Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Designs and Publicity


So like I mentioned before, I went ahead and uploaded all my backlog of mostly cooked games up onto the 'geek.  I even went far enough to give them representative images and some PnP files for most of them.  If you haven't done this before it's not too rough of a process.  The actual game entry has to be approved by an admin though.  It appears they approve dang near any user created content; which is a good thing to me.  The rest of it is "geekmod" approved, meaning other BGG users do it for a paltry amount of GG.  I haven't had issues with this, but there have been a few glitches through the years.  The worst was probably the photo-artistic geeks who spent forever working on fantastic shots, only to have the run-of-the-mill BGG modder decline them for being "blurry" etc.  I think most of that has blown over since you can now include messages to the geekmodders when you upload images.

Anyway, if you're interested, you can see all the designs I uploaded under my designer page:


So I made all the entries.  Great.  Why did I do that?  Because I wanted to share my games and hear what people thought of them.  Does making the entries do that?  No, not really at all.  A new entry doesn't pop up on the BGG front page anywhere, nor would most people want it to.  So... how do I get people to check it out?  Let me list my current methods:

1. Just go on making quality contributions to BGG.  Detailed reviews and content-rich geeklists are usually what I shoot for.  If people read these, then they notice the little "Game Designer" badge next to my avatar.  That serves as a jump to the games I've posted.

2. Post little announcements in each game's own forum.  This only works so-so.  It's shameless self-promotion, but it's done in a tasteful manner (not stealing space in some other geeklist).

3. Post session reports of playtests.  I've been trying this more lately.  I actually like this approach.  I'm honest with what happened, and don't turn it into an advertisement.  If someone likes the game style described, then they'll probably follow the game link back to it's page.

4. Keeping the game page interesting.  Have a representative image.  Have a link to the rules.  Have a file with the game content.  Just make it easy to use and not too sloppy.  Use some wiki-formatting in the description.

And if that starts getting a few players then you can go and post it on this list:
Print n Play Games That People Actually Play

But anyway, all of the above just goes about some publicity for a PnP game.


If you're a Joss Whedon fan, I'm sure you caught the new Dollhouse episode.  I was amazed it somehow got renewed; it was rather a questionable stinker last season.  The new episode made me glad they had it renewed.  I'm not sure how long he can keep it up, but Whiskey kicked a *lot* of ass.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Factory Fun Review

Factory Fun

Factory Fun has been out quite awhile.  Unfortunately, it's also been dang hard to get ahold of.  It's actually one game I wish got a much wider release.

0. Description

In Factory Fun each player gets to build their own factory out of a tangled mess of pipes.  Each factory is created from:

A. Machines - Take certain colored inputs and provide certain colored outputs.
B. Supply Reservoirs - Unlimited supply of a single color (Each player starts with one of each color)
C. Output Reservoirs - Goop can't spill on the floor.  Machine output has to go somewhere and these are the last resort when you can't pump it back into another machine.
D. Piping - An unlimited supply of it is available to flow the goop anywhere.

Each turn in Factory Fun uses a novel game flow:

A. Each player simultaneously turns up a new machine in the middle of the table.
B. Each player quickly snags the single machine they want among those offered.
C. Players try hard to efficiently incorporate the chosen machine into their factory.

It is a VP game.  VP come from 2 places:

A. Each machine gives some VP when placed.  Offset by *everything* else costing VP to place or move.
B. There is a big bonus at the end for feeding the output of one machine into the input of another.  This is often where the winners are made.

1. Analysis Paralysis / Downtime

It is hard to be efficient, but luckily everyone gets to play and puzzle at the same time.  Really, there doesn't feel like there is any downtime at all.  Even if you have an AP+ opponent, you can help them figure out what to do if you finish early.

2. Frequency of Meaningful Decisions

Nearly constant.  It's seldom obvious what machine would be best for you and you have to make a split second decision.  (To make matters worse you face a penalty if you don't place a machine you grab, so choose wisely.)  And then it can even be tougher to decide how to work it into your factory.  There are usually multiple options available and it's seldom obvious which one is the best.  Especially because you want to leave your options open for future machines and your supply reservoirs are limited.

3. Multiplayer Solitaire / Player Interaction / (Competitive / Casual)

This just works a ton better as a casual game.  The main "official" interaction is all in the machine grab.  The main "un-official" interaction is all in helping everyone make the best of a bad situation with the machine they snagged.

4. Skill / Luck / (Competitive / Casual)

There is actually a lot of skill to be learned here.  Your scores will get higher the more you play.  Beginners don't grasp just how many points there are in chaining their machines.  They also tend to make a dense factory near the beginning of the game that can be very difficult to add on to or adjust later on.  Even though, it's a fun learning experience.  I think it falls right down the happy medium of skill vs luck.

5. Runaway Leader / Effective Elimination / Catch-Up Mechanics / Score Obfuscation

There aren't *that* many bomb moves.  I've seen the perfect piece maybe net 25ish points, which is a bunch, but is pretty rare.  In reality, you earn points little by little from turn to turn.  Also, you don't calculate up those big bonus points for chains until the end, so it's seldom that you know exactly who the winner is until then.

6. Fiddliness / Elegance (Rules & Bits)

And here comes the bad.  The rules are almost as tangled as your factory will be.  There are rules about splitting output but not mixing input of machines and reservoirs.  There's the glitch about only having three basic output reservoirs that catches almost every newbie.  Even just understanding how the available pipe can contort can be difficult.  It's a reasonably easy game to teach, but it's one where newbies will make mistakes.  Heck, in the last game I accidentally trickled a little brown gloop into a perpetual loop that is totally illegal.  There's a nice player aid in the files section that helps you stay on top of the gotchas:

7. Theme / Enjoyment

Well, it is kinda-factory related.  The theme isn't super present though.  For one there's no rhyme or reason to your factory.  The game is very enjoyable to me however.  I enjoy the sense of making the best of a bad situation.  And really, it's fun to be the proud owner of a pile of crap at the end of the game.

8. Tactical / Strategic / (Short Term / Long Term Planning)

Yea, it's *mostly* tactical.  But any 30-40 minute game is.  The more I play it the more I appreciate planning for the future.  I realize that it's hard to explain to a newbie, but just not crowding your supply reservoirs and starting chains early to preserve your output reservoirs is important.

9. Story Line / Multiple Paths to Victory

Erm, well.  There's not really multiple paths.  It's "be efficient and chain a lot".  There is some story line though.  The first few turns is all about building a solid and accessible base.  The later turns are seeing how you can expand in a logical manner.  The final turns usually involve some players passing on all available machines just because they can't turn even a small profit with them.

10. Approachability / Player Ranges

The base game plays 2-4 players very nicely.  The simultaneous play does a lot for it.  And yet since each player has their own board the game still feels very similar.  The approachability can be a little rough since there are a lot of rules to how your factory may be assembled.  However, I have come to appreciate how necessary all those rules are and what a rich game they make.  Of course, it's rough to even find a copy these days, so that kills it for many people right there.

Essen Around the Corner


It's that time of year.  All the gamers are getting envious of those few of us making the trip across the pond.  I've never been, and it's fairly doubtful I ever shall.  There are just too many solid conventions located right here in the Midwest to justify all the hassle of going to Essen.  I mean, we are pretty lucky.  GenCon is in my backyard and Origins is down the road a couple hours.  And we've even got a little local mini-con that gives us something to look forward to in the spring.

Even though, it's still fun to read about all the new releases making an appearance at Essen.  I try not to be too wooed by most of them.  Especially because if they woo me too much I might be tempted to pay the steep import prices on a few of them before somebody decides to release it in North America.

Anyway, here's a blip about a couple interesting ones:


Okay, I love little 45 minute economic games driven by cards/tiles for randomness.  And this is exactly that, with a quick little quasi-auction.  I'd really like to have it.  But right now the author is only releasing it under his own label and I'd have to pay about US$70 after shipping.  *Sigh* Not worth it.  Maybe if Thor at gamesurplus brings some over or something...


I shit you not, here's a game with too MUCH information released about it.  They ran like a 20 part mini-series on boardgamenews.  And really, that much information just turned me off to it.  I couldn't make it through a single part of it.  I know something about asymmetrical sides and a VP track, and that's about it.  If it makes it into the BGG top 50 someday maybe I'll read more.

At the Gates of Loyang

Yadda yadda, 2nd sequel to Agricola.  Well, this one shows a bit more promise.  Still waaaay too many rules.  But at least it's *mostly* a card game and is *supposed* to take less than 2 hours.  Frankly, I'm still just going to wait this one out.  I mean, they gave Le Havre all those props last year, but who the heck is still playing the silly thing?

In Other News

I did flesh out one of the designs I mentioned and gave it it's own release thread.  Seeing as how it's roll&move racing, I think everyone promptly ignored it.  I'll see if I can think up something else to say about it and make another post on a Monday morning.  Anyway, here was the original marketing spread:

Played some more Factory Fun last night.  It's a real shame that one never got a wider release.  I think it scratches a lot of the same itch as Galaxy Trucker, but in much less of the time.  And really, the rules are a lot simpler actually.

Last night in our first game I was determined to play all 10 machines.  I did a valiant effort and got a ton of them chained together.  I ended with a big ol' score of 92.  But then upon review, it turns out that a trickle of brown goop was actually feeding itself.  That's a big no-no and disqualified me from the running.  (As my wife points out though, that's a sour way to tin.)

Anyway, I think it's a great game because of the need to dial down the compete-o-meter.  It's much more fun to struggle through the opponent's puzzle with them than remain aloof and watch them burn their brain.

Anyway, look for a review of Factory Fun in the near future.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Families of Cards

So I thought today I'd skim down the types of card game families I enjoy.  And hit on some I need to try on the way.

Trick Taking

Ah yes, the big daddy.  I still love this genre.  My favorite of all of the games has to be Spades.  It's not as complicated as Bridge, but much more involving than Euchre or Oh Hell.

I like this genre because the strategy can run really deep.  Even after 100s of games, I can still make mistakes that I only catch in retrospect.  That really gives me a feeling of learning and understanding that I like.  It means the decisions are still interesting after all this time.

I do think there has to be bidding in trick taking games.  Otherwise it comes down to luck of the draw.  I also think the bidding is among the most interesting part; it can be really tough to predict what is going to happen.

The other thing I need is a partner.  I like having someone to depend on and curse at on alternating turns.  It just makes it that much more fun.

Favorite oddball:  Clumonds.  An odd take on 99.  I think I may actually go ahead and make an entry about it someday.

Rummy (Set Collection)

I grew up playing 500 Rummy.  (Well, 500 Rummy and Euchre).  I've been playing these games for many years.  I recently went back and tried true Gin Rummy to see how that fared.  And really, in the end, it's an okay genre.  There just aren't as many interesting decisions.  There are some, but they don't come every hand.

I do think this is one genre the modern boardgame craze has improved upon.  The Mystery Rummy series is much more enjoyable than the classic bland game; but it still has it's flaws.  Horrible production values crippled the recent Bonnie & Clyde version.  I'm thinking RGG phoned that one in or something.

Still, the best outbreak of this genre had to be Ticket to Ride.  I mean, TtR is just rummy with a board to help with scoring.  And yet that board and those plastic trains make all the difference.

Climbing-Trick Taking

I'm giving this genre it's own place.  It's not really trick taking.  It comes mainly from an Asian background where the native games are Big Two and derivatives.

It's snuck into American colleges as Asshole or President.

And it's taken over the euro-gamers as Tichu.  And in the end... I do have to tip my hat to Tichu.  Why?  Tichu just gets all the game theory right.  I play it at lunch often and just leave out the 4 special cards.  Yea, they're cool and all, but the game works just fine without them.

Scopone and Scopa  (Card Matching?)

I'm not even sure what to call this genre.  And I haven't gotten to try it yet.. but I will soon.  It's some manner of "card matching" or something.

You take turns playing 1 card.  If any number of cards in the middle of the table sum to your played cards then you claim them all and your played card and flip them into your scoring pile.  If your card can't claim anything then it gets added to the cards in the middle of the table.

The different versions of this game vary:

The number of cards you are dealt and if they are dealt in waves.
If any cards start in the middle.
Some of the scoring.

And the scoring is pretty cool.  Generally you get:

1 Point for the most Diamonds
1 Point for the 7 of Diamonds
1 Point for the most cards
1 Point for having the larges sum when you add together your highest card in each suit

It gets more complicated, but you see some interesting ideas spring out of it.

Anyway, I'm always on the lookout for interesting card games that walk that perfect line of about 70-80% skill and the rest luck.

(For those interested, is an excellent resource for all traditional card games the world over.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Math Trades & Unpublished Prototypes

A couple topics for the day:

Math Trades

Yea, there's another big one up.  Yea, I don't have much junk left.  I do have a couple small card games I picked up at GenCon and shouldn't have.  But of course I don't think anyone wants them.  So I posted them both together and went ahead and tossed in 25 geekgold too.  Most people don't notice that 25GG is only US$2 on the current exchange rate.  Still, I could just call it "Half an Avatar" and most of the newbs would jump on it I suppose.

Unpublished Prototypes

So I think I'm tired of recording plays of Unpublished Prototypes.  I've got about 3 designs that are entirely playable.  I think I'm going to just say "screw it" and make entries for all of them on the 'geek.  Then I can go ahead and publish some files for them too.

Of course, that means lotsa rules writing.  Right now only one of them has decent rules, and even it isn't great. Considering all the effort I go into for rules, it always annoys the crap out of me when I pick up published rule books that suck.  I mean, yea it's hard, but people are paying you to get it right!

Anyway, here's some quick blurbs on the games I'm going to post:

Gear Burn

Roll & Move Racing.  Don't run away screaming yet.  I actually am very proud of this one.  I made sure it has interesting decisions on every turn.  It's also very easy to explain and play.

Hoosier Rails

Yea, the token train game.  I just tried some drastic changes last night and really like how they turned out.  Now I just need to make the cards more usable.  The current prototype cards are from way back before I figured out how to make usable ones.

Tipping Point

A recent design that makes use of a couple deck of cards.  I actually like it quite a bit, but I don't know if it would actually resonate with anyone else.

Anyway, off to start the work day!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gaming Interaction

So I've been chatting back and for with Seth Jaffee of Tasty Minstrel Games about my game Equilibrium.  He's had very positive feedback, but been concerned about the low level of player interaction.  I've struggled a bit with how to add it in fairly, so I actually went back to other game and tried to classify the interaction.

I Kill You

This would cover most wargames.  It also does a lot to cover Area Majority / Area Control games too.  In Go, you really do kill off your opponent's influence.

In general though, I don't enjoy this as much in a multiplayer game.  Mainly because it causes way too much metagaming.  I would always think twice before I attacked my wife because well, I've got to face her wrath later that day.  Maybe you call that underhanded, I'd call it more the secret to a happy marriage.

Take That Cards

Yea, it's darn close to "I Kill You".  Usually just a little more tame though.  It suffers from the same problems as above.

Then you get to the more common and agreeable forms:

Competition over Limited Resources

This would pretty much encompass the majority of Euros.  In Agricola / Caylus there are only so many actions to draft.  In Steam there are only so many cubes to deliver.  In Through the Desert there are only so many palm trees to touch.

I like this style, but it doesn't work great for Equilibrium.  Mainly because each player has their own deck of "resources" and aren't consuming the other players' decks.  I could bend the whole concept of Equilibrium, but frankly I like the balance of each player having the same deck.

First and Most Awards

And here's where we land.  From the beginning I always had "Most" goals in all the versions of Equilibrium.  They always added a valuable touch of interaction, but many people thought they weren't enough on their own.

So I just took the next step and tried out the "First" rewards.  And ya know, those work pretty darn well.

Yea, you'll probably notice both of these styles in the RftG goal tiles.  And yea, I did look there for some inspiration.  Still, I don't mind imitating some successful games.

Guess Work

The other game I stole from was Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper.  In that game you get to make a guess of who the Ripper will be each turn.  It's really a fun mechanic that just isn't used in other games.  You have a good idea of who it may be and plenty of ways to influence.

So, I added some Guess cards to Equilibrium.  It's boring in that game to guess your own attributes though, so I had the Guess be about your Left Hand Opponent.  Sure, it's a little contrived, but it works.  And it actually added more than I thought it would:

1. It added cards that work better in the late game than the early game.  The later you play your guess, the more information you have to go on.

2. It actually influenced what I played.  I went 2 colors last night, but I didn't play any score cards against my second color.  My wife was stymied since she knew one color I was going long in, but couldn't figure out the other.  That eliminated her ability to be accurate with 2 out of the 3 guess cards.  Pretty neat side effect.

Anyway, I'll spend a little more time working in some more interaction.  My next place to go would be some Honeymoon Bridge style interaction.  I'll discuss that if I give it a go.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Race for the Galaxy Blues

Race for the Galaxy is still probably my favorite game of all times.  It's plays so fast and shoves so many cool decisions into each turn.  It's really a step above the competition.

But, all things must end, and I've decided that RftG has already jumped the shark.  I know, it's only had 2 expansions, but I think that's 1 too many.  I've had a chance to play a couple hundred rounds with the new computer based AI program (Which is very awesome.)  And here's what I've seen:

Base Game

Still good.  But man, ConsumeX2 rules the roost here.  He with the better engine wins.  Military *can* squeeze out a win with a great draw, but it just doesn't happen that often.

Gathering Storm

In comes Improved Logistics.  Settle twice per phase baby.  That right there is enough to give Military a nice balanced chance.  It also added THREE military worlds with consume powers.  That's quite a big boost.  In the base set, Military folk were stuck with goods wasted all over the place.

Also in came the goals.  At first, I didn't like them.  They distracted from the "Purity" of the base game.  But over time, I've come to think of them as indispensable.  They take a game with tons of possible situations, and then multiplied them by an order of magnitude.  Every decision you make is slightly twisted by the goals that are up.  Basically it adds even more replayability.  It also adds more player interaction that some people thought was missing.

It also added the "robot", but that never interested me in the least, but no big loss.

Rebel vs Imperium

And here we've reached the end of what I called fun.  The biggest failing?  Takeover rules.  If these had been clean and smooth, I could have lived with them.  Instead they are a 3 page monstrosity.

And they are a 3 page monstrosity that pertain to 4 cards.  That's it.  Bah.  And on top of that?  They add some very nasty "take that" to a game that didn't have any of that before.  And frankly, I don't think people were missing it.

And then to make matters worse, the "play without takeovers" option just neuters a good third of the cards from the expansion because they are designed to play with them.  Bah humbug.

You have more complexity too:

Combine then discard
Pay for military (Why complicate the contact specialist?)
Uplift vs Gene vs Chromosome - (This is a complete screwup IMHO)

What good did come out of it?

One minor rule about getting 2 start worlds and choosing 1.  That rule is genious.  The rest was rubbish.

Here's to hoping they do better with the next expansion.  I also hope they go back and reboot the expansions with another arc like they discussed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday Ramblings

So I'm going to try hard to post every Monday-Wednesday-Friday. I figure if I can keep it up for a couple weeks then I'll start actually advertising my blog. Until then I'll just do it for my own sake to see if I can.

So I actually got a rather negative geeklist to have some publicity on BGG:

Hidden Gems

I know it doesn't sound that odd, but generally any geeklist with negative vibes will just get completely ignored. This one actually took off enough I got some nasty trolls. I think I ran him off by eventually ignoring him and locking out new additions for awhile. I've since re-enable additions and people are still linking away.

Looks like Martin Wallace just went and slapped a stock market onto Steam for mayfair.

Steam Barons

It is rather funny since Steam in all its forms was supposed to be a scaled down 18XX, and now he's scaling it back up to an extent. I think I'll still pick up the expansion for the giant new maps. I really like the look of the eastern US one. And c'mon, you get Wooden Train markers :)

The prior post was a promotion that Tasty Minstrel Games has been putting on. I haven't entered just because I have more than enough games to keep me happy. If you feel differently then by all means go join the festivity.

Still need to snag a fine-tip sharpie and color in that yellow die included with Ra. It works okay under my 300+ watts gaming area, but if I take it anywhere else I'd have my doubts as to being able to read it easily. 

I'm also enjoying the new workspace in the office. My wife is appreciating not having sleeves and prototype crap on the kitchen table. Rather a win-win situation. I replaced the ceiling light in the office, but I may still have to resort to a desk lamp for the work area. I think I've just always been against desk lamps since I gashed my hand open on one back in high school. I need to get over that eh? Anyway, enough pointless ramblings. Off to work.

Couldn't Resist

And besides, it's for a good company:

Free Games Friday

Monday, September 14, 2009

Settling In

Okay, it's time I moved on to my first real post.  I believe I at least got the blog mostly lined out.

I wish it were easier to add game links back to bgg.  I suppose there might be a tool, maybe I should look into that.

Anyway, what's up in my gaming world?

Well, I need to playtest Equillibrium.  Right now I've got a prototype of a ton of new cards.  Frankly, I think most of them are crap.  Beyond just trying them out, I need to test shared score cards and drafting.  Definitely not all at once.

I've actually got a match in AA (America's Army).  The ol' FPS just won't die eh?  Maybe they'll get version 3 patched up sometime.  Right now it's just barely enjoyable.  But it's got a cool medic system :)

And I need to get a thin tip sharpie to color in my yellow die for Ra: The Dice game.

And I need to order more stinkin' penny sleeves and toner carteridges.

I know, this isn't the place for a to-do list, but it does give you a snap shot into my mind.

Unplayed Games:

Very damn few!

A couple in the 10-days series.  I got these mostly for educational purposes anyway so I'm not in a hurry at all to play them.

Uruk: Man I do want to try this.  Doesn't sound *as* cool as Dominion or RftG, but it's still a solid Card euro.  Still, the rules are damn convoluted.  I might hold off a bit.

Coast-2-Coast Rails: A small indie game I picked up.  Need to grab some cubes and give it a go.  The problem being that it competes with Steam right now; and loses.

Anyway, until Wednesday.

First Post


First post.

My dedication shall be tested. I henceforth set out to post 3 times per week on Monday, Wednesday & Friday. No particular topics. Lotta boardgaming. Fair amount of life. Yadda yadda.