past few weeks experimenting with various ideas to deepen the gameplay without losing the core elegance. I called this Prototype B. One thing that's definitely going into the game are hybrid koi . These are koi which can be either of two different colors, split right down the middle: White and yellow, yellow and red, white and blue, red and blue, yellow and blue, and red and white. When you place a hybrid in your pond, you decide which color it will be immediately. When you place a hybrid in your house, you decide at the end of the round which color it will be. When you discard a hybrid into your river, you do not decide its color. In that case, it's the player who has a turtle predating your river who decides which color that hybrid will be, usually a color that turtle can score points from. (Note: hybrids always come in quantities of 1 koi, so th

Belle of the Ball to be Published by Dice Hate Me Games!

I'm very excited to announce that Belle of the Ball has been purchased by Dice Hate Me Games! You can read the official announcement here. I'm particularly excited that they've tapped Jacqui Davis to illustrate the guests and the Belle of the Ball herself. It's been a long road to get here, starting with the earliest versions of the game when it was a tile-placement game until its current incarnation as a light strategy set-collection/bidding game. There have been many many playtesters along the way from those early days. Sadly, I haven't been keeping thorough enough records during that process, but I'd still like to thank those playtesters I can for making this possible.     W. Eric Martin     Megan Miranda     Jace-Leia Newhook     Rob Newns     Patrick Noto     Leah Novak     Lyndsay Peters     Vitas Povilaitis     Jesse Pudewell     Megan Raley     Tim Rodriguez     J.R. Romero     Adam Schultz     Lisa Scodari     Devon Silvia     Jason

GamerChris has an early review of Suspense, Koi Pond and Unpub Mini at Atomic Empire

UPDATE: Koi Pond: A Coy Card Game is now available on DriveThruCards! Chris Norwood was kind enough to play prototypes of Suspense: the Card Game and Koi Pond Card Game and include previews on his most recent podcast ep . He also spends some time talking about the Unpub Mini event I ran two weeks ago. Suspense gets previewed at 10:03 The Unpub section is explained at 32:39 36:14     - Roman Conquest 39:22     - Duck Blind 41:57     - Dorobo 41:57     - Acute Care Koi Pond ( nee Coy Pond) gets mentioned at 45:26 Give it a listen!

Candyland Movement Expanded to 2 Dimensions

I got to thinking a little bit about Candyland 's movement rules and how they could still be relevant in an modern board game. For a refresher: In Candyland , you play a card and move your pawn forward along a linear track, to the nearest colored space matching the played card. An updated and elegant version of this mechanic is found in Cartagena (shown above). The players must still play cards and move their pawn forward, but the only way to draw new cards is to move backward along the track. Still, the track is linear and the game is very much a race to the finish. Now I'm thinking about a point-to-point movement mechanic played on a hex map with various terrain types, gradating from beach, to plain, to suburb, to city, to mountain, to forest, and so on. In order to move to any part of the map, you may simply play a card matching the terrain type of your chosen destination. Want to go to the desert? Just play a desert card. Here's the catch: You must pay for the

Some Thoughts on a Princess Bride Card Game

A few nights ago on Twitter, I got to thinking about a simple mechanic for replicating the poison cup scene in Princess Bride. (You may recall I've explored this theme before in a previous post: Where is the Poison ?) Each player has a supply of seven red cubes and ten blue cubes. On your turn, you place one, two or three cubes in each hand and "serve" them to your opponent. One hand is open, its contents visible. The other hand is closed, its contents hidden. Your opponent must choose one to accept. The goal is to get seven blue cubes and win, or to eliminate your opponent by forcing them to take five red cubes. There were a number of mathematical problems with this premise, ably and quickly pointed out by Paul Owens. I've been stretching my brain to get a functional Princess Bride prototype ready before PAX East, to submit to GameSalute 's license, and these mathematical issues keep getting in the way of a pure deduction game. I think expanding the basi

Unpub Mini at Atomic Empire: Numbers, Takeaways and Videos

The Unpub Mini at Atomic Empire in Durham was a big success. We had seven designers registered and the whole game room was at full capacity for most of the day. It helped that there was a Netrunner tournament and a 3d printer visiting for the first few hours. Both to brought in lots of walk-through and crossover traffic. Between tournament rounds, we had a lot of gamers coming over for a quick demo or play session. In total, we collected 86 feedback forms from individual playtests. I'm pretty sure we had at least twenty more playtesters in attendance who for whatever reason didn't fill out a feedback form. In terms of numbers of feedback forms, the big winners were Fog of War with 17 forms, Duck Blind with 20 forms, and Havok & Hijinks for with 27 forms. I thought at first that a party game like Havok & Hijinks would be the runaway leader. Short games with lots of players, usually party games, are be able to turn over way more playtests than another g

A Wagering Game Where Wagering Controls the Odds and the Payout [In the Lab]

After listening to James Earnest and Jason Morningstar talk about randomness in game design , I got to thinking about a peculiar mechanic. Imagine a wagering game in which the more you wagered, the less likely the odds of winning, but the greater the payout if you do win. You control (or at least partly control) the risk, though. Supply Each player has a supply of cards that are identical except for their suit. Each player has her own suit . Cards are numbered in ascending numerical rank . Suits are never shuffled or mixed, so one player is always Hearts, another is Clubs, and so on. Each card also lists a bonus effect . The Wager At the start of the turn, each player places face-down in front of them up to three cards from their supply. This is a player's wager . When all players have wagered their cards, reveal them. The Prestige Shuffle the remaining cards into a single deck. Draw three cards from the deck and reveal them to all players. This is the prestige . Th

Unpub Mini at Atomic Empire was great!

Unpub Mini at Atomic Empire was a rousing success!  Thanks for attending the Unpub Mini yesterday. Here are some numbers! Based on an averaged hourly headcount of playtesters, we had roughly  25  players across all the tables throughout the event. We collected  86  feedback forms from the event. At the end of the day, staffers said that this was wildly successful and that it's rare to find an event that would fill half the store for the entire day. I'm digitizing feedback forms today, so designers should expect them early this week. Meanwhile, here are some high-res pictures from the event. Check out the tweets from the # unpubminiatomicempire and # unpubatomicempire hash tags for more pics and video from the event. You can also see several 6sec video pitches on Vine from my Twitter feed.

Coupling Money and Victory Points in Mansa Musa

So plenty of games make earning the most money your winning condition. Plenty of games make earning victory points your winning condition. Some games combine the two into one unit of currency. Others include both money and VP, but each focuses on short-term and long-term goals, often at odds with each other. In Mansa Musa , I was initially thinking of doing the latter, money being what gives you mobility across the map but not in itself leading to victory. Instead, I'm kind of doing this wobbly halfway thing that is inspired by Jaipur 's bonus tokens. Imagine a set of currency as follows: There are $1 bills, $3 bills, $6 bills. Each individual bill has a victory point value assigned to it on the back. In play, each denomination is shuffled and sorted into its own stacks as the general supply. You only ever see the money side of each bill. You only ever look at the VP side of the bills at the very end of the game. Say for example there are nine bills in each denomination,