Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The designer's resources list

              For months now I have been researching information on board game design, prototyping, publishing and self-publishing. My research has proven to be quite fruitful and I managed to gather well over a hundred interesting links on those subjects.

                I would love to keep growing and updating this list, so if you find more please share it here. Also please tell me know if a link goes dead so I can either remove it of find an updated link. If you have a business or a website that would be relevant to this list, don’t hesitate to let me know so I can review it and potentially add it. Suggestions, thoughts and comments are also welcomed. 

                Granted, some links are a bit obvious (mostly in the “Publishers” and “Social networking” categories). But in the interest of being thorough, I decided to include them. 

- Artists for hire
o Conseptart.org http://conceptart.org/forums/forum.php
o Elance Freelance https://www.elance.com/
o Map Designers http://www.cartographersguild.com/mapmaking-requests/2569-re...

- Art and Graphic design
o Adobe TV http://tv.adobe.com/
o Dafont http://www.dafont.com/
o Font Squirrel http://www.fontsquirrel.com/
o Free Fonts http://www.1001freefonts.com/
o Game-Icons http://game-icons.net/
o Graphic River http://graphicriver.net/
o Hex Graph Generator http://incompetech.com/graphpaper/hexagonal/
o InDesign video podcasts http://www.theindesigner.com/blog/episode-53%E2%80%A6sort-of
o Lost Type http://losttype.com/
o NanDeck http://www.nand.it/nandeck/
o Open Game Art http://opengameart.org/
o Pixel Art tutorials http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/pixel-art-tutorials/
o Pixel Joint http://www.pixeljoint.com/default.asp
o Psd tuts+ Photoshop Basix: Video tutorial http://psd.tutsplus.com/sessions/photoshop-basix/
o Public Domain Clip Art http://www.pdclipart.org/
o Public Domain Images http://www.public-domain-image.com/
o Public domain Pictures http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/
o The League of Moveable Type http://www.theleagueofmoveabletype.com/
o The Noun Project http://thenounproject.com/
o Vector Stock http://www.vectorstock.com/

- Books about game design and game design related subjects
o Eurogames: The Design, Culture and Play of Modern European Board Games(Stewart Woods)
o Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihaly)
o Game Design (Lewis Pulsipher)
o Hobby Games - The 100 best (James Lowder)
o How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish (Lewis Pulsipher)
o Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us better and How They Can Change the World (Jane McGonigal)
o Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (Katie Selen and Eric Zimmerman)
o The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses (Jesse Schell)
o Theory of Fun for Game Design (Raph Koster)

- Community sites (location specific)
o Board Game Designers Guild of Utah http://www.bgdg.info/index.php
o Boardgames Meetup Group http://boardgames.meetup.com/
o Creaj2s www.creaj2s.com
o Dragons Nocturnes / Québec http://www.dragonsnocturnes.org/
o Game Artisans of Canada/ Canada http://www.gameartisans.ca/
o Toronto Area Boardgame Designers https://www.facebook.com/groups/tabdmembers/

- Crowdfunding
o Crowdfunder http://www.crowdfunder.com/
o Fundable http://www.fundable.com/
o Indiegogo http://www.indiegogo.com/
o Kickstarter http://www.kickstarter.com/
o Rockethub http://www.rockethub.com/

- Custom wooden parts
o Benny’s Woodworks http://www.bennyswoodworks.com/
o Casey's Wood Products http://www.caseyswood.com/
o Maine Wood Concepts http://www.mainewoodconcepts.com/index.php
o Woodworks http://www.craftparts.com/

- Design Tips
o 10,000 Feet to Publish a Board Game http://www.jamesmathe.com/10000-feet-to-publishing-a-board-g...
o Board Game Designer Forum http://www.bgdf.com/
o Cardboard Edison http://cardboardedison.tumblr.com/
o Circular tokens http://www.mainewoodconcepts.com/index.php
o Cards http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/490643/making-cards-youll-ne...
o Donald X. Vaccarino: Boardgame Design http://dominionstrategy.com/2012/12/20/interview-with-donald...
o From inspiration to publication http://inspirationtopublication.wordpress.com/the-steps-for-...
o Publish Games, The tasty Minstrel Way http://boardgamegeek.com/blog/741/how-to-publish-games-the-t...

- Dice Odds
o Any Dice http://anydice.com/
o Die roll Stats http://rumkin.com/reference/dnd/diestats.php
o Smallroller http://www.fnordistan.com/smallroller.html
o Throwing dice theory http://gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/probability/calcdice.htm

- Distributers and Fulfillment
o ACD Distribution http://www.acdd.com/
o Alliance game distribution http://www.alliance-games.com/Home/11/1/79/1156
o Brave new world http://www.bravenewworld.biz/website/
o Esduvium Games http://www.esdeviumgames.com/
o Global Games https://www.globalgamesdistribution.com/
o GTS Distribution http://www.gtsdistribution.com/
o Impressions http://www.impressionsadv.net/index.php
o Lion Rempant Imports http://lionrampantimports.com/
o Publisher Services http://www.pubservinc.com/PS/welcome

- Game accessories
o Bare Game boards http://www.barebooks.com/gameboards.htm
o Boards and Bits http://www.boardsandbits.com/
o Boxes Paper Mart http://www.papermart.com/index/index_box.htm
o Chessex http://www.chessex.com/
o Dice Koplow Games http://www.koplowgames.com/
o FRP Games http://www.frpgames.com/index.php
o Gameparts http://www.gameparts.net/
o GameScience Dice http://www.gamescience.com/home
o Historic Games http://www.historicgames.com/RPdice.html
o Indented Blank Dice http://indentedblankdice.com/
o Kardwell http://www.kardwell.com/index.htm
o Laser engraved dice http://www.dice.co.uk/
o Litko http://www.litko.net/
o MeepleSource http://www.meeplesource.com/index.php
o Miniature Figurines http://www.miniaturefigurines.co.uk/Home.aspx
o MrChips http://www.mrchips.net/
o Paper Miniatures One Monk http://www.ready-made.com/
o Perforated Paper http://www.perforatedpaper.com/
o Plain Cards http://www.plaincards.com/
o Plastics for games http://www.plasticsforgames.co.uk/
o Plastic trays http://www.ready-made.com/
o Printer Studio http://www.printerstudio.com/
o Rolco Games http://www.rolcogames.com/pages/home/1
o Spielmaterial http://www.spielematerial.de/en/

- Important events
o BGG Con http://boardgamegeek.com/bggcon
o Essen Spiel http://www.internationalespieltage.de/e000.php4
o FallCon http://www.fallcon.com/
o Gama Trade Show http://gamatradeshow.com/
o Gen Con http://www.gencon.com/
o Journées ludiques de Québec http://journeesludiques.qc.ca/
o Origins Game Fair http://www.originsgamefair.com/
o Protospiel http://www.protospiel.org/index.html
o Unpub http://unpub.net/

- Manufacturing
o 3D Printing http://www.shapeways.com/
o Alibaba http://www.alibaba.com/
o Brimar Packaging http://www.brimarpackaging.com/
o Cartamundi http://www.cartamundiusa.com/
o Custom Playing Cards http://customizedplayingcards.com/
o Customized Playing Cards http://playingcardsrus.com/index.php
o Game Manufacturers Association http://www.gama.org/
o Grand Prix International http://www.grandprixintl.com/
o Ludo Fact http://www.ludofact.de/cms/front_content.php
o Package Right corp. http://packageright.com/index.html
o Panda http://pandagm.com/

- Podcasts and game news
o All us geeks http://www.allusgeeks.com/
o Ludology http://ludology.libsyn.com/
o On Board Games http://onboardgames.libsyn.com/
o Purple Pawn http://www.purplepawn.com/
o Tabletop Gaming News http://www.tabletopgamingnews.com/
o The D6 Generation http://www.thed6generation.com/

- Print and Play
o Cheapass Games http://www.cheapass.com/
o DriveThruRPG http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/index.php
o WargameVault http://www.wargamevault.com/

- Print-on-demand and Prototyping
o Arts Cow http://www.artscow.com/
o Blue Panther LLC http://www.bluepantherllc.com/index.htm
o Guild of Blades http://www.gobretail.com/pod.php
o Printer’s Studio http://www.printerstudio.com/
o Print & Play Productions http://printplaygames.com/
o Superior POD http://www.superiorpod.com/category#.USP1o6XFV8E
o The Game Crafter https://www.thegamecrafter.com/

- Publishers
o AEG http://www.alderac.com/
o Ape Games http://www.apegames.com/index.html
o Asmodee http://us.asmodee.com/index.php
o Bombyx http://www.studiobombyx.com/accueil_eng.html
o Colombia Games http://columbiagames.com/index.html
o Cranio Creations http://www.craniocreations.com/en/index.php
o Days Of Wonder http://www.daysofwonder.com/en/index/
o Family Games inc. http://www.familygamesamerica.com/mainsite/consumers/
o Filosofia http://www.filosofiagames.com/
o Fox Mind http://www.foxmind.com/
o Game salute http://gamesalute.com/
o Game Workshop http://www.games-workshop.com/gws//home.jsp?_requestid=34955...;_requestid=623106
o Indie Board Games http://www.indieboardsandcards.com/home.php
o Jeux Alary Games http://www.jeuxalary.com/en/
o Le Scorpion Masqué http://www.scorpionmasque.com/en/home-page
o Matagot http://www.matagot.com/
o Mayfair Games http://mayfairgames.com/
o Minion Games http://www.miniongames.com/
o Outset http://www.outsetmedia.com/
o Rio Grande Games http://riograndegames.com/
o Tasty Minstrel http://playtmg.com/
o Valley Games http://valleygames.ca/
o Victory Point Games http://victorypointgames.com/index.php
o Z-Man http://www.zmangames.com/

- Self-Publishers
o Brain Candy http://www.braincandy-games.com/index.htm
o Conquistador Games http://www.cqgames.com/
o Giant Goblin Games http://www.giantgoblingames.com/home/
o Gray Gnome Games http://greygnome.com/news/
o Level 99 Games http://www.lvl99games.com/?cat=1
o Mercury Games http://www.mercurygames.com/
o Sands Of Time http://www.sandsoftimegames.com/

- Social networking
o Blogger www.blogger.com
o Creative Switch http://www.creative-switch.com/
o Facebook http://www.facebook.com/
o LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/
o Twitter https://twitter.com/

    Certain categories are a little bare and I would love your help with adding content. Here are the categories I would particularly like help with:

-         - Community sites: they need to be specific to a certain location. I am looking for web sites that would lead to face to face interaction (whether it is for gaming groups, designer groups or play testing groups) or promote some kind of local networking.
-        - Design tips: I’m looking for posts or blogs explaining in detail a certain aspect of board game designing, prototyping, publishing or self-publishing.
- Important events: I’m looking for conventions and trade shows
-        -   Podcasts and game news: This one is self-explanatory
-        -   Publishers: I’m sure I omitted a lot of them. I’m looking for publishing companies that don’t exclusively publish their own designs and that are preferably open to submissions. 

If you are the owner or administrator of one of these websites and feel like it hasn’t been placed in the right category or if you would like me to take it out of the list, please send me a private message and I will fix the situation.

 Thank you

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Board game review: Takenoko

Takenoko 8.5/10

                What an impressive game. And I don’t mean that it’s the most fun or the most innovative game, but rather that it is, in my opinion, a beautifully designed game. Now don’t get me wrong, this game is fun, but like any game, you need the right crowd to get the most out of it. Players looking for a significant strategic challenge, big highs and epic comebacks might be left feeling disappointed. But on the other hand if you are looking for a great family game or a relaxing experience with beginner board gamers, this is the game for you.

                BoardGameGeek.com describes it as follows:
‘’A long time ago at the Japanese Imperial court, the Chinese Emperor offered a giant panda bear as a symbol of peace to the Japanese Emperor. Since then, the Japanese Emperor has entrusted his court members (the players) with the difficult task of caring for the animal by tending to his bamboo garden. In Takenoko, the players will cultivate land plots, irrigate them, and grow one of the three species of bamboo (Green, Yellow and Pink) with the help of the Imperial gardener to maintain this bamboo garden. They will have to bear with the immoderate hunger of this sacred animal for the juicy and tender bamboo. The player who manages his land plots best, growing the most bamboo while feeding the delicate appetite of the panda, will win the game.’’

The game itself

                The goal of this game is to complete hidden objectives in order to accumulate victory points. The first player to complete a certain number of objectives (depending on how many players you have) will receive a bonus victory point card (the emperor) and will trigger the last round. There are three types of objectives; Plot objectives (placing tiles in a certain configuration), Gardener objectives (making the gardener grow certain types of bamboo) and panda objectives (making the panda eat certain types of bamboo). To achieve those objectives, players get two actions per turn. 

Those actions can be; placing a plot tile, collecting and placing an irrigation tile, moving the gardener, moving the panda or drawing an objective card. In addition to this you get to roll a ‘’Weather die’’ that will give you a certain bonus (extra action point, movement bonus, growing bonus and so on).

                As you can imagine, since everyone is controlling the same plots, gardener and panda, a player might do something that will benefit them while at the same time being harmful to the objectives of another players.  Unfortunately, it is a bit difficult to know how your actions will influence other players since the objectives are hidden. While this makes for a less strategic game, it does make thing less confrontational which may appeal to a more casual or younger crowd.

                If you would like to take a bit of luck out of the equation, the rules offer a variant for ‘’advanced’’ players. In this variant, if players pick an objective card that is already completed on the board, he must discard it and pick a new one.  In my opinion, this variant should be a mandatory rule. Without it, the luck of the draw when picking objective cards plays too big of a factor in completing objectives. I found this to be especially true with the Plots objectives which made the game feel a bit unbalanced.

                So, what makes this game so good?
Well, this game offers a large number of simple game mechanics that all interact together seamlessly. Because of the simplicity of the mechanics, the well-paced, well-illustrated and concisely explained rules, It is easy to learn and easy to teach. Many people (including myself) will be impressed by the quality of the components and the beauty of the artwork. As mentioned earlier, the fact that the gameplay isn’t confrontational will appeal to a more casual and younger crowd making this a great game for a family games night or for introducing non-gamers to the wonderful world of board-gaming.

The Good
- Gorgeous art and design
- Quality components
-  Lighthearted and fun game
- Will appeal to younger players and non-gamers 
  Seamless interaction between theme and mechanics

The Bad
- Feels unbalanced without the ‘’variant’’ rule
- Luck plays a big roll and there is not much strategy to it. Although this could be a positive aspect in some settings.

The bottom line
- Looking for deep strategic play? Look elsewhere
- Looking for light family fun? The emperor’s garden is the place for you.
- A must have for family board game lovers
- When considering the target audience, I would give this game an 8.5/10

Simplicity within depth

After countless hours of pondering on the subject, materializing ideas to test them out, scrapping those same ideas and losing sleep over trying to find a solution, I have come to a realization: great strategy board games all have one thing in common.  Their designers were able to achieve simplicity within depth.  

                Anyone can think up a complex game where many elements interact and make for deep strategizing. The real challenge in designing a strategy game is creating that same depth of strategy while keeping the game mechanics simple enough as to not break the momentum or make players lose interest in the main goal of the game.

                With such a design, the effort required by the player to ‘’use’’ the game is greatly diminished. The game takes care of all the tedious details and provides (effortlessly) the critical information required for strategic thinking. I feel that few game designs achieve this, not because their game designers didn’t care about this concept but because it’s a difficult thing to achieve.

                For example, in one of my designs I try to recreate the world fisheries market. Players all own a fishing company, they trade stocks of their company with other players, resource (fish) scarcity plays a big role and market prices and world consumption of each fish type vary as the game goes on. When I came up with this idea I was ecstatic. I thought this was my best idea yet. This game design simulates ‘’offer and demand’’, how financial capitalism causes overfishing and even corporate sabotage. There were many ways to become the richest player and many things to consider at all times.  This game was, on paper, my most ambitious and promising project yet.

                But once I finally built/gathered all the prototype pieces, sat down and tested this for the first time, it hit me like a brick in the face… There is way too much counting, the handling of the game parts is too tedious and both of these factors make the strategizing feel fragmented and the game feel like a chore.

                So I tried modifying rules, making the numbers smaller so they are easier to count, even scrapping whole game mechanics but I was never able to simplify the game play enough without seriously compromising the depth of strategy.

                And so I am left humbled by the genius of great game designers who are able to achieve simplicity within depth. But I’m not about to throw in the towel just yet! Maybe my fisheries game will not be the game with which I can achieve a simple and deep design but I can assure you that the day will come when I do.