Posts Tagged 10 Acres

Design Progress – March 2014

I feel like I haven’t made any progress on games lately, except for coming up with more ideas than I have time to develop them.

I got a second and third test of the first part of my 3-part game, and it has definitely gotten more interesting. Players are competing mine owners and must balance working the mines with running the company. Players have boards to track the levels of fresh air, labor unrest, and danger of collapse. The game is worker placement based, but the board is split into two parts: management and mining. On the management side, players can buy machinery to make mining more efficient, negotiate with workers to keep costs down, and run the fans to keep the miners happy. Or steal from the workers and ignore the fans to run more profitably. At the end of the day, they always return home. But workers can also be sent down the elevator into the mines, where their only options are to build reinforcements (if management has provided wood), mine, or return up the elevator with resources. In mining, resources are pulled from a bag, but their quality degrades with every mining action. Players can drill safely, cut rock which is more efficient but carries the risk of a cave-in, or blast which is the most profitable but greatly increases the risk of disaster. Each cutting or blasting action can cause a cave-in if the die roll isn’t more than the current danger level. And each time there is a cave in, the risk of total collapse increases and labor gets closer to unionization, either of which can end the game. And every mining action uses up precious fresh air, and fans are expensive to run. Players must choose how safely they run their mines to make the most profit.

There are some neat mechanics at work that allow for clever gameplay, but the depth is lacking, even after improvement. I was already planning on eliminating the second part of the game, and the third part hasn’t really left the concept stage, so I’m looking at making the first part a standalone game. It has a few too many components to be a micro-game, but it might make a decent small-box game if I can improve the depth. It also only works with 2-players at the moment. For now, I will probably try to enter it into the BoardGameGeek 2-player Print and Play contest. In the mean-time, I still plan to develop the portion of the game that incorporates a route-building game with a betting and bluffing aspect. But I want to be able to tie them together thematically.

Where are my other projects? My bigger-box sequel to New Bedford, Titusville,  is ready for some more testing. I need to continue development on some extra buildings for New Bedford, too. I have a few small game ideas that are progressing. The first is a micro card game that uses the concept of non-transitive dice. The second is inspired by Love Letter, but with more strategic choices and a larger deck. I can see why micro games are so popular now, because the development cycle is shorter and easier. I don’t know if you have to give up strategic depth for a micro game, but I think that is usually the second casualty. The first is thematic depth, because you just don’t have enough components to provide the same amount of theme as a larger game.

After 10 Acres and my 3-part game, I want to change how I present my games on this site. With New Bedford, I had a game that was mechanically and thematically complete when I started showing it off. In other words, it had a fixed identity–something that my mining game and 10 Acres didn’t have. The current version and original version of New Bedford would still be easily recognizable as the same game. So I’m still going to share my ideas and my development work, but I won’t give it a page until it has a real identity. I keep alluding to a role selection game with 100 unique roles, but the theme isn’t fixed yet. For now, it’s called Terracotta Warriors.

I’ve got a lot of testing ahead on a lot of games, so I’m looking forward to sharing more progress over the next several months.


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10 Acres Basic Crops and Animals

Unpub 4 is tomorrow, and I’ve been doing a lot of preparation, but I was able to put together an overview of the game as it is currently. After the changes from the previous test, I got through a game of 10 Acres with 4 (in a bit more than 10 minutes, but it was a learning game) by increasing the number of cards and restocking at a fixed rate. Unfortunately, I discovered that resupplying was too slow, hampering some strategies. But I got some great advice, and the resupply rate will probably be set by tokens, to have the right number of goods added to the game. I also discovered that unlimited special harvesting could make a game last forever. So the special rules are probably becoming one-time use tokens.

I also rearranged the rule cards a bit, and I’m finally happy with their format, so it’s time for an overview of the basic products in the game. I’ll start by explaining the ones I have been using since the beginning.

The basic animals are Cows and Sheep. Cows are the most valuable product in the game, and are worth 2 points when harvested. Sheep are worth only 1 point. They also share growth behavior, giving 1 new for every 2 existing. Location doesn’t matter, so it’s just the total number that counts. In addition, new cows or sheep can be placed on any space that already holds one of the same animal. However, only 2 cows can be kept on a space, while there can be up to 4 sheep. This means cows are slow to grow and max out quickly, requiring constant attention, while sheep are less intensive. As another trade off, cows are worth only 1 point per 2 cows at the end of the game, while each sheep space is always worth 1 point.

On the crop side are grain and vegetables. Grain and Vegetables are similar because they each grow at a steady rate. Grain is the more flexible crop, and benefits from having a long time to grow, giving 1 point per grain. Vegetables are more fickle, and can only be harvested for points when fully grown, but give 5 points when harvesting the whole space. Grain left at the end of the game is only worth half as much, while vegetable spaces are worth 1 point, even if not fully grown.

Fruit is slightly different from the other plant crops. I haven’t decided if it should represent apples, strawberries, or something else, but in any case, they do not “grow” in the same sense as the other plants. Since each turn is basically a year, fruit generates points by “regrowing” year after year, instead of by replacing them. Because of that, fruit is worth nothing when harvested, and very little at the end of the game.

I am mostly happy with the different mechanics for each of the basic products. I would love to have sheep to generate points during growth, like being sheared for wool, but I haven’t been able to make it work so far. It also gives me room for an expansion like Alpacas.

I also have some extra crops I was looking at adding into the game.  So far I have ideas for Beans, Flowers, Pigs, Chickens, and Alpacas as I mentioned above (but I’m out of cube colors). I’m also working on some special actions that involve farm improvements that a player could construct instead of a normal action: fences that break adjacency on your own or another player’s board for some direct interaction. And some Barns and Greenhouses, which are expensive to build, but generate extra points for animals and plants, respectively.

I’m not going to give the full details yet so you need to come to Unpub 4 to get the first look and help test these new concepts.


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10 Acres Progress 2

Over the break, I had a chance to work on 10 Acres. I was not 100% happy with the action card game mechanic, because it was a little limiting. (This was intentional to keep the game quick.) It was somewhat random, and not particularly “compelling” but I thought it worked for the weight of the game as a fairly light filler. The main problem was that players were mostly playing alone, and there was very little interaction. My wife helped me work on this.

The first idea for how to add interaction was to use a larger shared board, so players were directly competing on the same board, but this got away from the original concept, and had some challenges for resolving conflict resolution. So if players aren’t competing on where to place things, there must be competition on how to pick them up. Simply limiting the quantity aggravated a rare problem from the original game of what to do when there aren’t enough tokens, and what order it happens in.

I found myself practically forced to give up simultaneous play, which I am reluctant to do because it will likely slow the game down. But several ideas that were bouncing around in my head started to form into a workable shape. If players take turns, then resources can be limited, accumulating slowly on the rule cards. Then the card action phase can be removed and the actions can be taking the resources directly, and this limits the number a player can take at a time. Taking one would prohibit another player from taking the same thing. It was immediately obvious that a player could not take all of the resources that had accumulated, or the entire game mechanism fell apart, so we added a twist. Unlike many action selection games, the player can only take as many resources as he or she can place, and the others remain for the next round. This allows for some more complicated strategy of what to take, when, and whether the other player will take it before you can, leaving you without enough to place.

The next day, I fleshed out the idea even more. The number of players could be increased if the goods restock at a fixed rate (i.e. 2 per player). The cards I had reluctantly gotten rid of could serve as the mechanism for that, providing some randomness and more strategy for what goods are available. Add more types of crops and animals to play with more people. The “last resort” actions now become viable options, if your desired action is taken.

I’ve also worked on some of the preliminary art in advance of Unpub4. The card action art changed several times, but now I’ve got something easily understandable. I also have a Title, but I don’t know if I like it yet. Now to test it with these new changes, and more players.



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Game Theory: Making an Easy Game

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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10 Acres Progress

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:

SheepVeg FruitAny1 HarvestGrain

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.


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Introducing 10 Acres

An early prototype of 10 Acres

10 Acres is a simple game about farming, designed to be played in about 10 minutes. Start by choosing your farm from unique arrangements of 10 empty plots. Over 10 turns, you alternate between playing a card you choose, and one your opponent has chosen for you. Each card gives you the choice from a pair of actions to add crops and animals to your farm. Harvest adjacent plots to make room for the new goods. At the end of each round, everything grows. The player who harvests the most profitable goods wins.

Gameplay takes elements of tile placement, time management, drafting, and resource conversion and squeezes it into a game that is fast and easy to learn and play.

The game is also designed to have plenty of variables to keep each game fresh and different. Special abilities, extra actions, and multiple crop and animal types will make each game different. 10 Acres is planned to debut at UNPUB 4. Watch for more posts about the process of designing this game.


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