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Designer Diary: Five Fable Games, or What Was I Thinking? I Am a Stupid Idiot — So Much Work!

Friedemann Friese
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Board Game: Fabled Fruit
I am used to being involved in time-consuming and exhausting projects (and even to finishing them): I did 504, for example, and I had a five-year project called "Freitag", but...

After finishing Fabled Fruit, which already was more work than expected (because it is "only" a 25-minute game, but needed 59 different card actions to be designed), I was ready for the three games I had in the pipeline for SPIEL '17. But Fabled Fruit became a big success and the fable concept cried for more, so I moved the planned projects to 2018 and had the idea for the "Fast Forward" line: Fable games without a rulebook that can be learned while playing.

But this concept needed to be started as a series with at least three games at once. (IMO)

The main problem with fable games: Testing is more difficult. You have to play the same game several times in a row with the same group, and you cannot recreate the effect of a surprising change with the same group. You need a lot more different gaming groups.

Classical games you can test a few times, make some changes, test again, and so on. With fable games, it is difficult to see how a small change in the first game might influence the game five games later. You have to test this change a lot more — and I do not want to lose all my testing players (a.k.a. friends).

But "Fast Forward" is awesome!!!

Family: Game: Fast Forward
The inspiration came to me one evening while playing Dead Man's Draw. I was a bit exhausted from the day and just wanted to start to play. I said to my gaming group, "Just start this one, it is easy enough to be learned while playing. Starting player, please turn the top card face up." Without realizing it, we were suddenly in the middle of a game. Afterwards I was thinking that games should be designed that way — and having the fable concept, I could start with a very simplistic idea and from game to game add more "game" to that idea.

Starting was kind of easy. I designed a mixture of Dead Man's Draw and Diamant. The first test was amazing: My gamers played the game nine times in a row and did not want to stop playing (but had to because of some minor changes I needed to do). But I needed to promise them that they could continue to play it during the next game session exactly where they stopped.

So after that start, I needed two more "Fast Forward" games to have the series of three titles I wanted to release. The first of these two new games became FEAR, and the other did not progress any further than being an idea in my computer; it was never tested. But I already had two games in the pipeline! I then had an inspiration to make a game about "capturing the flag" and this turned out to become FORTRESS, which is not about capturing a flag anymore, but if you know where it came from, you can still see that connection.

Thus, three "Fast Forward" games were developed. I was happy.

But there was a problem with the three games: One of them was weak. The first one and FEAR were creating very similar experiences of the three, but FEAR was better. I managed to look at it as objectively as possible and accepted that I needed to not publish the first one. There are too many press-your-luck games, and the game was not better than Dead Man's Draw, so it was removed from the line. It was early in 2017 and once more I had only two "Fast Forward" games. I was about to accept releasing only two games when I got the idea for FLEE, which is completely different from the other two and very appealing. It had to be done.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Now, I am happy to have three very different "Fast Forward" games, all three connected by one great concept. The easy game FEAR is very good to learn the "Fast Forward" concept, and a great game to play with the complete family and casual gamers. And FORTRESS is the next step, more complex without being complicated, a game with a lot of great surprises. And finally FLEE, a game in which you really have to focus to solve the cooperative puzzle. This game feels a bit like an escape room — a really difficult escape room!

But I said five fable games, not only three...

The series of three fable "Fast Forward" games seemed not to be enough, three games to be tested hundreds of times in ever-changing game groups. But the game starting it all was still successful, so I needed to expand Fabled Fruit. One gamer in our group played it a lot with his daughter and after finishing, they demanded more. Why not? Let‘s make an expansion!

Board Game: Fabled Fruit: The Lime Expansion
In theory, Fabled Fruit is easy to expand; you need only to add more locations, but I already designed 59 different locations and I ran a bit out of ideas — and the end game of Fabled Fruit was designed to be a real end game, with no chance to "open" that again to continue with more locations. That said, giving gamers only twenty new locations to play a separate set of games of Fabled Fruit was boring.

Adding limes to the game was the central idea. Green fruits, very good. Now every fabled juice card must be paid for with at least one lime. At the start of each game, limes are not shuffled with the other fruit cards and must be acquired differently. Adding these new location cards after the second half of the normal Fabled Fruit locations was the connection to the base game.

Twenty new locations meant that you could play 8-10 consecutive games to finish this new campaign. Thus, this has the same problem as with all fable games: A single game itself is short, about half an hour, but the campaign is loooong. You need about three hours to play it once.

Keep smiling, it could be worse!

Board Game: Power Grid: Fabled Expansion
I smiled and it got worse. The annual question came up: How to expand Power Grid this year. Easy, just make a fable campaign for Power Grid, a campaign with only three consecutive games (with fifteen cards to be revealed during the three games) could not be too difficult, right?

But the Power Grid base games each have two maps (classic or deluxe both use similar regions of the world: Europe (or Germany) or North America (or USA)), so why not develop three games per map with two separate sets of fifteen cards? Let's see: 3 games per map and 2 maps = 6 games to play. A single game of Power Grid in this campaign is played in two hours (a bit longer than normal because you're changing the rules while playing), so I needed to test two new prototypes with six hours of playing time each...

At least I was happy that our sixth release for 2017, the solitaire game Finished!, was already finished as of April 2016. No further testing of that game!

Board Game: Finished!
Finished! is a game in the vein of a classic "patience" game like Klondike, just a game about sorting a deck of 48 cards with a twist, played with a cycling deck. Discarded cards are placed under the deck to be drawn again later. After seven cycles, you need to have sorted the complete deck. The name of the prototype was "Bubblesort: The Game". It is not an implementation of the well-known bubblesort algorithm, but you sort cards in bubbles of at least three cards.

Now, all six titles are in print, so new topics on my schedule include work on the new games for 2018 and some plans to be realized for the 25th anniversary of my company, 2F-Spiele.

The most important thing for now: I like the resulting games and expansions, and whoever wants to play them all needs only 25 hours net playing time.

-> It's your turn now.

Friedemann Friese
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Mon Sep 18, 2017 1:05 pm
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Designer Diary: Folder, or From Friday Follows a Game That's Not a Game

Friedemann Friese
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Microbadge: I play with green!Microbadge: BrightMicrobadge: Parent of big brother and little sisterMicrobadge: Whisky drinkerMicrobadge: BoardGameGeek with green hair
Board Game: Friday
A lot of people say that a one-person game is more of a puzzle than a game. I think I proved this idea wrong with Friday, and a lot of people were surprised by how much of a game a solitaire design can be.

Friday was designed with my firstborn on my arm in the night because I needed something to keep my mind working, because taking care of a newborn is exhausting, but the brain is not so much needed.

So my secondborn came this year and I was again in the same situation. I again needed something for solo sessions. I worked a lot with mazes during that time, so I had the idea of a double-sided maze in which you fold your way through it. I had a clear picture in my mind of what this would look like when it was done, but it was impossible for me to wrap my brain around it with no idea of how to get there — so something perfect for my nightshifts.

The idea came to just print out a maze that's not a maze (because everything is connected more than once with each other), glue it together, fold it, and see what happens. So I created simple computer files, printed them out, and glued them together. From this I got a better idea for how to deal with the problem, and I found a great way to create a Folder (in German, Falter):

-----10 create an easy structure
-----20 print it
-----30 glue it
-----40 fold it
-----50 use a pen to change the routes
-----60 change the computer files
-----70 if done exit else go to 10

This is what you need when your concentration is needed to take care of a baby, but your mental power is still available for other things.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

It all went well. I created some Folders and gave them to friends and what a surprise: They were difficult to solve, but people had a lot of fun trying to do so. I had done something everybody understands in a second, but needs some time to solve. Very good.

Now I had something to work on, and I got more and more extreme. I started with orthogonal patterns and orthogonal folding lines, but there was more: triangular patterns, 45° folds, 30° folds, and even two folding lines. After I had done seven different mazes, Henning Kröpke went to the Gathering of Friends, gave them to testers, and they were immediately addicted. Henning felt a bit like a drug dealer giving out the newest designer drug. I was absolutely clear that this has to be done.

A minor problem came up. The puzzles were too difficult for most people, so I added some halfway goals to the easier ones. Now when you start, you will soon have your first success. As a "good drug dealer", it's my responsibility to make your "first shot" very easy. ;-)

The problem now: This is not a game; it's a puzzle. It will not get a database entry at BGG, and I do not know how to promote such a thing. Anyway, it must be done and it must be done as a postcard with an envelope to sell it like Hallmark. We found a producer of postcards, and they made it possible to have the postcards folded exactly at the needed position and now I'm curious how this will work out.

Of course I believe it will be a huge success...

Friedemann Friese

From gallery of W Eric Martin
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Mon Oct 21, 2013 6:00 am
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Designer Diary: Futterneid, or Mother Always Said, "Don't Play With Your Food"

Friedemann Friese
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Microbadge: I play with green!Microbadge: BrightMicrobadge: Parent of big brother and little sisterMicrobadge: Whisky drinkerMicrobadge: BoardGameGeek with green hair
Board Game: Futterneid
Friday, June 29, 2012: For my Friday project I needed one more game and tried a different way of inspiration — just put "Freitag" in Google search and look for the 2,013th entry. Google didn't show 2,013 entries, however, so I decided to go to page Fifteen, number Five. 
I was too lazy to look at the complete video on that side, but in the overview there was my new game title: "Funny Food". 
No further idea.

Friday, July 6, 2012:
 I combined the title "Funny Food" together with the idea of playing with real food. First came The Idea: You have a number of snacks to play with, and the players choose in player order one after another to have a battle with these snacks. Second came Research — that is, I went shopping for snacks (game material).

Friday, July 13, 2012: Nothing for this game.

Friday, July 20, 2012:

-----• Important: Whatever you win in the game, it's yours to keep — you can eat it.

-----• Very important: The snacks must be sealed because I'm not happy to eat something that was already in everybody's hand.

-----• Idea: Calories as VPs.

The first "game": The snacks will be in different cups. The calories are VPs. The players add special, hidden bonus markers to the VPs to make some changes. In turn order, you take some snacks to keep or take snacks to give them to another player to trade for what the other player has taken. Whatever is in front of you at the start of your turn is safe and you can put it somewhere else.

Strange: This is almost the game as it is published now. For me, it was very important to make a simple, short game with these snacks so that you can play it at the start of the game evening to distribute the snacks on the table, then play something completely different while eating all of these acquired snacks.

Friday, July 27, 2012: Nothing for this game.

Friday, August 3, 2012: Nothing for this game.

Friday, August 10, 2012: Nothing for this game.

Friday, August 17, 2012: Nothing for this game.

Friday, August 24, 2012: Nothing for this game.

Friday, August 31, 2012: Nothing for this game.

Board Game: Copycat
Me first!
Friday, September 7, 2012: Nothing for this game.

Friday, September 14, 2012: Nothing for this game.

Friday, September 21, 2012: Nothing for this game.

Friday, September 28, 2012: Okay, after some weeks spent working on the promotion for Copycat, I came back to Funny Food. 
I added the most important rule to the game: The first player takes one snack. The next player takes exactly one more than the player before him or steals from another player; this other player is then allowed to take one snack from the cups as "replacement" for the stolen snacks.

The final game doesn't have exactly this same rule, but it's close. 
In the end, it was clear to me that this first rule will not work because it's possible that every player would just steal from the person who has taken the previous turn, and then this game is no fun at all. I wrote a new rule, and in that rule each player has the chance to take exactly one more OR ONE LESS than the player before him. This is the actual existing rule now.

But now the main problem started: The scoring. At this stage of the game, everybody wrote down the target snacks he wanted to have, and the difference will be calculated in calories as negative VPs (Losing Points? LPs?!)

Friday, October 5, 2012:
 The first real played game with real snacks:

-----• 12 Tütchen Goldbären mini (42 kcal each)
-----• 8 Streifen Fritt Orange (48 kcal)
-----• 3 Riegel Milka Vollnuss (254 kcal)
-----• 8 Knoppers (137 kcal)
-----• 13 Hanuta Mini (58 kcal)
-----• 22 Merci Crocant (22 kcal)

It was a lot of fun. And one more rule for the final game appeared: When the cups are empty, the game is not immediately over. Each player takes one snack after another of the last taken snacks and whoever has none left of this type can just steal from others. This rule was untested, but I can tell you, it worked.

The last major problem: Two players who are stealing only from each other and doing nothing else.

Friday, October 12, 2012:
 I only changed the scoring rule. Still very complicated. Unplayed.

Friday, October 19, 2012:
 (No blog entry because of the Essen fair)
 The first official tournament for the game took place at my stand during Spiel 2012 in Essen and I won!!!!
 Okay, the scoring was confusing. I was the only person who understood it and got the most points. Unfair, but I won!!!!

Board Game: Futterneid
Goodies in play during a Spiel 2012 demo game (Image: haarrrgh)

Friday, October 26, 2012: 
I decided to make a version of the game with cards in place of snacks for two reasons:

-----1. To find out whether the game is still fun (without real snacks).
-----2. Not to be forced to eat so many snacks each time that I test this game.

Friday, November 2, 2012: 
Still two main problems: The scoring and the tit-for-tat stealing.

Friday, November 9, 2012:
 I got a new scoring idea, wrote it down, and found out afterwards that the idea creates a broken game.

Friday, November 16, 2012: Nothing for this game.

Friday, November 23, 2012:
 I had the idea of using markers for the snacks to change the value of each sort. Markers, of course, allow for hidden placement to get hidden information and to avoid kingmaker situations. The first idea was to use these markers as multipliers, and I calculated a lot to get the right distribution of markers for differing numbers of players because with more players there are more markers...

Friday, November 30, 2012:
 Now it's possible to have snacks with negative VPs and in the rules there's no chance to pass. I added the rule for exiting the game earlier.

Friday, December 6, 2012:
 Wait, not a Friday you say. Yes, but in Fiji it was already Friday. I played more often on Fiji-Friday than on other days, and the game release party starts on Fiji-Friday. Important rule changes:

-----• You're now allowed to steal from the player before you.
-----• You do not get random scoring chips, but a complete set and one random (which will be exchanged for a "?" later).
-----• You still look at one stack, but each stack will be shuffled and one marker revealed.

Friday, December 14, 2012: Nothing for this game.

Friday, December 21, 2012: Nothing for this game.

Friday, December 28, 2012: 
The new title is "Fight for Food".

Board Game: Futterneid
Friedemann explains the rules at Spiel 2012
(and yes, even his drink starts with an "F")
Friday, January 4, 2013: Nothing for this game. I wrote the designer's diary for Copycat.

Friday, January 11, 2013:
 New rule: You do not look at one complete pile. All piles are shuffled and the topmost marker is revealed. Next new rule (very important): Whenever someone steals from me, I take one piece from the stolen, not from the middle. This means that whatever is stolen "shrinks", so there is no more tit-for-tat stealing. 
Another new rule: You do not take so many parts and draw randomly; instead there is a fixed number and some random parts are added. For the production cost, this is much better because not so much material is needed.

Friday, January 18, 2013:
 Changed the values of the snacks to lower numbers for easier to calculate VP scores. 
I started searching for the right material for the production of the game and started on plans for the game-release party. It must be a Friday because this is the end of a five-year long project.

Friday, January 25, 2013: 
Some mixed ideas, mostly depending on whether the game is good with two or six players and whether the game would still be a good game with complete information. Again, some problems with numbers being too high to easily calculate the scores.

Friday, February 1, 2013: 
No successful ideas for the two-player game.

Friday, February 8, 2013: 
No successful ideas for the very high VP values and the calculating problems.

Friday, February 15, 2013: No successful ideas for the game.

Friday, February 22, 2013: 
No successful ideas at all.

Friday, March 1, 2013: 
Preparing for test games (buying sweets).

Friday, March 8, 2013: Still trouble with the high values. A new idea to solve it, but not a successful one.

Friday, March 15, 2013: Nothing for this game.

Friday, March 22, 2013: Waiting for the right idea.

Friday, March 29, 2013: Two plays in the family. Undocumented.

Friday, April 5, 2013: Finally the idea. I had lowered the point values for the snacks to have better numbers to calculate, but multiplying generated high values — but now with the values being in a lower range (with the differences between them not being so high anymore) it's possible to add values instead of multiplying. Done!!!

Friday, April 12, 2013: Only a new name — "Feinschmecker".

Friday, April 19, 2013: 
Henning Kröpke plays the game in the U.S. at the Gathering of Friends (without me because of my two small children), and I decided on the name Futterneid.

Friday, April 26, 2013: I think the last important idea: Instead of having all fixed numbers that are added to the values, one of the markers will be a copy marker, which copies a marker from another player. This adds some replayability and fun to the game.

Friday, May 2, 2013: (Not a Friday here, but somewhere on this globe) 
Still happy with the new copy action and now set to use the "?" as the symbol for it.

Friday, May 10, 2013: 
I got it. I designed a game that's very easy to understand, very easy to play, fast and short. It was what I always wanted to have. I do know that it is not very strategic because it is only 25 minutes long; I still believe, though, that one can design games with a very theoretical concept behind them and design the game to fit perfectly to that concept. I know the problem sometimes comes up that I try to design the game to fit the concept best and not to design the best game (whatever "best" means). Whatever — I designed a very fun game to distribute the snacks on the gaming table.

And I added another idea to use the cups in the game: Snack achievements for every game. You need only five cups and five rules for achievements. Fill the cups with something delicious and start playing. The game will be different because some players will change their strategy to get more snacks instead of getting more VPs. I like this a lot.

Board Game: Futterneid
Overview of the game components in Futterneid
Friday, May 17, 2013: 
The initial idea for the two-player game came to me. You each play as two players (a concept familiar from other games), but not alternating as usual, not one after another. Instead I have two moves for two different players, then my opponent has two moves, and so on...

Friday, May 24, 2013:
 Only angry about the company I asked for the cups as they did not respond.

Friday, May 31, 2013:
Just changed the number of snacks to ten per player and forty for two players since you simulate four players.

Friday, June 7, 2013: 
Very important: Do not play the game for only one round. If somebody at the table doesn't understand the gameplay and the scoring, it can destroy some of the fun. The second round is always much, much better, so this will become part of the rules. 
And even if you play this game with people who already know it, the second round has a special link to the first, so the game is complete only if you play the two rounds. Hopefully the gamers out there will do it and hear what the author has said.

Friday, June 14, 2013: Finishing the game by writing the actual game rules.

Friday, June 21, 2013: Drunk, nothing for this game.

Friday, June 28, 2013: 
BGG entry, first graphics.

Friday, July 5, 2013: 
The best idea to "force" players to play the game two times. In the game are ten scoring values. In the first round you need only five of them, so you have to play two rounds to use all of them.

Friday, July 12, 2013: 
Worked on the material question, artwork issues, and an idea for using the material and the artwork for a better handling.

Friday, July 19, 2013: 
Preparing for Mallorca.

Friday, July 26, 2013: 
Played with people from the gaming scene in Mallorca with horrible Spanish sweets. Great fun. Decided to make the game release party when Friday starts on this Earth, meaning Thursday noon in Essen.

Friday, August 2, 2013: Working on the wording of the rules, box text, press text.

Friday, August 9, 2013: 
Searching for the right place on Earth to use for the game-release party and found Fakaofo.

Friday, August 16, 2013: Showing some artwork to the public.

Friday, August 23, 2013: 
Bought 2,300 pieces of sweets for the game release in Essen.

Friday, August 30, 2013: 
Only some blog endtime things.

Friday, September 6, 2013: 
Some finishing on the print files for the rules.

Friday, September 13, 2013: Only some blog endtime things.

Friday, September 20, 2013:
 Only some blog end time things.

Friday, September 27, 2013: 
Writing the first part of this designer diary.

Friday, October 4, 2013: 
Writing the second part of this designer diary.

Friedemann Friese

Board Game: Futterneid
Play, win, eat!
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Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:00 am
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Designer Diary: Copycat, or How to Design a Broken Game?!

Friedemann Friese
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Microbadge: I play with green!Microbadge: BrightMicrobadge: Parent of big brother and little sisterMicrobadge: Whisky drinkerMicrobadge: BoardGameGeek with green hair
Board Game: Copycat
Board Game: Copycat
Board Game: Copycat
Board Game: Copycat
Board Game: Copycat
Copycat is the third game in the Friday-Project. I work only on Fridays on these games and blog all details, so it is kind of easy to track what I have done when. In this designer's diary I want to share this information about Copycat with the non-German-speaking geeks.

Why did I choose the title of this diary? After Spiel 2012 in Essen, some gamers were discussing whether this game is broken or not. In my opinion it is absolutely not broken and not one argument from these writers has convinced me that this game is broken, but the topic is being discussed, so I have to deal with it.

It all started on September 9, 2011 during my holiday on the island of Wangerooge, where I had the idea of making a game that combines all the most popular board game mechanisms. The German title of the game, Fremde Federn, comes from an album by the German band Element of Crime – yes, this name is English and they started singing in English, but now they sing in German – which consisted only of cover songs. That started the idea of copying everything, even the name of this album.

External image
On Friday, Sept. 16th (because it is in the Friday project) I started. Unfortunately, while I wrote a lot on how this project started, the first two pages are lost, unsaved. The most important fact is that I wanted to design this game as a racing game and not as an optimizing game because all the games I wanted to steal from are optimizing games. (The difference is that an optimizing game ends after some kind of event, then a scoring takes place, while a racing game ends when a victory condition is met and the winner is the person who meets this condition first.) I am absolutely not a fan of optimizing games. I lose interest in a game if somebody talks about final scoring or different paths to victory. It's just not my cup of tea. So I hope that whoever thinks this game needs a special scoring rule might be okay with this. There was no problem that stopped me from doing it that way; I just did not want to do it that way as it's not to my taste. In my opinion, there are way too many optimizing games out there, and I do not have to do the same. I always wanted to be different.

The game started with copying stuff that is already there: Start the deck-building game like Dominion with ten cards (7 gold / 3 VP), place your workers on a board with different choices (no special Agricola stuff there at that moment) to buy cards from a market "stolen" from Power Grid. (Yes, again no Through the Ages at the start.) There was card shifting from 7 Wonders (or inspired by 7 Wonders) as each round every player had to give one card to the player on the left.

The spaces for the worker placement: Buy, VP, Draw cards, VP for others (special rule), Copy one card, Money, and Trash a card. Already the very important "Copy one card" is here in the game. (If you look at all the discussions about whether or not this game is broken, it is all about the copy stuff. The game-haters normally hate this game because of the copying.) Yes, I know copying or doubling is always a powerful action in games and is not often used in modern game design because it often creates uncontrollably powerful and hard-to-balance situations, but I like to play with fire or run with scissors. (Yes, I tried to make a novelty game like Weird Al was doing his polka medleys.)

The cards in the first version of the game: Money, VPs, draw cards, more workers, one worker doubled (oops, another copy/double "problem"), catch up, bad cards (the red cards now, but with special bad powers that must be played), and copy-card (third time this evil idea).

This was the start!

Now follows the whole records of the Project Friday blog on the 2F-Spiele website so that you can follow the development progress of the game.

Board Game: Friday
Friday, September 23, 2011: Nothing done (as I worked only on the Friday solitaire game).

Friday, September 30: Only printed, cut, and glued the game – not played.

Friday, October 7: First game test with Friedemann vs. Friedemann vs. Friedemann vs. Friedemann. Still the Power Grid market for the cards. Threw out all the cards to buy that you already have in your starting deck because this does not work for this game.

Friday, October 14: First F2F game with four players. Start deck changed to 6/2 cards and I am not happy that copying a card is not strong enough. (Strange, the action most people are complaining about as being too strong was to weak.)

Friday, October 21 (Spiel 2011): Last time with the Power Grid market; after that Through the Ages came in. I said goodbye to the copy-another-card card, no longer in. Again: the shifting of one card felt bad.

Friday, October 28: Not played, but the complete set of cards changed to adjust it to the Through the Ages market.

Friday, November 4: Only glued, cut, and printed again.

Friday, November 11: Gamer's weekend. First game: Too many cards. Fewer cards used for the second game. The red cards got the rule that you get them if you buy something "higher". I really like that rule a lot because it creates every time a different game, depending on when and where the red cards come into play.

Friday, November 18: I was ill, but Agricola was integrated because for Caylus I had no idea.

Friday, November 25: Only worked on the files to have Agricola in the game, and I added some Puerto Rico by marking unused worker-placement spots with 1 VP markers.

Friday, December 2: Finished all files, played against myself, and changed the numbers of the starting cards to the same numbers for each player. Had to add the tiebreaker rule because of that. Thought six players might not work with this game.

Board Game: Copycat
The starting cards for each player: seven money cards and three VP cards.
Can you identify those handing out the money?

Friday, December 9: First game with two players. No major changes. Known problems: Cards bought late in the game might be useless because they might not get played, and the game is shorter (that is, has fewer rounds) than Agricola.

Friday, December 16: The idea for the last cards in the game, with which you can convert money into VPs immediately. No name for them now. The other thing I tried – Play all cards immediately after buying – was horrible. This is a well-known problem in all game designs. The cards get better over the course of this game, but they also get weaker because you can use them less often. The problem is solved in "18XX" games by just trashing old cards or in Outpost and Power Grid by limiting the number of spaces/slots. The problem for game design is that gamers are often surprised that a "better" card is not much more expensive. I solved the problem by making these last cards better because you can play them immediately, and I also added a lot of really cheap cards in the fourth phase, which gain big benefits in combination with the cards already owned. Since I know that it is important in this game to get a lot of "double-your-card" actions, a lot of cards let you get these spaces by doubling a worker or placing a worker next to another player or playing two workers at the same time.

Friday, December 23: I had to think a lot about the problem of when to play cards. The first idea was only after the worker placement. The problem: When you draw more cards, they must be played in the next round. This was awkward. Here is where I started with different kinds of cards and different times to play them. Not played during that Friday, only worked on the files.

Friday, December 30: Played against me. Better with the new way to play the cards when you need them. Worked on the rules for the double-a-card (copy) spaces.

Friday, January 6, 2012: Here starts the phase in the design process with the little changes. Cards are no longer trashed with two markers; the markers are just stacked up. Changing the number of cards in the different phases. Every leftover gold is transformed into VPs. (Later this will be changed back as it was one of these balancing ideas, which I normally hate, because it felt flat, no tension, because you can just not make a bad move). The discount card (50% off) is now double your money to avoid rounding problems.

Friday, January 13: The day for the theme. On that day the theme came into the game. I remember that I had the idea very late on the Friday before, but it was too late to post it, so it came into the project on the 13th. The idea came with the last cards in the deck, where you just buy VPs for money and these are now Drs. so that the politicians can polish up their careers. On that day I gave all the cards thematic names and worked completely on that theme.

Board Game: Copycat
The worker placement part of the game board – look familiar?

Friday, January 20: Played the game with Andrea Meyer and Marcel-André Casasola Merkle. The motto "Yes, We P(l)ay" was invented. The idea of using the error in the Ticket to Ride scoring track, too.

Friday, January 27: The idea of using the "Yes, We Can" campaign poster as the cover. (Just the cover idea, not the use of my face.)

Friday, February 3: Played the game with Stefan Stadler at the Nürnberg fair. You no longer receive VPs for unused money, and giving a card to the person on your left each turn is no longer in. Trashing of cards is no longer as many as you like. It was a very good day for streamlining the game.

Friday, February 10: Only little changes.

Friday, February 17: Three new cards: Copy-a-card is back. Exchange-a-card-with-the-market is out. Way too strong, but maybe a good idea for an expansion.

Friday, February 24: Working on the files.

Friday, March 2: Yes, we can. Artist Harald Lieske and I discussed whether if we use the Obama poster, it should be with my face and I decided, yes, do it. The card where you get 1 VP for a leftover card and 2 VP for a leftover worker feels not so good but is still in the game. Some thoughts about the difference between the two-player and four-player game.

Friday, March 9: Played a lot and only added the card for two buys. The game is almost ready. I won three times in a row, but always with a different strategy – or would you say a different path to victory? Most importantly, it is a game of timing; it is a lot about when to start collecting VPs instead of buying new cards. (Somebody called this point in Dominion the point of no return, well-known from sex.) I really love games where timing is important and where timing depends on the other players' decisions. In this game it is absolutely clear that you can win only if you copy cards you bought with the special actions. This is easy to see, but the question is not what to do; the question is when and how. It is clear you have to copy, but knowing which card is not an easy question to answer. Doubling high VP cards is very good, but doubling cards to draw cards, workers to place, or more money to double is also very important.

Friday, March 16: Working on the files again. Started to ask the other authors for permission to use their game ideas.

Friday, March 23: Only three Fridays to go before the Gathering of Friends will start. Worked on the name of the offices to get thematic names. Donald X. was the first author to respond, giving me permission to use Dominion.

Friday, March 30: I decided that this game is good enough to publish it for Spiel 2012 in Essen, and Vlaada gave permission to use Through the Ages.

Friday, April 6: Uwe says "Yes, you can" (use Agricola). Printed a game version with the graphics Harald Lieske made for use at the Gathering of Friends.

Friday, April 13: Played in Niagara Falls – good game.

Friday, April 20: Added a second game-ending condition: All Drs. are sold.

Friday, April 27: We had to change a lot of the artwork because it would not have been a good idea to copy things from Disney, Hasbro, and other big companies without permission and it's impossible to get the permission. Little card changes. Changed the numbers of the cards, too. Streamlined the gaming structure.

Board Game: Copycat
Even with the art changes mentioned above, lots of copying and referencing stayed in place

Friday, May 4: Color-coding of the cards and offices. The third game-ending condition: All steps played.

Friday, May 11: Just one more test. To win the game it is very important to know which cards are in which phase of the deck, so the advanced players are better because of that knowledge. An overview of all cards in necessary for the product.

Friday, May 18: Very important that doubling a double action is not a quadruple – only a triple use.

Friday, May 25: Not so much done because of a hangover.

Friday, June 1: One test game in Göttingen.

Friday, June 8: The game is almost finished. I gave the rulebook to be written by Birgit.

Friday, June 15: I wrote a description text for Copycat to be used in the rulebook or on the box.

Friday, June 22: Nothing special.

Friday, June 29: Starting a new Friday project: Funny Food.

My conclusion based on the reactions I've seen. First, it is a very good game. The sales are good, too. There are very good comments and reviews.


Some people just dislike Copycat for the wrong reasons (IMO):

-----• If you play it once and find a very powerful combination of cards, you might believe that this game is broken because you found a very powerful combination. Copycat just has so many powerful combinations that you have to find out which one works best in which situation.

-----• You see that doubling 10 VPs is the best way to score the most points. Now you know what you want to do, but even if you know what to do, it does not mean that you know how to do it.

-----• You stopped buying cards early in the game (or Derek: very early) and just collected VPs and won. Winning once does not mean this will always work; it is possible that others just let you do this, and even more likely they didn't play well against this strategy.

-----• As I said, in Copycat you absolutely know what to do to win – get high VP cards and double them – but you have to find out every single game how to get there and when to start collecting VPs. It depends on the other players' actions, and this is where I think the tension comes from.

If you dislike this, okay, it is your taste, but the game is not broken.

Friedemann Friese

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"Everything's a copy of a copy of a copy."
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Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:00 am
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