My "New Year Resolution" to return to my old games got a good start with new ideas for
Christina Regina. First, I wanted to remove the rather expensive board.
Second, I wanted a better assassination score mechanism, as the current
rule of 2 points to the opponent at a failed assassination may be unfair to the other players, who
didn't do anything bad. Third, I wanted to prolong the game by letting more than only the first
colored tile count in the end. Fourth, I wanted to simplify the rather clunky scoring of first,
second, third and fourth color.
All this was solved by the simple idea to put aside all tiles moved onto by the Queen and let
assassinations remove a tile from the player negatively affected by the assassination. I also
took the opportunity to improve the art.
In fact, I like my old favorite Christina Regina even better like this and consider relaunching
the game under another name ("The Queen's Path" is my current working title) and submit
it to the Cardboard Edison Award.
This also requires a good presentation video but one thing at the time - I promised myself to allow
my old games time.
Week 52, 2015
Apokalypsis did not make it to the finals in the
The Survival Challenge
but got good remarks ("Interesting mechanics and the artwork did the job."). It was the weak theme that
stopped the game ("The theme did not stand out to me. Felt like an abstract game with a theme tacked on."),
something that makes me wonder if have reached as far as I can with my Euro style games in those contests.
I'm also having doubts about my next contest submission for
Learning Game Challenge.
It has got a working name, "Social Tourist" after a Swedish Prime Minister's infamous quote, but not even the
Christmas vacations have helped the progress of the mechanisms. The theme is definitely there but I want to design
games with good mechanisms in the first place, not theme. Until I get some good ideas, I'll put Social Tourist on hold.
Instead, I returned to one of my old games, Iconoclasm, and finally completed the
strategy booklet. Perhaps this is what I should devote myself to next year: refine my old games instead of
designing new ones. After nearly 2 years of game design, I can look back on a journey with a lot of learnings and 25
games designed, but I now find myself thinking less about new games and more about new games. Perhaps it's time to go
from designing to developing and see if I can
make my games even better. I've already considered giving my very first game Nova Suecia smoother
action-based mechanisms instead of the current phase-based so the ideas are definitely there.
After all, If I give each of my game a year of development, I'll keep myself occupied until retirement!
Meanwhile, I tried out different concepts for my
Learning Game Challenge
game about the current refugee crisis in Europe. The thematic ideas are plenty but turning them into smooth
mechanisms isn't easy. Some ideas I consider:
Routes between open (may pass), semi-closed (must register) and closed (must smuggle) cities
Quota and welfare levels for determining how many refugees that are accepted and how much they score.
Players secretly choose events based on reality to take place now or later (similar to Apokalypsis.
Phased events, where some events can only take place in later phases (into which delayed events are shuffled in).
Players choose mutually exclusive actions for getting and moving refugees.
Players choose roles not only for refugees but also smugglers, governments etc.
Distinction of "legal and illegal" immigrants with press of luck for the latter, who risk low paid jobs and even trafficking.
Those ideas all work well in a game that plays itself (which may be good enough for a learning game) but I also
want the players to have meaningful decisions, such as route optimization and opponent blocking. Hopefully the next
week give further inspiration.
I've even contacted UNHCR and asked
whether games are considered as media and free to use photos from their site. I expect to resort to texts and
symbols in the game but it doesn't hurt to ask.
Week 50, 2015
The week started with some good news for Apokalypsis.
First, it made it to the semi-finals in the
The Survival Challenge.
Then, thanks to a friend's good words, I got an offer to show the game to the local game store
SF-bokhandeln. If all goes well, I may get an
opportunity to sell Apokalypsis in the store!
The rest of the week I kept testing and changing Politeia but at a slower rate. Different resources for different
territories made the resource game more interesting and by letting the Trade action both take and
sell resources and the non-colony city-states score in the end, I managed to maintain the balance
between the military strategy and the economy strategy. (The economic power of Thebes still won
the test game but only by a well-timed switch to military.)
Politeia is by no means completely tested yet but the game has reached a mature phase and I will
now let it rest while looking at another potential game idea. I've considered options for the next
level of my game design hobby and one such option is games with a message. This is partly inspired by the
Learning Game Challenge
and partly by the current refugee crisis in Europe.
How about designing a game that provokes by putting the players in the roles of the real life actors and having
them take difficult decisions? One idea is to let them play cards allowing refugees to move towards safety while at
the same time introducing new obstacles. I could even make it a "normal" game first, revealing the true nature of the
game afterwards as in Train
(although not that controversial). I will assess various mechanisms the next week and the decided how to proceed.
Week 49, 2015
With Explorers & Exploiters sent to
Hippodice Game Designer Competition,
I returned to Politeia and the start of yet another
game test. With the balance issues resolved last week,
I now focused on decision rationales. The city-states of Politeia were so similar that the decision which
one to attack didn't matter. Fearing that this may lead to king-making, I returned to an old idea of
different resources for different colonies as well as starting citizens in the Ionian colonies bordering Persia to
make that front more interesting as well. I don't expect this to be the last test...
Another interesting opening came from a friend who had spread the word of Apokalypsis
to the local game store SF-bokhandeln. They may be
interested in testing and displaying the game and I've scheduled a meeting with them. To be continued...
Week 48, 2015
The work on Politeia was intensified to give time to a final review of Explorers & Exploiters
before sending the physical game to
Hippodice Game Designer Competition.
The rules video was completed, an annotated test game was started and
the rules were reviewed... over and over again. You can't stress game design, the test game gave a lot
of valuable input regarding balances (lower return on resource sets), decisions (the trigger for the
Greco-Persian War was removed from the player actions and linked to the Hellas/Persian political level
instead) and the Hellas/Persian political level split into a military level and a political level.
(I really need to find better names for them!) After a lot of agony and many restarted tests, I found a
good balance where both too much peace and too much war triggers the Persian invasion. The test
continues the next week but the game has taken a huge leap forward.
Thanks to that, I felt I could return to Explorers & Exploiters with a good consciousness.
I played through the annotated game, documented it with photos and
ensured that the rules and the gameplay were clear. The only minor change was to let barbarians and
explorers defeat each other in the presence of settlers or settlements instead of letting the explorer win,
something that will create a more dynamic game.
First I was actually surprised that Explorers & Exploiters made it to the contest and not my later
games Mingle & Murder and Apokalypsis
but now that I look back on the game, there are many interesting mechanisms in the game. I almost feel a bit bad
that I didn't return to it until now and it certainly deserves this second chance.
Week 47, 2015
The work on Politeia continued in a slow pace with the completion of the
Print & Play files
and game and rule discussions added to the homepage. Now only the rules video and annotated
test game remain to publish. Regarding the latter, there are two main things I'd like the test to tell:
Are the actions simple to understand and play out?
Are the current slow progress mechanisms suitable or should I add "big move mechanisms?"
For further inspiration, I finally took the time to play some of my newly acquired games.
and Attika made it
to my favorite list thanks to their inventive mechanisms but whether I can build on any of them in my
games remain to see. Another game,
The Name of the Rose
is more about the social gameplay than the mechanisms but may inspire to future game, who knows?
Last but certainly not least, I got a positive surprise as
Explorers & Exploiters made it to the major round in
Hippodice Game Designer Competition!
The next step is to send the game to them so I need to review the rules and components one final time first.
Is it good enough to go further? Perhaps not but it will get exposure and all participants will get a
detailed assessment so in that respect I already feel like a winner.
Week 46, 2015
This week was a vacation week with little time for game design. However, I did use the
flight to complete the draft rules for Politeia.
I still struggle a bit with how to present them in the most logical and intuitive way but hopefully more testing
will help solving that.
Week 45, 2015
The final components for Politeia were completed and it's now in a shape to be
included in a game order if I would get the opportunity to sell any of my other games.
I've also started preparing the webpage material, including the one-page game description, the
designer's notes and the thematic overview, something that helped me decide on some of the outstanding
art questions. Not only did I find Athenian analogues to my buildings but also inspiration to
my monuments. The seven wonders were self-evident, at least the five Greek ones, but I also added
the Athenian democracy and the Spartan military academies among others. Even the challenge of getting
the political tiles numbered 0-6 good-looking was resolved by illustrating them with images from the
Parthenon frieze, 1 figure for number 1 and so on.
Even the rules got some help - rather than letting both Greek and Ionian city generate 2 talents, I
let the Greek cities generate 1 talent and 1 resource (reflecting for example the Athenian silver mining
and agriculture). This also made it easier to return a rule that let the conqueror and the conquered
share the income from the city (and let the active player choose first). With more resources in play,
I also added 1 resource of each type.
Politeia is growing more and more but I will nevertheless hold the order as long as possible so
that I can test it properly. The long-term plan is submit the game to next year's
Hippodice Game Designer Competition.
Week 44, 2015
Continuing with my latest game Politeia, I came up with drafts for most of the tiles
(areas and actions), cards (resources) and markers (citizens and talents).
It's a tough balance between art and function. Take the action tiles for example.
Initially, I considered (and worried about) how to illustrate the act of colonization.
A sailing ship or farming colonists? Pottery style or oil painting style? Instead, I went
with the functional illustrations of map (the action takes place in Western Mediterranean), color
(the colony actions share the blue color), symbols (the talent symbol and an arrow towards the
colony symbol, meaning that 1 talent gives 1 citizen in 1 colony).
The first test game was also completed (Sparta won!) and the end game condition determined:
end the game when any player runs out of markers but count only the ones that have been placed on
the board. This gives the players the ability to end the game at the right time while still
giving the game a natural end. Politeia dosn't have any "big scoring" opportunities but is more
about using the right time and place to accumulate small advantages for a final victory.
I think I prefer my games like that!
Week 43, 2015
My games got a lot exposure this week. First,
Find the Bug! was demonstrated at the
SAST (Swedish Association for Software Testing)
20 year celebration with 800 visitors, of which many stopped by to play. Then,
Apokalypsis made its first public appearance at
at this month's boardgame cafe with good feedback.
Those energy kicks were welcome because the work with Iconoclasm game video really drained me.
Not only did the 15 round game require nearly 100 animated slides but I also discovered errors in
the gameplay that I had to correct, only to introduce new errors that had to be corrected.
Perhaps it would have been best to play a completely new game but after many iterations I had a
correct and well played game with a similar endgame twist like the original one.
Then came the next surprise: PowerPoint for Mac didn't include animations in file exports -
only images. The alternatives to bring the presentation to a PC or Keynote only distorted it so I
had to resort to Snapz Pro X,
a program for recording the presentation when run on the screen. It felt like in the eighties, when
you had to record music by playing it on another recorder! I did consider creating animated videos for
rules as well but given all those problems I abandoned that idea. At least the video could be published.
Unfortunately, this meant that I had little time left for Politeia but the rules feel solid and I
started working on some of the art. The logo and the player powers can get simple symbols as usual
and the city-state tiles can get geographical contours but what about the action tiles and the
building cards? Civilization games benefit from good art so this will be a challenge.
Sometimes it's not enough with rules, you may also need rules for situations where the rules are not
followed. This was my main concern about Apokalypsis.
What happens if a player accidentally reveal omen cards that shouldn't have been revealed or do not
reveal omen cards that should have been revealed? What happens if players start doing it with purpose?
Wouldn't that even threaten to break the game?
Clearly I needed a to discourage that and the solution was to add a penalty of removing 1 meeple.
Incidentally, another rule (that ties are broken clockwise from ending the game) makes it even worse
to try to break the game, since you'll only help the player following you in turn to end the game and
put you last in the tie break.
With that final rule change, I submitted Apokalypsis to
The Survival Challenge
and could finally return to my older games. Well, that's not entirely true.
With Demokratia and Apokalypsis,
I started a series of games set in the Ancient Greece. However, I felt that I missed a game depicting
the struggle between the city states and thought of which mechanisms that would give justice to this
dynamic epoch. A light civilization game? An area control game? A war game? The answer came from
another old wish to design a game with a quick and smooth action system instead of the rather
downtime-prone system of rounds and phases.
How about a system where the players choose only one action at the time? Perhaps a rondel mechanism
like in Murano
or a mancala mechanism like in Trajan?
Those two fine games inspired me to a more dynamic system. Imagine only one mancala board, like in
Five Tribes, where
the players may open and close opportunities for each other, to determine both number and cost of actions.
After some thinking a simple but brilliant system emerged.
Similar to my latest games, I started trying out rule fragments (which actions, what would they cost,
what would they return etc.) and then proceeded to put them all together in draft rules, partly to
get them organized and partly to facilitate the process of making them intuitive and consistent.
Although similar to my latest games, this is the most fun phase of game designing when everything
feels new and exciting. The next phase can be more daunting, when test starts bringing the game back
to earth again and pointing out issues, but I look forward to it nevertheless.
How about my older games then? Yes, I did manage to get back to Iconoclasm.
Inspired by last week's review of Mice in a Maze, I decided to
turn one of my annotated games into a game video, using PowerPoint's animation and export functions.
The work is tedious but the results looks promising and I hope to have it done by the end of the next week.
Speaking of Mice in a Maze, it now has an entry at
Week 41, 2015
With several things on my to-do list completed, I could return to annotating the game tests
of Apokalypsis and
Iconoclasm the Card Game. The former seems solid while I'm
not sure whether the latter is strategic, tactical or just chaotic. I consider another test where
the players may play diagonally adjacent as well to allow them to prepare their positions before
clashing. Two rule modifications came out of the test: ranked end game scoring (to allow tournament
scoring and prevent kingmaking) and solo rules (play all cards from a shuffled deck, either to
dominate with 8 cards of 1 element or to balance with 4 cards of each element).
Speaking about Mice in a Maze, it became my third game after
Iconoclasm and Mingle & Murder
to get a video, this time from Matt Games:
Apparently, the reviewer thought that the mice have to choose a different path out of the
Cheese chamber but besides that, they understood the rules (although they were less mean
to each other than I've been in my own games).
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