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Subject: Vaccine: The Boardgame. A Solitaire Boardgame about curing a disease rss

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John Gibson
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Hi All!

A few days ago I was riding the bus to work (yes, you read right, I ride a bus to work) and I was listening to an I've Been Diced! Podcast. It was episode 22 with the host Tom Grant interviewing Alan Emrich of Victory Point Games. One of the games that they discussed was “We Must Tell the Emperor,” a solitaire board game that is composed of just 48 event cards and 23 cardboard tokens. In 60 minutes this game will cover the Pacific theater of WWII from 1941 to 1945. Alan said the biggest challenge in boardgame design is making a really good simple game, because the designer needs to pare down the game to its simplest concepts/components.

So as I listened to this podcast, the germ of an idea began to incubate inside my mind: how to create a simple solitaire boardgame with just 40 or so counters and 36 cards...and here is what I came up with:

Vaccine: The Solitaire Boardgame cool

http://thatcowboyguy.blogspot.com/2011/11/germ-of-idea-after...

Please check out my blog post about the game and let me know what you think. Is anyone here familiar with Alan Emrich or Victory Point Games? Would my game idea appeal to players of his games? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Here are some links to the podcast and Victory Point Games:

http://victorypointgames.com/

http://ivebeendiced.blogspot.com/2011/08/ive-been-diced-epis...

Thanks!
That Cowboy Guy
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Steve Carey
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Hi John, I know that Alan's philosophy is that a good game is a good game, regardless. When you look at VPG's extensive catalog, there's some pretty obscure (but very good) stuff in there!

A solitaire game should be very challenging and have plenty of decision-trees and applied tension. For example, in your game the player could have a Turn Phase to choose how to spend precious resources (funding?) in controlling the disease as it spreads, or working harder towards a vaccine.

If you're not talking about a cure, VP's could be lost for each Population Point exposed. This would apply tension to play.

Something like the Mutation Deck that you mention is a very good idea to throw a monkey-wrench into the player's plans as the disease changes and adapts. A Research Lab Track could - if progressed far enough - offer the player a peek at the next Mutation card so that he/she would know what direction the disease will take (so that resources could then be better applied). Maybe make it a die roll (e.g., the Research Lab is at 4, so the player would neeed to roll a 1-4 to succeed). A success means a breakthrough, while a failure means a research dead-end (that would be thematic). Regardless of success or failure, automatically reset the Research Track so that constant options and opportunities present themselves throughout play.

Luck plays an important role as it creates uncertainty for the lone gamer - your mixture of face-down tiles would seem to create a nice luck element.

Theme is so important, and some background story to draw the potential player in would be great. It's always welcome to have a 'hook' or two included in the design. For example, in We Must Tell the Emperor I used the Battle Table to offer the player a chance to change history, but at substantial risk.

A co-op game like Pandemic - which can be played solitaire - covers a similar topic very well already. But that doesn't mean that a fresh, more focused, perspective could not create something special.

So I would encourage you to continue to explore your vision, test it out yourself (one of the helpful aspects of a solitaire game), run it by a few friends who are willing to give you an honest opinion, and then continue to tweak it and then tweak it some more.

Hope the above makes sense and is helpful - as someone who once worked in Disaster Preparation on a large scale, I'd certainly be interested to see what you can come up with.

Oh, a "germ of an idea"...

STEVE
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Alan Emrich
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I know that Alan Emrich guy (he's me) and am well familiar with Victory Point Games. And if Steve Carey says you're on to something, then heck yes we're interested in it!

Shoot us an email to contact[at]victorypointgames.com and we'll have our manual games producer, Nathan Hansen, get back to you with how we do things at VPG. We've got a great series of articles here:

http://victorypointgames.com/articleDetail.php?pageName=Arti...

called "Make a VPG" that will get you started and steer you a bit.

We publish a lot of first-time game designers, like Steve, and they can attest to what and how we do things.

Best,

Alan Emrich
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John Gibson
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Steve Carey wrote:
It's always welcome to have a 'hook' or two included in the design. For example, in We Must Tell the Emperor I used the Battle Table to offer the player a chance to change history, but at substantial risk.


:: Nearly sprays G2 all over his computer monitor ::

You mean you are the Steve Carey who designed We Must Tell the Emperor?!?

I must say I certainly did not expect that the designer of the boardgame I was mentioning in my blog would be the first one to respond.

Steve Carey wrote:
A Research Lab Track could - if progressed far enough - offer the player a peek at the next Mutation card so that he/she would know what direction the disease will take (so that resources could then be better applied). Maybe make it a die roll (e.g., the Research Lab is at 4, so the player would neeed to roll a 1-4 to succeed). A success means a breakthrough, while a failure means a research dead-end (that would be thematic). Regardless of success or failure, automatically reset the Research Track so that constant options and opportunities present themselves throughout play.


Interesting thought there, Steve. I was going to make the Lab Equipment Deck do a similar action, but it would happen automatically instead of using a die roll to determine success. My initial thought was to not have dice in the game. The luck factor would be what cards and markers are played and in what order. I also have to admit that I haven’t put a lot a thought in the game so far...just a 3 or 4 hours at this point. I just sort of barfed it into my blog as I had envisioned it my mind while listening to the podcast.

Steve Carey wrote:
So I would encourage you to continue to explore your vision, test it out yourself (one of the helpful aspects of a solitaire game), run it by a few friends who are willing to give you an honest opinion, and then continue to tweak it and then tweak it some more.

Hope the above makes sense and is helpful - as someone who once worked in Disaster Preparation on a large scale, I'd certainly be interested to see what you can come up with.


Thank you for the encouragement, Steve. I have only made less than a dozen game designs at this point, but my brain is always buzzing with game ideas. What you wrote makes a lot of sense.

At this point I am focusing strictly on the mechanics and I figure the thematic would settle in afterwards.

Question: What percentage of winning were you aiming for in your game? As in a ratio of how many times a player would win versus losing? Or did that factor in at all for you?

Steve Carey wrote:
Oh, a "germ of an idea"...


I’ve got a million of ‘em...
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John Gibson
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Alan Emrich wrote:
I know that Alan Emrich guy (he's me) and am well familiar with Victory Point Games. And if Steve Carey says you're on to something, then heck yes we're interested in it!


:: That Cowboy Guy falls out of his chair ::

Whooooaaa! This is happening waaaaay too fast for me. The first person to respond is the game designer, and now the 2nd person to respond is the publisher! I literally typed up these rules a few hours ago and posted em.

But I think they make sense and I think the game mechanics—or mechanisms—should work...we shall see when I actually start to prototype.

Alan Emrich wrote:
Shoot us an email to contact[at]victorypointgames.com and we'll have our manual games producer, Nathan Hansen, get back to you with how we do things at VPG. We've got a great series of articles here:

http://victorypointgames.com/articleDetail.php?pageName=Arti...

called "Make a VPG" that will get you started and steer you a bit.

We publish a lot of first-time game designers, like Steve, and they can attest to what and how we do things.

Best,

Alan Emrich


Thank you very much for your response, Alan. I will be sure to send that email and I will check out your articles. As I had mentioned in my blog, the rule set would come in under 6 pages, and I am sure I could whittle down the counter/card count once I start prototyping and getting a feel for the play. As Steve had mentioned earlier, play testing a solitaire game should be quite easy at the beginning.
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Hogan Brimacombe
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Hi John. I did a degree in Immunology so this stuff is my bread and butter, and after a read of the rules i must say i am thoroughly impressed with your knowledge of how a vaccine actually works. Well done. Also, i think this game could be really, really cool. So basically to the designer keep it up, and to the publisher this game now has one fan!

Hogan
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hoganbball23 wrote:
Hi John. I did a degree in Immunology so this stuff is my bread and butter, and after a read of the rules i must say i am thoroughly impressed with your knowledge of how a vaccine actually works. Well done. Also, i think this game could be really, really cool. So basically to the designer keep it up, and to the publisher this game now has one fan!

Hogan


:: blushes ::

Why thank you, Hogan.

Any tips you could give me on the flavour text would be greatly appreaciated. I think I can pull off the core mechanics, but I will need help with the language and concepts. You will probably be getting a direct message from me in a couple of weeks once I get the rules more finalized.

Thanks again,
That Cowboy Guy
www.ThatCowboyGuyGames.com
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John Gibson
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So I am reading through the articles that Alan Emrich pointed me to regarding making a VPG (Victory Point Game). There is a lot to digest (I am at 29 pages and counting), but I am certain I will become a better board game designer because of his articles. I am hoping by the end of the week I will have a proposal letter created that I can email to Nathan Hansen and start a more formal dialogue about my game idea.

I totally realize that once my idea is presented that it could be rejected outright for being too simplistic, too unchallenging, too random, etc. I am a totally noobie at game design and I don’t expect to hit it out of the park the first time I am up to bat…

On the other hand I have a lot of confidence in myself and that I do have some really good ideas for boardgames. The question is how well I am at implementing those ideas…

Cheers!
That Cowboy Guy
www.ThatCowboyGuyGames.com
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Nate K
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Good luck, John! The game sounds like a lot of fun, and it looks like you've already got some interest from VPG, so if you buckle down and get to work, you might have a winner on your hands.
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John Gibson
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kurthl33t wrote:
Good luck, John! The game sounds like a lot of fun, and it looks like you've already got some interest from VPG, so if you buckle down and get to work, you might have a winner on your hands.


Thanks Nate!

Buckling down is what I intend to do. I just need to read through 76 pages of articles from VPG first in order to avoid any first timer's mistakes. whistle
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John Gibson
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So I did it! I wrote an email to Nathan Hansen, the manual games producer at Victory Point Games.

Here is my Game Idea Pitch:

I am a first-time game designer and I would like a chance to "show my stuff." I read the articles that Alan pointed me to, so here is my game idea pitch... :: takes a deep breath ::

Game's Working Title
Biosafety Level 4

Game’s High Concept
- Manual Boardgame with cards and cardboard markers
- A Turn Based Reflective game with a structured sequence of play
- A Solitaire game of a CDC Biosafety Level 4 lab vs a virus
- Abstract/Simulation/Strategy
- Contemporary
Scope: 10 weeks in a CDC Biosafety Level 4 lab trying to find a cure for a virus
Scale: Tactical – creating a vaccine protein by protein in order to destroy the virus
Perspective: First person

One-Sentence Marketing Description

“With the world on the brink of virulent catastrophe, the scientists of the CDC BIOSAFETY LEVEL 4 Lab have 10 weeks to create a vaccine to combat an ever mutating virus or risk the survival of humanity itself."

The game’s Hook

Biosafety Level 4 is a solitaire boardgame that pits the player against an ever mutating virus. They must create a vaccine to destroy the virus within 10 weeks, but they have limited resources and funding. The more successful they are at decoding the virus’s genetic structure, the more funding they can secure to combat it.

Word’s-eye-view of the game

“In Biosafety Level 4, the player must use their limited resources to find a cure for a deadly virus ravaging the outside world. They must unlock its genetic code, finding proteins that they can use to create antibodies to bind to its antigens, thus destroying it. Each turn the virus mutates unpredictably, while the player buys and uses lab equipment that will aid in unravelling its code. Funding is limited so resource allocation can be challenging, but with each success will come more funding. Will the men and women of the Biosafety Level 4 Lab create a vaccine to save humanity before time runs out? ”

Back of the box style listing of the games key features

- 11” x 17” color game board with virus play area, vaccine creation area, funding track and a 10 week turn track
- 25 antigens markers: the building blocks of the virus
- 50 antibody proteins: join these in different combinations to bind to the antigens and thus destroy them
- 20 Viral Mutation Cards that add more antigens to the virus or change existing antigens
- 16 Lab Equipment Cards that can be purchase to aid in combating the virus
- 1 die used to determine the success or failure key research points

So that's my pitch. I hope it has piqued your interest. I look forward to your response.

With great appreciation,
John "That Cowboy Guy" Gibson

And there you have it!
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Steve Carey
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Good start proposal, John.

I know that VPG has set production parameters - for example, their round circular markers come in groups of 11, their standard cards come 12 per sheet, and counters are usually 6 or 8 (depending on size) per strip. So you may want to start thinking in those terms.

11 x 17 map is one of their standard sizes, so you're good there.

I think this sounds like a good game for their Battlesson line - simple format and play, and good for the classroom too.

Back to the design (and since you have "safety" in the title), will "Lab Safety" be one of the decision-trees in the game? For example, at some point the clock may be ticking and the player may opt to cut-corners with Lab Safety to push forward the research but at a risk.

Also, for theme I'm presuming we are talking nationwide (e.g., CDC)?

Finally, will the game be judged simply Win or Lose, or will there be VP's and penalties associated to produce a final scaled Score?

Don't mean to jump ahead, but I think you're on to something here and you definitely have my interest.
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Sounds awesome.

I'm a lurker on the design forums, and I've had a couple of game ideas stewing around in my head for a long time now. Following your progress on this thread has been very inspiring.

Hope it all works out for you, and I hope to someday get to play this game.
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John Gibson
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Steve Carey wrote:
Good start proposal, John.

I know that VPG has set production parameters - for example, their round circular markers come in groups of 11, their standard cards come 12 per sheet, and counters are usually 6 or 8 (depending on size) per strip. So you may want to start thinking in those terms.


I did some thinking on the bus this morning and I could reduce the Antigen counters to 20 and the Antibody protein counters to 16 without sacrificing any game play I had in mind. If the counters can be in different sizes, or the card stock different colors, than they can be one sided printing.

The game can easily use the small cards: 1.6” x 2.5” so I would only need 2 sheets to create all the cards I currently envision, but I’m sure that could be reduced even further.

Steve Carey wrote:
Also, for theme I'm presuming we are talking nationwide (e.g., CDC)?


At this point I was thinking more Micro than Macro. It would be a single lab working on a single virus. The gameboard would display an area devoted to the virus itself and the components that make it up. Another area would display the vaccine as it is being created, displaying all the possible antigens in the game. You would place a protein you “purchased” on a specific antigen, and when that antibody is complete, it can destroy that specific antigen in the virus area. So very small scale, but with huge implications depending on the success or failure of your endeavours.

Perhaps it could become a series. The CDC: Blah Blah Blah. In which case the second game could be Macro and managing the distribution of the vaccine or handling multiple labs trying to reach a common goal. Just a thought…whistle

Steve Carey wrote:
Back to the design (and since you have "safety" in the title), will "Lab Safety" be one of the decision-trees in the game? For example, at some point the clock may be ticking and the player may opt to cut-corners with Lab Safety to push forward the research but at a risk.


Good point. I could have the Week/Turn track color coded where the first 75% of the track is light green, but once you’ve passed the 25% threshold you can start to take risks with safety in order to meet your goal.

Steve Carey wrote:
Finally, will the game be judged simply Win or Lose, or will there be VP's and penalties associated to produce a final scaled Score?


I intended it to be Win or Lose; either you create the vaccine and save the world or you fail and we all die horrible, miserable deaths…

But…I guess if the game was challenging enough you could still get a score if you lose, awarding points on how many antigens you destroyed before you lost, and that way you could measure your progress in getting closer to a win…

Steve Carey wrote:
Don't mean to jump ahead, but I think you're on to something here and you definitely have my interest.


No problem. I think “jumping ahead” is what game design is all about. Keeping your mind open to possibilities. You have published games—I haven’t, so I am eager to listen to any advice you may offer.

That Cowboy Guy
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John Gibson
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middleclassjoe wrote:
Sounds awesome.

I'm a lurker on the design forums, and I've had a couple of game ideas stewing around in my head for a long time now. Following your progress on this thread has been very inspiring.

Hope it all works out for you, and I hope to someday get to play this game.


I have been lurker myself on BGG as a whole for quite some time, Joe, so I know what it's like. Thanks for the support, dude. I hope we all get the chance to play this game in the future.

And my advice to you is get those ideas out of your head and onto paper. I started keeping a game design journal (the notebook kind) this year and I now have ideas for half a dozen games in various stages of gestation. Go for it is what I say!
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gedin wrote:


Perhaps it could become a series. The CDC: Blah Blah Blah. In which case the second game could be Macro and managing the distribution of the vaccine or handling multiple labs trying to reach a common goal. Just a thought…whistle


I eagerly await the CDC: Los Angeles expansion...
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breakaway11 wrote:
gedin wrote:


Perhaps it could become a series. The CDC: Blah Blah Blah. In which case the second game could be Macro and managing the distribution of the vaccine or handling multiple labs trying to reach a common goal. Just a thought…whistle


I eagerly await the CDC: Los Angeles expansion...


Or CDC: Congo. Well, hello, ebola!
 
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kurthl33t wrote:
breakaway11 wrote:
gedin wrote:


Perhaps it could become a series. The CDC: Blah Blah Blah. In which case the second game could be Macro and managing the distribution of the vaccine or handling multiple labs trying to reach a common goal. Just a thought…whistle


I eagerly await the CDC: Los Angeles expansion...


Or CDC: Congo. Well, hello, ebola!


The CDC: Ebola II: The Son of Ebola! zombie
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Update! I just got a reply back from Victory Point Games:


gedin wrote:
Hello John,

This game does sound very intriguing to me. I'd love to hear more. Do you have rules written up? If so I'd love to see them.


So with all the ideas generated by my discussions on the Geek, I will spend a few days polishing up the rules and then send them out. I will also create a few Photoshoped illustrations to add to the document showing the different kind of makers and the key parts of the gameboard.

Damn this is fun!!!

That Cowboy Guy
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gedin wrote:
Ok John. Take some time to polish if you like, but bear in mind I'm not looking for gold as a first draft. I just want to see how things work so I can push some pieces around and get an idea of the fun. Regardless, I'm looking forward to seeing more of this.


I guess they really want to see my rules, eh?

So its 12:49 in the morning and I just finished writing up the first draft of my rules. I just emailed VPG a MS Word version and PDF version of my rules. It came out to 7 page of regular sized font with a few graphics thrown in. If I compare it to VPG's TOE-TO-TO NU'KLR COMBAT WITH THE ROOSKIES, I think it can be boiled down to 4 pages.

Now let's see what they think of rules...

That Cowboy Guy!
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Do we get to see the rules, too? Or do you need to keep them confidential, in case the game gets picked up and published?
 
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kurthl33t wrote:
Do we get to see the rules, too? Or do you need to keep them confidential, in case the game gets picked up and published?


Good question...how about if anyone wants the PDF version of The CDC: Biosafety Level 4 Rules v1.0, just send me a message through BGG with your real world email address and I will email you the PDF as an attachment. I notices that you can't do attachments through BGG message system...

I imagine sending the rules out to a limited number of people shouldn't be an issue since people play test games in the design process all the time.

Cheers!
That Cowboy Guy

PS: And of course it goes without saying that any feedback is greatly appreciated.
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While I wait to hear back from VPG (I know they must be very busy gearing up for the Christmas rush), I thought I’d share some of the graphics I am creating for the prototype.

Here are some excerpts from version 1.1 of the rules for The CDC: Biosafety Level 4.

THE CDC: BIOSAFETY LEVEL 4

TABLE OF CONTENTS

[0.0] Using These Rules............1
[1.0] Introduction.................1
[2.0] Game Components..............2
[3.0] Setting Up the Game..........3
[4.0] Sequence of Play.............4
[5.0] Virus Mutation Phase.........4
[6.0] Player Action Phase..........4
[7.0] Clean Up Phase...............7
[8.0] Game End.....................7


[2.0] GAME COMPONENTS
Parts Inventory
• 1 8½” x 11” game board
• 20 Mutation Cards
• 12 Lab Equipment Cards
• 4 Lab Personnel Cards
• 28 5/8” round game pieces – Antigens
• 18 ¾” square game pieces – 16 Antibody Proteins, 1 Turn marker, 1 Funding marker

Not included is one 6-sided die required for resolving research success.

[2.1] The Game Board: The top part of the board is divided into 2 sections: The Virus area and The Vaccine area.

[2.1.1] The Virus Area: This 19-hex area is where the virus is displayed. This is where you will be placing the round Antigen game pieces. Each hex has a unique identifaction number for Antigen placement through the Virus Mutation Cards: A1 in the center; B1-B6 for the inner ring of hexes; and C1-C12 for the outer ring of hexes.



[2.1.2] The Vaccine Area: This area contains the 12 possible Antibodies that can be used to combat the virus. Each Antibody matches an Antigen of the virus. There are 6 three-protein Antigens, 4 four-protein Antigens, and 2 five-protein Antigens. This is where you will be placing the square Antibody Protein (“AP”) game pieces.


3-Protein Antibody


A different 3-Protein Antibody


4-Protein Antibody

[2.2] Game Pieces: The game’s pieces are used to create and mutate the virus, create the antibodies to defeat the virus, and track the turn track and funding track.

[2.2.1] Antigens: These are the basic building blocks of the virus. The come in 3-protein, 4-protein and 5-protein configurations. Here is an example of each type:


3-Protein Antigen


A different 3-Protein Antigen


4-Protein Antigen


5-Protein Antigen

[2.2.2] Antibody Proteins (APs): These are the basic building blocks of the vaccine. There are 5 different APs that can be used to create the Antibodies. There are 16 game pieces, and in the corner of each piece it tells you how many there are of that piece: 6 Squares, 4 Circles, 3 Triangles, 2 Hexes and 1 Star.







So next I will work on the 3 different cards: The Virus Mutation Cards, the Lab Equipment Cards and the Lab Personnel Cards.

So can you guys visualize somewhat how this game will look now?

Thoughts, Comments, Questions?

That Cowboy Guy
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Shoot, I started writing up some thoughts I had a couple of days ago about the rules you sent me. I don't remember what happened, but I had to stop in the middle of the write-up, and forgot to ever come back to it. Sorry about that!

I think I saved a draft in my Gmail account, though, so I'll dig it up, finish it, and hopefully post it later today.
 
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kurthl33t wrote:
Shoot, I started writing up some thoughts I had a couple of days ago about the rules you sent me. I don't remember what happened, but I had to stop in the middle of the write-up, and forgot to ever come back to it. Sorry about that!

I think I saved a draft in my Gmail account, though, so I'll dig it up, finish it, and hopefully post it later today.


Thanks Dude! I'll keep an eye out on my inbox.
 
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