Playtesting is critical if you want to publish your game, but it is one of the more difficult elements of games development. So how do you go about it?
Firstly, start with press ganging your friends and family into playing your game as many times and as regularly as possible, this will shake out a lot of the initial problems. Having a game with a solo mode is always helpful because you should be willing to play your own game without having to plead with someone else.
It’s good to have a group of play-testers beyond the people you can emotionally blackmail. We’re lucky enough to have a local club which play-tests all of our games, so they’ve gotten pretty good at it Since lock-down, the play-testing has moved online to Tabletop Simulator. This is great for working out kinks and problem solving. For example, if you have an alpha gamer or someone who always plays a certain way it can help see how your game will play with those players, highlighting if your game is broken.
Blind play-testing is the most valuable but often the most difficult form of testing to get. It will show you if your game is fun for strangers, without the slight social pressure of you standing behind them saying “do you like my baby?”; it’ll also show if your rules are clear without you standing there explaining where someone has gone wrong. So, how can you get playtesters?
Try joining a local gaming club or if there isn’t one, start one. Any fresh eyes on your game is helpful and if you have a local community, they are most likely to be the ones who support you.
Next go to conventions. These can be expensive but most (particularly in the UK) have inexpensive demo areas or free playtest zones and this is where you want to start. It’ll help later on to have been to conventions to know the organizers, see what sort of size and footfall the convention has and to start to have a bit of a presence there. Most people go to the same conventions year after year and they are likely to recognize you from playtest zone to small booth to selling a successful Kickstarter.
Also, try making your game into a print and play or put it on Tabletop Simulator. As stated in the first blog, this is a very cheap way of getting your game in front of as many people as possible and has become almost the only way of play-testing while social distancing. If you have a digital version of your game, going on social media can be a good way to find play-testers. Boardgame Geek has a play-test guild and game design forum where you can find play-testers, otherwise, talking about your game on Facebook can not only build a following but help play test.
Play-testing can be a stressful process, particularly if it’s your first or only game. It’s always disheartening to hear someone say that they just don’t like any part of your game or give you lists of things that are “wrong” which can sometimes amount to them saying that they want your pirate card drafter to be a Cthulhu RPG. Try not to be despondent or angry and remember that people are just trying to help. Work out which advice is helpful, again this can be tricky, and try to implement it. Remember your game’s soul (in Concept – The Perils of Picking a Game)? This is the time to be double checking it; don’t change your game beyond all recognition just because some people want you to.
Just a quick note on play-testers. Do not ask them to sign an Non-Disclosure Agreement. You don’t need to, no-one is going to steal from you, and it comes across as insulting as play-testers are helping you and you’re basically saying you don’t trust them. Play-testers might want a credit in your game but will often do it for the love of board games. If you have a group, you could offer a credit, but buying a pizza and a few beers will often be enough thanks. If you’re at a convention’s play-test zone, people are shepherded to your table and have come to play-test something. Mostly, be enthusiastic and grateful, and always say thank you no matter how unhelpful someone has been because they have taken time out to help you.
So how have you found playtesters? I’ll be speaking more about it in my next blog on the World Wide Web of Social Media!
Dungeon Drop was a smash hit on Kickstarter raising $259,695. A simple game using euro cubes to create dungeons full of both treasure and monsters, part of the appeal on Kickstarter was the humorous chibi artwork by Marilia Nascimento, which not only makes up the box and card art but is incorporated inside the box to give the player a holistic visual story. The other winning formula for their success is a simple game.
Players select a Race character card and a Class card which gives you specific abilities and a hidden Quest card which specifies your scoring goal. The game box/cube is then filled with euro cubs (which cubes depends on solo, multi-player or hero teamwork mode), then the incredibly smart USP of the game occurs, you throw the euro cubes onto the table, dropping the dungeon. (What committed gamer doesn’t want to throw euro cubes around?) These cubes represent treasure, enemies and structures (walls etc). Players find a room (a triangle made up of wall cubes) and loot the treasure and fight the goblins within. There are three rounds and the person with the most loot wins.
Dungeon Drop is a bit of an odd fish. Its rules are simple and clear and the artwork is cute and entertaining however, it plays like a very different game from how the box presents itself. Often turns involve very slow, careful consideration of spatial reasoning. You have to first find a room through the identification of wall cubes and mentally draw a triangle, then you might check your quest card and decide that that room doesn’t have enough gold in it. So, you look for the gold and mentally draw another triangle. Then once you’re happy and have completed any special abilities (re-dropping or flicking cubes for example) you pick up your loot and that’s your go.
One of my slight issues is that the characters, though full of personality on the page don’t have any personality in real gameplay terms. Also, the euro cubes can be difficult to differentiate; we played on a dark carpet and had to get an extra daylight lamp in order to tell them apart, and neither of us is colour blind so if you are it may be an added obstacle. The box, while beautifully designed has the very minor downside of being a little tight so getting the lid off can be an unnecessary faff.
With all of that aside it is a good, interesting, fun game, just not the game I was expecting it to be. Play is quick to pick up (you could teach it in around 2 minutes), the rules are simple (8 pages in a tiny rulebook) and if you like abstract games it gives good value. I was hoping to live my Bilbo fantasy and charge into a dark cavern fighting dragons over gold, what I got was some trigonometry homework. But if you like abstract gaming and you have a little awkward space on your shelf give it a look.
Life has taken a turn recently. Suddenly we are practicing things that are new for a lot of us. Quarantines. Social Distancing. These are terms that many people have been lucky enough to never have experienced before. Most of us would be going to movies, shows, conventions and work right now. However, in order to protect ourselves and others, it is critical that we stay inside unless necessary.
With this void to be filled, people are looking for ways to reach out. Tools available through the internet are making it so much easier for people to do so from within the safety of their own homes. Creators are making content available online. Museums, operas and zoos are opening virtual doors for us all to stream through. The internet is doing exactly what it was designed to do, giving us a way to make a connection.
On March 21st, people used Discord took a big step toward helping people reach out and, for lack of a better term, gather. Discord is an app that can be downloaded on different devices to communicate with others. You can make calls or different “channels” to chat in. This format has been used by gamers and groups, including we here at Real Women of Gaming. This format made it perfect for an online convention.
Yes an online convention! The convention was able to be neatly organized in different channels. To start off there was a welcome, rules and a schedule for the day.
There was an artist alley where every artist participating had their own place to chat and post their work that con goers could click into. It was a great way to see new artists and inquire about their work and possible prices. There was a cosplay section that even had a cosplay contest, and let me tell you there were some super talented people participating. There were two panel “rooms” where panelists were able to present. By clicking on the room con goers could connect to the presentation and could participate and ask questions in the chat room proper. There was also a section with different music throughout the day.
It really was fantastic. Moderators, or mods, kept everything orderly and just really nice for those participating. It was a wonderful way for talented people to showcase their hard work. With conventions canceling suddenly, hours of hard work seemed pointless to a lot of creators. Now they had a place to make up for it.
I saw so many people making connections. All kinds of con goers popping into different rooms and talking to each other about shared experiences. New anime was discussed. People got to learn about gaming opportunities they didn’t know about before. Beautiful cosplays were on display. Artists made important connections to help them monetarily in these uncertain times.
We all felt a little less alone. A little less scared. A little more sure about the good things in the world. We did it safely from our homes. It was necessary. It was lovely.
I would love to see and attend more virtual conventions! A huge thank you to the users who run the convention, to the artists, the cosplayers and the panelists. I had a blast! So keep an eye out for opportunities like this. Take a breath, friends. We are going to be okay.
“On the day she was to die, Liyana walked out of her family’s tent to see the dawn. She buried her toes in the sand, cold from the night, and she wrapped her father’s goatskin cloak tight around her shoulders. She had only moments before everyone would wake.”
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication date: 9/11/2012
Format Read: Bought for Kindle
Synopsis: In a desert world of sandstorms and sand-wolves, a teen girl must defy the gods to save her tribe in this mystical, atmospheric tale from the author of Drink, Slay, Love.
Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. The goddess will inhabit Liyana’s body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But Liyana’s goddess never comes. Abandoned by her angry tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.
Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. For the desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.
The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice: She must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate—or a human girl can muster some magic of her own.
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Why I picked this book up: In the first place, I started to hear good things about this author in general and this book in particular before it was even out, mostly by YA bloggers. The idea of desert tribes and mythology really intrigued me as very different and something that I might want to pick up.
Then I saw the cover. Yes, yes, I know the old saying, but look at that cover! It is gorgeous and different! They had to have photographed it just for this book. There is no way that this is a stock photo. I absolutely love it and how it really conveys the atmosphere of the book!
Why I kept reading it: This is the first book by Sarah Beth Durst that I have read and I must say, if her other books are even close to being as good as this one, I may just have to pick up more. One of the things that can make or break a fantasy or sci-fi book for me is world building. Durst excels at this. For a book that takes place almost exclusively in a desert, Vessel has a lushness that can only come from characters that truly inhabit and love their surroundings.
Liyana is a wonderful main character. She is strong, intelligent and devoted to her family, tribe and way of life. Even knowing that, to become the vessel for her goddess, she must give up her own life, she goes willingly because it is what she believes is best to protect those she loves. She is a fully formed character from page one and continues to grow and change in response to what she encounters on her journey.
Korbyn fights change, but being a trickster god in a human body, it is much harder for him than for the humans he encounters on their quest. He is not always a likeable character and often his godhood causes him to make mistakes that a human might not have, but he is always interesting. When he does change, it is natural and hard fought, not merely for the sake of the narrative.
One of my favorite parts of this book is the mythology. At no time did I feel that the author was cheating by taking an existing mythology and merely changing the names to protect the innocent. Yes, it does have a somewhat Native American feel to it, as well as elements from a couple of other pantheons, but it is unique and well established. The use of fables throughout the story allows the reader to learn about the tribe’s beliefs without ever becoming preachy or falling prey to the dreaded info dump.
Unfortunately there are two place where I believe Vessel falls down. The first is in some of the side characters. The first step of Liyana and Korbyn’s quest is to locate the other vessels. I liked that the reasons that vessels had for going through with what they were doing were all different (pride of being chosen, unquestioning rightness of religious obligation, even forced into it by the tribe), a couple of the vessels seemed to be a little two dimensional. I would have liked to see a little more fleshing out of two or three of the characters.
The other place that was a little weak was some of the romance elements. Some seemed to occur in a very organic fashion, others seemed a bit forced by the author because that is where she wants the characters to go whether they agreed or not.
All in all, despite the few flaws I have pointed out, I throughly enjoyed this book! I wanted to talk about it as soon as I was done with it and was sad when no one else in my acquaintance had read it. I will most definately read it again soon in order to really soak up this rich and complex world!
Who I would recommend it to: First, I would recommend it to my daughter Ehlanna and the daughter of all of my friends, because it is a great example of positive female role models. I would also recommend it to anyone who shares my love of YA literature and mythology.
From the academic scholar to the conscripted war mage, there are many ways to be a Wizard in Dungeons and Dragons.
Though not as physically weak as they once were, they are still at the bottom of the ladder in terms of hit dice with only the meager d6 at their disposal. Armor is also not in their wheelhouse, but there are spells to get around that.
Starting off with half-a-dozen spells, and half as many cantrips, their repertoire of spells is nothing to be sneezed at. Their personal knowledge of spells can easily, if not cheaply, be increased as they find either scrolls or someone willing to share their spell book. Preparing a select few of their spells on a daily basis they attempt to face the day with their arcane arsenal. This number of prepared spells scales with both their level and intelligence modifier. Unfortunately they can’t cast all of them. Once per day, following a short rest they can recover some of their expended spell slots. While their number of spell slots may at first seem pitiful, it will increase, and for utility sake they can always cast a spell ritually if it so allows. Any spell with the ritual tag that they have in their spell book can be cast with merely an extra 10 minutes of casting time. Logically this is great for utility spells, as there are no ritual combat spells. What Big Bad is going to wait an extra 60 rounds for a wizard to cast his fireball?
Having risen above the lowly stature of a level 1 wizard, they get to choose an arcane tradition at level 2. In the Player’s Handbook these subclasses of Wizard are the eight basic schools of magic. In The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide you can find the Bladesinger, and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything speaks of the War Mage. So far with 10 subclasses to choose from, truly every wizard is a different.
Abjuration magic is the magic of protection. These casters can create an arcane ward once per long rest that can absorb incoming damage. The ward has it’s own hit points and can be refilled in conjunction with the casting of any abjuration spell. A clever multiclass into warlock would allow the Armor of Shadows invocation to slowly refill the ward without wasting your wizard spell slots. At higher levels this ward can be used to protect your allies, and curiously this ward at no time is referred to as temporary hit points. The progression into the higher levels of the class will grant you proficiency with ability checks that are called for by abjuration spells, and grant you resistance to spell damage and advantage on saves against spells.
Conjuration magic may seem to start off slow, with the minor conjuration ability. Summoning an inanimate 10lb object might not seem like much, but the creativity of the caster will determine the efficacy of that. Teleportation spells are their thing as well and they gain an ability to teleport 30ft without wasting a spell, and even switching places with another creature in the process. At higher levels their expertise begins to show when their concentration of a conjuration spell can’t be broken, and summoned creatures gain temporary hit points.
Divination magic can be an extremely meta subclass. With the daily ability of Portent a Diviner can roll a pair of d20s and pocket those numbers in order to use them later on as they see fit. This can be done to alter the rolls of anyone they can see or themselves. Master Diviners are able to roll a total of three d20s and retain those numbers for use later. As they progress they are able to regain spell slots when they cast divination spells. Later on they can alter their perceptions gaining Darkvision, Ethereal sight, See the invisible, or the ability to read any language.
Enchantment spells are all about charm. Early on, Enchanters can hypnotize their opponents when in close quarters. This incapacitates them for as long as the cast stays close and the target can both see and hear the caster. Later on, in combat, the caster can force an attacker to attack someone else when they are targeted. As they become more adept at enchantments they can begin to target multiple targets with single target spell, and eventually alter the memories of their victims so that they become unaware of the being charmed, or even what happend during the time they were.
Evocation magic is a blast (Sorry, not sorry). These wizards specialize in dealing damage. One of the most important aspects of this subclass is the ability to shape their area of effect to ignore a certain number of creatures. This is great when your allies get right in the middle of the mob were about to blow up. Unfortuntely this does not protect you as the wording says “other creatures that you can see”. Being able to use yourself as bait for a ground zero fireball does seem a bit cheesey, so I can’t really complain. Your rise to mastery sees your cantrips doing some damage even if the target makes their saving throw, leading to your spells doing extra damage based on your intelligence, and finally the ability to maximize the damage caused by your lesser spells even to the point of hurting yourself in the process if you do it too often.
Illusion magic is something you have to see to believe, haha. These tricksters are quite adept at manipulating their magic. Minor illusion for them has both sight and sound unlike normally when a caster would have to choose one or the other. High level spells with a longer duration can be changed and altered so long as the caster can still see it. Expert illusionists can use a reaction to create a duplicate when they are attacked, causing the attack to miss, once per rest. Master in the this school can turn illusions into reality, making the image solid enough to use, but not harm anyone.
Necromancy, dead and loving it. These purveyors of the dark arts are able to survive on the deaths of their foes. It may not be much, a few hit points when they kill a target can help. When they summon zombies and skeletons later on they’re able to summon more, make them heartier, and stronger. At higher levels, whereas your allies would be wary of necrotic damage and its debilitating effects, you gain resistance to it and it can’t lower your maximum hit points. With expertise comes control, and it is then that you can try to control undead, even ones created by other wizards, or even intelligent undead.
Transmutation magic concerns itself with change. The storied Alchemist comes to mind with their basic ability. The wizard is able to change one substance from a set list into another. The change is temporary, but the uses are left up to the creativity of the caster. With practice the transmuter can create a magical stone whose properties can be altered with the casting of Transmutation magic. The person carrying the stone can gain one of several boons, including resistance to one of the 5 common arcane damage types. As they progress into the upper tiers they learn to cast Polymorph freely on themselves into a low challenge creature. Mastery in Transmutation grants the caster the ability to sacrifice their Transmutation Stone in order to restore vitality to a creature by healing them, raising them from death, or restoring their youth. A fourth function of this sacrifice can change an object from one substance into another substance permanently.
Bladesingers are typically elves (or half-elves) only, as the narrative goes for Faerun. Upon following this tradition at 2nd level the caster gains training in light armor, a single handed melee weapon of their choice, and the Performance skill. Using a bonus action they can begin their Bladesong increasing their armor class, their walking speed, concentration checks, and gaining advantage on acrobatic checks. There are restrictions on it’s use, such as not wearing a shield, medium or heavy armor, or using 2 hands to make an attack with a weapon. This technique can be done twice per rest. That’s quite a lot for only 2nd level. As they level up they gain a second attack when the take the attack action. At level 10 they can use a reaction to sacrifice a spell slot in order to reduce the damage of an attack. This reduction scales with the spell slot sacrificed. Mastery in this subclass is a little lacking. When they use their bladesong they can add their intelligence modifier to their weapon damage.
War mages start off by gaining a reaction known as Arcane Deflection. If they fail a saving throw, or are struck by an attack they can gain a bonus to their save or armor class, but can’t cast spells higher than a cantrip until their next turn. Their keen mind also helps them by boosting their initiative by their intelligence modifier. They can later counter other magics and store the stolen magic in the form of a power surge. This surge can be used to boost their own damaging spells. Later on while they are concentrating on a spell their armor class and saving throws are also boosted. Finally they can use their Arcane Deflection to damage up to 3 nearby foes. It’s not much damage, but it does strike multiple foes, and does appear to be automatic.
So while the eight basic traditions are varied, the two alternate ones both seem to make the wizard less squishy. Grab your robes and arcane focus and bring the strength of your mind to battle.
Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts is an animated show on Netflix, released in January 2020. Created by Radford Sechrist, the show is an outgrowth of his 2015 webcomic “Kipo.” It takes place in a post-apocalyptic wonderland populated by a colorful cast of anthropomorphic animals, and follows the titular character, a young human girl, as she searches for her father. In personal conversations, I’ve described Kipo as “She-Ra meets The Boondocks,” and I’m not just saying that because it was produced by Dreamworks and stars She-Ra’s Karen Fukuhara. Like She-Ra and the Princess of Power, the show features bright colors, exciting action and well-developed female protagonist. Fukuhara is joined by an array of Hollywood stars including Dion Cole (Blackish), Sterling K. Brown (Black Panther, Frozen II), and Dan Stevens (Legion, Beauty and the Beast 2017). Furthermore, Kipo features a banging hip-hop soundtrack as well as a number of original musical numbers representing a variety of genres. Did you know that John Hodgeman can (sort of) rap? Because I sure didn’t…before I watched Kipo.
Kipo herself is a teenage ‘burrow girl’ with pink skin and hair and multiracial heritage. Her father (Brown) is Black; her mother is eventually revealed to have been East-Asian. In the first episode, Kipo’s ‘burrow’ –a city of human survivors hidden underground to protect it from mutant animals, or ‘mutes’—is destroyed, and Kipo is separated from her father. We watch her discover the surface world, see the sky for the first time, and interact with mutes of all types. She makes friends with the surface humans. Wolf is a young girl with a sharp stick and a tragic backstory. Benson is a cheerful music-lover whose best friend is a talking bug named Dave (Cole) who continually cycles through various insect life-stages. As the season progresses, Kipo and her friends slowly uncover the mystery of what happened to her father and her people, and in doing so interact with enclaves of mutant animals, each embodying a different human subculture.
The dynamic animation style will be familiar to those who watched The Boondocks: it is anime with a twist, full of curving lines and complex forms. However, Kipo’s animation is infused with explosive color and whimsy, creating a unique visual language unlike anything I’ve seen elsewhere. The color palate is practically fluorescent, dominated by magenta, chartreuse and cyan. The frames are crowded with details. We, the audience, are dazzled by the preponderance of light and color, much as Kipo is when she first beholds the surface world.
Also, you should watch it because one of the core characters is gay. Benson, a human teenager, says, in these exact words: “I’m gay.” This is, as far as I’m aware, is unique among children’s cartoons. While other shows, notably Steven Universe and Adventure Time have made strides for queer representation by depicting same-sex relationships, they fall short of making that representation explicit. Marcelline and Bubblegum’s relationship was mostly subtext, and while Ruby and Sapphire wed on screen, some conservative viewers have said it doesn’t count as a gay wedding because both spouses are aliens whose relationship with gender is not analogous to ours. That logic won’t work on Benson. He is human, he is gay, he is, not for nothing, a person of color, and his queer identity is far from his only personality trait. It doesn’t even come up until halfway through the season. He is a fully-developed character who just happens to be explicitly gay.
Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts is one of the most innovative and creative animated shows on television, while staying accessible and highly entertaining. Dreamworks and Netflix knock it out of the park with this one. I highly recommend checking it out. Now streaming on Netflix.
Games have been around for centuries. Most games help to sharpen skills. Almost all are fun. There are some that have evolved from other needs. These are games that you shouldn’t play, no matter what you are promised at the end.
So I am going to type the obligatory disclaimer before we go any further. Please, please don’t actually play these. I am writing about it because I love the creepier things in life. These games, and particularly the lore behind them are fascinating for me. I wanted to share that. Once again, my dear readers, I beg you not actually mess with spirits and demons.
So here are some games that are played with spirits and demons.
The Three Kings – This game has multiple steps and you need to follow them carefully before and throughout the game. If you make it through the game you will get answers to your questions from the beings in the mirrors. If not, well who knows what you let into your home or you could just go a little crazy. The main gist of the game is by having three chairs, one for you and two mirrors you will be able to open portals which is how you will be able to hear your answers and how the beings will cross over. These are to represent you, the Queen and the Fool, but be careful as the roles may switch through the game. You may think you know who is who but how can you really know? Maybe, if you play this game, you will always just be a fool.
One Man Hide and Seek or Hitori Kakurenbo – Hide and seek, that sounds innocent enough right? You even get to have a doll or a stuffed animal play with you. Well you are wrong because what you are doing in this Japanese game is inviting a spirit (ANY spirit) to inhabit the toy to play with you. Again follow the instructions for this game to the letter or you won’t make it out okay. Playing this game involves a full tub, a working television, a smart hiding spot, rice, salt water, oh and stabbing. You MUST play this game alone, as you don’t want the spirit to find someone you care about and for them to be hurt. People have said that they have gotten sick after playing, or that they have gotten bad luck or just that things have been wrong ever since. So maybe just don’t invite a spirit into a stuffed animal, stab it and then spit salt water at it.
Bloody Mary – Ah this old chestnut. This game has become a rite of passage for so many of us as we take our first steps into being a teenager. A favorite of slumber parties, television shows and movies. People have been trying to figure out the exact origin of this game and urban legend without much success. Just remember that mirrors are doorways and that they are not so easily closed. All you will need for this game is a mirror in a bathroom, a light switch and your own nerve.
The Midnight Game – If game this sounds familiar it is because there have been movies made about it. This is one more game with a big list that you have to have ready before you can play, however you can play this with friends. Be warned though this game started off as a way to punish pagans in ye old days so perhaps something else would be better for game night. Also this game is a way to see your greatest fears about death, but are you really only seeing it or will the Midnight Man have you experience it? The only way to know is not to let the Midnight Man catch you and make it with your candle lit through the night.
Tsuji-Ura – Most countries have a version of this game. It is a popular crossroads game to find out your future. It will take place at a crossroads, which makes sense as crossroads are their own space…neither one place or another. That is why they seem to hold such supernatural power, I myself have had some scary experiences at a crossroads but that is a different story. Make sure you follow the rules and keep your face covered. Oh and don’t forget your comb. Will you like what you have learned? Will you be able to live with it?
Dry Bones – This is one more game of hide and seek with a demon, who would have thought demons wanted to play hide and seek so badly? You will get a prize of your choosing if you win. Follow the instructions carefully for you will be playing this game alone. Have your protection objects ready and hope that they are strong enough. That your hiding place is secure enough. Players have said that they have heard and seen terrible things while they hid. They have also said that their homes have been trashed after they came out from hiding. If you make it yes you will get your wish but will it be worth it?
The 11 Mile Game – This is a good game if you don’t want to invite something into your home. The rules to this game are very important as you are playing while driving. You will need a specific kind of a road. Remember not to look on the sides of the road, you won’t like what you see. Don’t get out of the car, you’ll lose more than a game if you do. You will get a special gift if you win but you will also hear terrible things on the radio and maybe see things that you have never wanted to see on the road.
Honorable mention: The Ouija Board. This game is also a rite of passage for most of us. Just make sure you follow the rules so you can properly close the connection. It has been marketed as a harmless toy by one of the biggest names in the industry but is it? That is the reason why this classic has been bumped to my honorable mention. For too many people it can be argued that it is just a game. However it can be argued that any open channel without a particular way to ensure who the players are talking to is dangerous. The discussion about Ouija Boards goes back for years from different religious leaders to just concerned parents. So what do you think? Is it worth it to play?
There are plenty of other games like these. Are there possible rewards for these games? Yes. Is there a thrill to play with demons and spirits? Of course. Again though I caution you not to play any of these. Research and get spooked by stories of others instead. It will be safer. Did I miss your favorite? Comment with it below.
I’m Carla Kopp of Weird Giraffe Games and Galactic Raptor Games. I used to be a software engineer and now I design, develop, and publish games. I currently live in Huntsville, Alabama with three cats and my partner, Nick. When I’m not working or playing games, I love to travel and explore! I do have a passion for video games and I’ve been playing through the Tales series of games for the past few years.
2. What was the first board game you remember playing?
I know I grew up with a board game about money that wasn’t monopoly that I played until the box and board fell apart, but I can’t remember what it is! The first hobby board game I remember playing is Agricola, as I know it’s my friend Sarah’s favorite game. It’s probably not the best way to get into the hobby, but I really enjoyed playing and I’ve been hooked ever since.
3. What’s your favorite board game? Why is it your favorite?
My favorite is so hard to choose! There’s games I like for different moods and to play with different people. I think if I had to choose one game I really liked playing, it’d be Wingspan. I love that it has simple actions that build on each other and I love the artwork. Engine building is one of my favorite mechanics, as well.
4. Tell us about Tumble Town.
Tumble Town is a town and engine building spatial puzzle game set in the Old West for 1-4 players that plays in about 45 minutes. In the game, you’re trying to win over the townspeople by constructing buildings and placing them in the best locations. Each building you construct will give you either a one time effect, dice manipulation powers to help make future construction easier, engine building powers to make getting dice easier, or new end game scoring conditions.
I love that there’s so many different directions you can go in while playing and at the end of every game, you can be proud of the town that you’ve constructed, as you’re physically constructing the town out of dice.
5. What was your inspiration to create the game?
Kevin Russ designed the game and his job as a photographer is to travel around and take pictures of landscapes. He really enjoys going out to the West the most and one day, he was playing with dice and stacking them when he realized the dice kind of looked like a building. That’s all the inspiration that was needed, as he then went out to make the first version of Tumble Town!
6. What are the most challenging issues that you’ve come across in designing a board game?
Knowing when the game is done is sometimes super hard. You want to make the best game that you can, but the most important part of that is actually finishing the game so that people can enjoy it. It’s also about making a product and knowing when to cut or add things that I personally might not enjoy, but doing so despite that to appeal to a greater audience. For example, at one time the building card backs of Tumble Town were all unique and there was a lot of replayability there. I ended up making the card backs super similar to each other as it made it so each player didn’t have to reevaluate the card backs each turn when a new one came up and it really streamlined the design and lowered the time between each player’s turn. This choice made the game better overall, even though I did enjoy having the card backs be really different. It’s finding all the small changes like that that together can really elevate the game to be fantastic.
7. What aspects of board game designing do you enjoy the most?
I love being able to create an experience to give to people that they can enjoy. It’s always amazing to see players forget about everything but the game that they’re playing, even if it’s just for 45 minutes.
I also really enjoy the problem solving aspect of improving a game design. You play the game, get feedback, and have to identify the problem areas of the game and how to fix them. There’s so many things you can do and they might or might not fix the problem and you don’t know until you playtest again and see what happens. I love the feeling of fixing things and slowly getting to an amazing game.
8. What were some hurdles you’ve overcome, as a woman, to get to where you are in the industry?
I think part of being a woman is getting people to respect you and to actually listen to what you have to say. It’s taken years of me creating games that people love, going to conventions, hitting deadlines, and being in the community, but I think I’m finally starting to be someone that people know and trust.
9. What has been the proudest moment of your career?
Everytime I get a finished game in, it’s always amazing. Being able to have that first proof copy in my hands is such a great feeling, as I can see all the hard work that I’ve done in physical form. It’s also been super great whenever I see someone suggest one of my games to their friends or even a few times when someone has recommended all of my games!
Another really great moment was recently when I went to pitch one of my game designs to another publisher and it only took a day to go from sending the email talking about my design to getting a contract. It was such a good experience to know that another publisher thought so highly of me and my design that they’d sign it that fast.
10. Do you have any other board games in development or currently available that you would like to share with our readers?
Big Easy Busking is my latest game! It’ll scheduled to hit retail this summer, but you can order it from me before then. Big Easy Busking is an area control game for 1-5 players set in New Orleans where the players are street performers trying to hit it big. It’s super bright and colorful, just like New Orleans, and it’s also the game that I’ve worked on that I lose the most. This is because songs take time to play; one one turn you decide which crowd you’re playing a song to and the next turn, you finish that song. If you’ve matched the mood of the song you’re playing to the mood of the crowd, you get a choice when you finish your song; either put in all the energy that the song needed and gain extra tips OR put in only a few energy tokens and redistribute the remaining energy among your band members. This means that players can make you think that they’re trying to win over one crowd, but they can then change their mind and go for a different crowd and you’ll have to try to compensate for that change.
I’m also working on the Fire in the Library: the Card Game, which brings the press your luck and saving books of Fire in the Library to a smaller card game form. It’s going to hit Kickstarter later this year and I’m super excited about it, as it should be super portable, but just as fun and exhilarating as Fire in the Library is.
When one finds their community it is an incredibly happy time. Finally the people who “get” you. The right fashion or the music that speaks to who you want to be. The shared interests that make you squee with delight. It can also be overwhelming to find resources. That is where people like Jillian Venters come into play. The Lady of the Manners has dedicated herself to making her corner of the word not only a little nicer but also easier to navigate for those new to the dark crushed velvet world of Goths.
Jillian Venters does not claim to have always been Goth, however she does claim to have always been attracted to the darker things. She was lucky enough to have parents who understood instead of fearing her darker tastes. Her father was able to use this to encourage her to do well in school. This solid base of trust gave her the freedom to express herself and the comfort to discover who she was. That foundation is what Jillian has used to build upon.
Being a new Goth can be difficult. There are many ways to identify as a Goth nowadays. There are also a lot of misconceptions about the culture and the people who live it. Seeing not only the in fighting but also the everyday difficulties Jillian started the Gothic Charm School. She wrote a lovely book about Gothic culture but also about being kind.
The book is for everyone. For Goths who have been flashing their fangs for years, the new Goths who are figuring out their place in the night, their parents, their friends or those who are just looking for a good read. It also has lots of helpful tips. Ways to help make your wardrobe, which can be helpful for the Goth on a budget. It has a comprehensive history of the evolution of the Gothic subculture. She also has her website and has put videos on Youtube. There are tutorials and tips for all kinds of things.
“The Headmistress” has made sure to create a place for everyone. Kindness is the cornerstone of her teachings. All are welcome. All you need is to be open. No matter what your subculture is, that is a great lesson for all.
For anyone self-isolating here is a list of some of my favorite games to play solo, 2 player or with family. It is also applicable for holidays, long journeys or at Christmas (when you’re stuck with your family for 2 weeks anyway).
I don’t really play solo games but my husband does, and if I have to self-isolate in our spare room I might take them up!
Arkham Horror (or Arkham Horror:The card game) – With all the expansions this could not only take up your 2 weeks but probably 6 months. As with most Lovecraft games, you take the part of an investigator roaming the city, tooling up and fighting till the big old elder gribbly shows his evil face.
Mr Cabbagehead’s Garden – This has the added bonus of being a print and play so you don’t have to order anything to get it, also if you’re self-isolating you might enjoy the added element of a craft project. To play you lay beautiful cards into a grid to impress the Garden Committee and score points.
Shaddows Upon Lassadar – Another of Todd Sander’s beautiful print and plays. A fantasy quest game where you play a magician who must find the lost keys while learning new spells but be careful not to become corrupted.
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (and expansions) – We really love Sherlock and took this on our honeymoon, so it could be in the two player or family sections. Players explore the board, visiting locations and looking up clues to answer a mystery, you then compare your score to that of the great detective’s.
Railroad Ink (or Welcome To) – Roll and writes (or flip and fill) are everywhere and have the benefit of a wide player count (Welcome To has 1-100). I happen to prefer Railroad Ink but any roll and write could fill in for this entry. In Railroad Ink you design the most efficient railroad and road network based on the options presented to you from the dice roll.
2 Player Games:
The majority of my gameplay is 2 player and these are some of my favorites.
Ravens of Thri Sahashri – Whenever someone asks about 2 player games this is what I always suggest. It’s a co-op card game based on limited communication, where one player has to try to help the other regain their lost memories through the drawing and sharing of cards.
Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle Defense Against the Dark Arts – I’m a massive Harry Potter fan so gain added enjoyment from this one. It’s a competitive deck builder where opponents try to curse, hex and generally zap each other to the end of the player board.
Pandemic – Possibly not a good one for the current climate, or oddly appropriate, take your choice. It’s a strategic co-op game based around attempting to contain and eradicate a pandemic… not prescient at all.
Forbidden Desert (or Sky or Island) – All of the “Forbidden” games are great and work in a similar way. Again, they’re co-op strategy games; Desert involves using your abilities to build a plane (with lovely pieces that click together) before the desert buries them. These are also fantastic family games which we have played while stuck inside on a rainy holiday in Cornwall.
Machi Koro – I really enjoy Machi Koro and we’re currently working our way through the Legacy version which is fantastic. It’s a dice roller with a light engine building element, where players roll dice and buy buildings to create a city.
We happen to not have anyone under the age of 25 in our family but these could be played with kids and are particularly enjoyed by my almost retired mum.
Ticket to Ride – A great family game which we enjoy so much that have most of the editions. There are some really good 2 player versions, London is a particular favorite (purple buses driving around London, yes please) so could be included in the 2-player section. It’s a competitive set collection game based around trying to complete route cards by collecting coloured cards and placing trains.
Happy Salmon – A light, loud part game which my sister loves. If you need to get up and burn of a bit of energy its great fun but there are quiet rules in case you don’t want to over-excite small children and a version for people with mobility issues. You have a deck of cards and have to complete actions with other players.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple – Another of my sister’s favs and surprisingly tense. It’s a co-op simultaneous dice roller with push your luck and exploration elements, where players explore a temple against a tension inducing sound track timer. You have to retrieve gems, reveal the exit then escape the temple before the time runs out.
Deep Sea Adventure – This is a great small box, push your luck, time filler game. Players roll dice to move down tiles and try to pick up treasure, but as soon as you pick some up your joint oxygen begins to decrease. Your aim is to return to the submarine laden with treasure while trying not to be drowned by your opponents.
Mysterium – A real family favorite and has been played maybe a little too much (we have the expansion to mitigate this and recently bought but haven’t tried Obscurio). One player is a ghost trying to communicate the information of their murder to a group of mediums. This is done through the silent ghost handing out wonderfully weird cards to indicate first the killer, then the location and finally the weapon. For a more sci-fi, Stranger Things version of this mechanic Greenville 1989 is brilliant.
So that’s my list, I didn’t realise just how many co-op games we play! What would be on your isolation list?