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Monday Brews 3-31-14

Yes. My Wisconsin Badgers are in the Final Four! What more could I ask for? This isn’t a sports blog so I’ll spare you the awesome details, just be aware that I’m excited about that.

This is, however, a blog about beer and board games. And each Monday I share a recap of the Boards & Barley that I enjoyed the previous week. So I welcome you here to see what I enjoyed. If you enjoyed something special, please feel free to comment below!

The Barley:

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: Redhook IPA

I’m not an IPA guy. I’m not a hoppy guy. But I’m sick of sharing those two disclaimers. So by golly I’m gonna start enjoying these types of beers. There are so many of them out there that I don’t want to exclude them any longer.

So I started this new escapade with the Redhook IPA at a recent board game night. I was pleased by the lack of over-the-top hops. It was bitter, but not unacceptably floral. So I’d say I would enjoy this again. I’m excited to be branching out into a new realm of beer. I’m sure I won’t enjoy them all, but at least I’m diving in!

The Boards:

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: Quantum Orcas

I’m not sure why Quantum Orcas still exists. It’s probably because it only takes 10-15 minutes to play and has a quirky theme. No matter the reason, it is still around and it keeps getting better. I’ll give more details below, but Quantum Orcas has gone beyond “pet project,” as a good friend mentioned, and it’s now a legit game design. I’m pretty excited about that.

  • Mad City
  • Alhambra
  • PROTOTYPE: Scrapyard – This was a neat two-player game where players try to build the best upgraded robot. I really enjoyed the mechanic and I think there is a sweet design inside this concept.
  • Backyard Astronaut

Designer’s Corner:

As I mentioned above I’ve kept working on Quantum Orcas. The biggest change I recently made was to change it to allow for 4 players. Previously it was only a two player game. Ultimately there is no good reason for this not to be playable up to 4.

So I designed decks of cards for each player and had my first ever 4 player playtest. It worked pretty well. I don’t think people were in love with the game, but the changes I implemented made it quite a bit better.

Another thing I changed was how the asteroids move through space. (Timeout… I thought this was a game about killer whales eating boats? What’s the deal? Well I changed it based on feedback and now you are an orca in space eating asteroids. That’s the deal!) Previously small asteroids would move toward the upper left corner of the 4×4 grid and large asteroids would move to the lower right corner. This caused a large pile of small asteroids in the 1, 1 spot. And players just didn’t think that helped to make it fun. Now small asteroids move up on the board and large move down. They both follow the star lines on the tiles on the board. This seemed to work quite well without increasing the fiddliness.

These show the placement of new asteroids and the Quantum Blowhole for each round.

The other change is that I now have an Asteroid Deck. The card example shown above has already changed after I received a suggestion of having the rows be labeled A through D instead of numbers. I originally had numbers in two colors because you would have to roll two d4s for each asteroid that you were to place. That was the fiddly part. Now there are 16 cards for seeding, 8 of which are used in a game of Quantum Orcas. These cards help speed up the game a lot!

The other game you might have heard me talking about is Brooklyn Bridge. I love this game. It has a unique time-based worker placement mechanic that has received awesome feedback. People really seem to love it. The biggest issue with the game currently is that it takes too long. I recently received feedback that will help me cut that quite a bit. I am actively making changes and trying to cycle through playtests with this game. I think there is a lot of potential here and my plan is to have 30 playtests completed and have a refined game by GenCon.

I also came up with a new game design based on a conversation with a co-worker. I don’t want to share any info yet, but I think it could potentially be a really amazing game. The only detail I’ll share is that it would have a space/sci-fi theme.

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So those are the Boards & Barley and game design efforts I enjoyed this past week. What did you enjoy?!

Monday Brews: 3-24-14

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of playing a bunch of game design prototypes as I was attending Protospiel-Milwaukee. Since they were unpublished prototypes I’m not going to share my opinions about them. If you want my opinion, ask me privately.

For those who do not know, Protospiels are game designer conventions. The idea behind them is that you can get feedback on your game designs from other designers, who are likely to see the game differently than gamers in general. It is a fantastic event for aspiring and successful designers alike if for nothing else than networking. I met a bunch of new people, hung out with some old friends, and got my newest design, Brooklyn Bridge, to the table for it’s 4th playtest ever.

Overall it was a great weekend and I can now make both Brooklyn Bridge and Quantum Orcas even better.

But today is Monday, so let’s cover the Boards & Barley that I enjoyed this past week…

The Barley:

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: Lakefront Brewery Big Easy Imperial Maibock

Sometimes it is worthwhile to put the spotlight on things because they are not good. This beer was very interesting. First, if you are going to make a seasonal beer that is light for Spring, why make it Imperial? Second, why make a Maibock that doesn’t taste like a Maibock?

I typically enjoy drinking a Maibock because it makes me think of Spring and melting snow and blossoming flowers. This beer didn’t have the Maibock characteristics that made me think of those things.

The Boards:

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: Mad City

I got the chance to play Kane Klenko’s Mad City by Mayfair Games last Saturday and I forgot to add it to last Week’s Monday Brews. Fortunately I was able to play it again at Protospiel so I am placing it in the Boards Spotlight this week.

In Mad City you are building a city of residential, industrial, and urban areas. To score the most points you will want to put those areas near each other. So you should build larges groups of residences or large groups of industry. No one wants their house next to an industry. So the larger the groups you can make, the more you can score.

I won’t get into the game any more than that for now, but you can look forward to a review of Mad City on Friday.

  • Quantum Orcas in space. Plastic monsters work too.

    Quantum Orcas in space. Plastic monsters work too.

    Quantum Orcas – this was requested by several different people who wanted to play it. So I think it was played 4 or 5 times at Protospiel.

  • Crokinole
  • LXIX: Year of Four Emperors designed by Brett Myers
  • Pull! designed by Chevee Dodd
  • Sunset Showdown – designed by Jason Kotarski
  • Lexicards – designed by Wade Johnston
  • Prohibition – designed by Neil Roberts
  • I love those farmer meeples!

    I love those farmer meeples!

    Scoville – I got to play this with the honorable Ryan Metzler of The Dice Tower and a very nice respresentative from AEG. It was fun to play with the farmer meeples that TMG sent me. I lost, but so did Metzler.

  • Copper Country – designed by Scott Diehl and David Lankton of CMX Games
  • Sequoia Grove – my failure of an entry for Dice Hate Me Games’ 54 Card Challenge. But I think I have an interesting mechanic in the game though Metzler would disagree.
  • Backyard Astronaut – designed by Adam Buckingham. I’ve mentioned this one before. He got a bunch of playtests and people enjoyed the game!
  • Don't worry... it's different already!

    Don’t worry… it’s different already!

    Brooklyn Bridge x2 – After a playtest with my Level 1s I made some changes and it worked much better at Protospiel. I got some good feedback and I am now equipped to make this game great.

Those are the games I played last week. It is fun to play a bunch of prototypes and see what other people are working on. It was also fun to do some networking and meet other great people in the game design industry. It’s worth going to things like Protospiel for that alone!

Designer’s Corner

With my attendance at Protospiel I had prepared Version 4 of Brooklyn Bridge in the hopes of playtesting it with other designers. After Playtest #3 last week with my Level 1s I knew I had to adjust things before putting it in front of other designers. So I made a new version (seen in the picture of Brooklyn Bridge above) and tweaked a bunch of stuff.  The result was a much quicker gameplay that finished with scores much more aligned with what I would want final scores to be.

The game at this point works and has interesting decisions. It still needs to be streamlined slightly. I have a path forward in that regard.

Also, I now have a good idea of how I want to separate in-game scoring from end-game scoring so that even if you are behind you still have hope that you can finish with the victory. So there are a lot of good things going on with Brooklyn Bridge.

I also got Quantum Orcas to the table four or five times. I don’t think the game is very good, but several people wanted to play it. Fortunately it plays in 10-15 minutes, so the players didn’t suffer for too long.

I got a bunch of feedback that was all over the map for Quantum Orcas. But perhaps the best thing to come out of Protospiel for the game is that I now have a good way to break ties. I’ll keep testing this one and see if I can make it as awesome as its title.

Thanks to everyone who played my games over the weekend. I had a lot of fun teaching them and watching you play them.

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So those are the Boards & Barley I enjoyed last week. Did you try anything new that you thought was special?

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!

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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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