Acquire + Sculpting = FANTASTIC!

ATTENTION: If you are the sculptor for these buildings (or if you know Craig and can put him in touch with me or me with him), please contact me! THANKS!

At Tennessee Game Days 9, the first game I sat down to play on Friday was Acquire, an ingenious real estate trading and speculating game that’s equal parts Bingo and Monopoly. The end result is brilliant, and although I came in firmly at third out of three players, I’d say I had a solid run and an outstanding introduction (one of the guys I played was nationally ranked at one time, believe it or not).

The best thing about it? The set I played was custom-sculpted and modified. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone would want to settle for less now that I’ve seen it. Long story short: incredible detail was put into these hand-crafted, hand-painted buildings that stand in for paltry cardboard chits. All were made with wood, decorated with model-railroad people and vegetation. Everything fit neatly in the custom-built game grid on which the game is played.

It was EXCELLENT! I’m totally spoiled now. I’d love to see the game on the table again, but I’m afraid that unless I play this same set again, the magic would be gone. However, any game that has the staying power to stick around on gaming tables as long as Acquire has - 52 years - definitely has something going for it.

Have a look at some of the pieces below. If you know what the original pieces look like, then it’s very likely you’ll be amazed too. Click on the image to see a larger size.

The board was made up of a raised grid of individually-labeled cells. As the game progresses, players draw chits that indicate where the next piece is to be played.

acquire 002

All the stock certificates were laminated on both sides to protect them from wear. We lined them up on both sides of the board along with their hotel headquarters to indicate what was available for placing/purchase.

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acquire 001

Each of the headquarters was individualized by colour and decor so players could tell what hotel was where.

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The “cheaper” hotel chains were much smaller than the two “executive” hotel chains, which would net the majority stockholders some serious cash as time went on.

acquire 006

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Here’s one of the fancy-shmancy executive hotel chains: multiple stories, business-class clientele, and a nifty fountain out front.

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acquire 009

Here’s the green hotel chain. With a middle-income level, this hotel headquarters admittedly saw little table time.

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Here are a couple shots of the game in progress…

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Thanks to Craig for sharing his talents, and for making my introduction to a classic tabletop game such an inviting experience.

Oops, I Did It Again

more board game supplies

Damnit, the addiction strikes again. A hundred bucks spent on stuff to make my own board games.

I can’t take all the blame, though. Lew Pulsipher mentioned it as the place he goes to in order to find more prototype supplies. Dude knows what he is talking about, so how could I say no?!?!

But what the hell am I going to do with 20 decks of blank cards?  …What can’t I do with 20 decks of blank cards?!?! [rimshot]

White Privilege and Art

UPDATE: An acquaintance of mine who also makes games suggested I include some of the back story and more details of the original intent behind the game, and how it all ended up this way. See below for the details.

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The title says it all, really. I had a rude and culturally-insensitive name for a board game prototype, I was called out on it by a cultural literate, and I finally backed down after realizing my own hubris and sense of entitlement. It was good to be beaten down in such a way. At the very least, I can breathe a lot easier now that my head’s not up my own ass.

My original intent was primarily a game design challenge for myself: make a game and all prototype art assets in 36 hours. Additionally - and this is where things become complicated - I wanted to make a game that pointed out the problems inherent in imperialism. I had developed a maritime-themed game in which sailors would protect their cargo while enemies come pouring onto the boat from either side. I themed it after Spanish conquistadors, and the enemies were native Incan tribe warriors.

My design goals were noble - in my view - but perhaps a bit lofty. The original title of the game was “Stinkin’ Incans,” as I wanted players to initially side with the conquistadors. I had wanted cognitive dissonance to set in sooner rather than later, however, as the player would eventually reflect on the fact that the only reason the Incans were attacking was because the Spanish had stolen the gold in the first place. My reasoning kinda went like this:

Players are the bad guys, but they don’t realize it…
Players realize they were responsible for the violence…
Players reflect on US imperialism…
WORLD PEACE.

…Like I said, my goals were lofty.

Here’s the comment where I apologized for being a bigoted jerk:

My own ignorance astounds me sometimes. And yes, your feedback is extremely welcome. There’s no way to spin this game concept in a way that doesn’t make me sound like a cultural ignoramus. So I likely am. Good intentions don’t fix that, only good actions do.

…My apologies. I’ll save my high-and-mighty dreams of combating Imperialism for another game.

It was a significant learning experience for me. And I’m a 37-year-old grown-ass man.

A word to all white male artists and creative types: your words, your actions, your creative product, your performances…These can all highlight your personal sense of privilege and ignorance. If someone calls you out on it, don’t be a dick like Louis C.K. and give some rationalization about how you’re sick and tired of being called out on it all the time. Actually grow some balls, admit you’re wrong, and change your behaviour. It’s the right thing to do.

For the record, I also think it’s important to admit any sense or evidence of privilege you have benefited from and/or used as a crutch before you start lambasting others for abusing their privilege. In other words: I can’t call out casual, ignorant racists for their behaviour until I myself admit and take responsibility for my casual, ignorant racist past behaviour.

So yeah, I was racist. I did my best to face up to it and definitely changed my attitudes and behaviour. That doesn’t give me a get-out-of-jail-free card or anything in my future, but at least it means I can take responsibility for it, and definitely can change.

tennessee game days 9: game design workshop

We’ve had a fantastic time at Tennessee Game Days IX so far…! Not only have I had a chance to play such excellent games as Sid Sackson’s Acquire, or the new Caverna by Uwe Rosenberg of Agricola fame, but I’m hosting game design workshops and prototype showcases this time around.

Friday evening, I led a group through the basics of game design, and had a blast. We discussed three essential ingredients to games: components, rules, and theme. I gave away a bunch of extra bits I had laying around on my game shelves and let the participants have at it with their ideas. To show how easy it is to start designing your own games, I led an exercise where all the participants put together their first-ever race-to-the-end game, using components and materials I provided specifically for the event.

Finally, we capped off the evening with some playtesting and instant feedback sessions on the new designers’ prototypes, putting the rapid iteration process in full effect while having a lot of fun. Oh, and I also learned a bit about a parasitic fungus that burrows into ant brains and drives them to climb to the tops of flowers…All in all, an excellent experience! I’m hoping everyone had a chance to exercise their brains and see some of their ideas in action. Judging from the thanks I received and feverish activity I witnessed at the table, all signs indicate it was a success!

I will also have an e-book about game design available shortly after the event…stay tuned.

tennessee game days IX - game design workshop

Designers hard at work at the inaugural Game Designer’s Workshop at TGD 9.

tennessee game days IX - game design workshop 2

Here’s the prototype about how ants are taken over by a parasitic fungus…

mead report 3: batch 1

So I promised myself to try out my honey mead on my next birthday. Well, that was the 18th. Two days ago. How did it turn out?

It didn’t. Long story short, it tastes like fruit juice.

mead report 3 - batch 1

The rest of it is going down the drain.

So next time, I try it with the brewer’s yeast thrown in to see if it can kick-start the fermentation process. AND I won’t attempt to brew it during the colder months of the year. I’ll start a new batch in May and drink it in November, I think.

Mole Majority - a game journal experiment

mole majority - sample finished game

I’ve started documenting the process of designing a tabletop game. This one’s called Mole Majority: an area-control game where you manage a group of moles trying to claim as much of a golf course as possible before the entire area becomes filled with rodents. In the game journal will be rules summaries, documentation of changes, and playtesting reports. I hope to gain feedback on this design from the outstanding community found at the Board Game Designer’s Forum.

Click here to learn about Mole Majority.

Bill Nye versus Kenneth Ham Drinking Game

My girlfriend and I recently watched the soon-to-be-infamous (if not already) debate between Kenneth Ham of the Creationist Museum and the Answers In Genesis organization, and Bill Nye “The Science Guy.” My significant other and I gained such enjoyment out of the experience that we resolved that henceforth we would watch the debate every Christmas day and participate in a drinking game, sure to have us rolling on the floor not just with laughter but also with alcoholic stupor.

The main question of the debate was “Is Creation[ism] a valid model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?”

DRINK WHEN:

  • Bill Nye uses the word “extraordinary” (referring to the claims of Kenneth Ham of proof and substantiations for Young-Earth Creationism found in the Bible and elsewhere)
  • Bill Nye uses the phrase “on the outside” (he’s referring to the science community not allied with Creationist causes)
  • Kenneth Ham uses the word “hijack” (referring to how scientists have appropriated the word “science”…from Creationists)
  • Kenneth Ham uses the word “book” (blatantly obvious referral to the Bible)

These four criteria are all you’ll need to be staggeringly, slobberingly drunk, likely within the first hour.

PLATINUM LEVEL

  • Bill Nye makes an appeal to “voters and taxpayers” (pleading with citizens to keep science legitimate in schools)
  • Bill Nye says the phrase “reasonable man” (referring to himself when considering Ham’s proofs)
  • Chug the rest of your current drink when Kenneth Ham goes on his “origin” diatribe (there’s a segment in particular near the close of the Q&A)
  • Chug the rest of your current drink when Bill Nye mentions the post-grad major conspicuously absent from Kentucky colleges and universities

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You’ll likely want to ruminate after chugging, dare you attempt the Platinum level. This is the world we’re living in, folks.

I slept very soundly the night after we watched the debate, secure in my belief (dare I say “faith”) that godlessness is alive and well, and has at least one staunch, blindingly-intelligent, eloquent supporter. Hitchens may be gone, but Nye is performing admirably when attempting to fill those shoes.

new flash game: RATCHET UP

I made a retro arcade shootemup Flash game in about 5 hours for the Klik of the Month Klub #79: RATCHET UP. Play by clicking here.

ratchet up - screenshot

To start the game, press UP or DOWN (cursor keys or joypad) to select Identical Waves (all enemies are the same in each wave) or Random Waves (all enemies are likely different in each wave), then press SHIFT KEY or BUTTON 1.
Use the SHIFT KEY or BUTTON 1 on your joypad to shoot. Hold it down to autofire.
Last as long as possible, and make a high score.

ABOUT THIS GAME
I used library graphics from MMF2 for nearly everything, and definitely for all the enemies and the player ship. I think I only made one explosion graphic, and composed the menu screens. Music is from playonloop.com. I made the sound effects in BFXR.

This is more of an exercise than an engaging game, I confess. I feel like 2014 will be a year that I complete a major project, and finishing small preparatory toys like this is one way to build up to it (or distract myself from a more intimidating project…). My girlfriend and I are pretty fixated on combining our efforts to create a Demon Baby-themed adventure game, but until then RATCHET UP and its ilk will have to suffice.

Enjoy!

note to self

I’m not normally a person who appreciates pranks, but the subtext (and the fact that this is simply a promo for a b-horror flick: the types of movies I was weaned on as a baby myself) makes this the best baby ever.

new game: Gnomus Maximus

I’ve created a retro-platform-action-arcade game called Gnomus Maximus. Download it here.

You and your garden gnome buddies have had your tools stolen by a pack of roving dogs, and it’s up to you to reclaim them! Classic platforming action appropriate for all ages, with four game modes:

Classic Mode: complete the game at your own pace, learning the layout as you go
Sunrise Mode: a speed-run that applies a considerable challenge to veterans
Jump Adventure: dexterity and jumping skills within a tight time limit will allow you to reach the top and post your high scores
Giving Gifts: you’ve found all the tools…Now give them back to the proper garden gnomes

screenshot - gnomus maximus

Gnomus Maximus is a stand-alone EXE (packaged in a ZIP file) made for Windows. It’s just a bit over 16MB in size. Linux & Mac users will likely be able to make it work with an emulator.

ABOUT THIS GAME
I jumped into the Klik & Klaus Sekret Santa event over at Glorious Trainwrecks. Participants submit a “wish list” of things they want to have in a game, random drawings are conducted, and participants are assigned a wish list to accommodate. Two weeks later, you submit a game with a nice little “TO” and “FROM” on the description page. Loads of fun.

I actually took one of my old, dormant game ideas and finally finished it. Long story short, I used the Platform Movement Object/PMO in Multimedia Fusion 2 to finish this one. It was my first experience with the Object, and I learned a multitude of new skills with this project.

Testing and support supplied by A.C. Donovan, Old Man Clayton, and DKA. Music from Advertise-Play/Nastyman the Play On Loop website. Most SFX made with bfxr, while a couple level-end SFX were from Warlords and Tempest. Gnome photos were found through public domain/fair use image searches.

Feedback, positive or otherwise? Please send me a message or comment below to let me know what you think.

THANK YOU FOR PLAY!