Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Sub Rosa - Spies for Hire

Dear Agent Double O’Dice,
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to investigate Sub Rosa: Spies for Hire. This elegant micro-game, where small choices lead to big power struggles, live on Kickstarter now!
In Sub Rosa: Spies for Hire you lead an international spy agency in its attempts to recruit the most mercenary agents to your side.  This is a bidding and bluffing microgame, designed by Robin David, for 2-4 players.
We bugged the designer's phone and here is what he was heard saying:
“We are very proud to be able to offer this elegant little game to everyone for just $12 and that price includes worldwide shipping. Sub Rosa is simple to learn and small enough to carry inside your secret dossier. It also offers plenty of tactical decisions and replay value. I can't wait to get it into people hands”. He is clearly a dangerous individual bent on world domination!

We have also intercepted communications from other agents regarding this project. Here is an example of what they have been saying:
"A fantastic microgame, because not only are you playing the game, you're playing the people… I really liked it!" – Bearded Meeple
It swans around your gaming table being effortlessly cool cuts straight to the chase and despite its brisk playing time, it’s a satisfying experience every time…” – Who Dares Rolls
There are a surprising number of factors to consider when playing this ostensibly simple game, exactly what I’m looking for from a filler.” – Creaking Shelves
"oh that was so cool... One more time!?!?" – Cloak and Meeple
(For your eyes only) - here is some background on the game designer:
Sub Rosa is designed by Robin David, a teacher by day, spy game designer by night. Robin has honed his craft over a number of years by publishing various print and play games, including the successful deduction game, The Martian Investigations. Robin currently runs the monthly boardgame playtest meetup, Playtest Dublin, so Sub Rosa has been extensively play-tested to ensure it is as streamlined and enjoyable as possible.
I have played Sub Rosa a number of times and for a small game it could be big hit! If you want value for money and a game that players of different abilities can all enjoy check out Sub Rosa - Spies for Hire. 
It's $12 price-tag includes free global shipping, so its got be worth a punt.

Back ASAP because I want to see more spies unlocked as the stretch goals are reached lol: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/robindavid/sub-rosa-spies-for-hire?token=9248f62a


Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Make it the best

I know what you're thinking and no I have not given up coffee and therefore could not post any more of my design journal. In fact, I have a hot cup of Joe (making the one american reader feel at home) and some delightful chocolate biscuits and am ready to type!

I have made some real progress on my Edinburgh Old Town game. Is it good progress, well that we are yet to find out but the big news is I am getting somewhere, so the game is more real than the last time I posted. Which leads me on to the subject I want to muse about today, perfectionism.

It's a really big issue for me. I know myself really quite well at this point in my life and I recognise that I have a massive fear of failure. Most people who "know" me personally will laugh at the idea (because I am proficient at disguising it with bravado), but I often have very low self esteem. One of the ways this fear of failure driven by low self esteem manifests itself is through my lack of willingness to do something I'm not going to be pretty good at. My deep routed fear stops me from having an attitude of "lets just try it and see". I'd prefer to not try than to try and fail.

What does this have to do with board game design I hear you grown as you wish you had never started reading this rubbish. Well, one of the things I have learnt over the year and years I have been designing games but never getting any finished, is that perfection is the mother of all failures. I will get a good idea, I will keep it in my head cause its not quite right. I might get some workings done on paper, but there will be a piece missing, so i'll leave it. I will add to a design cause its lacking that thing that makes it perfect, but its still not there yet. All the time, I am stopping myself making progress.

I'm not a stupid person deep down, but yet for years I have let perfectionism stop me making progress. Now, I'm still wrestling with this issue but I reconise its ugly face, I am fighting it. Now I am putting together a prototype that might well fail. In fact I would go as far as to say, if I make it and it fails, I am winning the design game. With failure I have progressed. With ideas eating my brain I have paralyze and to an extent torture.

I have two pieces of advice to you today:

Fail early, fail often! (its the only way to learn and get better) & Don't let the best be the enemy of the good. (turning something good into something brilliant is easier than making nothing into something brilliant)

Time for another coffee.. Have a good day and make some progress on your design later, I don't care if its good.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Center Board

I have made myself a cup of coffee, so here I go again untangling my board game design brain and placing parts of it on this screen. I wrote about the overall background for the game I am putting my soul into at the moment (Edinburgh - Old Town, very much the working title) last time so now I want to talk a little about how I think it will work.

This is the point where I suspect I will get half way through the description and think "bollocks, this is way too complicated", but I'm going to go for it anyway.

Let me start be telling you "who" I envision you playing as in this game. "Who", "what", "where" and "why" are questions that I like to ask about everything, and design is no exception. I know form #BoardGameHour that there is some resistance out there for soulless middle management games (I call them euros), but that they tend to be quite prevalent in the hobby (yes I know and play lots, but I’m a theme guy at heart).

My first attempt at this game had you playing as a land lord/lady trying to make money in a very nasty city. The thing was, you were playing cards that caused plague, witchcraft, other interesting things which was fun but didn't fit. Also it was very middle management, which I want to avoid if possible. 

So where am I now with "who" and "why". The setting stays the same, the old town of Edinburgh in the 17th /18th century but now you are a malevolent spirit stuck in the street where they met there end, manipulating the destiny of the people who live there. Why are you doing this, because the story of your brutal death is slowly being forgotten as the city changes, there is only one way to not disappear into obscurity, make your tragedy the start of a saga of horror. You want your street to be the most famous street in Edinburgh and for your memory to live on in the tales that are told about it.

“Enough with the flavour Nate”, my brain shouts at me, get to how the game might work. Well, the basic building blocks are deck building/ manipulation and resource management. Which sounds pretty standard, but I think I have some twists up my sleeve (I am rarely accused of being normal). Let me walk you around the communal board as it stands today:

This is the board everyone has access to and the parts of it are thus:

A)  The gray areas are for the current / future event. Events will have a range of effects on the game. I know it’s a little old hat to have an event deck and this might be one to the first casualties during a cull. It’s sitting there at the moment as a little hug of randomness for me. These will not be once a turn flip the next event card. They will have conditions that will trigger the end of the current event and the start of the next one, so they can be manipulated and planned for. I will go into more detail about all the cards in the future.

B)   These 4 spaces represent the local reporters who are looking to write the periodical news. Each will have an angle that they are looking to cover for the next paper, whoever fulfils the requirements gets the story written about their street (victory points). These are victory conditions that change as they are achieved.

C)   This is the royal mile which is the main street going through Edinburgh. For game purposes it is where players get the cards to build up and change their decks. This part works like race selection in Small World. So you can have the bottom two cards for free or cheap and as you bypass selections you pay to move to the next. Thus if the bottom set are pretty shitty, after a while there will be a big bonus to take them.

Writing this journal has already made me think twice about some design decisions. I had always envisioned that there would be two or three rows and that they would be independent of each other. So if you wanted the 3rd card on the left hand row, you placed recourses on the 1st and 2nd card, took the 3rd card and carried on. As I was writing this I felt it would be interesting to have the cards come as a pair (as described above). That way there might be more difficult decisions because there are going to be bad cards that you don’t want, but want if they are with a really juicy card you do what. I’ll let you know how this goes.

D)  This is just the turn track really and it represents a week. It has day, night, “papers come out” and “rest days” on it. Cards have different effect depending on if its day or night and the other two are just scoring / admin points.

Now… Each player has their own tableau and this is where the action takes place. It’s also where some of the twists in the design are I feel, but I have finished my coffee, so that board and those aspects of the game will have to wait.

I know this was not a very interesting post, but some of the time I’m going to have to bore the pants off of you to get to the good bits :0)

Friday, 27 November 2015

Old Town - the past

If you have not ready WHY i'm keeping a journal, I recommend you do that first :0) I have to clean up my kitchen and pack my stuff before I go away for the weekend, but before I do I’m going to sit here with a coffee and tell you a little about my current design. To write this post will take me the length of time it takes me to drink a coffee (cause I have given myself an arbitrary limit)

I have 4 active projects living in my head and on my computer at the moment. I’ll start this journal by tell you about the one I am “focused” on at the moment. Its working title is Edinburgh Old Town (not the title I would want to use if published, but I can’t waste brain power working out that would be at this stage).

The background to this game is thus; I went on holiday to my girlfriend’s home town of Edinburgh about 6 months ago and we took the Mary Kings Close tour under the current city to the streets of the old town below. Here’s the history bit: After something like the 9th plague to hit the city, the council decided to build a new city over the top of the disease ridden old one. They knocked down the top floors of the buildings and used the materials to literally seal of the streets below. I will not going into everything about that now but I will tell you the stories of 17th -18th century old Edinburgh are incredible and as we took the tour and the more I spoke to my girlfriend about it the more I wanted to make a game about it. Ideas where bouncing left right and centre in my head for the rest of the holiday.

So I’m now making a game about the life and times of Edinburgh old town. It’s gritty, nasty and full of characters and stories. Murder, plague, grave robbing, ghosts and much more. It’s not going to be a game to play with your kids, but I hope it will be a game that evokes the feeling I had when I was walking those streets imaging what life was like back then.

Ok, ok.. that’s the flavour now you want to know what ingredients I plan to use. Interestingly, I have this fairly well fixed in my head at the moment and yet, writing it here is not proving to be easy. My first prototype had a core mechanic of action selection done in the way you pick races in Small world. I like the “you can have the first one for free, put a coin on the first one and take the second one or keep putting coins out until you get to the one you want” Mechanism. I also don’t feel it’s often used in games. I took this and made it 3 columns wide and 5 cards deep. I added actions like plagues etc that where just bad, but that after a while you might want to take just to get all the money. What you were doing with the actions in the first draft of this game was basically area control. You had your tenants around the city and you wanted to keep them safe and healthy while trying to kill/scare off your opponents tenants.

There was more to it than that but I don’t want each of these entries to be too long. This prototype was playable and it was not a terrible game. With lots of tweaking it would have been ok I think. However it did not do want I wanted it to regarding getting across the stories and feel of the old town. It also did not have a “who you are” angle to it, which I felt it needed.  I like narrative and flavour in my games and the direction I had picked was not going to hit as well as I wanted it too..

So now I am working on a deck builder that has much more to it that the standard, buy cards that allow you to buy better cards and then buy victory points. I’m afraid though that what I am doing now with the old town will have to wait until the next entry as I have just finished my coffee…

Why a design journal?

Hi, I'm Nate and I have been designing board and card games since I was a child. I am about as into board games as you can humanly be while still having a girlfriend. I always have a number of designs I am working on. These have historically been on scrapes of paper, backs of envelopes and in note books (now on my computer).

Basically if I have 5 minutes to spare I will find something to write my game design ideas on. I am now 35, so you might be wondering how someone who has been working on games for this long has not got a fully published game or two under his belt (there is Geek Army, but we will talk about that some other time)?

Well there are a few reasons for that and they tie in with why a man who is short on time has decided to try and keep a journal. The main reason my games don’t tend to see the light of day is that I have so many ideas. This sounds like a bullshit thing to say, but for me it is a problem. First, because I jump from one idea to the next (because its new and shiny) second because I tend to add too much into one game (because I really like the idea of just adding this extra thing... Oh and this thing too, but I can’t leave this bit out). 

In short, and I aim to be completely open and honest here, I lack focus when it comes to designing board games. I am not currently a game designer (writers are not people who have an idea for a book, they are people who write books) because Ideas are easy and fun, creation is hard and slow. I plan to change that statement with your help.

This is where this journal comes into play. I am ultimately a team player. I work best with others. Unfortunately I live in the ass end of nowhere and nobody in my small gaming group has any design ambitions. So if I can’t bounce ideas off someone over a cup of tea, I am going to get them out of my head and on here and see what happens. 

I think this process will help me get past blocks in my designs. I tend to over think things and can get caught in a circular thought pattern. When I have to vocalise a problem it tends to become clearer in my mind and I find a way past. My son is three and we often go for walks. Sometimes I will tell him about my game designs and as I speak I gain clarity and focus. Making something clear to someone else in an understandable why helps me move my thought process on.

So, now you know why I am going to try to do this. I am aiming to make the posts bite sized but will not hold back if the subject needs it. Time to write my first official entry!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Pocket Adventures - becoming a big thing

Pocket Adventures - becoming a big thing

Side Quest - Pocket Adventures is Steve Venezia's first published board game. So it is quite amazing that this action packed dungeon crawler, that fits in your pocket, funded on the first day!

With just a deck of cards and a couple of dice you and up to 3 friends battle your way through a decision-packed dungeon.

“We are less than half way through the Kickstarter campaign and we already have over 650 backers and are over 325% funded.” says BAFTA-nominated developer and Side Quest designer Steve Venezia

"Its amazing how much support we are getting from the board game community for Side Quest. The team is working day and night to give backers the best game we can and the enthusiasm our backers are showing is a good substitute for sleep."

"Side Quest is a fully co-operative game, where working together is key, but in this fast flowing game each player makes their own decisions - if any Heroes (or maidens!) die, the game is lost."

See the Side Quest campaign for yourself here:https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sidequest/side-quest-pocket-adventures

You can also keep up to date with the naming of characters and monsters on the Side Quest Facebook Page
https://www.facebook.com/playsidequest or Twitter https://twitter.com/TapToWin

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Enter a Side Quest with me

Side Quest is an action packed dungeon crawler that fits in your pocket. With a single deck of cards and a couple of dice you and up to 3 friends can battle your way through a decision-packed dungeon. Which monsters will you fight and which will you run from? Should you grab some loot before you rescue the maiden? Which gear will help your characters get to the end of the dungeon and which will help you fight the boss that blocks your exit?

“There is a wide range of scenarios to play, including ultra-tough single-player missions, challenging 30 minute pick-up games to gruelling 2 hour dungeon treks. With loads of different Heroes, Locations, Monsters and Equipment cards you'll never play the same game twice.” says BAFTA-nominated developer and Side Quest designer Steve Venezia

Side Quest – Pocket Adventures, is a cool little game that packs a big punch, but don’t take our word for it:

“Side Quest achieves its objective by bringing a Dungeon Crawler feel to a small footprint. Either as a solo player or as a team, each decision requires strategy and careful thought to ensure you defeat the boss to win the game” –Tony from Rolling Dice & Taking Names

“It’s perfect… you don’t need a lot of space, it plays quick, it scratches the dungeon crawler itch” – Mark from Grim Tree Games

"There is a clever process that builds each level of the dungeon that guarantees you’ll never play the same game twice! ... It felt like a heavier game that didn’t require a ton of time figuring out the rules." - Andrew from The Married Gamers

Side Quest is a fully co-operative game, where working together is key, but in this fast flowing game each player makes their own decisions - if any Heroes (or maidens!) die, the game is lost.

See the Side Quest campaign for yourself here: