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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 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!
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 »
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
- Print a copy of Rocky Road: Dice Cream.
- Invite some friends over.
- Serve those friends a sweet, cool treat.
- Play a game of Rocky Road: Dice Cream.
- 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!
One useful piece of advice I’ve learned as a designer is “give up on your games”. No, I’m not overcome by a wave of ennui for game design. But it’s time for spring cleaning, which means getting rid of some game ideas that are holding me back. Letting go of a design is a hard thing for a designer to do, but holding on to a design long after it is viable can waste your time, energy, and passion. After some recent playtests and design sessions, there are a few games that I’m no longer going to work on. I hope that by sharing my reasons behind these decisions, other designers will find reasons to leave their old ideas behind and make way for some new ones. Read the rest of this entry »
A problem I’ve been concerned a lot with over the past year is avoiding a Sophomore Slump. New Bedford was my first game and a big success, and I was worried about being able to produce a second game that was just as successful and popular. There’s danger from both sides with that attitude. If I make a second game and it’s not as good, I’ve hit the slump. If I keep rejecting games waiting for that next great one, I also hit the slump. But now that I’ve officially got my second game announced, I have figured out what designers can do to avoid a sophomore slump. Read the rest of this entry »