A wild Appledex appeared!

Hello all,

I just wanted to give you a quick update about some exciting progress at Almost a Game. In the past few weeks I've been working to create a Wicked Apples FAQ I've named the Appledex. This will be the gathering place for all current and future questions about apple usage. So please, send your questions big and small and watch as the Appledex comes into full bloom!

Appledex.JPG

I'm also pleased to announce that Wicked Apples will be in stock once again at the end of the month. If you'd like to have a copy set aside please email us using the Contact page and we will notify you as soon the the shipment arrives.

If anyone is attending PAX East in a few weeks and wants to check out Wicked Apples, it will be available for checkout in the PAX Tabletop area. I will also be roaming the PAX East halls, so send me a message if you want to say hi!

- B

PS - A big thank you to those who helped shape the Appledex. It's a great start and it will only get better from here.

Post PAX South

Hello there my wicked friends!

It's been a few weeks and few conventions since we last talked, but a lot sure has happened since we announced we were going to PAX South. In that time we've made buttons, signs, website improvements (with more to come), sold out (again!) and made many new friends! 

So let's start this recap off with the wonderful (and sad) fact that we've sold out of all copies of Wicked Apples once again. It's been tough to keep copies around, especially after conventions. But fear not because we will be reordering again shortly. If you are interested in a purchasing Wicked Apples I recommend joining our waiting list by emailing us via the contact page.

PAX South itself was an amazing convention. Not only was it my first PAX South, it was also my first time being a PAX exhibitor. The Indie Showcase that we were part of housed 8 great games and the comradery behind the scenes was amazing. Just check out this crew!

PAX South Indie Showcase class of 2017

PAX South Indie Showcase class of 2017

A special shout out to "Wheels" our enforcer (pictured above to the far right) who made sure everything ran smooth as butta.

PAX attendees were also a highlight of this trip. Yes, you! We were often selling and signing in between (and during) game demos and everyone was extremely patient and understanding. Even during games friends and strangers were joking and laughing like they had know each other for years. This is what tabletop is all about.

I want to give a special shout out to one attendee in particular, "Demo Kid". I don't know his real name, but "Demo Kid" hung out at our table for most of the convention. He would jump in when we needed more players, jump out when new people needed a seat and helped new players learn the ropes. As if that wasn't enough, he gave us back his winner button when we ran out and even gave up his extra copy of Wicked Apples to someone looking to buy one after we sold out. If you're out there "Demo Kid" this one's for you, *tosses a handful of confetti into the air before realizing it was a horrible idea and spends the next hour cleaning up the pieces*

Also a big thanks to my demo partner Brenda, who is a Master Planner (official title), great friend and preventer of most of my bad ideas. Brenda this one's for you, *tosses a handful of glitter into the air and realizes he should not be left unsupervised with craft supplies*

PAX-suh

PAX-suh

- B

PAX South 2017

As 2016 comes to an end, an exciting 2017 begins to take shape. And the first item on the agenda is exhibiting Wicked Apples at the PAX South Tabletop Indie Showcase!

I am amazed, excited, terrified and energized. I am probably many more things, but with PAX South less than a month away the one thing I really need to be is ready.

*Cue Rocky theme music*

To anyone attending PAX South - please stop by the Indie Tabletop Showcase to say "Hi" and get your picture taken with the Wicked Apple. It's been locked away for the past few months and is eager to claim a few new victims.

WickedApple.jpg

- B

Wicked Eventful

The past month-ish has seen Wicked Apples appearing at several local events including the new hot gaming convention in the New England area G2S and the award winning Castle. Both were amazing events and I'd highly recommend checking them out if you're looking for new ways to get your game on. 

The G2S event featured a large free play area as well as several tables with a rotating cast of game designers. Due to the convention's success, they're poised to move to a larger venue and extend the event length to 3 days.

Demoing at the Granite Game Summit (G2S)

Demoing at the Granite Game Summit (G2S)

For your everyday gaming needs there's The Castle in Beverly Massachusetts. It's a great place to get together with friends and enjoy an evening of games. Plus they have food, drinks and a great atmosphere that makes you feel at home even when you're having a night out. 

A night out at The Castle

A night out at The Castle

I'll be getting back to game design blogs soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime live, love and game.

- B

Wicked Apples wins the BFIG audience choice award!

Dear Everyone,

You are amazing. It was quite the weekend for Wicked Apples at the 2016 Boston FIG. Not only did it sell out of it's first print run, but it also won the tabletop audience choice award. So a huge thank you goes out to anyone who played, bought, voted for, glanced at, sneezed on (you know who you are) or told a friend about the game.

For those who weren't able to get a copy at the Boston FIG, I've already started looking into ordering a new bushel of Wicked Apples. I'll post more info on that as soon as I know where and when it will be available. 

Thank you again,

- B

Wicked Apples available at BFIG 2016!

I'm excited to announce that Wicked Apples was chosen to be a featured game at the Boston FIG this year. This means that for the second year in a row Almost A Game will have a presence at the BFIG. Things are going to be a little different this time around though.

While Space Chase was well liked by players at the BFIG last year, it's game length made it tough to demo and it's printing cost made sale copies risky. Wicked apples fits much better into a convention setting with full games taking 10-15 minutes to play and a much lower price point. Because of this I'm pleased to say that Wicked Apples will be on sale during the Boston FIG!

There's still lots to do in preparation for the convention, but everything is falling into place. So stop by and say hi for a wicked good time. :)

- B

It's that time again!

Yet another Boston FIG is almost upon us and with it comes a new list of design items to complete. This year I've submitted Wicked Apples as my table top entry. It's come a long way over the years, but now it needs some finishing touches. Small things like 25 cards worth of art (but only 4 left) and a pretty instruction manual.

I've only made it through the first round of curation so far, so nothing is certain. The next round involves sending off a prototype for blind play testing which is always scary. Oh to be a fly on that wall... 

I'm not worried though. I'm pretty sure this one is almost a game.

- B

 PS - See what I did there? Nailed it!

FIG Incoming

Hello gang, It's been a busy few months, but I have lots to show for it. I've submitted Space Chase to the Boston FIG and made it through the 2 rounds of curation. Which means on September 12th I'll be in Boston showing off my game! For 12 hours straight! Hooray! You can see all the tabletop games the will be at the FIG this year here. 48 games enter... and 48 games will leave most likely.

Space Chase has gone through many minor changes that all together probably equal one major change. Some tiles were added and some tiles were removed, a rule book was created, new game tokens were made, crew members have had an ability overhaul and of course, art updates for all. The overall difficulty is also much better and most games seem to come down to the last turn more often than not. I'm also very proud that the overall game setup has been made much easier. This should come in handy for resetting the game after a demo.

The one thing that worries about demoing at the FIG is the learning curve. I've consistently seen players take one full play through to learn how the game works. That's not bad if you own a game, but it's going to be a tough sell at a convention where most people will play one game and walk away. This is mainly due to learning about all the different tiles the first time the come into play. I think I'll need to get creative with my teaching technique. Either that or nail people's shoes to the floor as soon as they sit down. Stay a while. I insist.

I still have lots of prep to do before the 12th, but if I had to demo tomorrow I would still be in a good place. In closing enjoy some pictures of recent play tests. I do enjoy my end game photos.

IMG_20150809_214201234

IMG_20150809_183903521_HDR

IMG_20150809_151026808_HDR

– B

PS - A special thanks to the Seacoast Game Designers for lots of play testing and critiquing.

The Crunch Continues

Since my last post I've been hard at work getting games ready for this coming week. It's been pretty hot and heavy. My efforts have been split between Space Chase and Lords of Battlemore. Space Chase has been a lot of finishing work before I send it off for a nice prototype print. If that sounds tedious, it is. Lords of Battlemore on the other hand has been creating first draft designs which is a far more creative (and fun!) endeavor. Developing Lords has brought back up one of my biggest faults when I prototype - focusing too much time into the look of the design. I know I shouldn't fuss with it as much as I do, but I justify it due to how design often influences gameplay. I feel like good design, color usage and a gameplay cheat sheet can alleviate a lot of rules confusion. When people test my games for the first time I want them to focus on how the game feels and not the curves of learning a new game. Also, I like designing. So there.

Space Chase has already gone through the gauntlet in this regard, but still needs finishing touches. It's instruction manual (which is high on my love, hate and priority list) is getting a graphical overhaul. Luckily it's not a part of the prototype that's going to The Game Crafter, so it doesn't need to be finished this week.

The prototype test group meets this Thursday, so Lords will need to be complete by Wednesday. I'm pretty sure I'm ahead of the game (nudge nudge), but I know not to relax. Prototyping is a slippery slope.

- B

Game Crunch Crafter FIG

And I'm back... It's been a while and although I haven't been posting about it here, I have still been working on games and meeting with various testing groups. Actually, I've been working on games quite a lot and have much to show for it. Last time I posted I had just got back from Boston FIG (Festival of Indie Games). I was kicking myself a little for not submitting games for it. I vowed that next year I would have my games in submission shape and be ready to FIG. Well apparently that time is fast approaching since last year's submissions needed to be for June. Currently there is no official date, but I'm assuming it will be around the same time so I'll be game crunching the next few months to tighten up everything I have.

What games do I have these days you ask? Currently I'm Looking at 3 or 4 games with most of the design done, a half dozen prototypes of each and mostly complete instructions. I should be sending stuff of to The Game Crafter sometime this week for a few different games to start testing "final" prototypes.

Current prototype games include:

Space Chase (Mercury) M.E.G.A. 8 (Earth) Wicked Apples Lords of Battlemore

I still reserve the right to change any of these names, but I think it's good that I have something specific to refer to them by. I'll try to post some images and gameplay synopsis of each one this week.

- B

100% complete! ...with 80% of the game

I'm really good at starting projects. I think a of of people are. It's finishing a project that's the killer. Since my last post I've started 2 new games, but I'm not sure it's a bad thing this time. In my last post I was on my way to test out Earth and see if it was any good. Although play testing was limited, people really seemed to enjoy the basic set of cards (about 90 total) that I was testing with. The testers put forth a few ideas and I headed home, anxious to complete the rest of the game. As I began to introduce these new ideas, they lead to questions. And those questions lead to roadblocks that I couldn't get past. They were simple questions, but important enough that they needed a lot more testing before I could continue pushing forward with new cards and content.

After a week of tweaking mechanics and self play testing I was a little burnt out. I decided to take a break and design a new game. A simple game. A game that wouldn't keep me up at night crunching numbers. First I came up with a name, Wicked Apples. Then I imagined what playing a game with that name would be like. I know it sounds completely backwards, but it actually worked out quite well. It's the first game that has a name I like instead of a random planet. I'm not sure, but I think this may be my new creative process.

Since creating Wicked Apples I've gone through 3 rounds of play testing and 4 prototypes. People are really enjoying it and with only 23 cards it's been evolving very quickly. I'm really excited about the latest version and can't wait to get in some more play testing as soon as the new cards are complete.

Here's a sneak preview to keep you curious:

6-Curious

I also went to Boston FIG (Festival of Indie Games) last Saturday which showcases both video games and board games. It also gives you a chance to talk directly to the game creators which is always interesting. I met some nice people, played some cool games and can't wait to go again next year. If you've never gone I'd highly recommend it.

I'm going to try to make weekly posts a thing from now on. There are always new ideas, artwork and complaints to share. Now I just need to make the time.

- B

Welcome to Earth

It's been a few months since my last update, but the time has not been wasted. I took a few weeks away from game design to enjoy some real life events. But my brain is never happy unless it's sorting out strange problems late at night when I know I should be sleeping. In the past month Mars was discovered. Although it doesn't have a prototype yet it does have some detailed rules and game play designs. I've sketched some designs of how it will look and hope to start putting those to paper later this month. It's also my first game design that uses an actual board! Which is a strange thing to say when designing board games.

I'm also gearing up to test Earth for the first time this week. So far most of it's evolution has been driven by my one man play testing/scowling. I think it's finally time to present it to the masses (probably just to other guys, but still) and see if this is, in fact, a game.

- B

Hearing the words through the music

Whenever I listen to music I can easily hear the rhythm, the melody, even the vocals, but I always hear the words last. They are the last piece of the puzzle for my brain and can make a song that much better or sour it for me. I think I'm finally starting to hear the words of some of my games; the bare bones base of what the game wants to be.

Game #3 (Earth) has had a core concept for a while, but I think some of the mechanics/strategy have really firmed up over the past few months. I've finally heard what it's been trying to say. Thus - great word thus - I've been tweaking rules more than adding and removing. Earth has also proved to be a more involved game to create than I had planned. It required lots information to be condensed into single cards which has led to the creation of it's own game shorthand. It also has a large amount of random variety. Trying to balance all the variations has proved tough to say the least. But with each new version I see a few new truths about how the rules fit together and that creates a larger foundation for me to build on.

If all goes according to plan, I'll be taking Earth to a prototype test session later this month. It's time to see how it sounds to other people.

- B

Ordinary word failure

Lately I've been learning the secret art of showing people how to play your game without actually showing them how to play your game. Also referred to as writing game instructions. Writing instruction manuals for assembling furniture is difficult enough, but finding the right words to describe abstract ideas found in many board games is a whole different beast. Luckily I have a plan. My plan is to not use words. Well maybe I'll use a few, but I'll be supplementing them with lots of images and diagrams to illustrate how to play when ordinary words fail.

I think my next step will be finding new victims players to test games using only the instructions while I sit behind them quietly cringing at each mistake.

- B

Game Flavor: Needs Salt

I believe that games each have a different flavor and game designers are like chefs; carefully choosing which ingredients to add to make a unique and tasty experience. See that meeple over there? Give it a lick. Tastes like strategy doesn't it? Lately I've been wondering what my games are tasting like and if I'm just cooking the same BBQ chicken over and over again. But enough of this metaphor. Let's talk design!

In general I prefer strategy games. I like players to have choices, so that the victory or defeat can be theirs and not simply bad luck. That said, I still employ a lot of randomness in my games (like drawing cards or rolling dice) so each play is unique. I try to offset this by making each card or die roll have multiple uses or choices. Should you use this card now for a quick score or save it away for big points later on? I figure that if that player is not involved then they will not be as interested in the outcome.

Play your games. Don't let your games play you.

- B

I'm back...

I know it's been a while since my last update, but don't worry I've been hard at work. If you missed me, I'm sorry and I'm back. If you didn't miss me, I'm sorry and I'm back.

Game wise I've been all over the place the past few days. I visited family and did some play tests with Mercury. It was an older crowd (60+) of non-gamers and everyone was able to grasp the main concepts fairly quickly. Explaining the game however, made me remember how much I dread working on writing Mercury's instructions. I'll might probably try to possibly kind of work on them more this week since it's still fresh in my mind. Maybe...

I also worked on Venus extensively. I know I haven't talked about this game much, but I haven't been as worried about it since the rules are complete and it's been play tested quite a lot. What it really needs is a new skin to make it's cards easier to understand and more appealing to look at. That's been my focus and it's come together fairly quickly. I'll be posting some images for that soon.

Lastly, I did more play testing with Earth. It still needs a lot more trials and I need some sturdy gamers to help with that. I think it's the least friendly of the 3 games and not something I want to pain casual players with. You're safe for now family.

I'm hoping to have a new version of Venus ready for testing early this week and to continue testing the other games when I have some spare time. There's only 1 month left. Where does the time go?

- B

Complete is in the eye of the beholder

Just a quick update tonight. I was thinking about my first post and the goal I set of completing 3 games. Complete is a very subjective term and I'd like to set more solid goals. A complete game shall have:

  • No unknown mechanics (None of that 'we'll figure it out later' stuff)
  • Full written instructions/rules
  • Higher quality components (better than a prototype)
  • No placeholder artwork (Goodbye Captain Reynolds, you will be missed)

It's going to be tough reaching these goals by the end of the year, but nothing worth doing is ever easy. Also, Benny says "Hi".

Image

- B

Earth: Take 2

After much hard work and some skipped meals, I was able to push forward and get Earth prototype #2 designed and printed this Saturday. Over the past few days I've also done some play tests. So how did it turn out? Pretty damn good actually. The balance tweaks seem to be working out well, but as always they will take longer to test. More on that later. Design tweaks however, offered more obvious improvements. The text is now easier to read and much of the game language has been unified. Creating a unified experience is always important with a game that only uses a random portion of it's assets in order to add variety. I want players who only see 15% of what the game offers, to feel like they understand 100% of the core mechanics. I also still want them to be surprised/excited as they discover the other 85% of the game. On top of that I'd also like 5000% game play variety. Too much? Probably. Let's get away from all these percentages.

To play test variety a little more heavily, I've removed quite a lot of it. I know that doesn't seem like it makes sense, but hear me out. Instead of using a random selection of cards each game, I've used the same cards for the past 4 playthroughs. Seeing how the same setup can play out differently each time has given me more confidence that I'm on the right track.

I'm very pleased with how the game feels and I think it soon may be time for some real testing. Keep your friends close, and your prototype testers closer.

- B

Scope Creep: Earth Edition

Hey kids! Who wants to talk about scope creep? You don't know what that is? I'm sure you do, but you've probably just called it something else. Simply put, it's a project that grows beyond it's initial plans; ambition's Kryptonite. I learned the term from some clever people who use clever terms like this to keep their clever projects running smoothly. I however am not that clever, and thus my scope hath crept.

Normally creep is a bad thing that kills time tables, steals candy from children and sometimes derails a project completely. Luckily Earth's scope creep is not altogether bad. I'm not altering any base mechanics. I'm simply adding more cards than I had planned for prototype version 2. Many of these cards were just waiting to be created, so I'm really just getting a little early balance testing in.

Good job me. You win again.

- B

Warming Up Mercury (Part 2)

Now that you have the back story of Mercury, let's talk about how it's played. At it's most basic level, Mercury is a path creation game. You select, rotate and play square tiles from your hand onto the end of the previous tile (think dominoes with easier matching). Basic tiles look like this: Image Image

The orange is your burn path, which you match to create a single continuous line. Your ship is always at the furthest point on that path. This orange path is also the path that the Hunter will be following to track you. Every time you play a tile your ship moves forward along the path, then the Hunter moves forward one tile as well. You continue drawing and playing random tiles in an effort to reach the final tile, AI Nirvana.

Sounds too easy? Let me fix that. Along with these basic tiles, there are many other tiles what will help or hinder you. Evil tiles like the Enemy Outpost will cause the Hunter to move forward an extra space when the he/she (Hunter sex has yet to be determined) lands on it.

Image Image

Helpful tiles like the Thrusters allow players to use an extra tile in the same turn:

Image Image

All together there are 17 different tile types, not counting the straight/turn variations. Early on, I struggled with finding a way to quickly explain and illustrate the uses of all the different tiles. To alleviate this I created a one page cheat sheet that shows usage examples of every tile in the game. So far tests have been positive, but I still need to test with more non-gamers to make sure. Bring on the holidays and bring on the family. No I haven't seen Apples to Apples, but I do have a new game for you to try...

- B