Mars 4:45 Lets Build a Colony

Mars 4:45 Cover Art

Mars 4:45 Cover Art (Click to see Larger Version)

In Mars 4:45 each player is a Mission Director, racing to establish the first colony on the Red Planet. Mission Directors compete to construct all the modules necessary to start a Mars settlement, sourcing as many parts internally as possible to maximize profitability. Mission Directors will need to build Power Modules, Science Modules, Resource Modules and Exploration Modules. If you are a fan of Dutch Blitz, Nertz or Pounce; you will pick this game up very quickly.

We need your help! This will be our first game going to Kickstarter and we need to spread the word. We are looking at a Sept 1st to launch so over the next two months I hope you get to know the theme, art and mechanics of the game.  Please give the rules a read and watch our upcoming tutorial videos. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. We want this game to succeed and we want you to get to know and enjoy this game as much as we 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

 

Mars 4:45 The Rules (Update Rules & Video!)

When we started on this design journey, the first game we really developed for a Kickstarter campaign was Charge! and army building card game. That game has been re-themed into Mars 4:45 a Colony building card game. I will write a proper introduction to the game when we are closer to the KS campaign that will include art and diagrams and maybe even some videos of game play. What we have for you today are the rules we finished writing last weekend. I invite you to take a look at the rules and give us your feedback. Give yourself a flavor of what to expect.

A 3-Player example of Mars 4:45

An Example play of a two player game of Mars 4:45

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7WYOLWHtRPpLW1EaHo5d05oTFU/view?usp=sharing

There are pictures and diagrams that need to be added but the entire text of the rule book is there. If you like reading rules or you would like to know more about our first project coming to KS, please take a look and tell us what you think.

retro card design blue-01 retro card design orange-01

I don’t want to show off the fronts of our cards yet, I have some special plans for that art. What I will show you are a couple of the card backs to give you a feel for where the art is going.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Gamer Guests: Let’s Talk About the Games We Play

We want to talk to gamers about the games we play and get a more rounded prespective about what is really happening inside the games we love to play.

Talking to designers is awesome. There is a lot to learn from the different ways designers go about making the games in their heads. We also talk about the games we play but there is a bias that I think most designers have when they play games. Designers play games as both gamers and as designers. We are always breaking things down and asking questions of the game as we play it. What we would like to add is a conversation between gamers and designers. What are gamers thinking when they come across different mechanics and themes. What do they like about the games they play? What makes them dislike a game? What kind of experience(s) are they looking for when they pick up a game?  We have tons of questions and we want to talk to you about it. I am positive there are a lot of designers and publishers out there that would love to hear those answers.

P.S. This conversation is not limited to board games. This conversation applies to digital games as well, so if that is your area of interest please get a hold of us.

If you are interested, or know a gamer that would want to chat about the games they play, please pass this post along and hit me up on twitter/facebook/email so we can talk about the timing and logistics.

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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 #88 So…..Many……Games

Now that Gen Con and Essen have past I wanted to take a moment to write about something I mentioned on the podcast last week. I don’t know if designers worry about the number games that are being released but I don’t think we need to really spend time worrying about the number of games coming out during the year and at conventions. Even if a game is released and its close to one of our ideas we are working on; I view this as an opportunity.

True, it might kill off one of our ideas, but I think it is a reminder that we need to work hard to find the thing that makes our game special. We have to take the time to tell our players why they want to play our game. It has this special thing that the other game does not. Tell your players why there is room in their collection to have both games.

Of course, if you are working on one project at a time, this can be a serious gut punch, but I think that is another good reason for designers to be working on more than one game at a time. Even if you are working on one project, what changes to the theme or the mechanics can you make to give your game a new look?

No doubt, it sucks if this happens, but use this moment to adjust the game, your design approach, your marketing approach and keep going while making adjustments, or moving onto the next 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.

How to Build a Game #87 Impact Moments

This doesn’t apply to every game in the world, but what are the impact moment in your game? What are the moments that everyone stands up? Is it a battle between the two strongest players? Is it a die roll? What are the moments everyone has set up their strategy for and the game altering item is revealed?

These are the moments people remember when they are playing a game. There are some impact moments that don’t work well and there are others that are amazing. We are not going to cover the good and bad of impact moments. What I want to talk about is the importance of these moments and what kind of questions we should be asking ourselves as designers.

Do we need to add more moments like this into the game? Is the appeal of this moment the fact that it is scarce? How many people are involved in the impact moment? Do I need to add more players? Do I need to take players away? What are the players not directly involved doing during impact moments? How can players benefit from these moments? How can players prepare and protect or enhance these moments for themselves?

I am not going to type out all the question I have in mind. What I want to get across is the idea that these moments need more thought given to them. These are the moments that will sell our games to the publishers we pitch and the players who will play our games and tell their friends to play the game.

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.

How to Build a Game #86 Tutorials

Learning games is hard. Reading a lot of text, trying to teach other people who learn in different ways. Someone needs to read the rules before they get to play the game. All of that and no one has played your game. As a designer, I worry about this space in the game because it is not fair to the game. The game could be great, but it could have a learning curve (nothing wrong with that btw) There are a lot of games that look like they are a bull, but their turn by turn actions are quite simple. How do we get players from through this part of the fall in love with the game process?

Something Aidan and I have been thinking about is adding tutorials to the front of our games. We are not entirely sure the best way to go about including a tutorial. One way we are thinking about is to include mini games inside the box that teach just the main mechanic. Yes, it would add to the cost, but it is the kind of think that could be given to a friend who might want to sample the game before they make a full purchase. Another way, and I think this is already done, is to include guided play in your rule book.

Honestly, thats all I have so far. I really wanted to this post to be a place where we can share our ideas about what to do with tutorials, and videos do not count. The kinds of players that watch play through videos are the kind people people that research the game and read about it before they get it. What I am talking about, and most interested in, are the casual players who have a friend or family member in the hobby who rave about your game and now want to pick it up based on the raving and recommendation. These are the people that will grow the hobby and we as designers have to make sure they are not turned away from the hobby before they even get play the game for the first time, regardless of a game depth or complexity.

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.