Liner Notes
Stephen Tavener
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People seem to like design notes for games... I am in the process of going through my games and adding notes in the comments section; I'll add them to this list as I do so as well.
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1. Board Game: Four [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
Stephen Tavener
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The four colour theorem is one of those iconic maths problems; it's easy to state ("any 2d map can be coloured with at most four colours, so that no two adjacent countries are the same colour"), and a nightmare to prove. In fact, last time I looked, the proof had so many special cases that a computer was required to check it.

It also sounds like a game already - "here's a sheet of paper, colour it in..."; and, I confess, I have been playing around with it since the 1980's. Aside: for those who like the sound of a four-colour colouring puzzle, look here: http://www.nikoli.com/en/take_a_break/four_color_problem/

ANYhow, the simplest game using the mechanism I can imagine is "Players alternate turns placing pieces, so no two pieces of the same colour touch. Last person to play wins." Unfortunately, there are a couple of problems here. The first is that early moves are likely to be unimportant; that is, players can't make meaningful decisions at the start of the game. The second is that late decisions are too constrained by early moves, i.e. the end of the game is a series of forced moves. Combine the two, and players can go from "I don't know what I'm doing" to "I've lost" in a single move; which is frustrating, to say the least.

I kicked the idea around with Cameron Browne for a while, and Chroma was born - here, we solved the problems with two things; first, the 3D board means that not all board spaces are accessible at the start of the game, which makes early moves less opaque; secondly, the colours are played in a fixed sequence, which allows players to look ahead and deliberately block the opponent. Chroma isn't perfect, though... while very beautiful, it's a little sad that games will often end when the board is only half full.

Anyway, fast forwards a couple of years, and I changed computers; in the process, I transferred some old documents from my previous computers, and found a file from 1994 containing some tiles from a previous attempt at a 4-colour game which I had completely forgotten. The tiles were each made of several coloured hexagons stuck together, so bear very little resemblance to Four as it is today; but the idea of different shapes in each colour was the starting point. After that came the name, which in turn led to the idea of having exactly four shapes and four constraints. A lot of trial and error went into finding the four shapes that led to the most interesting game.

... and here it is. Not all the blocks will be played before someone can't move, so while getting rid of the larger pieces early can be an advantage, being flexible in terms of playable piece types and colours is more so. That means players can make intuitive moves at the start of the game when they have lots of freedom (get rid of/reserve space for your 3- and 4- pieces early), yet can profitably think hard in the end game.
 
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2. Board Game: Knight Line [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
Stephen Tavener
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Inspired by the "grail games" thread http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1017068/grail-games in the abstract forums here on BGG, this is my take on a minimalist n-in-a-row game. All that is required are two sets of stackable pieces; no board so, about as minimal as I can make it in terms of material while still being a good strategic game.

This is actually my best tested game. I designed it just before a beach holiday with the family, and spent part of the holiday coding an AI, then used self-play to test the fairness of the game under various parameters. It turns out, according to the AI at least, that allowing the first player to move only a single pieces is the best balancing mechanism; a line of length 4 works best; and the actual starting number of pieces in the stacks isn't too important. Anywhere between 16 and 24 seems viable. I haven't tested beyond that point.
 
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3. Board Game: Sleepers [Average Rating:7.94 Unranked]
Stephen Tavener
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Sleepers started life as a hex variant where players either (a) put down two tiles (face-down), one belonging to each player; or (b) flipped a face-down tile, taking another turn if it was their colour. Sadly, that didn't work too well; but it sat in the back of my mind, and eventually became the backbone of the game once the theme came along. This is a shoulders-of-giants game; once I had the basic mechanics down pat, I looked at a lot of other games for inspiration when choosing powers and goals that combo well together (honorable mentions include Magic: the Gathering (morphing in particular), Samurai, and Mentalis). The biggest challenge was squeezing the tiles down to a set that allowed lots of combos, yet still made all goals attainable.

If you fancy mixing it up a little, four tiles each is about the minimum required for interesting play, but five or six tiles also work. Originally, players played one tile and drew one tile, so their had size could vary during the game as a result of multiple plays and bouncing; making it more advantageous to bounce your own tiles. However, during playtesting it emerged that players frequently forgot to draw, leading to much confusion; so the draw-back-to-4-tiles rules was introduced.

On the subject of theme, we (I?) tend to think of the French Resistance as a single organization, but it wasn't anything like that. There were many revolutionary groups, each with different goals and motivations. You can read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_resistance#Elements_of_t...
 
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4. Board Game: Mutton [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:8063]
Stephen Tavener
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I designed this game primarily for Rosie, my wife. She likes sheep, and mastermind; which is what got me thinking about the initial design. I was also playing a lot of Texas hold-'em at the time, so I wanted to combine the deduction element with the ability to bluff.

Anyhow, the initial design had the farmer moving the sheep, and felt rather flat - the sheep got split up as much as possible, and didn't feel very sheeplike at all; this also made the farmer's job far to easy. Sheepishly, I put the game aside, until Cameron Browne came along... he designed the graphics, and even found the lego sheep design used in the prototypes; with his help, I found the missing element - obvious in retrospect - the wolf moves the sheep. With this simple change, the sheep tend to huddle together, and the farmer has to work much harder to identify the wolves.

I love the way that the theme works; the wolves seem to prowl around the edge of the flock, while the sheep huddle in nervous bunches. The farmer gets more and more nervous, until he suddenly goes berserk. Lots of tension, and a nice mix of deduction and bluff.
 
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5. Board Game: Web of Flies [Average Rating:6.96 Unranked]
Stephen Tavener
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London
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The first iteration of this game was a card game called Box of Spiders, which I designed for a card game competition. (BoF was, itself, inspired by a magazine article on commercial uses of spider silk, which pointed out that if you start with a box of spiders, it isn't long before you end up with a box containing one big, mean looking spider. But I digress.) The game was fun, with a feel similar to DVONN, but the endgame was somewhat lacking. After the competition, I played the game a few more times, and realised that it would work better on a hexagonal grid, something that has since become an axiom - if it works on a square grid, try it on a hex grid; it will probably be better

... and it was. Anyhow, I'm really, REALLY pleased with Web of Flies. The asymmetry (move over friendly pieces, not over enemy pieces) gives lots of scope for revealed threats, sacrifices, and the like.

Look at the end of the rules here on BGG for some puzzles, which will show you some of the potential of the game.
 
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6. Board Game: Rebel Moon Defense [Average Rating:6.16 Unranked]
Stephen Tavener
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This game was designed for a Nestorgames competition. As you can no doubt tell, it is inspired by tower defence games (particularly Defense Grid, which I was playing a lot at the time). The challenge was to make something that would work well with the Nestor format, whilst still capturing the spirit of a tower defence game. Given the short design window, we went for a placement phase followed by a movement phase, since this was much easier to balance than allowing free placement with simultaneous movement - the hidden information makes the game more forgiving.

The fractal playing ship designs are, of course, designed around the Mandelbrot set - and are mostly that shape because it's a cool use of a laser cutter, and for no other reason! The first versions were too detailed; laser cutting costs according to cutting time, so I had to write special code to minimise the number of points on the surface of the mandelships without losing too much detail.

The board art was all Cameron, of course
 
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Stephen Tavener
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This game started with the pun, and pretty much ended there too. I'm surprised the moderators wouldn't let me add it to the database... there are stupider games out there, and this one is, at least, playable
 
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