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?

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!

Hey, do you want to win a free copy of Coalescence? I know you do. Well, how about that, and a free copy of Honeypot, to boot? There is no resisting a deal as sweet as that, right? So, what you need to do is get on over to BoardGameGeek, and check out the contest I just posted up there.

All you need to do is identify these nine stellar objects, and tell us what they are, and if you’re the first one to get them all right, the tubes are yours. Head on over for the official scoop!

Coalescence Contest Image

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.

The tubes are in.

The first official board game from Gizmet Gameworks is poised to hit the shelf. Well, the virtual shelf, anyway. After a long period of design and playtesting, the game that has been through more name changes than [insert relevant Hollywood serial divorcee here] is ready to go. I cemented in a couple of rules that made it through final testing, and I declared Honeypot “done” about a month or so ago. Now, all there was to do was make the damn thing, and get it into the hands of the waiting, game-hungry public.

Since this is my first game for sale, I’m leery about sinking thousands of dollars into a good-sized run – I don’t have that kind of money on hand to drop on a project that may or may not sail. So, I decided to limit myself to five hundred or so units at first. I drew up an extensive list of manufacturers, did research, got recommendations from other published developers, made spreadsheets, figured budgets, and finally wound up with a fairly cheap bid from a US-based manufacturer. Cheap at first look, at least – the price of just under nine bucks a unit (which is not bad for such a small run) did not take into account additional costs for setup, shipping, or actually using good parts. All told, my most inexpensive option was still around twenty bucks a pop, which was much too rich for my blood. Despair was on the horizon – I could figure out some way to do this, or sit around waiting for the fickle finger of a publisher to point my way.

As luck would have it, I found a way. Not as simple as getting someone in a factory in Parts Unknown to fill boxes with boxes and drop them on my doorstep, but within a much more realistic budget. I drew up a plan, did some more research, and started ordering parts to print up and assemble myself.

The basic components for Honeypot are the board and forty double-sided hex tokens, a rule sheet, and a box. Not too complicated, hm? Well, getting hex counters made with any kind of quality is first a pain in the ass, and secondly a pain in the money. So, I took it upon myself to port my token art to a new platform – 1″ white labels, stuck on either side of a 1 1/4″ wooden disc. Labor-intensive, to be sure, but not rocket science, so I can produce about two dozen games worth of game tokens in the course of a DVD – more, if I put Battlestar in the disc changer. These came out beautifully, especially after discovering that a totally decent color laser printer could be had for a very reasonable sum – an investment that will pay itself off many times over in the coming while or so.

Next was the board. I found a great source for cheap blank 18″ square folding game boards, but that would involve more printing and cutting and pasting and getting boxes that fit and packing those boxes in other boxes for shipping and storage and all sorts of other grief that I didn’t feel like dealing with. However, a solution was at hand! Inspired by the good folks at Pair-Of-Dice games, I realized that the Honeypot board would fit beautifully printed on a bandanna. I did a bit more research, and a bit of emailing – the same story as usual, cheap stuff required orders of several thousand. Fortunately, by widening my search, I located a local screen printer who could provide exactly what I needed at the price I needed, with a turnaround of less than a week. Brilliant. Board art updated, resized, and made ready for screen printing, and sent off – I went over to check out a proof print today, and it looks awesome. The first order will be ready tomorrow. Woo!

Honeypot board proof

So, that just leaves packaging. I have a foldable and stuffable game board, a large handful of nice game pieces, and rules that fit on one side of a letter-sized page. I know what must be done. I whip up some cover art to go on the other side of the page (with logotype help from co-flywheeler Emerson), and begin my final edit of the rules (with much-appreciated input from Mischa, Dan, and the rest of our resident designers). This will be printed up double-sided on my swanky new color laser, and inserted into a clear plastic mailing tube, along with the lovely new cloth boards and candy-like “hex” tokens, and capped with yellow (or special edition red!) vinyl caps. Voila! A game that is attractive, economical, and pleasant to fondle.

Honeypot package

As mentioned above, I just received moments ago two large cardboard boxes that contain my shipping tubes. The boards will be delivered here tomorrow afternoon, and at that point, the only thing standing between Honeypot and the clamoring masses are five minutes assembly time and twenty bucks. (Once I get the product page on built, anyway…) The initial run is only about a hundred and fifty pieces, so I can get a good sense of what demand might be like. The killer part of this production method is that I can have parts for any number of games ready to go in a week or so, now, so a surge of orders can be handled with ease – one might even go so far as to call the process “agile”, if one were so inclined.

If anyone has a case of morbid curiosity about any part of the research or production processes, my esteemed suppliers, or anything else regarding the game, feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment here. I’m looking forward to holding the first totally complete Honeypot package in my hand tomorrow, and I’m looking even more forward to everyone else holding one of their own. We ship!

Jul 232006

This weekend, I had the singular opportunity to sit on a panel with esteemed game designers Allen Varney and Greg Costikyan. A friend of mine was helping to organize the Texas Indie Game Developer Conference here in town, and signed me up to do my “game design improv” panel with a couple of luminaries. (Previously, I did this last year at… MilleniumCon, maybe(?) with James Ernest and Wes Jenkins.) I also do improvisational theater on the side (mostly with my troupe, Improv For Evil), and I’ve found that there are many parallels between the way we construct fiction on the fly, and the way that we construct game designs. So, to demonstrate this a little bit – and to have a bit of fun – we go before an audience at a game developer conference, take a number of suggestions from the audience, and design a game in front of them, in about half an hour. It’s a hoot.

Our suggestions/constraints this time were a very small budget, a year and a half development time, mobile platform target, something to do with World War II, and a target demographic of seventy years old and up. Whew. We eventually came up with a casual tactical/puzzle game game that would be built with a small team using open source tools, and sold and distributed on cell phones that are given out by our strategic partner, a retirement community. The game was a networked turn-based square hunt, where you had to help lead your grandchildren out of Nazi occupied France during the war, by hooking them up with resistance operatives and finding various items on the map, trading them between players and helping each other along the roads. I should have taken better notes – it could have actually been fun – but this is the nature of improv. Ephemeral. Big fun, and then it’s gone.

Anyway, it was a great experience, and I look forward to doing it again sometime soon. Yay game design, yay, improvisation.