Nov 302007

At this week’s meeting, I mentioned this dexterity game that I made for a BGDF designer challenge about two years ago, and I thought I repost it. I don’t remember why I brought it up, but it did come in second place and I think it’s pretty good. It’s really easy to make (household stuff), but be warned you will get light headed with all of the blowing you’ll be doing!

Downdraft Skiing
By Dan Manfredini

For any number of two player teams


• 1 Cotton Ball
• 1 Ping Pong Ball
• 1 Crumpled Paper Ball
• 5 (or more) Unopened Cans (Soda, Beer, Soup, etc.)
• 1 Stop Watch
• 1 Sheet of Paper w/ Pencil
• 1 Long Table

The Object of the Game

Downdraft Mountain is notorious for its strong winds and deadly cliffs, but that doesn’t stop skiers from attempting to slalom down it. The object of the game is for you and your teammate to blow your skier (ball) in and out of the flags (cans) to the end of the course.

Setting up the Game

• Clear off a long table and remove all of the chairs around it.
• Place 5 cans down the length of the center of the table. You may use more cans depending on the length of your table. Player may agree to stagger them off of the center to increase difficulty.
• Designate a “start” end and a “finish” end to the table.
• Assign teams of two players.

Playing the Game

The game will consist of three rounds. The type of skier will vary each round:

Round 1 – Cotton Ball (Stops reasonably)
Round 2 – Ping Pong Ball (Does not stop)
Round 3 – Crumpled Paper Ball (Stops too early)

On Your Run

Each team will get one chance during each round to run through the course.

On your team’s run, both players go to the “start” end of the table. One player stands on the one side of the table and the other player stands on the opposite side. One player will place the ball on the table in front of him.

Designate a player on another team to be the referee. That person will give a countdown, tell the players to start, and then start the timer. The player will then blow his ball through the first gate (between the edge of the table and the first can). The teammate will then blow the ball back around the next can. This will continue until the ball goes through the last gate (between the edge of the table and the last can). When the ball passes through the last gate, the moment it leaves the table is when the timer should be stopped. The referee then records the time for that run.

Special Rules

• While the ball is on the table, it may not be touched, except the replace a fallen ball.
• If the ball falls off the table, put it back on at the edge where it fell off.
• A player cannot leave his or her side of the table.


At the end of each run, that team is penalized one point (+1) each time the ball falls off the table, one point (+1) each time a teammate touches the ball illegally, and two points (+2) each time a player leaves his or her side of the table.
At the end of each round, the team with the best time marks off two points (-2).
At the end of the game, the team with the least points is the winner.

Okay, here’s the full rundown on what I did at BGG.Con 2007, also cross-posted from my blog. The short version: played a lot of games, promoted and sold Honeypot a bunch, and generally had a blast with a whole bunch of fine folks. And now, buckle up – here comes the long version.

Thursday 11/15/2007

I woke up at the unholy hour of 5:30am to finish packing and get myself together for the trip up to Dallas. This is my first BGG.Con, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but after hauling way too much crap around on the flight up to Indianapolis for GenCon, I was determined to err on the side of packing too little. I only brought a small clump of clothes and toiletries, my small bag to carry notebooks, schwag, and games in, a medium-sized box of Honeypot games to sell, and a big box of games for the math trade. I didn’t actually bring any of my own games to play, since I figured there’d be more than enough to lay hands on once we got there. Boy, was I right.

I got myself over to Nukes’ house around 7am, just before Drey, and before too long we were on the road. Huge props to Nukes for driving there and back – that would have been one hell of a bus ride. We arrived around 11am or so, found Mischa and our other peeps, got our room situations straightened out, stowed our junk upstairs, registered, and hit the floor rolling. Everyone got some kind of free game as a door prize, and I was lucky enough to show up early and snag Mission: Red Planet. I haven’t played it yet, but I’ve heard good things, and it looks pretty decent.

First thing, I sat down with some of the boys who were just finishing up a game in progress (I don’t remember which), and played a filler game of Honeypot with Peter while we waited to get in on the next one. First up was The Circle. This game has excellent art direction, and that’s about the best thing I can say about it. Took forever to untangle the rules, set everything up, and finally get started, and then the first several turns took another forever to grind reluctantly up to speed. By the time we figured out what we were doing and had a sense of how the game worked, we realized that it was pretty crap, and bailed. This was extra sad for us, because we could see the potential in the game, but it just wasn’t there for us. Not an auspicious start to the gaming, but everything was up from there.

After a brief interlude in which we ate some tasty greek delivery, someone brought out Saturn, a gorgeous dexterity game from the Theta line. Basically, you have these three rings around the center sphere that balance along various axes, and you have to place differently-sized balls in slots on the rings, without making them all tip over. It seems easy, but it was mildly challenging, and the scoring system was simple and elegant, and all the players were fairly engrossed the entire time. I’d definitely pick this up if I could find it cheaply, but it’s one of those rare games that will probably wind up costing more than it’s worth.

We cleared the big plastic planet off the table and set up Ruse and Bruise. Fast to learn, fast to set up, and fast to get started, this was a tight little card game that was simple, but still had a good bit of complexity to it. You have a deck of twenty cards or so that represent members of your court or something along those lines. You play these under a bunch of treasure cards that you want to claim – each treasure is worth a different number of points, and each requires a certain number of cards to be played under it before the round is over. When all the slots are full up, you count the total number of points that you’ve played under a treasure to see who gets it – aha, but many of the cards have special powers, which affect the outcome greatly. It’s easy for a cunning play that you’ve set up to be shattered by the wrong card played by a crafty opponent. It was one of those games with just the right amount of chaos to make things really fun – lots of banter and laughing, and quite often, someone would reach for the rules to check something out, and everyone would almost cheer, because we knew they were up to something. I’d like to pick this one up very soon.

The group broke up and some of us reconvened in another part of the gaming hall, and tucked right in to our next game, Patrician. Much more sedate than our last game, but still quite good. Basically, you play cards to either build two stories on one of two towers in one of the cities, or build one city and do a special action. The cards tell you where you’re allowed to build, and where you pick up your next build card, so although it doesn’t feel like there’s much choice at times, you can still shoulder your way in the direction that you’d like to go by basically choosing where you’ll be sent next. Some of the cards also have faces on them, which are worth points at the end of the game if you can collect sets of three of them. The game ended relatively quickly, scoring happened, someone won, we were all happy with it. Not world-rocking, but still fun.

Next up was Burg Appenzell, a sweet German game about mice trying to collect cheese in a castle with sliding floors. I loved this game – the bits and pieces are all very well done, the construction of the castle out of the box is awesome, and even the little mouse pieces look and feel perfect. The gameplay is kind of light, but still quite engaging – it’s kind of a cross between The Amazing Labyrinth and Stay Alive. You get three actions per turn, which include moving your mouse, sliding a row of floor tiles, or removing roof pieces to reveal a section of floor that you can enter. The floor tiles are either blank, contain a piece of cheese (which you can collect if two of your mice are on the same kind of cheese), or have a hole in them that you can fall through, losing your mouse. The game is over when someone collects three different kinds of cheese, or someone loses all but one of their mice. Lots of fun. There should be an English version out there somewhere (called Castle Roquefort or something), and it’s another game that’s high up on the wish list.

Wicked Witches Way was next. It had a cool box, and some custom dice with neat symbols on it. Other than that, meh. There’s some speed/memory stuff in there, a little card play, and some moving your little witch pieces back and forth on the race track. It didn’t really grab anyone, so we put it up after a handful of turns. We could totally do better with what was in there, but we repressed our re-designer instincts, and pressed on.

More building! Die Saulen von Venedig – or The Columns of Venice – was on the table next. In this game, you get to simultaneously lay down cards that tell you what occupation you’ll be playing in the current turn – you can grab columns or city pieces, sink columns into the water, build city on top of columns that are there, grab points off of someone else’s occupation card, beg or steal someone else’s occupation, or even blow up a piece of city that’s already there, and benefit when someone builds on the empty posts. Cards played are passed to the next player when the round changes, so everyone gets a chance to play everything, even if they get an initially crappy hand. Points are accumulated during the game for building and laying posts cleverly, and play ends when you run out of columns to build on. It ran about an hour or so, which was just about right – I enjoyed playing, and I’d definitely play again if it came up.

We broke for dinner at a wings’n’beer place across town – and by that, I mean “drove through the barren waste of the Dallas outlands until we hit a clump of neon and grease where we could get something that resembles food”. But, hot wings, cold Shiner, and a table full of geeks geeking out in a non-con setting. Good times. After, it was back to the Westin for more gaming – we assembled a group of ten or so to throw down with a game of Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg, or Coachride To Devil’s Castle. This game is always awesome, and I’ve never played a round of Kutschfahrt that wasn’t followed by the players talking about it for some time afterwards. Basically, it’s Werewolf on steroids – there are two factions, each of which needs a certain set of items to win, but nobody knows who’s on which side, or who has what. Each player has their secret affiliation and occupation cards (your “junk”) and a bunch of item cards (your “stuff”) – occupations and items give you different abilities in the combat or trading portion of the game. Each player in turn either challenges another player to a duel, or offers one of their items in trade. Combat is resolved relatively simply, with the other players supporting one of the duelists, after which the winner gets to look at the losers “junk”, or their “stuff”. Through strategic fisticuffs and wily trading, players slowly learn who is on their side, and attempt to gather their items to declare victory. If you declare wrong, your side loses. It’s an intense, exciting game, even though it doesn’t appear to have much going on when you look at the surface of the play. Kutschfahrt really requires a group of eight players who are down with the intrigue to really shine, but I will virtually never pass up a chance to play, if presented with the opportunity.

(I liked the game so much that I ordered ten copies from a German game company to sell/trade/distribute, in hopes of seeding some more play out there. Since then, a few American retailers have picked it up, but it can still be tricky to find. If you’re having trouble getting your hands on a copy, let me know, and I’ll see what I can do about hooking you up with some Coachride.)

After Die Kutschfahrt, we wound down over Fire, another very pretty game by the same folks who did Saturn. Very, very nice to look at, but not super enthralling with the play. It’s basically a slant on Jenga, only with round pieces of different sizes stacked in a U-shaped wooden support piece. The hour was late at this point, and interest was waning – pieces were drawn, pictures were taken, bits fell down and were re-built, people wandered off, and the evening ended.

Ah, yes. At several points during the day, I stood at the Pirate Billiards table in the main common area with various folks as we waited for people to assemble for food, or debated about what we would play next, or just loitered aimlessly. “Piratenbillard” is a game where you whack a canvas-bottomed board from below with these long mallets, and try to bounce your little balls from one end of the table to the other. You can capture other players’ balls, or destroy them with the cannonball or pirate ball or whatever it’s called. There’s some way to score points, but nobody really ever paid attention to that (except in one exceptional game, where we actually got it totally together), and we mostly just had fun trying to get the little colored balls to go somewhere near where we wanted them to go. I may have mentioned elsewhere that I might have a go at building one of these. Yay, fun.

That’s a lot of games, and it’s only the first day. Plenty more to come, directly.

This is cross-posted from my blog:

I was in Dallas this past Thursday through Sunday for BoardGameGeek.con, a fantastic board gaming convention. It was a smaller, more laid back type of con than your GenCon or ComicCon, with perhaps only 700 attendees.

I cajoled Cory into going at the very last minute, so he, Nukes, Majcher and I headed up there Thursday morning. The con was at the Westin near the airport. The only thing nearby was a Denny’s and a Shell station. That Denny’s must make bank as it was the only source of reasonably priced “food” within several miles, as we found out.

The con itself was spread out between a large ballroom, a smaller ballroom and an overflow room. Plus there was a foyer area and a games library. The games library was this heavenly wonderland where you could find every game you had ever heard of, no matter how rare or out of print. Games that would cost you $300 on eBay could be checked out and played, even taken up to your room overnight. That right there should tell you about the top shelf quality of people at this convention.

I got to see Mischa again! Mischa is a gaming dynamo. I came down one morning, at what I thought was an early time (maybe 7:30 or 8AM) to find Mischa embroiled in a game of Galaxy Trucker. He had gamed through the night with no signs of stopping. Later that afternoon, I began to suspect the use of illegal stimulants, or, at the very least, a clone. How could someone do this? The secret to his staying power was revealed a few days later, but I shall take it to my grave.

I had the most fun playing obscure games, out of print games or games designed by my friends. Kapitan Wackelpudding left a deep impression. Shipping a stack of coffins and video games to Dracula land is no easy task. Tales of the Arabian Nights stole my heart. It is a game I should have been playing during my childhood at the same time as Talisman or Cosmic Encounter. It is essentially a Choose Your Own Adventure board game with role-playing elements. Thankfully, Z-Man is coming out with a new version next June. I learned the ferocity of soccer moms vying for the best looking garden in Garden Competition.

I played Dan’s Monkey Lab again, outwitting my opponents. I also had a chance to play Majcher’s Honeypot, which is a brilliant abstract strategy game. I was also delighted by his prototype of Fluffy Bunny Tea Party. It involves bunnies sitting around eating cakes, drinking tea and being horrifically polite to each other. Dan sold out of Chains of Fenrir, Majcher sold out of Honeypot and Ian sold out of Taktika. We were all really happy for Ian. He walked around in this kind of daze, unprepared for how well his game would be received.

I brought 12 units of House of Whack and managed to sell 6 of them! At first I was really overwhelmed. I felt kind of stunned by what it was I was trying to do and a deep terror grabbed hold of me. I didn’t think anyone was going to like my game. I wanted to give up and run far away. But on the morning of the flea market, I went down to the show room, claimed half a table, and set up a display for House of Whack. When the browsers flooded in like a Zerg rush, I kept my head and hyped the game to everyone who came by. My very first sale was to Aldie, one of the guys in charge of the convention. That was cool.

Friedemann Friese, a famous game designer was there as the guest of honor. He hung out and played games with everyone like a regular guy. You could always spot him in the room due to his shock of bright green hair. He always looked like he was searching for something, entering a room, head craning about, trying to spot something just out of view. I talked with him about what it was like when he had finished his first game and he said that he felt like he had no idea what he was doing, but, after the first game, nothing else quite gives you the same feeling. I get that.

Sunday morning found us packing up our massive hauls of treasure gleaned from the math trade and the flea market. If I had an extra $100 (and more trunk space), I would have matched Jake and Jen’s impressive finds. I think they got Arkham Horror and Descent for $40 total. Nice.

And then we came back to Austin.

The End.

Last night Ian and Marc showed up at my place, and we did a bit of playing and a lot of design talking. Here are some of the highlights:

Lab Work 

I asked if we could try out Monkey Lab with some suggested rules. There were some clever plays, and a few evil ones.  In the end, I beat Marc by one point. Ian was spinning his wheels working on one cage the whole game, and wound up with only mooched points.

We discussed the merits of the rules changes. The first rule change (a monkey can’t open a cage in a room with the guard in it) didn’t come into play. The second rule change (the guard moves two spaces toward a cage being opened) worked alright. It was noted that the guard usually ended up in a room that was already tapped out of points. I think we were all ambivalent with the moving rule because there were good reasons for having it and good reasons for leaving it out.

Hell and Back 

We also tried out a game Ian and I made a few weeks back about escaping from hell. The game is a kind of set collecting game where you are trying to endure tortures without losing your will to escape. The sets being collected are actually runs of numbers, so collecting a “4-5-6″ would be a valid run that you could cash in to move one step closer to escaping from hell.

In our first version we used a d8 and some stones as a way to track our stats. In order to clean it up, the second version used a personal board for each player with some sliding counters to represent the stats. The funny thing was that the cleaner version was harder to use. It is much easier to glance at your opponent and see he has a pile of stones than it is to look at his board and see where his counters are at long their path.

Ian proposed that the cards utilize color in some way. I was against is because I think there is something novel in games that don’t use a suit. Games like No Thanks! and Category 5 just have that uniqueness about them that separates them from games with color and suit like Lost Cities. I eventually conceded to the “color matters” design, but I pushed that there only be two colors, red and black. The colors will be used as a way of progressing yourself out of hell a bit faster using a Candyland-like mechanic. Both Ian and I are going to try our hands at making a hellscape board that makes use of this mechanic and gives the player incentives to make progress rather than hoarding cards.

 Sci-Fi Party Game

As we were discussing game designs, Marc said that we needed to make a party game. I told him that I had an idea for a social game that is based on the game Zobmondo. Where Zobmondo likes to focus on sick dilemmas like “Would you rather eat a jar of spoiled year-old mayo, or drink out of a spittoon?”, the idea I had would focus on science fiction quandaries. For example, “Should it be legal to marry an intelligent being of another species?”, “Now that we’ve colonized and found oil on Mars, which country has rights to it?”, “If your brain is surgically transferred into your clone, is the clone you for legal purposes such as taxes, debt, and property?” We also discussed putting the game into a format where players would be debating these issues as futuristic presidential candidates. Marc jumped right on this one and is planning on working on it.

Nov 062007

Tuesday night is here again.  Here are some things we may see at our meeting:

Ian has a new game out called Taktika. It is a disc flicking war game that is a lot of fun. The last I heard, he was polishing up the last bit of box art and rules wordings. The game is currently available to be purchased here or at BGG.CON where he will be demoing it. Hopefully tonight we will be seeing the final version.

Drey has just gotten some copies of his game House of Whack in from the printers. This is a twisted house exploring game where anything can happen. He was only able to get a handful early so he would be able to show them off and sell some at BGG.CON. There’s nothing better than unwrapping a fresh new game. Ahhhh!

I’ve got some Monkey Lab testing to do with some new rules. Maybe we can try them out.

Random Design Thought:

In Blue Moon City, if you had to use your starting hand for the entire game, I wonder if the game would eventually come to an end. This is assuming you redraw your discarded cards at the end of your turn instead of drawing new ones. I’m sure it could be done for most hands, but what about for each possible hand of 8 cards? Just something to think about.