Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Tiny Victory

Today's post is a short one, which is fitting as it commemorates an achievement of no great note, beside personal pride.  Today I wrote up a little more on my BGG thread about Project Smatter, outlining the boards.  Recently, I've been obsessing over whether the boards should adhere to multiples / exponentials of three or two, trying to thematically link the layouts of the boards to overarching numerical motif blah blah blah.  Writing stuff down in the BGG thread, I had contrasting information.  Whatever.  Nail down the basics, talk about some possibilities, but not for too long, because nailing down the basics means you have enough of a foundation to start playing.
And after writing it up, with pictures and bolding, that's what I did: I just started playing.  I got out the pieces, I set up the boards, and I started playing myself.  I got confused, so I got out a turn marker.  I got stuck in a back-and-forth, so I restarted with one of my possible mechanics; sPawn upgraded to cRooks are placed back in the starting line.  Played again.  Decided that there was too much empty middle ground between starting positions and the fray; I chose to keep the Source (middle neutral board) as-is, but eliminate the outermost shell of the playerboards, moving them in closer, and also up the movement for sPawn from 3 to 4.  Played again.
And just like that, I did in one afternoon the most playtesting I've done for one of my designs.
Sad, isn't it? But while I write a lot, and visualize a lot, and foresee/preclude a lot of strategies or problems, I've never actually playtested much.  I've just gotten into the habit of trying to do it all in my head.
Whereas what I can't do in my head is have fun, or foresee whether I won't have fun.  I'm glad I playtested today.  It wasn't for long, and my back and head hurt, but here's hoping I can exercise these muscles and turn this into a habit.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Thoughts On Project Smatter

What? Two posting days in a row? Is he back, folks? Is he back?
Well, we'll see.
I wanted to coalesce some thoughts I've had for a two-player semi-abstract game.  Its working title is Project Smatter, as it involves cyberpunk and chess elements.  Well, chess-ish.
That's the thing.  The game as I will envision it will push how we envision abstract games, while also utilizing different mechanics from the oldest games of the genre.  I especially want to play with:
  • Pieces that change into other pieces.
  • Different capturing types:
    • Jumping, a la Checkers
    • Taking, a la Chess
    • Hammer-and-anvil / surrounding, a la games of the Tafl family.
  • An unusual board
Right now, it's a 2-player game where each side starts with 8 pieces, all of the basic type - sPawn (Can move 3 spaces, hammer-and-anvil style conversion, turns enemy pieces into friendly sPawn).  Ideally, sPawn can be (optionally) upgraded under certain conditions to become cRooks (Can move 2 spaces, jump to convert enemy pieces into... friendly sPawn? Friendly pieces of the same type?), which can in turn become duChesses (Can move 1 space, can take enemy pieces, removing them from the game) which are the pieces used to win the game (by holding/occupying Victory Spaces? Crossing enemy lines? Returning home? Capturing a certtain number of pieces?)
I'm also looking at having a round board, with rotated rings inside to create a messed-up grid for movement, that will hopefully encourage lateral thinking in the spatial strategy.  But maybe a simple square grid works best? I don't know.
I'm a little paralyzed by the possibilities presented by some of the fundamentals, like I was with board shape for Cultivate.  Here's hoping I can work through them faster than I did for Cultivate.  At the very least, I've got a chewy basic premise, and some great chess-pun/references for the names of pieces.  We'll see.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Quick Game (or Two) of Four Thematic Poker Suits

As promised, I am come out of hiding.  And today, so soon after my last post (the wonderfully poorly-received Sweet Game), I have yet another complete(ish but largely untested) fast little game design for you!
Here's For King and Country, a game to be played between two players, using the standard 52-card poker deck.  I designed it for the Dice Hate Me Loves Cards contest, not realizing that they were looking for games that used custom decks.  As my game used existing 52-card decks, it was not an eligible entry.
I'm still pleased by the game, however.  It's a quick, rough thing, but I like the 'spread' mechanic, and it's also an homage of sort to Sid Sackson, and some of my other favourite designers.
Anyhow, if anyone's interested, the game can be found here.  It includes the rules and scoring for For King and Country, and also for the 2+ player variant, For Love or Money.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Glimmer & A Game

Bit of a stretch, eh?
Well, my last post came two days before being laid off from my cushy 9-5 job.  I immediately had to change gears and start looking for a job.  I've since been working multiple jobs to cover rent, bills, loans, etc.  BLAH BLAH SOB STORY, I've been getting by alright, and I've also been as busy with theatre stuff as ever (perhaps even more so) so in general, I haven't had time at a desk to sit and update this.  But I've certainly still been turning the gears; in fact, my primary place of employment right now is the fabulous Cat n Mouse Game Store, here in Chicago.  I was incredibly lucky to get the job, especially so soon after being laid off, and it's meant a great grounding in all things to do with games, puzzles and toys.  Unfortunately, it's not a desk job, and I spend my time actually working in the store rather than whiling away on the computer (couldn't anyway, the computer's a bit of a relic).
So anyway, I've been cogitating on game design, just not blogging about it.  In fact, I've got a few designs to share with you.
For today (since it is a special, if not necessarily meaningful, day) I've got a new take on an old classic, themed for the "holiday".

The Sweet Game

Valencala! Or ManVala.  Whatever you'd like to call it.
- Standard Mancala/Kalah/Oware Board with two rows of six wells, and a well for each player at the end.
- One bag of small candies that Player 1 loves and Player 2 does not.  At least 36 candies.
- One bag of small candies that Player 2 loves and Player 1 does not.  At least 36 candies.

- Combine the two bags of candy.
- Mix thoroughly.
- Seed the board: Place three randomly selected candies in each of the twelve small wells.

The game is a co-operative, rather than competitive, version of Mancala, where the players are trying to use Mancala well-moving rules to separate the candies by preference into each player's well.
- On  each player's turn, that player takes all the candies from one of the smaller wells and moves clockwise, leaving one candy in each well until there are no more.
- If the last candy is deposited in one of the larger Player wells, the player whose turn it was goes again.
- The game ends when all of the candies have been played into the two larger Player wells.
- Tally the number of Player 1's candies that are in Player 2's well, and add that to the number of Player 2's candies that are in Player 2's well.  That is your final score.  Try for the lowest score.

- You can always choose which kind of candy to leave in which well.
-  Because this game is co-op, it should theoretically be solvable.  However, the random seeding of the candies allows for replayability, and overly cautious play will grow boring and stale.  Get together with your honey and just try to have fun!

Gross, isn't it? Ah well, it's just a simple game.  Don't let it bother you.  Just go out and have a good night, however you want to.
More game design to come.