Narrow Gate Games - Scott Allen Czysz's Game Design Blog

A place to share my game designs, works in progress, game design philosophy, and ponderings.

1 , 2  Next »  

Recommend
16 
 Thumb up
0.05
 tip
 Hide

Design Tools I Need to Learn

Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: 1 Player Guild - Together We Game AloneMicrobadge: Automa Factory fan
Way back in November, I had a blog post on: Design Tools I Use.

It covered the two main design software tools I use: Paint.net for image editing and manipulation, and Inkscape for board and card layout.

These two pieces of free software are great for me, and they serve their purposes well.

Today I wanted to dive into the tools and methods I wish I had. I know what I need, but I don't know what the software answer is, so maybe some of you can help me with that.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------


Paint.net and Inkscape have served me well for when I need to take a hand drawn game idea:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

and turn it into a game sheet:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


Or, start with nothing, and end up with a game board, or a sheet of cards:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

When I create something like this (an earlier version of 12 Patrols), I use Inkscape to create this page of cards - not one card at a time.

So, if I want to create a PnP game, I am all set.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------

But...
Two situations have arisen with my game Depleted:

1) I would like to create some higher quality prototypes with TheGameCrafter, and

2) I would like to put the game on Tabletop Simulator so people can playtest it without having to print out 102 mini cards.

Both of these situations require me to create individual card images,not pdf sheets of cards.

Here, for example if the GameCraafter's template for mini cards:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

Each card image must be exactly 625x800 pixels.

This template shows the "bleed" (the gray zone) around the card itself (the red border).

So, my ideal solution would be a software package that can do the following:
1) create card images
2) "stitch" the cards together to create PnP pdf pages
THEN, also:
3) add bleed to those card images

And, do all this without adding a bunch of time to the process.


And, the answer is.....I have no idea.

So, what I am in the middle of, if taking my PNP version of "depleted", that looks like 6 pages of this:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


And turn it into 60 or 80 of these (some are duplicates):
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

You can see the dead space around this card which is the bleed. I am also taking the time to hopefully improve the look of the cards.

This is coming along, but I am doing it with brute force - creating new files in Inkscape that are the size of one GameCrafter card, then pasting it what I can from my original "one page" size Inkscape files. It is taking hours.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------


So, what is a better way of doing this?


I assume the best thing to do with the tools I have is to create individual card files (rather than individual page files) from the start. Then, do the extra step of compiling the card files into page files for PnP purposes. But, having bleed on these card images wastes about 10% (?) of the card area for Print 'n Play use.

So, for any other designers out there, what I am missing? What should I be doing? Any and all advice is appreciated.

Thanks.
Twitter Facebook
4 Comments
Fri Feb 19, 2021 1:11 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
13 
 Thumb up
1.05
 tip
 Hide

Continued Progress on "depleted", Headed Towards...?

Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: 1 Player Guild - Together We Game AloneMicrobadge: Automa Factory fan
Hi all,
I have been spending most of my game design time lately on my game depleted. The game has gone through many (I'm guessing a few dozen - I should probably keep better records) playtests between me and my "lead playtester" (meaning: only playtester), David Francis:
David Francis
Australia
Ivanhoe
Victoria
flag msg tools
badge
Solo Gamer
Avatar
Microbadge: Black Lives MatterMicrobadge: Tottenham fanMicrobadge: Walking in the countrysideMicrobadge: Whisky drinkerMicrobadge: I speak English


I originally conceived this game for the 2019 BGG Solitaire PnP Design Contest, then withdrew it do to real life, it sat for many, many months, before I got back to it seriously a couple months ago. I like the game and would like to see it published someday. But for now, without it being part of a BGG design contest, it's difficult to find an audience that is eager to playtest the game. Also, as a PnP game with 102 mini cards (6 pages), plus a page for the player mat, it's not a huge build, but it's not a quick build either. Saying all that to convey my big thanks to David again for taking the time to play this game. Through it all, we've also chatted (through e-mail and BGG private messages) a little about family, Australian Rules Football, whiskey/whisky, etc. So, I now have a geek buddy (whom I've never met) from half way around the world. What a great hobby.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Here is how I visualize the final product:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

A small box solo adventure game.

I have upgraded as best I can the graphic design of the game.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Early prototype player mat and upgrade mat left and location cards right (I was still using look up tables and a D20 dice roll for the 4 encounter decks):
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games



More recent prototype with the 4 encounter decks and very basic graphic design:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


Here is an example ally card from this version:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

Nice art (thanks Pixabay), functional but very plain graphic design.


I have tried to improve the graphic design, and the game currently looks like this:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


From gallery of Narrow Gate Games



---------------------------------------------------------------------

Like I said, I think the graphic design is improved, but it's not "publishable" level yet, in my mind.

And I think the game is about "90% there", but as Gabe Barrett says, "that last 10% is about. 90% of the work". So, I know I still have work to do.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

And, that is where I am at. What's next? Continued playtesting and tweaking I am sure. But, I am in sort of this "no man's land" where the game is not getting attention because it's part of a BGG contest, but I'm not sure it is polished enough to start submitting to a bunch of publishers. This is probably just a normal place to be, but since most of my other designs have been a part of a BGG contest, I guess I am missing that almost built-in audience.

Please don't take this post as me begging for playtesters. That is not the intent. The intent is just to share my progress and the reality of the situation with this game. I certainly want more playtesters before I spend money on a graphic designer in the hopes of doing a GameCrafter crowd sale or something like that. And, I would like more playtesters before I consider this game finished enough to send off to publishers.

So, I think what my plan is (certainly open to feedback from anyone):
1) Get a handful of this game printed through TheGameCrafter.com. Not cheap, but that's OK.
2) Get a few copies in the hands of some trusted playtesters.
3) Playtest, get feedback, tweak.
4) Submit to publishers.


---------------------------------------------------------------------

A more cost effective route, I believe would be to put the game on a digital platform for playtesting (Tabletop Simulator, etc.). But, I have no experience with this. Can any of you share how easy/difficult this would be for a game with:
- 2 player mats
- 6 decks of a total of 102 mini size cards
- 8 D12
- 23 tracking cubes

Thanks.


EDIT: depleted has its own BGG game page now with some images and all files needed to play the game: Depleted
Twitter Facebook
16 Comments
Tue Feb 9, 2021 5:44 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
21 
 Thumb up
0.05
 tip
 Hide

Does Theme Matter?

Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: 1 Player Guild - Together We Game AloneMicrobadge: Automa Factory fan
One enjoyable part of game design is diving into the world of the game I am designing and researching and learning and discovering.

But, when I am researching games on BGG and look at their game pages, I usually read about the first four words of paragraph 1:

In the dystopic 1930s...

Yup, whatever. What's the game about? Then I skip to the explanation of the game:

Game X is a resource management strategic game in which players compete to build their majestic (insert thing here), raise them to increase their storing capacity, and deliver all the .....

Each player represents one of the four international companies who are gathering ..., innovative ... and ... to ...


THAT is the part of the game that I am interested in.

EEE Fun mini contest: 50bag to first person to name the game I lifted that description from WWW


----------------------------------------------------------------------

A couple things got me thinking about this.

First, my game Count of Nine will soon be published by Button Shy Games as an slightly expanded game called "Count of the Nine Estates", and they will be using different art for the cards (I'm OK with that).

The art I originally used for the game came from a book from a few years ago, "The Nuremberg Chronicle" published in 1493 -- more than 500 years ago!
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

I would visually scan the images to find buildings I could use in the game, then crop them, clean them up a bit, and they became a card in the game:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


That Blacksmith building came from that city image above. Can you find it?

That was a lot of work for me, but it was a labor of love. But, do any of the people who have played Count of Nine really care? I have no idea. Would the game have been ranked higher, lower, or the same as it stands now at #8,919 on BGG if instead of The Nuremberg Chronicle, I used images of Lego buildings?


Second, the game I am currently working on, depleted, is set in the "dying Earth" genre/setting. I am enjoying reading some classic dying Earth stories as I have mentioned previously and these are helping me make decisions in the, like what are the creatures/beasts like? Here are a few of those beasts, sort of half standard fantasy beasts: troll-like, etc., and half just sort of weird, science experiments - -and that fits the genre/theme.
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

I am enjoying reading stories set in the genre, finding art that will fit the genre, and I could even enjoy writing scenarios for the game. Will anyone care?

I don't intend for that to sound like I am an unappreciated creative soul and nobody cares about my hard work. That's not it at all. I am just curious about the sort of mis-match I feel as a designer that enjoys researching the theme for a game I am designing versus me as a game player who wants the game to look cool and not too cartoony or gore filled, but doesn't really care about all the flavor text.


----------------------------------------------------------------------

I think people - myself included - say they care about the theme of a game. But then I look at the games I enjoy playing:

The Neo-Babylonian empire, especially under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 B.C.), was a period of rebirth for southern Mesopotamia. Irrigation systems improved and expanded, increasing agricultural production. Urban life flourished with the creation of new cities, monuments and temples, and the consequent increase in trade.

In a high tower, an Alchemist prepares potions, using vials filled with otherworldly fluids. In a sacred grove, a Druid grinds herbs for a mystical ritual. In the catacombs, a Necromancer summons a bone dragon...

It is a time of unrest in 1920s Europa. The ashes from the first great war still darken the snow. The capitalistic city-state known simply as “The Factory”, which fueled the war with heavily armored mechs, has closed its doors, drawing the attention of several nearby countries.

You are citizens of Squalls End on a rescue mission to The Isle of Cats and must rescue as many cats as possible before the evil Lord Vesh arrives. Each cat is represented by a unique tile and belongs to a family, you must find a way to make them all fit on your boat while keeping families together.


That's quite a range. I think my takeaway is I have a preferred theme or two that I like, but if a game is good, I will keep it:
Board Game: Mr. Cabbagehead's Garden



----------------------------------------------------------------------

My final thoughts:

I think theme is the wrong word to use, in fact, I don't really know what it means. I have heard the answer to "What is the theme of your game?" be things like: World War 2, zombies, sci-fi, super-heros. Seems a bit disjointed.

I think a better word to use is setting: What is the setting of your game? Dying Earth, a far future weary planet with resources that are nearly depleted.

Or (or and/or), maybe genre: Science fantasy.


----------------------------------------------------------------------

To wrap up, as a designer, I very much enjoy diving deep into the theme.

As a game player, I think art, and look of the game matter. For example, if Isle of Cats was super cute cartoony, I would maybe not have wanted it. The only exception for me is I generally want my games to be escapes. I don't want to play a game of real life politics, or terrorism, or real life economies, etc.

What are your thoughts on importance of theme to your games. In other words, do you read that first paragraph of a game's description, or jump down to see how the game plays?
Twitter Facebook
23 Comments
Fri Jan 29, 2021 3:48 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
20 
 Thumb up
5.30
 tip
 Hide

Thoughts on Two More New To Me Games - Pulp Invasion, Ragemore

Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: 1 Player Guild - Together We Game AloneMicrobadge: Automa Factory fan
Hi all,
I've received another few games recently:
Ragemore from ButtonShy which I've played a few times and really like so far.

SpaceShipped also from ButtonShy which I have not played yet, and

Pulp Invasion, a Todd Sanders design and Kickstarter game that just delivered, published by AVStudioGames.


Let's talk about:
Board Game: Pulp Invasion


I like Pulp Invasion. I helped playtest it for Todd a while ago, and I like the game it is based on, The Thief in the Forest of Wyr.

For those that aren't familiar with the game, it is second in Todd's "Pulp" series of game, using pulp art from the 1950s era in a science fiction setting. The game is a "bag builder", so yes there is luck involved. The goal of the game is to find all 4, 5, or 6 (adjustable difficulty) "Super Weapons" (yellow cubes in the bag).


I don't want to pick apart the design much, I really want to pick apart the physical implementation of the game to see what I can learn from it. So, let's get started.

First, some basics. I paid $34: $19 base game (great price) + $10 expansion (not a great price for a few cards and one die, but the box is nice) + $5 shipping (a great price). The Kickstarter campaign said delivery December 2020. I received the game on January 11, 2021 -- no complaints from me.

FYI, the game is made in Turkey. I haven't seen that before. I don't know how goods move from Turkey to France, but probably quicker than on a boat from China, so I appreciate that.


The boxes:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

thumbsup Very cool art.
Not critical, but the boxes are not linen finish. Linen is a nice-to-have, premium finish, so not a big deal.

The inside of the box has the resource tracker printed in it:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

Nice touch, but I don't plan on sliding tracking cubes around inside the box. The game comes with 3 cards used for tracking and holding the dice (used for bonuses), but those aren't ideal in my mind. I messaged Todd and he sent me the file of the tracker in the box, so I printed it out and I use that now:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


The game components are a bunch of cards, a bunch of cubes, and 5 dice, and no insert. So, I made a simple insert.
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games




So, my lessons learned / wish list:
1) Great art on the box probably helps marketing/sales (no surprise).

2) For card based games, allow room in the box for card sleeves (that didn't happen for Pocket Landship, unfortunately).

3) Box inserts are appreciated.

4) I prefer a one piece player mat to a 2 or 3 card assembly for the player mat.

I realize #3 and 4 cost money, and I know the publisher for this game is not one of the big game publishers, so I am not criticizing their decisions, just listing things to keep in mind going forward for me (assuming going forward I have another game published).

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Ragemore is a ButtonShy wallet game: 18 cards and instructions in a plastic wallet. I like this game also, a fun little hand management game, with very nice art and graphic design.
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


thumbsup Very nice art
thumbsup Clear, logical graphic design
thumbsup Large font on cards - I don't need my reading glasses to play!
thumbsup Very nice linen finish on cards
thumbsdown Small font on the instructions (where are my reading glasses?)
thumbsdown No player reference card. Not a big deal, just a wish.



Again, my critiques here are not "negatives", these are both nice games that I am happy to have in my game library. But, I think looking at games with a critical eye will hopefully help me contribute in a positive way in the future to my (hopefully) future published games.

Thanks for reading.
Twitter Facebook
6 Comments
Tue Jan 19, 2021 2:14 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
21 
 Thumb up
1.05
 tip
 Hide

Progress on a New Design - "Spacial"

Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: 1 Player Guild - Together We Game AloneMicrobadge: Automa Factory fan
Hi all,
Happy New Year. Hope you had a chance over the holidays to get some games to the table. And here's hoping that 2021 brings the world back closer to normal.

In this blog post, I thought I'd share progress on a new game that I am designing for the BoardGameGeek 2021 9 card design contest.

The 9 card design contest is my favorite design contest on BGG. I like the design constraint, and also the simplicity of the design (simplicity of designing the cards and modifying them): 1 sheet of 9 cards. This contest is also responsible for my three most popular game designs:
Pocket Landship (2017)
Count of Nine (2018)
12 Patrols (2019)


The seed of the game I am designing is maybe a year old. I had thought of a worker placement game where the worker actions are on a card, with another card on top of it (irregular shaped), covering about half the actions. Then, in addition to usual worker placement actions, there would also be actions to move the top screen around to expose other actions.

So, how does that turn into a 9 card game? Let's see. (FYI, this will be a solo game).

Well, for a 9 card game, the idea is to have a total of 7 cards with a variety of worker placement actions on them. The player will start with one of those, then use it to gather resources to "build" some or all of the other cards. As a new card is built, depending on where on the grid of 2x3 cards the card comes from, it will have a different cost, and a different requirement for how many "modules" (quarters of other cards) the new card must cover.

So, that last bit is the part that came from the original idea: covering up some worker placement spaces. The hope is that this creates a spatial puzzle for the player, in addition to the: place workers - get resources - build stuff - gain victory points.

As for theme: building cards, spatial puzzle = build a space base, lunar base, base on a distant planet. I know that is sort of generic, or at least, not unique theme, but it works. And, for something like the 9 card contest, I don't think an unfamiliar theme (like dying earth) makes sense - just my opinion.

A spatial puzzle about building a base in space. Hmm, what to call it?
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


So, onto the game.

First prototype, 9 index cards:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

One tracking card, one starting base card, 6 "Sector" cards in a 2x3 grid make up the available structures to build (to gain victory points and new actions).

Each of the 6 cards available also have a special action on them to manipulate the available cards in the grid: "swap 2 columns", stuff like that. To take one of these actions - to get the cards in the position you want for lower cost to build, for example - the player must place a "Deactivation Cube" on a built module. This deactivates that module and prevents it from being built over, so more spatial puzzle. What it also does it open up a space for an additional worker to hire, or gold (for victory points).

From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


STARTING MECHANISMS:
1) Worker Placement
2) Spatial puzzle of placing new cards onto existing cards (and not on "Deactiviation Cubes")

The original game was simple and quick...too simple and too quick. So, one of the first changes I made was that the added requirement of needing a Fuel Cell cube on a Factory module in order to build a new card (the green cube in the photo).

Adding the Fuel Cell to the Factory modules worked well.

Next up, was how to end the game so it doesn't drag on. So, I came up with the idea of each Fuel Cell cube on a card lasts 4 turns. At the end of each turn, slide the card to the next clockwise corner of the module.
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

When the Fuel Cell is in the bottom left position, at the end of the next turn, that Fuel Cell cube leaves the game. Fuel Cells are needed, but there are only 5 in the game, so once they are gone, the game ends.


MECHANISMS NOW:
1) Worker Placement
2) Spatial puzzle of placing new cards onto existing cards (and not on "Deactiviation Cubes")
3) Timing and placement of Fuel Cell cubes / end game timer

I think the game is working decently now, especially considering that it is day 1 of the contest. For BGG contests, most of the time I don't have a working game when the contest starts, so I feel like I am ahead of the game so far.


So, I will keep playtesting it. I am also working to improve the look of the game some.

Here is a progression starting with the index card:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


First version (version 0.10) of the cards:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

Each blue rectangle is a "module", the entire card is called a "sector".
The marble looking background isn't great. I was hoping it would look like the surface of a planet.

Second version (version 0.11) of the cards:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

Added textures, but not sure if I like the look.


Third version (version 0.12) of the cards:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

Improved the background, and cleaned up some of the look. Better, but still not great.


Here is the WIP link: [WIP] SPACIAL - An Entry in the 2021 9 Card PnP Design Contest (Components Ready)

And, the latest look of the game:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


I think the game works fine, but I am looking forward refining it over the next few months.
Twitter Facebook
9 Comments
Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:51 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
25 
 Thumb up
0.25
 tip
 Hide

Thoughts on New Games Received This Holiday Season

Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: 1 Player Guild - Together We Game AloneMicrobadge: Automa Factory fan
Hi all,
I hope all of you have enjoyed or are enjoying this holiday season.

I received two new games this last week (one for my birthday and one for Christmas). I thought I'd share my thoughts on these two new (for me) games, and compare them to my design tenets to see how they measure up.


First up is The Isle of Cats.
Board Game: The Isle of Cats


Let's see how it measures up to my design tenets.

1) Theme and mechanisms are important, and a game design can start with either, but what is key is creating the desired "experience": feelings, emotions, etc.
Grade: B
The theme of this game is cute, the mechanisms are straight-forward. The experience of this game is fairly laid back, puzzly - fitting the cat pieces into your ship, with a good amount of tension. I don't think this will be a game where you relive the experience as a story (i.e. "...and then, I barely escaped with the weapon..."). That's OK. I'm just saying it feels more like a pleasant way to pass the time.


2) Give the player meaningful choices.
Grade: B+
There is a card draft at the beginning of every round. Drafting is a fun way of giving players choices. Then, the main action of the round is selecting cat tiles to move to your boat. As we played several games, there were frequent 'argh's and 'hmmm's throughout the game. SO good job with player choices.


3) Low rules overhead.
Grade: B+
Pretty good, not too difficult.



4) Quick-ish set-up.
Grade: B+
Good. All the cat tiles start in a bag, just need to set up some special tiles (varying number depending on number of players).


5) Multiple paths to victory.
Grade: B+
Good. There are the standard ways to gain and lose points, plus "lessons" (private objectives) and usually some "public lessons" (objectives that everyone can get points for).



6) Logical graphic design.
Grade: C
OK. The "Orange" cats are yellow on the tiles, but very orange on the cat meeples. Not a big deal, but a slight annoyance when teaching the game.
Board Game: The Isle of Cats
Board Game: The Isle of Cats


Also the rooms of your ship have icons in them, but they aren't obvious.
Board Game: The Isle of Cats

See those fat "I"s in the middle room? They're not "I"s, they are apple cores, supposedly.

Also, it took us a couple games before we realized there is another small room at the front of the boat. Not sure why the rooms couldn't have been netter defined.


7) If dice are rolled, roll dice (not a single die).
Grade: NA
No dice in the game.


8) Small-ish box games can be elegant.
Grade: NA
A surprisingly large, heavy box for what the game is.


9) There is a fine line between a "hook" and a "gimmick".
Grade: B
Cute cats sprawled into different positions to file the different shaped tiles is probably a bit gimmicky, but it works.

Overall, I think this is a cute, fun, accessible game with quick set-up, relatively simple rules, with plenty of player choices. I imagine that now that the kids have left after their holiday visit, this game will one that my wife and I play often, and bring to game nights (when those are a thing again).


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Next up is Babylonia. This was a "Space-Biff" made me buy this (or put it on my Christmas list). I like his reviews and he had very good things to say about this game, including "I’d even call it Reiner Knizia’s finest work." See his full review here: https://spacebiff.com/2020/11/16/babylonia/

Board Game: Babylonia



Let's see how this one measures up to my design tenets.

1) Theme and mechanisms are important, and a game design can start with either, but what is key is creating the desired "experience": feelings, emotions, etc.
Grade: B
The theme could be called pasted on in this game - similar to Isle of Cats. The mechanisms are elegantly simple. The experience is also somewhat similar to Isle of Cats: a sort of laid back spatial puzzle.


2) Give the player meaningful choices.
Grade: A
Each turn, a player will place 2 or more tiles/disks onto the board. And, it's a decent size board, so plenty of choices.


3) Low rules overhead.
Grade: A+
Play 2 or more disks ("more" if they are all farmer tiles). That's almost it. There is also "score surrounded cities", and "draw more disks until you have 5 in your tray". That's really about all.


4) Quick-ish set-up.
Grade: A
Open the board, spread out the bonus cards/tiles, give each player their disks and tray. That's it.


5) Multiple paths to victory.
Grade: B
Yes, but it is basically area control (control a majority of hexes around a city) and some route building and blocking other players' routes.


6) Logical graphic design.
Grade: B
Player disks have 4 different and distinct icons that won't get confused. One of the farm tiles' bonuses isn't obvious, but once you learn it, it is fine.
Board Game: Babylonia

See that hex tile with the blue square on the right edge of the image? What do you think it means? I didn't know either.


7) If dice are rolled, roll dice (not a single die).
Grade: NA
No dice.


8) Small-ish box games can be elegant.
Grade: B+
This is not a small box game, but smaller than Isle of Cats, Scythe, Tapestry, etc. But, this game is definitely elegant

9) There is a fine line between a "hook" and a "gimmick".
Grade: B
No gimmicks here.


I really like this game. This may make it to my top 5 games. The only drawbacks for me are no solo mode, and only plays up to 4 players.


This game is what I was hoping my game Frisland would be: hex map, area control, simple rules, engaging gameplay.
Board Game: Babylonia
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

(Just to clarify: I started working on Frisland many months ago, and just discovered Babylonia a few weeks ago. So Frisland was not my attempt to make a Babylonia-type game. Frisland is my attempt to make a multi-player hex map board game with simple rules and engaging gameplay, and Babylonia does that very well).

So, it's a bit of a bummer for me. But, since that game was already set aside as I work on depleted, it's OK. I may still come back to it someday.


I recommend both these games, but especially Babylonia. It is definitely a "gem" that I think I will be hanging onto for a long time.
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Sun Dec 27, 2020 12:34 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
35 
 Thumb up
2.05
 tip
 Hide

Publishing News

Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: 1 Player Guild - Together We Game AloneMicrobadge: Automa Factory fan
We interrupt this blog for an important announcement...


From gallery of Narrow Gate Games



I am very happy to be able to announce that Button Shy Games will be publishing an expanded, re-implementation of one of my PnP games. "Count of the Nine Estates" is an 18 card expanded, improved version of Count of Nine.

Button Shy published Count of Nine as one of their Board Game of the Month games earlier this year. Separately from that, I started to design an expanded version of the game earlier this year. It ended up as an 18 card game, so naturally, I was hoping Button Shy would be interested in it.

Jason Tagmire from Button Shy was interested and lately I've been working with him and his team as they playtest and develop it. Working with Jason and his team has been a pleasure. I am very much looking forward to seeing the finished product. I believe the game will go to their Patreon subscribers first, then be available on their web store sometime early 2021.
Twitter Facebook
22 Comments
Fri Dec 18, 2020 12:53 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
15 
 Thumb up
3.05
 tip
 Hide

More Progress on 'depleted' Solo Adventure Game

Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: 1 Player Guild - Together We Game AloneMicrobadge: Automa Factory fan
I thought for this blog post, I would walk through a play of 'depleted'.

Please note, the art and graphic design are far from finalized.

Game set-up and ready to go:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

Player mat with 10 (blue) fuel cubes, 2 combat D12 dice, and 4 ship health cubes.

The 18 card location deck next to the mat. These cards are face down, but on the backs you can see what the location type is:
1) Settlement: usually draw and ally card, plus recover some health, and do one upgrade if desired.
2) Waste Land: usually draw a life form (usually a creature to battle), recover 1 health (you out in the wilderness resting/repairing), and upgrade.
3) Rust Desert: usually draw an item, either Mechanical Artifact, or an Electronic Module.
4) Acid Marsh: usually draw a mineral: Copper, Silver, or Gold.


From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

Above the player mat is the upgrade mat, showing all available upgrades. There are 5 upgrade categories that each have 2 upgrades available:
1) Ship Health (increase health to 5 then 6)
2) Cargo capacity (increase to 5 then 6)
3) Fuel Recycling (Increase recycling to every 3 Fuel, then every 2)
4) Scanners (flip 1 then 2 location cards face up to see what they have)
5) Combat dice (increase to 3 then 4).

I am currently playing where the player is limited to 4 upgrades per game. Otherwise, the smart play (I think) is to focus on getting both Fuel Recycling options to lengthen the game, then move on to other upgrades.

Above the upgrade mat are "Titan Energy Capsule" cards just to keep track of how many are gained by the player. Gain 3 to win the game.

Off to the left are 6 decks:
1) 18 Allies: mostly helpful characters that are sort of like upgrades, but they each take a place of cargo (so you have less room for resources, or you could upgrade your cargo capacity, or...).
2) 18 "Life Forms": mostly creatures that you can defeat to gain resources, or fuel, or "Titan Energy Capsule"s.
3) 18 Items
4) 18 Minerals
5) 4 Positive Events: draw one if 2 of the 3 location cards are Settlements
6) 4 Negative Events: draw one of 2 of the 3 location cards are Waste Lands

--------------------------------------------

So, let's play...

1) Move one Fuel cube to Fuel recycling to deal 3 location cards face down. Let's say a Rust Desert, a Settlement, and an Acid Marsh.

2) Starting the game, I've got no sensor upgrade or Navigator ally, so I can't flip any of these cards to see what I get. A Rust Desert doesn't always just tell you to draw 1 item. A few are different: draw a Life Form, do nothing, etc.

At the start of the game, I have no resources, so I would probably visit the Acid Marsh and Rust Desert to hopefully get some resources.


From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

Later in the game, 4 Fuel are gone, 1 Fuel is in recycling. I've taken on 2 allies, a Gunner which allows dice re-rolls for combat, and a Fixer who does nothing except let's you ignore any Negative Events (they are a but nasty). So, the Fixer is taking valuable space in my cargo hold, but he's a nice insurance policy, just in case.

I don't have any resources in the cargo bay, but I do have 3 upgrades:
1) a third combat die
2) one sensor (so I can flip 1 location card each turn)
3) 1 Fuel recycling, so now every 3 Fuel spent, I get one back

I'm worried at this point, because I've used up about a third of the Fuel, but haven't gotten any "Titan Energy Capsules".

...

I was right to worry. Things weren't going well. So not well in fact, I decided to playtest with more than 4 upgrades (I'm not cheating, I'm playtesting).

I ended up with 6 upgrades:
2 more combat dice
1 sensor
2 Fuel Recycling
1 extra cargo bay

It didn't help.

From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


0 Fuel remaining, and 0 Titan Energy Capsules found. A bad loss.

The first life form card of the game (when I had no upgrades) was one of the 2 creature cards that has a Titan Energy Capsule as a reward. I wasn't strong enough then to even try to fight for it, so I knew I was a little behind from the get go.

There are 3 sets of clues to find. You must find all 3 of the matching set to gain one Titan Energy Capsule. Here is what I ended up with:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

2, 1, and 2 of the 3 sets of clues.

----------------------------------------------------

Before I pick apart the game, a big shout out to Pixabay and a couple artists there offering their work for no cost:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

by Wolfgang Eckert


From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

Hot air balloon iamage by Susann Mielke

If I stick with these images, I will reimburse them. But, even if I don't stick with these, they have been helpful to set the mood for me.


----------------------------------------------------

OK, back to the game...

Here's what I like:
1) The "form factor" of this game. Like I said in an earlier post, I wanted to create a Runebound (Third Edition)-like game in a Helionox: The Last Sunset-size package.
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


2) The overall sort of engine building feel of the game: start weak, collect resources early, get stronger with upgrades mid-game, get stuff done late in the game.

3) The theme. I think it comes across well with scarce resources and fuel, the importance of fuel recycling, sometimes coming up with nothing when you visit a location, strange creatures.

4) The overall game "system". If this all works out, I could see creating new ships (more cargo bays, but more fuel usage; less armor/health but better fuel usage; etc.), maybe different missions. Bit, first things first.


Here's what needs work:
1) Graphic design. Functional, but disjointed and not real pretty.

2) Combat mechanic is so-so. Stronger creatures roll more dice (2 to 4), the high and the low values apply to the combat. 1, 2, 3 block a damage, 10, 11, 12 cause 1 damage (12 is unblockable damage). Player starts with 2 dice, can upgrade to 4, roll all, pick any 2 to use. If you have the Gunner ally, you can re-roll up to 2 dice. It works, but isn't thrilling, but maybe that's OK.


Here's what I don't like:
1) Maybe too much luck of the draw. If you deal 2 (out of 3) location cards as Settlements you get a good bonus, Waste Lands you get a penalty. But, it's completely out of your control. But, maybe that is the nature of an "adventure game", where you want each game to sort of tell its own story? Same with the 4 main decks: Allies, Creatures, Items, Minerals, I want some of these to be "nothing" or something potentially bad (a creature) for the adventure, so I can't just flip 3 face up, or have the player draw 2 and pick 1 - cuz many times it would be an obvious decision.



Next steps:
1) Playtest
2) Playtest
3) Playtest

I've got some tweaks in mind. I might add another ally type, a "picker" that acts sort of like the "Fixer". But instead as an insurance policy against negative events, the picker would be an insurance policy against bad Item or Mineral draws - get to draw a second card. But, maybe usable for only 3 times (not the whole game).


The game is 1 sheet for the player mat + 102 mini cards (plus 23 tracking cubes and 8 D12). If anyone is interested in playtesting this, just let me know and I can send you the files.

(Just to be clear, I am not asking for as many playtesters as possible. Printing and cutting 102 cards takes time, and who knows, the game may change significantly next week or next month. But, if you are looking for a game to playtest, I have this one).

Thanks.
Twitter Facebook
9 Comments
Tue Dec 8, 2020 3:17 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
21 
 Thumb up
1.05
 tip
 Hide

Publishing Alternatives (Partial) - Scott Asking A Lot of Questions

Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: 1 Player Guild - Together We Game AloneMicrobadge: Automa Factory fan
I thought I would talk a little about publishing alternatives for game designers in this blog post.

I am calling it "alternatives" instead of "options", because options sounds like all you have to do is pick one and you get it. Alternatives (in my mind at least) are there, but maybe not available by the designer's choice. Hopefully, you will see what I mean as we dive into this.

I am also saying right up front "partial", because I am sure there are other alternatives. So, please comment to add more content to this.

So, this is not an exhaustive list, just a list of alternatives that I am aware of, and have experience with at least some of these.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Here is one official definition of publish: produced or released for distribution in a book, magazine, newspaper, etc.

What exactly does "published" mean when it comes to game designs? If I post a link to my game files here for all to access, is that game "published"? Probably not.

Does "published" mean that the designer has been paid? Not sure.

And, then there is the whole digital world of games. I will (mostly) ignore that for this blog post.

But, I think it is sort of a continuum. Let's see


Probably Not Really Published:

d10-1 Posting a link to game files on BGG, Facebook, etc. To me, that is making your game available, but that doesn't mean it is published.

d10-2 What about a game that has its own game page here on BoardGameGeek with files available to download?
Iron & Brass: Duel

d10-3 PNPArcade.com I currently have 12 Patrols on PNP Arcade as a free download. Does that mean it is published?

d10-4 I also have a couple games at TheGameCrafter.com available for purchase and they will be printed on demand. I have received dollars of revenue from this (I think about $6, so far). Are those games published?
Board Game: Mech Capture



Closer to Being Published
d10-5 What if I put a game on TheGameCrafter as a crowd sale and 10 or 30 or 130 people order it, the games get printed and and sent to the purchasers? Sounds like "self-publishing" to me.
External image


d10-6 So, how about if I do everything a publisher would do: hire artists, playtest, get quotes from manufacturers, market the game, get Rahdo to do a preview, then I put the game on Kickstarter. Is that a published game? Sort of. It is self-published.


Really Published
For something to be considered published, must money exchange hands and/or a contract be signed?

d10-7 For Pocket Landship, I signed a contract with a small publisher (Word Forge Games), I received a small advance, then they did basically everything in #6 above. But, with a signed contract, a cash advance, and then the game being sent to backers and available in some retail outlets, and me receiving a percentage of the sales, this is probably the point where everyone would agree, yes it is a published game.


And now, into uncharted territory for me...
d10-8 Traditional game publishing: A game publisher offers a contract to a designer, then the publisher does all of #6 above, but instead of Kickstarter, they pay up front to print copies of the game, then sell it online or through traditional distribution channels.


------------------------------------------------------------------

In the end, the answers to my questions, and probably even the main question of "What does published mean?" doesn't really matter. The good news for game designers is that there are many avenues to get your game(s) out to players. Some will make you some money, which is great, but there are other ways as well.

And like I said, there is also the whole digital side of things: TableTopSimulator, BoardGameArena, having a game turned into an app and sold in app stores, etc.


------------------------------------------------------------------

I guess now that I have dissected this topic this far, I should see where I am at:
d10-1 I would guess that I have 10 or so games that haven't made it to #2 - having their own BGG game page. These are game designs I entered into BGG design contests and I wasn't that pleased with them, so I have just let them fade away.

d10-2 My game designs that have their own BGG game pages: 18, including the free and published version of Pocket Landship, and a Pocket Landship (free PnP version) expansion

d10-3 1 game on PNPArcade for free download, 12 Patrols

d10-4 2 games on TheGameCrafter: Mech Capture, and my first game design (which isn't very good) Talons & Teeth

d10-5 TheGameCrafter crowd sale: 0, but something I may consider. The ones I have seen have not sold a lot of copies. I think I'd need 200 people bugging me about a certain game for me to try this in hopes that 50 or 60 would follow through and order the game. It jsut doesn't have the same excitement/thrill of a Kickstarter campaign.

d10-6 Self-publish: 0, no plans to do this

d10-7 Signed with a publisher, Kickstarter: 1, Pocket Landship

d10-8 Signed with a publisher for traditional publication: 0, maybe someday. Actually, ButtonShy did publish Count of Nine as part of their Board Game of the Month club. I did get paid a small amount, and they did print and "sell" (sent to their Patreon - I think - subscribers) the game.



It would be wonderful to have a catalog of game designs published by big publishers. But, I am not cranking out 10 designs a year (in the hopes of having 1 or 2 outstanding games ready for publishers), and I am not pitching my games around the country or the world at conventions.

So, realistically, it would be nice to someday have one or more of my games picked up by a big game publisher. But, that may never happen.

I'd like to get more games published, and that may likely be with smaller publishers like Word Forge Games and Button Shy and others.

And, I wouldn't mind having a few games for sale on PNPArcade and TheGameCrafter, but today at least, that doesn't seem like the best way to get exposure for your game and to earn money for a game design, unfortunately.



Enough rambling from me, what do you think? Did I miss anything obvious? Other thoughts?

Thanks.
Twitter Facebook
8 Comments
Sat Dec 5, 2020 5:41 am
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
20 
 Thumb up
0.05
 tip
 Hide

Progress on 'depleted' Solo Adventure Game

Scott Allen Czysz
United States
Colorado Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Microbadge: Scythe fanMicrobadge: Helionox: The Last Sunset fanMicrobadge: Pocket Landship fanMicrobadge: 1 Player Guild - Together We Game AloneMicrobadge: Automa Factory fan
So, I had been working on my area control game, "Frisland" for a while lately. But, after its first real playtest (not just me playing multiple handed), it felt sort of flat. It worked, and I got some compliments on it, but I'm not sure it was tense or fun. So, I am just going to set it aside for a while.


So, onto 'depleted'.

I guess I should mention that the title is intentionally all lower case. I know it's a small thing, but I think it sort of fits the theme of a "weary, dying Earth". And, the lower case d looks good in the game logo, I think:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


Along with the look and feel to set the tone, sometimes when I design a game, I also have a playlist of music I listen to to get me into that frame of mind. For depleted, I've got this playlist:


https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5ZcphDVDShfc9fOz92tOc1

Here is one song from the playlist:

I think it has a cool, slow, sort of tired to feel for it. Go ahead and play it as you read this post.

Now, using a lower case title for the game, or having a playlist to listen to when designing (or playing) the game, isn't necessary, but that's the way I design, I guess.


Before I go any further, I want to again thank
todd sanders
United States
pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: Geek of the WeekMicrobadge: Solitaire GamerMicrobadge: Dice (d12) fanMicrobadge: 1 Full-Page Label PnP Contest participantMicrobadge: 2015 Solitaire Print and Play Contest participant

because it was his published book of dying Earth short stories, "Nevermorearth" that introduced me to the dying Earth genre.
External image


I think this genre is cool because:
1) It's different. It's not Vikings, zombies, space, or traditional fantasy (orcs, elves, etc.).
2) Dying Earth, scarce resources fits well with tabletop games. One of Todd's design mantras is something like "do too much with too few resources and not enough time".
3) Dying Earth is sort of open-ended with some kind of mix of far future sci-fi and traditional fantasy (heroes, monsters, maybe even castles, and wizards or magicians), so it still feels a bit familiar.

For those interested in the genre, I would recommend picking up Nevermorearth: http://aanpress.com/aanorder.html#nevermorearth

"The Pastel City", by M. John Harrison (recommended by Todd Sanders) is excellent.
External image

The story is great and the writing is outstanding - a pleasure to read. This book is part of a series or collection called Viriconium, but I think it is far and away the best of the bunch.

And, Jack Vance's "Tales of the Dying Earth" is a collection of somewhat related stories. Most read similar to an adventure like The Hobbit. They are fun reads, but to be honest, the main character is not always likeable, and some of the stories come across as dated/sexist damsel in distress types of stories, or even just the females are the trophies to try to acquire.

-------------------------------------------------------------
OK, that was a long intro. Onto the game...

I like Runebound (Third Edition). It is a very good solo adventure game in my opinion. Start with one hero, wander a map to have encounters, shop for items, level up, fight creeps along the way, and end with a "boss monster" fight.
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games

I have mentioned it before, but the one thing I find odd is playing that game solo and having a big map / gameboard and only having your one hero roam that big map.

So, what I wanted to design was a solo adventure game without a big board. That is how depleted got its start. About that time, I was just getting into the dying Earth genre, so I decided to make it a dying Earth solo adventure game.

Here is what I said about the game in the earlier blog post:

1) game type: Solo, Adventure, Engine Builder
2) Setting/Theme: dying earth
3) Mechanisms: action point, dice combat, resource management, set/item collection for upgrades
4) Desired Feelings/Emotions: resource shortage tension, tough decisions
5) Form Factor: player mat, location cards, dice for combat
It has a nice feel to it with a variety of possible and useful upgrades, but not enough resources to get all the upgrades - fitting for the theme.


The setting and story are:

Dying Earth (details don't matter too much), but in the future where there are no longer defined countries and governments. Civilizations have come and gone, and have sort of rotted away. Resources are scarce. There are vast "rust deserts" (remains of past civilizations) to be scavenged for resources. There are also "acid marshes" where other types of resources can be scavenged. There are also "waste lands" that don't have much to offer other than creatures to fight, but you can rest and recover there. And finally, there are a few "settlements" where you can meet allies, and trade resources. So, those are the 4 types of Location Cards in the game.

The ship that you are traveling in is sort of a hot air balloon, thanks to a great artist on Pixabay.com:
From gallery of Narrow Gate Games


Game Overview:
In the game, you have been sent out from your settlement to find and return with 3 "Energy Capsules" to power your settlement. You are in a ship with limited fuel, and upgreadable:
1) Cargo capacity to carry more resources and allies,
2) Fuel recycling, so your fuel lasts longer,
3) Sensors to check out locations before encountering them,
4) Weapons to battle creatures you encounter,
5) Shields or Health of your ship
So, there are 5 things you can upgrade, each can be upgraded twice, so 10 upgrades total, BUT you can only make 4 upgrades total in the game. As usual, I want to give the player tough choices in the game.

Gameplay:
1) spend 1 Fuel to deal 3 Location Cards face down. On the back of the location card, you can see what it is: Settlement, Rust Desert, etc. (If you have sensors upgraded, you can flip 1 or 2 of these before deciding which ones to visit.
2) Flip 2 to visit / encounter. These encounters could be drawing a resource card, drawing a creature card to encounter, or maybe take on a passenger at a settlement - a gunner that will help in combat, a mechanic that will help repair the ship, etc.
3) If at a Settlement, you can trade in resources for ship upgrades.

There are 6 ways to gain an "energy capsule", you need 3 to win:
1 & 2) defeating difficult creatures (2 of the 18 creature cards have their rewards as "energy capsules".

3 & 4) Collecting "clues" that are on resource card.

5 & 6) Trading in 4 resources of two different types.

So, combat can get you 2, exploring to find clues can get you 2, and collecting resources and trading them in can get you 2. But, you need 3 to win , so you will need to focus on more than one thing.


As for the engine building, it's probably more of just upgrades and leveling up. The Fuel Recycling definitely feels like engine building with sort of that exponential growth impact.


This is getting long, so maybe I will stop here for now, and continue in my next post.

Does that make sense? Is it interesting? Is it too much like an existing game? Any other thoughts?

Thanks.
Twitter Facebook
14 Comments
Sun Nov 29, 2020 7:54 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls

1 , 2  Next »  

Subscribe

Categories

Contributors