Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from my hive of scum and villainy to yours! 2013 has been a great year and 2014 looks to be even better!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Cincinnati Library Game Day

Today the three older girls and I attended a Game Day at the downtown branch of the Cincinnati Library. The crowd was a little small in size but very enthusiastic. Thanks to LeeAnn McNabb for setting up this well-run event. I had to give my "Intro to Eurogames" talk to a group comprised mostly of diehard gamers, but they were very gracious. Here are some pictures:

 You don't often get such a great view from a library!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Games to Troops

My brother-in-law has just arrived in Afghanistan for another deployment. Before he went he asked me about sending some games for troops with significant downtime to fill. So, I've been asking around. So far, I have three publishers (Tasty Minstrel Games, Steve Jackson Games and Minion Games) on board. I asked them first because I know them. However, if you are a publisher and would like to be involved, please let me know, and I'll send you his APO address. If you are an individual with a few games to spare, you can participate as well. This would be a great encouragement to the 30,000+ troops of Bagram Air Force Base and a great way to thank them for their sacrifice! Thanks!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pre-Essen Update

That title sort of makes it sound like I'm heading out to Essen soon. Sadly, I am not. However, I do have another game being released there! AEG will be launching Canalis, the next game in the Tempest series. My designer diary was recently featured on BoardGameNews. The rules can be found on AEG's site.

In other news, I signed two more contracts in the past month. APE Games will be publishing my rice game, Spirits of the Rice Paddy. It's the most complex game I've ever designed--a 90-120 minute euro about growing rice. I'm very excited to see how this one is received by the gamer community.

Also, my hastily-conceived Battlecruiser game was signed by ??? I'm not sure when/if there will be an official announcement, especially since one of the prototypes was recently stolen from the co-publisher's house! I'm guessing he's been pretty busy with life at the moment.

Finally, the art team (yes, there's a whole team) for Skyway Robbery continues to turn in amazing work. Little bits of the elaborate backstory (a novel is in the works) are woven into many of the card images. It's a little insane--and a lot mind-blowing! Can't wait to start showing this off!

Monday, August 19, 2013

GenCon Wrapup

Now that everyone's back from GenCon, I'll add my recap to the mix. Unfortunately, I don't have many helpful tips or interesting pictures to share. Just a recap of my one busy day (Friday).

7:30 - Left the house and headed to Indy. Caught The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast's GenCon preview show, Part 1. It's a crossover with the Dice Tower crew, who have Part 2 (August 6) on their site. Good way to kill the drive time.

9:30 - Swooped into the mall parking area. Had to drive straight to the top.

10:00 - Got my badge (thanks, Edward), said hi to a few friends and then rendezvoused with Jason Kotarski in advance of our publisher meeting. Got to see half the exhibit hall--quickly.

11:00 - Pitch to a publisher. Jason and I are working on a game called Fidelitas. They didn't hate it, but didn't love it either. We're a little bummed, but maybe we can take the criticisms and use them to make a better game in the end.

11:45 - Meeting with another publisher about . . . stuff.

12:10 - Arrive ten minutes late to my demo of Skyway Robbery. Even so, the three players are eager to begin despite the unfinished-looking prototype and the cost of $2 each. It goes well--I need to get better about explaining it. Made some good notes for slight improvements. This game is supposed to be Kickstarting in a few weeks.

2:00 - Pitched Battlecruiser to a publisher even though I had made it only seven days before. The pitch lasted about four minutes. He liked it and took it with him. :)

2:30 - Met Jason and his wife for lunch at Noodles & Co. Those guys are on the ball in there! We discussed the game and some ways to make it work. Things are positive.

4:00 - Demo of Chief Inspector. This is another game in the Skyway Robbery/Ruse universe (called Gaslight Empire). I hadn't played this game in about two years, so it was interesting. But it worked well and the players enjoyed it. More notes.

5:00 - Got to see the other half of the exhibit hall. Purchased one game during the con, Dominion: Guilds. We have since played it. Very nice conclusion to the series.

7:00 - Met with another publisher to discuss my rice game. We are close to a deal. His playtesting buds were there, too, and we came up with some ways to improve the game. Can't wait to try them. I also showed him some work on the PC game he'd asked me to think about making a board game of. Once we get the green light from the publishers, it's a go. I'm looking forward to it.

8:00 - Headed over to the AEG Big Game Night event. It was packed. It was crazy. There were even a few people playing Courtier (50% of them were from Nevermore Games). I also got to see the proofs for Canalis, coming in October. Everything looks very sharp.

9:00 - Found James Mathe's designer mixer at the Hyatt. I got a chance to chat with Dan Yarington of Game Salute about the current state of things and future plans. Then Dan wanted a milkshake, so a few of us (plus about 150 other gamers) packed into the poor little Steak & Shake. The wait time is pretty bad, but the shakes are almost worth it.

11:00 - I drive back to Cincinnati without falling asleep.

All in all, it was a good con for me. I hate having to rush away from everyone and not getting to play games I didn't design, but maybe I'll get to stay longer next time. It was great getting to see so many friends and making a few new ones!

Monday, August 12, 2013

GenCon 2013!

Could not help adding this in!

It's that time again! It's time to prepare for GenCon. This year I will be attending Friday only. While I have several meetings, I can be tracked down at the following times and places:

12:00 (noon): Demo of Skyway Robbery at the Game Salute area in Hall E next to Mayfair.
4:00: Demo of Chief Inspector (small deduction card game set in the same universe) also at Game Salute in Hall E.
8:00 and beyond: I plan to check in on the designers' meetup at the Hyatt (rooms A&B), and I will also try to make AEG's Big Game Night (not sure where that is exactly).

As for my previous challenge of making 3 games in 3 weeks, I've made FOUR games in the last 2.5 weeks. Two of which are not quite ready for prime time, but the unexpected addition to the party is Battlecruiser. I made even more cards Saturday and we tested them some today. Things are working quite well. I'll definitely try to show this one off some during the con!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Battlecruiser Playtest

I am looking for some super-quick playtesting of my new customizable mini-game. This game features 5-10 minutes of blazing space combat, trickery and cunning. I am looking to get some last-minute feedback before GenCon if possible--tough deadline, I know. Send me a message if you are interested and I'll send you a link to the files. Thanks!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Lessons Learned

You might notice a slight change in the appearance of this blog as well as a tweak to the domain name. I am now the proud owner of phantasiogames.net. I am also the foolish, bumbling loser of the domain name phantasiogames.com. :( That one is now owned by some dude in Japan. I have learned a few important lessons:

1. Auto-renew is your friend. Mine was turned off. Do not turn off auto-renew.

2. Moving and having a new baby at the same time will also turn off your brain for several months. Try to be a little more organized. HA HA HA HA HA! (That was a little inside joke for anyone who's ever moved and had a new baby in the same week before.)

3. When you discover something wrong with your blog, don't immediately jettison all the current settings without backing them up in a vain and fruitless effort to make the pain stop. Pain will just laugh at you.

4. Life will go on. Except for those people who type in the wrong address. They will be assaulted by Japanese techno-babble. Such as happened to my Mom (one of my four regular readers--wait, does my wife still read this?).

I have already endured changing my email address on everything (except for my domain registrar's increasingly urgent warnings), so why not change all my blog stuff too!? Let's make it a game. If you spot a link that sends you into Japan-induced confusion, drop me a line. If you find one, you are the winner. Thanks!

One more note. In the spirit of having my brain not quite firing on all cylinders and what with all the free time afforded by raising five children, I have set myself a colossal task: design and prototype three games in three weeks in preparation for GenCon! Game one is nearly ready to print . . . :)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Origins 2013 Recap

Another Origins has come and gone. I was only able to attend Saturday, but all the vendors said that traffic was up significantly from last year. Apparently, the dates matter. This year I got to take my daughter, Isabel (of Tiger Stripes fame). She got to meet lots of great folks.

One of the highlights was a demo game of King of Tokyo. Isabel managed to get about 12 points, then she acquired the card where you get 9 points for rolling one of each thing. Then she got the card that lets you change one die. And then she rolled one away from a straight for the win! A space penguin is on its way to her in the mail, compliments of Iello. We later bought the game and also got a nifty promo pack of extra cards. Sweet!

I got to talk shop with several publishers. I also got some design work done with Jason Kotarski (The Great Heartland Hauling Co.) on a new mini-game. More on this in future posts . . .

I got a copy of the mini-expansion for Kingdom of Solomon called Chronicles of the King, co-designed with Daniel McDairmant. It looks nice! Minion Games had several demos of KoS going during the show. AEG has many demos of Courtier going as well.

In other news, have I mentioned that I have a new Tempest game coming in time for Essen this year? Because that's happening. :)

A nice time was had by all. Isabel was amazed by how fast it flew by. Now to get to work designing more games!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Catching Up

My apologies for the long delay. Life has happened in a BIG way. First of all, our son Isaac was born on May 1st! That brings our kid total to FIVE. Mommy and baby are both doing quite well. He got his pacifier last night, and he loves it. And we love him not fussing as much. :)

 Second, we FINALLY closed on the sale of our house! Now, we just need another small miracle to find the perfect new house to buy. In the meantime, our rental house is proving to be cozy enough for us all. For future reference, I don't recommend moving and having a baby 2 days apart.

 As you might imagine, my game-playing and -making have taken a backseat for several weeks. But things have been slowly moving ahead on a number of fronts. Family Vacation did not make its funding goal on Kickstater. It seems that we missed our audience on this one. However, Jim at Jolly Roger Games is determined to fund the game through other means--if/when he can score a few wins on other projects. The saga continues.

 I am nearing completion of a design to be included in the upcoming Princess Bride mini-game collection from Game Salute. This game features card drafting, a la 7 Wonders, but with a reduced playing time (10 minutes) and some new twists and turns. Players will be making a miracle pill/potion for the Man in Black. They will need to collect and combine the right ingredients to succeed, occasionally having to destroy old cards to get new ones.

SR Sneak Peek!
Skyway Robbery and Tiger Stripes (by Isabel) are heading toward Kickstarter campaigns in the coming weeks/months. I've seen just a bit of the art, and both games are going to look amazing!

 Also, I found out yesterday that AEG will be producing my next Tempest game in time for Essen--IF the crazy amount of work can get done in the short time frame. I'm probably not allowed to say too much more about this one . . . If you would be interested in helping to playtest it, send me a message. We'd love some extra help!

One more important item to mention. A few weeks ago I was contacted by Daniel McDairmant, a Kingdom of Solomon fan, about a possible mini-expansion. In just a few weeks, we (and the folks from Minion Games) hammered out a great new set of cards to make the game even more exciting! The best part is, you can buy a copy today! Check out Chronicles of the King.

Right now I'm planning to attend Origins, but only on Saturday. Even this small trip is on shaky ground, but I hope it works out. Here's to hoping things settle back down for us in the coming weeks--or that we find an awesome place to call home and THEN settle down.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Family Vacation Kickstarter Postmortem

With less than 24 hours to go and just over 100 backers, the Family Vacation Kickstarter is on track to come up short of our $12,000 goal. As Jim Dietz mentioned in the latest project update, we are looking for some advice on our upcoming relaunch.

Let me just say this right here: Thanks so much to all those who have backed this project, even when things started looking down. The support of so many family and friends, not to mention quite a few complete strangers, feels really great and makes me want to keep fighting for this game.

As we look at our options going forward, we need to face some hard truths. Certainly, a number of factors contributed to this outcome. We've got a pretty big list going and another list of more things to do better next time, but we'd like to hear from you. If you backed Family Vacation, or even (especially?) if you didn't, how do you think we can be more effective?

In service of this goal, please take a moment and participate in the four short survey questions to the right. Also, please add details or other ideas in the comments. Thank you so much for your investment in this project!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Family Vacation Needs YOU

Well, folks--it's crunch time. With about 20 days to go, Family Vacation needs your help. We currently have over 50 backers, but we need quite a few more. This game is turning out to be a bit of a hard sell for the alphagamers on Kickstarter and BoardGameGeek. Some of them don't even have kids! Also, many people will not jump in until they know it will be successful.

So it's going to be up to us--people with families and/or people who enjoy lighter, casual games from time to time. Here's what I need you to do:

1. Pledge - $30 is a very reasonable price for one night of family fun (or casual fun with friends), let alone the many nights you will enjoy this game. This game would also make a great birthday or Christmas gift. Get your shopping done early! The sooner you join us, the sooner others will follow.

2. Share - There are probably many people among your acquaintances who would enjoy this game. The problem is, they will never hear about it! You can change that. Post a link to the KS page on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as other social media sites.

3. Thumb - We can't overemphasize the impact of BoardGameGeek. It's the premier board game website. I need you to visit the Family Vacation page and give a thumbs up to as many items as possible--especially images.

4. Promote - Do you have a blog? Consider adding a small widget or link to your site. (Click the "< > Embed" button right under the project video on KS.) Mention us in a news post. Have some favorite blogs? Ask them to mention us, too. We may need to enlist some mom and homeschool blogs to get to the finish line.

Your help is crucial to our success. Family Vacation isn't just some throwaway filler, it's a special game that truly is a joy to play. Thanks in advance for anything you can do to help make this game a reality. And a special thanks to all those who've already backed us. Wish us good luck!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kickstarter Launches!

It's finally launched! The Family Vacation Kickstarter is now underway! Please help us spread the word. Thanks!

Family Vacation Kickstarter Tonight!

Just a quick note: Our Family Vacation kickstarter campaign will begin sometime tonight! Stay tuned for more info.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Courtier: A Pronunciation Guide

Yesterday, I finally received my Tempest games from AEG, including six copies of Courtier. In honor of this joyous occasion, I offer you this short pronunciation guide.

So how does one pronounce the name of my new game? I've heard several variations, some more humorous than others. By the way, this can also stand in as a sort of psychological evaluation. Enjoy.

1. COUR - tee - ay
This first pronunciation comes up rather frequently. I imagine the people favoring this version have had some experience with foreign languages (maybe an excessive amount of French in high school or early exposure to Latin, etc.). Something about this version gives the vague sense of someone trying too hard, in the tradition of the classic overachiever. It might also indicate a flare of snobbishness for good measure (sounds a lot like Cartier, right?).

2. COUR - tee - AY
Closely related to number one, this pronunciation is the verbal equivalent to extending one's pinky finger whilst drinking tea. It is also favored by people who are pretending to belong to the first group, but clearly do not.

3. cour - tee - AIR
I imagine one must bow and gesture graciously with the hands while using this pronunciation. This variation belongs to the elegant scoundrel type. If you hear someone inviting your wife or daughter to play a game of "cour - tee - AIR", get them away from this handsomely-roguish (but unscrupulous) person post haste.

4. cour - TEER
This pronunciation cannot help but induce stifled laughter in those who hear it. If "COUR - tee -ay" is all high-brow pretension, "cour - TEER" is undiluted comedy (intended or otherwise). Normally, one would be tempted to question such a person's level of intelligence. However, in the case of Ryan Metzler, I am quite assured of his deliberate use of this variation for the purpose of irony. Well played.

5. COUR - tee - ur
Finally, we examine the most humble, yet tasteful, version of the word. Those who employ this pronunciation exude common sense and tact. Their levelheadedness and tireless devotion to upright culture marks them as the guiding lights of civilized society. Also, they happen to be correct, according to Merriam-Webster.

So there you have it. How do you pronounce Courtier?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Update and Games for Sale

Just a quick update on our Family Vacation Kickstater. We hit a small delay due to some family issues, but we should be back on track soon. In the meantime, there are a couple of interviews you might enjoy listening to.

I was featured on The Board Game Show with Scott Bogen. I was also a guest on The Little Metal Dog Show. Thanks to these great podcasts for letting me talk about my new game.

I also have three more games for sale on eBay, all in great condition:
Wits & Wagers - a duplicate copy (I'm not selling mine).
Pacific Theater of Operations by SPI - an unpunched copy I stumbled upon.
At the Gates of Loyang - I don't dislike this game, but it's just fiddly enough to stay off the table. And I don't have enough closet space for too many games that may not get played.

Thanks for giving them a look!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How Many Prototypes Does It Take?

How many iterations of your game do you have to make before it's finished? Probably quite a few. Here are some pics of Family Vacation over the last four years.


And this isn't even the final board! Still corrections to be made . . . Patience is the key!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Game Board Tutorial

I recently discovered a wonderful prototype construction tutorial by Ted Alspach. While game designers and crafters can definitely benefit from reading it, I feel like some people might come away with the idea that success can only be achieved through the use of fancy, expensive equipment. And Ted does acknowledge this point in his post, saying it took many years for him to assemble such a nice collection of gadgets and to perfect his technique.

In this tutorial, I'm going to walk you through how I make a professional-looking game board. See my previous box tutorial if you want to make a nice box for the board. You might also enjoy my Dominion box tutorial. This board is for a preview copy of Family Vacation, soon to be on Kickstarter.

Step 1: Cut out cardboard sections for the board. As mentioned before, I use coverstock from Gane Brothers. If your sections are not too big, you may be able to find left over cardboard from packaging or the backs of notepads. This will be a 6-fold board. You can make a 4-fold or even an 8-fold (I've done this when using some smaller, pre-cut sections). Just divide your total board size into the desired number of sections.

Step 2: Cut a strip of duct tape for the first hinge. Yes, I use duct tape--it works amazingly well. It's durable and easy to manipulate. The strip should be just shorter than the cardboard side. Then, cut the strip length-wise to make two equally-long pieces (one for the front and one for the back).

Step 3: Apply one of the pieces to the first hinge, folding it over the outside of the two board sections. This will allow the tape to fill the inside of the hinge.

Step 4: Flip the sections over and apply the second piece of tape. Be sure to squeeze the sections together snugly before applying the tape flat over the hinge.

Turn the section over and smooth out the tape on the back. Make sure it's in the groove. This will put all the weight of the hinge on two pieces of duct tape--not too shabby!

Step 5: Repeat this process for all the remaining hinges. If you're having trouble visualizing which way the hinges should bend, spend some time examining other boards and drawing a few diagrams.

Step 6: Lay the assembled board flat and trim your printed art. Okay, so I've cheated again. Besides having access to top-quality coverstock, I can also get color laser copies on 13x19 paper. If you don't have access to a nice laser printer (or $$$ for Kinkos), use what you have. Many of my boards are printed on my inkjet on regular 8.5x11. If you go this route, you might want to apply a layer of protective spray when you are finished, as any drops of liquid can be quite disastrous.

Because I'm using such large sheets of paper, I'll be adjusting things after they are applied. If you are using six individual sheets, simply trim them to size and follow along as applicable.

Step 7: Mark the midpoint of the board, if necessary. You'll want some kind of guide for placing the sheet after the glue has been applied.

Once you've figured out where your sheet will go (and verified that it fits correctly), apply some spray adhesive. This is a little messy and stinky, but it's effective and cheaper than Ted's fancy adhesive machine. I do this in the basement with plenty of allowance for overspray. I prefer 3M Super 77. It's got a nice hold but is also tacky enough to handle without it getting stuck to your fingers too badly.

Step 8: Apply the sheet to your board. Good thing you lined everything up beforehand! Smooth it out and flip it over. Make some cuts by the hinges as necessary. Make some cuts for the corners leaving enough to cover the tip of the corner. Add some extra glue, if necessary, and fold the sides onto the back of the board.

Step 9: You will probably need to make a few cuts to allow the board to fold properly. If so, be sure to use the sharpest blade possible--otherwise you'll have a ripped-up mess on your hands. Cut over the seam and gently fold the board to separate the paper. Use something to smooth the cut edges down into the seam. I also had to make a cut where the sections should not be connected. Again, smooth the cut edges into the seam.

Step 10: Repeat this process for all other sheets.

That's it! You're done. You might also want to apply a backing material to the back of the board. I only do this for special occasions, but it is nice. Make sure the board folds up and fits in your box. That wasn't so bad, was it?