Category Archives: board game

Boardgames in Blighty Kickstarter News – Darien Apocalypse designer notes from the Ragnar Bros

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Boardgames in Blighty Kickstarter News – Darien Apocalypse designer notes from the Ragnar Bros

It’s unusual to find real creativity and risk taking in the current board game industry, especially on kickstarter where there is a huge predominance of the “same old”. Quite frankly, I find little on kickstarter nowadays  that captures my attention. Thankfully there are a few indie publishers who really push the boundaries. One is Backspindle Games who I have had the privilege to work with. Another is the Ragnar Brothers who I have admired for quite some time and they have become friends.
As I’ve done before, I’ve published designer notes for their kickstarter projects and here is another of those posts for a game that I feel deserves your attention because it is quite interesting and let’s be honest, a risk for them as the theme is pretty obscure.
From the current project which you can find HERE, which has 17 days to go…
Scotland’s tragic attempt to found a New World colony; an extraordinary game experience. Can you defeat the Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

 

1698: The hopes of a nation set sail for the Isthmus of Panama. The Gulf of Darien promised much for the Kingdom of Scotland; independence from England and a chance to stand as equals with the great trading countries of Europe. However, the fate of this New Caledonia would be beset by famine, pestilence, war and death. In under 18 months this brave attempt to carve out a new frontier would end in disaster. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse turned their eyes to Darien and found it an affront to the order of nature. Mortal sinews and stamina would not prove sufficient to overcome the visitation of inhuman wrath and by early 1700 the only remnants of this outpost of humanity were overgrown graves and derelict huts. The Horseman had triumphed. 

Can you do better against infernal forces ? Can you build a thriving community that defies the Four Horsemen?

In this game for 1 – 4 players you will make that arduous journey to Darien and you will attempt to survive all that the Four Horsemen can send against you. Darien Apocalypse can be played cooperatively or competitively; succeed against the Horsemen with or in spite of your fellow adventurers – you choose. The fate of a nation rests in your hands!

If this doesn’t sound intriguing, I don’t know what does. Dang, you are trying to survive the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!

Here is a note from Stephen Kendall of the Ragnar Brothers and I have put a link to the designer notes below, and put up images from the project. Please check it out as you may not want to miss out on this one!
“The Design Notes you see eventually peter out (there’s only so much a man can do!) as yet more minor modifications felt significant and needed a mention. I think the overall gist is actually far more important so don’t intend tidying these up any further.  We’re still making improvements as the rules come together – always been the way with the Ragnar Bros.”
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Boardgames in Blighty News – PC Game inspired by classic tactical board war games, Burden of Command, is in development

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Boardgames in Blighty News – PC Game inspired by classic tactical board war games, Burden of Command, is in development

Sorry that I’ve been quiet for a while folks but to be honest, I haven’t seen much worth blogging about. Kickstarter, for the most part, continues to be the home of far too many unimaginative, derivative and “same old” stuff games and I find a lot of what’s on offer yawn inspiring.

Well, I’ve been awakened from my slumber by, dare I say it, a PC game (which I hope will be available on iOS.

From the press release…

Burden of Command:

A Word:  Leadership

A Phrase:  World War II tactical leadership RPG

An Experience:  You’re the Captain of a company of the fabled Cottonbalers, leading your men on and off the battlefield from Morocco to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. Fighting psychology as much as bullets, you must build respect, trust, and battlefield experience to bring your brothers safely home.

Chris Avellone: ““Burden of Command says it all in the name – it’s the first WW2 game I’ve ever experienced where the emotional struggle comes from the top and bleeds right down into the trenches.”

Alexis Kennedy: “The sweet spot for games with narrative is the place where writing meets design. Burden of Command plants its flag right at the heart of this sweet spot.”

Professor John McManus, Curator’s Distinguished Professor of US Military History: “Burden of Command is in a class by itself. I know of no other game that brings history to life with more accuracy and immediacy. Highest recommendation!”

The Team: We’re a small indie bringing unusual skills to bear. Avellone, Kennedy, and McManus act as senior advisors, As lead I draw on a PhD in Artificial Intelligence (Yale) and Masters in Neurophysiology and Psychology (Oxford) to engineer a psychological battlefield.  The team and playtesters include an extensive group of active and retired military as well as professional writers.

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What I am loving about this game is that loads of inspiration has come has come from some of my favourite tactical boardgames such as Ambush, Squad Leader, and Combat Commander.

Here is a link to the Development diary which is very interesting and a worthwhile read. War gamers should keep an eye on this one for sure!

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Boardgames in Blighty – Lessons and top tips from game designers about the design process

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Boardgames in Blighty – Lessons and top tips from game designers about the design process

So I asked board game designers (including some notable names who graciously responded…) to share their lessons learned and top tips about the game design process and here is what they said…

David J. Mortimer – Design within enforced constraints to drive creative solutions.

Gary Dicken of Ragnar Brothers – Think about solo play from the beginning, it will greatly help the multiplayer design process.

Jen Freeman – 1. Be open to ditching the mechanic you really like. 2. Writing rules down helps, you’ll often find ways to simplify the game.

Paul Grogan – 1. You cant please everyone all of the time. 2. Do independent testing and adjust based on feedback.

Jackson Pope – 1) Playtest, playtest, playtest 2) Not all playtest feedback is right, don’t let it take your game where you don’t want it to go.

Michelle Travis – 1. Complicated =/= complex. 2. Document the evolution of your game. ESPECIALLY why you made certain rules/design decisions. 🙂

Page West – 1. Don’t know if I fit here (yet) but I’m working on it!Anyway 1. Don’t force anything. Let it be natural, you’ll have a much better flow in it. 2.Make your own game. Don’t let playtesters do it for you. Try some things they suggest maybe. But don’t add it in every suggestion.

C. M. Perry – Rapid Prototyping & Iteration Testing are the heart of design. Finding & Developing the FUN for the target audience are its soul.

Manuel Correia – 1) Until you play it, it’s not a game. It’s an idea. 2) Listen to the playtester’s problems, but not their solutions.

Concrete Canoe Games – 1) Playing gives you more info than anything so get a proto to the table asap. 2) Your game is not your baby, be willing to listen.

Christopher M. Hamm – 1) What worked in early versions may not work now. 2) Warping your game for one thing means the thing is the problem.

Sarah Reed – 1. Playtest with designers – both your games & theirs. 2. Know your design goals & target audience from beginning, but be open to change

Tony Miller – 1. Graphic design matters when it comes to prototypes art does not 2. Playtest with a specific purpose in mind

Jon Moffat – 1. Be open to ditching a design 2. Players are horrible at suggesting fixes, but they’re great at breaking things

Iain McAllister – 1) your rulebook won’t be looked at by anyone but you for a long part of the design process 2) prototype early and often

Rob Harper – 1) A crappy prototype on the table is worth more than a week of thinking it out. 2) Listen to all feedback but don’t act on it immediately.

Tommy Girard – Don’t leave your idea as an idea. Get it into a hard copy as soon as you can. The longer it bounces around in your brain, the more you feel attached to it and afraid to break it. Have a bric a brac drawer full of game bits too. Very helpful for rapid prototyping. Also design a game for you and at least person will love it.

Carl Frodge – 1.Let your theme drive your design and let your design drive your theme. In other words, mechanics aren’t a game, I can come up with mechanics all day long and never come close to making a game out of them, the mechanics have to have meaning, they have to have a purpose and that purpose has to come from your theme. 
2. Know your theme. If you’re gonna design a game about pirates, you better do some research on pirates. If it’s about ballet, you better learn about ballet.
Bonus: Don’t write down every idea you have, if the idea is really good, you’ll remember it, if you don’t remember it, it wasn’t important for the design.

David Brashaw, Backspindle Games – Balance. Leave no man or woman behind…

Barnslig Park – 3 golden rules: Testing, testing, artwork

Michael Fox – Test, test, and test again. Then do some more testing! Ask the players to focus on one thing at a time that you really want to investigate. Also, don’t worry if something doesn’t work. It may not be right for the game you want to make, but it may be perfect for something else!

Ignacy Trzewiczek, Portal Games – I want too much. Sometimes less is more. Essence of experience is the northstar. I must learn a lot. I can do better.

Cohort VIII Games – 1) Don’t get lost in mechanics or the latest hotness; chase what’s fun for you. 2) If it’s in the way of the fun be able to give it the axe!

Benny Sperling – Some themes are a tough sell. Designing games is a joy, it should be fun-not a chore 😉

Mark Herman – Be true to your topic and it’s easy to start a design but a lot of hard work to publish a game.

Issac Shalev – My theory theory is inspiration only hits when you’re hungry, tired, or holding a baby. Seriously though, 1 – the playtest isn’t wrong, don’t ignore uncomfortable feedback. 2 – Be bold! Make things that excite you and move you! 1 – work with 2 – profit!!!

Chris Kirkman – Creation requires hard work & discipline, but don’t forget to have fun. 2) Sacrifice food, sleep, & whatever else when inspiration hits! food, sleep, & whatever else when inspiration hits!

Corey Young – 1) Don’t just design one game. 2) When you get stuck, put the game away for a month or two. Intentional procrastination, spurs new ideas.

Daniel Skjold Pedersen – 1) Look for & follow the core experience whatever it is. 2) If you want to make games for a living treat it as work w/ all implications. 

Dan Letiman – 1. Design something that you are passionate about (theme or mechanisms), it’ll be more fun that way! 2. Get it to the table early and often

Tony Boydell, Surprised Stare Games – 1. Take your time; it will be ready when it’s ready 2. You can NEVER playtest too much. Not EVER.

Tristan Hall – 1) pay close attention to informed, constructive criticism. 2) filter out entitled bullshit criticism. 3) carefully work out which is which!

TC Petty III – Start boring. If the game is boring & ends up being fun, you have gameplay. Throw out your 1st couple designs. Your next game will be better.

Brian Lelas – Perfect math is not a fun game. Balance is all well and good but difficult decisions are better. Fun comes from the experience, not the stuff making it all work in the background.
PLAYTEST A LOT.
Also, playtest by yourself first, multiple times – you will find all the stupid bullshit obvious stuff immediately within the first 10 mins of moving pieces about. Only when you’ve iterated on this a few times and are not seeing stuff you know are broken, move on to getting others to try the game. The more you can do to avoid comments like “ignore this” or “that’ll be different later” the less confusing a situation a playtest will be for others.

Giuliano Draguleano – My 2 cents…. tell a story. A nice story, maybe not unique (no such things since 3000 years ago), but something that gets the imagination juices flowing.

Byron Collins, Epic Wargames LLC – 1. Simplify. It’s hard to do. 2. Avoid kitchen sinking your design (see 1).

Robert Burke – 1. Don’t hesitate to kill your babies if playtests show positive results without them. 2. Make the game you want to make.

Bez – 1- whatever your desires/objectives are, keep them (and your target audience) in mind. That helps you filter out the conflicting feedback. 2- shut up during post-game discussion. Don’t defend choices, explain previous versions or (even worse) tell someone how they played badly.

Chris Urinko – 1) find other accomplished designers to give you real critical feedback. 2) Play games to broaden your knowledge.