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Kitchen report - September, 2014

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Here is the status of my various game designs in progress.

Served: Games that are pretty much out of the kitchen at this point.

Aside from Vérone coming out from Ferti, there is really nothing new to report here, but tons of stuff on the way.


On the grill: Games that are currently being developed and tested.

Arcane Citadels – Super stoked about this one. 42 cards and some tokens/scoring tiles, 15-20 minutes. 2 player, head-to-head, micro deck building game. Two castles have been built uncomfortably close to each other. Each player struggles to destroy the other player’s castle while defending their own. Players play cards to deploy units, cast spells, or collect the resources supplied from the cards. It’s unusual to come up with a design that just seems to click right out of the gate, but this one has flowed quite well. It uses basic deck building concepts, but there are a few new mechanisms for resource collection and unit deployment.

Shenanigans Dice – Push your luck, 7 dice and some tokens. I’ve enjoyed working on this quite a bit. Shenanigans was one of my first design experiments. Looking back, it was really pretty awful, but I learned a ton of stuff from it. Other than the leprechaun theme and name, this new dice game doesn’t really have anything to do with it. Currently blind testing and hope to pitch to publishers soon. By the way, if you are interested in trying it out or helping to proofread the rules (very short), please let me know.

Salvage – (Working title) Bid building auction game where players bid on salvage hauls from wreckages in space. Co-designing this with Andrew Christopher Enriquez. Initial prototype has been made and a few games have been played, but it’s still very early in the development process.


Taste-testing samples: Games that are complete and have been submitted to publishers

Expansion for Council of Verona – Finishing up development. Kickstarter should launch in November.

Last Dane Standing – Little brother to Rotten State of Denmark. Kill off nobles in the world of Hamlet and manipulate the outcome to make sure your favorite noble is the last one standing. 10 cards, 3-5 players (with a 2 player variant). Really enjoying this one.

Rotten State of Denmark – Same idea as Last Dane Standing, but on a larger scale. 2-5 players, 20-30 minutes, cards and dice. Pretty much done, but won’t be launching until after the other two projects have been Kickstarted.

Darkrock Ventures – Mining resources on an asteroid, while fending off alien attacks. Worker placement, 2-5 players, 30-45 minutes. Still making minor tweaks, but almost there.

Titan Dice - Push your luck, dice game with a mythical creature theme. Co-designed with my wife. Submitted to a potential publisher and waiting to hear back.


Recipes: Games that have a basic concept, but haven't been tested.

Regicide of Rome – Julius Caesar game for the Shakespeare line. Semi-coop where players are conspiring to take down Caesar. However, some players may be loyal to Caesar and thwart the efforts to overthrow the crown.

Builders – (no working title yet) Role selection village building game. Players collect resources and build different structures in their village. In spite of how that sounds, it’s actually fairly different from other resource/building games because of the role selection and layouts of the villages.

Cai Terenmare – (no working title yet) Since putting Oracles on hold, I want to put together a game based on the world in my sister’s books (the Solas Bier trilogy). I’d like to really explore the characters and make it thematic. I have a new dice mechanic that would fit well with character traits and defeating foes, but need to test it out. I picture it almost as a role playing type game. The thematic and cooperative inspiration comes from Mice and Mystics and The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.

Dark Infiltration – Cooperative deduction game where players are trying to stop an alien invasion. Aliens have infiltrated governments, businesses, and organizations on earth and players must collect bits of intel to develop a plan to defeat the invaders. Character cards have different identity trait information. The game would use a viewing system to reveal only one trait type at a time and players must use the limited information to deduce the identity of the characters.


Back burners: Games that I may come back to later, but are just simmering for now.

Uncle Otto's Vault – Overhaul. This was originally a push your luck, dice game with negotiation. This was shown to potential publishers, but the number of dice and die molds is cost prohibitive. Looking into changing this to cards, which will allow for even more options. Also considering changing the theme to treasure hunting in the ruins of Atlantis.

Oracles of Cai Terenmare – This one worked pretty well, but there are so many cards development has been overwhelming. Also, it doesn’t work well for 3-4 players unless there are teams. I may come back to it someday, but for now it’s on hold.


Garbage Disposal: Games that have been worked on to various degrees, but may never likely get served.

Zed - Push your luck dice game with a Zombie theme. Zombies may have over-stayed their welcome so this theme may change. However, the theme matches the mechanics fairly well. Update: Just not feeling this one at the moment. May come back to it, but too many other ideas in progress.

Tower Defense - Considering various themes and titles. The game is meant to give a "tower defense" feel, but not necessarily replicate a tower defense game. It will likely be cooperative and I'm toying with ideas of static vs. modular boards and different movement mechanics. Update: Just not feeling this one at the moment. May come back to it, but too many other ideas in progress.

Dead Man's Hand - Western horror themed game with poker-like mechanics. This one may get another chance someday, but it would need a complete overhaul. It is a favorite among my closest playtesters (family) and really deserves a chance of getting out there, but the publishers I’ve shown it to just aren’t loving it.

Shipwreckers - Push your luck card/token game with a sea monster theme. This has potential, but some of the ideas have morphed into other designs along the way.



Thanks for reading. Comments and feedback are always appreciated!
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Wed Sep 17, 2014 1:14 am
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Summer Gaming Update - 2014

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It’s been a shamefully long time since I’ve posted in this blog and several things have developed recently.

Most recently, Council of Verona was nominated for a “Geekie” award, how cool is that?! http://www.thegeekieawards.com/category/2014/tabletop-games/



Some other nominations are Belfort and Forbidden Desert so we are in great company. In other CoV news, Ferti (the French publisher) has been posting some teaser artwork for their upcoming version of Council of Verona: https://www.facebook.com/FertiGames/photos/a.398096246904007...



The original artwork was amazing, but it’s cool to see additional approaches and styles. Finally in CoV news, we’ve been making progress on an expansion and hope to have more announcements about that soon.

In a similar vein, most of my focus has been on some other Shakespearian projects recently. I don’t want to spoil the announcement, but I’m super stoked about some Hamlet themed games in the works. I’m not at liberty to give any more information online, but if you find me at a local con or game day I’ll probably have demo copies with me. Looking even further into the future I started working on a semi-coop card game about Julius Caesar. No promises, but I could have some prototypes in the works as early as BGG.con.

In other design news, the single card nano game that started off as “Microulette” has developed into a full blown game. The core mechanic has managed to stay, but other than that it’s a completely different design. It’s been picked up by a publisher and should be hitting Kickstarter in 2015.

Finally, some other projects have been put on hold for now because of all the other stuff going on, but I certainly haven’t forgotten about them. One I’m most hoping to get some traction on is Titan Dice. My wife and I are co-designing this one and it’s changed quite a bit from the start. As my #1 playtester, it only makes sense to design and develop a game with her so I’m excited to see where this one goes. Another new design is a space themed game where players sift through wreckages and abandoned ships to gather resources and sell them for profit, codename “Salvage.” This is a joint design with someone who has helped develop Microulette into what it is today. I know that’s a bit vague, but once we get some of these other projects moving along I hope to get back to that one. Next in the queue are Uncle Otto’s Vault and The Oracles of Cai Terenmare. In the previous version of UOV, the number of dice have a huge impact on the production costs so I’m looking into overhauling the whole thing with cards. I tried a similar overhaul with one of the Hamlet games recently and everything just clicked into place so I’m hoping to have some luck with that here when digging back into it. Oracles has been going well, but the number of cards used has been a bit overwhelming. It needs to simmer a bit, but there is some gaming goodness there that just needs to be refined.

In other gaming news, a few weeks ago I had my likeness immortalized in an upcoming card game: Battle of the Bands: World Tour Edition

https://www.facebook.com/battleofthebandsworldtourediton/pho...



BOTB is coming up on Kickstarter in November. In addition to sending me the original artwork, the designer/artist, Dan Smith, sent me a bunch of the comic books he’s made. It was a very cool surprise to get an unexpected package last week with loads of comic and gaming goodness. Thanks Dan!

Speaking of Kickstarter, two projects I’ve been following are ending soon:

Tiny Epic Defenders: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/coe/tiny-epic-defenders

TED looks really cool and I’m stoked to see another game in the “Tiny Epic” realm. Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games have a good thing going and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.

Yardmaster Express: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crashgames/yardmaster-e...

I played Yardmaster a few times and really enjoyed it so I’m looking forward to getting the little brother in this set. Smaller games seem to get played more in my family/game groups so this would be a good fit. Also, it’s designed by David Short so you know it will be solid.

In local news, Isle of Games is finally opening and their introductory game day was a lot of fun. They don’t really have any inventory to sell yet, but hopefully they get that going soon. The place looks great and it’s cool to finally have a game store closer to home. Another RinCon fundraiser game day is this weekend and MaricopaCon is coming up at the start of August so I see loads of gaming in the near future.



https://www.facebook.com/isleofgames
https://www.facebook.com/RinConGames
https://www.facebook.com/maricopacon


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Tue Jul 15, 2014 6:23 pm
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Designer Diary - For The Win

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Things have been pretty busy with some new designs, but unfortunately I haven't had a chance to update this blog in a while. I found an old designer diary for For The Win that never got posted so I figured I might as well add it.

Keep in mind this was written after the Kickstarter campaign, but before the game was shipped out to backers.

Enjoy!

Quote:
Long ago in a galaxy not so far away I set out to design the game that I would enjoy more than any other game. I had previously worked on other game designs that excited me at first, but they didn’t keep my attention for long. Someone explained to me that in order to be successful, you have to be your biggest fan. If you don’t absolutely love your design, how do you expect others to get excited about it? This caused me to reflect on my own preferences – what do I like most in a board game? I all kinds of games, but figured I should start with something simple and gain experience from there. I had recently fallen in love with an abstract game called Hive and started thinking about how I would make a game in the same category.

Looking at my recorded plays on BoardGameGeek.com, you’ll see that I’ve played Hive more than any other game, not including games of my own design or “Win, Lose, or Banana.” Besides, WLB doesn’t really count because each game takes about 10 seconds… kids love it though. The point is, I love Hive for several reasons and wanted to design a game that I would love for similar reasons.

1. Portability
2. Durability
3. Simple rules
4. Small foot print
5. Short play time
6. Surprisingly deep strategy
7. Unique piece function

Many of these traits are also found in Chess, another favorite game of mine, but I especially like the portability and durability of a tile game. For the theme, I really liked the idea of Pirates, Ninjas, and Zombies. I came across a diagram that showed a paper-rock-scissor like relationship between a monkey, zombie, robot, pirate and ninja. I originally focused on having this food chain relationship as the core mechanic and the characters reminded me of a more complicated version of a childhood toy called Battle Beasts (fire, water, and wood). The more I thought about this though, the less I liked it because the way one character defeated another didn’t always make sense. The same could be said for the paper and rock relationship… sure, paper may cover the rock, but the rock can tear a hole through paper.

The game was originally called “Final Face off 5000” and focused on removing opponents tiles. In my head, I pictured a chaotic melee similar to that of the “Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny.” I had even hoped to find a way to use Chuck Norris in there somewhere. At one point the characters were: Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot, Zombie, Alien, and Clown. The Clown and Robot were eventually dropped for simplicity. The Robot’s Jetpack ability was turned into the Ninja’s Stealth ability. Originally, the Ninja had a Shruiken ability that removed other tiles. The Pirate had a similar ability (Cutlass) that removed tiles. The Clown had a Fright ability that prevented other tiles from moving when they touched the Clown tile. The Monkey and Alien abilities haven’t changed since the beginning.

At first, the tiles were hexagonal, but I ended up trying square tiles to make it different from other hex games and because squares were easier to work with. It took a little to wrap my mind around the orthogonal and diagonal contact, but in the end it worked out quite well. The square shape was also critical in allowing the pieces to shove each other.

Eventually I realized that the more combative gameplay wasn’t really working and a different winning condition was needed. I’m not particularly a fan of the game “Connect Four,” but the idea of getting each character together seemed to work so I borrowed that idea. Needing a theme to match this mechanic, someone suggested the name “Mosh Pit.” From there, the game took on a heavy metal feel where different characters (maybe dressed up for Halloween) tried to meet up with their buddies at a rock concert. This seemed to work ok, but the theme was clearly not critical for this type of game.



I’ve always liked budgeting mechanics in games and added action points to get away from the standard “one action at a time” rule. This ended up becoming a key mechanic of the game. Players must use enough actions to keep their opponent at bay, but saving up actions for a winning combo can be quite satisfying. With the first player changing each round, it is possible to take the last turns in the previous round and also take the first turns in the next.
One element I wanted to include for the game that would set it apart from many other abstracts was to make it two to four players instead of just two. Much of the testing I did was with just two players, but the three and four player games were quite fun. With several players working toward their own goal, it was challenging to focus on getting your own tiles connected while making sure the other players don’t do it first. This is even more challenging when a winning combination isn’t always apparent.

After playing several games with my wife and some local friends, I was advised that I should venture in to “blind” playtesting. I posted on BGG to see if anyone was interested and received a pretty good response. From there I assembled six prototypes and shipped them out to complete strangers. The prototypes I used for my set were made of wood, but for the testing I used a thin cardboard.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of feedback received from the testers. Some wrote me emails, but others actually mailed me back handwritten survey forms that I had included with the game. In the survey I asked questions about the types of games the player normally plays and how often they play. There were of course questions about what they liked and didn’t like about the game. I wasn’t yet set on the final theme/characters and some of the testers had some interesting ideas for alternatives: fantasy, horror, elements, etc. The lighthearted characters seemed to fit well even though the Mosh Pit theme felt pasted on. Instead of forcing a theme on such an abstract game, it was eventually dropped completely and the name was changed to For The Win! (The exclamation mark was later dropped.) The new name matches the characters, but also matches the feeling we kept getting when a player would pull off a combo for an unexpected win.

After the first round of testing I shipped out a few other sets, but the comments were pretty consistent from the first testers. The testers didn’t care much about the theme and some preferred different character actions over others. The feedback was generally positive and seemed pretty genuine.
In the middle of the blind testing, I was part of a game designer group in Tucson called Gamesmiths. One night it was my turn to demo my design and the players seemed to enjoy the game. The overall response was something along the lines of “I’m not usually a fan of abstract games, but this was pretty fun.” This was a good sign. One of the designers there was Seth Jaffee, who is part of Tasty Minstrel Games. I ended up giving a prototype to Seth, who shared it with Michael Mindes. Michael ended up enjoying the game and later called me about having TMG publish it. Of course I was thrilled and signed a contract in the summer of 2010.

I was hoping the game would be published soon so it would be available at a local convention called RinCon or even BGG.con in 2010. Unfortunately, that did not work out. In the beginning, there were several conversations about the artwork and publishing plans, but things came up and the project was eventually set aside. I became involved with several other game designs and focused on those while FTW was waiting.

Fast forward to December of 2011. With the success of other TMG games, Michael Mindes contacted me to let me know they are getting ready to go forward with FTW. He had the idea of running a “pay what you want” campaign on Kickstarter and my response was pretty much “that’s so crazy, it just might work!” Kickstarter is already a “pay what you want” type of setup anyway, so adding the super low minimums for the first backers was an interesting concept. The response was overwhelmingly fast and brought a lot of attention to the game and the Kickstarter campaign.

I look forward to seeing how everything turns out and am excited by the idea that someday I’ll walk into a game store and see For The Win sitting there on the shelf. The game has come a long way and knowing that others find even a little enjoyment by playing it is a great feeling.
Thanks so much to everyone who made this possible!

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Mon Feb 17, 2014 11:56 pm
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Night of the Reapers (backstory)

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Five days ago I received the fateful telegram from the previously quiet town of Pinewood Gulch:

Urgent STOP Pinewood Gulch overtaken by hoards of invaders STOP Send help STOP Reward offered END

Sheriff D. L. Sloan

Dwight Sloan was an old friend of mine back in Sagebrush where we used to track down cattle rustlers together. He was normally a talkative man so the brevity of the telegram emphasized the severity of the situation. It’s been years since I’ve seen ol’ Sloan and the fact that he contacted me for this incident was both intriguing and alarming. I gathered up The Boys and we headed off, wondering what fight lay ahead of us and planning for the worst. Unfortunately, no amount of planning could have prepared us for the unfathomable horrors that awaited.

We rode hard and fast, but the rugged terrain proved difficult in spite of our minimal equipment and weapons. On the afternoon of the fourth day we reached the edge of town and began scouting the area. As far as we could tell, Pinewood Gulch was a ghost town. Not even a stray dog could be seen. We gradually worked our way to the main street, searching for any signs of life. We tied up our horses and proceeded on foot until we reached the Sheriff’s office.

In hindsight, I should have called out instead of knocking, but I didn’t know what we were up against at the time. My rap on the front door was met with a shotgun blast sending pine splinters from the door into my forearm, just inches from my head. Stunned, I fell backwards and drew my pistol, pointing it at the new hole in the door.

“Hold yer fire!” I hollered, as I scrambled away from the door in case there would be more shots coming my way. “It’s Ted and The Boys, we got yer telegram.”

“Theodore?” I heard faintly on the other side of the wall. “That really you?”

“Yes, dangit!” I answered. “Now stop trying to blow my head off and let us in.”

I could see Sloan’s bushy white eyebrows through the hole and the door slowly creaked open. “Theodore P. Jenkins, am I glad to see you!” yelled Sloan as he shook my hand and planted a firm grip on my right shoulder. “Get your stinky carcass in here so I can fill you in.”

Hesitating, I looked around and replied. “But there’s no one out here. What’s all the fuss?”

“You’ll see soon enough, I reckon.” said Sloan as he ushered The Boys and me in the office. “How’s yer brother by the way, I figured you’d bring him along.”

“Leeroy’s dead, Dwight.” I sighed. “The dumb fool ran into an ambush near Bedrock Valley and got himself killed. I knew his hot head would be the end of ‘em someday. If only he’d have waited for the rest of us…”

“Sorry to hear that Ted. He was dumb, but he was tough.”

“So what’s got ya so spooked, Dwight? Where is everyone?” I asked.

“Most are dead, but some have hunkered down like me. I ain’t sure if any escaped. We’re runnin’ low on food and supplies. …can’t last much longer.” Sloan explained.

“Why can’t you just leave?” I asked. “Where is this horde of invaders?”

“Some have tried.” said Sloan. “Who knows, maybe some actually made it out. The people of Pinewood ain’t rich, ya know. Many of ‘em ain’t got nowhere else to go and don’t have the means to get far if they tried. The problem is, now that our supplies are gettin’ low, we’re further runnin’ out of options. I guess most of the townsfolk figured they could hide out and let the whole thing blow over. If the Reapers lost interest in the town and moved on, they could clean the town back up and get back to their daily lives...”

“Wait, what are ‘Reapers’? What in the Sam Hill are you talking about?”

“Let me show ya…” Sloan started walking toward the back of the Sheriff’s Office. “We managed to snag one that was roamin’ around Lyle Johnson’s barn. The horrid thing did a number on Lyle’s horses and Lyle was ready to burn down the entire barn once he had it trapped in there. I talked him into lettin’ me keep it rather than destroy it in case we can learn anything about ‘em.”

The holding cell was dark and I could only see a gray outline of a human sized creature. I stepped closer to get a better look when it shot towards me and slammed it’s mangled, fleshy face against the cell bars and shrieked.

I stumbled backward and Sloan laughed “He sure ain’t happy.”

“What *is* that?” I asked.

“We think it used ta be a person, but darned if I know what happened. Most are mangled and all broken-looking, but don’t let that fool you… they can move real quick-like when they wanna. They usually have some shreds of clothing , but it’s too torn up to give any clues ‘bout where they came from. The ones that still have faces ain’t recognized by no one ‘round here.”

One of the men covered his mouth in disgust as he watched the caged Reaper.

Sloan continued. “…few weeks ago people started going missing here and there and we thought it may be Injuns or outlaws or somethin’. Then Mrs. Ford found the half eaten body of her husband, Jake, and we knew somethin’ sinister was goin’ on . The townsfolk panicked for the most part and became extra cautious. Nobody had actually seen the Reapers until a group of ‘em stumbled into Miller’s saloon one evenin’. If it weren’t for the ranch hands at the poker table, the Reapers would have killed more than they did.”

I took off my hat and sighed deeply in somber thought.

Finally, I interrupted the silence, “Well, boys… we’d better get to it before the sun goes down. Dwight, do you still have that old Gatlin' gun?”

“Sure do, it’s locked up with the other guns. I see you brought a few, but let’s see if we can’t get you fixed up proper.”

Tex, one of The Boys, could barely contain his enormous smile at the mention of the Gatling gun. Tex is what you might call a “connoisseur of ballistic devices.” His real name is Reginald Archibald the third, but we call him “Tex” because it just seems to fit. He sure knows his way around anything that goes “boom” and this has come in handy on many occasions. Tex is fairly tall, but his bulky frame almost makes him look stocky. With solid muscle and a hard head, he can easily hold his own.

We made our way to the armory section of the Sheriff’s office. Dwight unlocked the padlock and removed the chain from the double doors. As both doors opened, light filled the small room and the hardware twinkled like treasure. We stood in awe of the sheer number of pistols and rifles mounted on the walls. There were boxes of ammunition stacked on the floor along the walls. In the middle of the floor stood the Gatling gun in all its glory.

“Let’s get ‘er mounted up on a wagon and get to work, Tex.” I ordered as the rest of the men selected various weapons and loaded up on as much ammunition as they could carry.

In about ten minutes, we had the Gatling gun mounted to the top of a stagecoach that was parked in front of the jail. The Boys loaded up weapons and ammo in the cabin and took positions on the sides and rear of the coach. Sloan settled into the driver seat and I climbed up next to him with a double-barrel shotgun firmly in my grasp. Slim finished up getting the two horses harnessed to the coach and climbed aboard. As you can imagine, Slim is a lanky fella’ and by far the tallest of the bunch. His real name is Jasper, but Slim just seems to fit.

Once we were set, Sloan took the reins and started us slowly down the empty street. We peered into the different buildings as we rolled past. The hotel, saloon, post office, bank and general store showed no signs activity. Sloan slowed to a stop near the end of the street and almost on cue, a giant tumbleweed rolled across our path. I was about to declare that we’d need to search each building for any surviving townsfolk when a faint sobbing sound arose up ahead. Everyone paused at once to listen for where it was coming from.

“In the church.” Sloan whispered, as the rest of use gazed at the towering white building at the end of the street.

“Ok boys,” I began, “Let’s get in there. Tex, you stay here and man the Gatling in case things get ugly. Slim, take the reins and get ready to get us out of here if needed. Clark and Jim, you go around back and see if you can find a way in from there. Daisy Mae and the rest of you come with me.” Daisy Mae is the only girl in the group, but she can hold her own and then some. She is just as much one of The Boys as the rest of ‘em and would easily whoop anyone who says different.

Sloan opened the heavy double doors and I kept my shotgun aimed steadily at the opening. The stench of death was overwhelming and some of the men tried to cover their faces, but it made no difference. It was dark inside, but there were a few candles flickering up front, near the pulpit. We eased our way in and The Boys fanned out among the pews. We steadily worked our way to the front where a pile of white cloth was crumpled on the floor. As our eyes adjusted, we could make out the shape of a woman in a wedding dress; face down in front of the pulpit. The sobbing grew into moans and a chattering sound as we drew closer.

“Mam, are ya alright?” I gently called. “Are ya hurt?”
Sloan and I focused on the slumped figure and The Boys looked around for any other townsfolk. In between moans, there was a sudden “creak” and we all looked up to see a door opening up ahead. We swung our weapons in that direction and then lowered them when we saw Jim and Clark emerge.

“Nothin’ back there boss,” stated Jim as he gazed around the sanctuary.

We returned our attention to the woman on the ground. “Mam,” I tried again. “Are you ok? We are here to help.” There was no response. The moaning and sobbing had nearly ceased, but the chattering grew louder. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could see the white figure rocking back and forth.

“Mam?” I questioned again, louder this time.

The rocking grew more pronounced and the chattering grew even louder still. “Boys! Back away slowly… somethin’ ain’t right.” I ordered. The Boys instantly started moving away from the crumpled creature and it became more agitated. We slowly moved toward the door and began to feel rumbling beneath our feet. As the danger became more apparent, we high-tailed it to the front door. Behind us, the old wooden floor started cracking and crumbling near the center of the church and the smell of dust and soil joined the previous aroma of death. The pews tumbled one by one into the growing hole where the floor once was and we could see a writhing mass of limbs reaching for us.

Jim turned around to stare in amazement as the floor of the old building started to collapse around us. He was grabbed around the ankle by a withered hand reaching out of the floor. He jerked away to get free, but was amazed by the strength of this frail creature. Jim cried for help and Clark turned just in time to grab Jim’s hand before he was pulled under. With all the commotion I almost didn’t notice Jim’s near demise, but worked my way back to help him get free. Clark pulled and Jim scrambled to get free from the numerous hands that were tugging and clawing at his flailing legs. I leveled my shotgun and fired both barrels right into the mass of arms. A few arms we blown clean off and the others were stunned enough to give Jim enough time to get back to his feet.

A pale face emerged from the mass underneath us. It stared right at me as it pulled the rest of itself out of the floor. Without thinking, I lifted my shotgun above my head and came down with all my might. The butt crashed into the face of this foul creature and made a loud “crack.” I raised it again for a second blow and noticed that the butt was broken and barely hanging together. I struck again anyway and this time the creature roared with rage. The rest of The Boys had made it to the door and I knew I needed to get out now or I would be trapped in here with these horrid beings. Daisy May stood at the entrance, blasting away at the massive pit in the middle of the room.

My legs could not have carried me any faster as I flew out the double doors and into the sunlight. I shielded my face from the sudden brightness and struggled to see in front of me. The next thing I heard was “CLEAR!” and I stumbled to get to the stagecoach. We all stared at the entrance of the church while the rumbling suddenly stopped. My ears were ringing from the shotgun blasts, but the sudden silence shifted my balance and I nearly toppled over. Tex leveled the Gatling gun at the doors as everyone else aimed their rifles and pistols and the threat that nearly ended us moments ago. In uneasy stillness, we stared ahead, not risking any glance away from the danger before us.

With my eyes still adjusting to the sunlight, I squinted toward the church and felt sweat running down my forehead to the tip of my nose. The drip of sweat seemed to just hang there like the lumps in all of our throats. It seemed to just hang there like it was terrified of falling, grasping for dear life. It was such an odd thought at the time, but I saw myself as that one drop of sweat. …then, it started to slip. Terror filled me as I felt it roll off the tip of my nose. I couldn’t bear to look, but I could sense it slowly falling to the dusty road below. Finally, in the dead silence, I heard the “splosh”. Then…

“CRAWWWWWARSHHHH!!!!” as the opening of the church erupted with a mass of the horrid creatures. They sprang toward us just as Tex opened up with the Gatling gun. RATATATATATAT it sang as the death dealers were cut down, one by one. The rest of us joined in and picked off any that made it out of the Tex’s line of fire. The bodies piled up and more Reapers crawled over them like rabid animals. We took turns reloading and kept the pressure on unending horde of death. Eventually, the assault dwindled and we finished off the last few Reapers coming through the door.

Our ears rang painfully as we reloaded and caught our breath. The battle was so loud we failed to hear the Reapers gathering in the street behind us. Daisy Mae happened to turn and see the crowd of Reapers before they reached the coach – “BEHIND US!!!!!!” She hollered as loud as we could.

Tex swiveled the Gatling gun to the rear and opened fire. The rest of us scrambled to get onto the coach and Sloan snapped the reins to get the horses moving. We were getting low on ammo and had to make each shot count as we stormed past the old church.

“We need to get back to the armory!” I clamored to Sloan.

Sloan was already thinking the same thing and drove the coach wide around the church and through the pasture to the south. “We can get in through the back and hole up in there while we re-stock.” The pasture was much rougher than the dirt road through town and The Boys had a hard time hanging on to the coach. A few of the Reapers continued the pursuit, but were eventually picked off or gave up.

Sloan drove the coach around to the rear of the jail house. Tex stayed on the coach with the Gatling gun while Sloan and I grabbed our guns and jumped off to get the back door open. We kept watch from there while the rest of The Boys piled into the armory to grab more ammo and gear. Sloan leaned over and said in a hushed tone, “It’ll be dark soon… we need to git a plan together to clear them all out before dawn. If we don’t take care of this now, they’ll go back into hiding and come back again with a vengeance.”

“That’s what we’re here for,” I agreed and kept scanning the area for more attackers. “I say we split up and sweep each building until we’ve taken them all out.”

“Works for me,” agreed Sloan.

The Boys finished loading up the coach and I raised my hand to get their attention. “Listen up boys, we don’t have much time. We have a job to do and we need to get it done before these rascals hole up again. The plan is to split up and clear each building until we’ve destroyed every last one of these monsters. After each hour of hunting these things, we’ll meet back at the armory to regroup and reload. You are welcome to keep anything you find along the way if you think it might help out. I don’t think the townsfolk will mind… if any are even still alive. Keep any eye out for bandages and lanterns; were gonna need 'em. And be sure to keep count of how many Reapers you take out. Along with braggin' rights, there will be a hefty reward to the one who gets the most. Any questions?”

They all shook their heads, knowing full well this would not be an easy task.

“Let’s get to it!”


(Prototype board from earlier version.)
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Fri Oct 25, 2013 6:07 am
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Aces & Eights - massive overhaul

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With Council of Verona pretty much wrapped up, I’ve recently gotten around to further developing Aces & Eights: Dead Man’s Hand. The design has been placed on the back burner for a while now with all the other projects going on. I’ve always enjoyed the game and spent way more time than necessary on the graphic design (for a prototype), but I’ve learned a lot along the way. My tastes and experience have changed quite a bit since starting on it and I’ve considered letting it go – just chalking it up to the experience gained from working on it. However, my wife and mother keep telling me that it is their favorite game and that I should really focus on it ahead of my other designs. I think a lot of their enjoyment comes from familiarity because we’ve been playing it for so long, but I need to figure out what makes the game fun and what needs to go.

After some recent playtesting with new players at RinCon 2013, I’ve gotten some good feedback that has really inspired an overhaul. The previous version focuses too much on Poker mechanics and has too many components from a production standpoint. The original idea was to sell the game as a “bare bones” card set and have the buyers provide their own playing cards, poker chips, dice, etc. I thought this would make a good Kickstarter candidate by allowing backers to choose the minimum option or a deluxe option. When I showed the previous design to Patrick Nickell of Crash Games, he mentioned that the only company that really does that is Cheapass games – good point. Also, even James Ernest seems to have moved away from minimal games like that and is now focusing or more traditional components. After RinCon, I really started focusing on how the game could be streamlined, while keeping the main idea. With a ton of help from my wife and son, the new changes have been working quite well so far.

1. Title change – Though “Aces & Eights” is a common term and is related to one of the key mechanics of the game, I’m dropping it. It seems like anytime I mention the title, someone associates it with the Aces & Eights RPG. I’ve been calling it “Dead Man’s Hand” recently, but after a search on BGG, there are two games with that name. Both games are from 2013 and one even has a similar zombie theme. (More on Zombie changes later.) Someone had previously suggested calling it “Undead Man’s Hand,” but that doesn’t seem to roll off the tongue as easily. Also, the creatures being fought aren’t exactly “undead” anymore. Any suggestions for a new name would be greatly appreciated.

2. Zombie change – In the previous design, the creatures were named Ghouls, not Zombies, but everyone called them Zombies anyway. For the new name, I’m thinking of calling them “Reapers.” There are subtle differences between Ghouls and Zombies, but the creatures in the game are not dead or undead. Reapers are more like infected or rabid humans who attack non-Reapers. They are more intelligent than Zombies, but seem to act on instinct and an insatiable desire for violence and consuming human flesh. Reapers are somewhat organized and are led/controlled by an evil human. Those who are attacked do not turn into a Reaper, they are simply killed. Their appearance is similar to Zombies, but their wounds are either self-inflicted or from negligence. As for how humans are turned into Reapers, I’ve not yet decided. I’m thinking either some kind of drug or hypnotism. It is not some kind of virus that spreads, but a deliberate infection that some evil mastermind is using to manipulate them. I’ve been working on a short back story for a while now and will need to update that some to reflect these minor changes.

3. Central deck change – In the previous design, each player had his own deck of regular playing cards. In the new design, there is a central deck. We are using playing cards for testing, but the final design would be different. There would be artwork associated with the card, but each card is essentially just a number, with the exception of the Ace (one) and Eight cards. Players now have a shared discard pile and the Aces and Eight cards are still used to exchange for a card from the discard pile. The difference though is that Aces are traded at two for one discarded card and Eights are traded at one for one.

4. Card distribution – Instead of a full deck of Poker cards, the new Attack deck is a gradual scale of values. There are 11 ones, 10 twos, 9 threes, 8 fours, 7 fives, 6 sixes, 5 sevens, 4 eights, and 3 nines – 63 cards total. Instead of forming a poker hand for an attack, players simply collect a pair of the same numbered cards. Additional cards of the same type can be added to strengthen the attack further, but only one number is used for an attack. Example: If a player plays a total of 4 seven cards, the attack value would be 7 (for the pair) plus 1 (for each additional) for a total attack value of nine.

5. Telegram cards – Ignored for now to simplify the game and make testing easier. These are very luck-based and are mostly thematic. Also, many of them rely on the individual deck mechanic. Also, the scope of the game is no longer seven days, but seven hours instead. The players are trying to clear the town of Reapers before dawn.

6. Reaper dice – Previously known as “Ghoul” dice. These are rolled the same as before when hunting at a location. Poker dice are still used for now, but I imagine these would be custom dice in the final game. The faces add more Reapers (as before) and the Aces add an attack (as before). However, the 9 and 10 sides are ignored for now and don’t count as anything.

7. Turn order change – In the previous version, players used their own deck to build their hands simultaneously. In the new version, players take turns drawing, building their hand, and selecting a location. From there, the next player may choose an occupied location, but the method of resolving that has changed. Instead of a simple wager, the second player to choose that location makes a wager of tokens and/or cards. The first player may either take that offering and move, or may challenge. If challenged, the first player must match the offering and then players compare hands. Whoever has the higher hand keeps the entire offering and gets to stay. The loser must go to another location. If there is a tie, both players take back their offer and the original player stays while the second player chooses a different location. Once a player has revealed his hand in a challenge, he cannot challenge or be challenged for the remainder of that turn. Players may choose to use an attack modifier card (Lantern – new card) to increase their attack, but they must do so before the hands are revealed and that card is considered used for the attack on the Reapers. The result of this change is that there can only be a conflict between two players at one time and a first player marker is used to determine turn order.

8. Hand limit – There is no longer a hand limit. The previous mechanic was clunky and this allows more freedom to search for the card you need. Because the attack method has been simplified, there is not much AP when trying to find the cards you are looking for. At the end of the turn, players may discard any number of cards. At the beginning of a turn, they draw back up to five cards as before.

9. Weapon type change – To simplify the attack mechanic, the different weapon types don’t matter. These may be used for theme, but the bonuses that apply to melee or pistol type weapons are no longer applicable. This resulted in some card changes.

10. Card changes – Finally, there are three card types that needed to change.

A. The Bandolier wasn’t really that useful because there are several other cards that allow you to draw more cards. This has been replaced with the Lantern (one at each location). The Lantern is used to allow the players to better see the Reapers they are fighting. This increases the accuracy of their attack and ends up adding three attack points. Because the Lantern is used to help in the fight, it may also be used when contesting a location. This adds to the suspense and bluffing aspect.



B. Doc Holloway’s Strength Elixir is no longer relevant because there are no specific weapon types. This has been changed to an Energy Elixir and allows a player to hunt at a location that is left over at the end of the round. It is essentially a way to pick up a few more points if you have leftover attack points (or soak up the hits with health tokens).



C. The Weapons Cache is no longer relevant either. I like the idea of having point modifiers for the three-pointer cards so this has been changed to Dock Holloway’s Guide to Healing and adds points for each Bandage collected. Bandages are normally worth zero (unless you have Bank Notes) so this makes them more useful/strategic when making an offer on a location.



Overall, the changes have been working out very well. My nine year old son did not play the previous version, probably because of the complexity with the poker mechanics, but absolutely loves this version. This is actually surprising to me because he normally doesn’t latch on to specific games like that and if he does, it’s because of the components and we don’t necessarily play by official rules. I know that the game is not near complete, but I think these changes have revived it and it may actually get somewhere. I’m very much looking forward to getting this tested more before and during BGG.con and hopefully get it pitched to some publishers.

More to come…
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Thu Oct 24, 2013 12:42 am
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Kitchen report - what's cooking?

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Here is the status of my various game designs in progress.

Served: Games that are pretty much out of the kitchen at this point.

Council of Verona - Kickstarter campaign finished! PNP files are now available. Now we just wait for it to arrive.

Where Art Thou Romeo? - Kickstarter campaign finished! Now we just wait for it to arrive.


On the grill: Games that are currently being developed and tested.

Rotten State of Denmark (working title) - Previously known as "For the Throne," but adapted to a Hamlet theme. Some recent major changes have exponentially boosted the fun factor of this game and I'm very excited to get this tested further. I hope to get it some exposure this coming weekend at the RinCon fundraiser event an may send out some prototypes to testers after that. The game has been streamlined down to 10 dice, 25 cards, and a small board. It currently supports 2-4 players (possibly up to 5), without adding much game time with more players. It is a push-your-luck game at the core, but offers multiple strategic decisions.


Taste-testing samples: Games that are complete and have been submitted to publishers

Titan Dice - Push your luck, dice game with a mythical creature theme. Contract signed with a publisher back in January and waiting for production. Hopefully things will get rolling with this soon.

Uncle Otto's Vault - Push your luck, dice game with negotiation. My two (and only) prototypes have been sent to a potential publisher. Currently waiting for it to be played and evaluated.


Recipes: Games that have a basic concept, but haven't been tested.

Zed - Push your luck dice game with a Zombie theme. Zombies may have over-stayed their welcome so this theme may change. However, the theme matches the mechanics fairly well.

Tower Defense - Considering various themes and titles. The game is meant to give a "tower defense" feel, but not necessarily replicate a tower defense game. It will likely be cooperative and I'm toying with ideas of static vs. modular boards and different movement mechanics.


Back burners: Games that I may come back to later, but are just simmering for now.

Dead Man's Hand - Western horror themed game with poker-like mechanics. This one may be going back on the grill very soon. It is a favorite among my closest playtesters and really deserves a chance of getting out there. Because of the unique component composition, I'm considering saving this one for my first Kickstarter campaign... if I go down that road. The game can be played with a Bare Bones set of components where the players provide their own playing cards and poker chips. Or, a full-blown "deluxe" version could be made available for those who want everything included. I've recently gotten back to writing the back story which has gotten me interested in playing it again. Of all the games on the back burner, this one has made the most progress over time and offers the best potential.

Shipwreckers - Push your luck card/token game with a sea monster theme. Changes made recently and it is better, but still needs something. Setting on the back burner for now.

Beasts Unleashed - Trick taking card game with a beast baiting theme. I've been meaning to get back to this one for a while, but it's a bit larger and I can't seem to get to it. The theme fits the mechanics fairly well, but I'm hoping to find a better theme.

Roll For The Win - Dice based game of For The Win. This has gone through a few different designs, but nothing seems to stick. At this point I'm not as thrilled by the Ninja/Pirate/Zombie "theme" and it's hard to put effort into that. I'm considering using the latest mechanics with a different theme though.


Garbage Disposal: Games that have been worked on to various degrees, but may never likely get served.

Infected - Card game where players are trying to survive a spreading infection. There were some original ideas here, but I couldn't quite get them to all work together.

Fart Club - Social/deduction game where players accuse each other of farting. I haven't completely given up on this one, but just can't seem to bring myself to test it. It could be a lot of fun with the right group, but do I really want to be associated with a game like that?

Cake - Worker placement board game where players collect ingredients and bake cakes to fulfill specific orders. This one is lacking originality and the theme doesn't seem to match the euro-like mechanics.

Gideon's Bay - Pirate themed, auction and ship building game. Some mechanics have been migrated to Shipwreckers, but Gideon's Bay lacks the originality it needs to shine. I had a lot of fun working on it, but I think it's time to let it go.

Rook Valley - Card based game where players collect resources and defend their village. This had some potential, but is missing an original key ingredient and I have no idea what that might be.

Melt - Board game where players try to protect their ice cubes while melting those of their opponents. This was one of my first game designs and I spent a ton of time on it. I've learned a lot since then and have been too distracted re-visit it. I think there are some good ideas there, but not really enough to turn it into a great game. I'm not completely giving up on it, but have to admit that it will never likely happen.


Thanks for reading. Comments and feedback are always appreciated!
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Mon Aug 5, 2013 9:21 pm
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Coming very soon: Council of Verona

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Things are moving very quickly and Council of Verona is scheduled to hit Kickstarter early next month!

The cover was revealed earlier this week and it looks awesome! Adam P. McIver has some amazing talent!



The image is already on the BGG front page and I'm stoked to see how high it goes. The rest of the cards will be revealed soon and I must say they are very impressive.

The latest prototypes arrived and Patrick Nickell hooked me up with a few copies. I feel weird calling them "prototypes" because they are by far the best prototype I've ever seen. The components are already as good, if not better than, some finished games. There will still be some tweaks to the cards and rules, but it's pretty much done.

My wife and I recently tried out the new prototype at our favorite sushi restaurant and it worked out quite well. We were able to get in two quick games and I won both of them. I only mention this because she ALWAYS beats me and it was cool to be on the other side for once.



Keep an eye out for the Kickstarter campaign coming in June and I think you will like what you see. The gave will be very affordable and we are lining up some really sweet stretch goals.

Stay tuned!
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Sat May 25, 2013 8:26 pm
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Kickstarter addiction

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I may have a Kickstarter addiction. I'm currently backing three different projects and am waiting for shipment on four others. Normally, I buy games in bulk and on sale because I'm a sucker for free shipping. The down side of this is that I end up with loads of un-played games that I forget about or can't seem to get to the table. Recently, I've decided to re-evaluate my gaming addiction and am even trying to sell off some games. Sadly, this isn't going so well and I may have to resort to selling some on Ebay.

Back to my point, I need to slow down on my game acquisition addiction and Kickstarter is not helping.

First up:

Paradise Fallen
I have a vested interest in this game because the same publisher has recently picked up my latest design, Council of Verona. More about that below, but I was interested in Paradise Fallen before anything even developed with Council of Verona. I love the post-apocalyptic theme and there is a ton of potential for expansions and other projects in the world of Paradise Fallen. The card game itself presents just a taste of this theme, but I found it quite satisfying. It is easy to learn, yet offers strategic potential in trying to use abilities at the right time for the best combo. I had a chance to play it this past weekend and there were a few moments where other players managed to string together some pretty cool combinations. This made the game enjoyable for me even though I was getting my tail kicked at the time. We played two four-player games, but I'm really looking forward to trying this out with two players.

If you haven't already checked out Paradise Fallen, it's worth taking a look. If you've already checked it out and decided to pass, check it out again because the price just dropped and the first stretch goal was unlocked for free.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crashgames/paradise-fall...



Next up:

Coup
This game was a hit for me at BGG.con 2012. I really enjoyed the bluffing element, even though I'm a horrible liar. I've been wanting to play this again ever since, but it hasn't been available in any of the places I normally shop. Thankfully, Indie Boards and Cards has picked it up. Not only does this make the game available, they also put it in the world of The Resistance and gave it some fresh new artwork. For me, this is an insta-back (I think I just made that up).

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2012515236/coup-bluff-an...


And then:

Belfort
I'm not usually a big Euro fan, but Belfort is definitely an exception. The game is extremely intuitive and I love the theme. Instead of pushing cubes around a spreadsheet, this game really captures the feel of building stuff with elves, dwarves, and gnomes. When I saw the expansion announcement, my only hesitation comes from the fact that I'm already backing a few games and don't want to keep piling on stuff that may not get played. Once I thought about it though, I figured that this is pretty much guaranteed to hit the table because Belfort already does. Plus, TMG tends to deliver quality components at a great value (really looking forward to getting Dungeon Roll) and there are several stretch goals that will likely get unlocked.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/michaelmindes/belfort-th...


Finally:

Council of Verona
This isn't available on Kickstarter yet, but will be coming soon. I've had a lot of fun working on it and testing it out and am amazed to see it develop so quickly. I'd love to see this game enjoyed by as many people as possible and Patrick at Crash Games is already making that possible. He just announced that backers of Paradise Fallen will be eligible for a discount on a second copy of Council of Verona.

"For being a Kickstarter Backer of “Paradise Fallen” you are eligible for an EXCLUSIVE Reward Tier that gives you a second copy of the game at 50% off when you pledge for one copy. While the final prices haven’t been set yet this EXCLUSIVE Reward Tier will be two copies of the game shipped to you for less than $20. I think this is a pretty sweet deal and I hope that you feel the same way."

I've had a sneak peak at much of the artwork and am very impressed so far. Here is a sample and there is more on the way:

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Mon Apr 22, 2013 7:57 pm
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20th post, woot! Some FTW updates

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It's been a while since updating, but here are a few developments:

Video teaser of upcoming iOS version of FTW:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JGsAJ...



A few recent posts:

http://www.purplepawn.com/2012/12/for-the-win/

http://pockettactics.com/2012/11/29/critic-turns-artist-with...

FTW is finally on Amazon (via Funagain games):

http://www.amazon.com/Tasty-Minstrel-Games-For-The/dp/B009LP...

However, it's still cheaper at CSI, especially if you order enough stuff for free shipping:

http://www.coolstuffinc.com/p/165294
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Thu Dec 6, 2012 4:17 am
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RinCon 2012

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The latest RinCon was the best one yet. I was able to meet up with friends I met at previous conventions, but didn't have a chance to play many games with them, unfortunately. I did, however, meet a few new friends and had a great time gaming with them. Hopefully next year I can time my games better and play with those I missed this year.

The first game I played (Level 7: [Escape]) was with Paeter (pronounced like "later") Fransen. He produces Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy audio at www.spiritblade.net. I've checked out a few samples and it sounds pretty interesting.


End game for Level 7 [Escape].

Next, I met Patrick Nickell at Crash Games to pick up my prototype copy of Dungeon Heroes: Dungeon Heroes

My wife and I played it a few times and have really enjoyed it so far. She keeps beating me and I want to try it out a few more times before writing a review. Crash Games is a small board game company in the Phoenix area: http://www.crashgamesaz.com/


Testing out this 2 player "lunch hour dungeon crawler."

Later, I played Flashpoint: Fire Rescue with Steven and Susan Sandoval, which was fun even though the building collapsed and we lost.



My wife and I ended up playing several other games with them including Dungeon Fighter, which was hilarious, good fun.


It looks like wedding photo where they are cutting the cake together. In this "fight" Steven must use the hand of the player to his left to toss the die at the target. Totally random, but the "off the nose" shot was even more ridiculous. Steven's website is found here: www.stevendsandoval.com/

I also met Ian Stedman who ended up trading some games he designed (RoboRiot and Werewolf in Town) for some games I was selling in the Flea Market (which was a bit hit). Ian (and some other guys) also helped me playtest Uncle Otto's Vault and gave some very good suggestions. I hope to test them out soon and I think the game should be pretty much done at that point. Ian's website is http://games.gamersuniversity.com.

The "Players Wanted" signs I made worked out really well and it was cool to see them used throughout the convention.


Finally, and possibly most exciting, I was surprised to see my first published game for sale at the Game Daze booth: For The Win


I've been waiting for this moment for nearly 4 years and it's pretty stinkin' cool to see something the came from my own head among board and card games I really admire. I've learned a lot since starting that project and am very much looking forward to getting some more designs out there.

Cheers!
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Wed Oct 3, 2012 6:49 am
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