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I’ve been dabbling in game design again.  It’s just one of those things that I do to keep myself from stressing too much, and since this whole “being unemployed” is really stressful, well, I’ve been doing a lot of creative things to destress.  I suppose I could have played more games to get through my backlog, but creative pursuits just seem more wise in the long run, since there’s at least some potential to make some money to pay a portion of the bills.

That’s part of why I did the Tinker Gearcoin Kickstarter.  It turned out really well, so thank you, all of you, who were a part of the campaign!  Despite the pretty numbers that we posted there, it’s still not a career replacement stream of revenue, though, so I keep on creating.

EleChromaroundBack

Anyway, this Chromaround game may someday turn into a project that we put on Kickstarter, just to get them professionally printed on spiffy paper, complete with a nice box and shrink wrapping.  We may put them up on TheGameCrafter.com before that as well, like we did for the Tinker Deck prototypes, but the whole point of taking it to Kickstarter is to get a bulk deal going to leverage the economy of scale that we get from printing a large quantity of decks.

For the moment, though, we need to really put it through the wringer and playtest the game to make sure it’s ready for release.  I’ve ordered some sample decks from Artscow.com for testing here, and I may send some out to other interested parties.  We’re also offering this “print and play” version of the game (again, like we did for the Tinker Decks).  It’s technically based around color, so printing in black and white won’t give the full effect of the game, but I’ve tried to make it possible to work for colorblind players with the elemental logos.

Rules for the core game are below.  This is where we really would love some input, if you’re up for some experimentation.  These cards could be used for several different games, actually, especially if we make them hexagonal and have the outer gems sliced in half (so they could be placed side by side to create a whole gem, making for puzzles and position-based games), but for now we’re just looking to develop this one.  (The game is playable by 2 to 8 players, though there are special rules for two players.)  Words that are bold are key terms for the game.

Thank you everyone!

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Chromaround 1.0

Card Components

Each card has a Core (large colored gem) that consists of one or two colors, and a set of smaller outer Gems that indicate what colors of opponent Cores that card can defeat.  A dual color Core is considered to be both colors, and therefore may be defeated by any other card that could defeat either of its colors.  The grey “chips” around the perimeter are placeholders and do not affect either offense or defense.  Each color has an attendant elemental logo to help identification, especially for color blind players, but these logos do not have a direct impact on play in this game.

Goal

Players are trying to collect the most points.  Each trick you collect is worth one point.  (For a more complex game, score by counting the Cores that you collect in tricks that you win.  Single color Cores are worth one point, dual color Cores are worth two points.)  A trick consists of the stack of cards after every player has played a single card.  (Two cards per player if playing with two players.)  

A round is completed when all players have exhausted their hands.  A game may consist of one round or several, depending on how long you’d like to play.  We suggest letting each player be the dealer once (change the dealer each round) as a simple baseline.  Record your cumulative score after each round.  The player with the most points after all rounds is the winner.

Setup

For each round, shuffle all the cards and deal 5 cards to each player.  (10 for each if you’re playing with two players.)  ***This is an easy place to suggest variation.  Odd numbers of cards make scoring less likely to produce ties, and fewer cards make play faster and decisions easier.  Two player games tend to play better when each player can play two cards per trick.***

Set aside the rest of the deck.  The rest of the deck is only used during play in a two player game.

Basic Play Structure

The first player plays any card from their hand.  This is the lead card for the trick.  (If you are playing with two players, for each trick, flip over the top card of the deck as the lead card, then proceed as usual.)

Each player must then play a card from their hand (see below in Card Interaction for how this works), taking turns in sequence.  After every player has played one card (two if playing with two players), the owner of the top card on the stack takes all of the cards in the stack.  (This is a trick, which is relevant for one style of scoring.)

The player who took the trick starts the next one, playing the next lead card (or card after the lead card if playing with two players).

Once all players have played all their cards, it is the end of a round, and you should record your scores.

Card Interaction

When a player must play a card, they may play any card they have in hand.  If the card played can defeat the top card already in play on the stack, it is placed on top of the stack and becomes the new top card.  If the card played cannot defeat the existing top card, it must be placed somewhere under it (order does not matter), and the existing top card retains its position on top.  (Keep track of what you play, since the player who played the card that remains the top card at the end of the trick claims the cards in the stack.)

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And that should cover it.  It’s designed to be fairly simple and quick, at least before you start trying to plan a few plays ahead.

The big question we have is, well… is it fun?  Also, is it actually simple and quick?  Does it allow for any sort of strategies or interesting decisions, or is it so easy to play that there’s not much mental meat to it?  (That’s not enough to kill the game, but it could constrain its appeal to children learning colors and how to play card games… more of a gateway game rather than one to break out in more serious settings.)

We have two big structural questions beyond that, though.

One is about the cards and their Core-Gems system.  Presently, they are designed in two “paper rock scissors” triangles (primary colors clockwise and secondary colors counterclockwise) such that:

  • Blue always defeats Purple and Red
  • Red always defeats Orange and Yellow
  • Yellow always defeats Green and Blue
  • Purple always defeats Blue and Green
  • Green always defeats Yellow and Orange
  • Orange always defeats Red and Purple

This was a simple rule to allow for some element of memorization and planning, to see if it’s possible to force others to play into your longer term strategies.

It might prove more interesting to make the perimeter gems more varied by making the perimeter gems more arbitrary and not follow a pattern.  This would make planning almost impossible, but it may make for more varied and unpredictable play, for better or worse.  Would you like a more unpredictable set of outer gems on each card?  (This has considerations for alternate game rules as well, like card placement games, if we can get them made as hexagonal cards.)

Two, do the dual color Cores help or hinder the game?  There are some clear tiers of efficiency among color combinations, but dual color Cores might make the game too easy, meaning the last player in a trick is almost always going to be the one to win that trick, since most can defeat a wider array of other Cores, and each in turn can be defeated by a wider array of attackers.  The hope was to make the game more varied but still allow some planning, but they may not actually be performing that function.  They also make scoring more varied, with some more subtle decision making about when to play them, but maybe that effect is also not working, or is not interesting enough.

If the answer to the first question is “yes, make the perimeter gems more arbitrary and unpredictable” it would naturally affect the approach to the second question, as the cards could be balanced along different lines.  The dual color Cores are inherently a “more options on offense and more weaknesses on defense” sort of system, but they need not stay that way if the color defeat cycles are broken.

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Thank you everyone for your interest and feedback!  Comments here or via email to tishtoshtesh at gmail will be most appreciated.

I can’t help but feel that there’s something here, but the game really needs to be put through the paces to see.  I look forward to any opinions or data points you might offer!

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The deck is designed as a standard-ish 54 card deck.  That means you’ll print one of each of these and then three more copies of the simple single color Core cards (so there will be four copies of the single color Core cards and single copies of each of the dual color Core cards).  The backs are optional, of course.

ChromaroundPower ChromaroundSA1Pri ChromaroundSA1Sec ChromaroundSA2 ChromaroundSimple ChromaroundWeak ChromaroundBacks

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OK, I’m committed to doing a Kickstarter for my steampunk/gearpunk poker deck now.  Many thanks to those of you who weighed in on it last time!

So… now what?  Lots of things, it seems, most of which I’m already busy digging into.  Mostly, plenty of research on what it takes to make this happen, mad schemes to make it cool and appealing, and finding ways to spread the word far and wide.  Thanks to those of you who have chimed in and spread the word a bit already!

A few questions, then:

Scrusi suggested plastic cards instead of paper cards.  The one plastic card manufacturer that has returned my email has a minimum order of 1500 decks (750 sets of two), at $8/deck.  That adds up fast, to big, scary numbers for a freshman Kickstarter.  I’ll be looking around for more numbers, but that’s a starting point at least.  Paper decks will be cheaper, I assume, but they need to be a fair bit cheaper than the price I’d get at a Print on Demand place like TheGameCrafter.com (about $10/deck) or else there’s not a hugely compelling reason to try to leverage the economy of scale and bulk discounts.  Sure, a Kickstarter will probably bring more potential customers just via publicity, but I’d really like to get a better deal for everyone as part of the bargain.

So… I’m still looking at pricing.  I’d really love to hear what you all think, specifically about what vendors might be optimal in the ol’ cost/quality spectrum.  Paper or plastic?  (I know, plastic cards will be more durable, but are they worth triple the cost or more?  How many players care enough about quality to pay that much more?)  What about brands?  Bicycle has a well-oiled pipeline for Kickstarted decks, and the ability to license their brand name (extra cost, maybe extra perceived value), and a 56-card standard deck that would allow for two cards to be super special Kickstarter rewards.  They also offer custom tuck boxes, which seem like a Good Idea.  That’s certainly not the only route, though, but there are a lot of vendors out there.

…and then there’s the art questions.  I’ve done 12 of the 14 portraits for the face cards, and they lend the suits themes, as well as highlighting important 19th century people.  I like the group I have… but it would be nice to open up the roster and let backers who want to be more involved get their portraits included.  I didn’t start this with Kickstarter in mind, so I didn’t leave room.  One thing I’ve considered strongly is to make the baseline historical figure deck available as a Print on Demand product, and point it out in the Kickstarter, but then open up all of the roster for people to buy into as a special limited edition of the deck.  What think you?

Secondly, and this is perhaps more esoteric… just as an artifact of my design, I’ve altered the layout of the suit pips on the number cards.  This is one example.

6 of Clubs

I chose to do this because of graphic design considerations (the large corner braces), and the desire to make the layout rotationally symmetrical on all cards.  (Pip orientation aside, of course.)  I like how it turned out, but it’s not traditional.  Does that matter to you?  Again, maybe this is where I offer the original elsewhere, and make the Limited Edition (gee, that term is starting to look official and all special-like) use the traditional form.

Offering the original as a paper Print on Demand deck opens up the option to make the Kickstarter a plastic deck project, too… but again, do enough players want plastic cards to make it worthwhile? Maybe this means two Kickstarters in the end, the first one in paper, the second one in plastic?  I’m really not sure on these things since they are largely based on predicting what people might want.  That’s why I’m asking now for as much feedback as I can get.  Will you please help me spread the word and get some opinions collected?

I do have some other stuff planned, some spiffy extras to sweeten the Limited Edition, one of which I’ll tease a bit here:  I work in 3D modeling programs most of my work day, so I’m adept at 3D work.  I spent some time at home the last two evenings and whipped this up, and put it in my Shapeways shop.  (The home of the Gearpunk dice, which dye and paint up pretty well.)

Spade Token (Shapeways render)

Spade Token

It’s derived from the Spade suit pip.  It’s as big as it is (almost 4×3 inches) to make the gears functional.  I can make a smaller version, certainly, but the gears would fuse.  It’s a costly beast, even in plastic.  I’m going to try to hollow it out a bit to save on cost, but it’ll still be biggish to make those gears work.  I’m not sure the gears would ever work if it’s printed in metal, though, so maybe smaller is the way to go anyway to give plastic vs. metal options.  I like that large version, but it’s a bit unwieldy and, well, expensive.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and reading, and I’d love to hear what you all think!

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Steampunk Stuff

Just a quick update on a project I’m working on and a cool set of art I stumbled across, both with steampunk echoes.  First, the work by someone else, a sort of Steampunk-flavored Final Fantasy-inspired set of fantasy weapons:

Heretic Weaponry

And then there’s this little project of mine.  It’s more “gearpunk” than “steampunk”, I guess, sort of like my gearpunk dice or my snowflakes, but it’s fun to create anyway.

CardPokerFrontHearts CardPokerBack

Once I get this standard card set done, I’ll offer it for sale via TheGameCrafter.com, so I’ll post about it again later.  In the meantime, any recommendations for the Kings, Queens and Jacks?  I have some ideas like Ada Lovelace for the Queen of Hearts and Tesla/Edison as dueling Jacks or Kings, but I’d love to hear what others think.

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Welcome to the latest sneak peek at the current state of the Zomblobs! project.  This is a unit card for one of the Zomblob units.  Each unit will have a miniature, a card and some dice to keep track of game data.  The units will play on a hex grid by default, but the game engine can convert readily to a gridless system.  The core game that I’m making will consist of six units for each of the three breeds, Zomblob, Feral and Aspirant.

I’m in the middle of something at the moment, so I’m not going to dig a lot into much of this, but I’ll do a proper writeup of it over the next few days.  I just wanted to get this out there and see what sort of impression it leaves.  It’s not exactly final, as I want to tweak the visuals a bit for colorblind players, and I may tweak some of the values and effects.  This is pretty close to what I’ll call my beta version of the game, though, and while the details might change on this particular unit, and the graphic design may change a bit, the mechanics are all where I want them.

Zomblob Card Murmurer

See you in a few days!

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