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.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Day 6: Quarantine

Mechanics: Network Building
Theme: Capture, Diseases
Victory: First to reach a number of points
Constraint: Can be played with a 10 year old (sic)

It's an interesting set of circumstances for a game, and at first I thought "Oh, this one looks easy."   But then a bit of conflict and maybe even some designer's block set in and for a long while I've been unable to come up with anything that really convinces me of its merit.

But now I've got about three hours left before the end of my day and I haven't put anything together.  I've gone out to the cafe for the evening until I can bang out an idea worthy of being put up on the blog.  Even knowing that not every design will be good (or even decent), the thought that some people will read these at some point probably even more that one or two of the ideas this week have actually felt pretty good means that I'm setting a higher bar for myself.

It occurs to me that it might even be a good idea to just go ahead and write whatever the first terrible idea that comes to my head.  Just make today's game wretched so that I can dispose of the daily pressure of trying to make a good game.  It is tempting, but I can't quite let myself go there.  (not that what will come out will be good, but I've got to give it my best shot or I won't be happy with myself).

I think the main issue I'm having is reconciling network building for 10 year olds and disease capture.  Pretty much the who;e game, eh?  Well, I guess I don't have problems with a first to a number of points game.  Probably works best with network builders and capture anyway.

One of the issues I'm having is that some of the network building kind of ideas have to do with using the CDC and a travel network, kind of like Pandemic, but needing to build the network up as you go. Maybe a direct-response network to quickly quarantine disease outbreaks in the future or something.  Could work, but I can't imagine 10-year olds caring or quite grasping the theme, and that's problematic.

OK, time to stop wasting time...

Day 6: Quarantine (Go to the Nurse!)

A game for 2-4 players.

Setting and theme:
This game is set in an elementary school.  A massive outbreak of red head (a terrible variant of pink eye) has broken out.  You are each class officers, and have been given a special task.  The nurse is trusting you to gather up the students in each classroon who have red head and send them to her.  You need to act quickly, because Red Head spreads super fast.  If any class becomes totally infected, you lose the game.  So you want to work together to make sure that the whole class isn't infected, but you also want to impress the nurse with how good you at at your job.

- 6 Classroom boards (Grades K-5).  Boards are square grids, approximately 10 by 10 grids.  Each has a different desk configuration, but all have 30 desks.  Boards are laminated.

- Spinner with four directions.

- 60 student counters.  30 are "healthy" students, and 30 are "Red Heads."  Student counters are all the same circular shape, with only the color of the center of he counter being different.

- Whiteboard/non-permanent markers.

- Erasers.

- Laminated nurse room themed scoreboard.


Every classroom has 30 students.   Players will start by clearing out the kindergarten and them work their way up to 5th grade.

One student per player is already infected, but their placement is random.  For each player in the game, take out one healthy student, place in a replacement sick student, and shuffle the deck of student counters.  Then place them sequentially in the classroom at desks 1-30.

Each round, the youngest player goes first.  They spin the direction spinner.  Any student who is sitting next to a sick student in the specified direction becomes sick.  Replace their token with a sick student token.

Every time it is the first player's turn again, they must spin for new sick students.

After spinning and placing new sick students, each player gets a turn to try and separate the sick students.  Using their marker, and starting at the door to the hallway, each student can draw five spaces along the grid lines.  In the first round, they start at an intersection of the door and go in a direction of their choice.  In later rounds, they must continue from the end of their line on the last round.  Players lines can cross, but no two Players can draw over the same line segment (doors are two spaces wide, and Players can start out going along the outside walls).  Players can retrace line segments they have previously drawn, if they want to.

Their goal is to encircle/box in as many sick students as they can.  Once each sick student in the class is encircled by at least one player, the team counts their score and moves to the next classroom (if no one won the game on points).

So the sequence of play is:

1. Place sick and healthy students

2. Spin for new sickness
3. One at a time, players draw five lines in a row, starting from the door or the end of their last line, trying to encircle the sick students.
4. After every player turn, if all sick students are encircled, the classroom is cleared and points should be counted.
5. If not all the sick students are encircled, return to step 2.

After all the sick students in a class are encircled, students need to count their scores.  Any sick student they have encircled counts for one point, but any healthy student they encircle is minus one point.  Both sick and healthy students can be counted for multiple players if they fall within the spaces that each player has boxed in.

The first player with 10 points is the winner.  If all the grades have been cleared and no player has 10 points, the player with the highest point total is the winner.  If there is a tie, the youngest player wins.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Got in a few games of Borderlords (day 3) tonight.

Rough and ugly prototype, but the game was a lot of fun.  Who the winner was remained always in doubt, and there didn't seem to be a single dominant strategy.  We played five games I think and it seemed like everyone enjoyed the game thoroughly.

Day 5: Today's Hero

Mechanics: Real-time
Theme: Mall, Superhero
Victory: Most Experience Points
Constraint: Players should stand.

Ok, so today I'm going to stretch things a bit from a strictly board game paradigm.  This is definitely still a game, and my first thoughts were along the lines of a mission-themed card game, but then I almost immediately had some ideas that made it much more suited to play on android/ios devices, so I'm going to explain the concept as an app/game for those devices instead.  This is almost entirely because I think this would be a great worldwide/social game, and not particularly a game that really gets the most out of small group play.


Daily Game #5: Today's Hero: Mall Marvel


Today's Hero is a game for smartphone or tablet.  There are no additional parts, per se.

You must supply your own superhero costume and identity.  Your hero/heroine identity is limited only by your imagination.

Theme, mechanics and setting: 

The world is low on do-gooding.  Every town needs a hero.  Are you ready to make a difference?

Today's Hero: Mall Marvel challenges every player to become a hero in their own town, and to make a difference in other people's lives.  It's a social feedback game, where everyone can see that you've done good deeds, and top players are those who have been willing to go out of their way to help others.

Every time you play TH:MM, the game draws three quests from a pool of user submitted and screened good deeds that can be done in a public environment like a mall.   You gain experience points by going out and doing those deeds, then recording a short video with the person you've helped, where they verify your deed.  Once the video is uploaded, you are awarded experience points for that quest.

Quests are mostly simple things: help someone put their groceries in their car, help someone fill their shopping list, keep a lonely dad company while the family is shopping, carry the bags for an older couple, stop traffic so some kids can cross the road, etc.  Users can submit new quests to the quest database, which is moderated by the user base.

Heros need to wear a costume of some kind to make themselves stand out from the crowd.  A superman shirt might be sufficient, but we encourage players to go all out.  Get a cape and a mask!  Wear some tights!  Make a real impression on the people you are helping!  :)

There is a dual scoring system.  Players get a base XP score from the verified deed being uploaded to the website, but they get additional points from other users who recognize their efforts.  If you are a hero, spend some time reviewing the deeds of your peers, and if someone has done some truly noteworthy heroics, you can award them extra points by upvoting their videos.

Every day, week, month and year, heros are given recognition on the homepage of Today's Hero on the Hero Roll Call, plus awards from participating businesses and charities who support TH in making a difference in the world.  You can also earn badges for your good deeds to put on your Facebook page and your TH profile on the TH homepage.

Today's Hero is about making the world a better place.  It's about you making a difference today, and having fun doing it.  Will you be Today's Hero?  Or will you just get to it tomorrow?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Day 4: Volcano of the Gods!

Mechanics: Secret Roles
Theme: Volcano, India
Victory: Last One Standing
Constraint: Plays in 3 rounds

Volcanoes!  In India!

A game of three rounds, with the last one standing being the winner.  But with secret roles.

Simple enough, right?

Did you know that one of the largest supervolcanoes in the world is in India?  The Deccan Traps is, by my understanding, basically a massive depression left over after one of the largest volcanic events in the history of the planet.  It's around 500,000 square kilometers, which for scale is roughly 25% larger than California.

That's a massive volcano.

I'm not going to make a game about that today.

That said, checking the list of volcanoes in India gives me a rather sparse list.  There's only four, including the supervolcano, and three of them are in the Andaman Islands.  Plus, India and volcanoes as a theme brings up some images and connotations I'd rather not cover in a game, like the "Kali" worshiping human sacrifice cult in Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom.  While I could think up a game about rival priests tricking each other into sacrificing each other, I don't think the themes of the movie were particularly fair to Kali or to Indians generally, so I'll go another route.  At the same time, there is something about the adventure of something like Indiana Jones that sticks in my mind after thinking of it.  I'm not sure I can use it though.


Daily Game #4: Volcano of the Gods!

Today's idea might be a little less fleshed-out, but on a Friday night my inspiration isn't flowing quite as well.  Notably, this is not a game for mass production.  More like a game to make in your basement.  But please don't really do this.  I won't be held responsible for chemical burns or ruined houses.  I do not endorse actually playing this game.  (except it might be really awesome fun).


- One volcano game board.  A model of a volcano with four valleys that go off in different directions, and three calderas (calderae?). The valleys each have a small Indian village with lots (40 each) of little Indian-themed meeples who can be moved around.  Each village has a distinct color scheme.  I'm thinking the total size for this behemoth is something like 5 feet on each side square.  A big stinking volcano!  In the villages, there are small buildings.  Some of the meeples will stand on building tops, some are smart enough to go a little bit up the walls of their valley to try and escape the lava.  Players should collectively arrange the meeples (10 of each color placed by each player) before drawing their god cards, so that there is some balance to the arrangement.

- Four player role cards.

- Hydrogen peroxide, colored lava solution, dry yeast and water (player supplied).

- Lots of small sandbags (maybe 6 inches long by 2 inches wide, come with the game, but need to be filled with sand by the players, nylon mesh bags, I'm thinking.  If Hydrogen perozide dissolves nylon, I don't want to know about it.).

- Lots of small sangbag boulders (rounder, more like 3 inch diameter balls of sand in a nylon bag)

- Four pairs of rubber gloves.

- Four sets of customized safety goggles that are all themed to be part of a full-face mask for a Hindu god (I'm thinking Ganesha, Shiva, Kali and Hanuman, but what do I know?)


The Gods are Angry!  Really, really angry.

Four villages in the mountains of India have angered the gods with false prophets and crazy gurus.  Well, at least they angered the other gods than the ones they are prophets for.

Four angry gods, four vulnerable villages, three massive eruptions!  The last village standing can claim victory and their god will be bragging for eternity.

How to play the game:

Each player represents the God of one village.  But really, he/she doesn't care much about his/her own village.  Worshippers come and go, really.  Reincarnation and all that...

What really ticks gods off is a good prophet or guru for the other team.  Especially the ones in the red village!  Or maybe it was the blue village!  It's so hard to keep track these days.  Those darned prophets are just so annoying, they must be wiped out.

So the four gods in this region decided they'd just have a nice volcanic eruption to wipe the slate.  Or almost wipe the slate.  Maybe they will spare one village.  Maybe not.

Each "god" gets a role card.  Their role card specifies three villages they want to see wiped out, and one village they'd like to save (kind of optional, frankly).  These roles are kept secret from the other players.

After each god knows their role, they take a position around the volcano/board.  They can choose any area they like around the board, it doesn't need to be near their own village.  They get ten boulders and five sangbags each round of the game (each eruption).

"Shiva" sets off the first eruption by dropping the yeast and water into the already-primed with Hydrogen Peroxide and Lava mix volcano #1.

During the eruption, the gods can throw boulders at any village they want to smite, or toss sandbags in front of any village they want to spare from the terrible encroaching lava.  Gods tend to be a bit fickle, so "bluffing" by protecting a village you are actually mad at, or throwing an occasional boulder at your own village is allowed.

After the gods are all out of bags and boulders, and the lava has stopped flowing, players should remove any meeples from the board that have fallen over, been knocked off the board, or have been touched by the lava.   Then players count the remaining villagers from each town.  The town with the least villagers is cleared away (their remaining meeples are taken off the board).

Their gurus were obviously not strong enough to cut it, so the survivors (if any) fled to the coast.  Enjoy the beach, suckers!

Any fallen meeples from the surviving towns are restored for the next round.  Players divide them evenly for replacement in each surviving town.

All the gods rearm themselves for round 2 (10 boulders, 5 sandbags).  Any boulders and sandbags left from last round stay on the board.

Any god whose village was destroyed stays around to smite and drop sandbags.  Honestly, they weren't that important anyway.  Let's cause some havok!

So there will be two more explosions and two more rounds of total craziness.  It's more fun if the gods make lots of god noises and yell and scream while they smite.  Trust me on this one.

After three eruptions, only one village remains, and that village's patron god is the winner.  The winning god buys drinks for everyone after cleaning up the mess.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Day 3: Borderlords

Day 3 setup: 

Mechanics: Worker Placement
Theme: Confidential, Lords
Victory Conditions: Diplomacy
Constraints: Must be under 15 minutes

This one is mind blowing to me, but that could be down to the fact that I just played Phase 10 for a couple of hours and drank about half a liter of beer.  Phase 10 is not one of my favorite games, by the way, but it does the job sufficiently well when you just want some casual gaming while talking about upcoming vacation plans.

I was happy to see worker placement come up.  I've been working in a significant way on a game with a worker placement element.  Significant meaning that I put more time and effort into it than just one day on a blog.

But there's an immediate conflict with the constraint of a 15 minute game.  The worker placement games I've played are more labored affairs, with the shortest ones clocking in at around an hour.  So cutting it down to 15 minutes will be tough.

Additionally, all the worker placement games I've played use some victory point win condition.  At least off the top of my head that's true.  So trying to tie worker placement into diplomacy is also difficult.  At least that's my first impression.

Also, there is a small conflict with confidential and diplomacy, though there are definitely games that do some level of confidentiality and diplomacy (like Diplomacy itself, even).  But especially in a short game it makes it seem difficult to come to a definitive diplomatic solution.

The final element is Lords.  OK, that's easy enough.  It makes part of my setting for me and that's one of the things I'll work with to make this happen.

Game #3: Borderlords

A 2-4 person game.

Game Parts:

- Resource cubes in six colors (30 cubes of each color)
- Meeples in 4 colors (5 meeples in each color)
- 4 Player mats with removable screens.
- 1 Resource mat with six resource areas.
- 1 tribe mat with five border tribes.  Each tribe has an area for a resource cube and an area for a team's meeple.
- 2 six-sided dice.

Setting and victory conditions:

Each player is a border lord on the edge of a great empire.  They are all trying to impress the Emperor by making alliances with their barbarian neighbors.  Whoever manages to lock in the most alliances after three rounds wins the game.


Player boards have 11 total spaces, and the screens conceal their boards from all other players.

There are six resources:
1) Wheat (Brown)
2) Gold (Yellow)
3) Weapons (Gray)
4) Cloth (White)
5) Wine (Purple)
6) Olive Oil (Green)

There are five tribes:

There is a space on each player board for each tribe and each resource.  The screen can be flipped up to reveal all the resource areas.  The tribe areas on the player board have a hidden resevoir/cup to hold resource cubes and keep them hidden at all times from other players.  This is known as the tribute box.

Each player gets five meeples.

Before the first round, players roll two dice to see who goes first in rotation.  Highest roll goes first.  Play proceeds clockwise thereafter.

The first player rolls one die for the Elk tribe.  The number corresponds to a resource.  If they roll a 1, it is wheat, 2 is gold, and so on.  They place one cube of that resource in the tribe's resource area.  Players proceed clockwise to roll for the next tribe, until all the tribes are allocated one resource.

Over the course of the game, each tribe values this resource most highly.  It is double the value to that tribe of any other resource.

Over the course of the game, players try to earn resources and covertly pay off the tribes to gain their favor.  The player who has provided the most value to a tribe at the end of the game will win the alliance of that tribe (in the case of a tie, the tribe will ally with the player who provided the most of their favored resource, if it is still tied, the tribe allies with no one).

Round 1-3:
Each round, players continues around in their clockwise order.  Each player rolls 2d6 for a resource (in order 1-6) and then places that number of resource cubes on the resource mat.

Players are given 1 minute to place their meeples behind their screen onto the resource areas they most want to gather.  They may place meeples in any combination they want.  Five meeples on one resource is valid, as is spreading their meeples over five different resources.

The timer is set, and then the players must place their meeples.  When time is up, the players must reveal their meeple placements to the rest of the players.

Each player that has placed a meeple for a particular resource earns a stake in that resource for the round, divided by the number of meeples that have been placed in that resource type.  Remainders after division remain on the resource mat for next round (they go to waste in round 3).

For example, if there are 8 wheat and only player 1 put any meeples on wheat, they would collect all 8 wheat cubes.  If player 1 and player 2 both put 1 meeple on wheat, they would both collect 4 wheat. If player 1 put 2 meeples and player 2 put 1 meeple, then player one would take 4 wheat, player 2 would take 2 wheat, and 2 wheat would remain on the mat until next round.

After all the resources are collected, each player has one minute to secretly place the cubes into their tribute boxes.

On rounds 1 and 2 the play then proceeds to the next round (rolling to add resources, allocating workers and then distributing hidden tribute).  Each round should have 1 minute for allocating workers, one minute for distributing tribute.

After round three, each player must reveal how much tribute he paid to each tribe.  Elk tribe is first, and each player reveals how much tribute they paid to Elk, based on the value to the Elk tribe (their primary resource worth 2 points each cube, all other resources being worth 1 point).  The player with the most points wins their alliance, with tiebreaks explained as above.

The player with the most alliances at the end of the three rounds is declared the winner.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Day 2: Karate Painters

Today's challenge looks pretty rough.  I almost re-rolled it given the themes that it gave me, but I'm going to try and make it work anyway.

Mechanics: Maze
Theme: Karate, Famous Painters
Victory: Most Courage Points
Constraint: Each player should have different abilities.  

Yesterday's project game really coalesced in my mind quickly, so I was able to really just write the nuts and bolts of the game out immediately.  This one is far more opaque to me, so part of this post will be just describing my thought process and how I might start to create a game from this mess.

Leaving aside the issues with theme for a moment, I've got a little quandary with my mechanics and my victory conditions.  My first impression is that there's not going to be a great way to award courage points in a game based in a maze.  So I did a bit of trawling on BGG looking for a game that used Courage Points in a novel way.  My finding: Viva Pamplona!  It's an older game (1992) by five-time Spiel des Jahres winner Wolfgang Kramer.  Maybe not one of his best efforts of all time, given that he's also created gems like Tikal, El Grande, and Princes of Florence.

But I like the mechanic he's using.  Basically, instead of earning Courage Points, you start with a pool of them and you lose points by taking certain actions.  Hide from the Running Bulls in a safe spot?  Lose a point!  This is something I can work with in today's game.

As an aside, this is also one of the reasons why I'm excited to do this project.  Boardgamizer has a lot of mechanics and victory conditions that I haven't played with before.  Forcing myself to learn about them and broaden my game understanding horizon is a good thing for my future development as a game designer.

Speaking of which, I'm not sure I've ever played an actual board game with a maze mechanic.  BGG has lots of games listed with this mechanic type, but I've never played any of them.  I think I'm going to trailblaze a little here in this area.  I'll wing it on this one.

Ok, so the last bit is the theme.  Ouch, this is a rough one.  Though it does occur to me that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles probably fulfill this theme by themselves with their names and expertise.  But I don't think I'll take that easy way out.

I'm going to broaden the scope of "Karate" to just be "Martial Arts."  That might be cheating a bit, but I find Karate a bit too narrow for my taste on this one.  Famous Painters I'll adhere to without any caveats.

Without further commentary, allow me to present:

Escape from the Shogun: Four Magic Brushes

Background Story: 

It is the year 2085.  Worldwide, society has largely collapsed after massive famines and energy shortages.  Governments, economies and societies all over the world have fallen and been remade.  Some technology and knowledge from our golden age around 2020 still remain, but much of the world is reverting to more simple ideas about how society should be formed.

In Japan, a new Shogunate has emerged.  Amazingly, the line of Japanese succession is still unbroken, and the Emperor still rules the country in name, but a new breed of Shoguns hold the de facto power in the country.

Shogun Arakida is a man of tremendous power and greed.  He has access to the resources of a once-great technological country and is happy to use them to solidify his power.  He styles himself as the return to a better time in Japan's history, and has reinstalled Samurai culture throughout the country.  His palace in Edo is staffed by over 500 modern swordmasters and he uses their power to control the country.

Recently, he has become obsessed with bringing back the best of Japanese culture and art, and creating a new era of wonder in Japan.  Coincidentally, one of his lead researchers into useful golden age technology found a rudimentary time machine that Arakida has started to experiment with.

His first attempts at using the machine were glorified kidnappings.  He sent agents back in time to capture five great painters from Japan's history.  His knowledge of Japanese painting is far from comprehensive, but he selected the five men based on a few pieces that he owns in his palace.

They were:
Sesshū Tōyō, landscape painter and monk from the Muromachi Period
Kanō Motonobu, founder of the Kano school during the Edo period, and painter of 36 Immortals of Poetry
Tomioka Tessai, multi-talented, prolific painter of great color and passion in the 19th century
Utagawa Hiroshige, the great master of wood block printing

The proud and noble painters were distraught at having been seized from their own times and brought to paint at this new Shogun's pleasure.  Gradually they have all been thrown into the dungeon of the Shogun's castle, only brought to the surface often enough to be forced to paint for the Shogun.

Now the adventure begins.  A sleeping guard has allowed Tessai to steal his keys and open the cells of the artists.  This may be their only chance to escape their bonds, but they make a pact that this must end with them.  Even using the time machine to return to their own times is too fraught with danger and irresponsibility.  They must destroy both it and the plans for making another one, so that no more artists will be enslaved in the future.

Across the hall from their cells is a storage closet for the materials they use to paint.  In the future these materials have nearly magical powers, and in the hands of masters like themselves, it is possible to create art that is nearly indistinguishable from reality.

The Mechanics:

The four artists start in the Shogun's dungeon.  Armed only with their wits, courage, and their magical artistry, they must find their way to the time machine and destroy it.  Only the artist who has retained the most courage will have the bravery to destroy the machine and trap themselves in this hellish time.  Each artist starts with 30 courage points.  The artist with the highest CP total will destroy the machine, but it will take a minimum of 1 CP to do so.  If all artists are captured or fall below 1 CP, the game is lost.

There are a few elements to the game.  It is a randomized dungeon, using a tile-laying mechanic on each player's turn.  Some tiles have samurai guards who are patrolling the dungeon.  They move in regular patterns, moving every turn and taking every left turn they come to. If an artist is ever in the same space as a guard, he is captured (unless he can use an art power to evade the guard).  If a guard can ever see an artist straight down a hallway, he will move one space per turn toward the artist (or the last place he saw the artist) until he captures the artist.

There are also tiles with safe zones.  These areas are places where the artists can hide away from the guards.  Staying in a safe zone drains the artist of one courage point.

Each artist has an art power he can use while they explore the castle.  Toyo, the landscape painter, can create new safe areas at any time.  Monotobu can create life-like portraits that act as decoys to draw the guards away (they will go directly to the portrait and be frozen there for one round until they destroy it).  Tessai can create
blinding displays of color.  Any guard who sees one of these color displays down a hallway is frozen for two rounds.  Finally, Hiroshige can create lifelike scenes that can mask a hallway's contents to any guard.  Guards will not proceed down hallways that are masked, nor will they see artists on the other side of a masking.  All artist abilities cost 5 CP.

The game ends when all artists are out of CP, all artists are captured, or when an artist successfully reaches the time travel machine and is able to disable it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Day 1: Fridge Factory

These are the conditions for Day 1's game:

Mechanics: Card Driven
Theme: Factory
Victory: First to win a number of rounds (2)
Constraint: Plays in 3 Rounds


- A deck of 54 custom cards.
- 2 sets of "100 dice" (d10s with singles on one die and tens on the other)
- 3 "Shift Winner" tokens.
- Rule book

Theme overview:

There's an emergency at the factory!  We need to pump out as many refrigerators as possible in the next 24 hours.

Both players are shift foremen in the factory.  You have one day (three 8-hour shifts) to crank out as many fridges as you can.

Mechanics overview:

This is a two player game.

Each player starts with five cards.  Your objective is to make as many fridges as possible each shift, and to win 2 out of three shifts.

There are 54 cards.  There are three general type of card: workers (12), parts (28), machines (4), and plans (6).

The game flows in this way: the player must have a plan and a staffed machine to process parts into fridges.  Fridges vary in value depending on how they were processed, with more demanding plans creating more value.

Parts, labor and machines are color coded.  There are yellow, green, blue and black machines.  There are 9 colored parts of each color.  There are 3 workers of each color.

Plans call for certain combinations of color to make the final fridges.  There are four "paired" plans that can make parts with only two color combinations (Y/G, G/B, B/BL, BL/Y).  There are also two universal plans that make fridges with any color.

The base value of fridges from the paired plans is 2.  The base value of universal plans is 1.  In any type of plan, fridges made when all three colors match will be worth 4 points.

Each foreman can set up as many assembly lines as he wants in his area of the factory.  Any plan that the foreman draws must be played immediately onto the table, and he may allocate machines and labor to it as they become available.  Machines and labor can be reallocated to another plan once per round, but on the round they move they cannot process parts.

Once the "assembly line" is set up, he may play one applicable parts card per round through the line to collect points.  Each worker assigned to a machine can process one part per turn.  He should immediately score the points on his scoring dice, and then place the parts card in the discard pile.

Game Flow:

- Each player starts with one universal plan and a random machine.                                      
- Each player should place the plan in front of him and place their machine on the plan card.

The rest of the plans and machines should be shuffled into the draw deck with the parts and worker cards.  Each player draws five cards.  The top card on the deck is placed face up to form a discard pile.  Players play rock, paper scissors to determine who goes first.

Each round, the action proceeds as follows:

- Draw cards until you have six cards in your hand.  You may draw one card at a time from either the draw pile or the discard pile.
- Allocate any labor, machines or plans you have in your hand that can be legally played.  Also, at this time you may reallocate any labor or machines you want to transfer to other plans.  Labor and machines cannot process parts the same round they are allocated/reallocated.
- Process any parts you can legally process. (1 part per worker assigned to a machine)
- Discard any number of cards you wish to discard, face up into the discard pile.

Play continues until there are no cards left in the draw pile.  Both players may finish the current round (drawing from the discard pile if possible), but after the round is complete scores are tallied and the award for winning the shift is awarded to one of the players.


I think this one will be a short, simple game that offers some impactful decision-making.  Do you go for universal machines and pump out as many parts as you can?  Do you go only for matching sets, or do you just play as fast as possible?

Final note:

My dad worked at a fridge factory for most of his life, and was fortunate to be able to retire a few years ago.  I'm glad he gets to spend his time now doing work he wants to do and enjoying his well-earned rest.  This first game is dedicated to him.

What's this place?

Ok, so this is a new blog based on one idea: that I'll design a simple outline of a board game every day for a year.

Today is my birthday.  December 3rd, 2013.  By coincidence, I saw a post today on BoardGameGeek about the Boardgamizer fitness challenge.  The simplest way to put it is that Boardgamizer makes a random set of ideas for a board game, and the website put out a challenge for people to write up ideas using their randomizer.  It gives you a mechanic, theme(s), win conditions, and, if you want them, constraints.

I've been working on a couple of board games of my own, and I really think this is a hobby that I could someday turn into a little side business.  But I want more practice on my skills.  I think this is a good way to give myself a push into trying things I'm a little unsure of and to stretch my abilities.

I'll aim for 1 design a day until my next birthday.  I'm sure some of them will be weird or terrible designs, but I'll try to work with what I get out of the randomizer and see what I can come up with.  I'll use constraints, and I'll take the first one the randomizer throws at me.  The only exception being that it uses multiple themes and sometimes they very much don't work together.  Earlier I rolled up the themes of "Cold War" and "18th Century."  Maybe I could come up with something there (time travel?), but I'd rather not have to worry so much about reconciling the themes, and get more into the mechanics.

I'll also target writing 1000 words per day.  That's a reflection of some old writing challenges I've done, and it will mean that I have to flesh out each idea substantially.