Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The NaGa DeMon is complete!

On Saturday, some friends from work came by to help me play test Taipan.  I am very grateful to both Kannon and Avalos for playing my prototype with me and giving me some much needed feedback. With this post my challenge is done and I have come out victorious.  My game has a lot of problems but it was playable and there was some fun to be had.

First of all, it went great.  We played about 6 turns before devolving into discussions about whats going wrong.  At that moment in time, Kannon had found a perfect path to victory that we could never catch up.  We started talking about that, and before I knew it we were moving some of the cards that were "in play" into our discussion.  Pulling city cards to explain some idea.  Moving Cargo Counters to show how cities should hold cargo that is delivered to represent the demand being fulfilled. And after long, it was clear we would never get the game back to the way it was.
Nearing the end of the game we start moving pieces to help explain ideas.
Issue #1: 
One of the issues was the Ship Cards I added to the game.  Kannon, being very good at math picked up on the cargo of the Merchant Ship being able to hold 5 cargo.  This made it so he could quickly make a lot of money on fairly short trips.  He didn't have to pay much to get the ship, and he never had to worry about loosing it.  I also had an Upgrade mechanic that let players modify their ships.  This just muddied the decisions of whats the best thing to do.

Issue #2: Pirates, Combat, and Salvage
Players really didn't have to fear the pirates attacking them since they could just run away.  Even if they did take damage, it was so minimal they always had enough money to repair it.  Killing pirate ships just wasnt worth it. It took too long to get to a pirate in the hopes there would be a pirate there, in the hopes that when you killed one, it dropped any cargo of any real value.   It just didn't have a big enough payout to be worth doing as a strategy.  In the end, the players didn't feel like the "Pirate Hunting" strategy really belonged in the game about "Merchant Trading".

Issue #3: The Perfect Path
Kannon started making trips with his Merchant Ship and once he made this trip once, it was clear to the rest of us that we were behind.  If we were ever going to catch up, we would have to do the same thing, but by the time we got across the board to do it, he would have done it at least once or twice more and then he would be so far ahead of us in points, it would be a loosing battle.
Kannon contemplates how he is going to crush us.
In the end, I took two pages of notes and will be making changes and updates soon.  I also talked with my friend Bryan Pope of Arcane Wonders.  He is talking about getting together on Thursday to play Taipan at a local cigar bar he hands out at.  That should be fun.  Scotch, Cigars, and the latest version of Taipan.

I will continue to work on Taipan and upload my thoughts and notes on the game design process.  I expect that in another month I will have what appears to be a fairly solid game and I can move on to a new project.  Until then, please stop by and share your thoughts, ideas to make us all better game makers.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dragon Vally visits me...

I am good friends with indi-board game designer CW Karsens of Diamond K. Games.  He has some of his games up on The Game Crafter where you can buy them now.  Most recently he got his game Dragon Valley funded through Kickstarter and has been keeping me up to date with the latest news.

On Saturday, CW stopped by my house to show me the very first Print of his game Dragon Valley, fresh of the plane from China.  He took some time to hang out and talk about Dragon Valley with some of my friends from work who were there helping me test my game Taipan.
CW showing off the box of his game Dragon Valley.
We talked about Field Hospital, the first game of CW's that I played, it's a lot of fun.  Mystic Cauldron, a great connect 3/tic-tac-toe type game with very deep strategy.  Trifectus (never released to buy), a Rock, Paper, Scissors game of the rise of the Roman Empire.  But mostly we talked about Dragon Valley.  Sadly CW could not stay to test Taipan with us, but he has promised that we will get together some time soon to do some play testing.

From Board Game Geek:
"Times are dire here around Dragon Valley. We're fighting off waves of orc armies, goblin war machines and even the flying lizards themselves. For now the mountain pass remains secure but our scouts have reported large gatherings in the valley and we're expecting a full scale assault before the season's end. If that wasn't enough to worry about, our neighbors are also preparing for war and petitioning the king for his troops and supplies which are already spread thin. It seems you'll not only be fighting a war of steel, but one of words as well."
Dragon Valley is a great game that has elements of Tower Defense.

Game Play:
Players take turns dividing items such as knights and archers, building materials for blacksmith shops and towers, special powers and even attackers. The attackers consist of dragons, orcs and battering rams that emerge from mountain passes into each player's lands. After dividing, other players select the group of items they prefer and leave the remainder with the player who did the dividing. After that, players use special cards to interfere with each others plans. The last step each round is for players to setup defenses, destroy the attackers or laying siege on the orc strongholds scattered throughout Dragon Valley.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A week of gaming!

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday I had friends and coworkers over for Board Games almost every day since Wednesday.  I made every attempt to take pictures of the games we played.

Day 1 (Wednesday)
Kannon brought Agricola.  We had two players who had never played so I recommended that we play the family version (a version I had never played before).  Kannon destroyed all of us, but it was a great game and I think everyone had a good time.  Agricola is a very long game so we only got to play the one game that day.  
Nearing the end of the game and I still don't see that Kannon is going to win. 
From left to right: Ashley, Anthony, Kannon 

Day 2 (Friday)
Kannon, Ryan, and Avalos came over and we got to play several games that day.  We got to play the Reiner Knizia game Ilium, Bohnanza (forgot to take pictures of this one), and lastly we played Endeavor.

 Ilium. is a Archeology game gathering the most artifacts from a Dig Site.
I swept in from last place to win the game at the last minute.
Ryan has been obsessed with Endeavor lately so we played that. I lost!
Left to Right: Avalos, Kannon, and Ryan.

Day 3 (Saturday)
Kannon and Avalos came over again and my friend CW stopped by for a short while to show off the first print copy of his self published game "Dragon Valley".

I will cover this in a new Blog Post since we played my first real play test of my game Taipan.  That will need a lot more room to talk about everything that happened with that.

I will add that after Taipan we got to play Mission:Red Planet and everyone really enjoyed that game.  One of the designers of Red Planet is the same one who made Citadels.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The harsh reality of Board Game Development

Well, I took the time and updated all of Taipan to The Game Crafter.  It was more work that I would like, but better than it used to be.  They have recently changed the way their site works making things easier to use and to upload a lot of files quickly.

I played around with having all the parts I used when making the game, but the cost got to be a bit high.  Over $30 just to get a prototype made.  Over $37 if I wanted to use their new quad folding board. So it made me rethink how I was doing a few things to make the game more affordable.

One big change I did was to remove all money counters and just use dice.  2 white dice and 1 red die.  White dice count as 1's and the red die count as 10's.  So a 4 on the red die and a 2 on a white die would be 42.  Changing the nice high quality wooden cubes for cheep plastic winks also helped to bring down the cost.  The cubes are .12 cents each and the winks are .01 cent each.  To have 20 cubes was costing me $1.20x6 Resources = $7.20 in production cost.
In the end it would now cost me $20.48 to print a single Prototype.  Not too bad.  It's not ideal to skimp on the parts and goes against everything I want from my games, but the sad reality is, in most cases, making Board Games is a loosing proposition.  The margins for making money with Board Games are so small that you can't be idealistic and put the highest quality parts in your games.  Unless you are independently wealthy and can afford the loss of profit, it's just not smart.

In this case, since  TGC gets paid $20.48 to make a copy, I would have to sell my game at about $40 for me to ever make a profit.  This is based on how much my time is worth.  I take my salary (I don't work cheep) and factor in how much time I spent working on this game.  It would take about 500 sales for me to recoup my investment.   Thats just to break even!  I still wouldn't have made a profit yet.  On top of that, I am using images that I don't have the rights to, so I still have to create images (or buy images) I can use, thats more money and time, which equals more money.  Now we are easily up to 1500 copies to make a profit.

Then to ever have any hope of selling those 1500+ copies, you need to advertise.  Facebook, twitter, and other social media sites are a good start, but if you want to have any chance, you should consider putting down some money on advertising.  Advertising on the sites where your target audience is.  Board Game sites.  I haven't looked into what Boardgame Geek or some of the other sites charge, but you can be sure to spend a few thousand bucks. Minimum.  Now I would have to sell to something close to 3500 people to even hope to make a profit.  See how this escalates?

I hope you enjoyed this crushing little jaunt down disappointment lane.  Now get out there and make some great games.   By the way, Happy Thanksgiving!  =)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Making the Cuts...

I spent a lot of time last nigh cutting out my new cards.  It doesn't look like much but that is over 80 cards changed, printed, and cut in just under 2 hours.  Once again, the power of the Data Sets prove the difficulties in getting them set up are well worth the pains.  Thanks Anthony!
I also created my new Ship Card Images in Photoshop last night, and this morning I created the Data Sets and printed them.  Here is a sample of the Ship Cards I created.  I also have Small, Merchant, and Red Seal Junks.  The Red Seal Ships from Japan were built to help their Merchants get the most cargo delivered quickly but have the fire power to fight off pirates.  While historically they were discontinued the 1600's, I just liked the lore of them and decided to included them as one of my ships.
Unless I made a major mistake somewhere, next play test should go very well and will be a close approximation of the final game minus little changes for balance.  I will have the rest of the cards sleeved by tonight and will be ready to spend my Thanksgiving holiday playing, testing and iterating.  
I plan to have this ready by this coming weekend for the first play test with other people besides myself hot swapping.  Ill let you know how it goes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rules to play by....

Some people have been asking to take a look at the Rules for the game.  I have been holding off since they are still in flux.  I feel that this weekend they have solidified enough that I can share them with everyone.  Here is a link to it:

Rules for: Taipan: Merchants of the Far East

Please keep in mind that some of the Rules I have written in here have not been tested, having just been added based on this weekends play test session.

Enjoy!  I am off to rebuild some of the cards that I have changed.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A play test of pilfered parts!

So I got all the cards reprinted and sleeved, and while I was at it, decided to snag some parts from games I am not currently playing.  This is a great way to get the parts you need without having to make them yourself or use ugly placeholder tokens.  The only important thing to remember about doing this is to put the pieces back when you find suitable parts to use.
Here you can see I used Ship Tokens from my copy of Cyclades and Money Tokens from my copy of Constantinopolis.  They look so much better than the little wooden disks I was using last time.

Playing my game today, things went a lot better this time.  First, I fired up Slacker and played my station that is all about Sea Shanty Songs and Pirate Music for some mood music. Then, I got to play about 10 rounds and touched on every aspect of the game from Movement, Buying and Selling, Combat, and Action Cards gained from the Event Deck.  After about 2 hours of playing and making notes, I started making "on the fly" changes and playing with them for a few round before my list of notes got to long.

At the Start of the game I have three ships starting in Hong Kong.  There is a random City Card placed at the edges of the board for each city (Except Hong Kong which is on the board).  These tell the players the values of Cargo in each of the cities.  I drew an Event Card to determine the starting number of Pirate Tokens (the result was 1) then I drew a Cargo Card to determine the City the Pirate is placed near (in this case Nagasaki). Note the Red Token at the top right of the board just east of Hong Kong, the Player's starting point.
Very early on Blue ran into some Pirate trouble and had to hobble into a port for repairs.  This put him well behind the other players who were already at about 12-15 money while Blue was back around 4.  I have to admit that it was partly my fault, because every time I have done combat, it was never very challenging.  This time the cards were not on Blue's side and he got lots of "Misses" while the Pirates kept scoring hits.  Bad Luck Blue!  Because of this I have decided to create a "Run Away" option to combat.  Pirates will get one attack while the Ship running away will not.  The ship will not leave the space it currently occupies, but it will be free of the combat.

I played with a lot of different rules.  The big one was the Run Away from Combat rule.  I had a Storm happen and didn't like the way it played or the penalties for being blown into land, so I will be making some changes there.  I also played with what happens when a player drops cargo off in port. I was looking at making the price drop after a shipment arrives to show the market was flooded, but I never got another ship in the same port going delivering the same cargo so it never got tested.  I switched around Play Order.  Moved the Events to the beginning before Movement.  Moved Combat to before Buying and Selling.
Here is what the game board looked like by the time called the game done.  A lot less cluttered then the last few play throughs (Check previous posts to see the past Play Tests I have posted).  Most of the changes will be made to the Event Cards.  Since I moved Events to the beginning of the Turn, and all players draw an event, it is now possible for players in Port to draw cards that were only designed for ships at sea.  So there will be some big changes there.

These are the player's add-hoc Ship Cards at the end of the game.  After that first big fight with Blue and the Pirates I realized that I had no record of how many Cannons players had, no list of ship spread, or how many Cargo Spaces they had.  The next big addition will be different ships with different stats. You can see Whit there has 32 Gold with Red trailing at 24 and Blue way in last place with 2 and about 15 Gold in Cargo (depending on where he sold it).  Blue also has 2 Damage Cards, both Sail Damage which makes him move slower, this is also not very fun and I will be looking at changing how damage works.

With any luck I will get these changes made quickly and have another version to play maybe by tomorrow, but it will most likely be sometime in the middle of next week.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A new play test this weekend...

We are in a bit of a crunch at work so I have been working late hours this week.  This has resulted in not having as much time to work on the changes that I am making.  Thankfully I am almost done modifying the cards and should have the game back to a playable state tonight.

The hard thing about iteration is that it means your game is often not playable from one day to the next.  I don't know about other designers but for me it is in these unplayable states that I loose interest in the project.  I start to see how much work is involved in getting the game back together and become disheartened.  It becomes far to easy to play a video game or watch TV.  You put off a little work until later, and then its suddenly too late.  I have always fallen into the trap of "I have time, I can just do it tomorrow".

I think that writing this Blog has helped me stay focused, and that was really the whole point of writing this.  I feel that without it, I would have not got much done this week, or I should say even less then I did because of work and various distractions. *cough* Batman: Arkham City *cough* And now, with my game almost playable again, I have a renewed sense of energy and drive so I am confident that I will be ready to do some heavy testing this weekend.  I cant wait!

"Action is the antidote to despair".
--Joan Baez

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Idea same as the Old Idea...

So I think I know what I want to do with my Cargo mechanic, and it looks almost identical to the original cards I had when I started this project.

Take a look:
Here we have the original City Production Card I was using at the beginning of the month.  Each city will randomly receive one of these cards to shake up the predictability of the best trade routes.  This card shows each type of merchandise with a number value.  The Number Value is the amount of production the city creates of each type of merchandise.  Each turn you would place that many Colored Cubes for each type of Cargo.  Once the Cargo exceeded a certain amount the cargo would automatically be moved to adjacent cities.  This is intended to simulate supply, demand, and other traders competing in the same market.

Now here is the new idea for the City Cards....can you tell the difference.  I am not talking about the obvious changes like the arrows or the red colored text.  
It's the meaning behind the numbers.  On this Card the numbers show the cost of each good in this city instead of the production number.  Huge difference!  The arrows indicate the merchandise that the city produces and the red numbers indicate high costs of products that are in demand.  I don't bother with how much cargo is produced, players can buy as much as they want (assuming they have the Cargo Space on their ship).

Simplifying these cards to just show cost and eliminating the Cargo Production will loose the more realistic economy I was building.  The upside is that this will make the game flow much nicer and will be much better for the game in the long run.  People can enjoy your game if they are mired in tedious management and bureaucracy tasks.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Idea borrowing...

I tend to build things on the fly in a way that seems logical t me.  This often leads to my mechanics being a bit clunky until I play them a few times and start ripping out the parts that don't feel good.  My problem is that after I have ripped something apart a few times I start loosing my interest in wanting to rebuild it again, and then the project gets abandoned.

I have rebuilt my Merchant/City Cargo mechanic twice now.  Rather than continuing to try and build something from scratch, and risk loosing interest, I opened up my friends copy of Merchants and Marauders.  I have played this game once before and had a blast.  Its basically a board game version of Sid Myer's Pirates, a game I love and would not be suprised if it has its roots in the original Taipan.
I could not remember how they handled their cargo/merchant mechanic so I took a quick look to get some direction.  What they do is very simple with some interesting mechanics.  All Cargo is work the same, 3 coins.  Each city has a "Demand" token that represents the thing everyone wants and will pay extra for it.  When you pull into a port and want to buy goods, you draw 5 cards from the cargo deck (various things will let you draw more cards).  If you draw any of the Cargo that is in Demand, they are discarded, this city wants that cargo so its hard to find.
Next you look at the remaining cards.  Each card will cost 3 to buy, but if you happen to draw two of a kind, then they are only 2 each.  If you draw three of a kind then it only cost 1 each to buy.  If you wanted to sell the "In Demand" cargo you would get double for it, 6 coins.  So cargo is only worth buying at regular price if there is a place that has it "In Demand" or you find it for very cheap.

Its all very simple and makes sense.  I will not be doing this, but I will be looking to streamline the cargo mechanic down to something this simple and elegant.  Looking at this idea has got me thinking about some things I can do to simplify my game, speed up gameplay, and make it a better game.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A second play test...

I woke up early and got a chance to play another quick run though of the rules.  Each time you do this you find problems, areas that could be clarified, and parts missing.

This time I added a few minor changes to try and streamline the City Cargo Production and introduce more pirate conflict.  I ended up finding several other problems.  Each play though is one step closer to smoothing out the problems so you can do a real play test with friends.

Adding a Pirate Draw Phase at the End Turn helped to make the map feel dangerous.  During a combat I realized I didn't have any rules or pricing for removing damage from pirates.  I also found a problem in my Pricing Value of Cargo.
Notice the Red Markers showing where Pirates have been spotted.
I also found that I need to create a Turn Order Card to help quickly reference what I do next.  When I am playing, making notes, and updating the rules as I play, I loose track of what I was doing last.

My City Cards need Production Chevrons to show which Cargos produce each turn.  Its just a visual marker to quickly identify the Cargo types that need to be updated at the end of each turn.  Its hard to see, but I drew small upward arrow over the positive Production Bars.  You can see the bottom most card has a small black arrow over the Gold Production.

I think the next play session should go even better.  I might even get through more that 3-5 turns before stopping to make big changes.  =)

A little Spreadsheet math goes a long way...

I was helping someone on a Game Design Forum with how to figure out what cards and how many of each you need in your deck.  I decided that I should include that post here with a bit more detail.  Sorry for the long post, I try not to make my posts this large, but it is a lot of info to convey.

My game that has 3 separate decks of cards and each deck has multiple uses based on various factors.  Each deck is about 32-48 cards each.

Each one of my decks has different numbers of cards and different uses based on the situation they are drawn from.  For it to be balanced, I needed to find the numbers of each card, turn that into a percentage of the total deck, and make adjustments from there.  The best way to do this is my opinion is with excel (or Pages if you use a Mac). You can also use Google Spreadsheet since its web based and can be accessed from both Mac and PC.  
Here is my spreadsheet that I used.  This shows my Cargo type (Column E) and the cities merchants can travel to (Column F).  You will need to build some formulas that look something like: =TO_PERCENT (G3/G19)  Shown in RED in upper left.  Where G3 is the Number of Cards of a specific type and G19 is the total number of cards in your deck.  This will display a percentage like (in this example from my deck) 13%.  The next card would look like this =TO_PERCENT (G4/G19).  Notice that the G4 is the only thing that has changed.  This is comparing this number of cards against the total number of cards in your deck.

The other important thing is to make the columns (is this example G and H sown in Yellow) add up to a TOTAL (G19 and H19). This will make it so that if you ever make a change, the percentage will be automatically updated whenever you add or remove card numbers.

You will want to be carful about how many cards you have in a deck, it can be very easy to throw to much into it or have to many duplicates of a card. 

Now where these cards got complicated was that I had the second values that each card could do.  In this example the Cargo Cards are drawn when an Event Card requires a random city to be effected by the Event.  To make it fair, I needed a relatively even distribution of Cities over an uneven distribution of cards.  So yo can see there are duplicate Cargos with different Cities in Column E and F.  On the far right is my total number of Cards for each city (Column I and J).  Its not 100% perfect, two cities only ended with 6 instead of 5.  To make this work out, I chose the two cities farthest away from each other, making Events slightly more likely to happen more evenly distributed across the board.

To find the right number, that is a bit of trial and error.  In general, I like to start with a low number of each card and expand from there.  Inevitably you will find cards that you had not thought of.  It very important that you do not add everything.  What you don't add is just as important as what you do add.  Ask yourself this question: "Do I need this for my game, or do I just want this"?  Is the sign of a good designer to show restraint....its not always easy and we often add things because we want them, but down the road come to realize that they are causing more problems.  In the end, as sad as it makes you, you pull it from the game because it makes it better and stronger design.

At long last...the first test!

After almost 2 weeks, I got all the parts together for a first play test of the complete game.  For the most part it came together fairly well, but I don't like how the Merchandise mechanics work. I was simulating a fluctuating economy and I just don't think that it is needed.  I am going back to the drawing board and I will make it much simpler.

Here is an image of the game at set up:
You can see the Money (small wooden tokens) on the left in 1s, 5s, and 10s.  Combat and Event Cards at the top of the board.  Cargo tokens represented by colored plastic blocks.  Cargo Cards below the Cargo tokens.  And then surrounding the board are the City Cards that show the Cargo Production and Cargo Value of each cargo type in each city.

I made many notes and several changes on the fly, but in the end, it was the cargo stage that really slowed down the game.  Also,  Events only happen if a ship is at sea, and that just wasn't happening that much. Ether I need to make Event Cards always happen even in Port, or I don't need so many Event Cards.  Lastly, there were no pirate encounters...Since there is no player vs. player fighting, I need to increase the pirate frequency to add some tension and risk to the game...right now it just feels like a race.

Here is the game after an hour of play:
You will notice that the city cards have really piled up their cargo tokens creating a logistical nightmare of keeping track of it all.  You will also note the yellow ship went off to the bottom of the board, this player was doing the best because he had no competition for buying cargo.  The other think you will notice is one of the city cards has a huge amount of cargo...this became a big problem.  Not only was it messy, but that made it easy to run out of cargo tokens.

My next big task is to clean up the cargo problem and then try the game again.  I still have 2 weeks to get things cleaned up before I have a real play session for the NaGa DeMon contest.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How to Create Hex Tiles

When I first started getting into Board Game Design, I started on this idea that used Hex Tiles.  Little did know at the time that Hex Tiles are some of the hardest game pieces to create.

There are two main problems with Hexes:
1) Printing and Gluing
Printing the Hexes isn't hard, its the gluing them on a heavy card stock without wrecking the printed paper.  Best way to do that is to use an adhesive spray.  Dont use Elmer's glue as this tends to cause warping and bubbling of the paper.  Dont use glue sticks since they tend to get brittle and the paper will fall off after a while.

2) Cutting
This isnt hard so much as tedious.  Being a slow tedious thing, you are always looking for shortcuts.  DONT DO IT!  Just be patient.  Shortcuts lead to bad cuts and misaligned edges.

The Wrong Way
This is the wrong way to print and cut Hexes:  Note the hard angles you would have to get siors or a blade to cut.  It would be vey difficult to cut this well unless you had very steady hands.
The Right Way
Here is the correct way to print and cut Hex tiles.  Note the Red Lines represent your cut lines.  Long straight cuts are much easier to get the correct result.  Use a Paper Cutter or a Line Cutter.
3) Balance
Now for the real challenge. How do you balance your hexes?  There is no good answer here but its important that you have enough connectors for each edge type you have the game.   I did it by counting edge types and edges that have that type is a good start.  Again slow and tedious, but important.

Here is an example of the game I started working that used tiles.  Just a quick set up so give a sense of the types of tiles I had.  
Rivers, Paths, Mountains, and Jungle.  Jungle was the most prevalent, so I didn't bother counting those.  I started with River and Paths.  Then I realized that it was important to now how many of each type I had...straight, 1 edge turn, 2 edge turn, 3 edges touched, dead ends.  Each extra edge and edge type multiplied the amount of work I needed to do.  

It quickly became apparent that I was out of my depth here.  I haven't touched this game in over a year but I really want to come back to it at some point.  Maybe when I am done with my current game, but honestly, I doubt it, I suspect that until there is an easy way to do Hex Tiles, maybe through a print service like Came Crafter, I will leave Hex Tiles to the pros.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Support the small Developers

Making video games is hard work, its expensive, and if done well can make a ton of money.  Making board games is largely a labor of love, its a ton of hard work, and doesnt pay the bills. The one upside to making Board Games is that its cheep and a single person can build a game without much help if he has all the tools and skills needed.

My good friend CW is one of those people.  He just got his game funded on Kick Starter and the first production run of his upcoming game Dragon Vally is coming soon. I am asking all my friends to support the little guy and buy Dragon Vally.  CW is a great guy who is one of the most prolific designers I have ever met.  His designers are always solid and a lot of fun.

Of the games you can find on his web site I can highly recommend Dragon Vally, Field Hospital, and Magic Caldron.  Here is the link to his site:

All Card Sheets are done!

Finally...I have finished getting all the cards moved onto Sheets so I can print them out and cut them to fit inside Card Sleeves.  I do this on paper to save money during the prototyping stage.  I have a bunch of old cards from another game in sleeves that I slide the paper print of the cards over.  This gives the paper cards weight and makes it easier to shuffle not to mention you can't see through the back of the sleeve to see whats on the paper.

Once I am ready to move on to a better version of the game I will go to Game Crafter and have a v. 1.0 printed on real card stock, a thicker game board, and OK game parts.  Game Crafter is not bad, but they are a business and their goal is to print what you want as cheaply as possible, so I don't think the quality of what they make is very good.  But for a version 1.0 prototype, its great.  Im still a ways away from that though, I still need to make this version, play it at least 4-6 times, fix as many problems, then I can print a good version of the game.  I am guessing sometime around Christmas will be when I am ready to do that.

Their website is not easy to navigate, but here is the link to Game Crafter.  You can get started making your own games under the "Publish" section:

Next post I should have pictures of the game fully set up with all the parts.  I am positive I will have to fix lots of somthings, so this is still just the beginning.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dropping the Anonymous

This is a rare post where I am not talking about Game Design.  It is worth noting that I have removed my anonymous name 'War Prime' in exchange for my real name.

On one hand its great to have the anonymity to talk about stuff without having to worry about people calling you on your bullshit.  But its also important to note that if people don't know who you are they can't easily relate to you and can easily dismiss what you say.  They will read your shielded scribblings and forget about it by the time they are on to the next Blog Post in a long line of feeds they are going to hit over their morning coffee and scone.

I feel that I have always been very self conscious about what I say when it comes to writing.  Especially emails.  It is well documented that I have very poor grammer and worse spelling...or is it the other way round? I guess that is why I have often found writing behind an anonymous name to be easier.  I can slough off the jibs about my dubious use of the english language and just focus on writing.  Well no more...

I cast off the shackles of fear and disregard the knot in my stomach telling me to delete this message and reset the Blogger Profile back to War Prime.  I reveal myself bare, and stride forth, confident and unapologetic.

Card Sheets

I am starting the slow work on building the Card Sheets.  The real difficult part is figuring out how many of each card you need.  For this I build spread sheets in Excel or Numbers if you are on a Mac.  I use Google Doc's Spreadsheet since I can access it on ether my Mac or PC.

You want to find the total Number of cards you need, and then figure out how many unique cards you have.  Now figure out how many of each unique card you will need.  The more cards the higher the chance that card comes up.

Think of it like this: A deck of playing cards has 52 Cards. 4 of those cards are Aces.  Whats the odds that you deal an Ace in a single hand?  Im not going to get into the odds here, but this is the type of thing you want to think about when building your decks of cards.  How often do you want a particular card showing up?  Is it a common card or a rare card? If a card is to powerful, maybe the answer is simply making the card more rare rather than changing the card itself.

In my game, I have several decks of cards.  I have a combat deck that handles how combat is resolved.  I have a Cargo Deck that is a randomizer for salvaged valuables after combat. And I have an Event Deck that creates random events like storms, pirates, etc...

I will need to determine how many of each card I want in each deck before I can build my Data Sheets other wise you end up doing work twice....just like I did the other day.  =)

Here is a look at the first run of cards:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Game Board

In an on going effort to fight the problems with Data Sets, I am now finding that the Card Renders that I have been doing are just piling up instead of replacing the old existing file.  So now I need to go in and clean up all of the old files.

Its a bit disappointing, but I got the Game Board made and printed out.  I am also very close to being ready to print the cards and play my first walk through of the rules.

Here is a sneak peak of the game Board:

The Design Process

In general I am an Idea Designer. This means that, for my games, the theme and flavor almost always come before the mechanics. For me the fun part is building the world and the story of what the player is doing. Then the mechanics part of the design is where I tend to slow down, and in most cases abandon the idea. I am hoping that by writing this down, it will remind me that this is a trend that I follow. Maybe having it exposed will help keep me focused on finishing the ideas I have started.

Here is a great page about game design in general, but directed towards Board Game Design.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

120 is a Magical Number

I havent found a good design use for this bit of info but the number 120 is divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 20, 30, 40, and 60.  It also adds up to 360 if multiplied by 3.

It makes me want to use a 12 sided die in a game since 12 can be divided by 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6.  Feels like it could be useful for some interesting game mechanics.

What is a Data Set?

It dawns on me that not everyone may know what I am talking about when it comes to creating Data Sets.  These are files made in a program like Microsoft Excel, exported as a .CSV and imported into Photoshop to provide layer switches based on specific names.

I dont want to scare anyone off but its hard and boring work with lots of hidden pitfalls.  Making mistakes results in cryptic errors that offer very little help in fixing the problems.  But if you can figure it out, it has a lot of power for making lots of complex cards very quickly.

Here are two links to a Tutorial on Data Sets made by my friend Anthony Gill. You will need to watch them in order or they wont make sence:

Happy designing!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cards for my new game.

It took a while but I got a first pass at my cards.  Unfortunately I have already found some problems that I will have to fix with my mechanics.  I am also having some issues with getting my Data Files working correctly with some of the cards.  Guess I will have to work on fixing those tomorrow.

Here is a quick image to show my progress before I hit the sack.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Workspace

A few months ago I lived in a house that got a lot of sun on the side where my office was.  As a result of that, I was never in there.  I spent most of my time in my Game Room on the other side of the house.  Now that I am in my new place I am still not using my office, making for a very messy game room.

Here you can see game pieces that I have gathered for the new game I am working on.  My notes and other bits I have done to get this project started.  The laptop has photoshop open and I am working on getting the Data Fields set up to automate the creation of cards.

Next update will have some pictures of the cards and maybe the board I am thinking about.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Stay Awhile and Listen

My friend is writing a book about the last 15 years of development on Diablo 1,2 and 3.  He has interviewed me and many other game developers who worked on the Diablo Franchise.  You should stop by and check out the coverage he is getting on the press announcement he is getting.  Huge props to my good friend David.

Board Game Design Month (aka. NaGa DeMon)

In the mid 2000s I started working on my own board games with a friend back in California.  It was fun but didn't go very far. A lack of understanding about how board games were made and a lack of time eventually got in the way.  I shelved the board game ideas and eventually forgot about them.

When I moved to Texas in early 2010 my girlfriend discovered the Dallas Designers, a Board Game Designers Group (DDG), on  I joined the group and first started helping them test their games.  Before long I started making some games and having them help me to test the prototypes I built.  After a few false starts, I did complete one game.

About 7 months ago, one of the members of DDG started going down the path of getting one of his games published.  We all stopped working on our games to help him get his ready for printing.  This coupled with the founding member of DDG moving to Florida last month  led to the DDG not meeting or working on any games.

Yesterday a friend from DDG sent out the link for NaGa DeMon:
National Game Design Month is about making and playing games. In 2011 during the month of November I want You to create and play your own boardgame, RPG, flash computer game, choose-your-own-adventure book, wargame, cardgame or other destracting novelty. The rules are simple – create, write and play (at least once) a game during the month.
This has prompted me to get back into making board games for myself.  I am going to use this month to start a new game project.  I started a game last month, spending a few days writing up some ideas and printed out a first pass as some cards.  Unfortunately, I left the cards on the couch and my monster of a dog decided the cards would be much better with a bunch of teeth marks punctured through them.

While it's not quite square one, I am going to use the remnants of that game to build a new game for the NaGa DeMon challenge.  I am going to change game setting and some of the mechanics, so hopefully that will be good enough for the contest (not like there are judges anyway).