My 2018 Design Priorities
Today is a bit of a slow day, so I'm going through my folders for active designs, in stasis designs, and old designs to have a heart to heart with my creations. Some active games are getting lopped off and killed. They aren't very good, and they'll never be very good. My in stasis designs are getting pawed, lovingly, because they are in stasis for good reasons. Sadly, I can't mess with them right now. And, in very rare cases, old designs are getting brought back up to the majors. Just maybe they'll finally get their shot.
Before this year ends, and the next one begins, I take stock of my current library of work and think long and hard about which designs I shall pursue in 2018, and why. Here is the list!
Status: Designed, rules written, prototype built, untested
Why it's cool: Inspired by Exit's decoder ring, this game uses a three wheeled rondel of sorts that you can personlize and upgrade as the game goes on. Apparently Noria from Pegasus Spiele does something similar, which tells me I'm on the right track and I need to hurry up.
Notes: I think Ringworld is one of my more novel and inspired ideas. It has this lovely toylike nature with the wheel, which is already present in the prototype. The game features a few novel ideas aside from the wheel, but it's ultimately a simple, hour-ish long euro style game. It has a playful science fiction theme and could have wonderful table presence. I was very gung-ho when I came up with it, and quickly designed its content and built a prototype. But, it's a bigger game and one I'll need my friends to strap in for, at least for the first few tests. Because of this, I've been shy about bringing it to our lunch games. But, 2018 is a new year and I shall be bullish about this. I think it's a good idea. Definitely premature, but you can read the rules here.
Design: Fleet Dice
Status: Designed, rules written, prototype built, solo tested
Why it's cool: This is a design I brought back from Old Designs. Originally, it's Sol Rising, which I covered here. The new twist on this game which has me excited is how you build your fleets. Players will be given, or will draft, a pool of custom dice. Each die represents a ship, like Battleship or Interceptor. You then roll your entire fleet! Using the faces, which provide simple stats, you arrange the dice into squadrons. With very few rules you can create a quick hit and run missile fleet, or a slow, lumbering slugger, or a balanced squadron in the middle. It's really cool and I don't know anything quite like it. Yes, I've heard of (and played) Quantum, but it involves a single ship, not fleets, and I believe this is distinct from it.
Notes: This is a two player game. Though it's quick, to test it I need to grab a friend and hide from the group. That means I exclude some people (and potentially deny them enough people for a lunch game) and take somebody else out of the group. It's a weird situation, but I'm eager to see how this one goes. I have high hopes. While not yet rules, you can read the rules-ish document here.
Status: Designed, rules written, prototype built, deep into testing
Why it's cool: Shapely is my stab at doing something differently with the deckbuilding space. It does this by starting every player with a random pool of cards and goals that will score them points. Then, it distills deckbuilding, or deck management, to a single choice each turn: buy a card (it's binary, they don't have a cost), cull a card, or discard your card so other players can't buy it. Yes, in this last instance, the cards you don't use on your turn go up for sale! This adds a slight wrinkle to how you take actions.
Notes: I've been testing Shapely quite a bit. It's been going over well with my friends and plays very quickly at around 25 minutes. It also has a light footprint, featuring under 100 cards and a small number of tokens for resources and your structures. I think the game needs more thematic development, which I think is going to be a light Civilization/expanding tribe theme (and don't worry, I mean tribe generally, I won't be appropriating things from the indigenous peoples). My friend Gibson even said it's his favorite design of mine, which is great. I've updated its presentation extensively, which I typically do for games that are going well. I covered that here. Shapely is a game I may publish myself, like Five Ravens and Solstice, or I may pursue a publisher. For the latter, I think somebody can provide a killer outside perspective to really tweak it into something special. Who knows? You can read the full rules here.
Design: Insider Trading
Status: A mockup, recently resurrected
Why it's cool: The origins of this game are simple: what if players took cards, with portions of a stock chart, and played them to affect the price of stocks? It seemed visual, intuitive, and slightly clever. Alas, I could never figure out what to do with it. Well, I like the idea. I regret failing. So, years later (3.5 years to be precise) I'm going to bring the ol' girl back out to see if the price is now right.
Notes: I was reminded of this talking to Chris Bryan and Christopher Chung about something else on Twitter. You can thank, or blame, them when this emerges. Ultimately I think this needs to be a dead simple game. Can it be a deck of cards only? I think so. I see it having a sense of push your luck, semi-cooperation, hidden objectives (aka this is the stock I value) and a little screw thy neighbor. I think it can have a hint of High Society and, well, that's good.
Design: The Kingdom
Status: Some sketches, rules and design in progress
Why it's cool: I read very few reviews, but one reviewer whose work I greatly enjoy is Space Biff. He recommend Ortus Regni, a game I've lightly mocked (and been secretly curious about) for years. I bought it, and the rules are ENTICING. The game honestly looks fantastic. One of its stranger features is that its cards feature no text, and while this will make playing a little more difficult, the cards are designed such that it may not be that bad, actually. I saw this as a challenge: can I design a game whose cards have no text, no icons, just art? While I imagine a final version will have text, I wanted to start from a place of intuitive, simple content.
So far, I think I have it. The game is about taking actions using the cards in your hand to slowly expand your holdings, which modifies your deck, and try to win militarily, culturally, or economically. The core of the game is very simple and I'm already excited as I write the rules. This is a two player game, which also excites me, and though it'll hopefully feel thinky, it should fit in a 45 minute play time. I'm eager to get it finished!
Notes: Not many, as of yet. It's still in progress! But, soon.
What are you working on in 2018?