I have been busy this past week working on Space Port (or sometime Space Dock, as I interchangeably call it). I can’t remember the last time I’ve worked so hard on playtesting and revising a game in so short a time. I think it may be a by-product of my new schedule for game design this year. Now that I know that I only have a fixed amount of time to work on this game, I guess I am putting more into it up front. I work better under pressure, and it shows. My current year’s calendar has me working on Space Port for four months starting in January. By the time March rolls around, I should be heavily playtesting it with whoever I can find. By the third month, I’ll have a polished copy of the rules to begin blind playtesting. In the end, I should have a publisher friendly game box with a nice prototype and rules.

Starting in February I will begin work on my war game for four months. So, the two games will overlap for awhile. This will allow me to have something to do when I’m frustrated with the other game. We’ll see how that goes. I plan on entering both of these games into the Hippodice game design contest at the end of October. I’l probably have to retheme them since they are both sci-fi themed, but that’s another issue for another day. So, February is my unofficial mini-deadline for Space Port since at that time my attention will be divided in half.

The rest of my year is also planned out with new games and old ones that need revisiting. One new game is for the Lucca contest, which I wont start until they announce the rules for entry. Another new game is just left wide open. I wanted to give myself an “elective” game of sorts. That way I can come up with a cool idea and rest assured knowing that I’d have time set aside to work on it. The old game I’ll be working on is Venture Forth which has been received with glowing indifference. I basically need to inject some pop into the game because I think it is worthy of it. I also have my group of finished (or 99% finished) games that are “on” all the time which means that I should be always actively dealing with them by sending them to publishers or refining that one extra piece. It is comforting to have this plan because I feel that I’m in more control over where my games are headed. While the past two years my games were in pre-school running rampant and doing what they pleased, this year they are in college with a nice schedule to help further them along to “graduate”.

So far, my plan is going smoothly. At the very least I feel more relaxed and focused.

Dec 112007

The latest game design that I’m working on has spawned from a single mechanic into something really fun to work on. I won’t go into the mechanic now, but I will talk about the theme of the game: Sci-Fi!

The game’s setting is inspired by Mos Eisley from Star Wars. The central board of the game depicts a spaceport where there’s lots of hustle and bustle amongst the lowlifes and smugglers. You play as the equivalent of a Hutt Crimelord. Your job is to get your shipments of goods and contraband to where they need to go. You loosely control pilots and their ships to do your dirty work. Yes, this game could just as well be played in the Mediterranean with your typical traders with weird hats, but who wants to play that yet again?

By setting this game in a familiar place, I can infuse theme into the game by asking WWHSD? Han Solo would find business at the Cantina. Han Solo would do anything for the right price. So far, that seems to be working. Those ideas translate into: You can convert goods into contraband at the Cantina. You can use your opponent’s ships by paying the other player off. As I hone down the rules and mechanics, I’ll be adding more thematic elements like these.

Last night I refined my prototype to make sure I had enough pieces to play. When I threw the game together initially, I just grabbed some wooden cubes and said to myself “This looks like enough.” So, I looked through my box of game bits and found some colored cubes for the shipments. I took some small wooden milk bottle things and made them into rocket ships. My board, which is just a circular ring of docking bays, needed some cantinas, so I just added some gray blocks to the board. I put the board on a black cloth just to add to the space-faring theme.

The individual planets that a player controls were fun to design. Right now, they are just denoted by what cubes they produce and what cubes they require. Since there are only three types of planets and three types of goods, it was a bit tight to design them yet still make them interesting. Also, one of the planets is a Rebel planet. It is where all of your contraband needs to go once you acquire it. I still need to make the individual planet place cards because as of right now the cubes will be sitting on post-its.

Right now, I’m still in the design phase, but certain rules are starting to congeal into permanent ones. I’m still experimenting with ideas and trying new techniques out, which is where most of the fun is when working on a game. I’ll try to keep you posted on my progress.