Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ask @sedjtroll

I mentioned online today that I didn't think I was using Twitter enough, so I posted a tweet asking my followers to let me know what sorts of tweets they'd be interested in. I figure I might as well aggregate and post the questions and responses here on my blog.

@toddderscheid: what are you playing these days? What games have pushed others out of circulation?
Here's my response. I realized my responses would be far too long for a 140 character post, so I used Twitlonger. This may defeat the purpose of my original comment (not using Twitter enough), but I did tweet the link :)
says he'd like to hear about design inspiration and how to turn a prototype into something publishers would want to produce.

Here's my response to that one. I took a look at a few of my designs to see what inspired them.

I'll try to remember to update this post as I answer additional questions.

One of thee days I'd like to utilize to answer people's question via video. I think that's a really neat format, and I'd like to see it utilized more.

YANGI: Yet Another New Game Idea

I had meant to work on Alter Ego today, but like many of my game designs, instead of the design I wanted to work on, I thought of a whole new game. It's a card drafting game, and I even designed a bunch of cards (108 of them), printed them up, and sleeved them. I also made mats to put between neighboring players...

Perhaps I should explain the game a bit. I'm not sure what prompted it, but I was thinking about card drafting - M:tG Booster draft style, like is used in Fairy Tale, Notre Dame, and 7 Wonders. I thought it would be cool if there were 2 sets of cards - two different types - that were being drafted, and you passed 1 set in one direction around the table, and passed the other set in the other direction. I imagined a play-mat between a player and each neighbor with an image of the card backs for the different sets of cards, and a big arrow indicating which direction to pass that set. It might be the idea of that mat which really inspired me to work on the game! I made the mats double sided, so between rounds of the game you could flip them over to reverse the direction of passing for each set.

So what is this game about? How does it work? It's rare that I design a game completely
"mechanics first," but this time that's all I've actually got! I haven't thought of a theme that would fit. But I do have cards and mechanics :) Here's how it works:

As I mentioned, there are two sets of cards: Action cards, and Building cards. Each round of the game will consist of a Draft phase followed by an Action and Building phase.

Draft phase
Players will draft some Action and Building cards to play later:

  1. Deal 4 of each Action and Building cards to each player.
  2. Players choose 1 card from each set of 4 to keep, and then passes the rest in the direction indicated by player aids (placed between neighboring players). Place drafted cards in a face down pile in front of you.
  3. Repeat until all of those cards have been drafted.

Action and Building phase
In turn, each player will play as many Action cards as they like, followed by at most 1 Building card.
  1. Play any number of Action cards.
  2. Spend coins provided by Action cards to play 1 Building card
Action cards have 2 aspects: Coins to be spent on building, and a game effect. No matter how many Action cards are played, only 1 game effect will be resolved - the one on the card with the smallest number of coins on it! The fewer coins on an Action card, the stronger the game effect on that card, so stronger effects mean less coins to spend on building.

Building cards have a cost, a point value, and a game effect. Currently the Building cards get better (more points and stronger game effects) as they get more expensive, but I'm not sure that's the correct way to go. Generally speaking the point value of the Building cards are equal to the cost of the card in coins. I think perhaps the stronger game effects should be on the cheaper buildings so that players will have to choose between stronger effects and higher scores.

The effects I mocked up for my prototype are fairly straightforward for the most part...
Action card effects:
  • 0 coins: Tuck this card under any building, that building is worth an additional 2 points. Do not play a Building card this turn.
  • 0 coins: Tuck this card under any building, that building provides 1 coin each turn.
  • 0 coins: Discard any building in play and replace it with a Building card from your hand.
  • 1 coins: Take any Building card from the discard pile.
  • 1 coins: Take any Action card from the discard pile.
  • 1 coins: Discard any building in play of value 2 or less.
  • 1 coins: Each player (including you) must discard 1 building card from their hand.
  • 1 coins: Tuck this card under any building, that building is worth an additional 1 point. Do not play a Building card this turn.
  • 1 coins: Take any building in play into your hand and replace it with a Building card of equal or greater value from your hand.
  • 2 coins: Discard any building in play and replace it with a Building card of equal or greater value from your hand.
  • 2 coins: Discard any building in play of value 1 or less.
  • 2 coins: Discard a card: Take any Action card from the discard pile into your hand.
  • 2 coins: Discard a card: Take any Building card from the discard pile into your hand.
  • 2 coins:Put a Building card of value 1 or less into play. This does not count as your Building card for the turn.
  • 2 coins: Discard a card: Draw 5 Building cards from the deck, put 1 into your hand and return the rest in any order.
  • 3 coins: No game effect
Building card effects:
  • 0 cost/0vp: Discard this building from play: +1 coin this turn.
  • 0 cost/1vp: No game effect.
  • 1 cost/1vp: Play this card from your hand as if it were an Action card (provides 1 coin)
  • 1 cost/2vp: No game effect.
  • 2 cost/2vp: After drafting: Draw 1 Action card.
  • 2 cost/2vp: After drafting: Draw 1 Building card.
  • 2 cost/2vp: Discard this building from play: +2 coin this turn.
  • 2 cost/3vp: No game effect.
  • 3 cost/3vp: Play this card from your hand as if it were an Action card (provides 5 coin)
  • 3 cost/3vp: Discard this building from play: Take any Action card from the discard pile into your hand.
  • 3 cost/3vp: Discard this building from play: Take any Building card from the discard pile into your hand
  • 3 cost/4vp: No game effect.
  • 3 cost/?vp: Book icon. If you have 1/2/3 Book icons, this card is worth 2/3/4vp.
  • 3 cost/?vp: Guard icon. If you have 1/2/3 Guard icons, this card is worth 2/3/4vp.
  • 4 cost/3vp: +1 coin to spend each turn.
  • 4 cost/4vp: Play this card from your hand as if it were an Action card (provides 2 coins)
  • 4 cost/5vp: No game effect.
  • 5 cost/6vp: No game effect.
After 4 rounds of player turns, the Action and Building phase is over. All players discard any cards they still have in hand and Round 2 begins by switching the passing direction for each type of card (flip the player aids over). The game will end after a certain number of rounds based on the number of players:
  • 2 players: 6 rounds
  • 3 players: 4 rounds
  • 4 players: 3 rounds

I don't know if this game will pan out to be any fun or not, and I'm not sure if the double draft mechanism will prove to be too confusing or not, but who knows? I already know that the building effects are not balanced properly, and there are some timing questions about some of them. But maybe with some tweaking this could turn out to be a good game :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tasty News from Tasty Minstrel, and other stuff

Here are a few things that are going on in Tasty Minstrel Land:

Ground Floor preview video by Tom Vasel

We sent a copy of the prototype with the end artwork over to The Dice Tower, and Tom Vasel did a preview video of Ground Floor.Check it out if you'd like to see how to play, and catch a glimpse of what Tom thinks of the game.

Ground Floor Kickstarter status

The Kickstarter project for Ground Floor is going strong. With $30,388 in funding now (624 copies of the game!), and 38 days left in the project, the 3rd Stretch goal has been met - so all backers will receive the first three Stretch rewards:
  1. 2 additional Specialty tiles: Social Media and Inheritance
  2. 2 additional Economic Forecast cards: Great Depression and Windfall
  3. Niche Market TI
And now we're shooting for $35,000 to add goal #4: 5 Economic Forecast Scenario cards. I think that we are likely to get to the $75,000 needed for Skyline, but we aren't there yet...  we still need you help!

Michael Mindes "Ask Me Anything" on Reddit

Reddit is a social news site similar in function of Digg, and people have been doing these "AMA" things on there. AMA stands for "Ask Me Anything," and in practice people can come and ask whatever questions they want of the person holding the AMA. By the time you read this it might be over, but you can read the thread here.

Mike says he will be devoted to answering from 1PM-4PM PST, but throughout the day he will stop in and still provide answers, so go ask Mike those burning questions you've got on your mind!

Eminent Domain: Escalation

Formerly "Warmonger," the EmDo expansion is about done. I'm still making final tweaks to some of the cards, but the gameplay is determined, and the art is underway! Eric Carter and Ryan Johnson are on board again, and after their awesome illustrations in the base game I'm really looking forward to seeing what their work for the expansion (spoiler alert: so far, it's AWESOME!). Gavan Brown is on board again as well, so I'm looking forward to an all around awesome looking expansion :)

Alter Ego

I'm on the verge of wrapping up everything that I need to do for Escalation, Kings of Air and Steam, and Ground Floor (in fact, the final art files for Ground Floor just went to the printers! Horray!) - and I'm looking forward to getting back to my other designs. Next on the list is Alter Ego. I'm really excited to finally get back to working on that game, as I think it really has a lot of potential, not only potential to be a fun game, but also potential to have really cool art, and e very well received by players.

Recent Gaming

I recently got a few new games. It's unusual for me to buy games, but there were a few I was interested in playing, and when my interest hit critical mass, I went ahead and picked up a few titles...
  • The Manhattan Project
  • Lords of Waterdeep
  • Venture Forth
I have yet to play Venture Forth, but I did play it once at Gama last year (before it was published) and I enjoyed that play. I really, really like The Manhattan Project, and I also very much like Lords of Waterdeep. Two very good Worker Placement games that people are comparing lately - both are worth playing!

That's about it for now. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave comments!

Monday, April 16, 2012

What's in a name?

A situation has arisen to which I don't know what the appropriate response is. There's a game that's slated to be produced by TMG which is a very good, very solid economic game that I've only briefly mentioned in this blog (Oct 2010). In addition to the game being top quality, I really, really like the title. It's a game that the designer has been working on for 4 years, and a google search for the title mostly brings up the designer's blog posts about his playtests.

The thing is that another, entirely different game has recently sprung up on Kickstarter using that same title! I played the Kickstarter game last July at Protospiel, when it was called something else. The game was in pretty good shape last summer, and is likely been improved since then. I'm sure it's a fine game and people will like it, but the thing I'm concerned about is this: what do I do about the great title of the game TMG is coming out with? Must we change it? That kinda sucks, as our game had that title first. But at the same time, it would cause some confusion in the marketplace if we released another game with the same title, wouldn't it? I know the designer of the game isn't thrilled with the idea of having to change the title, after using it for 4 years. He's been looking for a new title, but nothing's near as good as the one he had.

So, that's the dilemma - what can be done? What should be done? And how annoyed should I allow myself to be that this unfortunate thing happened? I'm open to suggestions...

Update: As I suppose I knew the whole time, we of course will have to change the title of the game we'll be releasing. We have it narrowed down to about 4 fair alternatives. The question will be which alternative is the best!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ground Floor: Live on Kickstarter!

This morning marked the beginning of a 55 day long Kickstarter campaign for Ground Floor - a game I've mentioned before in this blog.

I think it's fair to say that Michael has learned a lot about running a Kickstarter campaign, and it shows in the superb organization he's got going on this time, and the incredible support the game has garnered in it's first hours! At the time I'm writing this, the project is at 177 backers, and $10,940 in support! That's really awesome, and I offer a hearty "thank you!" to everyone who has pledged for a copy of the game already.

If you haven't pledged, then what are you waiting for..?

I didn't know it was live!

Well, now you do! If you don't want to be left out in the cold in the future, consider signing up for Tasty Minstrel's newsletter - you'll receive all the inside info you'll require about upcoming TMG releases and deals. You'll also be offered the opportunity to join sub-lists for specific projects (such as this Kickstarter project), so the extra project-specific emails only go out to those who want them, not the entire TMG mailing list. I think Michael does email marketing right!

What is this game about?

This description is copied verbatim from my blog post (December 2009), and it remains a good description of the game:

Ground Floor is a game about being an Entrepreneur. Each player has just started a company. All they have is 7 Information, their ground floor office (representing certain basic actions they can take), $9 income per round from investors, and their time (4 marker discs representing units of time). As the game progresses, players can hire employees (which reduce your $ income but increase the number of time units you can use), upgrade their ground floor actions, and add floors to their building, gaining abilities and Prestige. To finance this, players "do business" in town by scheduling meetings, advertising, shopping at outlets and making products to sell to the public. They must do this in the face of a volatile economic atmosphere - in a Boom economy more products will sell, but noone will be looking for work. In a Depression you will be hard pressed to sell any products, but the job market will be full of potential employees who can be hire on the cheap. You can see the Economic Forecast, but can never be sure exactly how many consumers to expect in a round, so how you price your products matters a lot, as does your popularity level.

The crux of the game is balancing 2 resources - money and information. In the early game players have an income of $9, and it's difficult to get an appreciable amount of info. As you hire employees though, your income goes down (you have to pay their salaries), and the only really good way to make money is through selling products. Selling products is tricky, as it depends heavily on your popularity, the amount of products being sold by players, and the number of consumers for the round. You need to find a way to make both money and information because it costs a significant amount of each to add on to your business. Your score (Prestige) will be based on the floors and abilities of your company. A 6 story skyscraper is more impressive than a 3 story building for example, but there's something to be said about having a better operation on your ground floor as well.

I've never heard of Ground Floor - how do I know if I'll like it?

Well, if you're reading this blog, it's possible you've heard of the game here before. But even if that's not the case, there are several resources available to learn about the game:
Please check out those sources of information, and if Ground Floor looks like your kind of game, then please take a moment to check out the Kickstarter Campaign and pledge your support by pre-ordering a copy (or three!) of the game.

Why pre-order instead of waiting for the game to come out and then buying it online at a discount?

Good question! There has been a lot of discussion online about Kickstarter, who should be allowed to use it, and whether people should be charging full price for products being kickstarted. In this case however, you can get 1 copy of Ground Floor for $50, or if you go in with a couple of friends and get 3 copies, they're only $40 apiece! Retail price of this game will be about $60, so these prices are already discounted - on the order of what you'd pay online, and if you live in the US then that includes shipping!

On top of that, Kickstarter supporters will receive all of the overfunding incentives as the project raises more and more funds! Michael has a number of cool extras planned, which will come for free with your copy of the game if you are a Kickstarter. Most of these have not been announced, but he did mention that if the project raises at least $75,000, he'll be including a copy of a whole nother game! David Short has created another game called Skyline - a lighter dice game which shares the theme of constructing buildings. If the project hits $75k, that other game will be included for all of the supporters!

*Check your funding level - at the time I wrote this, it was true for all of the levels, but it's possible more have been added since, and they may not all qualify for the overfunding goals!

So as you can see, it's a really good deal. And I can tell you that it's a really good game as well. David has come up with a lot of clever mechanisms, and I've put a lot of development work into the game. We're both very proud of it, and if you follow my blog, then I think there's a good chance it'll be your kind of game too! Check it out, and tell your friends!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Tons of Warmninger/Escalation testing!

I am happy to report that I have had a lot of opportunity to playtest Warmonger (I think I'll start calling it Escalation and see how I like it) this week, and it's been very productive!

In addition, I have received some playtest reports from people who have printed out the Print-n'-Play files, and they have been very useful as well. So a great big THANK YOU to everyone who has tried the game out!

For those following along at home, here are a few card comments and potential tweaks. I'll be updating my PDFs again tonight and tomorrow to take some of these into account. Also, at the end of this post there'll be a sneak peak at a new piece of the expansion that is, frankly, pretty awesome!

Card Tweaks:
Scientific Method: This card has seemed to be much too powerful for my liking. The next tweak is to allow the additional tech card purchase on your own turn only. Perhaps I'll phrase it like this: "You may follow your own Research role."

Midnight Oil: I had put 2 Exotic icons on Midnight Oil - pretty much because I didn't know what else to put there. After playing with it, I feel like that's not useful or fun at all - so I will replace those Exotic icons with a Destroyer. For the most part, Midnight Oil hasn't proven to be terribly useful, but I like that it exists, and maybe people will buy it for the Destroyer.

Civilized Planets: I have changed the Colonize cost of each of the Civilized planets to 4.

Action Planets: I have changed the Colonize cost of each of the planets with Actions on them to 4.

Diverse Tech Cards: I would like to try increasing the cost of the L2 Diverse techs to 2 Destroyers rather than 1 Destroyer. 1 Destroyer seems too easy to get. I am still waffling on whether I want the other L2 cards to cost Destroyers or not. Improved Fleet would probably still cost 5 Fighters I think...

Destroyer Technology: I don't like how easily Destroyer Tech chains into other techs by providing the destroyers necessary to obtain other Diverse techs, which you obviously already qualify for. Therefore I think I'll move Destroyer Tech back to the Metallic stack.

Dreadnaught Technology: It appears that Dreadnaught Technology is a bit too powerful. The thing about Dreadnaughts is that they are supposed to be difficult to get - on par with a L3 tech card. So a L2 tech card that just GIVES you one seems a bit too good.

One idea instead is to put a Dreadnaught in the corner, rather than allow it to put your Dreadnaught into play. But frankly, I'm not sure that's any better. Making the card into a Dreadnaught still means you can buy one for the cost of an L2, and I don't like that. Annex has a Dreadnaught on it, and it's a L3. So I think either Dreadnaught tech should not exist, or it should be a L3 tech. Probably L3 in the Diverse stack.

Utility: I fear that Utility might be a bit too good for a L1 tech. Thorough Scanning and Freedom of Trade seem about right - but Utility can ramp a player up to L2 tech very quickly. Comparing to Warfare Tech just confirms that Utility should be a L2 tech. The question is, is it good enough on its own to be L2? Or should it get a Resource Slot, or maybe a Production symbol?

If I do add a Production symbol, then I might consider adding a Warfare symbol to Warfare Tech. Though I don't really feel that's necessary, so maybe Utility is OK as is? Fighters are not limited by Resource Slots like Resources are, so maybe that's justification for Utility having something extra.

Biosphere: I think I'll swap this with Utility, making it a level 1 tech. I will probably remove either the Production icon, or the Resource slot. Whichever I remove, maybe I'll add to utility, so both in play together will have 2 slots and a Produce icon, just like currently. Frankly that combo, while it seems pretty good, does not seem to compete with other strategies.

Annex: Mike suggested I make Annex a L2 tech, with a Destroyer rather than a Dreadnaught on it. I'm not sure if I like that or not. Maybe I'll give it a shot.

There's a new aspect of the expansion that I think people will really dig. I don't want to spill all of the beans about it, but here's a hint... they're called Scenarios. Specific custom starting setups which we think make for a really interesting game :)