Friday, November 11, 2016

Millennium - The Board Game - A Dystopian Story Wrapped Around a Game

Millennium Box Concept
I'm almost finished with another game, (check out the ToughLove! game on the right column and its Trailer below.) although before I commit to ordering Millennium, I decided to test the artwork first. I know that's something I should've done sooner but I'll have to admit I wasn't aware of this feature on The Game Crafter website until I started to order it and I saw the Testing Button under the Management Column.

There's so much to learn about that website and it's easy to miss everything they have to offer. I have clicked on the Contests and Crowd Sale buttons to see what those links are all about too.

After several weeks I've gotten familiar with most of  The Game Crafter website and all it's offerings. So far I'm impressed with their site, although I've been stuck in several areas, which I have figured out by watching some videos. For a while I couldn't figure out how to manage the Decks section for designing the cards.

They do have an extensive selection of different cards to choose from. Everything from standard Poker decks to Tarot cards and beyond. The tricky part is figuring out how to order different Backs and Face combinations. But after watching their video several times, I was able to finally get the combination of Face and Backs the way I wanted them for the same deck.

It's fairly easy once you get the hang of it if you click on the Deck and Card pull-down menus to make your selections. I'll leave it at that for now. Maybe later I can expand on that if anyone has any questions, I'll be happy to help explain how it works. Although, I'm still not sure about the Random Cards so if anyone can explain that to me I'd be very grateful.

"Okay, so the learning curve is not all that steep but there are still some challenges."

Okay, so the learning curve is not all that steep but there are still some challenges. And I'll talk about those some other time. Overall, the site is fantastic and my only question is the profit margins, which seem low. I know we can set the margins however we want but one must keep in mind the retail price consumers are willing to pay for a particular game and factor that into the final price.

Standard markup being 50%, I can't charge $60 for a game (if my cost is $30) just to meet that markup. A more realistic price point is $35. That's about a $5 profit for each game or about a 15% markup at the $35 price point. Not exactly a killing but let's remember that prototypes for $35 are also unheard of in this industry.

So the bottom line is that even a 15% markup is still a fair deal, all things considered, and that margins will go up a bit depending on the sales quantities and discounts that come with it. If anything it's a great place to test game concepts, which I suppose is one of The Game Crafter's primary objectives.

"Just ask movie producers of films such as
The Road, Elysium, and The Book of Eli."

Okay, so on with the new Millennium Game concept. I'll post the Art Testing results here next time when I get that going and all done. I'm happy with the artwork so far but I'm open to anything and willing to change it if people don't strongly respond to it or identify with it on an emotional level.

Right now the art is standard Dystopian fare, if you will. At least in my mind. If you recall Cormac McCarthy's book and movie, The Road, that's somewhat the inspiration for Millennium.

Scene from the movie, The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I mean Dystopian themes are nothing new, of course, but they are trendy because of the times we live in. So in that sense it's a no-brainer. My main challenge is to put my own spin on it and my own sensibilities that evoke all those human emotions that tap into this kind of scenario for so many of us.

If you're wondering where any of the fun is in a game like this. Just ask movie producers of films such as The Road, Elysium, The Book of Eli, or any number of related stories, which have all been very successful at the box office.

"After all, you can only deliver so much fun with death and disaster."

Of course, we can't equate movies and board games on the same level, but the interest in similar themes is quite obvious and apparent. So what's good for the movies, hopefully is good for board games. However, that does remain to be seen or proven. That's why I'm here. If anyone is willing to take a chance on anything at all. I'm the first to raise my hand if it feels right.

That being said. There's always a tinge of doubt in just about anything we endeavor to accomplish or at least there should be. It's not negative thinking, it's just a healthy observation that nothing in this world is guaranteed, except that we're all going to die some day.
Bottom of Box

Great. That brings me back to my Dystopian game and whether it will succeed or flop entirely. Who's to say? In my view, the main theme, End of Days, and all the other themes laced within this story, this board game, are relevant, trendy, and sales-worthy.

The real trick is to design the game so it is challenging and full of surprises. That's what makes it "fun" so-to-speak. At least that's the idea. After all, you can only deliver so much fun with death and disaster.

Okay, hopefully the masses will feel the same way and order Millennium in droves. That is the idea. That is the objective. Otherwise to design a game that makes people think and takes them to a place they're probably uncomfortable with and open them up to a deeper meaning or understanding about the world around us.

But let's not kid ourselves. Sales and marketing is difficult and expensive at best. If we're clever enough and lucky enough to get our product in front of the right audience at the right time, maybe we can make a sale or two. Yes 1% to 5% is not much unless you're dealing with numbers in the millions. Let's also realize that many other factors are at play at any given time during the marketing life of a product.

"It must mean something important to buyers--something almost personal."

People have to really like your product for it to generate valuable word-of-mouth mentions and reviews alike. The word provocative comes to mind. And so, one can only hope to design and market the next Monopoly, Scrabble or Scythe game. The game and its concept alone is just not enough to catapult it into the sales stratosphere.

A new game must tap into a player's consciousness and provoke their emotions on a higher level. A game for the sake of gaming and entertainment alone cannot produce massive sales numbers without having a wow factor that transcends the object of the game itself.

Aside from the game's themes, a sales-worthy game must reach into the hearts, minds, and souls of prospective buyers. (yes, I just said that) It must mean something important to buyers--something almost personal.

Right. Enough of that. Here's a link for Millennium where you can get a better feel for the concept and all the artwork that goes with it. (A work in progress.) Here you'll find most of the Action Shots and a short game summary plus you can download a PDF copy of the Game Play Rules.

That's another thing. I don't believe in complex games and rules. The simpler, the better. I think most gamers feel that way so that's nothing new but my point is that gamers shouldn't expect a long drawn out novel or even a short story version of Millennium to permeate the game in any way.

If anything, I can equate the concept, its execution that is, to a short poem of sorts. Although, I have to say--that's something still up in the air because I think a short story about Millennium in the rule book is probably a good thing.  It certainly appeals to me because I've written several novels but I don't know how gamers feel about it.

Again, that's easy enough to find out in the upcoming play testing of the game where I might include a very short survey to find out just that and several other things I think are important to the design of this game.

Your comments are welcome.

Next time I'm going to post another game I'm about half way finished with. It's a time-travel theme and unlike Millennium, Warpd! is actually funny.

Until then ... Game on!

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Board Game Nerd Alert! - Nerd Alert! - Nerd Alert!

I'll get you suckers!
The real story starts here. Way back in the darkest corners of my mind and the darkest corners of my dingy basement too.

When I opened my long forgotten idea box I expected heavenly angels to sing and those Italian opera ladies in the Shawshank Redemption to blow me away with a mighty rendition of The Marriage of Figaro?

Scratch the vinyl right here folks! All I got was a chorus of rats that had gnawed everything inside to kingdom come.

What was I thinking? Steel vaults are the only sure thing against mangy rats. But the genesis of this story is much more sinister than that.

It all started when I met my first wife. And yes, that's how it all came crashing down in Florida 10 years later. Somehow I've survived.

"Something good has to come of this, I thought."

This was not the plan. But it's all I've got so I have to run with it. I'll spare you the fascinating details. Well, sort of because that's where ToughLove! comes in and takes over where my unfortunate marriage left off.

So I took all the lessons and all the hate, and all the contempt and even some of the forgiveness (tear drop) I could muster and I boxed it in the form of this whacky new board game.

Really? Is that what it takes to finally find my mojo and get my life together? Uh, no, but it sure feels that way. What else do I have to show for it? Other than nothing at all. Except for my improving health. Thank you for the heart attacks my good Lord.

Okay, this is supposed to be funny. That's the point so I'll try my best to keep it that way. Three nervous breakdowns and two heart attacks later and I'm still here. Now that's a miracle to sing about. (Get a clue dumb-ass. This is real life. What did you expect the life of Caligula?)

Uh, yeah but I fell a little short. Right. Haven't we all? Get over it. (Didn't your daddy...!)

The Bottom of the box. (So far)
Okay... deep cleansing breath... flashbacks from Full Metal Jacket scene... count...1...2...3.

Where was I?

Oh, right. That reminds me I'm also thinking about a  military themed game.

Still tinkering out the kinks for the concept but I think it's going to work. Bare with me. I'm supposed to be working on it now but I decided to take a few minutes out of my 18 hour day to get something off my chest. Gotta mix it up a bit or go crazy, you know.

O...kay, I've enlarged this box so you can read the cards. I'm only about a third of the way with the deck. It's really the easiest part of the whole process for me but it does take some time. No rush. I'm only 10 years behind the times. Well, most of the time I'm ahead of the curve, which can be a double-edged sword, if you know what I mean. Timing is everything. And that's a cliché you can believe in when it comes to marketing.

"Everybody wants something for something."

Okay, marketing, that's a whole "nother" book right there. I won't unpack that right now but I've got volumes to say about that for another time. I just wanted to jot down a few ideas and get this blog rolling. I can't even put ads on here for another 6 months. What a gyp!

Right. Hard-knocks rule #1:

You gotta prove yourself first. Got it. There are no shortcuts. Well, there are some shortcuts but only so many. You always have to pay the piper. In this case, Blogger.

I've taught this to my kids religiously. There's only one thing you have to know about life. Everybody wants something for something. (I know, I know. Who's Who won't feature me with that one.) There is no free lunch. Well, again, there are free lunches out there but they're horrible and you wouldn't feed them to your dog.

Okay, enough nonsense and negative talk. Let me channel my worse half and practice positivity for a change. (Good heavens.)

Let me tip-toe through the tulips for a nanosecond.

Now let's get on with the real show. Let's bang out the meanest and most derelict board game ever devised in the history of all board games. Well, kinda. It's a lot like screenwriting. No one really knows what's going to turn into a big hit. That's what they say but I'm betting Michael Bay knows exactly how to write a hit just about every time.

Okay, meanwhile, I've got to get to designing my other games. And I'd like to see what you have in mind. Don't be shy. Our secrets are safe here. You're welcome to promote your games on this blog and if I like your game I'll be happy to feature it and write about it.

 There's a method to all this madness and that's what I've got to put down here. One blog post at a time. Totally off the cuff. I don't write any other way. If I planned these posts they'd never get done.

It's all in good fun, folks. We're not trying to find a cure for cancer. Just trying to capitalize on trends and make a buck or two. That's still the American way.


Don't be a stranger. I'm here for you too.


Monday, October 17, 2016

The Game Crafter - Board Game Nerds Rejoice!

Newsie 1930 (Could be my long lost boy?)

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Imagine the Newsies of the 30s touting their headline newspapers for a few pennies. What a gyp!

Okay, that doesn't fit in with this story but it sounds funny (I think). Do Newsies go as far back as the 1800's? Because that's when this board game story really begins. And they sure had plenty to shout about in those days too.

Far from the days of Newsies, today's internet can and is usually tailored to each individual taste. I'm often amazed how my home page features so many things I'm interested in. How do they do that, I wondered? Oh, I forgot. I had subscribed to those stories a while back.

No wonder I keep seeing articles about antiques, science, and board games, just to name several of the dozens of topics I hand-picked off my news feed months ago. Go figure. I thought it was magic.

Okay, okay. Let me get to it. Zoom in to present day and now we can all geek-out on board games and all things about the wonders of making board games and card games too. No, this is not your grandfather's board game machinations. Although, some of them haven't changed much since. Uh, just for the record, ladies, I'm not really a nerd, I just look like one (a lot) and I play one on blogs like this.

I am a connoisseur (at least in my own mind) of all things antique and often nostalgic for the past. Well, not too far back, I'm partial to the Civil War era and I'm the love child of a 60's Flower Power chick so that explains a few things.

"Blogger is not being nice to me!"

Point is, most of us grew up with good ole' Sorry! The Game of Life and Monopoly, among others. Take a look at one of the first prototypes for Monopoly going back to the early 1900's. (Yeah, I really did my research on this one, folks.)

At least that's the claim about this cardboard mock-up below. For all we know it's a bad imitation someone cranked out on a drunken stupor. It looks legit, but who's to say. The Shroud of Turin was also believed legitimate and look how that turned out. Now that's funny!

Monopoly Game board, circa 1903?
I came across another round board game from the early 1800's. They seemed awfully fond of that shape. Take a look at this beauty. (below) I dug it up on one of my favorite online antique shops (Ruby Lane).

Published by the McLoughlin Brothers, they called the game, "A novel and fascinating fame with plenty of excitement on land and sea."

Imagine that. The game follows the adventures of Nellie Bly, which is a pseudonym for the American journalist Elizabeth Cochrane. It's said that in 1889, she sailed around the world in 72 days, breaking Phineas Fogg's record, the character in author Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days.  Yes folks, Women's Lib (the real story) was alive and well back in the day too. Priceless folks.

Check out these detailed images

Center of the Board. Notice the red fold mark!

Detail from Nellie Bly's Board Game. Notice the 17th Day. Stormy and if you landed there, GO BACK 5 DAYS!

Friday, October 7, 2016

District-Z The Zombies Are Coming!

The city is overrun with undead and you are one of its last survivors. Kill the zombies, stay alive, and escape while you still can! But be careful, zombies await around every corner. They are desperate and eager to sink their teeth into you and make you yet another member of their growing legion.

DISTRICT-Z is a zombie-killing card game for 1-4 players in which you must survive and make your way to the safety of the City’s Edge. Each game takes about 30 minutes or less to play. The game “board” is always randomly generated and determines the layout of the city at the start of each game. The game is easy to play and easy to learn and allows players to get into the action right away.

During the game, you play the role of one of the six Survivors. Each one of these Survivors has a special ability that helps you on your way to the City’s Edge.

During your turn, you must visit different Location cards. Each Location card has an Event Table at the top of its text area. This table is used to determine what happens as you make your way to safety. When you find a Location Objective, survive and make your way to the City’s Edge. A multi-player game is semi-cooperative, however, you must be the first to escape the city to win.