Jun 112007

This morning I went to the post office to mail away my entry to the Lucca Game Contest.

At the counter, the postal worker was pleasantly surprised that I was sending something to Italy. She had me fill out my customs form and proceeded to ask me some questions about the content of the box.

“What’s in the package?”

“A gift,” I panicked and lied.

“You need to be more specific”

“Two games”

“Do you have any playing cards in there?”

“No,” I lied again.

“Italian customs agents have the right to open and inspect your package. If they find any illegal imports, they will confiscate them.”


Apparently heightened security precautions have limited the sending of playing cards for fear they may be charged with mutant energy and explode.  I wasn’t expecting that at all. I had to lie or else all the hard work I did would be wasted.

It makes me wonder about if the organizers knew about this when they opened up the contest to non-Italians this year. Somebody must have known the customs rules, especially if they are a publisher of games.

I only hope the customs agents have better things to do than confiscate my prototype. The box has the word game three times on the front, so if they have a vendetta against American card game designers they’ll know which box to open.

Jun 062007

Mischa, Dan, and myself met tonight for a couple hours at Austin Java to give Dan’s Travelogue prototype one last go-around before it was shipped off to Italy. A three-player game ran just over half an hour, and I must say, it was a pretty solid, fun card game, all around. Mischa smashed out the lead with a monster twelve-point “trick”, but the scores were satisfyingly close, and everyone felt a certain level of control and pacing throughout the game. I like the broader range of scores on the cards, and the new stacking system for the destination cards. There were a few other modifications from the last time I played that I wasn’t sure of at the beginning, but it all hung together very well, and although I know that Dan loves to tinker, tweak, and twiddle his games over and over until everything is perfect, it feels like a winner to me already. I look forward to seeing how it fares in the contest.

We chatted some more and fiddled a little bit with designs here and there – Mischa brought out a copy of Siege Stones, and we played around with a few designs around the pieces in the box, including one based very loosely on Lines of Action. Dan also gave us the sad news that he’s going to be re-theming his Monkey Lab game along the lines of some fantasy thing, to make it more palatable to publishers. (Wah!) Mostly game chat, though – although, and the end, we decided that Flywheel needed another challenge, and we each put in one restriction. So, Flywheelers, here is your challenge: you have one week (or two, or three, or however long it is before you show up to the next playtest hootenanny) to devise a game that 1) uses a board, 2) does not use any numbers, and 3) uses cards, with some kind of “flip and take” mechanic. I’ll leave those open for now – if anyone wants to post a clarification question, the person who put forth the restriction can pipe up and sort things out.

In production news, I have found myself some artists! I have a spreadsheet delivered to and a promise received from an illustrator friend of mine in San Francisco to draw me some pretty spaceship parts for my RocketYard cards, and another one in Austin who says he’ll kick down some art for Pangaea and Fluffy Bunny Tea Party, and potentially some Flat Track Action down the road, when I get that game not to suck so much. This means that I need to get back on track with hunting down cheaper card and box printing for RocketYard, and start thinking about how I want to package Pangaea up – I’m leaning more towards a flat board, rather than the (pretty sweet) bandanna printing I used with HoneyPot, but we’ll see how that goes. Hopefully, with a few more games available (or more, if the rest of the Flywheelers want to sell some stuff indie-style on Gizmet instead of waiting around for a publisher) I can make more of a marketing push, and get things moving a bit better…

Things I learned from last week’s meeting, specifically about my new card game Travelogue, which I’ll be sending away to Italy for a game competition:

  • It ran a little long at 45 minutes.
  • It doesn’t scale well in regards to time to play.
  • There is a slow build up of cards in your hand, so a few turns are spent drawing.
  • The Destination card acquiring system is a bit fiddly.
  • The Destination card, while balanced, were a bit too similar.

What I did to fix those problems:

  • I cut the game down to 30 minutes no matter the number of players. Since it is a card game, I changed the end game conditions to this: “If there are no cards in the deck, this is your last turn.” This way the game has more or less the same number of turns which are divided amongst all the players.
  • Mischa suggested that the player be able to draw two cards (instead of one) as a card-obtaining option. At first I didn’t like the idea, but then I thought about it and tried it out. It turns out that if a player just keeps drawing two cards each turn, eventually they will lose them to the hand limit rule and won’t get to score them. So the options are “slow and steady” or “fast and furious” or a bit of both.
  • Drey (our new attendee) suggested something that sparked an idea about the Destination cards. I no longer have a draw pile and discard pile for them. Instead I have three face up piles. The player can discard beneath any pile to draw the top card from that pile. It saves a ton on table real estate and give the players a chance to see what’s coming up without having to physically draw any cards.
  • I spiced up the Destination cards, though not too much. Basically, one group of 6 allows the player to score a set of 5 for 11 points, while the others only allow the player to score a set of 4 for 8 points. However, the ones with 4 are more flexible in other areas. Also, on each card I added on more icon to allow for a bit more flexibility.