MeepleCon 2015 & TGDA 2016 January Incubator

Hi World!
I have been a bit slack with my posts lately with Christmas holidays getting in the way and getting sidetracked with other life events so I will begin where I ended my last post (ConCentric).

Back to Designing after ConCentric
Back to Designing after ConCentric

After ConCentric I took a week off designing to let my mind settle and gather my thoughts. After that I got straight into transcribing the feedback that I recorded after each playtest. Taking all this information into account, changes began to fall into place. Between then and MeepleCon, with a lot of testing the game at home, I made several changes: the map and ports themselves, some changes to the way the turn is played to speed up gameplay, changing the actions, removing the player elimination, adding player boards, and ship upgrades.

Late Night Playtest before MeepleCon
Late Night Playtest before MeepleCon

During this time I learned of Tabletop Game Designers Australia (TGDA), a great community of Australian Game Developers. After introducing myself to the group, I thought I would try and organise an impromptu playtest to make sure everything was in order before MeepleCon. This was really good to meet some other local devs who were also attending MeepleCon, get some well needed feedback on my changes, and even play a few other games in development 🙂 Everyone in this community is very welcoming and I would recommend anyone who is interested in getting into board game design to join the group.

AHOY! MeepleCon Ahead!
AHOY! MeepleCon Ahead!

After a few more tweeks, MeepleCon was upon us. It was much nicer to only have to drive a few hours down the road rather than fly to Adelaide, and to stay with a friend who lived just around the corner (thanks Lachie 😛 ). MeepleCon had a really great setup for devs, allowing them to pay a small fee to have a table to themselves to leave there game set up over the weekend. This made it much easier to get people to play and meant we could get right into the action without having to take time setting up the game. This also meant that people could look at my game while I was playing other games too.

Explaining the Rules of the Seven Seas - photo by Uberjoi
Explaining the Rules of the Seven Seas – photo by Uberjoi

As with ConCentric, after each playtest I recorded the valuable feedback of the buccaneers game-enough to tackle the seas. Feedback was generally positive yet again; player interaction was a lot better than at ConCentric with ships being able to move further now and treasure spawning was a lot more consistent now, with barely a turn with no treasure on the map. The most common issues were: upgrading ships needed to be balanced a lot more, better benefits from the upgrades, and that the board should be smaller with less people for even more interaction.

Custom Dice ready for MeepleCon
New Custom Dice for MeepleCon 😀

I was also able to play a few other prototypes while there, as well as a few published games too 🙂 Darren Broad came across from Adelaide and brought 3 games he has been working on, I was lucky enough to play 2 of them; the first was Sensei, a 2 player, dice chucking game where you are trying to knock over your opponents standee. The resting place of the dice is also used to determine damage. This was the first dice chucking game I have played and I liked the feel of it; other than being very uncoordinated, it was simple to play and has the beginnings of a good, quick, portable, exciting game. The other game was Darren’s main project, Road Rage Rampage. I had been wanting to play this since ConCentric and it didn’t disappoint. Road Rage Rampage is a 2 part, deck building / car racing game (think Mad Max). First you upgrade your basic car, essentially building your deck with weapons and defensive measures until someone calls for the race to begin, Then players spend cards to race around the track, or use them to attack or defend against opponents. Once you get your wheels off the line, it is pretty intuitive. I liked that just because you win the race you may not win the game, as damage comes into it as well. Darren has also implemented a really cool mechanic to change gears, allowing you to travel faster on the straights, but you have to slow down for the corners or take damage. Really interested to see the next iteration of this.

The other game under development I played was Sye Robertson‘s Power and Prestige. This simple card drafting/set collection game is very different to anything I have played before. Sye has come up with a fresh twist on the standard draft and how it moves around the table. This is the second time I have played it (although under a different name last time) and it was much improved. The simplicity of the game allowed it to be grasped by most people, while the draft mechanic created suspense as you try to determine what sets others are going for.

RedditSS2015
Gifts from my Reddit Secret Santa – Thank you so much 😀

After MeepleCon wound down, I got a bit caught up in Christmas. Although I never really stop thinking about developing, having time to think through your ideas before implementing them all can be valuable.

Over Christmas, I was lucky enough to be matched with a fantastic Reddit Secret Santa, receiving not one but TWO games as well as some more camping supplies 🙂 Both Codenames and Exploding Kittens have had a good workout since I unwrapped them.

My family have obviously caught on to my board game obsession too, with my parents giving me Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King and my sister surprising me with Cards Against Humanity 🙂

4 player test at Games Lab Incubator
4 player test on the new smaller board at Games Laboratory Incubator

After emerging from my Christmas / New Years food coma and welcoming in the new year with 3 days of board games at various friends houses, I got back to work on Pirates for the first of many Incubator meetups in 2016 at Games Laboratory in Melbourne. The Incubator meetups are basically a monthly meet for devs to test their games with other devs and a few people who just come along to play. There were 9 games on show this month, all at various stages of development from first open playtest to looking for a publisher.

I implemented some big changes to try at the incubator after feedback from MeepleCon and most of those changes worked really well. The biggest change now is that Captains only have 1 ship – this works well in speeding up the gameplay and fixes a few thematic issues with treasure being on ships.

3 player test at Games Lab Incubator
3 player test at Games Lab Incubator

Sinking ships is back on the board too, with a respawn mechanic if you get sunk. For simplicity, all the Sailing, Crew and Port actions have been combined. The player board has changed yet again, although this still needs some work to balance it, along with some balancing of costs of crew, cannons & sails, and the amount of gold received per chest. Overall I’m really proud if it at the minute, and most of the feedback was really good, I even got an “I wouldn’t change anything” 🙂

Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it to CanCon, Canberra’s annual board and tabletop gaming convention, but if you can make it I would recommend going. The next outing for Pirates at this stage (other than the monthly Games Lab Incubator) will be OzBunnyCon in Melbourne, held over the Easter long weekend. There looks to be a large selection of board games for all to play and hopefully a few other devs there too 🙂

Until next time,

Karl 🙂

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