Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Steampunk Rally Designer Diary

I'm pleased to announce that Roxley Games will be kickstarting my game Steampunk Rally on my birthday, October 23rd!

In the weeks leading up to this, I will be posting a designer diary about how this game came to be. If you have a boardgamegeek account, you can subscribe and follow it from here. So far I've posted Part 1 and Part 2, but we haven't even gotten rolling yet![/hilarious puns]

Monday, July 21, 2014

Favorite Gaming Moment

Well said :')

I just got home yesterday from MCing my friends Sean and Becky's wedding in Ontario, which was hands-down the coolest wedding every. Three words: mass lightsaber battle. Once everyone had collapsed from dancing with glowsticks and gorging on milk and cookies, we started reminiscing about tabletop gaming stories, and eventually came around to my favorite gaming moment:

In my last year at Waterloo, Sean and his friend Ian decided to run a game of Mage: The Awakening with 10 players split into two rival teams. I was a player in Sean's group, and we were racing against Ian's team, who were playing in another room (with information passed back and forth between Sean and Ian), to acquire several magical artifacts scattered around Chicago. My character was a modestly powerful mage with spells involving opening portals.

After some tribulation we managed to beat Ian's team to an artifact located deep in a sewer, but we knew they were hot on our trail and likely to intercept us. One of my character's spells allowed me to open a portal to any location I had physically been, and it just so happened that my backstory involved a backpacking trip through Nepal. Thus I was able to open a magical portal to Nepal, but escaping through it would be terribly inconvenient seeing as the rest of the artifacts were still in Chicago. However Kaitlin, one of the other players on our team, specialized in invisibility magic, and she happened to be a high enough level that she could hide our entire team from view, provided we huddle together very quietly in the corner.

When our rival team shortly arrived on the scene, they spotted the open portal (as well as the absence of any artifact) and "pursued" us through it without hesitation, after which I closed the portal and stranded them all in Nepal without them even knowing that we were comfortably still in a Chicago sewer. This of course meant that Ian's next session would require writing a completely extraneous adventure in Nepal that would lead them nowhere. Knowing I was the portal mage, when Ian met me alone in the hall after the session, he simply muttered "I hate you so much" a couple of times before walking away.

It made me so very happy :)

(Also Ian looks like a young Jim Carrey, if that happens to improve the story at all.)

Also also! SU&SD mentions my good friend Paul Saxberg's award-winning upcoming game Coven in their latest news post!

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Well dang, this looks pretty awesome!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Steampunk Rally

I'm very pleased to announce an upcoming boardgame I designed called Steampunk Rally!

It recently won the international Ciutat de Granollers design competition in Barcelona (as well as currently being a finalist for the Canadian Game Design Award), and will be pubished through Kickstarter by Roxley Games.

You can check out some of the fantastic art by David Forest and Lina Cossette on boardgamegeek.com, but here's the 140-character Twitter pitch:

"Famous inventors at the turn of the century construct fantastical steampunk contraptions in a no-holds-barred race through the Swiss alps!"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Game Design Course

If you're in Calgary this Fall, I'm running a game design course with Mount Royal University's faculty of Continuing Education. I'll be talking about both boardgames and videogames, and there will be lots of hands-on prototyping and playtesting.

Classes run from September 30th to October 21st, Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6:00 to 9:45 (seven nights total). Maximum enrollment is 27, so everyone should be able to take active part in discussions. Check it out and register online! (course registration code: 90981)

It'll be my first time teaching, so wish me luck! Here are summaries of what I'll be covering in each class:

Class #1 (Tues Sep 30th) - Digital vs Non-Digital
After introducing the class format, we discuss the relationship between designing digital and non-digital games and the relationship between “mechanics,” “dynamics” and “aesthetics.”
Class exercise: Play a eurogame

Class #2 (Thurs Oct 2nd) - Resource Economies
We discuss the ways resources interact in various games including the often-critical resource: time.
Class exercise: Examine the resources in a popular videogame, then implement those resources in a boardgame adaptation

Class #3 (Thurs Oct 7th) - Success and Failure
We discuss how a player’s goals affect gameplay, and how to achieve different styles of inter-player dynamics.
Class exercise: Figure out how to remove elimination from Risk and also speed up play with the objective of finishing a playthrough within the time allotted

Class #4 (Tues Oct 9th) - Randomness
We examine some of the math and psychology involved in employing randomization, as well as two central game dynamics: push-your-luck and rock-paper-scissors.
Class exercise: Prototype and playtest a simple game that involves push-your-luck, then play Incan Gold

Class #5 (Tues Oct 14th) - Theme and Narrative
We discuss game mechanics as representation, their relationship to game narrative, and the tradeoffs of complexity.
Class exercise: Design a simple game that simulates a historical or fictional event

Class #6 (Thurs Oct 16th) - Game Balance
We look more critically at the process of iterative design, and discuss some pitfalls of balancing games.
Class exercise: Rework a game previously designed in class to feature asymmetric gameplay or starting conditions

Class #7 (Tues Oct 21st) - Psychology
We examine some psychological techniques and how to use them to your (and preferably the player’s) benefit, what feels “fair,” and how games can teach us.
Class exercise: Play San Juan and Race for the Galaxy, discuss the advantage and disadvantage of each presentation style, and analyze the aesthetics both games evoked during play

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Look ma, I'm on TV!

The local Game Artisans (including myself) were just featured in a story by the Calgary Journal!
Thanks again Neil and Brent!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Harry Potter VS Star Wars

"Live long and prosper." -Ben Franklin

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


I'm not the world's fastest reader. Maybe it's because of too much stuff like game rules and technical material, and not enough light reading, but my style is very plodding. Good comprehension, but for me reading a novel is like 'wait, what color were the drapes? Did he peer around them or past them? Was he tall and gaunt, or gaunt and tall??'

Well apparently I will soon be able to read 1000 words per minute, and so will you! The Spritz app is a piece of software that has apparently been in development for a couple of years, and makes some lofty claims. 1000wpm is more than four times(!) the average reading speed, and it means you could devour the average novel in around 90 minutes. What's more, retention allegedly improves. The app will supposedly be available soon and could presumably be embedded with articles, or as an app to paste things into on your smartphone (I assume).

I was definitely skeptical at first, but then I tried their demo and found myself able to read 600 words per minute no problem with no practice. They won't let you crank it up to 1000 yet, but definitely check Spritz out if you haven't already. I know this reads like a sponsored advertisement or something, but it's not every day I come across something that strikes me as a legitimate game changer.

Of course this raises a few important questions. Do you actually WANT to read your favorite novels at 1000 words per minute? Will our ability to read normal words on a page atrophy until trying to read the old fashioned way is physically painful? And what will happen in a future where nerds everywhere suddenly have way more free time? I'm concerned they might take over the world and force every movie to be about comic books.

Monday, February 24, 2014

*Donations Wanted*

My friend and colleague Sen-Foong Lim made me aware of a facility opening this year called the Be Brave Ranch that will be dedicated to the treatment of child sexual abuse victims. As part of therapy, they plan to use boardgames to help children and their families interact. If anyone who reads this is looking to trim their collection and help an important cause, you can mail new or used games to:

924 91 St SW
PO Box 53548
Edmonton, AB T6X 0P6 

Ideally these games should be non-violent and suitable for children ages 8 to 14.

Games may also be purchased and donated from a local source.

We will now return to our regularly scheduled twaddle.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fail Faster

This week's Extra Credits knocked it out of the park. Totally obvious once you have any experience designing games, yet it's a truth nobody seems to grasp. In fact the mantra of pursuing and embracing failures is a good general rule for life I think.

Interestingly, when I saw the title "Fail Faster" I assumed they were going to talk about making the player's failures in-game quick and spectacular rather than drawn out and painful, which is another design cornerstone. (The exception being something like Cold War: CIA vs KGB where watching your opponent trying to fruitlessly dig themselves out of a progressively-more-hopeless quagmire is half the fun. (for you.))

By "spectacular" I mean that failure is generally much more frustrating when its visceral feel is muted. A great example of quick and spectacular failure can be found in Super Meat Boy. When you die, you literally explode in a shower of blood (which arguably less distasteful when you consider that the protagonist is after all made of raw meat) and then instantly respawn and try again. A few dozen attempts (that would be frustrating if not for their brevity) leave the stage completely coated in the gory allegory of your own incompetence, and it is glorious.