Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Twenty-sided rune dice for 13th Age Glorantha

I love that both 13th Age Glorantha and RuneQuest are up for awards at the UK Games Expo later this week.

So here's a note on on a product that people may not have realized works for both games: the set of RuneQuest expansion dice from Q-Workshop.

 RuneQuest Turquoise & gold Expansion Dice (3)

The hit location die and the twelve-sided strike-rank die aren't going to do much for 13th Age Glorantha players, but the runes on the 20-sided die are the runes used by 13G in exactly the right order to replace a glance at the random rune table.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Four Notes about Three-Dragon Ante: Legendary Edition

Wiz-Kids has released more info about the new edition of Three-Dragon Ante, so I can start explaining a bit more about what's in the box.

Little Bits: The new edition isn't just cards and a rulebook: it also includes enough gold and platinum pieces for up to six players, along with six 3DA Ability disks for to use for playing a 3DA game as your D&D characters.

100 Cards . . . : This Legendary Edition contains 100 cards. This includes 70 cards for the same ten colors of dragon that were in the original Three-Dragon Ante game, the five familiar chromatic and five traditional metallic dragons of D&D. Seven cards per dragon color is a bump up from the original game's six-per-color. I've noticed that people enjoy playing 3DA with big groups, and in the biggest groups it was possible to *almost* run out of cards and have to shuffle small discard piles too often. Adding a new intermediate-strength dragon card for each color means less shuffling for everyone.

. . . including 30 Special Cards: You don't play with just the seventy-card deck. The standard rule is that you play with 80 cards each game. The extra ten cards are selected from a pool of thirty special cards, split into two types. Half the special cards are Legendary Dragons, either powered-up versions of the ten familiar dragon colors or something special like Bahamut, Tiamat, and the Dracolich. As an example of what I mean by 'powered-up versions of the familiar dragons,' take the Legendary Dragon named the Red Destroyer. The Red Destroyer can be part of a color flight of Red Dragons. A normal Red Dragon steals a card and 1 gold from the strongest opponent; the Red Destroyer steals a card and 10 gold.

The other 15 special cards are Mortals. Yes, there are several new Mortals in this set, with new art by the original 3DA artist, Craig Phillips!

The standard way to play is to randomly select ten of the thirty special cards to add to a game, but the rulebook contains other sample deck configurations. You can customize or randomize each game.

Strengthening the Fun: There were a few cards in the original game that I thought were weak or not enough fun. I'm not going to detail all the changes, yet. But I will say that cards like the White Dragon and Black Dragon have stronger powers than they did in the original card set. Meanwhile, cards like The Priest and the Dracolich are no longer kind of meh; now they have  interesting powers that can be worth planning around.

Brutal Self-Promotion: As I'm posting this blog, the Kickstarter for my new game, Wrestlenomicon, designed with Shane Ivey & Dennis Detwiller of Arc Dream Publishing, has 18 hours to run. Check it out for fun whiskey-and-pretzel gameplay, wonderful art by Kurt Komoda, and grievous Lovecraft puns from Shane and Dennis.

Elder Rumble: Multiplayer Rules for Wrestlenomicon!


The Wrestlenomicon Kickstarter is in its final 25 hours. We've kicked, and now we're stretching towards the goal that will add the third elder god to the game, Nyarlathotep, who in Wrestlenomicon terms is less a crawling chaos and more the Chaos that performs an Elder Ollie On Your Head

To honor the many backers who are putting in an extra $15 to $30 *before* we've reached the Nyarlathotep stretch goal, pushing us towards the line, we thought we'd share some of the current multiplayer rules. (The Nyarlathotep deck will cost $15 plus shipping and handling, and people adding a full $30 are hoping to also add Yog-Sothoth.) 

These are the rules for three or four player games where it's every god for itself. This is the first draft, details may change as we playtest more and if Shane and Dennis decide they want to revise my placeholder names. 

These rules are fun, even just playing with multiple Cthulhu and Hastur decks. A couple of my friends who started by playing three-player games think of Wrestlenomicon mainly as a three-player game, they love the shifting priorities created by the attack arrow. 

Elder Rumble

Elder Rumble matches three or more combatants against each other, fighting until only the winner survives.

Set-Up: Each player uses their own track, meaning you’ll set up more than a single track of space cards. Add a line of space cards for each additional player. For example, for a three-player game, set up two sets of space cards so there are three columns. Cards are placed between the space cards, one column/track per player. 

First Turn: As usual, each player chooses a card simultaneously. High Momentum takes the first turn. Break ties with alphabetic order.As usual, the first attack to reach Ground Zero slams. But only that first attack. Even if a following attack lands before the target has a card on Ground Zero, that later attack does not slam.

Turns go clockwise: Once the first player has taken their turn, proceed clockwise around the table.

The Attack Arrow: Each player in an Elder Rumble has an attack arrow that sits down under their Ground Zero and flips between left and right. Each player's first attack goes against the foe whose track is on their left (or around the table to the player on the right if you’re the left-most player). As soon as a player attacks, and their attack is totally over, they flip their arrow to point at the enemy in the other direction. In other words, you’ll attack a different enemy with your next attack that reaches Ground Zero. Keep alternating attacks back and forth.
Important multiplayer rule: All card and rule references to “your enemy” or to effects that are meant to hurt a specific opponent refer only to the player you are presently aiming to attack!

Rumble Bonus: When your card is the card that take out an enemy’s last Guts card, you gain bonus Guts equal to the number of players who are left in the game. Draw the right number of cards off the top of your deck and place them on your Guts pile.
Remove the dead god’s track. If there are still three or more players in the game, keep using the attack arrows. When the game is down to two players, remove the attack arrows and bash each other like a regular two-player game.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Return of Three-Dragon Ante!

I've kept quiet for months, but the hatchling is out of the nest! The photo below is from W. Eric Martin's Board Game Geek report on this year's New York Toy Fair

WizKids will be releasing Three-Dragon Ante: Legendary Edition later this year. I'm overjoyed to have the game coming back to print and I think both long-time players and newcomers will find something to like in this edition. I apologize for announcing the upcoming game without explaining more about its contents and intentions, but WizKids hasn't made the detailed product announcement yet.

If you're not familiar with Three-Dragon Ante, it's a card game of luck and skill that I designed to be something like Hearts in terms of complexity and playtime, though not in technique. In some respects, 3DA is the opposite of poker, since instead of folding out of hands, savvy players milk their cards for as many micro-rewards as possible, setting up later success. As an in-world game based on the iconic chromatic and metallic dragons, it's what heroes and other tavern-goers play for gold in the worlds of D&D, and you'll find it referenced a few places in the D&D Players Handbook.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Bring on Squishyface!

Lisa hanging out with someone clean cut for a change

We've played soccer together for 33 years and card games for 30, so really, I should have known that Lisa's favorite card art wasn't going to be something subtle! Her favorite Wrestlenomicon move is Squishyface, a Combo for Hastur that will enter the deck when we hit our first stretch goal and expand to 70 card decks.

Back the Kickstarter! Summon the Squishyface!



Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Adding Nyarlathotep & Yog-Sothoth to Wrestlenomicon


Arc Dream has announced our targets for adding new elder gods to the Wrestlenomicon Kickstarter! Actually Arc Dream announced a whole bunch of new stuff, including playmats, wallpapers and even a special card illustrated by John Kovalic!

Perhaps the biggest piece of the announcement is the plan for adding new elder god decks to the game. Cthulhu & Hastur made sense as the first to engage, but what's a cosmic battle between elder gods without the Crawling Chaos? The new gods will also come with rules for three and four player games. Battle Royale is grand melee style, every god for itself, or fight as a team. If fighting as a team feels too goody-two-shoes for you, there is of course an option for fighting each other after you've wiped out your rivals.

I've already designed the first draft of the Nyarlathotep deck. Same system that we used for Hastur and Cthulhu: Dennis and Shane supplied the names and I'm coming up with mechanics, though obviously we need the Kickstarter to fund and push through to the stretch goals before Kurt handles the art. Yog-Sothoth isn't as far along as Nyarlathotep but the first draft is in progress.

Here's how I summarize the new-elder gods.

Nyarlathotep messes with opponents by using Mastery cards that slam their own type of attack as well as their usual target. For example, Nyarlathotep's Bizarre Mastery card, Nyarly Don't Surf, slams Bizarre as well as Dominance. And while Nyarly's attacks and permanents slow the enemy down, Nyarly is busy building a pyramid of cards! Each attack that hits Ground Zero adds another block to Nyarly's pyramid. Cap the pyramid off, power Nyarly up,  and your enemy is gonna get capped.

Yog-Sothoth plays from two angles with twister cards that can use their Momentum to move its cards backwards on the track, looping all the way around to the lowest spaces near Ground Zero. Meanwhile, Yog-Sothoth has 'Groove Thang' cards (like When a Singularity & Matter Love Each Other Very Much, or Let's Smoke a Bowl of Antimatter) that mess with the enemy all the way down the track. Groove Thang cards generate random aggressions that are printed on Yog-Sothoth's Cultist cards. Trigger a Groove thang ability higher up the track (not at Ground Zero), draw a random YS Cultist, and find out what grooved.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Wrestlenomicon vs. Epic Spell Wars ! ! !

That's pro-wrestling-style hype for a grudge match that's more likely to be a team-up!

Three of the card games I’ve designed are somewhat similar to Wrestlenomicon’s style, play time, or ambition. Here are notes on fun elements of Three-Dragon Ante, Inn-Fighting, and Epic Spell Wars and how those elements compare to what’s going on in Wrestlenomicon.


Three-Dragon Ante
3DA is a game world artifact, the card game people in D&D worlds entertain themselves with in taverns when they’re not brawling.

Ambition: Like WrestlenomiconThree-Dragon Ante features a simple mechanical innovation I was surprised hadn’t been used before. In 3DA’s case, that’s the idea that high cards help you win the stakes but cards lower than what your opponent just played provide micro-rewards that set you up for later success. That makes Three-Dragon Ante the deliberate opposite of poker, that rewards folding out of bad hands instead playing through.

Wrestlenomicon’s ambitious streak, mechanically speaking, is that it models big slow cosmic wrestling attacks by giving them no immediate effect when played, except for moving a previously played attack (or attacks) further down the track towards Ground Zero, where attacks go off. This style of obvious-incoming-attack and uncertain-momentum seems to me to do a pretty good job of modeling a wrestling match, and I was amused to come up with a fun mechanic that apparently hasn’t been used before.

Inn-Fighting
A card and dice game of tavern-brawling.

Play-style: This one is a bit more like Wrestlenomicon in that it’s definitely a fight that rewards offense more than defense. There’s a lot more uncertainty about what you’ll be able to accomplish on your turn—dice are like that. So it’s much less strategic than Wrestlenomicon.

Inn-Fighting is also a game that is meant for multiple players, not a great two-player experience. In that, Wrestlenomicon is different than all three of these games. Wrestlenomicon was designed as a two-player game.

But towards the end of the development cycle, Bebo Boe asked me why Wrestlenomicon couldn’t be played by more than two players. My answer was something like “I tried it and that didn’t work,” which didn’t exactly satisfy her. So I thought about it some more and came up with an easy solution for making it a three or four player game. (More players are possible, but relatively slow.)

Even if we don’t do more decks right away, you’ll be able to play good three or four player games as grand melees or team matches if you have more than one copy of the game. If the Kickstarter does well and we publish more decks soon, even better.
 
ESW is definitely the closest of my little card games to Wrestlenomicon, if only because it benefits so hugely from co-creators card concepts and sense of humor!

I submitted a game of dueling wizards to Cryptozoic. But by the time ESW was published Cory Jones had changed nearly every name and written an entirely new art order. So the punch-drunk names and wild art by Nick Edwards in ESW, that add so much to the game, well, they weren’t how I’d handled it.

Likewise, in Wrestlenomicon, Shane Ivey and Dennis Detwiller came up with all the card names. They’d handled the art direction and Kurt Komoda handled the art before I joined the team. So instead of the ESW situation, where I actually had no idea what cards were going to accomplish by looking at the final art, since everything had gotten moved around, with Wrestlenomicon I got to design every element of the mechanics to match and live up to the art. I’d say it was inspirational but it went a couple steps past inspiration. I scrapped the first two attempts because I needed to create a game that was enough visceral fun to live up to Cassilda’s Thong and Tentacle Necktie!

I’d say that ESW and Wrestlenomicon end up as similar crazy-fighting fun. ESW is lighter, but as a two-player game, Wrestlenomicon is faster. You can usually play a full two player Wrestlenomicon game in between twenty and thirty-five minutes, sometimes even less. Longer games are possible, but rare.

Even so, the decisions you’ll make each Wrestlenomicon turn, and over the two or three turns you might be trying to look at least half-way ahead, are more decisive. Play skill matters more in Wrestlenomicon, despite the apparent randomness of the dice. It’s possible for one game to pivot mostly on the dice, but if you play two or three games, patterns emerge.

If you’re curious to see more of how Wrestlenomicon plays, click here for a how to play video from Bebo with bonus wrestling violence, and then check out the full rules and initial DIY card set that are available in the first update for Kickstarter backers. Any pledge will get you through the gate to see the DIY kit. If you’ve read this far, chances are that you’ll like it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Hastur vs. Cthulhu: The Home Front!

The Wrestlenomicon Kickstarter is in full swing with rules and DIY printable PDFs available in the first update for backers!

The campaign is structured so that most pledges add to either Cthulhu's coterie or Hastur's entourage. You'll find that Cthulhu is accepting allegiance on Twitter at @TentacleNecktie, with Hastur slightly in the lead at the moment at @EatYellowSign!

This Cthulhu vs. Hastur grudgematch has been playing out in my house for a couple years now, because my wife Lisa . . .
a) loves the game
b) was therefore willing to playtest it again and again and again during time when we were having fun hanging out instead of working
c) loves the art on the Hastur cards so much that she has a hard time playing Cthulhu, even though the straightforward Cthulhu mechanics are more her personal style. She plays Red/Black in M:tG, and Hastur is a bit more Blue/Black if we're gonna break it down like that. Lisa's Sense-of-Hastur helped keep the design on track when things got a bit too convoluted.

So Kurt Komoda's amazing Hastur art easily claimed its first victim. Lisa had never heard of the Yellow Sign, but she's an artist and a writer and Hastur had her number from the first stroke of its giant paintbrush.
Me, I can't choose a side. I love all our children equally. If pressed, however, I'll admit that little Nyarly, waiting somewhere in the shadows, that kid has issues.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Cthulhu. Hastur. Who’s the Great Old One, and Who’s the GREATEST Old One?


Time to find out. It’s WRESTLENOMICON, the card game from veterans of Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, Epic Spell Wars, and Delta Green. Back it now! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/arcdream/wrestlenomicon

Monday, March 4, 2019

Archmage Engines on Apocalypse Road


My favorite racing games are Thunder Alley and Grand Prix, designed by Jeff & Carla Horger and published by GMT. Both games ask you to control a team of multiple cars using cards that have a variety of movement effects but almost always benefit some of the other players' cars as well as your own. Strategy counts but there's a lot of luck and a fair amount of chaos. (See this review by Francis K. Lalumiere for a more thorough recommendation.)
Strategy, luck, and even more chaos is coming up in the next installment of the series. Apocalypse Road mixes car wars-style combat in with the racing. I always wanted to like SJG's Car Wars, but the truth is that it was too fiddly for its payoff, for me, so I'm looking forward to auto-combat in a system I enjoy.

At some point I decided to sponsor a driver in the game, paying a bit of support money and naming him Ole Tubli. Like my name, it ain't pronounced like you'd expect, which is fine. If you're not pronouncing it American style, this driver's name is Estonian for 'fare forward bravely,' my Dad's usual telephone sign-off, pronounced o-lay tube-lee.

After getting Ole Tubli into the races, I realized this was probably my life's one chance to sponsor a racing team. So Ole Tubli is part of the Archmage Engines team. Yes, the team will use something like the symbol of the Archmage from 13th Age, though I haven't worked out with Jeff which image will work better for his game. Maybe something like this . . .

Or if we play it straight . . .
Jeff has written a series of blog posts introducing the Apocalypse Road racing teams and the post involving the Archmage Engines just went up. If you feel like racing alongside Ole Tubli (plays mean guitar), Gid Zornes (grinder), and Sargon "The Winged Bull" Ashur (master metalworker) by sponsoring/naming a driver on the (extremely eclectic) Archmage Engines team, Jeff's blog has notes on how to join!

As the blog mentions, the game has reached the magic 500 pre-orders threshold, so GMT is going to start production and publish. The game is still available for the lower pre-order price through its GMT Project 500 page.

Ole Tubli!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Tea Dragon Society


[2018's Cutest Things*]

Before I enter the Wrestlenomicon ring with a full slate of piledriving elder gods next month, it’s time for an appreciation of a game that’s all the way over on the opposite side of the kindness spectrum.

The Tea Dragon Society, designed by Steve Ellis and Tyler Tinsley, is based on a super-sweet graphic novel by Katie O’Neill. Tea dragons are tiny pets that sprout magical tea from their horns. The tea carries memories, so players of the card game compete to acquire the most wonderful memories. Since it’s essentially a deck-building game, the memory cards do a lot less for you in play than the cards that help you keep your tea dragon fed, entertained, and well-groomed.

The most clever thing about The Tea Dragon Society is that it’s a deck-building game with no hand. You’re not constantly discarding and shuffling cards. Instead, when you buy a non-victory card, you put it into play right away. Each card you draw stays in play in front of you until you spend the card, either to buy another Market card or, more rarely, to buy a victory card, in which case you’ll shuffle your discard pile into your deck. As an introduction to the key concept of deckbuilding—when you acquire a card you’ll get to play it again and again during the rest of the game—The Tea Dragon Society works extremely well, even for children way under the game’s recommended age of 10+. As a beautiful and non-aggressive path through several key deckbuilding decisions, the game also works for experienced gamers.

I like the game enough I’ll mention a couple things that improve it.

[[I love the dragons' different Entertaining cards; art by Katie O'Neill]]

Misprints: There were different misprints in a couple editions. The first printing mistakenly said that the Book card gets discarded when you draw Entertaining. Actually, the Book should be discarded when you draw Boring.

The reprint fixed the Book card but left numbers off of three other cards. Wind Chime should have 0 Growth and cost 3. Musical Instrument should have 0 Growth. The Bed with a missing cost costs either 3 or 4, whichever isn’t in the set already. I understand that Renegade's customer service is taking care of replacing cards for people who got misprints. I just wrote on my Book instead of contacting the company, but I know some people prefer official fixes. 

Tweaking the balance: We've had a problem with the card-drawing Items (Bed, Brush, Fruit, and Musical Instrumentthat seemed too effective compared to the rest of the Market cards. Turns out that I hadn't read the rules well enough and missed the important rule that card effects only get used once a turn.

These four cards are still probably the best cards in the game. They might still benefit from a 2-point cost increase, or limit each player to buying only one of the two copies of each BBFM card. My wife Lisa likes the idea of avoiding a type of deckbuilding dominance that feels wrong for this game by forbidding players from owning both copies of a specific BBFM card. You bought Fruit once? You don’t get to buy the other copy. 

More memories coming: The words in the wind are that the designers are working on a new stand-alone Tea Dragon Society set that can be combined with the existing cards!

*Since I was taking a photo of the cutest game I played last year, I put the two other Cutest Things of 2018 on top of the box. The Deluxe Metal Meeples are from a Campaign Coins Kickstarter, and are now available from their store. The little one-eyeball monster is a Timid Monster I picked up at GenCon. I like 'em. 


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wrestlenomicon Launches in March!


[Sometimes Bad Things Happen to Bad Entities, by Kurt Komoda]

“Sometimes bad things happen to bad entities” is an apt slogan for Wrestlenomicon! The first two gods into the ring are Hastur (picture above, standing) and Cthulhu (picture above, splatted). We’re starting the Kickstarter on March 5th with the decks for those two gods as the core game.

After initial design and playtesting, I was too excited about this game to let it lie fallow while the production details were being wrangled into place by Arc Dream Publishing. I went ahead and designed the Nyarlathotep deck and am working on Yog-Sothoth. If the Kickstarter community gets behind the game and stretches it into something powerful, we’ll end up with multiplayer rules and a full royal rumble of elder gods!

A few early links . . .
For a bit more of the game’s art by Kurt, as well as notes from Dennis and Shane, visit Wrestlenomicon.com
For some notes on mechanics that I wrote during an early playtest phase, see this blog.
Here’s Bebo’s GLOWing intro video.

And here’s a look at an early version of the layout for the Sometimes Bad Things . . . card. (Among other things, the symbols will be a bit different in the final.) Layout artist Simeon Cogswell has been wrassling with the Kurt’s art to fit it onto our tarot-sized cards.



Thursday, February 7, 2019

13 Years of Color!

It's time to pull on this blog's starter cord. For the fun of it and because a couple people were asking, I'm restarting by rerunning the first blog post I made on LiveJournal, back in 2008. Yes, my thirteenth anniversary of color is tomorrow. I'm grateful every day.

Untitled, by Eric Eschenbach

    Until 2006 I was colorblind. Show me a sunset and I saw shades of green. Hand me a pink shirt and I was sure it was grey. Before my first date with Lisa, my future wife, I gave her my address and described my house as the gray house on the corner. The only gray house on a corner anywhere in the neighborhood belonged to the local drug dealers, which she realized when they opened the door and called inside to see if there was a ‘Rob’ sprawled somewhere in the haze. Lisa said “Uh, sorry, I’ve got the wrong house,” backed up and found me in the blue house on the corner.
    On February 8, 2006, I sat at home typing Dreamblade notes on my laptop computer while Lisa went to hear a National Geographic lecture with her mom. As usual, I had Windows Media Player humming along playing music. I liked having the Alchemy visualizer twirling colors around at the side of the screen while I worked. Suddenly the screen flashed orangecrimsonpinkpurplescarletblueviolet. I’d always thought of the program as a mix of flashing yellows and blues and some greens. Had the visualizer changed? No, it was the same program I always used. But these were actual colors! I sat and watched the full spectrum twisting for almost an hour.
    I knew that I had a conclusive color vision test hanging on the wall across the living room from me. The day before I’d had my nose pressed to a landscape painting by Lisa’s brother, trying to see the pink in the sky that she said was her favorite part. I hadn’t been able to see anything except some dark streaks. I pointed to them and said, “Is this the pink?” but Lisa just shook her head, saying that I might as well not try.
    When I dared to set the computer aside and approach the landscape, I was ecstatic to find that the sky wasn’t just a blue and gray wash. There was the pink. And those dark streaks I’d noticed the day before? They were beautiful orange.
    Lisa came home and found me sitting in a pile of all our art and photo books, spread out on the floor, looking at colors and details I’d never seen. I was bawling. I was overwhelmed by the reality that this was how everyone else saw the world all the time. Lisa had to talk me into going to sleep, I was worried that I was going to wake up and it would all be gone.
    Two [[13!]] years later, I still have color vision. I don’t have a medically verified explanation for how I regained colors, but with a prompt from a neurologist friend of Lee Moyer’s, I have put together a good guess. No one ever accused me of being colorblind until I was in fourth grade. I don’t remember having any trouble recognizing colors when I was younger and I didn’t have any trouble recognizing them when my color vision came back. But when I was in third grade I ran into a metal pole at a full downhill sprint. It was a serious head injury and it left me with symptoms that bothered me into my thirties. Those symptoms have all gradually gotten better or gone away. My guess is that I also lost the world’s colors to that metal pole.
    After decades, something has reconnected. My mind has agreed to show me colors again.
    I’m happy.