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 TheGameCrafter.com 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! :)

Dicey Curves, Deluxe Edition, Available at TGC

Dicey Curves, Deluxe Edition, 3D Box Render, March 2014Earlier this week, I completed the changes needed to release the new Deluxe Edition of Dicey Curves in the shop at TheGameCrafter.com.

As I’ve detailed on earlier posts, I was able to update the track cards to look like actual curving race track sections, and also include the cards and pieces needed for the DANGER! Expansion in the same box.

I really like how the updates make the game look …

Dicey Curves, Deluxe Edition, Cars on the Track Dicey Curves, Deluxe Edition, Danger Expansion Obstacles on the Track Dicey Curves, Deluxe Edition, Green Car at a 4-Dice Gate Dicey Curves, Deluxe Edition, Cars at the Finish

Introducing “Danger at the Walls”

Danger at the Walls Prototype, Red Deck Back, Feb 2014I’ve started working on another card game set in the Land of Danger, currently called “Danger at the Walls.”

This one is a head-to-head, tactical game, with each player having an identical 18-card deck. The premise is similar to Castle Danger — 2 castles directly across from each other — but the delivery is quite different.

This will feature deck-to-hand, hand-to-table type play, with the goal of removing cards from the other player’s castle until you’ve accumulated a certain number of points from those cards. Some of the cards are simple attacking troops, and some are leaders with special powers. The flow and mechanics have started coming together pretty well in the past couple of days.

There will be some familiar-looking unit types (King, Wizard, Builder, Cannons) along with a couple of new types (Archers and a Spy). I’m being a little coy in the pic below (click for a bigger version) by not showing much of the faces for the prototype so far … pretty sure the info on those faces is likely to change near-daily until I have the design nailed down. ;)

Danger at the Walls, early prototype card examples, Feb 2014

King of Danger is Back! (new print-and-play available)

King of Danger, Main Deck Back, Feb 2014

Print-and-Play File: {temporarily removed} … click the link to get the current print-and-play version of the game.

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As part of my developing the “Land of Danger” into a new core theme, I started working again on my trick taking game, King of Danger.

When I put the project on hold this past summer, I didn’t really like the game any more. I knew it had potential, but it seemed to be bloated and floundering.  So, it went on the shelf until I started thinking about it again in December.

This time around, I cut the game way back. Took the card count on the main deck down to 26 cards, and reduced the max player count to 5 players. Here’s the current full set of cards now (click for bigger pic): (more…)

Working the DANGER! Expansion into the Dicey Curves Update

Dicey Curves DANGER! Expansion Card BackAs mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been working through a graphical & packaging update to Dicey Curves. My plan is to call it the “deluxe edition” and have it include both the base game and the DANGER! Expansion.

There were 2 different hurdles to get over with this: (1) the changes to the track cards in the updated base game meant that the original DANGER! cards weren’t going to work, and (2) I wasn’t sure if I could pack all of the stuff into the size box that I wanted to use. But I think I’ve gotten past both of those issues by making a few changes to how the expansion will work.

Bits for Updated DANGER! Expansion, January 2014The main step was to take a “bits as toys” approach to how things would be marked on the racetrack when the DANGER! elements were added-in. Originally, the deck of cards in the expansion were actually placed down onto the track to indicate things. With this update, the cards still trigger the stuff going onto the track, but actual nice little wooden bits will be placed on the track instead.

I’ll be using red cubes to show where damage can be picked up (and to represent the actual damage a player currently has), orange cylinders (“barrels”) to show closed lanes, and a blue building to represent the location of a repair shop. I’m really excited to see how this will actually look while playing!

Finally, I updated the cards in the deck that needed it (check out the bottom row) … they now look something like this (click for big picture):

Updated DANGER! Expansion Cards, January 2014

I’ll also be tweaking the rules a little bit to make things a little less clunky, and to work more easily or quickly during the game. I’ve just started working through complete rewrites of the rule books for both the base game and the expansion. So, I’ll have more once those are ready.