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Choosing a Tag Line

On the eve of my Kickstarter for Supertall (live now), I’ve been sitting here working with Buttonshy trying to find the perfect tagline for the campaign. It was very similar to some of the work I had been doing making game summary sheets (i.e. sell sheets) in the last few weeks. The goal of a tag line is to give you a quick impression of the game. People will decide to investigate further based purely on that 10 second reading, so it’s important to make a good impression. With a summary sheet, you have a little more room, because the person is already looking over the whole sheet. But you really want to keep words to a minimum and show the game rather than spend a paragraph explaining it. I thought it might be interesting and helpful to talk briefly about the process we went through in developing that tag line and how it relates to getting the most out of every word.

You might start with something like “Supertall is a 2-3 player game where you use different types of plans to building skyscrapers”. Simply saying a player count and some mechanics is a good start, but doesn’t do much to relate the experience of playing. Plus in this case, the price point ($10) is a big selling point. Lets try again. “Supertall is a 2-3 player game about building skyscrapers from a mix of plans. Only $10 for a fast and highly interactive tower building game.”

We’re headed in the right direction. First, we simplified language, instead of saying “where you use”, we made the information about plans a clause on building skyscrapers. We added the price and description “fast and highly interactive” and call it a tower building game. The second sentence is sort of awkward and we’d rather leave the reader with $10 as a point of interest. We’re also still wasting words at the beginning, by saying “Supertall is a game where…” We don’t need to clarify that we’re talking about Supertall.

In its place, we want a word that will excite players right off the bat. Tell players what they are doing in the game. “Build skyscrapers” is Ok, but build is a little boring. “Plan skyscrapers” is even worse. But “Design” is a more interesting behavior, because it’s active instead of passive, and suggests a level of skill is involved. Also, we aren’t just building skyscrapers, lets add some wording to show that these are special. “Design the next world-class skyscraper. A fast and highly interactive tower building game for 2-3 players. Only $10!”

OK, now we’re getting closer. The first part is active and interesting. The second part is descriptive, but is still a bit clunky. And rather than say that it’s fast and interactive, lets tell players why. Plus we’re just calling players “players”. So that gets us to the final iteration.   “Design world-class skyscrapers. 2-3 architects compete and collaborate in this fast and highly interactive game for only $10.”   Most of the words are now descriptive of the theme and player actions. “design” “world-class” “architects”. “Compete and collaborate” tells you it’s competitive but still strategic. The whole thing flows much better.

When you describe your game, value the reader’s time. Make the most out of your space. Get rid of all the extra connector words and be as direct as possible whether you’re describing the mechanics, theme, or experience. Don’t just say “this is what happens”. Take all the potential in the game and make it kinetic. Describe what is happening, as if players are active right now. Because you’re not just trying to get players interested to hear about the game, you’re trying to get the players interested in playing the game.

As usual, there’s not a road map, but this hopefully gives you some strategies to apply when you’re working on writing your game up, whether it’s for marketing, making a sell sheet, planning your pitch, or even explaining the rules. Try to get to the experience as quickly as possible.

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American Steel wins the Ion Award

I’ve been working on a game over the past few months, with my friend—and designer of Rocky Road a la Mode—Joshua J Mills, called American Steel. I haven’t written much about it because It’s been coming together quickly, and wasn’t really stable for long enough to write meaningfully about it. That and I hadn’t played it myself until recently. But I am absolutely thrilled to announce that this past weekend, American Steel won the Ion Award at SaltCon.

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New Year New Games New Plans

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.

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truckNew Bedford tile reprints have finally shipped out. So if you haven’t gotten yours, or you bought the game in retail, you can email contact@greaterthangames.com 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

iceburghtitleAnd 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!

 

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September Update

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.

 

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Have a Dice Cream Social

The Kickstarter for Rocky Road a la Mode has just hit its second stretch goal, and Green Couch Games has announced a contest to win a free Green Couch Games t-shirt! Want a chance to win a free shirt? Of course you do! Here’s how

  1. Print a copy of Rocky Road: Dice Cream.
  2. Invite some friends over.
  3. Serve those friends a sweet, cool treat.
  4. Play a game of Rocky Road: Dice Cream.
  5. Tweet a picture of your get together using the hashtag #dicecreamsocial and be sure to mention @GreenCouchGames and link to the Kickstarter campaign!

At the end of the campaign, Green Couch Games will draw 5 winners who followed all 5 of the steps listed above to win a Green Couch Games t-shirt!

Just like this tweet from the other night:

Want the Print and Play copy, or a want a How to Play video? Simply check out the fourth update, and while you’re there please consider backing Rocky Road a la Mode.

And speaking of the fourth… the Fourth of July holiday this weekend is a great opportunity to have a bunch of friends over and serve them ice cream. (Of course wherever you are, a summer weekend is a good opportunity to see friends and serve them ice cream.)

Keep cool everyone!

 

 

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Hittin’ the Rocky Road

RockyRoadMainIt’s the first day of summer! And Green Couch games has launched a Kickstarter campaign for a seasonally appropriate new game: Rocky Road a la Mode, by designer Joshua J Mills. It’s a great little game with amazing artwork by Adam McIver that plays a little like Splendor, but with a time track turn order mechanism and multi-use cards. Players play music to attract customers, serve ice cream, and earn points and permanent resources in a quick race to the finish.

And as part of the campaign, I’m pleased to announce that you can also get a new microgame I designed to support the campaign, called Rocky Road: Dice Cream. With a single card, a few tokens and dice, you can take a little scoop of Rocky Road everywhere you go. I’ll be back tomorrow with more details of how the game works, and the process behind its creation.

Rocky Road a la Mode is a scoop of engine building, with a scoop of resource management, and a scoop of time management in a family friendly cone. So if you like great little games, please check out Rocky Road a la Mode and Dice Cream on Kickstarter!DiceCreamInset

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The Time is Now!

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Time Management has launched on Kickstarter in the near future, right now! (I forget which is which).

It’s all a big joke, but the campaign is 100% real, like last year’s successful campaign. Please take a look and consider backing Time Management, along with the two other meta games: Trick Taking, and Traitor Mechanic.

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