I'll run Alien Frontiers and Flash Duel (Co-op mode) at U-Con this year, November 20-22 in Ypsilanti; plus Terracosm and Mirage, two unpublished prototypes of my own game designs.

Alien Frontiers. Friday 7p-9p.
Roll and place your dice to gain advantages over your opponent and block them out of useful areas of the board. Use Alien Tech cards to manipulate your dice rolls and territory bonuses to break the rules. Steal resources, overtake territories, and do whatever it takes to get your colonies on the map first!

Flash Duel - Co-op Mode. Friday 10p-11p.
Up to five fighters spar against one player who is the Deathstrike Dragon. Play a number card to end your move on an opponent's space by exact count to land a hit. When attacked, reveal the same number from your own hand to block the hit. But choose wisely when to show your cards to your allies-- one of them is secretly on the Dragon's side!

Unpublished Prototype: Mirage. Saturday 12p-1p. Sunday 11a-12p.
Players are leaders from an isolated coastal community which has just opened up to the outside world, rich in opportunity and hazard. They quickly agree to split up, and explore the surrounding desert and ocean, competing to establish the most far-flung network of trading encampments. By laying tiles, you will seek to claim regions of sand or dirt with your camels, and regions of shallow water or deep water with your ships. When someone encounters an oasis in the desert or an island in the sea, the player with the most camels or ships in the regions attached to it will set it up as their own trading encampment (a tent). Can your foresee uncertain spots in the geography, indeterminate in the distance? Will they resolve in your vision, to reveal your verdant destinations? Or evaporate into salt and sand?

Unpublished Prototype: Terracosm. Sunday 9a-11a, and 2p-4p.
Control the weather cycle. Dominate the food chain! Change the position of discs on the track so your own actions arrive earlier. Place your carnivores, herbivores, and plants where they will not starve or be eaten. This is an unpublished but highly-playtested prototype.


  1. It's in the $50 to $60 price bracket.

  2. To maintain dramatic tension in the end-game, don't allow the players to be certain that the game is about to end. That works for other games. Not Habitat. To accomplish this:

    • Each time a stack of discs is depleted, put a "Comet Disc" in the bag. If three Comets are on the track at the same time, the game is over.

    • Each stack of terrain tiles should have one tile, shuffled into the bottom three copies in the stack, which ends the game when revealed.


  3. Players don't know how to make moves that advantage themselves until halfway through their first game. Most successful games have this problem, but it's avoidable.

    • A simplified pre-designed "intro setup" will be crucial for new players to get comfortable with the system.

    • Accommodate what everyone intuitively expects about nature. For instance, if a predator has no prey when it needs to eat, it should starve and leave the game board.

    • The default scoring system is now simplified. If there are going to be end-game bonus multipliers, they should be introduced in subsequent play-throughs. Allow experienced players to mix and match from a selection of complex variants in the back of the rulebook.

    • "When a terrain tile leaves the board, it is awarded to a player as a fossil."

    • "When it leaves the board."

    • "When it leaves. Leaves." <-- Pantomiming picking up a tile off the board. The 12th time this question was asked by the same player. I think the fossilization rule has a problem.


  4. This game is definitely ready for me to stop using the generic discs that I use for many of my prototypes. The mechanics have come along far enough in development to spend the time on graphic design to enhance the theme, which in this game is very strong and unique.

  5. "The best Euro-style game I have played at Protospiel this year."

I prepared for this year's tournament more meticulously than any before, but got a worse outcome than ever before. Contestants: I hear you, I understand exactly what caused this, I have a plan to fix it, and it will never happen again. Previously, I have never had such space constraints that I would have to make it clear to the programming team that my event needed tables empty for an hour beforehand to set up the tournament. That was my downfall.

The sign-up sheet was almost full. The tournament was scheduled to start at 4PM. I was scheduled to be in the Penguicon Board of Directors meeting from 3 to 4 PM, so I got some minions to set up the tournament. I gave them setup instruction sheets and one pre-assembled material packet per table. Unfortunately, there was a presentation going on in the Private Dining during that hour, so all the tables were full of gamers. My minions are kind-hearted and would never kick gamers out of the only places available to play. Due to space constraints, they would effectively close down the entire game room, end all the games in progress, and kick pretty much everybody out. I was the only one assertive enough to do that, and I was in a meeting.

As a result, setup did not take place, and the tournament started almost an hour late in a huge panicky disorganized rush, while the room was crowded with contestants. A lot of our signed-up players walked out during this time, meaning we had to re-organize the seating chart, and it took even longer. There were some setup errors, so some games had cards in them which I did not intend, resulting in extremely slow and/or swingy games.

How to fix it:

1. A sign on each table at the start of the day, saying "Please be done with games on this table by 3PM, to allow for Dominion tournament setup".
2. Do not accept being scheduled to do something else during setup.

Congratulations to the winner, Mike Riverso! He jotted his contact info and shipping address on Evernote on my phone. As soon as he left, it gave me a "java.io.IO" error and lost his information. I put up a sign in the lobby, and he sent me his info through email, so all's well that ends well. He will receive a copy of the new Dominion expansion, "Guilds", in about a month when it is published.

New things that went well:

Penguicon's new Dominion collection. The convention now owns two copies of every Dominion product, so we had enough cards. With thirty-two players and eight simultaneous games, it was the largest Penguicon Dominion tournament ever, so we needed it!

Using a megaphone. No more shouting myself hoarse.

I ordered plenty of "Estate" "Duchy" and "Province" ribbons to hand them out to each contestant. I have next year's supply already.

Voxatron

Oct. 31st, 2011 09:39 pm
I've been looking forward to Voxatron for a while. And now you can name your own price (even one cent!) to get the alpha version, with free upgrades to all future versions!
It turns out someone will be at Ann Arbor Gaming Group tonight, at Amer's on State Street in Ann Arbor, 7:30 PM, with a copy of Eminent Domain! (Rules on this page.) I can't miss the opportunity to finally play it-- so I plan to be there.

U-Con

Oct. 25th, 2011 06:25 pm
My car is fixed! And affordably, too. It was just a leak.

I plan to be at U-Con gaming convention November 11 through 13. It has a new home, at the Metropolitan Hotel in Romulus near Detroit Metro Airport. I think this is a great move! Check out what they now can offer.
Moving out of the confines of the Union allows us to offer some things we've never had before:
FREE PARKING. Let's say that again: parking for U-Con won't cost anything, and you don't have to worry about tickets! This has been the most common complaint we hear about the Union, and believe us, the staff have shared your pain.
All events on one floor, with convenient access to exits for wheeling in carts of minis or dealer merchandise.
We're in a hotel, so we'll be able to offer rooms on site at a discounted rate of $65 $60/night (a limited number of larger suites are also available; email us for info).
24-hour gaming space.
Free WiFi access in all function space.
Free continental breakfast for hotel guests.
Free shuttle to and from airport
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 [livejournal.com 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.

Falconers

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.
I found this in the Monopoly forums on Boardgamegeek.com:
Of all the board games out there in the world, there's one that's popular far out of proportion to its actual quality. This game drags on interminably, as players roll the dice over and over, hoping to eventually gain something that they can trade for something worthwhile. The trading and negotiation aspect, which is about all this game has to speak in its favour, is essentially an elaborate scam, created to fool the players into thinking the experience is anything more than an over-long exercise with all the skill and strategy of Yahtzee in 100 times the playing time. No one should be fooled, though, because in the end it's just a terrible, terrible game.

But enough about Settlers of Catan; I'm here to review Monopoly.
Zing!

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