Hardly Board: 2012 in Review
Looking back helps one look forward and prepare for exciting things. I always enjoy retrospective pieces, so here we are. 2012 was a big year for my board game hobby. I really hope 2013 is even bigger, with a second game being licensed (hopefully!) and more unforeseen excellence. This piece will be a bit of a "best of" in regards to my blog, but also my year. Enjoy and share your own highlights in the comments!
The Family Friendly Farming Game of the Apocalypse
In the summer of 2011 I designed a simple card-driven farming game called Farmageddon. After months of seeking a publisher, Phil Kilcrease of 5th Street Games offered to publish the game at the start of 2012. We held a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign that brought in over 1200 backers and raised 500% of our initial amount. This also allowed us to finance the expansion, still in development (we're hoping early 2013 for release). Farmageddon is currently with the largest distributors in North America, was translated into Italian by a fan, won a Parent's Choice Award, and has almost sold through its initial print run of 2700 copies.
We're absolutely delighted and surprised by its success and really hope and expect good things in 2013.
A Burgeoning Brohmance
Although I've been actively engaged with members of the board game Twitter space for year plus now, it wasn't until GenCon that I really cemented a few relationships that I can safely put in the friend-zone. A day rarely passes by where I'm not holding length IM conversations with Chevee Dodd about terrible things or our designs. AJ Porfirio and I similarly talk about our designs, enjoy some schadenfreude, and talk mad trash about our year long, 300+ game Ascension rivalry. And how can I forget the kind, sarcastic, and prolific designer Matt Worden?
Obviously, I enjoy the partnership with many of my peers. The Twitter space is quite vibrant and lively. It's full of good discussion, good thoughts, and good links. I think community makes us and our games better and I greatly appreciate it.
After Farmageddon I wanted to design a game with a little more meat, especially a game that could be called a war game. Eventually, Empire emerged. This is easily the most difficult thing I've designed and it was an absolute delight to balance test and refine it over the course of several intense months.
Some of the things of which I'm proud are the four factions, creating a dice-less game system that still involves some luck and variability, condensing the game down to an hour's play time, and playing a dozen games with GenCon testers without it breaking down or failing. People liked it and some even asked when they could buy it. Maybe just being nice to the designer, but I'll take it.
I learned a great deal about the game at GenCon and I managed to play it with a publisher. That was incredibly cool. Now, the game is in a "wait and see" phase as I wait to see what the publisher thinks. Obviously I hope for riches beyond my wildest dreams, but if I get a "no," and that's very likely, 2013 will be a great time to refine it further, make it amazing, and try again. I think Empire could be a great little game and I really hope to find a publishing partner who agrees.
Players Gonna Play
I played an inordinate amount of games this year. I took a survey the other day that asked how many new games I played and I got tired of counting around 40 or 50 new games. I wrote about the games that really stood out for me in 2012. My hope for next year is to find more truly engrossing experiences. This is something that's really captivating me as a designer and I want to learn from the best.
I have several Memoir '44 expansions I'd love to play in a 2 player day of gaming. I want to play through the entire Mice and Mystics story line. And I hope my friends that have prototypes finally get them ready, because I've seen some of their ideas and they are truly special. I want to play them!
I announced at the beginning of August that I intended to turn Hyperbole Games into a print game publisher. I was a little shocked that my employer's legal department gave me permission for such a thing! Alas, I haven't acted upon it yet. I filled out 90% of the paperwork to form an LLC, but haven't quite pulled the trigger. I don't like doing things just to do them and I don't want to just have an LLC to have it.
As far as I can tell, my future still lies with being published by people better than I am. For now, my plan is to observe these smart people, continue designing, and continue playing to learn. Financially I can't currently afford to publish anything (having a mortgage does that to you) and it just seems premature to call myself a publisher when I can't do anything with that name. Perhaps I can save up the riches I earn from Farmageddon?
HyperboleGames.com isn't going anywhere. And the Prototype Penpal Program is off to a strong start. I'll focus on that and see what else comes my way.
So Many Failures
The very wise Dave Chalker, designer of Get Bit!, commented on Twitter the other day about the "Rule of 10." It goes something like "For every 10 ideas you make one prototype For every 10 prototypes you get a game. For every 10 games you get published." For better or worse, that math is about right for me this year.
I designed several iterations of Poor Abby Farnsworth, a two-player deckbuilding game based on the Salem witch trials. I loved the theme, but ultimately I made a really slow, plodding version of Ascension. I took a few months off to tackle it again, but the spark never returned.
I had a neat idea for a game with transparent cards called Alchemy. Beyond the base mechanic, I couldn't figure out what to do with it. I'll try to tackle that again as I think it was a strong base idea.
A friend challenged me to make an epic space game like Eclipse in a half hour. I had a few really slick mechanics for such a thing...then hit walls.
Panda General had some solid mechanics. 1901 could have been neat. And poor Insurrection spent about a month of design and just never emerged.
The key is to accept the victories you do have. For example, Livestocked and Loaded is a solid little expansion for Farmageddon. Empire is a good, 60 minute area control war game. And the two smaller, simpler designs I'm working on now both show good potential. I'm prototyping one now and have a full set of rules. The other is being mocked up and drawn -- who knows where it will end?
I really enjoyed playing, designing, testing, and pitching games this year. I really enjoy this hobby and I look forward to what 2013 brings. Anything of note happen for you? Anything particularly special I might have missed? Share in the comments below!
Happy holidays and happy 2012.