Sunday, December 30, 2012

A very Zombie New Year

Now that my work on Aliens: Colonial Marines is done, we got a much needed break for the holidays. These past few weeks I have been working on a new game...not a board game, but a personal video game project I am very excited about.  I am not talking about what it is just yet, but hope to have some info that I can share soon.  If you are interested go check out the Gorgon Interactive FB page to see some early concepts of the project.

I sent out and played some games last night.  I was lured by the promise of Zombicide, but when I got there the group had left to go get dinner.  I went over to another persons house and we played a game of Ticket to Ride.
This is easily my least favorite 'Great Game'.  Its so easy it is presented as the 'Gateway" game for people looking to get into board games, but in reality it is a brutal cut thought game where every move has to be concealed so you don't give away your intended route.

I did OK.  I took second.  A good game if you are not playing with hard core players..otherwise this game is to much of a 'Screw you' game for my tastes.

After that I finally caught up with the original group and played Zombicide.  This is a co-op game where the player have to work together to complete some goal as dictated by the mission they choose to play.  Because we had 6 players the people teaching us the rules decided to go with one of the bigger and more difficult missions.  What were they thinking?
Were good.  We have half of our objective markers....we got this.  We just need to cross the street, get into that building...and then get to the north part of the problem.

OK, we got across the street...and lost Dave to a pack of runners.  We wiped them out and are still in good shape.  We spend a few turns gathering supplies to hopefully get a Molotov Cocktail to kill the Abomination....this was not a good plan.

What idiot thought it was a good idea to barricade ourselves in this death trap?  Needless to say, this did not end well.  We killed the Abomination, fought out onto the street, and died in the middle of the intersection just to the north of where we was not pretty.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Its been way too long

After working way too many hours at work, I lost a lot of my momentum in working on Taipan.  In an attempt to regain some of my Mojo I have started working on some of the changes that I have been meaning to do since my last play test over a month ago.

The first change is to reduce the number of Combat Cards from 32 to 12.  This is an attempt to fix the issue where players can get screwed when one player can have a bad round of combat leaving the Combat cards in the favor of the following players to do combat with little worry of loosing

I am slowly working on building a new Victory point system.  When players turn in cargo they will have a choice to collect Coins they can use to buy more cargo or upgrade their ship, or they can receive a victory point card based on the number of a specific cargo type delivered.

For example: If you deliver 3 Silk Cargo Cubes you may choose to receive the Coins you would normally receive or you may take the single 3 Silk Victory Card.

I still haven't figured out how to trigger the end of the game.  I am thinking it will be the depletion of some or all of the Victory Cards.  In the mean time here is what the Victory Cards look like:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Taipan sales and new Link

I have just made a few minor changes to the Description section of Taipan in the Store to help point players to the two different versions of Taipan on the Game Crafter.

Taipan: Merchants of the Far East
This is the full version that has higher quality parts, a 10'x10' box and divider to help keep the parts organized.  There are also high quality Micro Cards to represent money and Cubes to represent Cargo.

This is the less expensive Play Test Version.   There is no box or divider.  Coins are represented by Paper Money and Cargo is represented by Plastic Poker Chips.
I have also added an Image of Taipan in the upper right of my Blogg.  You can direct link to Taipan in the Game Crafter store by clicking the image.  Please share the links with your friends and help support the Play Test of Taipan.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Come One Come All....

I have opened the store on the Game Crafter site.  If you have $50 extra bucks and want to help test Taipan, go and pick it up at:

Look for this image in the list of games.

You might have to do a search for Taipan, it seems like the link only takes you to the list of games, not the actual Taipan page.

It takes about 10 days for them to print and ship it out to you.  I need a lot of feed back on the Rules.  No one but me has read them so I am sure there is a lot that doesn't make any sense.  I need your help smoothing out the bumps, so please send notes and feedback.

Thanks for your support.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Playing Again!

Tuesday night I went to my friends house to play Taipan.  I brought over the newly printed Game Crafter version of Taipan and set it up.  We BSed and ate dinner for about an hour and go started around 8PM.
I blame the bad picture on the 21 year old Scotch. Mmmmm...Glenfiddich!
I had two new people who had never played (TJ and Sean), so it was good to get some fresh eyes on the game.  Right out the gate I got very lucky where I fought off 3 pirates and got two gold cargo.  This would have resulted in me earning 22 coin on the second turn of the game.  In my continued attempt to minimize the huge random swings of the game I adjusted the rules only allowing players to choose 1 cargo from any Pirate victory.
The Start of the game using the new Game Crafter set.
Over the course of the game we found several other issues that need to be addressed.  TJ got himself into a bad position where he had no money and lost most of his cargo when he got into a fight with Pirates.  We came up with a new rule that allows a player to stay in port on his turn to earn 2 coins.  I might change this to if he takes no Port Actions, he gains two coin.  This will prevent players from loosing a turn and falling behind the other players who are earning much larger amount of money.

In addition, TJ also took Rasheed which did not help his situation any.  After talking about it we have determined that his ability (Repair any two damage for free) is purely a defensive ability and playser can rarely win a game by playing all defensive.  I will be revisiting that character to change his ability in some way.
Clearly Sean and Bryan have had way too much to drink.
I had a good lead for a long while, but in the end, it was Bryan who won.   While I spent the game slowly paying off my debt, he built up his ship so that he had Max Sails and Hull.  In combination with Markus Seawell (Move into and out of Port once per turn for free), this allowed his to make big buys and massive sells and pay off his debt in the last four turns of the game.  This is a good strategy and the one I think all expert players will take, but it makes it very binary and appears to be the only correct choice.  We talked about reducing the number of Ship Upgrades from 3 to 2, but my fear with this is that it will slow the game down.  The game took 2 hours, and that is the perfect amount of time in my mind.

I think I am going to change Marcus Seawell so that he will be able to take advantage of specially marked short cuts on the Sea Map and Rasheed will become the Harbor Master allowing him to move out of Port for free, but not into port.  There where a few other issues, but nothing to major.  Some art issues on the cards, and some missing details and typos in the rules.

Cant wait to have time to make the changes and do it all again.  Maybe this weekend I will get to dive back in.   Until next time, happy gaming.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Old Dog, New Tricks....

It doesn't happen often so don't get use to it, but sometimes I do like to learn something new.  This time around it's making, editing, and uploading videos to YouTube.  Thats right, my first video and I am such a big nerd that it is the Open Box reveal of Taipan!  Sorry for the inconsistent video quality and random flares of over-saturated light.....did I mention this was my first go?

In about 4 hours I filmed it, learned how to use iMovie to edit it, did said editing and then added the fades (the parts where it fades to black).  After that I learned how to upload to YouTube, and finished it off by posting it here. All in all, not a bad nights work.

My only complaint with opening the box and seeing the parts was the Micro Cards.  The Micro Cards turned out to be much smaller than I was expecting.  This doesn't really affect the Coin Cards, but the Cargo Cards are near impossible to shuffle, so I will have to order a set of the regular Poker Card sized deck of the Cargo Cards.  Also, the Coin Cards I left the Coin to small on the card, so its hard to tell the difference between the gold and brass coins.

The only other issue I have found is that everything printed a little bit darker than I was anticipating. That doesn't affect the game any, so it's more of an observation than a problem.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Break the Silence!

Hello friends,

I am sorry to have been gone for so long but work has gotten extremely busy.  After a 12+ hour days 7 days a week, its hard to muster any creativity or the willpower to write about it.

Rest assure, I have been working on Taipan, however slow, and I am happy to say that this week I am expecting my first demo copy of Taipan to get here from The Game Crafter.
The Game Crafter store has several of these images highlighting several aspects of Taipan.
Once I have proofed the Demo copy I will open the store up for anyone who wants to grab a copy.  The game still needs some play testing so I don't recommend getting the regular version ($59.99) and instead should get the Tester version ($34.99).  I do not make much money off of these (about $4). This is just intended as an easy way to deliver the game to players who are interested in doing some play testing.

I will have a Box Opening post some time next week when Taipan gets here.  Hope you can come by and check it out.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Taipan Testing and Design Changes

This past Thursday I got to play test Tiapan.  It was a good group of players including my friend and fellow Game Designer CW Karsten, the creator of the recently Kick Started game 'Dragon Valley'.  I have been trying to get him to play Tiapan for a while now.

The game played well and we played all the way to the end.  Things seemed to play quickly and despite a few big problems and lots of little ones, there were no game stoppers.  Also, I got one of the best compliments I could ever get.  'I like this better then Merchants and Marauders'.   If you have been following this Blog since the beginning you know that M&M is the game I frequently referenced early on in the development o Taipan.  So for one of the players to say that was a nice ego boost to hear.
After the initial Set-Up, the game is underway.
For the first few turns things played really well.  Right off the bat, players scattered to the four corners of the board, so that felt like a big win since early versions of the game everyone always went straight to the top closest ports.  I think one of the things that helped with this is the new City Cargo Values and players getting the Free upgrade of their choice.  

Things are about to start going very bad.  Let the Brokenness commence!
And then the first big problem happens.  One of the players draws an Event Card that doubles the sell price of a random type of cargo.  A cargo he just happened to be carrying, and in the city he just happened to be going to.  This let him sell those 2 Rice Cargo for 10 each instead of 5 each.  This got compounded when he took that money and upgraded his ship twice, a rule I will need fix by saying players can only upgrade once per port visit.

To fix this problem I am changing the card to a +1 per cargo sold.  I was going to do a +2, but there are also City Modifier cards this card might stack with making to the total possible bonus to be up to +4.  This feels like too much of a possible bonus, so I am keeping it small.  This is a good general rule about using multiplication in game design.  Unless you have some way of controlling it, don't use it.  The numbers get too big to fast, so its always better to use smaller additive bonuses.

CW trades in some Cargo to Upgrade his Ship.
The next big problem game a few rounds later when the same lucky player (John) drew the 'Gift in Hong Kong' event card.  This allowed him to pick a single cargo of his choice.  Before the last round of big changes this wouldn't have been that big of a deal since the most value he could have got would have been 8 coins (still broken but not as bad).  With the new changes I made to the City Cargo values, he got a value of 12 coins, and if he wanted to take an extra turn moving to another City he could have got 15 coins.
A gift in Hong Kong? What a coincidence, I just happen to be in Hong Kong!  =)
After the game, we discussed the problem of 'A Gift in Hong Kong' and came up with an interesting idea.  Players can sell 2 cargo of the same type and get 1 of the next highest cargo for free.  What I like about this is that it forces the player to have to do something to make this happen, it doesn't just happen for showing up in the right place at the right time.  The down side is that if a player sells Black Powder (the highest cargo type), what does he get?  Now I have to come up with some special rule for that?  I think I will revert to what it was originally 'Players gain the Ship Upgrade of their choice' with the added mechanic that they have to sell 2 Cargo of the same type to get the benefit.
John (the guy on the right) just got lucky and goes on to with the game.
After this it was clear who was going to win.  He had gained so much money there was no real way to catch up, but everyone was happy to keep playing to see what they were able to achieve before the game ended.  Near the end of the game I realized that my Captain's special ability required that I get into combat to use it.  He can repair 1 damage once between Port visit.  Bus since there were a total of 4 pirates the whole game, it never really got used.  I am hopping this will get fixed in the next game when I have more Pirates starting in the game, and make some adjustments to the Event Deck to fix some of the unevenness.
My Captain is only useful if I get into enough combat that I need to repair a lot of damage.
Other issues included: Not enough pirates, some copy paste errors and poorly phrased descriptions that made understanding some of the cards difficult, Cargo Token colors not matching the Cargo colors on the cards, and Players being able to buy more than one Ship Upgrade a turn.

Some challenging problems and lots of small, easy fixes! I just wonder how many I will find in the next play though.  =)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The forgotten taste of free time!

I have been working long hours, and when I do come home I spend my free time with my girlfriend.  (Pro Tip: Spending time with your girlfriend makes them happy.  Do not put them off to work on your game, its never worth it).  This does not leave a lot of free time to work on my game or write about it.

Needless to say, I have been working very hard on Taipan, but as my past posts discouraging you from working on art would indicate, the second you start adding art, the development time suddenly becomes takes much longer to keep focus and maintain your development and testing pace.

This past week I got to print my cards and get them cut out and sleeved. The total process took almost a full week, but that was mostly because I was doing it an hour at a time when every I had a little free time.
It took me 2 days to cut all of the print outs.
Cutting the cards wasn't difficult, just boring and time consuming.  In the end I didn't make the guides small enough so some of the cards wouldn't fit in the sleeves.  This required more cutting as I was trying to slide the cards into the sleeves.  That was frustrating.
In the end, the leftovers look like this
Here all the cards before they got put into their sleeves.
The final count is 5, Ship Cards, 14 Captain Cards, 34 Cargo Cards, 32 Combat Cards, 48 Event Cards, and 29 City Cards.  I also printed out a new version of the Map using the new art and the new cities that I added.  The map and all of the cards look great.
The final product looked great.
This past Thursday night, I left work early to attend the Dragon Valley release party.  My friend CW just got the first print run of his game Dragon Valley that he got funded through Kickstarter.  It looks great and I am very happy for him.  When Taipan is ready to go, I will have to pick his brain about the whole Kickstarter process.
Dragon Valley is now available.
While I was at the Dragon Valley party, I got a chance to sit down a play a partial game of Taipan.  I say a partial game because I didnt have a lot of time, so I quickly came up with a rule that I thought would make the game take about half as long.  I was right, a game that I thought should take about 90 minutes took about 45.  Just enough for the game to get going, but not enough to get a good sense of the flow of the game.
The start of the first game of Taipan I have played in about a month.
It did help to identify a few new problems.   Not enough threats from Pirates allowed for player to hang on to their money instead of spending it on upgrades or paying off their Debt.  Some Event Cards still reference the old Cargo type Medicine which has been replaced by Tea.  Upgrades were too expensive in the cities other than Hong Kong.

With all the new rules and mechanics, I am not surprised there are all new problems to solve.  Well, I guess its back to work.  I will try to have an update about the new changes soon.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Taipan is still here...just barely!

Things are moving along very slowly.  Work has kept me busy and I have had several setbacks with the cards and data sets.  There wasn't much point in posting till I had some good progress to report.  Sadly this is a report on how little progress I have made.
My ship was nearly sunk by adding all this art!  As cool as it can be RESIST!
On my last post about Taipan I showed off the new art I had been doing and trying my damnedest to dissuade you from following in my footsteps.  DO NOT DO ANY ART until the game is done.  Remember that mantra I was chanting a few weeks ago?  Well, doing art continues to take a big wet bite out of my ass.  In the process of making images I could post for you all to see, I saved on of my more complex Data Set images into a single layer JPEG.  What does this mean?  I will have to rebuild that file from scratch.

Since I had a free weekend (the first in almost a Month) I thought I would have an opportunity to finally print the new cards with all the new art.  Sadly this will not be the case.  I have been finding lots of little problems with the Data Sets since adding the Art References and now I will have to rebuild the City Modifier Event Cards.  It brings up one more good point about not doing the art yet.  Its one more moving piece that you have to get lined up with all the others.  It adds another layer of complication to your design process and just gets in the way of making the fun.
Sailing once again.  I will have more news soon.
I hope to have good news in the coming week.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dissection of Cargo Noir

Last Friday, after playing Thurn and Taxis, I played Cargo Noir.  I have played this game several times and have really enjoyed it.  It's a simple, elegant game, with a great theme and art style.
Players are smugglers traveling the world and trading in illegal goods.  At the start they each receive  3 ships and 7 coins.    Each player takes his turn by placing all of his ships on locations around the world to make a Bid of no less than 1 coin on the goods located there.  This is called Worker Placement.

The Worker Placement mechanic is very common and there is nothing unique or special here.  In many games, the spaces that workers are placed can only be used once or have limited space requiring players to make the hard choice of choosing one thing over another because, once each player has gone around in order, the thing you want to do might not be available.  However, in this game there is no limit to the number of players that can occupy a spot.

Players may also choose to go to the Casino space or they can go to the Black Market space.  Then it's the next players turn.  That player has the same options of placing his ships where he wants.  But now if he wants to bid on the same cargo as the first player, he must outbid him.  Play continues like this until it is the first players turn again.
The first player, at the start of his next turn, recovers his ships in any order he wants.  If he is the olny bidder in a world region at the start of his turn, he pays his coins to the bank, recovers his ship, and collects the cargo and places it in his warehouse.  If another player has outbid him, he has must choose to up his bid or pull out.  If he ups his bid he must sit there one more round and hope that no one out bits him again.  If he pulls out he gets his ship and his money back.  This is called Bidding.
Games that have a Bidding type of mechanic often do it all in a single turn where all players participate in the bids.  This game has an interesting twist on the Bidding Mechanic because players must decide if they want to spend an action to keep their ship in that spot, increase the bid, and hope they are not outbid again, having to wait until their next turn find out if each player in turn will jump in on the bidding action of that space.  This makes staying in an auction costly and should only be done if you absolutely need the cargo at that location.

If a player's ship is on the Casino he takes his ship back and gets 2 coins for each ship on the Casino. Any ships on the Black Market are recovered and allow him to choose to ether draw a random cargo from a bag or trade any one cargo for any one of the eight cargo there at the black market. Once he has collected all his ships, cargo, and coins, he starts placing his ships in hand back out on the board again like he did on his first turn.
My warehouse has too much in it.  I must spend it or loose two cargo.
Collecting all this Cargo is great, but there is a problem.  You can only hold 6 cargo after our turn is done.  If you dont spend it you loose it.  Before the player's turn ends he may have as much cargo as he wants and he can spend the Cargo before he looses it.  The Cargo value is a little tricky.  In the image above I have collected 3 Jewels, 3 Alcohol, a Uranium and a Gold.  Looking at the chart at the bottom of my Warehouse you see the scoring chart. Three Cargo of the same type is worth 9. Two Cargo of different types are worth 3.  So I have a total of 22 points (3 jewels = 9,3 Alcohol =9, Uranium and Gold = 3) to spend on victory cards.  This mechanic is called Pairing.

Pairing is the act of collecting many of the same type of item, resource, card, etc.  Many games have this and is most familiar in games like Poker.  The interesting thing in this game is that the Pairing mechanic is coupled with a scaling value system applied to it.  This makes it more difficult to collect large number os the same type, but also a lot more valuable if you can do it.  The nice thing is that they have an alternative scoring mechanic if you cant make the more valuable Pairs.
In addition to victory cards there are 3 cards that affect the game.  Syndicate cards give you 2 coins if you are ever outbid.  The Warehouse lets you hold two extra cargo.  Cargo Ship gives you one more ship token to place on your turn increasing your actions each turn.  Each of these cards are great but will not win you the game alone.  This gives some nice perks but if you spend your turn buying these thats one less turn focusing on wining the game.  Its a balancing act that has to be evaluated carefully.

The game is elegant but there are some problems.  As the game progresses it starts to slow down.  Each player that gets more Cargo Ships adds to the duration of their turn and decision making.  In addition it is a perfect information game where you know everything out on the board and in each player's warehouse.  This can create long waits between turns if you have players that are very analytical who evaluate every player's option and likely direction.  This is the one bad thing about this game.
Our game was less than stellar.  Coming off of Thurn and Taxis which didn't go that well for me, and John didn't seem to enjoy it all that much, there were a general feeling of unhappiness.  I thought this game was light enough and it would play fast enough to be OK.  Unfortunately, there was an important rule that we over looked until mid way though the game.  When cargo tokens are removed from the board they are immediately replaced from the bag.  Well, we were mistakenly putting the tokens that we were spending back in the bag.  It should not have been done this way, the rules say to remove the Tokens from game until the bag is empty.  Removing the tokens makes for a more balanced distribution of the cargo allowing players who are collecting one type of cargo know the value of the cargo out on the board.  i.e. if you know there is only one more of a token on the board it can be a lot more valuable depending on if another player is trying to grow his set of that cargo type.  This might encourage other players to out bid him to prevent him from getting a large scoring set of cargo.
This was the worst game of Cargo Noir I have played and I think its because of the mistake we made about putting the cargo tokens back in the bag.   There was another issue that only seemed to be affecting John.  If you are out bid and remove your Ship and Money, you are not allowed to place your ship back on that spot to out bid another player.  John kept forgetting where he pulled his ship from and then got hung up on it.  His frustration was palpable about half way thought the game.  To solve this, we used black wooden cubes from another game as markers.

I love the theme of the game and the art style captures this magical time of 1920's through the 1940's, but at the same time it feels modern.  All of the characters look like they are straight from a movie that I cant quite put my finger on (except the americans...that would be the Godfather).  They do skirt the edge of the offensive racial stereo types...but I also think that adds to the charm.

The last point I am going to make is that while I love the theme, its very abstract.  There is no reason it had to be smuggling.  There is no law officers trying to bust you.  No port authorities you have to bribe. No thugs with guns or attacking other players.  It could just as easily had been a merchant trading and biding game, but the theme makes it much more interesting.  I feel like it's fairly clear that the game was designed, played, and balanced, long before it was a smuggling game.  It just goes to show how a theme can carry a game idea and really make it shine.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The dissection of Thurn and Taxis

I took a break from the long days at work to go play some games last night.  I went to my friend Bryan's place and when I got there they were half way though a game of 7 Wonders.  I helped a newer player with his first game.  After that I drank way too much Rum and got my but kicked in Thurn and Taxis and Cargo Noir.  I should have stayed at work.
I am going to try something a little different.  Being that I am a game designer and an aspiring board game designer, it feels like I am doing myself and anyone interested in reading my ramblings a disservice.  From now on, I am going to attempt to give a re-cap the rules of the game and then dissect the game mechanics.  I think this will be a lot more interesting than what I have been doing.

Thurn and Taxis
This is a typical Euro game where you are building the first mail routes in Germany during the 16th century.  It has a similar feel to Ticket to Ride and shares some similar mechanics.  It is a light game at first and gets closer to a medium game as the game progresses.

At the start of a turn, Players MUST draw a city card and MUST play a city card each turn.  Players can draw a random City Card from the top of the deck or one of the 6 of the available cards out on the board.  Players may also use the special ability of one of 4 of the helping characters.  They give the ability to: Draw 2 Cards, Play 2 Cards, Discard and replace the 6 Cards on the Board, or Gain a carragie with less cities than normally needed (The carriages are point cards you gain when you close a mail route and have enough citires in a route).  After drawing and playing cards, the player can close his route to score, or pass his turn.

The entire game is a Perfect Knowledge game with the exception of the Cards.  This means that you can see everything every player is doing with the exception of the cards in other players hands.  The Cards is the only Randomness in the game, but its enough.  It makes it hard to build a stratagy or plan based on the cards that are on the board because by the time it comes around to you, the cards on the table are not very likely to be there.  Because the game is almost Perfect Knowledge, you sit and wait while the other players contemplate the best cards they can take for themselves while damaging your visible routes. This makes for longer turns and longer wait times for the other players.
Bryan teaches us the rules to Thurn an Taxis
Building a route is done by laying Cards in front of you.  This MUST be done every turn or you loose your entire route and do not score any points.  This is called a Press your Luck or Risk Reward Mechanic.  You keep adding onto something for as long as you want, but each time you do, you risk loosing more.  If you Score the longer routes you get Bonus Score Tokens, and can collect Carriages that required longer route to collect, but must be collected in order.  This creates an exciting sensation of risk for the player, they have to choose when to cash in or loose it all.  Basicly, it's gambling!  It also has a good chance of making players upset and feel disgruntled about their gaming experience.  In T&T it felt wrong, what is the reason for loosing the mail route if you don't add another city?  Don't know!  But thats the way it works because the designer decided it would be a good place to shoehorn this mechanic.
Early on I was doing very well, then I got unlucky and fell way behind.
Each City Card in the route must connect to the neighboring city on the board.  Once you have placed a City Card, you can only place another connecting City Card.  You can place Cards on ether end of the route as long as the Card connects to the adjacent city.  This is a modified version of a Mechanic called Pairing.  Players are trying to collect sets or runs of items.  This is most recognizable in games like Poker.  In T&T, players are trying to collect runs of Cities that must be connected by roads on the board.  This was the most interesting mechanic to me.
John, Bryan, and Ryan
Scoring happens when a player closes his route.  Before I explain this part of the game I should explain that the Cities on the Board are divided into regions that are colored.  Each colored area has a number of cities and a stack of Score Tokens.  In  addition, SOME of the colored areas are divided into two shades of the color (i.e. light blue and dark blue).
Note the colors of the province that each City is in.
To collect  the Score Tokens you must have a house in all Cities in an area.  When you close your route, you may choose to place a House 1 of Cities your route hits in each region your route passes through or, all of the Cities in a single region your route touches.  This includes the division of colored regions.  So, for example, if you choose to put all your houses in the green region, you will have to choose if it will be the light green or dark green part of the that region.  Are you confused about why the designer added this layer of complication to this game?  I am not 100% sure, but if I had to guess, I would say that the designer noticed that people would just focus on one region at a time, complete that, then move on to the next.  This would force players to use both mechanics of placing all houses in a single region and 1 house on each city in a region.
Thankfully nearing the end of the Game!
This was out first game and there were a few rules that we botched.  Because of that, I misunderstood a few things and as a result made several critical errors.  The distinction between the different colored regions was not explained very well and there were some mistakes made there as well.  This resulted in 3 bad turns in a row and loosing a route.  Because of this I spent the rest of the game trying to catch up.  By the end of the game I was feeling very frustrated.  The mistakes I made and the bad luck that caused me to loose my route made me wish for the end of the game to come quickly.  All in all not a bad game, but some of the arbitrary mechanics makes this game feel (despite there very specific theme) a bit abstract.  It would not be a game I seek to play again, but would play if asked.
Later we played Cargo Noir which, since this post went longer than I planed, I will cover in my next write up tomorrow.  I will try to have something up on this by Monday since I want to try and find time to work on Taipan, spend time with the girlfriend, and do this dissection as well.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

And I thought I was soooo clever!

Well, its been a fun week.  I have been working late every night as we try to meet our deadlines.  It seems that working 12+ hours a day does tend to cut into your Play Time....who knew?  That Said I did manage to get a basic art layout for all of my cards.
From left to right: Cargo, Captain, Damage, Cities
I am still using the test art for the Captain and Cargo Cards but that will be changing soon. You can see the difference in visual quality on the Cargo and Captain Cards compared to the City and Damage Cards.  I will have to go back and rework them so they look like the same art. Thanks to my good friend Ben and his fantastic info about how Public Domain works, I should have most of the art done in the next week or two.

Now for this weeks lesson:  DO NOT ADD ANY ART until your game is much closer to being done.  There are a many, many....MANY reasons for this:
1.) Cards Change and so does the Art.  There is no point in making art that will get thrown away.  You will be driven mad by how often you will change stats, layouts and cards.  Save your sanity. 
2.) Printer Ink Costs are not cheep.  There is no point printing out all the ink and colors if the balance of the cards are broken.  Save your money. 
3.) Until you have an artist hired, your art will be inconsistent and look like its from different games (like my cards).  Save your time.
4.) Once you add art, you have invested a significant amount of time and money into your game.  Now you will be less likely to make the changes that your game needs because it will mess with all that work you put in, making you more resistance to change.  Save your creativity.
5.) When you finally bring your game to a publisher, and persuade them to publish your game, they will hire an artist and have all of the art redone.  This can be very frustrating since you grow attached to the work you put into your art.  The Publisher will have other ideas about how best to market this game they are taking a chance on and will (unless you are a world class artist) insist on changing the look and layout of the art.
In the end, you should resist adding art.  I know it makes it all look better and gets others more excited about it, but you will only kick yourself.   Making art is very time consuming. Unless you are an artist, you will be better off using stick figures and focusing on making the game play and mechanics fun.

I know all of this and I still do it.  Almost every game I have ever made I started piling the art on almost from day one.  Maybe I am starting to learn since this time I waited a full 2 months to start in with the art.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A first look at the Cards

I have my first prototype of what the Cards will look like so wanted to share it with you.
The new Hotness!
It has taken a lot longer than I originally thought, partially because of work monopolizing my time, all the gaming I have done over the Holidays, and the complexity that my Data Sets have taken on.  In addition, while working on creating the new Data Sets, I became unhappy with some of the Event Cards.  I have been struggling with how to make the old Event Cards, which only affected an individual player, work on a Global Scale to affect all players evenly.  Many of the Cards just didn't work, so I had to scrap them and create new ones.  Some of the ones I kept needed to have their mechanics changed.  

The Deadly Storm.
The Storm Cards were the most problematic Events.  Where they once just hit a single player, they now needed to affect an area.  I played around with dividing the map into 3 section, north center, and south.  To make it simple I even thought about making Storms affect the whole map, but this felt cheep.  Instead I choose to use the same mechanic that I use on a lot of Event Cards.  Draw a Cargo Card to choose a random city and then any ship up to 2 spaces from the city at the end of the round will receive damage.  This lets players avoid the area and escape it if they happen to be caught in the area when the storm hits.  This way, if a player takes damage from a storm, in most cases it will be their choice if they want to risk the storm.
The Pirate Bounty, a dangerous way to make some extra cash. 
To complete the Data Sets I needed to include the pointers to the Images that will be on the cards.  Once I had the place holders for the images, I couldn't stand looking at the empty Data Sheet "Fill Space" where the image would be placed when the Data was called.  So I got to work on inserting the image references into the Data Sets.  Even with the much faster process for creating the Art Images, it is very time consuming trying to find images that fit the theme and time period, and are free and/or Public Domain.  This is why it is always good to make a game themed to a fictional setting so you don't need to worry about being historically inaccurate. 
This photo for Ship Upgrades does not look right and will be changing.
It is very difficult to find images that fit for the cards I need to represent.  It has forced me to choose a few images I am not happy about and will be changing the first chance I get.  This image doesn't fit the other images because its built from a photograph.  This is one of the images I will change when I find a suitable replacement.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Math Bad!

I am going to go out on a limb and say that for any game designer you will have a much better success at designing games if you have a strong background in math.  It helps with more than you will ever know.  Take it from a guy who struggles with math, I waste a lot of time trying to solve problems that can almost always be handed by a moderately difficult math equation.  I end up doing more iteration because I don't do a great job of figuring out the math issues early on.  This leads to some wasted time and frustration.  Learn from me and get a healthy does of advanced math skills before you leave high school or college.

I bring this up because I played Automobile last night and fought myself to pay attention and understand what I needed to do all night.  It's a deep and complex game with lots of statistical and analytical thingking.  Players are trying to build their Auto Manufacturing company by building factories, manufacturing cars, managing Car Sales Men, using the Characters Special abilities (which can change every turn) to their maximum effect.
Bryan (center) teaching the Rules of the game.
You have money that is a lot in the first and second rounds but is gone after that and is near impossible to get back. I made several big mistakes but they were all based on assumptions about how the game worked and how stiff the penalties were.
An unknowing Me, about to get my ass handed to me! 
Late in the first round I used a special phase of the game to shut down my factories and avoiding the penalties I would have got for having the lowest technology Car Factories.  But I didn't do the math to calculate how much money the factories would be making for me and that I could have waited to sell the factories until turn two, making a lot more money.
In the end it came down to math.  The two guys who did the best were the math experts, correctly calculating how many cars they could manufacture and effectively sell, gaining the highest profits, allowing them to buy more factories and sell more cars.
Apparently Bryan doesn't know how to take a non-blurry picture of me.
Automobile is a cool game and I would play it again, but I don't think I would go back to it often.  It is the start contrast to my game, Taipan, which has a fair bit of hidden and random elements.  Speaking of which, I am having a hard time getting the new Data Sheets set up properly.  I have made so many changes that the Cards for Taipan have become so significantly changed on the Data side, that I have to clean up the Photoshop files before they will read properly.

As a bonus, check out this insane pistol that shoots shotgun shells.  This is Ben (Bryan's son) holding the monster of a gun.  That thing is almost as big as he is!
Heres me, a 6'4 reasonably muscled guy having a hard time even holding the thing.  Aiming it causes my hand to wobble from the weight.  Maybe I should have cheated like Ben and used both hands!  ;p