Game Design Contest: Prioritization and Playtesting

So, following the feedback from Alien Ambassadors and my inability to get a game test over the weekend, I’m looking at a next-available-playtest date of Thursday, with the due date for a finalized game concept/presentation on Friday.

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‘Twas not meant to be, methinks. Not for 2017, at least.

Unfortunately, that’s not really doable, especially if any issues whatsoever persist in the v2 Ambassadors iteration. I’m feeling that more and more it’s looking like I’ll be getting one playtest per week, meaning that I have to drastically rescale my games in progress to account for these likely shortcomings. I think I’m suffering slightly from a bit of frustrated expectations from players: Green-Circuit Mercs didn’t make a fantastic first impression, and the second revision did better but it still wasn’t a sought-after game. Alien Ambassadors did slightly better, but I think my players are possibly starting to be disinterested in trying new games.

More under the cut, along with the new schedule:


I feel like the best solution to this issue is to basically “complete” the games I have in-motion at the moment. For example, Holy Press still needs art and blind playtesting to get the rulebook polished up (and in that order, since nice art tends to be a good draw for cusious players), but I feel that the core gameplay is “done”. That said, here’s the new schedule, pared down to account for only one playtest iteration per month:

  • Cardboard Edison Award: January 31st
    • Holy Press: Submitted, at Prototype step
  • Trick Taker Challenge: March 6th
    • Green-Circuit Mercs: Not submitted, at playtesting step
  • 2017 Northwest Luci Award: April 7th
    • Alien Ambassadors: Not submitted, at playtesting step
  • Button Shy Wallet Game Contest: April 23rd
    • Boatbuilders: Not using for contest due to component revision, at playtesting step.
    • The Order of Artemis: Not submitted, at prototype step. This one I’m shelving indefinitely, as I feel there was way too much stuff that needed a lot more polish before it would even have a strong core gameplay loop.
    • Mamluki: Not submitted, at playtesting step. Also shelved, but mainly until after Green-Circuit Mercs is released because there will be heavy art and logo crossover, and I want the shared universe to feel well-represented between the two games rather than try to meld them after the fact
  • Thunderglyph Survival game contest: April 30th
    • Hunter’s Quarry: Design step. This one is veeery tentative, and will probably unfortunately get shelved too. I love Thunderglyph’s art and such and I think the game has a ton of promise, but I want to make sure I revive my playtest base instead of screwing that up and crippling myself for later testing stages.
  • Big Box Challenge: June 5th
    • No design yet
  • Gamelords Dungeon Crawler Challenge: August 15th
    • No design yet, although I have a strong inclination to use a previously-shelved rough outline idea for a Legacy-style dungeon delve game.

Current focus is on testing Green-Circuit Mercs and Alien Ambassadors, and getting those out of the way as well as getting Holy Press developed into a final releasable game.

This is really rough, as I feel like a screwup for eyes-bigger-than-stomach, as well as potentially damaging my only playtest source at the moment. I’m also going to be pushing to see about other playtest options as well, but that will require some checking around to make sure it fits comfortably with home, work, and Ironwatch needs as well.

Until next time; I think I’ll be working on cranking out the design outline for ClikB8 this Friday. Please let me hear your thoughts in the comments and reblogs below. Cheers!

Friday Update: Gameplay Tweaks

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So, got a game playtest in for Alien Ambassadors. Overall it went decently, but it definitely needs some changes before it will be ready for submission.

What Went Well:

Players really liked the weird actions, and seemed to enjoy the Interference changes as well. I was worried the latter might be too confusing or hard to track, but it sounds like they didn’t mind and liked how it changed it up from just being a basic 20-questions format. I am going to tweak a few of them (the ones that make an answer compounded with another action card), but overall this section went over swimmingly.

What Needs Improving:

The question categories are way, way too broad. While I might be rubbish at 20-Questions, I was only able to guess correctly for 2 of 15 cards. I had originally debated having a list of options players picked from, but had rejected it out of hand due to the sheer # of cards that would need to be added to make the list robust enough to provide some degree of challenge.

One option could be to make the choices as numbered tokens drawn from a bag, corresponding to a big chart of Places, Animals, and Things. While this would solve the issue, it doesn’t address a second concern I noted as I was playing:

There was basically no player interaction.

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Like this, but for board games and fun

Party games survive or die by their group fun-ness, and right now Alien Ambassadors has no player-player interaction other than the rotating interaction of the Translator and the Aliens. I figure I can kill two dangerous birds with one stone here, and roll in the goal of what players are trying to have the Translator guess. I can even call back to the original Alien Ambassadors constraint and have the monocolor cards.

The one drawback is I have to kill the Translator.

Honestly, the alien communication was the most-fun part, and as a Translator I felt more frustrated and useless than engaged and having fun. What we’ll do instead is have a common list of items, depicted by a picture most likely; each has a corresponding card, and at the start of a round, all players get a minute to ask questions using charades to the player to their left, and by the end of the minute they must place their guess by putting a marker on the icon on the board; if right, both they and the other player get a point, and otherwise they both get nothing.

Then the next round they draw new cards to replace the old ones, and do it again with the player to their right. This repeats swapping left/right until the game ends. In addition, at the end of each round, the player with the highest current score swaps seats with the player directly across from them (their choice if there are 2 options), so you don’t get permanently stale combinations of players. Play continues until someone hits a target point goal, say 15 or something.

Closing Thoughts

Now we have a direct player investment in both good charades/guessing, as well as good clues, a general semi-cooperative feeling, and best of all a constant ability to both use deduction as well as the alien language.

So, what do you think of the changes to Alien Ambassadors? Please let me hear if you like this better, worse, or something in-between in the comments and reblogs. Next week I’ll be doing a little design for a game I’ve got in mind called ClikB8, based on the idea of social media news. Until then, thanks for reading; cheers!

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Game Design Contest: Preparing The Order of Artemis for playtesting

Following up from where I left off Friday; firstoff, a logo!

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You can’t go wrong with a logo. Well, theoretically you could, but it’s highly unlikely.

So this one was interesting to work with; I’m slightly afraid it may need a lot of revisions (similar to Green-Circuit Mercs) in order to get it properly balanced. Ideally it should be pretty damn straightforward, but of course that could easily go to hell and need lots of fiddling or some mechanic could be completely untenable when played by players outside of my own brain: that’s what playtesting is for, after all!

Oh, and the format turned out to be open enough that I was able to make the game an instance or iteration, so there could be other Order of Artemis games in the future that could be compatible or something. That very much depends on player feedback to the game, and if it’s enthusiastic or mediocre. In this case, I perused a random generator until I got some ideas I liked, and decided on “The Lure from Beyond.”

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You can’t go wrong with Lovecraftian monsters and intrigue. Well, theoretically you could but its highly unlikely.

Continuing the design under the break!

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Friday Update: Wallet Game restart and The Order of Artemis

So I had a chance to play Camel Up last night, and enjoyed it a lot! Coup was also played, during which I tried the infinite Ambassador strategy after making a crucial and damaging error early-on and lost terribly while having a grand time.

However, as I attempted to demonstrate the core ship-building aspect of Boatbuilders, a crucial problem emerged: The table was a laquered smooth wood, and there was a gentle but steady AC vent overhead that was providing an almost-unnoticed breeze.

It was impossible to even get the base set up, let alone anything else.

This is a problem; while I knew breezes and smooth surfaces would be an issue, I hadn’t realized just how bad they could be compared to my relatively-controlled test environment at home. I think the game can be rescued by including 2-4 card clips in the set, and let players adjust how many they used depending on desired difficulty, but the problem is that will immediately bring us outside the scope for the limitations of the cards-only design Button Shy had asked for. So, while I am definitely wanting to hold onto Boatbuilders as a fun, light “pouch”* game, we’ll need to do a redesign asap for a new cards-only wallet game.

*In the vein of games such as Love Letter, Lost Legacy, and Cypher. Mostly just 18ish cards, and maybe a half-dozen small unobtrusive components.

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The designing will begin under the cut!

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The Cardboard Edison Award Contest Update

So, the tl;dr of this is that unfortunately, Holy Press didn’t win a spot in the finalists. A shame, but it looks like the finalists field is quite good looking so I understand there was probably fierce competition.

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Maybe next time, buddy

While it didn’t become a finalist, there was some incredibly-valuable feedback from judges regarding points they liked and didn’t like for the game, as well as areas they’d suggest expanding on in the future. I wanted to group all of that together below and go over my thoughts in response to the feedback.

What was the game’s strongest aspect?

  • Very original approach to a programming game!
  • It’s a unique game! It’s a mix of party and strategy games. You’ve got the goofy mad libs mixed with programming actions that combine for a very odd mix that could fit into that niche.
  • The theme and mechanisms are interesting and engaging. There is a solid platform to work from in this game. The concept of writing my own commandments is awesome.
  • Cute concept, great player count spread.
  • The game looks like a lot of fun! Love the programming mechanic. Very cool!

It seems like having a light programming game was a really popular point. The theme was very much a divided opinion (as shown in the below section of what they thought the weakest aspect was), but overall I got the impression that the theme was ok, but it should be approached carefully to avoid being overtly or directly offensive to religious and secular players.

In light of the feedback, I’m definitely glad I changed the mechanics to continue movement from where you ended the last turn rather than starting from the center, as that I think really helps make the programming feel important rather than making each player turn feel like a trial-and-error exercise.

The other feedback is below the cut!

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Friday Update: Green-Circuit Mercs Playtest Revisions

Got a few games in for Green-Circuit Mercs (The first time in a few weeks), as well as getting a chance to play the old-but-awesome Games Workshop game Chaos Marauders! It had a great system for rubber-banding from behind, and a great risk element I really enjoyed in addition to the boatloads of Warhammer lore injected all over the place.

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Never has tableau-building been more cutthroat. Or fun!

Still, though, got some great feedback on the Green-Circuit Mercs. The first game had to be aborted early due to a big rule issue I noted, but after a few tweaks, I now think the base game is both really interesting, as well as surprisingly balanced at this point.

More detail below the cut!

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Because who doesn’t love a good bit of Biopunk?

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Game Design Contest: Preparing Alien Ambassadors for Playtesting

Continuing from yesterday, I’m working on figuring out the cards, components, and rules for Alien Ambassadors for submitting for the 2017 Northwest Luci Award.

Oh, and since I forgot it last time, here’s a Cooltext logo for us to work with:

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The Deck

Alrighty, got these banged out here. Weighted most of the Actions to being spoken nonsense words, but but there’s still a healthy splash of around 25-33% of the cards being physical things. Enough to get a little humorous physicality into the game, but not enough that it threatens the ability to do charades for your clues.

The revised Preference cards is covered in more detail in “The Rules,” below.

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