Dec 102012
 

Sorry about the delay everyone! Not only on doing a NaGa DeMon round up, but on posting this late on a Monday. Followers of the blog will know that I have been without internet and moving house recently, and today ending up pulling a longer shift than usual, so I’ve had to wait until now to get in front of my computer. Right, with the apologies out of the way, lets get onto the good stuff.

First off, I got my game played before the end of last month (pause for applause)! Not quite a full game, but I’m happy that even a handful of turns were played as it got me some great feedback. Mainly being that the rule book could do with an example of play in it. I don’t disagree either; I play a lot pf board games and card games, and was designing the rules – subconsciously – for someone with the same amount of experience as myself. Not everyone has an entire cupboard and overflow space given up to games, so I think that I need to pay more attention to the casual gamer market. Sure, the rules are a bit complex, but not overly complicated; they just need explaining in a more straightforward manner, and examples of play seems to fit this criteria. So, with that in mind, I’m starting to work on a new rule book, with those additions, plus a few other tweeks suggested by people who’ve read the rules, but never had the chance to play the game.

Other changes that need to be made include adding a few extra Excitement cards – one of which has the working title ‘Zombie Richard Burton’ – and probably dropping multiples down to two of each instead of three. The deck is just a bit too big at the moment, and it made sense to overload it during play testing so I would have the chance to look at how the various cards worked in differing situations. Out of the basic play test though, I need to be worrying more about balancing the game, and – since this is print and play right now – the size of the deck I expect people to print off to play it.

On the advise of a friend, I’m also considering dropping the word Steampunk from the game entirely. I love the genre and all of its conventions, but explaining it to the uninitiated seems wasteful, as they don’t need to know what it’s all about, and any Steampunk fans out there should get that this is a Steampunk game without me spelling it out to them. If you have any thoughts on this, or anything else about the game, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments box below.

Finally, I do have some great bits of art on the go for a lot of the cards. Some are templates only, that I can fill my own stuff in with, but the play mat is great, and sadly too big a file to pop up here.. I’m going to pop all the images below, with links embedded to larger versions.

They’ve all been done by a friend of mine named Dash. As soon as he sends me a link to his webpage, I’ll update here so everyone can head on over and check out his other work. I hope you lot like what he’s done, and I hope to see more from him soon. In the mean time, I’m still looking for people to play the game and offer some feedback before I start the re-write come the new year. If you’re so inclined, head on over and download the game to play it for yourself.

 

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Nov 132012
 

You read that right blog fans! I’m finally ready to release my Steampunk card game to other people who will play it and everything! Links will pop up throughout this post as I talk about the various components, but there will be one link at the end that should take you through to everything you need to get started in your very first game of Excitement and Adventure: The Race for Glory!

First thing you might want is the Rule Book. This was formatted to be printed off as a booklet, rather than just creating the document and then printing it off as a booklet, as my printer didn’t do a great job of that. Print off pages one and three, then two and four on their reverse side. A fold down the middle and you’re done. On the back cover, you’ll see a few names of people who’ve helped out in the early stages. If you do play the game and provide some feedback, then your name will be added to this list.

Next up is the Play Mat. In a finalised version of the game, I would love to see this as a world map, with boxed out tables for each continent. For now, it’s just the tables, but it means it will work easily on an A4 sheet with a font big enough for everyone to read.

Characters next, and there is two sheets of these. Each has three characters on. Although at the moment the game only really supports 2-4 players, I like the idea of giving the players a bit more choice about who they control. It also means a larger number of possible character combinations. These cards really do highlight the fact that I have no artwork as yet, since most of the card is white space. I will get something down on them later, but right now I just need to know if the game works at all.

This is the big bit I’m afraid, as the next thing you’re going to need are the two decks; Excitement and Adventure. Quite a few pages of these, with 9 cards per page. Just cut them out and stack them up. Male sure your printer is set up to do the whole sheet, as I have extended the margins somewhat. This was done to make the cards fit snuggly in basic CCG sleeves. I didn’t want to print the whole lot on card stock, so this seemed like an easy option. I picked up 300 sleeves on ebay for less than £3 including shipping if you decide to pick some up. You will need over 200. Sorry about that, but it just kind of got away from me.

Each deck also has a back available too. Adventure and Excitement denoted by a big capital letter. If you want to keep printing costs down, you can just write this on yourself, but since there are over 200 cards, I thought I’d make it easier if people didn’t fancy spending that long with a pen. You’ll notice that there are no lines on the back of card sheet. This was because getting the lines to sync up with my printer was a bit of a pain in the rear. These are just a single sheet, so you’ll need to print off enough to back all of the cards in each deck.

Finally, one more thing that you’re going to need is the Time Slider. Just print off and cut out. Folding the un-numbered side between the others for stability, then taping it closed. A paper clip should suffice to track the turns, which I hope you can find about your home.

I am also trusting that most of the people who will be interested in playing this game will have access to a pile of things that they can use for tokens. I’ve been using poker chips for Renown, as the different colours can denote differing points, meaning smaller piles of tokens come the end of the game. Other than that you’ll need a handful of other tokens/beads to represent Trophies and Malfunctions picked up as you Adventure.

If you have all that, and you’re ready to go, then I hope you have fun, and I have just one more thing to ask. I need feedback. It’s why I’m opening this up for people to play. The basic stuff such as game balance and spelling mistakes would be great to hear about, but there’s a whole host of stuff that I would like to know to help the game improve. If you’re playing a game, I would love it if you could keep track of which Explorers were being played, how many players there were, the final point tally and how long the game lasted. And of course, if the game makes sense and you have fun.

And also, thank you. I know that this month a lot of people are designing their own games, so if you get the chance to take a shot at this, I want you to now how much I appreciate it. If you need play testers of your own, ask away, and if I can fit it in, then I will happily reciprocate the favour.

Link to all items. There are some sample sheets in there too, feel free to ignore those, as they exist just to give people an idea of the cards.

Nov 092012
 

When I last left you I had completed the Excitement deck and shared a few choice samples with you, along with the rule book so you know what the heck it all means. Or at least, that was the plan. Go and take a look if you missed it…

Since then I’ve mainly been working on the Adventure deck. I say mainly, I also came down with a pretty bad man flu and spent an evening watching a Google+ hangout as some great people play tested an awesome game. But mainly the Adventure deck. This took a lot longer to square away than the Excitement deck, even though it’s smaller. The reason for this is that I wanted a whole bunch of unique Adventures, where as a lot of the Excitement cards made more sense as duplicates. In the original idea, I did have duplicates of Adventures, with the plan being the players would ‘race’ to be the first to finish each one. You know the drill, once someone has mapped the source of the Nile, doing it again later just isn’t as impressive. Sure, they could still head out there, and might even discover something new and shiny, but the main work has already been done and the achievement celebrated.

I had worked out ways for people coming along after the fact to have an easier time of it, but reap less rewards, but it just seemed a needlessly complicated way of dealing with exploration. Instead I have created nine unique Adventures per continent and then nine other open Adventures than can be completed anywhere but with less rewards and a slightly higher difficulty. Not only did this take time as it stretched my creative muscles a bit more, but the Adventure cards have a bit more information on them, and a few more numbers that need to be balanced. Click this link, and you’ll see what I mean.

It also gave me a few opportunities to try out some extra ideas, such as differing rewards or individual difficulties depending on the nature of the Adventure. All in all it was time well spent, and I hope that the changes I made – including simplifying the language and doing away with often repeated sentences in favour of basic terms – will speed up the game play. The last thing I need before I can try it out though is a set of characters.

I decided to keep it to the six I had in mind originally, but worked out differently based on the rules revisions. A lot of this is the same as I did to the Adventure cards. removing full sentences in favour of modifiers to a game effect. This mean they should be smaller cards – three to a sheet instead of two – without looking cluttered. I’m hoping the balance issues will be swifter to work out now I have a better handle on it, so with any luck, I should have a Monday update that includes some files to download that will allow people to actually print and play the game themselves.

I hope there’s at least one of you out there who is interested enough – and can fit it into their own busy NaGa DeMon schedule – to take a look and let me know what they think. Without play impartial play testing I’ll never know if this works as well as it does in my head.

Nov 062012
 

People who read this blog – welcome back, you beautiful people – will know I have spoken about this game before. The reason I’m taking a crack at it for the NaGa DeMon (national game design month, for the uninitiated) is that after a couple of play tests, I knew that the game needed a substantial re-write.  Each time it was played, with different numbers of players, the game got bogged down and would have taken hours to play, even taking into account the fact that it was going slowly due to note taking and rules clarifications. Luckily, the people who offered to help were all game players and knew what I wanted to achieve, and they offered some great suggestions for streamlining and simplification. First though; what the heck is this game?

Excitement and Adventure (no longer a working title, it’s actually grown on me), The Race for Glory is a Steampunk themed game of exploration and fame. Each of the players take on the role of one of six members of a Neo-Victorian London based members only club called the Explorer’s Repose. They have each put their name forward to engage in a once in a lifetime race to as many exciting places around the globe as they can get to in a set period of time. At the end of that time, the Explorer who has gained the most renown for the club is declared the winner. To help them on their way, they put together an Expedition of fantastical Gadgets and stalwart Retainers, then pick an Adventure, and away they go. On their travels, the other Explorers will be trying to hinder them, and vice-versa. But there are also cards that can be played to their own advantage.

I’ve tried to keep the mechanics simple to stop the game dragging on to long. The rule book is now available for download, but bear in mind that it is formatted to be printed off as an eight page booklet. Basically though, the players buy things, play cards and go on Adventures. Most of the cards are fairly self explanatory, but the problem has been in showing the passage of time and incorporating how the explorers use that time. I eventually settled on a ‘time slider’. A simple count down of 20 to 0, which drops a point at the end of each turn. When it hits zero, renown is totaled up, and the winner is declared. Once a turn the players who have characters on an Adventure may make an Exploration roll to see how much progress they make on their current venture, with Exploration tokens showing how well they’re doing. Once they feel confident that they’ve explored enough they can make their Adventure roll to see if they’ve found what they were looking for. Each token gives a plus one to this roll, but every Adventure has a difficulty that takes away from it. So the players have a choice to spend more time exploring to increase the odds, or take a gamble and possibly end up getting more lost or returning to London in shame.

The Expedition cards are designed to help in this, with action cards played by all explorers that can also hinder. This was a big part of the game for me, as I didn’t want each player to take their actions in vacuum, preferring the idea of player interaction. Successfully completing Adventures not only gains renown, but also means the Explorer gets an extra revenue source with which to buy better things or fund more rewarding Adventures. For people lagging behind – due to bad luck with regard to card draws or dice rolls – there are ways for them to get back into the game through certain options and an increased chance of drawing extra cards. This is a totally new mechanic for the game, and I’m hoping that after a few more play tests I’ll get to see how well it works.

That’s the basics of the game then. At the moment, I’ve managed to complete the Excitement deck; containing the resources needed to go on Adventures and ways of helping/hindering those who are also on one. I’ve also worked out a first draft of a play mat to show the differing results to exploration rolls one would expect on different continents, and as mentioned above, the rule book. At the moment I’m working on the Adventure deck. This is separate from the Excitement deck and can only be drawn from if the player skips their normal draw phase. When they do so, they take the top three cards and select one that they would like to attempt. when it is complete I hope to have nine different Adventures per continent, with a few extras that can be attempted on any land mass with appropriate modifiers.

After that I need to go back and revisit the characters. I like all the original ideas I had for the basic archetypes, but since the rules have changed so dramatically, I think that only the basic idea and the character names will stay the same.

As an aside, the reason I’ve kept the working title – and added a subtitle – is that I’ve been thinking that basic mechanic of this game would work well in other settings, and currently have an idea for a sci-fi exploration game too.

Linked here is a sample of a few different types of Excitement cards, just to give you an idea as you check out the rule book. If that looks interesting to you, please let me know; I don;t want to spend a month on something that no one cares about. And if you fancy playing the game, then keep an eye out – maybe even join the Facebook page for this blog – as I will be opening it up to more play testing over the next week or so.

Oct 152012
 

Today I’m going to talk about the new game that I’ve been working on recently. This is me trying to give something back to the awesome RPG community and it will take the shape of a card game about Steampunk explorers, searching for fame and riches in a Neo-Victorian world. In the past I have talked about writing up an adventure, and although this is ongoing it is very much on the back-burner right now. the problem comes from the style that I use to run games, and how hard it is to translate that to a written adventure that can be used by others. It’s a bit complicated, and is probably deserving of its own blog at some point in the future. The short story is that it’s very hard to write down an adventure when nine out ten events that happened in it were because of player choices that I had did nothing to create or influence.

So, instead I thought I’d try my hand at another thing I love: card games. To be specific, card games with a board game feel. Think Elder Sign, or the new Blood Bowl game, both by Fantasy Flight. What else do I like? Steampunk! It has long been a fascination for me, going back many years. If I was any good at crafting clothes and items, I would have made so many that you would never have seen me not wearing a Steampunk inspired outfit. Sadly, I’m rubbish at such things, so instead I created fiction, in the style of role playing games and adventures, and occasional short prose pieces. When I was thinking about what I wanted in a card game, Steampunk jumped straight to my mind.

I also love horror, but if I want those two things to cross paths, I already have my favourite RPG, Unhallowed Metropolis by Atomic Overmind, if I want to play a game like that. So to do attempt something different, I went for the Victorian theme of exploration and adventure. This was heavily inspired by Mark Hodder’s books, where he takes a Steampunk look at one the period’s greatest explorers, Sir Richard Burton. So, I knew what I wanted from a game, the next problem was to make it happen.

I suppose I had better explain the blog title a bit, before we go any further. I saw the deck of cards having too components, one of which would be the explorations and adventures that the characters would go on. My first thought was to have them in one deck, along with the other card, and when played, the explorer leaves London and goes off around the world. This was quickly dismissed as the random element of card draw could leave someone with no adventures for an entire game. Thus was born the ‘Adventure’ deck. A bunch of cool things to do, such as be the first to find the Source of the Nile, or to venture into Macedonia, and meet the Metal Men that reside there. At this point I knew I would need two decks, so the only option was to give the second deck the working title of ‘Excitement’. I’m sure all the geeks out there have spotted where I got that nugget of inspiration from. [Link NSFW]

Next came a few weeks of card design, and thinking of what to put on the cards. The lovely people at Reddit helped out with some basic character ideas, more than a couple of which made it into the six I’m currently using for play-testing. There were also gadgets galore to help out the intrepid Explorers in the field, Retainers with their own skills to accompany them, and even an occasional Valet; something no self respecting gentle-person should be seen without. I didn’t like the idea of exploring in a vacuum though, so as well as extra cards to help out an Explorer – finding a ancient map, or having a rare beast just walk into camp one morning – there are plenty of cards that can be played to derail a fellow Explorer’s quest. Sending in a mob of angry natives, or just having the weather turn against you at an inopportune moment.

With all that sorted, and some basic cards formatted – including having them backed with an ‘E’ or ‘A’ respectively, it was time to play test. At point of writing, I have only had one opportunity to do so, and big thanks go out to my very good friend Gav. He invited me around to his house, I got to meet his daughter for the first time since she acquired the power of speech, and was given a couple of snifters of very fine rum indeed. And we also got to play the game, tentatively entitled ‘Excitement and Adventure’.

The game basically works with each player taking on the role of an Explorer, and investing their time and money into winning a wager about who can get the most ‘Renown’ by going off and having grand adventures, and living to tell the tale. The characters all being members of an Explorers society who agreed the terms of the wager, then went at it with gusto. I will spend more time later discussing the mechanics in detail, but for now, there’s a few things I learnt from this one and only play test.

  1. The game takes too long. We were playing for well over two hours before I called it on account of the lateness of the hour. For the record, Gav kicked my ass.
  2. One entire mechanic needed to be ditched. It never came up, and if it it had, would have made the game even more drawn out.
  3. I need to think of new adventures for the characters to go on. The Adventure deck needs bulking up after the rule change.
  4. It’s totally possible to go off on an adventure with far too many Retainers and Gadgets. This needed changing.
  5. I need a few more play tests before I release this into the wilds of an open play test.

So that’s where I am at the moment. I’m hoping to rope a few more friends into playing the game with me over the coming days and weeks, and will occasionally update on here, if anything interesting enough happens. If any of my readers has any cool suggestions of adventures for the Explorers to go and have, the comments box is just below here.