Last year, Unpub really took a toll on me as a designer. I didn’t feel like I rpepared well or made good use of my time. So this year, I did a lot more work to make sure I came home happy with myself. And I think that because of that, Unpub 7 was my most successful year so far.
First, let me look at my lessons from last year and see how I handled them.
Saturday is for heavier games: I focused on Iceburgh, trying to wrap it up before sending it in for judging for the Cardboard Edison award. I got playtests with several different people at several different player counts. I learned a lot about how I need to teach it (which also translated to rulebook improvements). I also found several changes I needed for balance, especially the 5-player game which is harder for me to test. Sunday, I was planning to do ’52 Pickup, which should be smaller and lighter, but because I had a lot of people to talk to and didn’t have a table until the afternoon, I didn’t get much time to test it. But the plan was good.
Table Presence: I took my neoprene table mat, which probably got as much interest as my games. But it drew attention because it looked really nice. But more importantly, I got some Ice Cube tokens in just in time to use for Iceburgh. They were perfect, and so cool looking. I think they really took the game to the next level.
Bring something new: Check and Check. Not only were both my games on the table new, Iceburgh had more interest thanks to Cardboard Edison. But I also found time on Friday to try out a few brand new games, which both worked really well. Even though I had some older designs with me, I didn’t really get them out.
I was prepared to talk to publishers, and was able to sit down with a few to talk about everything I had going on. I’m glad I had some backup games, because I was able to pull one out after a short pitch, and that turned into a full playtest. That’s an opportunity that wouldn’t have happened without preparation.
Now for some of my highlights from Unpub.Obviously number 1 is getting to see all of my friends that I only get to see, and meeting new friends who I only interact with online. It never fails to amaze me how friendly and close the boardgame community is.
I tested a few brand new games at Unpub, and really enraged my friend, designer Joshua J Mills, when it worked first time it hit the table. [Note that worked doesn’t mean it is good or done, but it’s a good first step.]
Over the weekend Dan Cassar was testing a design we are working on together, called Barons of the Old West. I don’t even know if I can call it a codesign at this point, because every time I walked over, he had made so much more progress. I’m more of a contributor at this point. But I played it once at the end of Sunday, and the simple idea we started with had become a really substantial heavier game.
I also got to play a card game codesigned with TC Petty III. I hadn’t played the latest build, and I was really happy with the whole game experience. It’s a card game with a fairly unique scoring mechanism. The theme has been light, and we’re still trying to make that shine. I think it’s mechanically almost complete, so now is sort of the fun part.
Dare or Dare Legacy made a return, too. We hashed out rules from last year and built on last year’s game (destroying some of last year’s cards, and creating new ones we won’t see until next year.) It’s the sort of game you can really only play once or twice a year. But I expect it to keep traveling with me.
We ended up closing out the hall on sunday night after a successful last playtest. All in all, I played 8 different games that I’ve been working on, including those two codesigns. (9 if you count Dare or Dare). I got to show off a lot of things I’ve been working on to a lot of people. Keep an eye open for more news coming soon.
In other news…
In a little over a week, I’m giving a talk about game design at Bethany College, titled Overthinking Game Design, continuing the series of game design seminars. A list of previous presenters is available on BoardGameGeek. I still have to finish my notes, but I’ll be sharing how my experience as an engineer filters over to game design. I’m sure I’ll have something insightful to say, because I still have a week to figure out what it is. The talk will be available online at a later date, but if you’re brave and in the area, stop by!
Unpub 7 is a little over a week away (!!!!!) and I’m busy making final preparations. I’m trying to pack more efficiently than last year, especially since I won’t be around Thursday night, so I’m bringing only the games I know I’ll need to/get to play. That’s still a lot. Fortunately most of the games I’m bringing are pretty small.
And, I’m happy to announce that One of the games I’m bringing to Unpub, Iceburgh, has been named a finalist for the 2017 Cardboard Edison Award. It’s a real honor because there are some very talented designers and really good looking games in the running. Final submissions for these games are due right after Unpub, so I will be polishing up rules and final gameplay tweaks to make sure the game is where I want it to be.
There’s a short video explaining Iceburgh on the Cardboard Edison Award page. I’ll have an upgraded prototype ready to go, so if you want to play at Unpub, it will look a little fancier than what you see in the video.
You can also take a look at the table signs/Sell sheets I’ve been working on for Unpub to learn more about the games I’m bringing.
I’ll have about a dozen different games with me at Unpub for testing and showing off, including those, so remember to catch me in open gaming and ask what else I’ve got! You can also find me at Table M2 on the first half of Saturday and Sunday Afternoon!
It’s been quite a while, but I’m finally back with some updates! I’ve been quite busy with the birth of my first child at the start of the year, but I’m finally getting into a routine again. Here’s what happened in the meantime:
Time Management: The Time Management Game arrived with backers and is now available in stores. This makes it my third officially published game. It’s come a long way! On the left, a very early prototype, back when it was called Human Resources. In the middle, the version I submitted to the publisher. And on the right, the final version.
New Bedford tile reprints have finally shipped out. So if you haven’t gotten yours, or you bought the game in retail, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get your replacement tiles.
I’ve been preparing for Unpub 7 in March. I only have a Tag Table this year, but I’ll be showing two new prototypes. These are both quick family friendly games that I’m looking to really tighten up:
- ’52 Pickup, where players take turns collecting car parts from the junkyard in order to repair their ’52 Pickup.
- Iceburgh. A workerless worker placement game about a town built on sliding blocks of ice
And I’ll be working with the fabulous TC Petty III to show off a card game we’re codesigning, codename DECIMATE. It is a game about reality cooking competitions, and while it looks like a trick taking game, it doesn’t play like one.
I’ll also have several additional experimental prototypes that I might get to.
- New Bedford expansion prototypes. A lot of different things from more buildings, to mini expansions, to big box expansions that extends the game and adds whole new routes to victory.
- New Bedford Card Game spin-off. This is still very preliminary will still be early in testing, but it aims to hit a lighter mid-weight 30 minute mark.
- Titusville: A big box game of Trains, Oil, Industry, and Pennsylvania History.
- My movie game, previously Now Playing, previously Role Selection. The game is nearly in its complete form, but I still need to find the right title.
- Rolling Through Town, a city-building roll-and-write game I’ve been working on that uses a shared board instead of individual sheets. Grab a copy!
- Nano games for Buttonshy. I’ll be contributing some Nano games to the Boardgame of the Month and Wallet Games Kickstarter campaigns. Come check out a hint of what’s ahead.
Speaking of Buttonshy, my first “Nanodaption” was Pont d’Avignon, based on Avignon: a Clash of Popes. It was available as an addon for the January campaign for Avignon: Pilgrimage. I was really happy with the amount of theme that I was able to fit into this game, even though it’s only one card.
2015-16 was the year of small games for me. But 2017 will hopefully be the year of big games. I have at least 4 bigger games I want to get through, including Titusville and a reworked Terracotta Warriors (one of my early design attempts), and a few new ones, plus a couple of codesigns. I’m looking forward to a productive year.
Last but not least, I’ll be giving a talk at Bethany College this April about game design. I haven’t finalized the talk, but I will be focusing on the connections between my job as an eand my hobby as a board game designer. I’ll have more information for that soon!
It’s been a while since I checked in, but I am pleased to finally announce that One Card Wonder will be coming next year from APE Games! This has been in the making for a while, and after a great development run, it is finally official. You can learn a little more about it on the APE Games website. I am looking forward to writing about the design and development process.
And if you follow me, you might already New Bedford, but if you want to pick up a copy, Greater than Games is running a month of deals throughout December, starting with New Bedford.
There hasn’t been much to report since September. I’ve barely played a published game in that time, but I’ve had a few great opportunities for playtesting, including Metatopia in November. I’ve been chasing around 3 or 4 designs in various levels of completion, and all this playtesting is showing me that most of the designs are still far from ready. The bad news is that it means I’ve got a lot of work ahead. But the good thing is that it looks like I’ll have a number of great designs getting close to completion next year.
I hope everyone has great end of the year holidays, and I’ll hopefully be back with more news soon!
It’s almost the end of September, and this is the first post I’ve written since the end of July. I’ve been remarkably busy working on my house, working on new games, and just plain working, which hasn’t left me the time to write. Up through July this was a very successful year for writing, but unfortunately I will not be maintaining that pace as I go into the final three months of the year. I will continue to post updates on my game designs, but long form articles on general game design subjects are taking a break.
On to game news, then.
If you haven’t heard of it, Buttonshy Games is running a Boardgame of the Month Club. Each month you get a new postcard (in a neat envelope) with a game from a different designer, based around this year’s theme of cult movies. I’m the designer of next month’s game (along with help from some budding designer friends in my regular gaming group). So if you want a copy, you have just a week left—up to September 30th—to subscribe to the Patreon above. I’m under orders not to give away any clues to the movie, so sorry to leave you all in the dark.
Oh, and speaking of games next month, Buttonshy also runs a short Kickstarter for games in their Wallet line. I’ve started working with them to create some extra goodies for future campaigns. And (hint hint) that’s a good reason to keep an eye open for next month’s Ahead in the Clouds by Daniel Newman, a surprisingly heavy game about very light things. I played it and it’s a great little thinky game.
New Bedford is hitting retail. Due to some manufacturing issues, there were some tiles that needed to be reprinted. More information, including a FAQ and Errata, is available on Board Game Geek. The Dice Tower took a look at New Bedford and Rising Tide recently, and I’m really happy with their take. [Spoilers: they liked it.]
That’s all for this month. Next month, I’ll be able to talk more about the Boardgame of the month, and hopefully give even more details of some of the projects I’m working on.
Sometimes, you can be working on the same idea from two different angles, and it takes you a while to realize it. The previous article, Games as Stories, was one angle. I’m also starting a new game design, and was getting a bit overwhelmed with everything that I was trying to do at once. I started looking at some of the basic ways I was trying to make the game interesting. And I noticed the parallels between the classes of conflict and the ways to make decisions interesting. But I called them by slightly different names. Player versus player conflict is competition. Player versus randomness conflict is just another way of saying luck. Player versus rules sets boundaries. Internal conflict of player versus self is what I call struggle. Finally, player versus feedback is difficult to name, but I think challenge is a good term for it.
Some definitions of what makes a game focus on the idea that a game is characterized by creating artificial obstacles. These forms of conflict are the obstacles. Players get frustrated by obstacles that are too hard to pass and get annoyed by obstacles that have too little resistance. So by considering these forms of conflict individually, we can be better at deciding how to use them.
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I’ve always wanted to talk about the relationship between games and literature, an idea that will probably make all but the geekiest of game design nerds roll their eyes. But for those of you who haven’t left yet, literature provides a great lens through which to examine game design. Each game played is like its own story, that the designer and players craft together. And if I learned anything from high school English class, there are five basic elements of any story: character, setting, conflict, plot, and theme. And if a game tells a story, these elements must be present as well. But there are sometimes two different levels of story. The first is the story being told within the game. And the second is the story being told about the game. This second level is the one I’m interested in examining. Read the rest of this entry »