Monday, December 16, 2013

Sickness and revisions...

Last Friday I started feeling ill.  At first it was just cold-like symptoms.  Runny nose, scratchy throat, etc.  My wife and I were also traveling to take part in a UNESCO International Family Dinner, so we were on the road.  I didn't think either would be a big problem.  I wrote most of what I posted for Friday before the dinner, thinking I'd just wrap things up later in the evening.  Usually I write before bed, so I thought I'd do the same that night.

But being sick and traveling had taken a lot out of me.  When my keyboard (bluetooth, for use with my iPad) was acting up, I just didn't have the energy to deal with it.  I posted an incomplete game for Friday.

That really killed a lot of my enthusiasm for the site, knowing that I'd let myself down and not really completed what I set out to do.  When I was even sicker on Saturday and Sunday, I couldn't find the willpower to force myself to the keyboard and make something happen.  Being creative just seemed like too much to ask of myself when even simple thoughts were difficult to tie together.  It didn't help that I didn't have caffeine for Sunday and most of today (Monday) because I'm very much an addict and I was dealing with an increasingly difficult headache.

Anyway, enough with the whining.  I'm three and a half days behind now and I've got to catch up.  I'm also recognizing that I've got to be realistic that there will be days like this weekend.  My solution going forward is this: I'm targetting 365 games this year.  I'm going to try and do them daily, but if circumstances prevent that I'll make it up.  Even better, once I catch up from this weekend I'm going to work ahead and schedule the posts to come up later so that I will still have a regular scheduled blog posting.

Back to work...

Friday, December 13, 2013

Day 11

Mechanics: Trivia, Word Game, Stock Holding
Theme: World, Talisman
Victory: Most Productive
Constraint: Must use a notepad

Mechanics: Trivia, Word Game, Stock Holding
Theme: World, Talisman
Victory: Most productive
Constraint: Must use a notepad

This one seems like such a huge step up from the games I've been doing lately that at first I'm not even sure how to approach it.

It is the first game I've had with more than one mechanic, and it jumped all the way up to three mechanics immediately.  It's also got a couple of themes that seem a little difficult to work in together with the mechanics and the victory conditions.

On the other hand, one thought about constraints and so many conditions is that they almost allow the games to write themselves.  I'm not sure that's what is happening here, but maybe looking back from the end of this post I'll see it that way.

When I approach most of these games, I look at mechanics and victory conditions as something of a set.  They need to work together in the end, so I think it is easier to just start by pairing them.  Theme is a little more flexible to think about.  One exception might be victory conditions that involve points.  The difference between a game using points, victory points, experience points, etc is pretty small.  So I don't worry too much about those conditions as long as there is some element mechanically that allows for some kind of recorded and rewarded accomplishment.

In the case of this game, I've got essentially 5 things to work with mechanically: trivia, word games, stock holding, notepad use and then productivity.  I've mostly been making very simple games on this site (one virtue of only having a day to think about them).  This game might be a bit more complex as a matter of necessity.

Daily game #11: Ley Line Trader

A game for 2-5 players

Parts: Game board, Regional charters, player pawns, notepads, pencils.

Each player is the principal mage in a trading company based on building knowledge and mastery over resources around the world.  Players win the game by wisely investing in the best trading companies they can, and by enriching the regions where those trading companies operate.  Each player has been awarded a charter by the guild of magical trade allowing them to operate in all but one region of the board (different for every player), so they must pick and choose the regions they will concentrate on to advance their own interests.  Ultimately their mandate is to make as much money as possible though, so their strategy must balance decisive action with wise investment (perhaps recognizing that another player may increase the value of another region more quickly, for example, and investing in that region instead of the one they are working in).

Every player turn has phases:

- Movement phase.  Players may use their magical talisman to teleport to any region of the map they can correctly name.  The map is unlabeled, but the Regional Charter for that region does include the names of all the cities.  So the player declares that they will cast the spell of movement, then they write the name in their notebook.  They then declare the name of the city while they point to it on the map.  The holder of that region's charter either confirms or denies that the city name is correctly spelled and named.  If the name is correct, the mage moves to the new location immediately, and they add the name to their letter collection.

Cheating a bit tonight.  Keyboard isn't working and I've only got my ipad on the road. Will finish his up tomorrow with the next post.  Ciao.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Day 10: Case Closed!

Mechanics: Set Collection
Theme: Mystery, Cadaver
Victory: Player Elimination
Constraint: Plays in under 5 minutes

Five minutes for a set collection game is pretty darn fast, so this is a bit of challenge.

Otherwise, this one isn't too bad.

Daily Game #10: Framed!

A card game for four players.

- A standard 52 card deck of cards.

- Each player chooses a suit.  This suit represents their family.  There is a murder spree going on in the city, and the lead families all have to clear their own names... by framing the other families and making sure none of the blame falls on themselves.

- Cards numbered Ace through 5 are weapons.  Cards 6 to 10 are locations.  Cards J/Q/K are family members.

- Suited sets of a weapon, a location and a family member constitute a framing and bring down that family (eliminate the player).

- When a family is eliminated, any player with a family member of the eliminated family in his hand is under suspicion.  IF they have both a member of their own family and a member of the eliminated family in their hand, they also are eliminated.

Play proceeds as follows:
- Players choose their suits and declare them openly.

- The cards are shuffled.  Each player draws five cards.

- Draw one card and place it face up for the discard pile.  The remaining cards are the draw pile.

- The first player draws a card from either the draw pile or the discard pile.  Players continue play around the table for one full round.

- Round two continues and players can choose between drawing one from the draw pile or the discard pile.

- Starting at the beginning of the second round, any player can declare a frame during their round and eliminate a player.  A player who has been framed can immediately counter by framing another player if possible.  This doesn't absolve them of the crime, but it does take another player down with them.

- Additionally, any player can immediately claim a framing as soon if they can make a set with the top card on the discard pile, even if it is not their turn.

- When a player is framed, all other players must show their cards to the eliminated player, who can verify if they have any members of the eliminated family in their hand.  If the player has one of their own family members and a member of the framed family in their hand, then they are also eliminated.

Also after an elmination, the eliminated player removes their own family from the draw pile and reshuffles the pile.

Play continues until only one player remains (or possibly until everyone is eliminated).

Thoughts:  Not my best work.  But I started very late today and I'm not really feeling it.  Got a bit of a cold.  I think this game would be a quick, chaotic mess where you are struck with a decisions between holding your own family to protect them and getting rid of them so that you don't get caught up in other cases.  Could be fun, I'm not sure.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Day 9: The Work of Angels

Mechanics: Card Drafting
Theme: Angels
Victory: Most Captured
Constraint: Must have cards with roles

Today's game is not, I realize, the very heart of creativity.  When I read the description, a very simple game came to me that I think I am pretty happy with and that I think could be somewhat fun, even if it is pretty simple and derivative.  In fact, it might even be marketable if you want to try and hit up the "Christian churches which allow their followers to play cards" market.  I also think that the hidden goal mechanic gives a bit more depth to a game that is essentially close to Rummy 500.

Like yesterday's game, it is playable with a standard 52 card deck, though I could easily see a custom deck doing well with this game.

Daily Game #9: The Work of Angels

A game for 2-4 players.

- 52 card deck of standard playing cards.

- In this game, each player is an Angel.  There are problems at the gates of Heaven.  St Peter is all kinds of backed up, what with the growth in population down on Earth and the generally more permissive attitude of God these days.  It seems like everybody is getting into Heaven now.

So God has sent you all down here to help speed things up at the gate.  You are to go through the line and pick out groups of people that Peter can usher through together, so as to save him some valuable time.  He's given each of you a specific sort of person to pick out, and if you can bring more of those people, he'd be especially pleased.  The Angel that manages to bring the most souls to the front in organized groups will be the most exalted, so get to it!

How to play the game:

Separate the Jacks out from the deck, shuffle them and deal one to each player.  The player keeps the Jack concealed, but this suit is their special assignment from St Peter.  They will gain double points for cards of that suit when scoring is done at the end.

Shuffle the other 48 cards together, and place them face down on the table.  Each player draws six cards.  Then the dealer draws the next three cards off the top of the deck and places them face up on the table.

The first player can choose to draw cards from the table, either the face up cards or the top card(s) off the draw deck, until their hand has 7 cards.  Then they can either play sets down on the table in front of them or pass.  At the end of their turn, they must discard down to 6 cards, placing extra cards face up onto the table.  The number of face up cards may grow throughout the game if players take cards off the top of the deck.

Play continues around the table until the deck and all face up cards are depleted (they are counted as depleted when the last card is collected, and there is no discard at the end of that turn).  At the end of the current player's turn when that happens, the round is over (games can consist of multiple rounds at the players' option).

Sets and scoring:

There are two possible kinds of sets.  Sets by suit/sequence and sets by number.  Sets exist only in the players own area, and cards cannot be played on other players sets.

Sets of a number: Three or four cards of the same number.
Sets of a sequence: Five cards in a row of the same suit.

Sets score 10 points per card from A-10, and 20 points for Q-K.  Any cards of your Angel's suit in one of your sets scores double points.  Cards that could not be played into a set count against the player's score.

Winner (over multiple rounds) is the first Angel to 500 points.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Day 8: Muckraker

Mechanics: Set Collection
Victory: Most Experience Points
Constraint: Players must have less than 4 cards in their hand

Daily Game #8: Muckraker

A game for 3-6 players

- 52 card deck of muckraker cards.  Each card represents a notable story.  There are 13 card sets of each story in the deck, and a total of 4 topics.  Each story also has an experience point value from 1 to 13.  Muckraker can be played with a standard 52-card deck.
- Rule book

Each player represents a tabloid political newspaper.  Your mandate is to publish stories on the scandals of the day without getting wrapped up in stories that might get you in trouble with the censors in the government.  The public's mood changes all the time though, and they will follow the newest scandals and disregard the old before you can say "yesterday's news."

How to Play Muckraker:

- First, shuffle the deck of muckraker cards thoroughly.

- The shuffled cards become the draw pile, and they should be placed face down  in the middle of the table.

- Draw one card off the top and place it face up to the east of the draw pile.  This is the Hot Topic.

- Draw another card off the top of the deck and place it face up to the west of the draw pile.  This is Old News.

- Player one draws four cards from the draw pile.  They can play any two cards from their hand face down onto the table, and then pass their two unwanted cards to the next player counter clockwise.  That player draws 2 cards, and plays whatever combination of two cards they want onto the table and again passes two cards to the next player.  Play continues around the table until every player has two cards played face down onto the table in front of them.  The last player places their unwanted cards in a discard pile to the south of the draw pile.  (See the section on scoring below)

- Each round, the starting player rotates one space counter-clockwise.

- Play proceeds for 10 rounds.  If the draw pile is depleted, reshuffle the discard pile and replace it in the draw pile area.


- Player reveal and score their cards starting with the first player who played in the round.

There are several results that are possible from playing two cards as follows:

Unmatched cards:
- Hot Topic Story/Suit: Double XP
- Old News Story/Suit: No XP
- Normal Stories (off suit): Face value XP of the card.

Pairs (In-depth Features):
- Contains 1 card from Hot Topic suit: (crossover success) 4x XP for each card.
- Old News: (taken to libel court) Negative XP for each card, and miss the next round.
- Normal Stories (pair of off-suit cards): Double XP for each card, plus a change of hot topic.  The player chooses which card to place on top of the hot topic pile face up, and that suit immediately becomes the new hot topic.

After all the cards are scored and recorded for the round, the players place all their remaining cards in the discard pile and start a new round.  Play continues for 10 rounds.

A note about workflow and idea "creation"

This is just a quick note about my present workflow, and how much time I spend here, and what I think this site is for...  well, it might not end up being short.  I can be a bit long-winded.

I'll say this much: this blog has already turned into a way for me to prove to myself that ideas are cheap and easy, and that the difficulty is putting the work in to turn things from ideas into realities.

I was working on some projects even before this site, and I was really excited about one of them especially.  I still am in a lot of ways.  But part of that excitement was just about the concept that "this idea seems really fun and it was my idea!"  I'm from a country (USA) that really idolizes idea people, inventors, and entrepreneurs.  There's a definite excitement to think that you might become like these famous people that the country seems to worship, even if they aren't worshiping Leacock, Vaccarino or Knizia as much as Gates or Jobs.

But the thing is, with all of those folks, that they didn't get there by having a great idea.  They got there by taking a great idea and making it real.  By working their butts off to get that idea out into the public and help people understand how good an idea it was, and why we should pay for it.

So that's a big reason to keep going on this blog.  To prove to myself with some finality that good ideas (even from my own head) aren't terribly hard for me to come up with.  A couple of the ideas from the site (Borderlords and Today's Hero) strike me as things that could be workable and successful games.  But they don't mean anything if they just stay on this blog and I don't do anything with them.

The other thing I wanted to talk about briefly was that I've gotten some feedback, both from the blog, from other sites, and from some of my friends/playtesters that they don't understand how I have time for this or how I'm doing it.  So I wanted to address that quickly.

Yes, I do have a day job.  I'm also married and I do spend time with my wife.  I also get out and hang out with my friends and even manage to travel, watch movies/Netflix and get some exercise (not enough, but some).  It's all a matter of balance.  Sometimes I get the balance right, sometimes I don't.

For this site, I spend typically an hour or so a day writing.  I don't do much revision, so if there is an idea that doesn't come out clearly it is probably because this is more or less a first draft of everything and I'm not going back over it to review it.

My workflow each day starts with the night before.  I typically finish a post, and then go immediately to boardgamizer.  I roll up a game for tomorrow and take a screencap of it.  Then I go back into blogger and make a post for the next day, embedding the picture in the post at the top.  I then write just the little 4 line note that says the constraints/setup for the day.

Then I shut down blogger and go on with whatever I'm doing.  Lately that means I get ready for bed.  Maybe I think about the game for a few minutes right before I go to sleep, but as my wife could tell you, I fall asleep in literally seconds after my head hits the pillow.  So there's not a lot of time for thinking then, usually.

But the next day I'll think about it in my transition periods.  On the way to work, on the way home, in spare moments when I'm just able to think and not do other things, I mull over the game.

I've tried to get myself away from my various electronic devices in the last few months.  In part that was because I realized I just wasn't giving myself space to think.  I was too used to firing up the iPad and doing a crossword or reading a book, or listening to some music, or doing anything except giving my mind some room to breathe.

The real revelation came to me one day before work.  In my job, a couple of days a week I walk from one site to another.  It's about a 30 minute walk each way in the open air along the ocean.  Not exactly a chore.  But I always used that time to listen to music or catch up on reading (literally going along with my kindle/iPad and reading while I walked).

Then one day I was walking and for some reason I didn't get my iPad out.  I just decided to be present with the walk and take in the surroundings.  I've walked past all of this stuff hundreds of times, so there's not a lot new to notice.  So what happened?  My brain actually started working.  It wanted to fill up the space that I usually fill up for it, and what it focused on was the game I'd been working on in my spare time.

In that half-hour walk I had two or three ideas that positively dwarfed the progress I'd made in several sessions of sitting down and trying to grind my way through solving the problems in the game.  I was elated with what had come out.

So I decided I would make sure I gave myself more time like that to let my mind wander a bit.  I might give it a nudge in a direction I want (how to make today's game work, for example), but I ultimately just give it some space.

Often, when I sit down in the evening to write up my post, I don't actually have a good idea for a game yet.  Maybe I've had some thoughts in the day.  Usually I've discarded most of them for one reason or another.

So I just sit down and start typing.  So far, in that process, something has always eventually come out.  Looking back at my post list, every game I've written so far was substantially different when I started writing than when I finished writing.  Even if I had an idea, it had always changed (sometimes completely) by the time I published the post.

When I write, I find myself laughing at the way the ideas come out and with just the weird situations I can imagine while people are playing them (Volcano of the Gods and Today's Hero especially).  When I get done writing I'm usually invigorated and excited, and I just want to literally dance around and let that excitement flow.  I think my wife thinks I'm crazy.

It's been a great project for me so far.  1 week down, 53 to go.  :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Day 7: Do you remember?

Mechanics: Memory
Theme: Book
Victory: Most Experience Points
Constraint: The leader should have a penalty

A) Tonight I'm super tired.

B) My bluetooth keyboard is malfunctioning at the moment, so every couple of lines my touchpad keyboard is coming up on screen (typing on the iPad).  That's pretty annoying.  Battery is probably low on the keyboard.

Anyway, I'm just going to grind something out here before I go to bed.  My wife and I are both struggling to stay awake.

This will be a pretty simple idea for a game.

Day 7: Do you remember?

A literary game for 3-6 players.

The game comes with a deck of literary quotes.  Each card contains one quote of approximately one 3-4 sentence paragraph.  All of them have some bits of data, dates, names, etc. that can be specifically recalled (or not).  They also have 3 questions about the passage written on the back of the card.

The game starts with players drawing the first 3 cards per player from the deck.  Players take turns going around the table reading their quotes.  They read the quote only one time, though if a player needs a passage repeated for clarity they can request a repetition.   After the quote is finished, the player places the card in a parallel pile without looking at the back side (where the questions are).

Players continue around the table until all the quotes have been read.  Then the deck of discards/read cards are flipped.  Starting with the second player from the first round, each player reads one question from the card.  They must choose a number and announce it before they pick up the card to read the question.

Each player writes their own answer to the question on their pad, until all questions have been asked and answered.

After that, the players check their answers and for each question they answer correctly they gain 10 experience points.  Every 50 experience points represents one "level."

The game is played in three rounds (of 3 cards each).  Players that have gained levels also have progressive penalties as follows:

Level 1: Player no longer can ask to have cards repeated.
Level 2: Each round, the player starts at -10 XP
Level 3: The player can no longer read quotes or questions from the deck themselves (other players must read their card for them)
Level 4: The player starts the round at -20 XP

After three rounds are scored, the player with the highest XP wins the game.