Gaming Curiosities – Games that break the Mould

We all know what a board game is. You sit at a table there’s a board that you play a game on. Unless it’s a card game, which doesn’t need a board but can still feel like a board game. Well . . . and then there is Jenga? Is Jenga a board game? Maybe? Certainly Jenga could be a board game, but maybe it’s more sport than game? We could talk semantics forever, but there are a great many games out there that are like games but are also not like games, let’s call them curiosities. These are games that really challenge the idea of what a game is or can be.

We’re going to try and play them in Boston, Join Us!

Think you have a game that fits the bill not listed below! Let me know in the comments!

Bajjutsu Master – Daniel Solis
Wink Murder – Uncredited
Assassins Ball – Phillip Brady

Train – Brenda Romero
Underground Railroad – Brian Mayer

Escape Room in a Box – Juliana Patel and Ariel Rubin
Witness – Asmodee
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective – Asmodee

Dread – Epidiah Ravachol
Forsooth – Samuel A. Liberty
Fiasco – Jason Morningstar

Sagefight – Daniel Solis
Johann Sebastian Joust – Douglas Wilson
Multiplayer Thumbwar – Jane McGonigal

Larklamp – P. D. Warne
Rhino Hero – Scott Frisco, Steven Strumpf
Aya- Olivier Grégoire, Thibaut Quintens

Strike- Dieter Nüßle
Space Cadets Dice Duel – Geoff Engelstein, Sydney Engelstein
Mord im Arosa – Alessandro Zucchini

Time Stories – Peggy Chassenet, Manuel Rozoy
Arabian Nights – Anthony J. Gallela, Eric Goldberg, Kevin Maroney, Zev Shlasinger
The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen – James Wallis

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Mackenzie Cameron – Game Developer

This year, I started working for Artana, a game publisher here in Massachusetts, as a Game Developer. I’ve had opportunity to work with some excellent people, and it’s an incredible opportunity to be working in the industry.

We just finished up the first Kickstarter with me at the company. Corrupted Kingdoms, funded at just over $26k, over funded by a good measure.

I’m also doing development and writing for our upcoming game, Chronicles, where we’ve brought Rob Daviao on as a designer. It’s a very exciting project

Overall, I’m incredibly excited to be working in the board game industry.

What have I been doing since PAX?

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What I’ve been doing since March.

The short version: I formed an organization to help host MegaGames in New England. MegaGames United.

The long version: About 5 months ago, at PAX I got to do 2 really cool things. Thing #1 was that I got to host a panel about game design, with some great people. It was an incredibly entertaining panel, and I’m excited to do it again next year. Thing #2 was that I got to experience playing a MegaGame! Which I talked super briefly about. Well. . . MegaGames have since consumed a big chunk of my time. I got to talking with the folks who organized the event, and the week following PAX, I was on the road to host my own MegaGame, which would eventually happen on May 24th. Hosting this MegaGame became such an undertaking that literally all of my effort for March, April, and May was spent just making sure the MegaGame was passable.
mguiconWhat is a MegaGame
MegaGames recently got a lot of press with a couple of videos by the guys over at Shut Up and Sit Down. It’s a long watch, but totally worth it. The MegaGame getting the most press is “Watch the Skies” by Jim Wallman and a group called the MegaGame Makers. “Watch the Skies” has (roughly) 40 players, 20 game runners and takes 6 hours to play. Many MegaGames with different rules, follow roughly this standard as a benchmark. To give you the broadest picture in the fewest words, “Watch the Skies” is a simulation that borrows heavily from Model United Nations, War Games, Role Playing Games, and Board Games, and is insanely fun. If you want to learn more, I recomend checking out the Shut Up and Sit Down video.

Getting Ready for the MegaGame
The folks that ran the game at PAX were super encouraging, and have a very spiffy organization, and as I started to figure out how I was going to make a MegaGame happen, they were very accommodating and happy to share their resources. Through March I found free pieces of “Watch the Skies”, and started to put together what I would need from these bits of rules and from watching the Shut Up and Sit Down video. Also the folks that ran the PAX game, sent me an unfinished draft of one of the three rule books you need to run the game, with talk about sending more as it got more polished. Getting a space wasn’t too much of a problem, I helped set up Boston’s first Board Game Cafe, Knight Moves, and have a good relationship with Devon the owner, and was able to get a tentative space set aside on a Saturday.

The Scramble
Just about when things we’re lining up, on a tentative basis, I got an e-mail from the folks who ran the PAX game, letting me know that there was another MegaGame video about to hit the net that week. The tone of the e-mail felt very, “If you’re going to run a MegaGame, launch now or never”. I wasn’t quite sure about 100% of the details, but I finalized my graphics, threw up a website, finalized the venue, and put made my tickets live the day after the video went live.

I got in touch with the other MegaGame group, and got to talking about anything else I’d need to get the MegaGame off the ground. There was a lot of work to be done, but I had a month to do it, and within a few days of the tickets being live, I had sold half of them. Things felt pretty good.

Starting from Scratch
I did get in touch with the folks who ran the MegaGame at PAX and quickly discovered I had only been talking to one person on a ruling council. Over the course of a week and a half, discussions went from them sending us a big chunk of the components and rules just to help us out and help promote the game to they couldn’t send us the physical components but would help us out in any way they could to they couldn’t send us anything including the digital files and rules nor would they help promote us and our tickets in any way. Now, I want to be very clear that these folks are actually pretty cool and are doing excellent, amazing work on MegaGames. It appears that I caught them in a transition period between going from a very open volunteer organization to adopting a more corporate business model. A business model that precluded helping me out in any way. There were miscommunications, a little bad blood, and a furious tide of neverending anger and rage on my part, but I want to be clear that the other organization didn’t really do anything “wrong”.

Long story short, this left me with 20 tickets already sold (over a thousand dollars worth), and four weeks to build the entire thing from scratch.

The Pieces I Had
The group that ran the PAX game wouldn’t sell any of their pieces, so my alternative was to purchase the original “Watch the Skies” game. The original is great, but it is also written for a big group of friends that want to play around and already know each other. I had a group of volunteers whom I only knew about 4 of, and players that had spent $55 on tickets and were total strangers.

Needless to say, the game rules I paid for were not sufficient to run the game. So I set about reconstructing elements I already knew, and designing new bits to fill in the holes.

Manufacturing

With 4 weeks to make a game happen, I knew that the biggest hurdle was getting everything printed in time. If I spent a week designing the cards and boards, it’d take another week to get them proofed and print ready, and another week to get them printed and sent.

I had a general idea what the map was supposed to look like, but the technology cards and artifact cards I needed to create were completely new territory. In the end I designed over 300 different cards, and printed close to 800.

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In the end, I actually only had half the game really designed before I created the cards for printing. Which meant that I then had to design the rest of the game around the cards I had created. The maps I actually received two weeks before the game, and the printed cards a bit after that.

The rest of the Materials

Beyond the printed components, there is also a ton of stuff that goes into “Watch the Skies”. Clipboards, briefcases, pens, rule books, tiny pieces, cubes, poker chips. The biggest help I got in prepping for this game was my wife, who after I created a shopping list, went out and found all of these components at incredible prices through discount outlets online. When everything was said and done with this event, we would just about break even. Which means that including the venue cost, we spent over $2,000 to build this entire thing. When all the components were boxed and piled up in my living room, it create a pile taller than I was.

I also 3D printed all of the little alien space ships and human ships and the stands that hold them up. That’s a discussion for another time on my 3D printing board game blog, Solved Components. But the most important component of all, is people.

Getting Volunteers

I am very active in the board game design scene here in Boston, and have a handful of contacts throughout tabletop, rps, and video game communities in Boston. I had a few really high quality volunteers, who I now call GameWeavers, but “Watch the Skies” calls for 20 people to ensure the game runs smoothly.

In the end we pulled a lot of volunteers just from the ticket page, and hit the pavement to round up a whole bunch of folks. I sent out materials and tried to work with folks as much as I could to help them learn the game. A week before the game I held an orientation to teach everyone the elements of the game, and by that point we had just over 20 people who had signed up and seemed very excited about making the game happen.

We also managed to sell the remaining tickets, which was not at all easy. The folks that ran the PAX game had told me that they do almost no marketing, and when they put up tickets they sell out in minutes. This was not at all my experience, and really had to work to sell the last handful of tickets(reddit, newsletters, posters, twitter, etc). Which again, had a sense of urgency since the price tag for this event is more than $2,000. It all worked out though as we sold the last ticket about 5 days before the event.

The Last of the Components

Despite getting all the printed components and the physical bits and pieces. A lot of the forms for recording information weren’t ready until a few days before hand, and my inkjet printer ran pretty much non-stop for those days. But ultimately, everything was ready. It took 3 hours to double check everything, pack it, and pile it into the car by myself at 5AM, but by then, all the players had already confirmed their attendance and my GameWeavers assured me they all felt rock solid on the rules.

Setting Up

IMG_7197I showed up two hours before the event, to unpack and get ready, I told my GameWeavers they didn’t need to show up until an hour before the event, but most of them were there not long after I was. Setting up a MegaGame was a massive endeavor in and of itself, and I’ll be honest, more than a few components were lost or missing by the end of it, and several things had to be fabricated on the spot. But my Game Weavers absolutely came through and though I hadn’t talked with them in person more than a couple times, they worked like a well oiled machine. We were ready for the players more or less on time.

The Game Itself

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This article is already long enough as it is, but I will say that the game turned out incredibly well. Players seemed to really enjoy themselves, and while there were more than a few rocky patches, everything came together. Two bloggers wrote about their experiences, which you can check out to get a feel for the experience.

The Cardboard Republic

The Care and Feeding of Nerds

There is a lot I wish I had had time for to help make this game run smoother, but when I look back on the event I realize that with 4 weeks of preparation it is incredible that it ran without falling apart and a miracle that the vast majority of people responded with nothing but positive feedback. In the end, the aliens abducted studio Ghibli, the humans fought off something giant and horrible in the oceans, the atmosphere was siphoned off into space, and Brazil left with the aliens. So an alright day.

The Future of MegaGames United

A Resource for MegaGamers: My goal for MegaGames United is to make it a platform that anyone with a dream and passion can make a MegaGame come true. A MegaGame needs a game, a space, volunteers, and players. Right now, we’ve been approaching several spaces, we have a big mailing list of players and volunteers, and we’re reaching out to designers to see if they have a MegaGame they want played. We want to see an ocean of MegaGame spread across the world, and we’ve got the resources to help people make that happen.

A Free and Open MegaGame: Right now, we’re putting all the extra polish on the rules and components we have to make sure the next MegaGame we run is incredible. We’ve changed so much of it, that at this point we can’t call it “Watch the Skies”, it has become it’s own thing, so we’re calling it “From Beyond”. Once we’re solid on the basics and are sure it is legally differentiated from “Watch the Skies” in every way, we’ll launch it as a free package that anyone can read and use and modify. Ultimately the rules of a MegaGame are a very minor element in comparison to the coordination and running of the actual event. So we’re happy to keep it open source to help any fledgling MegaGame coordinators get their start.

Our Next MegaGame: We’re running playtests July and August, and our goal is to run our next MegaGame sometime in September. We want to make sure everything is perfect before committing to a date though. If you want to make sure you know when we realease tickets though, I recommend liking us on Facebook.

Thanks for reading, and I wish you the best of luck in any of your MegaGaming Adventures too.

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Board Games at PAX East

Inkbrook Games

PAX East has always been traditionally a convention for digital games. Which is, of course, great, because a game is a game, and who doesn’t love games!

But this year, more than any other year, board games made their presence known. An incursion, one might say, or even perhaps as bold as a invasion.

Cards Against Humanity, claimed a swath of land in the Indie Games section, and brought in about a dozen Indie Board Games.

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There were at least a dozen panels on board games on the schedule, and the ones I went to were packed. Including my own panel, which went off magnificently! We’re going to try and make it an annual tradition.

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To cap off the amazing weekend, there was the incredibly excellent “Watch the Skies” Mega Game, run by the Mega Game Society. An absolute blast, the game combined the best elements of Model United Nations…

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3D Printing at PAX East 15

Solved Components

You can’t 3D print a convention (yet!), so I went to see one in person this past weekend. PAX East represents the forefront of gaming and gaming technology, or so my assistant tells me.

As such, I was greatly pleased to see a panel of experts discussing the rise of 3D printing in games. The panel consisted of a writer/reporter, an engineer, a games publisher, and two designers/artists.

  • Joseph Flaherty [Wired]
  • Colin Raney [Formlabs]
  • Adam Poots [Cool Mini or Not]
  • Jessica Rosenkrantz [Nervous System]
  • Jesse Louis-Rosenberg [Nervous System]

It was a fascinating discussion, and, since I can find neither hide nor hair of a video online, I am prepared to give you a glimpse of the event through the crystal lens of my mind, and since I remember everything with 100% fidelity it will be as though you had been there yourself.

Accessibility and History
The panel began with a…

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Top 10 Board Game Panels at PAX East 2015

2015 is the year of Board Games at PAX East this year, check out the awesome panels that are scheduled this year on board games and board game design! Make sure to hit them up and check out the massive tabletop area!

Friday

3/6 @ 3:30PM Arachnid | Your Game Is Broken: Giving and Getting Useful Feedback

When someone says “Your game is broken,” they can be referring to any part of your game. How can you find out what is broken about your game? What are strategies when running playtests? How do components and art affect feedback? What do you do when someone’s feedback is a whole new game? How do you give usable feedback for a game you don’t like? Join four experienced local tabletop designers for a conversation about getting focused feedback for your game.

http://east.paxsite.com/schedule/panel/your-game-is-broken-giving-and-getting-useful-feedback

3/6 @ 4:30PM Cuttlefish | Do you have what it takes to publish an Indie Board Game

The design! The prototype! Playtesting! The infinite iterations! Hunting for publishers? Kickstarter? Being your own publisher?! Finding an artist…?! Creating your own board game and making it to market is a long quest through a fog of ambiguity. Come join a group of published, indie tabletop game designers and learn how each of their ideas ended up on store shelves!

http://east.paxsite.com/schedule/panel/do-you-have-what-it-takes-to-publish-an-indie-board-game

3/6 @ 6:30PM Arachnid | Birthing Board Games from Conception to Maturity

Ever wonder how designers create great board games? Do you sometimes play a game and think “I could have made this better?” Have an idea for a new game, but don’t know where to start? We’ve been there, too, and it’s time to share our secrets. Drawing on years of experience, four local game designers talk about the creative side of game-making, bringing concepts to full-fledged games. Learn what works, what doesn’t, and get an inside look into our creative processes.

http://east.paxsite.com/schedule/panel/birthing-board-games-from-conception-to-maturity

3/6 @ 9:00PM Cuttlefish | Indie Game Designers Modify and Play Werewolf

A selection of game designers sit down to play a round of the social parlor game Werewolf. Each designer will take a traditional werewolf role and introduce their own unique mechanic to the preexisting rule. The altered cards will be displayed, shuffled up, and randomly dealt back out to the designers, who will then play out the modified game. Should time allow afterward, the designers will answer audience questions regarding their modifications.

http://east.paxsite.com/schedule/panel/indie-game-designers-modify-and-play-werewolf

Saturday

3/7 @ 4:30PM Cuttlefish | Making a Tabletop Game from Idea to Shelf

How is a tabletop game made? We chat with independent game designers who each discovered what it takes to make a game, from concept to playtest to funding to manufacturing. Join Rob Daviau of IronWall Games, Harry Gao of Warring Kingdom, Kevin Kulp of TimeWatch, and Pauline Okuda Ceraulo of Tabula as they reveal everything you’ve ever wanted to know (and more!) about the tumultuous world of designing board games & RPGs. Moderated by Gamers With Jobs’ Julian Murdoch.

http://east.paxsite.com/schedule/panel/making-a-tabletop-game-from-idea-to-shelf

3/7 @ 7:00PM Bobcat | Beer, Booze, and Board Games

We’ve assembled a collection of folks who have made it their living to provide a meeting place for lovers of drink and game. They’re here to talk about creating an identity for themselves, grinding rep with their customer base, and the in’s and out’s of day to day life running a grown up nerd sanctuary. Join Arcadia National Bar, 42 Lounge, and The Cloak and Blaster as they dive into all this and take your questions about booze

http://east.paxsite.com/schedule/panel/beer-booze-and-board-games-the-geek-bar-panel

3/7 @ 9:00PM Cuttlefish | Good Game, Bad Game: A Panel Game About Game Design.

Come play a terrible, broken panel game with a full group of board game designers and laugh at our awful foibles. Then help us fix it as we discuss what makes a bad game bad, and, more importantly, what makes a good game good. Take a look at the iterative process of game design and learn to avoid the seven deadly sins of game design. Then, hopefully, watch us play a hilarious and awesome game that you helped make!

http://east.paxsite.com/schedule/panel/good-game-bad-game-a-panel-game-about-game-design

Sunday

3/8 @ 11:00AM Condor | Engagement Games and the Power of Play

How can a game become an emergency communication network in Zambia? Or solve youth unemployment in Bhutan? Play can be a powerful force that extends far beyond traditional learning games, persuasive games, or the ever-buzzy trend of “gamification.” Join the design and research team at Emerson College’s Engagement Lab and learn how games can be deployed across a variety of contexts for real world action with real civic, development, and health outcomes.

http://east.paxsite.com/schedule/panel/engagement-games-and-the-power-of-play

3/8 @ 12:00PM Cuttlefish | Design RPG’s For Fun and Profit!

Indie design, development, and publishing. We’ll cover how to stay motivated, when to cannibalize your darlings, when you know you’re on to something hot, and how to get it in front of the right people— all without mortgaging your house for a giant print run. We’ve all been there and can give you some pointers. Independent designers and publishers Meguey Baker, D.Vincent Baker, Emily Care Boss, Epidiah Ravachol, Joshua AC Newman, & Paul Czege share their trials, failures, and successes.

http://east.paxsite.com/schedule/panel/design-rpgs-for-fun-and-profit

Good Game Bad Game, A Panel Game about Game Design

Wicked excited for our panel next weekend at PAX East. I’ll be joined by my good friends at Spoiled Flush Games, Games by Play Date, and Black and Green Games. Where we will be playing an awful panel game called Fandom Land, and we need your help to fix it!

  • PAX East is an explosion of multiversal fandoms, and Fandom Land is it’s arena. Gather your armies and go to war to see who is the true master of Pop Culture. We’ll need help from the audience to yell scream and shout to see which fandoms are best (say . . . Star Wars, Star Trek, or Firefly?) and send our panelists rocketing forward along the path to victory!

Think you’re up to the task?

 

Concept: Link Board

The Latest from Solved Components:Tiles, Tesselations, and Link Board.

Solved Components

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Problem: Tiles have to be uniform and tessellating.

This one gets a little technical, so I’m gonna go ahead and hand it over to my assistant.

“In mathematics there are many types of tessellating patterns. Board games commonly use regular periodic tessellations, patterns that repeat and use the same shape. Hexagon and Square are the most popular tilings in modern board games, used by such major games as Catan and Carcasonne. Regular periodic tilings are often known as grids (square grids or hex grids) because the are homogenous regardless of scale. Notions of “direction”, “diagonal”, and “orthogonal”. However, asymetric non-periodic tessellations exist as well, and with them their own notions of “directional physics”.”
-Mackenzie Cameron’s Assistant

A simple question: would Risk be as fun played on a grid? I submit that it would not! While Risk might suffer from tedious gameplay, it’s board is actually fascinating in all it’s little…

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3D Design: Tolerances for Interlocking Parts

Solved Components

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So I’ve taken the first step in digitizing my cyber-ideas into electro-reality! The model above is for Auto Checkers which I have discussed in some detail previously. You can download the model yourself on our Thingiverse page!

Now a 3D printer is a pretty magnificent thing, but it is not perfect (yet) and the things it creates are not exactly to the digital specifications you may have in your model (lazy magic box). This becomes pretty important if you have two things that you want to fit together.

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For the past month or so, I’ve been working on a variety of 3D Printed concepts. I’ve been detailing some of my work and general thoughts on the blog “Solved Components” . On the blog I discuss general applications of 3D printing to game design, and discuss the possibilities for custom fabricated components in their ability to solve game design problems.