Idea Bargain Bin: A Hidden Movement Mechanic

Games about finding someone come in many forms

There are a good few games percolating in my noggin – at least a dozen1)though from what I hear many successful designers have far more. But there are even more ideas than there are games – and I don’t feel comfortable abandoning a good idea even if I don’t know what to do with it.

So I’m going to use today’s blog to do something with one of those useless (to me) good ideas.

I was listening to a podcast on Hidden Movement Games and I got stuck on a single thought: Why can’t the game pieces serve as a neutral arbiter? Perhaps it’s because I loved Stratego as a kid, or my interest in MtG’s design but I simply couldn’t resist fixing the problem of relying on player honesty.

The Solution?

For the purposes of this solution we’re reliant on a game with only one player controlling hidden characters: changing that is possible but awkward and, if you want characters to bump into each other, an engineering challenge (I’ll give a brief thought at the end as to how to make it work).

The core of the vast majority of hidden information in games is having something face down – and this is no exception. But just one face-down thing is useless for a hidden movement game – you can see exactly where it is!

Instead you use multiple face down things, just one of which matters – you pull a three-card monte. In addition to your “I am here” token, the hidden player has a number of “nuh-uh” tokens, with identical backs, that indicate places they could be – until searched.2)Amy’s suggested I was drawing on Flashpoint (one of my recent favourites) when I came up with that idea, and it’s set of false alarm tokens. She might be right, it has certainly been on my mind as part of another game design…

That gets the hidden placement down, but hidden movement requires a tiny bit of extra finesse. First you have to define how your hidden character can move.3)If you’ve got more than one type, they’re either going to have to all have the same movement method, or they’ll need different backs and separate sets of “nuh-uh”s. Then you have a three stage process of movement:

  1. Pick up any number of “nuh-uh” tokens, revealing them, and putting them into your hand. These are spaces that it’s now clear you’re *not* in.
  2. Choose any token that you want to move into previously empty spaces, and a set of empty spaces it could move into.
    1. For each such space, take a “nuh-uh” token, then take the original token (without revealing it) and put them all onto the board face down, as you wish. The original token may now be in any of the spaces filled this way (or even back where it started – this is after all about hiding your position)
    2. Rinse and repeat – remembering that this process can only be used with empty spaces, not ones filled earlier this turn.
  3. Pick any number of tokens on the board in spaces that weren’t empty at the start of the turn, and that can all reach each other by a single movement (in some games this will always be a pair tokens, in others it may be more).
    1. Pick up all those tokens, without revealing them, and then place them back down in any arrangement you want.
    2. Rinse and repeat, but with the restriction that you can never pick up a token you’ve already used in part 3.

 

And that’s it. Thoroughly hidden movement – how the other player goes about flipping your pieces to take a look is part of the rest of the game, and I’m not worried about it.

But what about having multiple players with hidden movement?

Well, each could player have their own tokens, each part of the board having space for one from each player. That’s really damn awkward – you could be in the same space as each other and you’d never know it. The engineering comes in at this point – each players real piece, the one that isn’t a “nuh-uh” has a magnet in it: just a small one, not very sensitive, but enough that if placed in “sensing range” of another players piece they’ll feel the tug. If placed directly on another players piece, it may even be obvious to the whole table!

What are your thoughts? Anyone got a brand new idea for how to make a great game from this? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter

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References   [ + ]

1. though from what I hear many successful designers have far more
2. Amy’s suggested I was drawing on Flashpoint (one of my recent favourites) when I came up with that idea, and it’s set of false alarm tokens. She might be right, it has certainly been on my mind as part of another game design…
3. If you’ve got more than one type, they’re either going to have to all have the same movement method, or they’ll need different backs and separate sets of “nuh-uh”s.

Adventurer’s Backpack Sell Sheet

So, for today I’m going to be looking at the sell-sheet for our main current card-game project, it design and a breakdown of what we’ve put in there.

This is not a how-to guide – it’s a how-I-did log: much of it is being written as the process is ongoing.

Step One: Look for Advice

I’ll start by linking a how-to guide, because that’s where I started on making the sheet.

Step Two: The Base Statistics of the Game:

How long does it take to play?
That varies, of course, but with timed playtests we’ve determined that it lasted 20-60 minutes. With a few minor rules adjustments, to allow compensating for player count and experience, it fits in the range of 25-50 minutes. Still a large variance, but not quite as extreme, and something that may be reducible further – but sell-sheets need to reflect the game as-is, not as-desired: a publisher won’t look kindly on a designer who deceives them from first interaction!

How many players can it take?
For Adventurer’s Backpack that’s a hard one to answer – technically it could be played with 20 players with no need to change the rules – but it would just be frustrating at that point. Deciding a cut-off for “How fun is fun enough” is necessarily arbitrary, but we went with a max of 8 players because we’ve been unable to playtest with 9 enough to say for sure, and 11 players is certainly no longer fun.

On the other end, it’s technically possible to play Adventurer’s Backpack solo – as a simple memory game – but it loses its greatest strength, the way that storytelling aids and influences memory! With two players the game works, but to my mind lacks most of its charm – so 3-8 it is.

What age is it for?
This one I actually missed out at first – a clerical error that I’ve just corrected. From our testing, some children as young as 6 may have fun with the game, but the combination of structured gameplay and freeform storytelling doesn’t always sink through – while we’ve only had a few playtests with children we believe that from age 8 most children will be able to grasp the game.

What components does it need?
It’s easy to forget this one – it doesn’t go on the outside of the game box like the others – but it’s absolutely vital. When it comes to mass-producing a game the materials needed and the manufacturing costs are vital – if the game is too expensive to make, then it’s not worth making; the more expensive it is the more it has to be able to grab its audience!

And Another Thing…
While not part of the standard set, I chose to include two/three further “stats” with those core ones:

Setup time – Most of our games are very quick to set up, and long set-ups can get frustrating, so keeping that clear in the core facts is valuable.

Rules and Strategic Complexity: The age range for a game is often used as a rough-and-ready guide to this, but the two can be very different – take Cards Against Humanity: it’s rules complexity is low, and its strategic complexity is zero, but it’s still at least a 12+ on age.

 

Continue reading →

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The End of the (Instant) Universe

The End of the (Instant) Universe

Last Thursday our kickstarter campaign for sci fi concept cards ended. It was, all things, considered, a rousing success.

The final tally was £5,544 and 244 backers. Thank you to all our backers – we couldn’t do this without you and we like doing this!

We have reached the stretch goals for two extra cards per deck, and three extra suit symbols.

What Remains To Be Done

Elvis may have gone home to live among the stars, but we still have work to do. There are a few cards left to write, more now we have reached that stretch goal, and we need to commission more art.

Then comes the process of proofreading. To be honest it’s my least favourite part of the job, not least because I’m not very good at it. Fortunately Ali is, and we have a couple of volunteers to aid in the process. It is very necessary, though – I am rather prone to making typos. By the time it goes to print I am confident that every error but one will be squashed (that one will show up three weeks later…).

After that is done we send files to the printers, and wait anxiously for them to send us boxes of decks.

Then we package and post them to the backers.

If you missed the Kickstarter it’s not too late to get in on the action – you can still join us on Backerkit

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Patron Participation – Getting Input from Fans

A backer on the Science Fiction Concept Cards Kickstarter recently asked us about the possibility of a digital template for the cards, so that the backers could make their own afterwards for their personal characters. It’s not something we’d ever considered, but it made sense to us so we’ll be doing so – although the template is not trivial to use, with multiple fonts and a few fiddly bits.

This interaction brought to the fore one of the most important things about Crowdfunding – the opportunity for the crowd to give their input.

Whenever we’ve run a Concept Cards Kickstarter we’ve always included a few backer levels that allow those who select them to work with us on designing a card – and from this process come some of our favourite cards; including the only recurring character who exists throughout all the sets.

Diot-Haen, or Diothaen, has appeared in every Fantasy set in some form, and has now managed to jump the genre barrier

But those are just the most obvious way in which backers can contribute to the project. Marcos Hidalgo (our artist throughout the fantasy series of concept cards) forcibly improved our art in the earliest days, when we didn’t have a clue where to look for the right artists. Other backers have given us advice and guidance in other ways – and we often seek their input on which project to do next.

Working with our community is part of what makes Artemis Games what it is – and that includes you.

So come on over to Facebook and Kickstarter, and give us your input!

-Ste

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The Rebirth of Jigsaw Fantasy as Setting Shards

It’s Easter – or at least it was two days ago.

So it feels appropriate that we talk about a rebirth – at the end of last year Jigsaw Fantasy, our Patreon project, died. It was sad, but we talked about why it needed to be done. We’ve now gone through some of the changes that needed making, and we’re preparing to relaunch with the new name “Setting Shards”.

We’re looking at making physical versions this time, and expanding our options to include things beyond Fantasy, but we think that the new name and new design will make much of the necessary difference.

We’re still fine tuning the design, but as you can see we want it to show a wider array of possibilities!

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KS Updates: Stretch Goals and Add-ons

Stretch Goals

On Wednesday Loz mentioned that we were going to be releasing some more of our Stretch Goals after we had a chance to triple check the details – and here they are:

Full-bleed Borders at £6000

Black borders are traditional on cards – but that’s partly because of printing technology, which has improved over time. On a larger run it’s perfectly affordable for us to add some detail to those borders, allowing the starfield effect to slowly fade out, creating a slightly deeper feel to the cards

The “Even More Art” Goal is at £7500

It’s a little over double where we currently stand – and is at the top end of where Kicktraq’s projections put us – but we have confidence that it will be reached.

While far from vital, it’s an improvement we would certainly like the opportunity to implement – we just need the funds to pay the artists.

£9000: 64 Cards

The First of our Sky-Pie goals, and the only one we’re announcing for now, is making the deck up to 64 cards – 16 of each suit, for a total of 2^6. The new cards are currently planned to be a full suite of jokers (one per suit, rather than just red and black) along with a Pilot and an Admiral for each of the suits – but the precise names are not set in stone, so let us know if you would prefer different bonus cards.

56 Shares: A 10 Page Solar System

We’re not marketers – we’re writers. So we want to harness your desire for our writing in order to gain the power of connections!

If the Kickstarter page is shared a total of 56 times on social media (we’ll be watching Facebook and Twitter, but let us know about others) in non-spam contexts, we’ll give every backer access to a 10 page piece detailing one specific solar system – with four inhabited worlds split between two very different species.

We picked 56, because we’re pretty sure that’s how many cards the deck will have when this goal is reached!

112 Shares: Another 10 Pages

Simple enough – the solar system gets more detailed, with more information about the culture on each planet, and some of the individual people living there.

 

Add-Ons During the Kickstarter

You can increase your pledge for more decks of the sci fi cards at the same cost as the backer levels – that is:

  • £12 per deck or
  • £30 for a full set of all three.

Assuming we reach the social stretch goals for the Solar System Setting Shard mentioned in the previous update you will be able to add that too – you will automatically get the PDF, but you may want a printed version. The cost depends in part on the printing costs which we are investigating – the simplest option would be to use something like DrivethruRPG’s Print On Demand service. Once we reach that point we will, of course, announce that.

After the Kickstarter

We are using Backerkit again as it seems to have worked well for us in the past. This means you will able to adjust your pledge at that stage too. You will be able to grab the above options then, but if you do so before the end of the kickstarter we are more likely to reach our stretch goals and you will get more!

You will also be able to add the fantasy cards at that point, too. We are not making them available as an add-on at this stage because we want to keep things focused on the current project – not least so we have a better idea of how many sci fi decks we need to order, and know we can afford to do so.

After That

The cards will be available in various retail locations. We have a retailer level (Generation Ship), and of course will let you know who they are so you can point your friends at them. If you know any games stores who would be interested in carrying our cards please point them at the Kickstarter.

Or you could try to find a shop which sells them here
Or you could try to find a shop which sells them here
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KS Update: Who are your most unusual characters?

If you’re anything like me you have dozens of characters, ideas for games and general strangeness floating around in your brain (That’s probably why I write them on cards…). Today I’d like to relay a couple of them to you, and ask what’s the strangest character you’ve come up with, whether you actually played them or not?

TBD-768, aka “Teebee”

We were about to start a superheroes-in-space campaign and Ali had a character worked out mechanically, but didn’t have a name. The character was a space ship brought to life by a hyperspace accident. As a space ship she needed a name that was suitable, so I put TBD (for To Be Determined”) and some random numbers. Weirdly she liked it and stuck with it, only adding the diminutive “Teebee” as the character was incredibly inquisitive and eternally upbeat and optimistic.

As the original crew were smugglers, and the contract between them stated that the payout for their current cargo would be split between the crew, and as the rest of them had died in the hyperspace accident that brought Teebee to life, she determined she deserved the money. These funds were then used to buy a near-indestructible humanoid robotic body from aliens, only to discover shortly after purchase that the body was stolen!

That character inspired this card

You could retain the upbeat attitude if you like.
You could retain the upbeat attitude if you like.

 The Incomprehensible Party

A long time ago we were going to play a Star Wars campaign. It never got off the ground for a variety of reasons, but we did propose the least comprehensible party ever – three Wookies and an R2 unit! This was back in the days of the West End Games system, which stated that if you played a character who could not speak common were only allowed to speak in character in imitations of the noises that character could make. This would result in the Wookies’ players only ever saying “Worraaagh” and the R2 unit’s player only ever making bleeping noises. As the GM didn’t speak either Shiriwook or Binary that would have made life difficult to say the least.

Probably for the best those characters never got played!

How About You?

So, share with us your weirdest characters – especially ones you could never actually play but are cool ideas none the less!

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Kickstarter Time: What do the cards mean:

For all Decks:

The main suit of each card defines it, or is what you notice first, while the numbers represent how strong it is.

For Characters

Hearts Represents Desires: 
Maybe they want to travel the universe or rid the galaxy of aliens.

Spades are Physical Descriptions:
They be very small or bright green and cybernetically enhanced

Diamonds Mean Professions:
Spaceship Captain or Interstellar Lawyer would go here.

Clubs are Connections:
Politicians or teachers are people who know people.

The Secret: Every card has a twist. A hidden mutation or a shady past with space pirates might go here. And it can modify the others.

For Locations

Spades Mean Physical Features
If it is decorated with star charts or really noisy it will say here.

Clubs Represent Dangers
From robust safety measures to death by exposure to vacuum.

Diamonds are Resources
The value within may be gold and jewels, or hidden knowledge.

Hearts Show Inhabitants
You could find the medical officer or a smuggler with a heart of gold.

The Secret: Every card has a twist. An alien hunter lurking in the shadows or impending staff walkout. And it can modify the others.

For Planets

Clubs Show Politics
A weak leader clinging to power or the beating heart of a star empire.

Hearts are Inhabitants
Scientists studying local plants or a teeming metropolis of billions.

Spades Represent Environments
There could be methane snow, or fourteen moons and two suns.

Diamonds Show Resources
Rare chemical isotopes or star ship building yards are found here.

The Secret: Every card has a twist. Hallucinogenic plants or long lost alien cities can appear unexpectedly. And it can modify the others.

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The Night Before Kickstarter

Tl;dr: Sci Fi Concept Cards Kickstarter launches tomorrow.

‘Twas the night before Kickstarter, when all thro’ the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The cards had been written on the computer with care,

In hopes that St. Kickstarter soon would be there;

The creators were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads

Well it’d be nice, wouldn’t  it? Not gonna happen though. We’ll be tweaking the page and trying to improve things right up until launch.

It’s akin to stage fright.

But that’s okay. Some things are scary and they’re still worth doing, This is one of those things.

We launch tomorrow at about 4pm (give or take a few minutes for last second typo spotting). This time we are offering three decks of Concept Cards, science fiction ones.

  • Characters – people from all over the galaxy
  • Locations – places you might find on a space station or a city on another planet
  • Planets – worlds scattered through the cosmos

 

Our first Kickstarter, about four years ago now for the first set of concept cards (called Character Cards back then because we didn’t know there would be more of them) was funded in a day, an our best was funded in four hours and ha taken more than twice its original target in a day – It would be wonderful to beat that!

To facilitate that, we’d love it if you would do a couple of things for us:

  • First go to the Kickstarter preview page and click the “❤ Notify me on launch” button near the top on the left. Take a sneaky look at the page while you’re there, and then on launch day try find what we changed.
  • Second: Spread this blog post, or any of our other social media posts (Facebook / Twitter) you see to anyone you think might be interested.

 

The faster the total rises at the start the more prominently Kickstarter will display the project meaning more people will see it, meaning a higher total and more people get to enjoy our work. A higher total means more stretch goals and a better product for you – and helps us stay in business to make more products in future.

So I’m off to tweak the page some more – you’ll have to do the dreaming of sugarplums!

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Kickstarter – SF Concept Cards 13th of March

The Art is In

We delayed Science Fiction Concept Cards because we knew the art would be arriving late – due to illness on the part of the artists we were working with.

Fortunately despite the current freezing weather, the art we required has come in; meaning that we can plan a launch date – and as the title says we have picked the 13th of March

We are of course looking to further polish these symbols, and any comments on likes and dislikes are appreciated. Let us know on Facebook.

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