SPX 2016 Overview

Howdy folks! I just got back from SPX 2016, the convention focused on independent and small press comics creators. Back in 2014 I briefly mentioned SPX as a great source for artistic talent. Last year I described the parallels between the indie comics and the tabletop game design communities.

This year I'm just exhausted, so here's a link to the pinterest board of artists I met at the hall. Most of these artists said they were available for freelance assignments, so if you're a publisher or art director looking for new talent, check them out!

A brief overview of my exp at the show:
  • Fri: Toured the comics vault at Library of Congress. Saw a lovely Harrison Cady piece. Talked sci-fi movies with new friends. Then hauled boxes around the hall for set up.
  • Sat: Line mgmt duty. Met The Adventure Zine artists. Saw the Ignatz Awards. Danced at (and evacuated from) the SPX prom.
  • Sun: Mostly special duty. Saw @careydraws on Magical Girls panel! Then teardown, lifting, hauling. Alas, too tired to play Magic. Happy tho!
  • Mon: Silver Diner breakfast with smart folks talking about creative life and work.

And now I must sleep a week.

▶️ Highlight Key Words with Custom Tags in InDesign [Card at Work: 15]

Laying out a card game but your team members don't have indesign? Spreadsheets don't keep character formatting either, so that's no help. How can your team call out key words for you to style? Custom tags!

Using a library of customized plain text tags makes it easy to know which words need to be styled a particular way. By setting up a few simple GREP styles in InDesign, those tags will automatically highlight and style those key words like magic. All you have to do is merge the records in DataMerge as usual and InDesign does the rest of the work for you.

Hope you find this useful! Support more videos at patreon.com/danielsolis!

Wireframe Card Designs for Patrons

New goodies for all my patrons! I had a request for some wireframe card designs for different types of games, so here's a test batch for you. These are available in EPS, JPG and an IDML file. Hope you find these useful! If you'd like to see more, please comment on the Patreon post here. Thanks!

Chess Terrain Cards?

This was a silly little product I was mulling a while back. It's too goofy for abstract players and too abstract for goofy players. So, probably just right for my sensibilities. :)

It's deck of cards with 2x3 grid of spaces. Eight cards arranged as shown above would make the middle six rows of a chess board. Each player's home row is implied by the dotted lines. You'd set up a standard chess game and play on this modular board, using the special effects on the spaces shown above.

This is obviously designed for chess, but could easily combo with the transparent card abstract game I posted as well. It's one of those little ideas that's not really marketable at anything but a niche scale, but I probably great for a POD product. It's been a long time since I've released any new product and the longer the hiatus, the more pressure I feel to make the next one really special. Perhaps instead I should just focus on these sorts of silly ideas.

What do you think?

Poker Auction Alpha Prototype

Lately I've been thinking about designing card decks that act as supplements for a standard deck of playing cards you already have at home. The idea is that with one of these supplements and a deck of playing cards, you'd have a deep and extremely portable strategy game in your favorite genre. Auction games, area control games, etc.

First up, a poker auction game. The idea here is that you could play out an auction using poker hands instead of money. I liked the idea that instead of a 1:1 ratio of dollars to bidding power, a poker hand could have an unpredictable bidding power.

To get the alpha on the table as soon as possible, I just cannibalized a first edition of Sushi Go as a placeholder set of set collection cards. I also grabbed a Hocus deck since it had a convenient summary of poker hands. With the Game Designers of North Carolina, we play stormed the following game:

Remove the chopsticks from the Sushi Go deck. Shuffle it together and deal out five lots of three random Sushi Go cards each, lined up in a row. Shuffle the poker deck. Each player begins with a random hand of five poker cards.

One lot goes up for auction at a time, starting from the front of the line. Each player takes turns bidding or passing on it.

Bid: Lay a valid poker set as a bid in front of you. (The lowest bid is "High Card," a single card.) You may instead add a card or cards to your existing bid. These new cards may raise the bid to a better poker set or be a "kicker." In either case, your new bid must be the strongest bid on the table. If it is not, then you must pass.

  • A kicker is a card that is not technically part of a poker set, but will break ties between two poker hands of equal strength. For example, of you bid a High Card of 8, then Matt bids an 8, and Ruth also bids an 8, you can then add a 4 to your bid. If no one else can add a higher card to their bid as a kicker, or make their card a stronger poker set, then you would win the auction.

Pass: Draw a card from the deck. You're now out of the round.

Once all but one player has passed, the player who has the strongest poker set wins the lot. If two or more players have equally strong bids, they cancel each other out and the next strongest bid wins the lot.

When you win a lot, its cards go into your tableau. The winner discards their bid cards. Anyone else returns their bid to their hands.

The hand limit is nine cards total, so at this point you must discard down to nine if necessary.

Then the next lot in line goes up for auction, following the procedures described above. This continues for each of the five lots. After the fifth lot is won, that round is over.

All sets but the Puddings score at the end of the round, if able. If any of your cards score, they must be discarded. If any of your cards do not score, you can keep those cards in your tableau going into the next round.

To begin a new round, deal five new lots for the next round. Players keep all of their poker cards in their hand going into the next round. Play one round per player.

The game ends after one round for each player. The player with the most points wins.

GDofNC recommended that instead of a poker deck the game could use a Pairs deck.

If a Pairs deck, then the auction winner would be whoever plays the largest set of matching cards. If tied, whoever played the lower ranked set wins. That seemed easier than figuring out poker hands. It also makes a nice balance in a Pairs deck as more common cards are powerful as a group, but less powerful individually.

While certainly more accessible, I'm still not sure if a Pairs deck has the versatility of a poker deck though. It also means departing from this little conceit that started this whole idea in the first place. Perhaps that's one darling I should drop right away, but I'd like to give it a shot one more time.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.