Category Archives: My Games

On this page you’ll find information for the games I have designed or those that are in the works.

Trading Post Update

I’ve been pretty quiet on this blog. In fact, it’s been two months since I posted something. I drastically underestimated how busy life gets with three kids. But I recently started actively designing again.

Back in March and April I collated all my designs and realized that I have 14 designs somewhere along the progress train. That was a little shocking. I then decided to focus on two designs and pursue them with great vigor rather than chipping away one small piece at a time.

Those two designs that I am focusing on are Trading Post and Ziggurat. Today I will discuss some of the concept of Trading Post.

Trading Post Status

Do I finally have a fun game here?

Do I finally have a fun game here?

Trading Post was my second ever design concept. I began working on it when I had absolutely no idea what I was doing regarding design games. (Some might still think that’s the case). But now I’ve redesigned it from scratch and I like where it is headed.

The theme of the game revolves around the Fort Union Trading Post. You can learn more about it on the National Park Service site here. The trading post at Fort Union was requested by the Assiniboine Indian tribe. All the local tribes and the inhabitants of the fort were friendly with one another, so the game includes no conflicts with the tribes. This is thematic and accurate.

The current status of the game is that I have solo tested it once. Here is a spoiler image of the prototype:

This image is purposefully not very revealing.

This image is purposefully not very revealing.

The game utilizes a rondel for action selection. It is a resource collection and management game. Players earn the most points by getting higher level resources via trades and then trading those higher level resources with Indian tribes.

The focus of the game is completing trades. I suppose you could put them in the same boat as the recipes in the Chili Cook Off in Scoville. They fit that mold. But in Trading Post you have to do a bunch of legwork to get the resources that are needed for those high level trades. And to get those resources you will have to manage your actions in the most optimal way.

There are eight action locations on the rondel. Four of them offer resources or trading abilities. The other four offer “experiences.” The experiences include hunting, encountering Indians, and building the fort. To hunt you will need guns. Encountering Indians is one of the higher level trading options. And building the fort will reward the player with the greatest number of points as it also determines when the game ends.

The whole premise is to contribute to the building of the fort. The best way to contribute is by completing trades that give you the resources with which you can build.

Next Step

Why is it that the “In My Head” concept step always seems so perfect until I actually get the game to the table? Honestly the best step any game designer can take in figuring out their game is to make the prototype and play it. I liken that step to completing the border of a puzzle. Once you have the border completed then you have a better idea of what you are actually working on.

So I solo tested Trading Post the other night. I now have my border in place. After solo testing I realized that I needed tiers to the resources. This is similar to the idea of clay and brick in many Uwe Rosenberg games. The clay is a standard resource and the bricks are advanced resources. So I am going to implement a tiered system in Trading Post.

I also learned that the Indian Encounter trading objectives are too focused. Rather then requiring absolutely specific things, like two knives, they will require a more simple objective, like a pair of cards. This should help players complete those objectives, provide rewarding moments in the game, and allow the game to move more quickly.

The other thing I want to really emphasize in the game is player interaction via player to player trading. Right now I have a simple mechanic like the trading in Catan but I want to step it up just a bit. I’m still working on this and I’m hoping it falls into place when I have a few more pieces of the puzzle together.

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So that’s the latest from me. I’ll post a similar article about Ziggurat probably next week. My goal for both games is to have them past the solo-testing phase so that I can bring them to Gen Con and get feedback from awesome people like you. Thanks for reading.

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Monday Brews – 3-9-15

It’s gonna be 48 degrees here in Wisconsin today so that’s pretty awesome. Also awesome is that the college basketball tournament is approaching. I love the tournament because the kids playing college basketball put so much heart into it compared to professional sports where it’s more about money. But this website isn’t for writing about sportsball.

So let’s see what Boards & Barley I’ve enjoyed over the last week:

The Barley:

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT:
NEW! Snake River Vienna Lager

My friend Jeremy brought these back from a recent trip out west and graciously shared them with us. It was a very enjoyable beer and was characteristic of Vienna Lagers. I’d love to visit the brewery someday. By the looks of their website they’ve got a great brewpub.

New Beer Count for 2015: 19

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The Boards:

Unfortunately you still can’t turn lead into gold.

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT:
NEW! Alchemists

I had been wanting to play this game by Czech Games Edition for a while and was able to get it to the table at Board Game Night. Alchemists is like Clue except instead of having to figure out three things you need to figure out 8. And instead of having turns where you roll a 1 and move one space through the mansion you can do great stuff every turn. And instead of having the game end by someone making a lucky guess you play 6 rounds.

Alchemists was a ton of fun. The gameplay is great. The theme works really well. The deduction is intense. I lost badly but I seriously enjoyed the game. The only downsides for me were that there’s a pretty steep learning curve. The first play took us three hours. That included the time it took to teach, though. The bottom line was that I thoroughly enjoyed the game and I can’t wait to play Alchemists again.

  • NEW! Robinson Crusoe – We got beat so badly that I’ll have to play again just so I can feature it as the BOARDS SPOTLIGHT without feeling like we played so poorly.
  • Roll for the Galaxy

New Board Game Count for 2015: 14

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Designer’s Corner:

Ziggurat is coming along nicely. I have been working on it feverishly so that I can have it ready for Protospiel-Milwaukee in April.

The problem that was mentioned about the game in it’s previous form was that if you weren’t building you were falling behind. And the first to build got the better bonuses so they could build better and faster and become a runaway leader. That was a bummer.

So I’ve come up with a new, more “Euro” system of playing this game. It will turn the game into more of a point-salad, “Feldian” type game, but those are the types of games I enjoy.

The solution I came up with changes the game slightly in that it is mildly less accessible since the learning curve is steeper. However, the game play should be much improved as there are more things to consider on each and every turn. The scoring conditions are also improved. In the previous version the win would all but be known when the game ended. I prefer that players not know who is going to win before the end of the game. This gives all players hope that they might somehow sneak out a victory. So I’ve changed it so that there are a lot more points counted at the end rather than during the game.

Overall I’m really excited about where this is going. I think there’s a lot of potential here. But ultimately, this game is a lot of fun to design.

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So that’s what I’ve been up to. What Boards & Barley have you been enjoying?

When you receive Scoville…

Awesomeness coming soon to a table near you!

Awesomeness coming soon to a table near you!

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen. With people posting pictures of their copies of Scoville on Twitter and Facebook I figured I should post something about Scoville. This has been an extremely fun ride from the start of the design process all the way through to this point. I can’t wait to start reading reviews and hearing what people think.

So today I have a few tips regarding the game and the components. I will also link to a different version of the cross-breeding chart for those who are more equation oriented.

Before we get into the tips, if you have received your copy, please go ahead and Tweet it, Facebook it, Instagram it, BGG it, or anything else. Let’s spread the word about Scoville and make it a big hit. (Disclaimer: if you don’t like it, please keep your mouth and social media shut. 🙂 Thanks!)

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Components:

OCD vs. non-OCD: The board has pepper punch-outs so that the peppers can be “planted” and all line up perfectly. This is great for people who want things all orderly and such. HOWEVER, if you would prefer to be able to put the peppers on the board in any direction, then just don’t punch out the pepper punch outs.

Would you prefer those peppers to be sloppily arranged?

Would you prefer those peppers to be sloppily arranged?

Pepper Punch-outs: “Pepper Punch-outs” is not the name of an expansion I’m working on (though I suppose it could be!). These are the little cardboard pepper shaped pieces you can punch out of the board. I mention them because they come in really handy if you happen to run out on any specific color of pepper during the game. I recommend saving these little cardboard peppers in the box, just in case you need them.

Sleeve the Cards?: Some people sleeve cards for every single game they own. Others sleeve them for games with high-use cards. The cards in Scoville are what I would call “low-use.” The cards are only handled when obtaining them and scoring them at the end. Otherwise they just sit around. So I personally don’t feel they need to be sleeved. However, if you prefer them sleeved, check out this thread on BGG which can give some guidance about the right size of sleeves. The recipes are 44x67mm and the market cards are 51x51mm.

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Gameplay:

One of the biggest issues I hear from new players is that the cross-breeding chart is too much to grok. So I made a new version that is simpler to read and lists the rules of thumb for cross-breeding. You can download the doc file from Board Game Geek. Or you can save this picture and print it:

An alternate Scoville Cross-Breeding Guide.

An alternate Scoville Cross-Breeding Guide.

That should help you out in case you don’t like the 10×10 grid version.

As I designed the game I struggled mightily about choosing the form of the cross breeding chart. This equation version was easy to read and put things succinctly. But the grid put every breeding combo right in front of you. So I went with the grid. If you prefer this equation version, please let me know.

Beginner Tips

Bonus Plaques and Market Orders: Recipes are mighty appealing, and they should be. But don’t count out the bonus award plaques from the town mayor. Also, don’t neglect the market orders. Many of the afternoon orders are worth 4 points. So if you can get a few of those they really add up.

Bonus Abilities: These are worth 4 points each if unused, but I recommend using them. They can be used to create a huge advantage in the game. One way I like to use them is to gain multiple phantom peppers at a time while preventing all other players from getting any. Plus, the game is meant to be played for fun and I believe it is fun to use those special abilities.

Block other Players: I love how you can block other players from spots on the field. Use this to your advantage. Plant a good combo in a spot only you can reach and then end your turn there even if you’ve only moved one or two spots. This can induce frustration from the other players, which can be fun.

The Yellow and Red player are mired in battle for the peppers in that part of the board.

The Yellow and Red player are mired in battle for the peppers in that part of the board.

Horizontal RuleThanks so much for your interest in Scoville. I believe copies will be moving to retailers and online stores in the very near future. If any of you have issues with your components in your copy, please let me or Tasty Minstrel Games know right away. And if you enjoy the game, feel free to rate it a 10 on BoardGameGeek.com!

Ziggurat: Building the Game

I designed Ziggurat the Thursday evening before Prototspiel-Madison in October. I prototyped it the Friday of Protospiel. It was played four times during Protospiel. And I am finally putting together the pieces to turn it into an awesome game!

So today I want to share a little bit about the game and the basics of how it plays. But first here’s a history lesson:

What is a Ziggurat?

Ziggurats are like the Sumerian equivalent of Egyptian pyramids. They are basically a huge brick structure with several levels. They served as the focal point of worship in those ancient cultures. Often it is believed that a temple was built atop the ziggurats.

And since I’d rather focus on the game rather than the history, here’s the Wikipedia link: Ziggurat

The Game…

The thrust of the game revolves around building the Ziggurat. As the design currently stands you have two options on your turn:

  1. Purchase resources (bricks, laborers, special abilities) from the courtyard marketplace.
  2. Spend bricks and laborers to build the Ziggurat.

One of my design goals is to come up with games that are accessible and easy to teach. Ziggurat is like that. The simplicity of limiting what actions can be taken makes the game accessible for non-gamers.

The region of interest, in terms of adding strategy, is to design compelling and interesting decisions into those two options. For example, when purchasing from the courtyard market, would you be willing to pay a higher price for a better card? Also, when building the Ziggurat, does the location where you are building matter?

These are the sorts of things I’m trying to design into Ziggurat. Let’s take a look at the prototype.

The Prototype…

I had previously obtained some components from The Game Crafter at a prior Protospiel event. It turns out that the components I had worked perfectly for what I wanted to achieve with Ziggurat. Here is a first look at the bare prototype:

Barebones prototype demonstrating the 3D nature of the game.

Bare bones prototype demonstrating the 3D nature of the game.

The Ziggurat is composed of three levels. On each level there are platforms that need to be built. Players will build the platforms by spending the appropriate resource and then placing one of their player cubes onto the platform. Once the first level is completed it will be scored. Then the large square tiles for the second level will be placed on top of it. Here is a look at the Prototype with more details on the tiles and platforms.

The Ramp lists what the scoring conditions are for the current game.

The Ramp lists what the scoring conditions are for the current game.

One thing of great importance in the game are the platforms. Each platform requires 4 cubes. When any given platform is completed, each player who helped build the platform will earn some reward. The rewards available are shown on the corners of the tiles. This is a way to ramp things up in the game and loosen the tightness of the resources. It also incentivizes building, which is the whole idea of the game.

Here’s another picture of Ziggurat at the end of a Protospiel playtest:

Ziggurat Completed! Time for final scoring.

Ziggurat Completed! Time for final scoring.

In the bottom left of the image above you can see the courtyard market. In the current version of the game there are six cards in the market. Players may purchase up to two cards. The card at the end costs zero and the costs ramp up as 1, 1, 2, 3, 4. The image has different costs, which I have since adjusted.

The Latest Prototype…

I’m a sucker for creating decent looking artwork and graphics. I use Inkscape, which I recommend. I mocked up some cards and placed an order with TheGameCrafter.com. Here’s what they look like:

Each card represents a laborer OR the resources on the back.

Each card represents a laborer OR the resources on the back.

With a deck made I decided it was time to upgrade the tiles and platforms as well. So I did. Here’s the final result which shows the current state of the game:

Not too shabby, for a prototype!

Not too shabby, for a prototype!

I have some big plans for the game. I want it to be slightly less singular in terms of your goals so I’ll be adding a few other paths to victory. But I solidly enjoy the game as it is.

Feel free to ask any questions. I’m excited to hear what people think and I’m just as excited about the future of the game. This one feels like Scoville did when I designed that. I think there’s a lot of potential here. Thanks for reading!

Grand Illusion Update

GrandIllusionLogoV2

Today I wanted to report on the progress of The Grand Illusion. Normally I do that on Thursdays and I was planning on posting a game review today but I’m excited about the game so I figured I’d write about it.

What’s New?

I’ve begun prototyping! I have created a deck of skill cards. These cards represent the 9 types of magic in the game. The types of magic are in two separate tiers: basic and advanced. There are 6 basic types and 3 advanced types. Here is a picture showing the skill cards (thanks to The Game Crafter for blank cards – They have blank poker cards on sale right now for 1 cent each!).

Collect these and use them to perform never-before-seen magic tricks to appease your growing audience!

Collect these and use them to perform never-before-seen magic tricks to appease your growing audience!

Those are hand-drawn icons, people!

What’s Next?

The next step for the prototype is to create a deck of Trick cards. These are cards that represent magic tricks. During the game you’ll need to collect the skill cards shown above and then turn them in to complete the magic tricks.

Once you perform a magic trick you will earn the rewards and audience shown on the card.

So let’s discuss audience… Audience is actually a currency in the game. It is necessary to build an audience during the game or you will not meet the requirements on your Grand Illusion card. So each time you perform a trick, if successful, you will gain audience. In the game you will collect skill cards, spend them to perform tricks, gain audience and increase your skills to be able to perform better tricks.

There will definitely be some engine building in the game. The goal of this design is to be an entry-level game with an easy rule set that is quick to teach and play. The main mechanics are set collection and engine building.

Engine Building

Engine building in games refers to the idea of obtaining some ability or benefit that let’s you do things a little better, then getting another one that builds on the previous ability or benefit.

In The Grand Illusion the engine is represented by the skills each magician will gain. Will you become a master of vanishing acts? Perhaps you’ll be the best at restoration magic? Ultimately you’ll have to get proficient at at least two basic types of magic and one advanced magic.

The question I’m currently struggling with is how exactly to create the engine building element. I have two options I’m considering:

1) Splendor-Like

In the game Splendor players turn in poker chips to grab a card from the table. Once they grab that card it usually acts as a poker chip. So for future card grabs they need one less poker chip. This would work perfectly for The Grand Illusion but I don’t want to copycat an existing game.

2) Tech Tree

A tech tree is something where you must complete “Level 1” stuff before you can work on “Level 2.” So in The Grand Illusion I could have a tech tree (pyramid) of trick cards on the table. When a player would perform a trick they would place a token of their player color on the trick to show they’ve completed it. This would also direct their play as there would be advantages and disadvantages for breadth versus depth.

I think that once I create the Trick deck I’ll try out both of these options. The Splendor-like version may work better, but I’m more drawn to the Tech Tree version since it is more original.

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My goal is to prototype the skills deck this weekend and aim for the first playtest next week! Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the different engine building options.

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