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.

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

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.

What has TGIK Games been up to? 11/23/15

What Has TGIK Games Done For You Lately?

Projects 

Podcast (11/23/15)

We released four episodes last week. One Chat with Pete, two regular episodes (Designer Hot Seat and Special Sauce) and a Guest interview with Andy Geremia. This weekend we were able to record three episodes. We talked about a recent playtest and the lessons learned, prototyping methods and how we use the digital space and analog materials to build our prototypes and we finished the recording session by talking about different approach to games and the reasons designers put games in front of playtesters.

Things are humming along with the podcast and we are about to get into a string of content that I am really excited to share with you. We are releasing about 10-12 episodes behind of what we have alerady recorded, I felt like episode 12 or 13 was when we really started to hit our stride.

If you want to be a guest on the podcast, please feel free to contact me and we can talk about getting you on the show to talk about design or an upcoming Kickstarter project. You don’t have to be a board game designer either. If you are a digital game designer or a gamer that wants to get into design, we want to talk to you.

Playtest Network (11/23/15)

We want to start working on a playtest network. Not sure when it will begin, but I wanted to start putting the word out there. If you are interested in any of our games and would like to playtest them, let us know and we will add you to the list. I will probably start a google survey at some point and add the link here so people can enter their information. When prototypes(digital or physical) or PnPs become available we will let you know.

  • Print and Play Testers: We need people who like to play print and play versions of games. With the rule books on deck to be completed, we are going to look at creating PnP files for our games. Some are done and are just waiting for the rule books to be written. If you would like to be part of our Print and Play network, contact us and we will get you on the list.
  • Digital Playtesters: We are going to start setting up our games in the digital space. We will use one or both of Table Top Simulator and Tabletopia. If you use either of those platforms and want to test our games with us and for us, let us know.

Volunteer Network (11/23/15)

We have reached a point where we want to start adding people to our team. We need help with the blog, rules reading, content ideas, playtesting, general brainstorming, podcast things and on and on. If you ever wanted to get involved in the games industry and you would like to go on this journey with us, contact me. We can talk about what you might be interested in doing with us. Maybe you would like to write a blog series or record a segment for a podcast? Maybe you would like to review rules or play some early PnPs. The idea and vision that is TGIK Games has grow to be much more than a board game publishing company and we would like to get you involved if you are so inclined. In the interest of being specific, let me give one thing I know I need help with right now.

  • Brainstorming Group: We need a person, or a group of people to brainstorm ideas for blog posts. What would you want to read about, what are the subjects in the hobby that you would want to hear more about. I could use help in that arena. If you are interested, get a hold of me via email, twitter or facebook and we can get a google doc started to brainstorm some ideas.
  • Lore Creator/Creative Writing: We are currently building a game universe to use as a backdrop for future games. The universe outline is getting pretty big and there are areas that could use some attention that I am not able to give them. I am looking for people who want to help out with the building of this universe. Write the backstory for a planet or a nation of a planet. If you are interested, get in contact and we can talk details.

Blog (11/9/15)

The blog is chugging along as it has done for a little over a year. The How to Build a Game series is moving along and I want to get back into the Education series. I had some momentum behind the Let’s Build a Game series but after I built the first prototype, I had to wait a while to get a first playtest in and after we played it……wow……it was not the experience I was looking for. I need to take the game back to the drawing board and do some reworking. I do have a recording of the playtest so I can use it to go back and take some notes and make some changes. BUT….when I started the Let’s Design a Game Series, I had all the time in the world because the podcast had not started. This means that I don’t know when that series will be up and running again.

As far as the active series of the blog, I have reached a point in my potential topics list where I need to spend some time doing research. I have picked a significant amount of “low hanging fruit” for blog topics. Going forward, the topics I want to write about will take more than just writing from preexisting experience. Right now, the blog is the easiest place to take time away so that means that the 3 times a week posts will probably be backed off to 2 times a week and maybe even once a week with a lot of archive posts.

Google Hangouts (11/16/15)

We had another hangout this weekend. Gerry, Scott and Joe joined me while I struggled to figure out my mic issues. We talked about the design work we had been up to since the last time we all talked. Yes, we meet every two weeks, but this was the first time this group of four had been together in probably two or three months. Aidan was off galavanting as a piano player so he missed out.

If you are interested and want to join in the conversation, please contact me and I will add you to the invite

Update of Current Games

Mars 4:45 (11/9/15)

Mars 4:45 is our real time Mars colony building card game. Players will have their own game of solitaire in front of them(hang with me, I promise!) and everyone is trying to build sets in a community area. When one player finishes a set with a launch card, they add the set to their colony. Trouble is, the cards in that set may not all be theirs. If a player collects too many of the other player’s cards and not enough of their own, other players could claim your colony points. This is the first game we want to take to Kickstarter and we are currently looking at spring of next year to go live with the campaign. We are currently in the art phase and what we have so far is really exciting. If you like Dutch Blitz, you will like this game. Mars 4:45 was inspired by a game we played in High School called Pounce, which is very similar to Dutch Blitz. We currently have a rule book done but with the terminology and the basic art from the first theme of the game. When we have the completed art, we can update the rules and start releasing to you all the awesomeness that is the art and gameplay for this game.

Priests of Olympus (11/9/15)

This is our simultaneous play modular board game that features what we are calling ping pong combat. Each player is one of the Gods on top of Mt. Olympus sending their priests to different temples to collect devotion. As the Priests come into contact with each other, they will battle one another. When one Priest loses, they will retreat into a different hex, if there is another priest in that hex, they go to battle as well. Priests are able to combine with one another to make a stronger unit in combat, but the strongest priests are limited in who they can pair with. Medium powered priests can pair up with as many allied priests as they want. However, the weakest priests are allowed to move faster than the more powerful priests. So even if you don’t have the strongest priest, you still have an advantage in another aspect of the game. We are planning for this to be our second Kickstarter project. We need to write the first draft of rules for this game and when that begins we will add a link so you can follow along.

Line Drive (11/23/15)

11/23/15 Update: We played the updated version of the game and it went very well. We did end up having to make enough significant changes to the game that the rule book we had started is now obsolete. We also have a few more minor changes we want to make to the game after discussion what happened in this latest test. We want to test these updates in one game to see if they work and another game to play for time. Right now, the game sits at 90 min for 3 players, but that is 90 mins where we stop and talk about what is giong on during the game. I am not sure how long the game is with two players and what areas we can cut out some time. The game is a lot of fun, but 90 min for a baseball game is a tough sell and trying to cut more time out, if possible, is important.

11/16/15 Update: Joe, Aidan and I played Line Drive two weekends ago and after that test, we had a few changes we needed to make to the prototype. I spent this week making those changes to the alpha prototype. Assuming the next test goes well and the changes work, we will be moving to a beta prototype.

Line Drive is our baseball deck building game. Players manage their own roster of pitchers and hitters in order to strike out their friends and run wild on the base paths. This is a 2-3 player game where everyone runs their own team. We like this because we know of no other sports game that allows an odd number of players to play each other with their own team, nor a 4 player sports game where it isn’t teams of 2 against each another. That said, there are ump-teen (HEYO!) thousand games out there and maybe we just haven’t come across one that allows for one team for each player count. The game also features a mechanic that will move cards from my deck to your deck and vice versa. Just because you were able to buy the best pitch on the board this turn, doesn’t mean I won’t be able to use it later in the game.

Class Elections (11/9/15)

Class Elections is a little abstract auction game where players are trying to win over the various groups on campus. Players will need to manage their time since everyone has the same amount to spend talking to the different groups on campus. When a player wins over a group(represented by a card), they get the card, but not the time cubes. The players who lost the card, get all of their time cubes back. Players will be able to get back cubes over time, or they have the option to take back extra time as a turn action, but time management is key to the game. We have a basic rule book for this game but we need to play around with the terminology of a few elements and we need to work on what the different groups on campus represent. Either way, the mechanics are done and the rest of development is on the theme side.

PTQ (11/9/15)

Pairs, Trips and Quads is a another abstract game where players are turning in sets of pairs, trips or quads for points. Every turn players will collect cards numbered 1 through 4 and they are trying to assemble different sets. Over the course of the game, the value of the different sets will change so players will need to manage the cards they are trying to collect. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, there are also traps in this game. Players will get to place traps on the different sets. When a player turns in a set of three 2’s, if there is a trap, or multiple traps, they will be tripped and players will need to deal with the consequences. The mechanical development if this game is basically done. At this point, we need to finish up the rules and figure out the balance of the different traps in the game.

What Team Are You On? (11/9/15)

What team are you on is another abstract game. A 4×4 grid of point and action cards are set up in the middle of the table. Players will be trying to be the only player to claim one of the cards in the 4×4 grid. To claim a card, a player will place a numbered claim card, 1 through 4, on the outside of the grid. If you are the only player to claim a card, you win it. It two people claim the same card, no one wins it, if more than two people claim a card, it is removed from the game. Most points wins! But…….there are bonus points as well. Each card has a color, or team associated with it. Players will have the option to claim bonus points with the cards they have collected by playing them face up and/or face down in front of them. I will not get into the specifics here because honestly, I don’t remember all the rules associated with the team and bonus points….its been a while since I played it. We do have a first draft rule book sitting on a Google doc, I just need to look at it again.

Secret Project (11/9/15)

Now, I am not one to have secret projects. If this post is any indication, I like to be as open as possible with with the projects we have going on. This project is secret for now because I don’t know what shape the project will take and we want to get some of the building worked out before we start talking about the particulars.What I can tell you is that it is our first gamification project and once we are done with our current run of rule book writing, we are going to jump into this project “full time”.

Bounty Hunters (11/9/15)

Bounty Hunters is a move and shoot dice game. Players will be shooting other players and autonomous enemies in order to score points. each time a player uses a die token, they lose that token. So a player could use 3d6 to shoot an enemy across the board, but they would lose those dice to do so. Players gain dice back every turn and they can also collect die tokens on the board, but here is the catch. Die tokens are also your HP. Not only is there a strategic game on the board, but there is also a game happening on the score/initiative track. Players will have to manage their movement and attack separately on the initiative track. Since we have not worked out a lot of the details I will limit what I say but I am really looking forward to working on this game.

Soul Hunters (11/9/15)

Soul Hunters is our answer to player elimination where players are hunters going into a castle to find and destroy a Necromancer. Players will be searching rooms in order to find better equipment, light auras and dark auras. In the castle there are spirits and skeletons trying to kill them. If a player is killed, they become a skeleton and a spirit. As the skeleton, they get to run around the board trying to kill the hunters that remain. As a spirit, they get to mess with the conditions of the castle. You can lock doors, move walls……to be honest……I am still trying to figure out exactly what the spirits are allowed to do. If you die, you move to the undead team and still get to have fun. Players can also get back onto the hunter team if they are resurrected by one of the living hunters. I have a lot to explore in this design and I am really looking forward to it. So much so, I will probably be working on this during the week when Aidan and I are not together.

Harbor Master (11/9/15)

Harbor Master is a market manipulation game where players are building a new colony. Players will send workers to the harbor to collect goods and at the end of a turn, players will only get one worker back. One player will also get to set the market every turn in secret. Some goods will be plentiful and others will be scare. Every turn there will be a sea-vent that could be clear sailing and all the goods are safe, or it could be a hurricane and no one gets anything this turn. While the first test did not go as smoothly as I had envisioned, the bones are there for a really great game.

Let’s Design a Game #11 Random Thoughts…Major Problems and 2 Players

This post out of order but it is part of the process so I am going to insert it here and give you fair warning.

The first time I talked to Aidan about this game, I dawned on me that we have a real problem with two players. Players are going to know, just by looking at the open contracts, who is the owner of which contract. The other major problem we had at the time was how we were going to handle the agent side of the bidding process.

The entire time I was thinking that one player would be working on one job. It never occurred to me to have all the players in the game have agents working the same job. I was thinking about how to get a contract owner to accept specific agents without giving up their identity. This was a major issue because the whole idea of the game is to not know who you are working for. I honestly thought the game was dead.

At the time these issues came up. I was a few days away from figuring out the solutions. The two player problem is currently solved with a couple random cards drawn from a dummy hand. The agent problem, as you have seen in a previous post, has been solved with the use of player specific tokens and allowing all agents supplied to a job to participate in the job.

What I would like you to take from this is that I really thought these were game breaking problems when they came up. I was not sure we could come up with a two player variant, nor did I think the agent bidding problem could be solved without changing the entire concept of the game. Yet, the solution to both of these problems is as easy as a couple more cards to throw people off each other’s tracks and a simple token for each player.

There might be some major issues that come up during and after testing, but there are solutions out there to the problems we face in our games and the willingness to look for and find them can solve most of the problems out design will face.

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

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

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.

Let’s Design a Game #10 The Agents

Today we will give you the details on the agents.

2015-06-22 16.47.55

Agent Spread

Currently there are 48 agents in the game. Agents are used to pass skill checks for contracts and act as a way to boost die rolls.

Agent Card

Agent Card

Each agent has one of three skills. Those skills are Planning, Execution and Get Away. They also have a roll effect. Roll effects are used whenever a player rolls a die and they want to boost a poor roll. In the top left corner, each agent has a cost. The cost of each agent is the amount of money a player will receive when one of their agents is used in a mission/contract and they are successful.

Pending Mission

Pending Mission

Agents are used to pass skill checks and in the example above, you can see that the base level skill checks for this region are 5 Planning, 4 Execution and 5 Get Away. Add to the base level the checks required for the card and you end up with a total skill required of 8 Planning, 7 Execution and 8 Get Away.

Agents On A Mission

Agents On A Mission

Let’s assume these are the agents that have been accepted by the contract owner and they are about to attempt the mission. Each agent will roll a die, add their skill, combine that with the roll and skill of any other agents working with them for that particular skill. If this total is larger than the skill check required, the skill check is passed. If all the skill checks are passed and the mission is a success.

Mission Rolls

Mission Rolls

The six agents on this missions rolled really well and rolled an 18 Planning, 13 Execution and 12 Get Away. The contract owner would reveal who they were to collect the reward and the contract owner would then have to pay all the agents in the mission. In this case, the contract owner would have to pay $40K in agent costs. Some of the agents could have been their own but this was an expensive mission. There were a lot of dice rolled and the chances of the mission being successful were high, but that comes at a cost. You can try to use few agents to lower the cost, but risk the mission failing.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me. I know the explanation is fragmented, but I want to divvy out the game in pieces as not to throw out too much at one time and give people a chance to digest the pieces as they are released.

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

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

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.

Let’s Design a Game #9 The Main Mechanic, Revisited

 

Even though there has been a lot of progress on the game, I need to update you on the main mechanic because we made a change to the way it works and I don’t want to cover anything else until you have a chance to see it. For specifics, please see the previous post about the Main Mechanic since I don’t plan to cover the main mechanic in great detail in this post.

Players will start with the same set of contract cards

Starting Hand of Contracts

Starting Hand of Contracts

 

Players will also have a set of contract ID cards.

Set of Contract ID Cards

Set of Contract ID Cards

Above are the contract ID cards which include one card for each region and a set of numbers 1 thru 8. Players will be able to ID the contract(s) they turned in using these cards.

Players will now select one of their contracts to give to the collector. They will also set aside, face down, the ID cards that match the contract they turned in.

Contract and ID Cards

Contract and ID Cards

The contract collector will shuffle the contracts and display them in the middle of the table

Turned in Contracts

Turned in Contracts

Now that the contracts have been shown to the table. Players will start playing agent cards for the various contracts and accept or deny cards.

Contracts with Agents

Contracts with Agents

Close Up of Our Contract

Close Up of Our Contract

When players place an agent on a job, they will use a token to ID which agents belong to them. Players can play more than one agent on a job.

Accept/Deny Cards

Accept/Deny Cards

When a contract has 4 accept/deny cards played on it, the A/D cards are revealed, if there is an accept card, the job is attempted. If all the cards are deny, players take their agents back and the and the A/D cards are held until the end of the round.

Looks Like We Have a Job

Looks Like We Have a Job

Prior to this method, we were worried that players might forget what mission was theirs and two players might claim the same contract. Our plan was to test the game as it was and see if that was really a problem. While we were talking about this game this past weekend (6/12) we came up with this solution and I spent the rest of the weekend working on changing the prototype around. There were a few other changes but I will cover that in a later post.

As always, feel free to check out our google doc and leave us comments or questions.

Link to the Google Doc for this project

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

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.

Let’s Design a Game #8 Checking in With Aidan Part 2

We spent most of the time talking about the main mechanic, but the benefit of working with a co-designer are the ideas that can spawn and being able to talk about them immediately. Aidan had the idea to change the agents and the contract owners to just colors. There would be many colors for players to be and their identity would be hidden until they were done with that color, think Small World and setting your race into decline. As jobs were being completed, the contracts and the color owner would be set to the side and displayed for everyone to see. Players would not be able to collect on the jobs until they revealed who they were. Players could have agents they are upgrading over time so they need to balance how much reward they take in vs how fast they want to upgrade. I guess there would also have to be an incentive to let your jobs ride.

The game idea aside, what I want to get across is the generation of a new idea and how excited we were when we started talking about the new idea. We would not jump off the current project to chase the side ideas, but we make notes, talk out the idea for 10-15 minutes and set it aside until we get around to looking at it.

We did talk about the worker placement idea (#6) and we were both excited to start working on the game. I think what that means is I will start developing the worker placement game in parallel with “Who Are You Working For?” (I guess I just working titled the project) If that sounds like a lot of work, there is a lot of down time gaps in projects. As soon as one game is ready for testing, I need to develop other games. My only real concern is being able to keep up with a blog schedule for two games. There could be times when I make some great development progress on one game and have tests going on with another. I don’t think it will be a problem in the end, but the thought still crosses my mind.

Link to the Google Doc for this project

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

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.

Let’s Design a Game #7 Checking in With Aidan Part 1

The best part of being part of a design team is having a co-designer to check in with when you are working on a separate project. I took what I had on my white board and what I had made so far of the alpha prototype and walked Aidan through the game. We focused on the bidding mechanic right away as we both identified the bidding mechanic as the most interesting part of the game. While I was explaining the full game concept, I did mention that the first iteration  of the game used a hand of cards moving around the table. I talked about what I liked and didn’t like about the idea of a hand that moves around and while Aidan kind of liked the idea at first. I expressed my list of concerns with a hand of cards that could be dropped of lose its order and we both agreed that we need to find a better way.

Keep in mind, the main mechanic I wrote about earlier was not set in stone at this point, we were exploring all of our options.

We looked at the idea of having players turn in two cards, one would be the contract and another would be an identifier card. All players would turn in their pair of cards to, what we were calling, a “coat check” player. The Coat Check would have to shuffle the pairs of cards and display the cards on the board. We didn’t like this because the cards could easily get mixed up. We thought about making the Coat Check a player that would know who turned in what contract. They would not be allowed to bid on that set of contracts and the Coat Check player would have to rotate every turn. I didn’t like this idea because players would have to take turns watching the action and I don’t like it when I have to do that in games, so I will do everything to avoid designing a game that does the same. We talked about using envelopes for players to turn in and having one player open and reveal the contents of these envelopes. While that system could work, I did not like the idea of having a component in the game that could break down over time. Especially with hearing stories of Sheriff of Nottingham bags that are starting to lose their snaps, I wanted to pass on the idea of using envelopes.

We continued this back and fourth for at least an hour. What we really liked about the mechanic was the hidden identity and the reveal moments after a job was completed. We also decided that the bidding system, as it stood, was good to move on to testing and it would be used to complete the rest of the alpha prototype. The only problem we saw was the chance the a player could mis-identify their contract, but the amount of time from turning in a contract to seeing it back on the board was so short, we are thinking that players will be able to remember.

Moving on from the main mechanic, we talked about how we would handle agents. We talked about using a die for each agent and players will be placing agents on contracts and use those die to roll skill checks. What worried me was the idea that the cost of the game could get really high if we have a lot of dice in the box. If we had scale orders, this would be less of a concern but we are two guys in a kitchen so we are ultra aware of component cost. We also talked about adding an authority track to each region of the board. This was really fun because we liked the idea of adding risk to players should they fail a mission. We still need to work out how the authority track will work but we know we want to add the idea.

The last big thing we talked about was players motivation about why they wouldn’t always bid on their own contracts. Aidan brought it up and he was right, why wouldn’t a player do that? The best solution I had was the idea to give players tokens for completing other players missions and making the penalty really bad if players attempt their own mission and fail. Thematically speaking, if your own agents fail and get questioned, it is really easy for the authorities to track you down. If agents have no idea who they are really working for, you are safe.

That was half of what we talked about and in the interest of space, I will leave the rest to a second post. Thank you for following along and please feel free to check out the Google Doc below.

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.

Let’s Design a Game #6 Picking a Theme

I start 98% of our games with the mechanics first. I have tried to make games with the theme first but I find that making mechanics fit to a theme is more painful than finding a theme that fits a mechanic. Part if that could be the way Aidan and I work, it could also be my feelings that the worst that could happen to a developed mechanic that never finds a theme is the mechanic sits in storage waiting for the right theme to come along. We still have an asset at the end of the process. If we fail to find a mechanic for the theme, the opposite is true, there is nothing left over at the end of the brainstorming session.

For this project, I knew I wanted to go with a bad guy theme. I did spend a little time thinking about potential good guy themes but the idea that you don’t know who you are working for lends itself to the bad guy side. I did not want to do fantasy or sci-fi with this because those are overdone themes and we already have a couple projects in that space. With all of these “limitations” I ended up with robbers in the city stealing things for other bad guys. This may not be the theme we finish with, but it makes the most sense. Also, everything that I want to do with the game, at this point in time, fits within a universe of robbers and bad guys doing what they do in a city.

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.

Let’s Design a Game #5 The Main Mechanic

I think by this point, if you are following from the start of the series, you have a rough idea of where this game is going. The way I work, at this point in the process is to start developing the main mechanic so that I know it works. If it doesn’t I will make the changes required to make it work while maintaining the feeling I want in the game. In this game I am really interested in the tension that comes along with when a mission is being attempted and there are two people at the table interested in the outcome, but one person really can’t identify themselves if it their contract being worked on. Google Doc for this Project

So without further ado, here is how the main mechanic of the game works

Players will start with a hand of contract offers. Each player will have one contract card from each district. The contract cards have the district name and a number. Each district has eight cards and each player will have one card from each district in their had at the start of the contract offering process.

Starting Hand

Starting Hand

Players will give a mission card to the collector remembering what their unique mission card says. The picture below represents all the contract cards collected.

2015-06-01 17.18.13

The collector will shuffle the contract cards and display the contracts face up in the middle of the board. The picture on the left are the four cards collected, shuffled and laid out. Our contract is the Jewelry 1 contract. The picture on the right shows each contract being laid out to a contract slot on the board. Each player would secretly identify their contract, and use their personal set of ID cards to identify their contract. In this example, we would take the 4 ID card and place that face down on our player board. (Player Board not Pictured)

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Once the contracts have been displayed, players will start to take actions. Actions include playing Accept/Deny cards, play Agent cards, Block Agent cards and Recruit Agents. For this post, all I want you to worry about are playing agents and playing Accept /Deny cards. In the first picture, Players are playing various agents to the right of the open contracts. In the second picture, you can see players adding their Accept/Deny cards to the open contracts. Players are allowed to play their Deny cards on any contract (including their own) and can play their accept card on contract that belong only to them. (Players have 3 deny and one accept card in their hands) When a contract has collected a fourth Accept/Deny card;the cards are taken off the board, shuffled in secret and displayed. In this example, our contract has collected four A/D cards and we will now find out if the job has been accepted. (Of course, we know it has one because we added our accept card to the pile)

6/4/15 UPDATE: Is there any reason you would deny your own contract? Yes. What I have yet to cover is the idea that agents will need to be paid for their work. The players who control agents will earn dollars, while the player with the contract gets loot. This could change when I get to working on the agent/reward side of the mechanic, but for now, just know that agents cost money to us. If the cost of the agents is too high, you can deny the job. The agents will need to pass skill checks, if you don’t think the agents available can pass the checks, you can deny the contract.

Contract Board

Contract Board

Contract Board

Contract Board

If there is an accept card in the pile, the job is attempted by the agents currently available. I will cover the mechanics of attempting a job in another post. In the case where all the cards are deny cards, I think the contract would remain on the board so players could continue to bid

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When a job is completed(or failed), players will draw a new contract card from a district to replace the contract card used. Players will always have one contract card from each district unless they have a contract on the board.

There is the main mechanic of the game. Let me know what you think. If anything jumps out as problematic or if you would like some more explanation please leave a comment or shoot me an email. Below you can see the To Do list I have running for this project, specifically the building of this proto. At this point in the process I think this proto is almost ready for it’s first play through with Aidan and me. During the upcoming weekend, I will get the last of the proto done and playable.

To Do

To Do

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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.

Let’s Design a Game #4 Whiteboarding the Game

Moving to the Whiteboard……finally.

I started by drawing a simple diagram of players adding cards to their hands and the hands moving around the table.

The Beginning

The Beginning

This may not look like enough but it is what I need to get myself started. My process is to stand over the table and pace back and forth and talk out what I am trying to do. I will then look back at the basic diagram and keep working my way through the thought process. I worked like this for at least an hour and I kept running into the same problems. How do I keep people identified, how do I keep the hand in order, how do I prevent players from taking too much time with the hand? I was able to generate solutions for all of these issues but the solutions either made the game more complicated or required players to do extra accounting. Accounting, in my opinion, is ok for a game, but if the accounting does not have a direct effect on the game, I think it needs to go. The accounting in this case, was only there to manage a mechanic and not add any richness to the game.

The result of all this pacing and talking to myself is the realization that a hand moving around the table to too fragile a thing to make this complicated, so this kind of blind negotiation is out. I could keep working the problem but I don’t want a game to fall apart when during the second to last turn, the hand is dropped and the game is ruined. I don’t remember a hand of cards ever being dropped in all the games I have played, but I remember cards falling off the table and if there is ever one instance where players have to reveal who they are in order to keep the cards in order, that is a weak point in a game I don’t want to build. So blind negotiation is out.

Just a quick aside, does the idea of seeing a game created via YouTube sound interesting to anyone? I think what this kind of development blog lacks are the times I spend pacing back and forth talking out what I am thinking. It also misses the detail Aidan and I talk about during the weekends when I check in with what I have. There are times when game ideas are spawned that, to me, are really interesting to hear. However, I am really close to this process and I don’t know if an edited video showing the most interesting moments of game design would be worth watching. Please leave me a comment or send me a message on twitter.

With blind negotiation out, I still wanted to use a blind bidding system. The idea is to have players work for each other and not know they are working for one another until the job is done. That means the jobs need to get to the board anonymously so players can bid on them. It also means players need to be able to bid on their own jobs to keep their contracts a mystery. My plan is to go over the mechanic is detail in another post. Just know for now, I am happy with there the game is now headed. I spent about three hours working on the whiteboard. In that time, I was able to attache a theme, work my way through a full turn, and I started the alpha prototype.

2015-05-20 17.42.52 2015-05-20 17.42.47 2015-05-20 17.42.37 2015-05-20 17.42.30 2015-05-20 17.41.03 2015-05-20 17.18.162015-05-20 17.42.59

Using the whiteboard notes above, I was able to get the first prototype cards done and I was able to build a list of cards that need to be created. Some of those needs are straight forward and others involve some more work. Most of that work is stat creation and stat creation means balancing. The balancing can be taken care of later but I still need to sit down and create a number of cards that have a decently spread of stats.

Proto To Do List

Proto To Do List

In our next post, we will talk about the main mechanic and how it works, complete with pictures. After that, we will talk about the theme. If you want a preview of what to expect, you can look at the photos can get an idea of what where the game is going. Please feel free to comment on whatever you want, anything you see in the notes. Or anything that is too chicken scratchy to read.

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

Find us on Twitter (Follow Us!) and Facebook (Like Us!)

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.