Sunday, December 31

I've Been Busy

I've spent the last couple of days preparing for the BBC MindGames review, in case it generates any sales, and trying to take advantage of the time off to get some prototyping done.

On the prototyping front I've made a new version of the submission (currently called Codename: Monster), and finally finished the prototype of Codename: Sennon too.

I've been to town on my website (although I've not yet published the new version - should be in the next day or so), adding the postage and packaging prices, and PayPal 'Buy Now' buttons. I've also added the Border Reiver rules, so that people can review the rules before deciding whether or not to purchase the game.

I've also been cutting out tiles for England. It's a horrible job that's really hard on my hands, so I try to spread it out. I've been doing one copy a day for a while now, and I'm going to try to go up to two copies a day until I've finished the ones I've got down in Bristol (I brought nine sets of tiles, and as of this morning I've done four). I've no idea whether or not the MindGames review will generate any sales, I'm hoping so but I just don't know.

Wednesday, December 27

Christmas Games

I love Christmas. It's the only time during the year that both my family and the in-laws all get together (though separately!). Plus presents :-) I'm also lucky that both my family and the in-laws are keen to play games over Christmas, yeay!

Christmas Day started well, with a copy of PitchCar from The Wife :-) I'd only played it once before, but I loved it, and I thought it would be good to have a dexterity game, as it's a genre that was un-represented in my games collection. I also managed to fob-off my copy of Munchkin Fu onto Matt, who loves it - I need to make room in my tiny flat for a new game.

Since I've arrived at the in-laws I've finished a new prototype version of the submission (currently known as Codename: Monster), which features a different theme, and more pieces allowing the game to be played with up to six players. I tried it out a couple of times on my own once two player and once three, but it's difficult to play a game that features hidden information when you're playing all the players! I've also done a little work on Codename: Sennon.

Christmas Day was spent at the in-laws, and we broke out PitchCar and had a few games of that, and then played Trivial Pursuit in the evening. It was a newer version of Trivial Pursuit which played a bit faster - still it's not a game I enjoy.

Boxing Day we went round to my family's house for more food and present-opening. I took PitchCar as I though it would go over well and it did - we played seven games during the day and evening. We also played three games of Codename: Monster which was very well received, despite only having very basic components with bits scribbled on in pencil and loose change for tokens.

Great stuff! Must play more games...

Friday, December 22

I'm In The Press: Part Two

Last night I received my advance copy of BBC MindGames magazine featuring the review of Border Reivers. The review is on the This Month page, and if you're familiar with the format it's the large review at the top of the page. It features a really nice photo of the game and box, the company URL, the price, a text review, a summary and a star rating (out of five). The review is generally pretty positive but is critical of the readibility of the rules - this was to be expected as I had to go down to teach the reviewer how to play the game.

Overall I'm really pleased with the review, here's hoping it generates some sales...

Thursday, December 21

Just Because It's Christmas

...doesn't mean I've stopped making games. I have slowed down however. I've been very busy socially the last week or so - lots of parties and meals out. I've been trying to balance that with the goals I've set myself for game construction.

My current status is three finished copies, with four outstanding orders, three of which I'll fulfill over Christmas (they are the friends and family orders I got at my sister's wedding - the shame!). I've also got nine copies that are complete except for the tiles. I've got three sets of tiles glued and ready to cut out, and this evening I'm going round to a friend's garage to do the gluing for the other six. That'll mean I've got nine sets of tiles to cut out while I'm down at the in-laws for a couple of weeks. Each one takes just over and hour, and I try to limit myself to one set a day as it is hard work and knackers my hands.

I'm doing a big push because the reivew in BBC MindGames Magazine comes out on 2nd January while I'm down in Bristol - so I need to take some copies with me in case it generates some sales.

I've also been thinking about the submission (including spending yesterday lunchtime looking into illustrators for a potential release), and Codename: Sennon, writing some software to generate hexes, so that I can print out guides to cut out the hex tiles. I wanted to get a first Sennon prototype finished this month, and now I can with very little effort while I'm down in Bristol.

I'll probably post a few times over Christmas to let you know how construction and playtesting are going, but until then: Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 19


Hello all! The festive season is upon us and in the true spirit of Christmas I’ll be off to eat lots of mince pies and drink sherry…

All that remains is to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’m looking forward to posting in the new year with some exciting new ideas!

Thursday, December 14


Dave came round Tuesday night, ostensibly for more Space Hulk, but we both really wanted to do some playtesting too. Dave had brought Citywise, and I had Artist, Jorvik and 'The Submission' to get to the table too.

First up was 'The Submission', which I'll be pretty vague about until I've made a decision about it. The game is designed for 2 - 4 players, and Dave and I played a 2-player game. Initial impressions were that the game would definitely be better with more players, it was good fun with just two though. Dave ended both rounds, and although I won on points in the first round by a small margin Dave slaughtered me in the second, striding to a comfortable victory. I need to play this a lot to reach a firm decision about whether or not to invest large amounts of my money and free time in publishing it. Initial impressions were favourable though. I'm not wholly convinced about the theme, I like the theme, but as a publisher I've got to think of the theme as the hook that will take a potential player from seeing the box to wanting to buy (and play it). I don't think the theme as it stands is the best for that given the market I'll be predominantly selling to (the UK).

After that we had a quick game of Jorvik. Dave didn't seem overly enamoured of Jorvik, noting that there was very little player interaction. This is something that I'm aware of, and need to put some effort into fixing. Hmmmm. Dave won again, Two for two.

The third game of the night was Space Hulk. We've been playing this now over a few weeks, taking it in turns to play both sides of each mission. It was my turn to play the marines in the third mission, and with a nice winning streak behind him already for the night, and knowledge of how hard this mission is for the marines, Dave thought he stood a good chance of winning his first Space Hulk game. And he was right. So right. I was slaughtered, in about four turns. Oh, how the mighty have fallen - nice work, Dave!

Seeing as Dave had made such short work of me in Space Hulk, we decided to get a quick game of Artist in to round the night off. I explained the rules of the game to Dave and we were off. As I've mentioned before, Artist can be a bit of a brain-burner, and leaving it to the end of the night was possibly a mistake. Still, I enjoyed it (and I think Dave did too), and I finally won something. I'm beginning to think that Artist is possibly closer to publishing than Jorvik, despite being much newer - I need to play it a lot more to make sure. Dave had some good ideas too about how to simplify the scoring areas. Another good night of games.

Tuesday, December 12

Session Report: Paul's Games Night

Last night I went round to Paul's again for his weekly games night. He'd asked me to bring Puerto Rico this week, which I did, but I got there quite late, so I wasn't sure if we'd have time.

When I finally arrived I realised the others had waited for me! Bless them. With Vin still to come, we set up a quick game of Guillotine for the four of us: Andy, Greg, Paul and I. Andy got off to a great start (I think his first turn put him on three times as many points as the rest of us, thanks to a Double Feature card), and the rest of us spent the game trying to scupper him. Andy was delighted (he doesn't usually win), and even though I wasn't winning (or even coming close until fairly near the end), I really enjoyed this one again. It's funny, it's fast and it seats loads - great stuff. Final scores: Andy 24, me 19, Greg 18 and Paul 14.

During Guillotine, Vin arrived, so as soon as that was over we set up Puerto Rico, for a 5-player with all of us.

I love Puerto Rico, but I'm not very good at it. I recently looked at an online strategy guide for the first time, and with that in mind I tried a different strategy during this game, eschewing quarries, and instead trying to get loads of money together with an idea of building factories/wharves/big buildings. I met some of those goals (Factory), but Greg had managed to fill up his island far quicker than I was expecting, so I built the Residence big building in the final turn - but didn't even get a chance to get it occupied, hence missing out on most of the points. Greg's speedy finish caught a few of us out - so he won handsomely: Greg 35, Paul, 30, me 30, Vin 25, Andy 23.

Puerto Rico went surprisingly fast with a bunch of players who all knew what they were doing, so we had time at the end for another quick filler. We chose Diamant.

Lisa joined us for this one, and while we were playing I was bearing in mind Hugo's criticisms of Diamant. If you play the game purely as a press-your-luck game, only considering the likelihood of a second disaster coming out then I think the game would be a bit dull, but the bit I enjoy is trying to second-guess my opponents, and take the lion's share of the remaining gems on the way out. Is this a winning strategy? Nope. I don't think I've ever won, but every time I escape on my own and claim a few gems from the cards I get a little hit of 'I win', from choosing the right time to leave so that I don't have to share - and I still enjoy it. Paul didn't have any gems after the first four mines, but he still managed to beat me, so that'll give you an idea of just how bad a strategy it is :-) Final scores: Vin 28, Lisa 14, Paul 11, me 9, Greg 8, Andy 5.

Yet another great evening of games and top company, very entertaining. Highlights would have to be Greg's expletive outbursts and his apoplexy when I quoted from the Planetary graphic novel at him :-) Sadly, that's my last one before Christmas, so I've got four weeks of cold turkey.

Monday, December 11

I'm In The Press!

I got home from work tonight to find a big envelope waiting for me - it's Issue 121 of Flagship Magazine featuring an interview with yours truly on page 12. Cool.

They've somehow made me sound a lot more interesting than I remember being :-)

It's quite exciting, and hopefully it'll generate some sales... Thanks to Mike Dean for the interview questions, and Flagship for publishing it.

Citywise: First Look

Hi there, time for my weekly update. Again, it’s been a busy week so I haven’t had many chances to get gaming. Playtesting has continued on Citywise to ensure that the new Riot and Patrol mechanisms are working okay. As a special treat, here’s a shot of Citywise set up for playtesting. It’s halfway through the game, so two Riots and Patrols are on the board.

What’s next? Well, more playtesting; but I’d like to start writing the ‘blurb’ on some of the cards to really add to the whole feel of the game. Fortunately, this is one of the best aspects of game design, coming up with the background and theme (often called ‘Chrome’). So I’ll be watching lots of Sci-Fi on TV, reading lots of comics and doing as much daydreaming as possible!

All the best, see you soon!


Lots of Construction

I spent a decent chunk of the weekend making copies of Border Reivers. We had to cancel a few events as The Wife was ill, and although I felt like I was coming down with it too, I managed to fight it off (so far...). So we stayed in, and I made loads of games. I did another couple of sets of tiles, finishing of two more copies from the batch of six I started a week or so ago, and started another batch of six - making the boxes and labelling the box trays (lids to follow). My stock status is looking a little healthier (three finished copies, and ten copies in progress), with four outstanding orders. Once I've finished the first batch of six I will also have made fifty copies - half the run. This will feel good - though it's taken me over four months to do it. I'm almost on the home straight.

I also bought some card on the weekend so that I can make another Jorvik prototype and finish the Sennon prototype I started down in Bristol last month. I've had some ideas to try to boost the player interaction in Jorvik, and tie some of the mechanics more tightly to the theme. However, they might just over complicate things - I'll have to try it out to see whether it works or not.

I can't see me getting much construction done this week - we've a lot of social events on, but I will get to Paul's games night again, and hopefully Dave will pop round for more Space Hulk plus some more playtesting of his Citywise prototype and maybe even some of my prototypes.

Saturday, December 9

Roll Call

This blog gets a surprising number of hits everyday, and that's not including people who read the feed, but don't visit the front page. I know who a few of our readers are, but there are lots I'm unaware of. So I've had an idea. Please write in the comments who you are, where you're from, where you heard about the blog, and what you'd like to see more or and less of here. Thanks!

In other news I'm coming down with the cold that plagued The Wife last week I think. But I've managed to make a set of tiles, and finish the cards for the next Border Reivers batch. Almost ready to start another batch.

Friday, December 8

Two Updates

The last few days have been very busy - hence the lack of posts. Unfortunately I had to cancel games with Dave on Wednesday (sorry, Dave!), but I spent the evening constructing the next batch of Border Reivers. I'm behind again (I've three finished copies at home and six outstanding orders), but I'm doing well on the next batch of six copies. Wednesday night I finished labelling the boxes, and the Thursday morning, before I left for a job interview in London I did some more construction. I've just got the cards and tiles to do now - and I got the tile gluing done on Tuesday night in Rich's garage again. I'm trying to get some stock together before Christmas, as I'll be unable to make any copies for two weeks over Christmas, and the BBC MindGames review comes out during that period.

I've also upgraded this blog, moving it to Blogger Beta which allows, among other things, labels. At the bottom of each post is a set of labels which I've applied to the post, clicking on them will bring up all the posts with a similar label. I've got to retrospectively label old posts though, which will take some time...

Wednesday, December 6

Session Report: Paul's Games Night

Monday night I went round to Paul's again for games. Paul had asked me to bring Settlers of Catan plus the 5-6 player expansion, and Ticket To Ride to get Lisa to join in with us.

First up was Ticket To Ride by Alan R. Moon. Andy, Greg, Lisa, Paul and I set up a 5-player game, and just as we got started Spence arrived. Since Lisa hadn't played before Spence played with her. The game was a good one, Lisa was winning through most of the game, and also got her hands on the longest route in fairly short order. Spence suggested a few long routes too, which helped. I got a couple of fairly short tickets early on and then tried to keep up on points by claiming some long routes - but I was beaten to a few of them. In the end Lisa didn't complete all her routes, but she still won by a mile: Lisa 102, Andy 84, me 84, Paul 80 and Greg 69. I was also amazed at the number of rules that I had wrong in the numerous games I'd previously played - loads of them!

The second game of the night was Settlers of Catan and the 5/6 player expansion. I'd not played this in absolutely ages, and I thought that the 5/6 player slowed things down too much. I was right. Despite a very entertaining game in terms of Settlers humour ('I've got wood for sheep', 'I've wood and two stones'), the game did seem to drag. With everyone being given the chance build after everyone's turn the game lasts a lot longer. Spence seemed to be the man to beat throughout the game as he collected a staggering amount of sheep and wood, and built lots of cities - but at the last moment Paul stole the longest road and beat us all to 10 points. Paul 10, Spence 8, Greg 7, me 7, Andy 6 and Lisa 4.

It was another great evening of games - thanks Paul!

In other news I did the gluing for the tiles of the next batch of Border Reivers last night, and I made a bunch of rulebooks too. The next thing to do is to start labelling the boxes which I plan to start tomorrow morning - I've got the day off work for a second interview for the promotion at work which is down in London, and I don't need to leave home until lunchtime.

Tuesday, December 5

Citywise Update

Hello all, its Dave here again with the latest update on my games. Last week, I just gave a general introduction to myself and the games that I’m working on. This week I’ll focus on the work that I’ve been doing on Citywise, my game based around a city in a dystopian future.

The first major changes have been to the board, instead of lots of small spaces for the players to move around in, there are now 25 larger squares representing entire city blocks or sections of streets. Of course, I have had to reduce the movement rate for characters as well, but that’s no big problem. There are a lot of advantages in increasing square size; it means interaction between characters is more likely and so is an encounter with a riot or police patrol.

After a playtest with Jack we came upon the idea of a ‘moving’ element of the game, such as riots spreading throughout blocks or patrols roaming the streets. I tried out some ideas and settled upon these being moved by players during the action phase after a re-ordering of the turn sequence. I have also had to extend actions throughout the whole game to ensure that patrols and riots didn’t get stuck in one location for the final third of the game.

I have increased all the characters statistics from a maximum 10 to a maximum 12 and made them all movable. This ties in with the rationalisation of item cards as I can now reduce the types of dice in use to D6, D12 and D20.

The problem that I have had when developing this game is to ensure that there are plenty of options for the players, without presenting too many decisions that would slow down the game.

As an example, one worry that I had was that people would go to a shop to buy items only to spend ten minutes searching through the item deck to see what was there. I considered providing a list of all items so that people could window shop, but that would cause just as many problems. The best thing to do was to rationalise the items in the shops, so instead of having 6 different types of weapon, there are only 3 types available, the same for Tech items as well. Though to ensure that the ‘chrome’ of the game remains intact, I will be ensuring that each class of weapons has a range of different pictures and descriptions.

I had another solo playtest last night, and all the elements seemed to gel together in a good way. The next step will be to rope in my playtesting buddy Jack (you may have heard of him) to give it a try. See you all next week.

Sunday, December 3

Session Report: Beyond Monopoly

Yesterday I spent the day at Beyond Monopoly for the first time in a couple of months. I'd missed the last few due to family commitments, holidays and production. It felt good to be back.

As I arrived, Andy, Alan and Rob were going to play Saboteur by Frederic Moyersoen, and they offered me a seat. By the time we'd got the game set up Adrian, Mike and Paul D had joined in too. We played a single round, then Adrian, Mike and Paul left to play Oltre Mare. Fortunately we were able to pick up Wolfgang, Kevin and Keith who filled the seats. We eight played another two rounds. I'm still not convinced about Saboteur, I like the idea of two teams both playing co-operatively against each other, I like the idea of hidden roles so that you don't know who is one your side. But somehow it just doesn't seem to come together. I spent large periods of the rounds with no useful cards to play, and even when I did I couldn't play a card which would keep my role secret. It was alright, but I'm not enamoured of it. Final scores: Rob 8, Andy 7, Alan 6, Adrian 3, Mike 3, Me 3, Wolfgang 2, Kevin 0, Keith 0.

My second game of the day was Modern Art an auction game by Reiner Knizia. Rob, Alan and I were nearly joined by Hugo of Bode Gueims, but he sat out in the end to let Jeff and his Wife (whose name I've forgotten) play with us. I'd not played Modern Art before, and I enjoyed it - it covers an awful lot of different types of auction as you bid for works by different artists, trying to gauge which artist will be the most popular. It's very interesting, as you get to choose which paintings to offer for sale, and then bid for them - bearing in mind that the money you spend goes to the person who is offering the painting. I didn't think much of the artwork, the Pop Art ones were ok, the rest were crap though. It's hard to gauge how much to pay, Rob, Alan and I were fairly conservative in our spending while Jeff and his Wife spent money like water. In the end it paid off for them: Jeff 462, Jeff's Wife 444, Me 391, Rob 358, Alan 242.

Over our lunch break I introduced Alan to Hive and we played a couple of games. I really like Hive, it appears so simple on the face of it, but with so many choices to make it's surprisingly deep. I managed to beat Alan twice, but I'd imagine now he's got a couple of games under his belt he'll beat me fairly soon.

After lunch Alan (who was fast turning into my games chum of the day) wanted something a bit meatier. It was time to break out one of Jon's freebies. Jon had tried to prise some free games out of publishers at Essen for the club - it worked - he came back with sixty-odd. We chose Shogun by Dirk Henn, a re-themed version of Wallenstein.

We were joined by Hugo, Paul and Andrew for a 5-player. After punching it out we started going through the rules, since none of us had played it before. The rules seemed a little intimating, and there were lots of components but the pieces looked beautiful and I'd heard good things about Wallenstein (it's ranked very highly on BoardGameGeek. After the first turn it was pretty straightforward, and I really enjoyed it - the theme helped, I'm a big fan of feudal Japan as a setting for games, books and films. There was a nice balance of combat and resource management. I'm not convinced about the battle-tower as a method for resolving combat, but it's a nice component so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt for now. At the end of the first year I was winning, having a lot of territories, and a good mix of buildings, however in the second round I lost a few territories and was pipped at the post by Paul. Final scores: Paul 47, Me 45, Hugo 43, Alan 40 and Andrew 24.

The final game of the day was a nice quick game of Diamant by Alan R. Moon and Bruno Faidutti. Paul had to leave, so it was just Alan, Andrew, Hugo and I.

I'd played this before at Paul's games night so I knew what to expect. It's a fast and fun press-your-luck filler. We played the five mines, with Hugo building up a fairly unassailable lead early on. The middle mines were really unlucky drawing lots of disasters right at the beginning. After a few cards I was the only person left in the last mine, again we'd had a lot of disasters so the others pulled out. I chose to stay in and try to beat Hugo's score, but I quickly hit another disaster and lost everything. Final scores: Hugo 68, Andrew 36, Alan 24, Me 21.

It was a really good day - I thoroughly enjoyed it. In the evening I did some construction, finishing the boxes for the next batch.

Saturday, December 2

November Report

Here's my second monthly report - letting you know how my gaming and games designing has gone during the last month. I'm hoping that it will provide me with an opportunity to keep track of whether or not I'm getting what I want done.

First up, games played. I played far fewer games in November than October, I missed both Beyond Monopoly days, and only made it to two out of four of Paul's games nights. Dave came round for Space Hulk again though and I played some games down in Bristol with my family and my in-laws. Total games played in November: 19 (excluding prototypes).

  • Hey! That's My Fish!: 3 plays.
  • Mission: Red Planet: 2 plays.
  • Guillotine: 2 plays.
  • Carcasonne: 2 plays.
  • Space Hulk: 3 plays.
  • Border Reivers: 2 plays.
  • Ticket To Ride: 1 play.
  • Flanderen 1302: 2 plays.
  • Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition: 1 play.
  • Puerto Rico: 1 play.
  • Niagara: 1 play.
  • Masons: 1 play.

Only two new games this month: Flanderen 1302 and Mission: Red Planet. Of the two I prefered Mission: Red Planet - I loved the steam punk theme and the game was good fun too.

I bought one new game this month again (Carcassonne: Inns & Cathedrals), which I've not yet had a chance to play. I've played it before though, and it's a good one I'm sure it will get plenty of play in the future.

Looking forward to December I'm still really hoping to get a game of Canal Mania in. I had it down as one of the two games I wanted to play in November, but seeing as I didn't get to BM there was no opportunity. With any luck I'll get a chance to play it at BM this afternoon. I'm also looking forward to hanging out with my family and my in-laws at Christmas - we'll probably play some games, possibly including Shogun.

So that's October from a player's perspective, how about a designer's perspective?

Border Reivers

Border Reivers had a mixed month. I sold another nine copies, mainly towards the end of the month after a slow start. I've gained a few more ratings, but the average has dipped below seven again. In terms of publicity I've had confirmation that the interview for Flagship magazine is going to be printed, and they're going to review it too. Also the BBC MindGames magazine have a review coming out just after Christmas.

Codename: Jorvik (11 plays this month)

Codename: Jorvik has seen a fair amount of play (not included above). I made a new prototype of Jorvik which simplifies a bunch of things and make some things slightly more involved. I'm pretty happy with this new version, but I've several more ideas to try out, I'll have to give those a whirl over December.

Codename: Sennon

One of my goals for November was to make a Sennon prototype, but sadly I only got it half made - I've some of the cards made, but no tiles or counters - I want to get a prototype done to take down to Bristol at Christmas so I can play it with friends and family and start the design process in earnest.

Codename: Artist (2 plays this month)

This one came out of the blue while visiting my family mid-month. Dad suggested a single word, and within twenty-four hours I had some rules scribbled down in my notebook. I made a prototype and then got to play it a couple of times the following weekend. I think it's got potential, the original scoring idea was completely broken, but that's been swapped out and hopefully I can make some progress on this one soon too.

What does December have in store? I need to finish the Sennon prototype, and playtest my prototypes a lot more. I'm expecting a prototype from another designer through the post in a couple of days, and that will need testing too. I hope to build up a decent stock in preparation for the BBC review, and the Flagship interview might come out this month too. I'm thinking of having a prototype games night, but that might have to wait until after Christmas...

In other news I did another set of tiles last night - finishing another copy. I've now got three finished copies at home - yeay! But I've seven outstanding orders! I also started making boxes for the next batch, a batch of six. I cut them all out and assembled three box lids. I'm off to Beyond Monopoly now - session report up tomorrow.

Friday, December 1

Legendary Night!

Wednesday night was good. I got another gamer sale. I had some good news about my publicity. But last night was legendary. Seriously. When I come to write my autobiography it will deserve a whole chapter. They'll be singing sagas that tell the tale of this night for centuries to come.

Ok, perhaps I'm over-selling it, but I feel really good again. As I'm sure you noticed I was feeling a bit down, sales were thin on the ground and I was feeling a little disappointed, wondering whether I'd made the right decision investing so much of my time and money into self-publishing Border Reivers. Last night reassured me.

I'd been spending more time with The Wife and with friends and family, and I'll be honest, production had slacked off a bit. It's been nice to see so much of my family over the last few weekends, I usually only see them a couple of times a year, so it's been really good to see them more often. I've also really enjoyed spending more time with The Wife. Border Reivers production takes up a lot of time, and I'd been spending almost all my free time on it for several months.

I'd intended to spend last night on construction (the first for over a week), with the bunch of orders at the wedding, plus another order earlier in the week I'd fallen behind. I needed to get some copies finished off.

Before I started I checked my email (as I do habitually most evenings and mornings), and trawled through the usual thirty-odd spam messages offering stock tips or various bedroom medications (you know the ones I mean ;-) ). This time there were a bunch of real emails for me! Another designer had let me know he had sent me a prototype to playtest for possible publishing, the reviewer from BBC MindGames confirmed the review is in the February edition (out 2nd January) and is going to send my parents a free copy of the magazine too - since they lent her their copy to review. Nice touch - I'm impressed. It got better. I had an order from a customer after two copies! Yeay!

Numfar! Do the Dance of Joy!

I also got some construction done, too. Good stuff.

Thursday, November 30

Great Night

I've decided to reduce the frequency of my blogging in an attempt to boost the quality - i.e. only post when I've something to say. Hopefully, it'll make the blog a bit more interesting...

Last night I got some good news, a sale that I had previously counted, but hadn't turned into anything was confirmed - I was beginning to lose some confidence, as sales had slowed too. But, I chased them up, and they confirmed the sale - woohoo! I've also received another real gamer sale this week - things are looking up.

We also had some friends round, and while the ladies entertained themselves, Rich and I played games. First up was a game of Border Reivers, and to avoid damaging the copies I had ready to go, we played with the old prototype:

It was fun breaking out this old version, and I still love the FIMO pieces I made to represent mountain ranges, towers and castles:

The game was a real nail-biter, Rich got to the mine first and made use of the monetary advantage to get a lot of armies. Outnumbered on cash and armies I had to make a few desperate attacks, which after some disasterous failures finally paid off. I managed to win the mine back eventually, and wiped Rich out at the same time as getting the requisite gold. It was a really enjoyable game because of the back-and-forth nature and the pressure I felt under. Good stuff.

Afterwards I offered Rich a few options and he chose my Jorvik prototype (the latest one). We ended up playing four games, I won the first, then we drew the second, I won the third and then Rich won the final game. Rich seemed to enjoy it, and was keen to play more. During the games our scores steadily increased, until the last game when we both suffered at the hands of the events. It felt good though, we both had a strategy, I won the majority of the games which implies a level of strategy, rather than just blind luck, and I found a flaw in the rules, which needed to be address halfway through the last game. I still think Jorvik needs something else, but I felt it went fairly well. One of the things I'm aiming for with Jorvik is a Lost Cities-like experience. Fast games, that are really good fun and pull you in for more. The first time I played Lost Cities, I got utterly creamed but really wanted to play again. When I introduced it to Roman we played five games back-to-back. After each game of Jorvik last night I offered Rich the chance to play something different, and each time he chose another game of Jorvik - I must be doing something right.

Tuesday, November 28

Fantastic Weekend

On the weekend I was down in London for my sister's wedding. I've not been to London socially for many years - probably around six or so, despite only living about two hundred miles away and having family there. I'm not a big fan of anywhere that huge, I prefer a more sensibly-sized city.

We had a fantastic weekend, it was really great to see my family (it's usually only at Christmas that I see my sister and her now husband) and everyone was in a really good mood. The weekend was really good fun, we drank (quite a lot in some cases :-) ), we ate - it was great.

Bizarrely, I also sold three copies of my game to friends and family. That sounds really bad. I want to make absolutely clear that I was not at my sister's wedding pimping my game. My friends and family had heard about my game from other friends and family and they were interested to hear about it, and how it was going. I told them, and they ordered copies. It was great, and yet wrong. It's my sister's wedding, dammit. Ideally I'd prefer to sell the game to gamers, who are more likely to play it, but I've had a slow few weeks of sales, and I'll take the money gratefully.

Sadly I missed Paul's games night again last night as we had various chores to do having been away all weekend, plus I've an interview for a promotion at work today so I had to do some prep this evening, reading up about the subject. Next week. Honest. Sorry Paul, etc., I hope you had a good night.

1977 and all that...

Hi there!

As mentioned last week, Jack has invited me to add my thoughts to this blog every now and then on games that i'm developing. Like many others, I’ve had a few ideas for games over the years and recently have started taking my ideas and developing them into playable games.

As with many of my era (Born in the late seventies) I developed a fixation with Games Workshop while at school, my favourite game being Advanced Heroquest, and I ended up spending a small fortune on miniatures while not actually playing that many games!

After a few years away from gaming I picked up a copy of Heroclix at my local comic shop, it looked fun and played well, but it started costing too much to collect. Eventually I ended up buying a copy of Lord of the Rings (on sale at Toys R Us) and was instantly hooked. I started looking on the internet for similar and found Boardgame Geek, bought some more games and ended up joining my local games group (Beyond Monopoly!)

Since then I’ve been a regular gamer and have started developing my own games. The main one that I’ve been working on is ‘Citywise’ a game of a race against time in a future city with players competing to raise the most cash in a 24 hour period (game time, not real time!), this is coming on well and is starting to take shape.

My other games include Steam Car Racers; A Victorian racing game, BMX Challenge; A Card based game, and Space Campaign; A ridiculously complicated game of galactic control. All of the above are just in the idea stage at the moment.

I’ll be posting here on a regular basis to update you on my game developments, I’ll gratefully receive any comments and feedback.

All the best, see you soon

Friday, November 24

New Member

My friend Dave has been coming round for games for a few weeks, and has recently got into board games design in his spare time. Last time he came round he brought a very early prototype of his first game (known as Citywise), and we played it. It was interesting, and despite some early prototype flaws has real potential. He's got his own board games design blog, and so tonight at the pub I invited him to join Creation and Play as another games designer. I'm delighted to say he's up for it - so hopefully we'll be hearing about his progress here soon.

I'm not going to post this weekend as I'm down in London for my sister's wedding - so you'll not hear from me until Monday.

Thursday, November 23

Slack Sales

Since I've got back from the Psychcon convention in mid-October I've had a few weeks of disappointing sales. I'm not quite sure why this is as I've had some good publicity in the form of Hugo's review. I've put a little less effort into self-publicising (as if I was putting any effort in the first place!), but I can't see that making much difference.

I had been relying on getting the review in BBC MindGames before Christmas, so I wasn't too worried about selling fewer than I had hoped - since I expected a big jump and I was worried that I wouldn't have time to build up a stock for that. Now that I've got a bit longer before the MindGames review is printed, I need to boost my sales a bit. How? Therein lies the problem. I've no idea really. I've had a bunch of advice from various people, but a lot of that is less applicable to me, as I have very few copies available, and don't stand to make much money from it.

I'm considering approaching the local paper, and seeing if they want to do an interview or review. I can't imagine that many of their readers will be interested, but they will have a pretty large readership, and maybe doing it just before Christmas will get me a few Christmas present orders.

In other news, using a friend's garage for gluing on Tuesday was great in that it was fairly warm, dry and well lit. The only downside? My legs are really stiff, and I can only assume it was kneeling down for an hour an a half that did it. Jeez. Now I feel old and/or unfit. I'll have to do something about those, and I guess the unfit one is the easier of the two to tackle...

Wednesday, November 22

Critical Review

Recently I started help Dave playtest a game he's designing and I received a submission from another designer who would like me to publish their game. It's been an interesting experience, and until now I've only playtested my own games, and been on the receiving end of feedback rather than had to give it myself. It made me think of what I wanted from playtesting feedback, so here's my thoughts on reviewing a product in development. Feel free to disagree (or back me up) in the comments.

The designer will have invested heavily in their game, they will have given up lots of their time and effort to get it to the stage it has finally reached. They now think it's good enough to play with others, and as you would expect they would like to hear that you think it's good too. However, they need to hear its weaknesses. You can get blinded to the bad points of something you're heavily invested in - it takes someone from outside to see the wood from the trees.

So slag it off? NO! The key is constructive criticism. Look for both good and bad points and relate them both. Remember your opinion on the game is just that - a personal opinion. Try to separate the game from the designer and avoid personal attacks - these won't lead to your feedback being considered.

Having said all that, be honest. If you don't like something say so - and provide reasons why. Suggest alternatives - they may well not be used but they are more constructive than just slating it.

I think it's also vital to have a pen and paper handy when you're playtesting a game too. That way to can make a note of things while playing the game without breaking the flow of the game too much. You can discuss the pros and cons afterwards without have to keep them all in memory while you're playing the game.

In other news I finally got some gluing done last night - enough to finish off that batch of four games. Once they are finished I should have some stock again.

Tuesday, November 21

Session Report: Paul's Game Night

I got round to Paul's again last night for Monday night games. It was Andy, Greg, Paul and I. We first set up a game of Flanderen 1302 by Wolfgang Panning and Hans-Joerg Brehm. Andy and Paul explained the rules to Greg and I who sat there looking bemused. I don't know about Greg but I certainly didn't really have a clue what I doing for at least half of the game. In the game you collaberate to build six cities: Leuven, Gent, Ieper (Ypres herein after referred as Leper), Brugge, Utrecht and Luik. When a city is finished it is scored - with the player who built the most of their districts in the city getting the lions-share of the points. You can also increase the value of a city by building a religious district, or build a district belonging to the neutral player to scupper your opponents. Since you can't place two districts of the same colour next to each other neutral placement can make things really awkward for the others. You also have a limited number of the pieces of each of three different shapes, making things still more complicated. I scored low for the first few cities, but then I started to get the hang of it. Then I ran out of pieces! Paul and Greg were winning by a fairly long chalk, but they had got their points early and Andy and I did fairly well out of the last few cities. In the end the scores were fairly close: Greg 46, Me 42, Andy 36, Paul 34 and neutral 8. Greg and I set out to try and beat the neutral player, so in some senses we won!

We finish the night off with a couple of quick and chaotic games of Guillotine by Paul Peterson. It's fast, it's funny and it's great fun. The more I play this one the more I like it, despite the complete inability to plan a strategy. The cards are entertaining and well-illustrated in a comic fashion. I seem to do alright at this one - first game: Paul 17, Me 17, Greg 12, Andy 11; second game: Greg 23, Me 22, Paul 19 and Andy 12.

Yet another very enjoyable games night at Paul's. I really need to make more of an effort to get there more often.

Monday, November 20

More Mission: Red Planet

We had a second game of Mission: Red Planet before we left Bristol yesterday. This time I chose more adventurous bonus cards at the beginning as the +2 I'd chosen in the first game was pretty lame, with everyone else getting around 6-8 points for theirs. I got +8 if you have the most astronauts on Mars. At that point I made a concious choice to play the recruiter early, so that I could play those characters which get me two (or three) astronauts onto ships twice. I also tried to play the Explorer in the scoring rounds to maximise the number of locations I would score. Fairly early on I played the Scientist, and got a second bonus card that was worth 6 (I think) if you collected the most of the most expensive ore. So I was aiming for those territories too.

After the second scoring during the turn eight, I was winning by a hefty amount, although Matt was definitely getting more astronauts on the planet. However, it all went a bit Pete Tong in the end. I'd used up my Explorers in turns five and eight, the first two scoring rounds, which were worth as much combined as the final scoring. With my healthy lead I was the person to target so I was attacked a couple of times with Soldiers and the like, and those who chose the Explorer in the final round were able to out-maneouvre me on the surface. As a result Suzy got the most of the most expensive element and Matt had the most astronauts on Mars. Neither of my bonus cards scored me any points. Plus I'd lost control of a couple of territories in the final turn, and hence didn't score very well. The Wife managed to surprise herself as much as the rest of us by completing both her bonus cards in the final turn and getting the bonus for having the most ice tokens. Final scores: The Wife 40, Matt 39, Suzy 33, Me 30.

I'm off to Paul's tonight for more games - woohoo! Session report up tomorrow all being well.

Sunday, November 19

Playtesting Ahoy!

I'm staying at the in-laws this weekend, and they're games people so we got a few games in yesterday. I finally got around to playing Mission: Red Planet a Steam-punk area control game by Bruno Faidutti and Bruno Cathala. It has a similar character-selection mechanic to Citadels also by Bruno Faidutti, but this time everyone has their own set of characters so that multiple players can be the same character. In a similar way to the paddle cards cards in Niagara you cannot re-use a character until you play the Recruiter character. I really enjoyed the game, it lives up to the hype in my mind. It helps that I like Steam-punk stuff generally, and the production quality is great, with really nice artwork.

As I'd somehow managed to leave the house without any games but my prototypes (and the stuff to make more prototypes), we got a few games of those in too. In the morning I finished off the Codename: Artist prototype, and started a prototype for Codename: Sennon. With the Sennon prototype half-finished that obviously didn't come out, but I played two games of Artist (one with Suzy, one with Matt) and three of Jorvik (two with Matt and one with Suzy). I was really pleased with Artist, it seemed to work straight off the bat, I'd not even played it against myself yet. The scoring is totally broken, and will need some loving attention, but the gameplay is already working surprisingly well. It's definitely a bit of a brain-burner and the wealth of options at every turn make it nicely strategic. I suppose it's a bit of a cross between a Euro and an abstract as it has some hidden information, rather than everything being out in the open, and the winner is not necessarily clear until the scores are tallied. I'm pleased with it so far, and it might start moving up the release schedule...

I played the new prototype of Jorvik with Matt and the old one with both Suzy and Matt. I've still not made a choice between the two, and speaking to Matt, who played both, I can see why. He liked aspects of the two versions, which sadly I think are mutually exclusive :-( Jorvik is already a working game, although I think it still needs something to become a great game, so I'm still tinkering in the hope of improving it. Encouragingly I got this feedback from Matt:

"I think Artist is the better game, but it makes my brain ache - so I prefer Jorvik."

A vote for both games in a single sentence! He must be a politician.

Saturday, November 18

Bristol: The Reprise

We've come down to Bristol again this weekend to see the in-laws. Last weekend only I came down and I didn't really see the in-laws at all, so this time it's both of us.

I didn't get the Codename: Artist prototype finished last night before we left as I left work late, so I had no time once I got home. I've brought it with me though, and I expect to finish it off in the next hour or so. It's a very simple game in terms of components, but it should provide the players with a lot of options at every turn (diminishing towards the end of the game) not unlike Hey! That's My Fish!. I don't yet know whether this will make it bewildering or vulnerable to analysis paralysis. There's only one way to find out.

It's been a disappointing week for sales of Border Reivers. Since the Psychocon conference I've not sold many copies at all, although I've been on holiday and not attended any more conventions. Hopefully the review in BBC MindGames will drum up some interest, but for now I ought to put some more effort into publicity.

Friday, November 17

Fast Turnaround

My Dad gave me a single word last Sunday and asked me to design a game around that word. The word was the name of a modern artist. I spent a decent chunk of my train journey back from Bristol last weekend thinking of a game inspired by the artist's work. It was the birth of Codename: Artist an abstract tesselation game.

Last night, before a trip to the pub with some friends I started to knock up a prototype of Artist. Because of its abstract nature (and a short list of simple components) it should be much quicker to construct than Sennon, so it's snuck up the prototyping list. I hope to finish the prototype tonight before we go back down to Bristol again to visit The Wife's family.

The Wife's family are gamers, so I hope to get some games in, possibly even of my prototypes. Mission: Red Planet is another strong contender as we bought it as a birthday present for Matt.

Thursday, November 16

Making Friends

I first moved to York just over two years ago. At that time I was working from home and commuting to Newcastle for two days a week. We were living in a small village outside York which suffered from lame bus service. I didn't drive at the time either, so I was fairly isolated. It was a year before I started working locally and passed my driving test, by which time the only people I knew in York were friends through The Wife's work.

One of the best things about deciding to get Border Reivers finished and start selling it is the number of new friends I've made. At the playtesting event I held I met Paul, Greg and Spence who I try to meet up with once a week for games. I've started going to Beyond Monopoly, where I've made even more friends, including Dave my Space Hulk buddy. Plus I've a bunch of internet friends who I might have only met very briefly, but I'm getting to know through this blog, other blogs and podcasts and BoardGameGeek. It's great that a personal project such as giving up your social life to self-publish a game you've designed can lead to a bunch of new friends.

In other news, I finished the batch of four games last night except for the tiles. I've an opportunity to do the gluing for the tiles next Tuesday in a friend's garage, so the end of this batch is in sight. I finished off the cards last night while listening to Luke's Happy Happy Baord Games Love-In podcast. It was my first venture into the world of podcast listening, and although I only had time to listen to the first episode, I can see that this might become almost as dangerously addictive as blog-reading. Oh dear. Great stuff, Luke!

Wednesday, November 15

The tales of a casual games designer: Part 11

Well, I made my first sale at Midcon! Whoooo! Now gotta get a move on to finish off my customer's copy! Great feedback from those who played (the level of strategy seemed really high with four player, 20 cyclist racing) and plenty of people who stopped by said that they seriously thought it was pro produced...Which was nice of them! A couple more certain preorders so things are looking up - time to kick on with finishing the typing up of the rule book then!

Back In The Saddle

I finally got back to constructing again last night. I got very little done last week due to a few social events and the unexpected trip to Bristol. I'm still working on that batch of four copies I started a week or so ago.

All I had left to do on them was the decks of cards and the tiles. The tiles are on hold until I get an opportunity to do some gluing (I had intended to spend a day gluing last weekend while The Wife was away, but instead spent it down in Bristol). So I started on the decks of cards instead. I didn't get as much done as I would have liked as I didn't get home from work until late and I decided to bite the bullet and go and buy a new cutting mat before I started. I'd had the previous cutting mat for many years and Border Reivers had finally done for it - the cutting surface was trashed. The new mat is great and it leaves a much nicer finish on the things I'm cutting. I really should have changed it earlier.

I'm away again this weekend, but I'm visiting my in-laws so there should be some games opportunities and possibly even some playtesting and prototype making opportunities.

Tuesday, November 14

After All That

Yesterday I had the meeting with the reviewer from BBC MindGames, and I introduced Border Reivers, then we played a game. I thought the meeting went well, she seemed to enjoy the game and with a few pointers got into it well. In the end she won, after I had some terrible luck in combat. I managed to wrest the mine from her and push back her other flank, but she came back at me, and waded through my armies like they were decrepid old folk, unsure of which ends of their weapons to stick in their enemies (it's the pointy end). I spent a lot of the game short on armies as a result of the slaughter of my ineffectual troops, though my choice of the Training Camp did help me out a little there.

As I left she said it should appear in the January edition (out on 5th December), and gave me a copy of this month's magazine for the train. I enjoyed the magazine (their Ten Best Games For Christmas beat the pants off The Independent's, and featured three Euros - Settlers, Lost Cities and Carcassonne). The puzzles had a nice range of different types and difficulties. All in all, it was an ideal magazine for me on the train. I also spent an hour or two working on the game idea Dad had sparked by giving me a single work. It's now Codename: Artist. It'll be an abstract tesselation game, for 2 or 5 or 6 players. I think it has some potential, but I need to get a prototype together and start playing it to really find out.

When I got home last night there was more disappointment though. Unfortunately the reviewer's editor had already 'locked' her earlier version, so the review is not going to come out until after Christmas after all. D'oh. After going all the way down there I still don't get the pre-Christmas review. Still, it can't be helped.

Monday, November 13

Bristol: Day 3

We had a really nice day yesterday, with all my siblings coming round for dinner at Mum and Dad's. It almost felt like Christmas, with the exception that The Wife wasn't down here with us.

Yesterday I made another prototype for Jorvik (number four? number five?) and then played it twice, once solo and once with my Dad. I think this one is better than the last, but I'll need to play it several times to be sure. I was glad that Dad picked it up quickly (he said he was strategising by the end of the game), as he's really not a gamer, so the fact that he could pick it up so quickly shows me that I've pitched the difficulty about right. The hard thing is to keep some strategic options in the game when the game is fairly simple.

Towards the end of the day Dad also gave me a game title. Just one word. I didn't recognise the word, but it turns out it is the name of a modern artist. He then showed me some of that artist's work. This morning I've already been thinking of how the artist's work could inspire a game. I've got a few ideas, so that should keep me busy, scribbling in my notebook on the train.

I'm off in a minute to go and play Border Reivers with the reviewer from the BBC MindGames. I'll let you know tomorrow how it goes.

Sunday, November 12

Bristol: Day 2

I'm obsessed with games. There. I've admitted it. They say the first step is to admit you've got a problem.

I'm down in Bristol visiting my family. Yesterday we went on a sort of stag & hen do, with my family and Dan's family. The girls went on a treasure hunt, and then for dinner, the boys on a tour of Bristol, and then for dinner, then we met up for drinks afterwards. It was great for the family to get together, as with the exception of Christmas (and the forthcoming wedding), we don't do it. In fact it felt a bit like Christmas, with us all round at Mum & Dad's, with the exception of The Wife who's in Edinburgh visiting a friend. The ladies left fairly early in morning, which left Dad and I in the house alone.

Conversation turned towards Reiver Games, and we must have spent a couple of hours discussing how it's going and what my aspirations are. Dad's run a few business ventures over the years, always in his spare time, as he was a teacher for over thirty years in his main profession. It's good to have a sounding board for ideas, and also to get someone else who has had some experience to discuss issues I may not have considered. I really appreciate Dad's input, and I like it that he's so interested and excited about the project. I've also asked him for some artwork for Jorvik, which he's very keen to help with after Christmas when he's less busy.

Today I'm going to make another Jorvik prototype this morning, and then later on my brother is coming round and we're going to have a family meal in the evening. My sister has brought a Christmas pudding - so it'll be even more Christmassy!

Saturday, November 11

Hello From Sunny Bristol

I've come down to Bristol for the weekend to see my family, attend a dual-family gathering in preparation for my sister's wedding and to teach the reviewer from BBC MindGames to play Border Reivers.

I spent four hours on a train last night, and due to exhaustion caused largely by a couple of neighbours rowing loudly in the street for over five hours starting at 3:15am a couple of days ago, I didn't get much done on the train. When I went down to visit Dunk a couple of months ago I had a very productive train journey, writing pages of notes on Jorvik and Sennon and coming up with a couple of new ideas for games. This time I only managed to get six pages written, including a card distribution for the new Jorvik prototype, along with the rule changes I had in mind, plus the first full copy of the Sennon rules I've got in mind. Now all I need are some prototypes...

I'm at my parents for two or three days, so if I can get my hands on some card I can make use of Dad's swanky guillotine and knock something together. There's every chance Dad has some card lying around. I'll also be discussing the Jorvik graphic design with Dad - he's very interested in my games design venture, and keen to help out where he can.

Friday, November 10

A Good Day For Publicity

Wednesday featured a disappointment on the publicity front. A couple of days after hearing that a review of Border Reivers would be in the edition of BBC MindGames Magazine that comes out before Christmas (when everyone has money to spend and is looking for presents) I heard back from the reviewer to say that it will slip to the February edition which comes out in Janurary (when everyone is skint). Apparently the reviewer is unused to that type of game and was finding understanding the rules tricky. This was a bit of a blow as I was hoping to gain a boost in sales from the review.

A bit of thinking on my feet and I worked out that I could pop down to Bristol this weekend (since The Wife is away anyway) and explain the game to the reviewer. I checked with my parents (who live down there) to see if I could crash at theirs this weekend and that was great as there was a tame joint families stag and hen do for my sister and her fiancé that I could attend. I hurriedly arranged a meeting with the reviewer, got Monday off work and booked train tickets. I asked if this would bump the review back to the January (out in December) edition, and they thought it would, it would be tight - but possible. Excellent news. They even thanked me for offering to come down and explain the game! It's they who are doing me the favour, not the other way round - as they are hopefully providing free publicity to a lot of people just before Christmas. I thanked them back.

I also noticed that Hugo of Bode Gueims has posted a very nice review of Border Reivers on his blog and BoardGameGeek. It's been on the front page of BGG all day and will hopefully generate some interest. Thanks, Hugo!

Upon checking my email last night I got a third piece of good news on the publicity front. A few weeks ago I was interviewed via email by Mike of Psychocon fame for the Flagship games magazine. I'd got an email from the Flagship guys, congratulating me on a good interview and asking to buy a copy so they could review it! Wow, great stuff. Thanks, guys!

What a rollercoaster ride this games design lark is. Wednesday evening I was quite disappointed, now I'm on top of the world. It never ceases to surprise me how much support I'm getting from the UK games community - it's really great.

Thursday, November 9

Session Report: Space Hulk And More

Tuesday night Dave came round again for games. As before, the headline act was Space Hulk the old Games Workshop game with a very similar feel to the Aliens film. As a bonus, this week we had a warm-up act: a game of Dave's own devising.

We set up Dave's game and he talked me through the rules - it was interesting being on the other side of this, in the last few months I've explained the rules of Border Reivers a lot, but this was the first time I'd ever played another designer's prototype. I'll not go into much detail of Dave's game as it's his job to decide how much information about the game he wants to make public and when, what I'll try to do is get across how the evening felt from a playtester's point of view.

First impressions of the game were good, the prototype was well-made and visually interesting, and I could tell from one look at the board what the theme was. If anything, the prototype was over-produced, as this was the first time Dave had played the game, so a lot will change over the coming months. While he explained the game Dave was quite self-deprecating, which I was told I was doing at The Cast Are Dice - it's obviously a common reflex. However, if you start disparaging the game you've designed, you'll put players off. The game had several things I really liked: fixed length; a clearly defined beginning, middle and end; some excellent events. It also had it's fair share of weaknesses, as you would expect from a game in the very early stages of development. The first few plays of one of my games are awful, as it takes time and practice to take the ideas in your head and turn them into something that works in reality. It came in at around an hour, and although I was at a loose end a couple of times, at no point was I bored or regretting playing it - a good sign.

After the game, we went through the notes I had taken about the things I liked and disliked about the game. We discussed possible solutions to some problems the game had and ideas for ways the game could be changed. It reminded me how much my playtesters had influenced the design of Border Reivers, especially The Wife and Mal, who contributed some excellent ideas to the finished game. One of the things I do is keep a list of people who have playtested a game I'm working on - they definitely deserve a mention in the rules for their contributions.

I'd definitely be up for playing it again, and I'll be interested to watch another designer's game evolve over the coming months. Perhaps we'll play Jorvik or Sennon next time too...

After that we played a couple more games of Space Hulk. We played the second mission again (I was the Genestealers this time), and then the third mission from one end only. Again, I really enjoyed the Space Hulk, good clean fun, and since I was the stealers both times, I got a side order of vicious disemboweling of my enemies with my good, clean fun. The theming of Space Hulk is really well done, when playing as the marines you feel very claustrophobic as the unknown numbers of enemies swarm around your limited troops. Coupled with the enhanced maneourveability and faster top speed of the stealers you feel very vulnerable. I remember a computer version, which really laid the claustrophobia on thick - the cramped corridors felt tiny when a stealer swarmed towards one of your marines, followed by static as contact was lost...

Both sides have definite tactics, with the stealers wanting to stay out of LOS for as long as possible. They are also far more powerful when they attack in waves, that way you can maximise the chance of a weapon jam being capitalised upon by a stealer, as you will undoubtedly lose a few before the weapon jams. Marines on the other hand want to keep as much distance between themselves and the stealers as possible, and excel when they can cover a long approach with overwatch fire. Great stuff.

In the end I won all three games that evening, I'm keen for more though :-)

I had hoped to do a load of construction this weekend, however I might have to go to Bristol instead. The reviewer from the BBC magazine had some difficulty getting their head round the game, and wanted to play it with my parents (which would be a case of the blind leading the blind :-) ), and conveniently there's a do on, in preparation for my sister's wedding this weekend so I've an excuse to be down in Bristol. We shall see.

Wednesday, November 8

Session Report: Paul's Games Night

Monday night I finally managed to get to Paul's games night. He's cancelled a few weeks due to illness, and on the occassions that he did hold it, I've had to cry off for various reasons. It was great to be back. Paul's still not back to his usual self, and due to new babies and various other reasons we were down a few regulars, so it was just Paul, Greg, Vin and I.

While we waited for Vin to arrive, we played a couple of games of Hey! That's My Fish! with Paul's wife Lisa joining in. Lisa, is very much in the vein of The Wife, i.e. she won both games convincingly. Still, despite being soundly whooped, I love this game. It's so quick and simple, and yet there's a surprising amount of strategic depth, with every move from the initial placement of penguins onwards being a wealth of options, and each of those options begetting more options in a very wide decision tree. Once you factor in the chance to screw your opponents out of fish, and the gut-wrenching decisions caused by only being able to move one penguin each turn, it's a fast and very fun game. The only real downside is the ludicrous box size in relation to the contents. It's a very wasteful box, both in terms of raw materials and space, and with my environmental concerns and tiny flat that might be enough to put me off buying it.

When Vin arrived we had another quick game of Hey! That's My Fish! This was the scene of two awful puns:

He's really ice-olated


I'm hard of herring

These set the scene for the rest of the evening - silly and entertaining :-) Coupled with Vin's choice of music (he had DJ rights due to his imminent birthday), I also received an education - even if none of us could agree on the genre of the bands. Final scores for H!TMF!: Lisa 29, Paul 28, Greg 21, Me 20; Lisa 34, Greg 23, Paul 21, Me 18; Me 29, Greg 22, Paul 20, Vin 20.

The second game of the night was Masons. This was the second time I had played, but that didn't help much, after a slow start for Paul, I soon dropped into last place, but through frantic swapping of cards (a catch-up mechanism only available to the losing players) I managed to get a couple of decent cards for the final scoring round, and ended up acquitting myself respectably, if not admirably. I like Masons, but it doesn't grab me as an excellent game - it'll be interesting to see how that changes with more plays. Final scores: Greg 147, Paul 137, Me 133, Vin 121.

We wrapped up the evening with a game of Niagara. This was only my second game of Niagara, and again I really enjoyed it. Very quick and fun, with some really innovative mechanics and gimmicks. This time I could play more strategically, and I really enjoyed trying to second guess my opponents. I nearly won, but Paul managed to stop me by stealing my gems. In the next turn he had to do it again to Greg to stop him winning, but then Greg won the turn after anyway. Final scores: Greg one of each, Paul 6, Me 4, Vin 4.

Another great night of games - no new games this time, but some really good ones I'd played before, in the company of friends - an evening well spent. Plus, as an added bonus, I scrounged a lift from Greg this week, so I was able to have a beer - bonus!

In other news, Yehuda recommends a very interesting article on The Journal of Board Game Design considering Board Game Designers as auteurs. I can say without a doubt I don't consider myself an auteur - with a body of work of one published game there's no opportunity for common themes, mechanics or artistic statements throughout my output. Or 100%, depending on your outlook - either way I'm not one.

In addition, last night Dave came round for games again last night. We played the first public game of his game design, plus some more Space Hulk. Session Report up tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 7

The tales of a casual games designer: Part 10

So, I've splashed out on spray glue so now the game making is DEFINITELY official. My current maths places the cost of each game at around £17-18 as long as the glue doesn't turn out to be a complete rip-off and run out every night - in which case new glue will be found! It's all ready to roll at Midcon - I'm paying for counters and dice tomorrow (which they can deliver Thursday/Friday) and I've got boxes coming tomorrow. I had cover photos taken on Sunday so I need my photographer friend to send 'em my way and that's that sorted. Things're definitely starting to look closer to completion and about time too!

Games-Heavy Weekend

The Wife's sister and her boyfriend were up for the weekend - hence no blogging. We had a great time - we'd not seen them for several months and it was great to hang out with them again. They're games guys too, and they don't get a chance to play very often - mainly with us at Christmas and when they visit us.

We got several games in, but in terms of hours played we did a lot of gaming as we played some longer games. After her excellent performance on holiday (winning more games than anyone else, despite playing fewer games than most), The Wife was the lady to beat...

First up on Friday night was Ticket To Ride. It was the first time Matt and Suzy had played, but they enjoyed it, and were competitive, but despite our best efforts The Wife won by a huge margin. Cue some playful ribbing from The Wife. Oh, the shame.

It had been a while since Suzy and Matt had visited, so they hadn't seen the last couple of year's additions to my games collection. Surveying the games available, Matt seemed very interested in Twilight Imperium Third Edition (herein after referred to as Twiglet for the sake of brevity). So after a brief trip into town (during which I found out that the review is not in this month's copy of BBC MindGames, I bought Carcassonne: Inns and Cathedrals and delivered a copy of Border Reivers to a friend at Beyond Monopoly), we sat down for a game of Twiglet. Our previous games of Twiglet have lasted between 2.5 and 10.5 hours - it's an all-day game. However, we didn't sit down to start until gone three, and by the time we'd set up the game and explained the rules, it was five o'clock. Past experience had an estimated finishing time of between 7:30pm and 3:30am! As it turns out, the game (only) lasted about seven hours, so we finished around midnight. It was the first time the 'Imperium Rex' card had come out - which instantly finishes the game. At that point The Wife had nine VPs and I had seven. So she won again: two for two, not bad. We both would have got to ten that turn, but The Wife would have done it first, so even if Imperium Rex hadn't have come out she'd have won anyway. Good work.

On Sunday we went out for a day trip to Whitby, which by the time we got out on the pier was... bracing. I popped into a couple of traditional games shops, one was a great disappointment, the other was great. In addition to their large selection of traditional games, chess sets and wooden puzzles they had Blokus, Carcassonne, Puerto Rico and Settlers of Catan prominantly displayed, and The Wife spotted more modern games on a lower shelf. It's great to see these games getting the exposure they deserve. That evening, Puerto Rico and Carcassonne both hit the table, I won Puerto Rico (at last! Redemption!), with The Wife and Suzy winning one game of Carcassonne a piece. All in all, a great weekend, with a nice amount of gaming too.

In other news:

  • Luke (HamsterOfFury) who posts here about his game design efforts has started a blog/podcast with the best name imaginable: The Happy, Happy Board Game Love-In.
  • I heard from BBC MindGames this morning that the review will be in the January edition (out 5th December) and it will reach a staggering number of people.
  • I finally made it to Paul's for Monday night gaming last night, I'll post a session report tomorrow (I'm a bit behind schedule).
  • Dave is coming round again tonight, probably more Space Hulk, plus an opportunity to play-test a game he's designed. Cool!

Perhaps November won't be so games-dry after all.

Friday, November 3

There Goes My Free Time

Border Reivers has required a huge investment in time. It's required a large investment in money, but a huge one in terms of time.

For the last ten months or so I've been spending a very large proportion of my free time on Border Reivers. Initially there was sourcing materials and doing the artwork, now I spend a lot of time on construction and blogging.

Border Reivers has been more successful than I was hoping, and with the review and interview coming out in the future and hopefully some reviews appearing on BoardGameGeek soon, it will hopefully continue. Still at the current rate I expect to sell out within six months. That's a long time. In the mean time I'm working on other game designs - all of which will require time to bring to fruition.

In some ways my real job helps, in that I can finish as early as 14:50, and come home to post copies or do some construction, in other ways it doesn't. Most of the time I get the bus to work, and due to the journey time and the lack of choice of bus, on those days I'm out of the house for eleven hours - that doesn't leave much time for construction.

Board game design is hard work - it takes a lot of time and effort. Sometimes I wonder about the wisdom of taking it on, in addition to a full-time job. But, I still enjoy it, and it's a great feeling when you hear from people who really enjoy your efforts. I'm also amazed at the number of people who are doing it. The number of people I know or have met who are designing games is huge - much larger than I expected. It's great stuff - the more games designers who are at it the more great games we'll end up with. Sure, not all of them will be great, but some will.

I've received my first submission from another designer, and somehow need to work out whether it's worth the time, cost and effort of publishing. I've no idea how to go about that yet, other than play it a lot and see if I like it.

I've done a fair bit of construction the last couple of days, made some good progress. I've finished the boxes for the batch of four copies I'm working on (including labelling), and I've bagged up the components. All I need to do now is cut out the scoreboards and mountain ranges (five minutes per game), make the decks of cards (half an hour) and glue and cut out the tiles (one hour). We have visitors this weekend so I won't get anything done for a few days. I'll not be blogging for a couple of days either. Have a good one.

Thursday, November 2

October Report

Inspired by a habit of Brian's over at Tao Of Gaming, I'm going to start doing a round-up of the month's gaming activity every month.

First up, games played. I played a lot of games this month, mainly due to several events: Beyond Monopoly, Dave coming round for Space Hulk, a games night, Psychocon in Leeds and a week-long games-fest of a holiday. Total games played in October: 52.

  • Carcassonne: 12 plays (including the River, Traders and Builders and/or King and Scout expansions).
  • Border Reivers: 8 plays - seven of those at the convention.
  • Ticket To Ride: 6 plays.
  • Lost Cities: 5 plays.
  • Puerto Rico: 4 plays.
  • Space Hulk: 3 plays.
  • Formula Dé: 2 plays.
  • Perudo: 2 plays.
  • Apples To Apples: 2 plays.
  • The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game: 1 play.
  • Street Soccer: 1 play.
  • TransAmerica: 1 play.
  • Hey! That's My Fish!: 1 play.
  • Saboteur: 1 play.
  • Niagara: 1 play.
  • Leonardo da Vinci: 1 play.
  • Football Tactics 2006: 1 play.

I had not played eight of those before (Formula Dé, Perudo, Street Soccer, TransAmerica, Saboteur, Niagara, Leonardo da Vinci and Football Tactics 2006). So it was yet another good month for experiencing new games. As part of my quest to become a better games designer, I want to play lots of new games - improving my breadth of experience. Good progress made towards that goal this month. Which was my favourite new game? It's a toss-up between Niagara and Football Tactics 2006. Niagara probably just wins it by a nose. It's fast, fun, simple and features several innovative ideas (the clear discs representing the river, using the box as part of the board).

I bought one new game this month (Lost Cities), which has already got a good amount of play - a good choice, methinks. I like that it's fast and has a reasonable amount of strategy - the randomness doesn't put me off at all.

Looking forward November, I won't play anywhere near as many games, as I'm not attending any cons and I'm going to miss one of the Beyond Monopoly sessions due to visitors. Hopefully I'll get along to Paul's games night a few times, and see more of Dave though. Games I'm most looking forward to playing: Mission: Red Planet and Canal Mania, especially after Chris Farell's positive write-up. Hopefully I'll get a chance to play these this month.

So that's October from a player's perspective, how about a designer's perspective?

Border Reivers

Border Reivers had a good month. I sold nine copies, including four in one week - the second highest ever weekly sales. It was well received at Psychocon, and has gained four more ratings on BBG, boosting its average above seven. I've finally got some sales to North America too, two to the US and one to Canada. I got in contact with the BBC MindGames magazine, and arranged some free publicity, and I was interviewed for a piece in Flagship magazine, though neither of those publicity effort have bourne any fruit yet as the articles have yet to be published.

Codename: Jorvik

Codename: Jorvik has seen a fair amount of play (not included above). It was starting to settle down before the holiday, but now I'm thinking I'll introduce some major changes and see if they improve things. If not, I can always backtrack to the last prototype and try something else. I also got my first order for Jorvik :-)

Codename: Sennon

Codename: Sennon has seen a fair amount of new ideas, and a first attempt at a rules set and component list. I had hoped to take a prototype with me on holiday, but I ran out of time to make it. I'll need to get the prototype made this month in time for playing at Christmas with family and friends.

What does November have in store? I'm hoping to get a couple of new prototypes done for Jorvik and Sennon, and the BBC review comes out this week. I hope that I'll get a bump in sales from the review, but I've no idea if I will or not. The magazine is aimed at puzzlers (sudoku and crosswords, etc.) so they might not be interested, or I might get swamped with orders. Something between those two would be best - a modest bump in orders, but not so many that I really struggle to fulfill them.

Wednesday, November 1

Constructing Again

Well, I've finally got around to making copies again. The presence of a few copies in stock has taken the pressure off a bit, so I've slacked off - especially with the holiday. However, the BBC magazine comes out this week and I've no idea how much interest that will generate, so I ought to get some more copies ready just in case there's a rush as a result of the review. We shall see. I've started another small batch, I didn't get much done last night, just a few boxes constructed (but not yet labelled), however tonight should be more productive.

I've had some more good news too: as a way around the gluing outdoors problem (I can only do it during daylight in good weather - both of which are in increasingly short supply), a friend from work has offered me the use of his lit, rooved workshop. That will allow me to do the gluing after dark whatever the weather. Great.

In other news, I've had a couple more queries from the States, and got royally lamped at Carcassonne again by The Wife last night. One of the enquiries from America has ordered a copy, the other not as yet, I don't know if it will come to anything - as ever the exchange rate is against me, but we shall see.

Tomorrow I'll post a summary of October, how the month went for me in terms of games and games design.

Tuesday, October 31

Judged By A Panel Of ...

While on holiday, The Wife bought a copy of The Independent. It had a magazine called 'The Information' which had a cover story about 'The fifty best games'. Cool, I thought, I'd love to see what they rate.

The panel of judges who had picked the games consisted: of a curator of games from the V&A Museum, the owner of the Compendia games shop, an editor of a parenting magazine, the Independent's own computer games reviewer and, bizarrely, an MD of a luxury hotel PR company. Weird.

Based on the judges I expected a lot of traditional games, with a few computer games thrown in. I was hopeful that some modern games would have snuck in there, but I wasn't expecting many. I was disappointed. The choices were obviously aimed at children rather than adults, but still - disappointing. So now I feel the need to vent.

The computer games were a pretty good pick: Singstar (2), Buzz! the Big Quiz (7), Dance Factory (12), Big Brain Academy (17), Lego Star Wars II (22), XBox Live Arcade (27), Eye Toy Play 3 (32), Guitar Hero (37), Mario Party 7 (42) and Zoo Tycoon 2 (47). Several are inovative, and a bit more interactive than the usual camp-out-in-front-of-the-controller fare.

Traditional games I expected to get a large showing, with someone from a traditional games company on the panel. The list was mostly to be expected, but the order was very bizarre: Dominoes (29), Cribbage (34), Backgammon (38), Go (46), Bagatelle (48). I'm crap at chess, so I don't really enjoy it, but one of the top fifty games? I think it's a shoe in, it's been a hugely popular for 1400 years. But no, dominoes is better. Apparently.

Dexterity games get a decent showing too, which is fair enough as they can be a lot of fun: Twister (3), Pikastyk (8), Race Cups Sport Stacking Kit(What the fu-hey?) (10), Polarity (20), Jenga (33) and Operation (43).

Standard board games got a disappointingly large showing: Scrabble (6), UNO H20 & UNO Spin (9), Trivial Pursuit (11), Guess Who (14), Happy Families (18), Cluedo (23), Rummikub (24), Snakes and Ladders (28), Memory (30), Monopoly (36), Pass the Pigs (39) Pit (44), Connect 4 (45), Shut The Box (49). Happy Families better than Go? Interesting.

Party games are also well represented, as you would expect. These games sell phenominally well, reach out to a much larger audience than modern games, and are available in a far wider range of outlets. Pictionary (13), Cranium (16), Apples to Apples (19), Articulate (26), Absolute Balderdash (31) and Friends Sceneit (41) are a pretty good selection (with the exception of the last one maybe - although I've not played it so I can't really say).

Now we move into BoardGameGeek territory. Modern games: None. Not one. Nada. Wargames: None. Ok, Risk at 21 almost counts. But it's not very good.

I've saved the two major disappointments for last. The number of puzzles (not even games) was too big: Sudoku (4), Noughts and Crosses (5), Rubik's Cube (15), Solitaire (35), Tantrix (50). And finally, the best game ever? Pirates of the Caribbean Buccaneer. Not convinced. At all. Perhaps they should have entitled the article: 'Fifty Well-Known Games Of Varying Quality With Families In Mind'. It's less catchy though, admittedly.

... and relax. I feel better for having got that off my chest :-)

Sadly I didn't get to Paul's games night yet again last night, but I was interviewed via email for a UK games magazine. It's the first time in my life I've given an interview, on any subject. Hopefully, I wasn't too dull...

The tales of a casual games designer: Part 9

Huzzah! My plastic cyclists have arrived! I ordered 100 each of blue, red, yellow, orange, green and, erm, purple (originally pink but they couldn't be certain to continue with enough pink) and after bagging them up into 20 sets of 5 each there are plenty of bonus leftovers which is nice (around 20 yellows, oranges and reds but only 8 blues) and will make future purchases a tiny bit cheaper. Every little helps>

Played a few more games recently, including a game on the mountains stage which went pretty well. Anna's team leader shot away up the mountains but ran out of steam just before the last km meaning he couldn't use his sprint and rolled across the line in FOURTH after being brilliantly overtaken by three hardier and smarter men.

It's starting to get some real interest on BGG now with over 10 people asking for copies including three Americans placing pre-orders already! Nothing like getting some healthy pressure!

Monday, October 30

A Game Designer's Holiday

Involved quite a lot of game design! Unlike a recent trip to see Dunk, which featured quite a lot of note taking, and new game ideas, this holiday the game design was mostly about Jorvik, a fast 2-player game I'm making pretty good progress on. I played seven games of Jorvik, one against myself, to test some new ideas, two against Mal and four against Linz. I was playing with the deck I had constructed after my visit to Dunk's, so this version hadn't been played before (although it had quite a lot of similarities to the version Dunk and I played). I had also hoped to take a first prototype of Codename: Sennon a 2-6 player game I'm still at the early stages of, but we had a few nights out before the holiday, so I didn't get a chance to knock up a simple prototype.

Jorvik experienced some small changes during the week. I came up with five ideas of possible changes that I could use to change the game. I think the game is still getting better, and Linz seemed to enjoy it, but it still has some weaknesses. Mal (who loves Border Reivers), wasn't a fan of it, and in particular the card-counting aspect to it as you try to complete things before each of the three ages end. In the current rules you will draw a fixed number of cards before the age ends, which means that you can count the cards to avoid getting caught short. Why a fixed number of cards? I've been trying to keep the set-up of the game (shuffling, deck construction, dealing initial cards) to a minimum. The set-up is already fairly weighty for a simple card game, and I didn't want to make it any worse. I'm also thinking of increasing the number of event cards to boost the amount of player interaction and confrontation.

In fact, writing the above paragraph has given me another idea. Just the act of describing the problems it faces made me go off in a different direction. It incorporates a few of the ideas I came up with over the week away, plus a pretty significant change I've just thought of. Time for another prototype, methinks.

While I was away I also had an idea for Sennon, the game I had hoped to make a first prototype of to take away on holiday. The idea increases the strategic options a bit, and adds some more player interaction - always a good thing. I need to get a prototype of this together fairly soon.

I'm off to Paul's for another games night tonight - it'll be the first time in a while - so I'm really looking forward to it.

Sunday, October 29

Cracking Holiday, Grommit!

Well, I'm back and I had a great holiday. Seven whole days of walking, drinking, eating and gaming and cold-turkey on internet usage. We got some excellent walking in, enjoying the fantastic scenery of Snowdonia, and making the most of the surprisingly good weather (you don't expect nice sunny days in late October).

I've three posts to make about the holiday, and I'll start off with this one - which recounts what games we brought and played. The other two will discuss the game design work I did on my holiday, and a tirade against the mainstream press, which I threatened to make, and now have been dared into actually making. I threatened to call it: 'Judged By A Panel Of Cretins', but that's too offensive - it will follow in a couple of days.

So what was the gaming like on holiday? First of all, I'll list what we brought. Linz and Cath have an exceptionally sporty car, so space was at a premium, they brought: Perudo and The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game. Mal had more boot space, but was giving us a lift to limit the number of cars we had to take, so he brought Carcassonne and Border Reivers (Good man!). Bringing up the rear, as the owner of the most games out of all of us, I brought: Ticket To Ride, Puerto Rico, Apples To Apples and Codename: Jorvik.

Including three games of Carcassonne once we got home yesterday, we got thirty-two games in - a good effort in only eight days. There was plenty of confrontational play (The Wife wanted a photo of a particularly brilliant Carcassonne play which royally shafted Mal and I), and Puerto Rico also got pretty aggressive at times. I really liked that I wasn't the only one suggesting games, and that everyone seemed to be up for a game most evenings. I kept a note of the scores of each game I played, but there's no way I'm going to session report all of them so here's a brief overview. Games played:

  • Carcassonne: eleven games (King and Scout: five, River: three, Traders and Builders: three)
  • Jorvik: seven games
  • Ticket To Ride: four games
  • Puerto Rico: four games
  • Perudo: two games
  • Apples to Apples: two games
  • The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game: one game
  • Border Reivers: one game.

Carcassonne was the clear favourite, but seeing as it is Mal's and my favourite game this is no surprise, plus its short play time means you can fit it in while waiting for dinner. Jorvik got quite a few plays, and evolved during the week (although I didn't take any game-making kit with me, so the rules changed but the deck stayed the same). Ticket To Ride and Puerto Rico were both popular, but longer play times limited their appearances. Perudo and The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game only came out on the last couple of nights, and TRNHRG took so long the two ladies quit, leaving just the gents to duke it out to the finish. Mal had asked me to take Apples to Apples, as he was considering getting the junior version as a Christmas present for his niece. After one laughter-riddled game, we had to get another in - it's a good party game - very entertaining. Border Reivers was requested a few times, but as it's only a 2-4 player game, it was usually passed over for a 5-player, although Mal and I did get a game in during which I nearly won it in the second round, then made some bad decisions, and ended up being completely creamed. Nice work, Mal.

Despite owning most of the games we played, having designed two of them, and having played most of them more than anyone else I didn't win many games except Jorvik (which I won four out of seven games). It turns out that despite my almost obsessive love of games, I'm not very good at them. Still, it's not the winning, but the taking part that counts. The leaderboard for the week:

Player Wins
The Wife 8
Linz 7
Me 7
Mal 4
Cath 3

In other news, after a few really good weeks of Border Reivers sales, it's all gone a bit quiet. No surprise really, I've been too busy with the holiday to publicise it much. Still, it will be featured in a BBC magazine early next month, hopefully that will drum up some interest - I'm going to get constructing just-in-case.