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.





Reblog: My First Kickstarter Campaign: The Untold Story by Jamey Stegmaier

I’m on a crowdfunding panel this Wednesday at a St. Louis Publishers Association event (full details are at that link in case you’d like to attend). It’s a unique event because we…

Source: My First Kickstarter Campaign: The Untold Story

Fantastic read, which was very topical. Our last release was the origin story of another Kickstarter campaign. The stories are so very different they make for great contrast reading. 

Insecurity Theater Introduces: A Kickstarter Campaigner

Editor’s Note: I’d like to introduce our first ever guest writer this week. His name is Brandon Rollins. He is a designer, and fledgling publisher hailing out of Chattanooga, TN. If you’re ever in town, make sure to go check out the Aquariums.

You can bet that Brandon won’t be there right now, because the Kickstarter for War Co. has just five days left. Check out the Kickstarter page, check out the lore of the War Co. website, and, if you think it would be a good fit for your gamig group, back it. He’s created a world around this game that immerses you in its lore before you’ve even played it.

So, let’s start the show.

It all began with me hunched over my laptop, on the toilet Continue reading “Insecurity Theater Introduces: A Kickstarter Campaigner”

Showers, Landfills, and Mixed Metaphors

Are you tired? Do you feel alone? Do you get upset whilst driving behind idiots who’ve clearly received their driver’s licenses from a Sears?  I’ve got a feeling; let’s call it George.

George is a feeling I just can’t grasp. It’s like there’s something wrong with the universe and I’m pretty sure it’s me. I can distinguish George completely from sadness, depression, anxiety, self-pity, or self-loathing. It occupies it’s own emotional space on the spectrum, and all it really wants is a shower. Continue reading “Showers, Landfills, and Mixed Metaphors”

Anytime at All ̶ 3. Lanterns

Today we’re going to be talking about Lanterns. How they go, where they go, and what you can expect see when they get to where they’re going. Most of these things are true, some a bit of a stretch maybe, but true nonetheless. We’re going to talk about one of my favorite games of recent years, Lanterns: The Harvest Festival. Continue reading “Anytime at All ̶ 3. Lanterns”

To Avoid Failing Particularly Hard Read This: Me.

I’m not here to toot my own horn, I’m just here to share the cumulative knowledge I have gained from experience and through my own edification on the subject of game design over the past 3 years. So without further ado, this is all I got:

You can avoid making some costly mistakes by learning from mine. I’m going to give you a list of 5 mistakes I’ve made since I’ve started designing games. These are things could’ve easily been avoided. Here are my top 5:

#5 – Thinking My Game Idea was Special

Your game might be special, but the idea isn’t. You have an idea for a game? Great! So does everyone else. Get in there; start making the thing; and see how it plays. Don’t wait until you have a masterpiece, because you’ll be disappointed when it doesn’t live up to your expectations.

Sometimes you’ll work on a design and realize that it’s just not fun. I’ve had many great ideas that I’ve been unable to translate to workable games. If an idea for a game isn’t working don’t be afraid to scrap it and move on to the next.

#4 – Not Playing Enough Games

When I first started designing games I’d played only a handful of modern board games. I was among the myriad game designers who thought all it took was a dream, a few spreadsheets, and some artwork to design a game.

If you want to design games that people want to play, you need to know what’s been done and where the gaming industry is headed. Currently there is a trend towards smaller, shorter, lighter games.This doesn’t mean every game you design has to play in 30-45 minutes, but you should be aware of what’s going on.

#3 – Not Prototyping Intelligently

You want to create beautiful prototypes people will be excited about. But what you need to be concerned with is making sure the game is worth getting excited about. You need the game to be good. You can worry about the way it looks later.

Prototypes early in development should be basic, cheap, and easy to alter. Card stock in card sleeves, Boards printed on adhesive paper and stuck to chipboard, a handful of cubes from Pandemic or whatever other games you have laying around, this is prototyping. Be creative and find new ways to save money.

Sometimes, I’ll draw my initial game board in wet-erase marker. I can make changes on the fly, and it requires no printing.

#2 – Not Writing It Down

What is it? It is everything from the changes you make to the results of each playtest session. It’s important to have data to look back on so if you get stuck you can go back to an earlier iteration and try something else. Solutions present themselves more readily if you have an understanding of where the game is, where it’s been, and what it needs.

Most importantly to me, it has been a brief description of your game, with a short proposal of what, why, and how your game is going to be. Refer back to it when you make decisions that alter the game. If an alteration changes your initial description, you want to carefully weigh the decision. If you need to alter your initial proposal, try hard to stick with the new one. Otherwise, it’s likely the game will never be complete.

Keep a small pocket notebook and carry it with you wherever you go. You never know when an idea, the solution to a problem, or the opportunity to get a prototype played will present itself. Always keep track of your games’ development.

#1 – Buying Art

This has been my most costly mistake. I have spent more money on art than I like to think about. I have art agreements for games that will never see the light of day. I’m not a publisher and don’t particularly want to be. I just want to design games. You don’t need to buy art to design a great game.

You can use placeholder art for prototypes you show to publishers. You can ask around to friends or at BGG to see if anyone’s interested in providing you with art for you’re game. But as a game designer, don’t pay for art. That’s the publisher’s job, if or when your game gets picked up.

That’s all I’ve got. You can all go now. Please, actually, if you could clean up after you… Alright, ’til next time I suppose.

Yet Another Unfinished Project: MOS 657

Omaha Beach Blood

I was really excited when I came up with this one. I wanted to make a game that was in a war setting but focused on the military aidsman (medics) during World War II.

I intended it to be a pickup and deliver game but it was only on a certain setion of Omaha beach. The board was long and the object ended up being to get through the channel at the end of the beach and save as many troops as you can while getting there.

Every time a unit moves they run the risk of dying. There is no combat, it’s all just are they dead, greviously injured, wounded, or active. Counting saved lifes was tricky and I wrote in a rule that wounded patients could be treated and turned into active units the next turn.

MOS657 LogoThe AI simply picked a hex at random for the lines that your units had reach and rolled to see where the shell hits that round. So there was plenty for the medics to do, but all of it seemed rather dull. There was no pick up and deliver (unless you count getting casualties out of the ocean before they drown).

I Can’t tell you how many hours I spent pouring over information about D-Day and where the points of omahadefensesstruggle were. I went through reports used for citation. I collected maps of the different beaches broken down into subsections. It was really pretty amazing we didn’t cock up the whole thing, honestly.

But no matter how interesting the subject, the game simply wasn’t that interesting. I could have worked tirelessly iterating on the idea but I had already moved on. It just wasn’t going to be the thing I wanted it to be. This year a game came out that captured everything I wanted to say about war with a deck of cards and a few tokens. The game can be an extremely difficult, frantic co-op. The game is The Grizzled (Les Poilu
s in the original French).

pic2595195If you haven’t played The Grizzled, do yourself a favor. The game is being manufactured by Cool Mini or Not. Suprisingly enough, there are no minis in the game (cool or otherwise). Still, its one of the cheapest games you’
ll buy this year, and we’ve gotten more playtime out of it than any other Game in 2015.

Honestly, I’m not down on myself about MOS 657. There was some interest in the Solitaire Print and Play 2015 Contest so I’m sorry to those people that I couldn’t deliver.

A lot of game ideas turn out to be nothing. If you can’t handle that you probably shouldn’t seek this lifestyle. No matter how good an idea is in your head, if you can’t translate it into functioning game mechanics then it’s crap.

I’ve even done some experimenting with a solo variant but I’ve got a lot on my plate right now with my health and another project. It’s a project that might even turn me into a professional designer (meaning I have a designer credit in a published game). That’s huge because I’ll have to change the subtitle of the website. So for now at least, the solo variant of the Grizzled will have to wait. MOS 657 is being put to rest.

Status: Aboned

To Avoid Reading Fail This: Extra Credits


So this weeks slightly dyslexic TARFT is Extra Credits. The dyslexia is because I’m not going to say a whole lot. The Extra Credits website is fantastic, but I would start with there game design video playlist.

When I first watched Fail Faster something clicked. It’s like that moment in the Matrix where Neo realizes he can stop bullets and Morpheus’ words come back. When you’re ready, you won’t need to.


Look It’s a Freaking Stonemaier Double Feature Day, Okay!

I’m a member of the 1 Player Guild, partly because I’m quite often a solo gamer, and partly because I really like their slogan: Together We Game Alone. For people who’ve not been able to crack the very hard nut that is BGG, it’s important to find people with common interests. One way of doing that is through individual game forums, another (and I think better) way is to find a Guild that interests you and become part of that smaller community.

In the 1 Player Guild there is a Geeklist where people keep track of what they are playing that month. The powers that be collect and use this data in often nefarious ways.

I posted that I was playtesting Scythe. It was actually through the 1 Player Guild that I met Morten and David who are designing the AI for Single Player variant. There was a bit of discussion on my geek list entry and one person asked if I might do a session report and another person thought it would be nice. So I decided, yeah okay.

What follows is a 1200 word geeked out Scythe session report in character. So if you’re not in it for the long haul… I understand and I’ll see you next time.

The Fall of the Great Northen Buffalo

I played as Anna & Wojtek and the Republic of Polania against Bjorn and Max of the Nordic Kingdom. The difficulty of the single player Automa was set to difficult or Automaszyna.

I am Anna and this is my bear companion Wojtek. It’s okay, he doesn’t bite unless I ask him to.

I’m here to retell the story of our battle with Bjorn and his great Northern Buffalo. We are from the Republic of Polania and our opponent Bjorn was from the Nordic Kingdoms. I say was because he is dead now. I left him unburied outside of the Factory Gates. He may still be there for all I know.

I have a way with people. Sometimes may be difficult to see in battle, but I knew if I could meet the people I would be able to win them over and turn the tides of this desperate struggle we’ve been locked into. I was given a small force and set off on an expeditionary mission with a few tasks that the Republic would like kept secret for the time being.

We had to be mobile rather quickly. Unfortunately, Polania does not have access to the metals needed in order to deploy our mechs, so I would initially have to trade for the resources to make our mechs operational.

We were able to deploy our first Mech in turn three which unlocked the Polanian ability to travel across lakes and from lake to lake. This ability would be key to capitalizing on our other abilities. After turn 3 I floundered for a couple of rounds. Our ability to produce goods was minimal. I knew victory would have to be found elsewhere. Still I would need to produce some goods. We grew crops and found new workers in the village.

My first encounter came on turn 5. I was able to share some good news from home with some traveler’s and eat a nice steak dinner. This lead to a rise in popularity and, along with the food, would help me Enlist some recruits.

I made a rousing speech in Turn 6 after bolstering the troops. This further increased my popularity. I hoped this early investment in becoming popular with the people would pay off in the long run.

After that I began the slow march towards the Factory as the people of Polania worked tirelessly to get another one of our mechs deployed. Again we had to trade for the metal but by turn 9 we had reached the Factory.

We had made it there before those dogs from the north had a chance to rob us of the greatest knowledge. Inside the Factory walls we gained insight into: how to make our actions more efficient and how to improve upon our technology.

The pressures of our mission were getting to me and even Wojtek seemed anxious. I am ashamed to admit that in a moment of great fear I drove a family from their home to construct a  mill in it’s place. I paid them what I could, took what I needed and put them to work in the mill that had replaced their home.

By turn 11 we had deployed our 2nd mech and the knowledge we gained in doing so led us to move even more efficiently. But the enemy was rapidly approaching. It seemed as if they had us hemmed in. I was keen to avoid direct conflict at this point since I knew the dogs had the upper hand.

As we traveled across the country side we came across a small farm, much like the one we had destroyed. In the hope making some small reparations we fixed a fence for the farmer and were rewarded with enough bacon to get us through a harsh winter. Out back of the farm we found an old ruined mech and paid the farmer for what we could salvage.

One night out of nowhere the enemy came rushing into a Polanian village, recently annexed, and attempted to send our villagers packing, but our fierce mech warriors would have none of it and they sent the Nordic mech away thoroughly rebuffed.

Then it was our turn to go on the offensive. While we were out meeting with the people, the enemy from the North had captured the Factory and I was told Bjorn sat astride his fierce Northern Buffalo and bellowed that Polanians were cowardly cubs. He said that winter was coming and it would be best if we went back to our caves to hibernate.

We were soon able to deploy another Mech but now we were forced to choose between recruiting more people to the cause or trying to gather resources and find time to deploy our final mech to the battlefield. I enlisted many new recruits and our detachment was given further funding for being so successful.
But still Bjorn bellowed. And now I could see in my soldiers eyes what they were thinking: perhaps we should go home. The hours was grim. Our people had fought hard but would the Nordic Kingdom had great strength.

It was in the 19th turn after doing my best to rouse the troops that we struck. First we rested control of a couple of regions that were friendly to our cause and we sent the sympathizers back to the Nordic King to tell him that the rightful owners of this land were here to claim it. We wouldn’t attack in the dark of night like cowards, we would fight honorably and with everything we had.

I wanted very much to be the one to put a bullet between the eyes of the Nordic and use his Buffalo to feed our troops but I was waylaid by one final encounter. A discovery that led us to realize the highest heights of power and brought us to the edge of victory. The Nords had taken a great deal of land, rightfully ours. We were stretched thin. Our people were weary.

One final assault could decide our fate and I knew it was our only hope. Our Mechs made a clear path to the Factory doors and I took it.

It was Bjorn who first saw me. He fired a shot from his seat on the great northern buffalo. I cried out for Wojtek to charge and grasped the scruff of his neck as he began lumbering towards them. Bjorn held his rifle bayonet as a lance as did I. Time moved slowly, I saw the Mechs in distance and marveled at how they dwarfed everything around them, and not merely physically.

Then with a rush Wojtek leapt forward as I bounded away and brought my rifle up to aim. In an instant it was done. I can’t recall hearing the shot, but there was a bullet through the Buffalo’s head so I know I’d aimed true. I looked over to see Bjorn being torn apart by Wojtek. It wasn’t exactly as I’d pictured it but it was good.

Still Bjorn and I didn’t decide this conflict. It was the people who decided it.

And now coming out of story mode. In Scythe, there are three tiers of scoring and they are based on your popularity. I was at the very top of the 2nd tier but I just couldn’t get to the top tier. The last card for the Automa (the AI for the single player game) came up and the very last thing that happened before the Automa triggered the game was for me to advance my popularity. My early investment in the popularity track had paid off at the last possible moment and I won the game 63 to 61.

That about wraps it up. That’s my most recent experience with Scythe. Hope to see you next time.

To Avoid Failing Read This: Jamey Stegmaier

I’m not dead yet…

This week has seen a lot of personal struggle, a lot of thinking about and working on design, and a whole lot of down time due to Parkinson’s. This week hasn’t seen a lot of time for writing. I apologize for that.

So, this weeks TAFRT (not the best acronym but I didn’t feel like typing the whole thing out. Of course, it just dawned on me that I’m taking more time explaining why I used an acronym in this parenthetical than it would have taken me to type out the entire title ten times over) is Jamey Stegmaier. Yes. Everything.

If you’re a designer who has made the decision to Kickstart your game and you have not read everything Jamey Stegmaier has written on the subject you are failing. So go now and read it. Read it all. Here it is… read it. Because I swear, if I receive one more Kickstarter that…[EDITOR’S NOTE: I decided to delete this next bit because Billy ended up going off on a 10 page rant about poorly run Kickstarters for lackluster games. Rest assured, the only thing you’re missing is a bunch of swearing, name calling, eye rolling emoticons, and references to Hitler.]

Stonemaier Games Kickstarters are the most well respected, well run Kickstarters in the board gaming community. They put out consistently polished games that are fun to play. But the most impressive thing to me is that when you play a Stonemaier game, you know it.

While Jamey is most well known for his ability to run a top notch Kickstarter, reading his blog or viewing his YouTube channel, you get the sense that he does everything with that same mix of thoughtfulness and enthusiasm.

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 2.06.33 PMI just noticed that his YouTube address is Cutebuns09 which made me spit coffee on my computer screen. #ThanksObamaJamey

I read his most recent article this morning, in which he writes about what the TV series Survivor has taught him about crowdfunding. His YouTube channel is primarily videos in which he discusses his favorite game mechanisms in particular games. The way he analyzes things is not only insightful and thought provoking, it’s worthy of emulation.

pic2323719I’m currently playtesting the solo variant of Stonemaier Games’ upcoming title, Scythethe game is fantastic by the way—and I’m truly amazed at how well run the playtesting is at Stonemaier. I’m really just astonished at the level of playtestin, not only in scale but in quality as well. I shouldn’t be, really. It’s being run with the same efficiency, sense of community, and enthusiasm as everything else at Stonemaier.

Crowdfunder_Strategy_Guide_StegmaierI’ll end this with a link to Jamey’s book about crowd funding: A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide. I haven’t read it yet. But based on the reputation of the author, I’d be willing to bet it’s worth a read.