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Subject: Todd Sanders: Current Projects rss

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todd sanders
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first off... thank you to all those who have played my games. i've learned a great deal about making games these last months and have had great joy and excitement as they come to fruition and you all go and make copies and play them. that has been extremely rewarding and i feel part of a community here unlike anywhere else in my internet life.

to recap

the first Aether Captains game was an attempt to model a steampunk inspired zeppelin air battle. it was my first real serious attempt at a board game, inspired by nick (black canyon)'s Chunky Fighters and a bit of Space Hulk Death Angel. it now has fan expansions and people translating it into different languages, which to me is amazing. also many thanks to kevin (peakhope) who wrote an app so i could play multiple game simulations to balance the game elements. the game would never have happened without him.

next Compass and Empire was created, based on an actual ancient roman dice game called Jactus, and filled in some small background details in the world of the Grand Compact. it started me thinking about just what is the world of the Grand Compact and what sort of fun could i have in it, inspired by some of my favorite authors and their amazing books.

Aether Captains: Dread Supremacy came next and represented the beginning of a departure for me, not strictly a dice game, as i began to understand more the mechanics of designing games and how that process works. this game, my first multi-player, pitted players against each other in building air ships to battle to become leader of the dread air pirate federation.

and then i started writing the background to the world, filling in more details - General Background - and throwing in some easter egg nods to some BGGers who've been supportive of me.

launched just a week or so ago after an amazing and intense 8 days of design/build for me followed by playtesting by some great people over the last month - Aether Captains: Pirates and Traders was my first attempt at a solo card game along the lines of Pocket Civ and ZiMP. this was another big leap for me both in terms of the design as well as the mechanics because it involves trading, resource management and some air battles. under development is a 2 person version expansion that will allow a 2nd player to have their own ship as part of a convoy with a series of new scenarios. i am lucky to also have some friends in Second Life who are steampunk fans and they lent their images to the game as the various captains. and doubly lucky that orlando (dirkgent001), who designed his own version of my first aether captains ship for the dice for the first game, agreed to design the Freeship Swiftwind for this game (and found time in his busy schedule to do so willingly).

and now Capek Golems 2p/30min- WIP card game for feb contest, part of a current PnP contest, will join the other games. again this game has further my design skills and game creation ability. it involves 2 techno-alchemists in one of the cities of the Grand Compact building golems, amalgams of biology and steampunk technology while public opinion slowly turns against them. it is a different game for me in that both players compete to build a golem first and win but they must also act cooperatively to keep on the good side of public opinion. the current contest has only strengthened this game because of the comments from other participants and on-lookers. it is becoming viable enough to consider using artscow so people can order nicely printed copies to play.

and where to next

as i create more of the narrative of the world of Arkady and the Grand Compact, i find i'd like to explore several different scales in new games

i've been thinking of working with some artists to create a map of Arkady and creating a game where 2-4 players would control fleets of ships, the AetherNavy, Freeship Traders and Air Pirates, and battle one another across the coastlines of the world.

on a smaller scale i am interested in creating a 2 player game where one would be Revenants boarding an AetherNavy ship, the other player being the crew trying bravely to defend themselves. this game would use cards that would be the various cabins/holds of a zeppelin (sort of along the lines of Space Hulk Death Angel). for now this is a rather custom dice heavy game in my mind, so we'll see where it ends up

and i'd like to explore a game at the scale of one city of the Grand Compact, perhaps involving a search for something.

in part i am starting this thread just to have a diary for my ideas but also it is to invite all of you to contribute to the Aether Captains World.

as a graphic designer by day my focus is on visual design consistency, so i am interested in the branding and designs of my games. over time i have worked out a narrative for this world, key terms, color and icons which help free certain design decisions. i am discovering this world as i go along.

the general background thread on the main game page will be added to as new games develop for me, but it is a place that if you are interested in designing some games for Arkady, i'd be very happy to have to participate in. my games will remain PnP and free to everyone. i know enough to know how hard it is to really publish a game so i am content with our very enjoyable niche here.

this has become, perhaps, a long winded thank you to BGGers and Aether Captains fans out there but i wanted to take some time to acknowledge everyone who has helped and supported my work. my games are better because of BGGusers. thanks.

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Cattlemark
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
Like I've said before, I love the fact that you've kept the majority (all?) of your games confined to their own "Gameverse". It's a lot of what inspired me to maybe give it a go with a universe of my own design; fleshing it out over time with multiple games. I think it's a helpful addition for PnP/Indie games to do that because it creates a sort of brand recognition that can help them reach a broader audience.
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todd sanders
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
majority yes. it is nice to break out of course into other ideas. faerie child is going to be a very different game indeed and now that capek golems is moving along well it is back to focusing on that while new Aether Captains games percolate on the stove of the imagination.

perhaps once contest season/fatigue dies down a little i'll do a contest where everyone has to design a game in the world of Arkady and the Grand Compact. have to save up my GG for that though.
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Nick Hayes
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
I've definitely enjoyed the games you've made. It's also very clear that, in terms of compelling game play, your designs have improved with time.
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todd sanders
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
i'd like to hope so nick. i recently re-read Sid Sackson's A Gamut of Games of which i am lucky to have a 1969 edition. i like to think of him as the grandfather of PnPers in many ways and reading his book as well as Knizia's book on Dice Games Properly Explained has really been an eye opener for me as to how game mechanics work, as have discussions with you and peakhope on multiple choice paths in games.

i got into the boardgaming hobby by being interested in game theory and then amassing a large collection of books on ancient abstract games from many cultures. so the technical side of how a game structure is built is appealing. i do not have many chances to play games with other people so the aspect of designing games for solitaire play has been a motivation as well.
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Samantha RD
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks

This ongoing series of games is becoming more and more intriguing. I look forward to seeing what comes from your 'area control' idea for the 3-4 factions fighting it out over a continent.

It could also be really interesting to have a dice-less game along the lines of pirates and traders, where you can create a character, your ship and then move through a series of choices - almost like 'fabled lands' actually, Building your character as you go.

Anyway, keep it up
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todd sanders
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
ah sort of like Candamir: The First Settlers

that almost gets more into an RPG in a way. though perhaps something like Barbarian Prince could be interesting. a lot of narrative to write at that point
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todd sanders
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
another game idea i am toying with fleshes out some of the narrative of the northern tribes of weaponsmakers who create aetheric based weapons. along the lines of waterworks, two tribal maker-shamen would prove their skill wielding aetheric energy. tiles would be laid, or dice with different faces turned as needed. you'd have to somehow stop the other person's energy streams while forcing your own forward.

what sort of games are you all interested in? world spanning battle sims? 2 player face-offs? more intimate solitaire games heavy on narrative?
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todd sanders
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
the eagle eyed of you might also wonder if the bookseller Rasmuson, in Capek Golems, who is a source for rare exotic tracts/papers/journals on revenant aether science and necrotechnicians, is some how related to Dread Ladypirate Griete Rasmuson who runs the Black Market in the Pirates and Traders game.
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Curt Woodard
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
I'm dim-witted and slow and therefore did not catch that, I just went for the games and didn't pay much attention to the backstory (*duck*). I happened to be visiting my favorite teacher's supply store and ran across a bucket of 1" plastic cubes a month or two ago and said...hmm Aether Captains could use these...then I found 1" number tiles and thought...hmmm Revanents? ;)

It's nifty when I see something and think of a game that could use that thing to build the game.
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Samantha RD
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
dumarest123 wrote:
more intimate solitaire games heavy on narrative?


Yup, I'm a big fan of the Fabled Lands book series, where you effectively have an open-ended world to explore and can develop the story in any way you choose. But, as you said, that entails an absolutely astronomical amount of work and writing - I just thought that concept, translated into this game world would be pretty amazing.
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Jessey
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
I really enjoy the narrative of your world todd, as much as I don't tend to gravitate towards dice games (and as such haven't dipped into anything except Pirates and Traders which I hoped I was an asset in the development of) I really am enjoying seeing the world develop - it's been inspirational - and an exciting journey.

That said, when I was play testing pirates and traders one particular card kept grabbing me, Border Territory. The image of a floating city in the clouds, controlled by neither aethernavy nor pirates really snagged my imagination. Every time the card came up I kept asking myself "what's such a city like? How does it work? What is it like to live there. The politics, the intrigue, the constant daily struggles..." I just kept imagining grand adventure in a city on the edge...

In any case the thought experiments inspired many ideas of a multi-player adventure game set in a Border Territory (the city on that card!). It has yet to get past brainstorming, but if you're interested I'm interested in continuing to pull it together and see where it goes... I'm imagining a map of the city with location nodes unconnected by lines (and using an Andriod-like movement system where you have rulers or maybe lines.. I dunno).

Players play as different characters from all walks of life with intersecting goals - perhaps someone plays a local who is heavily affiliated with the aethernavy aiming to remove the pirates from the city and secure it. Another plays the opposite, and still yet some play as freeship captains who've come to the city for one reason or another; perhaps Captain Hart is there to eradicate a Revenant Research Facility rumored to be within the cities industrial sector, of course the sector is controlled by pirates so that's a problem... and Captain Damask has recently made port having just barely escaped with his life from a combination storm and pirate ambush-- he lost most of his crew to the storm and his ship is in dire need of repair from the pirates...

As I said about Pirates and Traders - I really really like narrative in games, I love flavour text and I love the feeling of grand adventures. Additionally I like variable and personalized games as well (Andriod is a great inspiration to me) and asymmetry is something I hold dear (thank you David Sirlin, as brash as the man can be he has some interesting insights into game design on his blog).
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Kai Bettzieche
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
I'd love to see a detailed setting that I could use as background for RPG systems.

Mind you, I do not want you to write a complete RPG along with its mechanics, but instead some text that can be adapted to any exisiting system.
That way, simple systems (like Dungeon Squad!) was well as more elaborate systems (like The D6 System) can be used to play in your world

The General Background is a good start for this, however needs to be fleshed out way more in order to make it playable
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Kevin B. Smith
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
dumarest123 wrote:
what sort of games are you all interested in? world spanning battle sims? 2 player face-offs? more intimate solitaire games heavy on narrative?

As some of you know, my primary focus is (pure) cooperative games, so obviously I would love to see you do one of those. There are not many short (
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todd sanders
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
not familiar with the d6 system kai. i'll have to order a copy of the book. i think part of kevin's post is missing but yes i agree there should be more cooperative games. i am hoping 'faerie child' can work out to be a fairly good cooperative when it is done.

i get the sense people do like the narrative quality to my games and their interrelation, it allows you to enter into the game and become invested in it.

i have posted this in the credits of AC-PT but thought i would do so here as well:

a list of books and other media, that have spurred my imagination and design of my Aether Captains world include:

China Mieville - Perdido Street Station trilogy
Karl Schroeder - the Virga saga
Benjamin Rosenbaum - short story "Biographical Notes to ‘A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes’, by Benjamin Rosenbaum"
David R. Levine - short story "Love in the Balance"
Steph Swainston - the Year of our War saga
Michael Moorcock - Land Leviathan, Warlord of the Air and The Steel Tsar
Sean McMullen - Souls in the Great Machine trilogy
Alastair Reynolds - Terminal World
the anime series Last Exile
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Jessey
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
Interesting idea:

Ship building is surely not a trivial task. Rife with danger on the job, working with raw aetheric converters and catalyst transistors and all manner of clockworks and steam engines. A very touchy and dangerous business on its own, compounded by the incredibly profitable target ship yards make for pirates - a successful sacking of a ship yard could set a pirate up for life!

Well what's more, what about getting some of those harder to get components? What, you think Aetheric Energies just bottle themselves up? No friend, someone's gotta get in a little skiff, sail up into the heat of a storm and collect raw energy. Dangerous business you'd think, but I feel sorrier for the poor sap who has to refine that stuff.

Now, in adventure stories it's not uncommon for the hero's desire to construct something to be part of the adventure. Why not here?

What if we had a co-op game in which the players take on the roles of various crew members of a would-be airship - will they become pirates, join the aethernavy or free merchants? Well, that depends on the choices they make as they build their vessel.
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todd sanders
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
ok you need to write some copy for me

one model of course is - http://www.onesevendesign.com/ladyblackbird/

for a cooperative game.

i like very much the idea of individual characters working in a greater world setting. in doing capek golems i've been trying to run a narative in my hea dabout why these two guys are fiddling at the bounds of moral science doing their work.
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Kevin B. Smith
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
dumarest123 wrote:
i think part of kevin's post is missing but yes i agree there should be more cooperative games. i am hoping 'faerie child' can work out to be a fairly good cooperative when it is done.

DARNIT BGG!!! How hard is it to allow less-than symbols in posts? Or at least to warn you that you have used one!

I think my message was something like:

As some of you know, my primary focus is (pure) cooperative games, so obviously I would love to see you do one of those. There are not many short (less than 30 minute) co-ops, so that would be one niche. Other mechanics would be great too (we don't really need more Pandemic/FI/DotR/GS...).

Edit: Remembered more: I would love to see a co-op dice game along the lines of Alea Iacta Est. Vanished Planet is a co-op economic engine game, which is interesting (played it for the first time yesterday and had a blast).
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todd sanders
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
i'll have to look those games up. yes i agree short co-ops are a good design direction
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Curt Woodard
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
This setting sort of reminds me of a steampunk version of Skyland (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skyland)
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Dev Null
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
peakhope wrote:
DARNIT BGG!!! How hard is it to allow less-than symbols in posts? Or at least to warn you that you have used one!


Not very... assuming they're using only wiki/bb codes for formatting (i.e. don't allow any html), they could simply replace HTML special characters with their equivalents;
& becomes &
< becomes &lt;
> becomes &gt;

It's probably more likely though that the </> were being passed as non-htmlspecials, and as such everyone's browser is just taking it out and trying to parse it.
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David Etherton
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
I tried to send C code through a geekmail once, it ended poorly. Had to shove in all the <'s by hand.

Anyway -- Todd, your work on the Aether Captains world is absolutely top-notch! I bought bulk 2cm wooden cubes so I could make a nice Compass and Empire set, and carry it around in my backpack.

-Dave
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Kai Bettzieche
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
Order? Nah ..

You can obtain it as a free pdf from drivethroughRPG:
http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=468

If you like RPGs, read it!
Its high flexibility makes this system a masterpiece!
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todd sanders
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
i see a series of starter books for space, fantasy and such but not the actual d6 systems book itself. thanks for the link however
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David Etherton
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Re: Aether Captains - where to from here and many thanks
dumarest123 wrote:
i'll have to look those games up. yes i agree short co-ops are a good design direction


I didn't want to threadjack yet another thread again today, so I spun up a thread specifically about co-op games over here.
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