After a brief flurry of activity last month, it’s been hard to concentrate on all my little gamey side projects, since I’ve picked up a gig working on Flash games, but I’m still trucking along as the hours or fractions thereof present themselves.

I’ve recruited my friend and fellow improviser Halyn to work on the art for Fluffy Bunny Tea Party! We met today, and I’m totally amazed by the sketches that she put together. I’m really looking forward to working with her on all of the bunnies and desserts and associated artwork for the cards and rule booklet and boxes and whatnot. I’m sending her more technical graphic specs tonight, and we’ve got a production schedule down for a solid BGG.Con launch this year, and I’m totally confident that this is going to be a fantastic little game.

Speaking of cards, I just received a box of a hundred 4″x6″ Six Gun postcards from, and they look amazing. I already liked the design, and seeing them all glossy and up close makes it all that much better. I’ll try to keep a few on hand as I toodle around – if anybody wants one, let me know, and I’ll make sure that you get it.

Work on Game Poems has been pretty slow lately. I’m just not feeling super inspired – I feel like I’ve explored the form a good bit, published a book of games (which still gets me a small check from distributors every few months, which is pretty nice), and although I’m certainly not out of ideas for them, I’m just not really moved to keep up with the weekly-or-so output these days. I’m writing a few special ones for a collection of vampire games that someone on Story Games is putting together, but beyond that, I’m not promising anything.

There are a couple of other projects still on the medium-back burners (Skin Men, and the Cochise RPG), but my energy is going towards getting Fluffy Bunnies out this year, so we’ll see how much writing and playtesting those get. Still keeping my hand in things, but taking it a bit easy right now, yeah?

There I was, innocently reading an entry about double-coding and color blindness over on Daniel Solis’s blog, when it struck me that my game RocketYard (self-published in 2009, very close to two years ago today) almost entirely relies upon the players distinguishing cards of different colors, which represent the different qualities of rocket parts that are used to build the ships in the game! This was my first real shot at doing my own graphic design for game cards, so I thought that I’d revisit it and see what’s what. To me, the styles of the rockets of each quality are distinct enough that, even without the coloring, it shouldn’t be hard for anyone to tell them apart (double coding!), but I was curious to see how they fared for actual color blind people.

So, I put out a call on Twitter and Facebook, asking if I knew anyone with color-blindness could take a look at the card images and let me know how they looked to them. I’m not planning on doing a redesign or another printing of the game any time soon, but I figured it’d be good to know for future reference. I do have another card game coming down the pipe directly, so the lessons from this will hopefully apply to the new art, as well.

After getting a good number of responses, I put together this color sheet of the cards, and sent them out to a few friends:

I got some great feedback, almost immediately, which tells me two very important things. First, it looks like I did the right thing, totally accidentally. I suppose that I stumbled upon the correct hues or values such that the weren’t really a problem for anyone, so, go me. Second, it’s also nice to know that I have a bunch of folks who are willing to step up and help out with a request out of nowhere like this, so, go them!

For the record, here are some of the responses, with the names removed for the sake of propriety:

JW: Looks great. Not even close at all.

BS: Well, I can clearly differentiate them, with my partial Color blindness. Don’t ask me what color the last one is though!

GW: They’re fine! Four different colours, to me.

DP: These look fine. The blue and yellow you’ll have very little problem with.  That type of color-blindness is less common.  The red and green are fine for me and I have a pretty significant red/green color-blindness.  The green is a light enough shade and the red is a dark enough shade that I think it’s fine as long as these are color correct for printing.
Also, I think the designs for each ship are different enough that even were a person completely unable to see the colors, they could easily distinguish one ship piece from the other.

So, that’s one design burden removed from my mind. One more thing to check off on the “don’t worry about this any more!” list…

May 192008

Over the weekend, I realized an important aspect of suits in game design. They restrict options and therefore increase tension.

Imagine a game of Lost Cities where all of the cards were of the same suit and they could be played on any expedition. Now instead of a 20% chance of drawing the suit you need, you have a 100% chance. The discarding aspect of the game would be pretty pointless. In short, all of the interesting decisions go out the window.

This seems pretty obvious in retrospect. In fact, I’ve added suits before to games for that very reason. I guess I was just oblivious with my perpetually undone game, Venture Forth, which was lacking suits. The game gave you lots of options, but ultimately felt flat. I added suits yesterday and all of a sudden the tension in the game started to come out! Behold the power of suits!

Jan 102008

Due to scheduling changes, at least for awhile, our game design meetings will be on Thursdays. Tonight I plan on testing Space Port to get it ready for a convention this weekend.

But first, a recap of last meeting…

First Drey, Ian, Marc, and I played Space Port. Actually we didn’t get very far. The whole thing fell apart gameplay-wise so we stopped. It worked fine last time, but I must have tinkered with the wrong gears and apparently made it unplayable. Surprisingly, this turned out to be a good thing. I got a lot of feedback about my train wreck… a lot of good and diverse feedback. This had me theorizing that “great” games cause enthusiastic responses, “ok” games cause silence or apathy, and “bad” games cause productive and creative responses. I think that the last one may be because they know that everything is changeable because nothing really worked, so all suggestions are more likely to be implementable.

Then we played Marc’s new re-theming of his old game Pangaea, called Coalescence. The old theme was about continents merging into land masses. The new theme is about star systems coalescing. He fixed some rules from the last time I saw it where the end game was hard to determine. This was fixed by making most actions irreversible. This worked perfectly and the game wrapped up nicely without any confusion. Both Ian (or was it Drey?) and I had a problem with the new galaxy board design. It was too busy and distracted us from the game. Other than that issue, and the need for a tie breaker rule, the game looks and plays pretty good.

Finally, we played with some hero cards and tactics cards from an expansion to Ian’s Taktika. The hero cards are “always on” abilities. The tactics cards are “one shot” abilities. Overall, the concept worked pretty smoothly, although the actual content of the cards will probably need to be tested and tweaked a lot.

Now for tonight…

I have been solo playing Space Port as a two-player game this week for testing. Tonight, I hope to try it out with more players. Right now, the game allows two to four players. Any more and the game would probably be too crowded. I suppose I could create a different board for more players with more spaces, but that is a problem for the future. A two-player game comes in at about 21 minutes, according to the four times that I timed it. I am going to speculate that four players will take twice that amount. Of course, my timing was based on me playing as two players, so it may be more or less that amount.

Part of my plans this year is to playtest as much as I can at conventions, especially easy-on-the-wallet local ones. This weekend Ian and I will be attending a convention in Round Rock where we plan on playing, playtesting, and selling some of out games. I’m trying to get Space Port to a solid enough state to where I can play it with strangers without having to apologize every minute about a hole in the rules or about a clunky mechanic. I am also printing up another copy of Travelogue to play. I haven’t played it since July when I sent it away to Italy, so I’m curious about my new perspective on the game.

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.

Oct 302007

I found out yesterday that Travelogue has failed to move forward in the Lucca Best Unpublished Game contest. It stalled out in the top 10. It is my understanding, though, that it will be available for all to play at the Lucca Comics & Games convention. That is assuming they translated my rules into Italian or someone is willing to teach it. In any case, I look forward to reading any feedback I receive about the game from the contest judges. I’ll have to make a nice copy again for my own collection, but I think I’m going to wait until I get the official “death certificate” email from them.

You have to have a thick skin to take the rejection you get as a fledgling game designer. Once you make it past phase 1 (idea, design, playtest, development), you’ve got something that people tell you is a good game. Rest assured, they told you it sucked at some point along the way, but since then you’ve made your game into something they really like now. You’ve got the prototype and the rules as polished as you can. You’re happy with it, and you’re ready to push it out into the real world. Yay!

You then move on to phase 2, where you send it out to a contest or a publisher. Get ready, get set, wait! It is best to just forget about your game for this period because there is little you can do to move the process forward (besides nagging to the publisher). As the months progress, you may wonder about what kind of adventures your game is encountering, and if it is making friends. The big day will come when you’ll find out that your game doesn’t suit their needs. It is very anti-climactic. It just ends after all that wait. Your little game went out into the big world, only to be squashed like roadkill. Sometimes they’ll send it back in a box, most of the time they won’t. Maybe the game deserved it. Maybe it didn’t. Poor game.

On the bright side, a game is only an idea. You can make another copy! You can send it out again, but this time better prepared. Hopefully someday it will make it to the published world, where you can move on to phase 3, where you can feel a new type of rejection: apathy or even disdain from the gaming public. Every game has its lovers and its haters. Some games even fade into the background after its initial hype. It is to be expected.

Anyways, I don’t want this to be a depressing post because I’m feeling fine. It’s a repetitive process, and, if anything, I’m feeling a bit exhausted. Its a lot of work for little feedback. I’ve got all the time in the world to continue this process, and I intend to do so. So it looks like back to the drawing board.

Good news everyone!

You may remember that I entered my prototype card game Travelogue into the Lucca Games competition. Well, I just found out that my game is one of the finalists. It is in the top ten, which turns out to be the top 25% because there were around 40 entries. The top three will be announced on November 1st along with the first place winner. The winner will be published and will receive free copies of his game. I am very excited about this! To me, what this means is that my game rules were read, understood, and taught to Italians. AND it was good enough to make it to the finals. It is really cool to have my game being played in another country by people I don’t even know.

In other game contest news, I plan on entering Hippodice this year again. I skipped out on it last year because I wasn’t fully prepared, but that won’t stop me this year!  I think I will enter my new war game. I haven’t written the rules down yet, or refined most of the cards, but I want to put something into the contest just so I don’t miss the opportunity this year. There’s nothing better than having a deadline to motivate you!

On Friday night I was able to play a six player game of Salvage. Now, originally, the game was only from two to four players (mostly due to the components I had on hand). Well, after reading the rules to the game, a publisher said he would only look at it if it handled up to six players since that it more marketable. I complied and made more cards, tokens, and card racks. The test went pretty well, and nothing totally fell apart. So with that, I’ll be sending out Salvage next month.

Speaking of sending out prototypes, Monkey Lab is currently en route to England where it will be played and hopefully considered for publication.  Go, Monkey Lab, Go!

One more thing, the Chains of Fenrir rules have finally been posted on Also, it is now available to purchase here.

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…