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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Gamestorm Report part 2

SATURDAY
We got started early Saturday morning at a great breakfast with Jeff DeBoer from Funagain Games. He has a lot of great ideas for upcoming services and products that he can bring to the market. Then back to the main gaming hall to set up some prototypes.

They’d given me a couple tables, which was great. I set up Isla Nova, a game about building infrastructure in a new community just preparing for new colonists to arrive. Just as I got that done, a photographer from the Oregonian showed up to follow-up on a story about Havoc: the Hundred Years War that was started last November. So we chatted a bit and I set up a couple other games we’re playtesting, Pizzza and Metro 2. William and Avery, selling their new Collectible Card Game (CCG) Konquer, dropped by for a test-play of Metro 2. While this game was not their normal cup of tea, they seemed to get how it works pretty quickly and finished a game in around 45 minutes.

After that, time for another panel with James Ernest, Richard Garfield and Dave Howell. This one was only attended by about 15 people, but it seemed to go well. It’s interesting that the bigger designers all have what they consider a “primary” test group, who they go to for first and biggest input. We all agreed on the value of conventions as a source of unbiased gamers, but it was pointed out that not all gamers enjoy or are good at play-testing.

Next up Chris ran several demos of Counterspy, a new 2-player game by our friend Kevin Nunn. It was received well, and played by people new to gaming as well as some die-hard gamers. Meanwhile, the CCG Konquer gentlemen gave me a demo of their game. This can play two or more and involves at least 15 “races” right now, each with nice back stories and art by the designer. The game also has a dungeon-crawl setup for even more flexibility which is good in the competitive world of CCG publishing. Then I corralled some folks to try “Sphinx of Black Quartz” which is a set-collection game based on pieces which taken together form letters and words. I still like it, but true to form it gained (at best) mixed reviews from the three people who played. Perhaps it’s more of a past-time than a game. (Or maybe it’s just past it’s time.)

I joined with the same panel gents for a packed-house panel on Prototyping. Each of us had brought boards, bits, cards and other examples of things we used for prototype games. My use of Excel for graphics, etc brought quite a reaction, even from the panelists, partly because it’s not really an art program. The graphic artist on the panel felt a good art program would get the same results much faster. On the other hand, Richard Garfield said that the Sharpie Pen is his favorite graphics tool. All in all, it was a great panel and everyone came away with good tips about materials for boards (tyvek hinges, mat board), cards (CCG sleeves, full size labels), bits (Lego, Risk armies) and boxes (recycle everything).

Early evening: 16 people in all showed up for or were cajoled into joining the first-ever Havoc tournament. We had the main players play two 6-player games, and four visitors played to learn the mechanics, etc. After comparing all the scores, the 12 main players teamed up for three four-player games to determine a champion. We had about half players who’d played Havoc before, and half had not.

We were lucky enough to be joined by a reporter from the Oregonian (local largest newspaper), who joined us for the whole tournament and took in a lot of the overall Gamestorm atmosphere as well. At the end of the evening, Phoenix from the GameStorm staff took home first place and a $20 board game. Second place went to first-time player Tyler Tinsley, who picked up Havoc as a prize. Other prizes were awarded as well, and it appeared that everyone had a great time.

SUNDAY
Several years ago we decided that Gamestorm needed peeping up early Sunday and started the Sunday Family Gaming event. This Sunday morning was great as ever. We had kids with their parents, parents without their kids and even a few loose kids trying out games like Looping Louie, Walk the Dogs and other family fare.

This year George Vriese put up a special Kid’s Games table with ours which was awesome. We saw Kids of Catan and several great Ravensburger titles on the table. Mike Deans also brought a variety of new games to his SimplyFun table, with titles like Drive, Zing!, Walk the Dogs and Plext available for trial runs. Luckily, I got Jeff DeBoer and his girls Emerald and Jade to try a game based on BadgeBadgerBadger.com along with Becka (a visitor) and Mimi Walker. That got played a few times, as did the copy of Diamant I added a test expansion too with sort of an Indiana Jones theme. Overall the three or four hours zoomed past.

Then a final panel, this time joined by Mike Selinker who’s now part of LoanShark Design with James Ernest and just published Gloria Mundi, which looks very impressive. This topic was on “Getting Published”, but seemed to just as much cover “How and When to Self-Publish.” It was great that most the panelists had started by self-publishing, and were in favor of new designers selling home-made models at game convemtions.

After that my final treat of Gamestorm was learning Richard Garfield’s Rocketville from the designer in a loose tournament setting. It’s a board game with 36 quick elections, determined by card play, with elections won netting you more cards, special cards or possibly area control which score points to win the game. A model rocket moves around to show where the next election happens, and there’s bit of luck in the card shuffle, but it’s all good fun and great retro graphics. The winners of the first games played a final, this time with supporter cards which make the game a little more meaty.

Overall a good time this year, plenty of new friends and contacts, a bit of learning and ideas for next year. If you weren’t there and could have been, plan now for the future!

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