Sequels Can Be Tricky

I’ve been working on a follow up to Tempus Imperium using the same time based setup. I think this is the first time I’ve tried to make a sequel to a game.

My first instinct was to try and take the mechanic in a very different direction. My first idea was a sci-fi escape game with no scoring, only a win or lose condition. But I quickly lost what worked about Tempus Imperium.

So I tried to not be too different but change up how things worked. Moving from the original empire building theme to a train game with stocks and route building.

The first few versions were very boring. At first I thought I had gone too different again. But then I remembered that Tempus Imperium’s early versions were very boring. They moved too slowly. Just like this does. So I think I might be on the right track.

I’m cutting the stock aspect for now and focusing more on the route building. Roads were a major part of Tempus Imperium, and in this train theme I’m thinking tracks will be even more central to the game.

The hard part is making the play restrictive enough that it is tense, but fast enough that the game isn’t tedious.

And I’ve had some ideas for the sci-fi game that might be a good next step for the format taking into account the disposable nature of a one sheet PnP write on game.

Scattered Thoughts

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me so I’ve been having trouble focusing on game design. It’s not that I haven’t been working on it, but when I can’t focus I move from topic to topic. So I’m getting a bit done on a few projects. And because this lack of focus extends to writing this blog I figured I’d just write about what I’m working on. 

First up, Comic Auction. This has been my focus a lot for the past few months. It was getting positive feedback from a lot of testing groups and I finally figured out a balance between a closed economy and letting a bit of new money in to give players a chance. It can still be very unforgiving if you misvalue things. But the play time is down to just under 30 minutes, so I’m ok with it being on the tough side. You usually need a game or two to understand how to properly value things in auction games. 

I think I was starting to lose interest in Comic Auction a bit, but then my friend Derek started helping with it. He had some comic art assets that he put together and did a nice layout for the comics. Actually having art, even if it isn’t final, really helps this game. It’s about collecting comics after all. So that has really revived my interest. He also came up with the bonus goals which add a nice level of complexity to the game. So it has become a co-design and it’s definitely better for it. 

Derek is also interested in working on Vanilla which I haven’t touched in months. So hopefully he can help breath new life into that. 

Next, Plutocracy. I used to talk about Plutocracy all the time. Then I stopped working on it. Pretty much right after I had The Game Crafter version made. It looks great, needs a few minor tweaks for legibility. But I stopped testing once I ordered the new version. And during that break I started working on other things so it hasn’t gotten much attention. 

I was kind of forced to bring it back out because it got into the curation process at the Boston Game Makers’ Guild. It involves a few levels of more intensive play testing. So I brought it to one meeting to refresh myself on it. Then brought it to its first intensive test. This was also the first 5 player test with this version. It went well. Several of the players had played earlier versions and liked how much smoother it played. It still has the issue of a slow start. But after the test I thought of a possible solution which I hope to have ready soon. 

Island Chain was getting a good amount of feedback from the PnP I shared. It even got on a Twitch show which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. But I haven’t played it in a while. I think because it has been working well there isn’t anything to fix yet. So I was more interested in other projects. 

Grab Bag is also in limbo with positive play tests but it’s still missing something. 

Tempus Imperium, which I wrote about last week has been taking up most of my design time. It’s a solo, single sheet, PnP game. So it has been really easy to prototype and test. I’ve been really wanting to release it for public testing. But even though the game plays well I am having a lot of trouble writing the rules. It’s very hard to explain in text only and making rules examples is slow. I tried recording a how to video, which is easier to explain, but I made a few mistakes and need to re-record it. So hopefully that is out soon. Maybe even this weekend. 

On top of all this I listened to the Board Game Design Lab about dexterity games today and it made me want to work on my old dexterity idea that I bought all the tools and wood to make, but never got around to. Think crokinole with magnets. Certainly a time consuming prototype. 

So lots of things to work on and very little focus to get any one of them done. I keep saying my schedule will clear up in July and I’ll get stuff done. But I’ve been saying that every few months for a couple of years now. Wish me luck. 

I Accidentally Designed a Solo Game

Last week I had a new game idea. That’s not uncommon, I usually come up with a few game ideas every week, but this was one of those ideas that sticks with you and you can’t help but start to design it, even before you write anything down.

The initial idea was a simple concept, a roll and write with no dice. And I don’t mean just using cards instead. The idea was that on each player’s turn they would just choose some of the available actions and every player would get to perform those actions. My thought was that having other people select what was best for their plan isn’t too different from the randomness of dice.

I decided on a civilization building theme for the game and players would work on filling a 10 by 10 grid with different buildings and roads.

While working on the first version I decided that it would be good to have a solo variant. Having a player just decide what to do and drawing a map didn’t seem like it would be any fun. So I needed some randomization element. Dice were tempting, but adding dice would be against the main concept of the game.

I decided to have a random set up of the board to make it a challenge. I just needed a way for a player to get a random 10 digit number without using dice. Then they would use that number to fill the board and have to play around the starting enemies and resources.

I decided to use the date and time as the random number. If you use two digits for each; month, day, year, hour, and minute gives you a 10 digit number. They would use this to determine the placement with one square filled in each column and then one filled in each row. So 20 of the 100 squares would be filled with target resources and enemies that would cause problems.

This is the version I first tested. Two things came out of it. The first is that the random setup was great and I decided to use it for the solo and multiplayer games. The second was that letting the player freely choose their actions was boring. There wasn’t any struggle. So I needed a way to randomize the player’s actions to give them a challenge. I already had a 10 digit “random” number, so I just assigned number ranges to each action and those determined the actions a player had and the order they used them in.

That was it. The game really came together. I gave up on any multiplayer game. It was now solo only. Originally I didn’t care what date and time format people used. But I realized standardizing the formatting let me get more accurate statistics of what a board setup could be and how likely certain actions would be. Over the last version I’ve refined how enemies work and now it seems to be working well.

I hope to get the rules written up soon and I’ll add a link here as well as share it on Twitter @BlueCubeBGs.

Edit: I still haven’t written the rules, but I made a How to Play Video. The print & play file and video are here.