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. ūüôā

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!

Don’t wake the dragon!

boardgame, boardgame prototype, competition, Don't wake the dragon

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“Don’t wake the dragon” is a dexterity game created in a day for GameCraft UnPlugged¬†at Pulse College.¬†The theme and restrictions were:

  • Fairy Tale
  • 2 players
  • 3 rounds

I had a backpack filled with standard game components (cards, sleeves, dice) to allow me to adapt to any theme, but wouldn’t it be fun to make something different from the rest of my portfolio? That means cards, cubes and dice are out!

What else is there?

The first thing was to play with them. Stacking them, throwing them at each other.

…hey, turns out they’re thick enough to flick around!

That’s a mechanic I really enjoy. It reminds me of playing marbles as a kid, and¬†it’s so self-explanatory when you see it in action. The laws of physics do most of the work, creating interesting situations and choices without adding rules and exceptions.

In the game your command your soldiers to steal from a dragon who’s asleep on top of a pile of gold.

To do so you order(flick) your group of soldiers (blue or red disks) to steal gold coins (white and orange) from the dragon (black disk).¬†If you take coins out of the arena they’re yours, but as soon as the dragon touches the table it wakes up! Game over. Not only that, but the dragon steals back your most valuable coins!

The level layout is just the beginning, and it changes as players take their turns. Coins fall from the tower and litter the arena, so you don’t always have to shoot for the tower. If a soldier leaves the arena (either you miss or someone pushes you out) then it stays out for that round.

You add up your coins for the level and proceed to the next one. At the end of three levels the player with the highest total wins!

With the simple components there was no need to create anything other than the game’s rules, so there was plenty of¬†time to playtest.

Brainstorming (“playstorming”?) the levels with Sara was excellent. Build something, play it. Is it fun? Keep it! Not fun? Why? Edit the level. Test it out. Repeat.

In the end we got three different levels which presented the players with different challenges.

There was even some time to write a rulebook!  Not sure it was necessary, but it was good practice.

Did the players like it?

Yes they did!

It was the most relaxing game jam I was a part of so far, and picking a game I could finish comfortably in the available time was certainly a big part of it.

You can see the other games (and the winning entry!) at their official Storify!

A podcast and an interview!

Agent Decker, boardgame, boardgame prototype, competition, media

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The Print ‘n Play Cast took a look at two games from the¬†BGG Solo Contest: Austerity and Agent Decker! The whole podcast is well worth listening, but if you want to skip straight to the rules for Decker jump to 14:20 and if you want to listen to the review go to 24:22. They really liked it!

You can listen to it here.

 

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Earlier in the year I was interviewed by David Wolinsky for “No don’t die”.

You can read it here.

It’s a long form interview about my experience with¬†videogame design, the industry and the media that surrounds it. It was a very enjoyable conversation and I’m pleased that it wasn’t cut down for publishing.

There are so many great interviews on the site already, but if you want to keep them coming I suggest you to support it via Patreon.

At ease, agent

Agent Decker, boardgame, boardgame prototype, competition

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The results for the 2015 Solitaire Print and Play Contest have been revealed, and it seems they really liked Agent Decker:

2nd Best Overall Game

1st – Best Medium Game
1st – Best New Designer
1st – Best Game with No Board
2nd – Best Greyscale Game
2nd – Best Written Rules
3rd – Best Hotel Game
4th – Most Innovative Mechanic
4th – Most Thematic Game
5th – Best Artwork

You can check the full list here. There are really good games and cool new concepts submitted to the competition, well worth playing.

As always, you can download the game for free here.

What a crazy year it has been so far! The design for Agent Decker started in January and since¬†that time I’ve worked with¬†three different videogame studios, gave my first lecture to game design students (which feels odd¬†since I never got to be one), went to GDC for the first time and had¬†the prototype with me¬†while I met so many of my heroes. Recently I helped to start a local meetup where boardgame designers can bring their prototypes and get useful feedback.

Now i can finally correct that last typo in the rules that escaped every check before the submission.

And then, my first Essen Spiel! Can’t wait to pitch my games to publishers. My dream of publishing a board game feels closer now.

Wish me luck!

My first official review!

Agent Decker, boardgame, boardgame prototype, competition, media

Geekdad

During the development of Agent Decker there were a lot of personal achievements:

  • first time participating in a game design competition
  • first time releasing a game this early in development, and iterating based on that feedback
  • first time releasing a game as a print and play
  • first time having fan made digital versions of a game

Today I got my first official review! Will James from Geekdad printed his own and had really nice things to say about it. You can read it here.

It made my day!

Agent Decker – Contest Release!

Agent Decker, boardgame prototype, competition, media

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After a week for rules clarifications and typo corrections, Agent Decker was submitted to the 2015 Solitaire Print and Play Contest on BGG. In addition to the version with the simple graphics I was using, there is also a much prettier looking version which was made by Sara Mena!

Releasing a game for free is very rewarding, even in ways I hadn’t imagined. Getting good feedback is always cool, seeing online users spontaneously recommend my game to other users was new thrill, but nothing would prepare me for what came next:

Fans made their own digital adaptations of Agent Decker!

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BGG user Chad Mestdagh created a digital version of Agent Decker in VASSAL, a tool where you can create and play boardgames. You can get it here.

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Steam user mew AKCat created a digital version of Agent Decker in Tabletop Simulator. You can get it here.

This blew me away. I had never had such demonstrations of love for any of my side projects, and it really motivated me to keep going.

What’s next for Agent Decker? The designers who participated in¬†the contest will be playing each other’s games¬†over the next thirty days. After that they’ll vote and one game will be crowned the winner! I have been following the other games but didn’t get a chance to play them, so I’l looking forward to that.

No matter what the winner is, having another finished game is a victory for me, especially one that I can hand out for free.

I’d like to print a few copies with professional quality so I’m scouting around the several websites that do print on demand. Some players mentioned that they’d like one of those, so we’ll see!

As always, you can get Agent Decker here for free.

Agent Decker v0002 is out!

Agent Decker, boardgame prototype, competition

decker-web

The new version is out and brings new challenges:

  • Mixed Costs: These costs are very high, but you can use¬†any combination of Fighting and Stealth to pay for them. ¬†This is my attempt to fix those situations where you only had the wrong currency for every card in line. Watch out for the revamped Mission 4!
  • Rebalance:¬†I’ve been getting a lot of feedback on and offline, and updated several cards to make the game flow better – and remove some exploits!
  • Difficulty:¬†After playing it for a while it became pretty hard to judge the game’s difficulty. I didn’t find it hard, but I knew every single card so I could plan differently. I had to get the game out there to hear it from the player’s mouth, a fresh¬†different point of view. Turns out most people finished the whole campaign on their first attempt, which might¬†leave them with a first impression that the game is too easy. Why would they ever come back? ¬†The game is now harder! The question is… is it too hard now?

You can get it for free here!

Agent Decker video tutorial

Agent Decker, boardgame, boardgame prototype, competition

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One of the toughest parts of board game development is writing the rulebook. You know the game so well, it’s hard to¬†put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s never seen it before.

I have done this a couple times before, but the rulebooks were more a personal reminder for me than a learning aid for a new player. My games haven’t traveled that much without me, so I’m usually there to¬†teach the players and answer any questions they might have.

This time I wanted to release the game online during the contest so the other contestants could give feedback on it, but I was faced with a problem: I’m not there to teach them the game!

I wrote the rules as clear as I could. I answer every question I get and update the rules document where it’s unclear. Still, the setup can be tricky and there are a lot of moving parts.

…so now you can learn Agent Decker using this handy tutorial video!

Have fun!

iDIG Music Festival

Agent Decker, boardgame prototype, competition, Contactics, event, Pizza-go-round, Sinking

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I spent the end of last week at the iDIG Music Festival showing my games to the visitors! I was surrounded by irish game developers showing their awesome games, and my boardgames stood out due to how different they were.

A lot of people wanted to know more about them, and some even sat down to play after asking how they worked! Agent Decker was the one that got played the most, mainly because nobody had heard about solo games and I could help them rather than compete against them.

I quickly put together a digital version for the show, and two players managed to complete it!

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The main goal was to have a version which looked a bit better than my scribbles on paper, and figure out how much room there will be for proper art later on. It worked pretty well!

It was my first time showing games at an event, so I didn’t know what to expect.¬†A word of advice: if you’re presenting at an event¬†bring some eucalyptus drops! If you’re lucky people will check your games out and ask about them, so you’ll be talking constantly and the voice will start to go¬†away.

Time to write the Agent Decker manual so I can publish it online!

 

Let’s try this again!

Agent Decker, boardgame prototype, competition

decker2

New Agent Decker prototype!

After some good feedback and struggling with serious balancing issues I couldn’t really solve, I decided the best thing would be to go back to the drawing board, so this week I restarted the game.

The biggest change is the mission sequence. Initially there was none of that. The player would draw a goal to complete during that mission, or even raise the difficulty by drawing more than one. I liked that concept because it would add replayability without adding new cards. If you felt you were getting better at the game you could create new challenges for yourself.

All the “Obstacle cards” (the ones you can buy) were shuffled in a single deck and six of them were placed in the center of the table. Every turn some cards leave the line and new ones come in. That means some cards need to be “affordable” at the start of the game and a lot of them need to be more expensive, because later in the game your deck is so much better.

The thing is, the cheap cards might not show up at the start, which can lead to a few really frustrating turns.

Games like Ascension or Star Realms solve this by having static piles of “upgrade” cards which you can purchase independently from the central market. I had those at the start as well, but they never felt “right” to me because of the theme. You are walking past stuff in the enemy complex, so how come these things were always at an arm’s reach?

Then, there was a really good surprise! The players always wanted to keep playing after completing the first mission. I started thinking how to achieve this without becoming monotonous and that lead to…

REDESIGN!

  • Story! Now the game has five missions you can play in a sequence. Every time you finish a mission you get a reward, and some horrible new cards are added to the obstacles deck.
  • Changing rules! That even allows me to change the rules mid-game, as a reward!
  • Layout! No more upside down cards. You really need to consider both halves of the cards every turn, so having them upside down can be really confusing for the player.
    Also, I’m including notes or symbols to make setup and teardown easier.
  • Highscore! Another cool thing this mission sequence brings is the possibility of a highscore! It’s pretty simple. Add up the alarm you had at the end of each mission, and that is your score! …but don’t forget! You want a low number here.

Next up, a digital version so you can try it out!