Triangle games community featured in Indy Week!

(Photo: Alex Boerner)

Sayaka Matsuoka from Indy Week did a special article on the tabletop game community in the Triangle area. She interviewed local game designers, store owners, and players! Check it out!

Testing Dry-Erase Markers on DriveThruCards Premium Stock

In my last post, I announced Pencil Park, a co-designed game with Adam McIver. For now the plan is to get a DriveThruCards edition out on the market while the timing is hot for a roll-and-write game. The tricky aspect was the "pencil" part of things. All of my tests had been with sleeved home-printed cards and dry-erase markers. In the off chance DriveThruCards' boxes couldn't fit sleeved cards, I had to test whether the bare stock itself could handle repeated dry-erase marking. Here are my test results! SCIENCE!!

In all of these tests, I used relatively fresh Expo brand dry-erase markers and Premium stock DriveThruCards. Obviously I don't live in a lab, so I couldn't control other environmental factors like humidity and temperature, but I hope these results hold true for most home use.

Naturally, I tweeted the results as they arrived.

Test 1: Black Ink Over Time
The first test I set out several cards covered in dry-erase Black ink. After the allotted about of time, I wiped away as much ink as I could with a dry paper towel. The results were very good for my purposes. After a typical game length, there would be minimal staining on the card. Even after 24 hours, the haze was pretty tolerable. I'm not sure how well it would hold up over repeated use, but for occasional use I think it's pretty good!

Test 2: Colored Ink Over Time
Nat Levan was curious about how the different colors of ink might fare after a 24 hour period, so I set out all the colors I had available. Again, I wiped away as much ink as I could with a dry paper towel. The results were still pretty tolerable, but as he had expected some colors seemed to stain more than others depending on the light. Blue and Red seemed most hazy after the testing period.

Test 3: Colored Ink on Printed Surfaces
After those last two tests, I had a hypothesis. I wondered if it would do even better if it had an ink layer printed on it already to fill in all the pores of the paper.

Photo 1 shows four different colors of Expo dry-erase markers on the printed cards after 24 hours of drying.

Photo 2 shows two different methods of erasure after the drying period was complete.
(2a) The lower half of each sample shows how much I was able to remove with aggressive scrubbing with a dry paper towel. That stuff is really well caked on. I thought this hypothesis was a bust, but I remembered someone on my timeline mentioned a trick for removing stubborn dry-erase stains. Just write over the stain again with a marker and erase both at once.
(2b) The upper half of each sample shows how that worked out. Much better than a paper towel alone, but still more significant staining than on the less-printed cards.

Photo 3 shows a close-up of the red sample results from Experiment 2 and the red sample results from this experiment. Even after using the marker trick, the surface from Experiment 2 was easier to erase and had less staining.

Conclusion: That hypothesis is busted. I suspect that the unprinted surface of the stock is less absorbent at room temperature. The ink layer on top of the paper is somehow more porous, therefore takes the dry-erase ink more readily. So, if I'm to use cards as dry-erase components, I must keep the writing surface as blank as possible.

Pencil Park - Design and Development Journal

About a week before UnPub 2017, I posted a weird little idea for a roll-and-write game. I didn't realize how much of a hit it would be until a few days later when I saw dozens of people playing it on home-printed or hand-drawn cards. It's been a fast development process since then, but where did it start?

Someone on my twitter feed once described a game mechanism where the arrangement of pips on a dice face could literally be translated to a range of movement on a grid or an arrangement of tiles on a table space. If you're that person, please @ me so I can give you proper credit. Clearly that idea stuck with me for a while, eventually becoming the seed of Pencil Park.

I've always liked drafting mechanisms that make what you don't choose as meaningful as what you do. In Seasons, the die result that no one chooses determines the pace of the game. In Small World, Belle of the Ball, and Century: Spice Road, the cards you don't draft get more valuable over time. I wanted to play around with something like the Can't Stop mechanism by Sid Sackson, where you choose two dice from a pool, but adding the more modern twist of making the remaining dice matter.

So that was the beginning: You roll three dice. Choose two and add them together. That number corresponds to a type of symbol you will write on a piece of paper. The remaining die tells you how many of that symbol you will write. Furthermore, that die also tells you the arrangement that set of symbols must be drawn in. On a standard six-sided die, that meant a "4" would be a 2x2 grid of symbols. A "5" would be an "X" shape of two intersecting diagonal lines.

Assuming the space available to draw these symbols is limited, I thought it would make for an interesting Tetris-style analog game where you have a bit more control over the pieces that may come. I made a set of nine city cards with grids of white squares and four empty inaccessible squares along with a first draft of six different types of "zones" that could be drawn. That was where Pencil Park began.

Over the week leading up to UnPub 2017, I had a lot of people tweeting their home-made final boards to me to check their scoring. This was a clear indication to me that I had stumbled on something special, which was great news. the bad news, I didn't realize how much homework I had given myself during an already busy week! Clearly the next step would be simplifying the scoring system and clarifying its presentation so I wouldn't need to answer FAQs so frequently.

That's where Adam McIver came in! Out of all the people who had been interested in Pencil Park, Adam was by far the most enthusiastic and willing to test weird new ideas. We chatted in-person during UnPub about some new ideas for new components and how the game might exist as a DriveThruCards product or a more traditional retail product. I've rarely had the chance to collaborate with someone who also shared the same history of graphic design and game design. It's been great!

He figured out the math so that we would have a more balanced set of seven zones. We added two great new modes of play for more competitive strategic players. Adam made a set of Power Cards activated by a fourth die that gets chosen by the "Mayor" of the round. It's a really cool mechanic!

Now I'm preparing for the local UnPub Mini event at Atomic Empire on April 29 where I will debut a new draft of Pencil Park and test out all three modes of play: Block Party, City Council, and Town Rivals. Once I've had a chance to evaluate the playtest results and make the necessary tweaks, we might put up a new print-and-play draft for public review. Can't promise anything just yet, but at the very least you'll hear more about Pencil Park!

'Trickster: Champions of Time' on Kickstarter

Howdy all! Long time no see. It's been a wildly busy couple of months since last year, most of which culminates in this new game from Action Phase Games and Indie Boards and Cards.

Trickster: Champions of Time is a big polished update of my old game series Trickster which long-time followers might remember from a few years ago. The art is all new, the base game contains more hero cards, and the expansions planned introduce even more. I handled art direction and Beth Sobel did the illustrations. I'm happy to have a diverse and inclusive cast of characters from across time and space so skillfully depicted in the game.

Check out the video above and help spread the word. Thank you!

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