Tag Archives: Quarterback Blitz

STATE OF THE JABBERWOCK…

Still trying to find a full time job 3 years after graduating with my MFA, so things have been slow on the gaming front, with little time to play, much less design, but here is the dirt on the projects at hand.

QUARTERBACK BLITZ

Now in it’s 9th revision, I have completely revised the game to use a smaller playing surface and simpler mechanics that still accurately represent professional football, but abstracted to speed up play considerably. The 1-1 field representation and UGO-IGO mechanics have been replaced by something that more closely resembles the chess match that is X vs.O in flow and visual components.

THE BOARD

QBB_Field_Rev9The board is now split into irregular areas that reflect how the offense mentally identifies the field. This makes plays easier to design and also helps to reduce the number of movement related skills.

The Zone skill, for example is now unnecessary as the amount of segmentation decreases as one moves upfield, with board spaces becoming larger, allowing a Free Safety to cover the rear of the defense realistically.

THE PLAY SEQUENCE

Whereas before, I had each individual player taking an action during a turn, I have realized that the action in a play really can be divided into a sequence of three parts: 1. The Line Action, where interaction between the O and X lines determine the flow of the rest of the play; 2. Running Routes, where the rest of the Offense deploys to receive the ball and the defenders react to those deployments; and 3. The Resolution, in which the ball is released and the final results of the play are determined.

This greatly speeds up play, as it is no longer necessary to fuss with all 22 players during a single play. The results of 1. The Line might end up with a sack or a running play, eliminating the necessity of dealing with steps 2 and 3. Similarly, the results of the line limits how many players the offense gets to deploy before they must pass the ball, and certain timing passes will force the ball to be thrown immediately, again, eliminating the need to waste time fiddling with non-active players. And Step 3. The Resolution, is now a simple roll off on a table to determine final yardage instead of the back and forth moving of miniatures until the ball carrier is brought down or reaches the end zone.

THE CARD

Building plays is now easier with a system of offensive and Card_Play_Routedefensive cards that focus on particular parts of the play sequence and certain areas of the field. A coach’s hand will consist of a number of cards (7 on average) which can include a combination of Play cards (routes, defensive structures, etc. as seen on the right) and Action Cards (special events and skill usage).

Rules for skills are now presented in a more usable format: Instead of having to memorize skill lists with tons of exceptions, all the info needed to play will be on the particular card used (both play and action). This makes the game easier and faster to play and allows for a smaller number of broader skills with a greater variety of uses.

 

BARBARIANS OF HEAVY METAL: THE CARD GAME

BoHM_Card_Rider_Eddie_FrontThis is actually pretty close to done. In play-testing, the mechanics seem to work extremely well at recreating miniature wargaming with cards.

I want to redo the armor rules and tighten up the mechanics for building Titans, to speed up play and reduce complexity a bit. Also, I’m considering how to simplify the card types to cut down on clutter.

 

DONJONS & DRAGOONS

waterlooJust before finishing Bone Orchard, I went off table top RPGs and hung up my hat as a designer in that area. The customer base was too segmented and the profit to cost ratio was poor, but mostly, I just didn’t enjoy it anymore. It might have helped if there was a subject that really grabbed my attention and hadn’t been thoroughly explored yet, or if the RPG market was even slightly interested in any of my more outlandish and niche projects like BoHM.

Flash forward 2 years and I’ve picked up an interest in the Georgian Era, and Napoleonics. After a lot of reading over the last year or so, I am inspired to do another RPG based on that period. This time the interest is an academic one, however. I want to make what I believe the first RPG would have looked like if I had been at the forefront of that design instead of Gygax and Arneson. What would it look like if I had created the first RPG, based on Napoleonic wargames instead of fantasy, and based on my particular design ethos and predilections?

So I’m slowly, over time and in between working on other things, building an RPG based on the period, based on the 3 booklet structure of the original D&D game, but with rules of my own,which will be more heavily inspired by the refereed narrative of the Braunstein games of David Wesley rather than the more mechanistic Chainmail rules. It’s one part academic exercise, one part keeping my design skills sharp and one part trying to finish something less graphically and workload intensive than my other two projects.

There is another motive: I am looking to create a video channel on games and game design and I think this would make an interesting subject for a ‘How To Write an RPG’ series of videos for that channel. But more on that later….

METALWORKS (February 20th, 2015)…

Thinking about the title of last weeks post, it occurred to me that what I do is just a high tech version of the same thing artisans have done throughout history. I forge a piece (new ideas, text and mechanics), I pound it into shape (with my keyboard and constant revision) and then I add the personal touch (a certain voice, or style of art) that signifies my work. Writers, in essence are the literary equivalent of ironmongers. Wordmongers, if you will. So I’ve decided to list all my production updates under Metalworks from this point on. Pretentious? Maybe, but it has a certain masculine quality that appeals to my personal aesthetics.

BARBARIANS OF HEAVY METAL: TITANS

BoHM: Titans is getting ready to go into the card prototyping stage. I’m going to draw up some rough sketches of what the cards look like, create them in Photoshop and Illustrator (tons of icons to draw up) and then paste in the information from my massive list of cards using InDesign.

As I mentioned, I have 6 Riders, 6 Titans with their systems and superstructure cards, and a TAC Deck of 60 cards for each Rider, for around 400 cards (251 unique) total. I won’t be creating any original art for these, oustide of the system icons, and most will have a blank spot for a picture unless I find some existing art that particularly fits well, but they should suffice for play-testing purposes.

Should take me about three weeks to get all of that work done, what with the other project at hand…

FOR GLORY! DIGITAL BOARD GAME

I’ve been slowly working on the UI for the game, in between fits of card design for BoHM, and have the Main select screen and Character Sheet screen sussed out. The imagery is all temporary placeholder stuff, and will be completely redone for the final game, but it should give you a good idea of how things are shaping up, aesthetically and functionally.

FG_UI_FlowFG_Screens_05_CharSelectFG_Screens_06_CharSheet

In related news, Simon Washbourne released the Barbarians of Lemuria: Mythic Edition recently, and inside it are a few small tweaks to the system that will have a knock on effect for the For Glory! design. Brawl is out and Initiative is in, so I’ll have to change those up in the game and redo a few cards to take those into account. The combat system has changed as well, but since FG! uses a more abstract system to reflect an entire combat using a few rolls, that won’t change much of anything in the board game. Sorcery might have been tweaked, but I’ll have to see if that necessitates a change in the more abstract level of sorcery in the board game.

The good news is, being a digital game, changing such things is much less of a problem than it would be once something has gone to print. Hooray for the digital medium!

QUARTERBACK BLITZ

Once the playtest cards for BoHM:Titans are ready for action, I’m going back to work on QBB. I need to create a new deck of cards and a new presentation piece for marketing to another major sports merchandising entity. I also plan to whip up a Print & Play rules set with the very basic rules and pieces necessary to get the feel of the game, as I did with For Glory!

At that point, the game is going to go through even more playtesting to sort out the bugs in the new Play system and ensure that it accurately reflects the way football operates from a coaching perspective. And of course, I’ll be streamlining the game even more along the way.

If I’m lucky, I might have this thing out by Christmas…

Good Riddance 2014. Now, Get To Work 2015…

2014 blew.

It was a terrible year for me professionally and personally. As a result, I think I got less done that whole year than I did in the 3 months I spent on my thesis. This was exacerbated by the fact that, one year after receiving my MFA, I’m still working as a substitute teacher and, in December, had to take part time work at a retail store just to make ends not quite meet.

And just to give me a good kick before exiting stage right, the year ended with my wife getting majorly ill during the week of Christmas. Good riddance 2014, don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

But now it is 2015. A new year and a new stab at getting the next phase in my life and career started. Getting a job has been a bust so far, but at least I had an interview. Finally. After over a year trying. I do, however sense a change, a sense of positive renewal, as the Doctor once said in ‘The Twin Dilemma.’

So, what about all the games I have been working on?

Quarterback Blitz

20140322_133543I started this as a thesis project and it turned into what is considered by quite a few people to be an excellent playable simulation of professional football. What many do not know is that I took the game to Topps in September of last year and nearly sold it to them. Unfortunately, after consideration, they found it a bit too complex for their customer base, so no sell, but they did tell me that is was very true to the game and want me to call them up if I have any more game ideas (I may try and sell them a Baseball or Hockey game in the near future, time will tell).

So, with  the feedback from them and working out some strategic issues with a college football coach, I am on the verge of taking the game to another company. Problem is, I need to rewrite a small chunk of it, including remaking about 108 cards, and after a year and some change, I’m kind of burnt out. So, I’m giving it a rest for a month so I can come at it fresh.

The cool news is, I’m ready to release a print and play demo after I get the new cards done and will do so, probably in March. I’ll also be taking it to another company to try and sell it, and possibly get a proper job. In the meantime…

For Glory!

BoLBGMapV3The Barbarians of Lemuria board game I designed has been done for over a year. In that time, I have tried, without success, to get it into physical production. Now, as you might have ascertained from the start of this post, I am not in the position to self-finance this thing. There is too much risk, especially when you consider there is more to producing a physical game than calling up China and sending them some files. There’s production costs, shipping costs, storage costs, distribution costs, etc. So I’ve given up on producing a lavish table to board game and am switching formats.

I’ve been a huge proponent of mobile technology as a platform for board gaming and RPGs for the last 5 years. At UTD, I spent a great deal of my time trying to convince the people in charge that not only were mobile games going to increasingly challenge AAA games for entertainment dollars, but that hybrid games, using table-top components and digital interfaces, were going to eventually become the norm, allowing for incredibly complex board game simulations. Flash forward to today and we now have X-Com the board game with its mobile interface, Golem Arcana, a digitally enhanced TT wargame and a host of completely digital mobile board games.

SampleHeroesSo I’m turning For Glory! into a digital board game app.The potential audience is larger, the production costs are smaller (just time, really) and without shipping, distribution, storage, and a production company taking up at least 50% of the profit (Google Play and iTunes stores only take 30%), the profit margin will be much higher. I’m currently working on the UI screens and my programming partner is going to use Unity’s 2D platform to realize it as software. The game will be pretty much the same, it will even be designed so up to 6 can play, but it will handle all the rules work for the players. You can see the aesthetic feel I’m going for in this incomplete rough of the character select screen.

FG_Screens_01_CharSelect

Barbarians of Heavy Metal

Ozzy1People have told me what a unique concept BoHM is, and how they’d love to see it realized. My first attempt at doing that ended in a failed Kickstarter and a lot of rather pointed comments from my target audience about how unwelcome a truly digital table-top RPG is. Problem is, I don’t want to do another strictly P&P book RPG. I want to do something different. And besides, the same problems with a print boardgame apply to print RPGs, but doubly so. As a real world example, my Barbarians of the Aftermath supplement has yet to sell through its 2010 hardcover print run (as far as I know. C7 hasn’t sent me a sales report in over a year) but the 2009 PDF still sells to this very day!

So, as the IP was important to me, but the format really wasn’t (although I would have loved to have  been the one who revolutionized the RPG industry with a digital TTRPG), I tucked it away until I could find another medium for it, instead of rushing out yet another variation on the standard RPG. This month, I found that medium: the Tactical Card Game.

SpikeAn idea I’ve been noodling around with for some time, the Tactical Card game is an attempt to model the strategy and tactics of tabletop wargaming using strictly cards. During my recent research into the history of wargaming (as a hobbyist and academic), I have identified a number of elements that define wargames and can be easily translated into an abstract card based system. The system uses dice, like a regular wargame, and it also has a tactical maneuver system, based on my system for vehicular combat in Barbarians of the Aftermath. But it doesn’t require miniatures, terrain models or even a large table to play.

I had been designing the TCG concept as a vehicle for the Pirate game my business partner has been working on for some time, but I realized it was also an excellent vehicle for introducing the BoHM universe. It allows me to focus on a specific part of that setting (Titans, giant heavy metal mecha, like the one above) and reach a less niche audience: casual card gamers. It can be easily expanded, into aerospace fighters, starships and even headbanger vs. headbanger musical dueling, and all those different games can be designed to work together so that you can have truly massive conflicts that cover multiple scales simultaneously (great for team tournament play). Plus, card games are cheap to produce and much more attractive to production houses.

So I’ve also been working on that. An example of the play area (which has already evolved significantly by this point) can be seen below.

LayoutExample

VOID Hunters

event_horizon_gravity_driveI’ve been fiddling on and off with this thing for ages now. It started off as a simple supplement for DCC, but I quickly realized this was not the best way to accomplish my goals for it. Then I built a system from scratch. And scratched it because it didn’t feel right for 70’s sci-fi.

And now I’m back to wondering if it wouldn’t work best as a digital TTRPG and how the might change the design. I love the idea of the game, but as with BoHM, I don’t just want to crap out another RPG. I want to make something that adds to the industry in a significantly different way, and truly inspires people to play it, like DCC. It’s simpler than BoHM, rules wise, and like the original D&D, there is no specific setting, just thematic tools for creating your own, so it might be the best game for introducing the DTTRPG concept.

The potential for expansion through in-app purchases are practically infinite, it would (again) reach a whole new audience and the costs would (again) be minimal, so I think it would be worth doing a small demo of the app to generate Kickstarter interest and that is the plan for now.

That’s My Year Full, Then

Those are my product plans for 2015, but no plan survives contact with the enemy (the enemy in this case being not fully employed and constantly scrambling to make ends meet), so there are no guarantees that even half of it will materialize. But I design games. It is not what I do, it is who I am. I could no sooner stop doing this than stop breathing, so I will continue to plug away at my projects until they are done and out the door, regardless of my situation. Expect to see at least one or two cool things from Jabberwocky in 2015…

What’s Going On…?

If it’s been a bit quiet around here lately it’s because I’ve been very busy putting things together, working on rules, creating graphics and otherwise building on games in order get them ready for release. As a one man production band (who is also trying to join university faculty at numerous schools and do the odd job to keep the green flowing) this means that I tend to neglect the social media more than I should, so here is an update for those worried that their favorite projects might be vaporware (short answer: I never produce vaporware, it all gets done)…

QBB

Quarterback Blitz is reaching the end of the prototyping stage. I plan to start shopping it ’round to production companies at the end of this month. All that really remains is finishing the miniature prototypes, but in the meantime, play-testing is going along at full speed with the makeshift models I kludged together out of electric football players and assorted gaming bases. I even managed to get the cards done up professionally by a great printing company in Hong Kong (who printed and delivered my cards in 5 days total). Here are some images of those below:

20140630_10121520140630_101237So QBB is going gangbusters, if the enthusiasm shown in play-testing is any indicator (even with people who don’t like football as a rule), and has most of my attention at this time. It looks to be a winner with sports fans and gamers and a big seller for JM and whatever company agrees to produce it.

VOID HUNTERS & BARBARIANS OF HEAVY METAL

SpikeI have spent the last few months really debating with myself over whether or not this company will make RPGs anymore. A variety of catalysts from the state of the industry, to the behavior of the customer base, to the financial viability of making anything more than pizza money off of all the blood, sweat and soul that goes into making a good RPG, were pushing me to say to heck with the whole hobby. Seriously. It is, frankly, easier, cheaper and more rewarding to build board, card and electronic games, and wit them, good transmedia friendly IP.

After a good long think, I decided to go ahead and finish at least two of my RPG projects and see where they go before giving up on the industry altogether and just focusing on all those other things. Fortunately, I have some willing partners who are going to help me see those two games to life as the first all digital table-top RPGs.

Void Hunters is now going by the title VOID: the RPG of Seventies Science Fiction and I have completely divorced it from Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics game. I loves me some DCC (seriously, if you haven’t tried it, get your butt to their site and join the band), but the restrictions were too stifling and I’ve decided to design my own mechanics while adopting some of the attitudes of that great game: Red Shirts dying by the dozen, player characters struggling to survive in a hostile universe, unforgiving patrons and merciless horrors in the dark, all of this will be part of the experience. It is at the back of the line, development wise, but I add material to it daily and should have a demo to show soon.

BoHM is my passion project and one of the main IP concepts I want to develop along transmedia lines. As a result, I’m looking to do a lot of different things with it, including seeing it materialize as a Digital TTRPG. But first, I’m going to be working on smaller, non RPG games to develop the background and prototype systems for what will be a mechanically unique take on RPGs. Can’t say much on that  right now, but as soon as the QBB prototype is finished and the proposal sent out, I’m getting right on a slew of material set in the BoHM universe. Watch this space.

FOR GLORY! & THE PIRATE GAME

SampleHeroesFor Glory! is done, it is just waiting on production. That requires money however, and, in the course of considering gaming in the 21st century and the old models of doing things, my partner and I have decided that it is ludicrous for us to go the route of, say, Ticket to Ride or Small World and build a physical game first and a digital version later. The up front costs of production and distribution are so ludicrously high these days, we have decided that it is better to do the digital version first and, if sales justify it, use some of the money from that to produce a physical copy. The up front costs for digital games are so much lower, the entry level so much cheaper for the consumer, and the ability to automate and expand so much more convenient for everyone, that I’m all about digital devices as a board gaming platform (and have been for a number of years). So I’d expect to see For Glory! released on a tablet near you before a physical copy rolls off the presses.

The one exception to this seems to be card games. My experience producing QBB’s cards has shown me that there is a much better chance of a return on your investment with sufficient quality to justify physical card games. As such, the Pirate Game, which was formerly planned to be a proper board game, is now being redesigned using a new system I’m developing to function as a card based wargame. As this system will be the basis of the larger BoHM plans I mentioned earlier, I will be working heavily on this after QBB is wrapped up for the month.

RAAARGH! THE GAME OF GIANT B MOVIE MONSTER COMBAT

Kark01Some of you may remember this project from last year. It is an actual video game, not a table top  board game or RPG, and it has been waiting for mobile technology to catch up a bit and the right production team to come along. Well, the good news is that I am in final negotiations with a company to finally finish it. Most of the design work is done and all that is left is programming and testing, so I look forward to this tearing up a tablet near you soon.

SUMMARY

So that’s what’s on the block. Fortunately, a lot of it is well on its way to done, so we should see 2 or 3 of these out by the end of the year with the rest following up shortly thereafter in 2015. In the meantime, I’ll try and get some more specific updates on individual games up later this week,,,

Quarterback Blitz Demo (March 22nd, 2014)…

20140322_133543   It was a great day for gridiron action over at Madness Comics in Plano last Saturday, as we demoed the new Revision 5 rules of QBB! Some of the changes in this Revision:

  • Movement has been greatly simplified. It’s more abstract, but the play is much faster for it.
  • Tackle Zones have undergone a massive change, allowing players to have a larger influence on the field and open up the defensive line a bit so it is more realistic.
  • Blocking has been consolidated and streamlined. Every Block works the same, but the end results are different for stand up blocks, tackles and (a new result) Jamming, depending on the timing and location of the hit.
  • Pass Blocking and Tackle are now Passive Skills, i.e. they function to affect the skills or rolls of other players, instead of creating new rolls, so less Dice Rolling there.
  • Probably the biggest change, Kicking has totally been simplified and streamlined so that now you handle Kick-Offs, Punts and PAT Kicks with a few simple rolls instead of playing them out (a boring and laborious thing to do and I’m really hoping they introduce the new 7/6 PAT rule next season). As a result of the changes, the Special Teams Unit is now represented by a single Card instead of a series of individual player cards, which also reduces the part count considerably.

The other big change is that the Penalty System is now card based.as well as dice based. We had a problem in that the previous two systems were kicking out penalties at an absurd rate (well, for Pro Football, it would have been just right for College and High School) along with the fact that some penalties are incredibly specific and these weren’t being taken into account without unnecessarily overburdening the main rules with exceptions. Cards allow exception based ruling to be used without having to actually remember the exceptions just to play the game. All the info is on the card.

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The new system is pretty simple. If a Penalty Flag comes up during a roll and is not rerolled (as above) the opposing player is allowed to either play a Penalty Card from his hand or draw one from the Penalty Deck.

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As you can see, Penalty Cards have a bit of information on them. The first bit is the description, which tells you what the penalty means. The next bit is the Timing (also represented by a small icon on the bottom left) which tells you when you can play that penalty. If the timing isn’t right on any of your cards, then you can’t play any. There may be a Special Rules section with specific instructions on what happens when the card is played and, finally, there are a number of whistle icons at the bottom right side of the card. These not only tell you the yardage penalty (5 per whistle unless the Special Rules say otherwise) but are also used for a Penalty Check.

20140322_133549

Once a penalty is played on a player, you place the Penalty Card on the Player Card. Once the play is over, you make a Penalty Check, using the yellow Penalty Dice (seen in the upper left corner of the above pic with a single Whistle showing). If the number of whistles on the dice match the number on the card, the player is penalized.

This new system seems to have really captured the feel of penalties in a real game without overly unbalancing the table-top game and making it more about ‘who got penalized when’ over ‘who had the best tactics.’

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Overall, the streamlining of the rules.has sped up the game considerably and even a seven year old kid grasped the concepts and got into the game (and was very disappointed when I had to leave). So I’d say that we have maybe one more revision to go. With that and some original sculpts for the models, QBB will be ready for prime time!

Quarterback Blitz now in Playtesting…

GameInPlay

Humble beginnings: The Play-test Set… (Picture © Wendi Kavanaugh 2013)

While For Glory! is being readied for a spring Kickstarter, playtesting has started on Quarterback Blitz, the table top miniature game of Professional Football.This will not only be another exciting new future product from Jabberwocky, but is also a Thesis Project for my MFA, so it is going to be scrutinized with academic intensity as well as my own OCD like attention to design detail.

As you can see from the image above, the game focuses on the one on one tactical interactions of individual players on the field, each one of which has his own Stat Card, describing his stats, skills and special abilities, like so:

Cards

Player Cards (All Images ©2013 Jabberwocky Media LLC)

For each card, there is a corresponding miniature: currently, I’m using Tudor Electric Football models, clipped off of their stands and placed on 20mm round bases. They’re fairly small, and the models I plan to have made for the final game will be smaller still to fit in with the 1:72/25mm scale of the game, which everything is scaled to including the marks on the field. As such, jersey numbers will be kind of hard to see and, for the first time player, might not really define the position and where that player fits into the grand strategy of the Offense or the Defense. To provide for that, I’ve created specialized bases for each model:

Bases

Figure Bases (All Images ©2013 Jabberwocky Media LLC)

Each Base has three vital pieces of information:

Player Position: Above we have a Quarterback, a Mike Linebacker and a Split End (a Wide Receiver on the weak end of the line). These are all represented by the actual letter codes used in most coaches’ playbooks so that when you look down at the field, you will see the play in physical form. A great tool for teaching basic formation structure.

Player Number: Another identifier that keys the player to the card, so if you have numerous non-specialized Linebackers or a gaggle of Rookie Tackles, you can tell them apart.

Mobility Ring: This ring, broken into three zones, determines turning radius as well as situational awareness when passing, receiving and avoiding blocks and tackles.

Other that that, the game has relatively few other pieces, the vast majority of which are specialized dice, including a set for Passing/Kicking, Ball-Handling, Blocking and Sprinting, as well as time, ball deviation, injury and penalty dice. Each set will have special icons instead of numbers (well, the deviation and time dice will have numbers) like those shown below:

IconSamples

Dice Icons (All Images ©2013 Jabberwocky Media LLC)

The game in play is a slower, more deliberative game that concentrates on the strategy of Football. This means that it is not only a more mental game that all ages can enjoy, like chess (as opposed to just those with fast-twitch muscles on a video game console), it is also an excellent tool for teaching newbies the fundamentals of football, the ins and outs of plays, positions and how they function, and why they’d name a position something as silly as Willy (A: he’s the Weak side LInebacker).

In addition, it will be a hobby game, like Warhammer Fantasy Battle or Flames of War, in that you will be able to paint your models to fit your team colors (real or made-up) and build a custom stadium for home games. Alternately, if you can’t paint a lick, there will be pre-packaged and painted Expansion Teams (including real NFL teams), with a set of cards and models for 50+ players, a whole team in a box, including the history of the franchise and special stadium rules for their home field. Other planned expansions include:

Dirty Tricks & Exceptional Plays: This card deck expansion would contain special plays and events that occur in football but cannot be accurately reflected using  miniatures rules, such as the events that lead to the Immaculate Reception: balls bouncing off shoulder pads, miracle catches made when surrounded by the opposition or attempting to goad other players to anger so they’ll start a fight and get thrown out of the game.

Dallas Cowboys v Pittsburgh SteelersQBB Coaching Kit: This expansion adds a whole new level to the game as we introduce the Coaching Staff who affect the field game from the sidelines with coaching skills, the ability to call time-outs, challenge calls, and treat exhausted, demoralized and injured players.

The Coaching Kit also introduces the Playbook with associated Play Deck. With these you can plan out special plays that give your players an advantage on the field so long as they follow the play. A perfect way to learn the overall strategy behind the tactics seen on the field.

QBB Franchise Kit: Ever wanted to be Jerry Jones and build a Super Bowl winning franchise? This expansion shows the effects of the Stadium, fans, and money on a teams fortunes. Draft the best players to build your team, buy free agents to fill in the gaps and enhance the training facilities in your training camp to produce the absolute best gridiron warriors in the league. And don’t forget the endorsements, you need money to make all that happen…

Living, Eating and Breathing Game Design (Part 2)…

So my academic work from the previous post is all geared towards graduating in December, but a man (and his family) gotta eat, and that means making stuff to sell. In my case, that means more games.

I have three games that fall into this category, but only one of them is actually going to get any attention before next year, considering my rather hefty workload.

BATTLE BLOCKS

I’ve always loved wargames. Moving massed armies around a board and trying to go all Sun Tzu on your opponents backside is a hobby that has consumed a good 3 decades of my life. And up until about 6 years ago, I enjoyed the other aspects of the wargaming hobby that I now have absolutely no time for: building and painting the models and scenery that made such battles possible.

More recently though, it is nigh impossible for me to really enjoy that hobby anymore and, like many guys my age, I’m always looking for options to ply a good table-top wargame (particularly my favorites, Warmaster Ancients and De Bellis Antiquitatis, for which these base sizes are perfect) without having to invest the time and money in hundreds of models. that’s when it struck me to come up with that option.

GreekSelection

A selection of unit labels for Greek Battle Blocks (all images © 2013 Jabberwocky Media)

Enter Battle Blocks. Basically I found that if you take a 40mmx20mmx6mm wooden block and plop a sticker down on it to give you a general idea of what sort of unit it represents, you not only can cheaply create a number of armies for testing out strategies or mixing up forces (which is particularly good for Historical Wargaming where the armies tend to be grouped rather tightly by era) but the look and feel of the blocks moving along a

map recreates the mood of ancient generals controlling their forces from a tent on the back of the line. Very thematic. And they work for any ancients type game because unit composition is fairly standard. This for instance:

GreekHoplites

Hoplites (© 2013 Jabberwocky Media)

A standard greek hoplite armed with spear, sword, shield and light armor. The shield shows a unit insignia so that you can group blocks appropriately (in Warmaster Ancients, for instance, a unit will be comprised of three such blocks) or so you can

show army affiliation in the case of grand strategic games like DBA (the above would represent a Spartan Hoplite and, no, I’m not yelling that out).

I’ve got a full batch of Greeks done up and I’m working on the Persians off and on (trying to draw cool looking Persian headgear that reads well at this size is a bit of a challenge) and I’ll likely try and get these out as a PDF sometime in January or February (after the Super Bowl). No Kickstarter, just a PDF that folks can buy and print out on sticker paper with instructions for constructing the blocks, and possible an easy set of quick-play wargames rules to go with them.

VOID HUNTERS: THE DCC GAME OF SEVENTIES SCIENCE FICTION

I do play games at least once a week. I have no business being a game designer if I’m not willing to make the time to do that. And I’m not talking about my own stuff, but other people’s games. It’s good for clearing the ol’ mental palette.

One of the games I’ve been playing is Dungeon Crawl Classics, which is a fantasy game with a strong 1970’s vibe. You heard me jive turkey! I’m gaming like it’s 1974 and I’m lovin’ it!

Well, since I can pretty much write an RPG in my sleep, and DCC is so popular at the moment, I figured I’d create a sci-fi version of it and, after discussions with Joseph Goodman and signing a licensing agreement, I’m going to start work on Void Hunters, the DCC game of Seventies Science Fiction in November, while my For Glory! Kickstarter is rolling, with a Kickstarter to follow in the Spring of 14.

The default setting is focused on the horrors of space exploration, including isolation, alien terrors, and weird quirks of science and nature that defy man’s understanding of the universe. The rules will follow closely in the gritty mold of DCC and reinforce the notion that space is a cold, lonely, uncaring thing that will kill the unprepared, and, when faced with an infinite variety of things that can kill you, it’s practically impossible to be totally prepared.

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Adventures would largely be based around sandbox style exploration of the universe, discovering the remains of other civilizations that died out long before man took his first steps into the universe, fighting against alien super-predators that are bred in the darkest and harshest environments, and salvaging the remains of lost expeditions that fell prey to unknown forces or the predations of their fellow men. Basically, DCC In Spaaace! But there will information for setting up Feudal Dark Sci-Fi settings (like Dune or 40k) and War Amongst the Stars settings (like Ender’s Game or Starship Troopers). Here is a list of the game’s major influences…

BOOKS

All the Stars a Stage (James Blish, 1971) – The imminent destruction of the sun forces humanity (now a matriarchal society in which men are considered largely useless) to flee for the stars in untested starships. Over 50 years of dangerous exploration to find a suitable homeworld ensue.

Dune (Frank Herbert, 1965) - The prime example of the Feudal Sci-Fi setting, the universal order has regressed into a series of interstellar Dukedoms ruled over by an Emperor; space travel and psionic disciplines along with human computer/assassins are controlled by guilds; and Machiavellian schemes, political assassination and interstellar war are the primary past-times of the noble houses.

Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card, 1985) - Although the full novel came out in 1985, the basis for it appeared as a novella in Analog magazine in 1977. Mankind, still recovering after a narrowly won war against an implacably alien insect race known as ‘the buggers,’ starts training the next generation of children to become generals and launch a pre-emptive strike against the aliens before they can regroup and return to finish humanity off.

Gateway (Fredrick Pohl, 1977) – The core premise of this story, an ancient and long dead alien race leave behind a stargate and several hundred ships for humanity to discover and experiment with, would make an excellent setup for a Void Hunter’s campaign. The fact that the poor humans have little control over where they are going (Habitable world? Dead world? Edge of a black hole?) and when they might get there (Do we have enough supplies to last the trip or will we starve in space?) just makes it all the more fun. Throw in a 1849 era gold-rush mentality as people risk it all for a chance to get rich off the unknown, and a greedy corporation looking to exploit them when/if they return, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for adventure.

Rendezvous with Rama (Arthur C. Clarke, 1972) - The subject of this novel is another space born artifact from a long lost alien civilization, which would qualify as an extremely unusual hulk: part space craft, part world. The ‘biots’ also make for highly interesting alien fauna.

Ringworld (Larry Niven, 1970) – Louis Wu and company crash land on the mother of ancient archeological artifacts, a Ringworld, and are forced to explore it’s massive, bizarre structure in order to find a way to escape. While not all that dark, and featuring a number of different alien races, Ringworld does provide a perfect example of exploring the remains of a lost alien civilization while interacting with the retro-grade descendents and strange creatures that make up the flora a fauna around it. It is a massive, campaign worthy, sci-fi sandbox.

Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein, 1959) – For more military based campaigns, there isn’t a great deal of combat in the book, but there is a great deal on the no holds barred, anything to survive mentality humanity may adopt in order to cope with the extreme circumstances surrounding interstellar war. Brutal training for a brutal people to fight a brutal enemy in a variety of brutal environments..

Solaris (Stanisław Lem, 1970) – The perfect example of what happens when man inadvertently discovers that life doesn’t neatly fit in the pigeonhole that he places it in, and the consequences that emerge from that arrogant assumption. I won’t give away the core story element that makes this novel unique, but suffice to say, sometimes the observer doesn’t realize that they’re the one under the microscope.

Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader (Rick Preistley, 1987) – Although a game book, not strictly straight fiction, the first edition of the world-popular WH40k game set forth a dark interstellar empire in its decline, its teaming subjects living a feudal existence underneath a brutal regime venerating a corpse Emperor and beset by external enemies and internal corruption. The original is still the best and presents humanity and space as terrifyingly uncaring and full of black humor. It also provides a ton of story seeds revolving around the exploration of new worlds, the rediscovery of lost worlds and salvaging of massive ‘space hulks,’ essentially mega-dungeons in space.

MOVIES

spacejockey13Alien (1979) - A crew of space miners, ordered by the Company to investigate a signal coming from a mysterious moon, end up exploring a dangerous world, encountering the crashed hulk of an alien spaceship and bring aboard a parasitic alien life form that stalks the crew in the ‘dungeon’ of their own spacecraft. This is the quintessential Void Hunter adventure in the Dark Sci-Fi paradigm.

 
The Black Hole (1979) - No aliens, space demons or lost civilizations, just a mad scientist in a massive ‘lost’ space ship (the sci-fi equivalent of an evil wizard’s dungeon complete with the robot equivalent of orcs and an ogre) perched on the edge of the most destructive force in the universe with all the danger that entails.

Dark Star (1974) -Somewhat less serious than some might expect from the title, the comedy is still black as the void of space, the end result of the film is fairly fatalistic and the clear insanity of the crew after a long space voyage (not to mention the dark nature of their ongoing mission) is likely to remind players and GMs of the black humor and absurdity that even the most well meaning and serious RPG adventure devolves into after a long night’s play. It’s like somebody took an actual sci-fi RPG session, wrote it into a screenplay and then filmed the results.

Event Horizon (1997) -This movie came out well after the seventiesevent_horizon_gravity_drive, but it encapsulates the horrors of space exploration and turns them up to 11. A search and rescue team finds a spacecraft with a prototype interstellar drive that went missing 7 years earlier. As they explore the ‘hulk’ they find that, on its maiden voyage, the Event Horizon uncovered horrors beyond human comprehension. It’s ‘The Shining’ in space with a little bit of ‘Hellraiser’ thrown in for good measure.

Outland (1981) - Again, shortly outside of the seventies, but still deep in the ethos of many of the stories from that time. No aliens, just man’s inhumanity to man in the pursuit of interstellar resources and profit. Often described as ‘High Noon in Space,’ nothing better captures the frontier nature of space, where help is not around the corner and running away is not always an option when you’re surrounded by an environment that is totally antithetical to human life.

Silent Running (1972) - While this film is set within the solar system, it has many elements that define seventies sci-fi. Man’s inhumanity and self-destructive nature, the delicate nature of life and maintaining it in the cold dark of space, and a perfect example of how some last remnant of a lost civilization could end up floating in space (becoming a Hulk, in VH vernacular).

MAGAZINES

A lot of the science fiction I read that really defined the themes of seventies science fiction came from a selection of magazines that were popular during that decade and into the eighties as well. I can’t necessarily remember the specific stories or the particular authors, but the influence of these periodicals, whose stories reflected the time they were written in, will impress the feel of the era on you like nothing else can.

Omni – A magizine of technology, science and science fiction, it boasted articles featuring some of the most influential writers, scientists and artists of the time, including Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, and H.R.Giger. The stories were a bit on the weird side. One story that sticks in my brain to this day involved an alien shape changer that absorbed people to feed itself and then took on their form and memories. It haOmni Magazined escaped from a government black site and became the lover of a woman who took it in after she found out it had eaten and taken the form of her ex-husband. She basically kept it as a lover until she started to think it might leave her, at which point she turned it over to the government, stoned out of its mind on oregano, which acted as a powerful and addictive drug for it. Yeah, that’s the kind of weird stuff the seventies was known for…

Analog - The premier science fiction magazine of the time, it collected the works of authors known and unknown and many of its stories really reflected the zeitgeist of the time, one of uncertainty and fear of the unknown. Find yourself a dozen or so back copies form this period and you’ll probably have enough material for an equal number of adventures.

OTHER STUFF

There are a ton of other ideas fighting for space in my head, but one of the things I’ve sussed out in grad school is my working limitations. I can handle about three things at any one time (although I have reams of ideas noted down for future development). At the moment, For Glory!, Quarterback Blitz and Void Hunters are what I’m splitting my time between, with all of them in various stages of completion, slowly rolling off the assembly line of my mind one after the other. Once I graduate, I’m going to have to assign one of those three slots to non-gaming work (most likely teaching) so my production will slow down a bit, but I can comfortably conceive of releasing two or three things a year (especially if I get summers off). Hopefully, those initial three will establish Jabberwocky Media as a top-notch game company and firmly establish my vocation as professional Game Designer…

Living, Eating and Breathing Game Design (Part 1)…

As I near the end of graduate school, I find that a combination of classes, long term company goals and short term ‘I need money NOW’ issues, is brewing up into a storm of game design that is keeping me hopping like a flea on a hotplate. I am living game design 12 or more hours a day, every day of every week except Saturday (got to see my family sometime). If I’m not actually doing it, I’m thinking about it and seeing the world in relation to it. I’m not sure whether this is a good or bad thing, but that’s how it is.

GRADUATE WORK

This semester is my last, and like all the ones before it, I am using my time to the best advantage by combining my academics with business.

THE FIFTH KLINGO-KZINTI WAR

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Map (© 2013 Jabberwocky Media)

The project I started last semester, the Federation Commander Tactical Display App, is still going on. I’m extensively testing out the Proof of Concept version (you can see the details on that here) by running a Federation Commander Campaign for my Professor and my good buddy Chris Krueger.

Interestingly enough, the Campaign I developed for testing the App actually led to the creation of a simple, short 1-2 hour, 2 player wargame set in the Star Fleet Universe that I’m going to try and convince Steven V. Cole (publisher of Star Fleet Battles and Federation Commander) to publish. It’s focused on a small part of the larger General War in that universe and would make both a great board game and campaign system for Federation Commander.

 

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5-8 player map (© 2013 Jabberwocky Media)

FOR GLORY!!!

When Barbarians of Heavy Metal failed to reach its funding goal, I had many questions I needed answered before I Kickstarted my next project, For Glory!!!, so I’m researching crowd-funding for an independent research class this semester.

This project is actually the completion of a longer project cycle, which began last year with the creation of For Glory!!!, continued with the prototyping and play-testing of the game and will end with the successful or unsuccessful funding of its production through Kickstarter. There are a few papers on crowd-funding in the works as well (that’s academia for you) but hopefully it will not only result in a game ready for sale next year, but a much better understanding of the crowd-funding process on my part for future projects, including a new Kickstarter for Barbarians of Heavy Metal.

 
QUARTERBACK BLITZ

My previous thesis (an interactive, voice-controlled audio game based on The Shadow) got derailed by a lack of facilities this semester, so I had to make a quick adjustment and come up with something entirely new that could be completed in a 12 week period. The idea came to me while visiting my family one Saturday and watching them watch football. It occurred to me that there are NO table-top football board-games (unless you count Electric Football) and this struck me as both an odd omission and an ideal opportunity to do something different.

You see, I didn’t know jack about football. Unlike the rest of my family who, along with a massive number of Americans, are obsessed with it, I never really understood the draw of it. This made it an ideal Thesis project, because not only would I be researching a fairly complex anthropological facet of American culture in specific (and sports culture in general), I would also be studying what is, in effect, one of the most mechanically complex games in existence and trying to translate that into an accurate, but easy to play representation of that game for play on a table-top.

So far, over the last three weeks, I have succeeded in doing all of the above. I’m still picking up the nuances of the game, but my knowledge and interest in it, and all of the intricate subtleties of what is essentially a game of peace-time trench warfare, have grown exponentially. The historical and marketing research has been fascinating, and my growing understanding of the game has made it much more interesting to watch, and I can even predict the plays to a limited extent. But what is really tweaking my grey-matter is the mechanical conversion from real life to table-top. It’s just clicking so well I’m not sure why I didn’t do this before.

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A few Custom Dice Icons for the game (all images © 2013 Jabberwocky Media)

I can tell you why no one else has tried it: because the licensing issues are over-the-top ridiculous. They were worth a 4 page paper all on their own. But that’s all right, because I have a plan to market the game whether I get the license or not. I’ll be posting my Demo Game up at the end of the semester and you may well see the Kickstarter for it popping up in the Spring.

OTHER GAMES

Along with the important, school related stuff, I’m also trying to come up with some small, interesting games that I might turn around quickly for some fast cash. These games are much less complex than my ‘academic’ games and the subject of my next post…