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Protospiel, Euronimoes, Water Balloon Wars

July 25, 2016 Leave a comment

So, Protospiel Chelsea was last week, and I enjoyed myself immensely.  I saw some old friends, made some new ones, and played a crap ton of games.  It was awesome.

I took Euronimoes this year, since I was thinking of doing another update, and had folks put it through the wringer.  It passed.  I want to go through the rules again, maybe add some graphics, and then upload version 3.0.

I also dusted off Water Balloon Wars to see how it would fare.  It went over really well.  It’s a flicking game where you try to capture your opponent’s king.  So it’s basically a dexterity / strategy / war game.  What I like about it is that you have to have both good strategy and good flicking skills — either one without the other just isn’t enough.  And there’s a lot more strategy than you might think.

I hadn’t played it in a while, but I enjoyed it so much I’m going to upload it as a print-and-play.  That, too, will be coming in the next couple of weeks.  I may also look into selling it on The Game Crafter.

In other news, I just pulled Horsefeathers from my blog.  It needs a bit of work, and while I think I know what needs to happen, it’s going to take me a while to get around to it.  So it’s down for now, but it’ll be back at some point.

Happy gaming!

 

gearing up for Protospiel

June 22, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been getting ready for Protospiel these last few weeks:  playtesting like crazy, tweaking rules, getting everything together, and making sure everything is — both literally and metaphorically — in the box.  If all goes according to plan, I’ll be taking 7 games:  Horsefeathers 2.0, Hacienda, The Super Awesome Dice Game (SADG), Strange Bedfellows, Euronimoes 2.0, Puppet Masters, and Venture Capital.  I don’t expect to play all these games, mind you, but I plan to have them there just in case.  I never know what I’ll be in the mood to play / playtest until the moment is upon me, and this way I’ll have options.

Some of these games may already be familiar to some of you, as both Horsefeathers and Euronimoes have been released as print-and-play games here on my blog.  I’ve continued to develop and refine these games over the past year, and I hope to have updates available in the not-too-distant future.  The changes to Euronimoes have been slight (tweaks to the scoring, no chip bonus for drawing from the bone pile), while the changes to Horsefeathers have been more extensive (using cards instead of dice, revamping the points structure, creating a board, and adding more texture).  Both games are significantly improved.

Puppet Masters and Venture Capital should also be familiar to some of my readers, as I’ve blogged about their development before.  (Venture Capital used to be called Empire, then Metropolis, then Urban Conquest, then Capital, then Central City, etc. — it’s the proverbial game in search of a name.)  Puppet Masters hasn’t changed much, though I’ve tidied up the theme a bit and changed the way the endgame is handled.  Venture Capital, on the other hand, represents a significant break from previous development — in open source software terms, the game has “forked.”

I now have two games:  Central City retains the action cards, general gameplay, and overall feel of earlier versions, while Venture Capital has evolved into more of a stock market / speculation game.  Both are still auction games at heart, but the two play very differently.  Venture Capital feels much closer to “done” at this point, however, so it’s the one I’m packing for Protospiel.  Central City will have to wait another year (or two).

What else is left?  SADG, Strange Bedfellows, and Hacienda.  These are all light-to-medium fillers, taking somewhere around 30 minutes to play.

SADG is a clever little dice allocation game where players try to complete various items in three different categories.  There are two twists:  first, it’s rarely possible to complete an item all by oneself, so players have to cooperate in order to make points.  Second, a player’s overall score is equal to the score in their lowest category.  The game is played over three rounds.

Strange Bedfellows is what I would describe as a “political auction game.”  It’s subtitle, “everybody knows that elections can be bought — how much do you want to spend?” sums it up pretty well.  There’s a primary phase (choosing which candidates will run in that election), a negotiation phase (where players try to get other players to support their favorite candidates), and an auction phase (where players pledge their support to one of the candidates in that election).  Oh, and did I mention that there’s plenty of room for backstabbing and betrayal?  Just because a player says he’s going to help you out in the upcoming election doesn’t mean he actually will.

Finally, Hacienda is a modular auction game where players buy properties and try to connect them together into large ranches.  Ranches only count for points at the end of the game, however, if they’re also connected to wells, so players must choose where to put their wells carefully.

= = = = =

Looking back over this list, I count four games with an auction:  Hacienda, Strange Bedfellows, Venture Capital, and Puppet Masters (in Puppet Masters, there’s an auction to determine turn order).  By any standard, that’s a pretty high percentage of auction games.

I’ll admit I’ve had a fascination with auction games lately.  I enjoy playing them because they require an accurate valuation of the game-state; I enjoy designing them because they’re what I like to call “self-leveling.”

By self-leveling, I mean that some things (start money, income, etc.) become less critical — it’s up to the players to determine the worth of various in-game elements and bid accordingly.  Bid too low, and your opponents gain an advantage; bid too high, and you run yourself out of money.

As a designer, this means you can worry less about the amount of money in the game and more about the game’s overall flow and feel.  And that, for me at least, is a Good Thing.  :-)

 

Protospiel preparations, Horsefeathers score sheet, and Horsefeathers with two

June 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been hard at work this weekend working on the graphics for RumRunners to get them presentable for Protospiel. And at this point, they’re passable. They’re not great, but they’re functional, and that’s about as good as I can usually hope for. :-)

Actually, I’m fairly proud of them. I’ve been learning a new program called Inkscape, and it’s really cool. It’s probably the most intuitive graphics program I’ve ever used, and you can get fairly nice-looking graphics out of it with just a minimum of effort. Here’s a portion of the board, just to give you an idea:

So I got that sent off to the printer this morning, and I plan to mount it on a piece of mat board after S picks it up for me tomorrow. Then I’ll hinge the board with packing tape, and the end result (I hope) will be the nicest board I’ve ever made. We’ll see.

I used mat board for the Coloronimoes tiles, and I was really happy with how they turned out. I used to mount everything on foam core, but I think mat board looks nicer and feels better. It’s a little harder to work with (a little harder to cut), but IMHO it’s worth it.

– – – – –

In addition to the new board for RumRunners, I’ve also been working on a score sheet for Horsefeathers:

The plan is to upload a PDF with this score sheet and a (very slightly) modified version of the rules so people can play the game with just one die, the score sheet, and a box of poker chips. Oh, and 1 counter per player to show who’s still in the round and who’s out. It’s not that assembling 12 dice is going to be impossible for most gamers, and it’s not that finding 21 tokens (for 8 players) or 8 reversible chips (1 per player) is that much of a hardship, it’s just that I’m trying to make entrance into this game as easy as possible. It’s been a consistent favorite at game night since I first started working on it, and I think most people would probably enjoy it.

Just to see how the new (prototype) score sheet might work, S and I took it for a spin this evening.  The score sheet worked really well, even better than I had hoped, but the game (with two) was not so hot.  I didn’t expect it to be.  It’s not that it was bad, and in fact I can imagine that some people might really get into a head-to-head version of the game, it’s just not as interesting as the game with 3 plus.  You keep bluffing (or trying to bluff) the same person, over and over again, and that’s not really my cup of tea.  Kind of like Poker with two — some people get into it, but I find it more engaging when there are more players. YMMV.  :-)

Horsefeathers has an entry in the database

June 20, 2011 Leave a comment

And now Horsefeathers has an entry in the BGG database: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/101521/horsefeathers. It still looks fairly spartan, but I’ve uploaded an image for it and proposed a weblink, so it’ll soon be looking better. I was amazed it got through GeekMod as quickly as it did, as I’ve never had a game approved that quickly. Cool! :-)

Horsefeathers released as a print-and-play

June 20, 2011 Leave a comment

I just wanted to let folks know that the final rules for Horsefeathers have been uploaded. There may yet be some very minor tweaks, but it’s basically done. Now I just need to submit it to the BGG database. :-)

a bit of the math behind Horsefeathers

June 19, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been playtesting Horsefeathers quite a bit lately, and it’s just about finished. The idea of including special tokens that you get only when you challenge someone successfully was that little extra something the game needed. Now I just need to write up the update to the rules, upload the file, and apply to get the game in the BGG database. :-)

I thought it would be interesting, however, to share some of the math behind the game. Even a game as simple as Horsefeathers has quite a bit of math behind it, and a spreadsheet can really help keep track of it all. Spreadsheets help designers tweak all the different values in a game, and they also help designers understand what parameters are most important.

So here’s a snapshot of the spreadsheet for Horsefeathers. It’s pretty simple, but amazingly useful.

Most of it is pretty self-explanatory, but the question I was ultimately trying to answer was this:  how should I handle all the various values to make it so that the final payout due to the special tokens was worth roughly the same amount (or a little more) than a typical payout for a single round?  I wanted it, ideally, in the range of 1-2. I’m pretty happy with 0.96 to 1.87.  :-)

There are some fudgy numbers, here, but we are, after all, dealing with probabilities and statistics.  No two games will ever be the same, and there will always be that occasional game that defies the odds and comes in at 4 sigma. Outliers, however, just give a game like this texture.

The top two rows are just the number of players in the game and the number that get eliminated in a given round (always one less than the total, since rounds are always played until just one player remains).

The initial ante (10 in the sheet above) is the amount that every player must pay at the beginning of the round.  By changing just that one cell, I can change it from 10 to 5 to 20 to 0.  And each of those numbers will produce a vastly different gaming experience.

Then the domes (read: special tokens) that are taken per round.  This should be equal to the number of players eliminated divided by two.  Why two?  Well, any given challenge might prove true or false, but on average people will be right about half the time.   One player is eliminated either way, however, so a token is likely to be taken from the stack every other time.

The number of rounds is entered.  I chose 6.  This causes the game to last roughly thirty to forty-five minutes, which seemed reasonable for a game of this depth.  One neat thing about the game is that, because the number of rounds is the same for any number of players, the length of the game won’t change much.  And in that sense, it’s scale-invariant.

The number of domes (special tokens) needed to produce a game of six rounds:  since the game is over when the last token is taken from the stack, varying the number of tokens varies the (likely) number of rounds. It’s a fairly accurate predictor, though of course not infallible.

Does everyone pay to play?  This refers to a design option I considered for a while wherein every player would need to pay an additional chip anytime someone rolled.  It felt fussy, but I wanted to throw it in here just to see what it would do.  I had thought that it would cause the game to scale more reliably from 3-8 players, but it didn’t really help much.  Right now it’s off, but entering “1” will turn it on (and change all the formulas appearing later in the sheet).

How much do players pay to play?  I toyed with 0, 5, and 10, and I like the results of 5 best.

Average number of dice rolled in a round.  Here’s one of my educated guesses.  A round begins with a number of dice already on the table:  roll until a pair shows up in the center of the board, or until there are 5 dice.  In my experience, this usually means 3 or 4 dice to begin with.  But when does a round end?  Again, in my experience a round typically ends about the time there are 10 dice on the table — sometimes more, sometimes less.  So I chose 6.5 for the number here.  But there are other factors:  when a bluff is unsuccessful, the die is not added to the center (though the player is still eliminated and their “pay to play” chip is still added to the pot).  Again, it’s not perfect.

Size of pot — the size of a typical pot won by one of the players at the end of a round.  This is one of the two numbers I was wanting to compare.  It’s calculated by taking the size of the initial ante times the number of players plus the size of the subsequent ante (the amount players must “pay to play”) times the average number of rolls.

The next three rows look at the starting amount of money, the average amount a (losing) player will lose each round, and the number of rounds they’ll be able to play without winning a pot.  I wanted it to be greater than 6 (the chosen number of rounds), since I wanted players to have at least some money at the end of the game for making payments based on special token disparity.

After the first red line, I’m trying to get at the other of the two numbers I want to compare:  the size of the payouts based on token disparity.  If a player has 0 tokens, they pay everyone at the table.  How much they pay depends only on the number of tokens in play, so it is equal to the number of tokens originally in the stack.  Of course this says nothing about who gets paid, just how much is paid out.

The multiplier:  how much is paid per token?  I toyed with 5 and 10, but got better results with 10.  I thought for a while that I would have to use 5 for some numbers of players and 10 for other numbers of players, but thankfully that wasn’t necessary.  I hate fussy rules like that, and in a game like this it would be anathema.

Chips lost due to the special tokens and likely max chips received.  Chips lost is simple:  the number lost due to token disparity times the value multiplier.  Likely max chips received is another fudge factor: I’m saying here that the likely max won is comparable to the likely max lost.  And, on the face of it, this is the biggest fudge of all — there’s no real reason to assume this is the case.  But I’m guessing it’ll be close.  For one thing, when you run numbers of a typical spread (0 tokens, 2 tokens, 4 tokens, 6 tokens) the player with 0 loses 2+4+6=12 and the player with 6 gains 6+4+2=12.  There’s a bit of symmetry.

Also, I played with the numbers quite a bit and found that, after calculating the amount received by the player with the most tokens for likely scenarios, and then averaging the results, I came startlingly close to this simpler number.  I chose to go with it, though of course there will always be outliers.

So finally I calculated a ratio:  the number of chips a player is likely to receive when having the most tokens versus the number of chips a player is likely to receive when winning the pot.  And really, it all came out pretty well.

Of course none of this makes the slightest bit of difference if the game doesn’t have legs, but thankfully this one is quite a bit of fun to play.  And when playing the game you wouldn’t know there was any of this math in there at all.  When playing the game, you’re just trying to figure out if Joe is bluffing or telling the truth — did he really roll a six, or is he a low-down lying skunk?

I haven’t played the game for money, yet, but it would make a positively wicked betting game.  :-)

game night: Blokus, Santiago, Zombie Dice, Horsefeathers, Pandemic, and Hearts

June 18, 2011 2 comments

S and I hosted game night last night and had a bigger turnout than we expected.  We had a total of 8, which meant we could split into two tables of four each.

We started off with Blokus on one table and Pandemic on the other.  I wasn’t in the mood for a co-op, so I opted for the table with Blokus.  That’s a fun game.  I like how you can flow through the other players’ pieces even when they do their best to block you, and I like how you can think about it as much or as little as you want.  It’s also nice how politics plays a role, as it can make it much more difficult when two (or three) players decide to gang up on the fourth.

We got in two games of Blokus before Pandemic finished and then decided to switch it up a bit.  I started a table with Santiago (a recent acquisition), and the other folks went for first Blokus and then Hearts.

Santiago took a while to get started, as we were learning the game as we went, but it turned out to be a very enjoyable game.  The gist of it is that you first bid on properties and then try to bribe the canal overseer to make sure they get water.  There are a lot of details, though, that make the game very interesting:  it’s half cooperation (the more tiles there are in a plantation, the more points players score for it) and half cut-throat competition (where the canals are built determines whose properties thrive and whose dry up).

We’ve only played it once, but I can’t wait to play it again.  I’m guessing it will get a lot of table time.

The other table was finishing up their game of Hearts when we got done, so we played a quick game of Zombie Dice.

Then we got together for one big game of Horsefeathers.  It’s working pretty well now, but there are one or two things I want to tweak before adding it to the BGG database.  The general consensus was that it would be nice if there were some incentive or bonus for correctly challenging a lying player, as there often wasn’t sufficient reason to stick your neck out.  A number of ideas were tossed around, including taking chips from the pot (don’t want to take too many out, though), taking chips from the lying player (might be kind of fussy, and besides, it’s not their fault they had to lie), and getting to skip your next roll (which might be very handy but also rather hard to keep track of).

I thought about it after folks left last night and then talked a bit about it with S this morning. And what I came up with was this: when the game first gets started, a stack of special pieces is placed in the center of the table. The number of pieces depends on the number of players. Anytime a player successfully calls “Horsefeathers,” they get to take one of these special tokens and put it in front of them. The game end is triggered when the last token is taken: players finish the current round and then the game is over.

At that point players exchange chips based on who has more of these special tokens — players get chips from those who have fewer tokens and pay chips to those who have more. Then players count up their chips, and whoever has the most is the winner.

This makes the game more complicated, but it does a couple things I really like. First, it gives a pretty big incentive to call people out. Second, it gives players a bit more to think about during the game and makes it possible for players to take different approaches. And finally, it provides a more definite end to the game (something that was, admittedly, lacking).

I don’t know as it will stick, but this is what I want to try the next time we play. I’m hoping that will be tonight…. :-)