Tuesday, January 30, 2007


On a recent "Inside the Actor's Studio," Micheal J. Fox was being interviewed. He had a pretty funny comment about why he didn't like math. Why I can't quite remember the exact quote, it went something along these lines.

"Two plus two equals four. That's it. There's nothing else to it. No matter who adds them up, it's always the same. It's been solved."

And then he went on about how acting let's him explore new things, and how his interpretation of a character is going to be different than someone elses. Math is always the same.

The ability to play around with new, unique things is a fun part of design (and more than often, can be rough). At one point I was more than happy to try and design games around a certain mechanic or theme that I had seen in another game, just to muck around with it. Isla Margarita is a good example of this. I had seen the game called Bridges of Shangri La, and decided that I wanted to try my hand at a connect-things-with-bridges game. Then I mixed in a little of Puerto Rico-styled select-your-action game play. It still might feel new because of the changes I've made as the design went along, but I don't feel like there's anything TRULY unique about the game.

I've progressed beyond that now. Now I want to try and create new systems along with new games. While the final product may not exhibit any truly unique requirements from the outside viewer, a lot of my design process now is spent on trying to derive things that are entirely new.

Minsterpool reflects this. While it might feel like another typical political/area influence game, I really wanted to try and make a game in which characters and relationships died over time, and in that regard, the players also had some amount of control over the speed of their deaths. I'm not sure how much a player gets from this initial design challenge; hopefully, it feels new and fresh because of this. But it's also somewhat abstracted out to "just playing an action card."

Vegas Showdown is a game that is fairly interesting in this respect. Here's a game that gets really good ratings, yet also gets seemingly punished for borrowing too many elements from other games. First of all, while some of the elements might seem borrowed, there's plenty of differences. Most notably is the "lay out your rooms" mechanic, possibly borrowed from Prince of Florence. Aside from the basic description of placing tiles in a confined space, the actual usage feels completely different to me. Princes had all these weird odd-ball shapes that you had to contend with; made especially harder if you didn't bother buying up builders, which lessened various spacing requirements. It really was Tetris on a board. Vegas is different; it's more about connecting rooms appropriately, and placing certain tiles next to each other. Princes didn't care what was next to each other, just as long as you fit them in your little world.

Granted, the auctions are somewhat similar, but that's pretty much the way all auction games work. Overall Princes was more about building all this machinery to play your scoring cards; Vegas is a little more "pure" in the room layout respect; it's all about how you place tiles on your board, and how they connect. They are both strong games that share some similar aspects, but not enough similarity for me to complain. While I love Princes, there's a huge amount of headaches in that game, regarding things like the evergrowing minimum point value for creating a work of art and the shopping list of stuff you must be continually adding up. Vegas is happily streamlined.

Anyway, as I've said, I've tried to move on to trying to develop mechanics as uniqie as possible now. Since Comcast has put the halt on Restless for the time being, I'm now setting my sights on doing another solitaire project based on the Leviathan discussion at BGDF.

This has been rattling in my brains for some time, and I've sort of parsed the game down into a few distinct mechanics that I'm trying to approach with new ideas. Most notably, I've been trying to come up with a new way to resolve combat. No dice throwing, no charts of comparison numbers, etc. Yet something relatively simple and doable under the auspice of a solitaire game. And I think I've finally come up with something that I'm currently mocking up to test. This is definitely going to be a fairly unique approach to handling battles (at least in my mind).

Additionally, there's a few other mechanics that I'm dealing with, as outlined below:

As the discussion in the BGDF thread boiled down, the goal of the game should be mostly about spreading the tales of terror of the terrible monster (you) that has attacked the ships, so the real goal of the game is to create Tale points at various ports around the Atlantic Ocean. However, as ports grow wise of the terrible creature out at sea, fleets from those ports will start to include warships to battle the monster below; large amounts of fame and famous monster hunters will start joining in the chase.

As a side note, I want the monster to "evolve" as the game goes. But the monster will evolve somewhat randomly, based on the ships the player has taken down previously. The Evolution system will take place, at least in my initial thinking, as a set of captain's logs, telling tales of the horrible beast. Fun flavor text that will hopefully create a nice little story that changes with each play. I think that I'm going to borrow somewhat from the Betrayal at the House on the Hill mechanic of determining the Haunts in the game.

So those are my three major systems I'm looking at: Battle, Tales, and Evolution. And they need to intertwine. And I think I've got all the pieces in my head.

There are obviously many lower level systems at work, as in any game. These include things like player movement, determining the ship types in an area of the ocean, etc.

Time to get to work.

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September 2005 - Stackanimals

Since BGDF has moved over to a new server, they will eventually lose all of their old posting. So now I have to keep a record of my showdown entries somewhere else.

A small inflatable pool filled with colored inflatable animals (say, 10 different types of animals) where each animal is roughly about 6 or 7 inches in size. A bag with small miniature animals that matches the inflatable animal shapes.

To create the tallest stack of inflatable animals without it tipping over. A stack consists of a single stack of animals, one on top of the other.

How to Play:
Each player has a defined “play area” to build their stack which are all roughly the same distance away from the central pool of animals. One player reaches into the bag and pulls out two random animals. All other players then race to the pool, and find one of each of the drawn animals. Taking the animals back to their area, they must stack the inflatable animals building on their stack from previous turns.

Any player who’s stack falls over must place all of their animals back into the pool and is out of the game.

The player who finished stacking their new animals first is given the bag to randomly select the animals for the next round. When it is down to two players, they take turns drawing the animals from the bag, and building their stacks.

The last player to have their stack tip over is the winner.

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August 2005 - The Great Sardini is Dead

Since BGDF has moved over to a new server, they will eventually lose all of their old posting. So now I have to keep a record of my showdown entries somewhere else.

A lightly themed abstract card game for any reasonable amount of players)

Magician Wanted: Exclusive Copa Club has an opening for prominent headlining magic act for the World Famous Copa Club floor show. Tryouts to commence this Monday. Competition expected to be fierce, so any trick that is is failed to be performed correctly will result in immediate dismissal.

Object: Play cards from your hand to perform the magic MOVES required to complete a magic TRICK. All cards played to complete a Trick are collected. Player with the most collected cards wins.

The Cards: Each card has two different components. When played out of a player’s hand, the suit and rank of the card as indicated in the corner is used. Ranks are 1-10, and the suits are Wands/Top Hats/Stars/Smoke. When played as a Trick to be completed, the center area is used, which shows the Trick Name, and up to four Moves which need to be completed to collect the Trick.

Setup: Shuffle the cards and place the deck face down. Reveal the first set of Tricks by flipping over the top cards from the deck and placing them where all players can see. The amount of Tricks revealed will be 1 less than the amount of players playing. (The players may decide before the start of the game to have more or less Tricks available depending on how much space they have.)
The first player is decided randomly, and turns progress to the player's left.

On a player's turn, he may do one of the following two actions:

1) Attempt A Trick. The player announces he wishes to try to win a Trick. He announces which Trick he is trying to complete/collect. The player then starts to play cards out of his hand to complete each Move listed on the selected Trick, in any order. Example Moves: “any 3 wands”, “2 cards that add up to 11”, or “1 or more cards with a rank less than 3”. After completing a Move, the player can draw one extra card to his hand before performing another Move. (A player can attempt a Trick without having all the cards he needs at the start, in the hopes that he can pick up the cards he needs to finish other Moves.)

If the player fails to perform all the Moves on a Trick, the player is removed from the game.

If the player completes all of the Moves on the Trick, the player takes all of those cards played, plus the Trick card and places them in his completion pile. He then announces if his “Act Is Over” or if he’s “Going For An Encore”. In either case, the player flips up the top card of the deck to reveal a new Trick. If his “Act Is Over” the next player can draw one card, or attempt the new Trick. If the current player is “Going For An Encore,” the player MUST attempt this new Trick.


2) Draw Cards. If a player does not wish to attempt a Trick, the player can draw cards into his hand. If the previous player Attempted a Trick, the current player draws one card. Otherwise, the current player draws the amount of cards the previous player drew plus one more card. (So, the first player would draw 1 card, the second player draws 2 cards, the next player draws 3 cards, etc, until someone decides to Attempt a Trick, at which point, the "counter is reset" to 1).

All cards drawn are hidden from the other players. There is no limit to how may cards a player may hold.

The game ends when only one player is left due to the other player's being eliminated from failed tricks, or when the draw deck is exhausted.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

1st Place for January

In a close call this time, my concept for this month's BGDF design contest wins 1st place. Kind of surprising, really, based on just the cool concept of the second place game (which I gave as my first place game of 4 points).

Don't have too much time for discussion; I've got to take a nap while I still recover from the "Cold Virus of Death" that has been lingering over me for over a week.

Continuum: The League of Temporal Scoundrels, Pirates, and Thieves

It has been said that throughout the history of invention, a precious few items were created with material so unique, so special, dare I say Magical, that when collected together, it would endow the owner with great power and abilities. These items are linked together by forces which we cannot comprehend even in the Year 3000.

But alas, these items have been scattered throughout the world, lost throughout time.

Well, until the Year 3000 when the Time Machine was perfected.

Now, the League is tracking down these valuable items, using their gifts and abilities, to gather the largest collection of these Antiques. Breaking the time/space continuum, be damned.

Build the Time Nexus Map using the 70+ YEAR TILES. Tiles are blank or have Years (ie: 1582) on them. Player start on Year 3000. The map is preferred to be built haphazardly, creating something like a finished Carcassonne layout.

After shuffling, place the top five cards from the ANTIQUES DECK face up on the table. Anytime a player collects a card from the table, a new Antique is drawn to replace it.

An ANTIQUE CARD has the following on it: Name, Creation Year, Order Created number, and occasionally additional rules. An Antiques on the table (not owned by a player) exists on Earth in any Year beyond, and in addition to, it's Creation Year date. The Order Created number indicates the order in which the Antiques were created (the oldest Antique is 1, the second oldest is 2, etc.).

On a Player’s turn, a player VISITS A YEAR by deciding if he is traveling into the “Past” or “Future”. When moving into the Past, the player must move to a neighboring Year tile that is a prior Year than the Year he is moving from (1920 to 1834 to 1712); moving into the Future, the next Year tile must be after than the Year he is moving from (1251, 1954, to 2010).

The number of tiles a player can move is based on his greatest LINK of Antiques he owns. A Link is a numerical run of Antiques that are in exact numerical order based on their Creation Order number.

Example: A player has Antiques 11, 21, 22, 23, 56, 57, 86, 96. This player has a 3 card link (21, 22, 23), so he can move a maximum of 3 Tiles.

After moving, a player may STEAL one Antique.

When stealing from the table, the Antique’s Creation Year must be earlier or equal to the current Year the player is visiting. The player takes that card, and places a YEAR TOKEN on it that matches the Year he is visiting. This represents the Year in which he has stolen the Antique for his collection. All owned Antiques (with Year Tokens) are displayed in front of their owners.

To Steal from another player, the active player must be Visiting an earlier Year than the Year Token on the target Antique owned by his opponent. The active player takes the Antique from his opponent, and places a new Year Token on it based on the Year the active player is currently visiting. (The active player has stolen the Antique earlier in Time than his opponent; since it didn’t exist in the time when the opponent stole it, he can’t own it anymore. Got it? It’s crazy movie time travel stuff!!).However, a player can’t steal an Antique if he is in a Year that is prior to it’s Creation Year (since it wasn’t created yet).

Stealing an Antique in the same year as it’s Creation Year makes it “safe,” and cannot be stolen further. But since the Time Nexus board is big, and hard to travel across, this will be hard to do (in theory).

Certain Antiques (or combinations) will have special powers. Some powers will need an additional die roll to see if the player has broken that Antique while activating the power, causing the Antique to be discarded from the game.

Mark Twain’s Pocketwatch plus Otto von Bismarck’s Cuckoo Clock: Player can change their past/future movement setting once during their move.

Davinci’s Flying Machine, Excalibur , plus Liberty’s Torch: Player can travel through blank tiles.

Full of Stars Monolith:Wild with respect to it’s Creation Order, and can be used to complete a “link” where only one or two Antiques are missing.

Hindenburg:Player can move diagonally in the Time Nexus.

When all Antiques have been placed on the table, one more round of player’s turns commences. After that, the player with the most Antiques wins the game.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It's Comcastic (NOT!)

So, after setting up a bunch of Restless test pages and trying to upload them to my Comcast webspace, things don't work. It turns out that Comcast only allows a few Front Page server-sde includes, as oppopsed to using typical internet standard stuff. Sweet Comcastic suckfest.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Catching up, Part 2

Well, I finally managed to update PocketCiv with the new "scalable event" Event cards and rules. Sadly, this completely breaks the walkthrough scenarios; I'm not sure if I want to go through that pain again (which is the right thing to do) or just blow them off and forever remove them from the server. I just don't have the time to update those with my other plans for my short hobby hours.

And I've finally caught up posting all of my scans for My Budding Artist, my blog for my 3.5 year old daughter and some of her drawings. I thought this would be interesting to track her progression from completely random scribbles to, well, less random scribbles. However, if she keeps up her interest in drawing stuff, it might actually have a real nice progression over many years. And I'm starting to fall behind on the scans again...sigh.

Finally, my whole priority list has changed again in terms of design projects. Once again, I'm going forward with Restless, only because I now have a pretty solid foundation for how I want to test it out.

Restless started out originally as a complicated "choose your own adventure book" kind of thing. You move pawns around on a map, you looked up a chart that cross-referenced what turn it was with where you were, which then got you to a list of book entries which you had to choose from based on how many players were in that room. Those entries were FURTHER expanded to other entries based on various player stats.

It became quite the headache to keep this entry chart staight with all these cross-referenced numbers, affectionately called "the database."

This has been an off again/on again project for a few years now, I've had about 30 "beats," or major elements to the story outlined out. Not to mention my various false starts with it. At one point, I've gotten about 40% through the game over a few months, took a break, then came back to it,and had no idea where to continue it from. It's a game that really needs a strong focus to wrap one's head around the creation of, apparently. Mostly, due to where I was in the database, and how far I had gotten on the various story threads, things got quickly off-track.

Well, some friends of mine have been big on goofy "tear away a page caladars" recently, where each day gives you a new factoid, or questions to answer. Which got me to thinking that this might be a way to go with Restless by make each turn calandar based. But it still had a lot of database issues regarding entry numbers and such. I've just changed the mechanism for what a turn is.

But then I got to thinking about trying to create a weblog game [edited to nando's liking, and the correct terminology], where each day you could go to a blog, and then get your instructions, or game state changes. Html becomes a perfect replacement for the database. Sure you need to keep your links straight, but I don't have to deal with hundreds and hundreds of entry numbers scattered around in a book.

Also, the blog format lets the people I know who I chat with everyday on IRC play together (well, I hope they try it out), without having to create physical books for everyone.

Anyway, I'm currently building this, getting my feet wet in terms of formatting room descriptions and such. I'll probably turn it on after I've got 8 or 10 turns linked up, just to see how feasible the game is, and then determine if I want to continue it from there.

Anyway, I've got a starting point now, and a pretty good direction. You can check out the eventual home page here (now with rules!).

Poor, forgotten Smoking Barrels...

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Catching up

Now that the holidays are over, I'm starting to catch up on a lot of things; hopefully I can get back to designing things soon.

One of the things that has slowed me down is the "art game" known as Exquisite Corpse. Basically, someone draws a 460X200 pixel image, sends it in, and then the Corpse Engine sends out the bottom 15 pixels of that image to the next artist, who must continue the picture only with the information provided in that little 15 pixel strip. And then, he turns in his 200 pixel high image, and the process repeats.

It plays very much like an online party game. Which, makes sense since it pretty much is an old party game.

Aside from the occasionally amusing and/or shocking reveal of the entire image at the end when all the absurdities come to light, it is a rather simple exploration of the collective unconscious. This basically states that there is a shared psychology amongst all humans in all cultures. A part of the game is trying to understand what the previous artist was doing given only that 15 pixel sliver of information, as the best Corpses seem to be the ones that carry a similiar theme through each artists' panels. Therefore, there is some sense that all of the artists shared a common psychology on a particular piece. Recent examples that seemed to fall into place like this would be this one (regarding theme) and this one (regarding color usage).

Of course, you get the opposite results more frequently. Especially with some artists who don't quite get the concept of trying to match the seams with the previous players. And even still, this image comes across as a sort of cool, movie poster image.

And looking at a group of these pictures in an archive format is pretty dazzling, with all the crazy uses of color and images and just general looniness.

Anyway, my most pressing game design goals right now are to get the updated PocketCiv rules and Event cards done, followed by finishing a prototype of the newly-named Lumina Dark (I've got a half-baked rule set stsuck in my head). Finally, I really, REALLY want to work on a Leviathan themed solo game next, spurred on by this BGDF discussion.

Man, that's a lot of links up there. YAY! for hypertext.

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