Ian Cooper

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have just recently created a blog specifically for my company Sky Castle Games. I will be posting stuff that directly concerns print runs, expansions, and anything else I want there. I’m not going to stop posting here. In fact, I have decided to push myself to post much more often.


John, Dan, and I met last night for play testing. John brought some very cool spinners and tops made from sculpty clay. The tops are kind of a cone shaped hat that sits on top of a base that is placed in the center of a circle. The circle is then divided up into sections and each section is given a number. The spinner tops represent crew members that can be assigned to Spaceship systems (such as thrusters, weapons, shields, etc…). Some of the tops have one dot to indicate a result, and some have an arc on them increase the chance of landing on two results that are then added together. There will also be tops that have multiple dots on them. One of the very cool things about this is that when a ship is damaged a damage marker is placed on the system that blocks out a particular result. Dan voiced a concern that the spinner tops, and systems when all boiled down still act like dice. My initial concern was just that I did not really like the idea of just looking a spinner with a bunch of numbers on them, but would rather have the sections have icons that represented different results or actions. This is still very early in its development, but I really look forward to seeing the game that John builds up around these mechanics.  


Next we played Dan’s game Venture Fourth in which players are attempting to fulfill their characters personal goals. All of the many different Characters in the game want to do something different. And when they get to do what the want, they go up a level which earns you victory points. The game is a very nice take on the adventure genre. You don’t just score points for killing things, only if that is one of the goals of a character in your party.


The game took about an hour to play, which was about 15 minutes longer than Dan would have liked. I agreed with Dan that there was a point near the very end of the game that it could have ended a little earlier. I was getting a little frustrated that all of the spots to play cards to get a coin were getting filled up before I could to get to them. I know there is already a solution for these issues percolating in Dan’s head.


This is one of the first games that Dan showed me when we first started having game design meetings over 2 years ago. The game has radically changed in mechanics but I think Dan has kept the spirit of the game that he wanted to create intact. All of the hard work that Dan has put into the game really shows.  


The last game of the night was my game Ascending Empires. I got to playtest it last Friday night at Great Hall Games with Jen, Jake, and Jeff. From that test I made quite a few changes that really seemed to pay off in our test last night. In the earlier versions of the game the Landing and Launching of Starships was a separate action. I switched over to a movement points system in which now you can spend a point to land, launch, or flick a starship. This I think improved the flow  of movement a little. However, having a higher movement rate now seems a little more powerful than before. I also took out the restriction of only being able to recruit one troop to planet. That is just one less rule to remember, and this did not seem to change the overall game play much at all.


In previous playtests we have seen a tendency for players to just stay on their planets and build stuff, and only put Starships in space when they need more planets to build stuff on. Dan and I had done some brainstorming last week and come up with all sorts of mechanics that would encourage players to have more ships in space. One mechanic we talked about was a token that player could claim when they were the only player with ships in space. At the beginning of that players turn he gains a victory point if he had this token. I think that might have worked but it felt very forced. Yesterday it hit me that one little rule might fix the problem. The rule is: A planet may not recruit, build, or develop technology while enemy ships are in orbit of the planet. This is called blockading. We played with this rule last night and suddenly we all had ships out in space. Blockades were used several times during the game, but just the threat of being blockaded was enough to always keep some ships ready for combat.

 At the end of the game it looked as if John was running away with the victory but we were all surprised to find out that the scores were John-25, Me-24, and Dan-23. I felt very satisfied with the game. I still need to tweak the tech trees just a little but I’m very happy that the changes I made did not break the game.

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.

Mar 062008

My first full fledged attempt to design a game started about two years ago. It began when I read a description of a game on some webpage. The game was Light Speed by Cheapass Games. The game sounded awesome. So awesome that on my lunch break that was all I talked about. In my mind I had this image of an epic space game that took place in real time but had elements of strategy and lots of theme. There would be abilities, commanders, and many kinds of space ships that had different capabilities. The description did not talk about these things but I knew that a game this cool would have to have this stuff. I went to my local game store later that night and what I saw hanging up in a little zip lock bag shattered my dream of an epic real-time space battle game. I bought it, took it home, and played it with my wife. It was certainly not the game I wanted it to be. For what it is I think it is a cool little game. Just not the game I had imagined.

The next day at lunch I told my friend all about the true nature Light Speed. That’s when Kendrick suggested that I design the game that I had described to him. What a simple idea, design a game. I knew exactly what I wanted it to be like. I had already tinkered with one other board game design, and I had a growing collection of 3 modern board games in my collection. So how hard could it be? Well that was about two years ago and its still in development. But my game collection is now about 100.

It only took me about 3 days to get the first version of the game ready to play test. I had two very close friends that I had been playing games with for years. So I enlisted them to be my play testers. Our first play test of the game was a lot of fun. At the time I thought it went great. The game had many issues, but it worked. My two friends play tested the game with the same competitiveness reserved for tournament games of Magic where there is money on the line. I later realized that this is not the best way to play test your games.

I had the basic design for the game so I started to develop it. Of course, the more we played the game, the better we got at it. This meant the game got easier so to keep it interesting, I added more elements to the game. After about 200 plays, many revisions and tons of additions to the game I believed it to be done. My friends thought it was awesome! It was a game that required both speed and strategy to play. It was epic. It was thematic. What I failed to realize though, was that I had inadvertently designed a game that only we could play. We thought it was easy to play, and for us it was. We had over 200 games worth of practice. But it was way too much for a beginner to learn. I could teach it well enough but most people thought it had too many things going on at once, so I put the game on hold.

A few weeks ago I decided that I was going to dedicate the next 8 months to working on expansions to my game Taktika. Even with that goal, for some reason all I can think about is working on Galaxy in Flames again. My goal for the rest of this month is to finish developing GIF. Dan and I play tested the newest version of it Tuesday night and I think it went very well. I’m excited about the game again. Maybe I can even finish it this time.

This weeks challenge focuses around matchbox cars (or any other toy car). The main components for the game should be cars. There can be other components as well (Cards, tokens, money, whatever), but they should all work to complement the use of the cars as the focal point of the game. The game can be anything, but should be thematic. Happy Designing!

Jan 132007

In my quest for Crokinole discs I have found a couple of sites that sell inexpensive discs. The first is Workshopsupply.com. I have placed an order with this company, however I have not received them yet. The other is Mr Crokinole, which carries many different styles of discs and rings.


Jan 102007

I have had the strangest urge to play flicking games lately. Games like; Crokinole, Carabande, and Carrom. However, with my budget I just cant afford to go out and buy any of these. So my desire to flick little wooden disks has inspired me to create my own take on a flicking game (Flicking + Conflict = Fun).Flick wars can be played on any kitchen table, and will fit into a large dice bag. Each player has 10 disks in his army. There are also 3 different unit types in the basic game (I have already begun working on an expansion); Archers, Infantry, and Calvary. During your turn you can ether move one of you disks, or attempt to attack an opponents disk. Each unit has a different movement rate (the number of times you can flick the disk), and specific requirements for making an attack on another piece. The winner of the game is the first player to accumulate 6 kills. Dan and Mark played the game last night and both had very positive reactions.

This is an extremely portable game. My wife and I played it while waiting for our dinner at a local restaurant tonight. The game took about 25 minutes, and was very close. Our food arrived just as Melissa made the winning shot. The table was clean but felt a little tacky. This made judging shots a little more difficult than usual. All in all it was a very fun game. People kept watching what we were doing, and I kept thinking about how cool it would be to be able to tell them where they can purchase it online.

Mark has challenged me to get this game finished and self-published in one months time. I plan on meeting that challenge. I really feel that this game has that special something. Mark has really inspired me with his recent release of Honeypot.

I plan on posting updates on my progress in the following weeks.

This is something I came up with last night. No play testing and I don’t even have the pieces needed to play. This is very rough. 

It is a two player game that uses 2 sets of tree house pieces. That’s 30 pyramids in 5 different colors and 3 different sizes. 

Setup: Take all of the large and medium pyramids and randomly place them into a 4×5 grid. Then both players take turns placing the remaining small pyramids on top of the large and medium ones of different colors. 

Play: Players take turns moving a single pyramid one space on the grid. A player may immediately move the same pyramid once more if it landed on a larger pyramid of the same color. At no time can there ever be more than three pyramids stacked. A player may only move a pyramid a maximum of two spaces during his turn.  

 Goal: To get sets of three pyramids that are stacked from largest on top to smallest on bottom. This scores 1 point if it the stack is made up of 3 colors, 2 points if made up of 2 colors, and 3 points if made up of 1 color. Once a player has formed a triple stack he must immediately remove it from the table and place it in front of him. The empty space on the board may be moved into by other pyramids. 

 Game ends when one player has 5 points. 

Jun 092006

Hi everyone,

My name is Ian, and I live in Austin Texas. I have been designing role-playing games and then playing them with my friends for about 20 years now, and it has been a very fun hobby for me. However, I now have a new hobby; designing and playing board games (I still play RPG’s too).   
I have just recently discovered how important having a regular play-test group is. I have been meeting with a group for several months now, play-testing games and talking about game ideas. Not only has this really helped me to stay motivated to keep producing prototypes, but I find my self thinking up new ideas much more often.