Sunday, October 31, 2010

Paint by numbers

Like Yoggity, here's another game, Pastiche, that deals with combining paint colors to make various other colors.  It looks like you're laying tiles next to each other to generate the various colors you need to make masterpiece paintings - a neat idea; I don't know how it plays.  I don't think the games are very similar at all, but it's interesting to see somebody thinking partially along the same lines.  I haven't seen a lot of other games where you combine colors as a part of the gameplay.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tasty Minstrel Kickstarter fund drive

Tasty Minstrel games has started a Kickstarter fund drive for its next release, a space-themed card game called Eminent Domain.  Tasty Minstrel is a small company (two games in print, two more on the way) run by two guys, Michael Mindes and Seth Jaffee.

They've funded their publishing costs out-of-pocket, and I think they're getting close to breaking even.  But it's hard to keep publishing if all you're doing is breaking even.  As a result, they're using Kickstarter to fund their next release.  The fund drive is mostly set up as a pre-order site; for $35, you get a copy of the game shipped to you when it's ready, and they have other more lavish rewards for higher donation values.

They're looking for $20,000 in funding, which seems like a tall order - that would be nearly 600 games they'd have to pre-sell.  It's also a bit odd for an existing company to be fundraising in this manner; it sort of seems like if you already exist, you shouldn't be hitting up friends and fans for startup cash, but I think the pathetic economics of the game publishing industry might justify it in this case.

There's nothing wrong with pre-selling, of course; many companies do that, particularly in the console game industry.  It allows the publisher not to have to take as big a bet as they would otherwise, and it allows them to gauge interest in their products. GMT Games does much the same thing with their P500 program, where they don't print a game until it has 500 guaranteed customers.

We'll see how they do; they've given themselves a month for the $20,000, so it shouldn't take long to find out.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sherwood rules

The following are the rules for the game I submitted for the September BGDF design showdown.  The restrictions were that it had to have a Robin Hood theme and that it had to have two mini-games.  I didn't place 1st or 2nd, but I have no idea how I did other than that.  Only one guy has posted a critique of the games other than me, and the vote tallies weren't shared, so I have nearly no feedback to go on.  I was pretty excited about the game, and I thought it captured the challenge goals pretty well. Let me know what you think.


(c) 2010 by Dave Dobson
For 2-4 players

Object: You are competing to join Robin Hood’s band of rogues. Robin prepares a contest: be the first to steal 8 shillings worth of loot and return it to the Outlaw Camp, and he’ll accept you into his band.

  • Game Board - contains normal spaces (white circles), Sherriff’s Guard spaces (red circles), and special spaces (Outlaw Camp, Chapel, Castle, Village, Archery Range)
  • 8 Merry Man Tokens per player
  • 16 Movement Tiles in 4 denominations
  • 1 Movement Base circle
  • 4 Movement Tile Markers per player
  • 5 Gambling Tokens per player
  • 2 Cart Markers per player
  • 15 Loot Tokens in 3 denominations
  • 15 Arrow Tokens
Setup: Place the Loot tokens as follows:
  • Chapel: 2 x 1 shilling, 3 x 2 shilling
  • Castle: 5 x 3 shilling
  • Village: 3 x 1 shilling, 2 x 2 shilling
Each player starts with 3 Merry Men and 1 Cart in the Outlaw Camp. Place the other resources in reserve off the board. Each player also gets 3 arrow tokens.
Set up the Movement Minigame to one side. Build a pyramid of four movement tiles numbered 1-4, with the 1-space tile touching the Movement Base Circle as shown in the Movement Minigame image below. Make one pyramid for each player playing.

Turn Order: The game plays as follows:
1) Gambling Minigame – each player has five gambling tokens with five different characters on them as shown:[Gambling Minigame image goes here] Each player chooses one character in secret. All players reveal their choices. If your character is not beaten by any other, you get the prize indicated. New carts and men are placed on the Outlaw Camp. Movement Tiles are chosen from the Movement Minigame.
The Gambling Minigame also determines move order, with the lowest numbered token going first. If there are ties, the player with the least treasure goes first. If there are still ties, the player who moved later in the previous turn goes first. On the very first turn, the player with the longest criminal record goes first.

2) Movement Minigame – on his or her turn, a player claims one movement tile by playing a movement tile marker on an unclaimed movement tiles. The player may only claim a tile if it is touching the Movement Base Circle OR if it is touching a tile he or she has already claimed. For example, on his first turn, a player can claim a #1 movement tile that touches the Base Circle. On his second turn, he can claim the #2 tile touching the #1 tile, or he could claim a second #1 tile.

3) Movement – Once all players have made their moves in the Movement Minigame, they may collect movement tiles and make moves. If a player elects to collect his claimed movement tiles, he takes all the movement tiles he has marked. If this leaves any unclaimed movement tiles unconnected to any other tiles, the player to the left of the current player MUST shift these movement tiles so that they either (1) touch the Movement Base Circle or (2) touch two other movement tiles in the Movement Minigame. The tiles can have any orientation provided they obey the placement rules.

Players spend movement tiles to move pieces. A player may play one movement tile per turn. When a player plays a movement tile, he may move each of his men up to the number of spaces shown on the movement tile. Multiple men may be stacked on the same space.

Sherriff’s Guard – a player must play an arrow token or discard a man token to enter a red guard space. Similarly, if a player wishes to move a man onto a space with another player’s man, he must play an arrow token or sacrifice a man token.

Cart Movement – Carts can only move with a man. They move one space less than the move tile played (so they cannot move at all on a 1-space tile).

When a player plays a movement tile, the player to his left returns the tile to the Movement Minigame in any legal position as above (i.e. touching the Base Circle or touching two other movement tiles).

When all players have moved, start over with the gambling minigame.
Treasures: A man entering a space containing loot may collect one loot counter. A man can carry loot worth 1 shilling. He needs a cart to carry loot worth 2 or 3 shillings. Players score loot by bringing it back to the Outlaw Camp. Men and carts cannot carry multiple treasures at once.

Archery Range: When a man enters the Archery Range, the player collects two arrow tokens. A given man cannot collect more arrows until he visits the Outlaw Camp again.

Winning: The first player to return a total value of 8 shillings of loot to the outlaw camp wins.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Small-Time Publishing Advice from Ben Clark @ Paper Money

In the most recent Paper Money podcast, Ben Clark discusses small-time independent publishing, specifically self-publishing.  An interesting bunch of advice; it starts just before the eight minute mark, although the rest of the show is worth a listen too.

The takeaways - I've tried to separate these into sections, but they're my rough notes as I listened.  I hope they're useful.

Ben says it's possible to do a very small RPG book run - single copies or tens of copies - but self-assembled boardgames are pretty much impossible.  Even if you have the time to sit on your couch and assemble the pieces, it's not going to be worth it. That day has passed.

Printing overseas is risky and dangerous, but potentially worth it if you can avoid the risks and go with a good company.

Plusses for stateside:
  • Same time zone
  • They speak English
  • Shipping costs low
  • Hassles fewer
  • Process goes faster
  • No customs
  • Can sue them if it goes bad
Plusses for overseas:
  • Cheaper, sometimes way cheaper

U.S. options - he listed several
  • Carta Mundi USA - Ben says not below 3000 copies; I tried them and got a reply requesting a phone conversation; I responded with my phone info and never got called back.
  • Sierra Packaging - I got a very reasonable quote from them
  • EPI Delano - I made initial contact and filled out their quote form; never got a reply or quote
  • Package Right - I haven't tried them
  • Ludofact USA - I haven't tried them; seems to be a German-centered website
Obviously, I should try the ones I haven't tried here and try harder to get a quote back from the others.

Digital press - slow, better for small runs, more expensive - a couple hundred games
Offset press - more setup, better for big runs, cheaper for big runs - 1000+ games

Do it yourself vs. turnkey - turnkey solutions are mostly good now; probably totally worth it compared to the hassle and limited quality of do-it-yourself stuff.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Entries in for Hippodice

I've got two entries - Diggity and Yoggity - submitted for the 2011 Hippodice Autorenwettbewerb.  They have a first stage which is purely electronic - I've sent a description, rules, and some pictures for each game, and they'll tell me in November whether they want the full games to play.  I'm a little worried about that, since I have to send them to Germany - it might be a little tight there on the timing to get them there by Dec. 1, but I guess I can spring for whatever fast shipping DHL has.  There are customs and such to worry about too - hopefully that won't be a problem.  If I even make it into the general competition, that is!

No prize for this one other than prestige and a good feeling, but they do a write-up of the top games and circulate them to companies, and it's a pretty well-known competition. Foreigners have done pretty well there, too, unlike some of the other European competitions which seem generally to prefer games in their own language. When I lived in Munich last fall, it seemed like nearly everyone I met spoke English (they start teaching it in 5th grade), so hopefully there won't be much of a language issue. 

Anyway, pretty exciting.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Game Review: Race for the Galaxy

I got a chance to play Race for the Galaxy last week too. It was a lot of fun. It has a pretty steep learning curve, but I was getting it figured out after two games. One of the problems is that it uses a system of icons to describe various aspects of the planets and technologies you run into, and these can get pretty complex. A lot of the world these days seems to be expressed in incomprehensible hieroglyphics, so I guess it's par for the course, but it took me a while just to figure out what all the stuff meant. When you've got several kinds of worlds, four kinds of trade goods, a bunch of descriptors, arrows, hexagons, numbers, plusses and minuses, five turn phases - it gets pretty complex.

The good part is, under all the complexity (after you've developed your decoding skills), there's a pretty fun game, using a winning theme.  I'm a total sucker for developing space empires - I love doing that, from Master of Orion to Starweb to Spaceward Ho to Starship Catan to Lacuna Expanse.

The game is primarily a set of cards, with some accompanying tokens for bonuses and scoring. The cards have worlds to conquer or technology to acquire, and each costs different amounts to implement and gives different bonuses and score. The catch is that the cards are also the currency for paying for the new acquisitions, so you have to give up some opportunities to acquire others. These tradeoffs are very interesting, and given that each game gives you different starting worlds and different goals, you'll end up having a different experience (and needing a different strategy) each time through.

There's also an economy built into the game, with a bunch of different trade goods that you can acquire from different worlds, and then trade for other things (more cards, more points). The neat thing about the game is that you actually can't sustan all the different strategies at once. You'll need to focus on one or two - military power, trade, adding planets, achieving bonuses - and which ones you can focus on depends on the cards you get and the choices you make.

A key mechanic (and one I gather this game borrowed from others such as San Juan and Puerto Rico) is the phase selection. Each turn has five possible phases, but they won't always happen - you get to pick one phase that you guarantee will happen (and you usually get a bonus in that phase for picking it), but the other players pick their own phases, so you're not likely to get all of the possible phases happening. This ends up being an interesting part of the strategy - sometimes you really want two or three of the phases to happen, but you can only force one, and you have to guess what the other players will pick.

The player-vs-player aspect is pretty minimal - it's very difficult to mess with other players in any effective way, although you do have some impact on them when you chose what phase you want to have this turn (because they will also then have that phase).

I got pretty badly beaten both times I played, and I think it would take probably 6-10 more plays before I felt comfortable with all the different parts and strategies. Like I said, a pretty steep learning curve. But even getting thrashed, it was fun. Even though the cards you get and the actions of the other players bring in a fair amount of luck, you have a lot of decisions to make, and they have very strong effects, so it doesn't feel very luck-determined while you're playing. I like this one a lot - lots of meat to it, good balance and variety, and a fun theme.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Game Review: Dominion

I finally had a chance to play Dominion last week, so I have an understanding now what the fuss is all about. It's a clever design - enough strategy (and math) to be intriguingly complex, but implemented in an easy-to-understand, simple-to-play way. I enjoyed it, and played 4-5 games with 2 and 3 players over a couple of days. I also watched a group of hard-core devotees play for a bit, and they were certainly passionate about it and having a very good time.

Parts I like a lot:

  • Scoring points actually diminishes your effectiveness - this is a great mechanism which keeps the game close. It flows very naturally from how the game works, too.
  • Using only some of the special cards means that every game will have different pieces available - this is really great, and makes it very replayable.
  • The cards combine in interesting ways to make occasional super-combo plays, where you can string together a bunch of actions for a neat super power move.
  • The art is neat, and the cards easy to understand and interpret. There are very complex mechanics here, but they run very smoothly and are built on simple principles, which is great design.
Parts I don't like so much:

  • Because the cards delivered to you each time are random, it can be pretty variable what you get and when, so the big combos that you plan sometimes never materialize, while other times you get more than you need. The defense cards come up at random too, so sometimes your attacks work and sometimes they fail. The end result feels like there's a goodly amount of luck involved, especially when one player hits a few combinations in a row and gets a lot of resources as a result.
  • I didn't play enough to work this all out, but it seems like there are some combinations of cards that are automatically the most powerful you can get. This becomes a balance issue, since the person who gets more of these cards in any given game will win. To the extent that this is determined by knowledge of the cards and careful strategy, that's fine; to the extent that it's determined by luck (i.e., who gets a chance to buy them first), it's less satisfying.
  • Following on from the point above - the random allotment of which cards will be used in any given game, which is neat, also comes at a cost. It means that each game isn't likely to be balanced; some cards will be awesome or lead to good combinations; others will be near-useless. I think on balance this is a good trade off (variety for balance), but it's a little frustrating to have some cards never even worth considering.
  • Having the game end when the good land gets bought out seems limiting. In the games I played, people hardly ever bought any land other than the high-value land, and thus the game was nearly always decided by who'd bought the most of these, and as a result the game ended rather suddenly as people got more gold and bought them all - there wasn't really time for them to have much of a negative impact, since they weren't that common in people's hands. To me, this underlined the luck factor and the super-combo points I mentioned above, and it meant that the lower-value land was near useless. I don't know if a different end condition would be better, but this seemed imperfect to me.
  • There's a lot of shuffling :-).
Overall, I think it's really neat, and I can see why people are so excited about it. I'd be happy to play it any time, although I don't think I would be one of those folks I watched who play it over and over again exclusively (and semi-obsessively). I think some of its popularity comes from its similarity to the Magic: The Gathering CCG structure - although Dominion isn't a CCG, and that's a real positive for me, it still has the deck building and combo card aspects of Magic that people enjoy. Magic never has done it for me - the cards are interesting enough, but having to buy lots of them to build anything powerful was very annoying to me, and I didn't find the gameplay that compelling. But Dominion fixes a lot of these problems for me, especially the pay-to-play aspect, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Inevitable no longer evitable

The Kickstarter-funded project to produce the Inevitable board game has come to fruition - they've taken delivery of several pallets of brand-new games.  Cool pictures here.  Congrats to Jeremy and Jonathan for realizing their dream.

I have to say, those stacks look bigger than I'd have guessed.  For somebody considering printing a few thousand copies, 500 looks darned large.  Of course, they've got a board and a big box, so their boxes are probably twice or three times the size mine will be, but still...

Inevitable icon above shamelessly stolen from the Inevitable site.  Did they really file trademark on that?  That's a complicated and lengthy process.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Another project funding site

Reader Dave Conklin of Oak Tree Games writes to suggest as an alternative to for project funding.  He's got his own game, Virtue Cards, listed there for funding with a goal of $5000.  The Virtue Cards product is also available through The Game Crafter.

IndieGoGo looks like a nearly exact clone of Kickstarter, which is fine.  It seems to be well-established (about 11,000 projects active now; I can't find a similar statistic for Kickstarter).  A major difference is that on Kickstarter, if you fail to meet your goal, you don't get any of the money, while on IndieGoGo, you get to keep it even if you don't meet your goal, although with a bigger cut paid to IndieGoGo.  It's like this:

Unmet Goal: 
You Get
Met Goal:
You Get
KickstarterNothing, Zilch, Nada, Squat95% of total pledged
IndieGoGo91% of total pledged96% of total pledged

That's a pretty big structural difference to how it works, and obviously IndieGoGo is going to get you some money no matter what.

My gut feeling is that Kickstarter is a little better established, and that posting there will connect you to more potential funders, but that either site would work.  We'll see how the Virtue Cards project goes.

Dave's project includes $3,000 to fund production of 200 copies of his game, which seems a little high to me.  For a 52-card deck, even with a nice box, I think you could do a lot better than $15 a copy.  Dave, if you're listening, let me know and I can send you some sites that might be cheaper, or get you more copies for your money., for one.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jump Gate wins Games GOTY

I posted a few days ago about Matt Worden's Jump Gate, which is an indie game published through The Game Crafter. Well, Games Magazine has named Matt's game its traditional Game of the Year for 2010. That's pretty terrific in a lot of ways - it's great for Matt, and great that the magazine was willing to consider an independent designer who self-published through TGC. The reaction on BGG was a mixture of admiration, befuddlement, and typical internet snark, but I'm sure this will help Matt get more exposure (and sales!) for his game, and maybe a commercial-scale print run, which would be great.

In the meantime, you can pick up this year's winner at The Game Crafter. Congratulations to Matt!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yoggity Reader Mail

Reader Daniel writes the following about my recent post on Yoggity:
So have you decided how to tackle the judges' "ruling" (or maybe input should be a better word)? I am thinking you can go three ways: either add more strategy to the game, accept the rulings and maybe re-theme it as a kids game or ignore them because they are wrong and do not know better. But then comes the funny part if you choose door number three.
Why do you think the judges left out a big part of the strategy in the game? Did they miss it or did they not play the whole game? Or do they not think what you refer to as strategy is some mundane thing a 3 year old can do?
I would love to hear what you plan on doing with the judges feedback and whats your next step. 
Daniel sets up three possibilities:
  • Add more strategy - I've considered this; I really like how the game plays now, but I understand that some folks (particularly boardgame enthusiasts) might want there to be a bit more depth. One potential weakness for the game (that doesn't seem to affect how much fun it is for me, but might for some) is that there's no overarching plotline to the game - you're doing mostly the same kind of thing in the last few turns as you are in the first few, although obviously a bunch of the scoring has already been decided by the end, and people have collected different resources and cards. It's possible that I could come up with some kind of plotline this way - something that builds up over time, that might solve both potential problems - complexity and plotting.
  • Re-theme as a kids' game - Maybe a possibility, but I'm not sure it's a good one, for several reasons. One is that although the gameplay itself is pretty simple, being good at the game requires making complex strategic decisions about resource use and deal-making. So, younger kids might miss out on the part that makes the game the most fun. Another reason not to do this is that the market niche I'm looking at is probably boardgame enthusiasts - they're more likely to buy a fairly obscure game from a small publisher, I think, and I'm not so likely to get the widespread play I'd need to attract a kid-based audience. A kid-oriented game wouldn't sell well to this crowd. On the flip side, if I self-publish, I'm hoping to market the game also to my former Snood customers, and for those folks, a family-friendly game (which Yoggity certainly is) that's marketed that way would maybe be more appealing. So, I don't know what to do along these lines. My idea of a great game is one that both grown-ups and kids can play and want to play - it's simple enough to understand that kids can handle it, but fun enough and complex enough that adults enjoy it and would play by themselves. Checkers isn't quite at this level, although there are certainly grown-up checkers enthusiasts. Monopoly has become nearly exclusively child-oriented, but I think played by the proper rules, it's a fine game for adults.
  • Ignore the judges - that's very tempting, but I don't know that it's a good idea. On one hand, it sounds like they didn't play the game the way it was supposed to be played, so any advice they give is not necessarily useful. On the other hand, they read my rules and chose to play that way, so either they didn't get it, or I didn't make it clear enough that trading makes the game much more fun and more complex for multiple players, and making good trades is the best strategy to win overall. My suspicion is that I could easily rewrite parts of the rules (maybe add a "strategy" section) that point out the benefits of trading in order to highlight that. I think that's maybe my best option now.

As to what they were thinking, I can't really speak to that; they obviously enjoyed the game, or they wouldn't have ranked it as highly as they did. I wish they'd tried the trading, and I need to get people to want to.

Thanks for the feedback - I have lots to think about here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

More on Yoggity and kids

The judges at Gamecon Memphis thought my game Yoggity was suited for 6-8 year old kids.  I certainly need to listen to that feedback and figure out what it means.  However, I think they're wrong, for a couple reasons.  As I said yesterday, they left out a major part of the strategy of the game, and that part of the strategy is the part that requires higher-order strategic thinking.  But a second reason might be that the game looks relatively simple on the surface, but the strategy is quite a bit deeper.

Think of chess for example - an eight-year-old could learn the rules, but a grown-up would always win.  Ditto for checkers, go, Othello - lots of games with simple rules have more complex strategy.  I think Yoggity (while admittedly not as strategically deep as chess or go) falls in the same boat - it's easy enough to learn how to play, but playing well requires some careful thinking.  I've lost a number of games of Yoggity because I made deals that ended up being bad, but I was convinced at the time that I was being very clever and helping myself out more than my opponents.

If I can get people to recognize that complexity while still appreciating the simplicity of the rules, then I think I've got a game that's a winner for a bigger audience.  People justifiably don't like games that are too simplistic, but they also don't generally like games that are byzantine, particularly if they're non-gamers.  I don't know for sure, but I suspect the Memphis judges were pretty hard-core gamers (which you'd expect for convention goers who volunteered to judge a contest).  So, maybe they were looking for something they could really sink their teeth into, rather than a lighter game like Yoggity.

A real commercial success, like Settlers of Catan, has simple rules but complex interactions, which makes it both accessible and deep.  That's what I was shooting for with Yoggity, but the Memphis judges only saw the accessible part.  So, I have to figure out how to showcase the depth, too.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Memphis results

Here's the final wrap-up from the Gamecon Memphis competition.  My game, Yoggity, got third, with a recommendation that it might be better for 6-8 year olds.

One frustration - the testers apparently never traded anything, and trading is key to the game with more than two players.  With two players, you can actually collect enough resources to make things on your own, and the strategy comes in when you decide how and when to use your coins and when it's a good idea to cancel an order.  Plus, any trade is likely to benefit your opposition as much as you, so it's difficult to do anything other than zero-sum trades, so people tend not to trade much.

With more than two players, you don't often have all the resources you need, so you have to trade, and making good trades is a huge part of the strategy. I'm not positive the game was played by more than two at a time, so it's possible that's why they didn't trade.  But I'd think they'd try it with more judges than just two, and I think I made trading a clear part of the rules, so I'm surprised that they wouldn't try trades in that case - there's a clear strategic advantage in a three player game for two players to make a trade that hoses the third.  In multi-player games, the best traders nearly always win.

Without the trading, the game could be probably be playable by an 8-year-old (a six year old would still have trouble, at least the 6-year-olds I've known), but with trading, you have to be pretty smart, clever, and charming to come up with good deals that are appealing to all sides, and kids would not be able to make that kind of decision consistently well.

I guess that's a problem submitting a game anonymously - you don't get a chance to demo or explain the game.  But that's going to be the case if you're selling your game to the public, too, especially if they're picking it up off a game store shelf.  So, I've got to make it more clear in the rules that trading is key to the game.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Jump Gate review and the complexity of newfangled technology

Matt Worden is (at least superficially) like me - he's designed a number of computer games, is also into designing board games, and has published some of them through TheGameCrafter.

He recently had a pretty positive review from Tom Vasel via the Dice Tower podcast, which I'm sure is fun for Matt.  The game looks fun, and the review is thorough. As a guy who's publishing, at least initially, through TGC, It's interesting to me how Vasel critiques the components.  It's definitely true that the pawns and chips are generic at TGC, although Matt made use of the fact that TGC offers a bunch of different spaceship models, so his game happens to have a thematic link with the generic components.  But the cards from TGC are actually pretty great, and the little boards that Matt uses are thin but functional.  Also, the artwork for Matt's game is far, far above the average TGC game, definitely commercial quality.  The packaging (small white corrugated box, crumpled rules) that TGC offers are definitely not up to the standards of traditionally-published games, and that's tough - the game inside might be terrific, but the packaging isn't up to that level.  It shouldn't matter if the game is fun and the parts work, but with quality expectations high it's hard to compete when you're doing small print runs or print-on-demand.

It's also interesting to me that this whole process is so new-media - a guy designs a game, publishes it via a web-interface on a POD site, gets it reviewed by an avid and knowledgeable though non-professional critic, who posts it for free to be seen worldwide on a video sharing site.  This is not a process which would have even been imaginable in 1995, and now it just seems commonplace.

And here I am blogging about it.  We've come a long way in a short time, even if we don't realize it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Rio Grande contest wrapup

I'm still trying to get a sense of what happened at Gamecon Memphis, but the result is clear; the winner of the regional there was a game called "Kings of England" by Rick Goodman.  I'm not positive, but I think this might be the same Rick Goodman who was involved in a lot of real-time strategy computer games, such as Age of Empires and Empire Earth, both of which I enjoyed.

The early feedback I did receive says that Yoggity was viewed favorably (maybe 3rd or 4th of 20 games) but was seen as as too child-oriented.  That seems weird to me, since a kid couldn't handle the negotiation part very well, but maybe the judges were looking for more of a hardcore wargame or something.

I'll keep an eye out for more results - the organizer of the Gamecon competition has indicated he'll post more information on BGG.  I'm obviously disappointed, but I'm grateful for the opportunity.

For Yoggity, it's on to Hippodice...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Robin Hood BGDF contest

The entries are up.  Some interesting ones - the Robin Hood theme made most of them overlap in terms of plot  and layout, but the minigame thing led to some interesting design choices.  Votes are due tomorrow - I'll let y'all know which was mine when the results are up.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sell sheets

I haven't spent any time trying to convince publishers to pick up one of my games, but this post on sell sheets from Jay Cormier seems like really good advice.  A document like this does a bunch of jobs at once - it shows that you're serious and professional, it gives you a quick, colorful summary of the product you're describing (and describing boardgames merely verbally can be really hard), and it gives the person you're talking with something concrete to hold onto and take home.

I'd be curious what the batting average is for approaching publishers cold at conferences - my guess is, it's not great, but better than e-mail or postal requests.  But e-mail's free, and postal submissions are cheap; just to be at the same conference as a publisher can run $300-$500 per day with travel and lodging.  If your game gets picked up, that's worth it, but spend 10 days at conferences and you could probably afford to self-publish at least a short run (although distribution and marketing would still be problematic).

A document like this works for e-mail and postal submissions, too, though, so it's definitely worth doing if you're trying to go the submit-to-established-publishers route.  I think a website for the game is another easy way to share info and make yourself look serious and professional - another easy, cheap, must-do for aspiring designers.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

BGDF contest for September

I got my entry in for the Robin Hood BGDF contest for September.  In addition to a Robin Hood theme, you had to include two mini-games, where you had a game-within-a-game to handle various parts.

This is always tricky - the minigames can end up being dull and uninteresting, and end up hampering gameplay, or they can end up more fun than the actual game.  I got two in my design that I think work, would be fun without being obtrusive, and  still fit the overall style of the game.  We'll see what other folks think.

In some ways these contests, because of their restrictions, actually get in the way of making excellent games, because you have to honor the restrictions.  In that sense, they're more like etudes for musicians - they push your skills, but they don't necessarily sound the best when played.  I hope I get a chance to make a protoype and try this one out, though - I think it could be quite fun.

I'll post a link to my entry when the voting is over - can't reveal it until then.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gamecon Memphis competition is now

Yoggity's being played today for the Rio Grande competition - I'm frustrated I can't be there, but excited about the feedback I hope to receive.  It ends tomorrow, so I should know something shortly.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Still another Kickstarter project

Here's another one, this one the game Scoops from TableStar Games.  TableStar seems to have a pretty extensive lineup of other games, which gives me more data on a question I'd been wondering about - if Kickstarter would be feasible for a company that's already established.  I'd think Kickstarter appeals would be more appealing to funders if you have that indie do-it-yourself community-raising-a-barn thing, and less likely to work if you've already got a company with products.  But TableStar doesn't think so, in this case, and apparently Tasty Minstrel is thinking along the same lines.

In these cases, you're kind of using Kickstarter as a pre-selling site rather than a dream-launching site, although I suppose if you're careful, you might be able to make it look like you're doing more dream-launching than pre-selling and collect some sympathetic investors that way.  And, if you couldn't afford to publish a game without the Kickstarter funding, then I guess it's pretty legitimate.

Tough to figure out - you'd want to maximize your chance of it working while still maintaining some integrity.