Candy Crash – a game designed by Luca for 2-4 players – grab your Print and Play here!

Candy Crash is a die rolling, card playing game for 2-4 players, aged 8+ which plays in 15-20 minutes.

In Candy Crash, each player takes on the roll of a teen, working a job such as lawn mowing or a paper route. They’re all saving up to buy the best candy on the street at the local candy shop.

Every turn, each player does their job and earns one coin. If they do an excellent job, they may earn a tip and start taking home some of that delicious candy!  Players earn money, purchase upgrades to their dice, special skills and compete to be the first on their block to take home the ultimate candy prize.

Luca came up with the idea for this game a few weeks before Christmas. Since then we’ve been hard at work on testing this and refining the rules! We’ve put together a Print and Play version and we’d love to hear what you think. You can download the PDF from right here. What you’ll need are 10-20 6-sided dice (depending on if you have 2-4 players), a printer and some scissors. That’s it! We’re also looking for a new name, as Candy Crash may be a little too close to some other, popular online game.

We’ve also entered this game into the Cardboard Edison 2017 Game Design Contest. Here’s the video we put together that gives you a good idea of what the game’s all about.

A quick break on the reviews to design a new game and polish up an existing prototype.

Hey all! A few of you, perhaps 30 or 40 people out there, may have noticed that we were reviewing on average about 1.3 games per week! That’s pretty rad and I’m happy to be back in the saddle with that. However, I’ve got to take a quick break from it because we have these holidays here like Thanksgiving that take up a lot of cycles in the most fun way possible. Also, I’m working on a new, small design that has me pretty excited. Like many new designs, it may amount to nothing or it may be the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s too early to tell right now!

I can say that for the first time since I had my shoulder rebuilt and then shortly after that my Mom passed away, I really feel like I’m back. Back reviewing, back creating and pretty much on a more even keel creatively. I honestly had no idea it would take me this long – but these things just have to happen naturally. Oh and then when I was starting to feel my old self again I stayed up for 25 hours play board games. Every year it takes me just a little longer to recover from that!

On the few times I’ve talked about designing games with folks who aren’t into designing themselves, I get asked what a new game design looks like. I think people are naturally curious as to how the whole process goes. For me, it looks like this:

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That’s a bit of it. Right now it’s entirely on paper. I won’t be able to do much in the way of prototyping until perhaps Sunday morning as I’ve got family commitments between then and now. But once I do have time I’m going to break out those 400 blank playing cards I bought a year ago, my kid’s markers, and I’m going to go to town! This will be my first game about trading. Sure there will be conflict too but primarily it’s all about the Benjamins in this game, which tickles me to no end. I’m working in a pretty small design space, which means there are some interesting problems I don’t encounter when I can use things like say… anything other than a card.

I’ve gotten perhaps 35-40 games to real, playable prototype status. Of those, I’m still actively working on 4, (5 once I get this puppy real) and have abandoned or openly shunned the rest. Why am I excited by this one? Well, it’s small, it’s got a bit of complexity, lots of player choice and very little luck. All things I enjoy – but it also just feels right. As someone who’s played over 200 different game titles and churned out 30 or 40 of them himself, a lot of them feel like they’re good but need work. This one feels like a nicely oiled machine even on paper.

Which means that instead of going through a hundred little and big iterations before it’s a real, polished game, it may only need 80. Still, it’s a good feeling. Whether this one works out or not, I’m still pretty excited by it – if by nothing else than I feel like I’m back. The piece of me that was missing for a while has returned to fill that little game design/creative hole in my soul. That’s priceless.

I’m also paring down one of my existing prototypes to fit into the realm of the nano – a 9 card version of a dexterity game I mucked about with before. Fish Pitch is the game and with a few rules changes and a bit more playing about I think I have a very workable, tiny little version of this.

 

For those interested, the next review I’m working on is a fun, entirely wooden game called The Climbers, which I hope to have published next week.

The road to Swamped is full of crocs and Kickstarters

Swamped print sample, sealed in shrink wrap.
Swamped print sample, sealed in shrink wrap.

Today Dennis from Bellwether Games officially announced that the print samples of Swamped had arrived from China and he was able to show off some amazing pictures of the game in all it’s glory. Wow – it’s amazing to see something that Dennis, Jonathan and I have spent so much time on actually becoming real.

Box open, with the Rulebook.
Box open, with the Rulebook.

Jonathan did a straight up amazing job on making this little game an entire, vibrant universe all to itself – the artwork and graphic design look absolutely amazing. Dennis was wearing many hats during this entire ride, including business owner, negotiator, game developer, and Kickstarter wrangler. Both Dennis and Jonathan also poured a great deal of time into making Swamped a $40 game packed into a $15 box.

Coordinate cards.
Coordinate cards.

It’s hard to believe that this whole journey started back in 2013, almost 2 years ago to the day,  with a design I put together over an evening of thinking about my Grandmother’s art. From there I spun the submission wheel of fortune and happened to get extremely lucky by emailing Dennis at Bellwether. Dennis decided to do a little development work with me and then took a chance on a game that wasn’t yet called Swamped. Here’s a look at the original prototype I printed out.

Baby Swamped!
Baby Swamped!

We signed a contract and off we went! Or more realistically, off Dennis went! He came back to me a little later with a few ideas and a thought about perhaps making this game about taking a journey themed with a tropical swamp. From there it was a lot of development work a bit of bouncing ideas back and forth and from some basic mechanics sprang forth a semi-cooperative experience that we feel is an awful lot of game in a little box!

5 of the Adventurers!
5 of the Adventurers!

Dennis, Jonathan and I put in a good year and a half of our lives play testing, tweaking, and suggesting ideas. We had a ton of friends, play testers and interested readers take a look at the game and the rules – and here’s another public thank you for that! Without your help the game wouldn’t be as balanced and full of interesting (and sometimes wonderfully stressful!) choices!

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From there it was off to Kickstarter! 1091 people came together with us to raise $20,504 to bring Swamped into reality. We unlocked 10 stretch goals and did a fantastic job raising the funds when you consider that a pledge for a single copy was just $14 including shipping.

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Now Bellwether games is nearing their final goal – getting their copies into the states and off to backers and then retailers! The button has metaphorically been pressed and the game is moving into production in a factory located in China. From Dennis’ update:  Production is expected to take between 30-45 days. Add to that another 45-60 days for shipping the game across the ocean, clearing it through customs, sending it to the fulfillment company and shipping them out to all of you, and it looks like January will be the month you will receive your copies of the game. Bellwether has also pulled the trigger on a few extra copies of Swamped so if you missed out on the Kickstarter, you can pre-order them here.

It’s about a month later than Bellwether was hoping for which I’ve already learned can happen, even to the big publishers. When you factor in holidays in China, shipping times, production issues that need to be cleared up before the game is mass produced and all the little nuances that (thankfully) Bellwether games dealt with, I think they’ve done a wonderful job! I’d much rather wait the extra month and get a product that is amazingly colorful and well produced!

This is my first game that I was lucky enough to license to a publisher and I feel a little like I’ve been on this journey with all of you who read these occasional blog posts I make. Thanks to many of you the game is going to be real! I’m happy to share this adventure with everyone and hope that other fledgling designers have been able to come away with at least a little something to help them along the way – even if it’s just the knowledge that this can be done.

I’m also super happy to say that I’ve signed my second game! Button Shy Games (who just wrapped up a really amazing Kickstarter of their own) have opted to bring Ninja: Silent but Deadly into reality! I’m also currently working on development of a third game with a third publisher – but that’s all I can really say right now about that.

Until the next Swamped update hits, which I expect will be that the games are on their way, let’s move!

swamped4

Off to the races with Airship Challenge 1899 – a new 2-6 player racing game

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Airship Challenge is a race game for 2-6 players, ages 8+ and takes 20-30 minutes to play.

Theme

The Year – 1899. The challenge – Your tandem team of dirigibles, racing through canyons, valleys and the open air, must field at least one airship that is the first across the finish line. It’s the first ever Airship Challenge!

Players are owners of Dirigible Manufacturers in this grand age of steam from an 1899 that never was! To highlight the latest in steam technology and lighter than air travel you have organized the first annual Airship Challenge.

How Airship Challenge 1899 Works

Got to run my first live game of Airship Challenge 1899! Of course I immediately changed some of the rules and we restarted. It was a 2 player game, me against my 9 year old (who won in the end). I also only had to scratch out 50% of the text on 1 of the tokens, which may be a new record for me in the first live playing of any game I’ve designed.

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Each Owner has ships represented by colored pawns. Each player has 2 ships in their fleet. One player should take all of the ships in their hand, shake up the pawns and grabbing them randomly one by one place them in a line on the table. The first pawn on the table represents the pole position to start off the race.

Each player then places one Minor Tail Wind token in front of them. This creates the beginning of the race conditions in your game.

Place the rest of the 48 hexagon tokens into the bag, and shake it vigorously. Then the first player draws two tokens for every player, plus one extra token. (Tokens could also be hexed shaped cards)

These tokens are placed on the table where they are easily reached by everyone. The player to the left of the first player begins the draft by picking 1 token and placing it face down in front of them. The draft goes around the table until every player has 2 tokens. The last remaining token is put back in the bag.

These initial tokens form your hand of 2 tokens. At the start of the game, savvy players will know what each other player has in their hands. Your hands however will change rapidly during the game and it’s up to each player to decide which of the three race conditions in their hands they’ll encounter.

The first player then begins the game by drawing 1 new token from the bag. After looking at this token, they then choose one of the tokens in their hand and play it. Tokens must always be played touching at least one other token. When that token’s action is revealed, it triggers every other token it is also touching. Tokens triggered in this way do NOT trigger other tokens they are touching.

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In this way, each player can trigger between two and five tokens on their turn. They may trigger these in any order they choose but they must carry out the actions on every token triggered.

If, through the play of tokens any player is allowed to take a token from the table and place it into their hands, they must only take tokens that will not leave any other tokens unconnected. All tokens must be touching at least one other token throughout the game.

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This allows for some fairly strategic play, where you end up with race conditions like mine (above) where I chose to trigger only two conditions many times, or like those of my daughter (below) who chose to trigger multiple conditions, multiple times.

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When the last token is played, the race is over. Score the race in the following way:

  • A ship in 1st place = 5 points
  • A ship in 2nd place = 4 points
  • A ship in 3rd place = 3 points.
  • All other ships = 1 point.

Issues

Here are the immediate issues I’ve found and I’m always open to suggestions as to how to handle them or what a change I could implement to make the game better.

Tokens. First, in a two player game there were way to many tokens. My first initial change before we even started the game was as follows:

  • 2 Player games use 24 (of the 48) tokens chosen randomly.
  • 3 Player games use 36 tokens.
  • 4+ players use all tokens.

I would love to have an additional set of tokens say 2 of each, 3 different types for six total new tokens so that even 6 player games would have some variability over what was in the game or so that a six player game could use all of them and extend out for an additional turn.

Pawns. I really like the mechanic of the actual race – the pawns really don’t go anywhere, they don’t travel around a track or move around the table. It’s only their position that changes. This works really well in every aspect except that its, for lack of a better word, fiddly. They do tend to migrate slowly up and down the table, depending on which pawn is moving ahead of another. Were I a publisher spending money on this game I may consider some kind of sliding cardboard thingy which would facilitate this. When you’re acting on these pawns up to five times a turn, while that bit is quick, its still… fiddly. I’m thinking on this aspect now but would love to hear any thoughts or ideas on it.

Adjustment to player expectations. Lots of people see the nice, chunky race condition tiles and think “Ooh! We’re going to make the game board as we go along!” This isn’t the case in this game, you’re simply constructing a series of conditions through which your airships (and other players airships) may travel through. My 9 year old is very adaptable and ran with it and I was expecting it but I can tell from initial reactions and responses to the pictures I posted on line that most folks don’t immediately go to that. I think this can be managed simply by being very up front with how the tiles are used.

The Two Player Problem. The game, with two players, is enjoyable and interesting but there’s just as many pawns out there as I’d like to make it really engaging and to make it feel like each player is making a real, tactical decision every turn. Two solutions I’ve though of is either adding in 2 extra pawns of any color, or giving each player 3 airships to race with. Either way the total pawn count climbs to six – in the first solution there are two extra ships you’re just trying not to let get in front of you. You’d prefer they be in front of the other player however. In the three pawns each situation, each player is managing three ships and have to take into account the scoring (that a 2nd/3rd place combo will beat a 1st/4th place combo). I feel like the second solution is the better but I’m going to have to play it out to find out.

So there it is – the second game I’ve put together over the past few weeks!

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Making a big stink with Fish Pitch – a fish flicking game!

FishGuyCard-USAdeck

It’s been quite some time since I’ve had the time to actually sit down at my site and talk a little bit about game design. I’ve also had several projects which have gone beyond the realm of “Hmm, I wonder if this will ever get published” and moved into the realm of “Oh wow, it’s getting published!” Swamped being the one I can discuss openly right now.

So I’ve been putting a bunch of work into existing game ideas that you may or may not have heard about here on this site.

Last night though I had a few hours of uninterrupted time and decided it was beer and design O’Clock. I threw on the headphones, cranked up some light ambient mood music and stared at my screen for a bit.

Then I designed an area control/set collection/special powers in cards game that I’m not going to talk about just yet because it ain’t even close to a finished design, let alone a real game.

This morning I was thinking about that and then a strange thing happened. While walking to the train, I pass over a stream on a bridge. I thought I saw a fish in the stream and my mind immediately jumped to those folks in the Pacific Northwest who throw fish around. Fish Pitch. Fish Pitch would be a cool name for a game – you could…hmm, actually flick cards toward a cardboard person and score based on your aim!

I furiously emailed the details to myself and spent some free time mocking up some very simple cards. The cards are all different sizes, their are 4 of each type of fish and 4 “Fish Guys” (which will change once I actually get some non-clipart art).

In brief – you place your Fish Guy two feet away from the edge of the table. Then, as fast as you can you place your fish cards hanging just a bit off the table and flick them with your finger at your FG. If they land anywhere on the FG card, you score the points on the fish card. If they land in one or both of the red areas around the hands you score those points as well.

But flick them fast because the first person to have flicked all of their fish ends that round.

Here’s a few images that I’m using for the cards – they’re not card-shaped but you’ll see how basic they are.

Crab-ROUNDCard GreyFishSmallSquare SnapperSquareCard

It’s interesting though because I really want to test this with actual cards, so I’ve ordered them from The Game Crafter. That’s fine – but it’s a relatively expensive prototype because each of the 4 cards are from a different size and shaped set – meaning I essentially seem to be paying for a whole sheet for the 4 cards I want. Ah well, if it works and it’s a fun game, there’s always that!

Here’s what I’ve actually written about it so far: it’s an unaltered, certainly unedited look at how I design a quick little game like this.

Fish Pitch

A Dexterity Game by Benjamin Gerber

1-4 players | Ages 6+ | 5-10 Minutes

Fish market – Seattle – throwing fish, etc.

(Note: Fish Guy is a guy only because it’s the first piece of public domain art I found that I could use. If this ever goes beyond this stage, there will be four Fish People and they will be diverse).

Place your Fish Catcher on the table in front of you. Fish catcher should be at least 24 inches away from the edge of the table.

Played in 1-3 rounds – with the highest score at the end winning. In the event of a tie – a fish-off is held – one player selects the fish, the other player goes first.

Place your Fish cards with roughly ? of the card hanging off the edge of the table.

Squint down the card to sight out to Fish Guy.

Flick that card toward Fish Guy.

You score the points on the card if your card touches the Fish Guy card at all.

You score the points on Fish Guy’s hand(s) if you can overlap the red spaces with your fish card.

You automatically score the full points (Fish Card + Both Hands) if you can flick at least ½ of the fish card underneath the Fish Guy.

Players may flick whichever fish they like, in any order.

The first player to flick all of their fish, successfully or not, calls “Done!” and that round is over.

Add up your score (by removing Fish cards 1 at a time) and score for that round.

Determine if the next round is needed by arguing about who’s winning or not.

Single player games are played in one single round with one or both of the following:

  1. First game – count your score. Second and beyond attempt to beat your score or hit the maximum obtainable points.
  2. Beat your best time reaching the maximum obtainable points.

Design Notes

This would work awesome with clear plastic cards a la Gloom!

Publishers note: If you’d like to publish this little game, I’d like to talk to you!

Meeplevania Beta now available – care to playtest a tiny little game about vampiric meeples?

Meeplevania
Meeplevania

The Game

Meeplevania is a game about vampires and meeples. Taking place in the land of Meeplevania, several vampire hunters have joined forces in an attempt to track down Count Meepula, the infamous meeple vampire! Played over a series of rounds, where each player takes a turn at being Count Meepula, Meeplevania is a deduction and bluffing game that can be played with 2-4 players, ages 8+ in under 30 minutes.

You can grab the 7 page PDF to print and play right here or by clicking on the map above.

What you’ll need to play:

  • The PDF so you can print out the 10 cards and the 4″ x 4″ map of Meeplevania.
  • 10 Red cubes (or 10 pennies or 10 things of the same color). These represent potential Count Meepulas in your game.
  • 3 different colored Meeples – the hunters!
  • 5 white Victory cubes (again, anything may serve, as long as they are identical).

Please feel free to let me know what you think by emailing me at bgerber at gmail (dot) com. I’m looking for thoughts on what works, what doesn’t, what you can break and if you had a decent time of it or not!

History

A long time ago, going on nearly 1.5 years now, I was sitting at my kitchen table with my buddy Dan looking at that map you see at the top of the post. I had a fistfull of meeples, some dice and a few other odds and ends and we were both trying to figure out how to make a viable game out of so few components. I had the name – Meeplevania, and not much else. I had thought perhaps it would be about competing vampires, herding us humans (in the form of meeples of course) for food stock. I had toyed with the idea of a medieval territory control game featuring vampires.

I had set myself a challenge a few weeks prior to this meeting where I wanted to make a game board that could fit inside the box cover of a 4″ x 4″ box printed at The Game Crafter. Of course, to do this, I needed a viable game to go along with it! Try as we might, we couldn’t get all the things to click. We kept coming up with ideas for puzzles – but those are solvable things, unlike games in which there should always be a bit of a challenge and change from one game to the next. I just kept remaking Tic Tac Toe though.

This project sat. And sat, and sat for quite some time, collecting electronic dust in my Gdrive as I worked on other things, dealt with life and the day job and what have you.

Then about three months ago it hit me all in a rush while I was trying to take a nap on the train. Of course! A game where the players hunt for the vampire! And each player should get a chance at playing both the hunter and the vampire.

From there, I abandoned my map and started furiously misspelling things on my phone. Meeplevania was born!

I showed this around to a few folks on the G+ scene and and game developer friend online as well. Toyed with it some more and got sidetracked by the holidays. Now I’m back, and so is the worlds tiniest, most wooden vampire ever!

Game School: Designing a heavier game with Magic City

Magic City

I’ve put together a few card games, some of which I’ve opted to sell the Print on Demand route and others I’m currently working with third parties to see what happens. There are also a bunch more that haven’t yet seen the light of day. I’ve been creating these card games for three reasons. 1. I love creating games. 2. Card games are (to me) easier and faster to create, prototype and design. 3. I wanted to teach myself some design basics and card games seemed like a good place to start.

So start I did, and I’m cranking through designs like nobodies business. Now that I’ve got a few games out, a few games skulking around other people’s business and 5 other designs still in the works, it’s time to move on to something a bit… more.

I still really enjoy the thought of deck building and using cards in games but I’m getting a bit frustrated with the old starter deck. I think the main reason behind this is the 12 or so Ascension games I have going on my iPad, plus the umpteen games I play there solo. I used to be enamored with that ‘fresh start’ feel. Then, thanks to my friend Mark, I got introduced to the game Seasons, and with that game, a form of card drafting I’ve come to love. The gears in my head started to turn a few months ago.

Early this week, they ground to halt and an idea was there. What if I made a game that incorporated a deck of cards – say 120 of ’em. 60 unique cards, doubled. In any given game you’d only use a portion of the full deck so every game would feature different cards. And rather than start with your basic 10 deck (2 of these here attack cards, and 8 money things) you just drafted a starter deck from the main deck of cards. Each player draws 10 (or maybe 8 – I’m still working on this aspect) cards. They pick one, hand the rest off in a clock-wise motion and do it again until everyone’s drafted a started deck of 10 (8?) cards.

I’ve also been toying with some simple worker placement, like that found in Lords of Waterdeep. So, thought I, what if each player not only had these cards to play, but could use workers on a board to affect the game as well? By this time I had finished my walk where I was thinking of all this and was on the train. I started making some notes and this is what popped out yesterday.

Picture this with a lot more in the looks department.
Picture this with a lot more in the looks department.

Working title: Magic City. Potential theme: You’re already rich, and already powerful, so what more could you want? Why full control, that’s what! Become the elected leader of Magic City (I already don’t like that name, by the way) by using your political advantage, the events of your times, hiring the right people and of course, a bit of the old magic. The prototype is just about the ugliest thing I’ve ever done. Although I will admit it has a certain Soviet-era architectural charm too it.

Here’s how it works

Each player gets a player track board thing – it’s got the meeples on it in the picture above. This is how you keep track of your hand size, your reserve size (more on that in a bit) and the size of your worker pool. As the game starts, every player is handed 10 cards from the Market deck. Depending on the number of players, this deck will be 60 – 100 cards in size. The market in Magic City (ugh) is where people meet, deals go down and anything can be had, for a price. Each player looks at their cards, chooses 1 that they wish to keep and then hands off the remaining 9 cards to the person on their left. This continues until the last card is handed off.

Cards come in four flavors. Politics (A), Events (B), Magic (C) and Hirelings (D). Each card type allows you to do one of three things when you play them, depending on where you play them. If you play a politics card, you can either score a point or use the card effect. Events let you either remove workers from the board and return them to your pool, or they have effects. Magic cards simply have effects. Hireling cards can be used to place workers on the board or you can use their effects.

Bad board 1
The Market

Now each player has their starting deck of 10 cards. This gets shuffled and put to the side as the rest of the board gets set up. The remaining Market deck is put next to the Market. The market has 12 spaces for cards, divided into 3 areas by cost. The top four cards cost 3, the middle four cards cost 2 and the bottom four cards cost 1. What is this cost? Why it’s cards of course! I’m a big fan of making cards do more than one thing, so in this game, they are not only things that happen, but they are the game’s currency and allow for two ways to score victory points. The top 12 cards from the deck are used to fill in the 12 spaces in the Market, starting with the lowest cost spot on the right and ending with the highest cost spot on the left. These are cards you can purchase during the game. After all of this is done, the bottom 10 cards are removed from the deck, and the Election card is shuffled into them. They are then placed back at the bottom of the Market deck. When the election card is drawn from this deck, it signals the immediate end of the game.

Challenges and the score track

Each player now has their starting deck, and the Market is set up with 12 cards that cost between 1 – 3 cards. To pay that cost, you discard cards from your 5 card hand. Each player also has a pool of meeple workers provided to them. At the start of the game, that pool consists of 1 worker. The rest of your meeples are used to either keep score, keep track of your current game state or put off to the side where they wait desperately to be included. At the start of the game, each player not only has their 5 cards in hand from their 10 card drafted deck, but a meeple in their worker pool, a hand size of 5 and a reserve size of 3. Again, we’ll get to the reserve in just a bit now.

The second portion of the board is where you’ll find the Challenges. Challenges come from a separate deck (which in a fit of originality I called the ‘Challenge Deck’) made up of 60 unique challenge cards. Right now the theme is non-existent so rather than have cool names and images, these cards have between 2 and 4 letters on them. These letters are in combinations of AA – DDDD. I’ve put the full list of combos at the end of this post. Each Challenge card is worth from 2-6 points. The way you complete challenges? You play cards to your reserve, rather than to the board. In most cases (a few cards break this rule) cards played to your reserve have no effect on the game. They can be stashed in your reserve to do one of two things.

Bad board 2
Worker placement and the public cards.

They can be added to your hand at a later time, or be used to meet challenges. Each Market card has a letter associated with it – Politics (A), Events (B), Magic (C) and Hirelings (D). If you’d like to complete the AB challenge (worth 2 victory points) you need to have any A (Event) card and any B (Magic) card in your reserve to do so. Astute readers will now note that your reserve size is 3, and some challenges that are worth the most, take four cards.

Also along the edge of the challenge board is the score tracker. Ideally if this game makes it to a publisher and begins development, the board will not consist of three 8.5″ by 11″ pieces of paper and will have some art too. The score tracker would then go above 69.

Now you know that players have cards, and that there are challenges that need to be met. So what about those meeples? There’s also a portion of the board that has spaces for 8 workers to be placed. Each worker placement spot does something different for the player who puts a worker there. Here’s what the 8 spots do:

  1. Turn Order. Most workers placed goes first. If no workers placed, 1st player changes every turn, around the board clock-wise.
  2. Hand size increased by 1.
  3. Reserve size increased by 1.
  4. Hire a worker (4 max, 5 in 2 player game).
  5. Play an additional card.
  6. Take 1 cost 1 card from the Market.
  7. Remove and replace 1 challenge (your choice).
  8. Score 1 point.

You’ll also notice on the worker placement portion of the board, there are four more spots for cards, and these card have a cost of 4. These are generic cards, five of each available to anyone who needs to purchase them. They are basic Politics (A), Events (B), Magic (C) and Hireling (D) cards and are there should the deck not provide the cards you need to complete a challenge. But they’re expensive! Each player has a chance during the turn to place workers. When a worker is placed, it remains on the board, in that spot, until it’s pulled back into that player’s worker pool. Placing workers, and pulling workers back into your pool are both accomplished by playing cards (for the most part) that allow you to do so.

Now that you have the general layout of the game, let’s walk through a turn to see how all of these things mesh together.

Game Play

Each turn is divided into four phases, with every player going in player order during each phase.

Phase 1 -Draw cards up to your hand limit (5 without modification). You may choose to draw any or all of your cards from your reserve first, and then from your deck.

Phase 2 – You may play up to two cards and immediately resolve their effects or play them into your reserve. If you play no cards you may place a worker onto the board, or move a worker back into your worker pool. You must do one of these three actions.

Phase 3 – Resolve worker actions for all workers currently on the board. You may also resolve any challenges during this phase.

Phase 4 – Any cards played to the table are moved to your discard pile and the Market is refreshed.

That there is one turn. Lets dig a little deeper! The key thing to remember in this game is that to do anything other than resolving a challenge or playing a card, you must have a worker available.

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In Phase 1, you draw up to your maximum hand size. The default hand size is 5, but certain happenings in the game can increase this. If you have previously played any cards into your reserve, you may put any, all or none of them into your hand before you draw from your deck. Then you draw from the deck you constructed in the draft that happened during the game setup. If you do not have enough cards in your deck to make a full hand, shuffle your discard pile and this becomes your new deck. If you still don’t have enough cards, you simply won’t be drawing as many as you have the potential to draw.

Phase 2 is where you get to play cards. Any Hirelings (D) card you have in your hand will allow you to place a worker on the board (it’s got a Meeple icon with a + sign next to it) or you may choose to do what the card says in the text. Early on in the game it may make more sense to place a worker. If you wish to purchase a card, you must place a worker in that space in the market. There’s only room for two workers per market space. If you choose to place a worker in one of the 8 other board spaces, here’s how it works. First player in that spot gets the benefit by placing 1 worker. Second player in that spot also gets the benefit by placing 1 worker. The third player who also wants to utilize that space must place 2 workers. There are only spaces for 4 total workers on each spot. The only exception to this is Spot 1 – turn order. There are 4 spaces available, and 1st player is determined by the player with the most workers on this spot.

Playing almost any Event (B) cards will allow you to remove a worker from the board and place it back into your pool, or use the effect on that card. They have a Meeple icon with a – sign next to it. Politics cards allow you to score between 1-3 points or use the effects on the cards. Magic cards have effects but do not allow you to use them in other ways. Cards played for effect go into effect as soon as they are played.

You can also skip playing cards in this phase and choose to either place or remove a worker.

Playing cards or using workers happens in player order, around the table. Any cards played to your reserve, sit in your reserve. Any cards played to the table for effect remain on the table, visible, until Phase 4.

Phase 3 is where you resolve what all those workers on the board are doing, again in player order starting with player 1. If they have placed 1 worker on the Market spot that costs 2, and one worker on the Hire a Worker spot, they’d take one of their spare meeples and add it to their worker pool, plus they would discard 2 cards and select one of the cards in the Market that costs 2. The card they bought would be placed in their discard deck. As soon as a card is purchased from the Market, all of the other cards move down the line to fill in the blank spot, and a new card is drawn off the Market deck and added to the highest cost (3) row, on the left. Cards move from left to right, top to bottom.

Workers placed to purchase cards in the 1-4 cost slots allow players to discard cards to purchase them, but do not require players to do so during this phase. Other workers will automatically do what their board spots say they will do.

Remember, unless you remove a worker from the board (or someone else does it too you) they’ll remain in their spot, allowing you do take whatever actions they’re triggering.

Phase 4 is the cleanup phase. The card in the right most slot of the 1 cost area in the Market is discarded. All other Market cards are moved forward on their track, and a new card is drawn from the top of the Market deck and put into the 12th space (the left most top space in the Market). This means that regardless of whether or not any cards were purchased, the deck always moves closer to an Election at the end of every full turn. It also means that higher cost cards will eventually become lower cost cards as they are cycled through the Market on their way to being discarded.

Also in this phase, any cards played to the table for effect are placed in their player’s discard piles.

Third turn!
Third turn!

And that’s where I stand with this right now. The picture above shows the 2 player play test I did last night, which was the first time this game has ever been to any table, anywhere. I should note that I was playing both players. So far things are going well! There’s a hell of a lot of play testing in my future with this game, as there always is. This will be a bit of a challenge for me as well as it’s the first fairly deep game I’ve ever designed. I’d class it right now as a middleweight game, a bit heavier than my Upgrade Wars or Lords of Waterdeep.

There’s a lot going on in this game, which is something I was looking for so I figured I’d just build it. There are multiple paths to victory, with a bit of a “point salad” thing going on where doing lots of things can earn you points. It’s also going to be a slightly different game with every play, as the cards will not be the same – there will always be at least 20 cards from the full Market deck left out in every game, and the Challenges will change with every game as well.

I’m hoping there’s enough player interaction to keep everyone on their toes throughout the game, with tension rising as the Market deck gets thinner and the election comes closer. I’ll have to keep an eye on kingmaking though. I don’t think there’s a runaway mechanism in the game but I won’t find it if there is until I do a lot more testing. I was also toying with the idea of throwing in some secret agendas but I think there’s enough moving parts right now and adding more into this game may take away from the game play rather than add to it. As it stands, you have to build your card engine, keep your workers where they need to be, watch out for other players doing nasty things to you and your workers, spend cards that could be very useful to you to purchase other very useful cards, put cards out of play temporarily to overcome challenges and score points.

Now, about that theme….

Also, for those interested in the Challenge card breakdown, here’s the list I went with, followed by their victory point value if that challenge was met.

  • AB 2
  • AC 2
  • AD 2
  • BC 2
  • BD 2
  • CD 2
  • AAA 4
  • AAB 3
  • AAC 3
  • AAD 3
  • ABB 3
  • ABC 3
  • ABD 3
  • ACC 3
  • ACD 3
  • ADD 3
  • BBB 4
  • BBC 3
  • BBD 3
  • BCC 3
  • BCD 3
  • BDD 3
  • CCC 4
  • CCD 3
  • CDD 3
  • DDD 4
  • AAAA 6
  • AAAB 5
  • AAAC 5
  • AAAD 5
  • AABB 5
  • AABC 5
  • AABD 5
  • AACC 5
  • AACD 5
  • AADD 5
  • ABBB 5
  • ABBC 5
  • ABBD 5
  • ABCC 5
  • ABCD 5
  • ABDD 5
  • ACCC 5
  • ACCD 5
  • ACDD 5
  • ADDD 5
  • BBBB 6
  • BBBC 5
  • BBBD 5
  • BBCC 5
  • BBCD 5
  • BBDD 5
  • BCCC 5
  • BCCD 5
  • BCDD 5
  • BDDD 5
  • CCCC 6
  • CCCD 5
  • CCDD 5
  • CDDD 5
  • DDDD 6

 

Indie Talks Episode 46 – Game School with Aerjen Tamminga

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Aerjen comes on the show to talk about his newest project, Pleasant Dreams, a card game currently on Kickstarter and doing quite well, thank you very much! He’s also an avid student of game design and design theory and we go into what it takes to make a good game. Aerjen’s got some interesting insight that I’ve not really stumbled upon before! We also talk about a local (to me and him) event, the Boston Festival of Indie Games.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1143256637/pleasant-dreams-a-card-game-of-nightmares/widget/video.html

Like what you hear? Support the podcast through Patreon! $2 a month from you allows me to create a lot more content, get more great guests and improve the quality of the show!

We would love to get your feedback about our show! Contact me with comments: ben@trollitc.com, follow me on twitter @trollitc, and also check us out on iTunes! Hell, you can even catch us on Stitcher.  While you’re at it, there’s the Indie Talks Facebook page and the Indie Talks Google+ page. MySpace…well, I won’t go there if you wont. Please do rate this podcast on iTunes, and leave feedback through any of these links!

Indie Talks Episode 41 – Curt Covert of Smirk and Dagger Games

indie talks logo

Curt Covert joins me today as we talk game design, being back stabby and the process of publishing games! Curt is the driving force behind Smirk and Dagger games. For more of Curt’s history in the world of table top gaming, and just as a generally good idea all around, check out Tom Vasel’s Board Game University podcast! Episode 28 features Curt.

Like what you hear? Support the podcast through Patreon! $2 a month from you allows me to create a lot more content, get more great guests and improve the quality of the show!

We would love to get your feedback about our show! Contact me with comments: ben@trollitc.com, follow me on twitter @trollitc, and also check us out on iTunes! Hell, you can even catch us on Stitcher.  While you’re at it, there’s the Indie Talks Facebook page and the Indie Talks Google+ page. MySpace…well, I won’t go there if you wont. Please do rate this podcast on iTunes, and leave feedback through any of these links!

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