Toronto’s First “Board Game Designers’ Night” Hosted by Snakes & Lattes

A meeting of the minds is always a great thing; it’s made all the more better when it can be done at a wonderful location such as Snakes & Lattes, the premiere game café in downtown Toronto, ON.

There were a good 17+ people there simply to show their prototypes, playtest and talk about game design. Four members of the Game Artisans of Canada were present for this inaugural event:  Daryl Chow, Stephen Sauer, Josh Cappel, and me!

I personally played:

  • Sky Roy’s Fantasy Monster Beatdown, a quick and intuitive wargame that plays in under an hour.  It’s got a lot of nice elements (ease of play, nice map, artifact concepts), but the very basic version we played just wasn’t meaty enough or granular enough to hold my interest for the intended length of play.  It suffered from a bit too much randomness (perhaps having each player have access to their own personal spell deck, etc.).  I’ve sent Sky feedback via e-mail and we’ve been discussing ways to address things as he sees fit.  NOTE:  There is an advanced version of the game as well – I think that the “more stuff” in the advanced version may be necessary at the basic level to make people want to play it a second time and make the time invested in learning and playing the game worthwhile.
  • Daryl’s yet-to-be-named evolution game, a great game in concept and execution that’s in the beta stage – keep an eye out for this one as it has all the right elements to be a great game!   The evolutionary tech tree idea rocks!  As does preying on your opponents to further your own evolution!  Some really cool mechanics in here that just need to get cleaned up (e.g. eating various bug types by colour – what if you can’t?  how do you evolve? Balancing the water/food ratios.  Movement of herds vs. individual units…etc.)
  • RuneMasters by Jay and me – Daryl and I played through a few rounds just to try to work out some of the kinks.  He thought of a great idea re: morphing the RuneSticks in addition to draining and fading.  I added the element of collecting items won to the side to reduce “analysis paralysis” (a.k.a. “AP”) which really worked to streamline and limit decision making.  Also thinking of increasing granularity in scoring to reduce chance of ties…and of removing diagonal RuneSticks to simplify drawing and chaining from rune to rune.
  • We did a “show and tell” of Josh’s Egg Hunters Guild, a fun and frantic game that might just be set in the world of Belfort – a world that Josh breathed life into through his artwork.  We bashed noggins over Josh’s hastily hand-drawn board with Daryl and Stephen in trying to think of a way to reduce the amount of dice/random factors yet still retain unpredictability.  My contention is that the unpredictability should be an outcome of players’ decisions, not the roll of a die.  We came up with a concept around “Speed Chips” that players expend to try to get away from the Dragon, but to also get the Dragon to catch up with other players…this means your Speed Chips serve a double function.  If the chip values are known (i.e. you have a set amount at set values), this could lead to some neat bluff/double bluff situations as people work towards a state of perfect knowledge.  And, thus, the decisions become more meaningful as opposed to hopeful (i.e. “I hope he doesn’t have anything higher than a 3!”)
  • The last game of the night was Daryl and Al Leduc’s Mafia card game.  It was late when we played and I don’t think we all picked up on all of the rules (though there are very few!).  The only comment made was to try doing the draw and discard at the end as opposed to the beginning of a turn.  It drew things out too much and didn’t force us to use cards we didn’t like.  Plus, I just don’t think we got the strategy.  I’d like to try again as I like simple yet complex card games.

By all accounts, the first Board Game Designers’ Night was a rousing success – S&L is amenable to hosting more in the future, so watch this space for updates.  If you are a Toronto-area designer looking for playtesters and feedback from other designers, this is the place to be!

~ Sen-Foong Lim