Monday, April 21

I Fought the Flu

And I won! Eventually.

So the sickness I was winging about last week turned out to be the flu. The real flu, not man-flu. The real flu. So the beginning of the week was joyous. I spent the first half of the week in bed, able to watch Netflix on the iPad and pretty much nothing else. Unable to sleep due to a bunged up head and difficulty breathing I ended up sat on the sofa at 4:30am on Tuesday (while The Daughter slept! Wasted!) wrapped in a blanket reading the flu symptoms on the NHS Direct website and as I went through the long list, ticking them all off (except nausea & sickness, thankfully), I had to except I probably had the flu. Then I got to the bit about if you have a long term condition, e.g. neurological condition or are immuno-compromised, you should go to the doctor. Seeing as I have Multiple Sclerosis and have received an immuno-comprising treatment for it, I figured that probably included me, so I gave them a ring when they opened that morning. The returned call confirmed I probably had the flu and that I should rest and drink loads of water and I should be aware that it could take me up to ten days (!) to get over it because of my situation.

Thankfully after four or five days I was starting to feel vaguely human again (though pretty weak from not having really eaten for nearly a week). Now I feel fine, and I spent most of this weekend feeling fine too. Which was great, since Easter is a four day weekend in the UK, so I got to spend time hanging out with my family and friends lying in the sun, eating food and drinking beer and playing with various sets of kids. It was a great weekend, it felt really summery too, which considering it's only April was great. It was certainly just what I needed after the flu.

I even had the chance to finish off the next version of Zombology and get it printed out and assembled. It's the version after the NaGa DeMon winners' copies (three of which have now definitely arrived :-) ). I've tried to pare it down a bit further, hopefully streamlining the game a bit more, while at the same time boosting the player interaction and making it a bit more cutthroat. I'd imagine I'll have to tweak it a few times to get things working as intended, but I hope the new changes, once tweaked, will be a further improvement over the NaGa DeMon version. At this rate I'm going to have to start thinking of assembling some blind playtesters before too much longer. I'd imagine that BGG is the place to go for that, I can't imagine I have a large enough readership here to select from (plus, if you're reading this, you're already clued up to some degree and probably a bit biased too!).

Anyway, I'm feeling good about it at the moment. Exciting times!

Monday, April 14

Gone Cardboard

I'll keep it brief today, I've been been feeling really rough since Saturday night, wrote this in bed on Sunday afternoon and am now posting it from bed too.

Earlier this week I did finally finish off the NaGa DeMon winners' copies of Zombology which went in the post. It felt like the early days of Reiver Games again, shipping games that I'd made by hand around the world. This time they were prototypes though, but it still featured what I believe to be the first game I've sent to Africa.

As proof, I offer this photographic evidence from Frugal Dave (one of the winners) who, thanks to living in the UK, received his copy first.

With the winners' copies no longer hanging over me I was finally able to start work on the next version of Zombology incorporating feedback from the epic session at a Newcastle Playtest a couple of weeks ago.

Then I came down with something and spent an inordinate amount of time in bed over the weekend. I hope to finish off the April version shortly so I can start testing the new changes. I have high hopes for them, but they will inevitably be broken to begin with.

On an unrelated note, I've also been using my lunch breaks at work to make some more progress on my Firefly: The Board Game app. It's nearing the point where I'll submit it to the Windows Phone store where it will inevitably languish un-installed.

Monday, April 7

What a Week!

This week, I've had three nights of gaming. Three!


Newcastle Playtest

Tuesday was the latest Newcastle Playtest session. I'd missed the last one, due to my trip to Germany last month for work, so I was especially keen to make it along this time. Also, Dan the organiser couldn't make it this month, so as his understudy it was important I was there. There were going to be three of us: Alex, Paul and I. Alex wasn't due until after 7:30, but Paul was coming along early so I went over at 6:30 with Codename: Vacuum and Zombology. It turns out that Paul had a work emergency so he didn't get there until gone 7:30, so I spent the first hour on my own. It was fine though since my replacement phone - after the Great Spontaneously Combusting Nokia Lumia Event of 2014 - had just arrived so I spent the hour installing apps and setting it up just how I wanted. Once Paul and Alex arrived the three of us played five (5!) games of Zombology. I was keen to show it to them since they hadn't seen it since I made the sweeping changes, which were largely done in response to their feedback. They both enjoyed it I think, and Paul commented that it was nice to spend the evening concentrating on a single game. I've got loads more ideas now for the next version, once I've finished with the NaGa DeMon copies. As time goes on I'm finding Newcastle Playtest to be more and more useful in the development of my games.

Zombology at Newcastle Playtest

Unfortunately, we found out after the event another designer had tried to attend. He'd hung around for an hour, but because I was sat there on my own playing with my new phone he'd not found us :-(


Games Night

Thursday was Games Night, and with enough attendees for two tables and a new phone to run my Firefly: The Board Game app, I was finally able to try it out. As with any live demo, it crashed once, but apart from that and the slightly wrong information about the number of cards in each deck, it worked.

My Windows Phone app for Firefly: The Board Game

I can't tell you how much time it saved, as we played with three instead of four, all who had played it before (unlike last time) and a different mission card. But it came in at 3 hours instead of 4 and it felt like it helped a bit.


TableTop Day

Finally, Saturday was TableTop Day, and with the father-in-law delaying his visit until next weekend, I was able to get along to Newcastle Gamers for their free all day session. I only went for a few hours in the evening after The Daughter had gone to bed, but was greeted with a cheer on arrival as I had broken the all time attendance record (I think I was the 52nd attendee that day!). I stayed for three and a bit hours, but managed to play six games including two games of AbluXXen, which was new to me. I took a bunch of games and ended up playing three of the ones I'd brought, including Sumeria, which I had a hankering for. I'd not played in ages and despite over a hundred more plays than my newbie opponents, I got my arse handed to me - the scores were 41, 33 and 21 (me).

All in all a great week's gaming, when you include the Zombology Playtest at lunch on Thursday and the game of Incan Gold after Firefly, I've played 15 games this week (and in fact in the first five days of April). That's going to help me meet my target for the year!

Monday, March 31

Bringing People Together

The Daughter was up between 4:15 and 4:30 every day last week, so I didn't get as much done as I had intended on the NaGa DeMon winners' copies of Zombology. Still, the clocks have changed now, so I'm hoping that she'll be sleeping to something past five on summer time, and I can start going to bed a bit later myself - and get the last couple of copies finished off and then get them all in the post. It's Newcastle Playtest on Tuesday, so that'll be a late night and then there's Games Night on Thursday, so I'll have to fit the construction in around those.

So, not much progress to report but and interesting thing did happen on Tuesday. I went to Manchester again for work (it's becoming a regular occurrence since we were bought by an American corporation whose UK headquarters are in Manchester). It's often my boss and I who go down, and since he's a Games Night attendee, I usually take my iPad full of board games to help us while away the six hours of train journeys. The boss couldn't make it this week, so I opened it up to the floor and Sam one of our two new starters came instead. Sam's also a gamer, so the iPad came too. We played a lot of games on the two journeys many of which Sam hadn't played before. The last game of the first journey was Carcassonne (new to Sam) which Sam won despite my literally hundreds of games of experience.

The second journey was very busy - the train was crammed. Fortunately we'd booked seats and so had table space to play some more games. As we pulled out of Manchester, I offered Sam another game and he chose Carcassonne again. Sam and I were sat diagonally opposite each other on a four person table and we'd been on the move for about 5 minutes before the guy sat next to me started offering Sam advice! As the game went on Mr. Random Stranger helped Sam out a few times - he could sense I was the more experienced player and so was helping 'the underdog' :-)

The game came to an end, and seeing as Mr. Random Stranger hadn't got off yet, I asked if he wanted to play too. Pat (his name as it turns out) happily joined in and we spent the next hour and a half playing three player games until Pat got off at York. It turns out Pat had been to Beyond Monopoly (the games club in York I used to frequent when I lived there) and knew Jon, the guy who runs it (who used to help me playtest games when I ran Reiver Games). It's a small world. I also felt like I vaguely recognised Pat, though that might be my imagination, I've met a lot of people through Reiver Games, and I'm often bad at remembering names and faces.

In case you ever read this Pat, it was a pleasure to meet you - thanks for joining in!

Monday, March 24

About #?@!ing Time

Many years ago, while humanity was busy learning how to craft flint axes and wondering which pelts made the best loincloths, I took part in NaGa DeMon 2013, coming up with a game I called Zomobology, a quick, vicious card game about fighting the zombie apocalypse with science not shotguns. With only a month to come up with a working game, I enlisted the help of the internets, promising free stuff in return for feedback, proof-reading and ideas.

NaGa DeMon went very well, I got loads of feedback, made 6 versions of Zomobology within the month and made them available print and play for feedback purposes. I had nearly four times a normal month's pageviews on the blog and everything was rosy. Huzzah!

Did I mention the free stuff? Yes. Right. Um. So I'd offered the five most helpful feedback providers a signed, numbered limited edition copy of the final version as created at the end of the month. That version was freely available here for download, so to spice it up a bit, I said I'd get some exclusive artwork done for the winners' copies. The only slight problem with this plan was I'd spent all my hard-earned cash on nappies, so budget was limited, and I can't draw for toffee. Another call for help on the internet and I thought I'd found an artist who was prepared to do the artwork for beer money. Millennia passed, man learned to forge metal tools, wear togas and build sewers. Then the artist deal fell through.

Man harnessed the atom and discovered quantum mechanics and the whole thing was getting farcical. Instead I offer the winners (who by this point have largely forgotten who I am) a signed, numbered limited edition copy of the current version, with crappy artwork by yours truly (plus a selection of Creative Commons licensed art from the internet). This version is actually slightly more exclusive since it's changed quite a lot since the final NaGa DeMon version at the end of November and the art, such as it is, is all new. In an effort to draw a line under the whole sordid affair, the winners accept my paltry offer and everything is back on.

Did I mention it had changed quite a lot? So that version has several new mechanisms and is completely untested. So I start testing it and make a few iterations testing it until it gets to the point where it essentially works. It's not perfect (I think it's now too easy to cure zombitis), but it's playable. Let's do this!

Except I've run out of ink for my printer and I've not written the rules for the new version - they're all in my head. So I crack on with this while the winners take advantage of the singularity and download their consciousnesses to a silicate substrate, desperate to not let their failing corporeal forms deny them access to free stuff.

Saturday night the stars were finally in alignment. The Daughter was sleeping well, The Wife was out for dinner and drinks with friends and I was vaguely awake. I'd written the rules up on Wednesday and the printer ink had arrived on Thursday. Time to finally get my house in order. The copies are now seeing the light of day and will be shipping soon. Thank you all for your patience!

Photographic proof

Monday, March 17

The Joy of S...

...leep! It's finally happened, after 18 months, The Daughter has finally started sleeping pretty well. We've had several nights in the last week where she's either slept through, or only woken very briefly and then gone back to sleep. It's been awesome.

The Wife and I have been so refreshed that we've been able to stay up very late (like 10pm!) and spend some time together - especially good since I was away for a chunk of last week in Germany for work. So, I've not made much progress on games.

What little progress I have made has been on Zombology again. We got to play a seven player game of it at the beginning of Games Night on Thursday (it seemed to go down well - I'll be sending this version to the NaGa DeMon winners as soon as I've written up the new rules). I've changed it slightly so that it's a semi-coop game. It's possible for all players to lose, or one player to win. The first attempt I made at this was way too hard (all players always lost!), and I fear I've gone too far the other way now, so it might need a little tweaking to make it a bit harder - it is an apocalypse after all - there should be at least some risk of being consumed head first.

I've ordered new ink for my printer, so I should be able to finally make the copies for the NaGa DeMon winners next week. Which gives me this week to get the rules done while I wait for the ink to arrive.

I've also been meaning to play Firefly: The Board Game again so I can try out the app I wrote for my Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone. I've been very happy with the phone until this week when it overheated while charging and melted the USB port to the point where I can no longer plug it in or charge it. So now it's died. It's still in warranty though, so I'll be speaking to Nokia this week about that. With no phone to test the app on, I might as well try to play Homesteaders (a recent purchase, as yet unplayed) instead.

I've had a couple of quiet weeks on the games design front, with Germany and then this week (which if I'm honest was largely spent watching House of Cards!), but it's time to step up things again now and get the NaGa DeMon winners copies out to them. In the meantime, I'm looking for some icons to represent the following:

  • This card protects another (named) card
  • This card will flip another (named) card
  • This card is vulnerable to another (named) card

Any ideas?

Monday, March 10

Willkommen zu Hause!

It's been a busy week. A couple of days in the office and then three days on a work trip to Germany. It was only my third time in Germany which is a bit weird since German is the closest thing I have to a second language (which is a long way from a second language!). At school I did five years of French and three of German and by the end of that I felt more comfortable in German than French. Then both my French and my German languished for many years before I started Reiver Games and travelled to Germany to attend Essen. I tried while there to practice my paltry German and on my return I took a couple of years of German classes at evening school, ready for my second Essen and beyond.

Essen 2010 was only my second trip to Germany and with Reiver Games collapsing, it was my last until this Wednesday. My boss and I went to Tübingen for a meeting on Thursday but it took us most of the day on Wednesday to get there and then most of Friday to get back.

Tübingen is purdee

As I mentioned last week, in preparation for the two full days of travelling with my boss (a Games Night attendee) I'd purchased a few more games for my iPad: Small World, Settlers of Catan, Forbidden Island and Pandemic. As it turns out, we left checking in until we arrived at the airport (both times!) and ended up only spending one flight sat next to each other, so our gaming opportunities were fairly limited. We only played Pandemic of the new games I'd bought (which is a nice app that I'm glad I bought).

It was a good trip and I liked Tübingen a lot, as well as what little I saw of Baden-Württemberg (out of the window on the bus from Stuttgart airport to Tübingen, while trying to concentrate on Lords of Waterdeep and Stone Age :-) ).

Now that I'm back I need to concentrate on Zombology. I made some sweeping changes to Zombology a few weeks ago. Since then I've made a few corrective changes each weekend trying to get the new version fairly stable, ready for sending out to the NaGa DeMon competition winners. I think I'm almost there. Last week's version played well but was possibly a bit too easy, I'll see if I can make a few tweaks and then get cracking on the winners' copies. Writing the new rules is the first priority and I'll need to lay in some more printer ink for that too...