I will be typing very little here, and posting a lot of images. Also, creating these little galleries is a huge pain for some reason. Anyway, here are 4 of the final 25 cards in the new Manic Mechanics.
Feels good to have something from this project totally finished. After a good amount of graphic design, and a handful of rule and ability changes, the vehicles are complete. With that done, I turn my attention to the zone cards.
In my past few posts, I showed some diagrams of the new boards. As of now, the paths are created, but the cards are undecorated. I’ve hit a snag in that department actually. The visual appearance was a major criticism of the original zones, but now that the boards are smaller, I can’t figure out how to fix it. For now, enjoy the simplistic versions. Oh, and these are only 6 of the 24 zones (12 double-sided cards). Later I will do some fun math to determine the amount of racetracks that can be created.
Next post: A Satellite Salvo update, and hopefully some nearly finalized zone art. Actually, all that’s left to do with this game is re-write the rules and prepare the new box. The finished product isn’t really that far off! Hooray!
This will be pretty brief. The first bit is about Manic Mechanics. Last week I posted a diagram of the new Zone mats, and this week I’m posting another new diagram of even newer Zone mats. I think this design will be better and more flexible, not to mention easier to create.
So now the cards will be more universal. Instead of straightaways and turns, there are just diagonal lines that connect at the corners. What’s more, these cards allow for some interesting, smaller races. Lastly, this orientation creates space for about 7 spots per card, which makes the full 12-card race a very similar length to the original game.
The second thing I worked on this week was the update to Shima. Unfortunately, I’m really not supposed to be doing that. I told myself that I would work on the games two at a time, finishing both before I moved on. But I had a cool idea, and I wasn’t going to just let it go by. Instead, I did a really brief proof-of-concept for a stand-alone Sumo game. If you recall, when Alex and I published Shima, we created separate minigames to differentiate our versions. I added a Sumo game to my version, but it didn’t quite work. This new thing, on the other hand, does work.
Again, this prototype is made of a deck of cards and bits from Rum Run. In this new(ish) game, opponents play cards simultaneously to manipulate the pawns in the small, hex-grid Sumo ring. On the first turn, the players stand apart.
Then the cards are revealed, and the stronger player moves into the center. After that, the players push and pull each other around the board until one is pushed outside of the ring. There isn’t much more to say at this point, but I’m not really in the business of taking pictures and not posting them.
Anyway, I will eventually start to make real progress on Manic Mechanics, and hopefully post frequency will increase. Until then, once a week seems like a good schedule. Stay tuned.
We didn’t win. Super sad. The winning game looks awesome though, so I guess slightly less sad. I’m not going to say any more about Terra Neo until it’s published (soon, hopefully).
Here’s what’s been happening in the meantime. Manic Mechanics is plodding along slowly, but I’ve started to work on something I didn’t expect to do: totally new board design. I don’t mean graphic design, I mean actual design. Here are some diagrams about that.
This shows possible track layouts for 12-card boards. The cards themselves would be the Game Crafter’s Jumbo Cards, which measure 3.5′ x 5.5′. I’m going to be cutting some out of paper to test out the sizing pretty soon. Might even do a playtest. Haven’t decided. Either way, this would change a lot in the game, including actual gameplay elements, since many cards reference their “zone.” If the zones get smaller and more numerous, certain vehicles will be gain power while others will lose power. It’s something I have to look at. But the ultimate goal here is to get this game to fit in a smaller box, which will be possible if I use these boards.
Meanwhile, back at Satellite Salvo, a new print-and-play has arrived. I still need to make some tweaks to it, but otherwise it’s pretty much finished.
The tricky bit here is the folding. By folding the sheet along the two horizontal lines, you get a very cool print-and-play object. The two upper sections stand up like a tent to shield the lower section, which of course is the secret information. All of the rules fit in the middle, so they can be referenced at any time, and the whole thing can fold flat, leaving only the top panel with the Enemy Planet and Arsenal visible. All you need are 5 dice and a pencil.
Well that’s it for now. Not sure what the schedule is in the next week, but my hope is to find some time to get serious about Manic Mechanics. It’s sort of the big project right now, and if I could knock it out I could move on to some other games that are frankly more interesting to me right now. Until then.
We’ll start with the good news. Terra Neo arrived in the mail. Alex and I were able to play the first genuine game with a mutual friend, and it went splendidly.
The game looked great, first of all. The only tough part was how big the land tiles were. It meant we couldn’t actually play a radius 4 game on Alex’s table. It also made the temple pieces (small discs) look super tiny. The Halma pawns, though, were as awesome as we thought they would be. The profile is so nice. Anyhow, the game started off normally: with the special first turn sprint.
Look at those land tiles. Beautiful. And maybe a little distracting. I’m not above admitting mistakes. I was the blue cloud guy, Alex was the yellow spirit dude, and our friend Ian decided to be the jolly fat character. Element wise, that meant that while Alex and Ian both had elements that were only native to them, I shared a land type with both players. If you wanted to get really technical, which I often do, this isn’t the balance you would want in a three player game. Unfortunately, due to cost constraints, we couldn’t include the two additional characters needed to achieve perfect balance. Alas.
This is a great mid-game picture. It shows a partially built world with a huge gash of siphoned land. By this point, Ian had built two temples right along that gash, and he smartly picked the Death card as his first upgrade. I went a slightly different route with my upgrades, choosing a few that Alex and I had raised some doubts about. I really wanted to test the cards to make sure that we hadn’t designed any totally useless ones. Spoilers: we didn’t.
So here’s the end. Final score: Alex 12, Ian 17, Me 19. It really was a good game for me, but Ian seriously gave me a run for my money, especially considering I know everything about this game and had a complex strategy from the beginning, and he had never played and chose upgrades fairly quickly. Alex and I like to think that means the game has a very shallow learning curve, not that it’s strategically shallow. All of that being said, I’m about to launch into a somewhat ridiculous analysis of this game, starting with the winning strategy.
So this was my character. The Wealth card allowed me to access double the amount of cards in the “Source,” which is the four shared draw piles at the edge of the table. The Time card gave me the ability to then swap tiles on the field with tiles in the Source, which for me is now twice as flexible. Finally, the Dreams card gave me bonus points for native land left in the Source. If I didn’t have the wealth card, that would mean I only had four chances, but instead I had eight. In fact, that scoring combination got me three points, and ultimately the win. Something to mention is that I was the only player who was fully upgraded, and if Ian had upgraded with almost any other scoring card, he would have beaten me. Alex was, well, doing other stuff. He was trying to use some under-utilized cards as well, but it didn’t work out for him as well.
The next thing I want to talk about is the thematic quality of the ending. Now, this may not appeal to everyone, but for me, a lot of the fun of game is the implication of the final results. We created a world with unique and interesting geography. There are temples placed all over the continent, each dedicated to a different god of this world. The head of the pantheon is the Cloud God, prayed to by wealthy merchants looking to bolster their finances, and by children hoping that their dreams will come true in the future. His obese brother rules the underworld, sending plagues to the lands above to fill his banquet table with fresh souls. Finally, many pray to the Masked God of medicine, despite the fact that he is both arbitrary and unknowable, hiding his emotions and thoughts behind his mask.
See how cool that is? And once you start to think about it that way, even the craziest combinations start to make sense. I mean, you could really think about the Masked God as a genuine ancient deity. It would make sense that in the past, when medicine was a gamble at best, that the god of medicine would not be thought of as consistent or predictable, but rather cruel and arbitrary.
But enough of my weird world-builder over-thinking. The better news is that the Game Crafter has announced the finalists, and Terra Neo is at the top of the list. The top of a list in no particular order, but at the top nonetheless. So to celebrate the better news, I’m going to stop typing and go to bed. Not like there’s much else to say.
Before I begin this post in earnest, I’m going to quickly point out that the Game Crafter has published the list of Map Builder Design Challenge entries, and it is extensive and intimidating. You can check them out here.
So, Reluctant Pirate Games 2.0. An ambitious title befitting an ambitious time. Let me start with a sad, sad picture.
When the Game Crafter updated their website, all old games had to be updated or else they would be un-published. Because at the time I was not updating my website or really doing much of anything, I just let it happen. When I finally went back to the site to check it out, this sad state of affairs greeted me. That “Need help?” button suddenly seemed like it was mocking me. Not only had my successful games become unpublished, but I realized how many games I recently made that never actually got finished. What’s more, it reminded me that all of the my old games could use revisiting. With that in mind, I am launching this campaign. By the end (whenever that is) I will have updated or completed every game on this list. To keep it interesting, I’m going to tackle them in pairs. The first pairing is, fittingly, Manic Mechanics and Satellite Salvo. My first two games, possibly my best, and two incredibly lame alliterations. Can’t wait.
Although I’ve done some text-based work on Satellite Salvo in the past few days, most of my time since Terra Neo ended has been spent going over Manic Mechanics. Tonight I actually sent out a survey to all of my collaborators to ask them what they thought of the potential changes. Let me lay these changes out for you.
First, I want to tweak the card layout and appearance. Like an idiot I put the old card on the right, because I hate intuitive graphics. But either way, you can see the differences are small. Still, any change could be trouble, so I thought I would ask. This card also has a slight change in effect, but that’s not really part of the survey.
I’m also thinking about punching up the artwork with a scribble effect. I’ve made some cards that integrate this fill into the vehicles, but I’m even less optimistic about that idea. Either way, it’s a really simple Illustrator command that produces this, so I’m not worried about big changes meaning big piles of work.
Also, I’m totally changing one of the vehicles (Scorpedo used to be called Warpedo, and it did something totally different) and possibly adding a bizarre wild-card vehicle. It’s called Multiball. Get it? Like “multiple,” but referring to the roundness? I’ll see myself out…
The last two things I have to do are without a doubt the most difficult. One is to fix the boards, which is something I have tried to do repeatedly over the past few years. Every time I try to edit them, I realize that I am as stumped as I was the day I first drew them. The other big problem is the rules. Between these two things I may have actually won the first Game Crafter contest. But I didn’t because the board was ugly and the rules were incomprehensible. So that’s going to be an adventure, especially since I have decided to use this project to teach myself InDesign. Hooray…
What this means for my website is that I will finally have stuff to post again. I will be working on these two games continuously over the next few weeks, with my tentative deadline being Easter. That way I can celebrate by eating donuts again after the horror of a gluten-free Lent. If my posts get increasingly angry until then, that’s why. Let’s hope not.
I’m typing this at about 10 the night that Terra Neo is due. Alex and I are doing final touches and going over the shop page in preparation for the submission. But, while I have a few minutes, I figured I’d starting writing up the second development post for this game. Last time we left our heroes as they exited Prototype Forest and headed towards the Fortress of Final Graphics.
Yeah, the cloud guy got even more awesome, if that’s even possible. This is why I always outsource the creation of soft things. Some people really have the touch, and I am not one of those people. Either way, there are 3 more, equally cool gods in the game, but I can’t show everything now, can I? Next up was the color scheme. As always, we turned to our friend Morgan, whose graphic skills have transformed our games in the past. Let’s see what he did with this one.
And it’s not just that these colors are better. There’s a unity that comes from his approach. For instance, I just chose colors that I needed and I thought looked ok. Morgan reference sanskrit cave paintings to find earthtones and natural pigments that were geographically similar. Let that sink in. While you do, take a look at the thing that I actually did without anyone’s (direct) help.
Unfortunately, there was just too much between the prototype art that the final art to actually go into it. Needless to say, shit got real. The resonance went from awkward outer coloring to an overlaid pattern of circles in 3 different scales. The land types below that became highly graphic representations of geography instead of bad drawings. All in all, really fun stuff. The last thing we did was update the upgrades. I don’t really have a good picture of this process, since it was mostly just a color shift, so instead here’s a few of the cards in a little gallery.
Anyway, I really shouldn’t be writing this when we’re right up against the deadline. But I wanted to officially put this whole process up, and here it is. I will hold off on an official “Publish” announcement until Alex and I have it in our hands, so any more news will have to wait until then. In the meantime, I’m going to take the weekend off from this kind of stuff, and early next week I will start detailing the upcoming rebirth of Reluctant Pirate Games. Hooray!
I was too busy tonight to do the full Terra Neo post that I wanted to do. Instead, I’m just going to point out that if you refresh the page, the banner will change. I made one for each game I’ve designed, complete or incomplete, and a generic one that matches my brand new business cards. Anyway, tomorrow is the deadline for Terra Neo, so I will post to my success at midnight when I submit/order.
Actually, I don’t like that there aren’t any images in this post, so I’m just going to post all of the new banners below so that you don’t have to refresh. Woo!
The Magnificent Mechanical Mosaic
The Founding Fighters