Apr 082011

I just finished laying out the game postcards for Six Gun, a quick little clapping game where you play gunfighters trying to shoot each other quickly. I talked a bit about the design of the physical cards themselves a bit over on unDesign, but I’d like to note a couple of things about the game design here, as well.

As I mentioned over there, it’s based on a childrens’ game called High Noon. The play is really almost identical, except for one or two bits that I changed. First, I added a limit of six bullets to the game; in the original, you can just go on loading and shooting forever. This seems okay at first, but in practice, it leads to any number of degenerate strategies that will make the game just go on and on – the “always hide” thing, the following by one thing, and so on. Which is totally fine for a playground game! Fun!

But my inclinations being what they are, I need to impose some kind of closure on the play, so I added the “six shots to win” rule. That way, if someone is stalling, the other player can rattle off half a dozen bangs and blow the lollygagger away. (You can still sandbag your opponent a little, or both jump right on doing load-bangs, but the “if you both shoot your last bullet simultaneously, you both lose” rule is my band-aid for that.)

The other major change was the addition of a verbal component to the game. This, it turns out, makes it so much harder, for me, anyway. Maybe I’ve got some kind of mouth-brain-hand dumbness, but it really takes a lot of concentration for me to only count down the bullets when I’m loading the gun, instead of shooting it. It’s pretty fun to break down in the middle of a game like this, though – it kind of reminds me of the simple/impossible 1-2-3 clapping warmup from improv – but it’s a good way to build that mental dexterity, and it definitely adds pressure when the you hear the numbers going up like that. Of course, my screwing it up all the time makes it a little harder to playtest, but it’s all part of the fun, in my opinion.

Fortunately for me, playtesting a game that only requires two people and plays in about fifteen seconds is really easy. This is where my design process falls apart most of the time – I usually either can’t get the bodies together to give something a good go-around, or I personally can’t find a gap in my ridiculous schedule to get new designs to the table. So, this was a refreshing little break from the larger stuff, and I think it worked out really well. Grab a partner and give it a shot, and let me know how it goes!

I just sent out a prototype to a publisher this morning. It was kind of expensive shipping it overseas, but it was worth it.  The postal worker explained that if I didn’t use a flat-rate box and I didn’t care when it got there, I could have saved $20. Oh well, I’ll remember that next time.

It is a nice feeling to get a game off of my docket. It frees my time up to work on other games, and gives me a feeling of accomplishment. I feel that it is much better to have a prototype sitting on a publisher’s shelf than on my shelf waiting to be tweaked for the umpteenth time.

This game was the first of three that I will be courting to publishers. They were all sitting on my shelf either done or 98% done.  My plan is to diversify the games with different publishers. Hopefully, this will mean the gears of progress will always be turning somewhere even if I’m not actively doing anything.

Now to start the process with the second game in my queue.

I just received word that Monkey Lab will be delayed until Spring 2009. That is a real disappointment for me because I really was looking forward to having it be available for BGG.con and to a lesser extent Christmas. I’m not sure when “Spring 2009″ is, but in my experience anticipating boardgame releases it usually means “Early Summer 2009″. I suppose that all I can do is wait and work on my ideas for the expansion.

I am excited to announce that my game Monkey Lab is going to be published by AEG. I have been waiting on letting the general public know, but I think enough information has been let out already and it is a few months away from being released, so I figured it was time.

So, let me tell you a little bit about Monkey Lab. You play as escaped research monkeys who return to the lab to free your monkey brethren. Since you don’t have access to the keys, you must use the items around the lab to break, pry, pick, and smash the cages open. You score points by releasing monkeys from the cages, or by standing around a newly opened cage and taking credit.  You can work with other players to free a deluge of monkeys through clever card play, or you can work against them by invoking your monkey combat or by sending the guard thier way.

AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group) is publishing the game as they have just started their expansion from CCGs and RPGs to the boardgame publishing world. They have recently released Tomb which has already gotten great reviews.  I’ve been privy to the work they’ve done on Monkey Lab so far and it looks great! I got to see the drawings of the monkey figures – Who doesn’t want a game with monkey pawns? Everything looks awesome and they did a great job bringing the game to life.

The release date is still cloudy, but my hope is that it will be available before BoardgameGeek.con so I can see people play and enjoy it. I will be posting some stories about the making of Monkey Lab in the coming weeks either here on on BGG, so stay tuned!

~ Dan Manfredini

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.

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 boardgamegeek.com. Also, it is now available to purchase here.

Every Tuesday we have design night at my place and I usually shoot out an email with some agenda details and a call for who is coming. From now on, I figured I’d post this here on the blog instead so everyone can see what we’ve been up to.

One of the things I’d like to discuss this week is the ad we’re placing on The Dice Tower podcast. We’ve all pitched in and written little blurbs for our games, and hopefully we will attract some interest. In addition to that, Marc has updated the gizmet site with pages for our new games. Exciting times! Speaking of Marc, I saw that he had a playtest of his prototype Rocket Yard on Friday night with some rules tweaks, and I’d like to hear how that went. Hopefully Ian will bring his latest version of his prototype for Galaxy in Flames, a real time space combat card game, and maybe he’ll update us about the production of his game, Taktitka. I’ve got my genericly titled game “War Game” ready again to playtest with some hybrid ideas from the first and second versions. I’m not sure what is on the docket for Drey, Mark, or our newest attendee.

On another subject, I guess I forgot to update my story on my last post about the game I’m publishing. Well, first let me say the game is called Chains of Fenrir (formerly called the bead game). Secondly, to wrap up my story on the bag cinch: it worked out just fine since the stones I bought were too big to fall out if closed properly. That was actually the easy problem to fix. The bigger issue came when my stones arrived in the mail. It turned out that the purple stones and the orange stones were near identical on the table and could only be distinguished if held up to a light. I compare it to how a glass of grape soda and cola are hard to tell apart unless they’re backlit. My solution to this problem was to shop locally for some white stones as a replacement. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to find plain white stones. As luck would have it, one of my friends recently bought a ton of stones, and he happened to have a surplus of white stones. He let me have them, and I have enough for a little over a dozen games. I’ll eventually have to buy more, but at least I have some to start off with. If you’d like to check out the game, the rules should be posted on BoardGameGeek shortly. I’ve got some pics of the components up there too. If you’d like to buy the game, we’ve got it all set up for you to do that here.

Sep 122007

On Monday, I got a package in the mail with an important component to my game: the bag. Each game will come with a nice soft brown leather bag (actually, I’m not really sure of the material) with a cool authentic texture. They look much better in person than they do in the picture on the seller’s website. I’ll post a picture of it when I get the other components. Everything about them seemed great, except…

Cinching the bag closed still left enough of an opening that contents could fall out! If there’s one thing you want your bag to do, it’s hold things inside securely. My first solution was to tie the drawstrings once, like I did for my prototype’s bag. Unfortunately, the drawstring on the bag was made of a thin silky material and would not stay tied. To be honest, I didn’t think this would be a problem. I am going to wait until I get the other components to check if they will actually fall out. If they still do, I have a solution where I’d replace the drawstrings with a more tie-able material. String is cheap, and I’d rather take the time to replace it than have players lose their components each time they put their game on the shelf.

Now we wait for the other components…

Sep 052007

I have decided to publish a game myself. After a couple years of going through the regular channels of submitting games to companies and getting nowhere, I felt that I wanted to change it up a bit. My goal for this project is firstly to get a game out there, and see how the general gaming public reacts to it. My second goal is to learn the process, the costs, and all the other things that publishers handle with as little risk as possible. Finally, and least of all, I’d like to make a small profit to turn around and pour into my next project. The game I am going to produce is small enough that I should be achieve all of these goals.

My first step in the process was to create a nice spreadsheet analyzing the costs. I used google docs for this because it has a handy feature to share file with other users, which is great when I want feedback on something that I’m constantly changing. After making the bare bones spreadsheet, I went shopping on the net for my components. To offset the fact that this is a home brew game, I wanted my components to be more interesting than the off-the-shelf variety. Another consideration I had was that I wanted the pieces to be color-blind friendly. I used this site to convert the images of the components to show me how well they could be distinguished from one another. Hopefully the real components will be similar to the color pictures on the web. I do believe that I found the best pieces for the price, and I am excited to see how they all look when brought together.

I have ordered the components and should be receiving them in a week or so. Until then, we wait.