I want to understand!

Late ’90 we had all sort of different CCG games. From 7th Sea CCG to Babylon5 CCG, from Buffy CCG to Dragonball CCG, from X-Files CCG to Doomtown… There was a huge wave of games, LotR CCG, SW CCG, Eve, Warlord, L5R… It was crazy.

And then in 2008 FFG published Game of Thrones LCG and a year after Warhammer Invasion and told us that CCG is over.

They presented new format where you buy fixed card sets, and you build your deck. It is no longer about luck of a draw or money you spent on boosters. It is all about your cunning skill and deck building ability. Players loved it. No more buying boxes of boosters. No more praying for super rare cards. No more trading cards or buying singles.

FFG quickly changed CoC CCG into CoC LCG, and with Got LCG and Warhammer Invasion began revolution in the market.

Years passed.

We have LotR LCG, we have SW LCG, we have Pathfinder which is LCG, but can’t use the name, we have Doomtown announced… Format works. CCG is dead.

That’s the world we live in.

That’s the world we like.

That’s the world where… Where Wizkids publishes Marvel Dice Masters CDG and all we know is just blown apart.

Players again buy boosters.

Players again pray for super rare cards.

Players again spend huge money to buy boxes of booster to have as many cards and dice as possible.

As you know I am publisher. I have to be on time with all that’s new and important. I have to catch up with players demands. I need to know where the market is heading to.

So my question today is dedicated to this resurrection of CCG. My question is: WTF is going on?

 

P.S. I just read Wizkids is doing DnD Dice Master. I had good timing with this post 😀

The Lord of the Ice Garden

It was Pionek con when I first heard about this prototype. The guy brought it there and run few demo games. The game was set in a fantasy world from some Polish novel I have never read. It didn’t sound interesting. I wriggled out.

For the next year or so I met the guy dozen of times. I met him always at convention. He was running play testing, spending hour after hour at the table with new players and I was consequently avoiding to play it. Let’s face it – long heavy euro game not finally playtested. Sounded like a nightmare. The guy invited me few times to play it and every time I politely refused.

Months passed.

The guy finally decided to take his chances – he offered the game at Polish crowdfunding page. The game is heavy. The game has so many components that it costs like a big FFG box. The game is set in a world of novel which not too many board game geeks read. The guy has no publishing experience. They guy is not famous game designer. In Poland there was no single game funded so far.

There were so many cons and no pros at all…

OK, there were. There were two things that stood against all problems this project could face.

1. The guy was determined and ready to work very hard. For the 4 weeks of campaign he visited every single convention in Poland and run demo games over and over fighting like a lion for the heart of every single gamer he met.

2. And what is even more important, the game turned out to be damn good.

4 weeks later the game was funded. It was first Polish board game successfully crowdfunded. It got more than 200%. Great success.

The game will be published this year. That is true story that sounds like a fable. That is dream come true. This is the guy who design a great game and have the people making it real thing. This is amazing.

***

I tell you this story, because this game is now on Kickstarter.

And the story for you is quite the same.

You don’t know this stupid fantasy novel.

You don’t know this bloody fellow.

You don’t want to pay 90$ for a board game from Poland

You don’t…

 

Yeah, there are so many cons again.

But again, there are two pros.

1. The guy is a great guy, hard working designer worth your trust.

2. And the game is damn good.

 

Give him a chance. Let the pros win…

Few funny tweets from this week

zdjęcie

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Shorters session report ever!

This week in his Ivory Tower segment of Board games Breakfast Scott Nicolson was telling us about reflection after the game. Gaming experience is something we do love, but to make it even better we perhaps should try to talk about the game after the game, discuss our strategies, point of view, discover why opponents played that or that way. After game reflection.

There are two main after game types of reflection about Robinson. The game is super narrative and thematic and playing it was a true adventure. I observed that players like to retell the most thematic moments of the game they’ve just finished. And the second one type of reflection. The game is super deadly. Players tend to discuss if they had any chance to survive and if there was a turning point, a bad decision that head them towards the final end.

And at some point Tim Norris wrote that:

Train of thoughts head me towards session reports which are some sort of after game reflection and… you know, in Robinson if you want to write session report it’s simple – either this will be epic novel, either it will be concise as the inscription on the tombstone.

So I asked my Twitter followers about shortest Robinson session report they can imagine. 144 characters seemed like a perfect format for this task.

The answers? Made me laugh. That was a flow of super fun reflections about Robinson! Look at them:

 

And my personal winner of this series of reports:

The last one made me LOL.

I show you this fun example of reflection about the game, but being serious for a moment I have to say, I 100% agree with Scott. I do love gaming experience, I do love play games, but without reflection, without these debates, after game bantering, without all that’s after the game, it wouldn’t be the same.

So gamers!

Let’s play.
Let’s discuss.
Let’s live our hobby!

Some tweets of the week

How does a good expansion smell like?

missisipi-3-1024x852[this is gues post by Michal Oracz]

Do you guys know how many fragrance notes there are in perfumes? 

I do. Three: the top note, the middle note and… uh… and the base note. 

The top note is the first and the faintest, short-lasting stage of a fragrance. You could even say it’s the least important because it lasts for only about few minutes after using the atomizer. These ingredients will be gone after a while, uncovering other ones, those that more lasting, they were used by the perfume designer in order to be the second stage, the middle note. It’s the middle note that we will carry so it better be really good. Finally when it is gone as well the third and most lasting stage of the fragrance will stay, the base note, composed of longest lasting ingredients. It’s some knowledge for a guy, isn’t? 

I know all this because for quite a few years I’ve been living in a perfumery. My girlfriend’s passion is perfume and since she likes to share this knowledge with me, every day she sticks blotters under my nose, about half a kilo of them to be precise, and she questions me about the aromatic compositions. 

It was rather interesting at the beginning. But when one catches himself on analyzing the aromatic composition of a steak or a cucumber salad it’s a good signal to start worrying. 

Today, I think for the first time, I can say that this knowledge finally was somehow useful to me. Why? 

Let me explain. 

While designing factions for Neuroshima Hex I am most interested in the middle note and the base note. All my efforts are focused on them. I completely ignore the top note. 

The thing is I no longer speak about fragrance notes, I speak about game balance notes. 

I don’t care about the first impression. The player sits in front of the game, he takes a new army and crushes the opponent without any problems. Or he gets crashed even thou he almost overloaded his brain. He states his first verdict: this faction is unstoppable. Or otherwise: this faction is completely ineffective. The next few games might look similar. 

This is because I assume that Hex is not a game for just a few plays. The same goes to new factions. 

I assume that I must deliver the perfect product to those players who will play the core version and it’s expansions over and over, hundreds of times. To those players that will search for tactics for playing with each army and against each army. Those that would be capable of finding every possible winning strategy, every breach and weakness of each of the armies, should such a weakness exist. Then Hex’s place would be in the trash. 

Sure, there are many games in which the first impression is the most important, in which the designers never even assumed that they will be played hundreds of times over and over. Not all games are created with an eye for tournaments, record setting or gaining experience throughout time. Sometimes it’s enough that the game will work for the first few games and during these few sessions it will provide good entertainment. 
Hex is a game strongly oriented towards tournaments. It must work in hundreds and thousands of plays. It’s the balance of armies in hands of the experienced players that is important here. 

That’s the theory. How does it prove in practice? 

Monday, a couple months ago. A batch of results arrives from a large group of testers. I glance at it and am shocked. I immediately forget my theory. I look at the test results with eyes wide open from disbelief. This cannot be true. 

Mississippi loses. Loses damn hard. 

How could I have been mistaken in my tests? In hundreds of plays, in all possible combinations and different strategies? 

The balance regarded not only the perfectly scaled results but also the tiniest details of gameplay. The army was well fitted for all kinds of threats of each of the other armies. It has a remedy for Borgo’s or Hegemony’s expansion on the game board. It has a whole range of nasty offensive actions, it has an ace up the sleeve which forces the opponent to declare the battle stage, it is balanced, it does not depend on just a few tokens, it can force it’s way through opponent’s Headquarters’ defenses, it has perfect tools for defending its own Headquarters. 

It’s not even 1% too strong nor too weak. It’s damn even and tested. 

Yet I see the results. It is losing. 

This was the exact moment where I could have wasted the balance. All I had to do was panic and strengthen Mississippi. It’s really easy – precise strengthening of a faction is trifle. 

Were I to have strengthened Mississippi back then, I would have committed an unforgivable mistake. I would have balanced the faction for the first dozen plays but simultaneously I would have destroyed the balance for a hundred more. 

Panic is a bad advisor.

I looked at the results once more and saw more information that were hidden before: Mississippi lost mainly in the first few plays, then it starts to compensate. Second thing is that Borgo raises the statistics, the less experienced players often have problems with this fast army because they don’t yet see it’s obvious weak points. 

Exactly the same as in the exorcisms, when a priest is trying to tear out its name from the daemon so he can submit it, in the case of a strange upsetting of the balance you need to precisely locate and name the problem in order to solve it. Wins or defeats happening too often can be a result of something completely different than the strength or the weakness of a faction. Especially in tournament games like Hex. 

Each army has its own Achilles’ heel and its strongest tactics. The thing is that in some of the armies it’s really easy to spot them and in some it’s hard. Borgo is one of the simplest armies, its weakness is invisible at the first glance. As soon as they are discovered, Borgo stops to be the bully on the board. The Outpost is the most complex of the basic armies, its biggest strength is invisible at first glance. So does that mean that any of the experienced players would call it a weaker army? Of course, not. 

A well balanced army can seem to be too powerful at the beginning but with each game and with experience this advantage will grow smaller and smaller until it is statistically equal. An analogical situation takes place with the armies that seem too weak at the beginning. After a few dozens of games the player becomes an experienced player – and this is the moment when all officially issued armies become equal. 

What Mississippi lacked were strategy hints. Something that would speed up learning of how to lead this peculiar army. This faction is of the more complex sort but after getting the hang of it, it will more than make up for the invested time and effort. 

So let’s have a look at Mississippi: 

We have a medium range of units with medium initiative. Weak melee attacks and weak ranged attacks. No additional life points nor armor. Limited mobility. No modules improving initiative and attacks’ strength. 

BUT: 

We have Mutations – special modules that provide a lot of toughness to the units. 

We have the Toxic Bomb that will detonate a part of the game board whenever we want. It’s a terrain tile so the opponent can’t do almost anything about it. 

Our Headquarters can push. 

We have the Zone which sets enemy units’ initiative to zero. We also have Pollutions that paralyze units. 

We have Shadows… 

And most of all – we have HUGE possibilities and resources to poison opponent’s Headquarters. 

This is Mississippi – a poisonous, deadly monster that hides in toxic fumes and gurgles with toxins. 

During tests and final polishes of a new faction I note down a lot of things besides the results. Among these notes are difficulties with specific factions and tactical, strategic insights. It comes in really handy. 

I briefly described the basics of efficient strategies for Mississippi. Sent it. New results came after few days. 

I checked how Mississippi works now. 

Phew… 

The exorcisms were successful; the daemon of balance upsetting was banished back to the hell of broken games. 

The players appreciated the importance of Venom and its multiple ticks in each battle. They appreciated Paralysis and started to use it properly. They learned how to use Shadows and Boilers, they appreciated The Poisoner and Toxic Bomb, learned how to efficiently use Mutations. And the opponents learned how to deal with Headquarters’ ability to push. 

Mississippi is not the new Borgo, nor Moloch, it does not welcome the player with arms wide open. It’s neither the new Neojungle, nor Vegas, nor Mephisto, nor the Dancer – meaning it’s not a new weird, experimental army. It’s more like a new Outpost or a new Hegemony. It includes a package of curious but not obvious serves both defensive and offensive. 

And you are probably curious how does Mississippi smell like in the year 2050, in a world where machines submitted mankind? Well let me just say: you’d better put your gas masks on…