I started my life as a gamer in my freshman year of high school, back in 1981, with the D&D Blue box and a group of new friends. I had just moved into a new neighborhood and was invited to play this “new” game that one of the guys had just gotten. I knew of D&D before then, I had a friend in middle school that said he played, but no matter how much I asked, he would never invite me to play or teach me how. I was so new to the whole experience that when given a “Cleric” to play, I wondered what this magical race looked like. Since there were dwarves and elves, surely a cleric must be an equally fantastical being.
It’s been a long time since those humble beginnings, I’ve played countless games, created dozens of fleshed out worlds to run campaigns in, modified rule system so they ran smoother at the table and tried my hand at designing games from whole cloth. This is the first time I’ve tried to do it professionally.
I’ve been a graphic artist for most of my career and I bring that to Move Rate 20 Games as well as my gaming experience. Like most people who work with computers I have a love/hate relationship with them, but I certainly wouldn’t want to layout a rule booklet by hand (though I could in a pinch).
So as some of you may already know, our upcoming game, Master of Spies (now scheduled for a Kickstarter in February 2016), takes place in the fictional setting of the world called Eldinar. What is this strange and mythical place? Well, Rob L is here with some answers to that question and more……
1st Age- The Age of the Wyrm (2612 years)
Little is remembered of this age, and less is recorded. What is known is that the Dragonlords ruled supreme. Century upon century of harmonious existence, with little to interrupt their equanimity. Eventually, though, they grew bored with this life, and longed to turn the land into a living shrine to themselves.
Whether men were there from the beginning, or were created by the Dragonlords for their purposes, has been forgotten. Only Uthrax, the Dragon King & eldest of their race, may recall how they came to be. Regardless, the Dragonlords utilized the humans as slave labor, though the humans also came to worship the Dragonlords as gods, a notion the Dragons did not dismiss.
Over the years many shrines were erected & statues carved, though most important were the massive temples & carefully tended groves deep within the spawling forest which the Dragonlords called The Verdant Canopy (later referred to by the humans as the Umbrageous Wood).
As mankind spread across the land in their labors, they encountered strange creatures, similar to them in features, but taller & fairer, with an otherworldliness about them. They claimed to have come from “across the sea” to visit this land and discover its secrets. They called themselves elves, and some stayed among the humans for a while, and a few even mated with them, producing offspring. Eventually, most of the elves returned from whence they came, but their progeny remained, and these were regarded as fate-touched by the humans.
Time passed, and the numbers of men grew, while the Dragonlords slowly dwindled (this fact was kept hidden from the ever-increasing humans who still worshipped & feared them). Long life they had, but few offspring. To counter this, some of the optimal humans (nearly always ones with elven blood) were conscripted to serve as breeding partners for the few fertile Dragonlords who remained. They maintained that the purpose for this was to bequeath their own greatest aspects to the fecund but generally weak & short-lived humans. These pairings produced more hatchlings among the Dragonlords than had been seen in centuries, and succeeded in producing a hybrid that embodied many of the foremost traits of the superior race. Mankind, however, had contributed from among their keenest attributes as well, though many of these were to remain dormant for hundreds of years……
No one knows what caused the Dragonlords to sleep. Perhaps it was an inherent hibernation instinct, perhaps it was ennui; but sleep they did. And thus the 1st Age of Eldinar ended with mankind left to their own devices, for the first time in their existence.
An important aspect of games that needs to be kept in mind while designing a new game is its length. While not immediately apparent, game length has a surprising amount of influence on other aspects of the game including its fun and playability. While designing a game, try to imagine how long players will be able to continuously play while still having fun. Once you have a reasonable idea of how long this will be, try to set up your game so that it will finish before then. You want to be able to finish the game while the players are still interested and engaged, it is much better to hear “I just needed one more turn, let’s play again” than “how much longer is this going to take?”
Mechanics are a useful tool in determining game length. Many games make use of a set amount of turns in order to keep gameplay within the expected timeframe. Some will overtly tell you that you have a set number of turns, usually delineated somewhere on the game board and occasionally dressed up thematically as something such as years or seasons. This method is most often found in games involving repeatable actions that can be taken every turn. Other games use the same principle but rely on a limited resource, such as the deck of cards or tiles being place, to achieve this effect. By controlling the number of turns, the designer has a reliable way of ensuring that the game will end when they expect it to and while players are still enjoying it.
Game length also affects the groups of people that the game should be designed towards. Shorter games, usually under thirty minutes, tend to be less complex than other games. This simplicity, along with the shorter time required to play, makes a good target for younger gamers, who generally have a shorter attention span and may not be able to grasp harder mechanics yet. Another group that appreciates shorter games is those that play with larger groups. A short, simple game can fill the time after a longer game has finished while waiting for another group to finish so the play groups can intermix. Medium length games tend to be popular as there is sufficient time for more complex mechanics to be used, without completely dominating an entire play session. Longer games can be just as fun, with many interesting mechanics in use, but usually require advanced planning to make sure that they can fit into all the participants’ schedules. The next time you find yourself bored with a game, try asking yourself if it is the mechanics of the game boring you or if the game just went on for too long.
So much is going on as we break our silence from the dog days of summer. We got our newly printed, full sized cards for the next phase of Master of Spies and we are ready to take it on the road. Below is the “sexy” unboxing video of the product.
We are also an official LLC in the eyes of the Massachusetts and Federal government. It took a lot longer than we expected but it was important to use to do this right and at the beginning of the month we received our official documents.
Also last weekend on Sept. 12th we took part in the Boston Festival of Indie Games. It was a really great day and a bit of a learning experience. James, our “Game Breaker” and myself manned the table and demonstrated our card game, Master of Spies to lots of nice folks there, and got really encouraging feedback. One of the greatest things said to us was, “Thank you for having a short game”, in a show that was loaded with a load of great, but intensive, indie games, that really meant a lot..
We will be bringing our card game around to local, and a few not so local, gaming stores and shows. Please check in regularly and stop by, say hello, and give Master of Spies a try.
As we steadily head into fall, we are getting ready to launch our Master of Spies Demo tour. First stop is Boston Festival of Independent Games on Sept. 12th from 10am to 5pm at the Johnson Athletic Center on the M.I.T. campus in Boston. We will be at table U4! Get your passes here!
As we confirm more stops, we will share them here and to our email list. We will be visiting several local gaming stores, small cons in New England and possible visits in NYC!
We’re also asking you all to take part in a fun, community building game we are calling “Where in the World is Oger?” Our dwarven mascot/intern has been demanding a vacation, which we can’t afford to send him on, so the next best thing is to put him in your vacation pictures. You can download his picture by right clicking and choosing “save as”, then either put him in your photos digitally, or print him out, color him in and take a photo with him in an interesting location, in the style of “Flat Stanley”.
We promise to share every picture we get through our email on the webpage and our Facebook page and if we get a great response we will create a video montage of the pictures. Here are some examples our Beloved Taskmaster, Steve R., had created for inspiration.
So, you may be asking, “Where have we been?!?! Here it is the third week of August and you have not heard a peep out of me or the guys!”
Well…I won’t speak for the others, but I know that I have been on a much needed summer vacation. I packed up the car, jumped on I-95 South, and headed into the wilds of coastal Connecticut with the family.
(I’ve been working on the Demo cards for Master of Spies -Mr. P)
While there, we traveled the Thames River, visited an old Revolutionary Fort, stopped at the Groton Naval Base to visit the museum there, and finally visited the Connecticut Comic Con at Mohegan Sun.
But don’t worry, I was always mindful of what we have going on here at MR20. I even talked to an artist or two at the Con to see if they would be interested in doing some work for us.
Now that summer is starting to wind down, be sure to stop back here for more frequent updates!
Every month, sometimes twice a month, my local game shop, Rivendell Books and Games, puts on a Saturday Board Game Nite. Admission is free, and gamers are encouraged to bring and play whatever manner of game tickles their fancy. We also have a selection of stored owned games on-hand too. Couples come in to play, as do entire families and we always have a healthy and diverse turn out for every event. We encourage people to mingle and to try out games that they may not have otherwise bought or played for themselves.
So this lend me to thinking….are we now in the Golden Age of Board Games? Are we in a gaming Renaissance?
In today’s world, with our video game culture, the concept of sitting around a table rolling dice and moving pieces seems archaic. But a large and growing board-game subculture is not only thriving, but may actually be growing so much that it may not be a subculture any longer!
Since the explosive introduction of Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne (and other Euro-Games) some years ago, a rapidly expanding marketplace has given rise to a new wave of publishers and designers, most of which have brought a new sense of creativity and innovation.
Moving beyond the old mass-market favorites of the past, this new community of independent designers and publishers has been producing exciting and innovative games at a staggering pace. Games are better than in the past and designers are turning out products with thought-provoking mechanics and breathtaking artwork as fast as their customers can buy them up.
The internet has been a key factor in the growth of tabletop gaming. Blogs, social networks and online videos have all contributed to creating word-of-mouth buzz for the board game boon. Smartphone, tablet, and computer apps have given new and old players an inexpensive way to try digital versions of board games before buying physical copies. Online retailers, specialty shops, and game cafes have all made games more easily available than in the past, allowing gamers to try out games with friends before they buy.
So, all in all, it’s a great time to be a board gamer….if we’re not in the Golden Age, we must be damn close!