Jul 272006

This is my entry for the monthly Boardgame Designer’s Forum contest. The description, entries, and winners can be found here. I placed third!

King Fish

2-5 Players


1 x Standard Deck of Cards
1 x Scoring Pad and Pencil


Players are competing to catch the most fish in a tournament. The game will be played with one round for each player. Players will take turns being the dealer.

Setup for the Round:

1. Shuffle the deck.
2. Deal 6 cards to each player.
3. Deal 3 cards face-up (fish) into a group (pond). Create 3 ponds in this manner.

Playing a Round:

The round will consist of up multpile fishing excursions. During each excursion, players’ hand sizes will get smaller and smaller denoting their fatigue throughout the day. The round will end when all of the ponds are empty or at the end of an excursion when the deck has less cards than players. During each excursion do the following:

Choose a Pond

• Each excursion, starting with the dealer and going clockwise around the table, that player will choose one pond that all players will fish in.
• Each fish has a number and a suit. The number represents its distance from the boat. It suit represents the bait that will catch it.

Choose a Fishing Line

• Starting with the dealer and going clockwise around the table, each player plays one card face-up in front of him.
• This is his fishing line, and only the number is used. The number represents the distance your line will be thrown out. The higher the number, the more fish you will have in range but be careful because the lower numbered lines will reel in first and may take your fish!
• From lowest to highest, the numbers are: A,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,J,Q,K.
• King Fish Rule: The only way to catch a J,Q, or K fish is to use a line with a J, Q, or K. The order doesn’t matter. Example: A Queen Line can catch a King Fish.

Choose the Bait

• Starting with the dealer and going clockwise around the table, each player plays one card face-down in front of him.
• This is his bait, and only the suit is used. The suit represents which fish you are able to catch.

Reel ‘Em In

• Starting with the player with the smallest line card and going higher, each player turns over their bait.
• As a player’s bait is turned over, that player chooses one fish in the pond whose suit matches his bait AND whose number is less than his line. He keeps that fish card as a “trick”.
• If more than one player have the same line number, the highest bait number is used to determine who chooses first.

Back to the Tackle Box

• From the deck, turn over one card for each player. Starting with the dealer and going clockwise around the table, each player chooses one card to keep. If there are less cards than players, end the round instead.


• Each fish is worth one point.
• Each J, Q, or K fish is worth two points.

Jul 272006

This is Chris’ game that we playtested on Tuesday.


We only tested the basic functionality of the game so a full review of it cannot be made. What we did test was the basic acquisition, moral influence, and movement of the characters. The game consists of a board with buildings and streets. In each building, there are characters that have three moral traits. These traits are one of seven which are either in the good or evil state. The object of the game is to change the characters so that more of them are matching your hidden alignment.


We were given two actions each turn. These actions could be used to move one space, recruit a character, or turn a character. That is fairly simple, but the real problem for me was the board evaluation. With those actions, you must first see what is possible for you to do. You have to look at the traits on your characters, the traits on the buildings, the traits of those who you want to turn, the good/evil alignment for those traits, and to see if anybody else owns those characters. There is a lot of looking around. Once you enumerate all of those possibilities, you must come up with some heuristic to determine your move. Right now, the game has these mini-goals: don’t leave your people in the street, turn people to your alignment, and recruit. If you can do those things on your turn, then you’re in good shape.

Right now, there is not a lot of bang for the buck. Either lower the buck (complexity), or increase the bang (interesting choices). That is just my initial impression of it based on the incomplete game.

I do have some ideas to reduce complexity without totally stripping the game down to nothing. Mark Kreitler (who may be rejoining us in a few months) once told me that you shouldn’t force complex realistic mechanics in your game if you can get away with just the essence of it. Right now, your game has a very literal translation of moral converting. Characters have multiple vices and virtues, just like real life. Characters with a bad trait can convert another one, just like real life. Like-traited characters can be recruited (made friends with), just like real life. My idea is that the game retains the good/evil conversions, but maybe not with the movement, “owned” character, or tons of traits. An example of this idea can be found in games like Othello where you convert based on location to opposite pieces. That is a very basic example, but the point it that the goals you want to achieve with this theme can be approached in a different manner.

As it stands right now, you have a lot of challenges ahead, and I’m glad you decided to proceed in steps to test out the viability of different aspects of your game. It’s good to have a strong framework to build the rest of your game on.

This is a game that Marc brought that broke new barriers in game design… or something.


This is a card game with two decks. One deck is full of tea party treats which have points on them. Points are bad. The other deck is full of action cards, like serve a treat from the row of three face-up treat cards, or “hop” to switch places with another player. On your turn you can play a card and either draw a card or sip your tea (remove a tea token from your supply of four). The game ends when the action deck is depleted or one player is finished with their tea.

That sounds simple enough, right? Well, imagine doing this “in character.” We’re talking fluffy bunnies here. Also, politeness is a rule in this game. When a player serves you a point-filled treat, you must gracefully accept like a college hazing. If you fail to be polite or forget to refill the treat tray, another player can force another treat onto your plate.

This game was so hilarious and we all had a great time playing. No doubt Marc will post his video soon.


The game itself is pretty good. I like the fact that you have to “push” the treats on other rather than playing them from hand. That prevents players from getting really powerful hands with high point treats. The trading, hopping, and frolicking all work fairly well, too.

The tea drinking mechanic was neat, but it seems like we have too much tea. None of the players were able to finish off their tea. Also, the benefit of drinking the tea is minimal. You would only drink it to try to end the game, but that is a difficult task that will take many turns. On top of that, you skip drawing a card. I think it needs to be tweaked a bit, but I do like the essence of what it is trying to do.

I wonder about the target audience for this game. You mentioned that this was for kids and old British ladies. Is it also intended for us gamers to play? If so, I wonder if Pretty Pretty Princess or similar games would have the same humorous effect.

In the end, you challenged my understanding of incorporating humor in games. Good Job!

Jul 272006

This is one of Marc’s games we playtested on Tuesday night.


This game is a card game with a deck full of rocket components like boosters, fins, and cones. The object of the game is to assemble various sizes of rockets to launch various sizes of astronauts. The astronauts include a chicken, a dog, a cow, a monkey, and a human. To collect the rocket parts, a blind auction is performed on two pieces at a time. The high bid gets his choice. The low bid gets second choice. Ties are broken with another bid.

To gain more money, you can sell of unwanted components, which all have a black market value on them.

To launch your rocket, you must perform a die roll for each component in it to see if it burst into flames on take off. Each component has different modifiers. If you succeed in your launch, you score points for your astronaut.


First off, I think this is a very nice framework for a game. It is simple and quick to pick up. People like building things, and using cards to build rockets is a great idea that works perfectly. Launching random animals is another plus.

I think the auction system needs some tweaking. While the bid high/low mechanic may work great with two players, it didn’t work very well with more than two. Maybe the idea can be expanded upon. Possibly have one card for each player. Bidding will determine the pick order of the pieces. There are a ton of different styles of auction mechanics out there, but I still think that you can find a new one that will be interesting and still work for this game.

Failure to launch is another problem. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime: All pieces of your rocket are discarded because you rolled low. Now matter how good you bid, you can’t help rolling a 1. Also, you get no credit whatsoever for even trying to launch. You go back to square one, only with less money. One way to fix this is to lessen the blow: Give the players some compensation money for each card discarded. Another way to fix this is to localize the damage: Only the failed component is discarded. One thought I just had is to give players experience for trying: Each time you fail a launch, you get an experience card that adds +1 to all your rolls on your next launch. This will give players with good bidding skills a way to overcome their bad luck.

Some other suggestions I heard thrown out:

  • Put the quantity of each component on the card itself, similar to Bohnanza.
  • Make the animals into cards. Why stop at just five animals?
  • Add other income opportunities. Right now a player with no money or parts is virtually screwed.
  • The bonus cards should be able to be added after the roll.

Overall, this is a good start, and I look forward to seeing any tweaks made.

Jul 262006

The group met up at Chris’s place for playtesting and whatnot. We sat down for a couple run-throughs of some mechanics for a board game that Chris has under development entitled “Vices and Virtues”, and a bidding/card game of Marc’s tentatively called “RocketYard”, in which the players take the roles of fictional third-world countries trying to buy and assemble rocketship parts in order to send various animals into space. It’s a blast. Ho!

We also tested Mischa’s new proto-boardgame, “Take The Money And Run”, which uses two kinds of currency to achieve some neat effects. I’m looking forward to seeing how that one develops. Ian had used his printing and laminating-fu to produce a playable Wiz-War, which is awesome, but before we sat down to relax with that, I sprung another card game on the unsuspecting boys – Fluffy Bunny Tea Party. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and it’s hilarious.

Many good things will come of this.

Jul 232006

This weekend, I had the singular opportunity to sit on a panel with esteemed game designers Allen Varney and Greg Costikyan. A friend of mine was helping to organize the Texas Indie Game Developer Conference here in town, and signed me up to do my “game design improv” panel with a couple of luminaries. (Previously, I did this last year at… MilleniumCon, maybe(?) with James Ernest and Wes Jenkins.) I also do improvisational theater on the side (mostly with my troupe, Improv For Evil), and I’ve found that there are many parallels between the way we construct fiction on the fly, and the way that we construct game designs. So, to demonstrate this a little bit – and to have a bit of fun – we go before an audience at a game developer conference, take a number of suggestions from the audience, and design a game in front of them, in about half an hour. It’s a hoot.

Our suggestions/constraints this time were a very small budget, a year and a half development time, mobile platform target, something to do with World War II, and a target demographic of seventy years old and up. Whew. We eventually came up with a casual tactical/puzzle game game that would be built with a small team using open source tools, and sold and distributed on cell phones that are given out by our strategic partner, a retirement community. The game was a networked turn-based square hunt, where you had to help lead your grandchildren out of Nazi occupied France during the war, by hooking them up with resistance operatives and finding various items on the map, trading them between players and helping each other along the roads. I should have taken better notes – it could have actually been fun – but this is the nature of improv. Ephemeral. Big fun, and then it’s gone.

Anyway, it was a great experience, and I look forward to doing it again sometime soon. Yay game design, yay, improvisation.

Well, we missed last Tuesday because of the 4th of July holiday and I sorely missed it.  Sadly, I still have not finished my prototype of V&V.  However, I would like to go over the ideas behind it with you guys…maybe I can make some preprototype improvements so that the first game will go smoother.  Anyways, I hope to see you guys tonight.  7pm.  I am really looking forward to another game of Wiz-War.  The last one left me wanting.