Bullet with Butterfly Wings

Hot Damn it’s time to talk about board games. What have I been playing? Scythe, we’ve played several games of it multiplayer, and it’s just as good solo as I remember it.

I’m writing rules for a solo variant of a game. So, I’ve been occupied with that as well. That’s still hush hush at this point, but I’ll let you know how it pans out when I can.

Parade has rocked our socks off. We just got Arboretum, and while it’s a fun game in it’s own right, it is nowhere near as fun as Parade.

My wife and I smashed GenCon 2015 we picked up just because we really liked the skill checks. It’s a game called “Space Movers.” I love the hell out of it, but I think I would be better off playing that solo, because the rest of my gaming group doesn’t enjoy it near as much.

Gencon this year was a great time. I got to meet Vlaada Chavtil  at the CGE room. We learned T’zolkin and Space Alert, which we had previously learned, but never got stuck well in our heads.

We experienced the auction room for the first time this year. It’s was crazy and a whole lot of fun. I can’t wait to sit there for 8 hours don’t nothing but bidding on weird stuff. In one lot we purchased an XL shirt that read, “Clerics: The Life of the Party.” Yeah we’re dorks.

I’ve been getting back to work, although some things are taking more time than I they would. I’m working on three games and a variant. Somethings going to need to shutdown for a while and I have a feeling it’s my new game, which is a shame because I love it.

I take medieval European history and put it through my own unique filter. This was a time when our lands abutted. We fought continually for control of more lands, making alliances with the forces of other nobility. Alliances, Negotiation, Battles, Siege, Famine all in one game that plays in around 45-60 minutes. I’ve got some interestng ideas I want to implement, if I can get the base game running smoothly.

Any lessons for today? I don’t know. Maybe, take care of yourself first. Then take care of the world. Because if you aren’t taking care of yourself, how much can you help the world.

I love the breakdown in this song.






SEMI-Commercial…and now we return to our regularly scheduled program.

Sorry about the noise in here, it’s just the TV’s been going off and on and… What? No TV. No noise. No Zombie invasion?!? Well that would seem to imply that I’m insane. Hmm…meh.

It was early September. We had come back from our very first GenCon enthused, despite my insecurities. I was adding new side effects to the game because that’s what people felt it needed. Then, for no apparent reason, I just stopped. My wife was confused about my feelings towards both games. I expected Kaiju to be the star of the show, but despite decent reviews it was a lot rougher than I thought. Side Effects was just a light side project but it had stolen the show. I felt embarrassed to have even made a party game.

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I was corresponding with Dirk Knemeyer, host of the Game Design Round Table and owner of Artana, about publishing and questions I had for the show. I had mentioned that one of my games was really successful in playtesting at GenCon but I didn’t want to put it out because I didn’t want my first game to be a party game.

It wasn’t until I received his reply that I realized how pretentiously I was behaving. It wasn’t that he was trying to make me feel bad about being a snob, but I was too embarrassed to reply after reading his email. Was I too good for party games?

We have a bevy of party games which I love, but secretly I’ve always thought, These aren’t real games they’re just fun activities. I might as well enjoy myself. Playing party games always felt like eating ice cream and pop corn at 2:30 in the morning watching a Netflix marathon of Matlock.

I also had a reasonable excuse to abandon the project. Gil Hova from Formal Ferret was getting ready to run a Kickstarter for his game Bad Medicine. Which, when pitched to me, sounded like the exact same game I was going for. I backed it. It’s not the same game. The games aren’t even in the same damn sport.

2 Cool Cats discussing Relations in Pulp Fiction

It’s not likely that Side Effects May Include is going to end up a gamer’s party game. It does one thing really well; it makes people laugh. One playtester who played laughed so hard he couldn’t breathe. Another playtester thought she was going to pee herself. And one came back with her man the next playtest. We became friends and they’ve brought the game to GenCon ever year since. Why would anyone put that on a shelf?

Side Effects May Include focuses on what board gaming is about for a great many people, especially newer gamers and Pearites. It focuses completely on having a good time with your friends or potential friends. Players are scientists working for Big Pharama and they are trying to make a drug that works without rapid hair loss, loose stool, and death.

The little swirl in the corner was the logo of my now defunct board game publishing co. Tidal Games.

So the game plays on. I’ll revise the old cards to remove things which complicated the game. I have a few things to add to some of the cards as a suprise for my 2 dedicated Side Effects fans out there. Also, I have a list of about 300 cards and growing(my original offering of 148 was nowhere near enough), so I’m going to finish this project up and start trying to sell it to every publisher who might be into party games of this ilk.

Sometimes you have to step away from a project and see it from someone else’s eyes. Sometimes you have to look at it objectively. Sometimes you just need a swift kick in the ass to get motivated. Anyone else need one? I’ve been working on my drop kick.

Die Die My Darling

I’ve feel like I’ve reached the limits of my knowledge. I sometimes doubt the wisdom I’ve inherited from my forefailures. It was fun for awhile—writing in such a self deprecating way—but I want to write about my design work in a living world, now, and not as party of some anonymous board game eulogy. It’s impossible to look forward when you’re always looking back. That said, we’re going to take a look back at two games that I refuse to give up on, and how I’m moving them forward.

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I recently read a great blog post from Micheal over at Gravitas Board Games, in which they discuss rebooting their current project, Fusion. In particular, it was about killing their darlings. Michael is a really nice guy, and we had a brief discussion about the topic. The idea stirred something in me. Naturally, I did what any writer worth their salt would do, and stole the idea. I started to think about the darlings I’ve killed, and those which’ve yet to be killed.

Continue reading “Die Die My Darling”

Lonely Variants Club

I’m sure many people despise the word, variant. It seeps through their pores and floats into their mouths where it ends up causing a great deal of stomach discomfort. I am not one of those people. If you are, this post probably isn’t for you. Unless… you like solo gaming. Continue reading “Lonely Variants Club”

Game Design #4: Kaiju – Deck Destruction

Kaiju literally translates to strange beast—so Wikipedia tells me—and generally refers to the genre of giant monster movies. Examples include: Godzilla, Rodan, King Ghidorah, Gamera, and Mothra. 

The world needs more Kaiju games.

When I started development of Kaiju: Deck Destruction in February of 2014 there was King of Tokyo, a Godzilla IP game, and that was pretty much it. In these enlightened times we have a few more to choose from, including a game about Kaiju having a tea party. But when compared to the glut of zombie, cthulhu, or dungeon crawling games there is a lot of room to grow.

Kaiju was my first exploration of the deckbuilding mechanic.  You destroyed(bought) buildings and attacked each other’s decks. But that wasn’t enough. I wanted the game to be innovative, and I thought the best way to do that was to fix a problem. 

The biggest complaint about deckbuilding games is how often you have to reshuffle. I was blissfully ignorant of the solutions offered by games like Puzzle Strike and Quarriors, so I kept attempting to solve the problem with cards and I kept failing. It wasn’t until recently that I was able to come up with a solution that I’m proud of.

Artwork ©Copyright Benjamin Raynal 2014One problem with not reshuffling is that players can stack the deck. My solution is to encourage them to do just that. I’ve reduced the number of types of cards that go into to the deck and have very explicit rules about how and when to discard. So players can stack the deck as they see fit without any negative impact on the game play. And players can simply flip over there discard when they need more cards.

Is it innovative? Maybe it is; I don’t really care. These days I worry less about being innovative and more about making games that are fun.

Something else I’ve remedied that never made sense was that buildings were shuffled into the deck. Why? A giant monster destroys buildings and moves on. It makes much more sense for the buildings to give a one time bonus and go into a scoring pile.

Look at me solving problems and being insightful. But that’s present me. What about past me? Past me, how are you doing?


Artwork ©Copyright Benjamin RaynalTo be even more innovative, the cards formed a board that players moved their Kaiju around. Players could move from stack to stack destroying the top card of each. This provided a lot of options but limited the subset for each player at any given time. I still think this is an interesting space to explore, but there were just too many ideas.

Also, I added variable player powers; I don’t dream small.

I was filled with this sense of urgency, because I couldn’t believe no one had designed a Kaiju deckbuilding game. I was afraid if I didn’t get it done someone else would beat me to it. This fear drove me to do irrational things. Don’t let fear drive your decision making process. Fear is the mind killer.

It wasn’t just fear, though. There was also the sense that I had failed enough. It was time for success. But real life doesn’t work that way. Slot_machineI was like that poor sap at the slot machine, pulling the arm over and over day in and day out, thinking: This next one’s gonna be it, it’s just gotta.

By the beginning of April I had signed an artist. By June I had contacted a publisher and entered the game into the Tabletop Deathmatch. By July I had printed prototypes through a print on demand service online. And by August I was ready to playtest at GenCon and meet with a publisher.

At least, I thought I was ready.

Next up, The World Premiere of Kaiju: Deck Destruction at GenCon 2014…