Great headway was made, yesterday, in reforming the spare room for (hopefully) temporary M.A.D* storage but - more importantly - during the sorting/vacuuming/furniture-shifting, I had the idea of utilizing it as a formal, non-Shed (ie. warm) Game Design Studio too. I will have to share it with youngest daughter - she moves back in, for a while, later today - as she continues with her Open University Degree course.
My special foldy table, retrieved from the garden and wiped down, is now centred under the 100W light ready for playtests and videos; I might even get a few helpers to show off some of the shelved, historic beauties 'in action'?!
A first candidate would have to be Astron:
Fresh from the USA - companioned with a 17 quid Customs/Parcelforce handling charge - it arrived, bubble-wrapped, in a battered cardboard cube that was so ripped and torn that it would've tumbled out on the ground if you'd tipped it upside-down; the look of "Do you want it or not?" in the postman's face was an additional kick in the knackers.
This is a devious little bugger from the 1950s: a scrolling game board where your (lovely, metal) planes are moved by card-play with the intention of
a) ending your turn on an Airport (+10 pts), whilst
b) avoiding ending your turn on a Hazard (-5 pts).
The map is a long spool of the Earth from the US, flying East; it's a bit tricky to manage but: wow!
An analogue video game?!
Given the general greyness of the Autumn days, I need to wrench Arthur away from the Xbox for an hour-or-so and begin this time-travelling odyssey. I may not be able to entice physical visitors to my Museum (yet) but there's nothing stopping me building an online library of virtual exhibits, is there?
*reminder: "Museum Acquisition Disorder"
Life and Games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Dad, Husband and Independent UK Game Designer, Agricola fanboy and jealous admirer of Carl Chudyk.
Archive for Game Design
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The best thing about seeing a man about a dog is that you can see a man about a dog while you're doing it: smartphones with the eBay app very much FTW! Yes, indeed; this week's obsession is dog racing games (from as early as possible) and I hit the triple:
First through the post box:
That's all I got for my £10, mind; the complete package includes a Casino-style gambling board/race track - as illustrated by this Parish:
Place your bets - draw cards at random until a dog wins - collect winnings. Not the height of sophistication, granted, but it's a lahverly package, Squire: those lead greyhounds are a toxic treat!
The second, in this woofing trilogy, eschews the clumsy, poor-person's card-based movement trigger in favour of something a little more Monaco: this one's got a bleedin' roulette wheel?!
Everything is linen-backed and joined as one, long strip: the starting gates - with flat tin racers - at the one end, the long track in the middle and the winning post and roulette wheel at the far end.
The thick, crackling paper of the betting sheet unfolds to be placed at the side prior to a) the betting, b) the spinning and moving and c) the awarding of monies.
Saving the best until last, here's the vibrating joy that is Gee Wiz Racing Game:
Around the usual Bookie-ish banter and business, the race itself involves frantically spinning the single wheel so that it tumbles the tin greyhounds along their tracks; when one reaches the end, it tips its flag (no need for a photo finish)!
The whole thing is part of a generous, sloped metal frame and is quite the best of the three for actual race excitement: that'll be the fact it's closest to real time play.
Gambling in this general manner was an immensely popular trope in early-to-mid 20th century gaming and there are still several choice examples I'd like to bring in to the Museum's fold.
Finally, for those who want an update on progress:
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Last week I got the go-ahead to start the artwork process for Aleph Null; this meant arranging a meeting with myself, Alex Lee and Mr Nagy. After the usual introductions, I pitched in my sources and inspirations:
Faust Aleph Null by James Blish (for which I am sourcing a copy on behalf of Alex)
The Book of Hours - Nick's wonderfully eerie six-part piano suite
Various artists for the mood board: Bosch, Breugel, Blake, Durer and so-on
Personally, I'm rather taken with the idea that most of the artifacts and actors should have a mundanity about them, with the scenery / backgrounds intimating at something more sinister: glimpses of the diabolical. Spot colour again, perhaps, to reinforce the game information: red and gold for the main deck, silver/white for the Interference cards. And detail: the Devil will very much be in the detail. Oh, and Matthias has stated: "absolutely no penises"
We're going 'full Lux' for the physical presentation, ie. box and card size, and Matthias is exploring a Grimoire verum vs cards for the Hours; and, I want full-art cards too - right to the very edge, please!
The release date is mooted for Q4, 2021; for me this means long periods of waiting followed by euphoric reviews of sketches. I defer the rulebook responsibilities to Matthias and his team (with, perhaps, a little Groganification if possible?!).
In the meantime, the small community of folk who expressed an interest in blind playtesting have been busy with their feedback and - in Athena's case - some full-blown, research-based blogging*:
Fascinating; and, while I was aware of the general themes, some of the additional detail revealed just adds more and more delicious weight to the world of A-Null! Oh, and 'Bell' is named because it represents a single, sharp sound of summoning.
Edit: I submitted it to the BGG db and it was approved the same day (!); I'm quite pleased with the overview text.
*it'll never catch on
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15 Nov 2020
In case you missed it: Boffo Bateson previews the upcoming KS deluxe edition of the always-excellent Lancaster:
My money's already set aside - is yours?!
Ha! Only joking! Got you there for a minute, didn't I?! Ha-ha! Such a wag, me! Actually, the above pic came as a response to my recent Lego bragging - and, it transpires, that Boffo has pulled the plug on a huge box o' plastic (in the shape of a franchise space vessel) for himself. I'm a bad influence.
For the first time in ages, I managed to make one of the RoW gamers' Friday Nights Online (ROWFNO, pronounced, rhymingly, as 'row-fer-now'). We (Ben, Becky, Dave and myself) enjoyed an hour-or-so of The Crew (courtesy of BoardGameArena) and then a proper game of St Petersburg to (for me, at least) close. Though I was ducking out early, Ben invited me to join him and Mrs Bateson for a reinvigorated run at our co-design from a few years back: The Bones of Offo - action selection using dominoes:
Occupations for your workers to help make your actions more efficient/provide short-cuts, domino actions that transfer in to scoring opportunities, travelling the long Welsh border and 'ennoblement' - got to get your 'Nob' out.
It was a corker of a session and, unusually, I felt a sort of plan emerging as the game progressed: VPs are tightly-obtained and much planning must be made to make best use of your Doms - you will use all 28 in the process but only see seven at random(-ish) each Round.
It was a Skype session and I needed to flip between the Batesons' main board and my PPTX of the other bits; not too bad, though, and I managed to steal a close win courtesy of my first Round 'King of Mercia' play. Ben's only made some minor tweaks but it's certainly hit the ground running after a couple of years hiatus!
I must, however, get myself a new set of dominoes as the set I used was a Charity Shop purchase that turned out to be a cut-and-shut of two separate sets. It seems the backroom 'staff' had just filled up the box with 28 from a miscellaneous 'stock' and I ended up with about twelve duplicate tiles: this made some of my later game actions confusing and invalid, so we spent 10 minutes resetting my remaining 'deck' before carrying on. Oh, the dramas of lockdown play-tests!
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Here's something I had no idea existed!
Race The Rails
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My old gaming pal, Rob Fisher who designed (and made/assembled every copy of) Monkey Dash, once told me that if he really loved a game then he would make his own personal copy ; one example he gave was his wooden tiles/hand-painted Carcassonne. Now that's quite the kitchen table crafting commitment and no mistake; it throws a teensy bit of shade on this recent eBay lot:
Yes, this is a homemade copy of everyone's favourite roll-and-move-driven Economic simulation: Monopoly.
Everything is definitely NOT out of the original box: even the hotels are different sizes (see below). In addition, the mysterious crafter has had the temerity to rename the properties to those found in their locale! And, according to a quick check on Google Maps, that locale is Richmond in South West London.
I've no verifiable age for this delightful homage but, from the writing style and the grubby wooden bits, it's got to be a 1940s-1950s creation - not long into the history of it's published source of inspiration?! Curious.
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Everything was going to be ticketty-boo when, last week, I bade farewell to the Tuffley games club: we had agreed to be Scythe-ing in a fortnight. Fate, and the tousle-haired nugget of shite masquerading as a 'Prime Minister' finally gave way to the advice of 'experts' and announced we'd all be locking down again...in a week or so...if that was going to be alright with everyone? Yes?!
With the very real prospect of the 'coming out of it on 2nd December' extending in to the New Year now - 500 deaths in the UK yesterday - this Tuesday (just gone) was going to be the last face-to-face/mask-to-mask oppo for the foreseeable.
Eldest lad, Fred, had expressed an interest in joining his pal Adam's regular DnD group so I told him to tootle over from Cheltenham and I'd pick him up from central Glos - along with some takeout - for the session:
Fred is finding it up-and-down in his supporting living accommodation: little daily routines are testing him in a good way (the triumph of his own home-cooked egg fried rice) and the monumental travails of the Planet Earth are sending him in to black holes of despair. Overall, the lad is doing extremely well, considering. I miss him around the family house.
With the Boris Limit of six applying, Scythe sucked in the first six to pull up a chair and sit down:
I did a rules overview for the new/recently-initiated and then we got stuck in: slapping our dobbers about from zone-to-zone, top actions followed by bottom actions and - as you can see from the above pics - the slow building of an impressive diorama!
While club regular Dave (white shirt, grey tee, belly) was being ribbed for 'always winning this game', myself - and one of the club's backbones Tom - quietly accumulated resources, spread out, nurtured healthy Power and Popularity and sprinkled stars across the achievement line. In the end, a slightly-risky attack on RED - with a 50-50 chance of success - netted me my sixth star and the end of the game. As it turned out, my 66 points was only good enough for second place, with the aforementioned Tom pipping me by the dreaded 'single point'!
Glorious fun and a fitting end to 2020's 'live' experience...apart from a first, tentative go at Silks & Sulkies which - after two-thirds of a full five player race gave me a headful of very useful notes:
Adieu, my new Tuffley pals; until we meet again!
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So, thanks to our governing party the month of my birth heralds the release of Lockdown 2: This Time It's Personal - a rip-off remake of the first without any pretence at a new story. The main characters are the same, it's just that quite a lot of the extras have died since the Spring original.
Anyway, enough of my "quirky", sarcastic, black British humour: it's time to get back on the game design horse and - this weekend - it was with a harness (buggy) hooked up to the back:
Silks & Sulkies* is a race game, but - in accordance with Game Marketing Rule 176, sub-section (c)(iii) - it's a race game with a difference!
Based on the 1930s party game Also Ran, S&S takes the idea of movement-triggered-by-colour and adds a layer of modernity and a little skill to proceedings. In Also Ran, six horse pieces have with a base that has a 'triggering' arrow in one of six positions on it and a row of six colours in a unique configuration. These runners are laid out, vertically as a column, at random to form the starting line: the horse at the top is the 'leader', the horse at the bottom is the 'tail'. The course is a series of cardboard tiles (with different order combinations of the six colours along two edges) laid out end-to-end; there are 'corner' triangles too if you want to make a snake-like run.
The Also Ran race, itself, is entirely pre-programmed so the Party can lay bets before it kicks off and then award payouts at the end. The first horse moves forward to be underneath the first tile, then:
1. look at the colour to which the horse's arrow is pointing and move that horse forward one space;
2. if the horse would reach the same space as one or more other horses, it joins a column at the bottom; thus, the horse's arrow will either be pointing to a course tile directly OR the colour line of the horse above it in the column; then,
3. loop to 1. if a horse hasn't won yet.
This is a lovely mechanism but, as you can see:
- it's entirely random, players have no influence on the race at all; and,
- it only has 24 double-edged course tiles: that's just 48 of a possible 720 unique colour-order combinations.
The Red Sulky - on a base I-E - has moved in behind horse I-B and indicates that Green is moving next.
Silks & Sulkies takes that core movement and modifies it thus:
- there are five colours (and, therefore, up to 5 players) instead of six;
- All 120 possible combinations of the colours are available - spread across 30 double-sided, square 'Track' cards;
- Each card has three 'Supporter Actions' on; these are pseudo-worker placement spaces for your single 'Supporter' - a piece that 'runs' up and down between zones of the course and trigger the movement of specific Harnesses (2nd, 4th, Yours, Any etc) as well as providing four miscellaneous non-Move actions;
- the Zones, differentiated by markers deployed during setup, define sections of the race that are dictated entirely by the original Also Ran 'automatic' movement and sections where movement is driven by player worker ('supporter') placement and,
- you get prize money if your Harness 'places'.
The white pawn indicates a Zone edge, so the field is moving in to the players' supporter-triggered section of the course.
So, you have the betting and the main race - just like its esteemed ancestor - but you also have automatic and player-affected sections of the competition: you have more control but not too much to make this an analysis-paralysis affair - it has to remain a family-friendly party game at its heart!
The races, so far, run in about 10 minutes for three players; this is exactly the benchmark I'm aiming for: quickly-processed races mean players want to come back for more and that's 'the draw'. It's also quite unlike anything else in my own sphere of modern gaming knowledge.
*'Sulky' is the name for the one-person cart strapped to the arse of the equine.
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Chad Valley Co Ltd. first came to my attention in the 1990s as the seeming 'in-house' chunky plastic toy brand for the Woolworths retail chain. Of course, C.V's C.V goes back a heck of a lot further than that and - thankfully - involves far less non-biodegradable polymer.
Another unknown-to-this-Parish item (I'll get on with the submission later), Safari "Running Tiger" Shooting Game is - I suppose - more strictly a toy BUT it seems not particularly different to more mainstream dexterity affairs like Flick 'em Up, Catacombs or Sticky Stickz.
Dusty, rusty and a little bit broken (with proud, iron pins to test out one's Tetanus jab), this copy of Safari seems to come with two functioning 'elastic band' pistols...
...two sets of the scenery (ie. two copies merged in to one)...
...but rather an ironic paucity of fauna to murder:
Those guns don't half pack a twanging-distance punch, mind; they'd have the beak off a budgerigar from 20ft! Thus, with so little to actually go on safari for - so few Pantherae to do the running - all one's left with is the guilt of a murderous generation and a Paddington Hard Stare from St. David of Attenborough.
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