Thursday, September 05, 2013


Recent things and/or musings I've been working on.

Hot Tin Roof. A story game based on Tennessee Williams plays, in wacky mini-book format.
My Little Vineyard. Updated with the idea to start submitting it to publishers again.

I've been working on a solitaire, choose-your-own path adventure story-slash-mapping hybrid to make playing "Dungeon Roll" a little more interesting when playing solitaire. even though I'm almost finished with it (well, first pass anyway), the branching in one section has made my head hurt.

I keep wanting to come back to "Leviathan" which is a solo game where you get to be a sea monster attacking ships during the age of tall sails. There's some kind of neat things going on in it...but I get discouraged when it comes to working on the evolution/tech tree aspects of it.

Blogger interface is awful on iPad.

"Gates of Atlantis" is still there, which needs tweaking. But that game is a headache to design for, due to the mechanical hidden information gimmicks.

Card games have suddenly interested me, due to the uprising of pretty decent POD card shops

3-player only card game, slightly quasi-deckbuilding attributes, loosely based on the journey of Oddyseus.
Revising "Great Sardini is Dead" to a playable state, a battle of old-timey magicians to take over the job of the Magician who has recently passed away at the exclusive Copa Club.
2-player card/story game, "Knight Flyer". Imagine a game based on Knight Rider, except that instead of a sentient talking car and his driver, it's about a sentient bi-plane and it's flyer during WWI.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Here's my entry. Feel free to give it whirl. I'll try to be spoiler-free as much as possible if you want to keep the "surprise" of the game as surprise-y as possible.

I've been wanting to do something interesting with the mini-book format for a while, and a choose-your-own-adventure system seemed like a good fit for it...especially since the mini-book format dovetails perfectly into the one-page design requirements of trying to fit a dungeon on to one side of one page of paper. The fun thing in this design is in the use of ripping tabs off the paper as a way to denote status changes in the dungeon. This allows for a little back-and-forth into the same areas, but with different effects.

As usual, I continue to be interested in the mechanical aspect of hiding and obfuscating linked information by way of windows on cards when placed on one another (as I've talked about before). And, again, the minibook format became a fun playground to mess around with that idea. There's quite a few layering tricks employed in this book with regards to revealing and hiding information. Having done this the first time, I'm sort of looking forward to trying it again from scratch to see what other nonsense the format could pull off.

As far as the dungeon itself is concerned, it's naturally quite small. There's only so much room you can fit on a sheet of paper while handling the status changes within the game. However, I'm pretty pleased with the amount of "weight" the story. Given how little information is given with regards to the story, I think that there's enough of a twist to make you think about your given mission.

Play-wise, the game has a very distilled and raw resolution system, tied to two different colors of dice. (The dice are also used as a way to track you health, yay for dual purpose components! )The main decisions that the player will make will involve deciding which color set of dice to roll during combat. Initially, both color sets were balanced with the exact same rules (a die's color is more powerful against an obstacle it's same color), which became a very simple mathematical enterprise to determine which color set to use. In this version, the color types are rather unbalanced...which adds a little bit more thinkiness when determining your course of action when going into battle.

And again, there's really not much to battle, given the size and scope. And the game is balanced enough to make sure that you will win more than lose...if you really have a desire to play it more than once. I would probably work in a couple of extra colors of dice for more choices....but hey, it works right now for a first pass at an idea.

*edit* link for the file now goes to the RGPGeek entry.
Monday, March 04, 2013


I know people have issues with the way dice work in Settlers of Catan; just because 6's and 8's should come up more often than 4's, doesn't mean that they do over the short-term. So, they use a a deck of cards that exactly matches the probabilities of the results of two dice. I think one of the charms of Settlers is that, over the short-term, your expected chances of getting that valuable 6 region to pay off might not happen. 

But after falling way behind in a recent "Settlers Trails to Rails" game, I was more concerned with the way rolling a 7 just extends the pain. With every roll of 7, no resources get produced for a turn...effectively pushing out the game one extra turn. So, not only was I falling further behind because of wacky, non-expectant dice rolls...the game was just getting longer due to the 7s.

So, is there something that can be done to change that?

Now, I also don't think the robber should change...stealing a card from the leader (and shutting down one of his hexes), and keeping someone from hording cards are important to the game. But what if, after a player rolls a 7 and performs his duties as a robber, the player does an additional action...he simply keeps rolling until he rolls a non-7, pays out the regions on that number, and the game continues as normal?

Basic probabilities here.... 6 out 36 possible rolls will result in a 7. So, every sixth roll will result in a robber action...producing no goods, which, based on my theory, extends the game by another turn. If we let a player still payoff regions, that would mean the game doesn't have those extended turns, and we've reduced the length of the game by 1/6.

Assuming a game of Settlers takes 120 minutes. 1/6 of that time is 20 minutes. So, now the game is reduced down to a game that takes 100 minutes. That seems somewhat substantial.

So, let's roll with this rules change. Does it affect, in any way, that the game gets played? The game probably becomes looser in the end game, since every turn will produce supplies, and therefore starting out a turn short of cards won't happen very often. The robber rules will still be in effect limiting hand sizes, though.

Does trading change? Since your hand size will be larger, it will be easier for you to build what you want...but you will also have more cards to trade, and I think, there will be more incentive to trade to keep under the robber 7-card level.

Because of this, I think that game even speeds up more, because it will be easier to hit the winning conditions (even though that may be offset by the slower player turns, due to having more cards in hand...which will create more decisions to be made). But I don't think anything fundamentally changes.

It's worth a try at some point. I think.
Thursday, January 31, 2013


In case you are wondering how the "Hotness" rating on boardgamegeek works....
I really have no idea.

I know that there's always some concern about people gaming the hotness charts. Even though I'm not really sure what the end game of that would be. I guess as a form of "marketing" to make it look like your game is really popular. But it just seems sort of variable; but I admit it's nice to have a series of "quick links" over there where there's a certain meta-society-gestault thing about a game...if you use bgg as a reference, in general you are learning about a game at the same time as everybody else.

But as an interesting example on the rpggeek side of the site, I have put up a new Fiasco playset. It's called "Lord Doomicus and His Giant Battle Planet". It's a playset designed as a comedy about all of the background people who are needed to run a giant Star Wars-like Death Star.

It "became active" yesterday. This morning, it's rated number #2 on the "hotness" scale, behind the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire game. I checked the Giant Battle Planet direct link and it has had....32 views, with 18 downloads.

Again, this is on the RPG hotness scale, and not the boardgamegeek scale. I assume it takes a lot more than that on the boardgame side. Bu, then again, I could be wrong about that.

I don't know what kind of traffic drives the rpggeek site on a given day, or if the RPG world is consumed by 3 or 4 800-pound gorillas (such as D&D and Pathfinder) with everybody else a quite-the-distant second, but I just find it interesting that that small amount of clicks on that side of the site can drive something that high on the hotness list.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013


So, there's this wonderful game I want to do for the 2-player print-and-play contest over at boardgamegeek.

It's an interesting theme, based on the movie 2010: The Year We Make Contact, where both players are essentially "trapped" on a deep space mission together from competing countries. They need to trust each other, and work together, to make the mission succeed, but as news slowly winds itself through space to the probe that tensions are mounting back home, the trust starts to break down, as victory conditions start changing for each player. It could be fascinating, interesting, and different (at least in my mind).

 But I don't have time for that now.

So I decided to try my hand at a tiny card game (since I like working with oddball restrictions), ala "Love Letter" which I haven't played...but I get the general gist of it.

Current set of rules and 15 print-and-play card are here in GoogleDrive. It just needs a few playtests to see if it runs at all.There's a wonderful chance that the game is a complete most first prototypes.


I originally was shooting for 12 but would up with 15; but it felt like I had to push the card count out more as I self-played it. The simple rules overview is as follows:

The deck is comprised of three suits...and each suit has the same set of wacky action cards. One card is removed from the game. The goal of the game is to determine the color of the card that was removed, with scores based on owning cards in your hand that match that color at the end of the game. A player's turn is simply: A) optionally playing a card out of his hand and performing the action on the card, followed by B) drawing a card from the deck. If at any point a the draw deck has no cards when the player is required to draw a card, then the player may optionally end the game. Scoring is based on matching the card color of the removed card with your cards in your hand at the end of the game.

Now, scoring has some unique tricks to it. Scoring is designed to prevent card hoarding. You score points for having cards in your hand that match the target color, AND for cards that don't match the target color in your opponent's hand. In general, the scoring should "play" with the player's perception of what they need to do in the this case, since the player wants to find out what the missing card is, he wants to see as many cards as possible, but since scoring penalizes card hoarding, he wants as few cards in his hand at the end of the game as possible. Which should create an interesting dynamic.

Initially the card actions were simple: "draw an extra card" "shuffle the discards back in the deck".  Most of the actions have been re-thought using ideas based on the Cut-The-Pie problem (one person cuts the pie, the other person decides who gets what piece). This was done for a few reasons; it adds more "weight" and more decisions to the game while keeping the component count really low. And two, it gives each card some specific ways to be used slightly differently depending on the stage of the game where the player is at. As mentioned above, the game can be thought to have two stages, the initial find-the-missing-card stage, followed by the hand-building-and-point-forming stage. And by giving the actions multiple levels of decisions, the cards can be used differently in each stage.

An additional, quieter side effect of the actions is the way the player can control the game speed. Remember, the game can possibly end when player cannot draw a card (ending the game with that player's discretion). By giving the players some control of feeding cards back into the draw deck, or how many cards that can be drawn, the players can control that speed outside of the realm of simply deciding to end it.

Of course, there are potentially issues with regards to recursive card action and card play that can never end the game. Hopefully I've caught those. But I wouldn't be surprised if there's some trick somewhere in there I missed. That's the dangerous side of letting the players control the speed and end game of the game; the playing for the draw, or just flat out breaking the game.

On a final note...I once read something about comic strips, that in a lot of ways drawing comic strips are harder than traditional artwork or comic books, because of the level of tolerances and the amount of lines drawn will reveal any mistake on a comic strip character as a much larger flaw than a slightly altered line in a more detailed model. For example, if there is one line that isn't juuuust right on Charlie Brown, you see it immediately as an error. I have a feeling that small games like this are similar. I don't think there's a case of "well, if you just tweak this one little rule a little bit, it will be fixed." Small games either work, or are a complete disaster.

At least that's my story right now, and I'm sticking with it.

Sunday, December 09, 2012


So, there's a thread gong on at the story-games forum talking about what RPGs can learn from board games. I have no idea if this is any kind of solution, but some of the things being discussed there led me to ka-noodling this idea. Currently, the idea is theme agnostic...but there's no reason why you couldn't add cards that theme-specific as expansions or whatever.

First of all, the cards themselves. This is basically a card game. Once you know the basics, everything else you need to know is on the cards. A player's turn is simply this: play a card and follow the directions. The cards show a list of instructions to follow, starting at the top. Once a player follows the directions in the grey box, he flips a coin. Flipping a tails is a "minus" result while a heads is a "plus" result. The player then moves down the list of instructions until he finds the next instruction that matches his result. Once a player hits an instruction that reads END CARD, his turn is over.

And that's the basic idea in a nutshell.

So, let's say a player played the Wander card over to the side here. He describes why things are "hard to see", and then selects another player for their opinion on what is in the distance.

He flips a coin, which lands as a he moves down to the next instruction with the plus sign, and now he needs to describe the voices that he is hearing, and ask another player to flesh that information out.

He flips a coin again, which lands as a he moves down to the next minus sign, and now must describe as they investigate, how whatever the other player thought was going's actually much worse.

Again, a coin flip, and another minus...which results into sliding all the way down to the final instruction. And now he describes how things have gotten much, much worse. He selects another player to play an Encounter (as seen below). Once that player's Encounter card is over, control of the game comes back to him, at which point he hits the END CARD instruction, and his turn is over.

Encounter cards play out the same way. The only big difference is that while Wander cards set up a scene, Encounters are more about a character's action in the scene. Encounters play out as little scenes within the main Wander scene. And yes, Encounters can cause other players to play Encounters.

Once an Encounter hits an End Card, the control of the game is reverted back to the player who was the person who requested this Encounter to be played.

And finally, there's a class of cards called Conditions, which you acquire and play when you can't play the required card, or when you become injured, as seen further down.

And that's about it.

And now for the more detailed rules. I'm leaving out theme, setting, and character building for the time being. The game is designed to have no GM, and no pen-and-paper stat tracking; the only "stat" is your five cards and the amount of Conditions that suck up those five spaces.

With that said...


There are two decks of cards. The main deck is comprised of Wanders and Encounters. Shuffle those together, and have every player draw five cards. Shuffle the Condition cards to create the Condition deck. The Condition deck sits off to the side until a player needs to draw a Condition.

On a player's turn, he plays a Wander card from his hand and follows the instructions. If he doesn't have a Wander in hand, he then selects a Condition that he owns in front of him to use as his set of instructions. If he doesn't have a Condition, he then draws a Condition and follows the instructions on that card.

After completing each instruction, the player flips a coin, and then moves down the list of instructions to find the next instruction that matches his coin flip. The player never moves back up the card. Any instructions passed over because it does not match the correct coin flip at the correct time is "lost" for that play.

If the player must choose another player to play an Encounter, the originating player becomes "the caller"; he is the player who called on another player to play. The caller will need to remember where he is in his instruction set as the player he called will return control back to the caller when the called upon player's instructions are finished.

(And to be fair, there can be multiple callers and "called upon players" in a chain if Encounters require the choosing of another player. As long as everyone remembers where they were when control bubbles back up the chain, everyone is good).

If a called upon player is asked to play an Encounter, and he does not have one, he must choose a Condition he owns to play. If he does not have a Condition, he must draw one and follow those instructions.

If at any point an instruction notes that a player is "injured" they must draw a new Condition and follow the instructions.

Conditions are always kept face up in front of the player who acquired them, and the player can never get rid of them unless an instruction tells them to do so.

After playing a Condition, the player can discard one card from his hand and draw a new card from the main deck.

Instructions are followed until the player hits an END CARD instruction, at which point his turn is over. At the end of his turn, the player draws back up to five cards, which include any Conditions the player may have. So, a player with 2 Conditions can only draw up to three cards for his hand. The Wander is officially placed in the discard pile, along with any Encounters that were played during the player's round. The only player who draws cards is the player who's turn has just ended.

A player is considered dead if he has five Conditions.
Thursday, May 19, 2011


All rules need reasons for existing. If you can't pin down a good reason for a rule to exist, it should be pulled out of the game. In fact, I'd almost go as far as stating that the rules need to have a mechanical reason for existing; if a rule solely exists for a thematic reason, it probably needs to be re-thought.

And then there's another step deeper, where you have to decide if the reason itself is important enough to warrant the reason being there.

And this is one of the things I hate about chess. Just what the heck is the reason for the en passant rule there for? Remember, all pieces have their own set of moves, which are strictly followed, well except, in the one special case...

(I'm willing to give the "pawns can move 1 Space forward, EXCEPT ON THEIR FIRST MOVE THEY MAY MOVE TWO SPACES exception," given that there are a few good reasons for that to exist: It speeds up play at the start of the game, and it does offer, I think, a few more strategic choices.)

Anyway, rules without reasons just clutter the game. Rules with poor reasons should be given better reasons or removed completely if you want a tight game that flows. Rules that provide for multiple reasons are even better.

There's probably some interesting way to analyze games by looking at the reasons. Of course, reasons are pretty subjective. Here's a sampling of reasons things exist, or in some cases removed, from My Little Vineyard.

Spoilage - Originally existed as a reason to include weather/seasonally effects...was removed to due "player reset" symptoms and made the game too restrictive.
Research Books - Currently probably one of the stronger rules/reason sets as they are currently implemented. They are used as a fallback option, when there is nothing else available to do for the player. And they provide for a general "growing machine" bonus over the course of the game without directly scoring.
Fertilizers - These are thematically very strong, but on first glance, they are a weak choice. However, while they typically don't provide many points, they are very strong in removing options for competing players.
Wine Cellar - Thematically strong, provides strategic options as to score now, or hope to score better in the future decisions.
Market Place - Thematically okay, provides tactical options and some screwage against other players.
Dice Pools - Flexible way of having a group of stuff meaning one thing to one player, while meaning something else to another. Also, it's the unique feature of the game
First Round Dice Roll exception - Yeah, I'm not to happy with the first round requirement of hacing players being FORCED to roll multiple dice, as opposed to letting them decide. But the reason is very strong why it exists; the dice pool needs to be seeded somehow in a somewhat balanced fashion.

Of, course there's a lot of weaker of stuff, too. The current variety of fertilizers have pretty reasons to exist; in fact, I could probably get rid of either wood chips and volcanic ash without missing much. On the other hand, variety is always nice to have.

Thers something to be said about the potential of drafting different sets of grapevines that a player can use to spice up the variety even more, just to be sure that there isn't one clear path to victory. I'm not sure I want to add that complexity to the game at this point...and that would entail all sort of other balancing issues, I think. Which is a good enough reason to leave it alone for now.

Labels: , ,