29 April, 2013

New Font Time

Looks like it's time to generate up another new font.

This time incorporating the glyphs for the Town Guard game rules.

Up until this time, I've been using Photoshop with different layers holding text, while other layers held glyph symbols. It will take a bit of work to set up the font, but it will save a lot of hassle in the long run.

Changing the Geomorphs

After a bit of feedback, and a restructure of the game, I'll be making changes to the hexagonal geomorphs used to construct towns in 'Town Guard'.

At the moment, there is a big hexagonal ghosted area at the centre of the tile. This ghosted area holds the name of the tile location, a keyword or two, and possible some kind of modifier for missions.

The most common comment is that this ghosted area obscures a lot of the detail in the town map, especially at the centre, which is where the most interesting buildings and landmarks tend to be featured

The changed structure will open up the centre of the tiles again, and make a subtle but noticeable change in the gameplay. Now, there will be two or three smaller labels.
1. The tiles name.
2. A local threat/complication, which modifies missions confronted in this location.
3. A regional threat/complication, which modifies all missions confronted across the town while there is an unresolved mission on this location.

For example, the Palace might produce anextra point of ho ourif a mission is successfully confronted on it...but while it is under threat from an unresolved mission, all other missions across the town might have their target numbers increased by four. This makes the palace important, players will want to resolve missions there to keep the rest of the game from getting out of hand.

I don't want to include too many fiddly rules like this, the game needs to remain approachable for a casual player. But, I think that setting up this structure at the game's release allows for potential later, when I'm looking to expand.

26 April, 2013

Making a game more interactive

The first round of feedback for Town Guard was great.

There were a few interesting points raised. One of which stated that the game looks pretty cut-throat and competitive, but very random. This can lead to some ill-will at the table beyond the control of the players, but which ends up getting focused between the players...a bit like Monopoly.

A way to remedy this could be to make gameplay co-operative as well as competitive; change the game in such a way that the mechanisms challenge the players. This means that the players can lose, and if the game takes certain twists the players will need to cooperate to prevent this happening. Then they can compete once they have things under control.

This works thematically within the game because there is always the chance that the criminal elements of the town might take control while town guards are busy fighting among themselves.

It wouldn't take much to tweak the game in this direction.

Another factor that has come up is the way various modifiers work within the game. With a hand limit of five cards, the modifiers might end up being too small to make a difference. I can't really expand the hand size because there is a limit to how many cards I can include in the game (at least at the initial cost restrictions imposed by the contest). So it might be better to enhance the level of modifiers in various situations. Instead of a default +1/-1 with an increase to +3/-3 in certain situations, it might be better to increase it to +2/-2 with an increase to +4/-4). It also been raised that the various locations don't really modify gameplay enough to justify the text on them...a +1 difficulty really isn't all that much, but a +2 or +4 might make things interesting.

There are a few other changes that might improve gameplay, but I don't want to overcomplicate things for starting players. A booster set with new missions, special events and alternate rewards is certainly on the cards.

Playtest feedback

I love getting playtest feedback, even if that feedback says that a game needs a lot of work to bring it up to scratch.

I've just recieved some feedback along those lines for 'Town Guard'. The good news is that there's plenty of time to get things fixed before the contest is judged.

25 April, 2013

Box Art

I think I've generated the general box art for Town Guard. There are a few elements missing, but this is the basic idea.

I'll probably be adding in a picture of a pair of town guards in the top corner, one male, one female. Maybe put them in some kind of "Law and Order" pose.

23 April, 2013

Follow Up to my last post

And now that I'm near a computer capable of attaching images to posts...here's a few of my favourite illustrations by Quinton Hoover.

22 April, 2013

The loss of a great Artist

One of my favourite artists associated with Magic: the Gathering has passed away.

Quinton Hoover

I for one, think that his contributions were one of the things that really made the game something special in it's early years.

Go look him up.

(I'd add some of my favorite illustrations, but I'm sending this from my iPad, and having trouble attaching images.)

20 April, 2013

It's Up.

The first draft of the complete "Town Guard" playtest rules is now available.

This is the Link.

If you want to play it, you'll need to print it out and get a pair of scissors to cut out the various cards and tokens. But if you could do that and provide some feedback, it would be greatly appreciated.

I'm hoping to provide some kind of benefits for playtesters (perhaps a cheap copy of the game when it's formally released).

Lots of work done

Town Guard is nearly complete.

The playtest kit is only a few hours away from completion (hopefully).

Here's a preview.
12 character trait to combine with 12 character races...that's 144 possible characters to play with.
12 hexagonal city segments
108 cards
70 tokens
12 card figures to play with

In the final version, the figures will be plastic, and the rest will be printed on card.

Hopefully everything makes sense.

19 April, 2013

The Town Tiles are Complete

All the hexes have now been drawn up, labelled and basically coloured. These are being added into the playtest document now. If you're interested in playtesting the game, let me know.

Coloured Town Tiles

Here's a few more ideas for finished hexes to be used in the Town Guard game.

...and an alternate colouring scheme. This method of colouring adds quite a bit of time to the production of the hexes, and I'm not sure how much it really adds to the final product. But it's all a work in progress at the moment.

18 April, 2013

Keeper of the Imaginarium

It's always nice to see artists with a distinctive style. Especially when they are creating pieces that could easily fit into the world you are developing.

I went looking for ideas along the lines of "Town Guard" and I found the blog of Martin Reimann.

A lot of the work I'm seeing over there could easily be integrated straight into my Walkabout setting.

If the crowd-funding is successful later this year, he might be someone I approach to produce some illustrations for that game setting.

17 April, 2013

A Town Guard Location

While I'm posting things today, here's a preliminary version of a location hex for Town Guard. A typical game will be played out over six to ten of these hexes, laid out together to form a basic town map.

Different locations have subtle different effects that modify game-play in some way.

Updated Town Guard Traits

I've refined the card design for the trait cards in Town Guard. These "trait" cards combine with a "race" card to give a basic character in the game. The "race" cards were ready to save tonight, but the core Photoshop file (with a few dozen layers on it) somehow became corrupted when I tried to extract the individual cards from it. So, I'll have to rework it.

You'll note that there are some standardised glyphs that are now in use throughout the game. One each for the attributes, two for the core resources (gold and honour), and a few for the types of items and benefits that characters might gain through the course of the game.

I've had enough interest in the roleplaying potential in this game that this could be a future avenue for exploration. But, enough projects on my plate for the moment.

16 April, 2013

Inking complete on the Town Guard tiles

I've added roofing contours to the buildings on the "Town Guard" maps. Now it's time to start colouring them and then to add them into the location hexes. These will form the basic twelve hexes that will come in the starter game; I've also started drawing up a few bonus hexes that might be available if this game goes the crowd-funding route.

Town Guard playtest rules

For those who are interested, the 'Town Guard' rules are now available.

This is the link for the basic rules.

I'll be adding details and the complete accessories for a playtestable version over the next day or two.

13 April, 2013

Rules for Town Guard

I've just finished up the basic rules document for the boardgame "Town Guard".

Being uploaded now...(they would have been uploaded if it weren't for my terrible internet connection).

A full playset should be available over the next few days for playtesting purposes.

11 April, 2013

Curious statistics

I do find it odd that some of my most viewed posts are the ones where I say "Nothing to say", or "Sorry I'm not posting much at the moment..."

The posts have dropped off

University work is ramping up, and that means I haven't been posting as much as I'd like.

Hopefully in the holiday break next week I'll be able to provide some more gaming insights.

08 April, 2013

When reality follows art

It's always surreal when reality starts doing the things that you've written about.

In my game Walkabout, the spirits awaken when humans do too many stupid things to the planet and threaten to wipe out all life as we know it. Sacred places are desecrated, and ancient wards are breached...allowing demonic entities to stride the globe. Guardian spirits to step into punish both demons and those who inadvertently 'rescued' them.

So, when the Peruvians did this, it gave me a bittersweet reaction.

Thankyou for making the hypothetical situation in my game closer to reality. I for one can't wait for Peruvian mummy god-kings to start their havoc on the world.

I think my "apocalypse survival kit" is ready to go.

Town Guard Modifications

Town Guard is evolving from the ideas I had for a Quincunx boardgame. In the earlier evolution of the game, super-powered heroes would uncover supernatural mysteries in front of the cameras of a reality TV series.

When I was developing Quincunx as an RPG, it used six elements and six types of action (where the combination of action and element determined a character's specific abilities). For the boardgame version of the game, I was going to strip the game down to 6 action types that drew on different resources at the character's disposal.


This way you'd get different types of attack styles based on different elements, different  skills, etc.

But for an entry level board game, the combinations are a bit complex.

So I stripped it down to 6 actions only...then stripped it further, down to 4 actions. Attack and Defence are combined into a "combat" score. Allies was removed.

But now I'm thinking of adding "Allies" back in, or at least adding something more social back into play. I'll probably combine skills and knowledges into one category.

So we'll end up with...

Skills/Knowledges (still deciding a name for this category).
Allies/Leadership (a name needed here as well)

The four categories add enough interest to take the game beyond typical board game mechanisms (where you're often lucky to get a combat/non-combat, or a combat/magic split).

Complexity is added, based on the locations were events take place in the game and a few other factors.

For those who are interested, I hope to have a playtest version of the game available shortly.

06 April, 2013

Town Maps for Town Guards

I'm working on some modular map components for the Town Guard game. These will be printed onto hex tiles, and the first part of the game is to set up the town that you'll be guarding for the session.

8 down, 4 to go. The price calculations for the basic game mean that I can only fit 12 town segments into the box, but that should be enough for some interesting modular effects and replayability.

I'm now considering options for colouring the maps and adding further details like texturing.

03 April, 2013

A New Logo

Alright, maybe my first instincts were right...keep it simple....keep it elegant. Don't overthink it.

Most of the classic games have simple names; names that tell you what the game is about in a few simple words rather than trying to push evocative arty imagery on the players.

I like evocative and arty, but that sort of thing hasn't drawn the attention I'd often like my games to get. Maybe it's time to take a different course, just a simple name, a plain logo.

Game Mechanism of the Week [Neo-Redux] 10: Stunt Points

The other night I watched the Dragon Age episodes of Tabletop.

Part 1

Part 2

They were out a while ago, but I've only just managed to get around to watching them. It looks like pretty standard fare when it comes to a roleplaying game, but there was one innovation which looked pretty interesting to me. I will admit that I haven't read the Dragon Age books, I haven't played the games online, and my only exposure to the system comes from watching the videos...so my interpretation of this rule might be a bit skewed ("Tabletop" does manage to oversimplify a lot of the games that are depicted).

The mechanism in question is the stunt point system.

In the game, tasks are faced by rolling 3d6 versus a target number. This applies the concepts of bell curves to the roll (which I've discussed previously), but it also applies the concept of reading the dice in multiple ways beyond merely adding up the faces; this is something that you see in systems like the "One Roll Engine".

In Dragon Age, two of the dice are one colour and the third die is a separate colour. The third die is called the Dragon Die.

If the two matching dice roll doubles, the result on the Dragon Die determines a number of stunt points that may be applied to the action. Since there is a 1 in 6 chance that any pair of dice will roll doubles, then this works a bit like a critical hit (also discussed previously). Unlike a critical hit, the mechanism doesn't only activate at the best levels of action performance. You could roll a pair of 1s, unlikely to pass any action's target number, but still earn a couple of stunts that might flavour the action in some unexpected direction.

It seems that you can spend a single stunt point to gain a minor advantage in an action, or you can spend multiple stunt points to do something amazing. If you roll a high number of stunt points you can choose to spend them on one big effect, or split them over several smaller effects. The player gets to choose how their stunts manifest within the game.

The main thing I like about this system is that a bad die roll can still have unexpectedly good side effects. Double 1s or 2s, can produce a way for characters to sidestep the worst in a situation with the right choice of stunts. It makes the game more heroic and dramatic.

It is a step toward the whole "Yes, and..." or "No, but..." effects that story gamers seem to have loved over the past few years.

It also reminds me a bit of the dice mechanism used by Fantasy Flight in their Warhammer 3rd Edition and Star Wars lines. You get a core range of successes and failures, but on top of that you get advantages and disadvantages that flavour the general outcome of the result with side effects. The difference here is that everything is numeric so you can use regular dice.

The instant issue I have with the system is a niggling detail, I've mentioned it before. Things like this can slow the game down. As long as the slowing process produces some great effects, it's fine...but if it is slowing down for the sake of slowing down, then it just gets frustrating for the other players.

Similarly, I haven't seen that table of options that stunts provide, but the episode mentions things like doing extra damage. If the stunt options are purely "stunts" of a physical nature than that would be a major failing of something that has great potential, I'd like to hope that the range of stunts might include social options, gaining additional insight from knowledge skills, or other ways that a player can push the storyline in their character's favour.

Another factor that might be construed as a negative is the fact that low rolls might earn unexpected positive side effects, but if you roll high there isn't a counter-system in place that occasionally forces a sacrifice to be made. You can't roll double sixes then end up with a dragon die result that says, you'll get the huge benefits of an "Uber-success" if you are willing to sacrifice this piece of equipment or that ally. But the way I understand it, Dragon Age is a setting of heroic fantasy, where heroes struggle against the darkness with mystical powers on their side...so I guess that fits. (The Fantasy Flight system does incorporate the ability to get successful actions with negative side effects)

I like the direction and intention of this system, and it certainly seems to be a good step in the direction of narrative play for a more traditionally based player group. I really think it needs more investigation before I make any really strong calls about loving or hating it. It has intrigued me enough that I would like to find out more.

01 April, 2013


Seriously, if you need inspiration for a dark 1970's game set in England...this surely has enough inspiration for a campaign or two.

Just go over there now.

Game Mechanism of the Week [Neo-Redux] 9: Down Time Activities

What do you do when other players are talking their turn?

In boardgames this becomes a critical aspect of the design, sometimes accepted by the designer and sometimes neglected. When it's neglected, a group will often develop house rules.

Case in point, Monopoly. It is typically expected that all players keep their focus on the table while the game is being played...even when it's not their turn. This is reinforced by a house ruling that states a player must specifically ask for the rent when another player lands on their property. If a reasonable time-frame passes and the active player either rolls again (due to doubles), or passes the dice to the next player, then the opportunity to collect rent has passed. It's a crude version of what I'm thinking about but it fits as a basic example.

In a game of poker, you watch the faces of the other players while they play out their cards...trying to pick out the 'tells' that might indicate a good or bad hand. Similarly when it's you're turn, you try to avoid revealing those 'tells' to other players at the table.

In an RPG it's a bit trickier. The situation of waiting for other players to finish their turn comes up most commonly in two situations:

  1. when the party is split
  2. during combat

Most games don't seem to see the need for addressing this issue. But all too often I've seen players get bored and games drift into incohesion when half of the table is getting bored because they aren't active participants.

I've seen a few ways to resolve this issue. Few in the formal rules of a game, most in the form of house-rulings.

One of the common house rules I've seen in a few groups comes when the party splits. In these situations, the active players face NPCs portrayed by the inactive players. When the time comes the other half of the party to be handled, the roles swap.

While Munchkin isn't specifically a roleplaying game, it does have an elegant way to keep players active when it isn't their turn. As a card game, where players use their cards to modify strategies in conflict against monsters, many of the cards in the game can be played on your own character or can be played on others. You can thwart someone's defence against a savage beast to prevent them gaining an edge, or you can give them an advantage in exchange for a favour later on. You even can choose to assist another character directly if you don't have the cards in your hand to make a difference indirectly. At almost any time, all players are able to jump in on the action...it's their deliberate choice to join in or remain aloof.

I use something like the Munchkin method in my game "The Eighth Sea". Every player starts the game with four playing cards (two red, two black), and while it isn't their turn they may use these cards to modify the actions of the active players while they are passively observing the story. Red cards make actions easier for active players, and black cards make things harder. Once the cards have been applied, a player receives random cards back in their hand until they regain four cards. It helps to keep players alert to what is happening in the story.

Anything that keeps players invested in the activities of the story ensures a smoother running session. Less breaks in the thought patterns mean that the shared imaginary construct of the game world remains more stable.

In a similar vein, I also like it because I've sat around in too many games for an hour or more with nothing to do while a small group of other players have slowed the whole session with their time-consuming combat. I've looked at the frustration in the GMs eyes, they know that half the table is bored to death, but they can't get back to our side of the group without breaking the continuity in the combat, and risking those players getting bored.

Having this sort of mechanism written into the rules of a game also helps to spread out the burden on the GM when other players have the ability to adjudicate or provide assistance in the narrative.

Some players don't like to help out the GM. They see roleplaying as a semi-passive activity where they are provided entertainment by the GM. They enjoy it when the party splits, because that means they can get up from the table for some food or a rest break.

Keeping players active through down time activities means they are unable to break their concentration. This can lead to mental exhaustion, especially when a session lasts more than a few hours.

Another issue comes when this sort of mechanism meets an old-school rail-roady GM. The kind of GM who likes to make sure he has control of all aspects of the story, allowing for minor deviation in plot if the die rolls go in an unexpected direction (I say 'he' because virtually all of the GM's I've encountered who follow this style of play have been male). This type of GM doesn't like the input of other player/GMs, perhaps believing in the adage that "too many cooks spoil the broth".

Generally, I like the idea of a game mechanism that keeps players active for more of the time. I can see why certain players probably wouldn't like this sort of thing added to their game.