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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?

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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.

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

Monday Brews: 10-28-13

Happy Monday everyone! Well, Spiel at Essen is over and from what I’ve seen it looked pretty awesome. Some day I’ll make it over there. Some day. But since I didn’t attend I can’t provide you with an awesome recap about the convention. So it’s another typical Monday Brews article today.

However, I am adding a new section to the Monday Brews articles called The Designer’s Corner. This is a small area where I can discuss the design efforts I’ve made in the past week. Often there won’t be much in this section and I often work piecemeal on design. But it will at least give you a chance to see what I’ve been up to.

So without further adieu I present to you the Boards & Barley that I enjoyed last week…

The Barley:

Point Oktoberfest: Sadly this is likely my last Oktoberfest of the year. It’s been a good run as I had numerous varieties of Oktoberfests and even attended an Oktoberfest festival with three fellow game designers. Until next year, Oktoberfest!

Lake Louie Reserve Scotch Ale: I love Lake Louie’s Warped Speed scotch ale so I figured I’d try their reserve scotch ale that is only seasonally available. I wasn’t disappointed. This was stronger and more full of body than the Warped Speed and was highly enjoyable. Nicely done Lake Louie!

Homebrew Black Ale: I was also able to enjoy a fellow homebrewer’s Black Ale. It was delicious.

Tyranena Rocky’s Revenge: This is a bourbon barrel aged beer, but unlike last week’s episode with the Kentucky Ale, this one was actually enjoyable. The bourbon effect on this beer is pretty mild and doesn’t overwhelm the beer. The Rocky’s Revenge is a beer with a hint of bourbon, rather than the Kentucky which is more like bourbon with a hint of beer.

Newton’s Oatmeal Stout: This is my third homebrew and I was finally able to have one last night. And I was not disappointed. It had excellent character. It was mildly smooth and malty. It was not overly bitter. And coming in at 4.2% ABV I know I can enjoy a few without feeling the effects. I’m looking forward to more.

The Boards:

Settlers of Catan: I finally got to put my Catan Board to use. The verdict: it was nice. The reality: It’s not necessary. Sure, it keeps the board nicely in place. It lets you move the board if you need to. It helps prevent roads from being moved. But I wish I hadn’t spent $35 on it. Oh well. That’s partially due to the fact that I have an older version of the game and the ports in my version are still the hex tiles rather than the little chits that drop nicely into the Catan Board.

Keyflower: I was pretty excited to play Keyflower since it sounded like a game right up my alley. There is worker placement in the game, but it’s not used in the usual way. It’s more of a placement auction mechanic where players are placing workers as bids for buildings. Unfortunately we had a long gap in our play where we were having a discussion about awesome stuff. So when we got back to the game we had sort of lost track of where we were. I suppose that means I’ll just have to play it again 🙂

The Designer’s Corner:

I had a pretty good design week for two games: Quantum Orcas and Brooklyn Bridge.

QUANTUM ORCAS: On the QO front it was less about the game and more about the artwork and, potentially, how I might post it on The Game Crafter. I knew that the logo needed revising and so I sat down for a while and threw this together:

I might add a warp hole through which the orca is exiting.

I might add a warp hole through which the orca is exiting.

I’m pretty happy with that, especially compared to the previous version, which can be seen in my Twitter photo roll. The game is coming along. There just seems to be something missing. When I have the breakthrough it requires I’ll be sure to let you all know.

BROOKLYN BRIDGE: I decided to change my approach slightly, to great results. I was pondering creating a quad-fold board for the playtesting. That would have been pointless. Instead I utilized some blank jumbo cards that I got from The Game Crafter at Protospiel-Milwaukee and turned each card into one round in the game. Each card then shows all of the worker placement locations available during that round. I think this will make playtesting much more accessible and I’m excited to get it to the table. I want to add another resource to the game so that I can make some interesting interaction between the goods and then it’ll be hitting the table!

***
So those are the Boards & Barley I enjoyed this past week, and the game design progress I made. What did you enjoy last week?

The Game Design Queue

What would you do with an extra hour each day?

Time only offers itself once. So you’d better use it as efficiently as possible. As every designer knows, it’s rare if you are ever working on only one project. I am just the same. I am currently working on four projects, not including Scoville.And I could certainly use a few more hours in the day.  So I thought I’d give you a status update for each of the games currently in my “active” queue. My hope is that by writing this I’ll get a better idea of which game(s) on which I should focus my few game design hours per week.

And I’ve decided to set a goal: I want to have a playable and fun game by Christmas.

In the past I have set emotional goals, like “I want to send a game to a publisher by October.” How is that an emotional goal? It’s emotional because it has to do with making me happy versus making a good game. So this new goal is avoidably non-emotional. It’s all about the game. So I am going to attempt to spend the next three months hammering away at the stone to reveal a beautiful sculpture, and hope that it is a decent board game!

Let’s get started with last week’s Design Me game…

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Quantum Orcas

I designed it last Friday and by Saturday evening it had already been through four playtests. I’m not sure what your typical Concept to Playtest timeline looks like but this isn’t my typical timeline. There are a few things that the game has going for it to have allowed for four playtests.

  1. It’s simple to prototype
  2. It’s simple to teach
  3. It plays in about 10 minutes
Quantum Orcas (Prototype)

Quantum Orcas (Prototype)

So when I arrived at Protospiel-Milwaukee last Saturday I snagged a few of the free components that The Game Crafter had donated and threw together a copy.

In the game you are a killer whale who can jump across time, which is represented by jumping across the 4×4 grid. The game lasts 8 rounds. Each round two new boats are placed randomly into the grid using two d4s. Then each player chooses one card, which represents a location on the grid, to jump to. If there are boats there, they can eat them. If there are multiple boats, then they’ll have to discard cards to eat them. There are a few other rules, but the player who eats the most boats wins the game.

I think I might be able to design this into a complete game by next week, let alone by Christmas. It could also easily be rethemed. In fact, during Protospiel-Milwaukee I did retheme it based on some components available there. Several people playtested it with the theme of Space Monsters eating asteroids. So maybe I’ll have the game be dual-themed. If you like the killer whale idea you could play on that side of the tiles. If you like the Space Monsters theme you could play on that side.

The bottom line is that this game was fun, plays quickly, and comes in a small box. That’s an awesome combination.

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Conclave

Conclave Logo V1 070213I’m not typically an area control/area majority kind of guy. However, Conclave is all about area control. In the game you represent one of the Preferiti, the cardinal’s on the short list to be the next pope. You are also representing a order of Catholicism, which can allow me to do some interesting things with the design.

The current state of the game is that it isn’t very fun. While I think there are some interesting mechanics in the game, they just don’t seem to work together to make something that is fun. That’s not good.

But I have some ideas. Since the game revolves around holding the control of different tables, with varying numbers of cardinals sitting at them, then I can add in objectives to the game while keeping it reasonably thematic. The idea would be that the game can be won if a global victory condition is met, otherwise it will be won by a combination of points, which represent how well you manipulated the college of cardinals.

There would be both shared and secret objectives. Once a player completes a shared objective, they place a pawn on it and will earn those points at the end. When a played completes a secret objective it must be revealed. This card will remain in from of them and will be scored at the end.

So I have some good paths forward with Conclave. Now I just have to decide where it actually resides in my priority queue.

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Trading Post

Logo051913Call me Ishmael, for I have discovered a white whale by the name of Trading Post.

Trading Post was my first experience with trying to design a really heavy game. I failed miserably. However, I love the theme and some of the core mechanics so I’d like to do a third complete reboot. Note, however, that the first two reboots were more like retrofitting rather than redesigning.

To redesign the game I want to achieve the following things:

  1. Make it more historic
  2. Make it focused on Trading, explicitly about trading furs for European goods.
  3. Make it fun.
  4. Make it complex.

So I sat down at the end of August and came up with what I think will be a really great game. The idea of the game is that you are a Trader working for a Trading Post. Your objectives in the game (read: “Ways to score points”) are to go on hunting excursions to collect furs, trade furs for goods, use goods to help build the Trading post. That’s the 10,000 foot view of the game.

There are a few other things going on in the game that I think are unique and interesting. There is a time-dependence for being able to do things in the game. For example, when you send furs to Europe, they have to ride on the boat, which takes time. There is also a concept of chopping wood and floating it down the river towards the Trading Post. So players would have to set themselves up to receive the large amounts of wood when they arrive.

Overall I’m pretty excited to be able to think about this game from a fresh perspective. It’ll be interesting to see how it comes along.

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Brooklyn Bridge

This is a very recent game design of mine. As you can imagine, the theme is that of the Brooklyn Bridge. In the game you represent a crew of workers that are helping to build the bridge. It is similar to Stone Age in that you place workers in different areas of the board one location at a time. It is different from Stone Age in that one player cannot remove all their workers and take all their actions at once. Instead, players will remove their workers and take the actions one location at a time.

What that introduces is an interesting dichotomy about placing and removing workers. You might be able to get a good spot in the Materials office, but someone might beat you to building a section of the bridge. You might get lucky and not experience the bends when working in the caisson, or your worker might have to undergo a stage decompression.

This game will be a balance between obtaining goods and earning money. The goal is to contribute the most to the bridge and that will ultimately be the player who earns the most money.

As of today this is still a pretty rough concept. I’ve mocked up some tiles so that I can test a few things. I’m not sure this one (or Trading Post) could really be a full prototype by Christmas, but we shall see.

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The Path Forward

So those are the four concepts currently in my active queue. This gives me enough variety and enough challenges to work on while not being overwhelming. But if I try to work on all four then I’m afraid none of them will be ready before Christmas. So I present my first ever poll, for which I am sure to get thousands of votes. Please vote for the game design you would most like to see fully prototyped:

Thanks for reading and voting! I’m hoping to bring you good game design updates over the next three months!

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