Spotlight on … Air Rally Ace

Air Rally AceI started Air Rally Ace too late.  I had just gotten to know the DXGame Engine pretty well (a game library targetting VB6 + DirectX8) from having made Gem Raider, but the life of VB6 and the DirectX8-friendly version of Windows (that would be WinXP and earlier) were fading.  To finish it off, the developer behind DXGame decided to go in a different direction — so he sold the rights to the engine to another developer (who had a pretty cool baseball game that used the engine), and that pretty much sewed-up the end.

This lead me to set off learning some new technology (.Net languages & SlimDX), which someday I’m hoping to use to make some new computer games.  In the meantime, my board game designs have been occupying most of my game development attention.

But, before I put the project on indefinite hold, I got the “rally day” racing portion of “Air Rally Ace” ready for a Tech Demo.  This part of the game was intended to be the “bonus” levels, to be played in-between the more challenging parts of the game.  (The challenging parts were going to be about trouble you went through as you travelled from one rally day event to the next.)

Here are some in-game pictures … complete with captivating colored smoke!  (Click them to see big versions …) Continue reading

Nice breakthrough on “Show of Power”

Show of Power Card BacksI mentioned the other day that I had gotten “Show of Power” back out on the table to try out some new ideas … that didn’t quite work.  But they led me to a few other new ideas that are turning out to work quite nicley.

The new score-timing tracks and hidden scoring mechanic seem solid.  In fact, they gave me a spark about some new special-power cards that have been added to the deck.

I’ve had to adjust what actions are available, under which area, and how much they cost … and I expect to have to tweak this area a bit more to balance things out.

Another pass getting all of the things to fit together and I expect to write up some rules and update some graphics … I’ll post that here when I get that far.

A Quick “Jump Gate” Update

Jump Gate Cover ArtI have a fully completed rulebook for Jump Gate … just need to proofread and edit … and proofread … and tweak, etc.  I’m also waiting on 1 last artwork update, and then I will be ready to upload the latest and greatest to TGC.

Rocket Pawns from TheGameCrafter.comOne minor change (that feels kinda major to me) that I decided to make is to use the colored “Rocket Pawns” (shown to the right) as the spaceship markers instead of the really cool-looking rubber “Spacecraft” models (shown to the left) that TGC has available.  There were 2 deciding Spacecraft from TheGameCrafter.comfactors:  (1) the Rocekt Pawns are way cheaper, and (2) they will match the color of the player’s markers … so it will be much easier to know which player is at which Planet.

It’s getting close now … hopefully, by the end of the month … just in time for my birthday!! 🙂

“Show of Power” Shown Some Love

Show of Power Board

The soon-to-be-outdated "Show of Power" Game Board

I’m not exactly sure what caused it — most likely, my realization that I won’t be able to make the 2010 Protospiel get-together — but I felt the need to get my “Show of Power” prototype back out onto the table the other night.

It had been a while, and I had a few new concepts that I had been thinking about, but hadn’t actually played out.  So, it was good to get the thing on the table and play through a few rounds.

Turns out that the new concepts didn’t really work, but working through them made a few things very clear, and helps to form some new changes to the game.

I’m finding that one of the main concepts — having players able to influence both *what* gets scores and *when* scoring takes place — needs some limits put on it.  The more I’ve opened up those areas, the more I’ve found that players will tend to not trigger scoring unless it is very obvious that they will score the ultimate best possible … otherwise, they are more likely to just take another turn of trying to advance their empire and wait for the game system to trigger the scoring.  Somehow, it’s okay to have less-than-optimal scores when the game triggers the scoring than to purposely trigger the scoring knowing you will only do “pretty good”.

To improve things in that area, I am moving to a new scoring timer concept and adding a hidden element to the scoring.  To play into this new hidden scoring piece a bit, and to add a little more variety and depth, I’m adjusting the cards — going to a smaller number of actions available on a turn, plus adding in some special cards to give immediate scoring improvment or some special powers.

So … it’s up for another round of testing with the new stuff plugged in.  My goal is to have a tightened-up system ready for this fall when the Hippodice contest comes around again.

And some more tweaks to “Jump Gate”

Illustration of a "Jump" Action in the Jump Gate RulesWhile it seems like swimming in tar at times, I actually really like this end-of-design tweaking phase that I’m currently in with “Jump Gate“.

I have the rulebook a good 80-90 percent of the way to where I want it, and I’ve been able to do a some playtests of a few tweaks … then re-tweak … then re-test.  It’s the final polish (I hope) of what works as a really nice game.

In my last post here, I linked to my BGG feedback post where I mentioned that I was going to try having players always refill their hand at the end of a turn, and that every action would cost at least 1 NavComp card … well, those changes didn’t test very well.  Refilling every turn completely lost the nice tension that was there when trying to manage your hand … and having the refill as an action choice gives players a nice way of timing that to their plans.  So, I’ve dropped both of those ideas.

Instead, the “Research” action will allow a player to refill their hand back to 5 cards.  And some actions — Research, Fly, and Harvest — do not require a player to discard anything in order to take that action (using up an action is cost enough).

Some of the Special Actions also needed some balancing.  “Hotshot Pilot” originally allowed you to land on a planet just by discarding that card — but that was too strong … so now it serves as a “wildcard” that can be paired up with just 1 of the Landing Codes to land on a planet.  “Inside Info” was simply never used when it gave a player the chance to peek at a planet’s face-down cards — it wasn’t worth burning an action for that.  I’ve changed it to now allow you to refill your hand back to 5 cards, and it gives you an extra action to use in the turn … so, you essentially can refill your hand without using up an action.

I’m going to be adding in a few more graphics, running the thing through a few more word-editing rounds, and finish off the last page of the rules (thanks and ads).  I’m shooting for the end of March as a release … wish me luck!

Serious Update to Jump Gate Rulebook

Jump Gate Cover ArtI’ve made a serious first-pass at getting the “Jump Gate” Rulebook into shape.  I’ve put the details into my feedback thread on BoardGameGeek.

The formatting is intended to go well with how TheGameCrafter.com handles rulebooks (which isn’t great) … they print pages back-to-back on a black-and-white laser printer, and then fold them up however they can to get it to fit into the box.  Since “Jump Gate” is made up of a couple decks of cards and a few 4-by-4-inch boards, it can fit into a small box — so the rules will get folded up quite a bit.

Right now, it fits onto 3 sheets of letter-sized paper, with the back side of the 3rd page still blank … I expect to fill that up with acknowledgements, thank you’s, and some advertising. 😉

I would appreciate to hear any feedback that you might have on the rulebook, and the game in general … just leave a comment here or on the BGG thread, or drop my an e-mail.

Spotlight on … Castle Danger

Castle Danger Board (4th Edition)Castle Danger is (so far) the most popular game I’ve published.  It was originally drawn on a whiteboard one evening before leaving work, and by the time I made it home after the long, slow commute, I had the main concepts worked out in my head.

Castle Danger Original PC Game ScreenI was much more into programming computer games at the time, so the first version of the computer game was started that night and completed within a week.  There were some gameplay walk-throughs with friends at work that week to finalize things … but the core parts of the game (board shape, piece types, portal use, etc.) have remained the same since.  (You can still download the PC game at the bottom of the Free Computer Games page.) Continue reading

Fellow Designers: Scott Starkey & Carl Klutzke of Dogtown Games

Dogtown GamesWhen preparing for my last “Fellow Designers” post about David Whitcher, I asked David who he thought would be good designers to put on my list to interview … he pointed me to Scott & Carl of Dogtown Games.

The Mother Lode of Sticky GulchI first became aware of Scott Starkey in the early days at the Board Game Designers Forum (probably 3 or 4 different wiki software changes ago for that site) as a smart designer who also was a good artist.  He was just releasing “The Mother Lode of Sticky Gulch” at that time.

I met Carl Klutzke for the first time at last year’s Protospiel in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  I was impressed with the clarity and directness of StoryCardsCarl’s feedback on the designs during that get-together.  And I had a very good time dying very quickly in a futuristic group robot-piloting game.  (Beware the vermin — they will destory your machinery!)  Carl’s “StoryCards” is the other main product available from Dogtown.

I sent Scott & Carl a list of the same questions via e-mail and received responses from each of them.  Here is how that exchange turned out … Continue reading

3-on-3 Basketball

Basketball HoopLately, I’ve been putting some work into a 3-on-3 basketball board game.

Originally, I was hoping to make it competely dice based, but I could never get the game flow to work out properly.  So, I switched to cards.  I came up with a card-based system when I was revamping DareBase for its 2nd Edition rules changes … but didn’t make use of it then.

I’ve modified it to work with the basketball game, and it is coming along very nicely.  Between the design of the board and these cards, I think I’m at a point that I can get a prototype created through TheGameCrafter to continue more thorough playtesting.

Now, with that distraction out of the way, back to preparing Jump Gate for release … ;-p