ENnie Award Medal Design

The ENnie Award nominees and judge spotlights were announced today, which is why I can finally reveal to you the medal design I did! A few months ago, Campaign Coins came to me with the opportunity to design the medal to be used in the ENnie Awards for the next five years. It had to be an evergreen design that still highlighted the awards' roots in RPGs. I hope you dig it!

The Trickster game line launched this week!!

They're here! Finally!

Trickster is a fun pub/strategy card game that's easy to learn and quick to play for 3-7 players! Each set of Trickster cards is a standalone game featuring seven heroes from a different genre or unique setting. You can mix up heroes from different sets to customize the game for your group!

Trickster: Fantasy features a Knight, Bard, Mage, and other familiar fantasy heroes. It's a good introductory set for new players, with simple effects that sync together for a lot of fun light strategy. You can get it here: http://www.drivethrucards.com/product/148126/Trickster-Fantasy?src=newest

Trickster: Tianxia features Wuxia-inspired heroes from Vigilance Press' role-playing game. It's a fast, highly competitive take on Trickster's gameplay. Good for players comfortable with a little "take that" in their game night. You can get it here: http://www.drivethrucards.com/prod…/151157/Trickster-Tianxia

Look for more sets in the future, including Trickster: Supers and a biopunk themed set featuring art from Stephen Sanders' Symbiosis universe! Hope you enjoy it!

Tabletop Simulator Mods of Smart Play Games

Last week Paul Dean published a really interesting article for Rock Paper Shotgun about board game publishers, Tabletop Simulator mods, and copyright. He asked for comment from several smart people in the board game industry, and also me for some reason. Go check it out then come back here.

When Paul interviewed me for his article, I admit that Tabletop Simulator wasn't really on my radar. I found the Steam interface rather opaque, so I never really explored that marketplace much. I knew Tabletop Simulator was out there, though, and this was as good a time as any to finally deep a toe into that pool.

As you might have seen from my rather permissive stance in the matter, I see TTS modding as something similar to print-on-demand. Both are emerging technologies with creators trying to get  tabletop games out faster and more affordably. Both are still very niche media channels, too, so I feel a bit of kinship there. After having been approached by many digital app studios that never really went anywhere, I'm impressed with the gumption of individual modders Getting It Done.

Eventually the Paid Mod program will return to Steam and I gotta be ready for it. I'm always up for trying out new technology that lets creators get their work out to people quickly, while still making some money from it. I felt that way about crowdfunding, print-on-demand, patronage, and now modding. I just want to make sure any modders out there know I'm cool with them tinkering with my self-published games freely... but when money starts becoming a part of it, we gotta work out a contract together.

It's under those terms that folks like Ryan Wilshere are developing a Light Rail mod for Tabletop Simulator. It's not live yet, but it looks pretty dang polished to me so far. (If you want more info, contact rwilshere at gmail dot com.) I'll keep you appraised of how this and other mods develop.

Trickster: Fantasy and Trickster: Tianxia coming soon!

I just ordered Trickster: Fantasy and Trickster: Tianxia proofs this weekend, so if all goes well I'll have both games ready to launch around July 1. For now, I have a BoardGameGeek page up for Trickster: Fantasy. If you've played the prototype print-and-play, I would very much appreciate your rating there!

A Social Deduction Game with Much Less Yelling

At the last Game Designers of Carolina meetup, four of us (Burke Drew, Mark McGee, and Josh Mills) went aside and playstormed a few different ideas using cards with only numbers and colors. One was this oddball little social game that I'd like to explore further.

Each Round Setup
Four players were each randomly and secretly assigned Red or Blue team. We had deck of cards with 13 red cards and 13 blue cards, each numbered 1-13. We were each dealt a hand of five cards, with the remainder set aside from the game.

Each round began with a trading phase, which was divided into turns. During each of these turns, players negotiated openly and said whatever they liked about their team allegiance or what cards they wanted.

Trading Phase
Turn 1: Each player traded one card from their hand with their neighbor.

Turn 2: Each player traded one card from their hand with the player diagonally across from them.

Turn 3: Each player traded one card from their hand with the player facing them.

Then turns looped back around so we traded with our neighbor again in turn 4, with the player diagonally across on turn 5, and so on.

After the third turn, and after any subsequent turns, any player could call for the trading phase to end.

Scoring Phase
When trading was over, each player revealed their actual team, then added together the ranks of any of their cards in their team's color. So if you were a red player, you only added together the ranks of red cards in your hand.

The twist is that the WHOLE TEAM scored points equal to the LOWEST scoring team member. So if the two Red team members score 30 and 10 respectively, all the red team members only score 10 points total.

So the trick of the trading phase was figuring out who is actually on your team while also managing your hand so it's not too high, since it might be hurting your team's overall score.

Despite having teams, this was an individual competition game, so your individual score carried over from round to round. 

New Rounds
Each new round, teams are re-assigned secretly and randomly, then trading and scoring continues as described above.

We didn't settle on an outright victory condition, but I imagine something simple like first-to-X would be an easy way to go.

Additional Notes
The trading phase gets more complicated with more players. We'd have to figure out an equitable trading pattern in order to keep players trading with at least three different people each round.

Odd numbered players are also an awkward situation. I think that player ought to be a Rogue. The Rogue is essentially his own team. The Rogue scores points equal to the lower total ranks of either color in his own hand. So if the Rogue has 15 Red and 4 Blue in hand, he only scores 4 points.

I'd reduce the highest rank to something more manageable, like 5, so the scoring phase can move a little faster.

Overall this was a fun social game despite having so little information about each player's allegiance each round. I was aiming for a social game that didn't rely so much on one player logic-ing and bullying the other players into following their lead.

Kigi in China!

JoyPie was kind enough to send me some photos from a public event where they were promoting their games, including the Chinese edition of Kigi. Check 'em out!

I'll never get tired of seeing my games played on the other side of the world. :D

Trickster Release Schedule

Great news! My new card game Trickster is just about ready to go live later this month. Until then, you can find the live google doc of the rules and print-and-play files here. Good and generous friend Ruth Boyack will also be floating around Origins 2015 this week, where she'll have my prototypes on-hand to teach and play. Thanks, Ruth!

Now I have to think about release schedules. Each Trickster set is meant to be a standalone game, with its own set of thematically related characters. If you have several decks, you can take characters from different decks and mix them together.

I still intend to self-publish on DriveThruCards, as I have done with several of my other card games. POD has a lot of strengths, like immediate release and minimal overhead. But the biggest setback is the cost of shipping.

It's a big sticker shock, especially overseas, so anything I can do to encourage impulse bulk orders is good. This is why most of my products are under $9.99 and why I released a high volume last year. It's all to encourage any fence-sitters to finally click "check out."

The past few weeks I've posted on Reddit and on BGG asking for input on how to best release each new Trickster set. It seems like the best release schedule would be to launch two decks first, then wait at least two months to release the third, and continue on a bimonthly schedule.

  • June: Trickster: Fantasy and either Trickster: Tianxia or Trickster: Symbiosis
  • August: Either Trickster: Tianxia or Trickster: Symbiosis, depending on the first release
  • November: Trickster: Sci-Fi or Trickster: Karthun, depending on art availability

That's all I've got planned for now. If I am super eager to release new content in those off-months, I can release small single-character mini-packs. I already have plans for Loki and the UnPub Noodle as promo characters.

It's a tough balance between maintaining awareness in the long term and flooding the market with too much product. I'm hoping that bimonthly schedule doesn't overwhelm demand my workflow. Thanks for your support!

Ghosts and the Machine: A Deckbuilding Mechanism about Post-Singularity Economy

For the past few weeks, Planet Money has been running a fascinating series of reports about the history of machines taking over human jobs, starting with the original Luddites who rose up in the 1700s when textile factories switched to mechanical devices. It was like a Georgian-era Detroit, as middle-class workers were suddenly displaced en masse.

Planet Money closed out the series with a debate about whether this time was different. Would the next generation find new jobs after the current phase of contraction? They pointed to the last few cycles of recession and recovery, in which the economy recovered with fewer jobs available than before. It was a really interesting series, and I encourage you to listen to the whole thing.

That got me thinking about the extreme conclusion of this trend: What do we do when billions of displaced workers with nothing to do, families to feed, and an economic system that hasn't caught up with a post-employment era of human civilization. That's a really interesting theme for a game and I have one nasty little game mechanism to model it: Let's call it "Cull Upkeep" for lack of a better term.

Cull Upkeep

First, take a standard deckbuilding game where each player begins with their standardized supply of mediocre cards. These are your mere human workers in various fields of employment. As long as they're in your deck and doing their jobs, they're okay. The only problem is that they're inefficient.

In time, players can earn new machine cards for their deck, building up a more efficient machine to acquire money. But alas, those human cards keep clogging up your hand. The natural choice is to cull those cards from your deck. Sorry, humans, but it's a new day and these machines are just way more efficient.

In a normal deckbuilder, once a card is culled from your deck, you never have to worry about it cluttering up your engine again

But here's the twist: Any cards you cull from your deck stay in a personal tableau. These are the humans leftover despite your overall economy becoming that much more efficient. Those humans must still be paid a living wage and be kept comfortable. Otherwise, you may have a refugee crisis on your hands. Those humans may depart for your neighbors' tableaus.
The only way this mechanic works is if the victory condition is more like Valley of the Kings, where culled cards are banked so they're worth points. However in this case, they have the added complication of still needing to be cared for in order to be worth anything at the end of the game.

So the overall goal of the game is to keep as many humans as comfortable as you can. The more humans you have, and the happier they are, the better you'll score at the end of the game. You're basically building a technotopia. A post-singularity civilization where humans are cared for by an omnipresent network of benevolent machines. Neat! Or scary, depending on your perspective.

Anyway, this is just a brainstorm now, but I love it when a cool radio story inspires this sort of left-field game idea.

Princess Bride: As You Wish, get it in stores!

It's been a long time since I talked about Princess Bride: As You Wish, but I'm happy to say it's finally coming to stores. Ask your local game retailer to carry it! More info from the publisher here. And below are some photos of the cards:

In As You Wish, you're remixing scenes from the story to suit one of the ten characters. Each round, one player has a hand of cards, each with their own scene and a bit of game information. She puts them all down on the table, but keeps some face-down.

Each player takes a card and adds it to their tableau. The dealer drafts last, but gets to keep two cards in her tableau. When any player takes a face-down card, she must reveal it as soon as it enters her tableau. If you ever have too many skulls in your tableau, you must turn over those cards face-down, where they won't score points!

Each character has their own desires for their story. Buttercup seeks Love and Glory, Westley seeks Love and Fights. Whoever your character is, you'll earn points for those two elements as long as your tableau has enough cards. The small number on the lower right of each newly drafted card determines the turn order for the next round, including who gets to be the dealer!

I hope you enjoy As You Wish. It's only my second traditionally published card game and I want to know if you're having fun with it. Thanks so much for your support!

Tell your game store to carry it!
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.