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Daniel Solis
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Hey folks! We're doing a big, rough playtest night for Belle on Friday and I'd love to collect your feedback this weekend, too. If you have any comments on wording, turn structure, scoring, or anything else, please share!
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Daniel Solis
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REVISED CARDS
REVISED RULES

UPDATES

Term changes: "Couples" are now "friends." Up to three guests may be in a "group of friends." Adding a guest to a group of friends is "friending," until we can find a better term. "Social activity" is now "mood." "Physical activity" is now "interest." "Attracting" is now "calling."

Each player gets two Belles – one public, one secret. This allows multiple ongoing strategies, offensive countermeasures, and keeps a bit of deduction that was fun from previous versions.

Four of the Belles are replaced with Ribbon tokens, each linked to a different interest. Ribbons reward you for gathering the most guests of a particular interest. Ribbons move around the table like Catan's knight and road bonuses.

The game is now one long round instead of a series of three short rounds. The endgame trigger makes the game last about thirty minutes.

Clarified that the winner of a duel decides the order in which the dueling guests get discarded.

Ties in duels result in the duelists and the called guest being discarded.

The symbols on the cards are now framed by distinct shapes. County is framed by a hexagon, because there are six counties. Mood is framed by a triangle, because there are three moods. Interest is framed by a diamond/square because there are four interests.

P.S. Also revised the diagrams of play.

SETUP


EXAMPLE OF ONGOING GAME
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Herc du Preez
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gobi wrote:

Term changes: "Couples" are now "friends." Up to three guests may be in a "group of friends." Adding a guest to a group of friends is "friending," until we can find a better term. "Social activity" is now "mood." "Physical activity" is now "interest." "Attracting" is now "calling."


And I was looking forward to making "coupling" jokes.
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Daniel Solis
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Sorry to disappoint.

By the way, I'm tinkering with reducing the card text by representing the card powers with icons. Here are the rough drafts.
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Daniel Solis
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Made a few more updates to Belle of the Ball this morning. Apologies for the rapid iteration, but it's for a good cause! The offices of Pruvop in Durham, NC are graciously hosting a public playtest for Belle of the Ball on May 10. I'm also ordering prototypes from SuperiorPOD this week. Hopefully those will be available by Origins, so you can demo the game, too! Look for more details soon.

» Download the Current Beta Rules PDF
» Prototype I

Removed all card text from the guest and Belle cards. Replaced with symbols. (Thanks to all who offered feedback on the rough drafts.) The rulebook now explains the powers in more detail than was manageable in the space of a card. This also allows you to stack the cards in as little space as possible while still seeing which powers each guest has.

Some powers are re-arranged so Lordhurtz and Richminster counties don't monopolize them as much. More powers given to Dundifax and Crawhole county.

"Steal 2" is replaced with a new power: Swap. This allows you to swap any two guests within your clique. See the rulebook for details.

Two New Belle Bonuses: Earn ten points for the fewest groups of three friends. / Earn ten points for having the most cards in your hand. These replace some of the more dull or broken bonuses that were present before.

You may now invite AND / OR call a guest in the same turn. In other words, you may invite a guest, call a guest or invite and call a guest. You may not call a guest then invite a guest. Essentially, this models a new arrival to the party finding an old friend.
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I like the idea of the game, but I have to admit I am a bit put off by the theme. The theme is quite far from Shinding, isn't it?
 
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Daniel Solis
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HEAD'S UP!

If you're in the Durham, NC area, there is a giant playtest of Belle of the Ball at the Pruvop offices tonight at 6pm. This is a totally fresh group of testers so I'm very excited to see the current prototype put through its paces.

BELLE OF THE BALL PLAYTEST
6pm • Each game lasts about 30-45min and I'll run it several times.
200 N. Mangum St.
Suite 201
Durham

I'll have several prototypes available, so we can run multiple games at the same time. You have to call to get into the building. If you're interested, email me at gobi81@gmail.com to get the secret digits!
 
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Daniel Solis
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Whoo! The playtest was great and delivered some really good feedback. Looks like the game is 95% baked, at least in design. It'll still need a pass from an editor before I'm ready to call it 100%. Then, of course, there is the art and production.

I'll share the estimates on art, printing, production, and fulfillment as soon as they all come in. I like sharing the full spread of expenses that come from a tiny operation like mine.
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Daniel Solis
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Update! Here are tons of pictures of the prototype game cards from SuperiorPOD and the BGG thread about their quality. (Spoiler: They're pretty good! Highly recommended for prototypes.)

As for the estimates, my initial hope was to do something small in-house: About 200 units as an initial run to get on the larger community's radar. A base entry point of about $20. A kickstarter goal of $5k.

Unfortunately, tallying the costs of printing, shipping, art, and the Kickazon cut showed that the actual cost per unit (for 200) would be upwards of $30. I'd likely end up losing almost $1000 at that scale.

So I started looking at higher quantities. I wanted to keep as much business in the US as possible. Once I started estimating 1000 units, I found the best domestic price I could get was around $13 per unit. Total cost of $13,372. The tuckbox, black & white rulesheet and cards would be produced by different vendors, assembled and shipped by me and my wife at home. Furthermore, most of those vendors haven't had experience producing game components.

On the other hand, I could get 2000 units for $7 each ($14,332 total) from an overseas printer with lots of experience in games. That includes a proper two-piece box and lid, full-color rulesheet, linen cards, all pre-assembled! If I go to 5000 units, the price per unit goes down enough that selling to retail actually becomes viable.

Of course, all that is predicated on being able to raise at least $15k. I worry that is too ambitious, but looking at comparable light strategy card games like Farmageddon ($25k of $5k goal) and Creatures ($56k of $2.5k goal) gives me some hope.
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Levi Mote
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gobi wrote:
...Of course, all that is predicated on being able to raise at least $15k. I worry that is too ambitious, but looking at comparable light strategy card games like Farmageddon ($25k of $5k goal) and Creatures ($56k of $2.5k goal) gives me some hope.


Best of luck! Keep us updated so we can back a fellow indie.
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Daniel Solis
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Here's the cost breakdown line by line.

2000 COPIES
108-Card Decks*...........$4440
Color Rules Sheets.........$420
Telescoping Box...........$1560
Art**....................~$4000
Kickazon Cut of 15k**.....$1500
U.S. First Class for 2k...$2970
Mini-Expansions (SPOD).....$645
TOTAL COST...............$14835
COST PER UNIT................$7.095 w/o expansion
.............................$7.417 w/ expansion

5000 COPIES
108-Card Decks*...........$6450
Color Rules Sheets.........$700
Telescoping Box...........$3350
Art**....................~$4000
Kickazon Cut of 20k**.....$2000
U.S. First Class for 2k...$2970
Mini-Expansions (SPOD)....$1290
TOTAL COST...............$20060
COST PER UNIT................$3.75 w/o expansion
.............................$4.01 w/ expansion


* Premium 300gsm Paper Card Stock - Plastic Coated - Smooth or Linen Finish

** These are one-time expenses. Without them, the total cost for 2000 is $9,335; $4.66 per unit w/o expansion. Total cost for 5000 is $14,060; $2.81 per unit w/o expansion

Again, the biggest decision we have to make is whether we're a little boutique studio or a full-on publisher. Depending on the success of a Kickstarter campaign, we may not have a choice but to be a publisher. For more details, see this blog post.
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Daniel Solis
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Some updated card designs!







I'm hearing enough feedback that the minimalist icons are incongruous from the background, but I worry about readability across a table. I'll try to find a good middle-ground.
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Daniel Solis
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Morgan McLamb turned in some new line art for Belle of the Ball! I'll just shut up and let you click the image above to admire her work. It's pretty dang awesome.

By the way, I'm still eager to hear more feedback on the current prototype. Give it a play and send me your thoughts! We've got some good input from designers and players alike.

So far, it looks like the game is something like 95% complete, but it's always those last little details that need to get hammered out by persistent playtesting. The question is: Launch the Kickstarter before those details are resolved or after? I usually advocate not starting a game project funding campaign until the game is "mostly complete" and Belle certainly qualifies at this point. Main design questions that remain:

Limit the Mingle power to just your own clique? It's basically a free steal at this point, and it makes dueling less powerful. Keeping it to your own clique makes it an optimization tool and a way to swap out powers in the middle of a turn.

Should there be a "Discard" action where you can dump your whole hand? I originally had such an action in an early draft, but struck it when players just cycled the whole game. At the time, reaching the end of the deck was an endgame condition, so cycling was more problematic then.

Should powers be more common and/or more varied? Setting up synergistic friend-groups is clearly one of the more fun aspects of the game. Making more opportunities for that to happen might be a good direction, but will lengthen the development process as those powers get playtested and balanced.

So yup! Progress, progress, progress.
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Daniel Solis
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More feedback from Fred Hicks (Evil Hat Productions) and Jason Innes (designer of Empyrean, Inc.) Here are some findings:

It's Fun!: Response has been really good from a mixture of gamers. The mechanics fit the theme and it's lots of fun to build clever combos of guests, then see how they stack up later in the game. There are some edits that could be made to make it a little more accessible, case in point...

Edit for Clarity: There is some wording that could be a little bit more clear, such as "a single guest's powers may not be activated, it must be in a group." Whenever I run into those issues in a rules document, my impulse is to just remove that rule rather than re-write it for clarity. This will be the case in the next draft, so "You can activate the powers of any guest in one group, in any order." I'm also going to restrict the "Mingle" power to a your own clique.

Adjust Power Distribution: When you're lucky enough to draw guests with high popularity, it's overkill if that guest also has a useful power. So, I'm redistributing the powers so that they mostly go with guests who have low or negative popularity.

Broaden the Friend Bonus: The Friend bonus counts for every guest in the group. So, yes, it does stack.

Remove the First Player Token: This is a tentative change. I introduced the First Player token in an earlier prototype when the threat of dueling made any singleton very vulnerable. Thus, turn order was very important. Now, the token may not be as necessary, especially in a two-player game.

Increase Power Density: A lot of the game's fun comes from building clever synergistic combos, so I'm adding some more powers and making them much more common in the deck. These include:

* Reject: Discard your whole hand.
* Shove: Move one guest from your clique to your opponent's clique.
* Breakup: Remove one or more of your guests from one of your groups.
* Befriend: Combine two or more of your guests to form a group.
* More extra invites.

And that's about it! If you want to test out the game and offer your feedback, please check out the links here. Soon, I will export a new set of cards and get them printed out along with a new rules doc.
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