With the first two posts in this blog going to long-time veterans in the gaming and podcasting world and several others available, I am pleased to give the honor (such as it is) of posting #3 to Building the Game Podcast. All I have to do is listen to their latest podcast to be reminded of how much I appreciate the tenacity and courage of Rob Couch and Jason Slingerland to put their game design ideas on the line week in and week out.
One of the first podcasts that I got hooked on was On Board Games with Donald Dennis, Erik Dewey, and at the time, the venerable Scott Nicholson. The trio provided three different perspectives on board games, game design, and the hobby game industry. Unfortunately, Scott has moved on, but Donald and Erik continue to provide different insights and opinions into the hobby. They also provide regular game reviews with their simple and reliable stoplight recommendation.
There are so many great resources for table top game designers and enthusiasts that it is hard to decide which to spotlight in this first Resource Focus blog entry. I have enjoyed many over the year or so that I have been actively searching, but one that I discovered early in my search and always eagerly anticipate the next episode is the Ludology podcast with Ryan Sturm and Geoff Engelstein. Geoff’s Game Tek segments are also a highlight on the Dice Tower.
One of the great characteristics of the board game hobby is the willingness of veterans and experts to share their experience and insights with others who are eager to know. This generosity is often talked about among hobby enthusiasts and may sound like tales of rainbows and unicorns. No group of people is without its ogres, but in my experience this spirit truly spans from fellow gamers at a convention to successful designers and publishers. Perhaps someday others will include this blog and website among their fairy tales.
At this point in my design journey I can only share what I am attempting to accomplish and what others are doing that informs and inspires me. In that spirit I will periodically include a blog post that features just such a resource that I have enjoyed and appreciate. The title of these will lead with “Resource Focus:” and they will all be categorized under the Resources tag.
As it will take a while to feature each of these resources, you can find a more comprehensive list on the Resources page.
We always have several game designs in progress at any given time. I will try to post progress on at least a few of them as they get to a stage that is more than just a concept.
Design new games or game systems that provide a fun, interesting, highly interactive experience. In this process I expect to post:
- A description and evaluation of the game/system concept.
- Iteratively look for and report what is working and what needs work.
- A description and rationale of each “improvement.”
- The evaluation – redesign – playtest cycle for major changes.
- Any tools that I use or create in the process.
- A description with rules and PnP files (as appropriate) of the “final” product.
Hopefully, you will find this discovery process interesting and maybe even gain some inspiration from it.
I was recently solo playtesting one of my designs (Nines Micro) as my twenty-something son, Daniel, looked on. I was gratified that he quickly figured out the game by what I was doing without me giving a rules breakdown. He does not play games much - although he did as a child - and the ones he does are usually the electronic variety. However, he is Mensa-Smart so his quick understanding of the rules may be more an indication of his intellectual prowess than the simplicity of my rules.
I set out in early 2014 with the intent of building this website and starting a blog. It has taken me most of the year to get a real start to it. At this point I have about a dozen articles posted and I continue to improve the website. I have focused on working on game designs and posting my design notebook. Eventually, I will take the time to start improving the look and feel of the site. Fortunately, I have built it on a solid CMS so I can address theming the site later and will lose no effort.
Thanks to Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games for his persistence in blogging and encouraging others to do the same. It has only taken me 11 months to heed his advice...
I have set the bar for myself at blogging 3 times each week and posting one new article in the Design Notebook each week.
The goal of going micro is to drop the game down to its bare essentials in components and rules while keeping the essence of the game. I’ll start by dropping the card count down (assuming 2 players) to:
- 18 = Minimum for the player grids.
- + 3 = A trade row of 3-5 cards (depending on player count, maybe n+1)
- + 3 = A few cards that are taken out of the game to hide some information; hopefully, making it more than a puzzle and keep it interesting.
- = 24 Total cards.
Now let’s see how that meshes with the card characteristics:
At the time that I am doing this makeover, card games, particularly ones derived from traditional games, are quite popular. Even more popular are “micro games” and micro card games are all the rage. There is much discussion among game designers, developers, publishers, and enthusiasts about what makes a game “micro.” I won’t dwell on that, but will proceed with the following definition:
A micro game is significantly simpler, quicker, and smaller (has few components) relative to a “full size” game of the same genre while providing a similar experience.
Some call it streamlining, but I would hope that most games, including “full size” games go through a streamlining process throughout development anyway. So it is more than just streamlining.
So, in Microsizing Nines (or more accurately, Eclectic Clock Collectors) I am going to trim the game that I have designed to this point (somewhere between Round 5 and 6) down to its very basics. I will also strip the theme and look for an appropriate one that matches the final game play (or leave it abstract).
Consider this website a documentary of a card and board game designer's discovery. While many of the articles address serious topics and are intended to report and inform, they are intended to entertain as well. Like the games in design, this site is a form of play and sharing a passion. If you like what you read here or have other ideas, requests, or words of wisdom, PLEASE COMMENT.
Realizing that the website layout is still very plain, the priority is to have new articles every week and hopefully the site will become prettier over time as well. We continue to add content, new functionality, and will work on the site theming over time.
Summaries and links to the latest articles are below, but there are many ways to find the site content through the menus, subject tags, search, etc. Enjoy your time looking around.
The Key to Incorporating the Action Cards
As mentioned in previous rounds and in “What Needs Work,” the 7, 8, and 9 point cards are generally not used and not wanted. The 10 point cards had a similar problem until I doubled the number of them in the deck. Certainly it would not be advisable to double the count of all the unwanted cards, but I have been saving the 7, 8, and 9 cards for this next change.
Since there are 3 different types of Action Cards and 3 values of unwanted Clock Cards, I have applied the actions to the point cards. (I have been heading this direction from early in the design process, but didn’t want to give life to an idea that I would later have to kill). I have called the ability to use the action on a Clock Card a Key (picture a clock winding key). Since the lower point cards are more likely to be kept in a collection, they might best be used for the higher value actions. However, the difference between keeping a 7 or a 9 seems to be negligible – the decision is based more on the perceived availability of the cards than the avoidance of a penalty. So I have applied the “higher value actions” to the higher point cards, which seems to be more intuitive to the casual player. The perceived value of a particular action is subjective and some players would not value some of the actions at all (e.g., a Take That action is undesirable to some). So here, higher value = greater blast radius (impact):