Game Design Gets to Be a Habit

In my October post I showed a prototype for my MOVIE MAGNATE game. It turns out Version 3 still didn't get the job done. I needed to shorten the game, and I needed to recast one of the economic tables to encourage play oriented toward the bigger films. That's done, but it's still awaiting a new playtest.

In the meantime, I've been busy! I've invented six more games and I'm finishing up a prototype of one for a playtest next week. In addition, I prototyped and completely tested one of them, and it's in a finished state.

BOOM or BUST! - This game tracks two industrial activities, finding and mining iron ore, and smelting ore to steel. Each player commands one company in each industry, making the decisions for them during a full economic cycle. Secretly, each is accumulating stock and attempting to make money off any of the other players who may be captaining their companies better than they.  This is a fairly specialist game.

DROP TOWER - I'll not go into the details on this one, as it has a good chance of going commercial.  The idea came to me as I lay on my back, looking at scudding clouds. My initial playtest group suggested only one change to the rules, which I adopted. It's simple - I can teach the rules in under 2 minutes, and at Christmas I taught it to a 7-year old neighbor who then proceeded to beat a college-age girl! It handles 2-8 players, never plays the same, and takes (usually) 45 minutes to an hour, so it's great for parties. I've gotten enthusiastic feedback from my players.
I call it a "sofa table game." It's 3 feet tall, so the top is too high on a dining room table and the bottom too low on the floor, but a low sofa table is perfect.
I owe my handy neighbor Alex a lots of thanks for helping me with the construction.

WAR PROFITEER - Players are part of the industrial base that makes the weapons of war in World War II. Contracts come zooming from the War Department with tight deadlines and little concern for cost effectiveness. Players who research new military technologies are showered with orders from a grateful nation. Anyone can make scads of money in these circumstances, but who can do it best?

BUSINESS CONVENTION - This was a design challenge I set myself. My gaming group, The Greenville Mafia, started playing a newly-published game, Libertalia, which to my mind has an implausible backstory and major holes in the logic of how the character cards interact. I tried to think of a scenario that could correct these flaws but use the very interesting mechanics put forth in Libertalia. This design does it!

CITY-STATE - Players are knights in a province left leaderless by the deaths in battle of the King and the local Baron. As the Baron had no heirs, each of you attempts to mobilize enough of the local population (from Country, City, Church, and Army tracks) to become the obvious candidate for the next Baron. Or if the country stays politically unstable, you might carve out your own city-state. This is a Euro game with a lot of choices and no clear winning strategy, especially as you are each backed by a different local faction that throws its weight behind you at the end of the game. I'm currently preparing the prototype; the picture shows proofs of some of the cards. I'm excited by this; I think it will play well.

CAVE MINER - Players lead teams of miners into a dangerous gemstone mine which is being gradually flooded. The better stones are down deep - but the penalties for losing a miner will be prohibitive. How low do you go? I see two sets of rules for this game: one for kids that uses straightforward rules and another for adults that takes into account such things as the formation of air pockets that can allow a player to wrestle out more stones before abandoning a flooding gallery. This game came to me during a 10-minute break while I was photoshopping cards for CITY-STATE - then I had to take the rest of the afternoon to get it down on paper!

When I say I invented a game, it means I've written a document, usually 6 - 14 pages long, detailing the situation, the game mechanics, the charts and tables (if any), the sequence of play, special situations, a list of the needed game components, and enough notes to write a ruleset. I'll also list the areas that have to be felt out by the playtesting crew to see if the balancing and play mechanics mesh properly. In CITY-STATE, for instance, which has the 14-pg design document, I even have all the 268 cards (4 player decks and 2 game decks) detailed out, but on most of the others I only have general notes describing the cards and maps used. That work gets fleshed out during prototyping.

PhotoShop Project

As just a noodler, and neither a PS pro nor an artist, permit me my small victories when I learn how to do something new.
A project I've just finished is learning how to convert texture files from my library into 3D text. This isn't hard, and is potentially useful for titling a slide presentation.

This first one is from a close-up of the rusted steel on a bridge on the Virginia Creeper Trail near Damascus, VA. The Creeper is an excellent example of a rails-to-trails project. You can mount a bicycle at the upper end of the trail and coast virtually the entire 13 miles to Damascus. Of course, if you want to go the remaining 12 miles to Abingdon, you're going to have to pump hard!

 Buried in an old post on this blog is a 2010 story about my son Hunter and me helping the Greenville community attempt to persuade Google to do their 1GB/sec fiber optic test here. It failed, but it was fun! About 2,000 of us spelled out GOOGLE in their correct logo colors on a hillside after dark, by swinging lightsticks rapidly in circles while a helicopter filmed us.
This picture is of an arc of light from Hunter's lightstick while we were waiting for dark. The light looked solid and the picture resembled the edge of a china plate. I thought it really captured the essence of "Light Fantastic!" And after some experimenting, I was able to get the words to follow the same curvature.

It's unlikely you would guess the basic photograph for this image. It's a cropped selection of feathers from a picture of a peacock that Brenda took in Charleston, SC.!

But to me it looks kinda sea-floor-ish or maybe reminiscent of waves - hence the title.

This photo is pretty straightforward. I shot the blue, blue water as our cruise boat headed west around Kauai to the Na Pali coast on our trip there a couple years ago.

I made a nice title for the slide show of our trip, but maybe this one will replace it.