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Subject: Moderating a Play-by-Forum Game - made easy! rss

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Geoff Cruttwell
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Seeing as how play-by-forum games fill up almost as soon as they're started, I figure that the main impediment to further PBF games is a lack of willing or able moderators. So, in my continuing bid to slow productivity everywhere, I thought I'd post a few thoughts on how to moderate easily - even if you have next-to-no image manipulation skills, and don't want to spend lots of time.

As a moderator, your task is to keep everyone updated on the state of the game. But that doesn't mean you have to do everything!

Get the players to use mini-boards

Rather than upload an image at the end of each round for each of the player's boards, instead the players themselves update their board with every move, with text. So, a player's move looks like:

Activate Trade Office - draw N.America 1 (+2 industry) and N. America 2 (+3 finance).

Industry - 10 (5 tokens)
Culture - 8 (4 tokens)
Finance - 8 (2 tokens)
Politics - 7 (3 tokens)

Pop in Harbor: 4
Occupy/Draw Token

C. House [ ]; Workshop; Guild Hall [ ]; Fortress [ ]; Docks [ ]; Theatre; Cartographer [X]; Trade Office [X]

Cards: Med1 (CCP), Slave2 (FFI)


Other than the obvious time-saving for you, the moderator, I really like these as a game-player. First of all, they keep me updated on what everyone has available to them that round, how many cards they've taken, etc. Secondly, it reminds me what I've done that turn, so I don't have to look back over my moves to see what I have left (especially if I haven't played since the previous night).

Of course, this still leaves you with the task of updating the main map - this certainly can't be done with text! So, for this:

Use pre-made brushes

When I started PBF 16, I had next-to-no experience using an image manipulation program. But, as I went along, I found an easy way to do things: I made "brushes" for each of the tokens and cards. (No more cutting and pasting!). I've uploaded the brushes I use with the GIMP image program. To use them, you'll need to do three things:

(i) Download an empty Endeavor map (thanks to Jason Clague for the image):



Be sure to download the largest size ("original").

(ii) Download the GIMP image program from http://www.gimp.org/downloads/ (it's free!).

(iii) Grab the brushes from here, and extract them to users/[YourUserName]/.gimp-2.6/brushes. The brushes are zipped together in a .rar format, which means you'll need a program like winrar (http://download.cnet.com/WinRAR-32-bit/3000-2250_4-10007677.... - also free) to extract them.

Now, when you run the GIMP, and load up the empty Endeavor map, your screen will look something like this:



Notice those icons in the bottom right? That's the brushes. All you have to do is click on the appropriate brush (token or card), and click the place on the map where it should go. It's that simple!

Using these ideas, moderating a PBF literally takes me 5-10 minutes each night. (Not including the many, many minutes pondering what move to actually play). If you're interested, give the above steps a try, and see if it isn't easy for you too arrrh



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Jason Clague
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Awesome stuff Geoff! I can see an explosion in PBF games now. Which is good of course. Nice work!

Edit - just downloaded everything and it works brilliantly. Just had to figure out what a RAR file was!
 
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Geoff Cruttwell
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superbgg wrote:
Awesome stuff Geoff! I can see an explosion in PBF games now. Which is good of course. Nice work!

Edit - just downloaded everything and it works brilliantly. Just had to figure out what a RAR file was!


Thanks, I'm glad to hear it works for others, too. Yeah, I forgot I zipped it with the less popular .rar format
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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This should be sticky'd in the PbF forum.
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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In my limited experience trying the miniboards in PbF19 I would add one more requirement to all miniboards: They must have a heading in your colors, inverted, so that board chatter and game action can easily be separated by the eye:

Observe:

Ship to South America +1 Finance

Industry - 2 (2 tokens)
Culture - 4 (0 tokens)
Finance - 2 (2 tokens)
Politics - 1 (0 tokens)

Pop in Harbor: 3

C. House [X]; Shipyard[X]; Shipyard[];Guild Hall[];

Cards: Med1(CCP);


Vs.

Turn 3: Action 1
Ship to South America +1 Finance

Industry - 2 (2 tokens)
Culture - 4 (0 tokens)
Finance - 2 (2 tokens)
Politics - 1 (0 tokens)

Pop in Harbor: 3

C. House [X]; Shipyard[X]; Shipyard[];Guild Hall[];

Cards: Med1(CCP);

--
In a stream of posts with out of game chatter the second version is easier to pick up.
 
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Neil Christiansen
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Great work!

Might it be possible to do the same thing with the player boards, as some people might prefer them set up as well?
 
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Geoff Cruttwell
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chris1nd wrote:
Great work!

Might it be possible to do the same thing with the player boards, as some people might prefer them set up as well?


Certainly, though one would have to change the size of each of the tokens and cards as they are painted - I sized the tokens and cards to fit on the full-size Endeavor board.

That being said, changing the size of a brush is really easy - on the left side of the screen, there is a "scale" slider which can change the size of the image being painted.
 
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Derry Salewski
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Changing the size of the player board might be quicker, too
 
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Geoff Cruttwell
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scifiantihero wrote:
Changing the size of the player board might be quicker, too


Hmmm, yes, that might be easier
 
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Neil Christiansen
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Sadly for me, I cannot get this to work.

When I click on the brushes file (.rar), it takes me to gobbligook.

If I right click and save target to the user folder it doesn't automatically load and GIMP doesn't seem to recognize it when I try to load.

GIMP (2.0) is currently installed in Program Files.

Any suggestions?
 
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Geoff Cruttwell
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A .rar file is like a .zip file: it's a bunch of other files mashed together (in this case, about 50 brush files). You need a program like winrar (http://download.cnet.com/WinRAR-32-bit/3000-2250_4-10007677....), to unzip the files. You use the programs to extract the files to the directory I mentioned.
 
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Neil Christiansen
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Cool. You might want mention this, as I am not sure the average BGG user has ever heard of this.
 
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Geoff Cruttwell
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Thanks, I've updated the original post.
 
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Neil Christiansen
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Alright, we're cooking now.

I have played with it, and what would really finish it off would be:

(a) Player boards re-scaled to the brush size.
(b) Buildings scaled to the player boards.
(c) Vertically oriented cards for those that are horizontal to place on player boards.

At that point, I think I could actually run one!
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Matt Schoonmaker-Gates
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I'm interested in moderating a PbF game, but I don't own the game. Any ideas on how I could obtain a board set up to use? I've downloaded the brushes, program, etc so I'm good to go otherwise.
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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railbaron wrote:
I'm interested in moderating a PbF game, but I don't own the game. Any ideas on how I could obtain a board set up to use? I've downloaded the brushes, program, etc so I'm good to go otherwise.


I created something for this but I haven't received permission to do anything with it. In fact I've had no response from Z-man Games at all. (Not sure I actually need permission for a board randomizer but I'd like to receive the blessing of those involved at a minimum.) Obviously I know Jarrett like the PbF format but I don't know how much support for that is too much support in the eyes of his publisher.
 
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Geoff Cruttwell
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railbaron wrote:
I'm interested in moderating a PbF game, but I don't own the game. Any ideas on how I could obtain a board set up to use? I've downloaded the brushes, program, etc so I'm good to go otherwise.


You could always just place tokens randomly on the board until you have the right distribution (the numbers for each token are in the rules). If you wanted it to be more random, you could use http://www.random.org/ (using the list randomizer with one letter for each of the tokens).
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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IMAGE Handling
You can upload images to your personal image gallery on BGG. Include the images in your forum posts by typing:
[ ImageID=11111 medium]
(without the space before ImageID. Replace 11111 with the id of the image. medium will force the image to 500pixels in its longest dimension. (For the square boards you get a 500x500 image.) You can experiment with other words there such as original, small, large, etc.
 
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Jarratt Gray
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jmucchiello wrote:
railbaron wrote:
I'm interested in moderating a PbF game, but I don't own the game. Any ideas on how I could obtain a board set up to use? I've downloaded the brushes, program, etc so I'm good to go otherwise.


I created something for this but I haven't received permission to do anything with it. In fact I've had no response from Z-man Games at all. (Not sure I actually need permission for a board randomizer but I'd like to receive the blessing of those involved at a minimum.) Obviously I know Jarrett like the PbF format but I don't know how much support for that is too much support in the eyes of his publisher.


Did I reply to your geekmail. Perhaps I did. Likely I suggested you talk with Zev, maybe you mentioned you talked with Zev and therefore I didn't reply.

I do like the PBF format, or at least I like playing games, and I like playing Endeavor, so the PBF format is a good way of doing that.

As for randomizers, I'm not sure they are that bad. Making one is fine. But I know most people have been only been offering PBF spots to people who own or have preordered the game. I would like people to buy it obviously. But I also recognize that some people want to try before buy, and also that within a games groups how many people own all the games. Sadly this is the problem with the hobby for designers. Only 25% of the people who play need to buy the games. Computer games and CCGs where each player has to buy in work out much better, but then Computer games have much bigger teams.

I wonder about a game where each player has to buy their own pieces, like a CCG, but not necessarily collectible. Hmmmm.
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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jarratt wrote:
Did I reply to your geekmail. Perhaps I did. Likely I suggested you talk with Zev, maybe you mentioned you talked with Zev and therefore I didn't reply.

No, Carl replied and said what you just said. Zev has not replied. But it's only been a week or so.

Quote:
As for randomizers, I'm not sure they are that bad. Making one is fine. But I know most people have been only been offering PBF spots to people who own or have preordered the game. I would like people to buy it obviously.

Obviously. I've bought many games after playing them online. But it's hard to get publishers to believe that, I know.

I was thinking the randomizer was safe but I just wanted to be sure no one involved would flip out.

Quote:
Only 25% of the people who play need to buy the games. Computer games and CCGs where each player has to buy in work out much better, but then Computer games have much bigger teams.

These days computer games are as big as blockbuster movies in terms of team size. There's no comparison there.

Quote:
I wonder about a game where each player has to buy their own pieces, like a CCG, but not necessarily collectible. Hmmmm.

I don't do card games but isn't Blue Moon like this?
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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Okay, I'm going to make board setup really easy. This is a link to a webpage that generates random Endeavor board token setups. It's all javascript that runs in your browser so except for downloading the page there is no server side to it. Just click New Map and you'll have a new map. Take a screen capture of your browser an import the map into whatever software you are using to run the game. That's it.

The Link

At some point I'll package this into a zip file you can then run put a file: link to it on your own computer. I doubt there's a lot of demand for this though.

Tested on Firefox 3.5 and Internet Explorer 7. I don't think it works on earlier versions of IE and I have no desire to fix it if it doesn't. I am curious if it works in Opera and Safari.

Be suspicious if London is always an Industry token or the connection between San Juan and Fortaleza is an Attack token. (They are the two ends of the array.)

Enjoy.
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Geoff Cruttwell
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jmucchiello wrote:
Okay, I'm going to make board setup really easy. This is a link to a webpage that generates random Endeavor board token setups. It's all javascript that runs in your browser so except for downloading the page there is no server side to it. Just click New Map and you'll have a new map. Take a screen capture of your browser an import the map into whatever software you are using to run the game. That's it.

The Link

At some point I'll package this into a zip file you can then run put a file: link to it on your own computer. I doubt there's a lot of demand for this though.

Tested on Firefox 3.5 and Internet Explorer 7. I don't think it works on earlier versions of IE and I have no desire to fix it if it doesn't. I am curious if it works in Opera and Safari.

Be suspicious if London is always an Industry token or the connection between San Juan and Fortaleza is an Attack token. (They are the two ends of the array.)

Enjoy.


Thanks for putting this up. Incidentally, it also works on Chrome, which I'm using.
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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Gshc wrote:
Thanks for putting this up. Incidentally, it also works on Chrome, which I'm using.


Oh, yeah, Chrome.... Oh, I forgot to warn people about the pop up nature of the tokens. That was to make them easier to see/hit for a web version of the game. Still haven't heard anything from Z-Man Games about that though. But I need to warn folks to make sure the mouse is not hovering over a token when they do the screen capture or the board image will have one big token on it.
 
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Jason Clague
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That is extremely cool. Pity the board size when you do a screen capture does not match Geoff's GIMP brushes. (Or for me at least).

Nice work though!

EDIT: Just noticed that is my map with city names. I am like, so famous now cool modest laugh
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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superbgg wrote:
That is extremely cool. Pity the board size when you do a screen capture does not match Geoff's GIMP brushes. (Or for me at least).

Nice work though!

Two reasons, 1) I don't use GIMP and 2) I wrote that before Geoff released his image collection.

You could always scale it back up to the proper size. I picked 500x500 because it fits with the rest of the information for getting the whole game on to the screen.

Regardless, there must be an option in GIMP to resize the image.

Quote:
EDIT: Just noticed that is my map with city names. I am like, so famous now cool modest laugh

I figured everyone liked the city names. But, still, congratulations.
 
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