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


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!

Daily Board Game Deals – 8/7/15


I found more stuff for sale. Starting with Lost Temple which is 44% off at $19.55.

Steam Park is 49% off at $28.00.

Some more Stronghold titles: Crazy Creatures of Dr. Gloom is 37% off at $9.37.

Going Going Gone is 37% off at $31.28.

Machi Koro is 40% off at $17.99.

Martian Dice is again cheap at $9.95 or 34% off.

Flash Point Fire Rescue is 44% off at $22.49.

Vlaada Chvatil’s Prophecy is 57% off at $27.95.

The Resistance is 48% off at $10.39.

Provincia Romana is 45% off at $30.25.

Three Swamped stretch goals unlocked in 24 hours and we’re so close to two more!


Swamped is having a fantastic week! Yesterday we unlocked THREE stretch goals –  boat tokens, croc tokens and the Create Your Own Adventurer card! Let’s take a look!

sboat scroc sadventurer

We are 2 backers away from unlocking Spot UV on the box and just $266 away from unlocking the alternate Start Map! Wow! Thank you! That means if we get just 17 backers today, we’ve unlocked both upcoming stretch goals.


This would be fantastic! And keep us going well on our way towards extra cards and EXPANSIONS! All of us working on the game want to see these unlocked but I can also tell you my personal favorite stretch goal is hidden in there in the expansions!

We’re also working to expand our social media reach to get more folks interested, maybe drum up new backers and reach even more stretch goals. It’s called a Thunderclap campaign. If you have one minute, click this link and give us a hand! Thunderclap is a way to coordinate posts to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr (one, two or all three – your choice) on the same day, at the same moment. This helps build momentum for the Kickstarter campaign and can bring in lots of new backers.

Kick The Box May 4th 2015 Edition

Kick The Box

May 4th Edition

Beginning of May and no signs of slowing down in the board game genre of Kickstarter. In fact, It may be picking up steam as we roll into the spring and summer months. This week we take a look at a deck building(or is it a deck deconstruction?) card game, a set collecting, tile laying board game, some beautiful dice boxes, and an alternate universe miniatures game. A little bit of something for everyone this week. Check out the news and than see who it is that made this week’s picks!

Kickstarter News: The Siblings Trouble is fully funded! Congratulations Edo! Now time to start unlocking some of those stretch goals! Matthew O’Malley’s Knot Dice campaign ended, raising over$97,000! Dragon Scales Coins – Wave 1 has reached over 100 backers and halfway to it’s funding goal with over 3 weeks still left in their campaign!

Cauldron: A board game of competitive alchemy

Project By: Artem Safarov

Cauldron is a game about collecting ingredients and creating potions. Each character has a unique ability so players can tailor their game style to their liking.

Players are trying to harvest ingredients, create potions, and cast spells in this 2-5 player game. They will gain victory points by creating said potions, but will also have to spend those valuable points to increase the board size for more ingredient options, or buy potions that will score you more points, or spells that can help you or hinder your opponents.

Many well known reviewers have given Cauldron high praise as an easy to teach, gateway game with the perfect mixture of  luck and strategy. Games generally  last between 60-90 minutes depending on the player count.

If you want to learn more about Cauldron, be sure to check out this Fridays(May 8th) podcast. Artem Safarov, the designer of Cauldron, drops by and talks about his game, Kickstarter, his mentors in the Kickstarter World, and much, much more.

Xenon Profiteer

Project By: Gryphon and Eagle Games

Xenon Profiteer is designed by TC Petty III (Viva Java: The Coffee Game, Viva Java: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game). In this 2014 Ion Award Winning Game, players are trying to refine their Xenon mining skills.

In most games with a deck building mechanic, scrapping, or discarding cards is simply a type of strategy to help get rid of starter cards or any other cards that aren’t useful to you anymore. In Xenon Profiteer, it’s not a strategy, but the main mechanic used to mine Xenon.

Real quick explanation. During the course of the game, you will have to add “air”(four cards with four different elements, Nitrogen, Krypton, Xenon and Oxygen) to your “system” (your drawing deck). The only element that is worth anything to you is Xenon. The other elements are junk and you will have to distill it out of your system. You do this by drawing five cards to your hand. You are wanting to discard all the elements out of your hand and only have Xenon remaining so you can place it in your tableau in front of you. Of course, there are rules to how, which elements, and when you can do this. You can distill only one type of element out of your hand most turns and they can only be distilled in a certain order. This is where collecting money, buying contracts and upgrades will help you break the rules of the game to make your mining more efficient.

Some interesting concepts and an unique twist to the deck building genre. For a more in-depth look at the game, be sure to check out their campaign page.

The Adventure Case: the Ultimate Tabletop Gaming Accessory

Project By: Dog Might Games

Dog Might Games has another amazing campaign underway with their latest hand made wood projects. This time they have upped the ante of their last Dice Box campaign with their latest creation, The Adventure Case.

The Adventure Case has been in prototype for over a year now. It is a storage space for your gaming supplies, a dice box, a rolling tray, and a screen for hiding your rolls.

Of course, as with all of Dog Might Games creations, The Adventure Case is made out of solid wood, beautiful, and fully customizable. There are several different types of wood to choose, from Natural White Ash to Demon’s Blood Hickory. You can also have the dice tray lined with your choice of color of felt or suede. And that’s not all. They have several decorative metal symbols and amazing looking wooden symbols to choose from to have mounted on the outside of the lid with your choice of orientation. They also have a small variety of different colored lighting options for the inside of your adventure case as well.

For an example of their fine work, you can check out my full review of the Deck Box they sent me for review a year ago. It holds my well-used Star Realms deck and still looks great today.

With their high quality craftsmanship, keen eye to detail, and customer service, Dog Might Games has established themselves as one of the best companies to go to for your customized gaming needs.


Project By: Game Fleet Productions

Clockwork Armada has an interesting art style and appeals to the little kid in me with it’s retro, steam punk design. Add a dash of Space Battleship Yamato(aka Star Blazers) thrown in for good measure and it’s hard to say, “No.”

In this alternate reality of flat worlds and earth defying logic, different alien factions having taken inspiration from early naval vessel designs when they created their fleets of death. Each ships weaponry outfitting can be customized for their needs. They can be outfitted with different types of cannons, shield generators, launch bays, and more.

Ships different quadrants have strengths and weaknesses. Players will have to out maneuver their opponents in order to take advantage of the ships weaknesses.

Clockwork Armada looks like it has an unique mixture of naval and space combat mechanics that may help it stand out on it’s own if it is able to get the funding needed.

That’s it for this week! Is there any Kickstarter projects that said to you “Shut up and take my money!” Let me know down below in the comments!

On Making Swamped and That Good Old Creative Drive


I was recently asked why I decided to make games in general, and Swamped in particular. There’s the short answer – I love table top games. RPGs, board games, card games, and I love toying with things that make them work too. Then there’s the long answer.

The Long Answer

Way back in 1986 I was a high school freshman. I was hugely into D&D and Palladium RPGs. Then a mutual gamer friend introduced me to this thing called Talisman. It was love at first sight. I played and then owned all of Talisman 2nd edition. After that I got into first Blood Bowl and then Dungeon Bowl. Warhammer was around back then but the price was a bit prohibitive for me, so I purchased a few of the chit and paper map type war games that were available in the late 80s and continued my love affair with RPGs.

College happened and the RPGs were easier to pack so with the exception of Blood Bowl and Talisman, my board game stayed at home. There followed a long period where I was mostly an RPG player, only dabbling occasionally with board and card games.

Back in 2008, I launched this blog, based almost solely on table top games with a slant of course towards RPGs. That was the tipping point. I ‘published’ a number of Pathfinder and system neutral RPG things, along with a few small, self enclosed systems. I loved and still love RPGs but I found myself with two kids, my wife, a full time job and a long commute. My time to play RPGs kept getting whittled down.

So I glanced around my shelves, dusted off a few of the board games I had and promptly and instantly fell back in love with the hobby board game scene.

I’ve always enjoyed creating things, so after a year or so of doing research (which thankfully translates into playing a huge amount of board games) I started toying around with some design ideas of my own. They were, quite frankly, crap. Poor implementation of mechanics, way to much reliance on luck and things that had been done before without much of a change in how they were implemented.

The Inspirational Bit

Here’s the thing though – having written fiction and poetry in college and afterwards, having made a few low-end RPGs, and having read quotes on the internet, I knew one special fact. Here’s a quote from Ira Glass explaining that fact. It’s a little on the long side as far as quotes go, but it will be worth your 30 seconds of reading.

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Knowing that and also knowing that many of the design ideas implemented in newer games came from ideas from older games, I started experimenting with Old vintage cards on a white background isolatedold (19th century) card games. I’d start with a simple re-theme, get to a theme that I enjoyed and then start adding/taking away mechanics until I had something that was similar but hopefully better.

It didn’t always work. But it worked enough that I was encouraged by my own designs. So I showed a few to other people and they were also encouraging, in the best way. That is, they like what I had done but found the flaws and pointed them out to me. A few of these I liked enough that I started making them available as Print and Play or Print on Demand titles.

Around about this time I also decided that since I couldn’t always find enough folks with enough time to play these games I loved so much, I’d do the next best thing, talk about them! So I launched a podcast and started interviewing game creators. I did about 50 episodes of that, which was an immense help. Nothing informs people on how to create games more than talking to people who create and (important point here) sell games.

By this time two years ago I have about 200 game ideas, ranging from a catchy title to a fairly well fleshed out prototype. Of those, I’d found about 30 that seemed like they might be viable games – have something that’s both fun, interesting, new and not boring. Of those, I found that about 5 really, honestly did have something to them. They were fun, engaging, with a neat twist on a mechanic that wasn’t everywhere else in the board game world. Swamped was one from that batch, although it wasn’t called Swamped then, and it was a bit of a lesser game than it is now.

On Pitching a Game

Holy Stock Photo BatmanIn my course of shopping titles around… well hold on a second. Let me touch on that briefly too. In my Game School articles, I talk a bit about finding new games from the publisher’s perspective and publishing new games from the creator’s perspective. I gleaned this information from two sources. First was talking to publishers and creators. The second was my attempts to put these ideas into practice.

Those 5 titles that I thought had some real potential, I shopped them around via email and my podcast connections and just plain old blind selling to perhaps 20 publishers, big and small. I consider myself lucky to have 2 publishers be very interested. One took a design (not Swamped), did a bunch of development on it, play tested it thoroughly and then did the dreaded cost analysis. They just couldn’t bring out ideas to a point where they felt it would be cost effective. They had some great ideas, and did a lot of work which I appreciated. Then, they turned over the work and ideas to me and said “Thanks! Hit us up if you have anything further!” and that was that.

The other was Bellwether Games.

Dennis from Bellwether was interested enough in my not-quite-Swamped that he asked if he could toy around with it. I said yes and he took me up on this. He came up with some cool ideas for this little game that I hadn’t thought of and we agreed to move forward. This was approximately 11 months ago.  We had a video call, exchanged some emails and suddenly this contract arrived, was amenable to both of us and I signed it.

Making a “Nice” Game into a Great Game

More development on Bellwether’s part, more emails, a few more video calls, some online testing, ideas flowing back and forth, collaboration that worked and suddenly… quite suddenly (a mere 2 years after I had initially come up with the idea) there was this game and it worked and it was new and packed more game into it’s tiny little structure than some $60 games I owned. This part was also quite fascinating to me and reminded me why I enjoy degrees of openness on a creative project.

With just me working on the original game, I came up with a fun, quick and interesting little game. Once Dennis came on board and got his folks play testing this though, he came back with some different ideas that just wouldn’t have occurred to me. We talked, the ideas go developed and test and the entire project began to evolve into something better.

The part in all this that keeps me going personally, that keeps my interest in this project high and my enjoyment in seeing it completed is that I had a major part in making it. The part that gets me excited about this game from a fan of the hobby in general aspect is that Dennis from Bellwether also had a major part in making it better. That means every time I played a newer version, it may have moved in a different direction than I had anticipated but it got closer to my vision of making a great game.

In short, I was and am very excited about this game. It’s moved from the sometimes drudgery of play testing before I even sent it out to Bellwether to a game I really, honestly want to play, even though I have a ton of other games in my gaming library. I still had one problem though.

I’m a pretty open person when it comes to development of things like this when I’m working on my own. I love to talk to everyone and anyone about my latest ideas, what worked, what failed awfully and everything else. When you’re working on a game for someone else however, there’s an expectation that things not get blurted out as soon as they occur. So after nearly a years worth of development this press release was made. Partly I’m convinced because I was about to explode from excitement and I think Dennis didn’t want a death on his hands.

There’s still lots of information about the game I’m ready to go on about. Mechanics, more on the theme, which bits have teeth and which bits require some subtle manipulation of the other players. But I must end this now as my wife has challenged me to another game of Swamped and she won the last one!

Total Confusion 29 – New England’s Largest Gaming Convention and Ben’s Schedule at the Con

Total Confusion 29
Total Confusion 29

It’s Total Confusion time again! This is New England’s largest convention geared totally towards gaming and it’s always a fantastic time! This year I’ll be spending a bit more time at the convention (arriving Thursday, yay!) The convention runs Thursday, February 19th through Sunday, February 22. They offer single day or all weekend passes and for my board game peeps, there’s a special board game pass that gets you into the board game room, vendors hall and panels and let’s you play all weekend long. You can find TotalCon at the Holiday Inn in Mansfield, MA. While the hotel is sold out for the weekend, if you’re nearby I’d highly suggest dropping in for a day or two!

If you’re going to be at the convention, please come say hello! I love meeting fellow gamers! Just a quick note on names though. I have a wife and two daughters – I concentrate on remember their names and that’s generally about as good as I get at conventions. Please don’t take offense if I don’t remember your name, or you see me trying to sneak a glance at your probably backwards Total Con badge. It’s not you, it’s me.

TotalCon has been kind enough to have me as a guest for the last four years. This year I’ll be participating in a number of panels, running four different board game sessions, helping out with a Prototype Pitch event for board and card games and overall up to my eyeballs in games! I cannot wait!

Here’s my schedule as it stands right now:

Thursday – February 19

6:00pm – 7:00pm & 9:00pm to 10:00pm Sal’s Traveling Market of Curiosities – the TC Flea.

This is, I believe, a new thing for Total Con. A flea market of wondrous, cash-only gaming stuff for sale! I’m helping to run it, so if you’re there on Thursday and want to find me, this is the place.

7:00pm – 9:00pm Small Board and Card Games – Big Fun!

I love small box games. Cards and board that can almost fit into your pockets make for a great experience in quick games. Many people call these filler games but sometimes what you really want is to get 3-4 games into a two hour period. If you’re curious to check out some smaller games, from Love Letter to Diamonds, Eight Minute Empire to My Happy Farm and more – this event is for you! I’ll be bringing a bunch of my favorites.

Friday – February 20

10:00am – 12:00pm Hit People with Clubs! It’s Ugg-Tectugg

Have you ever wanted to construct a fabulous monument that will stand the test of time, while being directed by a slobbering, pre-literate, club wielding task-master with zero language skills? This is the game for you! In this Friday morning event, you can begin your day with a bash! Ugg-Tect is a game of construction, where teams work to build simple structures, directed only by a made up language and being hit by inflatable clubs.

7:00pm – 11:00pmCurse of the Weaver Queen run by the amazing Tim Kask

Saturday – February 21

argyl11:00am – 12:00pm Kids and Gaming (Panel Event in the Amphitheater)

A discussion of kid friendly RPGs and board games to get your whole family gaming.

1:00pm – 3:00pm Heat Wave and the Bio-Freak (some G-Core goodness with the always awesome Jay Libby). 

7:00pm – 11:00pm Talisman, 4th Editiontalisman

Tonight, we dine in…uh… well, whatever random ending gets picked! Talisman is the classic roll and move quest game that brings players together so they can all kill each other. In this version, we’ll include an expansion or three and have one house rule – The +1 rule! Every character gets one extra Strength and Craft, turning this 5 hour game into a 3-4 hour game. Join us! Or not!

11:59pmPrivate Event

Sunday – February 22

10:00am – 12:00pm  Prototype Pitch (Panel Event in the Amphitheater)

Bring in your card and board game prototype and give us a 15 minute pitch! We’ll give you a 15 minute review in turn! First come, first serve! Last year’s event was a big hit so stop by and say hello. Please limit one prototype per person.


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