December 31, 2011

The Best of Exiled Here 2011

The vast majority of the things I write on this blog can be summarized as "Grant describes at length why his new game is bad." However, every so often I write what I believe is a worthwhile contribution to the Internet. I was thinking about the year on my morning run and thought it'd be nice to present a Best of Exiled Here styled post.

I wrote 63 posts in 2011. These are the ones I think you should read. (Note: Though some of these are about board games, not all of them are!)

Converting the Heathen
I don't write enough humor posts for my tastes anymore. Perhaps it's because I'm simply not funny or maybe it's that I have my head so deep in board game mechanics that I'm failing to notice the hilarity exploding all around me. This is one of the few humor posts I wrote this year about one of the more hilarious episodes in my life.

I brought home a girlfriend in college who was, among other things, a vegetarian. This is the story about what happened when I brought her to Texas for Thanksgiving.

At the very end of 2010 I left my great job of 5 years to venture forth to the land of start ups. 2 companies later I went full circle and arrived back at my old job, though with a new title and role that excited me. Though it's fair to say I ultimately failed, I learned an immense amount about being a designer, designing and building mobile games, working with new people, being a leader and manager, and I'm far better for it. I wouldn't change the experience, hard though it was.

Ultimately, success in your creative and professional endeavors is the result of primarily hard work, being good at your job, and maximizing your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses. We all have some of each. The sooner you admit this and acknowledge it, the better you will be.

This post is a fairly concise recollection of some of the lessons I learned.

One of my favorite aspects of the Twitter board game community is that I'm often asked to review the rules of other designers. I love doing this. Love it. Professionally, I'm a producer by trade, which is essentially a design editor for the game industry. I'm also a designer, but at the end of the day I have to admit I'm a better producer/editor than I am a designer. Sad, but true.

I wrote this post about some of the principles on rule writing. I think it's a worthwhile read. I was doubly pleased that one of my design mentors, Ray Mazza (@raymazza) chimed in as well. 

San Francisco is one of the food (foodie?) capitals of the world. We have astounding restaurants that delight their patrons with cuisine from every corner of the globe. It is one of my favorite things about this city.

Lazy Bear is a bizarre and unique entry to this landscape. The chef/owner is a former lawyer who now runs an infrequent "underground restaurant." He, along with his wife and friends, rent a space in the Mission and serve a prix fixe menu that is absurdly delicious. 

Quick rewind. For a time at university I was doubling as a professional writing major. I ultimately dropped this because I wanted to graduate in four years and I doubted my ability to earn a living as a writer. But, I always wanted to write big features for a magazine that went beyond just what was happening, but focused on the experience.

I feel like this piece is somewhat that. As a side note, we have since dined with Lazy Bear again at his inaugural brunch. It was delicious.

My Thoughts on Kickstarter
The most read post that I wrote in 2011 was by far My Thoughts on Kickstarter. My twitter feed is jam packed with game designers and publishers, many of whom have put a game up on Kickstarter in hopes of it being backed. Those who haven't personally used Kickstarter have spent money on it or observed its impact on the board game space. It's impossible to ignore.

The problem for me, was that every few days the same argument would reignite about Kickstarter. Many of the same entrenched foes would do battle with the same arguments. 140 characters is an impossibly short space to compose a well-written argument and I was tired of it. I decided, with some prompting by folks on Twitter, to put down my thoughts permanently in blog form.

I'm glad I did.

Interestingly enough, I feel that many of the people who came to the post didn't actually read it. Based on their comments to me afterwards in my feed or via email, it felt as if they got snagged on a buzzword and just activated their auto-pilot. What have we always been told? Oh yes, don't get into arguments on the Internet. I should know better!

If you want to skip the long article, here are my thoughts. I still fervently believe them today.

Any creative and entrepreneurial atmosphere in which you have:
  1. No (or relatively no) barrier to entry
  2. Greatly reduced or entirely reduced financial risk 
Can lead to a terrible experience for customers in the short run and bad tidings for our industry in the long run. Just because you can release your game doesn't mean you should. The book industry has similar issues with e-Books.

We must ONLY deliver high quality experiences. 

One opinion of mine did change after hearing Richard Bliss (@gamewhisperer) discuss it on The State of Games. I used to be on the fence/negative side regarding established publishers or even independent publishers using or re-using Kickstarter. The truth is, it's a great marketing opportunity, or as its detractors note, merely a "pre-order tool." I absolutely agree this isn't Kickstarter's intent, but I can't say I mind it personally.

I cannot leave you fine folks without a fun pet story! Here's a fairly short, simple, and amusing post that I think all pet owners will enjoy. It's about my beloved Peaches and my beloved Beth and how their paths disgustingly collided one January evening.

Thanks for reading. If you have a blog and you have something you're proud of, post it in the comments! Have a great 2012 folks.

December 29, 2011

The Rocky, Rough Road to Home Ownership

My home!
I consider home ownership a part of the American dream and an indicator of one's hard work and success. I worked really hard in college and at my job so that I could one day point at something and say "there, that's mine, I worked for that."

Home ownership eluded me longer than I hoped due to the fact that the cost of living and home prices in northern California are astronomical. After years of looking at homes, only to watch our jaws subsequently slam the floor due to sticker shock, we decided to look outside the city of San Francisco, away from the suburbs of the peninsula, and into the grape growing countryside of Napa valley. Interestingly enough, the cost of homes dropped in half. After a bit of difficulty and a hearty struggle, we are now proud home owners. For now it's a weekend/vacation home as it's too far from our jobs to be a feasible permanent residence, but one day I hope to move there permanently.

I wanted to share my experiences for other potential home buyers. Perhaps there's something you can glean from my difficulties so that if and when you purchase a home for yourself, you can be more prepared.

Try Me! An Update on my Witch Trial Themed DBG

Last night's design/prototype efforts, brought to you by Crayola.
I've made some interesting progress on Try Me! lately, so I wanted to put my thoughts down to see if others had insight or thoughts to guide me further. I'm referring to Witch Trial as Try Me! because Witch Trial is already taken. Obviously, the name still needs work.

Initially, Try Me! was a deckbuilding game based on a witch trial in colonial Salem. It's a two player game with the players comprising the roles of the defense attorney and the prosecuting attorney. I love the deckbuilding game mechanic and the theme has been a huge hit with everyone who hears it, so the two seemed like a natural pairing. Plus, I've wanted to design a more focused two player experience.

December 22, 2011

My Favorite Games for the year 2011

Like most nerd inclined folk, I write a post most years about my favorite games that I played. Typically, these are video games, and typically, they are mostly in line with common sentiment, with the exception of Red Dead Redemption, which was and is total garbage.

Interestingly enough, I didn't really play that many video games this year. Instead, my focus and interests shifted 200% (that's not possible!) to mobile games and my new love, board games. Below is my list of my favorite games for 2011. Note that not all of the games I mention came out in 2011. Board gaming is a fairly new hobby of mine, so I had some catching up to do.

Read on to see my favorite mobile, board, and electronic games of the year.

December 12, 2011

Holiday Family Game Recommendations: Crowd Sourced Edition

This morning I asked my twitter feed to provide recommendations for games to play with the family. I had so many great responses I decided to share them here, as well as my own at the bottom. Games that received multiple recommendations were highlighted a bit. All have links to their Board Game Geek entries.

I've actually played the majority of the games on this list and I think it's an excellent list. What do you think?

Say Anything (multiple recommendations)

Flash Point

King of Tokyo (multiple recommendations)

7 Wonders (multiple recommendations)

For Sale

Incan Gold (multiple recommendations)


Wits and Wagers (multiple recommendations)

Can't Stop

Ticket to Ride (multiple recommendations)

Box of Things
Nobody But us Chickens
City Square Off
Forbidden Island
Archaeology: The Card Game
Farmageddon (somebody else said it, not me!)

My personal recommendations were...
Drop Site
Dragonheart (super nerdy theme but the game is perfect)
Forbidden Island

I focused on games I actually own for my personal recommendations. I tried to pick the ones I have that are super light or quick to play.

Any others? What did we miss?

November 26, 2011

The Dustbowl Fracas

It's my goal to find a publisher for Farmageddon. The path towards this goal includes a lot of rejection, though oftentimes that's paired with feedback. Some I take, some I ignore. Most of the feedback I ignore is that which pushes Farmageddon outside of the realm of a casual game and towards something more hardcore. It's not that Farmageddon can't be that, it's just it wasn't designed to do that, plus I feel that direction requires more than a tweak, but an overhaul.

Well, I spent yesterday doing one such overhaul. I spent an hour scribbling notes on my notebook at a coffee shop, then several hours at home drafting the rules and refining the content.

I'm not abandoning Farmageddon, because I think over time it's evolved into a solid casual card game. I believe in my derpy corn. But, there's room for a second entry into the Farmageddon family. I've been working on the game for a year now and that familiarity allowed me to create something new really quickly. That new thing is Dustbowl Fracas.

Before I go into the explanation of the new game, here are the rules for Farmageddon. Here are the rules for Dustbowl Fracas. If you're familiar with the original Farmageddon I think the new game will be both more familiar and more interesting. They are cousins.

Dustbowl Fracas is a deckbuilding game for 2 to 4 players. It includes some of the content and core elements of Farmageddon, but tweaks almost everything in order to serve its new purpose.

November 19, 2011

My Own Worst Fan: A Critical look at Frontier Scoundrels

Frontier Scoundrels has been in development since July and I think I've hit another key milestone, though it's not necessarily a good one. I've held a few complete start-to-finish playtests of the game, and while I think the game is finally mechanically sound, it's too complicated, ill-focused, and lacks the fun element it needs to have. I'm not sure I can fix the game in its current state.

The past 5 months haven't been wasted though; I know a great deal more about what works and what doesn't. More importantly, I know which of my core mechanics need to change, though that means I need to discard some of my original design focuses.

This will be a long post, so here's a quick table of contents to show you what to expect. Another thing to note is that I aim for this post to be useful as a design exercise for folks and it hopefully won't require prior knowledge of Frontier Scoundrels.

Table of Contents
  • The Current Frontier Scoundrels: Summary of the game flow with a link to the complete rules
  • Why It's Broken: A breakdown of what's wrong with the current game
  • Mulligan: Details on where I'm taking the game next, including a mind-map.
  • Thinking Time: Questions for which I need to find answers

November 6, 2011

The Status of the Expedition

My current lead design project, Frontier Scoundrels, has traversed some difficult terrain lately. I finally played the game from start to finish, which was excellent, but also showed me just how far I needed to go.

The feedback from the test was as follows:
  • Explorers didn't have enough interesting choices. They were basically pawns while the Expedition Leader and War Party battled it out. They had little incentives for either outcome, as well.
  • Event cards (now Action cards) played almost no role in the game. They were too hard to obtain and didn't matter much.
  • Resolving Hardships was too easy.
  • The Land mechanic was interesting on paper, but nobody really liked it as executed. During the test, each Explorer selected 1 Land card (from a hand of 3) and gave it to the Expedition Leader face-down. 
I tried to solve these problems in a few ways.
  • I made it so that Explorers played a Land card in clockwise order. Instead of the Expedition Leader choosing the order, the Explorer picked it. This actually simplified the game, sped it up, and made the Explorers' choices more interesting.
  • I modified the Land to benefit the Explorers more and the Expedition Leader less. This made it so that Explorer's could play cards that leaned in their favor.
  • I made it so Explorers earned points as well as the Expedition Leader (though fewer), but also would gain more dice to use throughout the game. 
  • I gave players more Action cards at the start of the game and added several ways to get them (primarily tied them into Land to once again make the Explorer's choice more interesting). 
  • I made Hardships more difficult by increasing/decreasing the numbers and putting more restrictions on how the dice could be used. I also cleaned up the mechanics here to be more consistent. Just a better change overall. 

November 4, 2011

My Thoughts on Kickstarter

This post may be controversial to some. My intent is not to stir controversy, anger anyone, or be a jerk. I made a comment on Twitter today after reading an article that generated many comments. My comment was that with the huge number of board game projects on Kickstarter and no barrier to entry, this can lead to something bad.

Before I go further, I want to provide some quick disclaimers. This is just my opinion, which is based on my perspective. Your perspective and opinion will be different. I'm going to try to back up my statements with logical thought and examples where possible. That doesn't mean I'm right. In some cases it's purely subjective, in other cases I may have the facts wrong and I'd appreciate it if you would correct me in the comments.

If it helps, my perspective is that of a consumer. I've backed 9 projects on Kickstarter (my profile) and, when the right project loads into my browser, I will do so again. My perspective is also that of a designer. I'd love more than anything to be published. Well, not more than Peaches. But most things!

My thoughts below will sometimes meander beyond Kickstarter, but I think that's a good focus for most of my thoughts.

November 3, 2011

The Trial Will Re-Adjourn

I'm trying to make consistent progress on Witch Trial. I've made a few decisions since my last post.

If you're just now joining us, I'm doing this for National Game Design Month. My first post (brainstorm) is here. My second post is here.

Decision the First
The game will come with a deck of ten cards called the Townspeople deck. This will be an assortment of men and women, interesting characters like the constable, the merchant, the fisherman, the baker, and more.

What will be interesting is that each one will have a certain quirk that creates a gameplay element. It'll need to be simple enough, as there will be many, but imagine something like the benefit on a card in Dominion, but you must "control" the person to use it. OR, it'll affect the cards you play.

At the start of the game, you'll randomly deal cards from the Townspeople deck to determine the jurors (currently I'm thinking there will be six jurors) and the Judge (one). The last three will comprise the witnesses, who may or may not be called to the stand to testify.

My goal is that, like Dominion, each game is different. Like Dominion, you cannot use the same strategy every time. And finally, like Dominion, you can learn new combos and experiment.

I'm worried that this will be very difficult to balance. I'm also worried that so much information will be difficult to parse for new players. But, if I follow the standards set by Dominion and Eminent Domain (not hard, right?) it can be done.

Decision the Second, Son of Decision the First
I've decided the Witch will not affect gameplay. She'll always be the same, misunderstood character. She'll be a comically tragic figure who is ultimately always innocent (weren't they all?). I don't think I can have a varying jury/judge/witnesses each game AND a different Witch. It's too much and something has to give.

So, the witch will never actually be a witch. But, if the prosecution plays their cards right, she'll sure as Salem be guilty!

The two lawyers (i.e. players) won't be unique, either. Players will essentially create characters and strategies based on their personal play style and the conditions on the board (Jury, Judge, Witnesses).

Decision the Third, estranged spouse of Decision the Second
The game will be broken into three phases: Opening Arguments, the Procession of Evidence, and Closing Arguments. I really enjoy phases for a few reasons.

Firstly, they help focus a player's decisions, while keeping a certain richness. What do you need to do in order to best maximize your efforts in the current phase AND help you win the overall game? You may have a great initial phase, but you could peter out.

Secondly, I think the broad possibilities of many deckbuilding games can be overwhelming for some. I don't mind simplifying this genre if new players try it out.

Thirdly, it gives a distinct ending to the game. This has been a sticking point for me since my very first unsuccessful game. I like it when there's a clear ending that everyone understands and can work against.

Finally, I really enjoyed the phases in 7 Wonders. I have no clue how I'm going to do it quite yet for Witch Trial but I think that it's a good element to borrow and evolve.

Decision the Fourth, this joke isn't funny
Players earn points by using their cards (i.e. legal maneuvers, evidence) to manipulate the various entities. This will also, in some cases, be how you earn cards. So, play a set of cards to manipulate the judge and acquire a powerful card from him. Use a set of cards to influence several members of the jury, then cash them in to rake in several points.

The game will be point based. Player with the most points at the end wins the case. The poor, poor witch.

Finally, there will be a card or a concept known as "Objection!" I don't know how it will work, but by god it will be in the game.

November 2, 2011

Opening Arguments: Designing the Witch Trial

I've decided to steam ahead full on my design of Witch Trial, the sudden urgency being that this is National Game Design Month and I desire so much to be cool and hip. And what better way than to design a board game in a month!

I wrote about Witch Trial previously, but to save you time here's a quick summary. Initially, I wanted to create a detective game. I love Law and Order: SVU and CSI: Miami. They are just fun. But, I didn't want to make a game based in modern times. I feel it's not exciting or different enough. I love history, so I began thinking about mystery-like novels such asUmberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. From this, a friend suggested the witch scene from Monty Python's The Holy Grail. From there, I took the concept of a witch trial, picked colonial Salem, Massachusetts as a setting, and decided the game would be about the trial itself, not the discovery or the escape, but the trial.

I have been trained at work to design very quickly due to deadlines. However, designing board games are my hobby, so I take my time. Really, I work in two phases: concept and design.

My goals for the concept phase are to pick a theme, a few core mechanics, number of players, time to play the game, and general flow and feel of the game. Basically, my concept phase is when I put a line in the sand for high level and philosophical concepts that will guide the rest of the game. This phase takes me days, weeks, sometimes months. I often do it passively, and by that I mean my best ideas come to me when I'm walking my dog and I stop to write them on my iPhone. Or when I'm in the shower. Or when I'm running. I don't set a deadline on this phase and I don't force it.

October 8, 2011

How My Playtime De-Evolved

A few years ago the entirety of my discretionary income was spent on games for my Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. The entirety of my free time was spent playing these games as well. The only games I played were digital. I sought Achievements and life was good.

Around this time I went on a trip to Australia with Beth and two friends. While shopping in Melbourne, I found a small, hole in the wall board game store. After hours of ogling clothes I didn't want, I escaped into the board game store like Peter leaping into the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis' tale.

October 2, 2011

Sci-Fi Shuffleboard

Ascending Empires immediately stood out to me the second I learned of its stellar existence, so asking for a copy for my birthday was an easy choice. It's hard enough to get in a board game or two, let alone one about space ships that can turn off my less game-interested friends. My patience over the last month finally paid off last night when I was able to corner two friends into playing the game.

I've only played the game once, but the rules were very well written, the components excellent, and the overall strategy deep, but not so obtuse that me and two casual friends weren't able to conceive some cool strategies and have a lot of fun. I'm not a review site, so I'm not worried about putting down my thoughts after one play. If you are, make sure you check elsewhere!

October 1, 2011

Fixing the Trainwreck

Game design is a treacherous path of bad ideas, good ideas paired with bad ideas, and too many good ideas that form into a multi-headed bad idea that just won't go away. Games are one train wreck after another that just keep dog-piling into their predecessor, and just when you feel your playtesters are going to stab you for putting them on yet another no-fun high speed death trap of metaphorical proportions, someone has fun.

That is a magical moment, but for me and Frontier Scoundrels, we just encountered a massive fuel tank laden locomotive colliding with an 18 wheeler crap fest. We are so not there.

September 28, 2011

Brainstorming the Witch

I've begun pondering my new game! Farmageddon is in a bit of a holding pattern as I wait and see if anyone wants to publish it. Frontier Scoundrels is finally, finally entering a playtest phase. I know that the game is far from complete and will probably still require an overhaul or two, but the time between playtests can be long and I hate sitting idly. This means I have the time and bandwidth to think about what I want to create next.

I've been watching a lot of Law and Order at night before bed, plus Beth and I tend to watch CSI: Miami on Sunday nights. Crime dramas are fun and I started thinking about the fun of being a detective. I love being the good guy and many of my favorite games are ones that let me feel clever. Unfortunately, the detective genre is jam packed for pretty much every form of entertainment. Every other show on television is a crime drama. LA Noire recently came out. Everyone's talking about Elder Sign. I want to do something unique, so instead of modern crime I shifted my thinking to an alternate setting.

September 25, 2011

An Interesting Year

In the fall of 2010 I decided to leave my solid career of 5 years and take my chances in the realm of start ups. People leave their jobs for several excellent reasons: more money, better location/commute, opportunity, frustration with their existing job, or just because. Personally, I dabbled in a few of these.

I wanted to work in San Francisco, my home, to shave 2 hours of driving out of my daily routine. I wanted to be a designer; after years as a producer doing design work, assisting design, and doing design work on the side at home, I wanted this to be my title and primary task. I wanted to work on mobile games. I love PC games, but I saw (and still see) mobile as one of the bright futures of gaming. It's a barely explored frontier with huge potential for growth and innovation. People scoff at the simplicity of mobile games, but I fully embrace the potential of a miniature computer in the pockets of millions of people with a minute to spare. I also wanted to be a part of something new. I loved the idea that on the off chance that we succeeded, I could point back in years and say "yeah, that was me!"

I took the jump and joined a friend/colleague at a new company with heaps of potential. The company was founded by industry vets with ridiculous resumes, was well-funded, had already released a few solid titles, and employed a few dozen brilliant developers. Unfortunately, things didn't work out for a wide variety of reasons. After 6 months I gave notice and left.

At this point I was in an interesting position. I explored a handful of options and unfortunately not all of them panned out. In one instance my contact was pulled into some last minute, multi-week long meetings and disappeared. I thought he had lost interest when in reality, he just wasn't on email. In other cases it was a matter of timing. Another problem is that I do NOT handle uncertainty well. I have plenty of savings and I didn't actually need a job as quickly as I accepted an offer, but the anxiety of unemployment was killing me and I was too quick to take one. I had two or three other solid avenues I should have investigated and I didn't do so. Finding a job is a big deal and it is not something you should do with haste if you can afford a slower pace. This was a mistake. Friends of mine suggested I join them at their company. I had an uneasy feeling but, hey, it couldn't be that bad, right?

After a few days I knew I didn't want to work there and I set my current plans in motion. After a few months I gave notice and left yet another job. Needless to say, it was an interesting year. I see no value in naming names or being a jerk, but I do see value in listing some things I learned. If for nothing else, it's good to get these things off my mind so I can move on with my career and life.

  1. Past team leadership and experience doesn't always transfer well to corporate leadership. Running a team of developers is one thing. Steering a company is a different beast. When looking for a company, do your homework and make sure the people up top are setting up the company for success.
  2. Politics will exist at every company. I've now worked at companies of thousands, dozens, and hundreds, and all of them featured politics. Learn quickly how to communicate so that you can navigate these treacherous waters. In some cases you cannot fix the problem, so learn to deal with it so you can remain happy (if possible) and productive.
  3. Dig deep and ask about process in your interview. Ask tough questions. Too much and too little process can absolutely kill a company. Furthermore, process defines the parameters by which you will be doing your job each and every day.
  4. Dig deep and ask who makes decisions and how the decisions are made. Companies with too many decision makers, the wrong decision makers, or arbitrary stakeholders should send a red flag straight to the top of your metaphorical flag pole.
  5. Examine the back catalog. You need to be inspired and interested in what they have done as a company. If this requirement isn't met, move on. It all depends on your amount of faith. For me, I'm more interested in what a company has done than what they claim they will do. If the company is really new and doesn't have a record yet, you need to really like what their road map contains.
  6. If you get a bad feeling in the interview, ask the questions you need to ask to set your mind at ease. And if you can't ask that question or get the answer, move on.
  7. If you want more money, counter-offer. Negotiate. I did this once with mixed success. The worst they can say is no. Fortunately, I've always been fairly comfortable with my salary and I don't really like pushing too hard here. But, that's the thing. If you want more money and getting it will make you happier and more effective, then ask.
  8. The most important thing is enjoying the people you will work with every day. You need to leave your interview knowing that a.) you will enjoy getting lunch and coffee with the team and b.) you can rely on them to do their part.
Interestingly enough, at the end of this long odyssey I'm back where I started...somewhat. I have a new role on a new team that has a creative and business focus that thrills me. I'm surrounded by people with whom I work incredibly well. I understand the strengths and weaknesses of my peers and the company. Best of all, everything I've learned this year, both good and bad, can now be put to use. 

I have plenty of regrets, but I do not regret the decision to leave. People always simplify the entire leave vs. stay decision as "is the grass greener?" and I think that's understating the issue. I think in some cases the grass is greener, but by and large I think it's more that the grass is different. Every organization has its strengths and weaknesses and it's important for you to find one that maximizes that which is most important to you. Having had this experience now, I know better understand what's important to me. I'm better at my job, happier, and I can slowly impact the changes I wish to see on my team. 

As miserable as they can be at times, interesting times are what make us interesting and valuable employees and, someday, fantastic leaders.

September 8, 2011

Frontier Scoundrels: Second Playtest Results

I got tired of waiting for friends to have a chance to playtest Frontier Scoundrels (people are busy!), so I played a four player game against...myself. It seems silly, but it was an incredibly useful act and I made some good changes because of it.

Here are a few things I learned about the game...

I really enjoy the Explorer bonuses (i.e. which dice you roll) combined with the Command cards. Command cards are assignments dealt by the current Expedition Leader. Players with Command cards roll dice to try to win a Hardship. However, each Command card conveys different bonuses and abilities. For the Expedition Leader, assigning them is a great choice that is fun but not too heavy. You have to quickly scan to see what the challenge is, who is participating, how many points everybody has, which dice they can bring, how the bonuses will change this, and then think about who can do the most damage with the bonus contained on a card.

The challenge is that you must give out Command cards, but which ones and to whom? You must involve the others! The other great part is that sometimes you get Command cards that are basically duds, which restricts your choices even further.

I was really pleased with this mechanic.

It was difficult to test the Frontier Scoundrel cards by myself. Each player has a set of them and different cards can be played at different times. Some are offensive, others defensive, and some can be used in both ways. What I did learn, however, is that three of the nine cards I had were worthless and never seemed useful. I cut these three and swapped them out for two new cards: one allows a player to wager against the current hardship (which is especially great if you aren't participating in the current turn) and the other allows a player to counter another Frontier Scoundrel card.

The cards I did use were useful and entertaining.

I really enjoyed the two different dice mechanics the game currently employs. I fiddled with the tuning on some of the cards, but I thought the current weight and probability of the dice felt pretty good. Two of the Eight Hardships tried were failed. Another two were almost failed, but a good roll and some well-placed Frontier Scoundrel cards fixed things. Perfect! Well, I may actually want 3 of 8 to be failed, but we can see how that goes. Dice will be dice...
The current mock up for Hardship cards...
I'm currently worried the punishments for failure won't affect the game enough. I added a -1 Point penalty for Expedition Leaders when Hardships are failed to make them sting just a little bit more. I did this for another reason as well, however. I noticed that later in the game players didn't have enough options by which to gain the lead. I think this -1 point loss will give players another way to hurt the leader in hopes of taking the lead themselves.

I tweaked a lot of the numbers pertaining to most Hardships, re-wrote a few of the punishments, and tweaked some of the tuning on Frontier Scoundrel cards. The score was fairly tight, which I enjoyed. I really like the current bonus mechanic and how it's an advanced strategy to try to figure out who will get the bonus to stop them from getting it.

A bit surprisingly, I found out that not one, but two other designers are working on exploration games. One is even working on a Lewis and Clark themed game (dammit) titled Corps of Discovery, which was the first name for Frontier Scoundrels. And there I was thinking Lewis and Clark was a fairly safe bet for a unique theme...

Farmageddon Next

The Farmageddon that's published now on The Game Crafter is the one that will remain. I set out to create a game that was accessible, quick to play, and fun for casual gamers, or more hardcore gamers who need a filler game in between the meaty Euro titles. I've had a few great reviews from users on The Game Crafter and ones like this one from Father Geek have started to come in. I feel like some of the goals have been validated by customers, which is the best kind of validation.

But, a lot of these same folks are asking for more. A little more depth and a little more meat to push this past a casual game and into something with more heft. Well, I've been listening and taking notes. I've received feedback from Father Geek, Board Game Reviews by Josh, Dice Hate Me Games, and dozens of my players. Plus, I've thought about what I myself want to see.

September 7, 2011

My Thoughts on Bastion

Bastion is a recently released, critically praised Action RPG for Xbox Live Arcade and Steam from new developer Supergiant Games. I just finished the Xbox version and I wanted to note my thoughts. Overall I'm pleased with the game and glad I made the purchase and put in the time to finish it. However, I definitely have some complaints about the game. Despite what my Twitter feed indicates, I didn't find it to be the second coming.

September 6, 2011

Questing Solo

This recent birthday of mine was the first in a long time where I actually asked for something. The result, was that I received several bright and shiny new board games from Amazon. I'll try to write about them all in due time, but today I want to focus on The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game by Fantasy Flight.

This is a cooperative game that can be played solo or with one other. Or, if you have a friend who has a core set, you can play with up to four players. I've played three games so far by myself and all tend to last right at or under 45 minutes.

I've only played 2 of the 3 scenarios that come with the core set, and none of them with another player, but I feel I have sufficient grasp of the mechanics to take a stab at it.

September 5, 2011

Testing, Testing

I've been troubled for a bit about the art for my newest game, Frontier Scoundrels. I'm not an artist and I cannot afford to pay an artist again. I went all out for Farmageddon's visuals and I feel I got more than my money's worth. But, that's expensive and until I get published or find someone willing to work for free, I need another solution.

Immediately, the choices aren't great. I can draw, which is a horrible idea. Or, I can use public domain images. After all, many folks do this and I'm making a game about history. But, I feel if I'm going to sell this game for any amount of money, I need to give people something somewhat special, even if it's not a Fantasy Flight caliber production.

One option...
I had an idea based on claymation and simple art projects, like dioramas, from elementary school. I thought I could use simple shapes that I could draw, easily identifiable scenes, and put it together in a way that's unique and charming. Here's what I did:

Step 1
I sketched it. If I could draw something somewhat decent, that was progress. I chose the Hardship card called "The Fort Clatsop Decision?" I thought a snowed in log cabin would be good. I played around with shading certain portions and keeping it simple. I was actually pretty happy.

Step 2
I drew it on my sketch book. Plain white background. I picked a handful of colors (light blue, black, brown, white, yellow, and green) from my heap of construction paper, then cut out the shapes. I placed them in the proper layering order (like in photoshop) and glued them.

I then went back and added subtle accents. Tiny black slivers to separate the logs. Blue to accent the snow. Yellow to accent the tree.

Step 3
I scanned it onto my computer. I cleaned up some of the rough spots.  I then minimized it and put it onto the card.

So, what do you think?

August 28, 2011

And so, our Adventurers Set out on the Grand Expedition...

After about a month and a half of brainstorming, rule writing, content creation (and cutting), tuning, scrounging for sweet antique dice and pawns, swapping out components to lower the cost of the eventual game, writing flavor text, designing card layouts, cutting the cards, I finally have a playable prototype of my latest game.

I originally called it The Adventures of CLEB, CLEB being an acronym for the name of the characters (Clark, Lewis, Ethel, and Buford). I then briefly settled on Corps of Discovery, which was the name of the organization to which the explorers belonged. Finally, I decided upon Frontier Scoundrels, which is the name of one of my card types and a name that I feel has a bit of a punch and a ring to it.

Plus, I think Scoundrels are funny and the Frontier is such a good noun.

I'm immensely pleased with the progress so far, but now the real work begins. I've done a great deal of early tuning, balancing, and mechanic re-design. In fact, far more so than any previous game. This is my fourth board game and I'm really starting to get a knack for spotting bad ideas before I go through the effort of testing them. Sometimes, bad is just bad and you can spot imbalance from a mile away.

I'm pleased with how I've simplified the game, while at the same time creating a richer experience. A core mechanic is that the player who is the Expedition Leader (title passes each turn) can order other players to do certain things. Initially, this was very limited (3 choices), always the same, and the design had an incredibly overwhelming play phases that just weren't intuitive or elegant. After stewing over it for a week (and taking in some feedback from a colleague), I created a new small deck of cards called Command cards. There are about 6 different cards, each with a unique role that can be assigned to a player by the Expedition Leader. However, the Expedition Leader can only use a limited portion of the cards.

This does a few things:
  • I've removed one confusing choice and given the player an easier, but also broader one
  • I've dramatically cleaned up the turns and  phases of the game
  • I've added more content that's more interesting
  • Each turn will now be different, but still within a familiar range of possibilities
I'm also pretty excited by quality of the current rules; I've edited them at least 50 times. They are 10 pages total (or 5 pages front/back), but the game can be learned in the first 5 pages. The last 5 go deeper into content and provide examples for some of the mechanics. The other reason the rules went from 6 to 10 pages is that almost every concept has a visual component or diagram to help explain it. After reading Pandemic and Forbidden Island's rules, I knew that was the way it had to be for Frontier Scoundrels

I'll play a few games with myself this week to pound out the early bugs and flow issues. Then I'll bring my friends over. If all goes well, I'm hoping to send prototypes to colleagues in a few months. This will coincide perfectly with the website for Hyperbole Games going live and the Christmas holiday season. 

Let's be about it, shall we?

"Ocian in view! O! the joy!"
-Captain William Clark, upon reaching the Pacific Ocean

August 27, 2011

Writing Rules (i.e. Design)

I've had several people ask me to review their rules lately. I love this kind of work, to be honest. Good feedback in game development is so hard to find and I try to provide good feedback. I've had the itch to write a larger post about my overall thoughts on rules and design, especially in light of what I've been reading and the type of feedback I've given. I've decided it's time to scratch the itch.

Before I start spouting off epic truths, I want to throw in the disclaimer that I'm still relatively new at board game design. I have 3 games, only one of which was worth self-publishing, and I've just turned my full game playing focus from digital games to board games over the past few months. But, I've been producing and designing digital games for 6 years. Surprise surprise, board game designers can learn a great deal from digital game designers and vice versa.

Rules are so Crucial
Everyone has their own creative process. Honestly, there is no one correct way to do anything in this world. But, I believe that good rules should  be created to act as a foundation for your game as soon as possible.

August 22, 2011

Political Correctness can make things difficult for historically-based design

My current board game is based on the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804-1805. One of the things that really appealed to me about the theme and setting is that there were a ton of hardships the expedition had to face, including horrible weather, disease, hostile Native Americans, and just flat-out getting lost.

I wanted to really leverage the Native Americans in particular as I thought their contributions to the story were pretty significant and interesting. At some times, the Natives greatly assisted the explorers. In fact, without them the explorers may have failed or perished.

However, in other cases, the Natives were hostile or supposedly stole from the expedition. This is great variety and frankly, I don't necessarily blame the natives for being hostile. After all, the Americans and Europeans didn't exactly greet them in friendship.

It's a tricky balance and it can be a very touchy subject. It's very tempting to use words like "savages" and acts like "scalping," but I don't think that improves the game, it doesn't match the theme or history, and it'll probably offend someone.

I've tried to stick to the history I've found on Wikipedia and other sites and go from there. My cards won't always be 100% factual, but they'll be within the ballpark. For example, in one event you can negotiate with Sacajawea's husband to bring her on as a translator. In another case the Blackfeet steals things from you. You attempt to trade with the Otas and the Omahas may give you fair warning of an impending attack.

There is history to mostly back this up and as a result I think I've created something that's entertaining, fairly presents the various entities involved in the history, and most importantly, leads to a fun game.

Plus, I've bolstered the mostly factual with the completely absurd with entities like the Missouri River Piranha and other less factual creations.

August 14, 2011

Let's go Exploring: My new game at a high level

This is a long post about my new board game's mechanics. I may sell the rights to this post to Lifetime for a made for TV movie.

I've been finished with Farmageddon for a while now. I'm basically just doing my best to market the game and get it into the hands of bloggers and enthusiasts. There are two game design competitions approaching, one of which is hosted by The Game Crafter, but I've been too excited about my new non-competition game to really give these contest designs their due diligence.

My non-competition game is based on the Adventures of Lewis and Clark, two explorers sent by Thomas Jefferson to explore the western frontier, assert sovereignty over the native Americans, find vital scientific discoveries and trade routes, and generally accomplish much. I love history, so it's a natural fit for my personal interests.

August 10, 2011

Farmageddon in the News!

I'm working my little marketing machine as hard as I can for Farmageddon. The team at The Game Crafter took it to GenCon with them last week. One writer, Matt Carlson of Opinionated Gamers, mentioned the game in his long write up about the convention.

You can see it here if you scroll way down, or just do a search for "Farmageddon."

Farmageddon is still hanging in the Best Seller section of The Game Crafter, which is awesome. I have had a lot of nibbles lately that haven't turned into sales. A nibble is when someone adds the game to their shopping cart. I'm curious if it's high shipping costs or something else? The shipping costs are quite high for a single game, but only increment by $1 or less for additional games. If you're interested in Farmageddon but don't care for the shipping fee, consider grabbing one of these games, which are also good:
  • Vanguard: Rome
  • The Golems of Ymhet
  • Castle Danger
  • Trade Fleet
  • Pitch Machine
  • Uprising
  • Auction Junktion
I'm sure there's more, but I can only comment on what I've played.

Biggus Diggus Would Wuv This: Review of Vanguard: Rome

I try to buy many of the games at The Game Crafter, which is where I sell Farmageddon. I really like the community and I appreciate how much they've supported Farmageddon. I try to return the favor, but lately games like Castle Danger and Vanguard: Rome are making it all too easy to keep purchasing more. These are great games and my wallet is sore!

Vanguard: Rome really stands out due to its unique mechanics -- I haven't really played anything like it. Both players begin the game with two rows of five units each. This is called your battle line. The goal of the game is to eliminate all of your enemy's units from the field. Each turn a player places 1 additional unit and must attack, so attrition is heavy and you cannot rest or turtle up. They key is that you must attack! The concept of defense is completely absent from this game and it keeps the pacing and the strategy focused in a fantastic way.

Your front battle line must always have a Vanguard unit in the middle, who, by default, is the only unit that attacks. However, there are some units with unique abilities as well as Command cards than can mix things up. For example, a ballista may attack the unit immediately in front of it, even if the ballista isn't the vanguard. A slinger gives +1 attack to all adjacent units, which makes him a great unit to place near your vanguard. Centurions, Praetorians, and Consuls may shift places with other units in the line to maximize the damage dealt. Understanding the 12 units and how they must be used in conjunction with others and the Command cards is the meat and potatoes of the strategy.

Vanguard is relatively easy to learn, but full of depth and reasons to keep playing over and over again.

The player who can defeat 2-3 units in a few sequential turns will turn the tide and ultimately win. But, if the losing player plays their cards right, gets a few good draws, and has a little luck, the game can swing completely back. It's very well tuned and balanced.

I have a few complaints with the game. Like all card games or games that deal with any randomness, if a player gets a poor draw they might lose. This is worsened if one player gets a fantastic draw and the other gets an absolutely crummy draw, like I experienced last night. I do want to call out that this game is overwhelmingly based on strategy, not luck. Where you place your units, how you place command cards -- this is not random.

Towards the latter half of the game, it can drag a tinge. It may be clear that one player is going to win, but the losing player can cling for dear life for a few turns without actually making progress towards victory. They won't be winning, they just aren't losing as quickly.

Finally, and this isn't really a negative, because the game has so many unique elements the learning curve can be a bit wavy at times. The rules are very well written and the game is elegantly designed, but it is different. Different can lead to some confusion, but I really respect the designer's desire to be unique.

I've only played the game in 2 player, though it does support 3-4. Personally, I think 2 player is just right.

Vanguard: Rome is very reasonably priced under $20 and is absolutely recommended to fans of unique strategy games. It plays quickly and is full of depth, so you'll want to play again and again. I was fortunate enough to learn to play the game from the designer himself who happens to live in San Francisco. He's a great guy and I can't wait to see more from him.

August 3, 2011

A Dangerous Obsession with Castles, which are in Danger

I bought the oddly named Castle Danger from designer Matt Worden last week. I fell in love with the game when I saw its simple appearance and elegant pieces. It reminded me of Stratego or a classic version of Risk. I loved the aesthetic.

Now that I've had a chance to read the rules and play the game a few times, I also love the game. I'm not going to blather on, as I feel it's a disservice to the elegance of the design. I shall be brief.

The goal of the game is to shoot the other player's King with a cannon. There are a few game pieces that help you accomplish this goal:
  • Wizard gives you 3 more moves each turn
  • Builder can build or remove protective walls
  • Cannons can shoot other pieces and walls
  • King should just not get shot
  • Walls can protect your pieces (and King!) from cannons
Each turn you get 3 moves, plus 3 more for each Wizard you have. 1 Move is used to take any action. So, 1 move to move your builder, 1 move to build a wall, 1 move to fire a cannon, etc. The final major mechanic is that each turn you may add 1 Wizard or 1 Builder or 1 Cannon. Choose, but choose wisely!

The game has a chess-like feel, without the overwhelming learning curve of chess. I've always loved the idea of chess, but have never been able to grasp the basic strategy. Castle Danger scratches that itch. It's so easy to learn, but has so many strategies to try. The first game I was clearly outplayed and lost. On the second game, I had the better strategy but made one fatal error and my opponent capitalized on the mistake and won.

Both games took right at about 20 minutes, which was perfect. I should add that reading and understanding the rules took all of 5 minutes. 

I am already hungry to play more. I want to find the right strategy and win. Should I start with wizards? Do I turtle up with builders? How annoying would it be if I got out a cannon on turn 1? There is a lot of depth, but not too much, which makes the game so easy to recommend. 

Check out Matt's website here. I also recommend checking out Jump Gate, which one GAMES Magazine's 2011 Traditional Game of the Year. You can also see Castle Danger on Board Game Geek.

Fun Fact: The name Castle Danger comes from a town by the same name in Minnesota. Don't believe me?

August 2, 2011

New Arrivals from The Game Crafter

I just received an order I've been very excited about for a week or so. I ordered three new games, all of which I have high expectations for.

Castle Danger looks spectacular and is designed by Matt Worden, who's other title Jumpgate earned GAMES Magazine's 2011 Traditional Game of the Year Award. Here's an image of me unboxing it! Castle Danger is a two player game with a Stratego like board. Each player is trying to destroy the other player's castle. The game has a chess-like feel to it, according to the designer.

I also bought a game called The Golems of Ymhet. The game is designed by Tim Mierzejewski, who has been published before by a traditional publisher with his game Malta!

The Golems of Ymhet is a 2-3 player strategy game where the players are trying to defend Ymhet with powerful golems. Unfortunately, one of the player's is a traitor. Such a great premise.

Finally, I ordered a copy of Farmageddon for myself. As I noted in a previous blog, I wanted to make a few final tweaks to Farmageddon to improve the game experience to the quality I desired. I also wanted to improve the rules per feedback I'd received to reduce confusion.

The new game looks fantastic. The cards are pixel perfect, the art looks better than ever, and the game now comes in a really slick box. I'm really proud that I'm able to keep the price at $13.99 as well.

Check it out!

All in all this board game thing has been pretty sweet and good to me so far. Farmageddon has been sitting in the "Best-Selling" section on The Game Crafter for a few weeks now. Feels good.

Can't wait to try Castle Danger and Golems of Ymhet. I have high expectations!

July 30, 2011

More Nazi Lies: Incursion Board Game Review

I was really excited to finally play Incursion, an independently developed and published board game I bought months ago. The game is developed by Grindhouse Games, founded by two brothers from Texas. I actually found out about the game by reading a Houston Chronicle newspaper clipping my aunt sent me.

The game is set in 1949. World War II still rages and the Nazis have captured British held Gibraltar and turned it into a secret weapons research lab. Basically, the Nazis are straight out of Wolfenstein (zombies, man-wolves, chicks with guns) and the Americans use mechs.

I picked up the $50 game (plus S&H) for a few reasons: The setting looked cool, I love miniatures, they boasted of simple and accessible gameplay, and I wanted to support some indie Texans.

Let's start with the bad!

July 23, 2011

Learning the Hard Way and the Second Edition

For almost 6 years now I've made games for my employers. This is totally righteous and I am thankful every day I get to do this  instead of selling paper for a living. That being said, the process of designing and building my own game has been one of the coolest things ever.

But, if you take on all the risk, and if you're the only one doing things, you have no safety net. All my mistakes, and boy it seems I've made some, are on me. I've pulled Farmageddon from the online store where I sell it for the time being to improve the rules from a polish/elegance standpoint, as well as from a balance/design standpoint. The good news is, the cards and art won't need to change.

I tested Farmageddon quite a bit even before I decided to hire an artist. But, you can never test enough! Now that the game has sold a few copies I've gotten a bit more feedback and learned even more about how people play my game, how they interpret my rules, and what they deem fair, fun, or interesting. At some point you have to put your foot down and say NO MORE. This is the game! You cannot please everyone all the time. But, when you hear some consistent feedback, it's prudent in my opinion to address it.

All my self-loathing aside, almost everyone who bought the game in its current state has enjoyed it. I didn't create Daikatana. But, I didn't create Catan, either.


  • The rules have received a scrub to fix some typos. I think these are utterly embarrassing! 
    • I wrote "red Crop Cards and green Farmer Cards." Too bad the Crop Cards are green and the Farmer Cards are red.
    • I explained what every individual Farmer Card did...except the Bumper Crop. Good thing the explanation on the card is sufficient!
  • The rules have received a scrub for clarity and elegance. 
    • I moved the "How to Win" section to the top. I don't know why I didn't do this. Players should see this first as everything else ultimately feeds into it.
    • I've worked really hard to better explain the Crop to Compost conversion.
    • I expanded the Common Questions (i.e. FAQ) section.
    • Overall, it's now better written. You can edit 2 pages 20 times and you'll always find something new to tweak.
  • The game now has customized rules for 2 Players. The game has always worked for 2 players, but it was meant for 3 or 4 players. Unfortunately, I didn't do my due diligence testing or designing for 2 players. Interestingly enough, almost all of my early customers have played the game with 2 players. I guess I assumed that most people would play the game at their once a month casual board game meet up. But, it turns out that the type of people willing to take a risk on a card game are also the type of people that play them all the time with their wives, boyfriends, or roommates. I should have considered that.
    • Players draw more Crop Cards.
    • Players must use more Compost.
    • Players can use more Farmer Cards.
    • Crop Rotation has a special 2 Player rule.
  • Farmer Cards needed to be balanced. Random and chaotic is fun, but I intended the game to have a (admittedly light) layer of strategy. If you're playing a four player game and all four players can play infinite Farmer Cards, well, chaos will occur. This is fun for the winner, not fun for everyone else. Now, Farmer Cards can only be used sparingly. This adds choice (which is what makes games great), it adds limits (which makes games fair), but with four players it will still allow for some chaos (which is something I personally love in a game). 
  • Thresher Farmer Card needed to be re-designed. This is a card that made sense when I explained it. It mostly made sense when folks read it. But, it was also prone to misinterpretation. As it turned out, the misinterpretation was far cleaner and accomplished what I wanted. I've simplified this card.
  • Tokens have been added to indicate ownership. I used pennies and whatnot during the prototype so players knew which cards were theirs. Due to oversight and sloppiness, I forgot to include these (though I corrected it a week ago) for the published version. Now, the game comes with 3 colored tokens for each player to use. 
I'm a little embarrassed that a few folks paid $15 for what now looks like a beta test. If this were software I could issue a patch. But, it's not and that's very serious. Luckily, most of my customers are personal friends or family members. I can mail them the updated rules. Those that aren't are mostly folks who frequent the site where I publish the game. I can get them the updated rules as well. 

For my next game, I'm going to personally test the hell out of the game and balance it, like I did with Farmageddon. Then, I'm going to stomach the cost and mail a handful of friends and enthusiasts a copy and say "go!" 

I'm going to test my new rules. If all pans out, I'll upload the new rules, update Farmageddon to second edition, and give it the shot it deserved the first time around.

July 14, 2011

The Chronicles of Rodiek

My younger brother, Dylan, is a football coach/teacher in Texas. He works really hard and has made a name for himself and is doing quite well. Last year, he was working the sidelines at a high school football game when the player (and its players) came crashing into where Dylan was standing. Dylan acted quickly and bolted out of the way before fully-padded youth crashed into him.

A fellow coach caught the entire thing on camera. Dylan's intense look and hardcore action pose was funny enough by itself, but in true meme fashion, the coaches kept using the photo again and again. Dylan sent me the photos last night and I'm posting them here. I realize I'm biased, but I think they are utterly hilarious.

Dylan at the running of the bulls
Dylan and Forrest, Forrest Gump
Dylan entering the brawl at Fenway Park
Dylan shoots for the gap!
Dylan in the New York City marathon
Dylan in Iraq
Dylan at Tiananmen Square

July 11, 2011

I Spilled a Drink in a Dive Bar

This past Saturday night a large group of us were at Tunnel Top in San Francisco to celebrate my girlfriend's birthday. Tunnel Top is a nice dive with a DJ, good drinks, and a bit of space so it doesn't get uncomfortably crowded.

I was standing downstairs chatting with a good friend, Ryan, and his girlfriend, Carly. I talk with my hands, especially when I've had a drink or two, and I accidentally smacked Carly's glass of wine. It splashed on the floor and we laughed, she gave me "go to hell" eyes, and we moved on.

About 5 minutes after the spill, the blonde in front of us turns around with a look of utter shock on her face. "

"What just happened?" she said, looking directly at Carly. "Did you just spill all over my shirt?"

I stepped in, apologized, and offered to buy them a drink. I even offered to pay to replace her shirt.  This odd social fencing match took longer than expected. Ryan and I were quietly quick to agree that neither of these girls were very attractive. Were we single and they better looking we may have capitalized on this bar faux paus.

But, we aren't, and they weren't.

Blonde kept re-stating that we spilled our drink on her. This was clearly accepted and understood by all involved. She also emphasized that her shirt may be ruined. We kept apologizing. This exchange on for about 4 minutes, which is about 3 minutes, 48 seconds too long.

Eventually the blonde and her friend, a fine schnauzer of a lass, seemed to have closure and they walked about 5 feet away.

Me, Ryan, and Carly continued our conversation.

But, closure was not had! Ryan and I noticed that Carly became increasingly more agitated and realized that blonde and her lap dog friend were giving Carly evil eyes. Carly threw up her arms in frustration "What do you want? It's a bar!" she shouted.

Blondie and Scooby came back.

"It's okay!" Blonde explained. "You spilled on us, but you know, you spilled everywhere." She pointed at the floor, in case we weren't aware of gravity's effect on airborne liquids.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I'll replace your shirt."

"No, it's okay! But you did spill on us. Look at what's on the floor." Yes, we know what's on the floor.

I turned to Ryan and asked him what was going on. He looked at me with wild eyes and stated simply that he had no clue. A foot away, Carly explained to them that sometimes drinks are spilled in a bar. She spoke very slowly, as if explaining quantum physics to a stupid child.

Alas, Blondie and Marmaduke kept re-living the most awkward and insignificant of bar encounters. Over. And over.

I double checked with Ryan once more to confirm that our earlier assessment of their attractiveness was accurate. He confirmed this for me. Ryan's a good man. It's important to note that by this point we no longer cared about being civil and were discussing this at full volume.

"Hey guys," I said, taking charge of the conversation. "We're sorry this happened. Why don't you let me buy your next round."

"Oh, that won't be necessary," blonde-a-saurus explained.

"Excellent!" I chimed. "Then why are you still talking to us?"

This went over about as well as expected and they left for good.

July 9, 2011

Farmageddon! On Sale!

My copy arrived in the mail. There was one tiny slip up with the currency, but other than that the print out was just fine. I've updated the game and it's now for sale here for only $14.99 (plus S&H). I am making less than $1 per game sold, so it is the lowest price I can push for the current publishing arrangement.

I also uploaded some more pictures to the Facebook page.

Give it a shot, tell your friends!