Sunday, December 30, 2012

Unpub Challenge

Bryan Fischer, game designer / publisher (Nevermore GamesChicken Caesar, Mars Needs Mechanics) and Darrell Louder, game designer (Compounded) came up with a great idea for an unofficial design challenge that ends at Unpub next month in Delaware. Sometime at (or after) the event the designers will each get a chance to see each others games in person and try them out. This has given me the creative spark I was looking for, and also is detracting me from a lot of other work that needs to be done before Unpub, but whatever... You should make a game too!

Here are the details from Bryan's site (

We’re having an unofficial UnPub3 Game Design Challenge! By “unofficial” I mean it has nothing to do whatsoever with the official UnPub3 event. Basically, a few game designers are creating games quickly (deadline is UnPub3 in January) using very limited quantities of components. We will meet up at UnPub3, likely in the evening, and play these games and award a winner. You are invited to take part!
The Rules:
Your game must be a complete game playable by 1+ players. It is limited to containing up to the following components, but no more:
20 cards
4 dice (d6)
15 cubes
30 minutes or less game time 
The cards need to be a standard size: Euro, American, or a mini-version of either. No giant sized cards that double as a 20x10” board, cheater. The dice need to be six-sided, but may contain blank sides or have custom symbols. The cubes should be standard cubes, about 8mm or so in size, whatever colors you want. The rules should be printed out, but don’t worry too much about diagrams unless they are super necessary. Pencil drawings count! This is all about the gameplay, which btw has to be 30 minutes or less.
Rules update: At least one sets of components (cards, dice, or cubes) must have multiple uses in the game.
The Spirit:
This challenge is about the fun of designing a game with limited time and materials. Notice the bolded fun because you should definitely keep that at the forefront of your mind while making a game. Make it strategic, make it funny, make it whatever you wish, as long as it is fun!
The Venue:
Like I wrote above, this is an unofficial challenge, aka, it isn’t associated with UnPub3 in any way. We’re figuring out where/when we’ll play the games and enjoy our creations and will get back to that soon!

And here is a little about about my submission...

It's a currently unnamed realtime dice fighting game. As you may know, I've been playing too much Playstation All Stars Battle Royale lately, and I'm a massive fan of Super Smash Bros. So, in trying to capture the speed of those types of fighting games with dice, I made it so all players play at the same time. 

Players will both roll one or both of their dice over and over, trying to get combos that are higher than their opponent. Once a player has a die combo that they are happy with, they will yell "hit!", and the opponent must leave his/her dice on the table as-is. A quick evaluation will show if the hit succeeds. Each player has a red and black die. Both dice will each need to be higher than both of the opponent's respective dice. If so, the defender receives a point of damage. And if not, the hit fails and the attacker receives a point of damage. There are also blocks (any die with a result of 1), healing (both dice with results of 1) and special moves (specific die rolls that always win).

Once a player receives 8 hit points, they have to flip their player card over to the Last Chance side. Once flipped, they have 8 more hit points left before the game ends. And now, they receive a Fatal Flaw, which makes it harder to land the best hits. 

Those are the basics. There are still a few flaws (ha) that I need to work out. But it's quick, light and we've been having a lot of fun with it here in the last 2 days. Hopefully people will enjoy it (unofficially!) at Unpub.
Here's an image for now. Marty Cobb (Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game, Paper Route) is killing it with the art. And I have been killing myself with the layout. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Unpub Games - 1 of 3 Maximum Throwdown!

The game that I'm most excited to bring to Unpub is the card-throwing battle game, MAXIMUM THROWDOWN!!

Maximum Throwdown is a card-throwing battle game, where 2-4 players will fling, toss, and wing their cards across the table, covering up their opponents precious points and power-ups, while trying to come out on top. And being on top is very important, because, if your icons are covered, your cards are useless! It’s quick and light fun. 
2-6 players - 15 minutes
I've been working on this along with Alex Strang of Cybergecko Games for a little while now, and I'm super excited to get some solid tests in, get feedback, and take it to the next level.

We actually have a few variations of the game going. One is very abstract (as seen above and below) and the others introduce character types and special abilities. There is still a long way to go, even before Unpub hits in just a few weeks.

We're making some special gifts for anyone who plays the game. As soon as they are ready, I'll show them off here.

Hope to see you at Unpub!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pixel Lincoln @ SnowCon

Thanks to our very good friends at Flip The Table (a wonderful podcast about terrible games), Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game will be making a big appearance at SnowConMaine next month!

Along side of such infamous classics as Heartthrob and Star Trek: The VHS Game, you can play Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game before its release. Sign up early, because each session is limited to just 4 people. The Flip The Table guys will also have a handful of our unofficial Pause promo cards (which are running low!). But don't worry, we have plans to make all of the promo cards readily available at some point in the future for those who couldn't get to the events.

Here are the sessions that are available:

Saturday Jan 19th
Slot 2
9:00am - 11:00am
1 table
1 judge (waitlisting)
2 players (2 open seats)

Saturday Jan 19th
Slot 5
2:00pm - 4:00pm
1 table
1 judge (waitlisting)
0 players (4 open seats)

Saturday Jan 19th
Slot 6
4:00pm - 6:00pm
1 table
1 judge (waitlisting)
0 players (4 open seats)

The weekend of January 18th is going to be a big one for Pixel Lincoln. With Pixel Lincoln 2 at Unpub along with our John Wilkes Tooth promo card, and now SnowConMaine, you'll be able to get your Pixel Lincoln fix. Well, as long as you are in Delaware or Maine that weekend.

You may know Chris, Jared, Flip and Professor Laserbooks from the podcast, but did you know that we go way back? All the way back to May of 2012, when the guys wrote and recorded a phenomenal audio advertisement to correspond with the launch of our Kickstarter campaign, and their podcast. Remember "You can't handle the Booth"? That was all them.

We also had a great meetup in Maine last summer, where we played Pixel Lincoln over burgers.

And speaking of Flip The Table, check out their big year-end special that just launched. I was lucky enough to contribute the following question to their very first listener Q&A:
If you could mash up 3 games that you've played, using theme, art, mechanics, components, etc.. to create the most terrible experience that you could imagine... which games would you choose?
Listen here: 

It's a great podcast, part of the glorious Dice Tower Network, very unique and well produced, and very much recommended.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Unpub News & Promo!

First of all, my Unpub stress is fading a little. There is definitely less stress, as I have chosen (and registered!) the games that I am bringing.

I will be bringing the following:

Pixel Lincoln 2 (temporary name)
The next batch of items, enemies, characters, and all new twists and turns in the Pixel Lincoln universe.

A head-to-head zombie/human asymmetric board game fight for survival.

Maximum Throwdown
A multiplayer card-throwing battle game by myself and Alex Strang. Dexterity?!

I'll be showing more of these games over the next few weeks before Unpub hits. But right now, I have one more thing to show.

We are making an Unpub Pixel Lincoln promo card! It's John Moller's alter ego John Wilkes Tooth, fighting with his trusty blue noodle!

And here's the scoop from John:
We are announcing, in association with Game Salute, Island Officials and designer Jason Tagmire, that Unpub 3 will have an exclusive promo card for Pixel Lincoln, the Deck Building Game! Pixel Lincoln appeared at a few Unpub events in the spring and summer. They've released a few promos since then, we're happy that they're working with us to make this special new limited edition promo just for Unpub 3! It will be available while supplies last, so show up early to get your copy!
More Unpub news soon!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Four Score & Ho-Ho-Ho

Twitter pal / game designer Benny Sperling (@benny275) mentioned that he was doing an 8-bit holiday door for his office at work, and mentioned that he was including Pixel Lincoln (AWESOME!). Since I have super hi-res blocky images of Lincoln all over my desktop, I offered to send him some.

Benny said he wanted the fan-favorite, Sausage Link Whip, and his other words ("Any Christmas?") made me leap into action to create the best Pixel Lincoln Christmas Tree-Wielding Santa Claus that ever existed.

Here he is:

It's also a rare look at Pixel Lincoln wearing a hat.

And here is Benny's door! There is a warm spot in my heart for Megaman with a Santa hat.

Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game also made Benny's Game of the Year list!

Best new to me game: Trajan.

Best game: Legacy: Gears of Time.

Best game w/ 16 cards: Love Letter

Best prototype: Nothing Personal.

Best Presidential game: Pixel Lincoln.

Best expansion: King of Tokyo Power Up

Best Game I designed: Leonardo's Apprentice.

Best card game: Guildhall.

Best Poultry Pun: Chicken Caesar.

Best Deck Builder: Fantastiqa.

Best Dice Game that was new to me: Bears!

Best Worker Placement game you probably haven't played:

Massachusetts Bay. Best Board with Gears: Tzolkin.

Best Components: Takenoko.

Best Game with Dart Guns: Dart Gun Desperados.

Hope everyone is having a nice start to the holiday season!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Unpub 3 Stress!

I've been looking forward to the next Unpub since the minute I left the last one. John Moller's game design-drivin playtest events are some of the best around, and the official "Unpub" event in January is the big one. It's a great way to start off the year, and while it's over a month away, I'm super stressed out about it!

I'm only stressed because I'm trying to decide which game(s) to bring. Last year I brought Sandwich City and received great feedback. We got about 6 or 7 sessions in throughout the day, and I still managed to play 4 or 5 other games. This year, it's a 2 day event, so I'm planning on bringing 2 or 3 games. One will be the proposed next installment of Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game, which is still on paper (well, fake iPad paper via the wonderful Penultimate app), the second will probably be ZombieZone in its big, post-The Game Crafter limited release version, and the other one is ???????

And that is where I'm stuck. I have a bunch of games in the works, but I want to bring something big, meaty, and in need of feedback. And another part of this is that I need to get printing done over the next few weeks. I'll mess around at home with some ugly prototypes, but if I'm going out in public with it, I need to pretty it up.

Reverse Dungeon Crawler
I'm only calling it that because it slightly resembles what it actually is, and the name has stuck in my head. I have a long way to go with this one, but it's at the top of my list to get moving.

Famous Missions with new art
This is at the bottom of my list because it doesn't need high level testing. I'm just curious of what people think of the new art, and how it flows with the game.

Card Throwing game
This one is very light and quick to teach, and I want to see what people think. Alex Strang has been helping out as well, so together, maybe we can get this there.

Something else
I have a few others in varying stages of completion, but time is running out. I need another month!

I also want to play a bunch of games while I'm there. Last year I was able to play VivaJava for the first time, Wartime, Salmon Run, and others. And I need to take lots of photos and write a big recap. So much awesomeness going on... Can I pay somebody to run my games for me?

No matter what I decide, I need to get moving today. I'll have a mega-The Game Crafter order to place within the next week or two. I'll be ordering a whole bunch of these.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Although Pixel Lincoln is wielding his dinner as a weapon, we should be nice to each other for this one day, and tomorrow you can all battle each other for TVs that are bigger than my living room. I will be up nice and early in line at my local game store buying X-Wing for $6.99 and Mice and Mystics for $29.99. It's probably my favorite day of the year. I won't need to equip a Hot Turkey Leg because I plan to be the first in line for the second year in a row. 2 hours in the cold, once a year, with a bunch of board game collectors is a lot of fun, and kind of soothing.

So... I'm thankful for a great year both personally and professionally, and looking forward to all of the fun that 2013 will bring. Thanks to everyone who makes this possible. That includes YOU!

And now for a history lesson... Did you know about Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation?

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State
It's true. Unless the Washington Post is pulling my turkey leg.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Famous Missions Redux

So, a few years ago I made a game called Famous Missions. It's a party style game, where a judge player throws out a mission card ("Dismantle A Bomb") and each player has to form a 3 person team using the cards in their hard. The cards are made up of famous people throughout history who range from useful to useless depending on the task, but it's up to the player to use them in a creative way. How would Donald Trump help dismantle a bomb? How would Edgar Allan Poe colonize a new planet? How would George W. Bush cross the Atlantic in a raft?

And that is where the game shines. Players will craft the scenarios, using the tools at hand (and some of them can be serious "tools") to prove themselves to the judging player. With a creative group, this game is hilarious. With a historical group, the game is cut-throat. And with every group I've ever play tested with, the game is a lot of fun.

But... at the end of 2011, I ran a Kickstarter campaign for the game and it went
as poorly as you could imagine. I have seen worse, but this one was personal. I learned a TON from the experience, which I applied to future projects. And now, a year later, I'm trying to figure out how to apply that back to Famous Missions.

The big issues were:
1) The art - people hated it. I stood by it, because I wanted to create a simple visual of the character and let the imagination do the rest of the work. Each character was in the same pose, with very simple mind-sparking features. The card layout was simple too for a few reasons. But people hated this, and in the game of Kickstarter, they were the judges and they did not rule in my favor.
2) The launch - I snuck the game out without promotion. I thought I'd promote heavily during the campaign, and learned my lesson the hard way. Sneaking out a release is a terrible idea, unless you have a rabid fanbase.
3) The rewards - The budget paid for the cards and nothing else, so the rewards were 2 copies of the game, 3 copies of the game, etc. Not that exciting. Looking back, I could have improved this without spending a lot of extra money, and should have.
4) Copyright issues - People were very bent out of shape about the likenesses. At one point they said that they hated the art because it looked nothing like the people, but then they thought I'd get sued for using their image. But their image was a distorted avatar style image, intentionally semi-vague. I don't believe that I'd have issues, especially with a small release that I was going for, but it didn't sit well with some people.

After a year, I think I could fix most of those issues, but the copyright thing still stands. I know that I could use the names with no issues, but the image? Better art would just make it more of an issue.

So my question is... how about silhouettes?

This would be a big struggle because not all silhouettes are as dynamic as these, but the art style still captures what I wanted originally. It reminds the player of the famous person, without forming a story in itself.

And to contrast, here is the old artwork. (which I still love BTW)

Curious to hear anyone's thoughts on this. If I'm still dancing around copyright issues, I may just go the underground route and distribute the game via alternative methods to those who want to play. A lot of people have been asking me about this lately and I would love to tackle it. Somehow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Metatopia Recap

A week ago, I traveled into storm-battered North Jersey to attend Metatopia, the Game Design Festival. Traveling up there could be a story of its own, but in short... it felt like a war zone. 80 miles of no power, no traffic lights, 1/2 mile lines for gas, downed trees and downed power lines. Even my original hotel had no power.

But behind the walls of the Morristown Hyatt, you wouldn't even realize the destruction outside. The attendance was decent, and the mood was very upbeat. It may sound strange, but this isn't your normal convention.

The second part of Metatopia is the massive assortment of panels. Designers, publishers, artists, industry insiders and more were presenting panels on everything you could think of.

-Should You Self-Publish?
-Women in Gaming - Shaping the Future
-Stealing Ideas From Other Games
-Using Adobe Software
-How Not To Be A Jerk

I was there on behalf of The Game Crafter, a print-on-demand board and card game manufacturer, and an extremely useful tool for most of the attendees of Metatopia. I played a bunch of games, ran a few panels, and attended a few others.

Dice Defense - by Kirk Bauer
The first game that I played was Dice Defense, a dice-building tower defense game.
Dice Defense is a semi-cooperative, dice-building, alien-butt-kicking, tower defense game. You and the other leaders of this moon colony need to build and improve your pool of dice to build and activate a network of towers to defend against a sudden alien invasion. While you will work together to build the most efficient defensive systems, only one of you will come out ahead as the strongest defender and win the respect of the colonists.
This was right up might alley. I could have said that before I even played it, and that's exactly why I signed up for it. It played similar to Quarriors (in its dice-building) but implemented a board for the tower defense side of the game. You would roll dice and use the results to either 1) buy more dice, 2) build towers, 3) activate towers, or 4) upgrade, etc.

And then there were the enemies. They come out each round, and there's no stopping them. Well, you can.... but it's tough. The players will cooperatively create the path for the enemies to travel through, and they can make it as winding and mazey as they would like. Flying enemies ignored all of your best plans, and go straight from one side of the board to the other, very quickly.

Along with 3 others (one being a twitter pal @ingredientx), we made it through about 3/4 of the game before our 2 hour time slot was up. Then, in perfect Metatopia fashion, we chatted about the strengths (very enjoyable, worked really well, and captured the essence of a tower defense game) and weaknesses (balancing the cooperative and competitive sides, massive production cost) of the game. We tossed around ideas for alternate setups and a quicker start, and I think we gave Kirk some of the input that he was looking for. I was able to chat with Kirk a few times throughout the convention and I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next from him.

Intrigue - by Jay Treat
I couldn't pass up a Jay Treat session, and ended up jumping in on a Friday night playtest of his new card game, Intrigue.
It's the height of the Renaissance and change is flowing like never before. You are the leaders of various factions secretly vying for control of the city-state amongst the chaos. Deploy your agents - and manipulate your opponent's agents - to advance your agendas in a series of clandestine plots.
I couldn't take photos (see cryptic photos below) and I don't know how much I can say, but Jay has crafted a nice little gem. Players are constantly pushing each other for control throughout the game. The internal struggle of choosing which cards to play, which to keep and which to destroy was amazing. You could feel it in each move that you made.

Another huge bonus is that this game used very few components, yet feels very complete. A deck of cards and a few scorekeeping bits. I wish I could say more about it, because this was the best new game that I played all weekend. I have no doubt that you'll hear more about this game in the future.

The Resistance: Avalon
Michael Keller (designer of City Hall - on Kickstarter now) hosted a late night session of Avalon, the re-themed version of the new-classic arguing game, The Resistance. After blasting out a twitter invite, we ended up at a table with Jay Treat (@jtreat3), Kevin Kulp (@thekevinkulp), Chris and Suzanne Zinsli (@cardboardedison) and more.
The Resistance: Avalon pits the forces of Good and Evil in a battle to control the future of civilization. Arthur represents the future of Britain, a promise of prosperity and honor, yet hidden among his brave warriors are Mordred's unscrupulous minions. These forces of evil are few in number but have knowledge of each other and remain hidden from all but one of Arthur's servants. Merlin alone knows the agents of evil, but he must speak of this only in riddles. If his true identity is discovered, all will be lost.
That description is super thematic, and in the end it's a bluffing/deduction game featuring two teams, the good guys (The Loyal Servants of Arthur) and the bad guys (The Minions of Mordred). The bad guys know who each other are, and the good guys don't know who is good or bad. There is a rounds of voting for a team to represent the group, and then a round/quest that can be thrown if any of the bad guys were voted onto the team.

The few twists that Avalon adds to this are in the hidden roles. In our games, one player was Merlin. Merlin is a good guy who knows who the bad guys are. He can reveal this information to his teammates, but if the bad guys can collectively guess who was Merlin, the bad guys win. No matter what. Playing as Merlin is very hard, but adds an awesome twist to the game.

With the right group, Avalon can get REALLY intense. With the wrong group, it might not work at all. I'm very happy to say that this group was perfect.

In one game, Michael Keller yelled at everybody to the point where it distracted enough for him and his Minions to win the game. And in the second game he totally forgot that he was a Minion. They still managed to win, and would have outed me as Merlin if they lost. I was terrified when I drew the Merlin card.

If you own The Resistance you may not need to buy Avalon, but it adds a few cool twists on it and ups the production value. Some cards were replaced by thick punchboard chits and that simple change is a little easier on newer players.

Unnamed Prototype - Jason Tagmire
We closed the night with a late night test of my unnamed card throwing prototype. It's very early in its development, but it felt good as that quick, light, end-of-night game.

On Saturday morning, I jumped right into the panels. I ran a panel called "Bits and Pieces: Building Your Board or Card Game" along with Curt Covert (Cutthroat Caverns) & Geoff Bottone (The Red Dragon Inn). We talked about the struggles of expensive components, unplanned costs, building to your resources, and where to get those resources. We had a great crowd, and I really enjoyed sharing the stage with Curt and Geoff. They both had great experience with their extensive back catalogs.

"Kickstarter Roundtable" - Fred Hicks and Brennan Taylor
In this intense workshop, we will explore the ins and outs of using Kickstarter as a crowdsourced fundraising platform. Cindy Au from Kickstarter will lead a discussion with veterans of successful Kickstarter campaigns. Topics will include best practices for making videos, for customer contacts through updates, etc.
Great Kickstarter insight from some seasoned veterans. This was mostly a big Q&A, but the audience asked great questions. Fred jokingly called Kickstarter "Kickender", referring to having your project 100% complete and ready to go when you finally hit that launch button. 

Kickstarter's Project Coordinator Cindy Au was scheduled to speak as well, but unfortunately could not get out of the city after the Hurricane. Hopefully next time.

An Hour With Jason Morningstar
Join Guest of Honor Jason Morningstar for a conversation on the topic of authority in tabletop and live action roleplaying games - how it is formulated in rules texts, models of distribution, and common challenges to both traditional and unorthodox approaches to handling authority on a practical level.
Hearing that Jason Morningstar (designer of Fiasco) was going to be there was a huge highlight for me. At the time, I still hadn't played Fiasco, but I read all about it, watched videos, bought the game. downloaded additional supplements, and felt like I've played it for years. I'm not a huge RPG player, but the concept of a GM-less, one session game is ideal for me. 

And Jason's panel focused mostly on exactly that, GM-less RPGs. What is the role of a GM? And what do they offer? And in which ways can RPGs remove that GM-role? Very informative, yet informal, and the most inspiring panel that I attended at Metatopia.

After this, I was part of my final panel. "Prototypes For Your Game" along with Tim Rodriguez (designer of Ghost Pirates) & Geoff Bottone. With about 10-12 boxes from The Game Crafter on hand, I was ready to show established and up and coming designers what they had to offer for their prototype solutions. This was a really fun panel, and each of us shared our terrible paper prototype practices (which didn't vary too much from person to person).

The Cave - Playtest by Stronghold Games
Stronghold Games had a whole arsenal of games to test, and I blindly signed up to see what they had planned. I'm a huge fan of their reprint of Survive, as well as their business model. Steven Buonocore single handedly curates and produces very high quality versions of older games and now new ones as well. So it was a safe bet that I'd be sitting down for a good time.

The game that I tested was The Cave. A game by K2 designer Adam Kałuża. I believe it has only been published in Poland, and Stronghold was checking it out.

The Cave is an "action point allowance" game. That sounds extremely stiff and boring, but simply means you have X amount of actions per turn, and choose which ones you would like to execute. 
In Action Point (AP) Allowance System games, each player is alloted a certain amount of points per round. These points can be spent on available actions, until the player does not have enough remaining to "purchase" any more actions. This method grants the player greater freedom over how to execute his or her options.
In The Cave, the actions you perform help you dig deeper into a cave, photographing wonders, gathering water samples, and camping. While doing all of this you are using up your supplies and filling up your backpack. There is a risk of straying far from your camp, or even digging deep, because you might run out of supplies, rendering your character fairly useless as you slowly eek your way back to the top.

It was a very interesting game, where each player would lay tiles as they dug their holes. We all started out on different paths and eventually merged in the end. Player interaction was light, mostly only in the race to get items, and in the placement of tiles.

Overall, we all enjoyed it, but felt like the Action Points allowed a ton of options (see player tableau below), but there was mostly an obvious choice. Some turns seemed to play themselves, especially in the first half. The tension builds in the end when all players must get out of the cave or they will lose the game.

La Venise Du Nord - Playtest by Z-man Games

This one was a pleasant surprise. I had a small gap in my schedule and sat in on a 3 person playtest of an unreleased game with Zev of Z-Man Games. 

Bruges, 1452 – you are a wealthy bourgeois controlling a prestigious neighborhood of the city. You establish craftsmen, who produce lace, luxury clothes and jewelery. Will you sell those items for a good price inside the town central market, or would you rather export them through the city harbors? You will also be able to hire builders and architects to build the most beautiful and prestigious bridges above the canals of the "Venice of the North".

Each turn in La Venise du Nord, players throw two dice; one will be used to move the bourgeois pawn, the other to activate the tile he ends his movement on. The modular board ensures replayability and allows for fast play, while requiring players to plan ahead and make good choices. Three different commodities can produce three different goods, each having prices that change depending on supply and demand. Buying and selling at the best times and understanding the other players' interests will be key. Of course, each tile allows a different power, making cautious planning mandatory!

La Venise Du Nord is an economic game like no other that I've ever played. (Note: I haven't played a ton). The concept was fairly simple, but the way that you achieved it was very different. Players roll 2 dice each turn, and can use them in different ways. You will use one die to move and can place the other die on a location to secure your placement at that location (only if unoccupied, or a lower die roll than an existing die at that location). If you cannot secure your placement, you can use the die just to receive rewards based on that location. That's a little confusing, but it makes a lot of sense. When a location pays out, anyone who is in control of that location will also get paid out with the rewards based on their die. 

There are various rewards, which include cards (which help you eventually make and then sell goods), goods, and spaces that allow you to sell your goods. Bridges and boats (which allow faster movement) make it more interesting, and the movement itself can get very tricky. A player cannot move off of a space and back onto it within the same turn. 

In the end, this game kept me thinking. It was unique and non-cenventional in its execution of a few really nice mechanics. I'd be very curious to try this again sometime soon.

Movie Plotz - by Alex Strang
I closed my Metatopia experience with a few sessions of Alex Strang's 15 card creative party game Movie Plotz.
Express your Inner Hollywood Producer and create hilarious blockbuster movie plotlines with this fun brainstorming game that puts players in the screenwriter's seat! Movie Plotz teaches practical (and fun!) brainstorming techniques that can be applied to any creative development exercise. The game mixes storytelling skills with out-of-the-box thinking to help players make up the most outlandish (and possibly believable) big screen plots ever!
Now I've played Movie Plotz before, but this was pretty epic. We had 10 people all packed around a big table, late Saturday night. We had all seen better days, as we've just been through about 30 hours of gaming (with a few hours of sleep somewhere in the middle. I had 3 hours total.) And of course, those delirious times bring out the best in creative gaming.

In Movie Plotz, each player will add to an existing storyline started by the first player. Their addition will be sparked by the card that they draw ("Add a soap opera twist", "Make the story more action-packed"). It usually turns into ridiculousness by the 3rd round. We were playing a 12 card round, so the plot thickened, thinned out, twisted around, and by the end it was pretty much insanity. I could recap the stories that we made up here, but it's more of one of those experiences where you just had to be there, with the right people, and in the right mindset.

I will let the photos speak for themselves.

And to close out my Metatopia experience, here are a few other photos that didn't fit into the other categories:

Alex Strang's Dungeon Freakout

A pretty hilarious session of Sad & Miserable: The Secret Lives of Stand-Up Comics" by Robert Bohl. With Tim Rodriguez and Alex Strang. 

Kevin Kulp playtests an epic session of Pig-Pen with Cardboard Edison.
A glance at the fancy Kickstarter prototype of City Hall by Michael Keller.
Next year... if you are a game designer and you're somewhere near the east coast, and there isn't an awful hurricane, you will need to go to Metatopia. Full attendance would have made this one of the best gaming events I've ever been to.

No long lines, big crowds, or expensive purchases. This was 100% about playing/playtesting games and learning about the industry from creative and fun people. It's almost like game designer summer camp, but over a weekend that isn't in the summer.

Special thanks to The Game Crafter for sending me out there, as well as all of my new and old friends at the event. I had a blast thanks to all of you.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

QOTQ: In Stores Now!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Boss Monster Lincoln?

I did a preview of Boss Monster over at Fruitless Pursuits called Boss Monster vs. Pixel Lincoln, and in a cool turn of events, you will be able to physically reenact your own Boss Monster / Pixel Lincoln battle in each game!

Boss Monster is including a Pixel Lincoln Epic Hero Card in its (insane!) $130,000 stretch goal.

We're making a King Croak boss card for an upcoming release or promotion (details to come).

Check out my preview for a full recap of Boss Monster, and the gushy details of the similarities and differences between it and Pixel Lincoln. If you want the short version, it's a LOT of fun and these are two awesome games that reference the best era of video games in very different ways. The differences will appeal to specific types of players, but the ones that enjoy both will soon be able to compare, contrast... and combine the two games. Super exciting!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It's Election Day!

If there is ever a day to get all political around here...

Not really, just make sure you vote today!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Metatopia Schedule

In just a few days I'll be heading up to Morristown, NJ for Metatopia: The Game Design Festival. It's a Double Exposure convention focused entirely on the designers. The list of special guests is pretty amazing, and thanks to The Game Crafter, I'm one of those guests!

I'm going as a representative of The Game Crafter to speak on two panels. Both are production focused, with one being about bits and pieces, and the other about prototypes. Joining me in these panels will be the great industry minds Curt Covert (designer of Cutthroat Caverns), Geoff Bottone (designer of The Red Dragon Inn), Tim Rodriguez (designer of Ghost Pirates) and Chris Kreuter (designer of Epigo). 
D064: "Bits and Pieces: Building Your Board or Card Game" presented by Jason Tagmire, Curt Covert & Geoff Bottone. You've got a hot new board or card game, and it needs pieces to make it real. How do you decide what to use, and where do you buy them? We'll discuss the concern with obtaining the best mass produced components at the best price, or having them custom made. Saturday, 9:00AM - 10:00AM; One Session; All Ages.
D125: "Prototypes For Your Game" presented by Jason Tagmire, Tim Rodriguez, Chris Kreuter & Geoff Bottone. You need a prototype to show off your idea. Do you want to bang something together on your own or use a service to make things easier on yourself? These panelists have been there and can give you perspective on how to pick the best, most cost-effective path. Saturday, 4:00PM - 5:00PM; One Session; All Ages.
Aside from the panels, I'll be playing games by Jay Treat and Stronghold Games, and popping in on demos of other friends like Alex Strang, Kevin Kulp, Michael Keller (whose sold out before I could get in) and anyone else that I see there. And I'm super excited to attend Cindy Au from Kickstarter's panel as well as Cheapass Games owner/designer, James Ernest.

If you can make it out, it's going to be an awesome time for games. Full details here:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pixel Lincoln @ BGG.Con with Rich Sommer and Game Salute!

As you may know, Rich Sommer is part of our awesome celebrity pack. I was super excited about having Rich on board with his background in TV, film, and most importantly, the board game community. His blog ( has a wonderful take on solo games in the Solo Games Odyssey, and G4TV's Game Night was the perfect board game/cable TV cross-over segment.

You may also know that Rich is the special guest at BGG.Con on November 14-18 in DFW, Texas. But… what you don't know is that we teamed up with Rich to make a Pixel Lincoln "Evil Rich Sommer" Mini-Boss card, that you can only get directly from him at BGG.Con. It's our first official promo release, and it turned out really cool.

Check it out:

Keep an eye on Board Game Geek for Rich's schedule at the convention.

As for Game Salute, they will have copies of Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game on hand for demos at BGG.Con. They have a huge booth, so you can't miss them. Make sure you stop by, try the game, and throw in the Evil Rich Sommer card for extra fun.

Unfortunately I can't be there this time, but I have a ton of conventions on the schedule. Metatopia is next week, and Unpub 3, LunaCon and Pax East are all coming up. I always have an early copy of Pixel Lincoln on hand, so let me know if you would like to play.

See you around!

Game Night with Rich Sommer

Rich Sommer Comes Out Of The Closet

Friday, October 26, 2012

Elle Designs A Game

While I was working on a new SUPER SECRET prototype, my daughter decided to make up her own game. She does it all the time, usually opting to make up her own instead of playing others, but this time I had the camera on. After 10 minutes of game explanation (cut down to 3 for your convenience) I present this video.... ELLE DESIGNS A GAME.

It's called $ Money Change $ and you can play it yourself with business cards and stickers around the house. In this game, Elle exchanges TableTop stickers for Chevee Dodd business cards. There are also YoGo Factory coupons and elusive secret Crash Games cards. And there is a rule that you must say "please".

Also look for unofficial cameos by GeekCraft, Game Salute, Baked Fresh Daily Games, Carey Pietsch, Shaloman Comics, Atomic City Games, Rather Dashing / Grant Wilson, DiceAFARI, Shaloman Comics, Gut Bustin' Games, Indie Game Magazine, and Tomas the Lapidary.

Check out the creativity of a 4 year old, in a game design setting. It's pretty awesome.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Father Geek Review - ZombieZone

Father Geek has provided another one of their massively detailed reviews, and this time it's for ZombieZone!

They do such a great job with their reviews, covering the perspective of the Child Geeks, Parent Geeks and Gamer Geeks. Their tagline "better parenting through games and geekiness" is great, and we definitely promote it in our home as well. My kids are still very young, but all love to play games. Elle (4 years old) even likes to make her own. I have a video that needs to be edited down of her in action.

Anyway, speaking of action... we have a really awesome ZombieZone review! I'm glad to hear the Child Geeks and Parent Geeks approve of it, and I'm hoping to capture some of the Gamer Geeks over time. As we progress outside of the basic 2 player game, I think the additions will appeal to the Gamer Geeks, while still keeping the function and form of this standard 2 player version.

The Zombie Invasion caught everyone by surprise. Despite the movies, the t-shirt slogans, and books that detailed how the zombies would attack and how to defend yourself, the population of the world shifted from alive and bored to undead and stiff. Once the initial shock wore off and the human race organized itself to fight and contain the zombie outbreak, life more or less returned to normal. Oh, sure, there were some changes. For example, EVERYONE now carried a handgun, graveyards had watchtowers, and the most popular TV show in history pitted willing living participants against mindless undead in a battle royal. In fact, you just signed a contract to be part of the next season, alive or undead. Good luck!
Read the full review at:

"Fast and fun, this is a great introduction to the more complex zombie-themed games you will doubtlessly play in your future."
"Some of the Parent Geeks thought the game was perfect for easy plays and introduction to more complex strategy games where location of pieces was very important to achieving victory."
"One Gamer Geek said he was going to look into replacing his copy of Candy Land with ZombieZone. I imagine his little geeks will have nightmares in the future…"

I'm taking that Gamer Geek comment as a compliment (and I think it was intended that way?). I wouldn't mind it replacing Candy Land, even if just in one home.  

Thanks again to Cyrus and Father Geek!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Cardboard Jungle Interview

I was recently interviewed by Anthony of The Cardboard Jungle podcast about ZombieZone, Pixel Lincoln, and why I gravitate towards "quirky" design.

My interview starts around the 95 minute mark. The episode also features Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower, and tons of game recaps, including Dungeon Heroes by Crash Games.

Anthony and Paul are back with lucky Episode #7 where they talk about nyyscon (we really need to change that name), interview Tom Vasel and Jason Tagmire, and you will find out the origin of "Firefly". 

My history with The Cardboard Jungle goes back a little bit.

We had a Pixel Lincoln mention in Episode 2: Better Late Than Pregnant (around the 75 minute mark). The Pixel Lincoln Meeples were part of their Beatles-esque cover for Episode 6: Come Together. The guys graciously gave out ZombieZone postcards/PnPs at NYCC. And now, a full interview in Episode 7: Legend of the Firefly.

Big thanks to Anthony and Paul for having me on the show!