Category Archives: Game Design

GenCon 2012

GenCon 2012!

Gen Con 2012 was a BLAST! The best part of Gen Con for me, is always meeting people. This year, I was able to meet several different game designers that I’ve talked with online, but never met in person. It was great to put a face to the names and be able to jump right into a game design conversation and chat openly, like old friends getting back together. The biggest meetup event was organized by The Game Crafter, the company I use to print my games, and there were several game designers and reviewers that showed up at Scotty’s Brewhouse that night.

The Game Crafter meetup at Scotty's Brewhouse!

Most of my time at Gen Con this year was spent demoing my games to people in the food court areas, random passersby, and in the lobby of the JW Marriott. I spent some time each day in the dealers hall as well, checking out the new games and seeing how The Game Crafter posted their mascot COG.

Jamie, Tavis, Kathryn, JT, and COG!

And speaking of mascots, I had commissioned a felt version of my logo from Anna Walker (@FELTit), whom I met last year at Gen Con with her husband Randall Walker (@deadorcs), and her work more than exceeded my expectations! Also, Anna and Randall are some of the coolest people I have had the pleasure to meet.


Across the top of the “fuzzy brick” there, are cards for my website, Adventure Capital (who helped me get a great deal on my flight to Gen Con and has an exciting four night gaming cruise for less than $450 per person!), Randall’s website, Anna’s website, and The Id DM’s website – all of whom I suggest you check out!

RRC demo in action

On Sunday, I was the “featured designer” in The Game Crafter’s booth. I coincided this event with the release of my new game Robot Repair Crew and also had several copies of Arena of Heroes and Reversal of Fortune on hand for demoing and for sale. I was surprised at the amount of interested kids had in Robot Repair Crew. They all seemed to be drawn in by the bright colors of the cards and the idea of building their own robots. I think it helped that COG was standing there by the table as well. What better way to help sell a robot building game, than to be setup right next to an eight foot robot? Sometimes things just work out like that.


Besides all the game demoing and meeting people, there really were a lot of cool things I saw this year. I’m really excited about the Andriod: Netrunner two player card game, I didn’t get to play it myself, but watched several of the demos and have put it on my Christmas list. I know that it’s a re-release, and I had never heard of or played the original game, but from the demos, it really feels like a Shadowrun mini game between a Decker and a corporation to me. Another new game that looked fantastic is Leviathans, set in an alternative history where airship battled the skies in the early 1900s. There’s already a couple of expansion for it as well, adding a British fleet and a French fleet. The last new game I’d like to mention is the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game. I watched a few demos of it as well, and it looks like a lot of fun, especially with the “blind movement” where everyone marks their moves first, then reveals them together. The one down side I see to this game, is the cost. Adding a single ship to your fleet with cost you $15, which feels a bit steep to me.

If you’re interested in seeing more pictures from Gen Con, including a picture of Wil Wheaton signing an autograph for me, a Wookie on stilts, fantastic costumes of Chiana and D’Argo from Farscape, or a Klingon folk band, head over to Facebook and check out my Gen Con 2012 album there. If you have any questions or comments, let me know what you think!

Tortuga’s Treasure – Overview and Character Roles

Tortuga's Treasure
The object of the game is to
collect the eight doubloons.

Tortuga’s Treasure is a pirate themed, role-playing board game for two to four players.  Each player takes on the role of a specific pirate on the ship as the group battles the Spanish, the English, and other pirates in hopes of finding eight magical doubloons known as Tortuga’s Treasure.  Finding the treasure isn’t as simple as it seems as the different factions will react differently when they see your Jolly Roger flying towards them across the waves.

Game Parts
Tortuga’s Treasure comes with the following parts:
  • 1 double-sided game mat, the front side with a hexagonal grid for the Sea Action Phase and the back side with a grid for the Boarding Action Phase.
  • 5 double-sided character mats, each with a unique character on both sides.   Use the single role characters for a four player game.  With two or three players, use the multiple role character sides to cover all game actions.  The character mats track the current hit points (HP) and hold dice available for the various dice pools.
  • 4 red wooden chips with ship stickers.
  • 1 black wooden chip with a pirate ship sticker. 
  • 16 orange combat dice.
  • 1 red combat die.
  • 4 black flag dice.
  • 4 blue wind dice.
  • 4 green cannon dice.
  • 1 yellow cannon die.
  • 4 purple repair dice.
  • A deck of 8 ship cards.
  • 70 red winks.
  • 1 yellow wink.
  • 8 golden doubloons.
Orange melee combat dice.
Character Roles
Tortuga’s Treasure has four distinct pirate roles available, each with their own unique contributions to the activities on the ship and in combat.  I will go into more detail about the actual game play later, but for now, understand that there are two phases in the game: Sea Action Phase and Boarding Action Phase.
The Captain  Starting Stats: 8 HP, 1 Wind Die, 1 Combat Die
Compass rose

During the Sea Action Phase, the player taking on this role has two important actions.  At the beginning of the phase, this player will roll the blue Wind Dice to determine the direction the wind is coming from for the entire phase.  These are 6-sided dice with the following faces on them: N, NE, SE, S, SW, and NW.  These faces correspond to the direction the wind is blowing based on the compass rose shown on the seafaring map with the hexagonal grid.

The Captain is also responsible for moving the actual ship.  He can take suggestions from the rest of the crew, but in the end, the ship movement is left in his hands.  Movement starts with a base of five spaces, but is penalized or given bonuses based on the direction of the wind.

For example, suppose the Wind Dice were rolled and the wind is blowing towards the NE.  If the ship moves in the same direction as the wind, it gets a +2 bonus for movement (base of 5 + bonus of 2 = 7 spaces for movement).  If the ship moves in any direction with only one matching letter on the Wind Dice, the ship gets a +1 bonus for movement, so the ship could move 6 spaces if moving NW, N, or SE.  If the ship were moving S, it would only move its base speed of 5 spaces because S does not match either letter on the die face.  If this ship was moving the exact opposite of the wind towards the SW, the ship takes a -1 penalty for movement and can only move 4 spaces.  I’ll discuss the actual ship movement at a later time.

To initiate the Boarding Action Phase, The Captain must move the ship into a space directly next to the opposing ship and commands the pirates to attack.  Once this happens, the players clear the game mat and flip it over to the other side for the Boarding Action Phase.

During the Boarding Action Phase, The Captain has the ability to give up one of his Combat Dice to another player for the duration of the phase.  He can only do this once per Boarding Action Phase and can leave himself defenseless if done at the earlier stages of the game.  Once the Boarding Action Phase is completed, the die is returned to The Captain’s Combat Dice pool.

The Midshipman  Starting Stats: 6 HP, 1 Flag Dice, 2 Combat Dice

During the Sea Action Phase, the player taking on this role acts as a spotter when approaching another ship. Once the players’ ship is within 10 spaces of another vessel, The Midshipman will roll the black Flag Dice to determine which flag the other ship is flying.  These dice are 6-sided with 3 different flags: Spain, England, and a Jolly Roger.  These faces correspond to the vessel’s allegiance and how they will react if the players choose to attack.

If attacking another Pirate ship, they will not run away and will fight back.  If attacking a Spanish ship, they will try to move away with a speed of 4 (adding in the penalties and/or bonuses from the direction the wind is blowing).  If attacking an English ship, they will fight back and call in reinforcements.  The next closest ship will also head towards the battle, targeting you to aid the English ship.

During the Boarding Phase, The Midshipman fights alongside everyone else, but starts with an additional Combat Die.

The Gunner  Starting Stats: 7 HP, 1 Cannon Die, 1 Combat Die

“Do it, you dogs, or it’s you we’ll load into the cannons!”
Mr. Gibbs, Pirates of the Caribbean

During the Sea Action Phase, the player taking on this role can fire at the other vessels to slow them down, or destroy them.  Once the players’ ship is within 10 spaces of another vessel, The Gunner can roll the green Cannon Dice to attack the opposing ship.  These dice are 6-sided with three different targets: the sails, the hull, and the water.  If the water is rolled on the dice, then the shot missed.  If the sails are hit, the enemy ship takes a -1 penalty to their movement speed.  If the hull is hit 3 times, this ship sinks and no Boarding Action Phase takes place.

During the Boarding Action Phase, The Gunner can substitute a Combat Dice roll of “slash” for a “shot”, but only once per Boarding Action Phase.  (The phases and Combat Dice will be discussed in greater detail later.)

The Surgeon  Starting Stats: 9 HP, 1 Repair Die, 1 Combat Die
During the Sea Action Phase, the player taking on this role can repair the ship as it is taking damage from other vessels.  Once the ship has taken damage and the player decides to repair it, The Surgeon rolls the purple Repair Dice to fix the ship.  These dice are 6-sided with three different tools: a hand, a hammer, and a saw.  If the hand is rolled on the dice, the ship is not repaired but the dice goes back into the pool.  If the hammer is rolled, the ship regains 1 HP.  If the saw is rolled, the ship regains 2 HP.  The Surgeon can only use each die once per Sea Action Phase but any damage dealt to the ship carries over to the subsequent Sea Action Phases.  If the players’ ship is destroyed, the game is over and everyone loses.

This’ll feel a million times
better in the morning, trust me!

During the Boarding Action Phase, The Surgeon can take a Combat Die from another player, add it to The Surgeon’s Combat Dice pool, and the other player gains an additional 5 HP.  This can only happen once per Boarding Action Phase and the exchanged die is returned to the healed player once the phase is completed.  The players cannot gain more HP than their current maximum and The Surgeon cannot heal himself.  

Character Advancement and Leveling
There are no official “levels” in Tortuga’s Treasure, but each time a doubloon is collected, each player has 3 different options for improving their character:

  • Add 1 HP to the character, increasing the maximum HP value.  This is capped at 12 HP.
  • Add 1 Combat Die to the player’s Combat Dice pool.  This is capped at 4 dice.
  • Add 1 [Character Specific] Die to the player’s [Character Specific] Dice pool.  This is capped at 4 dice.

Melee Combat
Melee Combat in Tortuga’s Treasure is very easily resolved.  I’ll go into details of the Boarding Action Phase and it’s game mat in the next post, but once a target is declared the player has a few different options available with the Combat Dice.  The enemy will always roll the 1 red Combat Die.  The player can choose to roll 1 or more orange Combat Dice at the same time.  If more than 1 die is rolled, the player may choose which of the rolled actions to accept as their combat move.  If a single die is rolled and other dice still exist in the pool, the player may continue to make additional attacks until the pool is drained.

The Combat Dice themselves have three different faces: a single sword representing a “slash”, a black-powder pistol representing a “shot”, and two swords crossed representing a “block”.  The combat is resolved very simply with a Rock/Paper/Scissors variant.  A “slash” happens quick and deals 1 point of damage against an opponent or player slowly drawing their pistol to perform a “shot”.  The “shot” is powerful enough to blast through an opponent attempting to “block”, dealing 2 points of damage.  The “block” easily deflects a “slash”.  A “slash” versus a “slash” deals 1 point of damage to both combatants, while a “shot” versus a “shot” deals 2 points of damage to both combatants.

So, let’s supposed a player has 3 Combat Dice in their pool and enters combat.  The player decides to roll a single die, getting a “shot” against the opponent’s “block”, killing the opponent.  With 2 remaining dice in the pool, the player can move on to another target.  For the second target, the player decides to roll both dice, getting a “block” and a “shot” against the opponent’s “slash”.  The player then chooses a single action out of the two to take place, and would choose the “block” to deflect the incoming “slash”.

Closing Thoughts
I am having a lot of fun designing Tortuga’s Treasure and can’t wait to see it come to life! 🙂

What are you thoughts so far on the 4 character classes and their unique roles in the game?  Some seem a bit more active than others, but I think that will balance once the game gets moving.  Each character participates equally in the combat during the Boarding Action Phase, which is where I think the real meat of the game will be.  This will need some play testing and is a one area I’m really interested in getting some constructive feedback on.

I only touched on it briefly, but for less than 4 players, the roles get doubled up and you may have hybrid characters like a Captain/Surgeon, controlling the ship and repairing it on the same turn.  There are a total of 10 possible character types if you include all combinations, allowing for many different styles of play and character responsibilities.

In the next post I’ll cover…

  • Layout and design of the game mat (both sides, for both phases)
  • Enemy movement and combat in both phases
  • A closer look at combat in the Boarding Action Phase
  • Purpose of the 8 ship cards and collecting the doubloons

10,000 Tweets & Openly Designed Games

As of now, I’ve passed the 10,000 tweet mark.  I’m not sure what that means exactly, maybe I spend too much time tweeting, but I thought I’d pass off the occasion with a big announcement.  As I stated back in January, I’ve been refocusing my time and attention.  As part of this, and as influenced by some fantastic people, I’m taking on a more transparent approach to my game designing.  So, to get this going, I want to first give a quick overview of the games currently available and in development.  I’ll follow up with a post about each individual game, their various complexities, and development status.

Arena of Heroes is a game for 2 to 4 players, battling it out in the arena until there is only one combatant standing.  This game includes artwork by Alex Melchor and Wesley K. Hall.

Arena of Heroes is available through The Game Crafter.

Reversal of Fortune is a game for 2 to 4 players who are greedy pirates, trying to steal a little more than their fair share of the booty.  The fantastic artwork in this game was done by Wesley K. Hall.

Reversal of Fortune is available through The Game Crafter.

Road Kill Truckers is a game for 2 to 4 players that are interested in speeding down the winding country highways, looking for various critters to turn into road kill and rack up the points!  The gory art for this game is by Wesley K. Hall.
AirBuck$ is a game for 2 to 6 players that control and manage their own airline company. Players take turns building airports, buying airplanes, flying passengers to their various destinations, all the while bargaining for tickets, building on construction projects, and hoping to avoid natural disasters.
Empires of Andwynn is a civilization building game that has been play tested with up to 3 players. The game board is modular, so every game is different. Players can upgrade resource gathering buildings, the military units, and the civilization as a whole.
Compulsive Composers is an early prototype for a quirky card game about music. Players play cards to write music in various time signatures and can create notated combinations of similar note lengths to gain bonus points. Not only is this game fun for musicians that can already read and write music, but it can be used to learn these same skills.
Tortuga’s Treasure is a pirate themed RPG board game for up to 4 players. It includes 4 different and specific roles for each player, giving them individual duties on the ship and in combat. The final game will be my entry into The Game Crafter’s RPG Challenge.

So this is what’s in the works. As I said, I’ll follow up with more detailed posts on each game with play testing data and reactions. There are other games on the list as well, but they’re not far enough along the development track to be mentioned in this short overview post. Here’s to another 10,000 tweets! 🙂