Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Stumble And Turn Back

So I didn't have Cultivate Contest-Ready by the deadline.
I've been putting off posting that here, since I posted it in the contest thread, and then the entry thread.  It was the right call, as I had developed serious doubts about how far I'd taken Project Chestnut, and how quickly.  I rushed out a prototype and called it Components Ready, without having exhaustively (or even adequately) playtested it at all.  My buddy John Horton has been working on a Flash mockup of Cultivate based off the rules - so much was missing, so much was poorly thought-out.  I'm looking back on this blog where I thought that the 8x8 board was restricting.  What? Right now it feels too big.  Which leads to examining whether Chestnut was really the right lane of development to go with...
All of which leads me back to the conclusion that I should have stuck by my guns as far as the parallel development process is concerned.  Entering the Contest was a great idea, and incredibly useful.  It gave me the inspiration and urgency for everything that came after.  But I did let it carry me away.  I focused on being done, rather than on being good.  Luckily, I now have a whole year to make changes, and return to my parallel development process.
Of course, I'm also now free to work on other designs.  And I'm all fired up to re-visit some old ones.  Here's to life after losing.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Driving To The End

A month of silence...
I was probably busily prototyping, right?
Well... no.

Life got in the way, as it is wont to do.  In addition to pouring my focus into my primary passion, acting/theatre, it's been a productive writing time for me; I'm working on some pokemon fan fiction (still your vocal admiration and hold your applause) for a nerd comedy event I'm working in October, and I'm revisiting and expanding the first play I ever wrote (and finished), a long one-act from five or six years ago.
All of which meant that for the last month, I had to focus on top priorities, and banned myself from BGG.  I've spent the last few days readjusting to allowing myself to read/write about gaming again, and catchin' up on my subscriptions.  And look at that, a crucial month of game development in the BGG 2013 Solitaire PnP Contest is gone.  I've got just a couple of weeks left to put together a contest-worthy entry.
Woof.
Well, I have two options here.  I could shelve Cultivate and try to knock out something else light, quick, and easy.  Rush some reckless prototyping.  I'm certainly inspired by my fellow entrants in the competition; when I look at Endless Nightmare, 5 Temples, The Centurion's Journey, and especially Maquis, it becomes clear to me that I'm not going to be winning any prizes here.  But like I said, I'm inspired by these games, and I want to complete a game design.  Do I bang out something hard and fast?
Or do I stick with Cultivate? I put a lot of work into this before shelving it, and I've been tinkering with it today.  I think I'll have to focus on just one iteration (probably Project Chestnut) if I want to get this contest-ready in time, but I did build my own prototype, I just need to playtest it, and I'm not far from having a printable Prototype A for this.  The question is, do I rush this process, or do I work on another project?
Hmmm...
It doesn't help that I am still working on those writing projects, and my acting schedule of rehearsals, readings, shows, and meetings, won't wrap up until October.  So this will all be at once, just hopefully balanced in with the other stuff.  Well, we'll see.  I may try to do both...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Two Other Prototypes that Don't Want To Be

It's been a bit one-note round these parts lately, no? With Cultivate as my first serious attempt to complete a game and submit it for a design contest (albeit only a BGG one), I've been focused primarily on the umbrella design of the game.  While my mind and hand have wandered between Prototypes, I've had my eye on the prize; to the neglect of Clear Black Sky, The Plan, and the fun little idea that popped onto the page during a Cultivate doodle session: Rail Against The Machine.  The spark for that idea came from a BGG thread about under-utilized themes, wherein, of course, many folks chimed in playfully with combinations of the usual tropes.  I felt a desire to really make the behemoth snowball generic design they all nibbled at the edges of: A zombie train deckbuilding game with worker placement and hidden roles.  In space.
And so Rail Against The Machine began to percolate.
But percolate is all it has done, as I've tried to focus on Cultivate.  Today I tried to chip away at Projects Honeycomb and Buckeye.  Buckeye looks to be the most different from its siblings.  My thoughts are that the board will represent one individual plant with multiple branches, as opposed to the bush of separate seedlings in the other protos.  I've been tinkering with a focus on the pruning aspect of basil; you're supposed to clip it regularly down to the first bud, which encourages bushy, explosive growth.  Dice also presented themselves to me; any time I think of using cubes, my mind leaps to use dice instead, as you can track an additional dimension of information with them.

Dear God, this basil plant (in real life) is on its last legs.

All the more reason to soldier on.  Anyhow, cubes (and then dice) popped into my head because I thought it might be cool to have the dice represent leaves/branches that had grown, and their numbers represent how old they were.
Then I realized that this meant that every turn, the player would have to rotate each of those dice manually.  On a crowded board... Yikes.  Super-fiddly, and the whole reason I came up with my plant-growth-board-rotation mechanic; to avoid such fiddliness.  My latest thought is that perhaps the dice never change face on the board, but rather that growth is mostly a set process, and that you prune branches to collect different types of resource dice, say, water, fertilizer, and sun.  The magical basil plant that grows everything it needs.  This, then, would use a system that I kicked around for a while; resource management to keep the plant healthy and alive, perhaps having to roll a certain water amount that increases, the larger your plant gets...
All in all, there's some seeds in there.  But it's a lot, and it's different from the game that all of the other Prototypes seem to be heading towards.  I've got some time to figure out if I want to keep it in the running for this parallel design process, or if it wants to be its own spinoff.  But right meow my guess is that it'd be a companion plant-themed resource management game.
For Project Honeycomb, I took a good long look at the Catan board after messing around all week with the chessboard; 64 squares ALREADY feels restrictive.  I want to have multiple plants on a board with NINETEEN spaces? Sedus lapedus.  Some possible thoughts occur.
- I add another ring of hexes to the outside, un-numbered, so that plants on the outer edge of the Catan board have room to grow and stems can't grow in places where they'll be "cornered in".
- I make each hex a potential stem, and this prototype becomes much more vertical/stacking based than the others.
- I could drastically cut down on the number of stems, and the number of actions.  A micro version of Project Chestnut.

I may end up combining options one and three there, for fast-prototyping.  Or the vertical game could become its own thing.  We'll see.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Of Prototypes, Very Nearly Made

I continue to work on the Cultivate Project.  I have two prototypes very nearly made; depending on how the rest of the afternoon goes, I might have Projects Blackberry and Chestnut completely printed out.
My trouble is that I've never really been a PnPer.  I've never gotten into the craft side of things.  I'm much more a doodler.  And this project, with its current mechanics, has components and rotation, and physical play; it's fiddly, in short.  I do think I have a good game on my hands though.
Trouble is, I have no way to find out until I print and cut the damn things out.
Hell, I think the main reason I drafted up the Chestnut prototype was to put off building the Blackberry one.
Well... Onwards, anyhow.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Treenuts

So! While Project Honeycomb looks like a frontrunner in viability for this contest entry, I thought I'd give a little love to Project Chestnut and Project Buckeye; Buckeye especially utilizes a dartboard, an odd inspiration for a playspace, much less a solo heady-type game.
Some notes.

Project Chestnut

- 8x8 board, 63 possible spaces (duh).
- 4 starting "stems", randomly selected out of 8 possible stems?
- Number all tiles evenly 1-8 so that you can pull tiles to "roll" a d8 in order to determine coordinates for new shoots?
Back and Front of Leaf Tile for Project Chestnut

- (Rounded) Diamonds or Squares? I kind of like the idea of the chessboard being turned on its point, so that all the pieces are diamonds instead of squares.  I can't explain why, but it feels to me like they're more organic, even if they're just the same shape from a different angle.

Project Buckeye

- So Project Buckeye can't easily utilize the rotating piece timer I have going for Projects Blackberry, Chestnut, and Honeycomb.  The "tiles" don't seem like they'll really work at all, on the board itself.
- Cubes on the board?
- What do I always like better than cubes - Tiny Dice?!
- Cards for the effects, perhaps a red deck and a green deck, and red and green dice to show how each leaf ages? Yellow or white dice for flowers?

I'll try and get working prototypes up next.  Things I want to integrate; The List of Phases, Aphids, and the Ladybug.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Divers Plantae

So, as I mentioned, I'm going to try something a little different with Cultivate.  In the spirit of true Prototyping, I'm going to work on parallel development, around the different possible board types (although I may end up finding yet more types of board/playspace).  I'll start by noting what possibilities stick out to me

Project Honeycomb


Project Blackberry

Project Chestnut


Project Buckeye

Project Snowdrop

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Save The Plant, Save The World

So I'm taking a break from focusing on The Plan, as I am working on my first real entry into a design contest.  I did have an interesting but weak prototype entry in the Postcard Game contest on BGG, but neither my entry nor that contest ever really got off the ground.  I'm formally entered into the Solitaire PnP Design Contest 2013 though, and we'll see how it goes.  The working title of the game is Cultivate, although I'm considering doing an alliterative - B theme and calling it Beginner's Basil Bonsai.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Random Ludicrosities

Been a while since I wrote here, eh? My time has been squeezed extra tight of late.  I've got an overabundance of theatre projects going right now, and I may finally have bitten off more than I can chew.
Not that I think anyone actually reads this one of my blogs anyhow.  No worries! Today I just have some scattered thoughts about game design that I thought I'd write down.
- Design a game with a lazy susan, where the tableau in the middle has cards/options accessible only to the player(s) closest to the side.
- A variant of chess that takes place on a dartboard and is a race to the center, where any pawn that can make it to the bullseye is the winner.  No king, two queens, and the pawn line is behind the noble line.
- Design a red v black pokercard boardgame.  Stacks of cards as warbands, Spades and Hearts are attackers, Clubs and Diamonds are healers.  Face cards are different kinds of special commander - Kings can be placed on any existing band, regardless of position, Queens increase movement, Jacks provide ranged attack.  Every turn place one card, move one band.  6x6 grid.
- Lu Do: A macrogame wherein the police outlaw game after game, so you have to move from mini-game to mini-game in your quest to amass the most victory points.  There are certain items that bend certain kinds of rules or give benefits to your play in certain games; but playing too well gets your game noticed by the police more quickly.  You can switch back and forth between games to let the pressure on a given game die down, but eventually all the games will be outlawed, and the victory points will be counted up.

That's good for now.  Nice to get the design gears turning again.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Plan Prototype A

The Plan

Version 0.0.1 - Prototype A


Real power lies in the hands of those who choose to make something of themselves.  As a Player in The Plan, you are one of those ambitious persons of interest who has the gumption to make her or his mark on history.  Carefully cultivate Influence and back the right Proposals as you work your way up in the local political scene, first as an up-and-coming member of a Board, then as a mover and shaker of a Department, and finally as a civic leader on a Commission.
Since this is the public office, your Resume is everything.  Choose when to cooperate with your fellow Players, strive to achieve different distinctions and levels of recognition, but be ready to turn on your former allies as need be.  You can get ahead with help from the Criminally Organized, but be wary as your shady dealings could come back to haunt you.  The road to political success is a steep and winding one, but with perseverance, friends in the right places, and a little luck, you can make it in this town.

Introduction

The Plan is a fast-playing game of cards, dice, and politic maneuvering.  Work with and against your fellow players (2-6 players) over the course of the three phases of the game, shaping the City and promoting your agenda.  Each phase has a separate deck of Influence and Proposal cards; Proposals set the stakes, and Influence cards are played to sway the vote towards the result, or results, that most benefit you.  At the end of the final phase, points are tallied, resumes are compared, and one player will be crowned the victor, and will be remembered forever as a maker of history.

Components

Influence decks for the Board, Department, and Commission phases.
Proposal decks for the Board, Department, and Commission phases.
18 Board cards
12 Department cards
6 Commission cards
6 Player Resume Mats
12 Tie Breaker tokens
3 green Proposal dice
3 green Proposal markers
3 yellow Proposal markers
The Playing Mat
24 red Corruption dice
18 blue Conviction dice
18 purple Cooperation dice

Conviction

While you're ultimately looking out for #1, your loyalty to your Boards, Departments, and Commission is rewarded in the form of Conviction.  Conviction measures how well you represent the interests you claim to promote, and the success you bring to your committees.  Conviction is tracked on your Resume with blue dice.

Cooperation

The public eye looks favourably upon those who work across the aisle, and collaborate for their greater good.  It doesn't matter what you really feel about your fellow Players; what matters is that you will be rewarded for maintaining a public image of good sportsmanship, with Cooperation.  Cooperation is tracked on your Resume with purple dice.

Corruption

It's tough to make it without friends in high places... or low.  The Criminally Organized can set you up, and help swing some key votes in your direction.  The temptation to lean on support from the Criminally Organized can be difficult to resist, but it's hard to keep secrets when your life is the object of public scrutiny.  Your shady dealings can become a liability, in the form of Corruption.  Corruption is tracked on your resume with red dice.

Gameplay

The game plays out in three phases: Board, Department, and Commission.  Each phase, Players will see [six] votes come and go, in the form of Proposal cards drawn from that phase's Proposals deck.  Each Player will try to place their Committee cards (thee three Board cards dealt to each player, the two Department, and the one Commission card) on specific initiatives, which they will try and have passed.  Having your initiative passed rewards you with more Influence, and possibly Conviction.
While your Board cards are chosen at the start of the game by drafting, the way you play determines what Departments you can head up, and then what Commission you will lead.  Advance your Cooperation score by backing the same initiatives as other Players, advance your Conviction score by backing initiatives that align with your Committee cards, and keep your Corruption score as low as you can while staying competitive; later on in the game, there are Influence cards that can really hurt you if you've relied too heavily on those Criminally Organized cards,
After all 18 votes have been completed, the game is over.  Determine victory points, and the Player whose Resume ends up being strongest will become the new City Manager!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Plan, The Plan,The Plan

I finished the lengthy (for a modern-day attention-span and a time-thief in an office workplace) Encyclopedia of Chicago entry on the Plan of Chicago.  It's a great story.  I've been synthesizing ideas for The Plan (the game), not all of which can play nicely together.  Right meow I'm looking at the Player Tableau and thinking about how to lay it out so that it tracks Success, Co-Operation, and Corruption (my current three statistics) across the three Phases, and over the course of the game itself.  There may be some redundancy, but I gotta get a first draft up; hopefully that'll motivate me to build the card file for the three Phase decks, which is really all I need to do to at least have a prototype.
Slan!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

More Plans for The Plan

Another little rapid-fire scribbling of idea pings for The Plan.
I've been thinking that a possible gameplay mechanic for the Proposals and their voting would be to a two-part phase:
Phase 1: Put your proposal tokens on one or more slots on a d8.  You've got eight slots, each corresponding to a different result for the roll of a d8 - You're basically betting on specific results or sets thereof.  Perhaps you spread your proposal tokens on a whole bunch of faces - you'll have less payoff, but you're more likely to be one of the winners.  Each face can have multiple players' tokens on them (perhaps even an element that rewards co-op [Perhaps it rewards people you have co-operated with the least! Discourage long-term alliances.  It's all about public image]) so that the faces all represent different proposals.
Phase 2: The die is rolled.  Players take turns playing cards to alter the result - +1 through +3, Surprise Budget for a second result to be added (either player's choice or a second die rolled), Mafia cards to draw more cards, etc.  The proposal can also be killed this way.  Perhaps it's Condottiere-style play until you pass, or perhaps it's Poker-style.  Maybe the number of times around the circle hurts the overall result: Impetus to get stuff done.
Is this a mechanic for all three Stages/Arcs of the game, or one specific one? Hmmm...
Another thing: Why do we use cubes to track things in Euro games, when we could be using dice? Any time you move a cube on a track, you could just be moving a die, which can relay an additional dimension of information (even, say, the number of cubes that the die represents).  Hmm.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sid Sackson's Book, With My Half-Blood Prints All Over It

In my quest to process Todd Sanders' design thread over at BGG, I've come across repeated references of his to Sid Sackson's A Gamut Of Games.  Intrigued, and with a bit of Amazon money to spend, I picked up a copy.  I've been going through it page by page, processing the game design elements, the strategies, the different philosophies of play, and the bits of colour and history peppered throughout.  The book is fairly quick going, though I've been underlining, scribbling in the margins, making comments, jotting down ideas, and in general doing all the elements of note-taking that I have always smilingly, steadfastly refused to do when required by a class.
I'd recommend the book in turn to anyone getting into game design.  The current edition has author's notes at the front explaining the publication history, and the chronology of the book and its contributors.  And, as Sanders mentioned somewhere, Sackson is in many ways if not a founder, at least a keenly invested god-parent of Print and Play.  The book is about games as ideas and sets of rules, each being easy to assemble or sketch and begin playing immediately.  No 2-page component lists, no standees.  Very core-mechanic stuff here.  I like it.
Makes me wonder how a similar modern compilation would fare.  I'd love to put together a beautiful little book of some of the games that BGG has produced, or some of the 1000-Year Game Design contenders, or around any theme, really.  A good representation of some of the games being made today's GD and PnP hobbyists.

Friday, May 3, 2013

More on The Plan

So I've been thinking about my earlier seed of a thought for The Plan, and reading this fascinating document, and remembering some of my favourite moments of (of all things) Parks and Rec.  Some factors I would like to include in the game: Favors from Organized Crime that equate to basic, quiet bonuses, but count as a Mark Against in your record; A separate track for each player balancing public approval and personal funds to keep you in perpetual election or re-election; A cool design challenge might be to use chess pieces on my board; the projects you work on that reach completion have a lasting influence on the City; A tableau you build of "your track record" that is useful for tracking your victories/achievements (and therefore makes a good point tracker), but also acts as a resume for certain jobs - ergo, you are rewarded phase-to-phase not only for your victory points, but how you earned them; the possibility of multiple players being in the same division for a phase, and being forced to work together for that phase; a "Head of Division" marker for each phase, whether or not multiple players are in the same division; a mechanism for making a move half-way through your phase, with corresponding Marks Against going into your tableau; Press Investigations that you can launch into your opponent's pasts (going back a number of phases = strength of investigation) or that can be triggered against all players...
Hmmm.  Yes.  Game Design is cool, a game takes way less individual writing (though much, much more proofing and editing) than regular fiction.  Popcorning ideas is fun without the depressing sensation that your awesome idea will be too difficult to execute.  Also, I get to indulge my ADD love of learning.  Off to read more about the Chicago Plan.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cards as Dice That Don't Forget, and Game Idea: The Plan

Mahalo.  So I've been thinking about one of the longer-standing (and longer-winded) issues between "Euro" and "Ameritrash" games - that of (perceived) Skill vs. Luck.  The argument runs that the less luck has to do with the game, the more it reflects skill.  Chess vs. Snakes and Ladders.
A thought I had to mitigate the perceived influence of Luck: Replace dice with discreet stacks of cards, to which cards do not return upon being drawn.
Now, I'll bet this concept has been suggested before.  But as I'm new to all this, I'm puzzling a lot of things out myself.  I feel that it's worth musing upon.
So let's compare a die to a stack: We'll have d6 (die) and d6 (stack).
A d6 (die), when rolled, always has a 1-in-6 chance of rolling each of its results.
Now, a d6 (stack), when drawn from, removes that result from future draws.  You can count your cards (easier with a d6 than with higher denominations) and plan accordingly, especially if you can manipulate your stack - say, a mechanic where you can burn a draw to re-stock your stack, when you know that only bad draws remain.  There's luck, but you control the odds, to an extent.
It's a thought.

Also, a game idea I had: The Plan.  Inspired by reading the Design Diary for Canterbury, which in turn drew a lot of inspiration from Caylus, I thought that there'd be room for a cool Civic Planning game based around the iconic era of Chicago's Development, The Plan of Chicago.  In particular what inspired me was Andrew Parks talking about how players had to share the City's gold, as opposed to amassing it themselves.
Some ideas for The Plan: Money is a valuable resource, but not one that directly adds to the player's score or ability.  As a department head or civic planner, you're not really in it to get personally rich - that's a sucker's game - you're cultivating Influence, and getting money for your department's and your project's budgets is just your means of getting there.
I think that the game should have a few phases - Board, Department, Commission.  Set time markers dividing up the game in accordance with scale; you start out small, eventually take over one of the extant Departments, and finally wield your full political power as a member of a Commission.
It'll involve auctions, blocking your opponents, and if a scenario where if everyone blocks one another, you miss a deadline and everyone suffers.  Should encourage some co-op.  Via voting?
Hm.  More on this later.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Legacy of the Condottiere Token

Another quick thing so I don't forget it.  So one of the few nice boardgames I actually physically own and can play with my friends at work is Condottiere.  It's a blast, especially since my buddy Tyler re-distributed the territories of the Italian city-states onto a Game of Thrones map of Westeros.  Nerdception.
But a key feature of the game is the Condottiere token, and its corresponding Bishop token (or the Iron Token and Septon, in our games).  Players win control of each token throughout the game, and the tokens declare where the next battle will be fought, and what area is off-limits from battle, respectively.

So how about if that's the elegant little remedy to what has become a theoretical rat's nest of "priority" in Skrattejagergeist.  I could then work the tiebreaker token into the special abilities for some of the Spirits.  Like the red dice of Clear Black Sky, this was kind of my last design stumbling block of over-thinking.  I think I can get real alphas together for both games next week.

Dice, Dice, Denominations

Quick post today.  It's Friday and lovely out, and I for one would like to go out and enjoy that weather.  Even though my running mates and I have collectively blown off the 4.5-miler we'd scheduled for this evening, citing a general hangover from my birthday party last night, and postponing it to tomorrow evening.

I've been thinking about Clear Black Sky (why yes, I have appended the working title) and dice denominations.  As I've outlined previously, the game involves using dice to represent different classes of ship, which is hardly original, and balancing the production and deployment of large Forces of small dice or smaller Forces of large dice, which I believe is original.

The rules are almost entirely written, as it's a relatively simple game (for a 4x), and I've even worked out my tiebreaker/simultaneity issues (see "On Red Dice", below) but what I'm pondering now is which dice I really need.  I currently have d2's, d4's, d6's, d8's, d10's, d12's, and d20's - the standard DnD set, plus coins.  But is this sensical? Could I, say, cut out d20's? d4's, d8's, and d10's? The d6 and the d12?
Here's some factors to consider: I currently have a rule where red dice that roll their max can destroy dice one denomination bigger.  So if I weed out the middle, it helps out the little guys.  And I currently have d20's as being impervious to critical failures, so if I cut them, do I bestow that ability on the largest remaining die?

Possibles:

  • d2 - d4 - d6 - d8 - d10 - d12 - d20 (Current)
  • d2 - d4 - d6 - d8 - d10 - d12
  • d2 - d6 - d12 - d20
  • d2 - d4 - d8 - d10 - d20
  • d2 - d4- d6 - d12
Boy I wish there was a viable denomination between d12 and d20.  But I should try and view that more positively; I'm inclined to keep the d20, because the gap between lower-d dice and the d20 mean it'll be harder for green dice to produce d20's, which should be the case.  I haven't settled on a set yet, but I think I have to cut at least one denomination out.  I don't want to cut too many denominations, though, as I want to keep diversity of "ship class".  And whatever denomination I cut, the sum total of all dice will probably remain the same - Fewer ship types will likely mean more ships of each type.  That's the next thing I should look at - how many ships a game of this actually uses.

On an unrelated note, The dice in the box should probably have a 4-2-1 breakdown of red to blue to green. And a corresponding number of pokerships or sails of each colour.  That'll need playtesting too.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thinking of Re-Design


One of the nice things about nerdiness becoming more of the accepted norm is that the game-playing populace is increasing, and while that means that shite games are on the rise, there's more demand than ever for good games, and for a vocal populace to recommend good games over bad ones.  I've been reading through Todd Sanders' Unintentional, Sprawling, 92-page 93-page(currently) Ad Hoc Game Design Diary, which is a fascinating read.  Todd lists himself as a Game Designer, but also as a Game Re-Designer.  That's primarily involved streamlining games, making solo or print-and-play express variants, or graphic design reinterpretations.
There's a fair number of re-imaginings of existing games because, well, as with any creative work, it's easier to use existing tools in new ways than it is to come up with new tools.  And everyone plays Checkers before they play Eclipse.  We are capable of designing games because we understand that which we have played hitherto.
A random thought flickered into my head - Chutes and Ladders (or Snakes and Ladders, as I grew up with it) is a very well-known, rather well-loathed classic Ameritrash game.  The primary criticism of the game echoes the primary criticism of Ameritrash games; there is no player agency, as the game is entirely luck dependant.  You win or lose by getting lucky, not through any measure of skill or good decision-making.
Why is this so reviled of a quality? Because it's a diversion, and not an interactive one.  There's not even any real interaction between players; one player's gameplay in no way helps, inhibits, or in any way influences another player's, so there's no real reason to play it with other people, except that it becomes a race between solo players.  And when the game is based entirely on luck, it's a good game for gambling, but if you're not gambling, then you're mostly just watching statistics play themselves naturally out.  Gambling games necessarily reward the winner; you have, in addition to the sweet intangible of victory, your stake, as well as, presumably, other people's stake.  However you cut it, every game is Winner-Takes-All; Consolation Prizes don't really matter, because even if you get second place and get your bid back, someone else still got the prize you wanted.  It's Winner-Takes-All.
How is a non-gambling game different? Well, you've still got the sweet intangible of victory, but when there are no stakes, the gameplay has to be more fun than winning.  Yes, that's right - playing has to be, not as much, but more fun than winning.  Sounds impossible, right? Because if you won, you got to play, and then win too.  But the best games are so much fun to play that winning is a necessary break from further gameplay, when everyone, the winner included, groans at the end because they'd rather keep playing.
Heavy design challenge, neh? But it's true - the more you work skill into a game, the more enjoyable it is; even within gambling games, people seek out and swarm to games of chance AND skill.  Blackjack.  Poker.  Baccarat.  Games where the players get to make decisions as play develops, instead of just buying a lottery ticket.  These are also games that, on a very real level, tell a story.  You can come from behind in a run of Blackjack.  In Keno, you either won, or you didn't.  Winner Takes All.


So what in Heaven or Hell does any of this have to do with Snakes and Ladders? Well, how can I apply these musings to making it a better game? Well, I can increase the number of events, and I can make all of those events player decisions.
Let's get rid of two things; empty spaces, and that damn spinner.
First off, every space should be a chute, a ladder, or something that is not currently missing implicitly, per se, but is absent explicitly - the ability to slide forward solely within your row.  We could legit have snakes, chutes, and ladders here.
(But real quick, let's liven this up - how about instead of a simple zigzag, we try it as a spiral? How does that open things up?)
I would reduce the board to an 8x8 grid, firstly so it can be playtested on a chessboard, and secondly because it would simplify a board that would become very busy if every step had an Event.
Now, to the real root of the problem - Player Agency.  How do I make this a game of skill, and not chance?
Well, here's the thing - if I remove chance ENTIRELY, like, say, replacing the spinner with a set of cards that can be drafted, there's the chance (ha) that the game will inherently favour the first player or the last player, etc.  Of course, I can make the BOARD random, which people seem a lot more comfortable with.  So that's an option.  Let's move on.  How can I increase player interaction, so that it's not a solitaire race? A number of ways.  If I go with the card drafting thing, then players can already block each other that way.  Or, if I go another way, say, roll two dice, one after the other, with the option of "banking" a bad roll, then I could make the game cooperative - borrowing each other's banked dice, while trying to manage everyone's lives, and get the most players out of the game alive - Different difficulty levels, based on how many Snakes you can survive before your player is eliminated - or even turned.
So those are some thoughts - the primary concept )mechanic even) of Snakes and Ladders is not inherently broken - the game just suffers from features that make it undesirable as a skill game.  Fixable features.  Features we can turn to our advantage.
Cool, neh?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

On Red Dice

So let's talk about Black Sky.  4x Space bag game, which feels supremely unoriginal now that I've seen the Kickstarter for Burning Suns.  But I feel that my game, which arose from a free-ramble based on mechanics, is a different enough game that I'd like to keep pursuing it.  I could re-post the original stream of couscous that lead to the game, but enough has changed since then that it seems off-topic.  What I want to examine today is a problem I'm facing with a particular subset of ships in my game: the Reds.



From the current Living Rules Document for Black Sky:

"Conquest

Red “Armada” dice are used to subdue Hostile Planets, and to defeat enemy Forces.   When a Hostile Planet is encountered, the Planet has a Defense rating.  The total amount rolled by your red dice must match or exceed the Defense rating in order to subdue the Planet.  If the Planet is not subdued, your blue dice are destroyed, and your green dice, if they have not already Produced, cannot use the Planet to do so.  When you encounter an enemy Force, both Forces first make note of their Firepower, and then roll their red dice.  A Force’s Firepower is equal to the maximum total amount that can be rolled by its red dice.  After rolling, the Force with the higher total amount rolled is the winner.  The loser loses all of their red dice, and the winner loses Firepower equal to or greater than the amount rolled by the loser.  The winner chooses which red dice survive.  [Alt. The loser loses Firepower equal to the amount by which the Winner’s total roll amount exceeded the loser’s, and the aggressor has the choice to either leave the space or attack again]  A natural roll of ‘1’ on any die (that is not a d20) results in the destruction of that die, and returns it to your supply."

So as you can see, I'm in two minds (at least) about how to handle inter-player combat, and it has to do with how long I want conflicts to go on.

One thing I strove for in this design is near-simultaneous game play, which I've talked about recently, via super-short turns.  Every turn, you roll ONE Force, and while you can handle the timing of the phases as you see fit, you take only one true Action, and have a minimal number of decisions to make beyond the initial choice of which Force to play.  Works fine for Ranger and Colony ships.  And I'm okay with how Armada ships handle Hostile Planets.  The Problem du jour is that when it comes to PvP interactions on the Black Sky playspace, how do I handle space battles?

Perhaps I can incorporate something involving the #dicerolled/totalamount mechanic I use for my Rangers.  And perhaps total decimation of a Force isn't a bad thing; after all, your Force can only ever attack one Force per turn.  You shouldn't get Risk-style rolling blitzkriegs while the Defender sits, powerless.

How about if the average of a Force is its passive firepower? Mm.  Nope.  That involves fractions.  And more mental math than most would care to do.  But I think I want to reward going on the offensive, if only to spur on gameplay.  Ok.  Let's put these pieces together.  For logistical purposes, I also need to reward larger dice, otherwise we're going to see nothing but swarms of red and blue coins.  Something about ties destroying ships? Hm.  You know what, I might be overthinking this.  Perhaps every red die that rolls its maximum (or better than half?) can destroy an enemy die of its denomination or lower.  In a way, that turns every die into a coin; heads, I win my engagement.  If 1 is a critical failure, though, I need to reward critical victories; if you roll the highest amount you can roll on a die, you can destroy a die one (two?) denominations higher.  Well, if I want to punish coins in combat, I definitely can't raise that to two denominations.  Ok, I feel that this actually, surprisingly, models space combat now; the system favours larger ships, but makes them targets, whereas the natural chaos of war will prune away the swarms.

Now, does this deal with my original problem of gameplay slowed down by PvP? I think so.  When a Force attacks you, yeah, you've got a reactive roll.  I think you have to.  The reactive roll makes it, for the PvP Combat phases, truly simultaneous, because while general troop movement can be near-simultaneous, I cannot tolerate semi-simultaneous combat.  So you get a reactive roll.  Hmm.  How about the reactive roll is of ALL of your Force, including the Colony and Ranger ships, and those that roll their maximum have executed successful evasive maneuvers, and are not viable targets.

So your reactive roll does two things; potentially protects certain targets, or defends against an enemy Force.  The only real advantage to the attacker is that she chooses when the battle is; which is nonetheless a not inconsiderate advantage.

And besides, this slightly deeper (but, I think, less "complicated") mechanic encourages deeper strategy.  You're not going to get anywhere in this game by only having one or two huge forces, which always stick together.  You need to split and combine your Forces, and array them to your best advantage.  Every "Turn" is just one roll (maybe two with the reactive rolls), so you have to think several turns ahead, and you can, too.

Ok.  Let's take a whack at a Red Dice Rules Rewrite.

"Conquest

Red "Armada" dice are used to subdue Hostile Planets, and to defeat enemy Forces.  Hostile Planets are encountered with a Defense Rating.  The total amount rolled by your red dice in order to subdue the Planet.  If the Planet is not subdued, you can not claim the Planet as your own, and if your green dice can not produce there.
When you encounter an Enemy Force, your opponent rolls her Force as well, defensively.  Your rolls are then compared.
Your Roll - Your red dice are evaluated as follows: Any red die that rolls higher than half of its maximum amount makes a successful attack.  You may destroy an enemy die of the same denomination or lower.  Any red die that rolls its highest value makes a critical attack: The die it destroys may be of one denomination higher.  Any die that rolls a 1 suffers critical failure.  That die is destroyed.
Your Opponent's Roll - Your opponent's red dice results are evaluated in the same way yours are.  The results of their blue and green dice defensive rolls are resolved as follows: Any green or blue die that rolls its maximum value has executed successful defensive maneuvers, and is not an eligible target for your red dice.  Any green or blue die that rolls a 1 is NOT destroyed as part of its defensive maneuvers."

As I wrote that, I went back and forth on that blue green 1's-don't-insta-kill thing.  Everywhere else in this game, rolling a 1 is death.  But I figure that from a thematic standpoint, these dice are not running their reactors or hurtling through space at high velocity; they're just turning, or raising shields.  Since they're not trying to execute their function, the chance for critical failure should not result in their destruction.

From a mechanical balance standpoint, Player One could just send one solitary blue coin in and cause a massive roll of the entire defending Force, and reap the benefits of all those 1's.  Seems unfair.  Especially since you can still pull that trick with an enemy's red dice.

Yup, this still benefits the attackers more.  But not, I think (and hope) unbalancedly so.  We'll go with this for Prototype A, which should actually be just about complete.  I've got the cardfile just about done (it's almost more a tile-file, as the map is generated via random placement) and I've come up with what I hope is a component solution: Either RGB "pokerships" (came from a typo: Pokerchip stacks representing Forces) or paper-standup minis ala this.

I'll keep you posted, loyal fan.

Slan!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Simultaneity

Well now.  Here we are again.  In case I have any readership, I'd like to say firstly, thanks for your time, and secondly, regarding my last post, I moved on to the next round of the sketch-writing competition, and finished my submission for Week 2 on Saturday.  So the writing's done, and the nerves of Friday are yet a ways off.  So let's talk some Game Design Theory.

Simultaneity: What are its advantages? What are its disadvantages?

Let's start with what BBG forum user Eric Jome "cosine" said in response to my inquiry:

"This is a really pivotal concept.

Games that use drafting, phasing, and simultaneous action selection to distribute the waiting have raised the bar considerably on what makes a good game. No one likes waiting forever for your turn. The more you can make your game avoid long downtime, the better off you'll be in the marketplace... I'd call it a design imperative, frankly.

One overlooked trick is to make people decide what to do on their turn when it is not their turn.

Another trick is to make players serve in some capacity while it is not their turn - banker, monster action selector, and so on."

The emphasis is my own.  I myself dislike waiting for my turn; Dominion was a revelation to me for the simple mechanic of drawing your hand at the END of your turn, so that you could spend your opponents' turns plotting and planning, and thereby removing the gap between drawing and playing.  With Dominion, Donald X Vaccarino has moved the "Thinking..." Phase to your opponent's turn instead of yours.  It's worth looking at; what other fundamental little shifts can you make from the current paradigm, in order to speed up play? Fast play is what lead me to examine simultaneity; simultaneous play is the fastest play at all; when it's your opponents' turn, it's also yours.  Instead of just the "Thinking..." Phase, you move your entire turn onto your opponent's.

Where does Simultaneity work? 7 Wonders was the example most consistently used on the BGG thread.  Diplomacy, Neuroshima Hex, and Galaxy Trucker were also named.  In Daniel Solis' games, simultaneous reveal is common, most recently in Koi Pond.  I feel like even when one player is done with their turn long before the other player(s), there is a slightly smaller tax on their patience due to the psychological effect of it still being "their turn".  They're not waiting to take their turn, they're waiting for their turn to take effect.  Plus, there can be the other, also unquantifiable sensation that the person who's waiting for the other player to complete this simultaneous action is waiting because she is the "faster" player.  "Winning the race", even when there is no race, nor any advantage for thinking you've won, tends to mollify impatient personalities, I suspect.

Now what are some disadvantages? Well, let's look at that last example.  Simultaneity does actually turn into a race at times.  Bernard Wingrave "bwingrave" responded to the thread with:

"If you have true simultaneous play, like in Galaxy Trucker, you'll run into players who refuse to play the game because they don't like the time pressure or feel they aren't fast enough to succeed."

One man's treasure, etc.  Look at Chess.  People play Chess lots of different ways, for lots of different reasons.  Some play speed chess, some play by mail; they're looking to exercise different skills, and are, in a way, playing very different games.  Some play only chess, some play lots of games; and therefore some will want to only play classic chess, while others want to experiment with variants.  The takeaway here, is that the things you love most about a game can be the cardinal sin that turns others off of the game.

But that's such a vague truth.  Here's something more brass-tacks difficult about Simultaneity; Resolution of Timing Priority.  I'm talking about the tie-breakers.  How do you handle deadlocks, tied totals, two players' blind bids matching up, etc.  Cancel-out mechanics? No winner = re-do? Secondary priority values that only come into play in these specific Exception situations? Or do you perhaps dip into the half-measures that we lump under simultaneity, i.e. games like Citadels, where you are ostensibly choosing roles simultaneously, but which is nonetheless a draft with a clear beginning and ending, with commensurate advantages and disadvantages? Citadels Role-drafting is often referred to as being simultaneous (and lauded for it) but perhaps because I've only ever played it with gamers who are... vocal about their particular opinions... the disconnect between truly democratic simultaneity and reality has been heavily criticized.

I don't have all the answers, or even most of them; I'm quite new to the field, and don't have the resources to try as many games as I'd like to.  So I'm working it out myself.  My biggest challenge with simultaneity right now is determining how to handle it in Skrattejagergeist.  The game is played simultaneously, but there are instances where ties take place, and resources are consumed inequally; I need to figure out tie-breakers that are fair, but more importantly, elegant.  I'll keep you posted.

Peace.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Writer's Nerves and Components

As anyone reading this will likely know, I make art in a number of different disciplines.  My writing "portfolio" (I don't have a goddamn portfolio) includes plays, comedy sketches, the beginnings of novels and screenplays, music journalism, travelogues, some really terrible poetry, some halfway decent songs, reams of personal journaling, and, among other, other things, gaming rules and prototypes.
Tonight, though, a sketch of mine is entered into a competition over at the Second City, here in Chicago, where I make my home.  After a decade of performing and writing, I still get restless and anxious as these things approach.  I don't want to write any sketches today, I don't want to edit the short play that some very talented actors workshopped for me last night (and which desperately needs the edits), and I don't want to listen to my friends be happy and excited for me.
So today all I'm going to write about is Flect.
Flect, as I've mentioned before, is the first game I made; it's still under development, especially since the game has had little playtesting and some very unrealistic component mechanics (the latter has done nothing to help the former).


As per the long post below, I've been tinkering with a 'Hect' board, that plays with the relationships between Pentagons and Hexagons, and which was also an attempt to solve a problem with the current Flect prototype: There is almost certainly an advantage to holding more Facets than the other player, since they can not be Affected.  Having a Hex of Facets around the Center creates an even number of Facets, but also an even number of Hues; the possibility of a tie at the game's end becomes that much greater.
Since I'm thinking at this point that this is almost certainly meant to be a 2-player game, rather than a "2-5 player game", as I had originally envisioned, dealing with odds and evens has become tricky.  Another problem? All of the Hues currently have six Spaces in each; meaning each Hue can wind up a tie in and of itself.  And if one Hue can be a tie, the whole game can end in a draw.  Do I leave this as it is? Borrowing from my Black Sky board, I could make the central Space in each Hue a non-space, which would make every Hue have five controllable Spaces.  It would also limit movement.  And it would reduce the length of the game, by reducing the number of legal moves.  And it would make my Flect board look a lot like my Black Sky board, even more so than it already does.
So there's that conundrum, regarding a possible solution to my problem with ties.
I've also been thinking about alternate scoring.  Reward contiguous groups? A per Space bonus? A per-Facet penalty? Some sort of symmetry bonus, for having the most of each Space?
That might make it more complex, or it could just be more complicated.  Hmm.  Let's move on to something where I actually had a useful change to try out.
So the dice as playing pieces thing.  It worked for a few reasons; one, because Flect, as a bag game, would be a neat way to sell a bag of d6's.  Two, because a six-sided die was a game piece that could represent any one of 5 players, as well as "6" for unclaimed spaces.  I may still go with dice, because of all those reasons.  But it is most likely going to be just a 2-player game, and for playtesting purposes, I've got a way to make this easier.  No dice, no rings, keeps the "You can not Affect the last player's move) rule.

2P PnP Components:
- 41 coins
- The board
- That's it.

The idea being, for playtesting 2p purposes, Player 1 can be tails, Player 2, heads.  When you Affect your Spaces, just put down or flip the existing coin to your side, and then put an additional one on top.  Your opponent can not Affect spaces with two coins.  On your next turn, pick up all of your two or three top coins, and repeat.  Of course... you could just make them all be d4's.  1 = Player 1's regular spaces, 2 = Player 2's regular spaces, 3 = Player 1's last move, 4 = Player 2's last move, and empty spaces are just that; empty.
Huh.  I do have a superstitious loathing of the number 4, though.
Yeah, Flect needs a lot of work.  But my gut tells me to leave it alone.  Alternate scoring? Try that out with Hect.  Flect currently has an elegance that I'm proud of, especially once it's pared down to a two-player (or still, maybe just maybe a three-player) affair.  But it for sure needs playtesting.  I might try out the base for a bit, and then roll out some variants.  You can always roll back.

Alright, that shook the nerves a little bit.  Mostly a lot of chasing my own tail, though.  Next week'll be better.  I'll muse on simultaneity, and simultaneity's biggest problem (that I've faced); priority of resolution.
Here's this, though.  A 2p PnP single-pager with the basic rules.

Slan.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Allegiance

I've been looking at games like Werewolf and Space Sheep, as well as Bang!, where there are secret traitors.  It's an interesting mechanic; my favourite role in Bang!, for instance, is the Renegade.  The person whose identity is usually secret for the longest, and whose moral imperative is the most mysterious.
I think that were I to explore this semi-cooperative mechanic, I would want to retain the moral fuzziness of the Renegade.  In Werewolf, my understanding is that we have a very classical understanding of Ontic Good and Evil.  I've always liked the green-skinned races, the lonely monsters, the noble villains and the flawed heroes.
Mechanically, it would make no difference, but I think it would have an appreciable effect on player psychology if, instead of playing a "Traitor", they were playing "The Double Agent".  Martin of the Fellowship of Saint Giles, in the Dresden Files, type of thing.  You're not the monster in the midst; or if you are, you have a genuine reason for doing what you're doing.  If you must cause pain and suffering as part of your gameplay, then you at least have a motive beyond that.  I can understand werewolves who prey on a village to fill their numbers and keep their species alive.  Werewolves who choose to eat people, instead of deer, because they're evil? That's fine, but it's not for me.  We already have such flawed ideas of good and evil, of motive, of sin.  I want a deeper discussion than that.  In real life, not all cops are good (very few in my experience are), and not all assassins are bad (I refuse to disclose in a public forum my experience with assassins).  I want that to be reflected in my game design, moreso than it is in the general realm of gd.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Unusual Board Design

There are a number of gaming trends currently in vogue right now.  There's a wave of 4x games, deckbuilding is a mechanic that's getting a lot of love (thanks Vaccarino), and Euro Games in general are currently being touted by gamer-types as the superior style of game to design.  Low-variance, skill-focused games, often with real world themes, and usually tied to European ideas.
Despite the huge diversity of morphology in games right now, then, there are still a number of dominant motifs.  I aim to understand and work with popular ideas and mechanics, but am also interested in trying new things for their own sake, and attempting to create games that are more experimental than they are commercial.
When a game idea comes to me, it could be any one of a number of different starting pieces to the puzzle.  It could be a theme, a board shape or image, or simply a mechanic.

Theme

This is probably the most common way in which a game concept presents itself or occurs to me, and, I suspect, most designers.  You watch a great movie, read a great book, or play a shitty game that you could do better.  Or it just grips you: the story pops into your head, or you wake up with the dream still lingering, and you think, man, I wanna play that.  I don't think it exists yet, though, so I have to make it.
For me, I attempt to do themes that I don't believe have been done yet.  Some good advice I try to follow: "Don't try to compete with the entrenched establishment.  Find out what sets you apart, and market that."  Does the world need another WWII-themed wargame? Maybe.  But I don't feel the need to write/design about it.  This isn't to say that I won't make a game with a theme that's been done before; but usually that's because the theme goes with a game that first presented itself to me as a mechanic or as a board shape.  Space 4x? Been done.  But see Black Sky in the Board section below to see why I'm developing one.
Here, though, are a list of game ideas that have come to me thematically.

- Diletsky.  As my budding interest in music theory grows, I've been fascinated by the image of the Circle of Fifths, and the disconnected flashes across history that created it.  I thought, damn, if I could come up with a way to make a game out of this, it would help teach music theory.  Then I looked at some old pictures from the creation of the Co5ths:
And it became clear - yeah, there's a boardgame in there.

- Pieces of Light.  A game of piracy; either space piracy, or intellectual property theft (romanticized; data wants to be free! Signal The Noise!), which came to me as a theme when I was spitballing titles for Black Sky.  I hit upon Pieces of Light (a pun on Pieces of Eight, in case you were wondering) and thought, oh no, that's it's own game about piracy on a new frontier.

- Proxies.  A game of puppets and masks.  This came from talking with my buddy John, whom I love having artistic/scientific discussions with.  He's great for talking to in terms of using both sides of your brain (yes I'm aware that as a literal description of the brain, that's been debunked) and also builds his own puppets.  A discussion with him lead me to thinking that it'd be cool to have a game where you mix puppets and masks.  A Role-Rotation game, perhaps.  Ooh, and everyone has two hand slots and one face slot for adopting roles each round.  Maybe a Werewolf type, overall.

- Skrattejagergeist.  I wanted to make a game where monster spirits ate each other.  Then the mechanic of Ferocity vs. Wiliness slapped me in the face.  Bing bang boom.

- The Heirs of Liu Guo.  I had a cool-ass dream.  About warrior monks and a shadow-walker Princess, and protecting the royal scions.  I woke up and wanted to make it happen.  Now I'm thinking about Futures decks for each Heir, and what can happen to each of the Heirs as they grow up, and how your interactions with the board can shape a story that changes with each telling.

Board Shape

I also am very interested in unconventional board shapes and designs.  I have an idea I call Bag Games, and which I find is done by Hiku Games as their mini-lederspiele line.  Essentially, it involves flattening out a drawstring bag to form a circle, allowing for circular boards.  The idea to make a drawstring bag came before I ever heard of Hiku or any of their games, and arose from my desire to make round play spaces.  Shape theory, interesting pictures; all of these things can inspire a game in me.  Diletsky was inspired as much by shape as it was by theme.  Here are a number of game ideas I have based on Board Shape, or image, that popped into my head.

- Flect.  
Flect came from me doodling, and looking at nesting shapes.  How can you nest regular shapes - and how about irregular shapes? I looked at a pentagram and saw that pentagon created by the star was regular.  Then I looked at how I could nest pentagons.  The mechanics popped into my head immediately after, and the mechanics informed the theme.  I am now working on Hect, a variant board design prototype inspired by doodling hexes and pentas.
It's worth noting that I've talked with John Horton about these.  He uses vector art, and has made a few attempts at skewing the regularity of the central pentagons in order to compensate for the distortion of the mediant pentagons.
Regular                                                                      Skewed

- Black Sky.  This game came together so quickly.  I was looking at a designer diary that used round playing spaces but then discarded the idea, and that sent me to investigate circle packing, where I wanted to confirm that six circles played well together; went to wikipedia, found that they play together THE BEST, and then got to thinking about ships, dice as ships, and the lessons I'd learned from Dungeons and Dragons about dice math, and why 2d6 of sneak attack generally does more damage than 1d12 worth of greatsword damage.  Board; Mechanics; Theme; Prototype.  It's interesting; I find that coming up with a new idea for a board or playspace instantly unlocks ideas for mechanics, and theme comes almost immediately after.  This is why I like shape theory so much.  It's the fundamental way of differentiating your game from any others, and originality on other fronts flows thereafter.
'
This here is the very beginning of the board I'm making.  The negative space in the "corners" will become the Artifact planets, if I can fit them in.  I'm not sure I can make a circle that touches both planets.  But then I just add a movement mechanic where it takes one extra move to cross the far reaches of space and hey, maybe that'll explain the gap.  Once again, looking at the board and the shape inspires me with potential mechanics or solutions.

Mechanic

This is what pops into my head most often.  A tactic.  An idea.  A solution that I don't have the problem for yet.  A thing you can do to simulate something else.  They often suggest theme to me, but often the board or playing space remains dark.  I am luckiest when I can envision a playing space first.

-  Wyck.  A game of worshipping at altars, while the candle of the world grows dimmer.  Inspired in part, no doubt, by the Quartet of the Fall of Man.  From my stream-of-couscous freewrite: "A game mechanic where a candle is represented by a column of cards set to either part of the candle or emptiness, with a wick card moving down the column as the candle burns. Maybe tie it to a game about competing for belief at your altars? Hmm, okay, so how about a multiplayer game where each player represents a small deity... What if the game has three resource types, Hope, Vendetta, and Caprice. Hope adds to the Candle, prolonging the game, while Vendetta shortens it. At the outset, you have the chance to attract one of the three kinds of basic followers to your altar. Whoever gets the first Hope follower has the distinct Hope advantage for the remainder of the game, while the deity who gets the first Vendetta follower pretty much becomes the Vendetta player, and the same with the Caprice Deity. You can have multiple Caprice characters. Or perhaps add a Balance-focused fourth type. And an Entropy based fifth. Hmm.
The Caprice character is focused on undoing or redirecting the actions of others. But she has the least objective tangible power, even if she might have the most meta-power.
The game must always, despite the Hope character(s?)’ best efforts, end. “Now, in my twilight years, I fear that I have worshipped at the wrong Altar.”
I need to figure out how Pandemic works better so that I can understand the “Players know what they are in danger of drawing” mechanic better.
"

- Mantis.  I thought, hey, it'd be cool to be able to see your opponents upcoming moves in a duel game of sorts.  Hey.  Psychic... dueling.

- Flurry of Blows.  Not the monk class ability from DnD, a way of using a line of dice to simulate swordplay.  May end up being the mechanic that underpins Heirs of Liu Guo.

- War of the Four Houses.  I like the Tarot.  I read the Tarot, after a fashion.  Investigating the origins of Hanafuda and the Tarot and the Modern Playing Card inspired me to make a game that used the Tarot Deck, wherein the Major Arcana were all rules that affected simple War-style play.  Probably subconscious influence from Fluxx and Ascension.


That's it for today.  Some game ideas, and a bit about how they came to me.  I'll probably be posting about specific games next, and probably in my usual stream-of-couscous style of talking to myself to generate solutions or options for my own challenges.
Tsai jien.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New Endeavour

Abstract:
Another Fin Coe blog, this one focusing on collating my ideas in game design.  I have a number of thoughts regarding themes and design mechanics, and they're all going on here, along with ludolessons I pick up along the way.  I hang out at the Board Game Geek Game Design Forums, and follow the blogs of Daniel Solis, Michael Nguyen, and others.  I steal knowledge (but not ideas) shamelessly.  And since I'm in the habit of starting companies; Velocimancer Games is the precious little title for this enterprise of mine.
Development ramblings to come.