Thursday, December 29, 2011


I've been working on a new game that's very different from any of my others.  It's called SoothSay and it's only a game in the loosest of terms.  Basically I wanted to create something similar to a tarot deck or an Ouija board and then turn it into a party game to give it more mass appeal.  But really, the game is just an excuse to take part in an activity that (hopefully) is a little creepy. 

The "game" is for each player to take turns playing the soothsayer.  The soothsayer picks another player to ask a question, then the soothsayers performs a reading to answer the question and all other players vote yeah or nay on  the performance.  The question asker serves as a tiebreaker if one is needed.

The "reading" is where all the fun is and it's still being designed, but it relies on the use of a deck of hex cards.  Each card has a letter in the center along with a number.  Along the 6 edges are astrological symbols in either white or green.  The "rules" of the reading are that you shuffle the deck and deal out cards and try to match them up with other cards so that the touching edges have the same symbol in the opposite color.  But the soothsayer has a lot of room for interpretation...  A LOT of room.  I'll provide an interpretation guide, with all sorts of loosey goosey rules on interpreting the reading.  The deck is designed to maximize the odds of spelling something in English while still seeming like your placing cards according to rules that the soothsayer can't change.  Each card also has a color to it so the reading could come from the letters or numbers or colors or the shape made by the cards or anything else that the soothsayer dreams up.

I've ordered a copy.  I'll play it a see what I can come up with.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Another post Quitavox playtesting post

Playtested Quintavox again.  The Senate change worked well.  We came up with a few additional changes or at least, things to try.

First, the easy one:
Some one pulled a Protection card card and accidentally called it "Justice."  But I think I like the word "Justice" a lot better so I changed it.

There was a suggestion to limit the number of rings in the game when playing with fewer than 5 players.  Which I think was brilliant.  The specific suggestion was to have the same number of many rings of each color as the number of players.  And since each player has 4 pawns that can each take 2 rings, that's 8 rings per person and there are 8 issues, so you would have exactly enough rings to go around no matter how many players you had.  This is a very elegant solution and I might very well go with it, but I had a different but related concern that may change this a bit.  The other concern was that even with 3 players, there was a lot going on..  almost too much to keep track of.  And if you had 2 more players, it might be a bit too chaotic.  So I was thinking limiting the number of pawns you get to 3, but allowing each one to campaign 3 times.  But that's 9 rings per player not 8.

So the next I play, I'm going to try both changes at the same time which means, that there actually be less than enough rings to go around.  That might be a good thing as it give the game a little more drama, but it might also unbalance the game.  But I'm thinking it will actually improve the game.  Each player could only take one more ring than his share, so it's not like one player could go crazy taking rings left and right.  The player it affects most is the one hanging back and watching how things develop (which looks like the winning strategy by the way).  But that player has the benefit of choosing his rings with more knowledge.  Half the rings are pointless anyway.

Another thing to consider is this:  Which rings do you remove in a fewer than 5 player game?  My current thinking is to remove the "1" rings in a 5 player game and the "1" and "5" rings in a 3 person game.  Incidentally, I'm becoming less convinced that the game will work for 2 players.  But since, I have yet to play it with 2 players... who knows.  So for 2 players I suppose I would remove the "1", "4" and "5" rings.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A post Quitavox playtesting post

I playtested Quitavox this week.  It played well.  There were a few critiques, but they were all minor.  The first one was that the color assignments for the 8 issues should be changed so that opposing issues had opposite colors.  I actually intentionally didn't do this originally because I was worried about making a political statement with my game by making some issue black and its opposite issue white.  But I decided that game play was more important so I changed colors to make more sense.  I tried to pick the least controversial issues to be black and white:  Expansionism (Black) and Isolationism (White).

Then there were a few issues that I believe I have all addressed (at least partially) with the same change.
  • The game ended in a tie and I hadn't come up with tie breakers yet, so we made up one on the spot, but it was rather complicated.
  • There was often 1 action point left over that players couldn't do anything with.
  • The first person to play has a bit of an advantage
  • Tiebreakers for control of a county are a bit complicated.
So here's the change:  I added a little section on the board called the Senate.  There are 5 spaces there and a cube for each player.  The order of the cubes is used as a tiebreaker for both county control and the end of game.  Players can, for 1 action point, swap any two adjacent cubes in the Senate.  The order is initialized to be in inverse turn order. 

Of course, I'll have to order a new copy of the game, but I'll wait until after Monday to do that because I have another playtesting possibility then.  But overall, the game played well.  I think it maybe close to done.  Though I do have to admit, that when playing it, I felt like it was missing something.  I'm not sure if the Senate addition is it or not.  I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Of Feast & Famine

The game that I used to call Cheshire's Kingdom is now called Of Feast & Famine.  I suppose that makes it a "sequel" to Of Power & Glory.  I've actually been thinking about a third one in the line called "Of Intrigue & Inheiritance", but I'll save that for another blog.

I got my first copy of OF&F in yesterday and playtested it with my wife.  I'm actually a bit surprised how well it did by the time I was done tweaking stuff.  Don't get me wrong, there's a lot left to do, but the game was fairly playable.

So here are the things I changed or clarified from my first playtesting (all of this is subject to further change):
  • The peg pawns that I thought would stack... don't.  So I'll just have to use cubes.  It will cost $1.00 more, but I'm not as concerned about that as I am the more clumsy feel of the game.  Actually it wasn't too bad with cubes, but I was really hoping for parts that stacked more naturally.
  • In a one player game, you use 3 pawns.  In a two player game, each player uses 2 pawns.
  • I need
  • The game starts with 5 workers in the castle and 5 rations.
  • You now seed the game with 5 disasters by rolling dice at the start of the game.
  • It costs 5 rations to create another worker.
  • A feast costs you 1 ration an 1 worker must go to the castle.
  • Plague cause workers to go to the calendar 1 season ahead.  The basis for choosing how many people get sick is half of the Well workers (rounding down).
  • If you have a feast when the rations are at 0, a worker dies...  and another 1 must go to the castle.
  • the "castle" disaster is now called "feast".
  • You no longer repair all buildings from the workshop...  the workshop is just for the long term projects.  To repair a building you must go to that building and repair it explicitly. I'm still a little up in the air as to whether 1 action repairs all damage to a building or just one cube....  I'm leaning towards one cube.
  • I'm on the fence about whether or not to limit the number of times an action can be performed.  I think I need to do that, but I didn't play that way yesterday and it was ok.
Other observations:
  • The enemies were way too easy...  I spent my time dealing with the other problems and then realized, "I could just attack my enemies and win"  I'll have to make them a much bigger concern.  Perhaps be moving their numbers closer to 7.  Perhaps by seeding their hostilities (this might be a difficulty adjustment as well).
  • I need to change the role cards to indicate the color of the pawn that is used.
  • The board looks great!

That's all for now!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Advanced Rock Paper Scissors

While designing Zodica, I had an idea to use a rock-paper-scissors mechanic in the game.  Well, it didn't work out in Zodica, but I thought that I might be able to use it in another game.  Part of the reason it didn't work out in Zodica is because people could keep straight what beat what.  So I thought I would keep it as straight forward as possible and literally use Rock, Paper and Scissor.  From the start I knew this would have to be a light, slightly humorous game.  So I tacked of the word "Advanced" to give it that "I take myself too seriously" kind of humor.

I started out thinking of a game not too removed from Zodica.  Each card had a rank and a suit (rock, paper or scissors).  It's a trick taking game, but you have to play in structures that are all within the same suit and of the suit that beats the previously played suit.  I went through several variations of this and nothing quite seemed to work.  So I had to venture a little further away and I think I've come up with an idea that may work.  It's still a trick taking card game with three suits, Rock Paper and Scissors, but the traditional ranks are gone and replaced with several attributes.

There are 60 cards, 20 each of Rock, Paper and Scissors.  Each card has 3 attributes on it.  I'm still working on what those attributes are, but I want them to be in the "silly" category.  But for the sake of explanation, I'll use easy to remember, mundane attributes:  A letter A-D, a number 1-5 and a Color (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, White, Black, Grey,  Brown).  What's important to note is that one attribute has 4 possible values, one has 5 possible values and one has 10 possible values.

The entire deck is dealt out.  I'm going to use the same card passing rules that I used in Zodica, then a player starts (I have yet to decide how that player is chosen).  The first player must lay down a single card, the suit doesn't matter.  The next players may choose to play or pass.  Whenever a player plays on a hand in a trick they must play a "Train" of cards that is 1 larger than the previous hand and of the appropriate suit (e.g. rock on scissors, scissors on paper or parer on rock). 

So what's a Train?  A Train is a list of cards of the same suit where each consecutive pair of cards has an attribute in common and no attribute value is used more than once in the train. 

For example:
[1 A Red][1 B Green][2 B Orange][3 C Orange][3 B Grey] etc.

But I could NOT do:
[1 A Red][1 B Green][2 B Orange][3 C Orange][3 B Grey][4 B Brown]
because the last card is linked to the card before it with the "B" but that attribute value was used earlier in the train to link cards 2 and 3.

If all players pass on a trick, the player who played the last hand in the trick wins the trick and puts the cards face down in front of them and leads off again. 

Scoring is very simple.  You score one point for every card you take.  There is a bonus (say, 10 points) for going out first and a penalty (again, say, 10 points) for going out last.  You keep playing until someone gets to 100...  maybe 200.

That's it!  Pretty simple.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cheshire's Kingdom - part 2

It's funny how quick things change.  There were many things that I said in part one of this post that had changed in my mind by the time I got out of the car after heading to work that same day.  And much has changed since then too....  Sorry that I haven't been recording it all.  There's been a lot going on recently.

So, where am I?  I've actually already ordered a copy of Cheshire's Kingdom from The Game Crafter.  Part of me says "It's way too early for that", but the other part (which obviously won) says "yeah....  but I WANT too!"  Perhaps this is just me trying to justify it, but I do believe that creating the board helps me develop the game.  The board is pretty good looking if I say so myself.  I suppose it's time for me to figure out how to attach a picture to the blog....  (as I typed that, I felt completely technologically inept...  did I mention I'm a Software Developer by trade! :)  )

Ok, so here's what's changed:
  • Movement: I got rid of the concept of movement.  Players no longer have a physical presence on the board, they just take one kind of action.  The board is there to show where workers are assigned.  There simply weren't enough places for people to go to make this a meaningful part of the game.
  • Food Production: A subtle change / clarification to the way the food production works.  I've decided that workers that are working in the fields eat for free, but produce extra food for the rest of the workers.  You may be asking your self. "Isn't that just like each worker in the fields producing 2 food and not having a special eat-for-free rule?"  No, it's subtly different because of stacking.  Here's a simple case, population of 3 and two of them produce food (stacked).  With the produce-2-food model we get this:  2 workers, stacked is like 5 workers so they produce 10 food for a population of 3 that leaves an excess of 7.  With the eat-for-free model we get this: 2 workers, stacked is like 5 workers so they produce 5 food for a population of 3 (but only one eats) that leaves an excess of 4.   But the real motivation for this change is that I'm going to have other multipliers in this game and I wanted to keep the math as simple as possible.
  • Repairs: I talked about repairing roads in the first post, but now that there is no player movement, roads don't mean much.  So now you have to repair the actual buildings.  Each build has a place for 3 damage.  the first damage does nothing.  The second one prevent stacking in that area, the third damage prevents the building from functioning at all.
  • Plagues:  my current thought on how this works is as follows:  When a plague occurs people may die.  The base number is 1/2 the population (rounding down). But you get to subtract 1 for every worker in the hospital (including stacking).  I feel like there needs to be more here though...  there's not much for a player to do about this.  The disaster just occurs without warning and you deal with it.  Here's a raw idea that I just this instant came up with.  What if you placed sick workers on the calendar (that the circular thing with the seasons on it) that represented how long they were sick for and you had by that time to use your doctors on them until they died....  I like this idea.  I'll have to think about it more.  I was going to use the calendar for another purpose that will likely have to change... I like this idea better.
  • War:  This hasn't  changed much, except that I made a vague mention to "power" in my last post and I think understand better what that is.  I think is a the number of dice that the opponent rolls to represent their strength.  I've never been huge on dice in games, but here it seems to work for me.
There were some things that didn't even have a change to get to last post than have changed:
  • Events:  I changed the event decks (that I mentioned but didn't go into) to a simple dice system,  This was largely driven by cost of game concerns, but now that I've grown accustomed to the idea, I kind of like it even if money was no object.  The idea now is that at the end of each turn, a player rolls 2 dice and that drives 1 or possibly 2 events.  First, it drives a bad event.  The bad events are numbered on the bottom right of the board.  They include rising hostilities with a neighbor, damage to a building, plagues and famines and also an annoyance from the King himself; he request the service of a worker in the castle.  You can move him right back at your next opportunity, but it could add some grief. Also, if you roll doubles you add a worker to your population.
Ok... I think I'm going to go off and thing about the plagues some more.  Later!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cheshire's Kingdom - part 1

I've posted a few blogs recently about ideas for new games.  As usual, I have latched on to one of those ideas and focused most of my creative energy on that one for now.  The other, I'm sure, will be picked up again later...  maybe years later!

The idea that's caught my attention is the idea of a co-op Kingdom management game.  I've even chosen a name "Cheshire's Kingdom."   The name kind of ties it (loosely) into Of Power & Glory.  Cheshire is one of the Kings from that game.  Why Cheshire?  It just kind of sounded good...  and I like the prospect of using a lot of Celtic fonts and borders.  The one thing that bugs me a little about it is that in the Of Power & Glory expansion, Cheshire is currently the King that starts in two locations, which is inconsistent.  But oh well, I'm not terribly worried about consistency across those two games.

But on to the game as I see it right now:
The board is mostly a map of the kingdom (I don't think I'll make any attempt to make it a real place).  The map has several locations on it that are connected by roads.  Each location is where you go to manage some aspect of the Kingdom.  Here are the locations I'm thinking about using now:  A Farm, Workshop (where repairs and big projects are performed), a Hospital, Barracks, maybe the castle and three other kingdoms.  There is probably also an open field where unassigned workers go (I'll explain that in a bit).  The players of the game are the ministers of King Cheshire.  There are role cards like in Pandemic that say some thing like "Minister of Defense" that gives that player an advantage when maintaining that aspect of the Kingdom. 

While there are specific ways to manage the different aspects of the game, there are some common themes that I want to discuss. 

Movement:  Each player has a big pawn on the board that represents where they are.  On your turn you have a limited ability to move... perhaps just to an adjacent location. And then you can perform the corresponding action there.

Workers:  There are many workers in the game.  I'm thinking these will be the peg pawns available from TGC that are stackable.  The number of workers that you have access to is variable and basically represents population.  Workers can be assigned to these various areas.  When more than one worker is assigned to an area, the minister of that area has an ability that no one else has.  He can choose to stack (or unstack) pawns.  I need a more in theme term for this, but for now I'll just use the word "stack".  Two pawns stacked on one another does the work of 5 pawns.  Three pawns stacked on one another does the work of 10 pawns.  You can't stack past 3, but you can have multiple stacks.  There is, however, a down side to stacking pawns,  When you're in a area, say the farm, you can add workers to the farm from any other area... but not if they are stacked.  Stacking kind of represents a long term commitment to that task.  And sense only the minister of that area can unstack those pawns, you have to wait until their turn to gain access to those pawns.

Turns: After each player takes a turn, the season changes.  I think I want to have the seasons have meaning in the game (primarily in farming).  I'm not sure, but perhaps each season, the player that goes first changes.  Kind of like the turn order rules in Puerto Rico.

Events:  I think there are two event decks; a good event deck and a bad event deck.  The bad events are revealed at the end of each player's turn.  While the good events are revealed at the end of each season.  This is a balancing mechanism in an attempt to make the game equally difficult for few or many players.  Better stated, it offsets the advantages of having more than one players in the game (because with more than one player, you can be in more than one location at a time).

Ok... on to the specific areas of the game board.

Farms:  There are two ways to farm, raising animals or growing wheat.  Animals are easier and more consistent, while wheat is more difficult, but pays off more.  Animals produce food every season in direct proportion to the number of workers that are there (taking into account stacking multipliers).  With wheat, you can only add workers in spring.  You can remove them at any time.  Wheat produces food every fall in direct proportion to the number of workers that are there in fall.

Workshop:  The roads and buildings in the Kingdom can fall into disrepair (probably from a bad event card).  Workers here fix these.  Roads and buildings that are damaged (or perhaps severely enough damaged), do not work.  There is another thing that I believe these workers do and that's big projects.  I was thinking that you have big project that require many workers for one turn.  These projects would produce something that has a long term benefit for the Kingdom.

Hospital:  Workers in the hospital protect the Kingdom from plagues (from event cards).  I feel like I need to add more here but this is all I have for now.  If I was the minister of Health (or whatever you would call it), I would feel jipped because there's not enough to do.

Barracks:  These worker are in the army.  There are protection against the three enemies and also the key to winning the game.  Your enemies will attack you at certain times in the game potentially leading to a loss of population (I have a clever mechanic thought up to drive this).  The bigger you army is, the more you soften the blow or perhaps even stop it all together.  Also, if your army is large enough, you can take over one of your enemies and be rid of them for the rest of the game...  I'm thinking that taking over all three enemies might be the winning condition.  I'll try to describe the mechanic that drives the attack of your enemies. 

Each enemy has a collection of boxes, say 6 long.  Events in the game will raise hostilities in one of the 3 enemies.  When hostilities are raised, cubes are either added to or moved up in those boxes. 

Some visuals would help... but since I don't have to time right now whip up some images, I'll use ascii art.  a O is an empty box and an X is a box with a cube in it.  Also, I'm thinking these will be vertical, but to save space, I'll show them horizontally.

OOOOOO  - initial state
XOOOOO - After hostilities are raised once
OXOOOO - After hostilities are raised again
OOOOOX - After hostilities are raised 6 times - since it got the the top (right), the enemy attacks with a "power" of 1
XOOOOX - After hostilities are raised 7 times
OXOOOX - After hostilities are raised 8 times 
OOOOXX - After hostilities are raised 11 times - enemy attacks again with a "power" of 2
OOOXXX - After hostilities are raised 15 times - enemy attacks again with a "power" of 3
OOXXXX - After hostilities are raised 18 times - enemy attacks again with a "power" of 4
OXXXXX - After hostilities are raised 20 times - enemy attacks again with a "power" of 5
XXXXXX - After hostilities are raised 21 times - enemy attacks again with a "power" of 6

After that, any hostilities would result in an attack.  This mechanic makes the attacks increase in both frequency and intensity as the game progresses.  I think I want to also have the concept of appeasement. Appeasement is a short term benefit with a long term cost.  and I think it works like this.  Suppose an enemies hostility tracker looks like this:
To appease them, you change it to this:
but he doesn't attack.

Normally, he would have attacked you on the next rise in hostilities, but now he will require 4 rises before the next attack, but it will be worse.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Post Thanksgiving update

Please excuse my absence over the last few days as I was in Memphis TN to visit my parents for Thanksgiving. 

The same day the The Game Crafter released their chipboards, I converted Of Power & Glory to use it and bought a copy.  The first version of the game I got had 1/2 of the game board pasted on upside down.  So they sent me a new version.  It arrived on Wednesday at my house while I was somewhere between Atlanta and Memphis.  I got back today and yeah!  I finally have it!  I have uploaded new action shots of the game and (this is a first for me), made a video explaining the game. 

As I type this, I am uploading the video to you tube so I can link to it from the TGC web site.  Hopefully this will stir up some more interest in the game.

I know... short post.  I hope to have more for you shortly.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bradfield Acres

I just published Bradfield Acres.  It's a game for a resources contest at The Game Crafter.  The crux of the contest is that you have to use their resource pieces in your game.  I playtested it yesterday and it played well.  I only had to add a little bit of clarification to one section of the rules.

Bradfield Acres is an auctioning game.  Resources are pulled at random from a bag and placed into a pool that all players bid on.  When you bid, you are bidding on the number of resources that you would like to take.  But the Players who bid lowest go first, so you're also bidding on turn order.  On your turn, you take the resources you've won and place them in one of your three trucks.  There are three common delivery cards shown at all times.  If one of your trucks can fulfill a delivery, you take the card and place it face down in front of you.  It's a simple game, but it's a lot of fun.

There is a companion game to it called Bradfield Estates that I'm wishy washy on.  It's not as good as Bradfield Acres.  I'm not sure if I'm going to enter that game in the contest or not...  right now I'm leaning towards entering it.  But I'm kind of wondering if there would be sort of a guilt-by-association effect.  I don't think so, but it does have me wondering.  I don't think I'll publish that one...  at least not as a standalone.  I might include it with Bradfield Acres as sort of a B-side.  The games use about 90% of the same parts. 

That's my update for now.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


So The Game Crafter has lots of contests to design games.  There were two contests recently, that I wasn't going to participate in until I realized somewhat out of the blue that I could have one simple game that could work for both contests.  The first contest was to design a standard deck of 54 playing cards.  The second contest was to design a game that is a mash-up of two other games.  I'm not sure I have a better explanation for where the idea came from....  it just occurred to me! 

If you've played both Chess and Poker before, Chesspoker is VERY simple and easy to learn.  You have a standard deck of playing cards, but each rank is paired up with a chess piece as well.  Some of the this obvious:  The King and Queen in the card sense are also Kings and Queens in the Chess sense.  The Jack is a Knight, The Ace is a Rook, The Jokers are Bishops and all the numbered cards are Pawns.  The cards also have definite top and bottom to them. 

One round of Chesspoker works like this:  You shuffle the cards and deal out a 4 x 4 chessboard.  The two nearest rows of cards to each player point towards the other player.  Those are you cards to move as chess pieces,  A player goes first (alternate this between rounds).  You move one of your cards just like it was a chess piece and try to capture one of your opponents cards.  If you do capture a card, that card is taken off and used as part of your poker hand.  Once one of the players has captured 5 cards, they other player is in check.  This means that they must capture a card every turn or else move on to scoring the round.  The round ends when an in check player fails to capture a card, or both players have at least 5 cards.  Then you make the best poker hand you can out of the cards you captured.  The winner gets a point.  You play until someone gets to 10 points...  or whatever point value you want really.  It's that simple.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Qunitavox is another large game that has gone through far to many changes over the years to list them all.  In fact, it's been known by at least 3 different names.  While Of Power & Glory is my current "baby", this is the only game that has a serious chance of replacing it... ok, maybe joining it.  I have resently completely revamped it for umptenth time and it needs serious playtesting.  I'll try to walk you through as much of the development process as I remember.

It started as a card game called Political Agenda.  This idea was fairly simple, you have a deck with 8 different kinds of political issues.  Each player would care about three of them (chosen at random and kept secret).  Then players would add cards to a bill and when the bill reached a certain number of cards, the bill was voted on using vote cards (that I can't remember how you got).  If it passed, the country was affected by all of the cards in the bill.  You could move up in power, and you had chips that represented political capital (that I can't remember how you used).   That's the first version of it in a nutshell.  I don't remember all of the rules, but that should give you an idea of where it started.

I played around with the rules quite a bit in this basic format; players having a hand of cards or not, having multiple bills or just a single one, players reveling their issue cards or not. etc.  But the first big change occurred when I added the map.  I decided to have a fictional country divided into 5 states where all of this political fighting was taking place.  This is were it gets complicated...  literally.   Once it was a more of a "board game", I threw all sorts of complications into it.  There was political influence being applied to counties, the election of senators and a president each with their own sets of powers, special cards you could put into a bill that had side effects and probably a lot more that I've forgotten.  I adopted a new setting "Vaguely Ancient Roman" and a new name "Quintavas" which was a bad Latin translation of what I thought was "5 states."

On one hand, I liked where it was going...  I'm a big fan of big games.  But on the other hand, it was getting too complicated to make work correctly.  At about this time, a friend of mine was inspired by the game and made a pure card game version it.  The two games have widely diverged into completely separate games.  I'm not sure how much he would want me to say about it, since it's not published yet, but I don't think he would mind me mentioning it's name:  Pork Barrel.  I, on the other hand, was determined to make a board game out it.  But I had to start by cutting out a lot of the complications.

I feel like it's appropriate to fast forward to were the game is now...  and since it's not completed, I'm sure there will many more changes that  will be explained in far greater detail.  I'll start with the name.  I liked the setting, but my bad Latin needed to be fixed.  When I discovered what 5 states really translated to in Latin "quinque civitates" it didn't exactly roll off the tongue.  So I stumbled around a bit until I came upon "Quinta Vox" or "The Fifth Voice"  I decide "Voice" could be seen as poetic term for "Vote" so I ran with it.

Quitavox has a board that is dominated by a map of a fictional country with  5 states.  Each state has 5 counties.  Next to each state is a place to put cards that form a Bill.  There are still 8 issues, but they are now paired up as opposites (e.g. Expansionism versus Isolationism).  Players no longer have 3 issue assigned to them to care about but he will develop concerns for the issues as the game is played.  Each county has an issue that they care about.  This is represented by a token that is placed in each county.  Players have pawns that can be placed on the map.  These pawns are used to influence the county.  On a player's turn, they have 5 action points that they can spend.  Here are the types of actions:  You can place a pawn on the map, move a pawn to an adjacent territory, campaign for an issue (put a ring on a pawn representing an issue), or add an Issue card to one of the 5 bills (one for each state).  When a bill reaches 5 cards, the bill is voted on.. had here's a big change from previous versions... it's voted on by the counties.  However, you can influence the county to vote your way by moving your pawn there.  If more than one pawn is in a county, then how those pawns have campaigned in the past, along with the issue that the county is concerned with determine which player gets to decide how the county will vote.  As you campaign for an issue, you become more concerned with it's advancement.

That's it for now...  But I'm sure I'll blog more on this game as it develops further.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Couple of Game Ideas

I had a couple ideas for game in the last couple of days.  Like usual, they are both  just rough ideas.  So here they are.

Idea 1:
A game where the players are trying to kill one another...  but here's the twist.  If you are killed, the game does not end; you can continue to play as a ghost.  I think there would need to be an advantage to staying alive...  you don't want all the players try to be killed...  but the advantage needs to be not so big as to make it impossible to win as a ghost.  Honestly, the thing I like about this idea is not the killing in and of itself, it's the idea that there could be a huge fundamental change to game imposed on you by another player, and you have to react to change.  And the change needs to be final and unwelcomed, but not dooming to you as a player in the game.  I've even thought that maybe it becomes more advantageous to be a ghost as more players die.

Idea 2:
I used to play a computer game when I was young that I loved.  It was called Defenders of the Realm.  Essentially it was a Kingdom management game.  You played a King the was trying to take over England and manage the counties in Kingdom at the same time.  Right now you might be thinking "I've seen that 1000 times before."  But here's the twist (I'm stealing this twist from Of Power & Glory):  You are not the King....  and here's the other twist (I guess I'm all about twists today!) It's a co-op game.  You and your fellow players are Nobles that are responsible for managing the various concerns of the Kingdom.  Every co-op game needs a enemy or two.  In pandemic, it's the viruses, in Flash Point it's the fire....  here, it's your boss.  And maybe the Kingdom(s) in the area too.  I think there's a lot of opportunity for "stress" with the needs of the Kingdom, and the King and the threats of your enemies all stretching you in different directions.

Website Updates... continued.

I've just made a number of updates to the site:
  • I re-wrote it in PHP.
  • I turned the main page into a games summary page and added a specific game page that you can link to from the main page.  This page has a lot more detail than the previous one.  It includes images, reviews and links to related blogs.
  • I fixed numerous IE related bugs with the site.
  • I changed the contact page to use a web form instead of just a mailto: address.

I'll try to have a game related blog soon...  I had an interesting idea as far as that's concerned.  :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Website Update

I've decide that Javascript ain't gonna cut it.  So, I going to try to learn PHP since I have PHP support with my web hosting.  I would probably have done something Java or Ruby based if that was more practical, but this way I get to learn something new!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


ATL was the first game that I designed for a contest.  The Game Crafter held a contest to design a game using their vehicles.  The game couldn't have been published before and it had to cost less than $20 to make.  After a few days of thinking about this I decided to adapt a game that I had been designing in my head for a couple of years into ATL.

The original version in my head was called Scarborough Fair.  The idea was this:
There is a fair going on where vendors are selling their various types of goods.  The vendors (players) would rent a tent and make their goods available to the public.  Some tents would be in better, high traffic areas and some would be more removed from the action.  Players could make high or low quality goods...  the higher quality goods cost more to make, but some customers wouldn't settle for poor quality.  Then its just an economy game where location, quality and price are the variables that players have some control over.  Goods were bought by simulated customers that had a minimum level of quality, a maximum price they would pay and a route that they would take through the fair.  The customers would buy the first good that met their criteria.

It was relatively simple to morph this game into ATL.  The various types of goods became the various destinations that a traveler could fly to.  The tents became the flight times.  The quality and price pretty much remained what they were except that I called quality "Level of Service."   The ariport theme did bring out some other aspects of the game.  For example, having both coach and first class levels of service and having different passenger behavior based on domestic or international flights..

Unfortunately, ATL did not win the contest.  Oh well, perhaps I'll win some future contest!

Of Power & Glory - part 3

There where a few other changes that I mad to the game that I wanted to mention here:
  • I discovered that the last round of the game didn't play well if you knew that it was the last round of the game.  The reason is that there is only one favor, Glory (with the possible rare exception of Sabotage) that made any difference in the outcome of the game in the last round.  To Solve this problem, I introduced the End of Game Card.  This is a card that is shuffled into to bottom 18 cards of the territory deck and triggers the end of the game.  So, unless the card comes up as the very last card, you can not be 100% sure when the end of game is.
  • When The Game Crafter announced that they were planning on releasing real chipboards, I took the opportunity to completely redraw the entire board.  I placed the Kings' castles on the board itself instead of as 8 smaller boards.  I moved the map into the upper left corner and the scoring into the upper right corner.  In general, the game board just looks better.
  • The moving of the King's castles onto the main board forced another change that is ultimately an improvement in and of itself.  Each King used to have, a hardcoded starting power, starting position and a random archrival.  But when I put the castles on the board that effectively hardcoded the archrivals which was too hardcoded.  As a result, I decided to let the other aspects of the Kings' start be random.  Now a King starts in a random location and starts with a random power. While this change was driven by a change in visual representation, I think it leads to better gameplay and higher replayability.
  • From the first version of the game I always knew that I wanted players to have a way to affect what territories were being fought over, but how they did it has changed many times, ultimately ending with mechanic that's not too far removed from what I started with. Originally, a player could swap two adjacent cards.  The problem with the way I did it originally was that same problem that I had with the positions in court.  A player could make a change only to have it undone by the next player.  I made numerous changes to this mechanic only to realize that the change to a Work placement style game had fixed the problem for me.  So I reverted back to something close to what I started with.  A player could now move a card to the far left or far right, but Now they had to place one of their Nobles on the card which meant that the card could not be moved again.
There were some other changes that I was thinking about during all of this that I am trying to put into an expansion to the game.  So, here's the deal on what I'm currently considering for the expansion (called Of Power and Glory: Sovereignty).  One of the minor drawbacks of the random starting positions of the Kings is that it takes away a bit from there character.  King Machardo (an Spanish sounding name) could start in Berlin which seems a little strange.  So I think I wanted to compensate for this by giving the Kings a little more character.  So, one of the things that the expansion does is makes each King a little different.  They all have a quirk that affects the gameplay. 

So here are the quirks (cut and pasted straight from the rules that I'm working on)
  • Gavio, the Solitary : Only 2 Nobles may be in his court at a time. 
  • Cheshire, the Cracked : His Kingdom starts in two pieces. 
  • Rothschild, the Miserly : He does not give out the Power Favor. 
  • Hahn, the Arrogant : He does not give out the Title Favor.
  • Delgado, the Boastful : He does not give out the Glory Favor. 
  • Jouffroy, the Mad : He will not allow any Noble in court if they have a Title from any other King. 
  • Machardo, the Great : He has 3 additional Titles. 
  • Zietzler, the Resilient : At the end of any round in which Zeitzler is 5th or worse on the King Tracker, he moves up one spot.
These quirks do more than just give the Kings' a little personality, they affect how you play the game.  Since the beginning, I wanted the Kings to feel like other players in the game.  This change gives them a personality that you must take into account when deciding which Kings to back.

The other major change in the Expansion is the addition of an additional Favor...  a far more dynamic favor: a Special Favor.  For what ever it's worth, you place your noble on the King's shield to claim the Special Favor.  Special Favors are cards that represent an agreement between you and the King.  All agreements are in this form:  If you (the player) help me (the King) achieve this goal at the time the game ends, then you get this many victory points.  Each King has it's own deck of 6 cards.  5 of those cards are stock (the same for every King), and there is one that is unique to that King.  When the game is setup up, only 3 cards (chosen at random) for each King will be available.  They're placed face down near the game board.  When you take the Special Favor, you get to look at all tree cards (or fewer if some have been taken already), and choose 1 of them.  This is kept secret until the end of the game.  It offers another way to earn points.  It also introduces a small bad side effect.  In the base game, there is no way to end in a tie, now that's not the case.  I have yet to come up with a satisfactory solution to the problem.  Of course, worse case scenario, I can just live with the fact that the game could end in a tie.

And to quote the great Forrest Gump:  That's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I will continue with the Of Power & Glory blogs, but I wanted to capture a potential game creation in process.  Driving in to work today I was thinking about how The Game Crafter is about to release tiles. And, of course, that got me thinking about what kind of game I might make with tile.  So here it is in all it's raw glory:  Rube.

Rube is a square tile based game.  Each tile has a part of a Rube Goldberg machine on it.  Tiles may have 0 or more inputs and 0 or more outputs; each one on an edge of the tile. The inputs/outputs are typed...  for example, "pushing", "blowing" or "electricity".  Tiles are played in a common play area like Caracassone.  Inputs and outputs can only be placed together if they are of the same type.  I suspect this game will be a little more restrictive in placement than Caracassone, so players will have a hand of, say, 5 tiles to choose from.  You can optionally play a cube on the tile you just laid down.  Unlike Caracassone, you may take a cube from another tile if you wish.  Some tiles are special...  they're initiators.  When they are played, it kicks off the action in the machine.  If a tile has more than one output, the player decides which path to take.  Any cube on a tile that is activated gets a point.... 

That's basically it.  I see this as a fun game, not a high strategy game.  The artwork might be tricky, but I suspect this is the type of game that would be perfectly fine with free clip-art.  I guess we'll see if / where this idea goes.


Of Power & Glory - part 2

A quick note before I get started.  I am writing this blog with the assumption that the reader in familiar with the current rules of Of Power & Glory.  If you would like to read them, they can be found here: then follow the "Rules" link.


The first playable version of Of Power & Glory was built on The Game Crafter.  And with that came some changes.  First off, The Game Crafter only had 8 distinct colors that I could use to for the Kings.  After a bit of mental anguish, I decided to get rid of 2 of the Kings.  And thus, Leopardi and Baudelaire gave up their dreams of relative obscurity for a more deeper, darker and more certain obscurity.  The game board, which I had always imagined as a single board became 9; 1 main board and 8 small boards for the 8 Kings.

In the first version of the game, players could place their pawns on the court of a King, swap positions in court, add armies to a King or swap adjacent territory cards.  Each action cost you 1 power.  When a King won a battle, a die was rolled and that many favors were distributed to the players starting at the top and working down (starting over again if the die roll was higher than the number of players in court).  There were only two types of favors: going up by 3 in Power or going up by 1 in Glory.  A player could do as much on there turn as they wanted and could afford to do.  Battles between Kings were decided by the number of armies that each King had.  Each King had a unique number of flags printed on his card and this number was used as a tiebreaker.

Here I will try to describe all the major changes and it's effect of the gameplay.  I'm not sure I'll be able to remember the order or the changes or all the minor revisions in between, but I'll try to describe each aspect of the game as it was originally and how it is now.
  • The concept of adding armies to a King to increase his power was too fidgety and it could end in a tie and could lead to 1 or 2 Kings becoming far too powerful.  This was changed to a list of the Kings in order of their power.  This is less fidgety, since there's only the markers for the 8 Kings and not dozens of armies.  It can't end in a tie and Kings can only be incrementally stronger than another King.  It's also MUCH easier to determine the winner of a battle.  In addition to the change in representation, the players' ability to manipulate the power of the Kings was limited.  This forced players to consider more Kings instead of just focusing on the 1 or 2 powerful ones.
  • Power used to be a resource that was earned and spent.  This was simplified to just be an incrementing value.  Power also had a new meaning.  It used to mean the number of actions you could take. It became the number of Nobles that you had access to and each Noble could take one action.
  • Players swapping position in court was flawed because it led to Player A making a move and Player B simply undoing it.  It's not very fun to do stuff only to have it undone...  you feel like you're not accomplishing anything....  because you aren't!  To address this the game became a worker placement game.  Nobles were taken off the board at the end of the round, so there was no more swapping, just placing your Nobles for the first time again.  
  • This addressed the immediate concern, but caused a new problem.  You no longer had any affinity for a particular King.  To address that problem, the concept of titles was introduced.  Now there was a third favor that you could get from King.  I decided to use rings for both the territory markers and the titles.  This was a great change as it led to an interesting dynamic.  The more players that cozy up to a King, the less that King is able to accomplish.
  • Since I made the actions more Worker Placement like, I decide to do the same thing with the favors.  The die was gone and now players could chose a favor and prevent other players from choosing that favor too.
  • It became evident to me that turn order was very important in this game.  I didn't want the first player to have too much of an advantage, so I made turn order changeable.  This was a forth favor that players could get from a King.
  • Once I had 4 favors,  I started thinking about what other kinds of favors I could have in the game.  Soon after, the Espionage favor and  Sabotage action were born.
I believe these were the major changes that changed the whole concept of the game around, but there were numerous minor changes. Some of them are noteworthy and I will explain those in the next blog.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Of Power & Glory - part 1

There is no way I could possibly give a full account of how Of Power & Glory was designed.  It's just too big a of a game and I frankly have forgotten a lot of the design process by now.  I wish I had started this blog earlier!  But I can tell you some things about it. 

The initial inspiration for Of Power & Glory was a game called On the Underground.  If you've played both games, you may struggle to see any similarities.  If not, here's a brief description of both games:  Of Power & Glory is a worker placement game set in vaguely medieval era western Europe during a period of war.  Players represent noble families schmoozing with Kings.  On the Underground is a networking game set in modern London.  Players are building rail lines to connect to various stops on the underground.  Obvious connection right?  :)

What fascinated me about On the Underground was the passenger.  There's a passenger in the game that wants to get from point A to point B and he follows certain rules to get there.  Those rules are relatively simple and easy to understand by all players.  So players build there rails to take advantage of what they expect the passenger to do.  I loved this idea because it almost felt like the passenger was another player that the real players were trying to manipulate. 

So I thought to myself "How could I take that high level concept and make it really big?"  What's bigger than a passenger?  A King!  Except that's just a new setting, it doesn't really make the game any bigger...  how about 2 Kings.... no wait, 10 Kings!  I began to think about the passenger in On the Underground and the Kings in this new game of mine as "AIs. (artificial intelligences)"   Clearly having 10 AIs is more interesting and complex than 1 AI.  I was really starting to get excited about this game!  So, what should 10 Kings do?  The obvious thing for 10 Kings to do is fight a war. 

So I needed a map for them to fight on.  Wars in games typically happen on maps of discrete territories that are won and lost.  And in those types of games, how many other territories a particular territory touches is of high strategic importance. So I started with a mathematical representation.  The goal was to some territories that touched very few other territories and some territories that touched many other territories.  If  I remember correctly I with started with an excel spreadsheet which is long since gone.  I believe I had matrix of territories (just numbered at this point) and an X in the spaces to indicate that the territories touched.  I start by saying that 1 touched 2 and 2 touched 3 etc until they all touched something.  Then I added extra touches until I had at least two territories that touched: 1 other territory, 2 other territories etc. up to 5 other territories.  I then took a pencil and a piece of paper and drew circles for each territory and lines between them show where they touched.  I then took that drawing and superimposed it on a map of Western Europe.  This worked surprisingly well.  I then picked names for the territories based on the names of real countries, cities and territories in Europe.  I gave higher preference to the names of places that I could pronounce. 

The idea in my mind at the time was that all 10 Kings would have a fixed starting location on the map and that 2 Kings would start on territories that touched only 1 other territory; 2 would start in territories that touched 2 other territories etc.  To offset the implicate advantages of starting in a good location, I wanted the Kings in weaker locations to have more power somehow.  I should also mention that giving the Kings a starting location inspired me to give them names that sounded like they were from where they started and even a inkling of personality.  It's actually an interesting story about how I came up with the names, but I'll leave that for another time. 

So the initial framework for the game was in place in my mind.  You had a map where 10 Kings had territories and would fight.  The players are noble families that interact with all kings and get benefits from kings when they do well.  Players could benefit in two ways, one way would give them an immediate advantage and another way would give them a long term advantage.  And from that the first version was born.

An update on the website creation

This is going to be real quick.  I'm working on adding cart functionality to the site.  If I get it to work, you'll still have to bounce over to The Game Crafter to complete the sale, but you can build up your cart on my site.

There appears to be problems with using the ajax/json api with older browsers.  I'm not sure they can / it's worth it. to solve them.  I may try to detect if they are able to use the site as intended and if not, provide a link to The Game Crafter site so they can buy the games there.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I figured that the first game related blog I should do would be on the first game that I published on The Game Crafter:  Zodica.

Lately, I have been playing a lot of a card game called Tichu.  Tichu is a trick taking game, kind of like spades except that you can play cards by themselves or in different "structures".  Most of these structures resemble poker hands.  Of course, this is a blog about Zodica... suffice to say, Tichu was a major insperation for Zodica.

I also loved playing Hearts in college, so I thought "I wonder if I can combine the two into a new game."  That was the initial thought that ultimately lead to Zodica.  I find that I often have a small idea for a new game mechanic or even something higher level than that and I just think about it for a long time before it becomes a game.  I had another interesting idea that I wanted to use in a trick taking game.  I wanted to use a rock-paper-scissors mechanic when determining the winner of the trick.  In Tichu, once someone starts with, say a three of a kind, everyone else has to follow structure with a three of a kind or else pass.  I wanted the have three structures such that structure A beat B, B beat C and C beat A.  But with only three structures I needed to be a little more lenient with the definition of a structure than Tichu was.  I also knew that one of the structures had to be a single card...  otherwise, what do you do if you can't make a structure?  Then next thing that I decided was that there needed to be a way to stop the trick from going around and around forever.  In Tichu you hit an upper limit, but with this rock-paper-scissors mechanic, there is no upper limit.

So, the first design of Zodica had three structures: a single card, a straight and a set (2 of a kind, three of a kind etc.).  A single card was beat by any set where the sum of the cards was higher than the single card.  A set was beat by a straight of more cards than the set and a Straight was beat by a single card if it was higher than lowest card in the straight (or the highest card if it was a straight-flush).  In order to stop the trick before everyone ran out of cards I decided that if there were at least 4 of certain special cards in the trick, then the person who played the 4th special card won the trick.  I also had a rule that if there were 3 special cards, then you had to play the 4th special card if you could.

This design failed miserably.  The biggest problem was that as soon as everyone was out of sets, whoever had the lead could just play single card after single card and go out.  So I canned the rock-paper-scissors mechanic (but made a mental note if) and tried again.  Now, you had to follow structure similar to Tichu, except that I was still more lenient on my structure definitions such that you could play a 5 card straight on a 4 card straight for example.  I also decided that a single card was just a special case of a set, but the left only two structures, so I threw in flushes as well.

This was better, but there was still a flaw.  Since in Zodica (like Hearts), points were bad and people were allowed to pass (like in Tichu),  it turns out, most people just passed as soon as a point card was in the trick.  So I made another change.  Players now had to play if they could.  This change seemed to do the trick.  It became a very playable and fun trick taking game.

I want to talk about some other design aspect of Zodica.  Very early in the design process I decided I wanted to have 60 cards.  The reason is that 60 is divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.  This means that you can evenly distribute all the cards without any left overs for 2-6 players.

I also liked the idea of an astrology theme to a card game.  Years ago I attempted to made an astrology themes board game and it failed horribly...  more horribly than the first design of Zodica.  So I kind felt a need for redemption on the astrology front.

Full disclosure:  I don't believe in astrology at all.  I just think it makes a good theme.  It has a mysterious feel to it without being completely foreign.  The more I thought about the theme the more I developed this strange idea about having a cult following for the game.  What if there were other mysterious things about the game.  So, I decided to encode things into the game.  Maybe it's a bad idea to disclose this... maybe I should keep it all a secret, but what the hell, no one is reading this anyway!  And if someone is reading it, they could leak the rumors about the game then I could pull this blog off and mysteriously deny all knowledge.  :)

I wanted to latch on to an existing mystery with a cult following.  And being a Pink Floyd fan I immediately thought of rumors that Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon could be played as the audio track for the Wizard of Oz and all sorts of unexplained sync ups happen.  If you've never heard of this check this out:  I'm sure you could Google many other sites that talk about this too.  This is on top of the rumors that the Wizard of Oz is actually a metaphor for the populous political movement.  If you've never heard of this check this out:
Two layers of rumors!  Let's add a third!

Ok, I'll start with the name of the game:  Zodica, sure it sounds a lot like Zodiac, but there's more.  In the logo, notice that the c is backwards... that's a happy accident.  The font I used had a backwards c, but it works out nicely.  If you spell Zodica backwards, you get Acid Oz.  Cool huh?  You may also notice the rainbow effect near the Zo (or should I say Oz) part of the logo.  That's homage to the Wizard of Oz.  On the other side, if you look closely, you'll see a line going into the A and two more lines coming out.  These lines, along the prism shaped A are the homage to the album cover of the Dark Side of the Moon.  On the cards themselves, you'll notice some letters and symbols.  If arranged properly these spell two phrases:
 "Just try and stay out of my way, I'll get you my pretty and your little dog too" and "And everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon."  And all of that talk of suns and moons points right back at the main theme of astrology.,  Is that everything?  Maybe!  Maybe not!

I have just made the first version of  It's in it's infancy, so there are a lot of problems with it. 
  • First, it doesn't seem to work with IE, but  it does work with firefox.  I haven't tried it with any other browsers yet.  
  • Second, this blog is kind of cheesely (is that a word?) plopped down in an iframe.  I'll have to see if I can do better.
But the really cool thing is that I'm loading the game data from The Game Crafter using ajax.  This site is nothing but html and javascript, but it shows dynamic data and (I think) will someday allow people to purchase my games directly from the site.  Currently there's are links to The Game Crafter site for each game.  It works, but it's not very integrated.  Of course, nobody is looking at this site yet anyway!

I guess I'll explain my expectations about what I'm going to do with this blog.  Basically I'm going to blog about anything related to Stone Manah Games.. the games I'm designing and anything interesting that has to do with board games.  I'm going to try to blog about the games as I design them, but since I already have a few games in the pipe, I may have to back fill some.

I just realized that you probably don't know a thing about me  I'll have to do a "bio" blog at some point, but I don't think I'm going do it now.  I expect I'll be a pretty casual blogger.  I'm not going to blog any essays anytime soon.

I guess that's enough for now.

Hello World

My first blog... not very interesting, but it's a start!