Digital catch-up

Agent Decker, Blight Chronicles, Cook-out, Empire of Sin, Glimt, Superhot

For the second part of the catch-up I’d like to talk about digital games. These don’t come up as much here because of NDAs but I do like to celebrate when they come out!

Cook-out: A Sandwich Tale

Cook-out was my main project at Resolution Games. It’s a cooperative game about making sandwiches in virtual reality, for the Oculus Quest and Rift S. It was really fun to work on because virtual reality is in such an early stage that there aren’t many standards on how to do things we take for granted in flat screen games such as menus, which suddenly become complex once they’re diegetic. If a floating menu takes space in the room, then it can also obscure the other players! Suddenly there are wrong ways to interact with buttons, such as from the back.

We wanted to avoid menus as much as we could, and on a multiplayer game this is even trickier because there are moments where players have to decide on things together like which level to play, if they want to restart and so on. That interaction was one of my favorite additions to the game. Instead of having “Yes/No” buttons you use your hands and do a thumbs up to vote “yes” and a thumb down to vote “no”. Once everyone has voted, the game moves forward.

We had to figure it out on our own and with luck, some of our solutions may stick around for future games.

Glimt: The Vanishing at the Grand Starlight Hotel

Glimt was a very interesting project as well. Our briefing was to make a more narrative-focused game for the Magic Leap. We quickly found that one of the advantages of the headset is that it allows you to walk around the scene to see it from different angles, so we thought that photography could be an interesting mechanic to use. Placing props and characters in a dollhouse set also felt very natural so we ended up combining the two: You are a psychic detective. If you can recreate the scene with your props you can look into the past and see what actually happened! Then you can take and bring back photos to prove it.

This time I was involved in the story as well, since it’s so connected to the gameplay. It was fun!

There was definitely a learning curve involved in learning how to use a Magic Leap. Finding our way around the limited field of view, figuring which minimum space would be acceptable, the ideal lighting conditions, only having a few buttons, working around the fact that dark colors just turn transparent…! That said, when everything works, it’s magical.

Empire of Sin

Now I’m in Ireland once again, this time in Galway. I’m now at Romero Games, working with a team composed of both friends and personal heroes! An offer I could not refuse.

Empire of Sin is a strategy game set in 1920s Prohibition-era Chicago. Slip into the shoes of one of fourteen bosses, assemble a gang, build and manage your criminal empire and defend your turf from rival gangs. I had never worked on a game with so many interconnected systems! It’s my first game on consoles, which is a big milestone.

If you want to see it in action, the team has been streaming it regularly on Paradox’s Twitch channel and the preorders are now live.

Tabletop Simulator

Last but not least… I ran into my own games on Tabletop Simulator! It was a nice surprise, it’s very heartening to know someone cared about them enough to create these modules, especially now that Superhot and Blight aren’t that easy to find.

Analog catch-up

Agent Decker, Blight Chronicles, boardgame prototype, competition, Cortiça, event, Fortune Tellers, media

Hello, how are you?

So much has happened since the last post, I thought I’d do a couple posts to catch up. This one is about my analog projects, in chronological order:

January 7th: I gave my first talk! I was one of the speakers at Run for the Border 2020 in Dundalk along with Jordan Bradley, Pete Mc Nally and Donal Philips. It was a short talk called “So, you’ve designed a board game. Now what?”. It was about the different paths you can follow in order to get your game published, with the suggestion of using print and play as a way to grow an audience before either showing it to a publisher or trying to release a full/premium version of your game.

I’m not used to public speaking so I must have made all the newbie mistakes but the reaction was very positive and I would like to do it again.

Thank you Ellen!

May 13: Agent Decker was featured by Shut Up & Sit Down! During the quarantine they’ve started looking at both solo and print and play games and they noticed mine! I’ve been a fan of theirs since their first video nine whole years ago, so this was an honor.

“On the off chance that you’ve not played a deckbuilding game before I would say print off Agent Decker immediately.” – Quintin Smith

July 27: It was a long journey but I finally have my copies of Blight Chronicles: Agent Decker. Nine months after the backers got theirs so I might have been the very last person to get one. Board & Dice decided to make it a kickstarter exclusive after the campaign was over so unfortunately you won’t find it in stores but there is the option of getting the print and play version online.

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They even sent extra goodies like the add-ons, playmats and the smaller version!

On the same day I submitted my first entry in a Button Shy design contest, but that deserves its own blog post. Soon. 🙂

Oct 2: Recently I felt inspired to go back to Fortune Tellers. This is a prototype I was working on 7 years ago. At the time the mechanics had some issues but I was enamored by the theme. Now that I have a bit more experience I might be able to do something with it, even if it means I have to scrap the mechanics and start fresh.

This is what it looked like back then.

I can’t stop thinking about this game. I don’t know of others like it, which makes me feel like I am on the verge of creating something original and that feeling is so great that I want to share the process with you. Step one was bringing the blog back to speed.

Can’t wait!

5 boardgames you can make at home

boardgame

If you’re stuck at home for a while but would like to play some new board games, I have good news for you. Have you heard of print and play?

“Print and play” are board games distributed as PDFs that you can print and assemble at home. Most of them are free and the paid ones are generally not expensive.

Usually all you need are common office supplies such as a printer, something to cut the sheets (scalpel + metal ruler, scissors), card sleeves (the kind used for games like Magic: The Gathering) and occasionally some dice or tokens. Assembly can be as complex as you want but don’t worry, the following games are easy to build:

 

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1 – D100 Dungeon

Starting the list with a game that requires no assembly, D100 Dungeon is a RPG for 1 player where you fight your way through dungeons which you draw on the page. Win or fail, you’ll bring back new equipment or gold to buy better gear when you return to town.

The best part is you don’t have to complete it in one session since your game is saved right there on the page.

What you need: Pencil, graph paper, two 10-sided dice and a 6-sided die. If you don’t have the dice you can even ask Google to roll them for you.

Assembly: None! That’s right, as long as you can browse the rulebook on a screen you don’t even need to print it.

Versions 1 and 2 are available for free on BoardGameGeek. Version 3 can be purchased on DriveThruRPG.

 

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2 – Terminal Dispute

“Roll and write” games are all the rage at the moment because they’re so easy to produce, which makes them a perfect fit for this list. In Terminal Directive 1-6 players are trying to escape by entering coordinates on a Navigation Matrix while trying to charge their phones!

What you need: Printer, paper, cutting materials, pencils, five 6-sided dice.

Assembly: Very easy. You just have to cut the shared board and player sheets.

Available for free on itch.io.

 

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3 – Sprawlopolis

Do you like Sim City? Sprawlopolis is a 18-card city building puzzle for 1-2 players where you assemble a city using cards, according to three goals which change every round. It’s quite challenging and the goal combinations give it a lot of variability.

What you need: Printer, paper, cutting materials, transparent card sleeves, cheap cards for added sturdiness (optional).

Assembly: Medium. Here’s a guide on how to make cards. I use the first method all the time, except that for this game you need transparent card sleeves since they cards are double sided.

Available at PNPArcade.

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4 – Tak

A fantastic abstract strategy game for 2 players with a simple rule set that allows players to be very creative. It is inspired by “The Wise Man’s Fear”, by Patrick Rothfuss.

What you need: The number of components depends on what board size you want to play. I recommend 5×5. If you have enough components which can stand or lay flat (like Lego!) in two colors, you already have all you need to start playing.

Assembly: Up to you. The Beta version of the rules has instructions on how to manufacture your own pieces but encourages players to come up with their own. You can print the board, but it’s optional.

The Beta version of the rules is avaliable for free on Cheapassgames

 

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5 – Agent Decker

A mission-based deckbuilding game for 1 player where you’ll acquire gear and skills by facing obstacles. The alarm raises every turn, so you must pick who you take out. Do you go for the cool weapon, or take out the security camera?

What you need: Printer, paper, cutting materials, opaque card sleeves, two tokens, cheap cards for added sturdiness (optional).

Assembly: Medium. Here’s a guide on how to make cards.

Available for free or an optional donation on itch.io.

Full disclosure, I designed this last one.

 

This is just a sample of the Print and Plays you can find online. They can be a bit tricky to find because they’re all over the place, but here is a nice library to browse through.

Have fun and stay safe!

If you enjoyed this list the best way to repay me is by sharing it online. The second is by donating when downloading Agent Decker. It will go towards materials for creating more games!

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.

publicsquaresdie.JPG

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!