Pizza-go-round!

boardgame prototype, Carousel, Pizza-go-round, playtest

P1050683sCome to think of it, Carousel‘s theme clashes with the game mechanics. The postman theme doesn’t really work when you’re taking things from the board and keeping them for yourself.

To fix this, I added recipients to the envelope cards. Instead of picking them up, now you had to deliver them at the right location to get those precious points. This worked very well. It brought a new set of objectives to the players, and the chance to interfere with the other players.

I was having a lot of fun, so I tackled on another issue that had become apparent during playtests. First-time players were intimidated by the amount of possible actions during a turn. To avoid that Analysis Paralysis, I decided to cut two actions from the cards.

I still haven’t found a reliable system to distribute the actions throughout the cards the way I want, so I was forced to do it manually. That’s a pretty radical change, because it requires brand new files for all the game.

Is that bad?

On the contrary, it’s a great opportunity to improve the theme! I often think about the mechanics first, and would like to try developing both at once. So…

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I bring you “Pizza-go-round”!

Instead of a van you’re driving a pizza delivery bike. Orders replace the envelopes, and have varying ingredients and rewards. Action cards have six actions instead of eight, along with an ingredient. You can play actions to move between buildings and ingredients to complete your orders. The game ends as the “out of gas” card pops up from the orders deck.

The playtesters had a lot of fun! Although this is a branch, my favorite bits from Carousel are still here, along with a clearer set of goals and a more appealing theme.

Finding an audience

Carousel

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The latest feedback Carousel got from a very influential partner was that it was too complex for a casual player but too simple for a hardcore one. They weren’t interested in a filler game for a hardcore player.

Among my playtesters are several hardcore gamers who like to play it inbetween much longer games. It’s a puzzle, a braintease where you have interesting choices in every turn. It’s also a race, so it doesn’t drag for too long.

I didn’t develop the game with a target audience in mind because I didn’t intend to sell it. I just found an underused mechanic and had fun with it until I had something original. As soon as I noticed interest on it I started pursuing it. Times are rough and publishing a filler game for a hardcore audience could be risky at the moment.

This means I’m no longer working with Mesaboardgames on this project. I really liked working with them though, and would certainly do so again now that I know what type of game they’re looking for.

What’s next? I’ll be talking to other publishers, having fun with other themes and looking at other ways of putting it out there. Suggestions welcome!

Design isn’t over until release, right?

Carousel

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Good news everyone! Carousel got picked by a publisher! I’ve been working with Mesaboardgames to make it as good as it possibly can.

There have been some radical changes, but the core remains intact. It’s still about combining and getting the most of those pesky action cards.

First off, the theme. I tried a simple one because it made it easier to explain. You’re a postman and you’re delivering packages across several locatoins. I believe that made talking to publishers a lot more fluid, and good ideas sprang from there.

Second, the coin tokens became envelopes. It’s now harder to guess the other player’s score just by looking at their stash. Suspense!

The biggest change og all though, was giving each player its van. There’s a lot less  upkeep and it allows you to plan your next moves on the other players’ turns.

After a couple radical changes it’s become a more interesting game, with added interaction and strategic depth. These changes need more testing, of course.

Next time I say something is finished, please ignore it. Carousel is still going round and round!

Carousel is done!

Arcádia, Carousel, playtest

The tips from the latest Arcádia meeting were spot-on. I took their suggestions, adapted them to the game and playtested them at home to save time. I made some changes to the icons and cards and added the coin tokens.

The Friday meeting was great. Every game got played. I thought there wouldn’t be time for mine because it was  getting so late but it got played at around 2am and everyone had a good time!

Wrote some notes down, tweaked some elements and now I feel like it’s done. I don’t see a single thing I want to change.

What’s next? Why, I’d like to publish it of course!

Carousel is evolving!

Arcádia, Carousel, playtest

First, it has colors now. Developing the icons in black and white helped to make them readable so players don’t just rely on the colors. After that was complete it was fairly quick to bring colors in. All the numbers are still there though, making it playable by the colorblind.

This experience taught me a lot about iconography and preparing editable files for inevitable changes in the future.

Second, Advance Mode has become standard because it’s much more rewarding. Players feel like they have a certain degree of control over the game’s more random parts.

Third, the new players at the latest Arcádia meeting said they wanted some more meaningful choices during the course of the game. They felt like their whole turn was useless if they didn’t score any new points. They also suggested adding coins to the game, which would be easy to get but aren’t worth that many points. Still, it is another way to increase your score if you don’t can’t deposit cards this turn.

I got some tokens, tried the game with these changes against myself. The game was so balanced that every test game ended up a tie. I started taking more thorough notes while playtesting to see which actions are the most useful.

Ended up with a new victory condition that makes the game much easier to learn, more tactical and, hopefully, fun! I’ll keep testing and bring back results.

So what’s up with Carousel?

Arcádia, Carousel, playtest

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Carousel is doing great! The main reason I haven’t been posting about is because I have been working on it so much. I’ll try to resume what’s been going on:

Prototype 3: At the Arcadia meeting some unexpected big flaws showed up, which brought the game to an endless loop. The biggest problem was that getting all the factors right so you could play a number card was so unlikely that nobody was able to do it. Most of the numbers that can get you points show up as the game progresses so the game was locked at the very beginning.

This called for a major redesign.

Prototype 4: This time I went back and changed the number cards. Now there are only 8 single number cards which you can play at any time. There’s a new action that lets you take a number from the table to your hand, which allows you to control the time flow. Other new actions allow you to play the previous number or refresh your hand.

There are now five more action cards so the total is 54, and the actions were moved around so they appear the same number of times per number. Games took longer than expected and I saw some situations where people won almost accidentally. I certainly don’t want that!

The main flaw seemed to be the lack of purpose in player’s actions. Sure, you want to get five cards in the bank but you don’t know what numbers will give you that. You could be moving the arrow around so your opponent doesn’t get to the highest numbers but they may have a card that scores them a point in the lower ones so what you did was basically random.

I know just how I can fix that.

Prototype 5 (the one you see in the picture above): I took away the action that scores points from the action cards! Now the way to do so is to get to the “$” card on the timeline. This card is on the table tight from the start and provides a much clearer goal to everyone. You want to get there but you don’t want the other players to to so. Also, it’s easier to steal cards from the bank than to get there, which allows for some interesting turncoat player interaction. The players liked that so much they wanted a few more “$”.

This sounded cool but they couldn’t be permanent just like the initial “$”. These are one-time uses. You can take a number from the table to your hand, leaving the “$” where that number was. The first player to get them gets to store it in the bank. Brought four of those in, took four action cards away to compensate.

There was an action which allowed you to trade your hand with an opponent’s. That brought an interesting dynamic element: you could play your actions so you get one card only, use that action and get a whole new hand. The player gets your (empty) hand and in their turn they won’t be able to play. As a designer I certainly found that interesting, but it was a frustrating thing to suffer while playing.

Nuno Carreira liked the game mechanics so much that he suggested something new: Advanced Mode. Don’t let the name scare you off, the only thing that changes in the rules is the fact than you can play three cards per turn instead of just one! This allows you to control the random aspect of the game, making it a lot more satisfying and tactical. It can be played without changing anything about the current cards!

Prototype 6: These ones are intended for Ludopolis. I rearranged the action spreads for 40 cards and made two new versions. One looks just like the previous one but with more balanced actions and a slight change in wording.

The other looks entirely different, with a whole new layout and icons instead of text. This new version is language independent and makes it easier to show the other players across the table the action you’re using. I can’t wait to try it.

Also, Carousel now has a Boardgamegeek page which you can access by clicking here.

Gangster Carousel

Carousel

After unveiling it at the second Arcádia meeting I’ve playtested Carousel about five times now. The player feedback was really good, even better than Sinking!

The first playtest showed the different action cards (four cards times 10) were too few. Sometimes all the cards in your hand were the same. At first I tried using Nandeck (suggested by Sérgio Martins) to make the new batch. It looks really useful but the permutations it was giving me were way too similar so I ended up doing them myself. They’re all different now.

Seems like it started only yesterday but Carousel has already caught the eye of a publisher. Nothing is set in stone yet but I’ll listen to their suggestions. I have kept it abstract so far but they’d like it to be about gangsters robbing a bank so I’ll put that in. It’s easy to bring that theme to the game, but it will definitely need a new name! Worry not – I’ll update the tags and buttons so you can easily find all the relevant posts about it.

Ludum Dare 23 takes place in about two weeks, so stay tuned!

House of Brass, Sinking and the newcomer Carousel

boardgame prototype, Carousel, competition, House of Brass, Sinking

“Fantastic Creations: House of Brass Collector’s Edition”, the game I’ve been working on for a year and eight months is now out! It is a light steampunk Hidden Object Adventure for Bigfish Games. The reviews are great and everyone seems to enjoy the fresh ideas we brought into it. It’s currently in second place of BigFish’s Top 10 PC downloads and you can check it out here.

I just closed the box with the “Sinking” prototype for testing in the Ludopolis contest. I really enjoyed the process of creating it so far. The players enjoyed it as well so I’m pitching the game to publishing companies that seem appropriate.

While I was translating its rules I had started taking notes of another idea, this time for a card game. I played around with some ideas for a couple of days until I got to something I believe to be original, accessible and fun. If it’s anything like “Sinking” I should to a playtest right away so can I take the broken parts out and focus on the good stuff. I quickly made the prototype you see in the photo above so I can test it this week. I’m calling it “Carousel” for now.