Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Anatomy of a Card -Driven Wargame

Robotech: Reconstruction
Board Game Geek Designer Diary

I wrote a designer diary on Robotech: Reconstruction titled "Anatomy of a Card Driven Wargame." In particular I talk about the development of Robotech: Reconstruction's event cards and why science fictions games still can feel like historical games.

Board Game Geek Designer Diary

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Designer Advice- Helping Yourself by Helping Others

If you are reading this you are either a regular follower of Dr. Wictz or…OR…you are the purpose of today’s discussion.

Today I am talking about how the Button Shy Rookie series is a concrete example of applying Cardboard Edison lesson on how to help yourself in boardgaming by helping others.

I do not want to completely go over Cardboard Edison’s points, you can see them make those points at the link above.  Instead I am going to focus on how the Button Shy Rookie series helps me by helping others to hopefully inspire you to take on a similar style project.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Button Shy Rooke series, I wrote a series of posts on Board Game Designers whose first published game was released by Button Shy who also later had another boardgame released by a different publisher.  Each post connects something from each designer’s first publication to their most successful non Button Shy publication.

Despite the word order of the adage, the first step is to help others.  There are three key groups helped by the Button Shy Rookie Series.  Designers are getting publicity about their games.  In particular the series introduces fans of specific games to other games made by the same designer.  Because the series focuses on commonalities between games designed by the designer, the series nudges fans of a particular designer to consider if they are in fact a fan of the designer in general. 

Publishers benefit too, especially Button Shy.  The series introduces fans of Button Shy games to titles published by non-Button Shy publishers.  For Button Shy, the benefit is two fold.  First, the series introduces folks unfamiliar to Button Shy to the company’s games.  Second, the series provides a way for current fans of Button Shy games to further explore in-depth the Button Shy Universe they love.  The series may even introduce Button Shy fans to new Button Shy titles they wish to try out.

That last part makes clear who is the third group that is helped out by the Button Shy Rookie series, boardgame players.  The series provides boardgame players with a greater understanding of the connections to the games they love.  Be it a particular title, designer, or publisher.

How does the Button Shy Rookie series help me?  Remember, the key lesson I want you to take away is Cardboard Edison’s advice on how you can help yourself by helping others.  There is the oblivious, some of you are reading a Dr. Wictz blog post for the first time because you saw the reference to this post in the Button Shy Rookie series.  A careful scan of the series will also turn up something else, Dr. Wictz is a Button Shy Rookie.  Creating the series enables me to promote my own games, You Fool and Robotech: Reconstruction.  By writing about other designers, I attract a larger audience to my games than if I just wrote about myself.

While a project like the Button Shy Rookie series takes a ton of work, I started working on it in February 2022, it has the benefit that I  know the project will get published.  Robotech: Reconstruction just hit retail at the end of 2022.  I cannot guarantee any boardgame media will cover the game, but by creating my own media content, I insure there is at least some coverage.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Cutting Through the Noise - Matching Boardgame Creators with Content Creators

Content creators want board game creators or publishers that fit their interests and goals on their shows, podcasts, and blogs. Board game creators are looking to spread word about their work. 

So finding a good match is easy, right?  Right???????

No. There is too much noise and too much unknowns that make it hard for content creators and board game creators to match up with each other. 

For the content creators they have to sort through all the noise stemming from the thousands of board game releases each year.  There is no way a single content creator can be aware of every new game that is coming out. Content creators have limited time and knowledge, preventing them from being omniscient about all the new releases.

But do not despair, there are ways content creators can make it easier for the right sort of boardgame creators to find you.  The key is taking steps to make it easier for board game creators to get the knowledge they needed to figure out if they should be reaching out to you.  

Just like content creators, boardgame creators face lots of noise to identify which content creators might legitimately be interested in the boardgame they are making. For boardgame creators, the challenge is that there is no reliable list of all content creators.  Plus the sheer number of content creators make it unrealistic for a board game creator to listen to every show or read ever article to figure out which content creators are a good match. 

So here is a quick list, with examples from my work spreading news about my game, Robotech: Reconstruction.

1. Thematic Match of Game 
2. Game Style Match 
3. Content Creators Format Match 
4. Personal Interest of Content Creators 
5. Content Creators Networks

Thematic Matches of Game

Thematic Matches are boardgame themes that match themes a content creator wants to regularly cover. Creating content with explicit titles about those themes makes it much easier for me to find you and reach out.

Because there is not a uniform list of all content creators, one of the ways I discover is a google or YouTube search where I search for the theme of my boardgame and then I add the word board game to the search.  

For example, my game Robotech: Reconstruction is set in the Robotech Anmie. When I did a Google search for Robotech boardgame reviews, I came across this great video from DiasExMachina where he explores the history of Robotech boardgames.

DiasExMachina is clearly passionate about Robotech Boardgames. After I reached out to him we quickly arranged an opportunity for me to show him the game. And afterwards, he kindly decided to do a preview of Robotech: Reconstruction.

Game Style Match

Game Style Matches are finding board games that match the type (mechanically speaking) that interest the content creator. Similar to matching themes, the ability to match styles of games is easier when content creators create content with titles that highlight the style of game itself or cover multiple games with the same style.

My game Robotech Reconstruction's design is inspired by GMT'S #COIN system. So when I looked for content creators with an interest in COIN games, I came across The Player's Aid's video Ranking COIN Volumes 1-VIII

Bonus, when I watched the video I learned The Player's Aid were particularly interested in playing a Sci-Fi COIN style boardgame. Again, when I reached out they generously took a look at the game and covered it. Which is when I learned Grant is a big Robotech fan.

Content Creator's Format Match

Content Creator's Format Match is when something I do as a designer fits into the larger purpose of the creators content. Be it talking about game design on a design content or talking about teaching with boardgames on a content creator focus on education and boardgames.

Having a tile or a clear about me section on your webpage  makes it much easier to identify you and reach out. Take the podcast Board Gaming with Education, the tile by itself makes it clear what is the podcast's focus. Or look at the tag line on the front page of the Who What Why podcast where it clearly states the podcast is "about topics in game design featuring the man people who come together to make games possible. 

Since I already write a blog on advice for boardgame designers (duhh, you are reading it right now), it made sense to reach out to the Who What Why Podcast to discus my writing on Point Salad vs Point Journey.  One, it fits the format of the show and two, it allows me to also talk about Robotech: Reconstruction since the game fits in my Point Salad vs Point Journey pardamine.

Personal Interest of Content Creators

Personal Interest of Content Creators is harder to identify. The interest may not be apparent from your content, especially when not the main topic of an episode. Show notes, even if just a minimum listing of things you talked about, alerts me to see if we are a good match.

Board Again Games had a show note that listed Liberty or Death in their Dr. Patrick Real Episode. I listened and discovered that one of the hosts enjoy playing COIN games even though they do not get to play them too often.

So when I reached out about my COIN inspired boardgame Robotech: Reconstruction they kindly welcomed me as a guest.

Show notes are helpful, but not the only place where you can stumble across a mutual interests.  Public Social Media, Twitter for example, is searchable, and if a content creator takes the time to say, "I want to try out your game Robotech: Reconstruction" on social media, then there is a real possibility the publisher or designer will find you.

Content Creators Network 

Content Creators Network is a way content creators can help matchup designers to interested content creators. The idea is for a network of content creators to hang out in a single place where designers show up and someone can quickly let the designer know who to talk to

The network has to be large enough to cover a variety of things, but not so large that a single person is unable to direct you to who you should talk to. A great example is the discord for Geek to Geek Media . When I sought them out @CraftingRogue quickly answered my questions and introduced me to the content creators who were interested in Robotech.

The end result was getting to teach and play Robotech Reconstruction with the hosts of the Nerdberg Review, and one of their spouses who is a big Robotech fan.  Afterwards they put together an episode describing their experience playing the game.

Help Me Help You

In essence these are things that you, content creators, can do to help me help you.  I do not want to waste your time.  I do not want to pester you.  I want to identify who legitimately is interested in what I am cerating as a board game designer before I even reach out to you to limit the spam coming in your email boxes/twitter feeds/discord channels, etc.  

Something I want to make clear is that things you write down are easier for me to find since I can use various search engines to find it.  Show notes, even if the notes are just a list of board game covered in an episode, dramatically makes it easier for me to find you.  Episodes with titles that include key words that reference to a larger trend, be it a mechanic, theme, or game, also are searchable, making it easier to find.  Even having a written about section where you define what your project is all about is much easier for me to digest because I maynot be able to clearly identify the video or episode where you defined yourself.

And in the end, when it works out, we get to enjoy creating content together that you want to create that may not happen if I cannot find you.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Talked Victory Point Journey vs Point Salad on Who, What, Why Podcast

On the Who, What, Why Podcast Episode: What's the Point with Dr. Wictz I dive into the impact Point Journey and Point Salads have on player experience in Boardgames. 

Highlights includes how certain games, like Robotech: Reconstruction combines Point Salad and Point Journey.  Where does Burgle Bros fit into the Point Salad and Point Journey dichotomy.  And why Point Journey is a better description then calling something a Race game.   

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Victory Point Architecture: Oversimplified Point Salad vs Point Journey

There are stereotypes of what experiences take place within a Point Salad and a Point Journey.  Neither of these victory point architectures have to meet their stereotypes, but certain design decisions within either framework increases the likelihood the games will match their stereotypes.

Point Salads and Point Journeys have natural flavors that alter players experience.   A stereotypical Point Salad, say Agricola, gives players freedom to build in their sandbox a series of decisions to maximize your points.  The interesting part of that statement is not point maximization, but sandbox.  I am building my own world in the way I want to view it. That means I am making my own special brew in VivaJava, neutering my bird sanctuary in Wingspan, and running my brewery my way in Brew Crafters.  

Points award me for what I build, but at the end of the day, what I construct drives my enjoyment of the game.  In any building point salad, say Suburbia, Chinatown, or Tiny Towns, joy is found in whatever you are able to construct.

Point Salads lend themselves well to games where you really want players to feel like they created something.

Having an open ended point salad with many ways to score points lends to the feeling of building something.  That experience is magnified by the popularity of building themes within Point Salads.  

Point Journey lends well to narrative experiences where there is a start and an end.

Chess is all about the struggle players undertake to capture each other's Kings.  Formula D is a journey where you race to be first.

What Design Choices Contributes to Stereotype

Point Salad: More Freedom, More Options, More Custom Sandbox. 

The more legitimate options provided for players in a Point Salad, the more players will have the opportunity to create their own custom world.  Imagine playing New Bedford without the town building element.  New Bedford is a town building and whaling game, where players can invest in expanding the town or in their whaling expeditions.  When players expand the town, they receive ownership for their particular part of town.  To expand the town, players must collect the resources required to build a particular building.  Each building added is unique, and will add a different character to the overall town.  Removing the ability to legitimately win by adding on to the town, dampens players ability to create a custom world where the player feels they are contributing to the development of New Bedford. 

The creative space in Point Salads can be enriched with game expansions.  More legitimate paths an expansion creates, the more a player can customize their own custom world.  Terraforming Mars base game begins with 208 cards representing a project the player’s company can undertake. The projects the players choose to undertake, and the timing of their projects enables them to create their own custom version of Mars.  The Terraforming Mars expansions broaden the possible ways for players to create their own custom world.  Now, players can not only choose to Terraform Mars, but also affect the colonization of other planets, interplanetary shipping, and the outcome of solar system’s politics.

Ironically, Point Salades can also create different flavors each game by limiting your ingredients. Beginning each game with a different subset of options allows players to experiment with combinations that may be lost if all everything was available.  The Quacks of Quedlinburg limits the types of ingredients available each game to all players, quak doctors, to make their custom brew.  Working around this limitation results in players exploring custom combinations that would not exist if all ingredients were available every game.  Similarly, Dominion creates a different flavor each time you play by varying which card types are being used each game.  The limitation encourages players to explore different card combinations since the relative effectiveness of card combinations is alter, a different flavor I will say, because of what other cards are or not available.

Point Journey: Detail Narratives or Clear Overarching Narratives

Providing players with Detail Narratives or a Clear Overarching Narrative enhances player connections to the Narrative experience in a Point Journey.  Each location in Arkham Horror draws a location encounter that weaves a narrative to that moment, at that location, in the overall story of the game.  Players do not need to create the narrative when a detailed Narrative is provided, they just have to embrace the story they are experiencing from the game as the game tells them the story.

Point Journeys that rely on Clear Overarching Narratives use the clear objective of the Journey to propel players to create their own narratives as they seek to fulfill their predestined purpose.  Pandemic makes it clear, you are on a mission to save the world from a series of deadly diseases.  When players see an outbreak spread across North America, the players create a story about the gravity of the situation and how they will respond.

When a Clear Overarching Narrative is missing, it becomes harder for players to create narratives as they play.  Compare Checkers with Chess.  Both are Point Journeys where a player wins under very specific conditions.  Yet in Chess, I have the goal of capturing a King, with pieces based on positions that existed in real life.  That means my pieces can have personality, a story.  In checkers, there is no Clear Overarching Narrative.  I win if I take all of your pieces.  The pieces are not mystical bears fighting wise but overconfident unicorns.  There is no accomplishment of destroying my opponent’s Kingdom at the end of the game.  Just a piece on the board, and then a piece off the board. No story to help lean players into the natural tendency to develop a narrative as they undertake a Point Journey.   

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Victory Point Architecture: Building a Point Salad or a Point Journey

Victory points are integrally tied to the end of a game. They can be used in two different ways that shape the entire experience of the game. Either as a Point Salad, where victory points measure performance during a period of play, like in a Soccer game. Or as a Point Journey, where victory points is the measurement that ends the game, like a tennis match.

Salads can be delicious or pungent.  Journeys can be a joy or a toil.  The question is not whether I enjoy Point Salads or Point Journeys, but do I understand what they even are and the implications these different victory point architectures have on a player's gaming experience.

Winning a Point Salad is not decided by being the first player to achieve a particular outcome. Instead, players are trying to pile on as many victory points as possible before the game ends. The game will end.  Be it in a certain amount of time, or rounds, or when some other in-game threshold is reached. The threshold can be a depletion of an in-game resource, or a resource accumulated by the players. The threshold can even be the amount of victory points, but once that is reached, players can accumulate more. After the game ends, players then compare their victory points to declare a winner.

Winning or losing a Point Journey happens immediately when a Victory Point condition is achieved. The condition can vary as simple as being the first player to 5 victory points, to being the first car to pass the finish line in a race.  The key is that once a victory condition is achieved players are clearly crowned as either winners or losers. If I am the player who defeats the last monster, I win, end of story. That does not mean there has to be a single victory point condition that defines the game.  In the same game everyone can lose if a critical system runs out of power, or when the capital is captured by aliens, and one player can win if they control eleven cities.

Monopoly is a Point Journey. When played by the official rules the goal is not the accumulation of most money over one's opponents. But that money helps you with your true goal, the bankruptcy of all the other players in the game. Once that happens it does not matter if all but one of your properties are mortgaged and you have $1 on hand, you’ve won.

Scythe is a Point Salad. During play players are trying to complete 6 of 10 goals. But while this feels like a journey game, after the goals are complete players then need to convert star tokens, territories, and resources into victory points (money) to determine the winner. And while the player who completed 6 goals first is usually the winner, if it were a true journey game there would be no need for the second step of seeing who has the most money at the end of the game.

Do not assume all games are either Point Salads or Point Journeys, there are hybrid games where the game can end as a Point Salad or as a Point Journey. In boxing either someone wins by knocking out their opponent, or if there is no knockout, by seeing which boxer has the most points after time runs out   Hybrid game designs are not limited to sports, 7 Wonders Duel is a hybrid system. In 7 Wonders the game will crown an instant winner if one player archives a scientific supremacy or a military supremacy; otherwise,  after completion of the three ages points are tallied and the player with the highest Victory Points wins a “Civilian” victory.

So now we are clear on what is a Point Salad versus a Point Journey, we can explore in the next Victory Point Architecture lecture the way each victory point system affects the player experience.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Robotech & Diplomacy's Influence on Designing - Robotech: Reconstruction

In a conversation with Board Again Games, I talk about how Robotech, Diplomacy, and my game design philosophy of players playing players impacted the design of my board game Robotech: Reconstruction coming from Strange Machine Games.