Kitchen Table Games

Games I've played on my kitchen table
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My Top games #23

Max Jamelli
United States
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The #23 game on my list, is a game my father and I designed (shameless shill)
Lords of Baseball

I decided to add this game here for a few reasons. 1, I do really enjoy it. 2, I thought it would be nice to have my thoughts about the game design written out somewhere. And 3, when I think of the number 23, the first thought I have is of Don Mattingly, first baseman, New York Yankees.

Since Mattingly is among my all-time favorite baseball players, I thought #23 on the list should be a baseball game. A lot of this entry will be talking about some of the things that my dad and I encountered on our journey to try to create a game.

For my dad it started 10 years ago or so. He started scribbling some notes down on paper about a baseball game he wanted to call Baseball Revenue. His original plan was to allow a player to develop a team of players under a salary cap. About 5 years ago he refined it a little and stated typing his thoughts out. (I got to see those initial writings - wow things have changed)

I fast forward to WBC of 2008. I was playing in the Air Baron tournament and overheard that the game designer was at the convention. I was pretty excited about having the chance to meet him and talk to him about the game. For me, at the time, meeting Evan was almost like meeting Don Mattingly. Back then I thought it was unheard of to meet a board game designer. So meeting the guy who designed my favorite game was pretty awesome.

During WBC of 2010, a good friend of mine told me he was in the final stages of getting a tennis game published. I asked if I could try it out, and I was introduced to TC Tennis. After I played tennis, I thought to myself "If Terry can design a game, why can't my dad and I?" I told Terry that I was hoping that he could try out the baseball game my father was designing. He was intrigued and I knew I had given my dad and I a schedule to keep. I wanted my dad's baseball game to be ready for WBC 2011, so we went to work.

Writing game rules is one of the most difficult things to do when designing a game. My father has a unique grasp of the English language, and honestly I do as well. He and I are natural talkers, so we often write how we talk. (For me, working in television and writing for the ear didn't help me write rules) During our initial brain storms we talked about where we wanted the game to go and when we got into the meat and potatoes of the game, the design came together.

Once we had everything written out in Word, the next step for me became developing a playable prototype. We were never sure if there would be any interest, so our thoughts were to put together something that we thought looked good and was something we could play on our own. I did some card design in Photoshop and used a coupon code from ArtsCow to have them printed. The initial card investment was pretty cheap considering the look and feel of the cards.

The card design was inspired by Founding Fathers. As with many other CDG's, the cards used in Lords of Baseball had different options - from OPS to Events. In Founding Fathers, you can use cards to vote, enact events, or debate based on a symbol. Lords of Baseball allowed players to use cards in various ways as well. Of all the design work I did for the game, the final card design is among my favorite work. (I am really partial to the script text logo, but after that, the cards are my favorite)

Everything else was printed at Staples. I had player boards, chits, scoring markers, and the main board (broken down into 4 seperate 8x10 sheets) printed there. The cubes we started with were purchased from an online educational resource store.

Testing started early in 2011. I was lucky enough to be able to introduce the game to about two dozen gamers - all who had great feedback for us. We made some adjustments to the cards and added some new events. We increased the size of the deck from 108 to 137 (and will likely continue to design new cards - likely to finish around 165 cards in the deck).

The first thing we noticed about gameplay was the time it took to get through a year. My dad's first thought for the game was to have it play through 20 years. When our first year played out in 50 minutes, we immediately scrapped that thought. Using Le Havre as some inspiration, we came up with 3 versions. The basic game would last 3 years, the tournament game would last 5 years, and the extra inning game would last 7. When we explained this to people, we mentioned that they could really play as long as they wanted as long as everything agreed on it.

As we tested, we continued to update the rules - butchering the English language along the way. Each time we thought we were done, so every file name was called "FinalRules1a, then 1b, then 1c." I think, currently, we are on FinalRules1m - we should probably get rid of the word final.

As we changed the rules, some design changes had to be made. I was told that changes would be made, so I continued to use staples cheap printing for my prototypes. For what they cost, I was pretty happy. I did marketing in a former job, so I knew that if I could show a publisher something that looked nice they may be more apt to want to try it out. (Turns out that thinking wasn't entirely true, but more on that later)

In late April we got to the point where we thought we had something that people would have interest in, so I created the Lords of Baseball page here on BGG. I figured that having an entry here would at least give us some credability when we approached publishers at WBC. Our initial plan was to self-publish, but then after thinking about what costs would be involved and how bulk printing would be more cost effective, we decided to try to work with a publisher before trying it on our own.

Our first bit of good luck was being mentioned on Boardgamenews.. The comments were largely focused on the baseball game. This was surprising and exciting at the same time. It was around that time that I thought my dad and I had a game that people may actually want to play.

After that, talk slowed down a bit until right before WBC week when the WBC Open Gaming Geeklist was published. I included LoB on the list and a couple people expressed an interest in trying it out. I created a demo schedule and waited for WBC week. I had hoped to get a rulebook online (but again, destruction of the English language stopped that) but instead uploaded a video to youtube outlining the rules. This created some more buzz going into WBC.

My dad thought up an idea to design t-shirts, so I was able to do that and design an initial website to help market the game there - click for the link to that site. Between the video and the shirts, it wasn't too long before I was known as the Lords of Baseball guy.

During WBC, I probably played with about 50 people and talked to 100 people about the game. I'm not sure how many my dad talked to, but from all of the comments we got from people, we think we were well received.
I'm sure there were people that thought "meh", but I'd like to believe that a majority of the people that played really enjoyed it.

As for publishers - that's a work in progress. We have preliminary interest and are keeping our fingers crossed.

Final Thoughts

Over the course of development, I've tried to deflect as much of the praise to my father as possible. I can't mention this enough - I'm just the messenger on a lot of this. My main goal in the process was to light a fire under my dad to get him working on things to be able to "show off" at WBC. Getting it published and out into the gaming world felt like such a long shot dream. It still sorta does. I just continue to hope for the best with it. To me, game designers are still like rock stars. I can't believe that someone like my dad and I (just some regular guys) would be able to design a complex game.

We're also both realistic in terms of money. We both know that we aren't going to get super rich on this one title. But on my last day of WBC, as I walked to my car to head home, my dad put his hand on my shoulder and said "I would've never done this without your help". That was all the payment I ever needed.
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