Archive for August, 2008

Not Going to Be at GenCon Afterall

2008 Aug 11

Just wanted to let folks know.

Due to some personal issues that recently came up (nothing really bad, but not something good either), I’m not going to be able to attend GenCon as planned. There are just more important things that I need to deal with here that trump all other concerns.

Hopefully, the Geiger Counter beta will still be available through a promotion at the Design Matters booth (buy two games there, get Geiger free). Also, if anybody plans on running Geiger Counter at GenCon — John, Lukas, Ben, Ping, etc. — you might try to talk to someone at the DM booth first, since they should be able to hook you up with copies of the beta to hand out to folks who play it and dig it. That all assumes that I can finish the final layout for the beta today, get it printed at Kinkos, and get the copies in Nathan Paoletta’s hot little hands before he starts driving to Indy. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll find some other way to distribute them.

I’m mostly sad that I won’t be at GenCon to see all the folks I only get to hang and play games with once a year, plus meeting all the new folks that I haven’t met yet. Oh, and I’ll miss playing Transantiago. The sales and marketing aspects of the con, plus the general insanity and stress, are things I won’t miss. This was going to be my last GenCon for a while anyway, so I was preparing for the separation anxiety, in a way. I just wasn’t prepared for it to happen this soon. Hopefully I’ll be able to use it as an opportunity to remember why I’m really excited about making and playing games and continue reconsidering how I will continue to do that in the future. Since I’ve decided to go the hobby-not-business route, GenCon probably isn’t the best choice for distributing and promoting free games anyway, though I originally rationalized going again this year as a kind of transition.

In any case, I wish those who will be there the best of luck, especially my Design Matters compadres, who I’m sure will destroy all monsters and maybe some sucka MCs on the side. Also, there’s some great folks like Shreyas and Elizabeth and Rob Bohl and some other cats who will have their first games out. Very exciting stuff.

Now back to finishing Geiger…

Hitting the Right Balance + Organizing

2008 Aug 8

Continuing my series of little things I’m adding to the Geiger beta.

Here’s some stuff that helps keep characters alive:
– Gathering more advantage dice.
– Having scenes without confrontations.
– Teaming up in confrontations.
– Keeping the group together.
– Not pursuing Goals / confrontations with other characters.

Here’s some stuff that helps kill characters:
– Pursuing Goals / confrontations with other characters.
– Taking on the menace by yourself (without help).
– Not grabbing all the advantage dice.
– Having lots of confrontations when the menace has lots of dice.
– Splitting up the characters.

Hitting that sweet spot where most of the characters are dead, but one or two of them just barely get away or beat the menace… that takes some active balancing between doing things that keep the characters alive and doing things that will kill them. That balancing act… that’s the core of the game.

In fact, four things really make play sing:
– premise, setting (map), and characters that excite everyone
– scene framing with good pacing (mix of different things + timing)
– the right balance of getting killed and surviving
– a satisfying conclusion

If you got those four, Geiger Counter should work every time.

All the players should consider themselves responsible for making these four things happen, but the player(s) organizing the game (the one(s) reading this book, in all likelihood) has even more responsibility, namely, demonstrating how to achieve these four things and trying to shepherd the group through their first game. Sometimes, nobody else will be willing to throw their character under a bus for pure entertainment and the good of the game unless you do it first. Sometimes, folks won’t figure out that they should feel free to frame a 10-second scene solely containing the ominous sound of water dripping unless you do it first. Sometimes, folks won’t realize they’ve reached the final confrontation with the menace or need to step up the inter-character conflict unless you make that suggestion or just have your own character flip out.

Everybody’s equal at the table and you should remember you’re not the Game Master, but, at least until the group gets comfortable with the rules and play of Geiger Counter, it’s your responsibility to make it work. Often that means listening and trying to figure out what everybody else wants. Sometimes that means pushing the group in a particular direction. Good luck!

Geiger Beta & Transan Board Print

2008 Aug 8

Due to the confusion about what is or isn’t an ashcan, whether they are playtested or not, etc… what’s coming out at GenCon is the “beta” version of Geiger Counter, the “alpha” being that version that SG Boston and Go Play NW have been playing for the past 5 months.

Here’s the cover.

Also, I got the first printing of the Transantiago board back from Lulu and I’m going to have to tweak it a bit if I’m going to use that publication route. They print their posters on Kodak paper, as if they’re expecting photos (no surprise), but that makes the blacks bleed a bit more than I was expecting. Plus, they cut them inexactly, necessitating a white border around them. On the plus side, this means that dry and wet-erase markers should work pretty well, I think, though I haven’t tried yet.

Starlight, Starbright & Exit Strategy

2008 Aug 3

Throughout the text of Geiger Counter, there will be two parallel “scenarios” described through the examples, showing a sample of the diversity that the game can handle.

Starlight, Starbright: When the orbit of a solar research station begins to rapidly decay, the scientists and other crew members must find a way to escape while not setting free the dangerous, star-dwelling lifeform they have been studying. This game is evocative of both Danny Boyle’s Sunshine (2007) and Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), reversing the standard horror movie premise of having everything obscured in darkness by having everything obscured by brilliant light instead.

Exit Strategy: It’s 2006 in Somalia, during the Second Battle of Mogadishu when a CIA-backed assortment of secular business and warlord interests battles with the Islamic Court Union. However, the main concern of most Somalis and resident foreigners is simply getting out of the way. This one combines another Ridley Scott movie, Black Hawk Down (2001) with a more on-the-grounds perspective on the lives of the diverse residents of Mogadishu.