Monday, August 22

Zombology: Round Three?

So as I alluded to last week, I'm considering another print run of Zombology. I've played the game a few times recently with people (before telling them I was the designer) and I reckon I could have probably sold a copy there and then if I had one. 'I'm sorry, it's only currently available in the US, shipping to the UK is very expensive and the pound has just collapsed', hasn't sold me many copies!

It would be nice to have a few copies around to flog and for Zombology to have a wider audience than the friends, family, playtesters and Reiver Games fans who got one of the thirty copies of the original print run. 

So what would Zombology Round Three look like? I'm speaking to the printers of the original run, getting quotes for runs around 100 copies. I'd want to change the spec slightly: 

Materials

The rules were printed on paper that was too thick really, and the cards were so thick that once they'd been laminated they didn't quite fit in the box tray. I've got a proof from the printer on slightly thinner card - I've got to cut them out and check that they still feel thick enough for use during the game.

Rules

I'm considering a slight change to the rules too. There's a situation where a player plays a card that's not valid and if the Guru has been claimed by one of the players the card goes to Guru owner's next hand. This means that one of the hands is now bigger than the rest, which is pretty confusing. Instead, I'm thinking that failed cards always go to the middle of the table, regardless of whether the Guru has been claimed or not. The Guru owner can then, before each round return a Therapy card from their hand to the centre of the table to draw a Therapy card that is the same suit as one of their Gurus from the centre of the table. That way the hands all stay the same size.

Art

The art is pretty basic, because my skills aren't great in that area. However, it's a similar sort of game to 6 Nimmt! which also has basic art, so I'm not considering overhauling it. However, that being said, there's room for improvement, so I'd like to tweak it. There's a few fixes I made for the Drive Thru Cards version that would need applying to the hand made one, mostly around making text more legible, plus the Army Perimeter is pretty bland, so I've some ideas to improve that. 

Last week I got some proofs from the printer for the thinner cards and got information from BGG about advertising costs. I also asked a poll on BGG to see if there's any interest in hand-made games on KickStarter.

This week I have four hours on trains going to and from my biannual hospital visit for my clinical trial, so I might start doing some of the art improvements on the off chance this goes somewhere.

Monday, August 15

4,000 Plays!

I joined BGG back in February 2006, when I was considering publishing Border Reivers. I finally got around to publishing Border Reivers in July that year, and started recording the games I played on BGG in August that year. In fact, Friday was the tenth anniversary of my first recorded game on BGG (it was one of five plays of Border Reivers that day at The Cast Are Dice in Stoke on Trent, the first convention I attended as a publisher).

Over the last ten years I've managed to rack up 4,000 plays on BGG - my 4,000th was Zombology at our lunchtime games club in the office last Wednesday. It's nice that the 4,000 are bookended by plays of games I've designed :-)

That's an average of 400 games a year or over one game a day for ten years! In fact, it's actually more than that, seeing as I didn't record plays of prototypes during my Reiver Games days and I only started recording mobile plays with humans a couple of years ago.

Clearly board gaming is a huge part of my life. There are six games I've recorded at least 100 plays of: unpublished prototypes, Carcassonne, Race for the Galaxy, 7 Wonders, Magic: The Gathering and It's Alive! and to be honest the numbers for Magic, unpublished prototypes and to a lesser degree Carcassonne are actually much higher than that, as I played them a lot before starting to record games. I've played over 500 different games during that period.

Here's to loads more gaming in the future!

In other news, I've been recently frustrated that Zombology is only available really in the US and Canada at the moment through Drive Thru Cards. There have been a couple of occasions when I could probably have sold a copy if I had one on me, and saying 'you can get it in the US for $12 plus $16 shipping' is not going to lead to any widespread adoption. It turns out I'm still rubbish at marketing though, so if I was got to do a reprint I'd need to seriously up my game at promotion, and maybe go down the KickStarter route, despite my previous KickStarter reticence.

Hmmmm.

Monday, July 4

A Sabbatical

As I'm sure you're aware, this blog about designing and playing games has been very light on the designing for the last few months.

Since my promotion at work last October I've been doing a lot more travel for work, and with a young daughter and The Wife at home, when I'm around I've been choosing to spend most of my free time with them rather than designing games.

Added to that, programming which has been a major hobby and/or my career for the last thirty years is no longer part of my day job, and I miss it. When I have found some time to kill recently, I've chosen to work on my phone apps to scratch that programming itch, rather than my games designs. I've got a few ideas on the games design front, but I can't seem to get the enthusiasm together to actually make any progress on them.

Board gaming is still a huge part of my life (I'm on course to play more games this year than I have in the last ten!), but game design seems to have slipped down the list behind spending time with my family, learning German and Portuguese, programming and finally getting some exercise. Slipped to a point where it's just not happening any more.

I have no way of tracking how many readers I have any more (my stats are getting spammed by spider bots), so I've no idea if anyone reads this, but my guess is that those of you who do are reading it to hear about my experiences as a board game designer and former publisher, not talking about my programming progress or how I hope to do some games design next week.

So I'm going to stop blogging weekly, and just blog when I have something worth saying (and hopefully reading!) on the games design front. Thanks to those of you who've read my weekly ramblings for the last four years.

Monday, June 27

I'm Stealthy, Like The Ninja

It's been a good week. Monday and Tuesday I had the house to myself in the evening while The Wife was in Germany, so I spent the time getting a decent chunk of functionality into German language phone app.

Wednesday I managed another Games Night (work commitments are cancelling a disturbing proportion of them at the moment). We played Lost Cities, Alea Iacta Est (knocking it off my not yet played this year list), Pandemic: The Cure (same again, plus we played it twice, so two more plays towards ten plays) and then a couple of games of Zombology. We'd also manged my first lunchtime games club in ages that day too - Gav beat me twice at Taluva. Man, I'm so glad I bought that! We've been playing it loads.

Then finally on Saturday I made it to Newcastle Gamers too. Newcastle Gamers is on twice a month. We're halfway through the year, so there's been at least (they hold a few special extra sessions every now and again) twelve sessions in 2016. And this was my first one. First! Turns out this new job is keeping me pretty busy.

Thankfully I had a great evening. I got there about quarter to eight, and after waiting for five or ten minutes I joined Ruth, Tom and Sarah for a game of Beyond Baker Street. It had a lot of similarities to Hanabi (you play with face-out cards in your hand and have to build sets playing blind from your hand). Our four player game seemed extremely hard and Tom and Sarah who had played it a lot since being taught it by the designers at the UK Games Expo said it was easy with two, but tricky with three. After that, they looked at my pile of games (Endeavor, Homesteaders, K2, Kodama and Zombology) and chose Zombology. We played it a couple of times and again, I didn't tell them I was the designer until we had finished. They seemed to enjoy it, and asked about where to get it, but of course the only option at the moment is the very expensive shipping from Drive Thru Cards.

After a couple of rounds of Zombology Tom and Sarah headed off so I went looking for another table and managed to join Becky, Mangler, Gordon and Richard for a game of Sushi Go! As soon as I saw it was I keen to play - I knew the designer was of interest to me (though I couldn't remember who it was) and I love sushi, so it seemed win-win. It turns out the designer was Phil Walker-Harding who used to blog here with me eight or nine years ago, before he became a very successful designer (Archaeology, Sushi Go!, Cacao and most recently the Spiel des Jahres nominated Imhotep). I'd not played any of Phil's games since I playtested Cannonball Colony years and years ago, so it was great to try one of his designs and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Like Zombology it's a drafting game, but one with a steadily diminishing hand and set-collection elements. The art was cute, the theme was cute and it was a quick, fun game. I've added it to my wishlist :-)

After a couple of games of Sushi Go! we also played a couple of Zomobology (after Gordon left), and again I neglected to mention I was the designer until after we finished. They seemed to enjoy it (and Becky was complimentary about the art too!) and they also asked about how to buy it when I made my reveal. I'm beginning to wonder whether I should make some more hand-made ones...

We rounded the night out with a game of Kodama, another one on my ten plays list (only one game left!).

All in all this week, I managed to play two new to me games (Sushi Go! and Beyond Baker Street), three games towards my ten plays list (Kodama and two of Pandemic: The Cure) and two off my not yet played this year list (Pandemic: The Cure and Alea Iacta Est). Busy week!

At the halfway point of the year, I've managed to played nineteen games for the first time this year, that's nineteen towards my goal of 24 - it's looking very achievable!

Monday, June 20

Getting Back Into The Swing Of It

After my full-on trip to the States I returned home to a very busy week at work, with loads of people from America and Manchester (including my boss) over for a meeting. To make things more exciting, I caught a filthy cold on the plane home so for most of the week I felt rough as a dog too.

By judiciously avoiding alcohol on a work night out on Tuesday (I also left at 7:30!), I managed to mostly get over it by Thursday thankfully.

My only real gaming this week was the first Games Night in three weeks on Wednesday when we managed to tick Agricola off my 'haven't yet played this year' list and another Colt Express play towards my ten plays list. It was a fairly quite one - just Ian, Mike and I which meant we could get a longer game in too.

Yesterday The Wife swanned off to Germany for a couple of days for a work conference, so until late Tuesday evening I'm solo Parent-In-Charge of The Daughter. I'm using the evenings after The Daughter goes to sleep to do a bit more work on my German language app (taking shape nicely!) and finally making the next version of Dragon Dance. Last time I played it with Paul (back in 1870-something I think) he had a great idea about replacing the short/long range indicator card with a card that tries to convey a sense of space. I'm going to knock something up tonight and will see if I can get it tested in the office this week.

Next week I'm in Romania for most of the week so, if it works, I'll have some time to knock up a proper version of it in InDesign during my mornings/evenings. Of course Romania means no Games Night or lunchtime gaming club again. I need to spend some time in the country!

The week after Romania is Newcastle Playtest, and seeing as I've missed the last two (holiday in Portugal and conference in San Antonio), I'm really keen to make it to this one, especially if I've got a new version of Dragon Dance for Paul to try!

Monday, June 13

Gaming In San Antonio

So last week I got one evening off from work in my week long trip to San Antonio in Texas and rather than wander the hospitality suites at the convention hoovering up free beer and food I chose instead to get a cab out to Dragon's Lair and get some gaming in.

I'd asked on BGG beforehand and a guy called Sean had told me about it and even offered me a lift back into town afterwards if he was around. If he was around I didn't see him unfortunately, but I still had a great night. On arrival I wandered round the store briefly and had a look at their collection of games (pretty good, but not as extensive as The Source in Minneapolis a few years ago). Then I went into the gaming room and met Chris. He was waiting for the Netrunner crowd to turn up so we had a quick game of Kodama (its nice small box is very portable!) and then they arrived and I was invited to join a game of the Legendary Deck Building Game with Al, Jimmy and Chante. I think we got a couple of rules wrong (none of us new the game well enough to pick up and explain so we were learning from the rules - which is often tricky), but it was fun nevertheless. After that Michael joined us and we had a game of Dead of Winter, which was new to all of us except Michael. It turned out that Michael was a traitor, so against four newbies he had fairly easily run of it and the rest of us were overwhelmed after an hour and a half or so.

After that it was getting late so Chante and Al headed off and Michael, Jimmy and I had three games of Zombology. It was an easy sell after Dead of Winter - another zombie-themed semi-coop but one that played in ten minutes! I had introduced myself as Jack and didn't call out the fact that I had designed the game, so as far as they were concerned we were just playing a game I'd brought along, rather than one I was pushing as the designer. We ended up playing three games: I won one on my own, we all died in the second and in the third I think we all won. The guys really enjoyed it and it wasn't until we were in the car on the way back to my hotel (Michael had kindly offered me a lift) that I told him I'd designed the game. I'm still not sure why I kept it to myself but it worked out OK! We ended the night with a quick pint in the hotel bar which was rammed with people from the convention.

All in all a great night: another play of Kodama towards my ten plays, a new to me game towards my 24 new to me games this year goal and some Zombology fans.

Now I'm back I need to try to get the new Dragon Dance made up and crack on with that before I'm off again to Romania at the end of the month! For the moment though I need to concentrate on shaking off the filthy cold I acquired at some point during my trip :-(

Monday, June 6

Hello From Sunny San Antonio

As I mentioned last week, I'm in San Antonio, Texas this week for work. It's a very busy week but I've managed to get tonight off so that I can go to the San Antonio Board Gamers meetup at Dragon's Lair. I've brought Zombology, Dragon Dance (which needs an overhaul) and Kodama with me, hopefully I'll get to try some new stuff too.

San Antonio

Last week I was away for a mid-week trip to Derbyshire for my friend Tim's secret birthday party. It was Monday to Friday, but we had to leave on Thursday as I was flying from Newcastle first thing on Friday morning. I took a decent stack of games: Zombology, 6 Nimmt!, Kodama, Incan Gold, Ca$h 'n Gun$, King of Tokyo, Colt Express and Firefly. Tim had brought a load of games too and Simon and Duncan had also brought a few. I managed to play everything I brought except 6 Nimmt! but managed to miss every game of something someone else brought due to either looking after The Daughter, cooking a meal or having gone to bed early to make up for a game of Firefly the night before which had finished just after 2am.

Zombology was well received after the first couple of games when people were still trying to work out what was going on - it seems there's a fairly steep learning curve for new players. We also saw a game where Zombyism was cured but none of the players won, which was a first I believe. Two plays of Ca$h 'n Gun$ took that off my ten plays list and the plays of Kodama and Colt Express also moved them nearer to escaping from the ten plays list.

I've now got 12 games left on the list, one of which is definitely going, three (Koi Pond, Libertalia and Pandemic: The Cure) are at risk and might well go too and the others I expect to have cleared off the list by the end of the year. My unplayed so far this year list however still has 26 games on it, including many previous staples such as Die Speicherstadt, Puerto Rico, Thunderstone and Agricola.

These lists are just for interest this year, instead of part of my goals. The only gaming goal I have is to play 24 new to me games this year. At 16 by early June I'm in good shape for that, let's see if I can add any tonight!

San Antonio