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Showing posts from June, 2013

### 5 Ways to Use Triangular and Square Numbers in Game Design

It's a well-known risk of game design that in pursuit of originality, you will bump into well-studied concepts of mathematics. Some game designers come straight out of maths and sciences, so they already have a library of statistical and numerical knowledge at their disposal. The rest of us come out of a creative field where... let's just say math and logic wasn't a primary focus. All that to say, I stumbled into the term "Triangular numbers" a while back while figuring out the scoring for Koi Pond's ribbons. In layman's terms – that is to say, my terms – triangular numbers are a sequence of numbers that increase at a predictable rate. In the example below, you can see the typical progression of 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, and so on Ticket to Ride 's scoring progression was quite clearly arranged with the balance and logic of some mysterious underlying structure. I knew it was there, but I didn't know it had a name, let alone a whole history of researc

### Bean Drafting: A 7 Wonders Card-Drafting Variant for Bohnanza [Monsoon Market]

Art students in the renaissance would often be instructed to directly copy the work of classical masters. The idea was that by following their brush strokes, the student would examine their techniques beyond the surface detail. With that foundation, the student can go on to produce original work. I thought I'd give that a shot here while tinkering with Monsoon Market. See my previous post on Monsoon Market from way back in January. To recap, players run sea ports along the independent Indian Ocean trade routes that extend from Africa to China for hundreds of years before European contact. It's an evocative theme with familiar elements in an unfamiliar setting. Just what I like. It's always more difficult working from a blank slate, so just to get things started it can be useful to make variants for existing games. In this case, I needed a deck of cards that had variable quantities and thus variable set values. The Bohnanza deck was just the thing! So here's my

### Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple on roll20, from Justin Lowmaster

Justin Lowmaster has put together some tips and files for playing Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple on Roll20, the virtual tabletop service. Check it out here! Thanks, Justin!

### Layout for Heroine Role-Playing Game

A few months ago, Josh Jordan hired me to do the layout on the Heroine RPG books, featuring female heroes in portal fantasy adventures in the spirit of Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. He also had J.R. Blackwell do the art for the corebook, a series of photos with really cool makeup and a striking on-location setting. I've done layout on a previous book featuring J.R.'s photography and the challenge is always letting the original photography stand strong on its own without too much ornamentation to distract from it. The layout has to complement the art, not compete with it. Hope I did her work justice! The second book also used photography, but all pulled from public domain resources in the Library of Congress database. Check out the slideshow above for the covers and some double-page spreads from the books! If you can't see the slideshow, check out the images below.

### Tongue-Tied: An Experiment with Path-Building Games

I've been exploring tile-based path-building games recently to see if there's any fresh meat left on that bone. I started a GeekList last week so the hive mind could share their thoughts on these kinds of games. Turns out there are many, many more than I expected. Still, all the themes seemed to be either abstracts or somehow related to trains or transport. Makes sense, since you're effectively building "roads," but of course I got to thinking about some different themes. Here you can see my first pass at a game I'm tentatively calling Tongue Tied, inspired by the Pokemon Lickitung. Download the first set of printable cards here. The theme is that a bunch of creatures with long tongues are trying to grab their favorite foods. The game is played with the cards you see above, which have six exits each. The paths feature either a mushroom, apple or candy. The backgrounds are either squiggly lines, straight lines or checkers. Here's how to play! Fi

### New Class: Design Cards for Tabletop Games

I've been designing for the game industry for about ten years, including RPGs, board game rulebooks, and cards. In that time I have learned a fair amount about how to lay out cards efficiently using including InDesign's DataMerge and Google Doc's spreadsheets. Now I'd like to teach you my techniques with a brand new online class on SkillShare starting July 28 . ENROLL HERE This series of videos begins with the basics of prototyping, then eases you into the deeper tricks of the trade. Whether you're a just starting out or you're a professional looking for some new tips, you'll pick up something new in this class. What's the best size for iconography? What are the good fonts for body text? How do you format your files so they print correctly? How can you make global changes to a deck as easily as possible? We'll start by laying out deck of standard playing cards, then move on to a more complex eurogame and CCG layout. You'll also le

### Pitch Tag 2013: The Epic Conclusion!

Well, it's been an epic session this year, but all good things must come to an end. Yes, this concludes the Pitch Tag between Fred Hicks and I. You can see all of our previous Pitch Tag updates here . This year we came up with about 60 pitches in about two months. We hope you've enjoyed it! Now, on with the show. Daniel: THIS SIDE UP You and the other players are stacking shipping containers on a busy dock. Your warehouse space is very small, but very tall for some reason. Oh well! Time to get stacking. Each player has a set of d6s in their own color. At the start of the game, roll all your dice. On your turn, pick one to place in the central area called the "Warehouse." You may place a die on its own or on top of another die, but only if your die's result equal to or higher than the result you're covering. Thus, towers start forming across the warehouse. If a tower falls, the player who knocked it over loses and everyone else wins. Otherwise, the game en

### Dice + Blackjack + Pazaak = Dizaak?

While I was looking at Triple Triad in the Final Fantasy games, I stumbled across another card-based mini-game. This one is called Pazaak, found in the Star Wars video game Knights of the Old Republic. The goal of the game is similar to Blackjack, in that you want to play cards such that their sum is as close to 20 as possible without going over. The twist is that you have your own supply of cards, as does your opponent, and there is a randomized deck of "neutral" cards. Player cards have various ranks in negative and positive values. Neutrals are always positive. There are also special cards which double your previous card, flip between positive pr negative, and so on. See the tutorial above for more info. I got to thinking about how this would work with dice. Your goal is still trying to reach a sum of 20 without going over, using a combination of your own dice and randomly rolled neutral dice. Here's how to play. First, give each player a supply of dice an

### Burrito: Line Drafting and Action Selection

Here's a super quick idea, combining the "line drafting" structure (from SmallWorld, Guillotine, Morels and Belle of the Ball) with action selection. This came out as a possible solution to a big hurdle of line drafting games. Replacing the cards as soon as one is taken from the line can be a bit fiddly. If they're not replaced, then the initial length of the line is so long it takes up the whole table. I thought, why not just move the card at the front of the line to back of the line? Each card simply represents one action you may take during your turn. You can take the action at the front of the line for free, or you may pay one resource to skip that action and take the next one in line. Anyone who takes an action with resources on it also gets that resource. Once an action is done, that corresponding card is simply moved to the back of the line. This greatly reduces the size of a deck for a line drafting game and makes it a bit less fiddly. Granted, you stil

### Belle of the Ball - Jacqui Davis' Art Preview Part 2

Last week you saw the first art preview for Belle of the Ball . Jacqui Davis is still working away at the rest of the guests. There are a lot of 'em! Once again, here's more art from Jacqui. Don't forget, Belle of the Ball will be kickstarted by Dice Hate Me Games in late Summer 2013 for an early 2014 release. You can find more about the game on the DHM site here . In this update, you'll see one guest who may have a subtle resemblance to yours truly. That's probably because I wanted a character making an exaggerated "FFFFFF" sound and I sent a silly selfie as photo reference. See if you can spot it! Jamshire County's pristine vineyards produces the best jams and wines in Ludobel. L to R: Lady Radioactive Rendermum, Barge of Jamshire; Apple Ash, Cape of Jamshire; Bumblebee Bindlemeg, Eye of Jamshire; Lord Marmalade Megablade, Ace of Jamshire; Gapplepap Gravelsap, Drake of Jamshire. Glitterfall County is a sunny resort island with a

### Drafting Deduction: Making New Games Out of Emergent Behavior

I'm a big fan of the drafting genre, like 7 Wonders, Seasons, Sushi Go!, and Among the Stars. Like the deckbuilding genre, I find it fascinating how an emergent activity from the CCG community could turn into a a full-fledged game genre of its own. I thought I'd try my hand at it today. One of the fun things about drafting games is the tension of having too many good options, knowing that you'll have to pass some very powerful options to your neighbor. Based on their past choices, you know they're pursuing a particular strategy that will be greatly aided by this one last piece of the puzzle you have in your hand. Alas, nothing to do. You draft your own card and hope to get something better in the next hand. But what if the game was as much about accurately guessing what your opponent would draft? And if you guess correctly, it would hinder his strategy a bit? Let's try this with a simple poker deck for sake of explanation. To begin, each player is dealt fiv

### Koi Pond & Early Thoughts on Publishing Card Games through Print-On-Demand

It’s been about six months since I started this whole full-time game designer thing, with Koi Pond being in many ways the flagship project for this experiment. Koi Pond was designed, developed, and published all in the past half-year, thanks to the coincidental occurrence of several factors. Here’s how it all came to pass and my thoughts on where it might go in the future. This is a long post, so here are the takeaways right up front:     I worked fast, playtesting and revising rapidly.     I could make my own art, which greatly reduced initial expenses.     I still hired an editor and got lots of outside readers to review text.     Because I worked so minimally, even modest sales put me in the black.     I’m re-investing those earnings to future products.     POD (unpackaged) cards are still a new model, with a small audience.     The market may grow if POD games get reviewed alongside bigger products. For another POV, Dave Chalker posted his own thoughts on publishing

### 9 Lives Card Game - Prototype B

Here's a new family card game I've been tinkering with over the past few months. You may recall some previous posts on the subject here and here . Well, with a bit of streamlining for the rules and a few tweaks here and there, I've managed design what I hope is a fun, fast, light strategy game that plays well with two to nine players. Yep, nine . The premise of the game is that nine house cats have escaped. It's your job to bring them back home. The challenge is bringing them home while also making sure they're happy as possible with they return. Sometimes it's hard to do both! You know how cats are. Players bid for cards, each featuring one of the nine cats. You're trying to claim the majority of the cards featuring a specific cat, thus allowing you to score points from that cat. However, not all cards are worth points, so simply winning a majority of those cards won't guarantee the best score. This plus a little Baccarat-style mid-game scoring

### Belle of the Ball - Jacqui Davis' Art Preview Part 1

Jacqui Davis has been working diligently on the art for Belle of the Ball , to be kickstarted by Dice Hate Me Games in late Summer 2013 for an early 2014 release. You can find more about the game on the DHM site here . It's been a thrill to see these guests with silly names and sillier titles finally come to life. Developing the island setting Ludobel has been exciting as an opportunity for world-building I rarely get to do. It's probably been since Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple that I got a chance to fully direct character designs. Jacqui Davis' work has been magnificent so far. In particular, she's really taken to heart my desire for a diverse cast of characters featuring a variety of ethnicity, silhouette, and gender presentation. Each guest has a first and last name, naturally. I randomly generated these names from a list of suffixes and prefixes I thought sounded funny. On occasion, I'd tweak the names to maximize their tongue-twisting silliness, th