Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Grand Illusion Update 8-28-14

Preliminary LogoAs I continue to work on The Grand Illusion I get more and more excited about the potential of the game. Not only is it focused on Victorian era magicians and illusionists, but I also think that the gameplay in interesting and intriguing.

Today I’m going to discuss that gameplay a little more in depth. So far I’ve discussed the theme, the core mechanics, and the drafting mechanic. Ironically both the core mechanics and drafting mechanic are changing. I’ll explain why today. But let’s recap a few things, starting with the objective of the game:

The Objective:

As a street magician/illusionist it is your dream to work your way up and have a popular show in a highly successful theater. To do that you must win over the crowd, from the few stragglers on the street at the start of the game to larger and larger audiences as your reputation advances.

You objective in the game is to increase your skills and earn enough reputation to successfully perform your Grand Illusion to as large an audience as possible. Points are awarded based on your skill levels, the size of your audience (this potentially may change), and the number and variety of tricks you performed throughout the game.

What I want the game to be:

I absolutely love the movie, The Prestige. Here is a quote that best represents how I want things to operate:

Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge“. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn“. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige“.

I love when games escalate and this simple three-step process of Pledge, Turn, and Prestige is ideal for that. However, I don’t want players to only work on one trick throughout the game. So I would rather have the game work in three stages where things ramp up automatically as if a player were progressing from the Pledge to the Turn and finally to the Prestige. The question is whether or not I can accomplish that through the game design.

The Gameplay:

Previously I had shown these icons for the basic types of magic:


These represent the only types of magic a player can perform early in the game. It will be important to perform these because they will allow you to “unlock” new magic types by increasing your skills.

SIDE NOTE: One thing I’ve been going back and forth on for The Grand Illusion is whether I want the game to be phase based (meaning in each round players all do phase A, then phase B, then …) or turn based (meaning players have options A, B, C… and on their turn they choose one). At this point I’m going with turn based. (I’m dropping the draft mechanic for now)

So I mentioned that players can perform tricks and increase skills but I haven’t really explained that. Here we go…


There are three options for each turn. These are:

  1. Perform a trick (Including your Grand Illusion)
  2. Draw magic cards
  3. Increase your skills

Let’s explain these in more detail.

Perform a Trick

You can turn in magic cards from your hand to complete an available face up trick on the table. These trick cards will have magic requirements. When you turn in the correct cards you will “perform the trick.” After that, take the trick card and place it face up in front of you. This card will have a magic type on it that represents a skill you can now increase. It also has an audience rating. The audience rating will be important for being able to perform your Grand Illusion.

Draw Magic Cards

It will be important to keep your hand stocked with the correct types of magic cards as you work up to your Grand Illusion. You can simply draw magic cards from the face up cards or the deck based on your skill levels.

Increase your Skills

Once you have successfully performed tricks those cards will be in front of you. To increase the skills shown on the cards you will have to turn in different sets of magic cards. When you do you can then place a skill marker on the trick card to show that you have increased that skill. If you have several cards of the same type you can simply stack them in a way that you can still see how many you have. Your skill level will tentatively be number of cards times number of skill increase tokens. Increasing your skills is necessary to be able to perform your Grand Illusion.


The game ends once a player has performed their Grand Illusion. When they do, all other players will have one final turn.

Points are earned from several categories:

  • Number of tricks performed
  • Types of magic performed
  • Skill levels
  • Grand Illusions (if completed)

In the game you can focus on a singular path toward your Grand Illusion and try to maximize skill points on one type of magic. Alternatively you can attempt to score via breadth of magic types and complete a high variety of tricks. Ultimately this game will be a race to complete your Grand Illusion. But hopefully along the way there will be fun and interesting decisions.

What’s Next?

It’s time to prototype this. I’m ready to get this to the table and start playing it. I’m pretty happy with the direction it is going. After the feedback from readers regarding the drafting mechanic I think I’ll save that for a different game. I believe it was distracting from the thrust of what I want this game to be. So it’s gone and I’m ready to start playtesting (once I put some cards together). It will be my goal to create a PNP file to share once I’ve playtested a few times so that I can possibly get some early feedback from gamers and designers. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for reading!


Scoville Review with Ryan Metzler

Ryan Metzler with the Dice Tower recently posted a review video for Scoville! Check it out:

Monday Brews 8-25-14

First of all I’d like to welcome all the new readers! Thanks for checking out the site and for your interest in my “How to (Speed) Pitch Your Game” article. Feel free to look through my archives and find more interesting articles about game design.

Second, Monday on Boards & Barley is the day I recap what beer and board games I enjoyed over the previous week. It’s a fun way to learn about new beers and interesting board games. If you have any questions about what I’ve been enjoying, feel free to ask me via Twitter (@EdPMarriott).

And without further adieu let’s check out the Boards & Barley:

The Barley:

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: Summit Great Northern Porter

I had this tasty Minnesotan brew while camping over the weekend. It hit the spot as I was relaxing around the fire enjoying a S’more. I wouldn’t say it was the best porter, but it certainly was tasty at that moment. Special shout out to my friend Scott for bringing the brews! Thanks Scott!

The Boards:


I had the chance to play Concordia at BGG.Con last November and I didn’t take it. After playing it last night for the first time I am regretting not playing it at BGG.Con. Summary: it was really good and I liked it a lot.

The game was filled with interesting decisions, moments of regret, and moments of awesomeness. There are a lot of things you could do, but the timing of playing your cards made for a great gaming experience. If you like Euros but haven’t played Concordia don’t wait any longer.

Designer’s Corner:

Last week I worked on Armada Galactica, The Grand Illusion, and an abstract theme-less game that I think has a lot of potential.

For The Grand Illusion I started putting together a deck of magic tricks and resources (skills). I’m getting close to the point of playtesting. I plan to blog about it on Thursday.

For Armada Galactica I worked on creating different ship layouts to add some variety with how goods and resources are stored on your ship. I also started laying the foundation of what happens on a turn.

I also was thinking a lot about two different structures in game design. Some games have turn-based gameplay while other games have phase-based gameplay. In turn-based each player will individually perform whatever action they are going to do. In phase-based all players will perform some phase-appropriate action before the game moves on to the next phase. I may end up writing about these but I have some more thinking to do about it first.

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That’s it for this week’s Monday Brews. What Boards & Barley have you been enjoying? Play any new and exciting games lately? Thanks for reading!

How to (Speed) Pitch Your Game

While at Gen Con my business partners from Moon Yeti Games and I had a chance to be part of the Publisher Speed Dating event run by James Mathe of Minion Games. I will refrain from making any comments about the games themselves. However, I am writing this article because I was a little shocked at how poorly people were pitching their games.

A while back I wrote an article called How To Teach Games. I’m using a similar model for this article.

The Scenario:

You’ve got 5 minutes to pitch your game. It’s all set up, ready to go. A publisher walks up to your table. What do you do?

The Pitch:

When teaching games I like to work top down and start very vague and get more and more detailed. A pitch doesn’t really work that way. You’ve got to figure out a way to skip over a bunch of the basics of your game and dive deep into the selling points. Here is a graphic I made that should help:


The sizes of the different portions of the pyramid represent the amount of time you should spend on that section. Let’s break it down:


This should be limited to your name and handshakes. Give a business card and sell sheet. Otherwise don’t waste time here.


Limit this to 10-20 seconds. Basically just give the background of the game concept. There’s no reason to go into a back story of why you are designing it or how it may serve humanity. Be succinct and move on.


This part is more important and is where you should spend about 1-1.5 minutes. Publishers will need to know how a game is played. They understand that if a turn in a game requires you to work through 15 different phases, then perhaps the game isn’t as streamlined as it could be. Give a good overview of the rules and how a basic turn works. You don’t need to share every rule of the game nor do you need to share the “exception” rules that are slightly different than the norm. Just share the normal, standard rules for the game. Work through the whole thing and then come back to the selling points…


Here is where you make or break the deal. This should be the bulk of the pitch. Publishers want to know what makes your game special. There are a lot of games out there. There are a lot of designers out there. There are TONS of unpublished games out there. So what makes yours special?

I refer to it as the “hook.” Tell the publishers what the hook is. The hook refers to the thing that’s different than any other game.

  • Are you utilizing components in a new way?
  • Are you using a new mechanic?
  • Are you modifying an old mechanic in a new way?
  • Is your theme so amazing?

Hopefully there is something that sets your game apart. This is where you share that. This is where you emphasize how your game is special. This is where you make your case. Figure out what makes your game great and make sure the publishers understand!


Hopefully your game will leave a lasting impression. It is wise to allow 20-30 seconds at the end for questions from the publisher. Answer their questions cordially and then thank them for their time.


Congratulations! You just made the best sales pitch ever! Now what?

Publishers are different. Some may offer a contract on the spot (this is rare). If so, congratulations! Some may ask for a prototype. It’s a good idea to have an extra prototype on hand. Here’s where it gets a little sticky: what if two publishers ask for a prototype? (You should have a publisher priority list – meaning you’d rather work with pub A than pub B. Give the proto to pub A!) Sometimes publishers will love the game but will want to consider it before approaching the designer outside of the sales pitch. Often this is due to publishers needing time to discuss the prototype and the designer with their internal team.

Often the aftermath requires patience. Feel free to contact a publisher, but don’t be pushy. Publishers see a lot of games and often have a lot on their plates. Rest assured, though, knowing that you at least made a good sales pitch!

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Have you had a successful sales pitch? Do you have a different method? I’d love to hear about them. Also, let me know if you have any comments about this method. Thanks for reading.

Monday Brews: 8-18-14

It exists! And it’s awesome!

Gen Con 2014 is over and it was awesome! Why? Because I got to hang out with great friends of mine and because I got to hold, unwrap, punch, and play a production copy of Scoville! Special thanks are due to Jeremy, Adam, Ben, Mark and Mike for making Gen Con 2014 a memorable one.

If you are new to this blog, Scoville is my first published game design. It is published by Tasty Minstrel Games and should be available later this year, so put it on your Christmas lists! You can go pre-order it from your favorite local game store or the online game outlets.

So with Gen Con in the books, and with recently quitting on Brooklyn Bridge I feel refreshed and ready to move on to some exciting new designs. I have one that I’m keeping a secret, one that will occasionally mention, and The Grand Illusion, which I am openly designing and blogging about on this site.

But enough about that. Let’s check out the Boards & Barley that I’ve enjoyed over the past two weeks.

The Barley:

An excellent complement to Optimator!

An excellent complement to Optimator!

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: Spaten Optimator

Why such a standard brew for the spotlight? Because it was enjoyed at the Rathskellar in Indianapolis with my friends. This has become a tradition for us. On Friday night we went to the Rathskellar and enjoyed beer, cigars, and a fantastic live band. Plus, attending the Rathskellar is a great way to escape the geek world of Gen Con for a few hours. We had a great time and I enjoyed a delicious 32 ounce Optimator! The picture on the right shows the appetizers we ordered (Sausage platter, Brat balls, Jalapeno poppers, and Chicken Cordon Bleu rolls).

The Boards:


How could it not be Scoville? I love the game even after over 100 plays. I love how a 2p play at Gen Con provided a situation that really tested me. The decisions are so interesting. The play changes from game to game with different players. As the fields grow from round to round there are more and more choices, so the game naturally ramps up. I love this game so much and I was so excited to crack open a new copy and get it to the table. Here are a few pictures to show how it looks. If you like how the peppers look, click on the picture and thumb it up on

6 Player Scoville ready to go!

6 Player Scoville ready to go!

The amazing peppers!

The amazing peppers! (Click to go to BGG and thumb the pic!)

6 Player game in progress.

6 Player game in progress.

Here are the games I played prior to Gen Con:

Our Samurai Spirits were crushed in defeat!

Our Samurai Spirits were crushed in defeat!

And here are the games I played at or after Gen Con:

There was nothing on the Gen Con Preview that I felt was a “must-buy” this year but there were a few that I was interested in. The one I was most interested in was Instabul, which I bought.Here is a picture of the modular board:

5 Player game in progress.

5 Player game in progress.

In Istanbul each player also has a small player board of their own. The goal in the game is collect rubies. To do so you will need to manage your resources and money as well as utilize your location placement of your merchant and their assistants. It was an excellent game and well worthy of the Kennerspiel des Jahres award.

Surprise Hit #1: Camel Up

Camel Up was awesome. We played with 7 players at the Z-Man booth and we loved it. It won the Spiel des Jahres and when you play it you can understand why. I picked up a copy because it was fun, interactive, and plays up to 8 players!

Surprise Hit #2: Samurai Spirit

I am not normally a fan of cooperative games but this one had so much awesomeness that I can’t wait to play it again. It was a struggle. We lost badly. In fact, the first time we attempted the game we died after the first (of 3) rounds. There are some very interesting choices and some really cool combinations that can be done in the game. It was a lot of fun.

And here is a picture of my Gen Con 2014 haul. Several of these games came from the math trade, some were freebies. Missing from the picture are the King of Tokyo promo cards and the Tokaido promo cards and Eriku character promo.

I'm looking forward to playing all these!

I’m looking forward to playing all these!

Overall it was a great Gen Con. I’ll be writing another post this week about one specific experience from the convention. It was great to meet so many awesome people, especially those I follow on Twitter that I had never met in real life. I’m already looking ahead to Gen Con 2015 (partially because it is unlikely I’ll attend GrandCon, BGG.con or Origins before then).

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