Thursday, February 12, 2015

Must Be That Time of Year

Mid-February 2015.  I haven't posted in eight, ten months? So of course I'm posting again.  Because it's time for the Contests on BGG again.
Golly.  It's frightening how much time speeds up the older I get.  Will I miss my future children's lives if I look away? Instead of minutes or hours, will I someday soon lose months and years, slipping away if I loosen my grip or tighten it too hard?
ANYWAY.  I have still been working on games, the usual dabbling and tinkering and reading and making notes.  I think the real viable project I should bear down on is AaTX.  I've thought about re-theming it, perhaps making it more about exorcising or freeing spirits rather than straight combat, in order to pitch it to Smart Play Games.  I do think that there's something there for Project Smatter (Neon Static Erasure? Neon Static Danger? Neon Static Overdrive? - Perhaps just Neon Hyper Static, with different boards and game modes) - especially as I want to try including a little bit of hidden information.  I've been reading some of Keith Burgun's stuff, and he has some interesting thoughts on how to avoid solved abstracts, and how to create meaningful depth.  I'm thinking of introducing xCheckers (or drEADNaughts) as sPawns that remain yours even if flipped (1-3 of your starting sPawns, initial placement known only to you).
So AaX:T, Project Smatter, my old buddy John still thinks that Cultivate is a viable build... I've been thinking and mulling over these projects.  Need to get a few real worthwhile prototypes into some playtester's hands.  Might be worth bringing a suitcase of prototypes up to UnPub one of these years.
The current project that has possessed me, however, is a simple little design that I have some decent hopes for, and which I've entered into the BGG 2-Player Design Contest.  It's currently called Cowl & Mask, and is a 21-card lane game of bluffing, deduction, and positioning.  Here's the work done on it so far:
- I've got a WIP thread over at BGG, with an 0.3 draft of rules for public view.
- I've built a prototype, and playtested it twice.
- My friend Tyler's working on some slightly more appealing graphic design mockups.
- My friend John's built a simulator for me to look at different possible layouts of a player's seven cards.
Next steps:
- Get a PnP build up on the BGG WIP and see if I can do some playtest trades.
- Create some more compelling art for the nice graphic design work Ty's done, because drawing is fun.
- See if my friend JT can create a program to run through iterations of John's simulator and map broken or ideal layouts.
- More private playtesting.
- Plan for public playtesting.

I'm also helping playtest some friends' designs this month.  The fellows over at Ironrise Games are having me take a look at their Alpha of Forge The Future, and I'm also going to be in Beta playtests for the Nerdologues' Fisticuffs! Should be a fun month, especially considering I've promised myself no new games or kickstarters this month.
Well, here's hoping I'll have more posts soon.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Alone at the Crossroads: Trees

I've made some progress on Project Smatter (Neon Fight? Neon Flights? Neon Static?) but I think it needs more work than I can really give it to make it contest-ready by the deadline.  But we'll see! I really like the game (the big scary change I'm considering making is giving one action per player per turn, instead of two.  Dunno if I'm smart enough to play that game, much less design it) but I frankly don't play Go, Chess, Tafl, even Checkers; none of the heavy abstrategy games.  So I'm sort of paralyzed by that.  And there's only a month left in the 2P contest.  I may just mess with For King and Country, polish that up and submit that.

So what have I been working on instead? Probably nothing, right? I mean probably.  Except that I've got this bug in my head for a solitaire 52-card game.  It's inspired by my reading and commenting on a lot of design stuff on the BGG Design forums, and you can definitely see fingerprints from others' (unfinished or unpublished or abandoned work) but I do think it's not outright theft by any means; my major mechanic is based on splaying, which I've been reading about in Innovation.
I'm calling my mechanic Alone at the Crossroads.  It's a way of building the character of a solitaire game, wherein the character has two axes of development: Horizontally, Cunning vs. Boldness; Vertically, Song vs. Silence.  Players start out being able to splay cards in only one of the four directions.  After achieving a certain amount of experience, they can start splaying cards in another direction (either one of the two directions in their currently unsplayed axis.  So say a character chooses to splay their cards to the right (Boldness).  They have now ruled out Cunning, but after scoring the requisite number of cards, they can start splaying their cards up (Song) OR down (Silence).  And say they pick Silence (Down); after scoring the next requisite number of cards, they can combine that splay, so that every card is now splayed down-right, and now gives both its Bold and Silent bonuses.
The two-axis mechanic, in a solo game, is why I call this Alone at the Crossroads.  Trees will be the first deck to employ the mechanic, but I could see a game of Peaks, Waves, Stars, Dreams...
Anyway, I don't want to jinx my work ethic, but that's what I've been building.  I'm partway (the easy part) done building a prototype, and I hope to be able to get a working text-only proto ready soon.  I don't think I'll bother posting airy-fairy concept stuff to BGG; I'll only enter the contest if I have a real first draft done.
So.  We'll see.

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.

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.