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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Pivoting in 2018

Well, hello there Internet.

Just a quick post today. It's been over a year since I blogged! So much for once a month. Starting in 2018, I plan to be way more consistent.

Speaking of blogging and consistency, I am going to pivot away from designing (though not entirely), and take this blog more in the direction of board game reviews and streaming Let's Plays on  my Twitch channel, CheeseVikingGames.

I still have a ton of ideas in the back of head for designs and they will come out eventually. I'm just more excited to share my enjoyment of board games (and some video games) on Twitch

It should be a fun ride in 2018!

In the meantime, I'll be most active on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Streaming on Twitch!

Hey everyone, just a quick update. I'm going to consistently update the blog once a month until we get closer to actually manufacturing and producing a game.

I've started streaming some online board games on Twitch. You can watch here. The stream is still a work in progress, but we'll get there! Right now I'll be playing games on Board Game Arena and in my Steam library.

But more importantly, I've wrapped up my super secret confidential consultation for Coalition Game Studios. It was a big of a time sink, but now that's it's done I can return to focusing on my own creations.  I really enjoy working on these games and I strongly feel that they are honing my game development skills. I'm spotting potential problem areas much earlier in my design process now.
Practice makes perfect!

I've also agreed to help Mike, from Coalition Game Studios, further develop his newest idea. It's been stuck in a rut and a fresh set of eyes and thoughts can only be good. He's got some exciting ideas and is much better at this than I am. Stay tuned for more exciting details on Fires of Kiluenya!

Bake It! (or Ready, Set, Bake!) is next on the surgeon's table. This one got put on the shelf as I had other things going on, but now that I have more time, it's ready to come down and join the party! Well, not yet. The game isn't quite playable in it's current state, but I really like the ideas and mechanics.  Mike suggested starting with a simpler premise and removing the in game baking timer. It's a good place to try a fresh start, but I really liked the timer idea and would love to fit it in intuitively.

Our two player game, formally Riddle of the Sphinx, got a graphics re-haul to match the new theme of deciphering and alien language found on an empty floating space ship. It's being blind play-tested right now and is still the closest game ready for publication. Riddle of the Stars (tentative name) should be ready for crowdfunding in January!

That's it for this month's update, but don't be a stranger!
You can always connect with CheeseViking Games...
On the Website
On Twitter
On Facebook
On Board Game Geek
And now on Twitch!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Lessons Learned from the Solitaire Contest

The 2016 Solitaire Contest is just about finished, and I'd like to reflect on my experience.

The Contest:
This was my first time entering a board game design contest and I didn't really know what to expect. It was for Print N Play, a genre I haven't touched as a gamer, and was run by the community with no real prize. I entered mainly to give myself the push I needed to actually finish a game on deadline. I learned a lot about my design process and how to improve it, so in that sense the contest was a success for me. The contest fell really flat for me in how it was run. As contestants, we were supposed to play other games and give feedback. Part of this is on me, as I only read the rules and never constructed another contestant's game. I only had 1 person give me feedback, and that was after the deadline to change rules.

Since the contest was run by the community and not an official publisher, it missed it's own deadlines. The voting page for the contest went up about a week late. In theory, this should have given people more time to play other designers' games.

I didn't really push friends and family to vote for my game because the voting system was a little convoluted and it forced you to have an account. I also hate contests that boil down to popularity and how well someone pushed their game. Super Fighting Robot probably shouldn't win any awards in it's current state anyway.

The Game:
Super Fighting Robot started with the simple idea of simulating a robot fighting tournament through card play. The game spiraled a little out of control. I implemented changes pretty hastily without fully testing old ideas, and I hardly sought out help from anyone.  I added too  many moving parts as I kept refining. The game would have been fun as a simple Punch vs Block vs Counter-Punch system, but I added extra moves that just got in the way.
My only feedback from a player during the contest was the game was too hard. He might have been right. I added a big change with an energy management system about a week before the deadline. I did not give myself enough time to balance it correctly. I ignored my Keep It Simple, Stupid mantra and the final game suffered for it. The more I refined the game, the harder I made it. I should have erred on the easier side of things.

You can read how I arrived at these decisions here and here. Looking back, I was much more optimistic of the changes!

The game was only tested by 2 or 3 friends, and only very early on in the design process, before I made massive changes, tested it solo, and submitted it. The changes felt rushed and not fully thought through, and when the deadline passed, I didn't want to continue refining the game.

Silver Lining:
I'm proud of myself that I completed and submitted a game. I learned a lot about my design process and how to improve it. I need to focus on keeping games simple and, for solitaire, a win rate closer to 75% instead of 25%. I had read that people who like playing games solo want a bigger challenge, but I don't think that's true. People like winning. People don't like being frustrated by a hard game. I even sold Forbidden Desert after 15 straight losing sessions with friends, so I should have known better.

The most important thing that came from this contest was that I was able to get a designer page, game page, and publisher page up on BoardGameGeek. This will speed up any other game submissions in the future!

Super Fighting Robot is fixable but might need to a fresh start from the ground up. The basic concept is fun, it's just a question of balancing out the moves. I'll get to that eventually and in the meantime, the game, as it is, will remain a free Print N' Play.

Exciting Times Ahead!:
The finish line for the 2-player game that I've been working on with Mike from Coalition Game Studios is in sight! We're getting some much needed graphic design and art direction to make a prototype that looks good. While he works on that, I've been sourcing manufacturing quotes from USA, China, and India.

You and your opponent are rival scientists trying to be the first to decode an alien message. There are 4 scoring objectives, so each game will be slightly different, and it the game play uses an "I divide, you decide" mechanic that works well in 2 player games. 1 player divides 5 cards into 2 piles and the other player chooses which player gets which pile. Both players must then play their cards onto 1 of 3 personal piles, scoring points in different ways depending on the scoring objective used.

I'm increasingly confident that this will be the first published game from CheeseViking Games!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Now What?

Super Fighting Robot is done and submitted to the 2016 Solitaire Print and Play Contest. The game's complexity got away from me a little bit, but I'm proud that I finished it within the deadline. It was an excellent learning experience. You can download and construct it for yourself here or on the official Board Game Geek Super Fighting Robot game page!

That's right! Super Fighting Robot is now officially in the Board Game Geek database along with my designer page and the CheeseViking Games publisher page! If you're a user, be sure to bookmark these pages for future changes, news, and games! 

So what's next?

If Super Fighting Robot is well received during the contest, I'll put effort into professional art and graphic design and then start marketing the game. If the design turns out to be unpopular, I'll put it on the back-burner and consider some changes. There's always different things to focus on.

Speaking of, I'm excited to announce that in addition to working on Super Fighting Robot the past few months, I've also solidified my design partnership with long time friend and founder of Coalition Game Studios, Mike. Mike and I have been finishing the details on 2 games that are in final iteration and almost ready for publishing!

One is a party game designed to accommodate a large number of people easily. It's a creative, think on your feet word game where you have to try to sneak words into a sentence. We're split on the theme and name but once that's resolved it's just a matter of sourcing some artwork and getting manufacturing quotes.
I'm extra extraordinarily excited about this fantastic game. (Can you guess which words I'm trying to slip through???)

Our other game near completion could be considered to be on the opposite end of the gaming spectrum. "Sphinx" is a 2 player only "I pick, you choose" game about splitting cards and playing them into piles. You score the most points by not being able to play a card into 1 of your piles. It's a bit tricky to get the hang off and we have some scoring wrinkles to iron out, but the game is fun, challenging, draining, and pretty rewarding of good play.
I've already got some manufacturing quotes in place for this one and have started talks with artists. 
It's pretty exciting to have something so close to being ready! 
Jimmy working through an early version of Sphinx

Both these games will be added to Board Game Geek under CheeseViking Games in the coming months! These two games also have the best chance of being our first crowdfunding attempts in early 2017!

Finally, my latest idea is Bake It!, a game themed around competitive baking. I hammered out a quick prototype this week and got a practice game in with family. The simultaneous play and timing mechanics are on the right track, but I need to make some massive adjustments on how combining ingredients works. Bake It! is a fresh take that combines several of my ideas from Zookeeper, Great Barrier Reef and Transylvania Pizza Kitchen and adds a more universal theme. It's funny how designs evolve and borrow bits and pieces from the ones that weren't quite there.
First prototype for Bake It!
This will be a fun one to chronicle its progress!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Super Fighting Robot Design Journey Part 2

I've gone through several more iterations since my last post on Super Fighting Robot, so instead of detailing each version, I will just sum up the big changes.

The Ally and Weakness concept wasn't working as intended. The original goal was to give the Bot you were fighting an advantage. Since you only claimed the Bot's cards if you defeated him, I was struggling with how to add a unique flavor to each challenge.
In the end, I went with a much simpler approach and nixed the Ally/Weakness concept entirely, replacing it with a much simpler idea. You shuffle the Bot cards into the starting deck when you challenge a bot. You couldn't play a matching Bot's specific move, Lightning Attack, for instance, on your side of the ring if you were fighting Lightning Bot. Lightning Bot would also get a small bonus applied to each Lightning Bot card, bringing my vision of fighting unique Bots closer to reality. It's a nice change that simplifies the rules. Simplified rules are always good!

The next major change was the introduction and eventual scrap of Arenas. Arenas were intended to add some global effects that affected both Challenger and Bot. These were meant to add another layer and act as a guide to plan moves around, but in the end, it seemed to only add a little to the game. Cutting unnecessary components and clutter is always good!

Energy got an overhaul as well. I decided not to replenish Energy between fights, making it a little scarce. It was still easy to win without using any Energy though, and that didn't sit well with me. A friend came up with a simple suggestion that really brought an emphasis to how important Energy really is. Instead of being able to add 3 cards to the Reserve during a challenge, you now had unlimited Reserve slots but had to use 1 Energy to play there instead of The Ring. The player now has a choice to use Energy on the Bot Power cards he has accumulated or to move unwanted moves to the Reserve. Interesting choices are always good!

The last major change was to add move combos based on adjacent move set cards. Each specific Bot already had a specific bonus applied to its Attack move, but now a bonus was applied to Blocks, Counterattacks, Repairs, and Energize as well, based on how The Ring formed. Lightning Counterattack could deal 1 additional damage if it was adjacent to a Lightning or Sonar Bot move card in The Ring, for instance. I really liked this change, since it opens up a lot of room for creative play and leads to some challenging moments.

Some minor graphic design changes, updates to the card layout and Bot Powers, and clearer verbiage rounded out the latest update, and I dare say it will be component ready and available to play on my 2016 Solitaire PnP Contest Page with a week or two to spare! The submission deadline is July 31st. 

This contest has been a lot of fun to participate in and I'm glad I had a firm deadline to finish a game. 
I'm now starting to look at artists and manufacturers to take this game from PnP to published reality. Exciting times!

I have some more exciting news on the horizon too, but you'll just have to stick around for that!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Super Fighting Robot Design Journey

Hey everyone!

I wanted to chronicle my design process and journey for my solitaire game, Super Fighting Robot. I'm entering this game into the BGG 2016 Solitaire Game Contest and you can check out my work in progress thread on the forums.

Super Fighting Robot is heavily influenced and inspired by the Robot Masters in the classic NES MegaMan series. I wanted to re-create a simple, yet challenging and engaging way to have 1 on 1 fights against a foe, then being able to absorb their special attack to take on the next challenge.
Armed with this goal in mind, I set off!

This is not intended to teach you how to play, but I will try to include some rules as reference points.

Version 1.0
A basic version hashing out rudimentary mechanics. I started with a 2x3 grid as the play area "The Ring" and a deck of 12 Move cards, consisting of Punch, Block, and Repair Damage.  The Bot challengers were tied to fighting moves- Punch Bot punched for more damage, Block Bot was better at blocking, etc...Fights were resolved by matching up the cards in the 2x3 grid 1-4, 2-5, 3-6. When you defeated a Bot, you added 3 more cards to the deck of Move cards and kept going. The deck-building and game play was simple and worked, but it wasn't very engaging.
(Dominion is a very popular example of a deck building game)

Version 2.0
A few major changes were needed right off the bat, which is to be expected! I changed The Ring to a 2x4 area, changed the Bots to correspond to elements instead of moves, and changed the names of the Move cards to better reflect the updates. Punch Bot became Thunder Bot and so forth. This change also allowed me to expand to 6 Bots and introduce new concepts and attacks. With a bigger play area, I added more cards to the game; the starting deck was now 16 cards and each Bot you defeated added 4 to it. A new card type to dodge and counterattack an attack. Another main change to make game play more challenging was introducing the concept of Ally Bots and Enemy Bots. Ally Bot moves gave you a small bonus if you were allied and Enemy Bot moves couldn't be played on your side of the ring and gave a bonus to the challenger. I also added combos that would deal damage either before or after the fight finished. These were designed to add a puzzle feel to placing Move cards. (3 Attacks in a row did an extra damage, having 2 blocks and 1 repair in your set of 4 did a damage...)The game was starting to take shape but I was running into some issues of not being able to play Move cards at certain times.

Version 3.0
The introduction of a Reserve Area solved my problem of getting stuck with an unplayable Ally or Enemy Bot card. The Reserve Area also served as a way to completely remove cards from the game, thinning the deck. This is a popular design concept in most deck-building games. I also tweaked the Bots and their powers slightly by retying certain Bots to certain moves (Lightning Bot had a bonus tied to Counterattack Moves). This is the first version that was tested by friends. I was very encouraged with the results and continued to think of improvements.

Version 4.0
The next big change was the addition of a Boss Bot card to fight at the end of the tournament. I also added specific abilities to individual Move cards in addition to the Bot cards. (The Lightning Bot Attack card couldn't be counterattacked, for instance). Some of the powers, ally/enemy considerations and fighting combinations were getting unwieldy and I was beginning to lose some of the simplicity I was striving for as the game ballooned.

Version 5.0- Current
Another big change was the addition of Energy cards. Energy cards were designed to address the fighting combos by adding a resource management aspect to the game. You could not use a combo attack or a Bot's special ability unless you had an Energy card.  Early testing of the Energy cards are not helping as intended though. A few of the Bot Move cards were changed to grant you a way to get more Energy cards, but I seldom ran low enough to need them. 

I think a revamp of the Ally/Enemy design system is needed. Ally bonuses were designed to give you a small bonus if you played the correct cards. Enemy cards were unplayable on your side of The Ring and added bonuses against you.  I'm going to try taking the Ally bonuses out completely and changing the Enemy cards to Weaknesses. You should be able to play Weakness cards on your side of The Ring but they won't be as powerful as a normal card.
Energy cards need to be further explored. There's potential to make the game more challenging, but if they don't, they just take up component space.
I also need to revisit having abilities on specific cards in addition to the Bots. It can be easy to forget to apply a bonus. I must find the elusive balance between challenging and simple.

I'm glad I entered this contest, it's really jump started my motivation and has given me a clear deadline to finish a design.

One of the exciting things about Super Fighting Robot is that it can translate well to a 1-4 player game with just a few tweaks, but for now I'm focusing on just the solo version.

I'll be blogging more changes as they come and keep an eye out on my contest page for more game information. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Coalition Game Studios

Exciting news! 
My good friend Mike has started Coalition Game Studios, a full service board game design consultation service. I'm proud to have signed on as a playtesting consultant. 

Here's Mike in his own words describing Coalition Game Studios. I can't wait to see how far this goes. 

So, what is Coalition Game Studios?

I'm Mike Mihealsick, and Coalition Game Studios is my dream.  I believe that tabletop game design is a beautiful thing, bridging the gap between science and art, between understanding and expression, and between innovation and tradition.  Our mission is to ally ourselves with game designers everywhere, lending our methods and experienced teams to guide prototypes to reality in any way we can.

To this ends, we provide a wide range of services for game designers and publishers--including logged blind playtesting, satisfaction surveying, quality assurance reports, collaborative consulting, and rules manual copy editing.  You send us your prototype (or have us assemble a copy), we test it at the indicated depth, and we present you with the information and expert feedback you request.  Whether you want to bounce your early iteration off of an experienced designer, or you want a spreadsheet of survey data and critical evaluation for your final iteration, the Coalition is in your corner.

As we move forward from Open Beta in the next two months, we are looking for ways to expand our services to better satisfy our clients.  We currently have a pair of researchers working on compiling a psychographic profiling system that can be used to measure a game's appeal across gamers with different motivations.  We are even working to build a network of publishers, so that when we receive a remarkable prototype, we can pass it on (with your permission) to scouts in search of that type of game.

If you have any questions about our services, check out our website,  We're looking forward to taking your game to the next level.

Designer Mark Mistretta has submitted his game, Rival Lands, for playtesting and consultation and I"m excited to take the lead on it!

Rival Lands is a competitive dice and card adventure game in which players take on the role of one of five rivals who are patrolling the undiscovered lands of the kingdom, vanquishing creatures and exploring the depths of the lands to gain experience. Upgrade your adventurer with more dice representing attack, magic, and explore skills and purchase equipment enhancements. Use your special powers to mess with your opponents or further your agenda. Do your best to gain the admiration of the King and he will reward you. The player who earns the most experience throughout the game is declared the winner.

Sounds pretty cool and ticks off a lot of popular mechanics. I can't wait to play.