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!

July 6, 2011

Farmageddon! Almost Live...

I am incredibly proud to share the Farmageddon! Facebook page. A real website would be preferred, but I'd rather not get ahead of myself. A Facebook page is free and is an easy way to get the word out.

Also, as of last night the game is ready for publication on The Game Crafter. I haven't flipped the switch for public purchase yet, but I bought the first copy for myself to make sure everything printed out okay and is ready to go. Hopefully around this time next week I can "open the flood gates."

This whole experience has been incredibly fun and rewarding. I created a game by myself, tested it, iterated upon it, and ultimately, created something fun, fast, and accessible. I hired an incredibly talented artist, Brett Bean, and worked with him to create an absolutely beautiful and charming game. If nothing else, the game looks fantastic.

Soon, I can start annoying friends and visiting board game stores to give out free copies and hopefully drive some interest. It's a long shot, but I'd love to get the game published by Gamewright or somebody else. Or, drive enough interest that I can recoup my art costs and develop a real website to sell Farmageddon! and other games. I'd love to take a crack to turn Space Encounters! and Walk in the Rain into something special and worth buying.

Almost 6 years ago I was able to walk into a Best Buy to see my first game, The Sims 2 Open for Business, on store shelves. That was amazing.

This is even cooler.

July 2, 2011

Evolution, Dinosaurs, and Cave Men

People always seem to be all or nothing when it comes to any debate. You can even see this on user reviews on iTunes or sites like Metacritic: "OMG THIS GAME IS AWESOME - 10/10" vs. "WTF NO OPTION TO PUT PANTS ON MY AVATAR - 0/10."

The game industry, its customers, and its developers are just as bad: PC Gaming is dead, console only. Digital is king, no more brick and mortar. Social is the death of traditional games. F2P will kill pay up front.

I just don't understand these sentiments, especially coming from so many otherwise intelligent people who have created these juggernaut, billion dollar industries. Humanity is highly nuanced. People want different things at different times. Sometimes, the same customer wants different things, much like how we don't eat fried chicken for every meal.