About Michiel, the guy who had a strong gut feeling…

Last year, when I was writing about Sunday at Essen I told you about my problems with prototypes and that I couldn’t play them. Today’s post is a follow up to that story.

So as I was saying there was this author who agreed to give me his prototype and…

OK, just in case you don’t remember what I was writing 10 months ago, here is a link… http://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/14725/essen-behind-the-sce…

***

Long story short – I did set up meetings with young authors but it turned out I am very busy and I can not play. I had to say ‘Sorry’ and cancel all playing sessions. I felt like a dick. Guys came to me and I had to say ‘Sorry, I cannot play.’ This sucked. I felt terrible. I promised them I would play those prototypes as soon as I reached Poland. I promised it and I really meant that.

So when I got home, I contacted my gaming friends and gave one prototype to each of them. ‘Read the rules.’ I said. ‘Teach me how to play. I need to play it next week. This is an urgent matter.’

I was resting after the fair, but my friends were learning how to play those prototypes. A few days after Essen I was ready and able to play them.

***

Wednesday afternoon. My friend Grzesiek came to my office with one of the prototypes. It was a card game. He set up the game. He explained the rules. The theme didn’t sound interesting to me, but well…We played. After a few rounds it turned out that the theme makes sense. And the game? I really liked it. 

Finally we finished. It was the 3 player variant. ‘What do you think?’ I asked.
‘I like it.’ said Grzesiek.
‘I like it, too’ said Piechu.
‘It may be a great game when polished.’ I said.

I was excited. I really had a good time playing it. Grzesiek was cleaning off the table, but I stopped him. ‘I’ll take it,’ I said and I took prototype. I went home. I wanted to show it to my Merry.

***

Here is the thing – Merry hates prototypes. She is sick of them. She has had enough of playing my prototypes. When she sees an unpublished game, she runs away. 

But that afternoon I didn’t care. I was so damn excited. I wanted to show her this card game immediately. I brought the prototype home, knowing that Merry will resist but I wanted to play it again and I wanted to play it with her.

So I made Merry play it.

And yes, she loved it too. We played twice that evening. ‘Will you publish it?’ she asked. ‘I will’ I said and I turned on my laptop to contact the author of the prototype.

***

I log in to BGG. I found the page dedicated to this prototype. 

Awarded with Ducosim Boardgame Design Prize Contest 2009. Well, I am not surprised.
High ratings. Well, I am not surprised.
The author just found a publisher. Well, I am… what?! WHAT?! WHAT?!

‘There is good hope there will be positive news with regard to publication in the nearby future,’ said the author in the forum section. I look at the date of the post. Oct 30 2012. That means it was posted the day before. Fuck.

I am devastated.

I stare at the screen of my laptop and I can not believe it. The great afternoon with this amazing card game turned out to be the worst evening ever. Merry sees something is wrong. I look like a ghost. ‘What’s wrong?’ she asks. ‘He found a publisher.’ I say. Silence in our living room.

I mean, I was so close. I had the author at my booth. I had a meeting set up. If I only could have played it that Sunday I would have this game. I had it in my hands and I let it go. I will regret it for years.

Anyway, I write a geekmail to the author. I congratulate him on the great game. I congratulate him on finding a publisher. I wish him success with his great card game.

I go to bed. That evening sucked.

***

The next morning I receive a geekmail from the author. He writes (and I quote): ‘Thank you very much Ignacy! When I was writing about the positive news in regard to the publication, I was writing about you and your Portal Games. I had this strong feeling that you would like the game…’

If – at this very moment – this guy had been standing next to me, I would have killed him. I am serious. Dead body would lay next to my desk.

Luckily, he was not there, so I did not kill him. And today I can start this series of articles about The Legacy, an amazing card game that Portal Games has the honor to publish this year. But before we go into details about The Legacy and the stories about developing this game, I would like to ask you guys for a favor.

Please. Don’t ever do it again. No gut feelings anymore, ok? A few more young authors with a strong gut feeling and your beloved publisher will kick the bucket.

Her husband had 375 games, now has only 10! She listened to advice from Tom Vasel.

The Dice Tower recorded video called: Top 10 essential games every gamer should have.

Are you guys kidding us?! Do you realize what impact this video can have on our lives? Do you think our wives don’t use you tube?! Wake up!

You don’t have to be a prophet to see our wives watching it and then trashing our collection leaving us with 10 games!

‘This all you need darling as I heard…’

I see those headlines: Her husband had 300+ games, but now he has only 10! She watched The Dice Tower video.

Guys, you need to record another video. As soon as possible. Here is a script:

Zee: hi folks. There’s been misunderstanding
Tom: a huge one
Sam: we want to apologize all wives
Zee: and gamers
Tom: our lates epizode was about essential 10 games to have in collection
Sam: meaning ‘as a best start for our collection’
Zee: these 10 games are fundament
Tom: fundament not whole building.
Sam: beginning, not finish…

Save us before it is too late…

I played a real game!

This Monday I played a game that was stuck on my shelf for some about three months. It was patiently waiting while I was working on Portal Games prototypes and had no time for playing for fun (how stupid it sounds, heh?!). Finally I said: ‘I am sick of prototypes. I want to play a real game!’

So I played. It was a very strange experience. In my opinion this game is a box full of mistakes. Guys who designed it broke so many design rules that I basically just couldn’t believe it. Really.

#1: Cards
OK, I know, this might not be a general design rule. This is my personal taste. I believe that cards should be in hand or stay on the table. That’s it. Cards are not pawns. Cards are not counters. Cards are not good for moving them on the table, putting them one under the other and all that kind of stuff.

That is why I don’t play Summoner wars (do I see rocks incoming?), that is why I don’t play Innovation (more rocks?), that is why I don’t play Glory to Rome (please, stop it, guys!).

I say – keep your cards in hand or put them on the table and DON’T TOUCH IT. Keep them that way!

On Monday I had to move my cards, I had to put some cards on my cards, and some cards under my cards, and even some cards next to my cards and then I had to move all of my cards, except this one card that is unmovable…

You must be kidding, me…

#2: Keywords
You put keywords into games to underline some of the most important rules or traits. They are used mostly in CCG games. You might played with Skirmish in LotR CCG, Deadly in GoT or Hero in Invasion… You know them. Keywords.

If you put into your game two hundred and twenty four keywords these are no longer keywords. These are painwords.

What was the Frozen? Man, I don’t know. Can you check this Taunted again? And Elusive. And, ah, no, no, Fast I do remember. Fast was +1 movement. But in that case… What the hell is a Charge?!

Each card in this game has few keywords! And there is four or more pages in rulebook with list of all keywords in the game. Madness. Have you guys heard about making games player friendly? How you can explain the game to the new player? How you can start play the game without torture?

Flying. Natural. Regeneration. Burning…

#3: Downtime
I mean, lot’s of words have been said about making games fast, efficient, making turns or rounds as quick as possible. Every designer wants his game to work smooth and quick.

In this game player – in his turn – chooses 2 cards from his whole deck. He literally have 50 or so cards in hand and he chooses 2 of them.

I could not believe it is real. But it was.

#4: Conclusion
I could probably go on and talk about 9 or 6 tokens, short action and long action problems, huge grey board, and small cubes for mana points… There is lots of things here that are against all modern design rules.

I say it – if authors of this game came to me at the stage of prototype, I would kick their ass and I would show them door. There is no way I would publish this game.

The problem is, I would be wrong. Because Mage Wars is an amazing game.

I had great time this Monday. It turned out that I can stand moving cards. It turned out that I can learn all these bloody keywords. It turned out I can even get used to this sad grey board.

I can do this because even with breaking all those designing games rules, and even being extremely player unfriendly, Mage Wars in its roots is basically a pure fun.

That’s exactly what I expect from games. So here is my message to designers – Fuck design rules. Bring pure fun. Just as Mage Wars did this Monday.

Geeks just want to have fun

We had a geek birthday. To be precise, three of them in one day. My Merry, and my friends: Tycjan and WC. Three geeks, three birthdays, one party. How cool is that?

And since we are all geeks, among the bottles of wine, there were also a geek presents and gifts.

What is a difference between present for gamer and present for geek? You, boardgames geeks know it, right?

Gamer gets boardgames.
Geek gets unique boardgames.

Unique stuff like print and play treasures that are unavailable in stores and you can’t have them unless you spend two nights printing, cutting, sticking…

Unique stuff like pre-production copy of Portal Games games that will be released for Essen 2013 and right now they are unavailable in stores and you can’t have them unless you have birthday and I am invited…

Yeah, geeks birthdays can be superfun.

***

For a past few years we spent summer vacation with other geeks. Our kids have fun together on playgrounds and swimming pools etc, while we have great time playing boardgames. One or two weeks of playing card games (on beach) and big boardgames (in rooms). No time pressure, no going to work in the morning, you can put Twilight Imperium on the table and feel no pressure. You have two weeks ahead!

Few weeks ago I discovered however that there is a difference between gamer’s vacations and geek’s vacations. And what is worst, I discovered that I may be in the gamer category. You know, it seems I am not geeky enough! I, Ignacy Trzewiczek were spending gamers, not geeky vacations! They must be kidding me…

So what’s the difference?

Gamers go with their friends to play boardgames on vacations.
Geeks go further…

I discovered website http://boardgametravel.com/ where you can sign up for a geek vacation. What they offer? Library of 400 games available for you. Tournaments. Prototypes sessions. And special guests, just in case it was not geeky enough yet – you will spend summer vacations with Touko Tahkokallio (author of Eclipse boardgame) and Rahdo (from Rahdo Runs Through).

Yeah, geeks vacations can be superfun.

***

New Year Eve! The crazy night! All people around world dance and drink, and we geeks can play boardgames! I spent great nights running boardgames marathon for the past few years. We were playing as many party games as possible. Superfun, but…

But my Merry said this is enough. She wants to dance.

So, my friends, I am in trouble. I have six months to explain her that dancing in the New Years Eve will ruin her geek’s reputation.

She must understand – in the true geeks world dancing is not acceptable!

Traps hidden in traps

When I first heard about the fact that Avalon is different from The Resistance with Merlin character I shrugged and sighed in resignation. ‘Merlin, novelity my ass’, I thought. Then came the time to analyze the rules and the first signs of rebellion against the new rule. ‘What a nonsense!’, I complained. “Good characters are playing the game, analyze, trying to figure out who is Mordred servant, and then bam!, they kill Merlin, the end, good guys lost!’

Yeah. I didn’t like the rule. Before we move on – short explanation of the rules.

During a game of Avalon players are divided into two teams, Arthur’s loyal knights and traitors serving Mordred. The identity of the players is a secret, each of the players only know their own identity, the rest you have to guess during game.

Merlin is a special character. A player who is Merlin knows the identity of the traitors. Right from the beginning he knows exactly who are the ones who serve Mordred… Huge advantage for good guys, so there is a balancing mechanism – at the end of the game traitors have the right to attack Merlin. If they guess who among the good guys is Merlin, they kill him, Merlin dies, and evil triumphs…

I didn’t like it at all. Stupid final of the game. But even that I tried to play. And soon after it turned out that I am a complaining idiot.

What we know at the beginning? We all realize that Merlin should not play with open headgear. If bad guys figure out his identity, they will kill him at the end of the game and they will win. Merlin should play subtly and not attract attention.

Well, unless he plays va banque. He plays ‘sheriff style’ and he is hoping that the bad guys will think that no Merlin is so stupid to play so openly! They will think he is just pretending being Merlin and that someone else is Merlin.

Well, unless one of the good guys will try to get attention of bad guys and pretend to play carelessly, pretend to unintentionally reveal himself… Yeah, then bad guys will kill him and that is how Merlin is saved!

Unless, a player who is Merlin will play like a moron to lower attention of bad guys. He will do bad decisions and will judge wrong people during whole game just to – at the key moment of the game – accidentally save good guys?

Or maybe…

It turned out that in practice the rule of Merlin works superbly good and give you extra room for a bluff, to set traps in the traps, it gives a lot of new emotions.

And me… well … What can I say… I have to apologize Don Eskridge. I apologize that I have lost my faith in his talent and that I have complained about the game before I even played it.

Mr. Eskridge, I’m a jerk.

Boomerang effect

I have never had a boomerang but I always believed it is kind a cool stuff. You throw it and sooner or later it comes back. Well, at least that’s what I saw when I was a kid and watched cartoons. Anyone here tried it in real life?

This week something ‘boomerang style’ happened.

In 2012 I published Robinson. I spent countless hours designing the game and finally it got released. Thrown into the world. I got feedback very quickly, first ratings on BGG, first reviews, emails from players and meeting them on convention. That was awesome. Every hour, every night, every weekend spent on Robinson did pay off. Every time I receive geekmail from Robinson’s player, every time I meet players at convention I feel that it was damn worth it.

You know all of that. I write about this on my blog all the time.

This week however something extraordinary happened. New scenario for Robinson was published. Scenario designed by game’s fans. This was like a hit. That was exactly boomerang thing. I released the game and now it comes back with new content. Amazing content, to be precise.

I may be one of the best writers among boardgamers but this time it is hard to fully express my feelings about that unique experience. Reading great content created by fans for my game. Priceless, as Mastercard marketing would say.

This very first time I will just shut my mouth up and I will do something else. I will act. Here is my idea.

This weekend, 11th of May I am gonna play Robinson. I will play it first time in my life just for fun. I will not test new stuff. I will not balance it. I will not run demo game. I will play it for pure fun. Very first time in my life.

Please, join me this day and play Robinson. Take your copy from shelf and play The Naturalist scenario. Let’s play it worldwide, as many of you as possible. I will be on twitter for whole day (@trzewik) and I will report how many points I managed to get. Look for #naturalist hashtag.

Let us all say: ‘Good work, thanks!’ to the team who developed The Naturalist scenario. This is amazing gift I was given.

11th May. I will be there, on the Island. Be there with me.

Here is a link to scenario: http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/90628/the-naturalist-8th-s…

Here is a link to STORYonBOARD magazine where Robert and Marion published awesome article about creating this scenario. You have to ready this story! http://files.neuroshima.org/sob_008.pdf

Where from I take all these stories? Try a guess…

Me and technology are natural enemies. I am the guy who created world of Neuroshima and invented evil Moloch. I am the guy who warns people against danger of technology.

Technology on the other hand is the one who turns off electricity in my village when I watch quarter finals of Champions League. Technology is the one who kills my router while I have very important Skype conference with ZMan Games. Technology is the one who kills battery in my Iphone when I am in the urgent need of using it.

Every single day technology tries to break me. My Ipad has breakdown the day I go to Essen, right after I downloaded 10 hours of podcasts to listen during trip. My car loses a wheel when I drive on the highway with speed 140 km/h and I have to survive with only 3 wheels and huge truck behind me…

This is war.

That is exactly why I had to ask my Merry important question when she bought flight tickets for our trip to France. The question was: ‘Are you sure you wanna be on a one plane with me?’

As far as I know, there is a plenty of technology on the plane that can have a breakdown when I am there…

***

It was an hour before we leave. I wanted to check my phone bills, so I went to http://www.t-mobile.pl, which is my operator website. ‘We have small problems. Please, visit us later’. Yeah, website was down. I showed it to Merry. And asked my question again. She smiled. ‘We go’, she said.

I took our suitcase and went to car. Luggage got stuck. Can’t open it. Merry can’t open it too. We stay with suitcase next to our car. I look at Merry. I ask question. ‘Shut up’ she says and tells me to put suitcase onto back seats.

We go to airport. We got departure. We are in the plane. I wonder what’s going to happen next. I don’t wait too long. Captains voice from speakers: ‘There is a small problem with left wing. We have to wait for technical stuff. We suppose we will have about 30 or 40 minutes of delay. Please do not worry. Please, accept our apologizes.’

If you, by any chance don’t know it yet – yes, I am sitting right next to the left wing.

I look at Merry. I ask the question again. I think this time she is really considering not being on one plane with me…

***

Finally we reached Paris, then we got lost because our GPS didn’t see street where our hotel was but it was minor problem, I am used to such things. Next day we were on convention. It was great and I will write a post about it next week. 

Today we move couple of days forward. It is Sunday, last day of convention. We need to go back to Poland…

***

Flight to Poland is 8:15 PM.
Departure is at 6:00 PM
Trip from Etouvry to airport should take a little bit more than 3 hours.
Because I don’t trust GPS (it is technology device!) we decide to leave convention at 2 PM, 4 hours before departure.

And you already know it, right? This is beginning of ‘a great adventure’.

Etouvry is the south of Paris. Our airport is the north Paris. And it turns out our GPS has never ever heard about bypassing cities. It, on the other hand, heard about sightseeing. So we drive into Paris. Into center of Paris. Into this very very middle of Paris with all those awesome monuments, with all those tourists and with this huge traffic jam. Biggest traffic jam I have ever seen in my life. We are stuck.

GPS is changing his statements. At the beginning it was telling us we will reach airport at 5 PM. Now it states we will reach it at 6 PM. Another hour in traffic. Now GPS states that we will reach airport at 7 PM. We are stuck. We are doomed. GPS changes its mind. Now it shows that we will reach airport at 7:30 PM.

This is a moment when I decide to stop be ‘this cool guy from Poland’. It was Merry who drove. Now I take driving wheel. And I am gonna show Paris how I spent last couple of years with my Playstation.

Red lights? We had no time to stop and sightseeing Paris anymore…
Speed limit? If you take average speed by adding all those minutes we moved 0 km/h, I think I didn’t broke speed limits.
Being fair on road? I told you I had to stop be ‘this cool guy from Poland’.

I literally broke all driving laws I knew. I probably broke a couple of other I have never heard of. It was crazy. And I proved that playing on Playstation may some day pay off.

***

Finally we reached airport. We run into departures section. 

DEPARTURES CLOSED AT 7:10 PM said the board on the wall.

I look at my mobile phone. It is 7:03 PM. It sounds unbelievable. It sounds like I made it up. But this is true. We reached airport 7 minutes before closing departures…

***

What can I say. If you find Robinson a difficult game, believe me, this is piece of cake when you compare it to my everyday adventures. 

And if you wonder how I came up with all this ideas for adventures… It just happen to me. I test them in real live, and then I implement them to my games…