My Inner Publisher

Post by: Grant Rodiek

I’d be lying if I said I never want to be a publisher. People who speak to me “offline” (i.e. not publicly on Twitter) have heard me talk about this a bit. Really, it’s the desire to do things on my own, to try out my own ideas and tactics, to publish great things from designers, and carve out a slice. Being entrepreneurial is so very American and the beauty of board and card games is that, if you mind your costs and move slowly, you can do it without losing your shirt.

That’s not really the point of this. The point, is that I love expansions and add-ons for games, both as a developer and as a consumer. I think it’s a real shame that it isn’t more standard. It would definitely be a focus for me if I had the opportunity to make it so. I guess this is a little insight on my inner publisher (see how I tied that together!).

My standard take on expansions as a player is: If I like a thing, I want more of a thing. I suppose I could be lumped into the “Jones Theory” crowd, but I try to not buy multiple games with similar mechanics. If I find a game I love, I want a lot more of that game. I don’t want to buy 15 more games. This is why people love buying Dominion and Settlers expansions. I have a friend who only owns Settlers, but he has every expansion. Why? He loves that game.

As a developer, it’s a great way to earn revenue with a little less risk. You’re building off an existing IP with existing customers. Instead of a huge base game with tons of cards and components, you only need to manufacture a smaller pack. In case you’re curious, there are about 8 The Sims expansions with my name in the credits — I have a lot of experience with this business model and I’m very fond of it. Creature of habit?

I recently received my Alien Frontiers: Factions expansion, as well as the two small add-ons.

The packaging is super high quality, as are the contents inside, and in all 3 of these cases the improvement to the content is really meaningful. The expansion adds several new features and ways to play for only $25. The booster packs, which are approximately $10-15 apiece, add gameplay (the Faction pack on the left), and for the right, they add much cooler components. Custom plastic models instead of generic punchboard? Yep, that’s worth $10. Similar to this component improvement, Fantasy Flight Games sold miniatures for players to add to their Arkham Horror sets. If I was interested in that game, I assure you I’d own all of them.

Summoner Wars is brilliantly expanded constantly by its publisher Plaid Hat Games. For under $15 I can dramatically improve the experience with whole new factions. Even better, you can get the Master Set for under $40 or a more basic starter set for under $20. Such a great way to bring in new players and keep them playing!

Wizard Kings also has expansion armies. Not only do they add new armies, but they come in a VHS box. I own about 6 of these. I own 2 Memoir ’44 expansions and I have my eye on 3 more. Really, I could go on for quite some time!

Folks often scoff at expansions, sometimes for good reason. With some publishers and properties the players feel like they are being had at some point. “Really? Another?” It also rubs consumers the wrong way if they feel like content was withheld in order to make room for an expansion. This has been a recurring PR nightmare in the digital world with DLC shipped on disks. And, some people don’t share my personal mindset. They may not want to play all Summoner Wars all the time. They may want a little of this, a little of that, variety, and a plethora of new.

I’m pondering expansions already for Empire Reborn. I want to add Field Marshals with special abilities and naval units. I want to add new scenarios and campaigns. It’s premature, as the game is still in balance testing, but definitely something I may begin brainstorming more deeply.

What are some of your favorite expansions? What are some things you’d do if you were the publisher?

Mechanically Sound #3

Mechanically Sound is a recurring column in which I quickly bring to light some interesting game mechanics I’ve recently encountered. As always, suggest your own in comments.

Post by: Grant Rodiek

In this third rendition of Mechanically Sound I have three new mechanics to discuss. This week, I’m quite excited to discuss the Build Magic mechanic in Summoner Wars, the Color Mixing mechanic in Walls of Light, and the tile laying in Princes of Florence.

The Magic of Summoner Wars

When you want to place Unit cards from your hand onto the game board in Summoner Wars, you must spend a certain amount of Magic. In the card above, it’s the number 3 just under the large 2 (which is the attack value). Magic is obtained in 2 simple ways:

  • If you defeat a Unit, the card is placed in your magic pile as 1 Magic.
  • At the end of your turn, you may discard cards from your hand for 1 Magic apiece.

This does a lot of great things for the game. For one, it ties the game’s core resource beautifully into its battle system. If you fight well, you can summon more Units. It also has a nice risk versus reward with the discard. If you discard, you’ll get to draw more cards and potentially summon stronger units. However, when your deck runs out, it’s out.

I also like that Event cards do not require Magic to use, which means Magic is solely used for summoning additional units. If you’re curious about Summoner Wars, the game is free to play on iOS platforms.

The Pretty Colors of Walls of Light

Walls of Light is a free PNP game from Jesse Catron. You can also buy a version for $9.99 from The Game Crafter. The premise of the game is that you’re rebuilding the stained glass windows in a cathedral. It’s a neat abstract.

The game uses transparent wink tokens with primary colors from the RYB spectrum (Red, Yellow, Blue). If you place them atop each other, they form new colors. For example:

Red + Blue = Purple and Yellow + Blue = Green

This allows for player expression, creativity, and great strategy. It’s also very innovative and viscerally satisfying. Give it a look!

Fun Side Note: When I read Indie Boards and Cards’ prompt for a dice only game on BGG I set about creating a dice game. At first I thought about converting elements of my war game into a dice only thing (just for fun) and had some other equally poor ideas. Then I started thinking about wizards, magic, and alchemy. I started thinking of potions and colors and how you could mix them to create other things. Jesse sent me a copy of Walls of Light months ago, and though I’ve read the rules, I’ve never had a chance to play it. I came about this color idea on my own, but I’m also fairly certain Walls of Light was in my subconscious mind. The idea has since evolved past dice and I’ve been working with Jesse for advice and his input. Stay tuned for future info on this.

Building a Garden in Princes of Florence

Princes is fairly brilliant in so many ways. It has a fantastic bidding mechanic, a great long-term engine building mechanic, and it has this Tetris-like tile placement mechanic. The game features several pieces, like a University, fountain, lake, and other things you might see in Renaissance era Florence. When you obtain one of these pieces, most of which are oddly shaped, you must place them within a simple rule set on a very small grid.

I would happily play a game that was exclusively about placing these oddly shaped tiles on the grid. But, the fact that Princes incorporates it so meaningfully into a greater whole is all the more excellent.

What have you encountered lately that stood out to you? Mention it in the comments below.