Tuesday, 29 January 2013

All quiet on the Stone Head front

Not a lot of action on here – but then that is because there has been not a lot of action on the GSH front – which is actually pretty disastrous production wise as the clock is ticking.  I was going to meet up with Dr Geof to talk art, cardboard and printing on Wednesday but he called it off.  We have rescheduled to next Wednesday.
I also let an opportunity for play testing go past this weekend – as I headed away for a really rather fabulous weekend of gaming and totally failed to do a play test.  I believe the word you are looking for is doh.
So lacking anything else to talk about – I’ll talk about a rather fabulous weekend of gaming.
This all started from a rather off the cuff comment about how cool it would be to play castle based board games in a castle – ok maybe cool is the wrong word – maybe geekily awesome is the phrase.  And then nothing happened until one person appeared and said “I don’t have a castle – will a manor house do” and we all went “yes?”  And so bouncecon was born – named after the bouncy castle it was possible to hire but we never did – not a proper con but a group a friends who wanted more gaming.  The manor house in question was http://www.skendlebyhall.co.uk/ a somewhat sprawling pile that could not only hold 24 people, but get all of them in the dining room at the same time while having more reception rooms then we knew what to do with.  What with having the dining room, the kitchen table, main hall and the library - the lounge and music room pretty much got ignored – and I only think the snooker room, table football room, air football room and children’s room only got used by people who went out of their way to use them.
And cost – just over £100 per a person – for Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.  Much cheaper than any other con I’ve been to and with some fabulous facilities – take a good kitchen (well two of them) as read (and the third back up kitchen) and then add in a sauna.  Which I did take full advantage off – relaxing on the Sunday morning in the Sauna – before bolting out of the sauna – running down the corridor and throwing myself into the snow to make a snow angel.  I swear there was a hissing noise as flesh hit the snow.  Bracing – and requiring a trip back to the sauna to warm myself up.
 Actually I have just realised I totally lost track of where the second kitchen was and could never have found it again if I had needed to – it was that sort of place.  It was an excellent idea – organised brilliantly – and we are already talking about number 2 and I’m tempted to arrange something similar for my 41st birthday.
I’ll leave you with this fabulous photo of the location and an awesome snow meeple it was that sort of weekend……. 

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

When I got to work.....

....I saw this.

Do you think they know that Giant Stone Heads are meant to have hats or was that just one of those things?

Monday, 14 January 2013

Quick Empire

There was a quick play test of the Empire game post RPG.

General feeling was - good idea - had nice thematic elements - but the scoring was overly complicated.  One specific criticism was that Virtues had to be the best card set for themetic reasons - but there was a set of 8 cards.  Which was fair.....

People now get six cards - and the deck composition has changed.

So there are now 7 virtues, 4 generals, 4 merchants, 4 senators, 4 mages, 4 priests (representing the 5 in character groupings such as the Bourse for merchants) and 1 empress. 

Still 2 cards face up, and 2 face down.

To go out you either need all 4 of something and 2 of something else. 

You then score points based mainly off how much of the something else you hold.  But it looks much more obvious then what we had which was a little obtuse.

I'm sort of missing the 6 realms, 5 herbs etc - but putting them in caused a lot of problems.  But now with 6 different things to collect it seems like there is more options.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Giant Stone Head and Empire

Two very distinct things in this post.

First off a play test of Giant Stone Head.  All good - nice tight game (I did really badly) but the end of game points were just to much.  I think they need to still be very focused - so only a few players get anything but the end result was just to extreme a swing.  So they need to be trimmed down.

The cards when unable to place a GSH went fine - and the the increased value for the "all the cards" build card worked.

One thing we did do was play with one less build card - so only as many build cards as the number of players.  It worked fine - made resources more important - but was a bit meaner as the last person got no choice.  Overall I think I preferred it as resources have always felt a little unimportant and this seems to kick them over a little bit.

The second was that I play tested a new game today - working name is Empire Jong.  So I go larping (or cross country pantomime as I've heard it called) and the company I go to are about to start a new game "Empire". 

So I've got talking to people about making a game to play in character - and this is a very different design experience.

So there are some very clear design requirements - it has to be easy to learn, suitable to play in a poorly lite tent while drunk, deep enough to interest a gamer (so contains interesting decisions) and reflect some aspects of the background in it's set up and style.

In many ways I'm after something that feels like a decent classic card game - something of a similar nature to Whist.  However using tiles rather cards - because tiles will feel more suitable - and with a different distribution you can create a different game. 

It pretty much started from the background fact that there are "seven virtues, and six realms".  Which made it very tempting to create a version of Dalmutai skinned for Empire - but it felt wrong as the "virtues" should be important.

So what got play tested this weekend - a couple of quick hands was.....

A deck made up of eight materials, seven virtues, six realms, five herbs, 4 coins and 1 empress.

You have seven cards - there is one face up in the middle - or two face down.  You can either take the face up and replace it or take both the face down and replace them.  The aim of the game is to get a single full set and then the rest of your hand of seven as the same thing.  The empress is wild and different hands are worth different things.

It went well - couple of suggested changes.  Two face up cards rather then 1 - which will mean the addition of an extra tile.  The empress as wild is too good.  So the plan is to make the empress just give bonus points if you can go out holding her - and introduce a wild card that costs you points if your holding it at the end of the game (currently it's going to be called 'the Foreigner').

I also think that there needs to be more scoring opportunities so holding the most of some cards - say materials or virtues should give you some points as they are much harder to complete......  Will need balancing but currently hopeful.

Monday, 7 January 2013


It was pointed out to me over the weekend that I'm generally writing for people who know what I'm talking about - people who have played the game or myself - rather then a wider audience.  Which might be an error even if it's an understandable one when I created this blog to stop bombarding my non-gaming friends on other social media sites.

But lets set out what actually needs to be produced to make a copy of giant stone head.  I'm not going to talk about art assets since that is in the hands of dr Geof of the island of doctor geof.  Since I'm going to talk about costs I should point out that I believe I have a production budget of about £15 per a copy.  I'm sure I have have talked about where that number comes from before but if not - just go with it.

Box -  easy to overlook but we obviously need something to keep it in.  I've not actually tried to source this one yet - as I figure it should be easier to do then a lot of the other issues.  But to get 100 copies of a custom printed box of an appropriate standard size I'm estimating will cost about £1.

Rule Book - another one I think will be easy to do and this one would be easy.  Using digital printing 100 copies of a rule book is not going to be over 50p and if I can write out the rules out well might well be a lot cheaper - I think the rules for Giant Stone Head might well be possible to put on two sides of A4 which would make it a single double sided piece of paper which would be very cheap.

Score chart and turn sequence  somewhere to keep track of the VP's and turn order and general help and advice.  This just needs to be on thinish card - so that's about 50p.  This would replace the player aid cards.

Pieces - each player needs 18 meeples and a single piece for a big man - I've received a quote for suitable pieces at £1.50 a copy. I even end up with a lot of spare pieces due to the minimum order.

Hexes - I need 19 hexes - printed on one side.  This one is a bit of a printing nightmare being a pretty specialist printing job with a run size so low no printer could be bothered.  But the idea has been floated of getting the hexes laser cut out of plywood.  I like this idea because having nice wooden hexes with patterns burnt onto them would be something of a plus point when coming to actually sell the game - and making a virtue out of a problem would be good.  I've got a very rough quote of £6 for a sheet of wood A3 sized - which we think should provide enough space with some wastage around the edges.

Worshiped and Unworshiped stone heads.  After a talk about 3D printing getting more of the lovely heads I have in my test version done is just not going to be possible.  So it's either getting a mold done and hand make them or lets make a virtue out of a problem again.  I need about 42 Unworshiped stone head markers - one for each space on the board.  And I was planning on getting them cut out of the wastage around the edge of the wood on the hex board...   If I get a giant stone head cut into one side with the other side blank - then I can create two sided counter.  Cost - nothing - since the cost is included in the production of the hexes........  it's going to be a pretty crowded piece of wood if we are honest so that's a possible problem.

Build cards - these don't even need to be cards since there are only 12 of them and they don't get handled as much- in fact some sort of token would work just as well.  I suspect they could be printed on reasonable card and then cut out.  Possibly manually - since getting proper punch out bits I'm not sure is an option - that's very specialiced printing.  Thinking about it I'd be tempted to put them on the magic sheet of wood - but then that gets supper crowded.  But lets assume we are looking at a sheet of card that gets manually cut out that looks like it's another £1 for thicker card.

Action Cards - there are currently 72 action cards and apparently I need to be looking at multiples of 52 for a professional printer.  At the moment card mix is something that needs sorting - so it's possible - there are a lot of repeats in the deck so trimming is possible.  With a maximum hand size of 7 and 5 players then we should always have at least 17 cards in the deck so that's workable.  Sadly well I've contacted a couple of card printers I've heard nothing back - I'll have to chase again - but I've got not idea of the cost of this.

So how are we doing with our £15 budget.....?

Box: £1
Rule Book:£0.50
VP sheet and turn sequence £0.50
Bits: £1.50
Hexes £6
Worshiped and Unworshiped free! (maybe)
Build cards £1 (with a bunch of hand cutting)
Estimated Total - £10.50

Which leaves a budget of £4.50 for action cards - which is not going to be enough....... There might be some over estimation caused by rounding in there but I don't think that much........

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Stabcon Play test

So the 2013 winter Stabcon has been and gone and it's been the the traditional mess of games, drinking, terrible breakfasts, and lack of sleep.  Seriously it is a fabulous convention and I would do my best to convince everybody I know who likes board games to go.  Maybe it's my use of the term 'Broken on the Stabcon' that does it?  So what did I play?
Aye Dark Overlord made me laugh like a drain and involved the most outright unpleasant story we have ever done.
cards against humanity  remains a Stabcon late night favorite as more people encounter just how fucked up fucked up apples to apples can be.  Any game which generates the phrase "I can't believe I pulled out Anal beads and only came second" has a lot going for it in my book....
I brought and played a copy of ugg-tect which caused large numbers of people to look at us strangely as we bashed each other with inflatable clubs and grunted
Somebody showed me how to play space alert which as promised delivered insane miscommunications and cock for hilarious results and I'm now looking forward to getting my copy of the unplayed shelves.
Article 27 was excellent and involves lost of shouting and negotiations and gavel banging. 
struggle of empires which was probably the heaviest game I played that weekend as Prussia rampaged around the European Theatre but only coming second to Russia's massive international empire in the sun.
Spartacus a game of blood & treachery which for a board game linked to a TV show is cracking even if it did drag to the end as we all tried and failed to win but were massively knocked back in the process and I think it needs a house rule that if anybody gets to 12 influence the game will end that round no matter what else is done.
I finally played discworld ankh morpork and found it very good and certainly managed to feel discworld in a really good way -the secret victory conditions certainly worked.
Go Goblin Go was a nice enough race game but I'm not sure I'd play it again - even if it is funny you expend rocks to move your goblin by pelting them from the seats.
guildhall  was a nice little card game that seemed confusing - but soon made sense and involved a certain amount of opportunistic dickery which I'm very fond off.
Article 27 was excellent and involves lost of shouting and negotiations and gavel banging - no really it comes with it's own gavel.

I seem to have a bit of a blank spot on Friday night as I only seem to recall playing struggles and cards against humanity.  Did that really take up 10 hours?

I've got a production based blog post brewing following several conversations at Stabcon but that can wait till I'm more human.

Something very unexpected happened at Stabcon while I was play testing Giant Stone Head - a total stranger stopped by the table - looked at stuff - and suddenly went "I've read your blog!".  Turns out he was googling for Stabcon and this blog popped up.  That was odd - somebody I don't know reading these ramblings.

The play test went well - 4 person - about 2 hours although there was a lot of faffing - 5 turns.  It went a little odd as two players decided to simply beat each other to death rather then go after victory points which meant I rather ran away with it - despite saying things like "by taking this card I've put a giant target on my back".  But that felt like player decision making rather then rules oddness.  I mean if I decide to spend my entire game of Agricula making pretty patterns with fences rather then getting victory points there is not a lot a designer can do about that.

On reflection I saw two possible areas of concern  The first is running out of space for Giant Stone Heads really can knacker you - especially since at the moment you don't get anything.  I can see a simple fix for that - if you are unable to place any giant stone heads you get a card for each giant stone head you are unable to place.  It does not happen that often but if somebody is in a stuck situation.  The second was that with a hand size of 7 the build card that gives you 8 cards seems very poor.  I can see two possible options - the first is to raise the hand limit - the second would keep the hand limit the same but increase the number of cards to 9.  The best 7 out of 9 cards is more attractive then 7 out of 8.

I suspect the first change will go in - not sure about the second needs some consideration.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Production - Part 1

So I've received the first quote for components - the bits - for Giant Stone Head and it's not to bad....

£1.50 per a copy (with some assumptions about shipping costs).  Which is about 10% of the total production costs...... Which is a little worrying as this is a the most standard of all the parts.

Although I would end up with 2,000 additional large pawns (for the big men) in 5 colors because there is a minimum order of 500 of each type/colour which is 400 more then I need.....

If I found some other way of sourcing the big men then it would be 0.60p per a copy but I'd need to find 500 bits to be in a matching 5 colours which would be tricky.

Still to source.....

Giant Stone Heads
Unworshiped Stone Heads

I've got an idea for Hexes, Giant Stone Heads and Unworshiped Stone Heads - although if that's not practical I'm buggered..........

The rules I think should be easy, the box is tricky, but the cards.... ahhh the cards are a real issue......

Thursday, 3 January 2013


But before that a picture......

Thanks to Grampus for my christmas present which now adorns the top of my work PC......

And now onto Kickstarter.....
So a couple of people have talked about trying to kickstarter Giant Stone Head which given the size of my readership is all of 6 people that must make it the elephant in the room so I’ll talk about it.
This reflects my own personal experience of kickstarter your mileage may vary.  This is one I put my money down for…
And very quickly I had a finished product in my hand.  Because what they offered is a pre-order for a very well developed game– with the art done, the production arranged and them simply waiting for the money to arrive.
It’s about getting enough money so that you can cross a production threshold – probably a 1000 copies - and enough copies pre sold so that you are not going to be left with a ton of stock to warehouse.  And heck if other people paid for them to be made you can ditch them
And if you don’t make your kickstarter – well – you can head to a publisher with a design good to go and see if they will take it.  Heck you might even be a publisher looking to expand.
Like the guys behind this….
 And if you can do it – it’s a good and clever business model.  So why am I not interested?  Because it’s running before you can walk.  Lifted from the write up of the people responsible for that above game
James Mathe (Owner of Minion Games) has been a part of the hobby game business for well over a decade. <snip> We have delivered more then 5 kickstarter projects to date! More info can be read at my personal website below”
That’s where I want to be – but that’s a goal – not a first move.  But why is it not a first move?
What does kickstarter get you?  Kickstarter gets you – a website, a secure way of doing the transactions with people and that is it.  That’s all they give you – if I started a kickstarter I’d be responsible for pimping it and driving people towards it.  And you know what – I’ve no experience or forum or reputation to help with that.  I don’t see how kickstarter helps me find 500 people to buy my game and I don’t think I can find me 500 people to buy my game – and without that an order of 1,000 copies is just not practical. 
And even if I was successful I’d be left holding a massive pile of dollars with a lot of international orders.  Hardly ideal for me in the UK  It would also up the scale of the whole thing massively – print 100 copies it’s a hobby – print a 1000 and it’s a business and the tax man cometh……. 
So production issues aside – I believe that making a 100 copies and selling them direct is an important first step that I need to undertake.  And with a number of them under my belt – well then I can try and kickstart a proper business going – but there is a lot of ground work that needs to be done first