Print and Roll Games - a self-publisher's diary

This is a project that I've been considering for quite some time now - so it's exciting to be finally embarking on it. I've been designing games for about two years now. I particularly enjoy dice allocation games such as Alien Frontiers, Troyes, Lords of Vegas and Castles of Burgundy and have been working on a range of dice based games of my own. I have looked at conventional publishing and self-publishing but found that the cost of repeatedly shipping dice would make the games rather more expensive than I would wish. So, I hit on the idea of a print and play website - providing the rules, boards, cards and everything that you would need to play the games, except the dice. As a gamer (first tabletop then euro-games) I already had a large selection of dice and have found a great many affordable sources for the few that I was short of - I hope that this will be the same for plenty of other gamers. I currently have two games coming towards the end of beta-testing and two more at the early prototype stage. I hope to be posting new games over the coming months and years. Each one will be available for a few pounds (GBP) and will use common and readily available dice and counters. I hope to have the site fully up and running within the next couple of months with the first two games available to buy. As soon as the site's up and running, I'll post a link on this blog. Adam Taylor June 2012

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Beta Than Ever

Adam Taylor
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Wow, really? September of last year? I can't believe it's been eight months since my last post.

As usual in these interstices I was distracted by Life, the Universe, Everything and Gaming. However, a visit to the UK Games Expo in Birmingham yesterday and a really positive playtest of my latest design, Golden Age (provisional title), has inspired me to get my arse into gear again and get some more print-and-play designs out into the world.

Of Golden Age, more anon: I'm hoping to have a finished version by the end of summer but if you've read this blog before you'll know how it usually goes with my best laid plans.

For now, I've just published a Beta version of Mephisto on my website: www.printandrollgames.com/mephisto. Mephisto is a solitaire dice-allocation and manipulation game that I've been working on for some months now (previously called Faustus and, briefly, Mephistopheles). I discussed it in my last post and asked for playtesters. Based on the feedback of those who contacted me, I've made some refinements and clarified the rules and now I'm hoping to get some more feedback.

This is a quick, fun (hopefully), solitaire game. It requires minimal printing (just 18 cards on two pages) and roughly 9 standard D6s.

Please feel free to have a go and if you have any comments geek-mail me or e-mail printandroll@gmail.com.
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Sun Jun 1, 2014 9:04 pm
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Faust Among Equals

Adam Taylor
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Since Print and Roll game Muses has been featured on www.goodlittlegames.co.uk, it has received somewhat more attention than previously (in the sense that it's been played by some people who I don't know personally) and it hasn't really stood up to scrutiny.

It was always meant to be super-light and quick but I think it's a fair criticism of it that there isn't much of a game there. So, having learned some lessons from Muses, I've decided to have another go at a solitaire game which will fit both the Print and Roll and goodlittlegames moulds.

In keeping with the literary theme of Muses, and following a theme which I explored in my first board game design Invocation and pursued further in Familiar (one of the first games I conceived for Print and Roll which I still haven't got to work yet), the game is based on the Faust myth (and particularly Christopher Marlowe's Dr Faustus). I had intended to call it Faustus but have found that someone registered the name on BGG last year so I'll likely go with Mephistopheles instead.

Thematically speaking, the player is attempting to summon a series of demons in order to gain enough power to summon Mephistopheles and win the game (obviously I've only drawn upon the earlier, more cheerful parts of the story). But, as I learned from Muses, a game cannot stand on theme alone - so, this time I thought long and hard about the mechanics.

I started by thinking about what I'm looking for in a dice game. One of my favourite games, and the one that got me hooked on dice-allocation games is Alien Frontiers. Each turn you roll your dice and are then presented with a puzzle; how to use those dice and your alien-tech to the maximum possible advantage - I often take an alien-tech-heavy strategy to maximise the complexity of moving points back and forth, flipping dice etc. as I really enjoy this element.

One of the criticisms of AF is that this central element of it is essentially a solo activity - so what better start for a solitaire game? In Faustus you start with a small number of dice and an initial setup of five cards set out in a pentagon. As with Muses, you capture a card by meeting a requirement: a run of three, an even pair, a seven etc.

Captured cards give you power points (needed for victory) and sometimes an ongoing or one-off benefit, to be used in future turns. However, they also give you a benefit to use immediately, which is more or less powerful depending on the positioning of the next card you take. Your goal (the puzzle you have to solve) is to chain these abilities in such a way as to capture as many of the five cards as possible.

Once you've used up all of your dice, you deal out fresh cards and any not captured may or may not be discarded. You play until Mephistopheles appears (he's seeded randomly into the last few cards of the deck) at which point you need to have enough power available and three dice showing fives in order to capture him and win the games.

I've really enjoyed the initial playtests of the game and have ironed out most of the kinks so my next step will be getting others to playtest it. If you're interested, drop me a line and I'll geek-mail you the files.
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Wed Sep 25, 2013 1:03 pm
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    Erratum

    Adam Taylor
    United Kingdom
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    If you were an early adopter of Fiefdoms then (firstly) thank you but (secondly) the files available to download prior to the early hours of this morning (the 19th of July) contained an error:

    The "Skirmishers" village in the bottom right of the board should require two workers to activate, not one. The files have now been amended.

    Cheers,

    Adam
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    Fri Jul 19, 2013 8:48 pm
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    All Games Great and Small

    Adam Taylor
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    Gentle reader, it seems like mere moments ago that I last wrote to you. However, a quick glance down the page tells me that it's six months since my last post.

    Many projects have been started since then. Some of them were quickly abandoned, some are still occupying most of my waking thoughts but only now have a finally finished one!

    After months of playtesting, Fiefdoms is now available as a free download at www.printandrollgames.com/fiefdoms. A BGG entry will follow shortly.

    In addition to this development (it never rains but it pours) www.goodlittlegames.co.uk, created by friend and fellow designer Brett Gilbert, is now up and running and features an all new version of solitaire printandroll game Muses.

    goodlittlegames is a microgame print-and-play site. All of the games are designed with only eighteen cards or less (and sometimes a couple of dice or generic counters) so printing and cutting is kept to a bare minimum. This is a really great site hosting some excellent games (mostly by rather more established designers than me, including Michael Fox and Tony Boydell). I highly recommend that you check it out.

    I'm currently working on two other games in the goodlittlegames mould, which I'll be submitting for Brett's consideration in the next couple of months so look out for future posts. Hopefully at a shorter interval than six months this time!
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    Sun Jul 14, 2013 10:48 pm
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    Persuasion

    Adam Taylor
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    At Playtest UK (http://www.meetup.com/Playtest/events/86203292/) today, it occurred to me that part of the challenge of designing is persuading players (through the game itself) to engage with things as you want them to.

    [NB. I'm sure that this has occurred to many people before me - I'm not claiming to offer pearls of sagacity here.]

    We were playing a game that the designer has been working on for some years and seems to have tested a lot with the same group of people. Those people understand that cooperation is a large part of the game and that it is important for certain players to work together to prevent anyone from getting too much of a lead. Both games that we played today ended very quickly (particularly by contrast to the length of rules explanation) because the game itself didn't incentivise us to collaborate in this way. Even though the designer kept trying to nudge us in that direction, the mechanisms and theme of the game made it feel like an entirely combative game, so that was how we played it.

    I had a similar - though more severe - problem some months ago with Spellsmiths. I really wanted it to be a bluffing game: players would cast spells which they may or may not ultimately be able to power with dice that they'd rolled in secret - they could keep upping the ante to force their opponent to play more and more spells. In the very first game of it, some of the players really took to this idea and it was great fun - however - they ultimately lost. The game didn't incentivise bluffing because it wasn't a winning tactic and, as this was the only enjoyable element of the game none of the later playtests had any success. It's currently gathering dust on the shelf but thinking about it from the persuasion point of view is giving me some ideas about how to resurrect it.

    On a more positive note; while trying to fix a timing issue in Fiefdoms during a playtest today, I also introduced an incentive for players to bring in an element of the game that I initially conceived as being central but which had fallen by the wayside: Fiefdoms is an area-control game of sorts, players roll four D6s and use the results to choose two grid references on a 6x6 grid. These allow them to place workers - who give future powers and bonuses - and, more importantly, armies which can capture castles to score points. Friendly armies, when placed together, support each other against attack and I really wanted this defensive positioning to be a significant part of the game - but in most playtests it was more important to just get your armies spread across the board as quickly as possible because the first player to place their final army ended the game - and would most likely win.

    Today's refinement is that the game ends when a player starts their turn with all of their armies on the board - so you not only have to place them but do so in such a way that none of the other players can dislodge them before your next turn. So players are persuaded to consider defensive positioning - as well as out and out point scoring.

    With this change I'm now really happy with the game. I only played four player today so it needs testing for two and three players but assuming that the new rules scale well, Fiefdoms will soon be available to download at www.printandrollgames.com.
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    Sun Feb 17, 2013 11:35 pm
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    Small But Perfectly Formed

    Adam Taylor
    United Kingdom
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    It occurred to me today, while reading Brett Gilbert's blog about goodlittlegames: www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/16573/microgames-small-is-bea... that Muses fits into the emerging category of microgames.

    I certainly wouldn't say that it's in the same class as games such as Love Letter, Coup or BraveRats but, with just nine cards, two dice and three counters, it definitely belongs in their category.

    So what is the irresistible lure of microgames? And why now?

    I think one of the big changes is in the way that people buy games. While I still try to support my friendly local gaming store rather than buy all my games online, I go in looking for particular games due to reviews, ratings, buzz or word-of-mouth. Gone are the days of browsing the shelves and being drawn in by the biggest, shiniest box. Some companies (who will remain nameless - unless you want to name and shame them in the comments) still insist on putting tiny games in massive boxes for the sake of shelf-space but most have realised that many buyers no longer equate big, heavy boxes with value for money. Gamers - and therefore publishers - are far more willing to give small, smart games a try.

    So, what's the advantage? Obviously, none of these games are going to give you a three hour, brain-burning strategy-fest but what they do provide (at least in the case of the examples above) are quick, engaging games with loads of player interaction - and they're small enough to fit in your wallet! If you have to travel to get to your gaming session then sure you're willing to carry one, maybe even two big-box games but you can also carry half a dozen micro-games and card games.

    Finally, as a designer, microgames are a real education in tight, efficient design.

    So, check out Muses at www.printandrollgames.com and check out goodlittlegames.co.uk - once it's up and running.
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    Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:51 pm
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    Print and Roll Games: With A Vengeance!

    Adam Taylor
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    Some of you may have noticed that www.printandrollgames.com was unavailable over the Christmas and New Year period. Some minor solvency issues led to the site's hosting being withdrawn.

    But now we're back! And bigger than ever. A beta-test version of my new solitaire game Muses has been posted to the site. This is a quick solo game requiring a small deck of cards and two D6s. It requires no setup, very little space and can be played through in under five minutes.

    It can be found here: http://printandroll.squarespace.com/muses/ as a free download.

    Please have a go and let me know what you think.
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    Sat Feb 2, 2013 2:46 pm
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    Essen - Awesome but no place for the amateur designer.

    Adam Taylor
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    I've recently returned from Essen and, while it's a little off topic for the blog, I thought I'd share some thoughts about attending Spiel both as a gamer and as a budding designer.

    In my own inimitable style, my expectations of Essen were based more on my hopes than on experience or research: Despite knowing many people who've been before and BGG being athrum with discussions about Spiel I went with the false expectation that it would be a good place to get people to play my designs and maybe even get in touch with some publishers. I took along a copy of Siegecraft and several copies of Boldly Going (a pure-dice dice game which doesn't fit the printandroll formula - so I'm looking for a publisher) and lots of www.printandrollgames.com business cards.

    As soon as I arrived at the hall on Thursday it was very clear that this was not the forum for getting designs out there. It was an amazing and exciting experience: To be surrounded by thousands of other gamers, to get the first play of exciting new games and to rummage through the stalls looking for bargains was amazing fun but it is very much a TRADE fair. It's about the finished product.

    I was staying at the Ibis and did a great deal of gaming in the evenings too but almost entirely with people I already knew from London on Board (there were nearly thirty of us there) and we were all far too excited about playing our purchases from the fair for anyone to be interested in my prototypes (me included).

    I met several more established designers (some I already knew and some - including briefly, at the airport, Reiner Knizia (swoon) - who I didn't) who had all had a weekend of meetings with publishers around the conference. They're not out on the stands waiting for any oik to come along with the-next-big-thing, you really need to have your foot in the door already and have meetings planned.

    So, I did make a couple of useful contacts - as it seems that it really helps to have one or two published designers to recommend you to companies - but I had already begun this process by attending playtesting groups around London.

    More importantly though, I had an absolute blast. I demoed several games I had my eye on (notably Qin and Kosmonauts) and some pleasant surprises (notably Love Letter the Japon Brand version, Lady Alice and Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small) picked up some bargains and spent the whole weekend hanging out with gamers - my favourite type of people.

    I will definitely be going back to Spiel in the future. It would be cool if it were as an exhibitor, with a published product but otherwise it will be just as a punter - there's really no half-way house.

    For the future though I have started looking at the UK Games-Expo - where it seems that, as a small-time publisher, you can get a stand for a very reasonable price.

    How was your Essen experience? Have you ever struck-it-lucky there, as an unpublished designer?
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    Fri Oct 26, 2012 10:28 pm
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    Freedom!

    Adam Taylor
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    Siegecraft has been available to buy online for a few months now and has not been selling as fast as I'd hoped. I'm really pleased with this game and would like to share it with as many people as possible so it's now available as a FREE download at www.printandrollgames.com. Enjoy!

    In other news, work progresses on Tenure and Follies - both of which will be going into playtesting over the next few weeks.
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    Tue Oct 23, 2012 8:51 pm
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    Spellsmiths spells redraft

    Adam Taylor
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    More playtesting this week at London on Board and the Playtests and Prototypes Meetup which has unfortunately led to Spellsmiths (the new name for what was previously Ivory Tower) being put very much on the back-burner.

    Despite some early promise, all of the recent playtests of Spellsmiths have fallen extremely flat. I still think that the central mechanism has some legs: your dice roll determines which spells you can power from a hand of cards (some allow manipulation of the dice so there's a puzzle element - working out which cards you can power) and you use the spells to compete to capture Mythical beasts.

    The intention is that some information is known but some is hidden (ie cards are played openly but dice results are hidden - or perhaps the other way around) so that bluffing is a central part of the game. Unfortunately I've yet to find a method of playing the game so that bluffing is both enjoyable and profitable.

    So - right back to the drawing board! While this is a little dispiriting, it is really helpful to playtest with other designers who know the value of a negative review: the game as it stands just doesn't work - it's far better to know that for sure and start again rather than flogging away at a horse with little, if anything, left in it.

    On the plus side, Siegecraft got some extremely favourable comments from the other designers at Playtests and Prototypes and is still available to purchase at www.printandrollgames.com for a mere £2!

    For the future; while Spellsmiths languishes in my sub-conscious for a while, I'll be working instead on Familiar - of which more in future instalments...
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    Mon Aug 20, 2012 11:28 pm
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