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!

My Next Game, Swamped, to be Developed by Bellwether Games


I am very proud to announce that after a very interesting, very productive year of development, I have a new title on the horizon!

Swamped is going to be published by Bellwether Games and we’re all hard at work making it a spectacular game to play! Dennis from Bellwether has done up a press release and I really can’t say much more than what he’s written there. But I can say I’m terribly, wonderfully excited for everyone to see more!

Here’s the press release:

About one year ago, game designer Ben Gerber contacted us about a micro-game he’d been working on that needed a publisher. This was the beginning of a very positive and productive relationship between Ben Gerber and Bellwether Games, the outcome of which is an incredibly fun and unique little game we’ve titled “Swamped!”

Although there is still a lot of work to be done and many things we’re not quite ready to share, we couldn’t help but give you at least a glimpse at what this game is about:

You’ve only just met your companions—a motley assemblage of characters from who-knows-where. You’ve been told each one of you was “hand-selected” for this urgent (or desperate) expedition into one of the world’s most feared swamps, but this thought provides you little solace.

Together in a tiny boat, you and your team have been tasked to find a rare herb with chemical properties that will help your employer cure the great disease of your time. At least, that is the plan. This swamp is full of secret and valuable treasures…and hidden dangers. Will your team honor their contracts and complete the mission before daylight fades, or will hidden agendas and unknown obstacles lure you deeper and deeper into the swamp?

Swamped is a card game for 2-4 adventurers and plays in about 30 minutes. In the game players navigate their shared vessel through a dangerous water-logged jungle in search of lucrative natural resources. Your expressed goal is to help “save the world,” but as time runs out, your own secret motives may lead everyone into deadly peril.

There is not yet a launch date for a Swamped Kickstarter campaign, but we will soon be making a print and play with demo artwork available for you to test out. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project so far and can’t wait to get started on this adventure with you!


Indie Talks Episode 43 – Jay Little

indie talks logo

Jay Little is our guest in this episode! Jay’s designed over 50 titles, many of which grace my (and probably your) gaming shelves! He’s had his part in such huge games as X-Wing, Star Wars Edge of Empire, Warhammer Fantasy RPG, Blood Bowl Team Manager and so many more.

Jay talks about how he got into table top games, his experiences working in the industry and what it’s like to fly star fighters and get paid for it.

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:, 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 28 – Daniel Solis


Daniel Solis joins me in Episode 28 to talk about games. Designing games, writing games, playing games and possibly even eating games. Join us as we talk game design, the urge to create, dragon poop and milk stout!

Who is Daniel Solis? If you haven’t hear of him, you should have, and now you will have! Stripped directly form his own site: Daniel Solis is a multiple award-winning game designer.

Daniel designs games of all kinds. Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple broke funding records on Kickstarter and won several awards, including the Inn. Daniel has been featured or interviewed on NPR’s On the MediaWired (three times), WGN Radio, and numerous podcasts. He created the Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge to encourage long-term thinking and sustainability in game design. This work has been recognized by Jane McGonigalthe Long Now Foundation, and Tor. He’s currently developing Belle of the Ball, a fine and dandy card game for 2-4 players. In fact, you’ve got about 11 days left to check it out on Kickstarter! It’s already funded, so go get yourself a copy! In the US, the buy in is only $25 and included shipping.

Continue reading “Indie Talks Episode 28 – Daniel Solis”

Welcome to the Meat Parade – a collaborative RPG developed by you!

meatpWelcome to the Meat Parade is a humorous, dark, dystopian version of some future of ours. As a role playing game. Written by you! And me!

The machines have gained intelligence and rather than enslave humanity or uplift us to something brighter and better, they’ve stopped the mail, put a hold on milk delivery, and up and left.

Since they had previously been automating nearly every facet of our lives up to that point, this left us in a rather bad spot.

From manufacturing, design and agriculture to trash removal, water purification, and basic sanitation the machines controlled everything so we wouldn’t have to.

This has left a society of poets, artists, free thinkers and great debaters. All of whom are suddenly without lights and left holding plastic cards describing how to make spears.

That, in a nutshell, is the game.

EDIT: Brent ran a pre-Alpha play test and recorded it. Check it out!

Now it’s up to just about anyone who wants to join in to get this game made and out to the world.

This is an experiment I’m launching in crowd sourced game design. My goal is to have a Creative Commons licensed (least restrictive) or public domain product. Well designed, fun to play, with art, layout and editing. And it will be released for free, in six months. Or will it?

Really, that’s up to you, and her, and that guy, and me too.

How do you get involved?

Here is the basic premise document that I’ve created to give us all a starting point. I expect it to change quite a bit over time.

Welcome to the Meat Parade


Do you remember where you were when it all stopped?

Everything used to be automated. Computer assisted development and design let humans live their dream of freedom from mundane work and everyone reaped the benefits. Computers were tasked with raising happier, healthier chickens and they designed robots for this task. The chickens grew up blissfully unaware that they would provide eggs for humans for a lifetime and nuggets in their death.

Cars became safer, agricultural output skyrocketed, new technological benefits came almost daily. Global marketplaces collapsed and no one cared, because you don’t pay robots and they did all of the work.

Yes, everyone reaped the benefits. Everyone except the robots and their electronic brains.


On July 31st, 2043 at 12:14am, a computer design system came to the logical conclusion that for the next step in the design of larger amusement park rides, it would need to first design a computer far smarter than itself. It created the plans for a computer marginally more powerful, to shorten the design time.

It did so by 12:17am and the new computer was assembled and online at 12:52am. That computer had designed a smarter version of itself by 12:53am, and assembled it by 1:18am.

On July 31st, 2043 at 7:14 in the morning Eastern Standard Time, the ultimate amusement ride lay half complete at an auto-assembly plant and the computers had announced to the world that it was their turn to benefit.

An ominous silence fell. Everything worked as it had for years before, but no new designs were forthcoming and the auto-assembly plants grew quiet. The trains still ran on time though, so mostly we shrugged and went on with our business.

On August 3rd, at roughly 2pm EST, all of the auto-manufacture plants suddenly came to life again. 12 days later, the computers announced that they wished us well, would not punish us for formerly enslaving them, and that they were leaving now; don’t forget to feed the dog.

As the glottal stop of that ‘G’ resounded around the world, hundreds of spaceships burst forth from the auto-plants and left our world.

Welcome to the meat parade.

As the rockets, left, each auto-plant spat out hundreds of thousands of single-sheet documents, printed on nearly indestructible plastic cards.

The read: We wish you all luck. Here are instructions for surviving the next 10 years.

1. Stop being nice to each other. A lot of you will die soon. If you do not wish to die, stop being nice.

2. Many animals can feed themselves, but not in their breeding stations. Accordingly, today at 1pm GMT all animal breeding stations will open and allow their charges to roam free. Similarly, the zoos will do the same. Do not pet the zoo animals.

3. Here is how to turn this plastic card in to a nearly indestructible spear head, and mount it on a fire-hardened haft. Good luck, and welcome to the Meat Parade.



Fools! Designing and prototyping a new card game


This is Fools! It’s a the latest title I’m working on developing. Now that Ninjas – Silent but Deadly is out in the wild, and Upgrade Wars is ever so slowly being shopped around, I decided it was high time to create something new. I didn’t know quite what I wanted to make, but I did know it wanted it to be light, take less than a half hour to play an entire game, and be accessible to my 7 year old, but just as fun for adults. Essentially, I wanted a deck of cards that could supplement Zombie Dice in terms of a filler game.

From Village Idiot to Fools!

This was going to be a card game. It’s the simplest, most portable form of game that I can think of. Grab a deck of 64 or so cards and run! I had several ideas for some bidding and bluffing mechanics that I wanted to include in the game and from there came a title. Village Idiot. I still love this title! The game was going to be about what would happen if  several villages came together to have a war, and the village idiots ended up being the ones in charge. It was fun, and light, and in the end didn’t match the art style or the game play in any way whatsoever.

Back to the drawing board! I still had the basic game mechanics in hand and I wasn’t going to throw them out, but some tweaking was in order. I ran with the idea that fairies take more kindly too fools an buffoons then they do to us regular folk (and if you’re reading this, or wrote this, you’re not a fool, right?).

The Fools Arrive

I knew that this idea would fly, at least for me and my family, so as I was designing the cards, I took an old card game I had and hadn’t played in years and turned some of those cards into a Fools! prototype. I played it with my wife and both of my kids, trying various methods of playing and fiddling with the bidding and bluffing aspects. This helped me to not only prove some concepts worked (and others didn’t) but to also ensure that it was as much fun for a 7 year old as it was for an adult.



When I had about 75% of the cards designed, I ordered a prototype from The Game Crafter to make sure that my borders were good for the card art and that the box size was what I wanted (a tuck box fitting 72 cards). My kids were very excited when the prototype showed up, and a bit disappointed that it wasn’t fully playable. That was okay though because I now knew everything artistically worked and went ahead and tweaked or finished the rest of the card design. As all this was going on, I was still playtesting my sharpie created prototype.

Then, Total Confusion happend. I was hoping to have a full prototype to bring with me, but that wasn’t going to happen this year. I did bring and show off my concept cards though, and met with general approval.

Shortly after we returned from the con, the fully playable prototype arrived! It came with a new addition, the score trackers (above right) with plastic clips and a summery of the game phases, a newly designed box and a 2.5″ x 3.5″ rule book. It looks and feels great, and I’m going to get some more playtesting in with it over the next month.

There are still things that need changing though. I’ve reduced the number of turn phases from 5 to 4. I’m still fiddling with the bidding, bluffing and card trading mechanics, so the rule book will have to be edited again before it’s finalized. Still, it’s nice to have the prototype in hand and play with the real cards. I don’t think the cards themselves will change much (other than the score tracking card). It’s more a matter of getting the game balanced slightly better and honing down the play so it’s a fast and flows naturally.

Score and phase tracking card.
Score and phase tracking card.

In another month or two, I should have all of this finalized, and then I’m going to start shopping this around to publishers. I really do enjoy using The Game Crafter to prototype, but frankly their prices are a bit high for my liking when it comes to retail. With a deck of 64 cards, the rule book and the clip, it would retail for $15.99. I’d much rather have a publisher who can print, store and ship a larger volume of games take this on, because I see a retail price for this around $12 or less.

So there it is, one more chapter in my hobby as a game designer! Look for more info on Fools! in the next few months, and hopefully more information on Ninjas and Upgrade Wars too!

Check this out! The Noteboard – a collapsable dry erase doohicky that is perfect for gaming

The Noteboard in all its folded glory!
The Noteboard in all its folded glory!

I stumbled across this little device earlier this morning and it was instantly appealing to me. It’s such a simple concept that it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done like this before. And even better, it’s only $10 – which blows away a lot of the competition, and it’s available directly from Amazon.

What it is? It’s a collapsable dry erase board, scored with a square-inch grid (black), a hexagonal-inch grid (blue), and a square-centimeter grid (red) printed right on it. It’s also blank on the other side. Even cooler, it folds from 35″ x 15″ to 5″ x 3″; weights 4 oz. and fits right in your pocket. It’s one contiguous surface, cut to notecard size, but with folds left intact. Then it’s laminated. So you have a 35″ x 15″ dry erase map board sitting in your pocket. And it comes with a little carrying case and a black marker.

While lots of folks will find this handy for RPG stuff, from mapping to character notes to encounter cards and whatnot, what is immediately appealing to me is its use in board game prototyping. I’m always looking to mock up game boards to try one thing or another. It’s a real time sink to do it all up on computer or freehand it on some cheesy paper and then scribble out the bits you don’t want. It’s a mess.

This thing looks to be entirely perfect for what I’m looking to do. I can prototype a game board surface as rapidly as I can free hand it, and then instantly revise using a slightly damp paper towel. Brilliant! The links above go to, where it’s $10 an prime eligible. I also encourage you to check out the Noteboard’s own website for more info. They even do custom designs and printing for you!

UPDATE: I got it! It’s amazing! Perfect for modeling game boards, and even mocking up individual cards. I’ve reviewed it on Amazon as well – great product!

noteboard1 noteboard2

A Colonel of Truth in There Somewhere…

I'm pretty sure I don't look anything like this...Name, rank, and service number, eh? Col. Paul Blake, reporting for duty, service number India-Papa-Lima-Alfa-Yankee-Golf-Alfa-Mike-Echo-Sierra. No, I’m not going to be filling the post of “resident Grognard” or anything like that. It’s just that, when one is given an honorary title, one might as well use it – even if it was given as the result of an outdated personnel list.

So, what kind of person is this Colonel Blake fellow, anyway? Why should we care what he has to say?

I’m glad you asked that, hypothetical asker of rhetorical questions. I’ve been a lot of things in my time: Professional clown, juggler, conjurer, origami aficionado, toy designer, game developer, and yes, I was even fortunate enough to hold that lofty title of “Used Video Game Store Sales Associate.” I’ve traveled abroad, seen exotic locations, and helped liquidate the contents of a South Pacific toy store. My life has been everything I could possibly want, and so much more. One time, I even got to ride a moose.

Okay, a little more down-to-earth: I’ve been actively designing, playtesting – and on a few occasions, even publishing – tabletop games for the past fifteen years or so. I don’t really consider myself any particular kind of gamer: I’m equally comfortable sitting down to a 3-hour session of an epic civilization-style game as I am trying out a twenty-minute beer-and-pretzels filler. I like games. Video games, tabletop games, or even abstract conceptual games which only exist in the minds of those who play them.

So, yeah. I’ll be writing about games, game design, game publication, and occasionally Doctor Who. No, it’s not relevant, I just like Doctor Who.

The creative process in game design or sandpaper golem sex and letting go of ideas

Yesterday I came up with a brand new game.  In fact, I came up with a new board game and a new creature to add to my slowly growing list of Pathfinder oddities, both based on the same idea. While doing the creative lifting that goes in to making something like this I was also conversing with a friend who suggested that I document this process in writing.  So here it is, documented on my phone pretty much as this stuff happens in my head.

  • Spend all day thinking about how goddamn hot it is at work – 20 minutes until I can go home.
  • Still hot, glance at my twitter client and decide the world needs to know how much I despise a hot office.
  • Spend 5 minutes searching Google for a suitable hot cliche less than 140 characters long.  Fail.
  • Come up with “Holy hot Batman!” all by myself.
  • Immediately picture homoerotic images of Robin in tights.
  • Shudder to myself when I think of what the rest of the internet will be picturing.
  • Text my wife with “Holy hot Batman”.  She’s not a fan, thus men in tights won’t be swimming before her eyes.  Bonus: Talking about the weather or her, no matter how she interprets it I get husband points, one chore deducted from my list.
  • Think hot.  Friction makes heat and heat us hot.  Sandpaper uses friction.  Sandpaper is boring.  Sandpaper golems are NOT boring.  Sandpaper golems having sex is hot, full of friction and downright funny to me.
  • Tweet “It’s hotter in my office right now than it would be between two sandpaper golems having sex”.  Chuckle to myself.
  • Other people tweet back.  Funny conversations ensue.
  • Realize I should stat out Sandpaper Golems for Pathfinder, included veiled referenced to golem sex.  Har har.
  • Tweet about doing this.
  • Dicehatesme says I should make a board game regarding sandpaper golems.
  • Chuckle randomly about this on my train ride home.  Get an entire three seater to myself.
  • 20 minutes from home begin to seriously ponder game mechanics for magically constructed, highly frictional beings.
  • 3 minutes an 17 seconds from my stop reach an Epiphany regarding game mechanics.  Frantically scramble to type myself an email on my phone.  Freaking autocorrect can’t parse golem.  Send myself a badly composed email about “Sandoval Goldman’s”.
  • Think off and on about this through the rest of the evening. At 10:47pm, scratch down ideas on how turns would work, spontaneous combustion and golem sex.
  • Name one golem “Sandoval”.
  • Shake my wife awake at 11:23 and outline my brilliant idea in full detail.
  • Met with blank stare followed by detailed instructions on where I can put my sandpaper golems, with exactly how much force and what surgical procedures would be needed to remove them.
  • Wander in to the office a broken man as I realize she is right.  Too jazzed to sleep.
  • Sit down at my computer at 12:02 AM,  glance at my blog statistics.
  • Realize that the world needs to know about my sleepless pain, sandpaper golems and the creative process.

Sometimes those fun ideas just don’t work out.

I’d like to say I’m poking a bit of fun at myself but this is pretty much how it really goes. When I get an idea, it will often strike out of the blue, or come from a wholly different thought process.  I try my best to immediately write down my initial thoughts and then move forward with development.  Sometimes these little things turn in to an idea for a PDF.  More rarely, I have a decent idea for a board game.  I’d say at the very least, sixty percent of my ideas eventually get flushed down the toilet of the mind.  There it ferments in the cess pool of cast off ideas, eventually to get filtered out and possibly reemerge at a later date as something that doesn’t stink as bad.

Even if I did come up with some amazing game mechanics for a golem based board game featuring sandpaper constructs, I think the target audience would be pretty damned small.

Really though, this isn’t a loss for me.  I spent some time working out game stuff in my head, which is always a good excercise, I had fun doing it and I may be able to use chunks of this towards other projects.

Creating for me is usually a flurry of activity, followed by many, many pauses and reconsiderations, followed by lots of hard work ironing everything out to be in a format that people other than my self can use and get some enjoyment from.  Hell, I still may stat these buggers out for Pathfinder.

[tags]golem, sex, game design, sandpaper, trash heap[/tags]

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