Being a competitive martial artist, I take a lot of showers. A lot. Luckily for me, that’s the place that I do my best thinking! And, as luck would have it, one day while I was in the shower, I had a brainstorm that was kick-started (see what I did there?) by Michael Mindes (he of TMG fame) putting out a call for Micro Games.
What are Micro Games? Think of Seiji Kanai’s 16-card game Love Letter or, even more minimalistic, fellow GAC member Rob Bartel’s Famous First line of “The World’s Smallest Sports Games” that capture the experience of a sport like football with just 9 cards (!) and some coins (that the owner supplies). Jay and I have made several “Games on the Go” (as we like to call them) that were a maximum of 24 tiles with no other components needed, but never something as minimal as 9 cards! I had also recently playtested Michael Eskue’s new micro-game prototype called “Council of Verona” – a few cards and some betting chips made for a surprisingly satisfying yet quick game.
So, I thought Jay and I should try to make a micro game, too!
This is where the shower comes in or, rather, where I go into the shower. I swear it like when you see martial artists meditating under waterfalls. I just get in “the zone” and block everything else out and BAM! It hits me, like a fist. Or a chop. Or an index finger to the sternum.
I thought to myself, “If there’s not a lot of components, what else can we use to do things with?” which lead me to the thought that we could do things with our hands! Jay and I had this idea once where you used baseball hand signs to try to communicate an idea. It never went anywhere. But with this new constraint of having to deal with minimal components adding to the “design pressure”, my brain was working overtime to figure out how to compensate for this limitation and still make a good game.
Now, Jay and Josh Cappel (the illustrator/graphic designer for Belfort and numerous other games, include his own design, Wasabi) and I have been wanting to make a game together for a while to try to do the whole self-publishing thing (NOW you get the Kickstarter joke above) and what better way to get our feet wet than a small game? We discussed it online briefly via chat and our forum. Then, fortuitously, Jay was in town for a work function. So I drove to Toronto on a horribly snowy night (Slush-ageddon, actually), to meet up with him and Josh. We spent an evening sequestered at Josh’s place in Toronto with nothing but some old cards, a pad of newsprint, some sharpies and our bit boxes. By the end of the night, we had come up with a game that used about 8 cards, a small board, and some counters that was amazingly successful. It came together really quick!
After making some adjustments, adding some content, and playtesting it several times with my game group in London we’ve got some more feedback and are pretty confident that if there was a game that the three of us would work together to self-publish, this could be it! Also, it’s not really a micro-game anymore as it’s fleshed out a bit more to 2 x 15 card decks, a board, 2 types of major tokens, and a few other tokens (including the ubiquitous Start Player token).
Really, though, this post isn’t really about *this* game specifically; it’s more about:
- Constraint-induced creativity – sometimes, putting limitations on yourself can focus your design process
- Micro-games – are they the new black? They’re definitely a market we’d like to explore, especially in this Kickstarter age. We’d love to try our hand at leading a campaign but with a product that is manageable. A micro-game (or something smaller than a big box gamer game like the one we’re talking about above), would definitely feel more “do-able” for first timers like us.
- The Power Of The Internet – by being able to communicate on a regular basis with Jay and Josh, we were able to bandy a lot of the ideas for this game about and get on the same page before sitting down with each other at the same table to create it.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to tell you all more about this game as things progress. Like a title, even…For now, we’ll try to maintain and air of mystery before we all go gushing about it everywhere – let’s just say that it’s heavy on the bluffing element!
Until later, game on, gamers!
~ Sen-Foong Lim