Local Card Scenes Intro

I’ve already posted about my Magic playing days a few times. And this one is more of an in memoriam to my old card-playing days and some of the old hangouts.

I occasionally talk to a handful of people that I was playing the game with back in my teenage years, but there are just as many who I don’t know last names of or I don’t have any way to contact them. I’ve attempted to search for the people a bit online, and tried finding info about the places but there appears to be absolutely nothing on the internet about them. Since I have a little bit of sway with the search engines, hopefully if anyone else out there is looking for the same things I’ve been looking for they will find me. Not to say I think people are looking for me, sometimes it’s fun to remember the past through a different pair of eyes and a different memory.

So I guess this will be a bit of a remembrance post much akin to my other post. But this will be more about my in person playing and dealings.

The first time I saw Magic was at Chess School (mock all you like I did goto Chess school). A bunch of the “I’m getting too cool for this” kids brought their cards in and hid off to the second room. The teacher (Arkady Geller) had lots of kids to deal with so didn’t have enough time to watch everyone, and since we were the older kids we were supposed to be playing against each other. Well, this must have been like 1994 or so, and these two kids brought in and were playing Magic. I recalled once I started playing a year or two later that these kids weren’t playing right at all. They had two stacks of decks. One of land and one of spells. I guess it was their way to prevent mana screw. I remember getting a Rulebook (it must have been a Revised one) and scouring through it. But it took a bit longer for me to actually start collecting.

My dad tells me that he was trying to find a way to get me to read more. I had already showed an inclination for Computers, but also Fantasy. So he bought me a Starter pack and a Booster pack of Ice Age. He was basically creating a reward system for me, read a few chapters and tell me about them. And I’ll get you some cards. I’m still not sure how exactly he stumbled upon it, but the idea was a goldmine. He said he just happened to see the cards in a 7-11, but I don’t know what made him think to go for it.

Anyway, so that’s how I got started playing. My Chess playing took a downturn after middle school. I wasn’t going to Chess School anymore so my game playing fueled into Magic. At the time I didn’t know it was going to be one of my most social aspects for the next 6 years. Alright I was intending this post to actually be about the locals, but it turned into something else. I’ll write another one actually about spending Saturday nights playing cards and eating pizza in the basement of a card/comic shop.

Of Creating a Board

So I took my whiteboard and went to work yesterday, drawing up not-even-close-scale, version of the regions that Greenland will be dealing with. I’m planning on designing this game to be up to 4 players, but the first cycle is only going to be about the title player (Greenland) and their direct nemesis (in this case, Denmark). The third and fourth player haven’t been completely fledged out, but is going to be similarly themed. Current ideas include: European Union, The Green Party, Consumerism. And a few others that make less sense than those three.

In the two player version, I believe there will always be a loser. However, I think it might be possible for both players to lose if they screw up badly enough. I’m not certain how a three player variant would work, since it might unbalance the game. Classic ganging up syndrome at all. I won’t get too far ahead of myself, because for the first iteration this will only be a two player game, and since the map I drew doesn’t really contain much besides Greenland, Iceland, UK, Denmark. It would be tough to fit another player in all that. Once I have the play system down we’ll see what direction things take. So now I have a partial board, although I know I will want to have some piece movement (not based on dice rolls), so I will need to divvy up the board into “squares” and I also know I need a bunch of cards. So I’m gonna just design like a dozen cards or so, and leave the rest as filler. Hopefully with what I have in place, and a taking advantage of the whiteboard to fix any of squares that seem wrong, I can play a very early round of Greenland within a few hours of work. Hopefully.

And big props to Pelle Nilsson for the Inkscape Board Game Extension. I haven’t played around with it that much, but having something that will generate uniform cards will be much handier than writing things on Index Cards.


So I ordered some posterboard that has the whiteboard finish on them. I plan to mark one up with some markers, for a temporary board solution. If things need to be altered or changed, I can just write it in the marker, or erase what needs to be fixed. I’m going to setup a little board game creation zone in one of my spare bedrooms.

I think I might print out the current iteration of rules so I have something to jot notes on. I still am a little mentally stuck on what the Europe/Danish side will be able trying to achieve during this game. It seems too easy if they could just blow up the Log Flume at any time, so there should be sometype of in-game explanation limiting what they can or cannot do. Actually, I think I just got it. As part of the Scandinavian Alliance, (and to protect the Faroe Islands) explosives have been agreed to not be used in this encounter.

This will open up the ideas of what sabotaging is legit. And I’m thinking it might be interesting to have sabotage attempts remain hidden until examined (if possible) or the waters start flowing. Once the water starts, you can roll to see the effectiveness of the disruption. If enough of the flow of water is disrupted, then the plans are foiled. This will force the game to meet its end condition, and the winner will not be determined until things will be revealed. (I hadn’t thought of this before just now, and am already appreciating the possibilities)

Well, I have a few more ideas jotted down now. And I might be able to create an starting board position, and possibly play a few turns. I have to make cards too, so we’ll have to see. I feel like if I get a general end-to-end in place. With the cards only doing resource generation, (which I could probably code up a quick little script to do for me) I can get ideas for what might be interesting from card playing standpoint.

Since Actions have a cost beyond just the card in your hand, I hope this will allow accumulation of resources early on to spend as the game grows longer.

Groundhog Day

I have a bit of a tradition in attempting to watch Bill Murray’s genius “Groundhog Day” on February 2nd. I don’t know if the film is in my top 10 of films, but I always enjoy it when I watch. I have it on DVD, but didn’t feel like digging through my stuff to find it, but luckily Netflix also has it on Instant Watch. This makes watching movies like this great. I can do my normal routine and have it on right in the corner of my vision, listening to all the witty banter.

Anyways, the interesting part of the film is that you can’t take anything tangible with you to start the next day. Anything that’s in your head (and in your muscle memory) stays, but nothing else. So while that would allow me to say: learn every programming language that exists. I couldn’t really write a program that would take longer than 24 hours. Since a board game wouldn’t need a compiler, I could memorize all the rules and pieces and the like. Fashion up a copy in a few hours and find playtesters. Hell, these would be the perfect playtesters, because they would always be experiencing the same game as a clean slate. I’m sure there would be some of “oh it would be cool if you could do this” and then the next day, you make that tweak and then they suggest not doing that because it didn’t work.

I think one of the best parts about Groundhog Day is that even though it was filmed before the Internet and cell phones were abundant, the movie wouldn’t really change all that much with current technology added in. Certain movies/tv shows play off the fact that these objects don’t exist to improve the scene. The first example I thought of was the Seinfeld episode I saw the other day where Jerry is trying to call Elaine from a pay phone. With cell phones, you can just send a text and Elaine can get it when she’s available and get Jerry’s spare key for him. Instead, we have half an episode about George feeling weird letting Jerry into other people’s apartments.

What would you do if you were doing the same thing every day? How would you improve yourself in hopes to break out of the loop? Who is Ned Ryerson?

Preliminary Rules

As the end of the year rolls around, things are reborn. Like from the ashes, a spontaneous combustion occurs. Allowing enough life-burning flame for the Phoenix to arise. And with such fiery passion I have return to talk about a hobby I care deeply enough, but haven’t quite managed to put all together.

And so with Christmas just having passed, and I will soon be receiving some board game pieces to actually put some of my designs into the physical realm. Greenland will be the first to get a board, and some game structure. I have a handful of ideas of how gameplay will run, and things you will do during your turn. Once the pieces arrive I should be able to sketch out the board and start some playtesting and creating some resource/action cards to feed the turn cycle. The rulesheet has been fleshed out a bit, but I feel I’m basically at the point where I need to physically attempt to play the game to see how things should go. So once I get a mock-up board and a sample state of the game. I’ll take a picture and upload it. Everything will be in it’s early phases obviously, but even if it’s just a reminder for me years in the future it would be nice to remember back on.

American Board Games on Google Maps

A few of my friends sent me links to Hasbro joining up with Google Maps to do their World Monopoly thing. I don’t have the link handy, but I’m sure you can find it. I know that the site has been pretty much down all day, so I’m pretty sure noone has even seen how it works. It doesn’t really sound like Monopoly to me. Of all the Classic American Board Games, I’d have to say that Monopoly I enjoyed the least.

There was too many house rules, too many rules ignored (specifically auctioning of titles) and losers take 6 hours to get knocked out of the game. Now sometimes Risk isn’t much better at that, but at least if everyone teams up they might be able to dislodge the person in the lead. In Monopoly, there really isn’t any player interaction besides “you landed on my square.” So there you have it. I’ve never really liked Monopoly.

Back to the mashup: obviously I always thought using the actual globe as a playground for board games was a good idea. A lot of people complained that you couldn’t zoom in and do the type of things that it sounds like World Monopoly is going to do. But that wasn’t Risk. I wasn’t trying to turn a global domination game into Hearts of Iron. Sure it’s possible, but I don’t know if that would be considered a board game anymore. And besides sharing names, the links to the original game seem slim at best. In general I think this experiment is a good idea, as long as there servers can handle it, which so far haven’t proven that they can. Hasbro is such a large company that it can always benefit from some type of buzz generated by pulling this off well.

Now I guess I’ll answer the question that first came to my mind when I was saw the Monopoly thing on Reddit the other day. How would you do it differently? Well firstly, this feels more like Sim City to me than Monopoly. I still am unsure how the system works besides streets having costs and everyone having seed money. Do people move around the world? Do you make more money? Anyways, I’d start classic Monopoly as the first try. Don’t open it until Multiplayer is playable. Drop it in the original location: Atlantic City, NJ. Try to keep the board as recognizable as possible, even though it won’t be a square. Allow options for turning off auctions, and enabling a few of the most popular house rules. The only one I can think of is the Free Parking = Money Square rule. Once you get it fleshed out, make it esy to transport. Allow the data to be created on the fly, allowing people to jump into a map, mark it up with everything that’s required. Then be able to save it out and use it in their own games. Maybe even have a community map supported system too.

One other option I might add is making your character choice worth-while. I always like the idea of unqieu, balanced characters. So maybe the car could get a +1 movement once per salary loop. That is, after you roll the dice, you may add 1 to your roll. This doesn’t cause you to have doubles. Or maybe the dog can choose to stop (losing the rest of her movement dice) on any street where you already own a property. [Eg. You may stop at Marvin’s Gardens if you already own Atlantic Avenue]

This is obviously just a rough idea, and would need to be balanced out to make sure it’s not broken. But it might be a fun way to include the different tokens.

Well I guess that’s all I have about that. For those curious, I did look into Atlantic City debating how well GMMonopoly would have worked. I also considered Stratego as a possibility. Monopoly came before the papers, Stratego afterwards.

Giant Log Flume

Alright, now some of you may consider this cheating but seeing as Ian has now gotten to the the project phase of the course; I think I’m just going to roll what I was going to run a prototype for into the project. I hadn’t gotten too far in the prototyping, as I realized I was going to need a decent amount of cards for time processing. I’ll still do them, but for now I know how I want to setup card templates. This idea is relatively new for me, and it’s only really been explored in the last week or so, and honestly, not as much as I had planned on.

So I’m not sure how this will work, but it seems like I may not be having any movable pawns at all. I guess it’s more like an RTS in that point. There will be some building (such as roads and settlements in Settlers), resource collection, and time flow. I’m still going to focus on getting the game up and running for two players. But luckily, his restrictions didn’t really hit on what I had planned. There will be a fair amount of cards, as they represent the time flow (sort of a chit-pulling system). But I need to actually start writing all this stuff down in a notebook so I can monitor it closely. Short post today. Just wanted to report in and my progress of last week, and the change of plans.

Game Design

I don’t mind stating the obvious on the ASoOJ blog. It’s because random people stumbling upon this may not be familiar with what it is.

But basically, I really enjoy hobbyist game design. It’s not something I’ve been doing for very long, but nonetheless it’s fun to create your own stuff, and try it out. Obviously, Global Skirmish doesn’t always get the amount of time it deserves, and I think I’m going to experiment with a separate game with a paper prototyping technique. A lot of the stuff I’m doing here are brainstormed ideas, that I jot down and run simulations in my head about. Which are all fine and dandy, but in the long run it’s just creating a slow prototype, as programming all the rules together causes time loss. So I’m still going to work on Global Skirmish, but i think i’m going to try to get a second game with a paper prototype up and running quickly (like say within a week, starting Monday) the only issue with that is I’m going to find some bits to create the game with. Which I guess shouldn’t be a big deal.

My resurgences always come with a reason, and this one is due to Game Design Concepts. I heard about this just before it was about to start, and decided I’d follow along but unfortunately, didn’t decide to sign up. The course has been great, and while originally I hadn’t planned on my buying the primary text, I ended up with it and one of the supplementary readings (and since I already owned the other basically everything). Ian’s writing is great, I wonder how wily veterans feel about it, but for me a lot of ideas that didn’t have formalized names and new concepts, that I hadn’t considered are now flowing. I have been a bit reluctant to take some of the practice challenges very far, but I think I’ll break that ice with my Greenland project that I’ll be starting next week.

I am still looking for jobs however, so I think I will be spending my mornings sifting through job postings, and my afternoons creating worlds. I have been strong on the theme, and could probably write up the whole Story write now. It’s been festering in my head, and I already have an idea of what I want to do. I just need to decide which mechanics I’m going to use, and then take it from there. Another recommendation is a scoping issue. Which as a novice game designer is probably one of my bigger issues (something that GSkirm suffers from) instead of starting simple and building up. I started large, and tried to incorporate everything. I was able to compromise that in GS, slightly but and at this point have a playable demo, but some features that are important for progression are missing, so the game is kind of stuck in the state of “well as soon as I get a bit of a lead, i should be pretty golden”.

I had two main goals for GS. The first was to speed up gameplay from your standard global domination game. Sometimes rolling so many dice is slow. So combat was simplified to a single roll on each side, and a bunch of math to decide how much damage each side took. My other goal is to incorporate some negative feedback. This is done in one way with capping of the points at 6. And the other way was the Badge system, which would allow weaker players, to recover from being beaten early. It’s no fun getting a few bad rolls early and then sitting out the rest of the game. Once the badge system is in place, I may find it’s too tough to win, and may end up with earlier win conditions. I don’t want games dragging out just because everyone is too equal.  Oh well, lamentings of a designer. So with Greenland I’m going to start from scratch and get a game up and built. I think I may need to go find some bits this weekend, so I can start monday off well.

Field of Battle

Writing that last post about Magic reminded me about one of the old forums I used to hang around in my hey-day of playing and collecting the grand-daddy of all CCGs. It had a few different names to it, but most people knew it as the Field of Battle.

I wasn’t around from the very beginning, but I’ll pass along a little of what I know. Inquest (the best of all gaming magazines around at the time) had message boards on AOL. Now these message boards had tons of different sections, but most of the people on them were magic players. This was around 97 or so, and the story as I understand it went like this. One of the people started talking about World Domination, which was contended by others, or supported by more. It almost felt just like any free form roleplaying campaign. After some complaints, those involved in this budding war moved into the stories forum, which was renamed as “The Field of Battle” where people could control their destiny and duke it out.

Once FoB and the war was started, Apprentice was brought in to aid in actually fighting the wars. For those unfamiliar, Apprentice was a simple program that let users have access to all the cards in Magic, and held a simple UI. It wouldn’t automate anything like the current versions of Magic Online (or the Magic XBLA game I had previously spoke about) but if two players knew the rules they had enough “useful bits” to play each other online. There were plenty of superstitions of Apprentice, and even though shuffling once should be “randomized” many choose a certain number to shuffle their decks.

Peoples personalties took over the boards, people had a good time, rivalries were started and enjoyed, with plenty of smack talk, and pointless posturing. It was the internet, and instead of just being anonymous selves, we all created unique personas and played a role. Factions would form, temporary teammates to compete on the field of battle and a rule system was formed for battles. Some battles would be for nothing but bragging rights, other battles forced factions to disband if they lost. The Alliance was able to gain a stranglehold on the boards at one point a well oiled machine, trimming useless players and improving their mediocre players.At this point, many of the players didn’t want to live with the historical implications of The Alliance, and migrated off FoB to a forum called BAR. Named after the three premier factions previous to the Alliance’s domination. I wasn’t around quite yet, so the other two names I don’t recall, although I may have some documents that show their name in my archives somewhere.

I was one of the “Fresh recruits” on the new boards. I had regularly scoured the Magic chat room on AOL, and apparently so had many members in the FoB, we had our own faction system where players were eliminated by losing two consecutive duels, and a scoring system that allowed encouraged playing. We enjoyed our time in the sun and refined our rules system and tried to improve everyone’s play style. Some people just liked hanging out, and wouldn’t play as much, but it was all in good fun. I couldn’t list the amount of factions I ended up being on, or even leading. The boards were fun, but since they were mostly teenagers they degenerated quickly, traditional bashings and rivalries take  a turn for the worst, recruits are scared off from this type of gesturing, other internet leagues formed with real prize systems that take away the stronger players.

But the biggest blow was the downfall of The Alliance. I’m not sure exactly what year it took, place but probably around 2000 a group of players made it their mission to take down the giant. Deep scouting was done on classic Alliance players, a few trial runs went in to see which players were weak. Hiding their own weak players, and manipulating the rules to their own advantage started occurring. It was a nasty fight. And it took a handful of tries too. I don’t even remember the factions name that took down The Alliance. But someone did it, and after they fell, a new rules system was implemented. A forced re-draft if things get stale basically saying “We will never let one team hog a board the way these guys do” the rules charter didn’t prevent teams from reforming with their favored members, but it destroyed everything that connected the new to the old.

In my case I stopped frequenting the boards when I went off to college and didn’t have as much access to AOL. I was also no longer keeping up with the game, and i think many were in the same boat as myself. I met a bunch of fun people, a few that I still chat with occasionally, but things happen and people move on. Since our boards were entirely based on AOL, things came to a close one fateful day when the Inquest boards were shut down for good. As far as I know noone has archived copies, and the only thing left is memories of the people, and some of the ridiculous things we did.

And if you are a former FoB-er I still have the Chaos Magic Belt and I am still accepting challenges for it.

Magic the Gathering

As some of you may know while a young adult, Magic was a huge part of my life. Summers were spent socializing, gaming, and strategizing. Trying to hash together the best decks, the coolest combos, basic teenager geek cred. Luckily, I probably won more tournaments than I didn’t.

For those familiar with the game, I played from just around Homelands to Planeshift. I’ve played a few limited tournaments since then, but by no means have I bought more than a pack or two here or there.

Now I’ve tried to keep up a little bit with new sets, and rules changes (including the new “no more mana burn” ruleset). Anyway, this topic comes up with the new XBLA game, Duels of the Planeswalker. Which is a borrowed name from the original Microprose “Shandalar” series. Maybe one of the first video games I was excited about getting (even at it’s expensive price).

Now this will be a quick little review of the XBLA game that I got last night (around 11) and played for a few hours.


  • Pretty. Now I haven’t played Magic Online, but this game is pretty. Flying creatures hover on the board, all the art looks great in High Def, even the targetting lines look slick.
  • Simplified interface. The game autotaps for you, auto untaps, draws, etc etc. Basically the game autopilots through a lot of mundane parts of magic and cuts it down to pre-combat, combat, and post-combat.
  • Puzzles. I love puzzles. Problem solving is one of those things that turned into a career for me. I had subscriber to Inquest Magazine (before it changed it’s name) for the two page puzzle. Some of those things were harsh. A few of these puzzles are pretty easy, and I can’t tell if there are only the 8 that are unlocked to start or if there are more once I get through them.
  • Nostalgia. XBLA is a goldmine for nostalgia games. I can’t wait to play a few two-headed giant games with my friends I played magic with growing up.
  • Value. $10. That’s right. Growing up I spent $100 on the Microprose game and first expansion. While that game is larger, and had more of a roleplaying feel (Go find it and play it if you never have) the basics of it exist in this new title. The good comparison is the dvd comparison. I can buy a dvd for 15 bucks, and watch it a handful of times. And get maybe 6 hours of entertainment. Since I’ve already played for 2 hours. I think I’ll get plenty of entertainment out of it.


  • Deck building. One of my favorite things about Magic is deck building. The ultimate customization of thousands of cards and unique combos that different cards allow. The deck starts with a base “theme” and you can unlock what looks like up to 17 cards and add those into the starter decks.
  • Combat timing. Maybe this is just me, but since the phases/steps are timer based I’ve had a little bit of trouble with combat timing. I almost lost a game because I missed regenerating one of my creatures. I had to replay one of the puzzles, to successfully activate a creatures on attack ability.
  • AI. They claim the AI is better, and it seems decent for now, but it still attacks when it should be holding off to block, and I’ve noticed a few mis-matched blocking assignments. I’ll hold judgement until the AI does something unexpected to turn around a lost game. I’m really competitive so we’ll see how that goes.
  • Deck building. Sorry, I just wish it was better.


  • DLC. I don’t know what the dlc will actually be and how much it costs. I generally don’t buy dlc, but once in a while I do.
  • Multiplayer. I haven’t broken out the multiplayer, so we’ll see how that is once I get that far.

Ah good ol’ Magic. I still have my decks lying around somewhere, if you are up for a game. I generally play Lock type decks. My first actual deck being a Stasis deck. It doesn’t exist anymore, and it got deconstructed because it wasn’t too fun to play. Oh well, gotta get some work done before I can go back to playing.