Blueprints is a quick, simple drafting game in which dice do double-duty as building materials and randomizing elements. Each round, players draft six dice to erect a building. On a turn, each player drafts one die from the dice pool, places it on his personal blueprint card (hidden from other players), then adds a die randomly drawn from the bag to the dice pool by rolling it.
Second prototype player screen
The placement rules for the dice are equally simple. A die can be placed on the blank spaces of the blueprint card or on top of another die with lower or equal value. That is, a "5" can be placed on a "1", "2", "3", "4", and "5", but not on a "6".
The different colors of dice, which represent different materials, score in different ways. "Glass" dice score their pip value. "Recycled" dice score as a set. "Wood" dice score for each adjacent die. "Stone" dice score based on their height in the building. Bonus points are awarded to players who conformed to their blueprint. The highest scoring building is given the Gold Award (worth 3 victory points), the next highest scoring building is given the Silver Award (worth 2 victory points), and the third is given the Bronze Award (1 victory point).
The value of the Recycled dice has changed to 2-5-10-15-20-30
The buildings can also win Prizes, each worth 2 victory points, if they meet certain criteria. A building with a height of five or more is given the Skyscraper Prize. A building with four or more dice with the same value receives the Structural Integrity Prize. The Geometer's Prize goes to a building that includes all values 1 through 6. Finally, the Materials Prize is awarded to a building that uses five or more dice of the same color. One of each Prize is given out each round, if any buildings qualify. "In-Demand Materials", drawn at the start of each round, are used to resolve ties.
After three rounds, the player with the most victory points from Awards and Prizes wins.
The development process for Blueprints was remarkably — and uncharacteristically — quick and painless. The idea was hatched during a long car ride back from a convention with fellow Game Artisan of Canada Al Leduc. Al had many prototypes which used dice drafted from a common pool as a mechanism. We have differing approaches to game design, and those perspectives enrich our conversations and collaborations.
I was interested in finding a concrete, theme-driven way of using a dice-drafting mechanism. This would naturally involve using the dice as physical components rather than as abstract markers for some other resource. The main idea presented itself fully-formed all at once: The dice should be used as building components in an architectural game. The second principal idea — that the players should feel torn between the sometimes conflicting goals of conforming to their Blueprint, winning Awards, and earning Prizes — was also conceived in that initial discussion.
The details worked themselves out rather quickly, and were rather insistent that they should be given shape in cardboard and plastic as soon as possible. The first prototype was ugly, but functional.
While the aesthetics have been polished considerably, the differences in gameplay between the first prototype and the published game are negligible.
Due to its quick playing time and simple rules, it was easy to playtest the game frequently with my weekly design group, friends, local game groups, conventions, and my children. Adjustments were made mainly to the point values of the different materials, to the drafting process itself, and to the two-player game.
Al Leduc pictured at left; the designer was deemed too handsome to appear in the photo
The graphic design was updated. After more than three years of generating illustrations and layouts for my games, I've gotten to the point where I'm able to make my prototypes look nice. The advantages to doing this are considerable. A nice presentation is attractive to players, and it gives prospective publishers an idea of what the final product may look like.
I made a Vassal module of the game in order to make cross-continental playtesting possible with fellow designers and with potential publishers. Having a "digital" version to play with can save shipping costs, and allows for painless updates to the prototype in response to publisher feedback.
Within a few months, the game felt ready to present to publishers. As this requires a completely different set of skills than those required to design games, and as I much prefer spending time on the latter than the former, the game was first submitted to my agents, ForgeNext. They presented the game to many publishers at Spiel, and several of those were interested in receiving a prototype.
One publisher, Z-Man Games, had recently been purchased by the owner of a Canadian company with offices less than 160 km from my house: Filosofia. Because my agents operate from France, it was only natural that I present the game to Filosofia in person. At least, this was the argument used to convince me to pitch my game to them in person. With great relief, I found that the game sold itself, and the capable folks at Z-Man offered to license it.
The finished product, with a prototype for another game in the background
As a member of the Game Artisans of Canada, I'm proud that a Canadian publisher is bringing the game to market. That being said, I can boldly assert that players of all nations will find it agreeable. There is something universally pleasing about stacking blocks and rolling dice, and Blueprints is one of the rare games that encourages you to do just that. It is being released at Spiel 2013.