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Unpub 6 Wrapup

I’ve recovered from my trip to UNPUB 6, so it’s time to look back, talk about the fun I had, and the lessons I learned.

We got in Thursday afternoon. After a big dinner and relaxing, we went to the hotel bar, where I taught some Oh My Goods, a published by Alexander Pfister, one of my current favorite games. By the time we finished, the baseball game let out, and a big group joined us. It was mostly talking and catching up.

One Card Wonder at UNPUB 6

One Card Wonder at UNPUB 6

Friday started with the designer breakfast and panels. We decided to play some games instead, so we left the main hall and sat down to play the postcard game I’ve been working on for the Board Game of the Month Club from Buttonshy. After the first game, we stripped out a lot of the extra complications and made it much more streamlined.  I think we might keep the extra rules and only make them available online as the expert version. Sort of a director’s cut. Next I played the prototype Five Elements by Mark McGee. I missed a key rule, and once I figured it out halfway through the game. I really enjoyed it. It’s got a neat hand-management and slightly spatial element. It was late, after running out for lunch, we sat down, and I taught a quick game of Dead Man’s Chest, a bluffing game from Eagle-Gryphon. We also collected some prototype parts that didn’t arrive until after check in. We had the option of Trucks or Dudes. #TeamTruck.

I got a few minutes to try out an 18-card hand/deck building game I’m working on late in the afternoon. It kind of fell apart, so I need to figure out if it’s fixable or not. After an amazing dinner, we returned to the hall. I mostly chatted with a few other people, but got to play another postcard game prototype from Doug Levandowski. I’m pretty sure you haven’t played a game like this, so it’s fun to see postcard games pushing boundaries. We returned to the hotel a little after midnight. I got one more game in, Unpub the UnPublished Card Game (so I guess it was Doug Levandowski night).

I was splitting my table with Dan Cassar for the weekend, and I started off with a 2 1/2 hour shift Saturday morning. As usual, it was a little slow at first, but it started to pick up between 11 and 11:30. I got two games of One Card Wonder in before we swapped. I ran into friends during the off shift, and we sat down for a light lunch. But honestly, I didn’t accomplish much in the meantime. Mostly, I walked around and looked at what else was popular. I started my next shift at 3. Although the floor was busy, it felt a little slow to me. I only got 3 games of One Card Wonder in in the second shift. I think there were a few contributors to that. First, OCW was running a little long (45 minutes with rules and discussion), so I got fewer games than I expected. Also, it seemed that there were more longer games this year, so there weren’t as many people looking for games after I finish a half hour game. And swapping out makes you lose your momentum with playtesters. Both times I swapped out, I had to leave people who would have played. If you keep playing the same game, people will tend to gather, and they’ll be able to find you. And of course, One Card Wonder wasn’t as flashy or well known as New Bedford was last year, so it doesn’t immediately grab you when you see it. That’s something I definitely plan to work on for next year.

Dare or Dare: Legacy

Dare or Dare: Legacy

I made my game trades Saturday evening. I took a big bag of games and came home with an even bigger bag of games. I’m not wild about every single game (some were part of a package), but I’m overall really happy with my haul. In the evening, I got to sit and play Daniel Newman’s Station. It plays mostly like a worker placement game, although the economic balance made it play a bit differently. I think some minor tweaks to the action rewards will tighten it up. After a delicious dinner at Nando’s Puri Puri and some excellent conversation, we returned to the hall. I watched friends play a quick game of Dancing Eggs. When that was over, we wanted something loud and goofy, but didn’t have anything with us, so we made something up. Dare or Dare: Legacy. The main gist is that everyone gets some blank cards and writes down a dare (anything you’d be comfortable asking your child to do as a boundary). Then everyone gets one card at a time and either does the dare, or bluffs and makes up their own dare. (Hence Dare or Dare.) Everyone else has to guess whether they were bluffing or not. We gave out star stickers for performance, but we decided it should be more of a group judging thing. Depending on the results of the bluff and whether you get called or not, you gain a couple of points. There’s no real score or objective besides having fun, which it did extremely well. Next big convention, I’ll pull it out again, we’ll rip up a few cards and make a few new ones. Hence the Legacy aspect.

Sunday was a little more hectic, trying to pack up and leave. Since Dan was leaving early, I let him take the whole morning shift. He had a very successful weekend with at least 40 tests by my count, and he handed out about 10 playtest kit. In the afternoon, I got 3 more tests of One Card Wonder in. The latest round of mechanic changes seems to be very positive, and accomplished everything I hoped. I just need to re-balance the new parts now, but it’s a much stronger game, so I’m looking forward to wrapping that up.

Overall, I spent a lot less time playing games than I expected to. Last year was too much, this year swung the other direction, so I’m hoping to find the right balance next year. I think one challenge may have been the timing of my shifts. First thing in the morning is always slow. And it seems like mid afternoon is a good time for people to go get lunch after they’ve been playing games all morning. Sunday is always slower, but it also starts to really slow after 3, as people pack up and leave. I think there’s still a challenge there to balance the table schedules across Unpub. One thing I’m really disappointed in is that I didn’t play any Role Selection. I made some improvements since the Meta game contest, and really wanted to see how they pull the game together. There’s always the next event, and hopefully I can put One Card Wonder to bed now.

Finally, here are my main takeaways from this year’s UNPUB.

  • Chap Stick. I’ve talked about water and drinks before, but one thing I’m now noticing is that even when I drink enough, I’m talking all day, and my lips get chapped. It’s a problem that is easy and cheap to solve.
  • Saturday is for heavier games, Sunday is for shorter games. From my unscientific survey, everyone (both designers and players) was pretty exhausted by Sunday. So get those heavier games out Saturday when people are fresher. Pick something shorter and lighter for Sunday. People will be more likely to jump into something that doesn’t require as much energy. And, it makes it easier because people leave on Sunday, if you have that one last game they can play for 20 minutes.
  • Table presence is so important. There are lots of games in various stages of completion, and Table Presence can mean different things to different games. Size, color, artwork, polish of components goes a long way. But it goes beyond that, too. A tablecloth can make your game look even nicer. have good signage, including Sell Sheets, previous games (if you have them) to attract attention.
  • Bring something new. Yes, sometimes you have that game you’ve been working on for a long time, and you really just need to put in front of a bunch of people and see a lot of playtests. But a lot of people (especially the other designers) go to these events again and again, and if you show the same game, you’re competing with lots of new things.
  • And as a corollary, bring something to talk to publishers about. UNPUB isn’t really a pitching event, but if you have a chance, take it. If nothing else, you build your relationship with them, and that’s great professional development.
  • Know *specifically* what you’re looking for. Players asked me what kind of feedback I wanted, and I didn’t have a good answer. I’m working on balance, but I didn’t think about how exactly to find out about balance.
  • Talk to people. Walk around. Be your own advocate. I’ve got a, shall we say, “subtle” style. Don’t be subtle. People want to play games. Like pizza toppings or ice cream, people don’t want to make the decision. So if you go up and talk to people, that gives them a reason to say yes.
What happens at UNPUB is usually posted on Twitter

What happens at UNPUB is usually posted on Twitter

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Sell, Sell, Sell!

Unpub 6 is coming up, and it’s time for me to gather the games I want to take. Besides the games, there’s something really important I need to take, and that’s Sell Sheets for each of the games I’m taking with me. I’m taking sell sheets for all of the games I’m going to play, even though I’m not planning on trying to pitch them all to publishers. There are several reasons behind that, and I want to share why I think they’re important, and how I create my sell sheets. Read the rest of this entry »

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2015 Wrapup and 2016 goals

Last January, I wrote about my gaming goals and plans for 2015, and this year, I’m looking back at those goals and setting some new ones for 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

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My first Metatopia Experience

My reaction after my first Metatopia is simple. If I had known what I was missing, I would have started going years ago

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See that? It says “Professional”

I was only there for about 28 hours, but I feel like those 28 hours were as productive as twice that amount of my own time. Over the course of the weekend, I was able to play two prototypes from other designers that I was really looking forward to playing. I also got to play a number of small prototypes from friends that I wasn’t expecting to play, outside the scheduled testing times. The weekend was so productive that it took me several days to write up some feedback and send it to people, which is why I’m only getting around to posting this a week later. And of course, I had some playtests of my own games, and came back from Metatopia with one more game than I had when I arrived. 

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See you at Metatopia

This year, I’ll be headed to Metatopia for the first time. Metatopia is an annual game design-centered event presented by Double Exposure in Morristown, NJ. I’ve missed it the past few years, but I finally am able to attend, and I’m bringing a few games. I can’t attend the whole weekend, but I’ll be there Friday night and most of Saturday. I have three playtests scheduled

I’ll have a newly updated One Card Wonder to show off and test. I’m trying a slightly different system for pairing buildings and wonders, so your feedback is important. You can try it from 9-11am or 4-6pm Saturday.

I’ll also have a brand new game to test; the working title is Cash Out. It’s a small game inspired by No Thanks!, For Sale, and High Society, where players are high stakes gamblers trying to beat the house and their other players. The simple premise is ante a chip to stay in, or take half the pot. The winner each round gets a big payout from the Casino. I’ll be showing that  2-4pm on Saturday.

More information, including exact locations, is available on the Metatopia website. Stop by and say hi!

 

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September News and Updates

I never really took the time to put together a post-GenCon update. The real summary is that GenCon was so big and busy that I barely had time to do anything except demo New Bedford for 3 days straight! Note to self: Don’t agree to to demos first thing in the morning. Friday was a long day that started with a flight, and ended with Designer-Publisher Speed dating. This was a fantastic learning experience for me, and I’m hoping to be able to share some more news about that soon. I had no mental energy for Unpub on Friday evening, but I was able to play a few games Saturday night, including a few of my own with mixed results. All-in-all, I understand now why Origins is the convention to hang out and game with people while GenCon is the convention to work. There were people I didn’t see all weekend. Origins will almost certainly be on my schedule for 2016, but GenCon will more likely be a pass.

Speaking of 2016 conventions, UNPUB 6 tickets went on sale last week. I reserved a table for the full weekend. However, I’ll be splitting the table, at least part of the time, with good friend and fellow designer Dan Cassar (Cavemen: the Quest for Fire, Arboretum). Details and game selection to be determined at a later date.

Last week, I did an interview with the New Bedford Standard-Times, a historic local newspaper in New Bedford, Mass, about the success and design of New Bedford. You can read it on the SouthCoastToday.com.

Finally, I added a game page for Nantucket. During the New Bedford campaign, a second game, Nantucket was added as an add-on. This was a bit of a surprise, to me because it was initially intended to be just a bonus promo item, but the success of New Bedford made it feasible as a standalone game in the DHMG Rabbit line. I haven’t talked much about Nantucket because I always considered it more of a side project, almost a “fan game”, if it were possible to make a fan game of my own game. The entire game fits on four cards, which would be very easy to hand out as a promo, with the player providing the needed coins.

But this was not a hastily-assembled last-minute money grab. Quite the opposite. I originally talked about Nantucket at the end of 2013, inspired by Adam McIver and Tasty Minstrel Games’ Coin Age. There is over a year and a half of development that has gone into making Nantucket a fun, portable, and independent game. Many of the familiar elements from New Bedford remain: worker placement, modular buildings that add actions, bonus buildings that earn points, and, of course, sending your ships whaling. But while many of New Bedford‘s choices revolve around how to use your limited time, Nantucket‘s choices are about how you make your money work, quite literally.

While Nantucket was originally conceived as a lighthearted take, I had a lot of fun making it into a game full of tense decisions that carries the spirit of New Bedford, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.

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Gencon, New Bedford Update, and More

It’s time for some announcements:

I’m headed to GenCon with New Bedford at the end of July. Find me and play a demo at the Greater Than Games booth on Friday, July 31st, Saturday, August 1st, or Sunday, August 2nd.

In just a few weeks, on July 18th, I’ll be at 7th Dimension games in Jenkintown, PA for another Unpub Mini. This time, I’m looking for some last minute feedback on some expansions for New Bedford. Stop by between 11 and 6. I’m running tag team on a table.

New Bedford  is returning to Kickstarter in mid July! Things are moving ahead more quickly than expected, and we expect to re-launch later in the month. Please help us spread the word and get it funded! I’ll of course post more information as soon as I get it. You can also find that information on greaterthangames.com and dicehatemegames.com. Even pledging just $1 at launch is appreciated and lets you follow along!

And as for the art, I’ve seen some sketches, and they look great. I can’t wait to see them in color. Here’s a teaser for the box art, too. I know I’m really excited to see it all come together!

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