I have the corniest reason for selecting this picture of a mountain top as my featured image. I took this photo while backpacking for a couple of days in the North Cascades. This is Colchuck Lake. My wife and I took this trip as a sort of pre-honeymoon, a few weeks before we got married.
When I took the photo, I thought it was neat how the mountain was reflected on the water. I’m using the photo now because it’s sentimental and reminds me of a time when I was granted quiet, peaceful reflection. Mainly, I reflect on how lucky I am to have an amazing wife who supports me and to be surrounded by people who also have an interest in what I’m doing here.
I’m ready to take the next step forward and turn this design thing from a fun hobby into something real.
This is a board games blog, not live journal (is that still a thing?)
I’ve got a few things that I believe I’ve got to change to really get me there. I hope that I don’t lose people during this transition, but I think it’s for the better. Here’s what I’m talking about:
I’m working on an official name for the entity that I design games under. It’s not going to be “Under the Tabletop.” I really haven’t cared about an official name so far. My thought process on this is that I should have a game close to ready, something to really show, before I brand my work. Nothing is set in stone yet and as such, I have nothing more to say on that. But I’ll keep everyone informed along the way. I’d rather make this change now than later when I have a game or two being kickstarted and I don’t really know what to call myself.
Some time early next year, I’m going to close down Under the Tabletop and redirect all traffic to a new site. I’ll still keep up my development diaries, although they may expand somewhat.
I likely may not continue the whole “drink and review” thing. I haven’t written a drink and game pairing review in a while. It was fun, but my time so far has been so consumed with creating things that when I get to play a game with someone, I want to enjoy the moment. The drink and game review began to feel like a chore. At first, I thought it was a great way to show everyone that I’m actively participating in the board game community, but I think I’ve got different ways of showing that now.
I’m going to take on at least one smaller project and have it ready for a kickstarter campaign by March 2020. When I mean smaller project, I mean a shorter-paced game that you could likely fit in your wallet or a tin can. I have a few ideas on what that looks like and I’ll definitely keep everyone posted on that.
Thanks to everyone who has followed me thus far and I hope that you’re all there after my vaguely worded changes. (I promise, I’ll have more to come once I settle on a name and set up a C corp.)
I think that about sums it up. Settle in, this is a long one.
Thanks for the update — now I’ve gotta run
Let’s talk about Oath first: My last post went on about how much I got my ass kicked, both losing the game and having it torn to shreds. That was the greatest thing to happen to Oath to date. Now I’ve really taken all of this to heart while (trying) to remain emotionally distant.
Images below contain placeholder artwork and are farrrr from final.
Here’s a high level of the flow of the game now:
You play as a character with hidden win conditions (your Oaths) that you can fulfill in any order. After fulfilling your first Oath, you must reveal your character.
You and other players are given one of four different types of crisis at the beginning of the round.
You all collect Influence cards in accordance with Education and Wealth stats that you build up through various actions in game. (There’s also a Reputation stat that you’ll need to use guild abilities and gain benefits.)
Players vote with any number of their Influence cards on how to resolve a crisis. There are now four different types of Influence, as opposed to the original eight.
Cards are shuffled and drawn one at a time until the draw limit is reached. (Starts at twice the number of players and increments one higher each round to a max of 20.)
As cards are drawn, players can cancel out a vote (discard an Influence to cancel out the drawn Influence), which doesn’t count toward the draw limit. Canceled out Influence can’t be blocked.
They can also replace an Influence, which does count toward the draw limit. Replaced Influence can also be replaced or canceled, though!
Once the draw limit is reached, count the votes. Highest amount of Influence wins and players take actions in accordance with how the crisis was resolved.
Here’s where it gets interesting: Crisis outcomes affect the four guilds in the game, not the players directly.
Each guild has their own agenda. These actions may help or hurt you. It’s your job to exploit them or try and stop them. Join guilds to take advantage of their benefits and use their unique powers.
The first player to fulfill all of their Oaths wins!
It’s shaping up. I still need to work on the guild abilities. I’m hoping to have a new version to playtest tonight.
If it works, I’m going to hit the road and playtest it with strangers. I’ll also most certainly update my current print and play with the new version of the game.
Wow, so exciting. Will you look at the time, I’ve—
I finally created a mailing list through mailchimp.
I’m still not exactly sure how it all works but if you want to join my emailing list and receive updates on the game, add your email address through this form. (I promise not to spam you with anything but these diary updates and other tidbits about the game.)
That’s awful. Or great. Full disclosure, I wasn’t listening. Anyway, nice chatting with you…
To digress for a moment.
Oh god, if you really do exist, prove it and take me now
I used to write often. Ever since I began work on Oath many, many moons ago (even before that: I worked on a Roman themes game for months, and then scrapped it to make Oath) I’ve dropped creative writing altogether. I’ve since picked it back up. I wrote one scifi short story that I entered in two contests, and boy let me tell you…it’s gone absolutely nowhere.
You don’t say
I’ve recently finished another scifi short story. Since they’re not really seeing the light of day right now, I’m going to give them both another extensive edit and polish. Then, I’m going to subject myself to the cold, dark tendrils of the Internet. I’ll likely create another site to host them on, but I may also add them to some of the popular writing share sites (wattpad, writing.com).
My favorite part of your stories is when they’re over *hint hint*
Button Shy Games is challenging board game designers with creating a card game using only 18 cards that all must be identical.
I’ve got a few ideas that I’m floating around and playtesting. I don’t think I’m going to be able to get one finished in time to meet their deadline but the exercise has been great. Being able to design a lo-fi card game, print and craft the physical version, then playtest it and organically tweak mechanics all within the span of an hour has been exhilarating.
Whether I can finish the ideas in time for the contest or not, I’ll likely create print and play versions of them as a free download.
Finally! Is that why you haven’t written a post in forever?
I didn’t physically get my ass kicked.
Damn, you need a good whoopin’ though
I played a 1v1 of my latest game build against a volunteer play tester at a local event for board game designers to work out the kinks in their games. I got my ass kicked in two ways:
I lost the game…the game that I made
The play tester had a lot of feedback that has made me completely rethink my game
I think you should scrap making a board game and take up bare knuckle boxing
In terms of most types of testing, you typically want to test multiple times before deciding what needs to be changed. I believe that this play tester, who is an avid board game player and has no reason to pull their punches, had the ability to directly articulate the feedback that my friends and family (some of which aren’t hardcore board game players) have all been trying to provide me in one way or another.
I think the most helpful points of feedback were that they told me what they liked, as opposed to everything that they didn’t like. There were also things that I noticed during the playtest as well that I really wanted to change.
At points during the game, we were having fun and full of banter, at other times — I personally felt arrested. As if I could see every crack, every creaky plank, every squeaky wheel in my game but I had to keep playing.
What are you going to do about it? (Boxing is still on the table here)
Let me just lay out what they liked and what they disliked.
What they liked:
The blind auction-like voting
The currency and power manipulation
The hidden identity and hidden win conditions
What they didn’t like:
During the mid game, we both had more currency than we know what to do with
The veto mechanic and general power struggle was purely about who has at least one more coin than the other (especially so in a two-player game)
The guilds didn’t interact at all with one another
Aside form offering different types of tokens for purchase, the guilds weren’t distinct enough in their mechanics or thematic alignment — they mainly just seemed like means to an end
Crisis resolving seemed like a huge limiter in the game: Since they were random and the different types of crisis were extremely necessary for players to advance their win conditions, it was frustrating when a player had to wait forever until the next crisis type presented itself
The end seemed like a slog, like we were going through the motions
A lot of random elements, which lead to a lot of meaningless choices
When the play tester won, it was completely anti-climatic (there was an ability that they could easily exploit to win, which I couldn’t stop)
I repeat, what are you going to do about it?
First and foremost, I’m going to focus on what everyone likes. I’m going to remove four of the token types, leaving only four types of tokens in the game. I’m removing a direct monetary currency and replacing it with a far more intricate system of mechanics that involve general wealth, debt, reputation, and education. How players resolve crises will grant them all specific stats, which they can apply in a number of ways or trade in for a different type of stat. What types of stats they have and what guild their in will determine what combinations of tokens they’ll get.
I’m also opening it up such that every type of crisis can be solved in any way, and different outcomes occur depending on which token “wins” the draw.
Lastly, since there will no longer be coins that players spend to buy tokens or veto, I’m adding a four-way “paper, scissors, rock” style mechanic where players can cancel out or completely replace specific tokens during the draw. (Cancelled tokens are discarded, replaced tokens override the token drawn but can be replaced again!)
OK, OK — I get it…get back to work already
A lot of good things underway. My next build will definitely be a huge departure from the current one. But that’s how it should be after a good ass-kicking, right?