Storybook Battles – A Random Game of War in Three Acts

Posted on November 19, 2015 By


Since it worked out so well last time, I decided to give the Ludemic Game Generator another try for this week’s random game. It gave me a rather head-scratching combination of elements:

Categories: Industry / Manufacturing, Fantasy.
Mechanics: Hex-and-Counter, Storytelling.

What’s that? A storytelling fantasy manufacturing game powered by that old standby of war board games, hexes and counters? That is a challenge.

My first thought was a war game with a storytelling aspect to drive the scenarios; sort of a cross between Squad Leader and Once Upon a Time

…But that felt a little obvious.

My second was to eschew the war game aspect altogether and use the hex-and-counter mechanic to abstractly represent the elements of a story. Different hexes would be different scenes in the story, and the counters represent the characters. Players compete to tell “their” story by moving the characters into the right place in the story…

…But I suspected that something so unintuitive would take more time that I could afford to get it right.

So I’m going with my third idea. It’s a war game with fantasy / fairy tale theme, but the flow of the game is based on the structure of a story, with a defined beginning, a middle, and end. The scenario tells the players how the story begins, but it’s up to the players’ tactical play to tell the rest of the story.

Storybook Battles is a scenario-based war game for two players. But unlike most games in this genre, what actions you can take is determined by where you are in the game. In this way, the game encourages players to make more dramatic, interesting moves in order to tell a dramatic, interesting story.


  • Game Board: The game board represents the battlefield where the battle is waged. It’s divided into hexes, and each hex has a type of terrain (forest, plains, mountains, etc.). Some hexes contain castles, villages, and other landmarks as determined by the scenario.
  • Unit Counters: Each unit counter has three stats and some number of icons. The stats are Attack, Defense, and Life. The icons have no inherent effect, but allow the unit to be targeted by action cards.
  • Action Cards: There are three decks of action cards, one for each act. In order to play a card, you must pay its action cost. You can only play a card during its designated act. Most cards are discarded as soon as you play them.
  • Action Counters: These are used to track how many actions you’ve spent this round.

Playing the Game

At the start of the game, set up the board according to the scenario, which tells you what units are on the board, what units are in your reserve, and who goes first.

At the start of the round, each player draws a card and gets a number of action counters determined by the current act:

  • Act One: 3 action counters
  • Act Two: 5 action counters
  • Act Three: 8 action counters

On your turn, you may do one of the following:

  • Move: Spend 1 action counter to move any number of your units from one hex into an adjacent hex. A unit can only move once per round.
  • Recruit: Put a unit into play from your reserve by spending a number of action counters equal to the number of icons it has. Put that unit into a hex you control.
  • Play a Card: Spend a number of action counters equal to the card’s cost. Play it, resolve it, and discard it.
  • Special Actions: Scenarios may have special actions you can take, such as “Build a Tower” or “Dig for Treasure” that cost action counters.

Players alternate turns until both players are out of action counters. At that point, the role of first player rotates and a new round begins.



At the end of the round, if both players have units in the same space, those units battle in a series of battle rounds. During each battle round, the players alternate attacking until all units have attacked.

To attack, choose any number of your units in that hex to be the attackers and one enemy unit to be the defender. If your units’ total Attack is equal to or greater than the defender’s Defense, the defender takes a wound. If the number of wounds it has is at least equal to its Life, the unit is destroyed. After you attack, your opponent attacks.

Each unit can only attack once per battle round. When all units have attacked once, the battle round is over. If both players still have units in the same hex, a new battle round begins. If not, the battle is over.

Act Breaks

story_battles_counter_02The scenario dictates when one act ends and the next one begins.

For example, a scenario may say, “When the Dark Lord player controls seven forest hexes, or the High King player has destroyed 10 enemy units, Act Two begins.”

The scenario also determines any act-based rules changes. For instance, sticking with story structure, I can see a rule where you can’t recruit any new protagonists in the third act.

Game End and Winning

The game ends inside the third act, when the scenario’s victory conditions are met. Each side has its own victory conditions which are mutually exclusive.

Analysis: Game Design Challenges

  • I’m Too Hexy for my Act: I haven’t played many hex-and-counter war games, so I suspect there are a lot of conventions that I’m totally missing in this design. That might be okay, but I fear that the rules are too complicated for those more interested in the storytelling aspect of the game and too unusual to appeal to the war gamers. Further research is needed.
  • Shakespearean Scenarios: For exciting, story-like games, the scenarios are ideally asymmetrical yet balanced, while offering a dramatic framework that leaves room for players to create their own stories. That seems tricky. Awesome if I can pull it off, but definitely a challenge.
  • Diceless Madness: The lack of dice might make things easier (you don’t have to take probabilities into account) but such pure strategy might just as easily lead to analysis paralysis.

Analysis: High Points

  • Escalation is Good: Trading card games usually have escalation built into their economies, and board games typically get there too (if more indirectly), but I don’t know off-hand of any war games with this kind of automatic escalation. (I’m sure they’re out there, but I don’t know them.)
  • A Storytelling War Game?: This is an unusual mixture of mechanics and theme. If I can get it to work, I think its uniqueness can be a real selling point.
  • IP Potential: The storytelling aspect lends itself to a game that emphasizes unique characters. You’re not just moving a unit with a crown and a horse icon, you’re activating Princess Zaya, captain of the Crimson Cavalry. As someone who loves world-building, this is obviously something that appeals to me. Also, this aspect can be adapted to licensed worlds as well. Maybe it’s not Princess Zaya, but Daenerys Targaryen, or Arwen, or Princess Leia on a speederbike.

Here I thought Road Ragers was ambitious. This thing is a beast. I don’t know what the random generators will give me next, but I suspect I’ll be keeping it a bit simpler than this.


Game Design     , , ,

Release the Magic!

Posted on November 17, 2015 By


This week features the release of High Magic, the latest expansion for the My Little Pony CCG. We focused this set on the most powerful magic-users in Equestria, along with the spells and artifacts that made them famous. (So yes, for those of you who are wondering, there is a healthy amount of Trixie in this set, as well Discord and the Power Ponies.)

Mechanically, the set introduces new keywords, new dual-color combinations, and our first token cards. It’s fun, exciting stuff, and I hope you have as much fun playing with the cards as we did designing them.

Blatant Self-PromotionMy LIttle Pony CCG     , ,

Words Words Words

Posted on November 13, 2015 By


Since I committed to doing NaNoWriMo this month, I’ve been obsessed with words.

How many words have I written today? How many are in this scene? How many have I spent on blog posts and emails and grocery lists that could have been going towards the 50 thousand I need to complete this novel?

I’ve also picked up some words of wisdom.

When I complained that I wasn’t being as productive as I’d planned, my associates passed along these words:

  • “Who cares? It’s your crappy first draft. Just get it done,” and
  • “Forget about yesterday. Just do your words for today,” and
  • “Shut up and write.”

Okay, that last one is mine. But it’s something I often tell myself when I start worrying if the words are any good, or if there will be enough of them, or if this crappy first draft will end up sitting next to the two previous such efforts on my hard drive, unloved and unedited.

Worrying gets you nowhere. But words can take you anywhere.

FictionGhost PunchersWriting     , , , ,

Road Ragers – A Random Game of Vehicular Mayhem

Posted on November 4, 2015 By


For this week’s random game, I decided to shake things up a bit this time by skipping the ever-reliable Boardgamizer and checking out the Ludemic Game Generator for some random game ideas instead. Here’s what it gave me:

Categories: Real-time, Racing
Mechanics: Area-Impulse, Rock-Paper-Scissors, Area Movement

Since the movement mechanics are traditional wargame mechanics, I’m thinking this won’t be bloodless racing game. In fact, I’m think this will be a simplified (per the proscribed R-P-S) “road warriors” type game in the vein of Car Wars or Wreckage (or even the classic Thunder Road). Yeah. I think this can work.

Each player controls three vehicles: a motorcycle, a car, and a truck. The first player to get all three of his or her vehicles through the rally points wins. The tricky part is that the rally points are on a rugged cross-country course without any real roads. That, and the vehicles can run into and damage each other.


  • Game Board: The board represents the race course and is divided into connected spaces of various sizes. Some spaces are blocking (you crash if you run into them), rough (reduce movement if you move into them), or have other effects. (I like the idea of a “chasm” space that kills any vehicle that drives into it, but that might be a bit much.) Some spaces contain rally points; when one of your vehicles enters a rally point space, put that point’s rally counter on that vehicle’s control sheet to record that it’s successfully reach that spot. (Rally points might be printed on the board, or they might be counters that are placed on the board at the start of the game based on what scenario you’re playing.)
  • Vehicle Control Sheets: Each of your vehicles has one of these sheets to record its stats and abilities, such as:
    • Acceleration: How much your vehicle can speed up or slow down each turn.
    • Max Speed: The most the vehicle can move.
    • Current Speed: The vehicle’s current speed.
    • Damage Capacity: How much damage it takes to destroy the vehicle.
    • Special Ability: This is a unique thing your vehicle can do when you give it the proper order, like move twice, reverse course, or ram the vehicle in front of it. (Vehicles might have passive special abilities too, if the stats by themselves aren’t enough to otherwise differentiate them.)
  • Damage Counters: Stick these on your vehicle sheets to show how much damage they’ve taken.
  • Vehicle Counters: These counters represent your three vehicles on the board. They could be miniatures, of course. They have a “facing” so you can tell which direction they are moving; it matters which edge is “front.”
  • Command Counters: These counters are how we handle the “real-time” aspect of the game. Each player has his or her own set of counters, and each counter has a bit of information on it:
    • Command: This command is either Move Left, Move Right, Adjust Speed, or Activate Special.
    • Initiative: This number tells you when the vehicle will execute the command.



Playing the Game

As the start of the game, randomly choose a first player. Everyone then places their vehicles on the board according to some rules I haven’t made up yet that ensure a fair start and fun gameplay.

At the start of a round, choose one command counter for each of your vehicles. Place that counter face-down next to its vehicle on the board. No two of your vehicles can have counters with the same initiative.

When all vehicles have command counters, reveal the command counters.

Resolving Commands

Starting with the first player, each player takes a turn resolving one of his or her command counters. On your turn, you must choose your command counter with the highest initiative. (So you must resolve your “3” before you can resolve your “2” or “1.”)

Resolving a command depends on the command:

  • Turn (Left or Right): Rotate your vehicle up to 90 degrees to the left or right, as the command dictates.
  • Adjust Speed: Increase or decrease your vehicle’s speed up to a number of units equal to that vehicle’s Acceleration stat, but no lower than 0 and no higher than its Max Speed.
  • Activate Special: Use the vehicle’s special ability, as listed on its control sheet.


Move Vehicles

After you resolve a vehicle’s command counter, you must move that vehicle forward a number of spaces equal its current speed.

Because the spaces are various shapes and sizes, you may be able to move “forward” into multiple spaces. That’s fine; just pick one.

If the only way forward is into blocking terrain, the vehicle takes 1 damage, “bounces” back out of that space, and stops.

When you’re done dealing with a vehicle, pick up its command counter.

End of Round

When there are no more command counters on the board, the round is over. The role of first player rotates to the right and a new round begins.


If your vehicle moves into a space that’s occupied by another vehicle, it has a collision. Collisions are resolved depending on what types of vehicles are colliding:

  • Truck vs. Car: Car takes 1 damage from being rammed by the heavier vehicle.
  • Car vs. Motorcycle: Motorcycle takes 1 damage from being rammed by the heavier vehicle.
  • Motorcycle vs. Truck: Truck takes 1 damage from nimble motorcyclist with a submachine gun.
  • Mirror Match: If a vehicle collides with another vehicle of the same type, neither vehicle takes damage, but the non-active vehicle (the “collidee” if you will) is bumped into the next space over.

Yes, this is the rock-paper-scissors aspect of the game. Realistic? Not at all. But it’s fast and somewhat strategic.

Game End and Winning

When you have a rally counter from each rally point on each of your vehicles, you win!

Analysis: Game Design Challenges

  • Space Race: You’ll note there’s no mockup for the board with this post. I started to sketch something up and realized that if I wanted to do it right, it was going to take way more time than I could afford to spend on a blog post. If I got it wrong, I could see the game crashing to a halt as players try to figure out vehicle turns and movement in irregular spaces.
  • Simply Too Simple: While maneuvering on the board feels like it could be cumbersome, the rest of the game feels like it might not offer sufficient depth. Are three initiative levels sufficient? Do you have enough meaningful choices with just four commands? Are vehicle collisions too simple to be fun? Since these are pretty subjective issues, there’s no way to know without testing.
  • Moar Carrrzz PLZ!: With the simplicity of the system, you could probably have more vehicles on the board. But I’d rather see if it works with three before raising the count to six or 12.

Analysis: High Points

  • RPS Combat: I really like the speed and simplicity of the rock-paper-scissors combat. It puts the emphasis on the tactical planning side of the game, and keeps the actual combat resolution quick and clean.
  • Rally Counters: It’s a simple thing, but I like the system of rally points and counters. I’m sure it’s been done before, but I haven’t seen it, and it captures the feel of a race without forcing players to drive around a looping track.
  • Or Maybe Simple Enough: I do like the basic simplicity of the game. If playtesting shows that there are chunks of complexity, it might be worth simplifying those aspects in order to make the whole game 30 percent more “beer and pretzels.” Because while the market has had plenty of vehicular combat games, none of them are particularly fast-playing.

Well, this is probably the most ambitious of the random games so far. Maybe next week I’ll do a tic-tac-toe variant. Guess we’ll see what the fates have in store.

Game Design     , , ,

Punching November Right in the Ghost

Posted on October 28, 2015 By


Fine. At first I was all, “Oh, I forgot how much I love writing fiction,” and November was like, “Hey, it’s National Novel Writing Month, you want to whip out a short, bad novel?” and then my ever-sagacious wife said, “You should write something about Ghost Punchers,” and so fine — fine — I’ll write a Ghost Punchers novel for NaNoWriMo.

It probably won’t be called To Punch a Mockingbird.

It probably won’t be called Gone With the Ghost, Pride and Punching, or Are You There, Ghost? It’s Me, Punching either, but I’m holding onto these gems just in case.

Because you know what’s even better than RPG tie-in fiction? Tie-in fiction for an RPG that isn’t even finished yet.

FictionGhost PunchersWriting     , , , ,

A Drabble of Fiction for your Kindle

Posted on October 26, 2015 By


As I mentioned earlier this month, one of my ridiculously short stories was accepted for publication in an upcoming anthology from Indie Authors Press. And now, as I promised then, I’m posting a link to where you can buy your own copy of  Spooky Halloween Drabbles 2015 on Amazon.

One item I neglected to mention before is that I’m not the only Hardy who has contributed to this bad boy. My eldest daughter, who’s quite the writer in her own right, has a creepy little story in there as well. (Why yes, I am quite proud.)

If you like spooky stories, check it out. With almost 100 different slices of micro-horror, you’re sure to find something to chill your spine, tickle your funny bone, or otherwise massage your metaphor.

Blatant Self-PromotionFictionWriting     , , , ,

Wordsmith – A Random Game of Making Sentences from Nonsense

Posted on October 19, 2015 By


This is a new one. I was ready to write up this week’s random game when inspiration struck, twisting the whole gameplay idea on its ear like some sort of judo master. So I’ll have to ask you to cut me some slack if the game seems even less coherent than usual; I’m literally making it up as I go along as I follow my black-belted muse across the dojo.

The game is Wordsmith. Its random game idea came from Boardgamizer, which gave me this pile of awesome to work with:

Mechanics: Word Game

Theme: Superheroes, England

Victory: Place All Your Pieces

The title came from Kevin Wilson, a brilliant game designer who took 30 seconds out of his day to give a name to this little experiment. So if his new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles board game is 30 seconds less amazing than it could have otherwise been, you can blame me.


First of all, that theme has got to go. Not only did I already do superheroes, but “England” doesn’t really work as a theme for word game. Actually, virtually no themes do—word games are, by their nature, abstract. So let’s just ignore the “theme” element for now and get back to it later.

Now, as for the game itself: Everyone has a hand of cards with words on them. Players take turns playing cards in order to add their words onto sentences on the table. The first player to play his or her last card wins.


The only components are cards. Each card has a word on it. Some cards might have multiple words (like “his/her/their” or “a/an”) so we don’t need to fill up the deck with variations.

  • Cards are color-coded by parts of speech, so all the nouns are one color, all the verbs another, wordsmith_cardsetc. (I don’t know if it’s strictly necessary, but it appeals to my control freak sense.)
  • Some cards have special icons on them when are triggered either when you play them, or when you play on them. For example, if a card has a black dot on it, it means that when you play it, you can immediately play another card from your hand. Or if it has a diamond, it means that when you play it, you can play another card to start a new sentence. Or if it has a star, you can make an opponent draw a card.
  • Some cards might be worth more points than others, a la letters in Scrabble. If that’s the case, then you’ll probably need some sort of score-tracker, if only a pencil and paper.

Playing the Game

At the start of the game, lay out a number of random cards equal to the number of players. These are the seeds of the sentences.

On your turn, you can play a card next to a card in play to add onto the sentence. You may play it at the front or the end of the sentence.

If there is no grammatically legal place for you to play a card, you must draw a card.

If you play your last card, you win!

Game End and Winning

I repeat: If you play your last card, you win!

Seriously, though, I suspect the game would be better with points scored through strategic play, and being the first one to go out merely scores you some bonus points. But for the sake of this exercise (which requires victory to go to the one who plays all his or her pieces), and because I’m still following the judo-chopping muse, let’s leave it for now.

Analysis: Game Design Challenges

  • Victory Points: Winning by being the first one to play the last card seems like it could result in short, unsatisfying games. Even if they’re long enough, it could be anticlimactic. If this is the case, we can add point values to the cards so that there are interesting choices about how to play cards to score the most points.
  • Enough Words: It would be challenging to find the proper mix of fun, unique words and boring-but-necessary words like “is” and “that.” We can cheat by putting multiple words on a single card, but still, it might be tricky.
  • Grammar Police: Unlike most word games, in which all you have to do is spell a word (and you can check your work with any dictionary), this game requires you to write grammatically correct sentences. While it shouldn’t be that hard, some players may (a) fear the grammar, or (b) have trouble with the grammar. Problem (a) is mostly a marketing issues, and we can mitigate (b) by what words we choose to include, but they remain challenges all the same.

Analysis: High Points

  • Familiarity: Since the game can be described as “magnetic poetry meets Scrabble,” players can grok it almost immediately.
  • Party Game: By making the words fun and silly, we can hit that Apples to Apples sweet spot where much of the fun of the game comes from the amusing combinations that players come up with.
  • Superheroes After All: While word games are, as I mentioned earlier, abstract by default, I think you could actually give this one any number of different themes just by changing the words. For instance, you could replace the standard nouns and verbs with the names of superheroes and words like “blast” and “punch” and “save.” Or for fantasy fair, swap in “knights” and “wizards” who “slay” and “summon.”

And just like that, the muse is gone. Looking back at the fallen warriors she’s left moaning in her wake, I think this is a game I can work with—and that theming it might actually be a fun place to start. If you think you’d be interested in seeing such a thing, let me know in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Game Design     , , ,

Wiretap – A Random Game of Connections, Espionage, and Betrayal

Posted on October 9, 2015 By


Another week brings us another random game! Again, for those of you just joining us, these random games are little more than pitches. They’ve never been played and may in fact be shockingly unplayable. But they’re a fun thought exercise. And who knows, one of them may actually turn out to be a real game some day.

Today’s entry is Wiretap. Its random game idea came from Boardgamizer, which gave me the following:

Mechanics: Worker Placement, Crayon Rail System
Theme: Illuminati
Victory: Victory Points

As an added bit of randomness, I checked in with the Struct Game Idea Generator , which gave me one more suggestion: “A game with Wires and Growth.”

Deep breath. Okay. Here we go.


Each player controls a rival intelligence agency inside a paranoid police-state government, and is competing to grow the largest wiretapping network. Over the course of the game, they score points by creating connections to “nodes” like traitor’s homes and suspicious businesses. Officially, they need warrants for each connection they create, but they can ignore this and press their luck if they wish. The game ends when the last “Score” card is drawn, and the player with the most points wins.


  • Crayons: Each player has his own color of erasable crayon.
  • Game Board: The board is divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant corresponds to a type of entity that the players wiretap: commercial, private, government, and foreign. At the center of the board is the Central Node, which has printed on it several actions you can take. game_board
  • Node Cards: The round cards represent the various people and locations that the agencies are wiretapping. (I don’t really like the term “node” because it feels more technical than it should, but didn’t come up with anything better in the time allotted. Suggestions are welcome in the comments.) Node cards are shuffled into a deck, some of them start in play, and all of them have a number of attributes:
    • Victory Points: How many points the node is worth, both when you connect to it and when you score it throughout the game.
    • Node Type: Whether it’s commercial, private, government, or foreign determines where the card comes into play.
    • Number of Connections: Different nodes can support different numbers of connections. You might be able to wiretap a lone activist only once, but able to drop a half-dozen taps on the casino where criminals hang out.
    • Agent Slots: To create a connection to a node, you need to play an agent to it (i.e., place a worker there). You play agents in these slots. If there are no open slots, you can’t play an agent there.node_diagram
  • Warrant Counters: To stay legal, you need to have at least as many warrants as you do connections. Each warrant counter represents a warrant.
  • Agents: Each player has 10 “agent” counters. (I’m seeing meeples, but they could be anything.) You start with 5, but can get more over the course of the game.


Playing the Game

On your turn, you can take one action. To take an action, you must allocate at least one of your agents to do so. If you have no unallocated agents left, you can take no actions. Here are the actions:

Create a Connection: To create a connection, play an agent into the empty agent slot of a node, then draw a straight line on the board between that node and either another node you’ve already connected or the Central Node. Note that you can’t create a connection between two nodes if either node is already at its maximum number of connections, or if they can’t be connected by a straight line that doesn’t cross another node. You must be able to trace a route from the node back to the Central Node. Score points equal to the VP of the nodes you have just connected.

Acquire Node: Play an agent onto the “acquire node” slot on the Central Node to reveal the top card of the node deck. If it’s a normal node, put it onto the board where ever you want within its quadrant. (So a “private” node would go in the “private” quadrant.) If it’s a normal node, you may immediately take another action to create a connection to that node, if you have an agent available.

  • If it’s an “Internal Audit” node, the game pauses while everyone checks to see if they have more connections than warrants. If they do, they must erase connections until they have no more connections than warrants.
  • If it’s a “Score” node, everyone scores the victory points for each node to which they have a connection. When the fourth “Score” node comes up, everyone scores normally, but then the game ends.

Get Warrant: Play an agent onto the “get warrant” slot on the Central Node to receive a warrant counter.

Recruit Agent: Play three agents onto the “recruit agent” slot on the Central Node to add another agent to your pool.

Emergency Powers: Play two agents onto the “emergency powers” slot on the Central Node to get four warrant counters.

Burn Node: Play an agent onto the “burn node” slot on the Central Node to remove a node from play. Any agents on that node are removed from play, and any connections that are left hanging without that node are destroyed. Note that the agent played to this slot will also be removed from play.

When no one has any more actions to take, the round ends. Everyone retrieves at least one agent, the role of first player rotates to the right, and a new round begins. (Exception: If there’s an agent in the “burn node” slot, it isn’t retrieved, but is removed from play.)


Game End and Winning

See “Score Node,” above. That pretty much covers it.

Analysis: Game Design Challenges

  • Too Many Agents: Whenever you have an action economy, and one of the actions you can take is “get more actions,” there’s a chance it might blow up in your face. With the high cost of gaining agents, and the possibility of losing them through the Burn Node action, I think it’ll be okay, but that would be the first thing I’d focus on in playtesting.
  • How Many Nodes: I’m sure there’s a perfect number of node cards to keep the board full enough to be interesting, but not over-cluttered. I have no idea what that number is, but it’s got to be there somewhere.
  • Warranted Action: The point of the warrants mechanic is to introduce a bit of chance and press-your-luck to the game. But if warrants are too easy or too hard to get, they become irrelevant or frustrating. And maybe the game has enough depth to be fun and challenging without that bit of chance and luck-pressing. The only way to find out is to actually prototype it up and play it.

Analysis: High Points

  • New Points: I’m sure this isn’t the first game to use crayons in a non-railroad scenario, but it might be the first to let players place the points between which they create the routes. I don’t know if folks are clamoring for innovation in crayon-based mechanics, but it’s something to look into.
  • Connecting the Dots: Yes, players can always just make connections between the Central Node and whatever node they want to wiretap. But because they get points for both nodes they’re connecting (and the Central Nodes doesn’t give points), the game encourages them to expand outward, growing the board in their quest for victory points.
  • End State: I like sticking the game-end into the node deck. It’s a classic mechanic for a reason: it keeps players from knowing exactly when the game is going to end, and keeps the game end within the natural cycle of game play.

Two random games in two weeks. Can I keep up this break-neck pace? Check back next week and we’ll find out together!

Game Design     , , ,

Back in the Saddle

Posted on October 1, 2015 By


I’m a writer. It says so on my business card, so you know it’s official. But while I’ve been filling my clients’ inboxes with world-building guides, game design documents, and RPG sourcebooks, it’s been quite a while since I’ve written any actual fiction–you know, the stuff folks assume you produce when you claim the title “writer.”

So when I saw that Indie Authors Press was looking for flash fiction submissions for their upcoming Halloween anthology, I jumped at the opportunity. After all, I thought, it was 100 words. I could afford to take time away from the mortgage-paying work to do 100 words of horror fiction.

It felt good. It felt really good. Comfortable, yet exciting, like seeing an old friend who’s been too long away.

This morning I received an e-mail from IAP letting me know that my story has been accepted in their Spooky Halloween Drabbles 2015 anthology. I’ll admit it was something a relief; after so long away, it was good to know that my fiction skills hadn’t turned entirely to rust.

I’ll post a link to the book when it comes out (I’m not afraid of blatant self-promotion), but in the meantime, I think I’ll be looking for other anthologies, and other calls for submissions. Any excuse to get back in that saddle and write some more fiction.

Blatant Self-PromotionFictionPersonalWriting     , , , ,

Super Team-up Challenge – A Random Game of Trading and Team-Building

Posted on September 28, 2015 By


As promised last week, I’m putting my random money where my mouth is and creating actual games based on the results of random game idea generators. Just remember that these games are little more than pitches; they aren’t playable as written, and probably aren’t any good. But they should be fun to to read about.

Today’s entry is Super Team-up Challenge. It was generated from Boardgamizer, which gave me the following:

Mechanics: Trading
Theme: Superheroes
Victory: Reach Objective

I think I can work with this.


Each player controls a team of superheroes that is trying to score the most points by defeating evil schemes. The first player to reach the object of… oh, let’s say 100 victory points is the winner. But if there are too many evil schemes in play and undefeated, everyone loses!



The game uses two types of cards: Hero cards and Scheme cards.

  • Hero cards have a number of aspects, each of which has a value. For example, Foot Stabber has 4 Strength and 2 Speed.
  • Scheme cards have a number of aspect requirements, which are the same aspects that heroes have, but with larger values, as well as the number of Victory Points they are worth (16 in our example). They also have a number of card icons (two in our example), which is how many new Scheme cards are drawn when this Scheme is defeated.

team_challenge_cards_scheme(Bonus bit of randomness: all superhero names come from random generators here and here; their images were generated arbitrary at Hero Factory.)


Shuffle the two types of cards into their own decks and deal each player some number of Hero cards. Then draw a number of cards from the Scheme deck (based on the number of players) and put them in the center of the table as the Scheme Pool. Finally, each player draws a Scheme from the Scheme deck and puts it into play in front of him- or herself.


Playing the Game

On your turn, do the following in order:
1. Trade: Trade any number of Hero cards in your hand for any number of cards from any number of opponents. Opponents can only trade with you.
2. Play: You must play at least one card. You may play cards to a Scheme in the central Scheme Pool, the Scheme in front of your, or both.

Imposters: If an opponent already has at least one copy of a Hero card in play, you can’t play that card unless you play more copies of that card. (For example, if Donna has two copies of Ghost Priest in play, Chuck can’t play his own Ghost Priest cards unless he plays at least three of them.) If you do, the previously-played Hero cards are discarded and that Hero declared to have been an imposter.
Defeating Schemes: If you have enough Heroes on your own Scheme to fulfill its Aspect Requirements with your Heroes’ Aspects, then you defeat that Scheme. Add it to your score pile and replace it with the number of Schemes indicated on the card. Likewise, if you (perhaps with help from the other players) defeat a Scheme from the Scheme Pool, that Scheme is discarded and replaced with new Scheme(s). You don’t score that Scheme, but do take a face-down card from the Scheme deck and add it, face-down, to your score pile. You know you’re getting some points for being the player to finish off the scheme, but don’t know how many.

3. Draw: Draw Hero cards up to your hand size.


Game End and Winning

When a player has at least 100 points in his score pile, the game ends. Everyone reveals the cards in their score piles and adds up all their victory points. The player with the most victory points wins.

On the other hand, if there are Scheme cards totalling at least 100 victory points in the Scheme Pool, the game ends and everyone loses! Maybe if the superheroes had been focused on doing their jobs, the bad guys wouldn’t have been able to destroy the world!

Analysis: Game Design Challenges

  • Trade Incentive: Do players have enough incentive to trade? I think that forcing you to play encourages you to trade in order to not “waste” that play, and the “everyone loses” condition likewise keeps everyone looking to build just the right hand of cards… but won’t know without playing it.
  • Card Balance: Are the Schemes challenging enough? Are the aspect values varied enough? Is the quantity of each Hero card correct? There’s no way of knowing until we play it a few times.
  • Suicidal Players: Any time a non-cooperative game has a “we all lose” option, there’s a risk that a player who is losing will try to tank the game for everyone. As it stands, the game has no way to mitigate this.
  • Boring Cards: The cards have nothing but raw data on them. This might be interesting enough to play on its own (and is definitely how I’d start playtesting it), but I suspect the game would be more fun if at least some of the cards had game text on them.

Analysis: High Points

  • Imposters: I really like this mechanic. It adds a sort of bidding mechanic to the mix, and gives you a reason to play Heroes even if they won’t immediately defeat a Scheme.
  • Replacement Schemes: Replacing defeated Schemes with a variable number of new Schemes seems a simple way to change the game’s environment every few turns. In theory, at least.
  • Scoring Central Schemes: The challenge with the Scheme Pool was how to track which player played which Hero to each Scheme. After all, if I do most of the work but another player adds the final card to win it, I’m going to be annoyed and not do that again. By having the player who finishes the Scheme score some other, random card, hopefully it doesn’t feel as bad for the players who started it, while still providing incentive for the player who finishes it.

There you have it. The first random game. If you’d like to see it fleshed out into an actual prototype, let me know.

Game Design     , , ,