Category Archives: Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge is a worker placement game where you have to send your workers out to make the most money while the bridge is being built.

When to Fold ’em – Quitting on your Designs

I am calling it quits for now with the Brooklyn Bridge game design. This is the inspiration for this article.

So this begs the question: When do you quit on a game design?

You might think that would be as easy as asking if the game is any fun. But it’s not that simple. You see, there is this thing called “passion.” A lot of game designers utilize it when create their designs. I know I do. But let’s step back even further and discuss a designer’s philosophy.

Why do I design games?

This is an important question designers should ask themselves. Answers could be all over the map:

  • You want to earn bazillions of dollars
  • You like games
  • You want to win the Spiel des Jahres
  • You’re creative
  • You want people to like you because of your design
  • You’ve got some great game ideas
  • It’s what you love to do

Whatever the reason, it’s important that you understand the answer to the question of why you design games.

Once you’ve got that figured out, the answer to the first question, when to quit on a game design, can be more easily answered. Often it is important to remove the emotional side of game design before you can truly quit on a design. People put a lot of effort and time and money into their game designs. So to just quit on a design is like throwing all of that effort, time, and money out of the window. Sure, there are usually some takeaways from that design, but ultimately it’s a big loss.

Here is the reason I design games: it’s a fun hobby.

Therefore, if designing a game stops being fun, I dump it.

Why did I Quit on Brooklyn Bridge?

I was originally inspired to design a Brooklyn Bridge game when I was watching a BBC documentary about its construction. The discussion about the caissons was fascinating and I immediately had thoughts about a risk vs. reward mechanic built around how long workers would stay in the caisson. Sweet!

So I made a time based worker placement game about the Brooklyn Bridge. Workers could get sent to work in several different locations (Caissons, Brickyard, Cableyard, Training Office). Each turn the workers would advance some distance in those locations. The longer they advanced, the better the rewards when they would be removed. This is not dissimilar to riding the gears in Tzolk’in. But there was a big change… other players could help you advance even faster if you placed your workers correctly. That’s awesome!

That sounds great. But it didn’t work. That’s not to say it couldn’t work. I’m definitely keeping the mechanic for another design. It just didn’t all work for this design.

The game took too long. It felt same-y (meaning there wasn’t enough variability/replayability). And ultimately the decisions you made throughout the game didn’t get more tense or more interesting. That’s not good.

I got through about 15 playtests and after the final one I realized I just wasn’t enjoying working on this design. It was at that point that I detached emotionally from the game and felt at peace to let it go. I quit on the design.

I believe it has potential. I believe that are good elements in there. If a publisher wants it and is willing to develop it I would happily work with them. But I quit because I was no longer enjoying it.

Why do You Quit on your Game Designs?

I urge you to go back to my question of “Why Do You Design Games?”. Knowing the answer to that can greatly help you know when to quit on a design.

Most designs won’t succeed. As a designer it’s important to know when to give up on one and start on the next. If you spend too long on a design that doesn’t have a future or that isn’t enjoyable or that is unpublishable then maybe you should consider breaking up with the game. I’ve met a whole bunch of designers with tons of games that never made it. Some have been working on the same games for years. Others have thrown away games that are only a few days old. There is a level of recognition where they realized the game wasn’t worth it.

The sooner you can realize that a game isn’t deserving of your time, the sooner you can design one that is!

Monday Brews 7-28-14

There are only a few Mondays left before Gen Con! Aside from game design and development it was a decent week. My mother-in-law fixed out bathroom ceiling. My softball team won the championship (back-to-back seasons)! And I was inspired by a Euro game.

So let’s get right to the coverage of the Boards & Barley I enjoyed last week.

The Barley:

Dark, smooth, tasty… and potent!

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT:
Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron

I had this too late in the evening to fully enjoy a 12%abv brew. However, I am looking forward to trying another one. This was one potent little beast with a woodsy character that made me wish I were sitting in a nice chair by a fireplace smoking a pipe. The inside of Bilbo Baggins’ home would suffice. Ultimately this beast was an enjoyable beer and I recommend you try it if you get a chance.

The Boards:

Four player render.

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: Attika

Sometimes I am shocked by the simplicity of classic Euro games. In Attika you have two options on your turn: Draw buildings or Build buildings. Two choices. That’s it. How can you possibly make a compelling game from two choices? You make it compelling by adding tension, making it a race, limiting players options, and by adding a little bit of randomness so that not every game is identical. This game is so simple yet possesses an elegance that makes me jealous as a game designer. It’s not the greatest game ever made, but there is just something about it. It makes me want to start a game design by only giving players two options. It’s similar to games like Ticket to Ride where players only have three choices on their turn (play trains, draw train cards, draw route cards). That simplicity builds throughout the game and it makes for a pretty outstanding experience.

Designer’s Corner:

Such an old version. It's way better now.

Such an old version. It’s way better now.

As Gen Con approaches I find it is once again crunch time to prepare a game for demoing/playtesting. Last year I failed miserably to have Conclave ready to go. Though Conclave only had two or three real playtests so it didn’t deserve table time anyway. But I have found that I am still making some major changes to Brooklyn Bridge.

One issue is that it takes way too long. This has always been the case. One reason for that was because players would have to build the towers first, then they could work on the cable. Having this linear progression through the game combined with the mechanic for obtaining cable bundles caused a huge halt in the action and really killed the dynamic of the game.

So I am changing how it works. Now the cable will be an important aspect from the start of the game. Players will have to choose whether to contribute to the cable (long-term points) or contribute to the bridge (short-term points). Adding in a cable mechanic that forces players’ strategy from the start of the game should not only allow for quicker gameplay but also add a layer of decision space to the game.

Another change I made was to drop mortar from the game. Previously when players wanted to contribute to the bridge they would have to have one mortar per brick they were building. The result was that since players had to spend turns gaining bricks and other turns gaining mortar, the game slowed down. Now without mortar in the game it will be more of a fast-paced race where players will have more competition for building the bridge.

The final change I am looking forward to trying is that I dropped private scoring in favor of public scoring. I had created about 12 private scoring cards. These were horribly unbalanced and ultimately didn’t drive players’ strategy as much as I had hoped. So now I am converting the scoring conditions to a more Euro approach. This is accomplished by having some cards that are “Accomplishments” and having some cards that are endgame scoring conditions. For example, if players build 3 bricks in any one section of a tower they can take one of the scoring tokens for that accomplishment card. Then the scoring token is placed face down by their player mat and will be added to their score at the end of the game. This is pretty standard Euro fair and I think it will work quite well in this situation.

I’m excited about the current state of the game but I know I have a lot of work ahead of me. Many more playtests are required for this game before I’ll be happy with it, but progress is certainly being made!

Horizontal Rule

So what Boards & Barley have you been enjoying? How are your game designs coming along?

Monday Brews 5-19-14

After a week off from my Monday Brews articles last week I’ve wrangled up a long beer list. It was aided by the fact that my city was having a Craft Beer Week. And it was also aided by two playtests of Brooklyn Bridge. So I’ve got a nice long beer list for you this week.

I also brewed another beer. I’ll be writing about that later this week unless my new baby pops out of my wife’s belly. It is a wheat beer that I’m calling “You’ve Been Wheated.”

So let’s jump right in and start with the barley…

The Barley:

Best word to describe it: Yum!

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: Tyranena Doubly Down and Even Dirtier Barrel Aged Chocolate Vanilla Double Stout

I enjoyed this most amazing beer with possibly the longest beer name ever during a Madison Craft Beer Week event. It was on tap and it was amazing. It was very rich with a beautiful flavor and a solidity to it that made it feel as though you just ate a full meal. I will definitely drink this again. Also, it’s baby brother, “Down & Dirty,” is also very good and more accessible.

  • Sprecher Special Amber
  • Boddingtons
  • NEW! New Belgium Snapshot – I liked it at first but then it seemed to have a characteristic closer to a Sour beer. I’ll try it again.
  • Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
  • Lucette Hips Don’t Lie
  • NEW! New Glarus Spiced Ale – Not as spicy as I was expecting, which was pleasant.
  • NEW! Boulder Shake Chocolate Porter – Warm this one up a little and you’ve got yourself a full-on dessert!
  • NEW! Potosi Steamboat Shandy – This was a very enjoyable shandy.
  • NEW! Blakkr Imperial Black Ale – This brew is actually a partnership between three breweries. (Three Floyds, Surly, Real Ale). I didn’t particularly enjoy this brew.
  • New Belgium Trippel
  • Hofbrau Original
  • Bridgeport Kingpin
  • NEW! Green Flash Double Stout Black Ale – This was an excellent, deep, dark double stout.

The Boards:

How good of a Euro could this be? They don’t really look that bored.

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: Aquadukt

This isn’t a new game, but it was new to me. And I loved the simplicity of it! The options you can choose on your turn are simple (build houses OR build a well OR build canals). But with those three simple choices comes a game with surprising depth. Which house tiles do you build – 1s, 2s, 3s, or 4s? When/Where should you build a well? How/Where should you build canals. This is a euro and it doesn’t try to hide it. The board is basically a big grid sectioned into 20 areas. I love games that use simple mechanics but yet have deep and interesting decisions!

  • Targi – such a fun 2 player game!
  • Quantum Orcas – Ran another successful playtest. Still not sure what I want to do with this game.
  • Love Letter
  • Unpublished Prototype – oh man… this one is SOOO good!
  • Qwirkle
  • Brooklyn Bridge – more below.

Designer’s Corner:

The progress currently being made on Brooklyn Bridge is making me feel much better about the game. While there are interesting mechanics that people seem to enjoy it has been all the other stuff in the game that has been needing the work.

The most major change is that money is no longer a part of the game. (Side note: I may bring money back with money being the points in the game. Currently the points are set up such that they could be equivalent to $$.) Previously players could earn money without having to build the bridge. That meant that early in the game they would focus on money to buy abilities. With the change the only way to buy abilities is with points and the only way to get points is to actually build the bridge… imagine that!

I am extremely happy with how the latest playtest went. The first half of the game worked really well, consisted of interesting decisions, and players overall seemed to be having fun. A big thing that was an improvement was the new player mats. These allowed me to get rid of the 30 red, 30 yellow, 30 brown, and 30 silver cubes that represent the bricks and mortar. Now players have one cube of each color and they move it along on their player mat.

Player Mat - Green for V7

It wasn’t all good though. The second half of the game imploded. It was as if the game ran into a brick wall (no pun intended). The upside is that I have implemented a few changes which should circumvent that issue. I can’t wait to get it to the table again. This is probably the first time with Brooklyn Bridge where I really feel like there is “publishing potential.”

Horizontal Rule

There you go… the late, great version of two weeks of Boards & Barley. What Boards & Barley have you been enjoying???

Monday Brews – 3-17-14

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Did you know that Saint Patrick is the patron saint of engineers? I am an engineer and at the engineering school I attended they always made a really big deal out of St. Patrick’s day. The school president would wander from classroom to classroom and cut the ties off of the professors. If your professor got his/her tie cut off, then class was over! It was a little strange, but the students always liked it.

Anyway, who is going to celebrate with a Guinness tonight? Well, if you do, enjoy one for me too! I’ll be at home working on getting Brooklyn Bridge ready for Protospiel-Milwaukee. More on that below.

Let’s recap the Boards & Barley I enjoyed last week…

The Barley:

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: 4 Brothers Sibling Rivalry

At my local grocery store I noticed this new brand and chatted with the fine elderly gentlemen that runs the beer portion of the store. It is a Wisconsin beer company and they make “blended” beer. For example, the Sibling Rivalry is a blend of an Amber, a Red, and a Brown ale. But don’t worry, if you drink one it still only counts as consuming one beer! I thought it was actually quite tasty. My initial worry was that they must be bad at making good beer and so they figured they would blend it because then no one would know whether it was good or not. But at a recent game night someone mentioned that three bad beers can’t be blended to make a good beer. And I thought it was a good beer, so they must be good at making beer. If you see this or their other three styles at your local store, give it a shot!

  • NEW! Tommyknocker Cocoa Porter Winter Ale: I enjoyed this cocoa porter from a brewery that I had not previously heard of. They have a few others varieties I’d like to sample.
  • Breckenridge Vanilla Porter
  • New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red
  • NEW! Tyranena Down ‘n’ Dirty: This was a very enjoyable chocolate oatmeal stout that was neither too heavy on chocolate nor oatmeal. I’d enjoy another one.

The Boards:

The ugly first prototype.

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: Brooklyn Bridge

I finally got Playtest #1 out of the way. That’s always a huge barrier and it has been vanquished.

Brooklyn Bridge is a time-based worker placement/resource management game about building the Brooklyn Bridge. In the game you have a small crew of workers that will need to collect and use resources to build the bridge. The crew that contributes the most to completing the bridge will be the winner.

The design is currently set for 2-5 players. It took my friend Adam and I 2.5 hours for the first playtest. That is much longer than I anticipate a final version to take since we were discussing a ton of things and playing relatively slowly. The bottom line, though, from playtest #1 was that the game worked, nothing seemed broken, it included some very interesting choices, and it seemed fun. So I am VERY pleased with how it went.

  • Dungeon Roll x3
  • Forbidden Island x3: This is not a new game to me, but it was new to my kids (ages 4 and 2). I thought I would see if they liked it and they totally did. They kept asking me to play “the island game” with them. The strange part is that we won all three games that we played. That almost never happens! I’m just glad they enjoyed it and I hope it serves as a gateway to get them playing some more awesome games.
  • NEW! Curling: Jeremy, the maker of the crokinole board and guest post writer from last week also made a curling board. You can check out a picture of it in my tweet here. It was a ton of fun to play even though it took a while to figure out how hard to slide the discs. It will be even more fun when we get good at it.
  • Crokinole
  • Robo Rally (8 players)
  • Kingdom Builder (8 players)
  • NEW! Tessen: While I had previously played a demo copy, taught by the designers Chris and Suzanne Zinsli, this was my first play of my final production copy. This game is really enjoyable, fast-paced, and fun. I beat my sister in three straight games.
  • Tip the Cows: If you have ever played Pass the Pigs, then you know how to play Tip the Cows. It’s basically the same game but with cows instead of pigs. It’s a fun little press your luck game where you get to roll cute animals.

Designer’s Corner:

So Brooklyn Bridge Playtest #1 went well… what’s next? I have already redesigned and made a second prototype board based on the results from the first playtest. Normally I don’t like to change things until it has been played a bunch, but due to the weight of this game and the obviousness of some of the necessary changes I don’t see any reason why I should postpone integrating the changes.

I am very excited about this game and I’m hoping to test it two more times this week so I can tune it a bit before Protospiel-Milwaukee. I think it has a lot of potential and I can’t wait to get it in front of more players!

Horizontal RuleSo those are the Boards & Barley I enjoyed last week. What did you enjoy? Did you play anything for the first time? Any new brews?

Monday Brews 1-13-14

Welcome back to Boards and Barley! I’m so glad you’re here. Every Monday I write an article that let’s you know what beer and board games I enjoyed over the last week. I also give a little insight into my design ventures of the past week. It was another slow week in terms of beer and games, but the game design portion of my life picked up a bit.

Let’s start with the Barley…

The Barley:

That’s a chair I could sit in!

Gray’s Busted Knuckle Irish Ale: I enjoyed this Wisconsin brew while my brother visited. We got some amazing fried cheese curds and a beer. This was an enjoyable Irish ale that I would get again.

Fleming’s Scotch Ale: I had another of my homebrews. I think it is now stronger than the original 6.6%abv. I might have to measure that again. This one really packs a punch.

New Glarus Spotted Cow: Another Wisconsin beer was enjoyed while a friend was over. We watched some football and enjoyed a beer and some ranch pretzels. That makes for a pretty good evening.

Deschutes Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale: I am not an IPA or Pale Ale guy in general. I don’t care that much for hoppy beers. But this one was quite good. It wasn’t too hoppy overall and it had a hint of a sweet finish with a mild floral aroma. I would drink this again and I think it could be my gateway to IPAs.

Capital Winter Skal: I enjoyed this while playing Nothing Personal. This is a mighty fine brew from a local brewery.

The Boards:

Nothing Personal: My friends played this at GenCon while I was on a panel about Protospiel. They have played it several times since then. I finally got to play it last night. And it was awesome! Nothing Personal has an amazing level of back-stabbing, promise-breaking, deal-making interaction that I haven’t seen in any other game. There is a lot to keep track of in this game and it would be easy to make mistakes and get left behind. I’m glad I finally had the opportunity to play it because it was a lot of fun.

Tenzi: I got my friends to try this out last night. Each player has 10 dice. You roll them and try to get all of your dice to be the same number. The first player to get all of theirs the same is the winner. There are a bunch of variants in the rules that you can try out. But this was a thoughtful Christmas gift from my mom because she knew I wanted dice for game design purposes and she got me dice that are also a game. Thanks mom!

Designer’s Corner:

This prototype box will suffice for now.

This prototype box will suffice for now.

Last week I worked a little bit on Quantum Orcas. I want to put together a version that I can purchase from The Game Crafter. It is amazing how much artwork really goes into a game. Not only do you need art for the cards, chits, tiles, etc. You also need artwork for the box and the rulebook. Then if you want to have a nice sales page on TGC you need artwork for that page. There is a lot of behinds the scenes artwork that is needed to complete a game.

So last week I put together a bunch of art and Quantum Orcas is getting closer. I still need to do more playtesting to make the game go from playable and “not bad” to something that is enjoyable that people will want to play. I’ll keep you posted.

The other progress I made last week was to come up with new mechanics for Brooklyn Bridge. I have shared the concept of the mechanics with several friends and none of them said it sounded awful. So I might have something there! I am pretty excited about the new utilization of workers. Brooklyn Bridge is a worker placement game, but it uses workers in ways I have not seen before. So I’ll plow forward with this to make it playable in the near future. My goal is to have tested it several times before Protospiel-Milwaukee in March.

***

So that’s the Boards & Barley I enjoyed and the game design progress I made last week. How was your week?

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