Wheat from the Chaff

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2019 Wrapup

Jonathan Chaffer
United States
Grand Rapids
Michigan
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In 2019 I logged 810 plays across 269 games. This compares to 788 plays across 285 games last year. I played at least one game on over half of the calendar days of 2019.

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My most-played games of the year were Fine Sand (58 plays), The City (31 plays), and Just One (29 plays). All are outstanding games, of three different weights but none heavy. Fine Sand and Just One are new, and The City is a reprint of a slightly older game. I expect all three to stay on the short list next year, though Fine Sand has slowed to an occasional rather than nightly occurrence.

Next up is Fast Forward: FEAR with 23 plays, but this is misleading because of how short it is. Those 23 plays took only an hour and a half. By time instead of sessions, this is my 88th most played game of the year.

Number five is Mental Blocks with 21 plays. This is more team-building exercise than game in the version that has been commonly played. I would like to try the traitor variant in our group, which will make things much more game-y.

Then we have Wingspan with 18 plays, across about 24 hours making it the second-most played by time behind Fine Sand. It's a lovely game and deserving of its acclaim. Doesn't really do anything new mechanically, but all the bits fit together really well. It also has one of my favorite expansions. I love when an expansion doesn't add new rules to teach, just provides more variety within the existing rules.

Letter Jam at 16 plays was a Gen Con pre-release, and is a really smart word game. I am committed to getting better at it.

7 Wonders next, with 14 plays. Most of these plays were with the base game and Leaders only. It's one of Jenny's all-time favorite games, which is a driver for its frequency here. I've yet to try Armada which seems to have been received favorably.

I had 12 plays of Mysterium which is a bit of a surprise as it favors a larger group and lasts a while. All the plays were on medium difficulty. We won 10 of them, and in 4 of the plays I was in the role of the ghost. I received both expansions this year which adds a lot of card variety but doesn't further complicate the game.

Rounding out the dimes are Decrypto (11 plays), Fabled Fruit (11 plays), and Glass Road (10 plays). I have obtained the Laserdrive expansion for Decrypto but have only used it once so I'd like to try that more this year.

Honorable mention to Filler with 9 logged plays; I do not add demos or prototype plays to my statistics, so the hundreds of games under those banners don't count.

The remainder of the nickels:
Onirim (9 plays)
Railroad Ink (9 plays)
Time Chase (9 plays)
Augustus (8 plays)
The Quacks of Quedlinburg (8 plays)
Magic Maze (8 plays)
Foppen (7 plays)
Incan Gold (7 plays)
No Thanks! (7 plays)
Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age (7 plays)
The Taverns of Tiefenthal (7 plays)
TransAmerica (7 plays)
DropMix (6 plays)
The Quest for El Dorado 6 plays)
Qwixx (6 plays)
Skull (6 plays)
Broom Service: The Card Game (5 plays)
Cat Café (5 plays)
Circus Flohcati (5 plays)
Favor of the Pharaoh (5 plays)
Mesozooic (5 plays)
The Shipwreck Arcana (5 plays)
Thingamajig (5 plays)
Trogdor!! The Board Game (5 plays)


Resolutions
In 2019 I resolved to raise my H-index from 27 to 29, which I achieved mid-year. This year I will raise it to 31.

My other gaming resolution this year is to achieve a 5-strawberry ranking in Letter Jam. It is uncertain whether this is achievable.


Game Design
2019 saw the retail release of Filler. 2020 will see a new retail edition of Stroop. I am optimistic about the likelihood of a new contract getting signed this year, and have several design projects in the works as ususal.


Conventions
In 2019, I attended:
- 36 Hours of Games
- MittenCon
- The Tournament of Meeples
- Protospiel Michigan
- Gen Con
- Protospiel Chicago
- GrandCon
- Great Lakes Games

2020 is likely to be similar, with Origins replacing Gen Con. It was just too exhausting there this year to do it again in 2020.


Thanks to everyone who played with me in 2019! Face-to-face game time has been a huge positive influence on my mental state in the past few years, and has given me an opportunity to teach—which I was passionate about in grad school—even though that is not my chosen profession. I am looking forward to a fantastic 2020 with all of you.
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Thu Jan 2, 2020 3:58 pm
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Protospiel Chicago 2019: Sunday

Jonathan Chaffer
United States
Grand Rapids
Michigan
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The final day is always a low-key affair. Much of my time was socializing and planning for future events, but some games hit the table nonetheless.

Deathtrap by Eric Jome
From gallery of JonBob

A game about recruiting heroes to delve into a dungeon and find loot on your behalf. It's the same setup as Gauntlet of Fools but is a more involved and serious take on the concept.

Most post-game discussion centered on the quest system (opportunities to resolve quests dried up well before the quests themselves did) and on how to provide a satisfying final turn.

121m contributed


Swoopin' Swallows by Jared Mason
From gallery of JonBob

Players are swallows vying to snack on the bugs kicked up by a lawnmower. There are two layers of simultaneous selection, in which nobody wants to match anyone else. We talked through ways to preserve the existing tensions while reducing some of the randomness, and ideas for beefing up the spatial puzzle on the board.

32m contributed


Inhuman Resources by Jonathan Chaffer
In this outing, I tried Carl's suggestion of resolving all actions in turn order rather than card order. One test isn't enough to be certain, but I think it was an improvement and I'll be trying it again. This change would let me smooth out some graphical design elements.

More discussion on nomenclature, to make the actions easier to distinguish.

68m x 3 players = 204m consumed


Top Dogs by Jared Mason
From gallery of JonBob

This one is sort of worker-placement, but multiple workers can go in the same spot and only the last to arrive receives any benefit. That's very harsh, which is not necessarily a problem but not to my taste. My bigger concern was the lack of an arc to the game, with the 15th round pretty much the same as the 1st. We talked about having an economy that escalates over the course of the game, instead.

49m contributed


RPSpionage by Jonathan Chaffer
Brought back out not so much as a playtest, but as a time-passer as other tables finished up. Given the reception this weekend, this is in the top tier of my annual microgame exercise.

17m x 4 players = 68m consumed


Totals
202m contributed
272m consumed


Weekend Totals
1105m contributed
974m consumed

Some discussion at the end of Sunday about whether I should be counting playtester (as opposed to designer) time as "consumed." I'm not sure how I feel about that, but the above counts do include playtester person-hours.


From gallery of JonBob

I failed to complete any rows or columns of my Chi-Bingo card.
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Mon Sep 9, 2019 1:33 am
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Protospiel Chicago 2019: Saturday

Jonathan Chaffer
United States
Grand Rapids
Michigan
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From gallery of JonBob



Vortex Poker by Steven Vesci
This design is for the Button Shy "18 identical cards" challenge. While none of the games I've seen with this constraint are amazing, it really impresses me that anyone has made an interesting system at all! Steven's entry gets at some of the bluffing elements of traditional poker by using the corners of cards to represent suits. We spent a while discussing ways to incorporate betting or folding without adding components.

19m contributed


Exposition Fantastique by Eric Jome
An iteration of a design I first played in Chelsea. Components had been changed to attempt a smaller footprint and more legibility. This remains a solid efficiency game, with an area control element that works well even though it's not to my taste.

103m contributed


Potion Panic by Jordan Davenport
From gallery of JonBob

A filler-weight game, which was very chaotic at 6 players. I believe I would like it way more at around 3. There's a fair amount of take-that here. I recommended that the design push toward more interaction with the center visible stacks rather than the face-down draw pile, as this seems to be the distinguisher for the game.

For a pretty simple prototype, the graphic design was really well thought out.

69m contributed


The Great Feast by Daniel Sturgeon
From gallery of JonBob


A real-time cooperative game. Very little in the way of decision-making, and mostly just a speed and perception exercise. Since that's the nature of the game, we talked about leaning into that and away from cards with more complicated effects. A simplified timing system will clean it up a lot.

55m contributed


Dice Dancer Marathon by Maxine Ekl
From gallery of JonBob


This was in an early concept stage. We talked about various ways to tie a dance competition theme into mechanisms. The idea centers around using dice as pawns to move, with movement restrictions based on the face (reminiscent of Quantum). I think that there is a lot of potential in scoring for completing movement patterns on the dance floor.

The prototype included a grin-inducing spotlight component involving some puppeteering and an acetate overlay.

47m contributed


Pig Pencils by Jonathan Chaffer
Trotted out my roll-and-write. It is functioning better with special symbols being something players can expend at whim, rather than shuffled into the deck. Maxine had a fantastic (and obvious in retrospect) suggestion for how to handle the mechanics of scoring.

60m x 3 players = 180m consumed


Once Upon a Story Game by Carl Klutzke
Carl is working on a riff on Once Upon a Time, converting it into a cooperative game (surprise, surprise!). I like the idea of spinning a yard to drive the narrative toward hidden words that you have and that you share with neighbors, so that they will say the words you need. We charged through a few different ruleset ideas in a short time. I think I will really like this puzzle once it comes together.

40m contributed


RPSpionage by Jonathan Chaffer
My 18-card game was requested so I brought it out. One small rule tweak, making card exchanges mandatory instead of optional. A definite improvement.

15m x 4 players = 60m consumed


Totally Pirate Game with Dice by Scott Starkey
From gallery of JonBob


Unlike me, Scott does not believe in designing title-first.

A cooperative dice-placement game. He had made adjustments since the previous test this weekend, letting us roll simultaneously and decide turn order afterward, and they skewed the difficulty to the easy end. The primary suggestion was to keep the turn order choice, but to do so before dice are rolled.

The island-scouting mechanism was delightful in concept and I hope he's able to realize it fully.

73m contributed


Herd Instinct by Troy Pichelman
From gallery of JonBob


In my opinion, this is a 2-player abstract that we were playing with four players. Everything works well except for the problems that come along with the player count: difficulty to set up moves for yourself, and kingmaking. The designer suggested that 4 players should play in partners, which seems like a crucial change.

41m contributed


Second Babel by Eric Jome
Another go at the cooperative dexterity exercise. Apparently the highest score that Eric has recorded so far.

17m contributed


Voices by Valerie Schrag and Nick Schrag
From gallery of JonBob


A 2-player game about schizophrenia. While abstract, it is an interesting take and could be a conversation-starter. I liked the bluffing aspect.

39m contributed


Oort by Mark Gerrits
Presented by Alex Yeager
From gallery of JonBob


I observed this 2-player spatial game which is minimalist in components. The decisions and gameplay are very good. Some will be frustrated by adjudicating the continuous elements. This game isn't for them.

https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/24

16m contributed


On Second Thought by Jonathan Chaffer

Tried my trivia game with 3 players. It's a little less interesting than 4+ but still worked with the newer board. We talked through point scaling on the board and possible player incentives.

32m x 3 players = 96m consumed


Hacker 101 by Valerie Schrag and Nick Schrag
From gallery of JonBob


Another game with 18 identical cards, designed the previous night. It's a speed game using some simple binary. It works and my only suggestion was to make the speed task even harder with an additional level of pointer dereferencing.

8m contributed


Totals
527m contributed
336m consumed
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Mon Sep 9, 2019 12:51 am
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Protospiel Chicago 2019: Friday

Jonathan Chaffer
United States
Grand Rapids
Michigan
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As with last year, I took the 6AM train from Grand Rapids in to Union Station, then caught a taxi to the suburbs to join Protospiel in progress. Maxine Ekl has put together a stellar event once again.

New this year are Bingo cards for every attendee, encouraging play of a variety of different kinds of games:
From gallery of JonBob


I don't love my chances, with War right smack in the middle.

Capacity by Valerie Schrag and Nick Schrag
From gallery of JonBob


A game about the importance of biodiversity. The design is early and rough, but the core is clear: players need to balance the gathering of crucial resources against the destruction of habitat. The main problem right now is that player motivations don't align well with the message of the game. With that focus, I'm excited to see where this might go.

81m contributed

A Snack for Odin by Charles Miller
From gallery of JonBob


This one didn't have an official name, but that's what we were calling it. All components were lifted directly from the parent game, and a new spatial relations game created from the parts. The tile selection game was good and the puzzle itself was very fun. Some extraneous bits made it longer than it should be for the weight. Once remade with original components tailored for this gameplay, I'd like to experience it again.

62m contributed

Inhuman Resources by Jonathan Chaffer

First session testing the rotating first player marker. This worked fine, but it is so rarely needed that it's not clear if this is a win or a loss given that it's an extra thing to do each round. The game went long due to some distraction and AP, but that's not a huge problem I think. Carl mooted some ideas about resolution order that I need to test to see if they are worth pursuing.

70m x 5 players = 350m consumed

The Studio Game by Suzanne Zack

This one is intended for educational use in film studies classes. This means it needs to be evaluated through a different lens, which can be hard for testers. Most of the game is pretty random right now, so conversation focused on ways to add player agency. A "choose your own adventure" style seemed a promising way to take things.

59m contributed

Second Babel by Eric Jome
From gallery of JonBob


A cooperative dexterity game. Minimalist in components and rules, yet some interesting emergent play comes from the communication restrictions. We didn't have much in the way of feedback. This is ready to go.

21m contributed

RPSpionage by Jonathan Chaffer

A quick test of my rock-paper-scissors microgame. A couple cards felt unsatisfying and need revision, but otherwise it's working.

8m x 2 players = 16m consumed

Fire Rescue by Randy Ekl
From gallery of JonBob


A mint tin game, using a few cards, some dice, and a few wooden bits. Players race up ladders to burning buildings, but many actions help out other players as well. There was too much admin work in advance of each round, and we talked for a while about how to reduce or remove it. Otherwise the core system seems to hum along nicely.

61m contributed

Tricks and Dirty Tricks by Bob Brocker

Despite the name, it's not really a trick-taking game. It felt more like the counting phase of Cribbage to me. The difficulty will be in ratcheting up player agency without accompanying complexity.

55m contributed

Gutter to Glitter by Deirdrea Lyon
From gallery of JonBob


A silly and light party game. We talked about more decision points for the players, and a more robust end-game mechanism.

37m contributed


Totals
376m contributed
366m consumed
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Sat Sep 7, 2019 4:56 am
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Protospiel Michigan 2019: Sunday

Jonathan Chaffer
United States
Grand Rapids
Michigan
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The Shaft by Eli Edwardson
A dexterity game from a designer who was not able to attend; another attendee tabled it on his behalf. This attempts to meld dexterity with push-your-luck, as players descend down a mine shaft (tower of blocks) to pluck valuable ones out before the collapse.

The concept is great. Our playtest was short because of intentional game breakage, the thing Protospiel testers do best. Basically the physical implementation needs to be made more robust vs. factors like bigger fingers. The consistent use of tools instead might be the right solution.

25m contributed

Claus vs. Claws by Gary Loyola
A social deduction game; we had a large complement of 9 testers. Players are either Santa, the Krampus, or a minion of one of them. The goal is to determine your teammates, so that in the final reckoning you can make the right choices of who to trust.

The most interesting thing this game does over other social deduction games is that voting ability is based on cards which are spent and reset a la Mission Red Planet, with the "abstain" card retrieving those spent. This forces players to vote suboptimally, obscuring intent.

The problem was that the voting doesn't align well with giving information to the players, because it didn't matter much whether your vote was for "naughty" or "nice." Some group brainstorming came up with what I thought were great ideas for where to take this next, adding much more tension to that tug-of-war.

78m contributed

My Pig Pencils

I needed to hit the road around noon, but Heather and I hadn't played together yet so she requested something short of mine. I brought out this game, of the roll-and-write persuasion but with cards. Players write on sheets but then pass the sheets around the table, so that they leave a mark in many places come scoring. It worked well but scores remain too tight and player agency is not high enough. The next attempt will add a personal supply of things to draw when needed, hopefully offering some interesting ways to get out of tight spots.

Thanks to Heather and Will Newton.
43m x 2 players consumed

Totals for Sunday:
103m contributed
86m consumed

Grand Totals:
882m contributed
834m consumed


A great and productive weekend, as always! So much to dwell on in the coming weeks.
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Tue Jul 16, 2019 9:29 pm
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Protospiel Michigan 2019: Saturday

Jonathan Chaffer
United States
Grand Rapids
Michigan
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Igor by Andrew Henton
From gallery of JonBob

I began the day with a designer new to the hobby, and a design with all the hallmarks expected thereof. Roll-and-move, lose a turn, and similar elements. The core "build a monster" conceit and flavor was quite good, but even at the target market of younger players there are better ways to achieve the goals.

We talked for a while about the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, and how companies like Restoration manage to capture the remembered feeling of older games without repeating the mistakes that we have since learned from societally. Lauren had an excellent suggestion for a simple rule change to mitigate most of the problems we encountered.

I hope the feedback was taken in the constructive spirit that was intended! There is definitely room for this theme to shine if the system is adjusted to modernize the experience.

61m contributed

American Empire by Sharad Puri and Steve Riparip
From gallery of JonBob


A resource-management, engine-building game with some combat and "dudes on a map" elements. This game is extremely polished from a graphical standpoint, which made me nervous (often this is a sign of designers unwilling to take feedback because they have too much investment) but my concerns were largely unfounded.

The core gameplay is solid and factions felt balanced and interesting. The game did feel very slow to start, and a lot of the feedback was around how to get things going more quickly. I don't think I'm sold on the Scruples-style cards used as combat randomizers, but must admit that it is a differentiator in what otherwise is a fun but not a hugely groundbreaking system. The design crew is planning on self-publishing and I'm curious where the price point will land, because the components on display are potentially very costly.

124m contributed

Design Contest
My team: Gray Detrick, Lauren Woolsey, Rod Currie, Andy Malone

Kevin G. Nunn organized a contest for teams to design a game using provided components, then build a pitch to give to the audience. We had an hour to create something including several plastic unicorn and pegasus figures, bowling dice, plastic cups, and Disney number flashcards.

Our entry was called My First Rodeo and collects a series of three dexterity minigames: barrel racing, bareback riding, and show jumping. Each use the dice as a timer, with an opponent rolling Tenzi-style to provide a limit on activities performed. Scoring is somewhat strategic, with point cards being awarded on a first-come first-served basis.

We earned third place, but felt like our votes should have been tripled since we designed three games in the time other groups designed but one!

Goblin Teeth by Frank Tedeschi
From gallery of JonBob


A dice-allocation game that reminded me a bit of Las Vegas, but with lots of wacky cards to interfere with other players' actions. Not much wrong with this one to work out! Low rolls did feel punishing, and we discussed the possibility of some sort of consolation prize if no loot was gained in a round. I think that single tweak could make things sing much better.

62m contributed

My Human Resources
Simultaneous action-selection, resource management, and some light engine-building. I think this was received fairly well, with the main problem identified being a plateau of the game arc in the late game. I am going to try offering a second tier of town rewards, to beef up the engine-building and let players invest in better late-game actions. The scores were tighter than I'd like them to be, though this has not been a consistent problem across plays.

Thanks to Carl Klutzke, Dan Loughlin, Josh Horsley, Savannah Horsley, and Frank Tedeschi.
57m x 5 players consumed

Castlescape by Josh Horsley and Savannah Horsley
Lots of great table presence here; several people stopped by the table to comment on the game's appearance as they passed. At heart this is a deck-builder, powering an area control game. It felt like that should be flipped, with the area control taking the center stage. There were some concepts that were difficult to understand and their gameplay impact didn't seem to warrant the complexity. With some of that fat trimmed, the game length could be reduced and the game as a whole would be the better for it.

I'm jealous of the collaboration on display here! Obviously fruitful note-taking and statistics.

124m contributed

My On Second Thought
The worker-placement trivia game. Most of my work at the moment is rebalancing the board to allow for questions with a wider numeric range of correct answers, to make it easier to churn out the cards. Next I'll be trying a higher bound on the point value to allow some more granularity. Playtesters were hotly divided on whether the point range should be wide or tight.

Thanks to Joe, François, Brendan, and Simon.
60m x 3 players consumed


Totals for Saturday:
371m contributed
465m consumed
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Mon Jul 15, 2019 11:01 pm
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Protospiel Michigan 2019: Friday

Jonathan Chaffer
United States
Grand Rapids
Michigan
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I got in on Thursday for a family visit in Ann Arbor as usual, but this year returned late enough that I wasn't up for the pregame playtesting in the hotel breakfast area. Instead, I got some good rest and was the first to arrive in the conference center Friday morning.

Our lovely host David E. Whitcher had warned us that he was unable to arrive until late morning, so I staffed the registration table for a while. Many familiar faces came through the door. As new attendees arrived, I distributed badges and gave them the run-down of the way we do things.

Contributed: 115m

I also handed out info on Kevin G. Nunn's design contest to be held on Saturday, and my own short puzzle contest:
From gallery of JonBob

Can you identify the games above?

Ultimonopoly by J. Welsh
Once I was relieved at the front desk, my first task was to usher a new attendee to a table as he set up his game. The other designers available were committed to beginning a playtest soon at another table, so rather than diving into a play we first got a rules overview and discussed the game from that angle.

This design has an obvious marketing challenge. It is built to be an improvement on flaws in Monopoly, and from the rules overview it does seem to paper over most of the inherent cracks in that game. However, it isn't clear who would be interested in such a game. People who love Monopoly aren't going to be receptive to being told about its problems (if they were, we wouldn't have the scourge of the Free Parking house rule), and people who don't have a ton of modern games that already solve those problems. I feel like there is a game here, but it needs to completely shed itself of the overt Monopoly connection in order to find a market.

Contributed: 47m

Schreibenschloß by Gray Detrick
From gallery of JonBob

A fantastic roll-and-write adventure game. The game has two phases. In the first, players use the luck of the draw to construct an evil lair, complete with minions, traps, and treasures. In the second, sheets are passed to another player who uses another deck of cards to direct their hero through the lair, attacking monsters and plundering loot. Scores are based on the success of your hero and how well your villain's castle stayed defended.

We did not have a huge amount of feedback on the game itself. Most of the conversation focused on how to present the game effectively, so that players would have a better chance of constructing a challenging castle in the first phase.

Contributed: 86m

On to some filler games!

Squirrel Boss by Mike Petty
This is a simple push-your-luck game targeted at younger ages. Players roll dice to determine how many nuts they can gather on a turn, or stash what they have collected so far. Specific dice rolls will cause you to go bust and drop what you are carrying. These basic rules are modified by a wide variety of cards representing the different squirrels.

As-is the game is heavily random with some decisions but not a lot of agency. We had some feedback that I think could improve that quite a bit. This would be an entertaining game to play with kids once those kinks are worked out.

Contributed: 29m

I Couldn't Possibly by Andrew Juell
Now for a two-player abstract. Players may place one of their pieces following some positioning restrictions. Then, if there are places where it is illegal for them to play, they may place their opponents' pieces in those positions. The goal is to exhaust your opponent's supply.

I did not get beyond the first layer of reasoning here, as is typical with me and abstracts until I have played quite a bit. I could see that there was more to discover. Andy had plans for variable placement restrictions, which I think would really open this system up.

Contributed: 24m

My Crooks and Nannies
I had not planned on testing this game, but Carl requested it and I feverishly refreshed myself on the rules since it had been sitting on the shelf for at least a year.

The testers struggled with the communication strategy, but the system itself seemed well-received. I will try to motivate myself to buckle down and work on it further. I think by devising a campaign with escalating complexity and difficulty, teaching the game will become easier while allowing players to find the challenge that suits them.

One suggestion was to make the suits asymmetric for a better theme match. This would require quite a bit of redesign work but is worth considering.

Thanks to Mike Petty, Carl Klutzke, and Andy Juell.
Consumed: 71m x 3 players

Castles of the Conqueror by Jchon E. Bahl, II
From gallery of JonBob

Here we have a resource-management, engine-building Euro. We played about half the game before one of the testers had to leave.

Everything here works, really. The only mechanical issue is the overwhelming amount of information presented to players up front; dozens of buildings and assistant cards are available to each player. If this focus were narrowed such that players were given a few options at the start of the game and things opened up, perhaps with some randomness, then this would be much more approachable.

The actual problem is that the game is lacking an obvious hook. Once Jchon determines what the core of the game is and props up all the parts that contribute to it, there could be more game interest to complement the existing visual appeal of the castle-building.

Contributed: 76m

Bears Want to Kill You by Tom Rich and Johannes Stauffer
Now for a game in the very early stages of design. The seed here is to build a storytelling game based on an existing IP. We ran through the game itself in its current incarnation, which consists of real-time card play followed by improvised storytelling using the cards that were played. There were laughs, but the two halves of the game felt very disconnected. We talked a lot about other games that are story generators, and what makes them tick. More variety in the prompts on the cards and a clearer framing mechanism may make this one sing.

Contributed: 31m

My RPS Who?
An early iteration of what will likely become my Christmas microgame for the year. Standard rock-paper-scissors with head games on top based on hidden information. We mostly talked over how to change the card distribution to add interest and make player motivations clearer.

Thanks to Heather Newton and Gray Detrick.
Consumed: 35m x 2 players


Friday totals:
408m contributed
283m consumed
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Mon Jul 15, 2019 3:21 am
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Protospiel Chicago 2018: Sunday

Jonathan Chaffer
United States
Grand Rapids
Michigan
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SkyHoundz Classic by James DuMond
From gallery of JonBob


This is a combo dexterity and dice-rolling game, themed after frisbee dog competitions. James filled us in on the real-world inspiration for the game, and how it informed the design. I was pleased that, despite my fears, it didn't feel like two separate games tacked together but was pretty cohesive as a single product.

It was clear that recent changes had made it too easy to achieve objectives, as several were achieved without using any repeat rolls at all. We talked balance, and how to address a win-more situation where the player who scored well in the opening 5-minute speed dexterity event would then get abilities making the rest of the game easier as well.

52m contributed

Pig Pencils by Jonathan Chaffer

24m consumed x 1 player

Andrew sat down with me to do another run through my roll-and-write. I halved the deck to make the special cards come out for certain, and seeded the board with a couple fences to help define early play. It still has a problem with the beginning and end not being as interesting as the middle, but it was trending in the correct direction so I think the premise holds promise. Much smoother at 2 or 3 players/teams than when trying to support 4 individuals. I'm definitely revising iconography before the next test, going from "pretty" to "practical" to nudge people toward simpler drawings.

Diced Tomatoes by Arkadiusz Greniuk
From gallery of JonBob


This is a pretty polished dice-roller. Very cutthroat, with forced interaction that can be positive but usually is negative. I don't think that's a problem per se, but it may surprise players who see the friendly-looking theme and graphic design. There wasn't a lot to say about this; barring a few tweaks this is ready to go.

58m contributed

Cats Save Leningrad by Randy Ekl
From gallery of JonBob


A truly awesome theme here, based on a real-life event involving the importation of cats to solve a rodent infestation problem in Leningrad. This is a deck-builder at heart, but that engine powers a resource-management game. The end-game needs massaging, since the last 5-10 minutes were way less interesting than the 30 preceding, but I'm confident Randy will tackle that and I'll definitely look for this once it's fleshed out.

82m contributed

Powderkeg by Jonathan Chaffer

Brushed the dust off this one, which was getting very close to ready when I last shelved it. I forgot the number of cards to deal, since I left the rules behind by accident, but it played okay even with that mistake. There was a runaway card which I need to analyze; it could have been a fluke this game and the spreadsheet will help me test that theory.

I'm not sure how I lost the spark (pun intended) because I think it's a very good product, and I hope this will get me to put the final touches on it and pitch in earnest. Most of the comments in this session had to do with ergonomics (particularly card layout) instead of gameplay, which is usually a good sign.

46m consumed x 5 players

Ducks in a Row by Maxine Ekl
From gallery of JonBob


Played two times, in different iterations. The core game is one of manipulating a shared game state to match a shared objective. There is dice rolling to determine allowed actions, but otherwise it's a theme I've seen several times. It was fun, but not revolutionary.

In the second play Maxine reintroduced a minigame of everyone flicking winks at the ducks while the main player cogitates, which elevated the game incredibly. There was joy at the table, no downtime, and it tied together thematically in a nice bow. Bravo.

46m contributed


Totals:
238m contributed
254m consumed

Grand Totals:
1140m contributed
1080m consumed (victory!)

Thanks to all the designers and playtesters who offered their time to make my games better and to let me participate in their design process. And thanks to Maxine for putting this all together again this year!
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Mon Sep 24, 2018 12:05 am
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Protospiel Chicago 2018: Saturday

Jonathan Chaffer
United States
Grand Rapids
Michigan
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Grand Rapids Area Boardgamers
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Day 30 by Andrew Hanson
From gallery of JonBob


This is a sort-of real time game. There's a time track, but also a clock, and pieces may not activate until the clock reaches that number of minutes, so this gates actions preventing a player from just playing as fast as they can while encouraging things along. There's a lot of engine building and resource management going on, but I was frustrated by not having an obvious source of "seed" resources to get things started. Honestly I think changing that one element would dramatically have improved my play experience. It's a neat idea and I hope it evolves.

74m contributed

On Second Thought

Used the denser placement on the new 3-column board. The assortment of trivia questions was well-received, and I got constructive feedback on the board layout with some new things to try there. Particularly there was some disagreement over the option to bet against player knowledge.

51m consumed x 4 players

Telepathy by Carl Klutzke
From gallery of JonBob


Some testing and brainstorming about a random goal setup for this 2-player co-op. I think we agreed this didn't work. We managed to patch it into a state that we could play, but the game is very solid as it was before and this wasn't an improvement. Just ship it already, Carl!

24m contributed

Covalent by Hanna Seyerle
From gallery of JonBob


An education-focused game about creating compounds from elements. It's a very simple set-collection game, which is perfectly fine given the target market of classrooms. I liked the idea of contributing to other scientists' projects, but there was an issue with this action not being incentivized enough so we did some brainstorming around that topic and I think came up with some avenues worth exploring.

49m contributed

Hegemony by Vered Rekenati and Lee Mordechai
From gallery of JonBob


A takeoff on the CDG system from e.g. Twilight Struggle, with three factions competing. We played a short version, focusing on one decade of the four covered by the game. Most of the systems involved are time-tested so feedback centered around the bits that deviated, like the end-of-decade events and the three-player dynamics. Very solid and this would fit comfortably into GMT's line if they were to pick it up.

105m contributed

Drunken Sailor

Testing new board layouts and ergonomics, mostly. Still might change how the cards work, as they feel a bit like an appendage to an otherwise self-contained game.

76m consumed x 4 players

Silinda by Andy Malone
From gallery of JonBob


A simple four-in-a-row game, but on a periodically rotating cylinder so that you have to play quickly before your opportunity passes by. We tried a couple variations, including team play and shifting to five-in-a-row. I enjoyed the team version a lot.

25m contributed

Troll & Roll by Nyles Breecher
From gallery of JonBob


A dexterity game of rolling dice onto raised targets. The layout of the targets is variable from game to game, so I only saw three "events" out of several more. It dragged near the end as easy challenges were used up, and we talked about ways to get around that problem.

68m contributed

Great Googa Mooga by Andy Malone

Began this dice game while waiting for a critical player mass.

12m contributed

On Second Thought

Implemented suggestions from the morning session. By reducing the number of betting spots and making them apply to more answer locations, this boosted the desire for those bets and made it feel just a little less personal, which was an improvement.

57m consumed x 4 players

Great Googa Mooga by Andy Malone
From gallery of JonBob


Back to Andy's dice game. This was a really interesting session! Andy had received feedback at Protospiel MI that the frenetic nature of the game was frustrating and that it should be a turn-based affair with strategic decisions. George pointed out that Andy's daughter Julia was correct and that these testers were wrong, wrong, wrong. The chaos and frenzy are matched much better to the theme, so we talked about how to add fun to that version rather than this slower pivot.

67m contributed

Saturday Totals:
424m contributed
736m consumed

Running totals:
902m contributed
826m consumed
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Sun Sep 23, 2018 2:09 pm
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Protospiel Chicago 2018: Friday

Jonathan Chaffer
United States
Grand Rapids
Michigan
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Grand Rapids Area Boardgamers
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I arrived in Northbrook bleary-eyed at around 10:30, having gotten up at 4am Central to make my train departure. Unfortunately I couldn't leap right into the testing, because the proofs came in for Filler and there was a last-minute graphical change needed for regulatory purposes. So I worked through that issue and then got to the matter at hand.

Times given below are total setup/explanation/play/discussion times, not game lengths.

Exposition Fantastique by Eric Jome
From gallery of JonBob


I understand this to be a Protospiel tradition, though it has not crossed my path in the past. Players purchase components from a market using a pool of dice, then assemble them into devices to display in a grand expo. It flows quite nicely. Most of the conversation centered on ideas for reducing the table footprint and setup, as it looks far more involved than it actually is.

114m contributed

Pig Pencils
Two designers had games that required a larger group, so I offered a filler for three. This is the roughest of the designs I'm testing this weekend, and I definitely came out with some new things to try.

21m consumed x 2 players

Royal Court by Benjamin Bloomer
From gallery of JonBob


This is an early design, and needs a lot of paring back. There is an interesting take here on a hierarchy and the relationships involved, which reminded me in some ways of Shadow of Mordor and of a game being developed in GRUBS that is a lighter take on that idea.

There are a lot of chits flying around and every inch of the board is covered in tiny text. I think we came up with good approaches for attacking both of those issues, by getting cards with relevant information in front of players and by limiting the scope of the board in the early game to ease in new players.

105m contributed

For the Greater Good by Steven Vesci
From gallery of JonBob


This one is in the Prisoner's Dilemma family. A council of heroes is to take on a succession of missions, each of which has requirements that all players can contribute to. Heroes can be sent in cautiously, with dedication (x2 power but likely to perish in the effort), or with plans of betrayal (x0 power but rewarded on mission failure).

There is a metagame element in that there is a final showdown that made me fear problems with a shared-loss scenario, but that proved mostly unfounded because this section of the game could only eliminate individual players. Nonetheless we discussed this a fair bit, because it didn't seem to be punishing and rewarding the correct players.

86m contributed

Rendezvous by JT Smith
From gallery of JonBob


I stepped in for Marc as he had to leave about 1/3 of the way into the game. This is a worker-placement game, with the number of spaces on the board varying with the seasons and with some output randomness added to varying actions.

Overall the whole table really liked this one, and it seemed pretty polished. If I have a concern it's simply how to make this game stand out from the "feed your people" worker-placement pack. I'd play it again which is saying quite a bit considering it's much longer than I normally like.

119m contributed

No Jack by Kyle Rackley
This one is very cool and I forgot to snap a picture. It's basically a mashup of Blackjack with deck-building, but in a more overt sense than either Flip City or Mystic Vale is. It played quickly, especially after a midgame adjustment to the way the market row was replenished. My mitspieler caught on quickly despite not having experience with deck-builders. I'm looking forward to seeing how this evolves.

54m contributed

Feeling Sheepish
I got my Christmas microgame out onto the table to close my night. No big suggestions from the players and it played well, but I did observe a couple rough edges I'd like to file down.

16m consumed x 3 players


Totals
478m contributed
90m consumed
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Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:50 pm
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