One step forward, two steps back

boardgame, boardgame prototype, game design, playtest, Public Squares

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Want to know what’s been happening with Public Squares?

1 – Rules and scoring systems

I’ve been experimenting with sets of rules and scoring conditions to motivate the players to create patterns, and it’s dawning on me why I haven’t really seen other games attempting this. Even though the brain is great at spotting patterns, turning them into an elegant, intuitive rule set is not easy. If you’re not careful there will be optimal patterns and every grid will end up looking very similar.

Ideally the players should be able to rotate shapes and patterns, even mirroring them across the grid. I created a few rule sets which do this in theory, but scoring them at the end of a game took as long as the game itself and resulted in three digit scores. Exhausting!

 

2 – Shapes

One of the core concepts for Public Squares is to use the pips of standard six-sided die as the shapes that fill the grid. When you take a die you can use a hammer to chip away blocks you don’t want, and then draw the remaining shape.

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After playing just a couple games, I began to notice a pattern. My largest area was ALWAYS composed of repeated X shapes.

Looking at the die faces it’s obvious why. Out of the 6 possible shapes, 5 of them help you make an X! Even without modifying the shapes, you can get an X by combining 1 and 4 or 2 and 3, making it a safe bet.

It would be easy to create six new shapes which correspond to the numbers, but then the game would lose one of its unique features. Fortunately I have a few ideas on how to deal with this one!

 

3 – Other Games

One of the ways to test rules systems is to cut most of them and bring them back one by one, to see where they break. I always learn something when I do this, and would suggest you to do the same.

While experimenting I stumbled on a couple of rule sets which were a lot simpler but showed promise. I tried them out and they were fun!

That evening I found not one but TWO games which use the same concepts:

  • Criss Cross (Reiner Knizia): Roll two dice, draw the resulting symbols orthogonally adjacent on your grid. In the end, check how many times each symbol appears in each line and column to know how much that line/column is worth. Add them up to know your score.
  • Mosaix (Christof Tisch): Roll four dice, arrange them into a shape (reminiscent of a tetramino). Every player fits them in their grid. Their goal is to create several big areas composed of the same symbol.

This was eye-opening. These games are so close to my goal that I’ll have to take a few steps back and find a new direction for it.

Glad I found them so early in the process!

Public Squares

boardgame, boardgame prototype, game design, playtest, Public Squares

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Last week I woke up at 5 in the morning with an idea for a roll and write game about Portuguese cobblestones. How could I ignore it?

In Portugal the ground is paved with limestone, often in intricate patterns that go from geometrical to historical. These are so common that, in their routine, most people forget to look down – myself included.

I only started appreciating them when I left the country and saw how grey and monotonous foreign sidewalks were.

calçada portuguesa

The main concept of the game is:

 

Each player is in charge of their own square, which they will decorate using the patterns they rolled. Players take dice, chip pips away using a hammer and draw them on the sheet. Negative space is important, as players score by creating patterns.

How does that sound?

I’m calling it “Public Squares” for now, a suggestion from Carlos Leituga!

This is very different from the other games I’ve designed so far but that’s part of the appeal for me. So much hinges on the scoring system, but that’s a topic for a future post.

Stay tuned!

Game news!

Agent Decker, Blight Chronicles, boardgame, boardgame prototype, Multiuniversum, Project Cthulhu, Superhot

Hello everyone!

Here’s a recap of news that have been shared in other social media over the last months:

SUPERHOT: The Card Game has been released in China thanks to Super Banana Games! It’s amazing to see my games travelling to countries where I’ve never been.

 

Multiuniversum: Project Cthulhu was reprinted! When the Kickstarter launched it was meant to be exclusive, but it sold out rather quickly due to its great reviews. You no longer have to go insane looking for the last copies, just check Board & Dice’s shop!

 

One of my favorite things about print and play is that it allows (and even motivates) the players to get creative and if they love the game some players take their copy to the next level. Look at BGG user BulldogBite’s awesome Agent Decker build!

 

Blight Chronicles: Agent Decker

As for the progression of the development and design perspective, we’re almost there, and we can see a bright light there at the end of the tunnel. On that note, we’re working hard with David Decker while Zoe and Hideaki are waiting for their turn since we want to have a solid base game before inviting other agents on the mission.

Since working on a game with multiple paths is challenging and we had to develop our own tools to be able to work together from different countries. One tool allows us to access an editable version of the cards at any time, without depending on software licenses and the other allows us to save the game. Saving allows us to “load” the game from that point instead of having to restart every time, and helps us see which cards we picked on our most successful runs.

Now let’s get back to work!

Blight Chronicles Kickstarter

Agent Decker, Blight Chronicles, boardgame, crowdfunding

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When the Kickstarter campaign for Blight Chronicles launched, Agent Decker had been downloaded over 10.000 times. On the download page there is the suggestion to donate 2 USD. Of those 10.000, about 40 people did so.

I am very thankful for those donations as they’re a serious boost to my motivation and the proceeds always go towards buying material to continue developing my games – so far, two sets of ink cartridges.

My fingers were crossed. Hopefully those people would see how much more content went into this version of the game – and they did! Blight Chronicles’ Campaign was a success, our goal was achieved and doubled, to a total of 264%.

Thank you, all 1253 of you!

Blight Chronicles Designer Diary 2 – Your Mission

Agent Decker, Blight Chronicles, boardgame, boardgame prototype, crowdfunding, designer tips, game design, Superhot

Missions are a key part of Agent Decker.

The original game had a fixed sequence of five missions:

Agent Decker (full art version) by Sara Mena

For added variability SUPERHOT: The Card Game ditched the fixed sequence and instead had a deck of goals to draw from. The further you are in the levels, the more goals you draw.

SUPERHOT: The Card Game by Paweł Niziołek

Due to its heavier focus on story and progression, Blight Chronicles needed a new system.

First let’s clarify the terms: in this game “Mission” refers to the whole campaign, which is divided into “Stages”. Stages define the goals you’ll have to complete in order to progress through the Mission.

One of the challenges of letting the players customize their own deck throughout the game is that, depending on the player’s choices, some goals might become too easy and there’s even a risk of them being solved instantly once the setup is done. This, combined with our motivation to make the goals more challenging and engrossing, lead to the current system:

Multi-goal stage cards!

Blight Chronicles (work in progress), artwork by Ramses Bosque and graphic layout by Paweł Niziołek.

As you can see, the goal is “Discard 6 Mixed resources to jump over the fence”, but did you notice the 1-star requirement before it? That means you can’t complete it right away.

You see, before the start of the stage a briefing will inform you that you’ll need a pair of Night Vision Binoculars in order to keep a low profile when infiltrating the enemy complex.

Blight Chronicles (work in progress), artwork by Ramses Bosque and graphic layout by Paweł Niziołek.

As part of the setup for the stage the binoculars are in the Obstacle Deck and will eventually make their way to the line. When you manage to eliminate the Guard House you get two things:

  • The Night Vision Binoculars, an item that you can use from now on.
  • A star token (currently named Event), which is placed on the Stage Card.

Now that the requirement is met you can finally complete the goal!

I won’t spoil the other goals but I hope you can see the potential of this system! We’re having a lot of fun coming up with different ways to use it.

“Special Setup”? “Visibility”? What could those other icons mean? Stay tuned for the next Designer Diary!

Blight Chronicles Designer Diary 1 – Expanding Agent Decker

Agent Decker, Blight Chronicles, boardgame, boardgame prototype, crowdfunding, designer tips, game design, Superhot

Welcome to a series of posts about the design and development of Blight Chronicles: Agent Decker, the expanded official release of Agent Decker, published by Board & Dice.

Agent Decker’s campaign is designed around a sequence of five missions.

The good part is that they give the players new objectives along the way, forcing them to adapt as they’re gradually forced outside their comfort zone. The bad part is that this only works once. Once you know the missions and how to beat them the mystery is gone and you can prepare for them in advance.

– From “SUPERHOT: The Card Game – Designer Diary 3

The design for Blight Chronicles started from that very problem and arrived at different solutions, for three reasons:

  • Story: While it seems subtle on the surface level it is an important part of the process because it informs the design of every card.
  • Progression: The feeling of progression where you’re gradually facing stronger obstacles as your gear (hopefully) improves.
  • Relevance: The original Agent Decker files are still available online and Superhot: The Card Game is in stores, so why would you play this one instead?

The obvious solution to increase replayability was to leave the obstacles deck untouched and simply increase the amount of goals you need to complete. Instead of a fixed sequence of 5 missions you would have multiple goals for each mission. During setup you shuffle their pile and draw one for each – face down so you can’t fine tune your deck in advance.

Simple!

The thing is, this time I am not designing alone.

This is a co-design with Matt Dembek, who was so inspired by the original game that he wanted to expand it in pretty much every aspect. I can’t wait to tell you what we’re working on, starting with how we changed the missions.

Blight Chronicles: Agent Decker is coming to Kickstarter soon!