Math Can Be Annoying

In Lost Cities you have this wonderful scoring event that happens at the end of the game. There is nothing better after a fun game than taking a math test. It helps to have a pencil and paper handy to calculate your mess of a score. You have to sort through bases points, penalties, multipliers, and bonuses. Recounts seem to happen more often than not. All in all, this is a clunky system.

Here comes Keltis, which is sort of a reworking of Lost Cities. You still have all of the math, but it has been cleverly baked into the game. As you move your token, it magically does the math for you. At the end of the game, all you have to do is add some simple numbers together, and viola! you have your score!

Math Can Be Anti-Climatic

Ticket to Ride requires you to track your score as you lay tracks. The rules could have been written such that the players add up their score for tracks at the end of the game, since that method is equally as valid. The big difference is that the end game would be so full of addition that the finals scores would be anti-climatic. Thankfully, the current system lets the player after laying tracks to just move their score token by counting the spaces out or adding two simple numbers together.

Math Can Be Easier

Whether or not this was intentional, I like how in Through the Desert (and probably countless other games) the math is smoothed out at the end of the game. Through the game you collect all of these small valued scoring tokens. Then at the end of the game, you get bonuses for enclosed areas. Lets say you score 7 points for an enclosed area, you would take a 10 pointer and return 3 of your small tokens. After you do this several times, you are left with a lot of 10 and 5 point tokens and fewer 1,2 and 3 point tokens. When it comes time to score, it is a lot easier dealing with adding up units in 5s and 10s than it is dealing with 1s, 2s, 3s and 5s. Its a small thing, but I really like how the math feels like it has been smoothed out for me.

What Did I Learn?

In my game Venture Forth I’ve taken some actions to reduce the amount of calculation that occurs at the end of the game. The game didn’t have a ton of adding, but I wanted to add more scoring opportunities and that was limited by the current method of scoring.

Firstly, I am introducing a score track – nothing too innovative here. When you get points, you move up on the track. As simple as this is, it is one of the best ways to keep track of score and it allows players to gauge their rank.

Secondly, I am removing an equation from the game. This is not something I actively sought out to do. It just occurred because of other changes that I made. Once it was gone I noticed how smooth the scoring looked. Basically, if your adventurer had less “points” than his “power”, then you got a penalty. Now, if your adventurer has “tokens” on him, you get a penalty. What I did was took out the comparison. I know this is a simple little thing hardly worth mentioning, but it does illustrate that math can be moved around. The comparison is still there and the game plays identically, but now you just have to glance at the board to see if you have any penalties rather than to do some quick math.

What other games have math smoothed out?

Jun 262008

Dan and I met Tuesday night for play testing. We each brought a new game design to the table. Dan had a dice game based on the video game Rampart. We each had a Castle and had a stack of gold placed inside. We were able to build up the walls to our Castles, place attacking ships around our opponents Castle, blow up walls, and steal each others gold. While the game did not really have an end condition, it played very nicely. On the first round I was not very excited about the game play, but by the end of the 3 round I did not want to stop playing. While there are a lot of dice rolls in the game, there are also a lot of decisions about how to use them and in what order you need to attack the different sides of your opponents Castle. Dan indicated that this was just the core mechanics of a larger multiplayer game. Dan talked about some really cool sounding additions to it. I’m excited to see where the game goes, and I look forward to playing this again with 3 or 4 players.


My new game is essentially a light Galactic Empire Building game that has a Flicking mechanic to it. The game should scale for 2 to 4 players. Each player controls a faction of humans that have fled their own galaxy for fear of a seemingly unstoppable alien race that is bent on their destruction. After arriving in this new galaxy the refugees discovered ancient relics of 4 alien races that have long ago disappeared. The faction that develops the most new technology based on the ancient alien relics will establish the foundation of the new Human Empire. There are 24 world discs that are spread across the table. Each world disc has non slip rubber backing so they don’t move around. Players will move from planet to planet by flicking small starship discs. Also, starship combat is accomplished by a simple flicking mechanic. There are 4 different types of Technology that can be developed and each type has two different abilities (now 3). There are two different types of buildings that can be built: Research Facilities and Planetary Defenses. The game also did not have an end game condition so Dan and I played about 12 rounds. It played very well for a first prototype. There really seemed to be no reason to build Planetary Defenses, and every time I built a Research Facility Dan would take it over because it was cheaper than building his own. I focused on building up Technology while Dan focused on spreading out and Occupying Worlds. When we stopped playing Dan had about 28 points and I only had 3 points. I have tweaked the scoring a bit so it should be a bit closer next time.

Jun 242008

I saw this very interesting site today called BoardgameBits. They sell all the little wooden game pieces that you see in all sorts of boardgames, like roads, cubes, cylinders, etc. The best part is that he is local (to this continent) so you get all of the European quality without the overseas shipping costs.

The reviews of Gizmet games keep rolling in! This time, it’s our old friend Yehuda, with a thorough and fair, but overall positive review of Honeypot. Thanks!

Also, to everyone who’s ordered in the last week or so: we’re running low on Taktika stock, but Ian is busy producing some more, so we’ll get those orders out as soon as possible. I’m out of town this week, as well, so I won’t be able to get things packaged and sent off to the post office until Monday, at the earliest. Thank you all for your patience with our one-man mailing operation!

Jun 112008

Last night Ian, Jon, and I met.


We started a bit differently by chatting about games on the couch. We talked about our games being published, and all of the details that go along with that.

Ian told us about his newest game idea involving dice, Chun-Li, and fireballs. We were very taken with the idea of a Street Fighter-based game, and Jon and I were spouting out ideas left and right.

The topic of designing to prevent cheating came up when Ian mentioned using dice behind a player screen. Jon said one of his biggest pet peeves was when playtesters ask: “How do you prevent the players from cheating?” He said that cheater will cheat regardless, and there’s no reason to work to stop them. I was concerned with unintentional cheating: accidentally giving the wrong answer in Mystery of the Abbey, or not following suit when you have one in you hand, or, in Ian’s example, accidentally manipulating some game state (dice, score track) that is behind a screen. Those actions can derail a game sometimes. I think we all agreed that taking the time to consider these problems is worth it, regardless of whether or not we fix them.

Haunted Destinies

Knowing that the night was slipping by, we decided to head to the table and play Jon’s game Haunted Destinies. It was a deduction game, but it lacked deduction. It was more in line with a “stab in the dark” style of detective work. The players had to determine who the bad guy was by revealing cards from the individual player’s decks. If they saw the bad guy card, then they knew how to proceed to victory. This sounded good when Jon described it, but I felt like it was a slow process. With 30 some cards to look through, a player may stumble upon the bad guy right away, or, through no fault of his own, not find the card until he sees everyone of them. Actually, that isn’t entirely true. In a three player game, the maximum amount of cards you actually need to look through is 2/3s of them because if you don’t find the bad guy card in player 1 and player 2’s decks, then it must be in player 3’s.

The revelation part of the game was, for me, the part that needed the most attention. The other parts of the game, however, were actually very clever: Eliminated ghost players, and making setup of the board into a mini-game. I hope Jon continues to refine this game to make all of the mechanics shine.

Taktika was just mentioned favorably in a front page article on Boardgame News today. Sweet!

If you’ve been eyeing it for a while (or saw the beautiful photo that accompanies the article) now’s the time to break down and get yourself a copy. You deserve it!