A Story of Rage

Post by: Grant Rodiek

Happy Friday! I have about 3 really good blog posts in the works that I haven’t had time this week to finish. I’ve been very busy with work and Wozzle in my spare time. I wanted to cap off this week with a short story I thought you might enjoy.

GenCon 2012 was my first GenCon, heck, my first board game convention. It was especially memorable because it marked the release of my first published game, Farmageddon, which was on display at my publisher’s booth.

I was very busy during the convention. From 9 am to 6 pm I ran non-stop Farmageddon demos at a table in the dealer hall. I grabbed a quick bite, then from 8 pm to midnight I was testing York in the First Exposure Playtest Hall. I was very tired, but I loved the work so it was really fine. In fact, I vastly prefer a GenCon like this to one where I’m not working.

That’s the context. Fast forward to Sunday afternoon. This is family day, when all the adults bring their children. I’m exhausted at this point and have slept about 5 hours total. A dad that resembled Eugene Levy comes up with two young children, one is about a 7 year old girl, the other about a 9 year old boy. They’re young.

They wanted to play Farmageddon, which is probably a little too advanced, but both children could read and I’m not going to tell them no. I walked them through the instructions and a turn, then stepped aside to watch the main table. I had 2 tables and I felt it better to let them play as a family with me within arm’s reach to answer questions.

About 10 minutes into their game I hear a kerfuffle. The girl is sitting on one side of the long table, the boy directly across from her, and the father is sitting perpendicular at the end. The boy played the Farm Futures card, which lets him draw 2 Crop cards from the top of the deck OR examine another player’s hand and steal 1 card.

Naturally, the boy chose to steal a card from his sibling.

“NO!” she screams. “He can’t have my card.”

The dad, somewhat aloof, asks his son to see the card. He reads it, and quietly notes, “Sweety, the card lets him take one of yours. That’s just how the game is played.”

Pan the camera just to the side to see me nervously standing there running my hands through my hair. I have no clue what is going to happen. Words keep moving to the front of my mouth, but none exit. Really, my mouth is just open and I’m awkwardly leaning towards the table.

“No!” she screams again. “It’s not fair.”

“Dad, it says I get a card.”

“Sweety, he gets a card. Let him see the cards.”

While the girl is looking at her father, the boy identifies his moment and seizes it. He leans across the table and plucks a card randomly from her hand (which isn’t how it works, but at this point, I’m no stickler). The girl turns her head to look at him with absolute murder in her face. She is LIVID.

The dad still doesn’t really care. He is emotionally on a beach somewhere, drinking rum, without children.

The littler girl then does my favorite thing ever. She let out a feral growl and slammed her remaining cards on the table. Then, like an alligator leaving the river to consume a gazelle, she leaps onto the table, flat on her stomach, and begins clawing at her brother. This young, enraged she-beast began scratching, flailing, and sending cards everywhere.

The boy is caught off guard by this maneuver. The dad casually says things like “Now honey” and “Don’t do that,” but she isn’t listening. The boy grabs the cards, desperately, bending them and trying to protect his young face.

My potential customers at the other table and those standing around begin fleeing. People awkwardly stare at my tables and the scene and just keep walking by. Eventually, the dad calms her down, thanks me for the demo, and leaves.

Naturally, they didn’t buy a copy.

It was then I knew that Farmageddon was the best thing I would ever create.

Blockade’s Evolution Post GenCon

Post by: Grant Rodiek

Every time I write about Blockade is really just a verbose excuse to Google Image Search a new image of a sci fi space battle.

I took Blockade to GenCon 2013 and tested it about 5 total times, thrice with random testers, once with friends, and once with a publisher who isn’t interested in it (bad fit), but liked it and I love hearing their input. I also pulled out the pieces several times just to give people a quick taste. In short, I had a lot of eyes (and hands!) on the game, which allowed me to take in a great deal of feedback.

The purpose of this post is to cover these changes and why. If you don’t know anything about Blockade, this post may not be terribly interesting. I recommend you check out the updated rules, then come back here!

The high level takeaway is that people like it, get it, and enjoy it. The pieces are satisfying and fun, the dice rolls are great, people get to make bold moves, people sit and think about their next move, and the activation mechanic works. A great deal of my iterative focus, therefore, is on tuning, balance, and polish. My favorite! No, really!

The Cards: The wording on the cards needs work. This is true of any game with cards or really, any game with text. Humans interpret language in so many different ways and with so many games using words in different ways, it can be trouble some.

The most troublesome card was Full Broadside, which said you can attack from two different sides. My intent was that you’d use two sides to attack two enemies, but many saw it as two sides on one enemy (for a monstrous attack).

In other cases I simplified the cards. Countermeasures now just says “roll 3 yellow dice.” Not “roll the yellows for the side being attacked.”

The final big change for cards is that there are now Defensive Cards, i.e. cards you play when it’s not your turn and you’re being attacked. Previously these were just attack cards, but this led to some confusion. Now,  you have Maneuver cards, Attack cards, and Defense cards.

The Center: The center space has been confusing for some time. It’s gone through quite a few revisions. Some input I received from multiple sources was simply REMOVE it. Block it off. You cannot enter the center space. I’m going to replace it with scenario based items, like a space station you need to assault, or a planet that needs to be bombarded, or even a wormhole that lets you do weird things on the map.

More Powerful Crits: One of the core decisions you must make in the game is how to arrange your ships, and whether to do so for offensive or defensive purposes. You’re primarily balancing the number of lasers you have exposed with the number of weakspots exposed, as opponents roll bonus Critical dice when attacking weakspots. The problem is, Crit Dice had a 50% hit rate compared to the 66% hit rate of all other dice. This dip in probability made them far less useful than I’d like. Now, it’s 66% all around.

While we’re on the topic of dice, Direct Hits now cause 2 damage AND are referenced by some cards. Previously, it was just the latter.

Kamikaze: A problem revealed through the PPP testing and again at GenCon is that devastated fighter squadrons with only 1-2 fighters remaining lack usefulness. They only fire 1 yellow die per fighter alive, and capital ships require at least a green, so 2 fighters aren’t going to do much. Now, you can kamikaze when you have 3 or fewer fighters. You roll an orange critical hit die for every fighter remaining and assign damage as normal. The trade off is, you lose all of the fighters, whether they hit or not.

Tweaking Activation: I’m really proud of the activation mechanic. It’s subtle and simple and works. Problem is, I didn’t design for what happens when you lose ships and therefore have more Units than tokens. The new rule is fairly simple: You remove tokens such that on your turn you always have at least two units from which to choose. Obviously, when you have 2 units you alternate and one unit, you just use it over and over. This tested well and was easy to explain, so I’m happy and look forward to solving new problems.

Loosen Up: I had a few unnecessary rules, such as limits on the number and type of cards you could play. The thing is, people want to play cards, and they are fun, so why the heck not? Now, play whatever you have. The other issue is that people feel they get cards they can’t use and it gums up their hand. I think this is more a perception issue and a part of the game in most cases, i.e. figure out how to use what you have. But, one or two cards might have little to know use under some conditions. That’s fair. Now, you can discard any cards you don’t want to clean up your hand and draw new ones.

More Events, More Environment: People really liked the exploding debris, which is great because I love it. People want more events! People also want “terrain,” which in space means things like asteroids, suns, and so forth. I always planned to add some of these elements with scenarios and now it seems a requirement. Cool!

One of the first ones I’m adding are asteroid fields. Throughout the game they’ll shift in space. If they collide with you, damage. But, if you move into a field, it provides bonus protection when being attacked. You’ll see more as the scenarios come online.

Customizable Ships: The reality is, this game probably won’t ship with wooden blocks with holes drilled into them. It just dramatically increases the price. If I had to guess, the ships will be thematically shaped punchboard ships. Totally cool by me. A publisher with whom I’m discussing the game had an idea for customizable weapons. For example, instead of pulling ships at random and being stuck with them, what if in some situations you could outfit your ships with anti-fighter lasers deliberately, or a balanced approach?

I took this a step further to include various nodes that let you launch fighters (Carrier Bay), reduce enemy attack potency (ECM), or even have ranged weapons (Green Missiles versus Green Lasers).

The balance I hope to strike is that for most scenarios, I specify what you need. This is for the sake of balance and accessibility. But, in sandbox mode, you can tweak your squadrons and try things out.

Sandbox Mode: This is an idea I’ve revived somewhat. I thought it would be neat if there was a simple way you could play a meta-game in addition to singular brawl mode or the pre-set campaign mode.

The idea is, you add a small board with the solar system’s planets called out. There are cards for every planet that detail things, like strategic resources: ship production plant, fleet base, warp station, etc. On this meta board,  you say “I’m moving the fleet at Mars to Io.” You then build your fleets, shuffle in some events based on the site, and you fight it out.

When it’s time to pack up, you gather and separate your side’s planet cards, fleet cards, etc. This helps you remember the status and means you don’t need to write it down on paper or any of that mess.

This would add some cards and such, but I think it’d be neat, probably as an add-on, for the experience.

The next steps…

I’m happy with the current rule set with its updates and will begin testing it more thoroughly. However, I’m going to start doing it using scenarios. I’ve designed 2 or 3, but they haven’t been evaluated under this rule set. Therefore, I’ll need to tweak them and design more (of course). My hope is to take what is proving to be a nice, core system and expand it with one-off rules, exciting event cards, and difficult situations to keep players riveted throughout the experience.

I want great replayability. It’s time to get cracking on scenarios! I should note I’ll be making a nice PNP for this soon. Stay tuned to this site or my Twitter feed to learn more.


Grant’s GenCon Schedule

Post by: Grant Rodiek

In case you want to meet up next week, I thought I’d quickly outline my public schedule. In general, email and Twitter are great ways to get a hold of me. Or, look for the tall, lanky guy wearing a fedora. I’ll be the short, chubby guy next to him.

My #1 goal for GenCon 2013 is to find a publishing partner for Battle for York. If I found a home for York, then immediately following this AJ sucker punched me using his formerly professional baseball player arm, I’d still see the week as a net positive.

I will have Battle for YorkBlockade, and Farmageddon: Livestocked and Loaded with me. I’ll also have a pile of cards with which I’ll be diddling with Drafty Dungeon or Norcal when I’m bored. So, what I mean to say is, these last two won’t make any progress.

Blockade packed and ready.

Wednesday: I arrive in the evening. First step will be to dump stuff at the hotel, then get my badge from the GM will call booth.Then, I have a meeting. Once that is done, I’ll probably be hanging out with pals.


10 am -12 pm Testing Blockade at the First Exposure Playtest Hall

12 pm – 2 pm Testing Battle for York at the FEPH

2pm ish I’ll be participating in Jeff Tidball’s panel on game design


8 am – 10 am Testing Blockade at the FEPH

10 am – 12 pm Testing Battle for York at the FEPH

4 pm – 5 pm Participating in the First Time Game Deisgner’s Workshop in the Embassy Suites with Chevee Dodd, some others, and the Building the Game Podcast folks.


10 am – 12 pm Testing Blockade at the FEPH

I have a few meetings in the afternoon.


Nothing planned, unless Wednesday night doesn’t quite line up.

If you’re interested in seeing Blockade or York played as a publisher, consumer, or just want to watch me test, please feel free to swing by my FEPH sessions. I’m confident in the products and will be happy to let you watch random people play them. Last year my friends would swing by to heckle me, so don’t worry about imposing.


See you next week!

The Blockade of GenCon

Post by: Grant Rodiek

I’ve been steadily testing Blockade for months now. It’s also taken a quick loop through the PPP with a visit to Madison, WI and was PNP’d by some kind folks in Arkansas. It’s been generally well received and people get it.

I’ve had some issues with it for a while. Little things that could be better but I wasn’t quite sure how to address them. Instead of constant, head against wall, smash through the breach iteration, I sat back and just kept testing on the same build. I thought on it.

Here were the issues as I saw them:

  • Not enough breadth. Really, the only dominant tactic was to close with the enemy, grind them to bits, and hope you have more bits than they do at the end.
  • Not enough flexibility. A continuation of bullet 1, but players didn’t have enough options.
  • The initial phase of the game felt tedious. Why plan initiative when it isn’t a problem?
  • Do I need rounds at all? Can’t I just make this a turn based experience? This one was hard. One of the things I don’t like about Memoir ’44 is the habit of players to pick a unit and grind them forward until they die. Then, they select their next death squad from the back, waiting patiently. It seemed odd to me to have a single squadron doing all the work while the rest of the fleet is sitting idly.
  • Prevalent opportunities to simplify the design.

I had quite a few ideas. My favorite was to add tech modules to the ships, which conveyed new abilities. Things like a shield generator, an ECM radar, special engines, long-range missiles, and carrier bays. These all sound neat and would work with my ships’ UI, but it would require people to memorize a lot of new icons and their functionality. I just didn’t want that.

I thought on it and had a eureka moment. I mostly removed a lot of content and introduced more flexibility. If you wan to read the updated rules (and leave comments), CLICK HERE. Or, read below for the summary.

  • The game is now turn-based. On your turn, you activate a single Unit by placing one of 3 tokens on the chosen Unit. After you do things with it (next bullet), it is your opponent’s turn. You must place all 3 tokens before re-activating a Unit with a token already. Once all 3 are placed, you can remove a token from an already ordered Unit and then order someone else. This has a subtle strategy of thinking ahead to which Units you’ll want to use, and which Units you can be okay not using for a short time. It also forces you to use most of your ships.
  • As a result of the above change, there are no more rounds. No more initiative phase, no more activation phase, no more clean up phase. This just simplifies the game significantly.
  • Previously, your activation phase was very rigid. In order, you had to: Move or Rotate 1-2 times, then change formation, then attack. Now, you can do these things in any order. This means I can fly in, attack, fly away, then change my formation to improve my defensive options. Flexibility without adding more rules.
  • Ships now have variable movement options. Destroyers and Fighters can use 1-3 maneuvers (move, rotate) every turn. Battlecruisers, the lumbering beasts, can only move 1-2. This allows the smaller Units to outmaneuver and execute some fun hit and run tactics.
  • I didn’t not remove debris, which was added when ships were destroyed and exploded at the end of the round to deal damage to nearby Units. Now, there are event cards shuffled into the deck. Some of these will cause the debris to explode. Simple, fun events. Others will be introduced based on the scenario being played. I think this gives me GREAT flexibility without too much complexity.
  • Many of the cards have been simplified. I’ve outright removed the cards that caused questions or had questionable value. For example, I used to have cards that gave you an extra move or an extra rotate. Now, I just have cards that say “Gain one more maneuver.” Do either.
  • I removed the black dice, but not black damage. This means that no ships will fire black dice anymore — it was too powerful. Battlecruisers still require black damage to be destroyed. The only way you can do so now is to combine 2 green hits OR successfully hit with a critical hit die. This puts more emphasis on the weak spots being exploited, which is good as that is something that supports the most unique element of the game.

If you look at the image above, you can see the old sticker (left) versus a new sticker (right). Previously, ships could take damage from black or green dice. Now, without black dice, I could simplify the damage info in the center. Also, the back of the ship has a number of arrows to remind you of their moves. The stickers aren’t AMAZING but they’ll be effective.

In summary: Turn-based gameplay, flexibility in how you execute your options, fewer dice to simplify combat, slight differences in ships, simpler cards. MORE strategy.

Thoughts? See some of you next week at GenCon.

GenCon 2013 Prototype Preview

Post by: The Board Game Design Community

Hello! Welcome to the latest preview post, which combines the efforts of many board game designers to  share what to expect and look forward to at this year’s GenCon. Many of us will be there to test or even pitch these games in hopes of finding a publisher. If you missed my launch deadline and want to be included, simply and I’ll add you to the post.

See something you like? Tell the designer in the comments or using their contact info.

Chevee Dodd’s Intro

With Origins already behind us, I am a few prototypes lighter for GenCon. I have mixed feelings about the games being reviewed by publication. First, there are publishers reviewing my games, which is AWESOME… BUT… I actually liked playing these games and already miss them. I may make up play sets anyways just to play with friends. So, I’m now dipping back into older designs, looking for something to work on. It’s very likely I’ll have something brand-new with me, but these two prototypes will also show up:

Chevee Dodd’s Dead End

Quick Details: 2-6 players, 45 minutes, ages 10+

Description: Dead End is a fast-paced card game where the goal of the game is to out-last your neighbors during the zombie apocalypse. The players begin the game shored up in their homes as the zombies enter the neighborhood and spend their turns finding defenses and weapons to help them hold out. As you play out your turn, more and more zombies enter the neighborhood and you get to choose which opponent they attack! I’ve been working on this game for over a year now and it is just now becoming what I envisioned all along. It’s been torture at times and I’ve had to really work at this one, so I’m happy to be showing it.

Chevee Dodd’s Hexploration

Quick Details: 3-6 players, 1 hour, ages 8+

Description: Hexploration is a not-so-cleverly named game about prospecting and mining gems. As a game, it is a cross between tile-laying and area-control. I love tile laying games, but I’m not a fan of the unapologetic draws, so I added a mechanism that lets you “tune” your tile draws to your advantage. Coupled with an area-control mechanic you need to not only focus on making your areas of the map better, but you need to ensure you can protect your area from your neighboring miners. This is one of the deepest games I’ve designed and it’s been shelved for the past year or so while I let it stew in my mind. I think I’ll be forcing it on my playtesters very soon.

Jay Treat’s Intrigue

Quick Details: 3-4 players , 45 minutes, ages 15+

Elevator Pitch: A trick-taking card game of manipulation and deception.

Description: Deploy agents from different factions vying for control of the city. Success requires working with your opponents, because every player shares one faction in common with another. Can you trick enemy agents into advancing your own cause? The plot thickens when you layer in secret schemes.

Jay Treat’s Assault on Khyber Station 

Quick Details: 1-4 players, 40-60 minutes, ages 12+

Elevator Pitch: Can you escape from aliens on a crumbling space station in this tense co-op?

Description: Your sleepy outpost among the stars has just been torn apart in a surprise attack. With blast doors slamming shut all around you and ravenous aliens teeming after you, can your team coordinate their unique skills to navigate the wreckage and find the escape teleporter in time to warn Earth?

Jay Treat’s The Last Planet

Quick Details: 2-3 players, 60+ minutes, ages 12+

Elevator Pitch: A tactical tile-laying game inspired by StarCraft

Description: Three races vie for dominance on the last inhabitable planet in their war-torn galaxy. Establish your presence, claim valuable resources, and build your war machine before the others can wipe you out. The Last Planet features innovative game pieces whose size and shape directly impact how they play.

Jay Treat, Find him on Twitter @jtreat3.

Mark Major’s Jupiter Deep

Quick Details: 2-7 Players, roughly 60-90 minute playtime. Recommended ages 12+, though it should be fine for younger kids.

Elevator Pitch: Jupiter Deep is a cooperative game about shepherding hapless colonists to safety from a floating colony that is besieged by aliens and falling apart.

Description: As the elite team of robots who have been sent to rescue them, you must combine your abilities to zoom around the colony, blast through the invaders and guide the panicked colonists to the evacuation pod. Jupiter Deep features a randomized board setup and ability distribution every time you play, making no two games quite the same. Moving and defending colonists, and working together to find the best way of saving what you can and cutting your losses can be challenging, and if you fail, it has a “just one more game” effect.

Jupiter Deep won The Game Crafter’s Co-Op Challenge, and continues to be something cooperative gamers enjoy in our local Meetup board game groups and game nights.

Mark Major’s Chimera Station

Quick Details: 2-4 Players (with a possible expansion for 5-6), about 2 hours playtime. Recommended ages 12+.

Elevator Pitch: In Chimera Station, players compete for prestige not just through savvy worker placement, but by splicing components onto their workers that convey special effects and abilities.

Description: Welcome to Chimera Station, a busy hub of intergalactic trade, technology, and commerce. Gather food and money to sustain your race, splice weird alien appendages onto your workers to give them unique powers, and build onto the station to open up new actions.  When the time is right, take control of the command hub to earn victory points! Chimera Station is a genre we’re calling “worker-builder”, where not only do you have a standard worker placement mechanic, but you can add claws, tentacles, brains, and plant parts to displace other workers, grab extra resources, create a self-sustaining workforce, and grab extra points and turns.  As new modules are built, new options open up for gathering resources, using your genetic components, and scoring. Because of this, the game changes quickly based on what your worker’s strengths are.

Mark Major

Ed Marriott’s Scoville

Quick Details: Ages: 10+, 2-6 Players, 40-120 Minutes

Elevator Pitch: Scoville is a pepper cross-breeding game where players compete to produce the hottest peppers.

Description: The town of Scoville has hired you to meet their need for heat! Your role as an employee of Scoville is to cross-breed peppers to create the hottest new breeds. You’ll have to manage the auctioning, planting, and harvesting of peppers, and then you’ll be able to help the town by fulfilling their orders and creating new pepper breeds. Help make the town of Scoville a booming success!

Ed Marriott’s Trading Post

Quick Details: Ages: 10+, 2-6 Players, 40-120 Minutes

Elevator Pitch: A western Trading Post is struggling to grow and they want you to help them meet their needs.

Description: In Trading Post you are working to develop the trading post by building new buildings, exploring the territory, and of course making trades! But you’ll have to make the trades that will work out the best for you and the worst for your opponents. Players compete to maximize their value to the trading post. The player who contributes the most will be the winner!

Ed Marriott, find him on Twitter @EdPMarriott

Payton Lee’s Escape from Monster Mansion

Quick Details:  3-8 players, ~45 minutes, all ages

Elevator Pitch: Fight all manner of monsters in a survival game of strategy, team-work, and diplomacy.

Description: You’re a member of the renowned Monster Movie Film crew. The tables have turned as you find yourself trapped in a Mansion full of REAL Monsters! Explore and fight your way out of the dynamic dungeon that changes with every play. Guard against treachery as each player has a secret agenda that only they know about. Let the games begin…

Payton Lee

Eric Leath’s Gyre

Quick Details: 2-3 Players, ~30min playtime, Ages 13+

Elevator pitch: Gyre is Connect-4 all grown up. Twist, Push, Lock, and Blow up your opponent’s pieces, and perhaps even your own to achieve victory.

Detailed pitch: Gyre is an abstract strategy game using circular cards and a polarity mechanism to drive game play. Through the use of opposite (+/-) or like (-/-, +/+ poles, players can cause the board state to drastically change in their quest to line up 4 icons before their opponent(s) can do the same. Special power cards like Locks, Nukes and more can make things even more interesting if used cleverly.

Eric Leath

Van Ryder Games’ Tessen

Quick Details: 2 players, About 15 minutes

Description: Tessen is a real-time card game designed by Cardboard Edison and soon to be published by Van Ryder Games. The game pits two players against each other in feudal Japan. Tiring of constant warring between the clans, the Shogun has challenged the warriors to put down their swords and take up their Tessen–their iron fans–to gather eight mystical creatures.

Players will attempt to gather sets of animal cards while attacking and defending with warrior cards. To win, players will have to move fast and think even faster! Van Ryder Games will be running tournaments of Tessen every day at Gen Con. No previous experience with Tessen is required to participate.

AJ Porfirio/Van Ryder Games’ Hostage Negotiator

Hostage Negotiator art continues to come in and the game is getting very close to ready. In Hostage Negotiator you will clash minds with some unscrupulous character who has taken hostages to fulfill some want or need. Manage the threat and save the hostages in this exciting solitaire game!

Cardboard Edison’s Skewphemisms

Quick Details: 4+ players, 30-45 minutes

Description: Skewphemisms is a word party game based on the wondrous wordplay of alliteration.

Players will attempt to guess the everyday expressions that are suggested by a series of alliterative clues. The fewer clues you need, the more points you get. The game requires players to both work independently AND on teams. Teams will score higher if they work together, but they must watch out for the “point pilferer” who can jump in and steal the team’s points with a well-timed answer!

Sizzlemoth’s Double Up

Quick Details: – 2 to 6 players. 20-30 minutes, ages 10+

Elevator Pitch: Double Up is a family/party dice and card game where you pick the challenge! Use your action cards to complete that challenge with ease and collect the points when your opponents fail.

Description: The starting player attempts to match a pattern on a card using a specified number of dice and a hand of roll modifying cards. The player has a fixed number of attempts and dice, as indicated on the card, to successfully complete the challenge. If successful, the rest of the players must attempt the same challenge card and beat it in as many or fewer attempts than the original player.

Sizzlemoth’s Robot Builder (working title)

Quick Details:  2 players, 5-10 minutes, Ages 10+

Elevator Pitch:  One of the two rival robotic engineers who have been pitted against each other to prove who is the ultimate robot designer. Quickly assemble your robot and pit him in a battle against your rival!

Description:  We are currently just coming out of the early concept stage of this game, the mechanics and overall play of the game is sure to change before GenCon. The general idea is to have players build their own robots and then battle them, using action cards and power sources to maximize the effectiveness of their robots.

Sizzlemoth’s Shipwrecked! (Working title)

Quick Details:  2-4 players, 30~ minutes, Ages – ??

Elevator Pitch:  After losing a devastating sea battle – the ship, only a few of the crew, and all the rum have washed up on a deserted island. You and your shipmates must work together to find a way off the island or throw one helluva pirate party. Don’t waste too much time though, the heat of the island is unrelenting and who knows what lurks in the jungle.

Description:  Another project that is just coming out of early concept stages. Shipwrecked has cooperative gameplay where players win together or lose together. You play as unique pirates, each having their own traits that help them on the island. Players will have to explore their options early in the game to try and figure out what the best way of getting off the island will be. Wait for a passing ship? Build your own ship? Or maybe they’ve given up hope and have just decided to throw one last pirate party! Collecting resources and completing challenges will bring players closer to completing whichever goal they decide to tackle.

Sizzle Moth or find him on Twitter @sizzlemoth

Cole Medeiros’ Star Captains (working title)

Quick Details: 2-4 Players, 45 – 60 minutes, ages 12+.

Elevator Pitch: A space adventure board game where players captain a star freighter, modifying its hardware, filling its cargo holds and commanding crew to explore the galaxy seeking adventure, fame and fortune.

Description: Star Captains is a space adventure board game. Players have one ship throughout the game, and seek to modify it and hire a unique crew to best achieve victory. While focused on theme and story, it features stunning artwork, easy to learn mechanics that play quickly, and promotes player interaction and strategy. The game is in prototype phase, and we are working to put a lot of polish into the final version to create a truly cinematic experience alongside some slick mechanics.

Cole Medeiros or find him on Twitter @TheGubsGuy

Rob Couch’s Frankenstein’s Legacy

Quick Details: 2-4 players, 45 – 60 minutes, Ages 13+

Elevator Pitch: Frankenstein’s Legacy is a deckbuilding game about assembling your own horrible Monster.

Description: It is the year 1975.  You are part of a team of scientists who has just stumbled upon the lost journals of Dr. Victor Frankenstein.  Now, using modern technology, you have decided to recreate and improve upon the revelatory breakthroughs of the legendary Doctor.  But your colleagues have the same goal.  You must decide whether to play it clean, or fight dirty to become the first to create your own grotesque monster, and shake the very foundations of the natural world as we know it.  Players in Frankenstein’s Legacy are competing to be the first to assemble a complete monster from four body parts, then shock life into the creature.  But before you can build that body, you must successfully test each part on your Workbench.  Every time you test, you burn a gold fuse.  So be careful.  If you burn up all your fuses, you won’t be able to pay Igor to go scrounge more body parts.

Rob Couch’s Rocket Wreckers

Quick Details: 2 players, 10 – 20 minutes, Ages 10+

Elevator Pitch: Rocket Wreckers is a fast paced, asymmetrical hand management card game about two fearless heroes having a fistfight while riding a 200 foot tall rocket speeding through the sky.

Description: A decades long war between the Verum Alliance and the people of the Steel Fist is about to reach its climax.  The Verum Alliance has launched their Great Weapon: A massive rocket, speeding toward the capitol city of the Steel Fist, flown by a brave pilot.  But a saboteur from the Steel Fist has hitched a ride and will be doing whatever it takes to make that flying bomb fall from the sky.  Rocket Wreckers is a game about making difficult choices.  Each card has two abilities, one of which must be combined with an ability from another card when played.  Every time you play a “linked” pair, another potential combination is lost.  In addition, each player has unique and different goals:  One is trying to go the distance to reach the target, the other is trying to make the rocket crash.

Robert Couch or find him on Twitter @poorly_designed.

Brian Henk and Clayton Skancke’s Body Builders

Quick Details:  3-8 players, 15-25 minutes, Ages 8+

Elevator Pitch:  Don’t bother looking for your soul mate…  build them instead!  Lock your dice, roll for your scavengers, and go steal some body parts to build the mate you’ve always wanted!

Description: Take on the role of a mad scientist who is attempting to build themselves a mate.  Unleash your 3 scavengers to invade your opponents trying to steal arms, legs, torsos, and heads from them to help you build your one true love.  Players will not be bored in this one as each turn every player gets to lock one die on a value and then roll the other two dice to improve their scavengers in hopes of defending against invasions or maybe invading someone else.  Not only will your dice roles improve your scavengers, but you can also roll for goals to try to win some body parts outside of invasions.  Drawing from the invasion deck will add a little drama to each invasion so don’t get too cocky before the battle.  This game plays in 15-25 minutes and requires a fairly equal amount of strategy and luck.  Which mate will you build?

Brian Henks or find him on Twitter @ForbiddenLimb

Jason Slingerland’s Sandbox Showdown

Quick Details: 2 Players, 12 and up, 30-45 Minutes

Elevator Pitch: It’s time for a showdown in the sandbox. Gather your toys and get ready for a battle. In this board game players each control a different faction of toys trying take control of a sandbox.  Each toy has access to use a unique power to help the player control the board.

Description: It’s time for a showdown in the sandbox. Gather your toys and get ready for a battle.  In this board game players each try to take control of the largest area of the board (A giant sandbox) by using a playset of 10 toys (A deck of tiles).  Each toy when placed on the board has access to a unique power that allows you to control the sandbox in different ways.  Each turn players earn Marbles, which help them pay the cost of placing the toys and using their powers.  The gameplay is fun and fast to learn but also allows for a high level of strategy as players progress through the game.  The prototype consists of 4 playsets: Space Toys, Farm Toys, Fairy Tale Toys and a Construction playset.

Matt Loomis’ Strength & Honor

Quick Details: 2+ players, 30-60 minutes, ages 12+

Elevator Pitch: Strength and Honor is a deckbuilding game for 2 or more players where players create armies and unlock powerful abilities while battling for glory!

Description: Each player has their own supply of cards to purchase from broken into different sets.  With each purchase, a player will unlock another card in the series.  By playing combinations of different units into their army, they unlock abilities that are always available.  At the end of each round the armies will battle one another with the winner earning glory and the losers mourn their dead.  The player with the most glory at the end of the game wins!

Matt Loomis’ Rite of Passage

Quick Details: 3-6 players, plays in about 30-60 minutes, for ages 12+

Elevator Pitch: Rite of Passage is a set collection game of bluffing and deduction for 3 to 6 players where players attempt to develop the best traits which best meet the needs of their tribe.

Description: Each player will begin the game with a piece of knowledge about the type of warrior the tribe needs.  Each round, players will select two traits which allows them to perform various actions, then they will secretly choose one to keep while discarding the other.  As the game develops the true value of the traits will be revealed, and the player with the highest value of traits at the end of the game is the winner!

Matt Loomis’ Cosmic Kaboom

Quick Details:  2 – 4 players, plays in 15-30 minutes, for ages 8+

Elevator Pitch: Cosmic Kaboom is a dexterity flicking game for 2 to 4 players where players fly around space to collect energy cubes that will power up giant space bombs to eradicate the planets of their enemies.

Description: Each player will flick their spaceship around a modular board that is created by 4 cards and 12 planet tiles.  After collecting enough energy cubes, players will toss a space bomb tile onto the board in an attempt to blow up their enemies planets and be the last race left standing!

Matt Loomis, or find him on Twitter @mrtopdeck

David Chott’s Lagoon

Quick Details: 2-4 players (higher player numbers will soon be tested for viability), plays in about 45-60 minutes

Elevator Pitch: Each player leads an order of druids competing to control potent mystical sites in the world of Lagoon. These enchanted lands each confer a unique power to the druids occupying them, providing players an ever-changing field of abilities that can be combined in surprising ways. Deploy your team of druids across Lagoon in search of the sites that best serve your agenda, harness their power, consecrate them as your own, and carefully make allegiance with immortal forces beyond all of you.

Description: Each player controls up to five druids, using them to explore a hex-based world where each hex site confers a different ability. The game begins with just one site, but quickly expands as players explore new sites from a bag of hex tiles. The color of each site indicates which of three immortal forces that site is tied to, and players must leverage one color to subdue and score sites of another color. Over the course of the game, druids will gain and lose powers, sites may move, sites will be scored and leave play, druids will be exiled and summoned forth again, and so on. Eventually the last site will be explored, and one of the three immortal forces will predominate in the world of Lagoon. The dominant force will then grant favor to the order of druids that subdued the most sites of the other two colors, making the player controlling those druids the winner.

Find David Chott on Twitter @dchott

John du Bois’ Bread and Circuses

Note: John bringing both games to GenCon for testing purposes only.

Quick Details: 4-10 players, 20-30 minutes

Elevator Pitch: Players act as Roman nobles trying to manipulate events and their fellow nobles to achieve their secret objectives and make the greatest profit from a revolting peasant population.

Description: Each round, players discuss among themselves who will provide the peasant population with Bread or Circuses to keep the peasants placated. Affecting each player’s decision is the Event card drawn at the start of the round, preventing a peasants’ riot, the monetary benefit of playing a scarcer resource, and each player’s secret Motivation. After negotiating, each player declares whether they are playing a Bread or Circus, and chooses secretly whether they will provide Bread, provide Circus, or Abstain entirely. Players receive money for honestly declaring what good they will receive and which good they played (or abstained from playing). Players who played Bread get paid per Circus played by the group, players who played Circus get paid per Bread played by the group, and players who played Abstain reap the rewards of both Bread and Circuses – unless the peasants don’t get at least one Bread and at least one Circus, in which case the peasants riot and the abstaining nobles are robbed. The player who is able to leverage his allies and resources to reach a certain amount of Gold first wins.

John du Bois’ Civilization Dice

Quick Details: 2-4 players, 20-30 minutes

Elevator Pitch: A dice-building civilization-building game in which players add buildings to a shared civilization hoping to build the most monuments and most diverse set of buildings.

Description: Play starts with three dice, each of which contain an equal number of basic resources (farms, lakes, and forests). Each turn, a player rolls the dice, uses the actions from his or her constructed buildings to improve his or her available resources, and builds one available building from one of six building groups (military, civics, commerce, industry, recreation, monuments), adding that building group to the dice as a shared resource and claiming the building’s action for their exclusive use. Players earn Victory Points by building individual Luxury Buildings and Monuments, building sets of Basic and/or Luxury Building groups, and by taking actions from certain buildings. The player with the most Victory Points when resources or building space becomes scarce wins.

John du Bois and find him on Twitter @JohnDuBois

Michael Iachini’s Alchemy Bazaar

Quick Details: 2-5 players, 90 minutes, ages 13 and up

Elevator pitch: In this “worker movement” game, rival alchemists send their apprentices around an Alchemy Bazaar to gather ingredients and complete formulas in a race to gain the most wisdom.

Description: Each player is an alchemist with one or two apprentices to send around the Bazaar to gather ingredients, formulas and actions, all in an effort to end the game with the most wisdom. The board is made up of tiles, which represent shops in the Bazaar. A few tiles are added each round. The core mechanic of the game is “worker movement.” Players can have their apprentices move to various shops in the Bazaar, gathering resources, and may then pay an increasing cost to have the apprentices continue moving to other adjacent shops. Any shop where an apprentice has ended its turn is unavailable for other apprentices to use, but those apprentices may leave that occupied shop for free to move elsewhere.

Michael Iachini

Jeremy Commandeur’s Cold War Agents

Quick Details: 3 to 8 players, 30-60 minutes, ages 12 and up.

Details: A game of mystery and espionage.  Set during the 1980s at the technological height of the Cold War.  Everyone is not who they appear to be. Who is friend and who is foe?  Identify your team and expose your rivals first to win.

Jeremy Commandeur’s Pass the Paint

Quick Details:  1 to 8 players, 20-30 minutes, ages 12 and up.

Details: Draft paint colors and use them to make more valuable colors. Complete paintings for extra points.  Collect the most valuable set of paints to win.

Jeremy Commandeur’s Escalation Alpha

Quick Details: 2 to 10 players, 20-30 minutes, 8 and up.

Details: Quickly bid and try to hit the target.  If your bid wins, you get a power up. Play smart as the target jumps every round and your resources are rapidly running out.

Jeremy Commandeur’s Pyramid of Pleonexia

Quick Details: 2-6 players, 30-45 minutes, 8 and up.

Details: Treasure hunting, exploring, and a race against the clock. Explore the Pyramid, overcome obstacles, collect as much treasure as you can and then escape before time runs out.

Jeremy Commandeur’s Blockade Runner

Quick Details: 2 to 6 players, 20-30 minutes, ages 8 and up.

Details: Be the first to move your three ships through the asteroid belt to win.  Collect power ups and drop traps for your opponents. Clever bluffing and planning ahead will be rewarded.

Find Jeremy on Twitter @JeremyNorCal

Grant Rodiek’s Battle for York

Quick Details: 2-4 players, 60 minutes or less, ages 12+

Elevator Pitch: Take control of one of four asymmetric factions in this quick playing, card-driven area control war game that features no dice.

Description: I wanted to create a war game that played quickly, was relatively easy to learn, and featured no dice. The result is York, a game of careful hand management, special abilities, and area control that, without dice, is governed more by player decisions than luck. The game also features 5 unique factions, one for learning the game, then 4 advanced, asymmetrical factions.

Grant Rodiek’s Blockade

Quick Details: 2 players (or 2 teams of 4), 45 minutes or less, ages 10+

Elevator Pitch: Arrange your space fleets in the best formations to outlast and batter your opponents in this light, tactical, spatially-driven game. 

Description: Blockade’s primary components are rectangular wooden blocks. There are 3 blocks to a squadron, each with different weapons and weak spots, which means you need to physically re-arrange the blocks to best defeat your opponent and survive the battle. Games are scenario driven with fast, simultaneous turn planning, a simple dice mechanic to resolve combat, and Action cards to allow for decisive, exciting moments!

Jonathan Wolf’s Space Camel ’72

Quick Details: 2-5 players, ~30min per player, ages 12+

Elevator Pitch: Build a crew and run exciting and dangerous heists on the moons of Jupiter to build your rep and make it rich!

Description: Players are independent ship captains sailing around the moons of Jupiter in CM-31 “Space Camel” class Transport ships, attempting to make a name for themselves or just get rich.  Players recruit a crew, and then buy and sell goods in various markets to make money, or take on dangerous heists to earn reputation or make it rich quick.  Players will have to be on their toes, as taking on heists will injure their crew, damage their ship, and get them Flags (essentially how Wanted by the law you are), and Alliance cruisers are patrolling Jovian space looking for criminals to bring to justice.  Score points by earning Rep by completing jobs, and Good Days by making moral choices or running heists right under the Alliance’s nose.  But if you have no Rep and you have no Good Days, you can still win if you make it rich.  The board is a hex grid representing the Jovian system, populated with Alliance Cruisers, job Handlers, extra missions, and player ships, while Heists feature a push-your-luck dice rolling mechanism with dynamic obstacles that make each heist a unique set of challenges to overcome.

Epic Slant Press’ Havok & Hijinks

Quick Details: 2-4 players, 15-25 minutes, ages 13+

Description: You’re a young, underachieving dragon that never really paid much attention to your parents or the elders. That is unfortunate because you’ve just found yourself kicked out of the nest! It seems that your folks are tired of you eyeing their hoard and want you to build your own. You’re not alone either: the parents of your friends had the same idea. Now you’re out in the world of Vallhyn and you have to compete with other young dragons to build the first respectable treasure hoard.

What is your favorite game on the list? What are you most excited to play? Share it with us in comments below!

Posted in Blog | Tagged 2013, , cool dudes, cool dudettes, cool ladies, design community, , preview, promotion, publishers | 9 Replies

The GenCon 2013 Prototype Preview How To

Post by: Grant Rodiek

In case you don’t follow me on Twitter, or you do and you’d like more information, here it is!  Much like the Preview Post we created at the start of the year, I’d like to work with the design community to create a GenCon 2013 Prototype Preview post. This will hopefully include dozens of designers and their games. The idea is that the post will show off all the cool games coming to GenCon to give the community an idea of what to experience. And perhaps, just maybe, a publisher might see something he/she wants to demo?

If you’d like your game(s) included in this post, with the following information:

  • Name of your game
  • An image of your game setup or being played
  • Basic information (player #s, length of play, age)
  • The elevator pitch: a quick line covering your game at a high level
  • The detailed pitch: a few sentences or bullets explaining the game in greater detail
  • Your contact information IF you want. I can embed it into the post so hopefully it prevents you from getting spammed?

I’ll be gathering emails this week. I’d like this to go live in June 24th, so that should be plenty of time to get your information to me.

Let’s do this!

Posted in Blog | Tagged 2013, designers, , how to, , preview, publishers | 2 Replies

A Makeover for Empire Reborn

Post by: Grant Rodiek

I was smugly satisfied with the quality of the prototype I brought to GenCon (shown above). Perhaps it was the actual design, but for some reason I looked upon the hideous prototype much like a 4 year old proudly gazes upon his heap of mud. The praise was undeserved, even if it emanated exclusively from my mind.

As noted in this post, one of the biggest pieces of feedback I received with the prototype was that it was poorly presented. Information was not easily obtained nor retained. Things were not presented in a way that reinforced the actual gameplay. It was merely a smattering of information and the player had to both find what he needed to find, then re-learn how and when to use it.

The two biggest changes were made to the game board and the player Reference boards. Let’s take a look!

Game Board Updates

This new board features:

  • A score tracker for players to easily reference and track their scores.
  • A place to set the Strategic Victory cards (previously they were off the board).
  • A larger board to accommodate 4 players and many pieces.
  • A more balanced map: more territories more evenly distributed, equal distribution of valuable territories for all players, and modified placement to eliminate edge rules.
  • The Score indicators on the round markers now tell you WHEN a scoring phase occurs, but also WHAT is scored (using icons).
  • An actual map with some decent art! A friend, Chevee Dodd, quickly whipped this up for me. You can quickly see the difference between cities, HQ, normal territories, and Seaports. Plus, you can do so when setting up.

Here is the map from the rules with the call outs for all the components (click on image for a larger version).

Player Reference Board Updates

These saw about 4 or 5 significant revisions. Before I go too deeply, here is a quick snap of the boards I tested at GenCon:

Here is a new card with the explanations on it (this is from the rules):

  • Instead of merely listing the round phases, I now present them from left to right in Black boxes with numbers. These are at the same level. The intent is that everything you can do in THAT phase is listed accordingly.
  • There is space (at the top) to store all of your tokens and markers. This is for easy upkeep, but also, I can glance at your board to see what you have.
  • Tactics, previously very confusing, are shown as you can use them. Defensive Tactics pointed to. Then offensive Tactics.
  • Lots of color coding. I will reinforce things subtly and then with a sledgehammer.
  • Little rule and scoring reminders sprinkled throughout.

Card Improvements

Cards were given some tweaks as well. I’ve upped the sizing from mini-cards to standard poker cards. I also created a very simple box in the top left of the card to hold the functional information. I was inspired by Morels here.

The other big change is that two of the cards no longer have their functionality listed on the Reference boards. This was stupid of me and the information is now on the cards. Here are two cards so you can see the difference. The top is a simple one used for Tactics or Reinforcement. The bottom is one from the same faction for the Field Marshal card. For now, I’m using the same art for each card, with every faction having different art.


Overall, the protoype will look and feel much better. Presentation and satisfying tactile elements are so fundamental for a good board game experience. The new prototype now features:

  • Full poker cards for the player decks.
  • Mini-cards for the Strategic Victory cards.
  • Quad fold board. This will be far higher quality than the mat used previously.
  • 10mm cubes (up from 8mm cubes).
  • More tokens for Control and white disks for the Battle flags.

And for my own personal prototype, I obtained these…

If this prototype tests well, I hope a few things will happen immediately. One, I hope to send one to the publisher. Two, I intend to post a Print-And-Play version for enthusiastic people to download and try. Finally, if there’s interest, I’ll allow folks to buy this beta version IF they want, with the understanding it’s still in development.


GenCon Diaries: Testing Empire

Post by: Grant Rodiek

Some of the photos for this post were borrowed from Jason Tagmire’s post on GenCon here. Secondly, I want to thank the many people who helped me test Empire Reborn. If you’re reading this and your name isn’t in the playtester section, hit me up in the comments.

Aside from promoting Farmageddon, my number one task for GenCon was to test a quality build of Empire Reborn. I assumed (correctly) that GenCon would provide me access to dozens of testers. This is far above and beyond my typical week. For the past several months, I’ve been pushing Empire as much as possible to really take advantage of the show’s audience and hopefully show it to a publisher.

Before I get too far down, you should be aware of the First Exposure Playtest Hall at GenCon. I paid $150, and in exchange they promoted and recruited dozens of excellent testers for my game. Every night, for four hours, I ran 4 tests of Empire Reborn. At a cost of $12.50 per play test, I think that’s money well spent. If you have a game you wish to test seriously, I highly recommend you take advantage of their program. Also, don’t forget UnPub.

The purpose of this post is to outline the significant revisions I’ve made to Empire Reborn and my purpose for doing so. Really, everything falls under one of three primary things:

  • The change is implemented to improve the pacing of the game.
  • The change is implemented to eliminate a question.
  • The change is implemented to improve the presentation of information for players.

These changes were fairly clear from observation (especially the second one), but I was fortunate to have a publisher and several of his designers sit in and play the game once. Their mixture of precise and philosophical feedback really pushed me in the right direction to update the game quickly and decisively.

Before I get into what I fixed, I should note the core mechanic of the game of playing cards for Reinforcements or activating battlefield tactics worked and was well received. Someone asked how to buy it in every play test. More surprisingly, the results were fairly balanced. Not surprisingly, the more straightforward Imperial and Brigade factions won the most (tied), with the Militia and Yorkans winning slightly fewer. Finally, nobody was able to “break” the game, which was a relief.

Improving the Pace

Empire is intended to be a relatively short, 60 minute game for up to four players. Currently, it’s 75 minutes to 90 minutes and far more if the players are prone to analysis paralysis (AP). In addition, there’s too much space between player turns. Players play actions, conduct battles, and more. By the time the fourth player’s turn rolls around, folks may be lost on their cell phones.

One thing that’s very much within my control is shortening the length of the game from 7 to 6 rounds (potentially even 5). I also jump-started the game by giving players 3 Units on the board at the start of the game. One of the three scoring rounds was removed.

The game, as it was presented at GenCon, was very conducive for AP players. There was too much information available on the board and the information was presented such that players would often check, double check, then triple check their options. One test of four AP players lasted for an astonishing two and a half hours! I’m removing some of the information.

  • Only one turn order marker will be drawn from the bag at a time. This means a player will have limited information as to who will follow him and what they will do.
  • With only 2 scoring rounds, players have fewer turns to over-optimize to squeeze out one or two additional points.
  • Battles resolve in a new phase following turns. This means players take fewer actions during their turns and remain engaged to participate in the battles.

This may lead to some significant balance problems with the game. It may also completely shake the game I’ve built so far. However, I’m confident the next test will be mostly positive and the information gained from IT will lead to something special.

Eliminating the Questions

In order to appeal to new players and not exhaust existing players with questionable mechanics, I took notes on every recurring question in order to just cut them out. Put another way, I began to streamline things.

Instead of making it such that you can only use seaports to travel to territories adjacent to the ocean except headquarters, I just made all of the headquarters landlocked. Rule removed.

You can no longer place a control token in a territory with a headquarters. It does nothing to have two, except confuse players.

The Fighting Withdrawal tactic used to remove 1 Unit from each Army. However, if the Brigade has only 1 Unit, it begs the question of “Do they still get a trophy then if I lose?” Now, the Brigade doesn’t lose a Unit, they inflict 1 casualty and retreat.

The notion of Actions versus Reinforcement versus Support Tactics baffled players for the first round. And for good reason — it was clunky. Here is the new player turn order:

  1. Reinforce
  2. First Action
  3. Second Action
  4. Reinforce (only if not done in step 1)

You still only reinforce once and it’s clearly presented so that you do it at the beginning or end of your turn. As for Support Tactics, they are now called Staff Orders and they are one of the four Actions available to a player. They were always more or less very effective Actions, so they are just that now. The world is better for it (I hope).

Instead of putting the text for the Field Marshal and Imperial Guard cards on the Reference boards, they will now just be on the cards. I had a strange obsession with removing all text from the cards, but the trade off was not valuable.

Previously, territory could be controlled in one of three ways: have control of the fortress, have a control token, or have the most units. This last one was very rare and was unclear. Now, it will only be the first two. This also means I can setup the player reference board so that instead of counting your control tokens, you’ll just see the space you have that indicates how many are off and you can then do simple math.

March and Sail were two very similar Actions. I’ve merged them back into one; mobilize. I’ve also reduced the number of Strategic Victory (formerly Bonus Objective) cards (from 4 to 3) to reduce the amount of information players need to process.

The rules are also greatly clarified based on slight details and questions that can only be obtained from thorough testing.

Final side note. The other night while browsing the About page for Academy Games, I saw this helpful information, which they call the Warcholak guide, by Nicholas Warcholak.

1. Is the rule necessary to simulate the TYPICAL (over 10% of the time) conditions and outcomes on the battlefield? If YES, keep. If NO, go to 2.
2. Does the rule require significant mental resources to remember to play? (Significant is defined as needing to remember more than 2 facts.) If YES, dump. If NO, go to 3.
3. Does the rule add to the fun of the game? Does it produce outcomes that add significant replayability, oh-no moments, gotcha moments, or simulation pay-off outside the general flow of the game? If YES, keep. If NO, dump. 

Improving the Presentation

The biggest problem here is that my current reference boards are, put simply, heinous. They are a sloppy assortment of data that is barely functional and does not make it easy to obtain or retain data pertinent to the game.

The board is not much better. My little “score box” is supposed to show you what earns you points, but the iconography is illegible and it is sorted in a way that confuses more than aids.

I’ll start with the cards. The layout here won’t change much, but I took inspiration from Morels. Here are the cards prior to the tests:

Notice how the number and symbol are smashed in the top left? Now, notice how Morels does it:

Symbol followed by number. Much easier to read. And to restate, special cards will have explanatory text at the bottom.

The board will now contain far more essential details and spaces to contain information. The score tracker will have a symbol to denote when scoring takes place as well as icons that display WHAT to score at that time. There will be 3 spaces for the Strategic Victory cards that will lead nicely to the end game scoring.

The board will have a score track, which I think is better and more easily viewed than private coins. There is no need for the information to be private in this game. The board will be slightly larger, which will allow for more room of the pieces.

The Reference boards will receive the majority of the graphical design overhaul. I will probably do an entire post JUST on them after I make them, but here is the gist of what I intend.

  • The top will display the icon, color, and a short description of the faction and how to play them.
  • There will be spaces for players to place Units, Control Tokens, and Trophies. This expedites setup AND makes it easier for a player to glance across the table to see the status of an opponent.
  • Tactics and Staff Orders will be arranged and color coded based on when they can play. The board will tell a story from right to left so that the player sees what he can do now, then what he can do next.
  • In particular, the battle order will break out and better present the Offensive and Defensive Tactics so you know only the information relevant to you.
  • All of the Actions will be listed on the board.

Other Changes

The board will be increasing just slightly to allow for a little more maneuvering and strategic setup. The number of player Units will also increase from 12 to 15 as a result.

Several of the Tactics have been modified to account for the new phase system.

Players each have 6 Control tokens instead of 3. I began testing with this halfway through the GenCon sessions and it was a significant improvement.

The Field Marshal now lets you draw +3 cards, so in effect, +2 for the turn. I want playing the Field Marshal to be a significant, not obvious decision, because the turn you use him should be decisive. After all, it will allow you to more likely play a second (or third!) Tactic or Staff Order.

There will now be numbered Battle Flag tokens to mark the order of battle resolution.

There are now 8 Strategic Victory cards instead of 4. There will be 3 each game, so this should add some variety to the game. Controlling an enemy HQ is now a Strategic Victory. This should greatly clean up the scoring and this rule.

Coal territories have been renamed to Cities.

If you’d like to read the updated rules, you can find them here. Please note they might change. In fact, count on it. You can always find the most current rules linked at the bottom of the Empire Reborn game page.

Thoughts? Concerns? Feedback? Anything jump out as “wow cool!” or “please no!”

GenCon Diaries: The Games

GenCon was full of many most excellent games. Due to the fact I had an exhibitor’s badge, I was able to snag a few of the games that sold out very quickly (Seasons, Battle Beyond Space, Cities). And, due to the fact I hang out with a solid core of designers, I also played many prototypes in development.

Let’s go down the list, shall we?

If I’m Going Down 

If I’m Going Down is a solo/co-op zombie game designed by AJ Porfirio of Van Ryder Games. I consider AJ a friend and I was glad to play the final version of this game with him.

AJ sent me an early prototype of IIGD almost a year ago and it has come a LONG way since then. He’s added counters, more art, streamlined the zombies, incorporated some cool features (new heroes, pop up zombies, flame thrower), and it’s generally a completely different game.

IIGD is somewhat of a tower defense. You’re a survivor (not for long) and you’re trying to kill as many zombies before the end comes. The game is a solid mix of choices and luck and it plays relatively quickly. Best of all, it tells a story. AJ and I had a HORRIBLE game in which we killed only 2 zombies (after modifiers were factored into the score) and we laughed about it for days.

You can pre-order the game from Game Salute.


This is an abstract prototype in development by another friend, Eric Leath. I’m typically not a fan of abstracts, but this one intrigued me. In fact, Eric returned home to find two long emails from me about the game. It’s still on my mind.

In Gyre, each player controls a unique deck of 54 cards. These cards have gears on them with colors and symbols on some of the nodes. The goal is to have a set number of your color facing the same direction.

However, players can remove gears, shift them through chain reactions, lock them in place, and manipulate the discard pile. I see a lot of potential for this and I’m looking forward to his progress.


Seasons attracted me with its beautiful production values and short play time. After two plays, I’m very glad that it’s also a very fun game. We’ll see how it goes as I play more, but for now it’s delightful.

The beginning of the game is crucial. Players draft 9 cards which they will obtain throughout the game. Cards are summoned and provide powerful one-time, perpetual, or activated abilities. Then, players roll and draft dice for resources and other benefits. By the end of the game, every player has a set of cards in front of him and each is trying to score the most points.

I’m very curious to see how this game progresses as I move from novice to mastery. For now, it is $50 well spent.

Dungeon Heroes

Dungeon Heroes was a neat game designed by Michael Coe (Rise!). It struck me as an abstract with theme, which, considering Michael’s background, isn’t a surprise. One player plays as a team of four adventurers (standard rogue, cleric, warrior, wizard). The other player is the lord of the dungeon. It’s a very distilled, streamlined game compared to many dungeon crawlers.

The adventurers win if they get four gold. The dungeon lord wins if he kills the adventurers. What stood out is that the two players play entirely different games. The lord randomly draws, then places tiles like traps, gold, and monsters. At the beginning of the game the dungeon is passive. Things are dormant.

The adventurers are revealing tiles, dismantling traps, and more to gather intelligence during this passive phase. Then, the dungeon comes alive and the lord begins moving and manipulating monsters. I’ll be curious to see how this game develops further in the coming months.

Mars Needs Mechanics

Mars Needs Mechanics is a delightful game designed by Benjamin Rosset. Before we go too much further, it needs to be said that Benjamin is an absurdly kind, genuine, sincere person and obviously a very intelligent designer. He went out of his way to say hello every day and that meant a great deal.

In Mars, you are each a mechanic trying to prove his worth and craftiness in order to join the expedition to Mars. The game is fundamentally about buying goods low and selling them high and manipulating the market with a strong timing mechanic such that the result favors you. I can see where a sharp lad with good intuition could be very good at this game.

The game was easy to learn and played in about an hour. It also helped that I played with Cyrus Kirby and his brother, two excellent gentlemen. This game will be on Kickstarter on August 31 I believe. Furthermore, I’m working with Benjamin to get an interview or designer information on Hyperbole Games. Stay tuned for more.

Story Realms

I hesitate to bring up Story Realms, as I literally just watched it played for a few turns over Chris Kirkman’s hulking shoulders. However, its production value was top notch and it has such a great premise (a more accessible board game RPG).

The presentation value, even with the quick and dirty prototype, looked really good. There was magic and wonder and folks were discussing how to tackle the situation (like D&D) without all the headaches. Plus, I also witnessed the dice hating Chris Kirkman, which was a treat.

I’m going to work with Escapade Games to discuss Story Realms further as it approaches its Kickstarter date. Angie and her husband have been killing themselves to make the game perfect and I’m excited to see it enter the stage.

I also picked up Morels, Battle Beyond Space, and got a first-hand look at Matt Worden’s Magistrate.

The rules for Morels read beautifully and were full of little dashes of wit and humor. I purchased a copy with the hand-carved wooden tokens and it’s such an outstanding touch. The husband and wife duo that run Two Lanterns Games were very kind and I hope to chat with Brent more in the future. This will hit the table shortly.

I read the rules for Battle and it looks as if it will be a lot of fun. The game was easy to learn and seems like it has a nice amount of depth. It also has great components and really hits a thematic note for me. It’s on the docket for Friday at lunch.

Finally, Magistrate looks very good. Matt Worden noted he and I are tackling similar goals in different ways with Magistrate and Empire Reborn. If that’s the case, I’m eager to play it. Matt is a great guy and a friend. But, aside from that, if you’ve been playing or following his games (I have), you’ll see that Magistrate stands to be a culmination of some of his best stuff.

It has subtlety and intrigue, like Subtilla. It has some worker placement elements like you’d see in Colonies of the Jump Gate and planning several turns ahead in a chess like manner (Subtilla, Castle Danger). I loved hearing him discuss the breadth of his testers’ experiences, the different strategies, and how well it was received. Jump Gate made a big splash for Matt a short time ago. I really hope Magistrate does so as well. I hope he sends me a copy!

If I didn’t list a game here, it’s because I didn’t buy it or haven’t played it yet. I have many other games I wanted to see, but if I didn’t, well, I figure you should go elsewhere for that information.

What did you play that was excellent? What did I miss?

Posted in Blog | Tagged battle beyond space, diaries, , , gyre, iigd, magistrate, mars needs mechanics, morels, seasons | 1 Reply

GenCon Diaries: Stories

Post by: Grant Rodiek

GenCon is a place to buy games, play games, pitch games, or sell games, depending on your role in this nerd ecosystem. But, as I quickly found, and hoped, it’s really the site for great stories. GenCon attracts a mass of people dressed as 10 foot wookiees, the skinniest Spider-Man I’ve ever seen, lads with incredible beards, little steam punk children, and normal Tom and Sallys. It’s as if the largest dive bar in history were opened and great people from everywhere showed up to have a beer (or three) and pass the time masterfully.

Okay, four beers.

If you go with the right crew, GenCon is a great four days. I traveled with a fine posse of guys whom I’ve never met in person, but have built a friendship with via the magic known as the internet. I met and hung out with many fine folk, but most of my time was spent with AJ Porfirio, Matt Worden, Chevee Dodd, Cyrus Kirby, and Eric Leath. I mean this in the best way when I say we’re a pretty great group of assholes.

Matt brought me a hot dog at the booth, my first meal of the day at 4 pm. AJ repeatedly gave me a chance to run to the bathroom. He also woke up earlier than he wanted every day to drive me into the Con to work my booth. Eric and Chevee frequently hung out with me to play demos with potential customers and the former instigated one of the most awkward scenes I’ve witnessed in my life. I’ll just say our fiend of a waitress pulled off a hilarious Machiavellian maneuver. Chevee made sure to express his displeasure with Empire’s turn order mechanic and was on hand when a tester made precisely the same suggestion (details, execution, everything) an hour later. I wish that fedora wearing fool had taken a minute to go to the bathroom at that moment.

We played Seasons, Empire Reborn, Dicey Curves, Gyre, made fun of Cyrus, and acted like we’d known each other for years. It was really awesome. Especially making fun of Cyrus. The dude ordered a beer called Osiris purely because it sounded like his name.

I met Colby Dauch of Plaid Hat Games, Brent Povis of Two Lanterns Games, Christopher Badell of Greater than Games, and Uwe Eickert of Academy Games. I consider these people celebrities, mostly because I value cool gamers over C-List actors. Christopher in particular is this shrewd fiend of an upstart publisher. He makes me want to figure out co-op games. It’s amazing when you can bump into significant players who talk to you and treat you so well. It’s a small industry and I love the camaraderie.

I met so many others, but for the sake of brevity I’m cutting it off here.

Not all the people are so fresh. GenCon is packed with hilariously bad smells from people who clearly refuse to bathe. I’d like to think Gandalf the Grey was standing in these people’s shower screeching “you shall not pass,” and they were like “gotcha bearded dude.” It’s one of the oldest geek stereotypes that we are not a bathing people. I took my daily shower, but it appears not everyone got the memo.

GenCon is about violence, though more often than not the plastic sword variety. But, not always. Two young siblings literally broke into fisticuffs when the older brother played a steal card on his younger sister. At one point, she was flat on her belly on the table flailing at him to get the card back. It was a heaping mess of hilarity.

On one hand I was bothered she was scaring away potential demoers, but on the other hand I felt like I’d created the best game of all time. I mean, she was furious because of a card I designed. That’s passion!

One aspiring designer boldly told me his friend designed a game with 28 perfectly balanced factions in only a month. I bet he thought I was stupid when I told him it had taken me 6 months to develop  Empire to its current point. I’m so inefficient! Speaking of which, I’m adding orcs and turret turtles to Empire. No I’m not. I’m adding anthropomorphic donuts.

I played 42 games of Farmageddon from Thursday to Friday. It seems like 9 out of the 10 people who played with me went to purchase a copy, which is the ultimate compliment. I love showing my games, always have, and my time demoing for a large corporation has served me well in this regard.

Many people who played with me on Thursday came back on Friday to tell me the combos they pulled off the previous evening, or took the time to wave when passing by on Saturday. I learned, once again, that little kids love a good high-five and that once and for all trying to make a pun out of the German word würst is, well, you know…

You can’t blame me for trying. A guy said “Oh that’s the worst!” To which I responded, “No, it’d be the würst if you were farming sausages.” He stared at me blankly. When I threw my hand up and shouted “Up top!” to receive his celebratory high five, he shook his head and said “no, I’m not high fiving that.”

I playtested Empire Reborn for 14 total hours. I had three groups of testers return for second tests because they enjoyed the game. They spent four hours with my prototype instead of something else. One double tester paid me the ultimate compliment when he said the game was exactly the game he’d been looking for. I sent him home with one of the two prototypes (Worden took home  the other containing my “hand crafted” fort tokens) and can’t wait to show him the revised rules. I also played it with a publisher and one of his designers. Excellent feedback was received and the next iteration is really going to take a big step forward (read about it later this week).

Perhaps most exciting was that I finally met Phil, the publisher of Farmageddon. Phil’s been busting his butt to promote and distribute my game and it seems to be working quite well. He’s also a nice guy and at the end of the day, that counts for quite a bit. Slowly but surely we’re going to carve out a name and I’m glad my silly crops are steaming ahead with him.

I told several people before GenCon that I was excited to promote Farmageddon and test Empire, but I really wasn’t sure about the Con. I’m just not a huge con goer. From where I stand right now, I’m not sure I’ll miss another. I’ll need to plan the birth of my children such that I don’t miss it, such is my dedication.

Embrace this great community as a designer, a tester, a player, and a publisher. I’m pretty sure I’d be ripe for a mid-life crisis any day now if it weren’t the joy of designing games and sharing them with great guys like Matt Worden. Or joking about square rondels with Patrick Nickell. Or designing a game around a Twitter hash tag. GenCon 2012 was, for me, an outstanding story and I’m delighted to see where it goes from here.

Fingers crossed it’s something akin to The Fast and the Furious. Not 2 Fast 2 Furious, Kirkman.

Posted in Blog | Tagged friends, , gencon diaries, indianopolis, stories | 11 Replies