Friday, 28 December 2012

All Quiet

No progress at the moment to report  - e-mails sent off but no responses and no play test of the new version.

So lets talk about a game I gave out three times for christmas - Coup. this was another game I saw at Essen, failed to play it so never got it, but have since decided I really rather like.  It also got a rather good write up from cardboard children over at Rock Paper Shotgun

So what makes it good.  Well - it's quick and simple.  No complicated rules - no lengthy time commitment and it's components are a few cards and some counters but it provides a very satisfying game form this.

Your hand of two cards are both of your lives - and represents a person of note within the city - with your cards being secret.  Having a particular person allows you to undertake one of six actions or block other peoples actions.  For example the Captain allows you to steal two money from another player or block another players captain.  All very simple - with the clever wrinkle that you can play any action you like even if you don't have the card.  However any player can dispute your claim - and if you are lying you lose a life. Of course if you are telling the truth they lose a life - so the game becomes a case of bluff and double bluff.......

Making this game an excellent example of good game play arising out of simple rules and human interaction.......

Friday, 21 December 2012


So right now - I'm talking to people about production.

The trouble being until I get everything lined up - no actual orders can be made.  Until I've got a way of getting.....

a printed box, a deck of cards, some hexes, a pile of components, and a mound of specific stone head bits there is no point getting any one of these things..... I mean really what am I going to do if I end up with 9000 meeples in 5 colours if Giant Stone Head is never actually made.....

The rule book and other player aids - the are just a printing job which I'm sure I've got the contacts for.  But it's a big challenge.  And once I've found a way of sourcing it - I've got to make the appropriate files to the correct standards which involves learning a world of new skills to do with desk top publishing......

All within a tight budget so I don't lose money on every copy I sell - even before additional expenses like getting tables at cons.....

Sunday, 16 December 2012

I suspect I need witty titles

So another play test with the Monday night gamers – people who last played 3 or so version a go.  And yes I’m definitely pushing for play tests much more at the moment – simply because I set a deadline to start production work at the start of January in order to have it for Bristol comic con so I need to have a version I could produce sharpish.  In fact that might well be the last play test of the 2012.....
They were all very impressed by the little stone heads – there so cute!  What I’m going to do for the full production version is now an issue…….  Explaining the game seemed really hard for some reason.
Good positive feedback – they seemed to enjoy the game – and seemed to think it had improved over last time.    
So the new dual use cards are excellent – people now have a range of options available while still just being able to throw cards down for violence if they feel the need.  The balance is still with the attacker but the defender manage to throw down some large reversals due to the wider range of defensive cards.   The chances of a “bad bad day” being in the hands of somebody able to play it are much higher now – which makes attacking a heart that little bit more dangerous.  And the “totally taboo” cancelation card is certainly a good addition….. 
The new rongaronga seemed popular – the ones giving you points for attacking the player to your left or to your right were good.  The new “shaman says what?” cards which give points for taking certain combinations of territory did not seem to be quite right.  Of the three combinations the coastal one was done 3 times – the middle one was done 1 and the straight line one was never done (although I did try)…….
The problems seem to fit into a set of similar problems from previous games……
-          Those behind – stay behind
-          Turn Order – when is good to go?
-          Last turn does not matter that much.
I think I see a solution for all three of those issues – but I’m trying to avoid changing too much too quickly – specifically I don’t want to change the cards until I’ve seen them in use a little more.  So while I think we need more movement cards and more steal a vp from the leader cards I need to see that a little more first.
What does not seem to be a problem….
-          Sitting on your arse.  I ran a defensive game – large numbers of men on the first turn – grabbed a lot of space and built up slowly and won.  But only just – and only after making a grand grab for the middle which could have gone very wrong. 
So plans for the next version…..
1)      Remove the resource value for holding the quarry.  Still have it break ties but no value.
2)      Change the end of game points to being for Hexes, and for resources.  Stoneheads post game become worthless – which is thematically better anyway.
3)      Increase the difference between the top and bottom ranks for the end of game points
4)      Change turn order so that lowest VPS choose when they want to go
The last is the only one that worries me – the other 3 seem sensible – it’s an old idea I have used before – but it slows things down.  It’s another choice point but it feels like a bit of a road bump rather than a significant choice.  However with the new game when you go seems important and yet not obvious (where as it was obvious before) – and first place is getting the first choice of stone heads and extra VPS……..
In terms of production I’ve asked my friend with the most contact into the games industry to see if he can find me….
a)      Contact details for a games bit wholesaler willing to handle a small order – I’ll need about 95 pieces per a box (ignoring worshiped and unworshiped stone heads for which I have an idea) so about 10,000 in total for a 100 copies which is a tiny order.
b)      See if he can find me a printer who can do print runs of a 100 decks of cards.
Even if that works - that still leaves……
Hexes, stone heads,  unworshiped stone heads, boxes, rules, and art to source…….
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm just had an idea.  What if each player had their own deck of cards?  Would be less random  each player would have the same mix of cards to use – just in a different order.  But at first glance looks much more expensive to make – but I know that in printing a 1,000 copies is the place where the price per a unit drops massively (5 player – 5 decks a box means 200 copies of the game which is more than I was thinking of doing.  Except that the different backs might well mean it counts as different decks so the price would go up.
Last night as one of the play testers played around with stone heads – I was struck how you could have a game of stone heads that just involved covering resources with stone heads until the island fall apart without all the violence.  And a good game it would be to.  But through all the version of the game – when I’ve felt like every idea was under considering – I’ve stuck with the violence because the original dream had involved this sort of violence based conflict around the stone heads. So I've let certain preconceptions stay with me throughout the design process without realising they were there.  Nothing wrong with fixed notions - but it would be better to acknowledge them I think....

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Another Play Test....

This one was with people who had played one of the earlier version.  To my mind it all seemed to be fine.  The new hexes were good - less crowded.  The lower amounts of resources mean the maths was easier and at 4 turns things felt they wrapped up a little better.

However two odd thing.....

One person decided he had lost and so did random things.  Generally taking down another player - and allowing the other three to just fight it out amongst themselves.  Really not sure what I could do to prevent that since he was not in fact in a bad position - he just assumed he was and acted that way.

The second was that the game was played by somebody who had played one of the earlier version.  A very long time ago.  He seemed unimpressed - and claimed he enjoyed the previous version but was not sure why.  I think I understand the problem - this person likes veracity and dislike abstractions.  So previous version which involved collecting stone and wood were better because they felt truer.  Where as this version the mechanic of "the most resources gets first pick" did not feel true to him.

But I am very happy I've moved way from other versions - and accepted that abstraciton.  He asked me what I wanted the game to be and I said "fun, quick, war game where lines shift and changes rapidly as people look for opportunities."  And if I keep that goal in mind when I develop it should help a lot.

This time round we've a new action deck - and it's a big overhaul.  Now most cards have two functions - there main play ability and some sort of discard for violence benefit.  25% of the deck has now discard, 25% has defence, and 50% has attack.  That's not to say that the main effect is not sometimes violence related but it's also movement or points related.  Hopefully this will get round the problem of hands of violence or hands of useful stuff.  Now you'll get both and have to pick......

The movement cards hidden pathways and fishing boat have been clarified - they do the same thing just hopefully more obvious.
The rongaronga has been changed.  Now there is a steal a VP card if your opponent has more VPs - and also if they sit to your left/right.  I'm hoping the later will add some randomness to the game.....
 There is now a "counter card"
As well as a flanking card to move a warrior into a battle once it has started - stealing a card if he gets there and a plus 3 defence that requires you to lose a man (the logic being even if you win you've lost a warrior).
We've also got goal cards which are based on holding certain patterns of terrain such as 5 coastal spaces or 5 in a straight line. Might need more variaty in those - but want to see they go.  They were going to be a new deck but adding them in seems to work.

I really want to check this with 4 players - with 5 players a round seems to take a while....  Also might need somebody who is utterly defensive and see what happens.....

Also not sure about turn order - I might have to give players a choice in reverse VP order.