Back on the Table: Magistrate & Thunder Run to Gratis-3

Magistrate, Evidence Cube ExamplesAs I look forward to the Protospiel event in Michigan at the end of July, it’s time to get a couple of my other games back on the table to make them ready. Namely: Magistrate and Thunder Run to Gratis-3. For the most part, Magistrate just needs to get the doco finished and a little more polish … but Thunder Run needs a bit more work. That one (and Danger at the Walls) will be getting the majority of my attention over the next few weeks.

More specifically …  (more…)

How I Used StoryForge Cards to Make Abbottsville Characters Deeper

Story Forge CardsI don’t recall how I first was introduced to Story Forge Cards, but I know that it didn’t take me very long until I ordered a set for myself. These cards are a deck of tarot-sized cards of different colors and suit icons that represent larger concepts that you’ll find in most stories, such as “destiny” and “wealth” and “identity.” More importantly (at least for how I want to use them), they each have 2 concepts on them — usually polar opposites of each other — each oriented to a different end of the card.

Story Forge Card ExampleFor example, one card has “Memory” on one end and “Amnesia” on the other, with brief definitions of each of the terms and hints at how you might use them in a story. The deck is accompanied by a booklet that gives all sorts of card layouts for different types of work — creating main characters, background characters, various types of genres and plots, etc. (Click on the link to the site above and choose “See Cards in Action” to see what I mean.)

Since I got them, I’ve dabbled with them just a little bit, such as forming deeper, more detailed background information around characters for stories I want to write someday. I even used them to do a character-build for a short lecture session at a confirmation retreat with 7th & 8th graders last year. But what does this have to do with Abbottsville? (more…)

“Danger at the Walls” Print-and-Play Available (beta v2.1)

Danger at the Walls, Castle Sketch, June 2014As promised earlier in the week, I have assembled a print-and-play file for Danger at the Walls.

It is a free download available here as a PDF: Danger at the Walls (50)

54 cards, 2-players, 30 minutes, Area Control.

It really is the same-old-story from the Land of Danger: one army attacking another King’s castle, looking to take control of those walls. Play as either the attackers or defenders, using your Archers, Cannons, Attacks, and Leaders, utilizing clever card play and a little bit of luck to give yourself more strength at more of the walls than your opponent.

The artwork and layout is rather rough and quite basic … just enough to make the game work cleanly. I do plan to upgrade and improve all of that after the gameplay gets nailed down.

The specific items I’m looking for feedback on at this time is spelled out in the PDF file. I do not expect to update the PnP until the late-June/early-July timeframe as I get it ready for the Michigan Protospiel at the end of July.

Update on “Danger at the Walls”

Danger at the Walls Prototype, Red Deck Back, Feb 2014After first introducing Danger at the Walls a few months ago, the game has gone under a lot of changes. I even just tossed the scribbled-up index cards into a corner at one point and moved it off my formal “current projects” list.

Then I had a new direction for it pop into my head as I was falling asleep one night a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve worked up new cards and tested it out … and it really works well. :) So, back on the current projects list.

I expect I’ll have a print-and-play doc available sometime later this week. This is a 2-player area control game card game that takes about 30 minutes. If that sounds like something you’d like, I’d appreciate if you’d try it out and let me know your thoughts. Just watch for a post later this week with the PnP in it.

If the game continues to play well and I get the gameplay and card info honed down, I’ll work on a better design. In the meantime, here are how the cards are looking right now … still very early and rough:

Danger at the Walls, Prototype Card Examples, June 2014

Abbottsville Submitted to TGC/TFC Contest

Abbottsville, Spring 2014As I’ve mentioned earlier (here and here), I’ve been working on a new gamed called Abbottsville, with plans to submit it to the contest held at, to be judged by the folks at The Flux Capacity. They are using the contest to find a new game to add to their publishing catalog in 2015.

I did officially submit Abbottsville as one of the entries in the contest last night! :)

Abbottsville, Early Playtest at Paul's Cabin, May 2014At this point, the contest is now closed to new entries, and the TGC community will be voting to narrow the field from 30 entries down to 20, before turning things over to The Flux Capacity to take it from there.

To see all 30 entries to the contest, click this link. To just view the rule book for Abbottsville, you can click here: Abbottsville Rules Booklet (7)


Abbottsville Early Testing Changes

Abbottsville, Early Testing Hex Map example, April 2014Since I originally introduced Abbottsville, I have paused most of my other projects to get some intensive testing cycles in. The deadline for the contest I plan to enter it in is less than a month away — so, I better get busy! My first few tests found a game that was way too loose and sloppy, with very little tension. It seemed like there weren’t enough choices, and the ones you had were either pretty obvious or were more complex than needed. This made it feel like you were just going through the motions and hoping for luck to shine. I didn’t like that.

Some things worked as I had hoped — such as the map tiles and the dice. But it became obvious that some things need to be cut, others added, and some existing items just needed a little tweaking.

Abbottsville, Early Testing with Predators on the Map, April 2014I’ve completely cut out a number of bigger things already — the changing market values for the different goods, the item cards, and the concept of getting VPs here and there throughout the game with a public scoring track. I’ve added in “Reward Cards” which is the new method for scoring. You earn rewards by exploring and delivering goods to the village. Each card has a value of 2, 3 or 4 on it. So, you know how many rewards your opponents have, but not what their exact score it. I’m still working on exactly how/when tiles are added, how the goods markers are handled, and how predators are added to the map and moved around. I feel like I’m getting close on these thing, but not quite there yet.

With these changes so far, the game now flows much more smoothly, has more tension and interesting decisions. I want to add-in more opportunities for player interactions, without forcing it. So, the testing continues … ;)

What I Use for Background Textures

Screenshot of Genetica ViewerWhen I get a design past the initial “Is this even going to work?” stages, and my first set of sharpie-and-index-card prototypes have become illegible from all of my edits, I like to make a nicer-looking prototype. So, I open up Photoshop and let the right side of my brain play around for a bit.

For me, having a nicer-looking prototype on a design that is progressing does a few things:

  1. It helps me get a better grip on exactly what information needs to be presented and how it can be laid out in a way to best inform the player.
  2. It may help players plug-in to the theme in a stronger way.  (Example: if I’m exploring an island for pirates’ treasure, it helps me enjoy the experience more if I see actual sand and grass and jungle instead of a hand-drawn outline on white paper with letter codes or icons to represent the different terrain.)
  3. It does something good for my creative process to see a nicer, cleaner, new prototype at each major step along the way.

The first nicer prototypes get the inkjet-printout treatment at home. But once I have it to where I plan on doing formal playtesting locally or at a Protospiel or other gaming con, then I usually order a nicely produced set from TGC. In any of these cases, while I still am developing the design, I have no qualms breaking the sharpie back out and marking things up as needed.

My first step is usually picking out background textures for any cards and/or boards needed in the game. These backgrounds give you a place to project an overriding feel for the theme, and a way to let the information a player needs standout. I find myself using 3 main sources for my background textures, listed here (saving my favorite for last) … (more…)

Abbottsville – My (planned) TGC Contest Entry

Abbottsville, Center Starting Tiles The current game design contest over at has a bit bigger requirements than their previous contests. It’s being hosted by publisher The Flux Capacity, who are looking for a new game to add to their catalog. The requirements are for a game that can handle 2 to 6 players, runs 60-90 minutes (for sure under 2 hours), and has a well-integrated theme.

And I have a new design that I plan to enter into the contest, that I’m calling Abbottsville. I’m a little sheepish about doing this ahead of time again. Last time I did this — with Thunder Run to Gratis-3 — I didn’t understand all of the contest rules and had to scramble at the end to get things ready … and I simply missed the deadline. I don’t think that’ll happen this time.

So, here are the high-level details on this one … (more…)

“For Goods and Honor” Becomes “Aether Magic”

"For Goods and Honor" ... Setup for a GameA few months ago, I mentioned that I had signed a contract to have a game published by Happy Mitten Games.

That game was called “For Goods and Honor” at the time. Since then, a good deal of testing-and-tweaking has gone on, and the game has been completely re-themed … although the mechanics are nearly the same (with a handful of changes that simplified and tightened things up).

"For Goods and Honor" ... Folks in a BagThe game is now called “Aether Magic” and is on schedule for publication later this year. Jeff Large, at Happy Mitten, gives the first official preview of the game on their site. CLICK HERE TO READ THE DETAILS.

I love where they’ve taken the game, and look forward to these next few months as things continue to progress! :)