Archive for December, 2013
For my last post of the year, I’m writing about something concrete, and directly related to specific design choices. I’m trying to create a game (10 Acres) that is easy to play, but I found that there are multiple interpretations of what “easy to play” means. There are several different strategies for making a game easy, each with its own pros and cons.
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Inspired by the recent Coin Age kickstarter and my desire to take New Bedford everywhere, there is a new microgame adaptation of New Bedford, I call Nantucket. Using only 2 cards, and a handful of coins, players can enjoy the experience of whaling and town building. Nantucket is for 2 players, and includes 2 cards and instructions. One card includes the base actions and buildings, and the other card is two-sided, including two sets of extra buildings for different play experiences. Players will also need 15 smaller coins and 10 larger coins. Dimes and pennies are ideal.
Nantucket will join New Bedford at Unpub 4, and a print and play version is in development.
I realize it’s been a while since I first introduced the game, so I wanted to show off some game details, and show the current state of the game.
First, the cards have been updated with more useful action icons. The default action now shows a cube being placed and the potential harvest action. This made it easier to include the more complex actions for some of the expansion crops and animals. Here are some of the revamped cards:
I’m starting from cubes, because I think small cubes will be easier to use, and cheaper, which means you can add more to the game box, which means even more players could be possible!. But on the other hand, it would be really awesome to include animeeples and vegimeeples in the game, and would make game easier to use, in addition to looking cooler. I may dig around and see what pieces I can round up before Unpub 4.
Rule cards have been updated to show the associated actions and limits, with the harvest, grow, and end phase behavior ordered more logically. The limits for animals have been decreased, because they were running out frequently. This also balances the more powerful ability to place grown animals in any location. I formalized the special rules and scoring into a rule card as well.
From playtesting, the balance of the “Place any one” and “Harvest any one” actions were adjusted. The action card showing only those two actions was eliminated, because it was always the least desirable “Old Maid” of the cards. This has the benefit that every card allows you to place with a normal action, and reduces the number of cards to a nice round 20, so when the pile ends, the game ends (in two-player play).
I’m working on developing some extra animals and crops, and formalizing some “alternate” actions ideas into rule cards, as well, so I’ll cover some of them next time.
“There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness.”
I first learned about this game when the Kickstarter launched, the day after I showed my first New Bedford prototype at Unpub: South Jersey. I thought to myself, “What are the odds that two 1850s whaling games would make a public debut at the same time?” So I backed the project, and anxiously awaited delivery of this other whaling game. I backed primarily because of the theme, and the final product definitely delivers in that category. However, in the game category, I was disappointed. Here’s why.
With a theme chosen, I put together some graphics and a rulebook, and made a final prototype.I threw together a quick cubicle graphic for the back of the cards.
I had some interesting ideas for some unique abilities that didn’t quite fit in with the base game, and put together a mini-expansion of 4 pairs of cards. They worked great when I tested them out, but aren’t necessary for the base game.
I showed the game to a friend who was a bit skeptical on the office theme, who admitted that it does actually fit better than expected. Everything appears to work, although my wife/primary play-tester has determined that this is not her game of choice. I’m still trying to find a title for the game, and she suggested “Worker Placement”, which would be perfect, but there is already a game with that title coming out next year. I will still have to work that in. The working title will probably stay “Human Resources”.
After the last round of testing, I have only one small rule change for balance, and the game will be ready to go. Next time I’ll finish up this design series with a preview of the game.
For my third test, I was fortunate enough to have two players who I hadn’t explained the game to, so I handed them the first draft of the rules and told them, “Figure it out.” I promptly discovered some missing rules, and made sure the game could continue correctly. Having a small rule book makes it much easier to figure out what rules need to be clarified, since there are fewer ways for players to miss rules. I also found some confusion caused by inconsistent terms in the rules. This will be fixed when I finalize the rules, but the assumed interpretation was correct. Otherwise, the players learned most of the rules between them. The game ended reasonably close and reactions were positive, so I guess it’s about time to pick a theme for the game.
The stones idea is not particularly compelling, and the patterns and abilities don’t make much sense. I also considered that the grid arrangements could be neighborhoods or city blocks that include commercial and residential properties. This still seems a bit bland and unoriginal, but there is some potential for a larger game including more colors, abilities and patterns. I can keep it abstract–my wife wryly suggested the name 54 Shades of Gray. And the testers so far like it as an abstract game. But games from Dice Hate Me usually have a strong and fun theme, so I’d like to find something a bit more compelling for the judges.
I also like the concept of office cubicles. Colors become different office workers, and patterns become projects that need certain configurations of employees, special abilities become managers, and the special condition points become production quotas that need to be met. I even began thinking about how neat it would be for each card back to show a different cubicle. Perhaps Don Draper’s from Mad Men shows brandy and cigarettes. One with a red stapler for Office Space. Or Michael Scott’s office from The Office. While this has a lot of potential for fun artwork, it would take away from the game if you could identify the cards based on the backs.
I think this theme could work well with the game, but I need to keep it from becoming bland by making sure it doesn’t take itself too seriously. This theme also has potential for later expansion, and I have some great ideas if some Kickstarter bonuses are needed. For now, check out some of the title concept art, too.