What’s In Store For 2012?


There are a couple of things I would like to accomplish in the coming year.
For the site itself:
1. Finish the logo for the site. I have a couple of ideas that I like but my graphics skills are hindering finishing it.
2. Improving the site. I would like to have some more control over the graphics.
3. Improving traffic. I would like more people seeing and COMMENTING on the site.
For content:
1. I will continue interviewing because I like it and am known for it. I have a list of potential guests.
2. More reviews.
3. More game design content. I’m working on several games and posting about them will help avoiding and blasting through blocks.
What you can do:
1. Comment. I really like hearing back from you. Feedback can only improve the site.
2. Tell me who you want to see interviewed.
3. Tell your friends about Go Forth And Game.

Thank you all for following Go Forth And Game. I greatly appreciate your attention. Please come back often.

Under The Microscope – Martian Dice by Tasty Minstrel Games


Under The Microscope – Martian Dice

Abstract: Martian Dice is a fun, quick dice rolling game from Tasty Minstrel Games. In it you are Martians capturing as many Earthlings as possible before escaping back to Mars or getting blown to pieces by the military.

Materials and Method:

Components

Martian Dice only has three components – a one page rules sheet, a cup/container, and the 13 custom dice. The rules sheet is easy to read and colorful. The container that the game comes in doubles as a dice cup and has fun graphics on it. The dice are the stars of the game. The dice are black with red, blue, yellow, white, and green icons representing flying saucers, tanks, and Earthlings on their sides. The Earthlings come in three varieties – chickens, cows, and humans – because the Martians don’t know which species is the dominant one.

The fun dice showing the icons

Game Play

The game is easy to teach and learn and it plays quickly. On your turn you roll all the dice. You set aside any tanks representing the arriving Earth military forces. You then choose to keep either cows, chickens, or humans. Or you can keep flying saucers. At the end of your turn you want to have as many saucers as tanks or your invasion is repulsed and you do not abduct any Earthlings. You keep rolling the dice and collecting Earthlings or saucers until you have set aside all dice or until you are repulsed. The twist is that once you’ve collected one type of Earthling you may not collect it again. So if you collected chickens on your first roll you may not collect chickens in subsequent turns. Scoring is one point for each Earthling with a bonus three points if you are able to collect at least one of each type of them. Again if you end with more tanks than saucers you get no points for the turn.

Discussion

Martian Dice is a quick, fun filler game. It has just enough complexity or difference from the previous dice games to be interesting. The theme is neat and comes across pretty well in play. The components are attractive and eye catching. In fact I had the game at work in hope of enticing a coworker or two to a game and the graphics pulled them in. They enjoyed it and it is a regular weekly thing now.

Martian Dice is an all ages game and very family-friendly. My nine year old really likes the theme and we can sneak in some math while playing.

Over all this is another fun little hit from Tasty Minstrel.  You can find more information at TMG or BGG.  I’d like to thank Tasty Minstrel Games for providing a review copy.

(images sourced from BGG and TMG)

Microscope Rating: 2.5 Microscopes

Omen: Reign of War news


John Clowdus of Small Box Games has posted a designer diary for Omen: Reign of War here at BGG.  It is a fun read.  The game is beautiful and you should check it out.  You really should support the Kickstarter for this game.  The game is complete and has been produced for over a year.  So it is different from most Kickstarter games.   Small Box makes great games and deserves your attention.  John is a friend of Go Forth and I encourage you to try out some of his games.

A Conversation With Matthew Duhan, President of Gozer Games


Tom:  Welcome again to Go Forth And Game.  This time Matthew Duhan of Gozer Games.  Gozer is an up and coming company that has a couple of games under its belt.  So Matthew, tell us about yourself.
Matthew: I have been a big fan of board games for years. I got my start playing the more serious games while an undergrad at Harvard University. I can recall playing all night variants of Cosmic Encounters and getting into Magic: the Gathering back in beta. I also got my start designing games then, and created several games while still an undergrad. Fortunately, I also found a wonderful wife who also enjoys playing board games, and we are able to play together and I can bounce ideas off her.

I’m a big geek in general. By day I’m a Manager for a Web Applications team. I also attend several SF and gaming conventions throughout the year, and am involved in the local Chicago SF and board gaming communities.

Tom: Magic is one thing I’ve never gotten into. I knew it was too addictive. I’m a big Science Fiction fan too. I love the older movies in particular. I just watched Robinson Crusoe On Mars a few weeks ago. It is so good. Ok, so now for Gozer Games. How did it come about?

Matthew: I had designed a game, Collateral Damage: The Anime Board Game, while an undergraduate in college. I had been slowly improving it over the years, until it was at a point where it was very solid. We would pull out the game with some of our friends who had played it with us over the years, but not much besides that. Finally, in 2007 I decided to try publishing it myself. I created the LLC and that was Gozer Games’ first game.

The name for the company came from our pet chinchilla, Gozer. She is named after the character in Ghostbusters, because she is the destructor, of furniture and walls at least, and because she’s innocent and harmless-looking, like with the scene where Ray conjures the giant Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. This is why our logo has a picture of a chinchilla; That’s Gozer.

Tom: I guessed where the actual name came from but not the chinchilla. Chinchilla. That’s a different pet. How did you end up with a chinchilla?

Matthew: My wife is very allergic to cats, and we couldn’t have a dog in the apartment where we were living at the time. We wanted a pet that was soft and cuddly. She had been thinking about getting hamsters, but was concerned about their relatively short life span. After doing some research, we looked into chinchillas, since they are very cute, are relatively non-allergenic, and can have a life span on par with cats, 12-15 years.

Tom: While I’m not really an anime fan, I’ve looked at Collateral Damage on BGG. It looks interesting. Why did you choose to self-publish?
Matthew: After looking into the various options for publishing through another company vs. self-publishing, I decided to self-publish. I knew that Collateral Damage was a niche market game, and if I wanted to see it published I’d have to do it myself. I also

Collateral Damage - The Anime Board Game

preferred to retain control over the game design. I had (and still have) ideas and plans for more games, so creating my own company seemed to make sense. In 2007 I had the drive and the extra capital needed, so it seemed like a good fit.

Tom: More Games to come! Excellent. You currently have 3 published games – Collateral Damage: The Anime Board Game, Vampire Werewolf Fairies, and Zombie Ninja Pirates. Tell me about them. What are they about?
Matthew: * Collateral Damage is the only Anime themed board game on the market, as far as I know. It is an area control game with a twist. You play a gang boss, controlling a gang of characters, inspired from popular anime series. You move them around the board in order to fight each other and take over cities in order to win the game. Along the way though, characters can fall in love, and may then ignore your orders to follow their love interest. It’s a great game with solid mechanics and a silly theme, and supports 2 to 6 players.

* Zombie Ninja Pirates and Vampire Werewolf Fairies are both fun quick “take that” card games for 2 to 6 players. You are trying to become as many different types of creatures as possible, so in these games you

Zombie Ninja Pirate

can be a combo creature like a Zombie Werewolf. You also want to collect objects which give you additional points, depending on what types you are at the end of the game. Both games play in about 20-30 minutes, or they can be combined together and play 2 to 10 players in about 45 minutes.

Tom: What about any of your games changed from initial concept to final product?
Matthew: Collateral Damage changed quite significantly since initial concept, and was redesigned a couple of times. The initial rule set, which my roommate at the time first came up with, used dice as a multiplier for damage. I knew that it had to be reworked when we had to stop our first playtest game because someone was rolling 48 dice for damage. 
Since then, I had redesigned the game to give it a flexible board layout, and reworked several mechanics. The design of the cards and board also went through several iterations until it got to a point that I was happy to publish.
Zombie Ninja Pirates, on the other hand, popped into my head nearly fully formed. There were a few things that got thrown out along the way, but if you look at the first prototype deck and the final game, they are very similar.

Tom: What is unique about Vampire Werewolf Fairies, your latest game?

Matthew: Vampire Werewolf Fairies is a “take that” style of game. There are a few on the market like that, but in this game you get to play multiple types of creatures. So instead of only getting to play a vampire, for example, you can be a Vampire Werewolf Fairy, a fairy who was attacked by a werewolf, and then bitten by a vampire. The more combinations of creature you are, the better your

Vampire Werewolf Fairy

points.
It also can be played separately, or together with Zombie Ninja Pirates. The games were designed so that they could be integrated.

Tom: How do you go about designing a game? What comes first, mechanic(s) or theme?
Matthew: That’s a great question, and I think that it depends on the game. For me, the idea or theme usually comes first, then the mechanics build up around that. That’s how it happened with my existing games, and one currently in development. For another in development, the mechanic came first.
I tend to design holistically. I’ll get an idea, and run with building up around that idea. Usually, I have a pretty good sense for theme, mechanics, and how the game will play out before I’ve even set anything to paper. It’s a lot of thought beforehand, but that’s just how my mind works. For example, with Zombie Ninja Pirates the game came to me nearly fully formed.

Tom: While we are on game design, what part of designing a game is the most difficult?
Matthew: For me, it’s the rules writing, and paring things down. There needs to be enough rules to make it clear how to play the game and address questions and nuances, but not so much information that people don’t want to read them. It’s a balance.

Tom: Balance is an elusive, fragile thing I think. It’s like trying to catch a spider web without breaking it. Most elegant games have caught the spider’s web. Now for play testing. How do you handle playtesting? What is your playtesting nightmare? Do you have a regular group that you playtest with?
Matthew: I have several groups who I playtest with regularly. I am a member of the Chicago Board Game Designer’s Workshop, and we meet every other week to playtest games which the members created. I also have another group of friends who I can rely on to be honest about virtues and flaws in a game, even to the point of snarkiness sometimes. I also have a few remote people who I can call on to playtest, for blind playtesting.
I don’t think that I have yet had a playtesting nightmare. Every session, something can be learned. I have had to cut a few games short when it was clear they were not working, but even that was a learning experience.

Tom: A design group is really valuable. Many of the folks I’ve interviewed are members of one. We recently formed one in my area and I’m excited to have people to test my designs and contribute to honing some games. I’m available for blind testing by the way. Who’s work in the industry do you admire the most?
Matthew: Oh wow, there’s so many to list. I’m a big fan of James Ernest. And of course there’s Klaus Teuber, creator of Settlers of Catan. Mayfair is a great company, and I’ve enjoyed many of their games. I like Alien Frontiers and am excited to see what else Tory Niemann comes up with.

Tom: Wow. James Ernest. Thanks for mentioning him. What a great designer. I really have been impressed with his work. He’s so prolific. What are you currently playing?
Matthew: I’ve recently become a fan of Alien Frontiers. I’ve also been playing a lot of Show Manager lately. The game I’ve been playing the most though is our next game to produce, code-named Mogul.

Tom: I’ve only been able to play Alien Frontiers once but it’s second on my want list. It is a fun game and I’m a sucker for the theme. I’m sure you were too. Talk a bit about production. Who is your producer? What problems, if any, have you had with production?
Matthew: I’ve had several interesting experiences with manufacturers, both positive and negative. I’d rather not go into specifics. However most of the manufacturers who I have worked with have been very professional.

Tom: Fair enough and very professional of you. So let talk about art. Talk to me about the art of your games.
Matthew: Art is something that is so important for a game. I am very fortunate to have worked with some very talented artists. Our primary artist, Neko Pilarcik, is fantastic to work with. She and I are very often on a similar wavelength when it comes to what I’d like to see in the game, and it’s great working with her. Being able to get some of my favorite artists for Vampire Werewolf Fairies – John Kovalic, Phil Foglio, Terry Moore, and Randy Milholland – was just priceless.

John Kovalic and Matthew

Tom: I really like Phil Foglio’s work. And Terry Moore. So are you a comic book geek too?
Matthew: I am indeed. I have several webcomics which I read regularly (though not as many as I used to read) and subscribe to several comic book series, mostly independents. Speaking of Terry Moore, I’ve just started his new series, Rachel Rising, and so far I’m really loving it.

Tom: You should check out ‘Bucko’. Jeff Parker is one of my oldest friends and I’m really proud of what he is doing these days. Agents of Atlas was such a fantastic series. And Thunderbolts is shaping up to be as good. And buy ‘The Interman’. You will not regret it. What is next for you? Tell us about your current or future projects.
Matthew: The next project that I’m working on is a game code-named Mogul . It’s actually the first game which Gozer Games has licensed, which was created by someone else, Brian Lewis. I was fortunate to see him demo this at Origins this year, and really wanted to add it to the Gozer Games line. It is a worker placement eurogame, set in the 1930’s, where each player is buying factories and businesses, in order to produce and sell goods to gain points. The artwork is being created now, and I’m planning to launch a KickStarter for it in the near future.

Tom: The theme is interesting to me and I like a good worker placement game. Sounds cool. I’ll look for the Kickstarter and promote it when the time comes. Are there any links or sites you want to direct us to?
Matthew: Well of course there’s our site, http://www.gozergames.com
There’s also a lot of great projects on KickStarter (www.kickstarter.com) and of course Board Game Geek (www.boardgamegeek.com).
We are also on Facebook as Gozer Games and Twitter @gozergames
I also need to plug my wife’s metal opera band, Silent Nightmare (www.silent-nightmare.com) which has a sound akin to Evanescence.

Well that’s it for another conversation.  I’d like to thank Matthew for joining me this time.  Please visit the Gozer Games site and its game sites on BGG.  And keep your eyes open for that Kickstarter project.  Please a comment below to let me know what you think about this or anything else on Go Forth And Game.

Thanks and Go Forth And Game!

tomg

Another Conversation With Seth Jaffee, designer of Eminent Domain


Welcome to Go Forth And Game.  I’m talking to Seth Jaffee, the designer of the smash Eminent Domain.  This time Seth and I delve a little deeper into game design.  It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot.  I hope you will find it as interesting as I did.

Tom: It’s good to talk to you again Seth.  Thanks for joining me.  I want to talk about how you design games.  Let’s get right into it.   How do you create various mechanisms? For example, how did the “Follow” mechanic in EmDo come about?

Seth: I generally try to choose or invent a mechanism that feels appropriate. If there’s an existing mechanism that I think does a great job of handling a particular part of a game, then I’ll use that (or some variation on it). I’m out to make a new game experience, and for that it’s not necessary to invent every mechanism in the game. Some people look at games with familiar mechanisms and call them “derivative” – but I don’t think that’s accurate if the combination of mechanisms provides a new and unique game experience. That’s how I feel about Eminent Domain.

Tom: I like the idea of creating a new gaming experience. That, I believe, is the goal of the game designer. Pulling together existing mechanisms in a new way to create a new experience is a fine way to design a game. I agree that you do not have to create a whole new mechanism with every new game.

Seth: In the case of the “Follow” mechanism in EmDo, I was thinking along the lines of a card game version of Twilight Imperium 3, so role selection made sense. Like any role selection game, the crux of that mechanism is that other players get to perform the role as well. Most games don’t give a name to that, but Glory to Rome does… they call it “Following” because you’re following along with the leader’s role. Since that’s what you do in EmDo, it seemed appropriate to call it that as well. I think the reason GtR and EmDo have names for that is because unlike most Role Selection games, in those 2 players are given the option NOT to participate. In Puerto Rico for example, if you choose not to build anything when someone calls Builder, then you get nothing. For EmDo I wanted to create the dichotomy between ‘many small actions’ and ‘one big action’ – if you follow other players, you do more stuff, but each one is less intense than if you skip following and just draw cards, giving yourself more options on your own turn.

Tom: EmDo is a very hot game in my groups right now. It is getting a ton of play. Congratulations. I’ve heard EmDo compared to Puerto Rico a lot. The option of not participating and dissenting was a good choice. Any way to cycle cards into your hand for possible use is nice. Do you subscribe to the ‘pare it down’ model or the ‘additive’ model of building a game?

Seth: I think I subscribe to both of those models. I usually begin by adding a bunch of stuff a game, and then I test and pare that down to only the stuff I think works the best.

Tom: Ok, I tend to like to add everything I can think of and then throw out what doesn’t work(either theme wish or mechanically) or is inelegant. How do you prototype? How extensive?

Seth: There’s a rumor amongst amateur game designers that a prototype does not need to look good, even for submission to a publisher. There are stories of well-known designers submitting an idea or game design on a napkin… Well, I’ve got news – unless you’re a well-known designer, that is unlikely to work. I cannot speak for all publishers, but as someone who has trouble convincing people to play prototypes I can tell you that it’s much easier to get the game to the table if it looks good!

Tom: I would agree with that.

Seth: Now, this doesn’t mean a designer needs to pay a fortune for a professionally produced prototype, but it’s a really good idea to put a little time into Google image search for example and add some graphics. It makes the game easier to play when you aren’t looking at a bunch of plan white cards with nothing but text which all look the same. This will help you find players, and it will help players enjoy the game. Use this information as a guide to decide how extensive your prototypes should be.

Tom: That is very good advice. Saving money is a good idea but you can take it too far. You need something to catch the eye and say ‘Play me.’.

Seth: My typical prototype techniques are:

  • Cards: Cardstock and sleeves – with clip art icons or images

    Early work on the Dr. Mayhem's Weapon Emporium card

  • Tiles: Print on cardstock, affix to Chipboard.
  • Wooden bits: I have spent far too much money on hundreds of wooden eurogame bits in 10 colors – meeples, roads, discs, cubes…

Tom: How about places like The Game Crafter for prototyping? Any opinion there?

I have not used The Game Crafter myself, but I have seen the results where others have, and they look good… for cards anyway. I can’t speak to anything else. When I do prototyping, I pretty much have to have the final product right then or I lose momentum. I don’t think I could send off files and then have to wait for the results to come back. Also, I frequently make small changes as I go, and that would get expensive and time-consuming if I used TGC for each iteration.

Tom: How do you handle play testing?

Seth: I generally beg people to play, and sometimes they say yes. It’s tough to get testing done, and I feel like I never have enough time or willing play testers. Whenever I do get a test in, I try to take notes about whatever aspect of the game I’m most interested in fixing, and I always ask questions at the end of the game (in fact, I try to encourage any and all feedback to be held until the end – I’d prefer the players just play as if it were a normal game). One question I always ask is this: “Was it fun? Did you enjoy the game? Would you want to play it again?” I also like to ask if the players thought the game felt like something they’d find in a box they took home from the store (assuming production quality graphics) to get an idea of how the game feels compared to published fare.

Tom: I do some play testing for a couple of companies and it is hard to get people to play test. Time is precious and they want to spend it playing a finished game. Recently, those of us in my area who design games have banded together to form a guild, similar to the Utah group, so that we will have people to play test and brainstorm games in design. This is going to be very helpful I believe. I have a questionnaire that I use for play testers to fill out after a game. I know Stratus Games does this as well. That question “Was it fun?” really is the key one isn’t it?

Next question, What ‘baby’ have you had to throw out?

In Terra Prime, one of the cool mechanisms that I started with was a Demand track – a variable price track for the different resources that worked a little bit like the resource market in Power Grid. Originally, players would deliver goods to “ships” until those “ships” filled up and the goods would be transported back to Earth – like in Puerto Rico. Players would be paid for their goods according to the current demand, and when a ship filled up, the goods cubes would move onto the Demand tracks and the price would decrease for those goods. Thematically, the more of a good that Earth already has, the less you get paid for delivering that good. Over time, Earth would consume those goods, so their prices would rise again.

The purpose of this mechanism was to model supply and demand, and to drive the players to find, pick up, and deliver a variety of goods rather than the same ones over and over. I liked the sound of it, but in practice there were problems that I just never found a way to solve. In the end I finally ditched the whole mechanism in favor of the current Demand Tiles system, which works MUCH better for that game.

Demand Tiles from Terra Prime

As it turns out, the demand tiles do sort of model the same thing, as the cubes delivered stay on the tiles, and it’s possible that all the Bluium demand will dry up and nobody can deliver Bluium for a while until the tile is completed and replaced with a new one.

This is a great example of a mechanism I really liked, one that was originally core to the game, which I had to throw out because it was not working. Maybe one day I’ll be able to use that Demand Track in some other game.

Tom: I like that mechanism a lot. I can visualize it and see how it would work. It is so hard sometimes to ditch a mechanic that you KNOW is a good one. Sometimes it’s just not the right game. The good thing is it doesn’t go away. It will be there for another game. Here’s a good question – theme or mechanics first?

Seth: I’m sure there are some designers that always start with a theme and try to find mechanics that fit, and other designers that start with a mechanism they find interesting, and later look for a theme as a convenient source of nouns and game terminology. For me it depends – sometimes one way, sometimes the other, sometimes both!

Tom: Balance is essential in most games. It’s hard to think about it, how one part of the game works with another and then another. How do you get it? How do you find it?

Seth: I usually try to achieve balance by careful thought and math, as well as trial and error.

Tom: When you are designing a game, how do you know when to stop? How much is too much?

Hypermind Board Gamers enjoying Eminent Domain

Seth: It’s hard to know when to stop working on a design. Nothing’s ever “perfect” – so it always seems like there’s something that could change, and I always wonder if there’s not a better way to do certain things. The real question is “what does ‘good enough’ look like?” I don’t know the answer to that yet…

Tom: You’re the ‘Game Developer’ for Tasty Minstrel Games. What is different about designing a game and developing a game?

Seth: In my opinion, there’s not much difference between designing and developing a game. When you’re developing somebody else’s game, a lot of stuff has been done already – you can change things, but you have a baseline of the game and the basic building blocks are all there. Designing is tough because you need to create those building blocks from scratch. That’s probably the biggest difference, I think.

Tom: Let’ s talk about Eminent Domain for a minute. It’s a fine game by the way. You talked about the ‘Follow’ mechanic. How did you figure out how many of each card type to use?

Seth: I started with an arbitrary number of cards for each role that I thought sounded reasonable (20). In development I imposed a total card limit of 162 to fit on 4 sheets (54 cards per sheet) for manufacturing efficiency. I had to adjust the number of cards so that would work out.

Of course, then the publisher decided to print the Prestige and Utopian planets at the same time anyway, so maybe that limit wasn’t so necessary. Luckily there were a total of 9 Bonus planets, which divides evenly into 54 so we were able to maintain some efficiency there.

Originally each starting deck had 2 of each card (there was no Politics card). Warfare proved to be too strong, so I tried removing them from the starting deck. I liked that thematically as well, as if you wanted to be a warmonger, you’d have to go out of your way to do it. I wanted a 10 card starting deck (or at least I thought 8 cards were too few) so I added the Politics cards to the game (I had wanted some form of Politics anyway). The original Politics cards had no action and just had 1 of each card icon on them. The problem with that was that it effectively put the Warfare cards back into the deck! Oops! I didn’t like that version of Politics, so I changed to the current version which was better, but in the end having 2 of them wasn’t great. The final setup of 1 Politics and 1 Warfare card really did work the best.

Because players only started with 1 Warfare card in their deck, I was able to reduce the Warfare stack to 16 without really affecting the number of cards in the stack during play. That helped me respect the 162 card limit.

Tom: So the production of the game dictated some of that.

Seth: The Produce/Trade card stack is also reduced to 16 cards. I found that the VP counters ran out before the stack ever did, so I tried playing some games with only 16 cards in that stack. Now it seems that most of the time the VPs run out either just before or at the same time as that stack runs out, so that’s about perfect. 4 more cards cut!

The double-sided permanent techs were not so much a way to reduce card count to stay under 162, but rather once I had the right number it occurred to me that I could add techs to the game without increasing the card count by using the back side of the permanent techs. Originally Imperialism and Fertile Ground were placeholders, but I liked how they worked with all those icons on them so I kept them.

Tom: I was involved in some of the play testing and saw one or two minor changes. What about EmDo changed from the original idea to the finished product?

Very little changed in the grand scheme of things, but many details did. One of the major changes was combining Produce and Trade into 1 card. Originally there were 6 stacks of cards, one for each role… but there was a big problem with Produce and Trade. In order to pursue a trading strategy, you had to load your deck up with several copies of 2 different cards which were fairly useless most of the time. That was simply not good enough. I played around with things like how many points you get per resource traded, but I wasn’t happy with any of it until it occurred to me to just use 1 card for both producing and trading. That cleaned up the game rather nicely, and it started working just the way I wanted it to.

Even before that, my very first prototype cards had many of the abilities (now found on the tech cards) on the planets. I didn’t like how that worked – the planets were supposed to be incremental benefits, and the tech cards were supposed to offer abilities. At the same time, the tech cards I had were largely just symbols and victory points, without very cool actions. It didn’t take long to realize that I had those backwards. I much prefer the planets providing an Icon to boost roles with, and tech cards providing cool abilities.

One of the awesome Tech cards

Speaking of the Tech cards, I originally had 3 decks (1 per planet type), but they were face down, and you’d draw from them at random. That was horrible though, because adding a card to your deck that you don’t want is actually worse than not adding a card to your deck at all, so if you Researched hoping for a good card, you’d run a decent chance of actually making your deck worse. Since the Tech cards give the player an avenue to pursue their chosen strategy, it’s important they’re allowed to choose the tech card they get. And so that each strategy is on equal footing, it’s important that players have access to (and foreknowledge of) all of the tech cards, not just some subset or random assortment. Some players have suggested that only the top Tech card should be available, or that only some random subset of the tech cards should be available each game – but that would just arbitrarily diminish certain strategies each game.

This game is not Dominion. It’s not about figuring out which strategy to choose based on the cards available – it’s about which strategy to choose based on the planets you have and the actions of the other players. It’s more like Puerto Rico that way. Really the only thing EmDo shares with Dominion is the idea that cards go into your deck over the course of the game. I knew there would be comparisons to Dominion, but the degree to which EmDo is compared to Dominion is higher than I expected, and in some cases I think that’s too bad – I’ve seen people sit down and basically try to play Dominion with a set of EmDo and afterwards say “That wasn’t like Dominion at all! That game is terrible!” Hopefully most players won’t make that mistake!

Tom:  I like that the Action phase is optional. Again, you are giving players options. This builds a lot of variability and re-playability into the game. The Cleanup Phase is pretty cool too. Dumping cards and being able to draw back up to the hand limit is nice. These set this apart from the other deck building games.  How did you come up with that?

The Action phase HAS to be optional, because it’s possible that a player will have no cards in hand during their Action phase! Also, while rare, it’s not impossible that a player would WANT to skip their Action phase in order to use all of their cards for their Role, or save some for next turn. I don’t see why a player should be forced to play a card if they don’t want to.

As for holding cards from turn to turn… when I first played Dominion, one of my first comments was “How come I have to discard my hand every turn?” In that game, nothing ties your game together from turn to turn except for the overall contents of your deck. I wanted to save cards for later and manage my hand. I decided right away in EmDo I would allow players to hold cards over from turn to turn, because EmDo is more about building up to a big turn than Dominion is. Dominion is all deck building, so it makes more sense that the thing that ties your turns together is just your deck. EmDo is not just about building your deck, it’s about managing your Empire.

Tom: I don’t consider EmDo a deck building game by the way.  It is different from Dominion as you have said.  You’ve talked about the Kickstarter campaign for EmDo a lot so we won’t go into it much. But I did want to ask, were there any negatives to Kickstarting? Other than the obvious, what would you do different?
Seth:  I was very happy with the support that EmDo received via Kickstarter. If I could do it again, I’d have probably done more with the high-end “name a card” rewards. I liked the reward levels that we used, and they seemed to work out for a lot of supporters. Michael might have more info in this regard, since he had to deal with all of the logistics of dealing with the fulfillment company who was fulfilling the rewards.I don’t think there are any negatives to using Kickstarter, really. It was neat being one of the ‘trailblazers’ so to speak, but it was also somewhat painful in a lot of ways. I am glad that other KS projects were able to benefit from EmDo’s experience in a “what not to do” sort of manner as well as being able to model their projects after what worked for us. If I had it to do over I would have liked to be able to allow Kickstarters to pick the game up at GenCon, and I would have preferred not to have to create exclusive game content. Knowing what I know now, I would have preferred to include the Bonus Planets as stretch goals rather than any sort of limited exclusive, and I would have liked to know that ahead of time so that the rules for the Bonus Planets could have been included with the cards.
Tom: What else have you been up to? What’s coming up from Tasty Minstrel Games?
Seth: I just got back from NYU PRACTICE – a brand new Game Design Conference. I wrote a recap on my http://sedjtroll.blogspot.com/. In short, it was heavily geared toward digital game design (which was a shame), but I was able to take away something from each session that could help make me a better board game designer. Tasty Minstrel Games just started a new Kickstarter campaign for Kings of Air And Steam– a route planning, pickup/deliver game with a rich Steampunk theme in which you will fly your airship to factories to pick up goods, drop them off at depots, and deliver them to cities using your train network. The airship movement is partially pre-programmed (like in Roborally), but only the amount of movement, not the direction – so you have room to change your mind if an opponent messes up your plans.

Each turn after you move your airship you get to take 1 action as well – delivering cubes, building depots, or upgrading your airship or trains for example. It’s a fun game, and the project is off to a good start. TMG is using “overfunding goals” to encourage pledges in order to upgrade the production for the entire print run rather than exclusive items for supporters only. I think that’s a better model, as only a few hundred players will ever be in on the kickstarter project, while THOUSANDS of players will purchase and enjoy the game over time. The incentive to pledge is still there though, as you’ll get a discount on the game, and with enough pledges, your copy will be upgraded (along with the entire print run). We hope to be able to provide custom molded plastic airships for each player, custom molded plastic crates in lieu of plain wooden cubes, and an extra set of 2 characters (and their airship).

Oh, did I forget to mention characters? There are 12 characters in the game (6 teams of 2) of which you’ll choose 1 each game. They each have unique abilities that will make the game a little different for you depending on which one you have. The bonus characters are Mafiosos who, maybe this goes without saying, don’t like to play fair

In addition, TMG also has art underway for another 2-6 player game – an economic strategy game called Ground Floor. Ground Floor features worker placement and resource management as you use your employees’ time to gather Money and Information, and use those to add Floors to your building. There’s a lot of stuff to worry about in this one – do you advertise to improve your turn order? Do you produce goods to sell? Will there be enough consumers, or should you price your product lower to make sure you’ll make anything at all? Their economic model is ingenious, and really models a shifting economic climate, modeling Depression, Recession, Stable, and Boom economies.

I’m happy to report that both of those games support from 2 to 6 players, and they both scale very well, providing an excellent experience at each of those player counts!

Tom: I’m really looking forward to Kings of Air and Steam. I like the steampunk theme. And from what I’ve seen of it some far it shares some of the mechanics or ideas of a crayon rails game. That’s neat. And Ground Floor sounds very interesting. It will be fun to see how it mimics real world economics. I can’t believe I just said that.

That’s great for TMG but what does Seth have in the queue?

In addition to the TMG submissions I’m working on, I’ve also got the following going on:

  • Eminent Domain expansion material – I have somewhere between 2 and 3 expansions planned, and am in the process of creating cards and content for each, and deciding which parts go with which expansion.
  • Alter Ego – a Vigilante Hero themed cooperative (and possibly also competitive) deck building game. You’ll have to manage ties to your Family, Job, and Community while you spend more and more time fighting crime… This one borrows some ideas from Eminent Domain, as your deck represents your “hero,” and you train different Hero aspects in order to be able to better catch criminals.
  • Exhibit: Artifacts of the Ages – a set collection game with a unique auction mechanism based on Liar’s Dice. This game is basically done.
  • Dice Works – a real-time dice drafting game. You roll a bunch of dice, and grab them one at a tie (no turns!) trying to build up your player board. This game is pretty much done as well, but I’d like to try a modification of this which uses Martian Dice instead of standard d6s.
  • Wizard’s Tower – a fairly abstract game that I have done with a local friend of mine, I’ve been bringing it to conventions for about 5 years now, and it nearly won a game design contest at KublaCon a few years ago. It’s a solid game, but may

    not be the type of thing Tasty Minstrel likes to publish, so if any publisher is interested in that, feel free to email me!

  • All For One – An old favorite… the first real game I ever worked on. This one with David Brain from London. I haven’t worked on it in a while, and last I checked I was unhappy with it… It would make me happy to finally see that one (started circa 2003) finally finished and published one day!

I occasionally blog about game ideas on my blog, Cumbersome, so if you’re interested in what I’m working on or thinking about at any given time, feel free to drop in and read that. Please leave comments, they let me know people are actually reading!

Thanks for joining me again Seth.  This was very fun and interesting.  It was cool talking about how you design a game and what went into Eminent Domain.  I’m excited to see Kings of Air and Steam as well as Alter Ego, Exhibit, and Wizard’s Tower.  Congratulations on the success of Eminent Domain.  It is a really fun and unique game.  I wish you continued success.  Let me know how I can help in the future.

And thank you for stopping by Go Forth And Game.  I hope you enjoyed this interview.  Please  visit Seth’s blog to stay updated on what he is doing.  And leave a comment of any kind here to let me know you are reading.

Go Forth and Game!

tomg

Under The Microscope – Eruption by Stratus Games


Under The Microscope – Eruption by Stratus Games

I’m examining Stratus Games latest release Eruption this time.

Abstract

The volcano explodes in fire and pyroclastic flows. Lava inches closer and closer to your village! What will you do? Fortunately you can direct the flows away from your village. Using ingenuity, walls, and good luck, you can choose to shunt the lava safely away or toward your rivals’ villages.

Stratus Games’ Eruption is a fun tile laying game of ‘take that’ that will please gamers as well as families.

Materials & Methods

Game Bits

The production of Eruption is fantastic. The game board is divided in a hex grid and depicts an island with the volcano in the center, lava flowing out from it, and jungle all around it. There are six villages evenly spaced around the edge of the island, on the beaches. Each village has a different colored border and icon as well as several huts, trees, and canoes. Scattered around the

The beautiful game board

island are icons for the various wall types. The ‘score track’ encircles the island and divided into ‘degrees spaces’. The track is a thermometer to marks the increasing temperature of each village. And it has zones that give the player in that zone special actions. There are about 40 lava tiles that depict lava flowing to several of the tile edges. Walls are small wooden sticks in yellow (straw), brown (wood), and grey (stone). There are 36 action cards that give the player either a special action, such as ‘Volcanic Bomb – discard any wall on the board’. Or the card can be turned in for a wall section. There are two dice – an orange lava die and a white wall die and 6 player tokens. The graphics are beautiful and clear. The rules pamphlet is colorful and attractive. Overall the graphic design is exemplary.

Game Play

Players are villagers trying to save their village from the lava flowing from the exploding volcano. At the beginning of his turn, a player evaluates the condition of his village. If there are any lava flows touching the village, that player’s token is moved forward on the temperature track. If the lava is not blocked or removed the temperature of the village will rise each turn and eventually burn up. Players direct lava by placing tiles that have flows in different directions on the board. Flows must connect to an existing flow.

Some Action cards

Action cards are another way to direct flows. The cards enable players to rotate tiles, replace tiles, and/or remove tiles completely.

Players can build walls to block a lava flow. Walls can be made of straw, wood, or stone. Walls are obtained either by exchanging a card for one or by placing a tile on one of the wall icons on the board.  When lava reaches a wall, players roll the two dice. The orange die is the lava die and the white die represents the wall. If the orange die is higher, the wall is removed. If the white is higher, the flow does not enter remove it. If the wall in question is wood or stone, a bonus is added to the white die – +1 for wood, +2 for stone.

Game play continues until either a village burns up or when all the tiles have been placed. The player whose village has the lowest temperature is the winner.

 Discussion

I like Eruption a lot. It is a fine blend of a family game and a strategy game. It is seeped in its theme and the game play reinforces that volcano/village in danger theme. There is real tension as your village’s temperature rises. And relief when you are able to play that card that removes that flow that is burning up your village. We have not had a game where there was not at least one ‘HA! Got ya!’ moment when someone placed a tile that caused a flow to enter a village.

I really am impressed with the graphics of this game. Even the print and play version I received is beautiful. The final game is a gorgeous produced game. Kudos to the graphics team.

Chris James has done a fine job on the design. The game is balanced and play is fluid. It has depth, particularly as the game board fills up with tiles. The choices of where to place your tile each turn gets more and more difficult as the game progresses. I like that.

The game is easy to learn, making it open to younger players. It is fast to play. I’d call it a super filler in this respect. And as I mentioned, it has a strategic and tactical aspect that will please gamers. This is a fun game and I highly recommend it.

Microscope Scale: 4.5 of 5 Microscopes

You can get more information about Eruption at http://www.stratusgames.com/games/eruption or BGG.

I would like to thank Stratus Games for providing a print and play copy of Eruption for this review.

Join me again soon for more reviews and interviews at Go Forth And Game.