deck building with standard playing cards

I posted a set of rules on BGG this morning for an idea I had for a deck building game with standard playing cards. The game was specifically envisioned for the 2013 Solitaire Print and Play Contest. I think the idea could be expanded to a multiplayer game, but I haven’t done too much thinking about that yet. This was partly inspired by the contest, and also partly inspired by this neat RPG I found (also on BGG) called 52 Card Adventure (also playable with standard playing cards). Anyway, here my rules are, reposted here for posterity:

Object
Acquire all cards into your deck in as few turns as possible

Setup
You start with 10 cards in your deck, (all 2s & 3s, and two 4s). Also set asside the other 4s and two 5s for scoring. Shuffle the rest of the cards and lay out five of them (the lineup) for purchasing.

Turn overview
A turn consists of the following steps:

  • increment your score/turn counter (see scoring below)
  • draw 5 cards and use them to acquire other cards
  • put all the cards used, unused, or acquired in your discard pile
  • refresh the lineup back up to five cards

Gameplay details
Draw 5 cards from your deck each turn and buy cards using the values of the cards you’ve drawn. For example, you may buy a 10 of clubs by paying a 9 of diamonds and two of clubs. You do not get “change” for your purchase and the same card may never be used to buy more than one card.

You may only buy a card if you are using at least one card of the same suit.

If you buy a card using its exact value (a 6 using two 3s, for example), you may acquire another card from the lineup without paying anything for it. The “same suit” rule does not apply to the free card acquired in this way.

You may acquire as many cards from the lineup in a turn as you can afford/acquire.

Face cards (J, Q, K) may be acquired by paying their value (11, 12, 13), or (more likely) with the free card after an exact payment. When they are in your hand they may be used as their value (11, 12, 13), or you may discard them to draw additional cards from your deck. A Jack lets you draw one card, Queen two cards, and King three cards.

An ace may only be acquired as the free card from an exact value payment. Thus if the last card to be acquired is an ace and there are no other cards remaining in the lineup or lineup deck, this is the only way to lose the game. When an ace is in your hand, you may use it to acquire any card from the lineup regardless of suit or cost (other than an ace).

Scoring
Right now, your score is simply the number of turns it takes you to acquire all the cards in the lineup deck.

Lay a 4 and a 5 face-up near (but separate from) the play area. Place the other 4 and 5 face-down on top of them. The 4s are your “tens” counter and 5s are for 1s. On the first and subsequent turns, reveal one of the suit symbols on the face-up 5 by moving the face-down 5 on top of it. When you get to 5, flip the face-down 5 to face-up, and cover the other suit symbols. For six, move the top face-up card to revelal another symbol, etc.

(I hope this is explained well enough. I cannot take credit for this, as it’s how my family has scored euchre for years.)

Feedback desired
I’ve played through this a bunch of times (best score was 12). I think the scoring is the weakest part right now. Definitely looking for ideas on how to improve that.

Global Game Jam 2013 Board Games

Last year I spent a fairly significant amount of time going through all the games created for the Global Game Jam in the Board Game category. I then got about five of those games into a “playable” state by printing their components or whathaveyou. (The standout from last year was easily Saprobiont, which I have probably played at least a dozen times.) I wrote the whole thing up in a lengthy blog post before I’d had a chance to play any of them.

I can’t explain it, but this year’s batch of games didn’t have nearly as many that I want to play. I went through the entire list of 124 games tagged as Board Games, and of those, took notes on 57 of them. (Probably half of them were little more than a name, and half again after that little more than a name and a snapshot someone took of their prototype.) Of those 57, after some investigation, I only found 36 that appear to be “playable” in English. That is definitely more than last year’s 19, but I spent less time this year, and may have disqualified more of them if I’d taken the time to really dig in.

Of the 36, last night I had the chance to play 3 of them, and one of them was mine.

  • HeartBurn (my creation) – Two plays of my app/card game hybrid last night. There was lots of giggling, and reactions were positive, but there was no rush to play it again after either game. (Games lasted probably around 2 minutes each.) My new feeling for this game (which was actually echoed in both of the other GGJ games I played last night) was that it’s missing something essential to make it feel more like a “real” game. More (any) meaningful decisions, maybe?
  • Brando – Played a round of this dice game. I was initially intrigued by it, and enjoyed picking out which dice to pit against my opponent, but the game ended up feeling insubstantial. If you like rolling dice to see who wins, this may be more up your alley. My original notes: “Dice game, requires math, looks interesting.”
  • Divide – My notes: “Quite interesting set of rules for a game played with a standard deck of cards, but the suits and numbers don’t matter, only the colors of the card, red or black.” Played a few rounds of this, and my impression was that — again — it’s lacking something to have real appeal. The idea is interesting, and there were a few surprises durring our play. The game can be played by either relying entirely on luck, (the goal is to guess the distribution of red and black cards in your opponent’s hand), or with some careful and calculated deduction.

Here are my notes on the other 34 games that appear to be “playable”:

  • <3 U – Party game where you actually text each other cryptic messages and your team-mate(s) attempt to decypher your text.
  • ACK! The Subtle Art of Geriatric Assassination – Munchkin-inspired card game of player assassination.
  • Barrilete Galáctico – roll & move
  • Beat To Death – 2-player tile and card game where each player controls a monster’s body, and that body directly attacks the opponent’s body.
  • Birthday Suit – “a cooperative edutainment party game that mixes biology, light humour and innuendo”
  • Caloria – Health/fitness theme on a worker placement game
  • Common Causes – Roll & move with political theme. Winning and losing are subjective in this game.
  • Destroy All Men – Draw and play card game. You are a woman who, through the drawing of random cards, gets to either “destroy” or “submit to” a man. Poor design, kinda fun theme. Playable.
  • Escape from Vampire – Card-based game where you are running away from a vampire.
  • Fantabulous Fluffy – Another dice fighting game
  • Fat Food Contest – card game where you try to eat the most
  • Flow to the Heart (Fluss zum Herz) – Complex game based on Parchisi. Extensive rules, and lots of “bits” are needed, as well as a deck of cards.
  • Heart of the Ship – Be the first human to escape your cryostasis and find the escape pod. Sounds pretty interesting. Art is not bad.
  • Heart Rate Speed Date – No-turn (everyone plays at once) matching game for two players. Nice art, silly theme (speed dating), but looks cool.
  • Heartbeat of a Fickle God – Cards, dice used to reprsent the gods’ various emotions (or perhaps minion emotions, not sure). Hidden goals, and open trading. Looks like all phases are simultaneous play. Rules could use work, but it looks like this is probably playable.
  • Heartfelt – Fairly complex rules for a standard-52-card-deck game inspired by Race For The Galaxy and Citadels.
  • Igor, Jumpstart The Heart! – Draw a card and play it to either build your monster or destroy someone else’s monster. When your monster is complete, roll a die to see if you won. For kids.
  • Life of Jo(e) – Dice/card game with a single track gameboard. Players roll a die every turn to determine their actions for the turn. Players are moving live and death tokens on the track (as well as other tokens), and when live meets death, the player who has that section is the winner.
  • Lovespoons the Card Game – Card game about building lovespoons. Looks fairly interesting, but the art is uninspired.
  • Mad Geneticists – Card & dice attack game.
  • Mad Hospital – co-op(?) game where the goal is to keep a hospital running. Cards are not in english
  • Malpractice – co-op game defending a body from disease
  • Milk Finder – Roll & move touching on social/political implications of formula milk
  • Night Hunt – Vampire hunting game
  • Pathogenicocytomitosis – Dice and card game. Decent looking art. Would be expensive to print.
  • Pizza War – Pizza themed roll and move, on a grid, with chess-like capturing
  • Pump The Muscle! – Roll & Move with one interesting optional rule about pumping a balloon to simulate pumping a heart.
  • Racing Heart – Elaborate rules. action point system. cards, large gameboard with spaces representing parts of the body. Innerspace-like theme.
  • Relation$#! – Deckbuilding card game with relationship theme
  • Rest – Dice game. Betting and rolling.
  • Shaman Showdown – Another two-player battle game. This time the players are shamen, and attack each other by sacaraficing animals to cast spells
  • The Capture – Roll & move
  • The King’s Heart – Card and dice game. You are an assassin. Play attack cards and roll dice to attack various parts of the king’s heart.
  • Malpracticeco – Claims to be a cross between Cards against Humanity and Munchkin. Instructions say the rules are intentionally vague. No art on the cards.

Global Game Jam 2013 – Introducing “Heart Burn”

Here is my submission for this year’s global game jam: Heart Burn. Much like last year’s Global Game Jam, I wasn’t in attendance for all that much of the weekend after Friday night. But while I was there on Friday night, I made up a quick 25 card deck using colored post-it notes and a calligraphy pen. There were five colors and five “symbols”. You can see them in this image.

original_sm

Already August, (who I collaborated with for the first time on last year’s game jam game Eat Thyself), has come up with some better looking artwork, and he and I are planning on working together to polish up the app’s look and feel, and possibly publish it to the app store.

The concept and rules are quite simple: An iPhone app (code created during the game jam is up on bitbucket) will tell the players both whose turn it is to play, and what cards they can play. The game uses the “No cheating (please)” diversifier, which means that you’re basically on your honor not to cheat and play when it isn’t your turn or not to play the wrong cards. And it needs that diversifier, because, at least as it plays right now, the game is far too fast-paced to pay attention to anyone else’s cards!

About halfway through the weekend, I decided I should make the game playable without the custom cards, so I spent most of my time on Sunday making it work with a standard Euchre deck. If we release the app, it’ll have a setting to play it either way.

Here’s a clip on youtube of the game being played at the gamejam.

Global Game Jam Board Game Rundown

After joining my fellow twin cities IGDA members at the global game jam a few weekends ago, I was all fired up about the board games that were made that weekend. In fact, I spent a good chunk of the following weekend going through all one hundred and two “non-digital” games in the Global Game Jam database from 2012. With the exception of a few that I skipped over categorically (mostly roll-and-moves, but I apologize if I missed any cool ones), this post contains my paring down of those hundred-plus games to just the English ones that are ready for print-and-play. Keep in mind that I would guess at least one-in-four had absolutely nothing on the game page at all other than a name and sometimes a description. There were also probably between three and ten that were just totally miss-categorized, as well as a similar number that weren’t written in English.

After doing all that research, I meant to post my thoughts on all these playable games ASAP, but it took me until tonight to find the time to sit down and actually do it. So without further ado, here is a list of all the games that, at the time of my research, had all the files and instructions necessary to play them available on the Global Game Jam website, along with some (brief) thoughts on each one.

First, there were fivefour games I managed to get to a playable state by our IGDA meetup:

  1. Eat Thyself(printing requires color) – I would of course be remiss if I did not put my own project first. My friend and fellow board game designer August Brown did an absolutely fantastic job on the artwork for this, (and he wasn’t even signed up for the Game Jam!) I’m very excited to mount the board I’ve printed to posterboard sometime in the not-so-distant future. It’s an abstract strategy that plays 2 or 3 players in probably around ten minutes. I’m calling it a “light” abstract because there’s not a whole lot of brain burning. The game admittedly has some problems when played with 3 players, but I’ve got some ideas for fixing it, I just haven’t tested them yet, or posted them anywhere.
  2. Saprobiont(requires color) – The artwork on this one is absolutely fantastic. It only plays with exactly four players, and each player has variable player abilities, and also score victory points (called biomass) in subtly different ways. It’s lightly war-game-ish, but with such simple (and balanced) combat that it feels more like an abstract strategy game. This game pretty much dominated our IGDA recap night, and was played at least five times in the course of the evening. I had someone ask me for advice about making their own copy a few days later. At least one of the creators is active on Board Game Geek, and has created an entry for Saprobiont there as well.
  3. Aion: A Game of Serpents(requires color) – This two-player tile-laying game has extremely well designed rules, with lots of illustrations and examples. I am sad I didn’t get a chance to play the version I made for our meetup. I’m not even sure that anyone played it!
  4. Ouroboros – (B&W is probably fine) – This was actually the first of the GGJBGs that I played. Sunday afternoon, I was hanging around the Game Jam, watching everyone else frantically finish up while I wrote blog posts and read twitter. Eventually I got bored of that, and started surfing games on the Game Jam website that looked ready to play. This one jumped out at me because it was one of the only other games tagged “Abstract Strategy”. It was also playable with a pile of lego pieces (which I had on hand), and on a 6×6 gameboard I was able to draw in 10 seconds. I convinced another Jammer to play with me, and we were both quite impressed. Lots of thinking, and the game didn’t turn out at all the way we’d thought it was headed, so surprise twists at the end of the game are possible (not something I look for in an abstract, but it was refreshing at the time).
  5. Cult Wars(B&W) – looks to be an interesting card game for 2 to 4 players, and it has absolutely fantastic black and white artwork. Unfortunately, I got the cards all printed and cut, and had everything ready to go before I really started looking into the rules. I think there is some clarification needed on some pretty major points. (For example, which cards do you start with, and which do you draw in the course of playing?) The rules need some major work, IMHO, and unfortunately, the game is not really “ready” to play without making some stuff up as you go.

Other games I believe are ready to play but that just didn’t make the cut in my first pass:

  • Alpha & Omega(requires color) – A tile laying game with player pawns that need to be positioned optimally for scoring at the end of the game. The rules PDF has some formatting issues, but I’m still interested, and would love to try it out sometime.
  • destination earth(B&W) – 2-player card game with science fiction theme. The hand-drawn art is pretty cool, but the cards look fairly dull to me. I really have no idea how it plays.
  • Escape from Infinity(requires color) – I noticed this game also has a BGG page now. This is a racing game… the innovation here is that before anyone moves, you choose a card for each player, and on your turn, you chose one of those players to move the number of spaces your card represents. Seems like there’s ample opportunity for screwage as well as nail biting as you hope so-and-so doesn’t screw up your card choices. When all the cards have moved, the round is over, and it all starts over again.
  • floatsam(B&W) – I didn’t quite understand the rules here at first pass. They probably deserve another look, but it’s somehow a “competitive maze game of skill and luck for 2-4 players”.
  • The Frightening Temple Of Set(requires color) – This game has a sweet looking hand-drawn gameboard. It’s a roll-and-move, but with some rather complex rules that might make it fun for a certain kind of person.
  • Lines of Nazca(requires color & Legos!) – I actually think this looks awesome. You construct a secret puzzle goal out of three lego pieces that you hide from everyone else and are trying to duplicate as you play the game. Meanwhile, you are also moving a pawn on the gameboard by playing lego pieces.
  • Magnum Opus(requires color) – Looks like another tile-laying game. I’d need to “dig in” before I truly understood this one, I think.
  • Moebius slider(B&W) – This incredibly simple dexterity game should have made “the cut”, but I just didn’t remember to make it at the very last minute.
  • OUROBOTOS(requires color) – You are assembling some kind of giant robot. How much cooler than that is even possible!?! Apparently there is resource management. I haven’t fully examined this one yet.
  • Rapush(technically not B&W, but looks to be okay with it) – This appears to be a pretty straight-forward abstract strategy game with the “pushing other people’s pieces” mechanic.
  • Stranded(B&W) – Interesting seeming card game with rather lackluster art. The game’s setup could use some additional explaining.
  • tailbiter(B&W) – I can’t quite tell if the very minimalist rule-set would be enough to grok this game. It sounds almost war-like.
  • Your Genre Sucks(technically needs color, but would probably work without – requires standard deck of cards) – Fairly interesting story-telling game where everyone plays with a different genre and must keep pulling the story back into their type of story.

Bonus Game!!!

  • Obsolescence(requires color) – This game wasn’t available when I did my earlier research, but I noticed it tonight, and am intrigued. Here’s the description the designers gave it: “Tile Laying game in which players develop, upgrade, and recycle successive generations of Apple gadgets by laying tiles representing components on a circuit board, connector edge to connector edge in order to form closed loops consisting of newly laid and previously laid components.” Sounds right up my alley, doesn’t it? I’ll have to try this out sometime soon.

    Honorable mentions list #1 (Games that would be cool, but look too hard to construct):

    • Entagon
    • pandemonium
    • Sugar Crush

    Honorable Mentions list #2: (Not all files are available, but would possibly be really cool if they were!):

    • Cowroboros
    • Blue Print
    • Centrix
    • Gaeon
    • Goons & Guns

Shibumi Game Design

In the past month or so, I’ve quite enjoyed designing and then entering at least one game (ok, technically two) into the Shibumi Game Design Challenge. Shibumi is a board game “system” that uses spherical balls of three different colors that stack into a 4x4x4 pyramid. Partly as a result of this challenge, there are now lots of games for the system. I made my own set out of some marbles I bought online. I made a gameboard out of posterboard that looked like this:

Eventually I replaced that by buying a copy of the excellent abstract Pylos (which is also a game played with spheres on a 4×4 grid). My marbles work great on the Pylos gameboard, so I’ve basically just scrapped my original posterboard now.

My first game for Shibumi was called Spice, (all games need to start with “sp”, standing for “square pyramidal”). It was actually just a port of Nick Bentley’s interesting abstract Ketchup. So I guess there really wasn’t much design there.

I spent quite a few weeks thinking (obsessing) about Shibumi, and one of my other ideas was to remove “tetris shapes” from the gameboard after you (or your opponent) make them. I called it Spolyominos, mostly just because someone had already called their game Spetris earlier in the competition.

Additionally, I had some other ideas for Shibumi game mechanics that I never really turned into a game. One idea was moving the pieces like chess pieces. I was imagining all red pieces move like knights, all white like bishops, and all black move like rooks. I even made some images to show how the pieces could move:

The goal with this was wanting to create gameplay that “feels like” the great chess variant Tic-Tac-Check, (which plays super fast and is a lot of fun), but in that game, players have pieces of their own color, (and they’re trying to connect 4 of them on the gameboard). I didn’t really figure out a way to have the three colors correspond to the three types of chess pieces, and also have pieces that are either one player’s or the other’s.

Partly as a result of my Shibumi game design obsession, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about modern abstract game design. And as a result, I really wanted to play more modern abstracts. I decided to set up a board game meetup to play some of the abstract games I own, but hadn’t gotten a chance to play, and it went really well! We played a ton of Shibumi games, as well as many of the GIPF project games that I rarely get a chance to put on the table. I also got to play Ketchup for the first time (not on a website). The next minneapolis abstract strategy game day is scheduled for a week from today, and I’m hoping it’ll be equally entertaining.

Gödel, Escher, Bach, from a Game Developer’s Perspective, David Sirlin, and new deck-building games

Gödel, Escher, Bach (GEB) is one of those non-fiction books I’ve had on my shelf for years, but never really read. I tend to start non-fiction books, get a few pages or chapters in, and then let them rot. Mostly I just get rid of them after a while, but this is a book that I’ve always really wanted to read. I’m genuinely interested in the subject matter, being fascinated with the nature of self-reference, infinity, looping, and meta-fiction. (Hofstadter lumps a lot of these concepts together into what he calls “strange loops”.) So a couple of months ago I dove in for the second or probably third time, claiming that I was going to force myself to read this book, no matter what.

Turns out, the first chapter of the book was the most interesting part for me. (At least, of what I’ve read so far.) I ended up petering-out again after I’d only read only about 1/3rd of the book. There are weird zen-like short stories in between chapters, and those are interesting, but I haven’t (yet) skipped ahead to just read those. (And anyway, they tend to deal with concepts that were discussed in the preceding chapters, so I’m not sure that would be a worthwhile read.)

Most of what I read (and find mostly boring) after that first chapter is dealing with, and introducing more and more complex formal systems. I think one of the concepts that Hofstadter is trying to get at is that most everything can be expressed as a formal system.

This morning I had a sort of revelation. All games are also formal systems. A game’s instructions are the expression of the rules of the system. As a game designer, I sort of want to go back and read more of those “boring” chapters with an eye toward how they apply to game design. Especially with an eye toward how the rules of the system are expressed. It’s possible that I won’t find them any more interesting the second time around, but it’s also possible that this different perspective will give me new zeal, renewing my commitment to finish the book. (Realistically, I probably won’t go back and re-read, but maybe I’ll put the book back in my backpack. We’ll see.)

This revelation may have come after yesterday reading David Sirlin’s article on designing/balancing his game Puzzle Strike. This is a really interesting article and insight into the process of his game’s design. I also started reading some of Sirlin’s book Playing To Win, which talks about how playing to win is actually less common than you might (intuitively) imagine, even among so-called gamers! One argument that really rang true for me is essentially that lots of gaming groups play with unwritten rules like “don’t screw your neighbor”, or “don’t make moves that are ‘cheap’ or ‘mean'”. I think when my group of friends first started playing a lot of board games (maybe in 2005 or so), we almost always had these special rules. In fact, I remember distinctly getting a reputation as particularly cutthroat because I often didn’t abide by them. Sirlin’s argument is that playing by these unwritten rules isn’t playing to win, and people who let those rules get in the way will never be able to compete with people who don’t.

I was only on Sirlin’s site because I am designing a deck-building game right now, and someone I work with suggested that Puzzle Strike is one that I should check out. I finally got it in the mail yesterday, and hope to play some games of it this weekend. Other deck building games I’ve been playing as “research” include Ascension, Thunderstone, and of course the granddaddy of them all, Dominion (we also have many of the expansions). I’ve ordered a copy of Eminent Domain, but it doesn’t sound like that’ll ship until sometime in October or November.

Playing Ascension on my iPhone/iPad was probably what pushed me over the edge into doing something about this particular game idea, but deck-building is only the latest aspect of the game’s design. Some other aspects of the game had been floating around in my head for months. I’ve definitely been wanting to design my own card game since I got my copy of (and subsequently played A LOT of) Glory to Rome in the last year. Another inspiration was simply noting an absence of (and wanting to play) deck-building games with science-fiction themes.

Eminent Domain also has a science-fiction theme, and I read somewhere that Glory to Rome and Dominion were both inspirations, so I was at first afraid it would share too many game mechanics with my game. But I’ve since read the rules — they’re on the game’s website — and there are definitely enough differences that I should be fine. It’s also worth noting that the game’s designer, Seth Jaffee, also has a blog where he posts interesting things about game design. In particular, I found this post on deckbuilding game theory to be particularly insightful. It made me think about whether my own game will have a viable (distinct) beginning, middle, and endgame.

I will definitely be posting more about the new game as it continues to be refined, and as it nears completion. So far I’ve only playtested a few times, but that led to some pretty major revisions. I’ve got a lot of work to do!

Sloppy Ports

This blog post borders on gossip, but I couldn’t help but repost a rather long rant I wrote in the comments of another iOS board games blog post over on BGG. In it, the author, Gabe A. links to the latest Carcasonne app blog post by The Coding Monkeys, which ended with the following awkwardly worded dig:

Yeah, it sure takes us a lot of time to get these things done. We’re sorry for making you wait. We love the game and think it deserves the time to make it truly great, instead of doing a quick but sloppy port, like it unfortunately happens so often on other platforms and to others of our favorite board games. We want to do better. Thanks for having the patience to let us do so.

Gabe had this to say:

Strangely, they also the word “sloppy” in making a veiled reference to “others of our favorite board games.” Eh, what’s that about?

…and here was my comment:

I don’t think this is strange at all.

Carcassonne by The Coding Monkeys is to iPhone app board game conversions what the iPhone is to smartphones in general. Basically, it’s just a million times better. Sure, there are little nitpicky things that I would like to change (it’s impossible to please everyone), but overall, the experience is far superior to the competition.

Companies like Codito and Tribeflame should definitely be applauded for dedicating their development efforts to iOS ports of these games we all know and love, but they should also take a page from The Coding Monkeys playbook, and spend a bit more time and effort to polish those games until they shine before releasing.

I really wanted to like Through the Desert for iPhone. It’s one of my favorite (if not actually my favorite) board games in real life, and I was pleased as pie to be able to finish a game in half the time on my iPad as it would take to finish a game with all the physical bits. Unfortunately, that’s where the pleasantness pretty much ended. The game is not as buggy as EVERY SINGLE RELEASE FROM Codito, but the multiplayer has basically never worked for me, and another couple of weeks spent polishing the user interface would have gone a really long way, IMHO.

In contrast, Carcassonne was, for me, one of those played out games relegated to the back of the closet. Don’t get me wrong, I played a lot of the game back when I first discovered it in like 2004… but it hadn’t seen the table in ages. The Carcassonne app pretty much turned that around overnight. I play more Carcassonne now than I ever did before. And it’s certainly not because the game got better. It’s all about the awesome implementation — asynchronous play and ELO especially.

Now, I understand not every game is going to have the luxury of a year of development, and budgets obviously factor directly into how much spit and polish a game is liable to get, but I personally feel like many of these board games — especially the ones near the top of the BGG list — deserve better than they have been getting from their developers. These are games that have already stood the test of time. I just hope their app counterparts can do the same.

iOS Eurogame Podcast and Links

So, a new post on my favorite iOS boardgaming blog was published today, and it included a link to the second Boardgame Babylon podcast about iOS boardgames. I listened to the episode tonight, and while there were some good descriptions of the gameplay for various iPhone/iPad eurogame implementations, I didn’t feel like it actually said anything new or particularly exciting to me. I had played all of the games mentioned with the exception of Michael Schacht’s Gold, which I knew about, but had passed on for various reasons.

Coincidentally, Gold was on sale yesterday, for $.99, (also mentioned in the iOS Board Games blog post), and if it had still been on sale while I was listening to the podcast, I would have picked it up, but alas, by the time I checked, the price had gone back up to $3. Normally, I would purchase a game I’m interested in for $3, no sweat, but the reasons I passed on Gold the first time I heard about it still remain, and I guess I just feel like there are a lot of games competing for my time… For $.99, I’ll buy almost any app just to try it out and see if I like it. For $3, I feel I have to actually want to play the game before I’ll purchase. It’s not that I don’t want to play Gold, but I just can’t see myself playing it for any real length of time.

But really, here are the reasons I passed on Gold the first time around: 1) Lack of online multiplayer. Would pick it up in a heartbeat if it had asynchronous. For $3 or even $5, for sure. 2) The rules seem really simple to me. Like maybe too simple. 3) The game was made by the same person/folks who did a few other iOS games I already own, namely High Society, and Money. This game looks to be pretty nearly identical (visually) to those games. Sure, it’s a different game, it’s got different rules, but if it doesn’t FEEL like a different game to me, I will still feel somewhere inside (no matter how irrationally) that maybe it’s too similar. This is one reason I’m not a big player of card games played with a standard 52 card deck, to be honest — those games just don’t feel different enough from one another to be interesting to me in anything other than an abstract game-theory type way. (Which is not to say that I don’t find them interesting, or won’t play them, only that once I’ve played them enough to feel like I “get” what’s happening, I lose interest very quickly.)

So after being slightly disappointed that I’d missed the Gold rush (as it were), I somehow ended up on a site that features articles by the game’s developer, Shannon Appelcline. I think I’d read some of these posts by him before, possibly What Makes a Great Mobile EuroGame?, or Making Computers Think Like Auction Players, or Turning Reiner Knizia’s Money into an iPhone Game, all of which were apparently written after a specific game release. His most recent post about iPhone board game dev (written just after releasing Gold) was Sweating the Details for iPhone Card Games: Visuals, AIs, and Player Numbers. These articles are definitely worth reading, but ultimately feel a bit too much like thinly veiled marketing to me. They aren’t technical enough to qualify as howto articles, and yet that’s what it feels to me like they’re pretending to be.

As a nice bonus, I found out today that someone I’m ostensibly working with (but have yet to meet), wrote a nice roundup of Go implementations for OSX and iOS. He mentions Smart Go Kifu as the winner for him on the iPad, and that’s been on my appshopper wishlist for some time now. I have yet to pick it up, mostly because it is $20, but it looks to be well worth it, with a database of 33,000 games, 30 of which are even annotated in english. The developer, Smart Go, inc, also has a universal app with a bunch of Go books as in-app purchases. If I had all the time in the world, I would read a book about go on my iPad right now. Instead, it’s about time I go to bed.

iOS Board Game Links

A couple of quickies here:

  • First, I’ve been meaning to post a link to Reiner Knizia’s page of all his mobile games for a while now. I didn’t realize until fairly recently that he is on twitter under his own name (@ReinerKnizia). Apparently he is also looking for android developers.
  • Secondly, I’ve discovered a really great blog getting posted on Board Game Geek called simply iOS Board Games. They are MUCH better at writing regularly than I am, and also at finding all the juicy details about stuff that is forthcoming, and recently released. BGG has a nice subscription feature, so I get notified whenever there is a new post. (Of course you can subscribe via RSS as well.) Good stuff, and definitely worth following if you are a publisher/creator in this space.

Table-top Tetris

The idea of Tetris as a physical board game is not a new idea. (I have a small collection of them.) While visiting Kotaku tonight, I found an intriguing post about two new Tetris board games showcased at the Toy Fair 2011 in New York City.

First I’ll mention Tetris Link, a stand-up version of Tetris for up to four players. The gameplay here is not about breaking lines. You get one color, (and presumably all the shapes), and you try and connect up your pieces while preventing your opponents from doing the same. I’m not exactly blown away by the originality here, although I suppose none of the other Tetris board games have been all that ground breaking either, but at least this could have had a hint of strategy in it, if they hadn’t introduced a die that you use to determine which piece you get to drop. I mean, sure, I’d buy it just for the die with Tetris shapes on it, but do I want to play a game with that mechanic in it? Not really. Fortunately, I’m sure it won’t be too hard to make up some slightly more thought-provoking rules about when you get to drop what pieces.

Tetris Link won’t be hitting stores until sometime later this year, and it sounds like it’ll be exclusive to B&N before it hits shelves everywhere. I don’t know if I’ll even remember to look for it at B&N, so it could be quite a while before I get this one. Also, I pilfered the photo above from Tetris Link’s facebook page, where it looks like they had some giant Tetris pieces to play with, as illustrated by these Tetris booth babes. (There were a lot more photos like that one on Facebook. Shameless, or fun? You decide.) You can also register to win a copy from the Facebook page (at least for the next day or two).

This is the one I feel is a MUST HAVE (although, lets be honest here, I’m obviously a collector, and I’ll be getting them both). The game, which may or may not be called simply “Tetris the Card Game“, is apparently getting made by Fundex, the same folks who made five billion versions of Phase 10. Apologies for the bad video still, but I simply wasn’t able to find out much of anything about this game! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy, and the video says they’re available now!!! Chances are that it’ll be in Target (based on the Phase 10 connection) and all over the place, but I’ll be damned if I can find it anywhere online tonight. When I get access to some actual product information, I’ll have to post it here (as well as at boardgamegeek, which is still unaware this product exists). This is appealing to me for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it looks kind of like a multiplayer puzzle mode for Tetris.

In my scouring the internet for the above card game, I eventually remembered to try the official Tetris site, where I’d forgotten they do occasionally post some pretty interesting Tetris related news items. Some quick links to things I missed in the last year or so since I’d been on there:

Visit the Kotaku post for videos of both of the new board/card games in action.