Monday, December 29

2014: The Year in Review

2014 has been a pretty good, if slightly strange, year. It started on New Year's Eve in the house on my own. Thanks to radiotherapy for my overactive thyroid I had to keep my distance from The Daughter for three weeks. With her only 16 months old it was going to be very unfair for me to always be around but never come near her or give her a cuddle, so The Wife and The Daughter stayed in Bristol after Christmas and I came home on my own and got nuked. I got the dose on New Year's Eve in the afternoon, that evening I was at my most radioactive - so I didn't even go out and see friends. Definitely the second crappiest New Year's Eve of my life.

The next three weeks I was home alone, so I got to live the bachelor life style: eating like a student and playing games all the time - I even got a game of Twilight Imperium III in! On the way to rescue The Wife and The Daughter I stopped in at Terry's and had a day's gaming with my old Bedford group. I used to see them for games every week, but since moving to Newcastle (about 250 miles away) I don't get to see much of them at all. The rest of the year was busy but good fun, with a trip to Baltimore for work (but no impromptu gaming this time!), a convention (Beer and Pretzels in Burton again with Terry). But in November we had some bad news which derailed my NaGa DeMon efforts a bit.

Games Design

I'd set myself a few goals in 2014 for games design:
  • Make four more versions of Vacuum
  • Get Zombology ready to submit to a publisher
  • Do NaGa DeMon again
I had mixed success. I made new versions of Vacuum in January (during the exile period) and February, but then didn't really touch it for the rest of the year. Goal 1: Failed. My main focus was Zombology instead. I was making a new version almost every month and playing it a lot. Towards the end of the year I was getting pretty happy with it, so much so that when Dan from Newcastle Playtest saw a publisher asking on BGG for that sort of game, I sent it off. It wasn't really ready, but I sent it off anyway. The result? It's not really ready - could have seen that coming! I've now got another version together that I'm hoping to find playtesters for shortly. The publisher is still interested, once it's ready, so I need to crack on really. Goal 2: I submitted it, so I'm going to call that a pass! I did NaGa DeMon again, designing Dragon Dance: Fire v Lance. It's very early days, but I think it's got some legs, so I'll continue working on it next year. NaGa DeMon on the blog was less successful than last year, but it's still my second best month on the blog ever. Goal 3: Passed. In other news, I dusted off Border Reivers and started trying out some ideas for a second edition, taking everything I've learnt in the ten years since I initially designed it and trying to fix some of the flaws.

General Gaming

My goals for gaming in 2014 were:
  • Play at least as many games as there are days in 2014
  • Play every game I own at least once*
Now that I count playtest games and iPad games against humans towards my totals, goal 1 was pretty easy. The Daughter is older and sleeping better than last year and I've been doing a reasonable amount of travel for work with my iPad and some colleagues/victims, so I've aced it. When I wrote this last week I'd played 514 games. Goal 1: Passed. Like a Boss. You'll note the asterisk next to goal two. That's important. According to BoardGameGeek I currently own 71 games (excluding expansions) but six of those are games I own for sentimental reasons, and those I excluded. So I own 65 games. At this point I've played 64 of them, and I'm pretty sure the last one will get played in the next week or so, so that's a provisional: Goal 2: Passed. I've also used this goal to hone my collection, those games that I've been struggling to drum up the enthusiasm to play left the house this year as gifts to friends or Newcastle Gamers. Those that left: Qwirkle, Meuterer, Snow Tails, Pirates of the Spanish Main, Citadels, Cleopatra and the Society of Architects, Tigris and Euphrates and Clans.

My five and dimes for this year were:
  • 63: Zombology - the joy of designing a short game is that you can test it quickly, over and over again
  • 28: Ra - mostly on the iPad on the train
  • 27: Martian Dice - including testing my Windows Phone app with friends
  • 26: Coup - a Games Night staple
  • 25: Hey! That's My Fish! - on the train
  • 23: Dragon Dance - all since the beginning of November!
  • 23: Carcassonne - on the train again
  • 18: Love Letter - at Games Night
  • 16: Rumis - great fun
  • 16: Race for the Galaxy - mostly with the Alien Artifacts expansion (sans orb bit)
  • 13: 6 Nimmt! - at Games Night
  • 12: Stone Age - on the iPad
  • 11: X-Wing Minis - with Dave mostly
  • 10: Lords of Waterdeep - on the iPad and in the flesh
  • 10: Pandemic - on the iPad mostly
  • 10: Stormy Seas - all on Christmas Day! This is straight onto my wishlist
  • 9: 7 Wonders - still popular at Games Night
  • 7: Hive - no idea when I played this!
  • 6: Codename: Vacuum - early on, before I focussed on Zombology
  • 6: Coloretto - Games Night filler
  • 6: No Thanks! - Games Night filler
  • 6: Hol's der Geier - Games Night filler
  • 6: Die Speicherstadt - Games Night
  • 5: Firefly - Love this, just wish it was shorter, so it fit comfortably in a Games Night
  • 5: Puerto Rico - on the iPad
  • 5: Forbidden Island - iPad, I don't own the cardboard version


My goals for blogging this year were:
  • Write a blog post every Monday
  • Get 40,000 page views
  • Gain 10 new followers
Again, mixed success! I blogged every Monday in 2014 except one, when an automatic scheduling error during my holiday in the wilds meant it didn't go live until Tuesday when I wandered into some mobile signal and checked. I'm gonna call that Goal 1: Passed. During 2014 I got 41,500 page views. Goal 2: Passed. But only three new followers, Goal 3: Failed.

My most popular posts of the year were:

Windows Phone Apps

In addition to playing, designing and writing about board games, this year I started developing board game-related apps for my Windows Phone, a few of them are personal apps for helping me design or test my games, but three of them seemed of interest to others, so I made them freely available this year. Between them they've only had 60 downloads, so they're not wildly successful, but I did them for my own interest and as programming exercises, so if they are useful to anyone else at all that's an added bonus. I'd like to keep up the app designing next year too.

That's enough wittering for now, so until next week's Goals for 2015 blog post; I hope you all had good years too, and here's hoping next year will be even better!

Monday, December 22

Progress, At Last!

It's been a funny old week. It was meant to be my last week of work before I had two weeks off for Christmas. But it didn't quite go to plan. In a bad way. And then a good way!

Monday morning I'd booked off to go to a Christmas show with The Daughter and The Wife. So we had a lie in, I came round gradually, slowly achieved consciousness and then sprinted for the toilet. Where I spent the rest of the day. The Wife and The Daughter went to the show without me, only to find out on arrival that it was cancelled, as the cast too were stricken with a stomach bug.

Tuesday I managed to get up and get dressed and didn't have to sprint anywhere thankfully, then Wednesday I was back at work, if still not 100%. I say work, but it was the day of our Christmas party, so after spending the morning trawling through a couple of days worth of emails, we went on a team building trip in the afternoon and then out for the night. Clearly I still wasn't right - I had a couple of small beers and left at 9:15!

I'd kept some holiday back in case of having to take some to look after The Daughter if The Wife got sick, which meant I could finish for the year on Thursday at lunchtime. I promptly spent the afternoon doing all my chores so that on Friday I could finally make some progress on the NaGa DeMon winners' copies of Dragon Dance.

I finished off the boxes and printed and cut out the cards, so all that remains to be done is design, print and attach the box labels and write, print and fold the rules. I've also decided to give the three winners a copy of the latest version of Zombology, so I printed out four copies of that too. The only copy I cut out and boxed of that was mine though, so I've got it in time for the Christmas holidays, in case anyone in my family or The Wife's family fancies playing it.

After a couple of weeks of nothing to report it's nice to be making progress again!

All that remains is for me to wish you a Merry Christmas and thank you all for reading my blog this year. I hope you all have a great break.

Monday, December 15

Too Busy!

Last week I thought I was going to be busy, but in the end I was too busy and ended up getting very little done indeed. I managed to finish the boxes for the NaGa DeMon winners' copies, but sadly that was it.

This week was supposed to be even busier. I had a work night out lined up for Monday and our Christmas party on Wednesday. We've got lots of corporate visitors at work and lots of meetings and we've got to get ready for our trip to Bristol to visit my in-laws and my family for Christmas.

Sadly, I'm not going to get much done for a different reason, I woke up this morning racked with another stomach bug. I'll be spending most of the next couple of days in 'the littlest room' I fear. Joy.

So, I doubt I'll get much done this week either. I do have a chance on Friday night to make some progress I think, but as feared it's going to be January before the NaGa DeMon winners' copies are winging their way to the winners. Sorry for the delay!

Monday, December 8

Busy, Busy

With NaGa DeMon done you'd expect things to be calming down, but not so much - this week has been one of lots of little things that needed attending to.

I've promised copies of Dragon Dance to the three most helpful TGWAG competitors, so I've started making those copies. I'd bought or scavenged the wooden pieces and dice before the start of November, but there's plenty still to do: boxes, cards and rules. On Saturday I started getting the boxes made and will finish them off tonight. The cards and rules require getting the printer down from the box room, which is a bit of a faff, so I'm put that off until all my printing is ready. So I've also done the graphic design for another version of Zombology - that's ready for printing.

I've also been working on my Martian Dice Windows Phone app which is nearing completion. I made a candidate for the final build at the beginning of the week and that's now being tested by a bunch of friends. I'm hoping that this will be my most popular app so far (I've got 50 downloads so far across all three apps put together!), so I've been putting some work into a web page for it and getting some mild publicity ready.

Once Martian Dice is out there my next focus will probably be Christmas, but then after that I've another idea for an app to work on next year (in addition to Vacuum, Zombology, Dragon Dance, Border Reivers second edition and maintaining all my existing apps!).

First up though, Dragon Dance NaGa DeMon winners' copies...

Dragon Dance Boxes

Monday, December 1

NaGa DeMon 13: Finito

Well, it's December, so NaGa DeMon is done. And what a weird one it was. For the first half of the month I was kind of stuck. My first version of Dragon Dance was far better than I was expecting, reasonably well balanced and it played more or less how I was thought it would. That's unheard of for a first prototype of mine. I was playing it loads during lunchtime at work, alternating between it and By Election - my friend Sam's NaGa DeMon game. After about fifteen plays (including some from Konrad) I finally pushed the boat out and made a second version, incorporating some of the detailed feedback from Konrad and some ideas I'd had or that had been suggested by my playtesters.

That version, while a bit more interested, sucked. It was hideously broken, so heavily weighted in favour of the dragon that there was little point in playing it. So I had an idea of how to change things to fix it up, which I wrote up ready to post once I'd tried it.

Then I got sick (after it had swept through the family) then we had some bad news that put everything else on the back burner. My parents came up a week earlier than planned to help babysit The Daughter and my spare time ended up being spent entertaining guests rather than printing, designing or playing Dragon Dance. Also, after making big promises that I would get more involved with other people's NaGa DeMon efforts (including the aforementioned Konrad, who played my NaGa DeMon game one night in preference to his own) I did nothing. About which I feel quite bad - sorry Konrad!

With little time to practice the new fixed up v2, I posted it anyway and then finally another tweak right at the end of the month. The first hardly tested by me, the other completely untested. A very disappointing end to the month.

Page views were way down on last year as a result (though still my second best month in the eight year history of Creation and Play). However, I still managed to make four different versions and played it nearly twenty times. Plus, TGWAG was another huge success with nine participants, at least two people printing it out and Konrad playing it and given some excellent feedback. Thanks everyone, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. The final league table is as follows:

Name PIPs PIAL Free game?
Sir Konrad/@pidaysock 33 Knight Sergeant Yes
Derek Hohls/@gamesbook 16 Squire Yes
Eblasco/@7isprime 15 Squire Yes
Roberto 8 Footman No
@MTTJ_Patrick 5 Footman No
@kimacus 4 Serf No
Mal 3 Serf No
@toddderscheid 2 Serf No
@thefrugalgamer 2 Serf No

So the free copies will be winging their way to Konrad, Enrique and Derek early in the new year. Thanks again!