Wednesday, June 28, 2006

In Search Of...

One of the hardest thing when prototyping games (or I guess anything for that matter) is looking for shortcuts. Shortcuts for things that don't really matter in the context of what you are trying to prototype. In the world of board games, these things include such usual suspects as dice, pawns, generic counters, etc. All you want is a somewhat nice looking pawn, because, typically, what you are REALLY experimenting with is the way the rules work, not if the pawn really looks like William Jefferson or if the money you are using best imitates 1875 German currency.

And so, I like to use colored glass beads a lot. They have a nice heft to them, don't roll away (very far), are small enough to be piled next to each other while being large enough to be pleasantly held. And come in lots of pretty colors.

And for some reason, are distinctly tough to find now.

I don't have a game store near me, and I don't think I'd WANT to buy these little life counters at a game store at their prices. I'm looking for someplace where I can get quantity for cheap. Not 20 stones for $5. I stopped by a Michael's craft store, which only had red or green, in bags of 25 a peice, for $3. Better than the game store price. I tried looking around for substitutes. In their wood section, they have every single goofy shape in sizes known to man, EXCEPT FOR SIMPLE DISCS or CUBES in reasonable amounts or sizes. Sure, you can get a bulk bag of 100 wood hearts for 99 cents, or 6 1/2 inch wood cubes for $2. The insanity of it all.

Ace Hardware has bags of 25 1/2 inch wood plugs for $3, so I bought a couple bags of those; now I need to color them. I'm still up in the air between simply taking a marker to them, or spending the time and effort and staining four sets with different wood stains.

After worthless trips to PetSmart (which carries a nice selection of colored gravel for fish tanks, but no glass beads) and World Cost Market (a long shot) I spied a Crate and Barrel. AH HA!

C&B offers some real nice bulk beads; the bags look like they hold about 200 per bag, and at $6 a bag, that's deep discount pricing! Alas, you run afoul of whatever colors they are hyping for the current season; currently, there color selections are orange (purchased), light blue (purchased), pink, and clear. Now, a stop back at Michael's to purchase a bag or two of red and green, and I'll have some nice four player color collections to add to my "almost submittable prototypes."
Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Been a while

I've been concentrating most of my "game time" recently on trying to build up some complete prototype games, in the hopes of trying to submit them to publishers. So, my time to to any amount of posting here has been limited. Anyway, on with the show.

This month's GDS, Growing Season, is interesting to me from a strange point of view; based on last month's reception to the Spy theme, I would've thought that the whole farming thing would put people off. Instead, there are 15 entries! So, hats off to the members of the BGDF, I was completely surprised at the amount of people who took up the challenge.

Entry #4 and Entry #7 are marked as having too many words. Given that entry #7 is at 1,000 words, I can see that being a little tough to cut down. It might take some re-thinking on the layout of the rules to cut out 200 words out of that. But Entry #4? It just seems like that would be SOOOOOO simply to fix.

Remove the summary. That's 68 words right there. We all know that we are doing farming games here, and it's fun to write up silly little game summaries, but it's hardly needed for this contest. Well, unless you are doing something a bit off-kilter, like #2(the wizard game) or #3(the war plants).

Combine the Components with Setup. A lot of duplication there.

You can probably completely remove the Gameplay section.

And there's a lot of tightening that could possibly be done.

Anyway, I've personally tried a whole new approach this month, in order to see how efficient you can write up these entries. The original purpose of these showdowns were to be less rules/more overview; even though a lot of people like to rate things as if it was a full hard-and-fast ruleset. Therefore, the showdowns have pretty much fallen into "fully playable rules" of late. So it will be somewhat interesting to see how my game rates.

My votes typically now sway towards games with interesting ideas; as opposed to game balance, "broken" rules, and other things which people consider important in fully, finished games. I figure that most of those things would get ironed out in playtesting. Sadly, I think I'm in the minority as it's probably easier for some people to go "I can't give this game a vote because XXX costs to much and throws the game out of balance." I'm willing to give the designer at this point some benefit of doubt; if the game is ever prototyped and played, I assume that those issues are eventually fixed; balancing is easy with enough play, a good strong basic idea is the hard part.

On to the voting. Of course, my best chance of winning would be to throw all of my votes on the games with the extended word count, because those will be disqualified by everyone else. But I'm not that desperate....yet.

My votes are leaning this way:
6. 1 vote.
2. 2 votes.
9. 2 votes.
11. 3 votes.
14. 2 votes.
Many of the games don't seem to implement crop rotation very well. Or at least, the decision to rotate your crops. Oh well.
Monday, June 05, 2006

Writin' Up Rules

So, after roughly 14 hours(!!!!) of putting together the graphic element for Minsterpool, I FINALLY have all the files done for a nice PnP (Print and Play) version of the game. Which is one click away right here. Actually, I'm quite surprised to realize how long it takes to put together a nice looking demo. And this is without the "cutting and pasting to foamcore part" to actually make a real game, which probably will take another hour or so due to all the damn little Action Tiles.

Something I've learned now; writing up rules really requires you to do it at least twice to get it right, and probably a lot more since I'm sure I've missed some typos in the.pdf version. Not including typos, even though you know exactly how the game plays, it's tough to get the correct order of explanation right. You'll notice quite a bit of ordering changes between the html version and pdf.

I first did the full .html version of the rules. HTML is so nice to work with in the current tools to help layout graphics and "how to's" with text. Unfortunately, after trying to printout that version, I realized it was a nightmare. The curse of doing things on a hi-res monitor!!! Hence, the quick rule set.

After that, knowing how much people love the world of .pdf's for some reason, I put together another version of the full rules in Word. Which, for all the bloat and processing power, seems so unforgiving in the way it handles/mangles images and text combos. And it doesn't when it "auto-guesses" something you want, and you can't get it out of that mode. Open Office is starting to look more attractive every day.