Showing posts from July, 2013

"Gamer's Tic Tac Toe" #GTTT

Picking up on yesterday's thoughts about converting classic games to something gamers might enjoy, let's talk about the one game possibly more dismissed than roll-and-move: Tic Tac Toe. It's a solved game, as any fans of Matthew Broderick movies will know. The only way to win is to not play. Then I recently learned about Ultimate Tic Tac Toe . It's played on a 3x3 grid, with each cell containing a standard 3x3 tic tac toe board. On your turn, you place your mark on one of the tiny boards, which in turn forces the next player to make their mark on the corresponding big board. Whoever wins a tiny board lays claim to that entire cell. If you're forced to play on a cell that is already won, you can play in any cell. If you claim three cells in a row, you win! You can see why this is also called "Inception Tic Tac Toe." Alas, like regular TTT, UTTT has been sort of solved . There are optimal moves that will eventually lead to a tie. The trick with any &

Augustus and the Search for the Next "Gamer's Bingo"

Paolo Mori's Augustus was nominated for this year's Spiel de Jahres, and rightly so. I found it a clever and satisfying evolution of classic Bingo. In fact, it's often called Roman Bingo or Gamer's Bingo around my local gaming circles. Neither label has quite been intoned in derogatory manner, but I get the feeling it's sort of a dubious honor. You hear that term, "Gamer's ____," applied to any game that has a mass market central mechanic at the core of otherwise more modern gameplay. You might describe dice games like Alien Frontiers or Roll Through the Ages as "Gamer's Yahtzee" for example. These "Gamer's" versions of classic games are chimeric beasts, with the heart of a mainstream game and the body of gamer's game. Here are a few common tips for making a "Gamer's ____" game, in terms of Roman cliches for your entertainment. ( Are you not entertained? ) All Roads Lead to Bingo. Take an ex

Class has started! Design Cards for Tabletop Games on SkillShare!

Want to learn how to design a whole deck of cards really efficiently in InDesign using DataMerge? Awesome, 'cause I just wrapped production on my SkillShare class! The goal of the class is to get you comfortable enough with InDesign that you can bang out a deck of readable prototype cards for playtesting. You don't need to be an experienced graphic designer! ENROLL HERE for over two hours of detailed video tutorial. First, we start with an overview of the context for any card design. Is it held in hand? How many are held in hand at once? Can the card be oriented in either direction? Can it be seen from a distance? How big should my icons or text be? Then there's a close-up instruction on the best practices for cutting your card prototypes with an x-acto or with a paper cutter. If you love close-ups of my hands, you'll love this segment. But for the vast majority of the class, we focus on InDesign's DataMerge functionality and how you can use it t

"What if someone steals your idea?"

People ask this of me a lot. I get it, you're really proud of your new game mechanic or your original theme or some other thing about your precious IP that is gonna be worth bajillions. Pride in your work is good! It keeps you going in the dark times when you wonder whether you'd be better off with some other hobby, like extreme ironing or tortilla golf. But that pride can also give you some weird expectations, like that anyone else cares nearly as much about your idea as you do. That's not meant as an insult against your idea specifically, it's just an emergent property of the creative field. If anyone cares as much about your game idea as you do, they'd already be spending the late nights and long hours it takes to playtest, develop, cry, revise, cry , and playtest again until the idea is a proper game. Wait, you are putting in those long hours, right? Please don't tell me you're worried about someone stealing your idea before you've put in t

The Big, Huge Playtest Feedback for 9 Lives

Hey! Remember those cute cats I was trying to herd in the game 9 Lives? I released Prototype B for public blind playtesting a while back to some mixed results. The response was mostly mild and quiet, which said to me that it could be put behind some other games in development that were drawing much more interest. That's mostly how I decide what to develop first, whatever strikes my interest at the moment or what seems to excite the public... hopefully both at once! But then came this excellent, long feedback from Tournevis where he and his group dived deep into some structural problems and emergent bugs. Further feedback came from Kristina Stipetic, Scott Messer's family, Caroline-Isabel Caron . There is limited engagement between players beyond the bidding phase, which itself isn't a problem except... Too many cards are available once you've won the bid, meaning that there's a lot of analysis paralysis and gaps between moments of multiplayer engagement

Train Town and Monsoon Market - Playtest Findings

Playtested a bit more of Train Town and Monsoon Market this week. Many thanks to folks who helped playtest! If you're in town and interested, swing by to Atomic Empire in Durham, NC most monday nights and you can see whatever weird idea I've cooked up that week. Train Town was more of a polish to check if the condition cards made sense as written. The rules themselves and the scoring mechanics were solid. There was some procedural clarification necessary, making sure that condition cards were used at the end of a turn, thus after the scoring phase. Also it seemed the 2x2 formation was better as a starter board since it was easier to track the paths from point A to point B. A 3x3 formation led to bigger point swings as each player could cover exponentially more territory with one clever placement. I may also make the endgame condition when either the condition deck or the path deck runs out. Keeping it only the path deck made the game run a bit too long for a light

Interviews on Happy Mitten, Little Metal Dog Show, and All Us Geeks

I've been on several podcasts over the past few weeks promoting Koi Pond , Belle of the Ball , Princess Bride: Battle of Wits and my upcoming card design class . Of course each show is different and topics drift wherever the conversation may go. Here's a roundup of some of those interviews and a special treat at the end of the post if you want to hear me get absolutely crushed in Twilight Imperium. Happy Mitten Podcast: Episode 5 First up, the new baby of the podcast scene is the Happy Mitten Podcast. This show focuses mainly on the business side of the hobby, including how I started my career in gaming and how it's been progressing this year. Listen to this one if you'd like to learn a little about how I try to keep my brain in one piece despite having so many responsibilities at once. Little Metal Dog: Episode 61 It's always great coming back to the Little Metal Dog Show. This is my third appearance on the show, if my count is correct. In this episode, I

Preview the Tabletop Card Design Class from SkillShare

Heyo! I'm teaching an online class on designing cards for tabletop games. The class goes live on Sunday, July 28. Here's a first taste of what's in store for the first lesson, which covers the basic considerations of card designs. Most of the videos won't have this much face-time, but this was a good chance to cover some of the basics we'll touch on as we take more on more practical tutorials. I'm not the greatest video editor... or public speaker... or audio engineer. So I hope you'll look past those weaknesses and enjoy this preview! You can enroll for the class here at any time!

What to do when your game is too balanced? Try zero-sum mechanics. [Monsoon Market]

I've playtested Monsoon Market Prototype B a few times now. It turned out to be waaaay too balanced. Ties happen all the time. It seems that any random deal across three rounds will result in some score around 20ish. That's great for new players who don't like getting thwomped in the first game, but sucks for any experienced players who find no way to break out of the pack. But first, a recap: Monsoon Market is a drafting game set in the Indian Ocean trade network during the middle ages, before European contact. Players have a public tableau, called their Port, featuring several goods cards. Each players also have a hand of goods cards, called their Ship. Each turn, the ships sail to a neighboring port (hands pass to the left). Then each player may trade one goods card from her port for a goods card from the ship currently at her port. When the round is over, each player's ships return to their home port with whatever cargo they've collected in their jo

Belle of the Ball - Jacqui Davis' Art Preview Part 3

It's time for another art preview for my line-drafting card game Belle of the Ball . Check out the previous art previews here and here . This completes the full lineup of guests from across the counties of Ludobel, but look for more art previews to come, including the actual card design! Boarsend County's ranches are home to all sorts of livestock. Watch where you step. L to R: Dirigible Dinnerbum, Inch of Boarsend; Lady Jinglebell Jittersend, Fool of Boarsend; Lord Zigzag Zithermend, Gem of Boarsend; Yagustus Yellowhire, Key of Boarsend; Pinchlehead Pimpleleg, Inch of Boarsend. Egg County hosts Ludobel's major university and its kooky faculty. Guests from Egg are eager to talk about the latest scholarly theory on something-or-other. L to R: Lady Veranda Vendorcaria, Fool of Egg; Korakora Kampenwell, Key of Egg; Abacus Edgaloo, Inch of Egg; Lord Windmill Winkleshire, Gem of Egg; Tickleboo Tenderzoo, Jack of Egg. Flappingcap County is the technolo

Train Town - Prototype B

DOWNLOAD: TRAIN TOWN PROTOTYPE B Well, the response to yesterday's post was really positive, so I've put together a printable prototype for Train Town with a slight retheme. Now, tourists are taking a trip through Train Town to see their favorite attractions. You're trying to build a route that will take as many tourists to as many of their desired attractions as possible. The attractions are one of three types of terrain, one of four types of foliage, and one of nine buildings. Each card has three attractions, as shown in the example above. This was a much more organic way to show what features are on each card without resorting to abstract icons. The theme lends itself well to making landscapes and map-like areas too. Here's an example of what the prototype looks like in play. And here's an example of how you can score on your turn. Let's say you placed the tile highlighted in pink below, thus creating the paths highlighted in blue and yellow.

Train Town: Sketching Out a Tile-Based Train Game

Last night I quickly sketched out a tile-based train-themed path-building game. I've been on a path-building kick the past few weeks so it kind of makes sense that it would eventually lead to a train game of some kind. Hopefully this adds some twists to the genre to make it worthy of further development. SUPPLIERS AND PORTS First, you start with the basic path tile, representing a supplier along a train route. Each path tile has eight exits, with for path segments linking them in some way. Each card also features four goods icons, noted here by the plus sign, the dollar sign and the Q. Any path connecting to this card is supplied the goods indicated by this card. And these are destination cards, with eight endpoints for the train routes. Each of these is a port, each awaiting a specific good to come from the train. Along the top here you see a port that wants + and a dock that wants $. To the right, a port wants E, another wants +. SETUP To set up the game, you

Adding Some Spice to Roll-and-Move Games

The "roll-and-move" category of games often gets bad rap. Sure, they're often the first games we learn as kids. And for a long time, there was a glut of games that used the mechanic any further thought to the design. Perhaps there's also just a strain of bitterness because that's the extent of what the vast majority of people imagine a board game being: Simply rolling, moving, and following instructions wherever you landed. Whatever the reasons, I think the stigma is unfair. The mechanic is just a neutral tool, either used well or used poorly, but has its strengths and weaknesses inherent in itself. Listening to this episode of Ludology got me thinking about ways to add just a little spice to some mass-market roll-and-move games like Monopoly and Life . First, you'll need one die for each player. Determine initial turn order randomly. Before anyone takes a turn, roll all the dice. The first player takes one result out of the pool and moves that m