Finding a Missing Land: How It All Started

Leatherbound Book on PlanksI distinctly remember the “aha!” moment I had on one particular day when I was in my third year at college. I had checked-out a few old history books from the library (yes — I did go into the library now and then) to do research for a paper I was writing at the time. Of course, the paper was due in a couple of days and I was way behind the proper curve for researching and writing a paper of this type, so I had been trading normal sleeping hours for homework time.

The books spanned a wide range of the middle ages and were filled with old maps and stories about travels throughout the known world. I’m not sure if it was the sleep deprivation or the frightening amounts of coffee I had consumed that evening, but I started seeing some unmistakable patterns. Although it was never fully described nor drawn on a map, I became certain that there was once a large land area located in what is now the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Continue reading

“Days of Discovery” Development Still Progressing

Days of Discovery - First Draft Box Cover RenderHi … it’s me … I’ve been wondering — how nearly 5 months have gone by since I last posted. Actually, I know exactly how that’s happened … one major building project, two *very* active teenagers, and lots of good family/friend times and the clock simply flies!

But I am still working on getting Days of Discovery ready to be Kickstarted this summer. I’ve simplified things in the game quite a bit — taking it back to the basics and general tightening up. So, it’s off to more blind testing with the new rules now.

I’ve also been working with a graphic designer to get things consolidated and in-shape to show off. Once example is the box in the upper-left … the other is below. In both cases, you can click to see bigger versions of the images.

Days of Discovery Cards Example Display Render

I will be starting to add some new stories over the coming weeks that will be tagged with “Story Mode” … these will be creative writings tied to the story behind the game. Keep an eye out and let me know your thoughts. 🙂

What’s on Tap for 2016

Welcome to 2016!Wow — 2015 flew by very fast!

After the weird 2014 I had (last time I reference that, I promise 😉 ), I originally intended for 2015 to get back on track and catch up to all the plans I had made for the previous year … but it didn’t quite work out that way. After the failed Kickstarter project for Aether Magic, a number of other real-life, non-game-related things took priority. Days of Discovery — while solid as a solo-game from the start — took longer to get the multi-player game right, and I simply ran out of time to make everything happen that I wanted to last year.

So, the approach at the start of this year is going to be a little different. I’m only going to worry about one thing at a time, and move forward with whatever is next on the list after that. So, my “plans” at this point do not go very far past February … and I seem to be perfectly okay with that. 😉

Here is what I have on the list: Continue reading

First Written Review of “Santas Little Helpers” & a Green Gift Bag

All components in the Green Gift Bag of "Santa's Little Helpers and the Ice Cube Jam"This past weekend, my family participated in a local holiday boutique that runs every year at our middle school to raise money for our school district’s band programs.

Students trying out Santa's Little Helpers at a Holiday Boutique - Nov. 2015Knowing we were going to have a table at the boutique was the original spark for what lead to Santa’s Little Helpers and the Ice Cube Jam. I purposely wanted to make a fun, easy-to-learn game that might be interesting to folks that don’t normally play board games as a hobby. Admittedly, this is outside of the market I normally target … but I figured Jump Gate and Dicey Curves wouldn’t do as well as a cute little Santa-and-Elves game at this particular boutique. Once I got the game down, I liked it a lot and decided to make it a general for-sale item in addition to having it at the boutique.

NEW Green Gift Bag of "Santa's Little Helpers and the Ice Cube Jam" - $10With that said, I have about a dozen sets of the game left over now. I packaged these in a spiffy, green, drawstring bag instead of in the tuck box you normally get when you order from TGC. They also cost 33% less — just $10/copy — and since I already have them on-hand, I can send them out as soon as you order them. Click here to buy one of these Green Gift Bags of Santa’s Little Helpers and the Ice Cube Jam for just $10.

Santa's Little Helpers and the Ice Cube Jam - Review by TheFamilyGamers.comAlso, the first written review of the game has been posted at TheFamilyGamers.com … and they really liked it, exactly for what it is. Click on the link to check out what they wrote! 🙂

Santa’s Little Helpers and the Ice Cube Jam

Santa's Little Helpers and the Ice Cube Jam - Title GraphicsIntroducing my newest game — available now at TheGameCrafter.com for just $14.99!

Santa’s Little Helpers and the Ice Cube Jam is a lighthearted look at a little-known aspect to life as an elf at the North Pole. Late every autumn, colorful cube-shaped fruits magically appear on the ice and snow surrounding Santa’s Workshop. The elves call them “ice cubes” and Santa makes a pretty wicked jam out of them. Every elf wants some!

Santa's Little Helpers and the Ice Cube Jam - All ComponentsTo get the biggest helping, you need to gather up sets of the ice cubes and get them to the Workshop. If you’re the fastest at gathering and delivering enough sets, you win! The game is easy to learn and plays very fast — about 30 minutes per game. It combines a randomized map with tile-laying and pick-up-and-deliver mechanics wrapped in a jolly holiday theme … it’s a perfect stocking-stuffer for your family- and casual-gamer friends. (Click here for full rules.)

For those who like a little extra fun, there’s a FREE COLORING PAGE (click here) of Kristijan Hranisavljevic’s title illustration available for download. Add your colors to it and send it back to me — I’ll share your work on this website and my social media feeds!

Santa's Little Helpers and the Ice Cube Jam - Box Image Santa's Little Helpers and the Ice Cube Jam - Back of Box

My Game Design Duct Tape: Multi-Use Cards

Examples of multi-use cardsWhile I try to do something different in each game I design, and I try to let the theme of the game drive what mechanisms are used, I do have some common tendencies … and most obvious of them is my love of multi-use cards.

As a player, I love to have options, flexibility, room for creativity to use whatever my current resources are. The ability to combine things or otherwise have a choice in what a specific card is used for gives the strategy-crunching part of my brain a lot of enjoyment.

As a designer, I love the way multi-use cards can expand a design without much, if any, increase in number of components. There’s usually a bit more math and/or spreadsheet work that’s needed to make everything come together right … but that’s a trade-off I’ll take most times. Continue reading

Magistrate: Swords Into Plowshares?

Magistrate: Swords Into Plowshares?One of the good things that pushing out the KS project for “Days of Discovery” does is to give me a chance for a breather, in which I can spend a little time on some of my other designs. For some odd reason, I always feel better about my creative work when I have multiple projects spinning at once.

Recently, I had an idea about my bigger strategy game, Magistrate, that made me pause and really re-evaluate a couple of things. At first, it seemed like a giant change. But, after thinking through it a bit, I think it’s actually a natural shift in what I’m trying to accomplish.

Magistrate during playtest at Protospiel-Milwaukee, Spring 2015The idea is this: What if I removed the “Militia” third of the game … and changed it to something more in-line with the rest of the them — like Farmers?

The various battle systems I’ve gone through over the many, many years I’ve been working on this one have never really worked the way I want. I had started to come up with a new “push other people around” variant approach, instead of having actual military battles … but that didn’t really hit the spot either. So, what if instead of fighting, we work the land in order to generate resources? Hmmm … I think I’ll have to spend some time on this new idea! 🙂

Just a Little Longer (Delaying Days of Discovery to early 2016)

Delaying Days of Discovery Kickstarter to Early 2016Hate to say it, but I need a little more time to get everything together to make the “Days of Discovery” Kickstarter Project — my very first KS project — work as well as I am hoping it will.

As I mentioned a couple months ago, as I headed into GenCon, I knew the game needed some changes. The changes have been put into place, and I really like how the game has benefited from them. It can still use a few testing cycles, though. And that — combined with a number of logistical checklist items not yet checked off the list — made me realize that I was not going to be ready for a late October project launch.

Sponsor Cards for the Queen, King and Bishop in "Days of Discovery"From what I’ve seen in previous years for first-timer board game project launches, the period of time between Essen and late January doesn’t really yield great results (for obvious game-buying budgetary reasons). This means I’ll push out, yet again … and be looking at a launch in the February/March timeframe.

In the meantime, here’s a pretty picture of the latest version of some of the Sponsor cards. Click on the pic for a bigger version.

So, now on to more testing and tweaks, and getting all of those checklist items checked … 😉

Tapping the Brakes on Days of Discovery … Again

Tales of Danger #1: Days of Discovery - Early Box Cover Mock-up, July 2015A couple of months ago, it seemed like I had a nicely-prepared path to get Days of Discovery — the first game in the Tales of Danger series — all buttoned-up and ready for a mid-August Kickstarter. The original play mode — the solo game — was honed and really solid, the multi-player mode was coming along nicely, and I had a good checklist of various logistical and promotional things to be done. The path looked clear.

The plan was to go to GenCon and use my booth times and other game-showing opportunities to walk folks through the game and promote the up-coming Kickstarter.

But, it turns out, I’m not actually ready … so, I’m pushing the launch date back a couple months … again. The new date is Tuesday, October 6th [update: October 27th] (which is really my last window to run a KS this year before the holiday season hits).

Mainly, the multi-player version of the game still needs a lot of work. It’s still too long and the interactions aren’t quite right. I have a couple different approaches that I’d like to take some time and experiment with. So, a couple more months are in order.

Raimundo's Ships at SeaThis extra time will also give me time to work out some of the manufacturing and promotional things I was rushing or skipping over, trying to put the ducks in a row by August. It also allows me to relax and enjoy myself a bit more at GenCon this coming weekend.

So, please continue to stay tuned. This ship will eventually sail!

Patience and Priorities

Beautiful Mancala BoardI like to say “I am not a patient man” — misquoting and doing a bad imitation of Forrest Gump — but that isn’t exactly true. I have a lot of patience for people — especially people closest to me, or those I am teaching or coaching. Life has a lot of ups and downs, easy times and overly-busy times, and I am usually fine taking those things as they come and dealing with whatever is at hand to get through it. Lord knows, last year was a great reminder of that for me.

Where I do have problems with patience is on creative projects that I’m working on. Everything always takes longer to actually do than I’d like it to. At the same time, I don’t like to rush things just to get them done either, because I’d rather they were “right” than “fast.” So, that means I simply have to pay for that conundrum by burning through a little frustration … Continue reading