Cardboard Architects Guest Interview #7 Chris Faulkenberry

Joe Brogno (@thebluemuzzy) and I have started our own podcast. We are going to be looking at the world of games through the eyes of designers. We want to help designers with tips and trick we have learned along the way. We want to talk about the importance of games and what they have to offer to gamers and non-gamers. We want to talk to other designers about their games and provide concrete examples of what the design and development phase of a game sounds like. We might even review some games from a designer’s point of view. All that, and we might even talk about the games we are working on. All of this in 1d6 plus 15 min! Thank you for listening and we hope you enjoy the show!

Today we interview Chris Faulkenberry. Designer of Battle for Biternia and member of Stone Circle Games

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Libsyn Link: http://cardboardarchitects.libsyn.com/designer-interview-chris-faulkenberry

Download: http://traffic.libsyn.com/cardboardarchitects/EpChrisF_Complete.mp3

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

Cardboard Architects Ep. #21 Line Drive Playtest Report

Joe Brogno (@thebluemuzzy) and I have started our own podcast. We are going to be looking at the world of games through the eyes of designers. We want to help designers with tips and trick we have learned along the way. We want to talk about the importance of games and what they have to offer to gamers and non-gamers. We want to talk to other designers about their games and provide concrete examples of what the design and development phase of a game sounds like. We might even review some games from a designer’s point of view. All that, and we might even talk about the games we are working on. All of this in 1d6 plus 15 min! Thank you for listening and we hope you enjoy the show!

Episode Twenty – One

Joe, Aidan and I had a chance to play line drive with each other. Joe made some suggestions, we went and tested those suggestions and this episode is the post playtest report.

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Libsyn Link: http://cardboardarchitects.libsyn.com/episode-21-line-drive-playtest-report

Download: http://traffic.libsyn.com/cardboardarchitects/Ep021_Complete.mp3

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

How to Build a Game #90 The Power of Choice #3

As a designer, one of my mantras is, Analysis Paralysis (AP) must be defeated. Again, I think there are players and places where AP is ok, but I am not that player and the games I make are not the right places.

The core of what causes AP is the process of a player making a choice. What are the variables a player needs to look at? What are the risks and rewards attached to the pending decision?

If the goal of the game is to gain the most money and every action a player take gives them some about of money or allows that to set up for more money later on, the game becomes a constant calculation. Calculation, while fun for some, is a dangerous neighborhood for games to live in. Calculation allows for AP, which takes the focus off the game board and onto the player who needs to run every permutation. Calculation isn’t fun. Sure there are numberphiles out there that will love a mathy game, but math isn’t choice.

Why do Star Wars fans hate midi-clorians so much? They take the mystical force and turns into in to a calculation, a blood test. What makes the resistant hero so interesting? They have to struggle with the choice of the hero’s path and life they don’t want to leave behind.

The same principle holds here. Calculation is stale bread.

So how do we fix this? More variables…..I kid you not.

Going back to the game with the goal of gaining the most gold. What if the goal was to gain the most gold, have the leave corruption, explore the most territory and have the healthiest citizens. What if those goals had little to do with each other or in a more general sense, there was not easy way to compare the value of one reward to another. Lets call this an exchange rate.

If there is no exchange rate in the game, the calculation players need to make is much smaller. Rather than factoring in all the details of the entire game, the decisions become more general. Example: This turn I need to gain a worker. Of the four goals of the game, three of them have no bearing on my current need to gain a worker. I can no focus on the factors in the game that allow me to gain a worker.

Yes that is a simple example but the idea hold, I think…

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Board Games and Education #6 Making History Tangible

Board games have the ability to add story and experience to stories written by history. Playing a board game based in history can bring the experience of historical characters to the minds of students.

I remember reading about hisotry, taking tests and promtly forgetting what we were doing. Over time, I have supplemented what I learned in school with TV, movies, books etc. But what I was supplementing was what held my personal interest.

Lets us the example of Paul Revere’s ride to warn of the coming British Regulars. What if there was game that gave students a map of Boston and they had to make the ride themselves. If they took the wrong turn, they would be captured but would have the opportunity to escape. What if the students ask “If Paul Revere was captured, how would the message have been delivered?” This is a great opportunity to mention that another rider, William Dawes, was given the same task. Now, the students are grouped together and half are told to make the ride to tell the militia the Redcoats were coming, and the other half were trying to capture the riders.

The stories of near missed and last moment captures will be numerous. Students will remember the turns they took and the turns they didn’t take that would have led to their own capture. Because Boston is a real place, if the students ever go there, they can see a building a associate it with the turns they took on their own Paul Revere ride.

Even if, years later, they forget most of the lesson, should the idea of Paul Revere’s ride ever come up, they will remember their own ride. They will have a laugh and if they tell their own children about the ride they took through Boston. Their child might even say, “That sounds like fun.”

Board Games are a vehicle that can add a story to a subject where the gravity and meaning of the real historical moment is lost when described in a class setting. We all know that the winter in Valley Forge was awful for Washington’s army, but few of us relate to the torment. Few people know what a desperate ride on horseback feels like, but we can give students the experience better with the use of a board game.

If you have any ideas on how games can make great educational tools, please share them in the comments section or email us at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

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How to Build a Game #89 This Game is Too Easy

We’ve been working on a game with a working title of Soul Hunters and we have run into an interesting problem. Calling for the villagers is too easy. The game has been tested two times and in both occasions it felt like the villagers were an easy way to bail our characters out of trouble. The villagers game function is pretty simple, to draw attention away from the heros inside the mansion.

What I like about using villagers in this manner is the thematic connection to the town below that is referenced in the story of the game. What I don’t like is each player’s ability to call on them knowing the moment they are in trouble, they will be covered. So the idea of the villagers gets to stay, their mechanics need to change.

The other question I had for myself was, would a playtester even catch this issue? Is it an issue for players or is it an issue just for me? This line of questioning gets me to the more general question, are there types of issues that only I would notice, because the player experience isn’t what I want it to be? That is a bigger topic for a different post.

The question before us is, how do we fix something that is, in our designer view, “too easy”. I think the best way to fix this, is to incrementally boost the difficulty of calling the villagers. I like this method more than making a big change because I like the idea of calling the villagers and in game play, they perform their task very well and it fits the theme very well. Outside of the game they add to the theme. Lets say the way players call for the villagers is to discard two movement cards in order to ring a bell in the spire. If we make a change to discard 4 cards and you must be in a specific room, how do we know what the balance point is between two cards and 4 cards plus being in a location?

It is possible the 4 cards and the location requirment will work, but what if discard 3 cards works better. What if you make more than one chance in the game and 4 cards plus a location works well with a change you made to a player ability but had you not made that player ability change the 4 cards and location would not work.

More simply put, making a big change over here can alter too many variables for you to know exactly what is working and not working with your game.

There are times when a big change is good. When you are early in the process and everything about the game can still change, making drastic changes can work. But in this case, I need a specific mechanic to stay in the game. I need to make changes to the mechanic and I can’t ruin the game while I am at it.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

Cardboard Architects Ep. #20 Lessons of a Playtest

Joe Brogno (@thebluemuzzy) and I have started our own podcast. We are going to be looking at the world of games through the eyes of designers. We want to help designers with tips and trick we have learned along the way. We want to talk about the importance of games and what they have to offer to gamers and non-gamers. We want to talk to other designers about their games and provide concrete examples of what the design and development phase of a game sounds like. We might even review some games from a designer’s point of view. All that, and we might even talk about the games we are working on. All of this in 1d6 plus 15 min! Thank you for listening and we hope you enjoy the show!

Episode Twenty

Today we talk about a recent playtest and the lessons we learned.

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Libsyn Link: http://cardboardarchitects.libsyn.com/episode-20-lesson-of-a-playtest

Download: http://traffic.libsyn.com/cardboardarchitects/Ep020_Complete.mp3

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

Let’s Design a Game #12 The Death of a Game

If the lack of update regarding this series didn’t give it away (or the title of this post for that matter) Who Are You Working For is Dead.

And I want to talk about why and what I learned from it.

When we finished the first playtest of this game, the flaws were many and obvious. Part of the problem was the amount of time between me wrapping up the prototype build and the first multi player test of the game. I fumbled my way through the explanation of the game and even as I was explaining how the game worked, I could see the weak points.

Honestly, it was not a fair playtest to judge the merits of the game.

What I saw right away were the mechanical weak points; I did not see the weak points of player motivation and the way savy players can exploit the bidding system.

When we started to play the game, the board felt “samey” and trying to figure out what rewards were worth the effort to pursue was difficult. There was too much information for players to consume and that prevented players from getting into the game.

The game was a block to itself.

When we starting to bid on contracts, players had enough options to allow for everyone to take their own path, simply put, there were not enough interaction points.

I think the theory of the game is sound, but I don’t think the “real life gaming motivations” of the players works with the theory of the game. A theory that sounds like a lot of fun in my head doesn’t mean it will translate into a lot of fun when it is on the table.

The feedback provided was warranted and all over the place.  Now, if this blog and the podcast are any indication, giving up on a design is not my style. I think a design can be worked, fixed, replayed and made into a great game.

So why is this game dead?

It is a matter of logistics, focus and what this game will look like if it is ever completed. We have a long list of ideas that range from game ideas to websites and apps. When I started this design project, my plate was smaller and easier to manage. Now, we have a new game we are focused on, I have other projects going during the week and the attention this game requires right now does not fit into the weekly to-do list. I also think this game needs a complete overhaul of what it looks like and how it performs. As previously stated, the theory is good (IMHO) and I want to make it work. The mechanics of the theory need to be streamlined.

In reality, this game is not dead, it has been reprioritized in the stack of ideas waiting to be worked on. It might be years until this game makes it to the top of the stack, but it is there waiting to be worked on.

With that, here is the major lesson I took away and want to share with others. Don’t be afraid to let go of a design. Put it back in line and move on to the next project. Aidan and I have talked about this regarding other projects we have worked on which we had to abandon. He puts it in a great light when he says, and I’m paraphrasing here, “There are times when the technology for a project does not yet exist. In the case of games, that technology is the experience or mechanic or theme we have yet to discover that will allow us to make sence of the experience we are trying to build.”

That gives me great comfort that the projects we have to “abandon” will have their chance and allows me to move on to the next project.

What Next?

I want continue the Let’s Design series, but I will pick a smaller game to design. I also want to add an audio element to it. I may even adda  video element to it but I have some figuring out to do for that part. The google doc will stay alive, waiting for an update.

Please feel free to visit the Google Doc of this project.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at c.renshall.tgik.games@gmail.com

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.