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Balancing Yardmaster Express

David Short
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Board Game: Yardmaster Express
I love designing inside guidelines. I enjoy the challenge and the thought gymnastics needed to solve a unique problem.

So, when Crash Games challenged me to make my 24 card micro game, Yardmaster Express, compatible with 5 players, I was up for the task.

Before I get into how I designed the game to handle 5 players, let me first briefly explain the anatomy of the 2-4 player game.

Yardmaster Express (YmEx) is a very simple drafting game inspired by my love for the original Yardmaster. YmEx captures the essence of the original and stuffs it into a tiny form factor.

The cornerstone to the game is the fact that the drafting centers around an evolving communal hand of cards. The key to making that communal hand offer compelling decisions for the players turn after turn, game after game, is the dichotomy between low value and high value cards.

This dichotomy exists solely because points aren't just awarded according to the values on the cards, but also to the longest cargo run of a single color. This provides a worthwhile incentive to playing lower value cards, which directly balances the choice between choosing low value cards versus choosing high value cards.

This balance between low values and high values drove my design of the cards. Each color is made up of six cards: three low value cards that don't change color and three high value cards that are mixed colors. The low values are easier to connect and offer greater chances at creating a long cargo run of a single color. The high values are more difficult to connect and discourage long cargo runs, but offer greater victory points.

From gallery of dshortdesign


So, that brings us back to adding the 5th player. I had 24 balanced cards for the 2-4 player game and I knew I needed Read more »
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Thu Jul 3, 2014 8:47 am
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Round Trip Elevator Pitch

David Short
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I've been working on my elevator pitch for Round Trip. Here's the current state:


Round Trip is a pattern building game, utilizing a very twisted iteration of the mancala mechanism, for 2 - 4 players. It's a thematic euro in a small package - both in duration and footprint.

Each player controls a small party of people navigating an airport, while attempting to finish tasks and make it to their assigned gate in time for departure. The simple ruleset and high player interaction keep the fun coming.

Replayability is handled in two ways: cards that double as both goals & actions, and multiple boards that depict the airport setting. The changing of the airport board has the same effect as changing the map in Power Grid. Same rules, but different experience.



And if a game flow example is requested:

Each turn a player may optionally play 1 card as an Action. Actions give various abilities that break the normal rules.

Secondly, that player must make 1 Move using all of the pieces (both their own and others) located at any space where a portion of their party resides. Their goal is to move these pieces to certain destinations inside the airport, and ultimately load them onto their specific airplane.

Lastly, that player may play 1 card as a Goal and score it. Goals depict various situations on the board. If that situation was accomplished, it can score points. For instance, a Goal might depict that your party ate at a fast food restaurant.
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Thu Oct 31, 2013 4:38 pm
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Gamesmiths go on a Round Trip

David Short
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From gallery of dshortdesign
This week's Gamesmith's meeting was very productive. We started off playing my game Round Trip. Round Trip is a set collection and pick up & deliver game for 2 to 4 players about moving your party of travellers thru an airport to their destination gate. It's fairly light and accessible, yet with enough of a puzzle to solve to keep all kinds of gamers actively invested.

From gallery of dshortdesign
We setup a 4 player game using the standard Airport A. Seth was the start player. Things started off leisurely as they always do, but soon everyone was pushing and pulling while they tried to make it thru the crowds to their gates. Dan was the first to score a seat on his airplane, while the rest of us fought with blockages in the terminal and the slow stragglers in our party. Soon enough though, Seth and I started dropping score cards at a brisk pace attempting to keep up as best we could. All the while, Dan and Simon continued to load up their planes. The game progressed like this until Simon loaded the 12th passenger onto a plane and thus triggered the end game. For our final turns, Dan and I both found ways to secure a window seat before the game ended. I don't remember the exact scores, but they were something like Dan 17, Seth 19, Simon 19 and me 20. Good game.

From gallery of dshortdesign
Everyone seemed to enjoy it so we moved onto another game using Airport D. Simon started this one by moving his party briskly thru a couple of terminals riding on the tram at least once. Soon enough, Dan saw an opportunity to go against the flow by playing an action card that allowed him to move backwards thru the airport. In doing so, he was rewarded with one of his party members comfortably seated in a nice roomy exit row on the wing! From there, everyone took turns jockeying for position while trying to score cards and avoid laying the red carpet for their opponents. I continue to love this board due to the speed and options that the airport trams offer. The end game for this session came rapidly, leaving Seth and I roaming the airport with a couple of our lost party members. In the end Dan grabbed the victory (slightly edging out Simon).

From gallery of dshortdesign
At this point, Seth voiced his opinion that the end game felt too abrupt. It was a valid concern, so we proceeded with a 3rd game using yet another board (Aiport C) and tested playing a bonus round after the end game was triggered. Dan started us off on this one. Read more »
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Wed Sep 18, 2013 4:43 pm
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Mars Zero??

David Short
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I stumbled upon this article regarding the future outlook for the Mars One Foundation.

Private Mars Colony Project

External image


I read every Mars article I can get my hands on in hopes of gaining inspiration and knowledge for my Mars game Mars:embarkation. This article was the first in a long time to give me some spark.

In the article, the Mars One Foundation is planning on sending human colonists to Mars in 2023. These colonists would never return to Earth. They would establish a Mars Colony there with supply ships arriving from Earth every couple of years. I've read about this mission before, but this article seemed to provide new details that made it sound cool.

Additionally, a pre-mission to this large Mars One mission is planned for 2018. This is more of a test flight and introduction trip. And this is where another spark occurred for me.

What if my game was renamed to Mars Zero?! And what if it tied directly into the Mars One planning and program?!

This could bring new life to Mars:embarkation Zero!
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Thu Aug 29, 2013 5:11 pm
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Round Trip Rules

David Short
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From gallery of dshortdesign


Luggage... check. Round trip plane tickets... check. Carry-on bag... check. Looks like you and your party of five are ready to head to the airport to catch your flight. Only problem is getting to your flight gate is easier said than done. You must check your luggage, pass security and grab some food, all while avoiding getting bogged down by the hustle and bustle of the terminal. Make sure not to leave behind anyone in your party and... don't miss your flight!


[ Game Components ]
2 Double-sided Airport Boards
10 Marker Discs (2 ea. of Red, Blue, Green, Purple)
16 Black Neutral Cubes
20 Party Cubes (5 ea. of Red, Blue, Green, Purple)
48 Cards



[ Game Setup ]
Decide which airport to use for the game. If this is the first time playing, it is recommended that Airport A be used. Place the chosen board in the middle of the playing surface in reach of all players.

Place all 5 Party Cubes of 1 color (Red, Blue, Green, Purple) at each airport entrance (only 1 color per entrance). Which color goes to which space has no significance. Each entrance has a matching gate. Place 1 matching Marker Disc at each respective gate. For instance, if the Blue Party Cubes start the game at Entrance O3, then place the Blue Marker Disk next to the plane docked at Gate C3.

Place 2 Black Neutral Cubes at all other empty spaces of the airport (ignoring gates).

Each Player should choose a color and place 1 Marker disc of that color in front of them. This will serve as a reminder of what color each player is during the game.

Lastly, shuffle the deck of cards and deal each player 3 cards face down. These cards make up their hand and should be kept hidden from the other players until played. Place the rest of the cards face down as a deck next to the board. The game is ready.

{Insert Picture of Setup Here}
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Tue Aug 20, 2013 5:11 pm
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Game Design Roulette

David Short
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I'm not normally a designer that juggles a magnitude of game designs at one time. I know of several designers that do that (and do it well). Instead, I tend to focus on a select few, even as narrow as one design at a time.

However, I'm currently in the midst of a game design watershed. My microgame Enqueteur is signed with a publisher and we are actively working on finalizing it. Bomb Squad is being reviewed by several publishers and we are fielding comments from blind playtesters across the country. Ground Floor: Middle Management is developing nicely and is a priority for me. And of course, my new idea Clone Lab is my new design focus. BUT...

...apparently, that wasn't enough for me. A new idea has thrust itself into the mix and garnered all my design effort in the last week or so.

Here's some back story. My friend, Mike Tunison and I are flying together to BGG.con this year (oh yes, that's happening!). The downside is that the travel will be around 8 hours each way. Mike came up with a solution to the time sink though.

A little over a week ago, we got together to play some games at lunch and he mentioned his idea to spend those 16 hours designing a game together. But not just any game. A game about traveling by plane that could be played on those small trays on the backs of seats. I immediately was excited about the idea.

Later that day I found I couldn't stop thinking about it. By the end of the day, I had the main mechanism and storyline worked out. By the next morning, I was piecing together a prototype. The day after that we were playtesting it. Whew. Talk about a flood of design (unfortunately, this flood blew past Mike and thus we'll be pursuing two designs separately... but he still deserves props for providing me such great inspiration).

From gallery of dshortdesign


So, here we are. Round Trip is a set collection and pick up & deliver game for 2 to 4 players. It's euro goodness in a small package - both in duration and footprint.Read more »
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Tue Aug 6, 2013 2:00 pm
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Big Game Design Update

David Short
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I've sadly neglected this blog for over a year now. Shameful shake. My hope is to resurrect it to at least it's previous averageness.

The following is an update on every one of my current designs (in alphabetical order). If you aren't familiar with these designs, you can find their game descriptions here. If you want to learn more about my previously published designs check out my designer's page.

Bomb Squad (w/ Dan Keltner): This is coming along quite well. I'm pleased with how it's evolved and the balance we have struck with the Hanabi mechanism and the other elements of the game. We are continuing blind playtesting with several groups. The feedback has been very beneficial. Additionally, we have had some good interest from publishers (even going as far as receiving a contract from one), but haven't found a good fit yet. The future looks bright here (at least that's how it appears without my sunglasses on).

Clone Lab: This is a brand new worker placement idea that I will delve into further in my next blog post (already being written Done. Here's the link). I'm quite thrilled with it, so much so, that other designs might have to be put/kept on the back burner. I'll give you the hook here before making you wait for the follow up blog post. Player's are mad scientists that have figured out the cloning process and have moved onto their next big creation. They must complete their next big project using only themself and their clones. Each player can have unlimited clones, but each clone costs to create and costs to maintain. Additionally, each subsequent clone is not as capable as the original. This is especially so, if you opt to "cut corners" by cloning one of your clones instead of yourself.

Cluny Monks: I'm still pretty stoked about this idea. I'm mixing a rondel with worker placement in a very thematic setting. However, my enthusiam to conquer another deep euro has waned due to it being so difficult to playtest such beasts. So, this sits on the back burner, but I will not let it collect too much dust.

Enqueteur: I'm proud to say this has been picked up by a publisher! Very exciting stuff ahead for this little micro game.

Ground Floor Expansion: Tentatively named the Middle Management expansion, this project is coming along very well. I've had a blast uncovering new developments and expounding on the base game. I'll be writing a blog post about this as well, but I'll tell you that this expansion allows players to hire Managers that both come with an unique Expertise card (special ability) and are capable of bonuses when working in the city.

Mars:embarkation: I am a little sad to report that this project has lost some steam. It just wasn't developing at the quality or speed in which I was happy with. I'm not ditching it by any means (in fact, I might playtest it this weekend), but it is no longer my top design priority like it once was.

Skyline: Landmarks: This project has been done for a while and I continue to be pleased with it. The reception has been incredible. It's difficult to play the base game without it now. Here's to hoping it sees the light of day.

Tombstone (w/ Clive Lovett): Much like Mars, this game has not been given the love it deserves lately (Sorry Clive). It has tons of potential and I fully expect my inspiration for it to return. Ready your six shooters, bushwhackers.


edit: Added Clone Lab blog post link
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Thu Jul 18, 2013 6:05 pm
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