Thoughts by Bez

I am a full-time designer/artist/self-publisher and I am available for freelance work. I go to cons as a trader and help run the all-day Friday playtest sessions in London. I left my last 'real' job in 2014. I was getting benefits for a few years. I'm currently writing sporadically, but getting back into the habit of daily posts. If you have any questions/topics you'd like me to address, send me a geekmail and I'll probably address the topic within a week.

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Being positive. Not everyone wants to analyse stuff. Sometimes, let's just share some excitement.

Bez Shahriari
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https://twitter.com/WatchItPlayed/status/1374060010196635653

A few tweets led to a fairly eloquent video from Rodney Smith, above.

Over on Facebook, Dave Salisbury (owner of the excellent Manchester-based shop Fanboy 3) pointed out that sometimes this isn't done to tear folk down. Sometimes it's done because of bad social skills.

Honestly, it took me about 20 years of life before I realised that most people didn't really want negative feedback. It's OK to just say, "I like the thing you made."

I used to feel like giving a 'full review' was the obligation if someone showed me a thing they made. Some positivity, some negativity.

I remember the exact moment I realised this was unnecessary - a friend showed me a digital 3D model of a hand. It was brilliant. I worked incredibly hard to find something to criticise.

I thought that I was being a better friend by doing that, when I should have said something more like, "This is amazing. It basically looks flawless to me. You've worked really hard and you should be proud."

And when it comes to other people's stuff (not our own creations), the same still applies.

Some folk really enjoy pondering something in depth. Analysing the positives and negatives. Designers/developers/reviewers often share this trait.

Some folk just want to have fun and share those joys.

Let people be happy.

Let's focus on the joy and positivity if we can.
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Tue Mar 23, 2021 4:53 pm
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ELL Deck Design Contest: Winners announced! Playable today at Bez and Friends Game Day 2

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It is with great pleasure that I want to announce the winners of the ELL deck design contest.

Yes, whilst I only expected there to be one winner, this year I determined (along with plenty of feedback from 'assistant judges') that these 2 games both deserved to win equally.

These games have both been somewhat developed since initial submission and they will continue to grow, mutate, and change. If you join us on Twitch at 2pm UK time today (Saturday 9th January 2021), you'll see me chatting to the original designers about the origins, original motivations, design intent, how it's changed, and any lessons learned so far. We may even do a quick demo.

https://www.twitch.tv/stuffbybez/

But these games are both still very much in development. I'd like to invite everyone to try these games. Today, as part of a small event (join discord below) or over the next year, as we continue to explore the possibility space around these games

http://www.stuffbybez.com/discord/

In alphabetical order, then:

From gallery of stuffbybez


======================================================
BIDDABBELL
======================================================

by Alex Cannon and Xate

This is a bidding game, that uses the same cards for the auction and to populate the market! Each turn, players play cards from hand, using lower letters to bid on selection order. In that selection order, players take cards from the market, before the market is populated by those same cards that were just used to bid!

To make this work, the cards you take are only judged based on the suit, and the letter is now completely irrelevant. Bigger sets of suits will win you the game.

This mechanism - using the cards you bid with to populate the market for next turn - is something I've not seen before in ANY game, let alone any ELL deck game.

It offers a simplicity of play, reduces upkeep, and interleaves strategy in an interesting way. Sometimes, I am not just thinking about the rank of your bid, but also about how I will populate the market with things that I want for the next auction.

I am excited to see how this will continue to develop.

From gallery of stuffbybez


======================================================
INVIZIBBELL
======================================================

by Alex Cannon

This is a game that mixes word-making, hidden movement, and a bit of deduction.

Those latter 2 mechanisms almost always go together but mixing it with word-making? That's new.

This game involves one player (or team) making words to travel around a board, trying to use every card. Meanwhile, the other player uses the suits/numbers and maybe even considers the possible words, in order to deduce the current location.

This game, again, is pushing the ELL deck into territory that I may have never imagined. It's a meaty puzzle that has fascinated many of us.


Both games' CURRENT rules can be downloaded here:
http://www.stuffbybez.com/ELL/

I should note, due to my relationship with both designers (that has grown over the past year, mainly during my daily streams), that all designers were kept anonymous to assistant judges. 2 assistant judges played literally every submission with me and the top few games were played a bunch more. Both of these were played by a few groups who gave their input.

Sadly, there wasn't as much testing as I would have liked, due to enforced social distancing and my own reluctance to play online. But we decided that both these games deserve some real focus and development before having some time to shine as the 'headline' game of 2022.

Again, due to social distancing, pushing these games to be the headline game of 2021 seemed like insufficient time. I am hoping that there will be some time for significant testing and experimentation in the latter half of 2021 at least.

In the interim, all feedback and input is welcome. Please do let me know your first impressions when/if you play.
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Sat Jan 9, 2021 11:29 am
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AQs: What do I think of digital cons?

Bez Shahriari
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For me (in maybe chronological order (I'm not double-checking dates) and from a perspective of someone demoing unless stated otherwise):

CONPULSION (a small con to replace an Edinburgh con the week of lockdown)
+ assembled really quickly
+ a nice seminar chat
+ playing a game with a stranger over zoom felt vaguely like demoing a game irl.
+ Made a sale.
- lots of sitting around/downtime

PROTOSPIEL ONLINE
Included though it's not really a typical con.

+ some 'breakout rooms' allowed me to feel connected to a couple of folk. It wasn't JUST playtesting.
+ I appreciated the focus on using video so we would see each other. Many playtesting places don't do this.
- generic tech issues. Reminded me that online stuff can glitch due to connections and can be just as tiring as IRL stuff (or actually MORE tiring for me).

CONDEMIC (by Donald Dennis of OBG and others)
+ played with Scott Nicholson and other folk I'd never have seen irl
- organising games was tricky. Scott has to abandon their game and joined mine. And then I abandoned one of the later things I'd planned.

VIRTUAL GRIDCON
+ playing with a few lovely folk I know
- most of the events were focused on TT/TTS and that doesn't really interest me much


UKGE:
I streamed for about 8hrs/day, with a featured topic (or UKGE chat) in morning, then constant demos after a 30 min break.

+ chatting on a seminar in Twitch, there was great chat
+ Having 3 'main screens' contributed to the above.
+ integration with Twitch/discord allowing publishers to make a pretty page
+ the discord did a decent job of bringing folk together. the 'queue' bit allowed folk to have fun in a very easy way.
- I got fewer folk on my own Twitch than I did during 'Bez Day' streaming. I found it difficult to get folk for stuff. I decided at this point that a single weekend for everyone makes little sense.


TRICON (attendee only):
I tried for a couple of hours to make the tech work but I couldn't. It was literally unusable for me.

SHELFAPALOOZA
+ a fun idea with a bunch of streams raiding each other, so there was a continuous 24-hour/day focus
+ the scavenger hunt by nona
+ a nice discord focus
- I felt like there were again too many things going on for the number of attendees. My event ran, but I know a couple that had to be cancelled.

SHUX (viewer only)
+ great content
+ busy chat in the main stream
- didn't really feel super-special.
- the 'secondary' streams seemed overly quiet.

ESSEN (attendee only):
+ some great streams
- no central hub
- way too expensive (imo) for publishers to be worth it to smaller publishers.

BEZ & FRIENDS GAME DAY (obviously I'm biased...)
+ I feel like focusing on exactly one game and one stream at any one time kinda worked.
+ Having 15 folk all playing one partygame (in Discord), most of whom were on video, actually kinda felt like an 'event'.
- could have been better promoted
- some games would have been better to at least teach/demo online, so that folk who can't use TT could at least see Alan's game played.


MY OVERALL THOUGHTS:
+ being able to have folk typing when others are speaking actually means that Q&A works really smoothly in general
+ if folk are on video, it can really help make it feel like folk are together
+ obviously, it's great to be part of US-based stuff
- I actually want fewer things going on. It actually helps there be 'convening' and meeting of folk over an extended time. I want to 'accidentally' run into the same folk over the course of the event.
- With a con, the popular bit has a max occupancy. You will go try other things and smaller things will be 'stumbled upon'. There is nothing like that sort of 'browsing' here. That's bad from both a pub and an attendee perspective. Any publisher who has an ad at the start of their Twitch, I'm probably not gonna wait 20-30s just to glimpse something I might not want. I think there needs to be a really good 'menu' to show what's going on.
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Mon Dec 28, 2020 1:35 pm
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BBBB 158: Value of Familiarity with Mandela

Bez Shahriari
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To better absorb/recap information after my daily streams, I've started writing down some notes. I hope this will be useful to you.

If you do want to watch any of my BBBB shows, note that the first 30 minutes are more about daily positivity/silly questions/getting to know the person, before we spend a while on the main topic.


=====================

Mandela notes:

Porridge is brilliant. Paul Grogan wants to be asked about it.

Familiarity allows for greater connection. E.g. ticking things with another person. Or with a game.

Using something we're already familiar with short-cuts that.

Familiar is not about # of encounters but understanding.

Learning. Nostalgia. Teaching other games. Building up (standing on shoulders of giants).

We can assume knowledge when it doesn't exist.

Different ethnicities are starting to be represented amongst designers, but not folk of different socioeconomic BGs. Mandela and I are not truly Scottish but we kinda are. This gives us an advantage. No obvious solution to this problem.

Give credit.

========================


https://youtu.be/PefFdExW1uM
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Tue Oct 6, 2020 12:43 pm
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Bez Day shenanigans 2020

Bez Shahriari
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Since 2015, I've tried to do something special on 1st August.
• Releasing a new game.
• Art requests.
• Competitions.
• Setting up a special event in a pub, BGCafe or shop.

Given the state of the world, that last part is impossible. But I still wanted to try and capture a bit of the joy of 'Bez Day'.

So I'll have a 3 day extravaganza of streaming and activities starting on the 31st of July (UK time) and finishing the 2nd of August (UK time). Because it'll still be 1st August somewhere in the world even if it's only in Kiribati or Baker Island. But I do have to give a time zone, so please note that all times below are UK time (currently BST, or GMT+1, ET+5, CET-1, PT+8)

• A PHOTO COMPETITION - CLOSING SOON!
• IN A BOND - EVERYDAY AT 2pm!
• PRIZE DRAW - EVERYDAY AT 3pm!
• EXTENDED LIVE-STREAM!
• #ArtRequests DRAWN!
• NEW ELL DECK GAME - PUZZELL!


It's also the 5-year anniversary of In a Bind (now Yogi). So I'll be doing a few special things for that!


========================
SPECIAL PHOTO COMPETITION
========================


https://forms.gle/7dkvJq7u1zHLfvGU7
If you go to the above form, you can submit a photo. Maybe a photo of you playing In A Bind/Yogi. Or if you have neither, you can use the free PNP that you'll find on the form . Feel free to get creative. Maybe you can interpret the binds using a mannequin, incorporate some other household activity, or get quite abstract.

On Friday/Saturday, I'll pick a favourite, who will then get drawn in the original style used for In A Bind.


========================
IN A BOND
========================


On 31st July, I am going to unveil: IN A BOND! - An economic subversion of In a Bind (now Yogi).
A few people contort their bodies. They represent companies. Other folk play a stock-market game, making sure to sell their shares before the companies collapse. Perhaps literally.




========================
TIMES FOR EACH DAY
========================


Every day between 1pm and 7pm will be chatting, In a Bond, then more chatting. With some special guests.

• Friday - Streaming will begin at 10am, with an unboxing and a talk about In a Bind.

o 1pm Chatting
o 2pm In a Bond - featuring Alan Paull, James Cook (comedian), and several other exciting guests.
o 3pm Chatting and in a bind stories

• Saturday - 10am, unboxing of in a Bind expansions.
o 1pm Chatting
o 2pm In a Bond - featuring Tom Coldron, Rose Atkinson and other great people.
o 3pm Chatting and in a bind stories, finishing with a winner being picked for the IAB Photo competition!

• Sunday - 10am, unboxing of a French Yogi. Bad French pronounciation.
o 1pm Chatting
o 2pm In a Bond - featuring Kathleen Mercury, Dave Wetherall and other wonderful folk.
o 3pm Chatting and in a bind stories

You can join in the fun here https://www.twitch.tv/StuffbyBez


========================
#ArtRequests DRAWN!
========================

I will be trying to draw every art request given (within reason). You can join in on twitter, by typing "#BezDay #ArtRequest @stuffbybez" and then say what you want drawn.


========================
NEW ELL DECK GAME - PUZZELL!
========================

I will be sharing the rules of PUZZELL!

Puzzell is a fun solitaire style game in which you have to form cards into runs by arranging letters to make ‘runs’ of three consecutive letters in alphabetical order. You will be picking up and dropping cards to form your ‘runs’. The aim is to set yourself up for the end game, when you must use all the cards left in your hand to win!
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Wed Jul 29, 2020 7:18 pm
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ELL game design competition 2019/2020 - closing soon

Bez Shahriari
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This is a reminder to submit a new ELL Deck game by 31st July 2020. 23:59 UK-time.

Previously known as ‘Wibbell++’, this is the 3rd annual design competition for the deck. Previous winners were Categorickell (now on track to be published) and Unfinishabell.

Everything will be deeply considered. I will playtest and give feedback on as many as I can.
Everyone in the top 5 will get consultation time and a package of games.
The winner will also get £100 cash, and be entitled to demo their game during UKGE 2021 and Essen 2021. (I will pay for space and set aside a table just for you, if you wish.)

The intention is that the top game will become the 10th 'core game' for the deck. If that happens, a standard contract (on par with what I would personally accept) will be offered for a special edition of the deck.

To see the full rules and enter, visit the page below and fill out the form.
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdKb3ow_1NjDhw0WmuV...

You may enter up to 3 submissions per year.
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Thu Jul 9, 2020 12:41 pm
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Black Lives Matter. Origins cancelled.

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https://kotaku.com/board-gamings-industry-body-refuses-to-sa...

I was looking forward to Origins. Even though it's a continent away, I was going to be able to attend for the first time. I was going to do a solo talk about instilling hope within games. I'd been invited to talk with other amazing people about party games. I had 8 playtests scheduled for 'Seize the Power'.

I was excited to be part of a big US convention in some way.

Shortly before bedtime, I read that folk were dropping out of Origins. I didn't understand why and asked.

Waking up to see a bunch of explanations, links to further reading.

I understand that key people (specifically black folk) on 'Origins TV' were being asked to make a timid statement at the start of their shows. They asked for some changes in wording and that was refused.

What I know for sure is that an increasing number of folk stepped down (tbh, we only have 2 'prominent' black folk - Mandi and Eric Lang, which kinda speaks to the problem).

Having pondered it, I think it's important, if we don't understand what's going on, to listen to black voices.

We all need to learn to listen more.

For too long have black voices been ignored.

It's always tempting to folllow those with more power because that way you can get a tiny bit of their light. But by banding together, we can truly effect change.

If several folk tell you that an organisation is toxic, take their words seriously.

If people are walking out, maybe now is the time to follow them.

In the end, Origins cancelled.

https://www.facebook.com/originsgamefair/posts/3343035985749...

Emma here makes the point that in their cancellation they have tried to wash their hands of wrongdoing.

https://www.facebook.com/eklarkins/posts/10105508219620523

It wasn't the death of a black man at the hands of the police that directly caused them to cancel, but the walking out of an increasing number of people (as colllected in this twitter thread).

https://twitter.com/elizhargrave/status/1270859753334484993

By ignoring the responsibility of the walkouts, GAMA is trying to change the narrative.

It feels akin to casting themselves as a benign saviour, ignoring the struggles and the power of the people who walk out.

Remember, we can work together to effect change.

Some have celebrated the cancellation of a 20k-person fair. That the big gaming organisation - GAMA - made such a move. But this is bigger than gaming.

And yet it is inextricably linked.

This is about the lives of millions upon millions of people who have been downtrodden, discriminated against, and brutally beaten for centuries.

This is about wanting to effect change.

To those who might say that 'politics' has no place in gaming, fuck you.

When you get a choice of characters. When love is represented. When any sense of culture, family structure, or organisation is represented.

The game is making a political statement. 90% of games make assumptions about the lives of those who play.
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Thu Jun 11, 2020 8:51 am
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Dear diary. I'm live-streaming a lot.

Bez Shahriari
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So, recently, I've found any writing a bit more difficult than usual.

Whether it's a blog post, a KS update, or rules for a new ELL game that I really want to share.

I've been doing a lot more live-streaming to compensate. Since Airecon, I've live-streamed games on Tuesday/Thursday evenings (8:10pm UK-time) that folk can either just watch, or join in with.

Stuff like Say Anything, Giftabell, Q for U, or How Much Money. Social party games.

Tuesdays are now about trying/testing new games, whilst Thursdays are about the games we already love.

Since the start of the month, I've bee doing a 'Bezzy Breakfast Boardgame Blether' at 10am UK-time each day. Before, this was around the time I would get up. Now, I am getting up earlier. It's a tiny bit of joy, connecting to folk and having a couple of folk who pop along regularly.

I'm starting to have guests - tomorrow, I'll be chatting to Alan Paull of Surprised Stare Games. Probably about designing, Essen, and other things.

Over the weekend, I'll be chatting to Richard Denning of UKGE/Medusa Games. Probably mainly about the 'Virtually Expo' event.

Anyway, I guess I'm writing this post mainly to let you know I'm still alive. Not great. Not terrible.

To let you know I'm still making stuff and inviting you to watch my livestreams.

And if you want to pose any questions for Alan Paull/Richard Denning then please do so.
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Mon May 18, 2020 1:13 pm
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AQs: How do you think “beyond” the game when designing your game?

Bez Shahriari
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A few things come to mind.

A game system like the ELL deck can be all about encouraging other folk to make their own games. I do this via competitions, and making time to give real feedback and help to folk who really wanted to work on a game. Categorickell was originally a competition submission. But it was so good that it's become many people's favourite games. Beyond that, the notion of what is an 'official' game, or a 'fan' game becomes blurred. The notion of a game system is inherently about building a game library - far more than within a single game.

Within one game, you can have - or even encourage the creation of - variants. Categorickell has 19 suggested categories to choose from. By the time I list a few, folk are often suggesting their own categories, whether that's about personalised niche knowledge (2 people played a whole game with the category of MAC cosmetic products), or a strange convoluted linguistic rule.

You bring worlds into the game. Parody or real-world quotes. For Kitty Cataclysm expansion cards, I parodied several folk, from Mewry Pawpins and the Purrnce of Purrsia to Catleen Mewrcury. This can allow folk to appreciate the wider world, from fandoms to the people around them. MtG used to have a lot of quotes from Shakespeare etc.

By contrast, you can try to bring the world into the game. When your world is full of wonderful characters, quotes or other traits that folk can bring into the real world, that's a wonderful thing.

Finally, you have the 'metagame'. The time spent deckbuilding, pondering your tactics, or doing anything else to do with the game when not actually playing. CCGs are all about this. But you could work to encourage strategy articles, etc. Make the game something that generates stories and memorable moments. Include key decisions that will have folk pondering afterwards, thinking, 'what if'. I was very gratified to hear one review saying how Coupell 'lingered in their mind' long after the game was done.
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Sun May 3, 2020 5:53 pm
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Pondering a name/naming system for a game/gaming system.

Bez Shahriari
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A new ELL-powered RNW that requires no printer (just pen(cil) and paper) has been 'finished', I think.

It's about creating short words - only 1, 2, or 3-letters long. But you have to 'grow' the words left to write, working on up to 3 at a time, and you are trying to balance how many of each length you create.

I don't know what it should be called. Any ideas?

Also, I am not sure what the naming convention should be for games that require paper/pencil.

Currently, the system is:
Games that require the ELL deck and nothing else are given a single-word title, that is intentionally mis-spelled, and ends in 'ELL'.

E.g.:
Phrasell,
Faybell,
Alphabetickell,
Categorickell.

Games that require multiple ELL decks and nothing else are given a multiple-word title, intentionally mis-spelled, ending in 'ELL'.

E.g.:
Many a Mickell makes a Muckell,
Epic Wizard Spell Battell.

Games that require an ELL deck, as well as some custom components, are given a muiltiple word title that is CORRECTLY spelled, ending in 'ELL'.

E.g.:
Trucking Hell
Flip and Spell

During the next few months, I predict a growing number of games that require pen(cil)/paper, but do not actually need any printed sheets.

I've already got 2 original games (and a variation on Muckell) that I made to fit the format of video-conferencing boardgames.

Pondering the above 3 things, the obvious omission is single-word titles, ending in ELL, that are correctly spelled.

But there's not a massive number of potential titles, when I look at this list:
https://www.thefreedictionary.com/words-that-end-in-ell

Maybe if I make good use of hyphens, then it'd work.

Maybe the game about drawing 5 grids to fill is called 5-cell. A hypothetical game called 'Show-and-tell' would require paper/pencil or other common household objects, but 'Show and Tell' would need extra bits to be printed.

I think I like this distinction. But, as always, I'd appreciate any/all feedback.

So that brings me back to the original question.

Assume that the name has to be spelled correctly, end in 'ell', and somehow allude to the game. Tiny words (1-3 letters). The main focus is on making lots of sets (each word scores points equal to the number of letters, but there is a bonus of 4 if you have a set of all 3 lengths, making it a total of 10 pts rather than 6pts).

What would be a good name for this game?
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Sun Mar 29, 2020 12:28 pm
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