Ixalan – is it MTG Jumping the Shark?

Eyyyy!

This is an article that may seem out of place on a website initially meant as an episodic journal of my failings as an amateur game designer—especially since I’ve been in ghost-mode for the past six months, and after a series of failed promises and half-hearted attempts at revitalization, my plan is pretty much just to blog now whenever I feel like I have something I really want to talk to the world about—but I think this article has it’s place in a journal on game design nonetheless.

I promise, no other sentence in this post will be that long.

A high resolution image of the newest Standard set for Magic the Gathering was spoiled well ahead of spoiler season leaving many excited, upset, confused, or downright ambivalent. Personally, I was excited because my wife does a fair bit in selling the Magic cards our family seems to collect. So, getting a head start on what’s coming helps her to know what might be worth holding onto and what’s worth punting now.

I was excited, I think I mentioned that, “was excited.” I suppose I forgot to add some kind of marker of emphasis on that word was, but it’s there, in tone if not in markup. Elated might even had been a better term at one point. I love spoiler season, and to have it three months ahead of time. This was going to be like getting to open my Christmas presents on Halloween. Yes, I realize that’s less than three months but there are no good holidays in September and I love Halloween. It turned out I was more right than I expected. I got much more than I expected, mostly it was a let down, and there is entirely too much Red and Green going on here.

Pirates and Dinosaurs in an Aztec world. Yes, Ixalan’s new theme is old news by now, but I still can’t stop thinking about how bad it actually is. I mean, it’s bad right? It’s not just me? Or is it? Am I the only one with the soul crushing spirit of Ebanezer Scrooge or this guy?

demon_costume_completed__d_by_klauen-d4dw0ig.jpg
©Deep-Fried-Flinch @ deviantart.com

Looking back at the success of HeroScape, which ironically was redesigned and reskinned as Magic: The Board Game and flopped miserably, and we see a huge success with a sizeable cult following. People loved that world of mixed up times. I know it will be a delight for our friends who believe that dinosaurs and people once roamed the earth together.

Which brings me to my first question. Is this the Magic team trying to pander to Creationists? While a world of magic and demons and such things is generally frowned upon in the world of the religious right, I can’t help but think the thing more palatable if  Wizards of the Coast finally came out with a set recognizing the truth. Jack Sparrow road a Stegosaurus.

If not, is it that they’re out of ideas? Did they just put index cards on a board and throw darts? Are they using a random world generator?

World building is so important to game design, I just think this world is a mish-mash of disparate things and I can’t help but think it will hurt the mythos of the game. It’s probably just me though.

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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.

 

 

 

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”

Kaiju Deck Destruction Award Entry

Judges can skip to the part entitled, Cardboard Edison Award Entry.

So this is unusual for me, but I think this blog post is a great opportunity to show off my work. I’ve entered the Cardboard Edison Award to recognize great unpublished games. I’m going to place my entry here. It will provide easy access for the judges and it will give you, my dear readers, an inside look into what I might do when I’m pitching a game. It might not be right, but it’s how I do it. Judges reading this, feel free to leave comments.

So Cardboard Edison has requested three things from entrants, a short written summary of the game, a video demonstrating a little of how to play and what makes the game special, and a copy of the rules document. I have it all right here. Have a look.

Cardboard Edison Award Entry

Synopsis

Kaiju: Deck Destruction is a small box game for 2-4 players that plays in about 20-45 minutes for ages 12 and up. Imagine yourself as a giant monster crushing neighborhoods, shopping malls, factories, nuclear power plants, condos, banking firms, and finally the capitol building. Defeat your opponents in brutal combat or focus on destruction the choice is yours.

Kaiju is tight, fast paced, and a whole lot of fun. Check out what differentiates Kaiju from the rest of the pack:

  • First, it’s a card-based deckbuilding game with no shuffling.
  • Cards aren’t wasted. You can take tokens for leftover cards.
  • Players may attack and cause each other damage.
  • Taking damage thins your deck.
  • As you heal you choose what to put back in your deck.
  • Buying the most expensive cards isn’t the only strategy.

The game has room for plenty of expansion. There are a whole lot of buildings out there. There are also character cards in development, as well as a solo variant utilizing a Kaiju Defense Force, which includes tank like walkers, and an airplane with drills on it’s wings.

The last Kaiju standing wins. If you can’t knock out all your opponents, the Kaiju who’s caused the most destruction takes the cake. Welcome to a brave, new world. A world where giant monsters roam the earth. But hey, at least the games are good.

The Video

 

The Rules Document

Finally, here is the link to the rules document in my dropbox.

I’d like to thank everyone who’s visited. I hope Kaiju makes the finals so I can dress up all in black wearing a navy peacoat and blackout sun glasses calling myself Billy Boardgame as I speak in 3rd person.

It’s been a long time since I did the Stroll.

ledzeppelin

Let me get back
Let me get back
Ooh, Baby…

Oh! Hello, I didn’t see you standing in my living room. Perhaps my first question should be, what are you doing standing in my living room?” Oh, I see. Well just because the door was open. What? There was a sign. Well, maybe it was meant for someone else… It was a neon sign, hanging 20 meters in the sky?

It must be a sign, I suppose.

Well, anyways, I’m glad you’re here.

Legends-of-the-Fall-brad-pitt-21854491-852-480I want you back. I’m sorry I’ve been away. I’ve been, finding myself. You know, exploring the world of game design? Right, baby?

No!!! Of course I didn’t have an affair with Richard Garfield…

No Uwe Rosenberg, no Trzewiczek.
No Knizia, no Bauza, I say no to the set.
No Feld, nor Brand, and this I demand!
Okay, maybe once with Vlaada Chvátil,
I was on the bottle but it didn’t mean anything,
It just happened. Things happen, if you know what I mean
And there they all were in our love covered sheets,
All the game designers I’ve met in my dreams…
I’m going to stop singing now.

I guess when we met, I was in a really low place and this blog helped me through it. It helped me keep myself focused on something when everything else was so very out of focus. I emerged with design ideas and a cool project I can’t talk about.

So, much like the man whose loving wife has paid his way through college, you were left in the dust.

Well, here I am today to talk about the next game design that completely failed. Only, I’m not sure where we left off and I’m too apathetic to look. So we’ll talk about Parkinson’s a little bit and how that’s effected my life most recently.

2000px-handicapped_accessible_sign-svgIt turns out that according to the US government I’m disabled. That’s a relief, because I thought it was just me. Everyone told me to anticipate waiting years for approval. I was approved very quickly. So, I don’t know if I just did some things that other didn’t or if I am just that disabled. I have a feeling it’s the latter. I also have a feeling that I’ve got a couple of serious medical treatments coming up this year.

My first visit now will be to the BMV for front row passes and then to the internet to buy this:

 

The first is shock treatment. Oh, sure, they call it something fancy, like ECT and tell you there’ll be cake. But it’s the same thing they were doing 50 years ago and the Cake is lie. Sending lightning bolts through your brain. My psychiatrist and my Neurologist both say they’ve had very good results with it on Parkinson’s patients.

JohnnyPluggedInSome slight… or major memory loss may occur. Want to remember getting married? Nope… sorry sir that door is closed for now. How about the births of your children? Alas, we must keep it from you until you brain finds a way to hotwire itself back together.

The second is DBS, another innocuous name. It is a surgery where the top of your skull is removed while you’re awake and the doctors place electrodes on your brain to determine where exactly they must be placed to help with your symptoms. What could possibly go wrong here?

Needless to say, neither of these sound very appealing to me.

I’m scared. Like, I’m really scared. I’m disabled in my thirties and I don’t think it’s possible I’ll ever go back to normal. There are all these new normals I can picture:

Here’s our first wedding anniversary, and I can’t make the travel arrangements to the special night away we had planned because there’s no way I can sit in the car for 8 hours in a day.

Here’s me bugging everyone and their brother for a ride into town because I’m not able to drive and I need to get out of the house for a little bit and socialize so I don’t become a complete recluse.

Here’s me at age 45 sitting in a wheel chair with drool running down the side of my chin, both hands racing to clatter against my thighs. My legs racing for the ground but all they hit are these metal feet that I’m supposed to keep my feet in.

Here’s me dead at 50.

Quite a few dark thoughts today. I guess I never know what’s coming up. But now I have some new normals for us to think about:

Here’s me with no job related stress, doing what I want with my life, designing games.

Here’s me spending time with our children every day after school.

Here’s me overcoming my symptoms to continue leading a life. Not a “normal” life perhaps, but a life just the same.

This is a transitional period for me. I’ve been in a cocoon and I’m beginning to come out into the world again, maybe. Maybe, I’ll get snatched up by something that eats young butterflies or things in cocoons. Maybe that Hamster mistakes me for a burrito and the video gets 10 million views.

Parkinson’s Sucks… That’s all I have left on the subject. I’ll recommence writing posts that actually pertain to my road of game design as soon as possible. I’ll try to keep the grousing to a minimum.

Billy Board Game is dead… Long live Billy Board Game

As a post script, if anyone else would like to help out with Parkinson’s research. You can give to the Michael J. Fox Foundation here. It’s the best of the lot of non-profits (at least in the US).

My First Winner – Everything Zen?

827913_1315611876591_fullI look bashful right now. It’s the type of look that one would get if one were to be suddenly kissed one’s forehead by a charming and lovely young woman named Snow White and one’s name was Bashful. Someone just congratulated me on a contest win. But this isn’t the first time. My first time? Well… it was special.

My first was a small completely unexpected win. It wasn’t the grand prize; I didn’t receive a ribbon or money (That’s not entirely true, I received some Geek Gold (or GG to the uninitiated) which has an exchange rate of something like 30:1 with the US Dollar). And I’m pretty sure I donated more GG to the contest than I got back in prize money.

Buried on
Buried on the 18th page of the forum thread are the winners of the contest. It was a great experience throughout. There were a few awesome people who really stepped up to ensure that the contest kept running through a great deal of adversity.

I tied for 1st place in the Best Abstract Game of the 2015 2-Player Print and Play Game Contest. Now, you might understand while I’m a tad awkward talking about it. It’s like being the flautist tied for 1st place in the best classical duet category of a high school talent show.

That’s not to take away from the contest. The contest is great, but there were only 10 entries in the category I won. I tied for first.

The game in question is called Sixteen Stone. It’s played on a small grid. It combines the pushing mechanism of Abalone with a tweak on the capturing mechanism of Go. That description is a lot to ask of 16 stones and a 5×5 grid but it delivers fairly well. It’s got a User Rating of 9 on BGG. Granted it has only 1 rating, but it wasn’t me.

How can you obtain this wonderful abstract game?  The print and play files for Sixteen Stone right here at no cost to you. Note that the components aren’t really necessary. Grab 8 of something in one color and 8 of something in another color, draw a 5×5 grid on a piece of paper and you have a copy of Sixteen Stone. Congratulations!

The rulebook, which you will probably need to download, is some of my best graphic design work in a manual. I didn’t end up winning anything for that. Partially because Todd Sanders’ graphic design work is always amazing and mine will nearly always look amateurish in comparison. But also because the graphic design on the game board and the stone tokens isn’t great.

So, wait

This post isn’t about you screwing up? What the hell! Why did I even come here. This was supposed to make me feel good about myself because of how utterly incompetent you are.

Sorry folks, not today. Come back another time or read the archives. I’m sure I’ll you’ll discover another story of misery and woe. But I’ve been designing incessantly. I eat, breathe, and sleep game design. I design while on the toilet… And now, I’ve gone several steps past the chalk line of decency. So, we’ll just step back over here and start the next paragraph, shall we?

What I did and what I set out to do: I designed a quick playing abstract game over a period of 3-4 weeks using minimal components; I created an abstract game that is an interesting puzzle; I playtested and iterated like a mad man; By jove, I finished it.

That’s pretty good for an amateur. So, yes I’m bashful, but inside there’s a tiny white man attempting to do the whip and nay nay as shown to him by his middle school children.
creative-commons-public-domain

Sixteen Stone will be released into the public domain soon. I think it is the type of game that should be freely available. I will also be creating a Tabletopia module for the game and maybe even a Vassal module if I’m feeling frisky

SSLieDownA bit of blog business: My design posts are rapidly approaching the now, and while I’ve been cranking them out lately, eventually we’ll be talking about the now, and not the one that just happened.

The now is kind of scary and a little bit difficult. Maybe we can have that discussion next week over a nice cup of tea. You look travel-worn. Why don’t you have a good lie down somewhere.

Parky Interlude 003

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a Parky Interlude. That isn’t because Parkinson’s hasn’t been interrupting life. In fact, the opposite is true. But my most recent interruptions haven’t been Parkinson’s symptoms. They’ve been two other problems that are often associated with Parkinson’s: Mood and Anxiety Disorders.

I’m going to share three recent examples of the ancillary effects that Parkinson’s has on my life and that of my family. The first regards Anxiety, the second the side effects of medications, and the third Depression.

I’ll start by saying that I’ve went from driving rarely to not driving at all. This has become an issue of its own because we live in the county surrounding Evansville and not within walking distance of anything.

This is dirty laundry, folks, and it has nothing to do with board games. So if the smell bothers you come back another time.

My partner and I finished watching an episode of Orange is the New Black. It’s a show that everyone who watches Netflix has no doubt already watched or dismissed, but we’re really enjoying it. The commentary on the American penal system is just amazing and the characterization is better than anything on network television.

All of that to say, it was a very normal night with nothing out of place. We were getting ready for bed when I suddenly started having very dark, abstract thoughts. Then every time I closed my eyes I felt a sudden rush of some kind of terrible presence. Then, I started to panic.

People with an Anxiety Disorder will know how this works. You go from being a normal human being to feeling like a rat with it’s tail trapped by the sudden triggering of a spring, just waiting for something to devour you. Your fight or flight response is ratcheted up, and you have no recourse to either. You can do nothing but wait it out.

Last week, shortly after this episode, we went to see my neurologist and psychiatrist at Vanderbilt. It’s a 2 1/2 hour drive but the quality of care and access to specialists in movement disorders and Parkinson’s treatment is worth the drive. I was given a prescription for a new pill. Just what I needed.

After taking this pill for less than a week I had an episode where I: drove around at high speed through various parts of the city, nearly hit a deer, went home, punted a trash can full of buffalo chicken bones across the kitchen, convinced myself that someone had stolen my car keys, found the car keys, drove to work, sat in the parking lot, and finally found my way back to my family who were at an Extra Life event.

Now, driving to work might not seem all that weird in the scheme of things, but having been out of work for just over 3 months now it begins to smell a little fishy. I was convinced that I had to do payroll. When I got to the church where the Extra Life event was being hosted I sat in the car listening to music staring out into space. My partner came out and I screamed in fright when she opened the car door. I sobbed when I told her I had to go back to work to do payroll or I’d lose my job.

So, a couple days ago the braintrust at Vanderbilt said to stop taking this new medication. Last night I was so depressed I locked myself in a room in the basement for the better part of the day. I didn’t want to do anything or see anybody. I haven’t felt so low in a long time.

Distraction is my main coping mechanism. But sometimes it’s hard to think about coping with these things at all. Sometimes things fall apart and the center will not hold. Sometimes Yeats is appropriate. Sometimes Achebe more so.

So, here’s to a better tomorrow when today has fallen apart.

Game Design #6: Shogun Must Die!

I was playtesting a new game tonight and became so frustrated that in the middle of it I asked everyone to stop.

Cold War - Game BoardI did it again; what the hell Billy? I did it again. How many times can a man make the same mistake. Sweet baby Jesus! I just spent hours making a full color board and tiles for new mechanisms that were completely untested.

WTF Billy?

Up until that point the design process was going really well. I’d cobbled together a prototype out of 5 different games and some scrap paper. I’d playtested with 2 different people who both felt it was a really solid design. I was excited, but there were some adjustments that I wanted to make.

I wanted it to be a board game.

As we picked up for the night, my son found one of the cubes we were playing with was marked with an N and he remembered this game…

Shogun Must Die! is the first real board game I designed. I want to design board games. So why does everything I design end up being a card game? I have nothing against card games, but I set out to make a board game and I ended up with another card game.

SMD-GameboardI designed Shogun Must Die! as my first ever entry into a BGG 24 Hour Game Design Contest way back in April of last year. My son had thrown up at school that day which meant he couldn’t go to school the next day. That meant I’d have to stay home too.

I probably spent a total of 16 hours on the game. I made my convalescing son play the game with me a dozen or so times.

It is a hidden movement game where each player has several colored cubes. One player is the Shogun and one player is the Ninja. The Shogun has 12 red cubes, one of which is marked with an S. He places the red cubes in the center of the board on the purple “huts.” He also has several yellow, guard cubes which allow him to hunt the Ninja.

The Ninja has several black cubes and one marked with an N. Players take turns moving their cubes, the ninja may add cubes and take cubes away trying to obfuscate her actual movements. If the Ninja is killed the Shogun wins, if the Shogun is killed the Ninja wins.

The game isn’t great, but I finished it in less than 24 hours. It was my first attempt at hidden movement, and I went about it in a pretty interesting way. If I were to ever attempt a hidden movement game again, I might start by looking back at this.

Something I said in the thread for the April contest really resonates with me right now:

I really had a lot of fun designing this game and it really made me feel good about how far I could take something in such a short period of time (as I have projects that I’ve been working on for months that aren’t this far along). I really feel like it pushed me.

COeCuJUWsAAFOQbThat’s the way I feel with this new game. I Frankenstein’ed a prototype together and worked at it for hours. When I was done I had a really fun game.

Then I proceeded to screw it up.

Adding things doesn’t make a game better for me. It almost always makes it worse. It’s the process of taking away that generally makes my games better. I’m writing this down with the sincere hope that I can get this lesson through my thick skull.

It’s often said that there are two ways to go about game design. One is to start with a slab of stone and chisel away at it until you get the statue you’re looking for. The other is to start with a lump of clay and mold and shape the thing until you get the sculpture you want.

One way isn’t inherently better than the other, but I’d like to be a sculptor.

Shogun Must Die!
Status: Complete

My first YouTube video … What’s up for next week

Hello and Welcome,

I started a YouTube channel and thought I might put it to some use. My first video is a preview of what’s coming up next week. I hinted at it a bit in my last article, but here’s a video so you can look at my beautiful face.

As a bit of housekeeping, I plan for my release schedule to be Tuesdays and Thursdays. There will be sporadic nonsense such as this thrown in every now and again but I wanted to let everyone know so that if they don’t like subscribing or doing rss feeds they can come and visit when they like.

Please do subscribe if you can, leave comments, like me on Facebook, and/or tweet to me. I’d love to hear that people are enjoying the content.

 

Thank you so much for reading,

Billy

Parky Interlude 001

I sincerely hope people have enjoyed my story thus far and will continue to enjoy it. If you are just tuning in, we will resume our regularly scheduled programming about board games and game design momentarily. I just wanted to pause for a moment and write about a few things not related to my epic game design fails.

I’d like to write about my Parkinson’s for a moment. Because even if you know someone with Parkinson’s, or know someone who’s dad has Parkinson’s, or you’ve seen Michael J. Fox on television, their story, their symptoms, are different than mine. That is because Parkinson’s is what is commonly referred to as a boutique illness.

Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Hello, Madame. How can I be of service today?

Oh yes, thank you. A friend told me about this illness. It’s very exclusive isn’t it?

Ahh but of course, every customer we serve walks away with something unique.  We provide a speciality service to each of our customers. We cater to their… how you say… needs. For you, I think maybe the … bradykinesia, brain fog, anxiety, depression, and the constipation for starters. 

Oh, you’re too kind.. 

And since you are a new customer we will throw in the insomnia at no extra charge. 

This is a big part of my story. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but it’s always my life.

Over the past 6 months I’ve felt as if most of the time my thoughts were swimming through gelatin and that my brain had become a vat of gelatin. I’m not sure that’s getting any better. Actually, within the past few months it’s been much worse.

But I have these moments of pure, golden, delicious lucidity where the world becomes a just and beautiful place.

So I’ll write when I find those moments. I’ll design when I find those moments. I’ll live when I find those moments.

On with the show.