#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

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. Since then we've had a lot of great art from Jacqui Davis, a very successful kickstarter, and we're now wrapping up production files for delivery to China. Not bad for one year!
  • Koi Pond, a zen-like card game about raising koi. Look for more expansions to come. This originally began with a completely different theme, but it eventually became a very cool little scoring mechanism.
  • Suspense, the brain-burning microgame which first had its origins as a back-pocket entry to UnPub3.
  • Nine Lives, a trading game about rescuing stray cats from an alley while trying not to get scratched.
  • Royal Draft was published in the summer 2013 issue of Casual Games Insider. 
  • Espionage is in development with a super-secret publisher.
  • A Princess Bride-themed bluffing/set-collection game is being developed by Game Salute.

Undeveloped Games
  • The River Ancient: A tentative title for now, but this Miyazaki-inspired dice-placement game is what I'm really focusing on for the next few weeks leading to UnPub4. We'll see if it does as well as Belle of the Ball.
  • Mansa Musa: Mansa Musa, the richest human in history, single-handedly caused massive inflation when he passed through a city with his gigantic retinue.  I wanted to depict Mansa Musa's trip as a kind of progress, going all the way to one end of a path, then back again, with some modular worker-placement stuff along the way. This eventually got too complicated for me to tackle at the time, but I'm feeling a little more confident now.
  • Zheng He and the Monsoon Market: I was curious about the vast and vibrant Indian Ocean trade network that existed for hundreds of years before Europeans arrived. Chinese mariner Zheng He sailed the world's largest fleet of the world's largest wooden boats, not to conquer or convert, but to trade. I adapted some bits of 7 Wonders with Sushi Go to make a drafting card game. I need to refine this to a new public prototype.
  • Train Town: This was a very rushed prototype sent to a Korean family board game design contest. Shockingly, it advanced to finals. Not so shockingly, it didn't win. I still like the basic idea of a 2x2 Tsuro-style tile-laying game where the goal is making compatible paths rather than moving a pawn.
  • Dung and Dragons: This game is about raising dragons for their gold poop. It's been my white whale for a long time, since well before 2013. I'm embarrassed to say this game was at the top of my 2012 year in review. I need to get a prototype out and on the table ASAP so it's not just lingering in my head. I've dallied far too long.
  • Noodle Roll: My misinterpretation of the rules in Martian Dice led to a whole other game idea about serving various noodle dishes to customers at a ramen shop. It has some interesting scoring mechanics and dice-placement interaction, but needs way more playtesting to be at all worthy of even a pitch to publishers.
  • Puppy Pile: A simple trick-taking game about puppies piling onto treats. This might be inspired by my volunteer work at the local animal shelter.
  • What's in the Egg?: A pretty loose idea for dice-based based on one of my earlier designs. The longer you sit on an egg, the more maternal attachment you have to it, but you're never certain what will actually hatch.
  • Schrodinger's Cabernet: Further exploration of an older idea about wine collectors trying to pawn off counterfeits to unwitting dupes.
  • Feather: A card game that I'm going to tinker with a bit more, possibly with this hourglass deck.
  • Kigi: A path-building game that isn't based on a hard grid, instead you just grow branches on a sumi-e painting of a tree.
  • Tornado Rodeo: A drafting game about wrangling farm animals out of a tornado.
  • Expedition: This was what I was initially going to pitch to the Dice Hate Me 54-Card Game Design Contest, but the price-drafting ended up being problematic.
  • Penny Farthing Catapult: This was what I submitted to the contest instead. An ultra-light game of Newtonian physics and poorly built catapults.
  • Trickster: A Reverse Trick-Taking Game: An odd little idea for a drafting game that in effect becomes the opposite of a standard trick-taking game.
  • Planet Builder: Speaking of trick-taking, I liked this method of building a planet in four cards, with a touch of worker placement and set-collection.
  • Spheres of Influence: AKA Alien Embassy, another card-based tactics game that grew out of an interest of adjacency mechanics. This time, I was interested in using card-orientation to represent ownership.
  • Tyc: In one of my weirder tangents, I decided to make a "Gamer's ____" version of Tic Tac Toe, but it ended up being as solved as standard Tic Tac Toe.
  • Regime: Which I'm coyly describing as "Super Suspense." Similar gameplay, but a little less punishing, room for more players, and a more of a theme.
  • Troll's Dilemma: A prisoner's dilemma party game that I'm still testing, mainly because it's so simple to whip out at any gathering. I have some tweaks to make, but this actually feels pretty solid.
  • This year I spent a lot of time thinking about auction mechanics and how the value of goods changes with their rarity. Probably one of the more developed versions of this notion was this abstract auction game. It's something that will probably linger for a while.

I'm happy to say that we've decided to give this crazy experiment another year to play out. I'll keep on designing games and self-publishing them on a regular basis. In time, I hope my sales from games will outpace my freelance work. That's a very long-term goal, but it seems more feasible now than it did a year ago. Let's go!

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.

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 players into separate sides of the room as evenly as possible. Note: These groups are not teams, they're competing within their own group to score the most points.

Each round follows three basic phases:
  • Discuss: Start the timer. Players have 30 seconds to discuss whether to choose HEADS or TAILS. 
  • Choose: When time is up, players must secretly make their choice, set their coin on the back of a hand and cover it with their other hand. There is no coin-flipping. You must decide.
  • Score: All players reveal their choices. Each player scores 1 point for each player who made a different choice than his own. For example, you're in a group of ten players: Six players have chosen HEADS while four players (including you) have chosen TAILS. Everyone who chose HEADS will get 4 points while everyone who chose TAILS will get 6 points. If everyone on a team agrees, no one gets any points.

Set Up the Next Round
Bring together both groups again. Whoever chose HEADS will go to one side of the room. Anyone who chose TAILS will go to the other side of the room. Thus, each round makes a new team.

There is a chance that one player will be lucky enough to be the outlier of their group, being the only player to choose HEADS or TAILS. This lets them score maximum points from their group, but it also mean their next group will be very small.

In a very extreme circumstance, there could be a group with just one player in it. He'll simply have to wait out this round, but still make a choice and hopefully join a big new group in the next round.

In either of these cases, big scorers from one round are usually going to be lower scorers in the subsequent round. I hope this will be a natural catch-up mechanic. Outliers in one round will be very eager to join a consensus in the next round, thus shading their interaction with the other players.

Memory Auction Card Game with an "Hourglass" Deck

Hourglass 1

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:

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
-2 -2
-3 -3 -3
-4 -4 -4 -4 
-5 -5 -5 -5 -5
-6 -6 -6 -6 -6 -6

Here's a simple "memory auction" game you might play with this deck.

  • Shuffle the deck and deal a hand of 5 cards to each player.
  • Put one face-up card per player in the center of the play area, these begin the Stacks.
  • Set aside the deck and begin taking turns.
  • On your turn, take one card from your hand and put it on one of the Stacks with the following rule:
    • If the top card is face-up, your card must be placed face-down.
    • If the top card is face-down, your card must be placed face-up.
    • A stack cannot have more than four cards in it.
  • Continue taking turns until each player has one card left in-hand to use as a Bid.
  • Whoever has the lowest bid gets first turn to pick a stack to keep. Continue taking turns taking stacks, in ascending order. (Cards of the same rank would have alphabetical notation for tie-breakers.)
  • When you keep a stack, set it face-up in front of you to keep track of your score. Add your Bid card to this collection as well.
  • The game continues with a new round, starting again from the top.

When a full hand cannot be dealt, the game is over and players tally their score. If you have the majority of a number, score that many points, whether that's positive or negative. Highest score wins.

I've no clue about a theme for this, but I like the idea that the strongest bids can also potentially cost you the most points. Sure, if you're lucky enough to bid -6 several rounds in a row, you guarantee you'll be taking a 6 point hit against your final score.

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 single 4d6 roll each round. I think the averages even out after about five rounds, which is about how many rounds a 40-card deck allows for, but the future upgrades I plan to add will really make it work.

But that said, players sometimes wanted a really low roll so they didn't accidentally score when they didn't mean to do so. Players were also very scared of the high cards, often avoiding them to not score at a sub-optimal time. However, "dodging bullets" didn't really feel as satisfying as "winning" the auction.

Going on, the next steps are to...
  • Make a custom deck and lower the tip-over point from 10 to maybe 5.
  • Add upgrade cards in the deck as things you can compete for in the auction.
  • Make the deck larger to lengthen the game a bit. Upgrade cards will help with that.
  • Add an ownership of some kind, where players can claim spaces and get a benefit for it.
  • Oh, and make a board?

Looks oddly like a castle now that I lay it out this way. Huh. It'll take some flavorful graphic design to make this look anything like a valley. Hm.

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've earned in previous rounds. These reputations describe the culture of your tribe over time. Resolve those effects upon placing the die and end your turn. For example:
  • Intimidating: Replace an opposing die from this district with this die.
  • Co-Operative: Double the value of all your adjacent dice.
  • Riven: Halve the value of all of your adjacent dice, rounded down.
  • Assimilated: Add this die to an opposing bid, the sum is now your bid.
  • Unpredictable: If a player tries to outbid you, you may reroll this die.
  • Clever: This die adds to your bid, but doesn't count against the resulting payout.
  • Any bonuses based on certain adjacent geography.
And so on, lots of different reputations available for purchase, as I'll explain in a moment. For now, resolve the effect and end your turn. Each player continues until all dice are placed, thus ending the round. Then players claim their resources.

After each round, players claim any top card around which they have the greatest population.  In the example above, the blue player later trumped everyone with a total population of 7. As noted in the prior post, I imagine these cards having three tiers of reward based on the winning bid: 1-6, 7-9, and 10+. The higher the winning bid, the less you win. In other words, overpopulating that part of the valley led to strained resources.

For the sake of prototyping, I'm considering a simpler rule that the winning bid is subtracted from the rank of the suit, minimum of 1. The suit itself is considered one of four resources. For example, blue would only win 1 Spade from this card.

Scoring and Advancement
Your ultimate goal is to make your tribe as happy as possible over the course of many generations. This is represented by their happiness score, which in turn is based on how balanced their various needs are. Imagine a tracker for each player that looked something like this.

Heart   [0] [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [9]
Diamond [0] [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [9]
Club    [0] [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [9]
Spade   [0] [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [9] 

As you collect resources, they will accumulate at different rates. Let's say Heart is currently at 9 as indicated in bold above. Diamond is at 2, C at 6, and D at 1.

When any one of your resources reaches 10, it loops back around to 0 and you get to do two things:
  • Earn a reputation. Take a reputation card and assign it to the lowest unassigned die face for your tribe, starting with the one-pip face. Hereafter, playing a die with that result allows you to use that special effect.
  • Score points equal to your lowest resource. So in the example above, as soon as you earned one more A, you would score just one point because your lowest stat is currently at 1.
So these are the two competing interests: Do you upgrade as soon as possible, sacrificing optimal points? Or do you hold off, trying to keep your tribe's desires as balanced and satisfied as possible even if it keeps you from earning your best choice of special abilities?

Next Steps and Notes
I just couldn't shake the diminishing returns auction mechanic I posted about earlier last week, but I wasn't really inspired by the election theme. Generally speaking, my games tend to have zany and/or peaceful themes and I think this mechanic could work for that sort of experience. I asked folks on Twitter for some suggestions and the one that struck a chord most was Tragedy of the Commons by way of Hayao Miyazaki.

You've heard me talk about Tragedy of the Commons as a game mechanic way back when I first played Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport. Back then, I had a strong ecological vibe in mind, but I didn't want to get too preachy about it. Princess Mononoke in particular seemed a nice point of reference for the desired tone.

From other conversations comparing Spyrium's to Guilds of Cadwallon's modular worker-placement boards. (See this video of Guilds of Cadwallon's gameplay for a quick overview.) I love this mechanic and I'd like to see it explored more. No idea what to call the genre, but I dig it regardless, and I'd like to take it into the auction mechanic I described earlier.

For now, I have a lot of work to do to make this a playable prototype. I must make a quick set of resource cards, determine what the reputations might be, and figure out a lot of math. Oof.

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: Jennifer (Jennisodes) Steen's game of competing Masterminds and their biddable Minions. (Ages 8+.)
  • School Daze: It's high school the way you wish it could be. (Ages 13+.)
  • Camp Myth: The RPG: Third Eye's adaptation of the Chris Lewis Carter YA novel series about mythic creatures at summer camp. (Ages 8-13.)
 So what are you waiting for? Go to Bundle of Holding right now!

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 recommendations for two-player auction games including Biblios and Blue Moon.) But honestly the auction game that I've enjoyed the most lately has been Keyflower.

What I had in mind was mashing up some of the resource acquisition of Kingsburg, auctions of Keyflower, and upgrades from Quantum. Add to this a theme where you don't want to bid too high, mirroring the speed/strength tradeoff in Quantum's ships.

Naturally, you already have that inverse relationship in any auction. Efficient bidding is key. You don't want to spend more money than you need to, just enough to beat everybody else and enough to turn a profit. But what if your actual payout from an auction was affected by the size of the winning bid?

Let's say we have a game about elections. We're competing by spending advertising money on different districts, each of which have different constituents in a variety of interest-sectors, like Business, Philanthropy, Military, and so on. We want to spend enough ad money to win a district, but if too much money is spent in the district, it creates a disaffected electorate who offer less support to the winning candidate.

At the start of each round, each player rolls four dice. This represents the funding for the week. Then players take turns using those dice results to bid on several District cards out on the table.

For example, Bob bids a total of 5 for this district. If he wins, he'll get 3 blue, 3 red, and 4 black. (For now, these colors are just abstract, but they would be replaced with thematic icons in a final production, each representing a different interest group.

But Sarah decides to outbid Bob. Her bid is 7, which means that if she wins, she'll only get 1 blue, 2 red, and 2 black.

Sarah wins the district. She must tuck the District card beneath her player board so that it only shows what she earned.

Later, these resources may be redeemed for upgrades that give each die face a special ability when it is used as a bid. You'd have six slots available, representing each die face. Upgrades are built and assigned from 1 to 6, because the 6 is such a powerful bidder anyway. For example:

  • Intimidation: Replace an opposing die from this district with this die.
  • Friendly Media: Double the value of another one of your dice in this district.
  • Guerrilla Tactics: Halve the value of another one of your dice in this district, rounded up.
  • Sour Grapes: Add this die to an opposing bid.
  • Piggyback: Add this die to an opposing bid, the sum is now your bid.
  • Nimble Campaign: If a player tries to outbid you, you may reroll this die.
  • Anonymous Donor: This die adds to your bid, but doesn't count against the resulting payout.
And so on. Lots of possible upgrades with this theme.

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.

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.

Remove the four kings and the joker from the deck. Shuffle and deal one to each player face-up. If no one got a Joker, discard it from play. Shuffle the remaining kings into the rest of the deck and set it down in the center of the play area within reach of all players. Each player should have enough room for a row of up to ten cards. Use poker chips or a notepad to keep track of score.

Noting the rank of a card is important for determining turn order. The ranks are (in order of lowest to highest) Joker, Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, and King. Suits are also ranked. They are (in order of lowest to highest) Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, and Spades. Alphabetical order, in other words.
So, a 7 of Spades is ranked higher than a 7 of Hearts, which is higher than a 7 of Diamonds, which is higher than a 7 of Clubs.

Preparing Each Round
Play is divided into rounds. Each round, one player takes the role of Dealer. In the first round, the player with the highest ranked king is the Dealer. Thereafter, the role of Dealer will pass amongst players according to their choices during play.

To start each round, the Dealer draws one card per player, plus two, from the deck.
So if this is a four-player game, the Dealer will draw six cards. (4+2=6)

The Dealer places two of these cards face-down in the center of the play area, then places the remaining cards face-up alongside the face-down cards. These cards are collectively called “the offer.”

Turn Order
Now players take turns. In the first round, the player with the Joker or lowest-ranked king takes the first turn. The player with the next highest ranked king takes the next turn, and so on, until the dealer takes his turn, thus ending the round. In future rounds, turn order will change based on player’s choices during play as explained below.

Playing a Turn
On a turn, the active player takes one of the offered cards and adds it to her collection. Cards in a collection are kept in a neat row, with the earliest card (the king) on the far left, with the most recently taken card on the far right. If taking a face-down card, the active player must turn it over so it is face-up.

Busting: If the active player has taken an odd-numbered card and there are two face-up odd-numbered cards already in her collection, she must turn those two cards face-down. The newly added card remains face-up. Note that this only applies to numbered cards. Aces, Jacks and Kings are fine.

Dealer’s Privilege: Though the dealer gets last pick, he takes two cards from the offer. The Dealer decides the order in which they are placed in his collection.

End of Round
There is one card remaining in the offer after everyone has had their turn. This is discarded from play, ending the round.

New Round, New Dealer, New Turn Order
Each round, the player who took the highest ranked card in the prior round is the new dealer. Thus, the turn order is also rearranged so that whoever took the lowest card will get first pick, followed by the player who took the next highest card, and so on. (Strategy Note: Each turn, you face a choice of whether you want best pick of the offer or the option to take two cards as the dealer.)

The game ends when one player has nine or more cards in her collection.

Royal Score: Each Jack, Queen or King in your collection scores 1 point per card of their suit in your collection. A royal card does score for itself.

Joker Score: If you have the Joker, score 2 points for each face-down card in your collection.

Set Score: A continuous row of cards with a matching suit or rank, scores 1 point per card in that set.

Example of Scoring
At the end of the game, your collection has the following cards, in this order.

Royal Score: Your King of Hearts gives you one point per heart in your collection, including itself. There are three Hearts in your collection, so you score 3 points from your King of Hearts. Your Queen of Diamonds gives you one point per Diamond in your collection, including itself. There are two Diamonds in your collection, so you score 2 points from your Queen of Diamonds.

Joker Score: You don’t have a Joker in your collection, so you don’t score any points for your face-down cards. (If you did, your two face-down cards would score 4 points.)

Set Score: You have three Hearts in a row, which scores you 3 points. You have two 2s in a row, which scores you 2 points. You have two Diamonds in a row, which scores you 2 points.

In total, you score 11 points!

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:

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!

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
Shuffle the deck and arrange a circular track of fourteen cards in the middle of the play area. Arrange each player's catapult as equidistant from each other on the board as possible, the youngest player placing first. Deal four cards to each player's hand.

On your turn:

LAUNCH: Play a card from your hand to launch your catapult. The distance of your launch is indicated by the rank of your played card. So, if you play a "4," your distance is four spaces. You may launch at either direction of the track.

COLLECT: Collect the card on the track and replace it with your played card. Cards in your collection are kept face-up.

MOVE: Then move your catapult in the opposite direction that many spaces along the track.

While launching, you may CALIBRATE: If you have a suit in your collection matching the suit you're playing, you may CALIBRATE. Adjust your distance up to a number of spaces equal to the quantity of cards in that suit you have in your collection. So, if you launch Pillows 4, and you have two Pillow cards in your collection already, you may adjust that distance to 2, 3, 5, or 6. Whatever distance you choose, you must still move that distance in the opposite direction.

After launching, you might HIT: If you hit a space occupied other players' catapults, they must discard a card of their choice from their own collection. This makes it useful to keep some low-value cards in your collection as a shield to protect your treasures.

END: End your turn by drawing a card from the deck.

Endgame and Victory

Continue playing until everyone has played their entire hand of cards. Your score is the lowest rank of each suit in your collection added together. Thus, low-value cards are useful as shields, but they might potentially lower your endgame score. Be careful about what you collect!

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.

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 review copies to various reviewers. This technically is taken out of my royalties for the month. I'm not adjusting the sales reports to reflect that, but it's something worth noting since it's effectively almost a quarter of the month's profits.

Right, so a note about scheduling. I was perhaps too ambitious hoping I could get a new product out each month leading into the holidays. My freelance work (which is how I actually make a living) is quite busy this time of year as publishers try to head off Chinese New Year's annual two-week factory slow-down. So unfortunately, I'm going to have to delay Koi Pond: Moon Village a month, perhaps two.

Very sorry if that's a disappointment to folks eagerly waiting for it, but take heart that it will come out! As will many more games to come in 2014! I'm committed to making this venture work in the long-term. My big ambitious goal is that by this time next year, I can pay a month's rent with monthly earnings from my games.

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!
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.