The French illustrator Naiade is my favorite game artist. FunForge has started cranking out games that immediately grab my attention with his art. So naturally, Tokaido caught my eye.

This is a game that moves quickly, and only takes about forty-five minutes.

It has a very light and non-violent tone. This is a game of vacation planning. You attempt to have as good a trip as possible along the East Sea Road ("Tōkaidō") in medieval Japan. Eat sumptuous meals, view gorgeous panoramas, buy beautiful souvenirs, and meet interesting people. Each stop along the track gives you one of these in the form of a card, which you keep face-up in front of you. Mostly, you are trying to collect combinations of cards.

The gameplay is simple: if your pawn is the farthest behind on the road, it's your turn. Move it forward to one of the tourist attractions, and take a corresponding card. Whoever is now in the back of the line-- even if that is still you-- takes a turn.

The attractions can get too crowded. Each attraction can only accommodate one or two guests at a time. In order to make sure nobody crowds you out of an attraction that is important to completing a set of cards that you need, sometimes you should pass an empty attraction and skip ahead. You can usually have exactly what you want, if you are willing to sacrifice.

The first question you will hear during an explanation of Tokaido is "So, as my first move of the game, I can go all the way to the end of the road?" There are inns at the conclusion of each of the four legs of your journey. You are required to stop at each inn and wait for all the other players to catch up. Besides, you wouldn't want your first move to go as far as the game rules permit, because your first leg of the journey would score you only six points (your meal at the inn), while your opponents would soak up all the luxuries you skipped. Probably the most subtle and crucial decision in the game is when to skip an attraction.

Be advised, each player starts with a different character who confers a unique advantage. The tacticians among you may wonder if your choice of character at the beginning of the game has an undue influence on who wins. This is also a game in which you are unlikely to win if you focus on yourself. Observe which sets of cards your fellow travelers are attempting to build.

The production values make the equipment a joy to use, the play is suitable for children and adults, and it's short enough that I found myself wishing the East Sea Road was a little bit longer.
I have updated the online game I am developing, Falconers. This time with greater variation... and challenge!
I programmed this dice game to teach myself the JQuery library for Javascript, and to improve my Javascript skills. There will be many more features. If you think the current version is neat, you're really going to like it. I'm excited. And oh, yes, the visual design will also improve. But you know what they say: launch with the mimimum viable product.

Shout-outs go to my friends on the Lojban #jbopre IRC channel for their patience in answering my questions: rlpowell, chrisdone, kpreid, and Tene. Thanks to [ profile] _jer for his professional tutelage and for hosting the webspace.
Protospiel was fantastic. I got a lot of excellent feedback on Falconers. I also played several extremely promising games-- including one which will be published, to which I am now attached as illustrator.

One of the highlights of the weekend was a Q&A with a representative from LudoFact, a game manufacturer in Kalamazoo. I got to ask questions I have wondered about for years. Read more... )

...and so on. He sent me several amazingly detailed documents.
Click through, and click the magnifying glass for high-res versions.
Falconers, a strategy game in which dice are falcons. Developed and illustrated by Matt Arnold.
Canyon detail:
Detail of canyon illustration.
A laser-cut prey figure:
A laser-cut prey figure.


Jun. 28th, 2011 08:27 pm
I invented a clever technique to paint nests very fast. I should write a tutorial.

At Origins this weekend, I repeatedly playtested a strategic dice game I invented, about falconry. I kept getting comments about the uniqueness of the theme, so a big thank-you goes out to Jody Raiford for that idea. I have been playtesting it with the local gaming groups for a few months, with a good reception, but it's always advisable to find strangers to give you the straight dope. The Origins gamers liked it enough that I decided to spend the extra time on illustrations.

The dividers are corrugated plastic. The thickness of the plastic takes up more space than I would have liked, but holds up better than mat board. is a fan site for the card game Dominion that analyzes statistics from logs of all games played online at

They put out the call for some graphics, and I have begun to submit some! For instance, I made the favicon which you can see in the title bar, depending on which browser you use.

I am sending them a lot of unlockable achievement badges, which they are gradually programming into the system. For instance, if you look at the player page about "theory" (who is one of the best players), you will see which awards he has so far under the "Goals" section. And here is my player page. Hover the mouse over a badge to see what it is for.

Have fun playing around with the interactive graphs.

In other news, Dominion itself is unlocking some achievements, so to speak! It has sold more than a million copies. Congratulations to DXV! (That's Donald X Vaccarino.) A half-size expansion titled "Dominion: Cornucopia" is soon to be released, as well as a large expansion late in 2011, and another promo card to be distributed at game cons. From the promotional text to "Cornucopia":
It adds 13 new Kingdom cards to Dominion, plus 5 unique cards. The central theme is variety; there are cards that reward you for having a variety of cards in your deck, in your hand, and in play, as well cards that help you get that variety.
I guess that prevents me from releasing my Trevor Jagoda Penguicon card, as a Victory card worth 1 VP for every two differently-named cards in your deck at the end of the game. Something like that is bound to be in Cornucopia.

Speculation is rife as to what DXV means by "unique card". He is secretive as usual. Perhaps each game you play with Cornucopia will include only one copy of each Unique! Or, perhaps it introduces variable player powers because each type of Unique would only be purchasable by one player per game. As usual, we'll keep arguing about it until the rulebook is finally released.

Laser cutting at i3Detroit, Feb 12, 2011 from Matt Arnold on Vimeo.

This laser plotter has finished engraving the pieces I designed, and is now cutting the perimeters of the pieces. This is 1/4" medium density fiberboard. This is at i3Detroit hacker space, in Ferndale, MI.

It took a couple of tries to scale it up (the advertised thickness of the wood was slightly incorrect), but here is the robot I showed you in the last post!

This robot, laser-cut from 3mm plywood, is a pawn I designed for an entire boardgame made with the laser cutter. I'm still waiting for laser cutter time, to see how it comes out, but I don't mind showing you the schematics now.

The key on the robot's back is just for decoration, but the gears on the board really turn. I used this gear template generator. The gearteeth form a track along which the pawns move, and you can change where everyone is on the track simply by turning the gears. Here are the schematics for the gears and board. Red is cut, black is engraved.

"GEARBOX GRAB" is a working title right now. I'm considering some other titles.

I think you can't really laser-cut cards, because it burns the edges as it cuts them. But you can laser-cut chips and draw them from a bag. So that's what this game uses.
Cost: 0
When you draw this card,
you may reveal it from your hand
to enjoy an ice-cold Diet CokeTM,
available now at the concession
stand for only $4.50.
Distributed at the 2009 Gencon, "Refreshment" was misunderstood to mean the owner could exchange it for a free product in real life, when in fact it was intended to motivate players to make a purchase. This got the creator, Veronica Mills of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, fired from her job at the concession stand in Exhibit Hall D.
Superb Oner
Cost: 3
+1 Card
+1 Action
Trash a card from your hand.
During your buy phase,
if the only Actions you played
this turn were Superb Oner,
+1 Dollar.
Fifty-seven-year-old Nathan Gleason, an insurance adjuster from Norwich, Kansas, lost his volunteer position working with the youth group at First Greater Wichita Church of Christ due to his invention of "Superb Oner". To this day he sincerely has no idea how the title could be misread (and no one at the church will tell him), leading some to believe one of the youth suggested the title. Mr. Gleason is also notable for being the first member of the Tea Party on record describing himself as a "teabagger".
[ unintelligible ]
Cost: unknown
[ unintelligible ]
Type: unknown
All text on this card is in the faux-scriptorium font used for Dominion logo. Only one copy exists of this hand-painted card, in the collection of Frej Riemann, who only shows it to his friends at the annual board game convention in Essen, Germany. Mr. Riemann insists that this arcane relic was made by Dominion art director Mathias Catrein, designer of the logo, in the final hours of an all-night Lynch/Cronenberg movie marathon. The illustration, reminiscent of the Voynich Manuscript, is painted either in acrylic, guache, or something biological. The bottom of the card has been torn off, with some of the instructions. Opinion is split on whether the remaining instructions read "That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons" in German, or "+1 Action. Your left ear traitor, un trust".
In an act of amazing and utter coolness, Rio Grande Games has re-iterated their friendly policy toward fan cards. In so doing, they also asked fan creators help them out, by formulating the name "[My Expansion Name], a Fan Expansion for Dominion" and avoid the formulation "Dominion: [My Expansion Name]" which is reserved for official expansions. This is to prevent confusion. My original three disclaimers still apply as well.

This card can make draw piles as open as the recipe for the OpenSoda that Penguicon serves in the ConSuite. Your deck remains face-up, even after you shuffle it. The only way to get it face-down again is to play another OpenSoda. But you can only use each copy of OpenSoda once, and it will throw itself out of the game. There are only ten copies in the supply.

Sometimes you want to know "Should I play this card which will draw the next card in my deck?" Well, with OpenSoda, you can put your draw pile face-up. Now you're drawing from what used to be on the bottom, and you will always see what's next.

At other times, you have a deck-inspection attack like Pirate Ship, Thief, Swindler, or Saboteur, and you're wondering whether it's worthwhile to play it. If you play OpenSoda against everyone else's decks, you can see if they have some delectable goodies on top, just waiting for your destruction. If someone else does that to you, you can play OpenSoda to put your deck back face down.

I wanted to see if I could design a card that would actually motivate players to buy Curses (a negative one victory point card, which doesn't do anything). Normally no one buys Curses. They exist only to inflict on other people. Kimba's "+1 Buy" lets you buy an extra card on the turn you play it. I'll bet you'll use that Buy to get a Curse card, which only costs zero dollars. This card uses Curses as an incredibly powerful fuel. The question is, can you get rid of them by the end of the game?

Say what you want about Kimba, she did some things that we don't have anymore, in ways that sometimes went unnoticed. This card is useful too-- if you bite the bullet, make the hard choices, and accept the damage of Curses to your deck. I dare you!

They say each good Dominion card tells a little story. The story is about what the card does in the start of the game, what it does in the midgame, and what it does in the endgame. Let's just say the Kimba card had too much of a story on it. I just couldn't fit all the effects I wanted to have. At one point I had Kimba trashing everyone else's Potion cards, because she's a teetotaler. And so on. I was doing too much with one card. So I split some of the effects to their own cards. Like this one:

This card will throw itself out of the game at the absolute last minute. (Perhaps even at one AM on the morning of the convention.) Everybody's holding onto their copies of this, holding out hope, because the earlier you play it, the less it's worth. Finally someone will throw one in the trash to get rid of Gold or Platinum from their opponents. (Canceled plane tickets.) Then all of a sudden everybody is trashing Hhhhhhwil Hhhhhhhwheaton. It's like an extravaganza of Hhwheaton-trashing.

Keep in mind that the trashing effect happens when your card gets trashed for any reason, not just when the card trashes itself. If someone hits your Hhwil with Thief or Saboteur, it attacks everyone other than you even though it's not your turn.

I didn't have the heart to put this person on the card. Suffice it to say that when you take on a job and are never heard from again, it is vitally important that we at least get one message from you, acknowledging that you got our email firing you. Otherwise, no one else is able to do your job, because they don't know what arrangements you might be making behind the scenes.

A class required that I create the above image. While I was at it, I figured I'd get the Matt Dominion Card out there. There are still three disclaimers.

Success with this card relies on the other players doing tons of things. If they take super-huge turns, they go through their deck faster, and have to shuffle to go through it again, and the Matt card produces for you. If they trim their deck down to a tiny machine of super power, so that they play the whole thing every turn, they have to shuffle constantly and the Matt card produces for you. It thrives on the work of others. Especially when that work would, in other circumstances, steamroll you.

Of course keep in mind that you also get to draw a card after you shuffle.

Thematically, you might appreciate that my card is a Duration card, even if you don't know what that means in the game. I considered inventing a new kind called the Permanent, just because the bottom banner is filled with so much text. There has never been an actual Dominion card that is both Duration (orange) and Reaction (blue). You never know when you'll shuffle and someone will kaPOW, react with the Matt card from their hand and draw a card, as if they are sitting next to their email client just waiting for someone to message the list. When they play it, it will sit there in front of them, between turns, a visible presence.

Ironically, Matt's omnipresence, and involvement with the activity of others, means when other players get all the money they need in order to buy the card they had in mind, they'll stop. They'll choose not to play any more cards, so as not to reward you. In playtests, this sped up the game in the later stages.

For more Penguicon cards, continue to part six!

Last night, playing Dominion with Eric and Rob, I scored 78 points in one turn! To call this a personal best is an understatement. A six-point turn is considered a lot.

How is it possible? )
This is the super-simplified version of Ingeniators, in response to the feedback from the game design contest. It could be sold separately or in the same box with the advanced version.

  • 1 game board:
  • 9 types of triangle tiles, 10 each:
  • lots of 4-sided color dice:
  • 4 of these valve markers:

Read more... )
The winner of U-Con's local semifinal of the 2010 Rio Grande Game Design Competition is "Verlatical"! Congratulations to the designer, Ross Atkinson.

Here is the feedback I received for the game I entered, "Ingeniators".
Scoresheet criterion, on a scale of one to ten. Each column is 1 of the 7 playtesters.1234567
1. Decision Driven: How much is the winner determined based on their decisions, as opposed to luck factors?4444545
2. Originality3553545
3. Wait Time: How much time do you spend without interacting with the game/other players?3343555
4. Unpredictability: How often is the outcome of a turn/round known before it ends?3344534
5. Broad Appeal: Would you teach this to someone who is not a serious game player?1121524
6. Replayable: Do you want to play it again soon?2232445
7. Interactive: Do the player decisions impact other players?5454555
8. Equal Opportunity: Does every player have an equal chance of winning regardless of turn order/role?5454435
9. Fun2233545
10. Simple to Learn: The rules were clearly stated and communicated.1224524
Tie Breaker: How would you rate the overall game & game playing experience?335579
  • Fairly simple, but there are some gray areas requiring the clarification of a designer or experienced player.
  • Not saying it's a bad game, just not my thing. Was difficult to grasp all the rules/possibilities on a first play.
  • I like the originality of game. I feel a little overwhelmed with the number of patterns & powers. I could see some gamers over-analyzing what they should do & taking a lot of time. I wonder how easy it is to self-exploit his own invention for points but that might be resolved with others flipping/clearing the tracks... so might be OK.
  • There are some little tweaks that would be very helpful, like the scoring mechanism and the stacks of tiles. Both are very easy to knock over.
  • Definite potential.
  • The pieces were kind-of hard to tell apart. It was fun but it hurt my brain a bit.
  • Very cerebral, almost to the point of causing brain malfunction.
  • Overall this was fun!
The message is unambiguous. While the game I designed appeals strongly to its own target market (such as playtesters # 5 & 7), there is clearly a need for a more casual version. Many of the playtesters were grandparents and teens who didn't seem engaged.

After I received this feedback, it didn't take me long to condense Ingeniators down to its purest recognizable form. Unfortunately this version loses the thing I liked about it the most: self-interested co-operation. But it's still fun.

The other thing I learned is that few people are confident in how Ingeniators should be pronounced. (In-Jee-Nee-Ay-Ters.) This feedback came exclusively from folks who I know to be highly literate.
Click for more detail, because I spent a very long time on this one.

This is the only card that costs two potions at the same time. It's difficult to get your first copy. But once you've got it, it builds on itself by cleaning out the potions you used to buy it in the first place. Sal is the only card able to produce two potions, so you can get one of these each time you use him. But if you get an Aegis that way, you'll still probably buy a potion or two in order to come out on top of the pecking order, because this card works best in groups. A strategy that relies on this card can win the game-- but it's most likely to succeed if you don't do much of anything else.

The arbitrage card. Steve saves all the coins you didn't spend this turn, and all the Action points which you didn't use to play Action cards on this turn. You get them on your next turn.

You will start to play Dominion more carefully, like this: "Do I really want to play all these extra Actions just because they're in my hand? What would that accomplish? I've already got more than enough money to buy the card I want. I'll save the rest for next turn."

If you play two copies of this, you double that benefit. So it's like accruing interest. I can't describe this card without using words like "accrue" and "arbitrage".

For more Penguicon cards, continue to part five!

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