The little game that never was, and doodling at work

Contests are interesting motivators. They force you to commit to an idea in a way that an ambiguous or even non-existent deadline never can. That being said, they can also be incredibly frustrating if you feel that the idea you have is no longer workable. Two days ago I attempted to complete a game in 24 hours as part of an informal competition on Board Game Geek. Obviously 8 hours of sleeping and 8 hours of working mean that there are only a few hours left in a day to create the physical manifestations of the game. The game, unofficially labeled as “Jargon” in my files, did not reach completion. Here, then, is the little game that never was.

I think this picture requires some explanation. Where I work, there are occasional gaps where machines are booting up or running diagnostics. It is during these gaps that I slowly fill a piece of paper with doodles and notes. I usually fold the paper into quarters, and I use orientation to link related ideas. The paper is constantly refolded so that I can unfold it one step and have a slightly larger area. You can see that quadrants 1, 2, and 3 are all related, but that quadrant 4 is just a measured perspective of the Justice logo. Not much of an explanation for that one.

Anyway, the game is heavily inspired by Rivals of Catan, a game I played for the first time last weekend with Alex Coulombe. The resource tracking system was beautifully done, and it really felt like a good basis for a rapidly developed game. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to create a game with too many elements, and I liked the idea of using square cards. Early in quadrant 1 I settled on the idea of representing businesses with the cards, and although my initial designs had a revolving design similar to Rivals, I drifted away from that idea. My resources became things like Employees, Innovation, Recognition, and of course, Capital. I really don’t think it’s necessary to go too far into the workings of the game, since it didn’t ever reach completion. I did mock up the four initial business types, although the weird names may have been overkill.

This card would have represented a “Design Firm.” I chose to use the name Innovacorp because I was considering having the entire game written in nonsensical business jargon (hence the name). The four columns of the left represent the different resources that the company could pull from. Green is capital, yellow is innovation, red is recognition, and blue is employees. The Design Firm archetype was supposed to use innovation as it’s main resource. I really had no concrete ideas for it beyond that.

The idea of moving resources from business to business was intended to be a major part of the game. With that in mind, Financial companies were just giant money pits that could absorb and administer money throughout your enterprise. The next type, Commercial, had a similar motivation, except with employees. There were supposed to be some special effects involving promotion and hiring, which would help you increase your workforce for a lower cost.

Finally, the last type was Consulting. I had watched the recent Don Cheadle show, “House of Lies,” which, while pretty negative about the business, made me want to include it as a type. Consulting Firms augment and improve all other business, but I would have made it difficult for them to function on their own.

Anyway, the game floundered and died towards the end of the 24 hour block. I just couldn’t pull it all together, and I wasn’t that thrilled with the idea after working on it for so long. There was more work done, but it was almost entirely text documents, and like I’ve said, they make terrible posts.

Finally, I’m going to end this post with what will hopefully become a new thing for me: work doodle posting. As you can probably tell, the two sheets that I am showing for this post were not scanned, but simply tacked to a wall and photographed. I have no excuse for this except that I didn’t want to go get the scanner and plug it in when I could just as easily take a horrible copy-shot with my phone without getting out of bed. I’ll try and scan them from now on. The second sheet from work is mostly industrial design stuff (possible motorized paddle-board?) and some strange math stuff. I’ll probably try and do a routine weekly posting of all the doodle on Saturdays, but I can’t make any promises.


Then suddenly, Industrial Design!

I really have no explanation for this post. I did something over the weekend that involved some design, so here it is.

I recently acquired a paddle-board, which is basically just a giant surf-board that you paddle with an extra long paddle (both pictured). And although I live fairly close to a river, about 200 yards, the board is far too heavy and unwieldy to carry. This is a common problem for people with small boat-like objects, and there are many, many kayak/canoe/paddle-board carriers on the market. The one I had was, well, problematic at best. It consisted of a solid, wheeled base with some fabric straps that went over the top of the board to secure it to the wheels. The “chassis” of this object, so to speak, was relatively thin in comparison to the board, and the straps usually slipped of the back, since any and all kayaks, boats, or boards taper towards both ends. All in all, it was a miserable failure, and it made me sad. Specifically, I was saddened by the fact that it only took me the better part of a minute to design a much better object than the mass-produced, widely available one that I had purchased. What you see above is the result of five minutes of sketching, an hour of shopping, and an hour of gluing and threading. Seriously, it took an afternoon.

Here’s a shot of the carrier “in action.” I’m not going to explain how it works, except to say that you pick it up from the side with the fin. The mechanics of the object are pretty simple, which is why it wasn’t a big deal to produce. In the previous picture, you could see that I taped on some friction-enhancing pads (usually used for carpets), but these were almost certainly unneeded. I think I did it because I wasn’t confident in how much friction the PVC pipes would produce. The real challenge in this build was actually the axle assembly.

The wheels I used were labeled “Lawnmower Replacement Wheels,” but I knew better. The axle is a solid iron rod usually used for, well, something. I’m not really sure. The issue was, though, that the rod had an exterior diameter of half an inch, and the interior diameter of the pipe was close to an inch. I knew I had to narrow the opening, but the amount of connections I would need to close the gap was too high. The axle rod was only a foot longer than the frame, which wasn’t enough for that elaborate plan. Instead, I found a pipe-fitting that had a completely different purpose and used a rubber mallet to pound it into the pipe. I did this at Home Depot, and promised the guy who worked there that if I broke something I would pay for it. Luckily, it worked perfectly. The part of the fitting that is stuck inside the larger pipe rapidly comes down to the correct diameter, and even though that pipe is meant to be applied in a totally different manner, it holds my axle perfectly. Unfortunately, this solution was a little too effective, so I maintained a fair bit of the slack in the axle, causing the wheels to slide back and forth a bit while moving. You can see the spacers and washer in the picture, which dampens this effect somewhat. All in all, it was a very successful afternoon.

In barely interesting news, I’m approaching the play-test stage of a game I hadn’t originally intended to make; Farmer’s Nuisance. I posted the description a while back, and even though I really think that the game won’t work as-is, I’m hoping that playing it will help me devise a better idea. I’ll post some pictures in about a week when I get a chance to play it.

Wall of text, ahoy!

So over on Board Game Design Forum, they run monthly design contests. These competitions last only a week, but they only require a description of the proposed game. This means that while the work is minimal, the density of thought needs to be very high. On top of that, the word limits mean that ideas need to be refined, condensed, and disciplined. This month, the theme was convention meta-games, and the following wall of text is my entry.

Con Ahoy! is a massively multiplier convention game. When checking into the convention, players may opt into the game, and will be given random “Allegiance” and Skill cards. Vendors who choose to participate will be given a set of colored flags, and will be expected to bring a standard deck and a selection of dice (d6 – d12).

Each area of the convention will have a name/symbol. The allegiance cards show each of these symbols, and the color of the symbol denotes that player’s allegiance in that area.  Skill cards list three skills, ranging from level 1-4. These skills are Fighting, Navigating, and Drinking. 

When out on the floor, anyone who is playing can turn to another player and challenge them to a duel. Both players check their allegiance to make sure that they are not allies in that area, and if they are not, they play a best-of-three game of Round-Pistol-Saber (Rock-Scissors-Paper). The winner of the duel can then look at the loser’s skill card and may choose to switch cards with them.

When players find others of their own allegiance, they can come together and form a crew. Crews can be up to four players. Players cannot duel as a crew, but if one member of a crew is defeated, their allies are allowed to immediately challenge the winner and win their skill cards back.

Vendors represent islands. Crews, or even individuals, can approach an island and attempt to claim it. To conquer an island, you must win at least two of the three challenges. Each challenge corresponds to a stat on the player’s skill card.

To complete the Fighting challenge, each player on a crew rolls one die, the type of which is determined by that player’s Fighting skill. Level 1 is a d6, level 2 is a d8, and so on. The rolls of the crew are summed and compared to the current challenge value. If it exceeds that value, the challenge is won.

The Navigating challenge is card-guessing. Players guess a standard suit, and a card is drawn from a standard deck. If the guessed suit matches the drawn suit, the player scores a point. Players get as many guesses as their Navigating skill level. The number of correct guesses must exceed the current challenge value.

Finally, the drinking challenge is a coin flipping game. A player flips coins, counting the number of heads flipped. If a tails is flipped, the player “stumbles.” A player can only stumble as many times as their level allows (1-4) before they pass out and are out of the challenge. The amount that the crew can drink before passing out is the challenge value.

The crew must attempt every challenge, but only has to win two of them. If the crew is successful, the vendor hoists their color’s flag, and records their challenge values as the new standards. After a crew raids an island, the “tides” come in and a new crew cannot challenge the island for a few minutes (the vendor can set a timer or just wait a small period of time).

In addition to the rooms deciding allegiance, at the end of the convention, or potentially at the end of each day, the vendors in each room will determine who the winner of that area is. Players can come forward and present their allegiance cards and claim either small prizes or points. The player who manages to have the greatest amount of winning allegiances will either have accrued the greatest amount of prizes, or will be recognized as the winner at the end of the convention.

This description leaves out many of the things that I had thought of, but that’s the way it goes when you have a word limit. What this really struggles with is thematic depth, since it barely acknowledges the fact that it makes everyone pirates. In fact, I really should have mentioned that the areas are “seas.” Either way, if people like this game and it wins, it could be played (in some form or another) at a real, upcoming convention. I’m not expecting anything, but I will admit that I’ve had some thoughts about graphics. I guess I’ll keep my finger’s crossed.

I really have no idea what I’ll be working on in the near future, so anything could be in the next post. Hopefully some graphics. Posts like this bum me out.

Well this is awkward…

I think the responsible thing to do at this point is to pretend that I didn’t just lapse for over a month. Instead, we are going to move on as if nothing happened. Forget this whole thing…

So the contest is over. The Estate didn’t make it into the finals, and obviously did not receive any commendations or mentions. What I will say is that having received the game in the mail and spent the better part of an hour putting the stickers on the dice, it does look pretty great. What should follow this sentence is a picture of said dice, but instead, I’m just going to reiterate my lack of camera and move on to the next thing.

PUNCH came out even better than I expected. I’ve played it repeatedly over the past month and everyone has loved it (except one person who had exceptionally bad luck and couldn’t catch a break). The only problem I ran into was that I didn’t anticipate the darkening of the images, and I have to re-color some of the artwork for clarity and appearance. Again, pictures will appear when I can borrow a camera from someone.

Here, then, is what I actually have been working on recently. While Shima was given an immediate 1.1 upgrade (mostly because of Alex), my first game, Manic Mechanics, has been awaiting the same treatment for some time now. I’ve been addressing many of the issues with the boards that players mentioned, including the clarity of where a player can move from a given spot. The above image represents my solution to this complaint, although it shows the fact that I still haven’t been able to work out how to represent the junk piles. I’ll deal with that soon.

In the immediate future, I’m looking to officially release the two most recent games. There are some graphic tweaks to be done on both of them, and a thorough spell-check of The Estate is in order. The fact that I wrote the entire story portion in a few hours led to some atrocious spelling and grammar mistakes, as well as some plain old bad writing. In fact, you can look at the one card I posted and find some. I know I did moments after posting it.

So in short, I didn’t disappear for a month, I haven’t made a series of stupid spelling mistakes, and any evidence to the contrary is slanderous propaganda.