New Ideas, They Are A Bubblin’!

Jay was in London at my place for the last week and we got a lot of work done.  We were aiming to finish a bunch of games, and we met most of our goals while exceeding some – so time well spent!  We were able to playtest quite robustly with my gaming group, my wife and sons, and our fellow GAC member Daryl Andrews.

Let’s recap:

  1. We tested out some new minor additions (in game goals vs. end game goals) for Akrotiri – a game that has been signed to Filosofia as our first 2p game!  It’s fast, fun, and now has some different challenges and motivations during each turn.  Can’t wait to see this in fully-published format!
  2. We changed the wolves in EIEIO to be on the die instead of card-based.  While this means it’ll come up more often (potentially 1 out of every 6 rolls – do the math!), it is theoretically cleaner than the conundrum that occurred when the cards came out in series.  We haven’t playtested this one yet – there was just so much other stuff to do!  EIEIO was slated for Filosofia as well, but they opted not to sign it, so we’re looking for another home for it.
  3. We changed from 8-sided dice to 6-sided dice for marking words in Lost for Words.  The 8-siders were just too finicky and hard to know what the actual face up number was.  We also worked out some rules stickiness in which there were too many darn ties.  The value of the in game goal cards may also be nerfed from 2 points to 1 so that finding a longer word isn’t as difficult.  I’m really looking forward to playing it again!  Word games are a hard sell, but I’m hopeful this one may break the mold – it’s faster than most and uses some innovative techniques to encourage play.  If it never makes it to a boardgame format, it might make a great app!
  4. Speaking of apps, I had a dream of an app I wanted to make – it was a  word game.  I told Jay about it and, by the next day, he had made a prototype of a card version of my dream game!  That game is now Chainables (working title) – a game in which you are trying to combine 2 syllables into full words.
  5. We worked a bit on Pass the Hat, our game about busking.  Some new changes to be made to all the cards, using a vertical vs. horizontal splaying mechanism.  The scoring seems to work, but we need to make a few more adjustments to make it flow better.  It’s our most “Gamery” game, currently, so we’d like to work on finishing it more.
  6. We played But Wait, There’s More with the Shepherd/Nicell family.  It was great!  We got to try out a few expansion ideas – some which worked amazingly well and some that need tweaking.  It’s such a hilarious game on it’s own, we want to make sure that the level of fun increases with each card drawn/expansion added.  Look for that one on Kickstarter soon!
  7. Jam Slam was tested with no changes just to see if there was anything we did want to change.  We’ve always had scoring chits AND a scoring track included when we send this prototype to a publisher but our playtesters – hands down (no pun intended) – liked the track much better than the chits.  So track it is!  The people have spoken!
  8. We played a lot (I mean a LOT) of one of our new games Simplicity.  It’s really simple (hence the name) and about making a city (hence the name, again).  It’s a tile-laying game in which you pick a tile up and place it down.  That’s all.  There are in game goal cards to achieve and mid/end-game goal cards to cash in on over the course of the game.  It’s so simple, it boggles the mind.  We thought of the game a year ago, almost to the day, and couldn’t put it together.  This time, we said “Let’s just make some cards or tiles and play around with them” and a great game was born!  Is it perfect yet?  Hardly!  We’ve got some ideas to add some variation here and there, but the core game is sold.   A big plus is that my wife LOVES IT, so I will be able to test the heck out of any changes we do make!
  9. One of our personal “holy grails” of gaming would be to make a game about movies, as Jay LOVES movies with a passion.  He’s at VIFF, TIFF, etc. as much as possible.  He had a radio show reviewing movies back in University.  He collects and saves all his ticket stubs and documents who he saw each movie with… okay, we’re getting into OCD territory.  Anyway, we’ve been working away at Box Office, in one shape or another, for years actually.  Now that we’re more seasoned designers, the latest version is actually coming along nicely.  Jay had a brainstorm re: this sliding scale thing…should be really good!  We didn’t playtest this with anyone as it’s really only in Alpha stage and we never want to subject playtesters to games that aren’t at least in their Beta phase.  Unless that game happens to be named The Dig.
  10. On a sad note, we found that Pictionary: The Card Game (a 2009 Dale Yu design) was very very similar to our Hog the Remote (a 2006 Bamboozle Brother design).  We had a bunch of interest in HtR, so it was disappointing to find the similarities.  Carrie had bought Pictionary: The Card Game for her work.  Luckily, I saw it and read the rules.  No one wants to go up against Hasbro.  Not even the fabulous Bamboozle Brothers!
  11. Lions Share was played a lot – we’re changing how play is done so it’s more 7 Wonders-style in that there are areas to play between each player and you only interact with the players to either side of you during the card playing phase.  The sharing of the trick is still super interesting as that’s what allows you to interact with players you can’t normally deal with.  A new scoring mechanism we devised makes team and vs. play much more interesting.  We need to add more cards to accommodate more than 4 players (hopefully up to 6). We’re thinking of adding a Chameleon type animal that can act as any animal and another animal as a suit…not sure which one yet – they’d just be a general animal.
  12. We got to try out Clunatics as well, which was well-received.  We’re just cleaning up the rules a wee bit to reduce scoring issues and keep cards in front of you to a minimum.  I made a mini-dry erase board and stuck a small dry erase marker complete with eraser in the box.  We’re hoping to shop this one around soon to NorthStar games perhaps.  They publish a little game called Wits and Wagers.  You might have heard of it!

Whew!  I *think* that’s it – there may be more that we did!  Thanks to Carrie, Ethan, Eli, Elly, Daryl, Jeff, Vince, Brian, Steven, Jeff, and the whole Shepherd/Nicell family (except you, Sean!) for gaming it up with us over the week and helping us take our games to the next level.  Your feedback was invaluable!

Oh yeah, I’ve started to take stop motion videos of our playtesting session using my iPad, a Makayama Movie Mount, and the iStopMotion app.  Gerry Paquette, another GACer, showed us how he did this at “Cardstockawa” (our annual Ontario grand game design moot) over the summer and I’ve wanted to do this ever since.

Let’s see if this works…

IT WORKS!  Huzzah!
~ Sen-Foong Lim

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The Gathering of Friends: Part 6 – Pitching to Hans Im Gluck and more Toy Vault

Rob was doing a good job in bumping into publishers and setting up meetings, and we had another meeting set up for Thursday morning with Tom from Hans Im Gluck. He said he was looking for meatier games and so Rob showed him games like Coffee and Tortuga and all I could show him was Akrotiri. He really seemed to like Akrotiri, but understood that it was with another publisher. But again, it’s good to have a ‘line-up’ of publishers willing to look at our games! We went to lunch together and had another casual time with a publisher!

Later in the day/evening, I wanted to play Swashbucklers with a couple people. Rob and our friend Brent Lloyd agreed to play. This game was recently picked up by a publisher and time between our submission to the publisher and now, the game underwent a few tweaks. I wanted to play the game we sent to the publisher and then play the newly tweaked game with the same people to get their opinion.

We played the first game almost the same as the one we sent to the publisher. It was apparent to Rob and Brent that there were some imbalances to the game. So we played it again with all the new tweaks and they both loved the new version a lot more. This was good and reaffirmed that we now have to show the publisher this new version as it’s a better game. While we were playing, Frank from R&R Games came by and expressed interest in seeing the game. I had to let him know that it was already signed and he said he would look forward to seeing it on the shelf!

Then as we were winding down, Ed from Toy Vault came by and saw the last few rounds. It dawned on Rob and I that we should play more prototypes in very visible areas more often! As we were wrapping up, Ed asked if we were free to try Hog the Remote with some people. Uh – yeah, sure!! I went into the main convention area and found some people to play with us. I had played a game of Alba Longa with Peter Hawes – a fellow game designer, who previously asked if I could help him playtest one of his games the next morning with a publisher. I agreed – and later, when I was looking for people to play Hog the Remote, I saw that he wasn’t busy, so recruited him to play. I found Chris Handy was free as well and he agreed to help out. Rob found Jenna and we now had 6 people!

We played a round of Hog the Remote and it couldn’t have went better! We played it using the “Train of Thought” scoring – where one person is the ‘describer’ and everyone else is guessing and the describer has to get as many titles guessed as possible. Afterwards we talked about possible spin offs that focus on different categories like movies or books or song titles. It would mean that the first game shouldn’t be called Hog the Remote though – so a new title is in the works!

Ed then asked if people could stick around to try But Wait, There’s More and while Peter had to get some sleep, Lucio came by to replace him and Chris, Rob and Jenna stayed. I had told Ed that this game shared some similarities to The Big Idea but that it was different enough to warrant assessing. He agreed. We played a few rounds of But Wait, There’s More and it was possibly the best session I’ve ever had of that game. There was so much laughing – it was awesome! At the end Ed asked the group if this game was only for extroverts and Chris piped up to say that the game offered enough structure that would allow introverts to play. Rob added that most party games do involve mostly extroverted people to some degree, and then Jenna mentioned that she was an introvert and this was the limit of what she was willing to do in a party game. She said that the cards made the pitch funny and she didn’t have to work very hard at it at all to be funny.

Ed asked everyone which game they preferred and it was if they were both being paid by me because they said they liked them equally. Jenna slightly preferred Hog the Remote, but said she would definitely buy But Wait, There’s More to play with her friends. Overall, it was a fantastic gaming session with Ed! I’m excited about the prospects for both these games! He said we should know one way or the other in 3-4 weeks.

The rest of the Gathering for me was more social and I spent time playing some actual games with people! I played Last Will, Catacombs, the unpublished, upcoming game from Queen called Escape the Curse of the Mayan Temple (very fun), Quebec, Africana, as well as some more protoypes like Rob’s Crazy Train and Peter Hawes Railway game with Tom from Hans Im Gluck.

I wanted to get in at least one game of Belfort with the upcoming expansion. I found some complete strangers to play the game (it’s so easy to find people to play games with at the Gathering!). Two had played the game before and one hadn’t, but they were all interested in playing with the expansion. The playtest went smoothly with one player saying that he’d only ever want to play Belfort with the expansion in the future because it brought the complexity up to a level that he enjoyed more. The game ended up in a tie between me and another player, and the tie-breaker is number of resources – and we both had the same amount of resource, so it was a complete tie!!

While I was wrapping up, another person came by and when he found out I designed Belfort he was effusive in his praise for the game! He said he even had a review of the game coming out next week in his online magazine called Gamer’s Alliance! He was pretty excited for the expansion, so I showed him how it worked. He was excited to eventually try it!

On the last day Rob and I were walking around, looking for a game to play and bumped into a complete stranger. We asked him if he was looking for a game and he said he was. We asked him if he had any idea of what he wanted to play as Rob and I were easy to please. He asked if we heard of a game called Belfort..! That was pretty cool! So, since Rob hadn’t played the game yet, we set it up and found a fourth player interested in playing and played a game of Belfort – without the expansion as they were all first-timers. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and Rob even squeaked out a win in a close game!

After the Prize ceremony on Saturday I had a friend who lives near Niagara Falls drop by for a visit and we drove to Buffalo in search for Buffalo wings. It was actually harder than we thought as we didn’t really know where we were going. We found a place and I got to relax with a buddy and eat some wings and drink some beer! A great ending to an amazing week!

All in all, it was an exhausting weekend that was also a complete blast! Tons of new friends made, tons of contacts made in the business, and lots of games played. Can’t wait until next year!

-Jay Cormier

The Gathering of Friends: Part 5 – Pitching to Toy Vault, Abacusspiele, Amigo and Mercury

The pitching continues! The Gathering had been very successful already, in terms of making new friends, getting connections, and generally just getting to know people from the publishing companies! Tuesday we had a meeting with Ed from Toy Vault. I had noticed on the Gathering forum a post from Ed stating that he was open to looking at designs. I emailed him and he replied with a time slot on Tuesday morning!

Rob and I tag teamed again showing multiple designs to Ed. Of our designs he seemed to like Hog the Remote, But Wait, There’s More and Captionary. He also liked a design from GAC member, Al Leduc called A Game of Cat and Mouse. We played it and had a good time with it, but he didn’t see it fitting with Toy Vault at this time. It was uncanny how Ed could know which place I was going to in the game every round!

He decided to take the prototype of Hog the Remote and But Wait, There’s More and said we should find some people one night and play each of them. Cool! He was curious about Captionary and wanted to see that game played out before committing to taking that one. More on this in my next post!!

By this time it was lunch and we all decided to go out and get some Indian food. We bumped into Stefan from Asmodee and we all went out for lunch. It was a great lunch full of behind the scene stuff in the board game world. I told Stefan that Filosofia picked up EIEI-O. He was fine with that as it might mean he will distribute the game anyway. I’m not sure what kind of deal they have with Filosofia, but I do know that their offices are right next to each other! It was a great lunch (well the food was only OK and the restaurant we chose was pretty yucky – but the company was great!).

When I got back I managed to get some time with Matthias from Abacusspiele. I pitched Eat at Joes, Clunatics and others, but he was most interested in Eat at Joes. He took a sales sheet and that was that. Quick one!

Amigo and Mercury Games Wednesday morning Rob had set up a meeting with Christian Hildenbrand from Amigo. If you recall, Christian was how I got invited the Gathering in the first place – so I already really liked him!

We found out that Amigo is really focused on card games at the moment. He was also interested in looking at party games (which was good as we didn’t have any card games!). We spent a couple hours pitching him various games and he really liked Eat at Joes and even wanted to take the prototype back with him. He also liked the idea for Hog the Remote, Clunatics and Captionary. He took a sales sheet for each of those. I told him that Pegasus Spiele is currently assessing Clunatics and he said he knew them, so he would call them when he got back to Germany to find out their thoughts on the game! It’s a pretty small industry!

We were getting hungry so the three of us went to TGIF for lunch and had some great conversations about games and non-game things. It was just great to get to know him as a person instead of as a publisher. That’s the big advantage the Gathering has over any other convention. It’s a longer convention and it’s pretty exclusive so everyone is more casual and relaxed.

Rob bumped into Kevin who used to work at Valley Games and was the person who Rob actually signed contracts with for his game Two by Two. Kevin has a new partner they are creating a new game company called Mercury games. They were looking for a game to be their launch game. Rob showed them his game Coffee and we played a game of that. Later on we played Iron Horse Bandits with them as well. At this point I was running out of games to show people! None of our games seemed to fit with what they were looking at as a launch game.

Next up – one more day of pitching to publishers and then a summary of my experiences!

-Jay Cormier

The Gathering of Friends: Part 1 – Overview

I just got back from the Gathering of Friends and have a lot of things to share with you! This is the first of many posts reviewing my experience at the Gathering of Friends.

First of all, what the heck is the Gathering of Friends, you ask? Well, Alan Moon – the prolific designer of such hit games like Ticket to Ride and Elfenland – decided 23 years ago to get some friends together to play games over the course of a week. Every year since then it has grown in attendance. For the first few years, only an invite directly from Alan himself could get you to the Gathering. Eventually, he noticed that there was clearly a desire of many others who would love to attend, but Alan still wanted to ensure only the right kind of people attended.

The new policy is that anyone who has been to the Gathering at least 2 years can nominate someone to attend, and then that person needs to be seconded by two other people who have also attended the Gathering for at least 2 years. So it’s a pretty exclusive club. This year, and for the next three years, it takes place at the Sheraton on the US side of Niagara Falls.

Thanks to the Game Artisans of Canada, I found myself with an invite! Whaaa? Me? Yeah! Another member of the Game Artisans of Canada, Mike Kolross has been attending for about 5 years now – thanks to his ability to make components for the game, Descent that Alan greatly enjoyed. Last year, he and Rob Bartel, another member of GAC, made a portable/travel edition of Alan’s Ticket to Ride out of wood (kind of like a fold up cribbage board) and it was a huge hit. Mike then made another one for Christian Hildenbrand from Amigo Games (for his wife actually) and through Christian and Mike I got my invite to the Gathering!

I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I heard that Alan doesn’t mind that designers are pitching games to publishers, but that he preferred to make the Gathering more about playing games with friends. So I didn’t follow Step 20 and set up any meetings in advance with any publisher. That said, we did know which publishers were going to be there, thanks to email updates from Alan himself. This allowed Sen and I to prepare by assessing which games of ours would fit best with each publisher (Step 17). We could have done better at this – by making some solid notes about each.

Following Step 21, I packed up one bag full of prototypes. With so many prototypes to carry around, I’ve decided that the best way to do this is the large baggie system. I take all the components of a game and put them into one large baggie. Of course I put some components in smaller baggies and then into the larger baggie to make it easy to set up and play. Then I labeled each baggie with a sticker that had the logo of the game as well as my contact information. I heard a story from Frank DiLorenzo from R&R games where he had a prototype of a pretty good game, but it had no contact information on it whatsoever! Ouch! Sen and I pretty much like to have our contact information in as many places as possible – on the baggie, on the Sales Sheet (Step 14), on each page of the rules in the header, and even on some other component of the game – if it makes sense.

I print out the rules for all my games and put them all into one folder as they’d get wrinkled up if I put them into the baggie. If a publisher wanted a prototype, then I’d fish out the rules, fold them in half and stick it in the large baggie with the rest of the game. Prior to this trip we had many other Game Artisans who wanted me (and Rob Bartel, who also attended) to pitch their games to publishers on their behalf, since they were not invited. I didn’t mind doing this for other Game Artisans, but the game had to be something I enjoyed and something I would feel comfortable pitching. So for the weeks leading up to the Gathering I was getting prototypes mailed to me from other chapters in hopes that I’d like their game and could pitch it to publishers. I liked three games of the ones I was sent and agreed to pitch them. This just meant that my backpack full of prototypes now had three more games stuffed in it! In my backpack I was carrying these prototypes:

  1. Junkyard – even though this game has exclusivity with Wiggles 3D until June 1st, we wanted to show some other publishers, in case Wiggles ultimately decided to pass on it
  2. Clunatics – this one is being assessed by Pegasus Spiele, but we wanted to bring it to show other publishers (and we were clear with new publishers that the game was currently being assessed by Pegasus)
  3. Hog the Remote
  4. But Wait, There’s More!
  5. Akrotiri
  6. Eat at Joe’s
  7. EIEI-O!
  8. Swashbucklers – currently being signed by a publisher, but we wanted to test one last thing with the game
  9. Belfort – plus the expansion prototype
  10. An untitled prototype that is Alpha stage, currently called Box Office
  11. Captionary
  12. Bordeaux – prototype from GAC member, Matt Musselman
  13. A Game of Cat and Mouse – prototype from GAC member, Al Leduc
  14. Iron Horse Bandits – prototype from GAC member, Graeme Jahns

Yowza! That’s a lot of prototypes! In the next post I’ll review how the Gathering is laid out and then get into what it was like pitching to publishers at the Gathering, and finally share which of our games garnered interest from them as well.

-Jay Cormier

Status update on all our games

Taking a little time out to give you all a status update on all of our games that are in active development.

Board games go through a few phases when they are being developed.  The most common phases you’ll hear people talking about are: Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Published.  There are more if you want to sub-categorize them, but these are the main categories.

Alpha usually means that the game is mostly an idea or a concept.  There’s still a prototype, but the core rule-set is constantly changing.

Beta games have been playtested numerous times and are generally working but are being endlessly tweaked.  A game will spend most of its time in this phase.

Gamma games are generally done and are ready to be shown to a publisher.  Some small tweaks could occur – or a publisher could develop the game even further with more tweaks – but the game is working very well after a ton of playtesting.

Here are the games that Sen and I have at each of these phases along with a brief write up on each.  If you’re a publisher and are interested in learning more about any of these – just let us know.

Published

Train of Thought – a party/word game in which one player tries to get other players to say a hidden word using connected three-word phrases.  Available from Tasty Minstrel Games in January 2011.

Belfort – a resource management strategy game that has players competing to build the most buildings in each district of a new castle as well as employ the most elves, dwarves and gnomes.  Available from Tasty Minstrel Games in Q2-Q3 2011.

But Wait, There’s More! – a laugh-out-loud party game that has players pitching the most ridiculous products to each other in an effort to have their product chosen more than anyone else.  Available from Tasty Minstrel Games in Q4 2011.

Gamma

Akrotiri – a tile laying strategy game that has 2-5 players sailing their boats around the Mediterranean in an effort to make money by shipping resources so they can fund their expeditions to find hidden temples.  A unique system allows for players to have a specific map to a hidden temple – but will also be 100% different every time it’s played.  Currently being reviewed by Z-Man games.

Jam Slam – a quick reaction game in which 3-6 players listen to one player call out a specific ingredient and then try to be the first to slap a card with what was requested before the others.  A hilarious game that has ear-eye-hand coordination! Was a semi-finalist in the Great Canadian Game Design Competition.  Currently being sent to Gamewright for review.

Junkyard – Players place oddly shaped wooden blocks on their own tower of junk in an effort to score more points without knocking anything over.  A unique system that uses cards to help players strategize while keeping some randomness makes this balancing game different than any other on the market.  Currently being sent to Asmodee for review.

Lost for Words – 2-6 players try to find the longest word in a straight line by adding a tile with letters in a 3×3 grid to a growing board of other tiles.  The player to shout out the longest word in the time limit places the tile and scores points.  Currently being sent to Asmodee for review.

This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us – Currently a Games-on-the-Go product consisting of 25 tiles in a matchbox sized package.  This game has 2-4 players placing tiles and trying to get more of their cowboys in an enclosed town than opponents.  Currently waiting for a publisher.

Hot Property – Currently a Games-on-the-Go product consisting of 25 tiles in a matchbox sized package.  Hot Property involves 2 competing real estate agents placing tiles and creating neighbourhoods in an effort to have more of their coloured houses in as many neighbourhoods as possible.  Currently waiting for a publisher.

EI-EI-O – Currently a Games-on-the-Go product consisting of 25 tiles in a matchbox sized package.  EI-EI-O is a quick reaction game that has 2-6 players acting and sounding like animals quicker than their opponents.  Currently waiting for a publisher.

Top Shelf – 2-4 players place various candy products on a shelf in a convenience store in an effort to grab the attention of potential shoppers.  Get 4 of the same type or colour in a row to score – but make sure some of those are from your brand!  Currently waiting for a publisher.

Beta

RuneMasters – a non-collectible card combat game that uses a never before seen mechanic of placing rune-sticks in specific configurations to ‘cast’ creatures into combat.  Still in early beta but has been through about 8 iterations so far.  It has come a long way already as we’ve simplified it a lot while retaining everything that makes it unique.

Clunatics – a party game that has one person trying to get the others to say a specific phrase out loud – but they only can give the smallest of clues.  There are 15 different ways a person can give a clue and they only get to use 5 of them on their turn.  Lots of hilarity with this one – and it’s almost in Gamma.

Lion’s Share – a card game for 2-5 (maybe 6?) players in which they play animal cards on one of the two tables at a restaurant.  Players have to follow colour, number or animal type.  One animal is deemed to be the Alpha animal and if it’s played on a table – that player collects all the cards into their score pile – but before they do, they must share 1 card with an opponent.  This one is almost Gamma.

Scene of the Crime – One of the players is guilty of the crime and the other players try to determine who did it by placing small tiles that contain different evidence types on the board.  The evidence is played in sets on the board – and looks like Scrabble except instead of letters, there are various evidence tiles on the board.  If a player can find evidence of an opponent in an area on the board that matches a clue – then it leads players to believe they are guilty.  This one used to be Gamma, but we brought it back to Beta to figure out some issues.

Hog the Remote – a party game that has one player using a set of picture cards to get other players to guess the name of a TV show.  It’s kind of like charades but using pictures instead of acting.  This one was coming along great and then we saw that ??? came out with a game that shared some similarities.  This one has been shelved indefinitely for now.

Collectibles – a card game in which players trade rare collectibles in an effort to score the most points with the best collection at the end.  This one seemed to play well, and has been in Gamma, but we’re both kind of dis-enchanted with this one right now.  We like the mechanics and might use them in another game down the road.

Up in the Air – a 4 player partner card game that has players juggling various objects in an effort to keep everything … up in the air the longest.  This was in Gamma and after some feedback we changed the game until it turned into an entirely different game called Junkyard.  We still like the mechanics of this one and might revisit it.

Alpha

Bermuda Triangle – a re-themed version of our Gamma game Night of the Dragon.  While Night of the Dragon was a fun game for families, it never got picked up by a publisher.  Recently we were motivated to re-theme it to the Bermuda Triangle and it’s really working – though it’s making it almost an entirely different game that uses the same core mechanic.  I’m looking forward to making this one work as it involves time travel!

Dice Fu – a game that uses dice in a new way as players assign dice to combos on their various fighters in an effort to defeat their opponents.  Needs a lot of work – but it’s very interesting so far.

Box Office – A game about scheduling when your movies should be released in an effort to make the most money.  I really like the concept but we need to work a lot on the mechanics to make it more fun and less simulation.

Time Management – Players play managers of a store and they try to attract more customers than opponents by hiring the right staff, training them and delegating tasks.  This one was way too simulation – so we thought we might turn it into a game for the office crowd to be used to teach various skills.

City Planning – this one’s so much an Alpha game that we haven’t bothered coming up with a better name for it at all!  This started as a party game and then it seemed like it would fit better as a strategy game.

-Jay Cormier

We have a few other games have been sitting on the back burner after we tinkered with them in Alpha / Beta. For interest’s sake, here’s a look at some of our shelved ones and the reason for stopping the specific project:

Xtaxatax (pronounced “Stacks Attacks”) – was a 2-player game where there were stacks of discs that had stickers on either side of the disc, depicting unit type/strength/etc. The cool idea was that the stacks could be flipped over in the midst of battle to really change up the game and that as you stacked units on top/on bottom, the complexion of that battalion changed. We stopped this one mainly because we couldn’t figure out how to make a good proto for the discs such that they’d stay linked. I was thinking magnets, but didn’t know how to do it. Also, Jay’s not the biggest fan of games that involve ranged combat or too much in the way of math or memory. I am a fan of ranged combat, math and memory games, so just writing this makes me want to pull out the prototype to see if there’s something salvagable in this game.

WerkQwerks – A party game concept we came up with that never really came to fruition. It revolves around one player being the project manager and the rest of their team having to perform some mundane tasks, but with some limitations (i.e. their quirks). I think we put this on the shelf due to lack of interest – not that it’s a bad idea, but that we were focused on making a more “gamer game”. Again, just writing this makes me think – FUN! Of course, I also thought The Dig would pan out…

Sexxxy Game – HA! This couples game was a social, real-time, kind of game where players would have trigger words and responses based on double entendres and sexual innuendos. Reason for shelfing – we could never find girls to playtest with us. And I’m married! Honestly, though, it was the prototyping that was difficult as the game was supposed to be played in the real world while on a date, not around a table. Still a cool concept. It’s a bit too niche, though. A game for couples? Would that sell?

FlickWars – Jay and I both get a kick (or maybe that’s a flick) out of skillful dexterity games. We wanted to make a crazy flicking game where you’d use carroms to break down castle walls, etc. We started to prototype, but it just got difficult as neither he nor I are woodworkers. We’d have to borrow tools, ask a lot of people to help, etc. In the end, we shelved it because of the difficulty in making the physical game and now that we’ve got our dexterity fill through Junkyard, I don’t think this will see the light of day anytime soon. Besides, companies likehttp://www.uncleskunkletoys.com do a much better job at this type of game than we could ever really hope for! Seriously – take a look at that site. Those games look AWESOME!

Castle of Dr. Knizia – Another game that we actually playtested with real human beings other than ourselves or significant others (poor dears). It involved exploring a castle and going through doorways, always worried about what was on the other side – did you sneak through like a mouse, or burst through, sword drawn and ready for combat? The niftiest mechanic was how the monsters got placed in the castle. I even made these card holder things out of balsa wood to indicate which monster was represented by which chip on the board. It was one of our earliest attempts at a “gamer game” so it was clunky at best – so it got abandoned in favour of other games that we could build from the ground up, instead of having to try to strip things away and see if it still worked out. We were focused mostly on Scene of the Crime in an effort to get that in front of a publisher, so adieu, Dr. Knizia. Maybe some of your cool mechanics will be used in other games.

Contract Game – Based on the theory of lowballing to get awarded contract and then trying to fulfill it under budget, this was set in a fantasy realm where there were Giants used as cranes, Mermaids used as plumbers, etc. I still love this concept and it may be revived for an expansion to Belfort or a game set in the same world.

MMA Card Game – As a martial artist and BJJ competitor, I love mixed martial arts (MMA). As a game designer, I love card games. So I figured, I could combine the two together! It never really came of anything, because Jay wasn’t interested much, so it kind of just sat there. We generally focus our energy on games that we’re both keen on. I am currently talking to my training partner and video game designer, Tim Fields, about doing an online Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game that’s turn-based, so concepts from here could get used in that game.

Pants on Fire – A case of a title coming before a game. Honestly, that’s happened a fair bit with us! We get enthralled by a title that is evokative. And quicker than you can say “Train of Thought!”, a new game is born. Not so with Pants on Fire, however. We just never figured this one out – we wanted to make a trick taking game, but this didn’t flow. And now that there is another game with the same title, this one will probably never be completed.

Heroes – This one has kind of gone through a few conceptual changes between spies and superheroes and organized crime and zombies and other things. We have a really, really interesting concept of how to do a map-based game with no real movement. We have a “patrol zone” concept that we really like. Jay was leery of doing a superhero-based game without having access to existing licensed characters and we were investing more time into Belfort at the time. There are definitely concepts and mechanics from this game that will get another look.

And last, and definitely least…

The Dig – Ah, our albatross. This one just didn’t work. Too mathematical/procedural. It just didn’t play like it did in our heads. We wanted a game that rewarded co-operation and sharing and pooling of resources, that still had a single winner in the end. Let’s just say that this isn’t that game. This isn’t even a game – it is an exercise in frustration. We still like the theme of digging for treasures, but this will take a lot of work to get a game out of it.

Wow.

Just reviewing them makes me think very fondly of a few of them in particular and makes me wonder if I shouldn’t just make some of the ones that Jay and I don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on to get them to Beta Stage and then involve Jay to do the refinement.

Essentially, that’s what happened with Akrotiri – though it was not through disinterest. Jay had the idea and it intrigued him so much that he started to work on it solo in BC and had a quick proto done in a day or two. In his making of the proto, it not only allowed me to play it and become more interested in it, it progressed the game faster and faster until it reached a solid Gamma format in very little time.

There are many times where one of us fail to be super-interested in a game until the prototype is made – and that is often the most difficult part of the process. To invest all that time, effort, and sometimes money into making a prototype that you’re not hyped about can be tough, especially when there’s all sorts of other cool ideas floating around in your head. But if one person on the team believes strongly that there’s a good game in there somewhere, maybe that person should go solo and make the proto. To paraphrase Field of Dreams, if one makes it, the other will play! And if the other plays, he may actually like it enough for both of us to invest more time and effort into developing it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few years of designing games, it’s this: when in doubt, make a proto. You will find out if there’s a game to be had quicker than you will bandying ideas about in your head or online. Making the prototype is DEFINITELY the key phase in taking a game from concept to reality.

Concepts are good because they’re fluid – nothing’s written in stone. But a prototype is more hands on, more engaging, more understandable. There are visual and tactile components that, like a rug, tie everything together. People can’t play a game that only exists in your head, even if it’s the best game ever!

So, if you’ve got an idea for a game, just get to work and make a proto. What have you got to lose?