GenCon 2016 Recap

It’s hard to believe it’s already been several weeks since GenCon. The show itself was a wonderful whirlwind, and I’ve been just as busy after returning home. I spent my time at the Steamforged Games booth this year chatting with convention attendees and doing preview demos of Shadow Games and Dark Souls: the Board Game.

Shadow Games was my first contract project for Steamforged Games, and I’m thrilled to say that it’s now at the printer to be releasing shortly. Shadow Games is a card game with bluffing elements, filled with opportunities to trick your friends or catch them in their lies. More information will be available as we get closer to the release date, but Team Covenant made a great video introducing Shadow Games to pique your interest.

After our collaboration on Shadow Games went so well, Steamforged Games reached out to me to help develop Dark Souls: the Board Game. Needless to say, I was very excited to be part of this record-breaking board game. The gameplay has evolved a great deal since the Kickstarter campaign, and we rolled out the updated boss fight demo experience at GenCon.

It’s hard for me to put the experience of demoing Dark Souls: the Board Game at GenCon into words. I’ve demoed many games at many conventions for many years, but I’ve never demoed to crowds before. GenCon attendees packed around the demo table, several rows deep where space would allow. The demos themselves were quite interactive with onlookers calling out questions or letting out huge cheers (or groans) at a roll of the dice. We also set up demos for several YouTube channels and blogs. Here are the ones I was able to find. If you also created a Dark Souls: the Board Game video or blog, let me know, and I’ll happily add you to the list.

New Game Smell (Part 3)

A couple of blogs ago, I started a series about how game companies keep things fresh for their existing game lines. The three methods I wanted to focus on in this 3-part series were errata, expansions, and editions. This third blog covers game expansions, a fairly hot topic in the world of gaming.

Many games these days release new editions of their game in some fashion. Games we haven’t seen for decades are showing up on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms after a decade or more of silence. Some of the longest-running miniatures games have released new editions in the past couple of years. And yet other game companies are looking to break the mold of what a new edition looks like.

I had a great deal of involvement in the most recent versions of Warmachine and Hordes. Their new edition has made quite a splash, with a great deal of positive feedback as well as some negative feedback. New editions always invite controversy. No matter how careful a game developer might be, there will be changes that disappoint or upset some subset of their players. BUT… the key is that they generate discussions and shake up the meta. Models that used to be sub-par have a new lease on life while models that used to impress now pale in comparison to other options. This generates new discussions, new army list options, and (most importantly for the game company) new sales.

Some companies use edition “resets” as a means to refresh their catalog, heavily revising their actual product lineup. Other companies pledge to keep all current models available in the future edition. Models might be more or less attractive in the new edition of the game, but all purchases remain an option in theory if not in practice.

Video game companies like Blizzard have long used a system of “dynamic updates” to their games. This allows on-the-fly adjustments to game balance and the rules behind the scenes. Traditional game companies have started to use some of the power and potential of a dynamic update system. The aforementioned Warmachine and Hordes game lines have pledged to begin annual balance updates while games like Guild Ball already introduce a new “season” each year allowing for incremental change that shakes up the meta.

No matter your opinion on new editions of a game, the fact remains that they create an opportunity to reinvigorate a franchise. New editions initiate new discussions which then initiate new sales that allow the game to continue for years to come.

Feel free to share you thoughts on new editions and which companies are making effective use of the edition change cycle in the comments below.

YTN Episode 018

The 18th Episode of Your Turn Next is now available!

This episode, we introduce our (temporary) new format of being a local only podcast due to recent trouble with Skype. In the first segment, Jess talks about her recent gaming experiences, and I give a Clockwork Phoenix update.

The second segment covers our featured games, and this episode we feature:

In our topic segment this episode, we chat about play-and-keep events at conventions. More and more conventions seem to have play-and-keep events these days. They’re a great way to get in more board games at a convention and maybe even get some to take home with you.

YTN_AvatarWe’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments or via email if you have any topics, questions, or ideas you’d like us to discuss in a future podcast.

The email is: contact@clockworkphoenixgames.com

New-Game Smell (Part 2)

In the last blog, I started a series about how game companies keep things fresh for their existing game lines. The three methods I wanted to focus on (in this 3-part series) are errata, expansions, and editions. This second blog is all about game expansions, and for veteran board gamers, card gamers, role-playing gamers, or hobby miniatures gamers, expansion products come as no surprise whatsoever.

Let’s start out by looking at traditional board games, card games, and role-playing games where expanding the product line typically comes in discrete expansion products. A game expansion is certainly a way to reinvigorate a game experience, enhancing the game’s replayability in a big way.

Smash Up makes a great case study for the way an expansion creates new options for players. For those who aren’t familiar, Smash Up is a card game in which you choose two fantasy things (Aliens, Wizards, Dinosaurs, Zombies, etc.) and mix them together to make your deck. This allows you to play fun combinations like Ninja Pirates or Robot Princesses. Straight out of the box, you can create 28 different crazy combinations from the eight core factions. Each expansion adds another four factions, but that increases the number of combinations impressively. One expansion takes you up to 66 combinations, and just one more takes that up to 120. That’s a lot of new potential from a small box of cards!

Expansion content has several great “pros” for a game company. Expansions usually require less time than core games since a lot of the game development, graphic design, production cost analysis, etc. already has a firm foundation from last time. Additionally, the company knows how well the previous game sold, so they’ve got a better idea than usual of how many copies to order from the manufacturer.

On the “con” side, though, each expansion will typically have fewer customers than the last. There are exceptions, of course, but the trend is for expansion sales to taper off over time due to saturation. Game companies can mix things up by introducing big new mechanics or popular licensed properties, but eventually, the well runs dry.

One of the interesting trends for board game expansions in particular is the “expanshalone.” Not exactly an expansion, not exactly a stand-alone game, the expanshalone gives existing players more game content and gives new players a gateway into the game regardless of whether they own the previous game or not. Zombicide is one board game series to use the expanshalone system highly effectively, but it’s popularity is easy to understand. Expanshalones get most of the “pros” while eliminating some of the “cons” of game expansions.

For collectible card games, living card games, and miniatures games, each new card or miniature is essentially a mini-expansion for the game. Some games, like X-Wing, embrace that nature. Each new ship miniature introduces new pilots, equipment, and sometimes whole new game mechanics. More commonly, however, each new card or mini simply provides one more option for players.

In the early days of these types of games, every new card or miniature brings lots of new possibilities to the table. Once you’ve hit hundreds (or even thousands) of options, however, the game begins to creak under its own weight. Getting into the game becomes daunting to prospective players from a gameplay standpoint as well as a financial standpoint.

One method for dealing with this issue is introducing limited formats of some kind like we discussed in Your Turn Next Ep 14. Another method I’ll address in the next blog brings us right back around to our “keeping things fresh” options – edition change. I hope that you’ll stop by again then for the conclusion to the series. Thanks!

YTN Episode 017

The 17th Episode of Your Turn Next is now available!

This episode, Ryan and I are joined by Seppy from Fight in a Box games. We kick things off as usual with a brief discussion of the games we’ve been playing, miniatures we’ve been painting, and the games we can’t wait to play next.

The second segment covers our featured games, and this episode we feature:

Our topic segment for the episode looks at coming up with ideas for games versus executing those ideas. We talk about how important (and difficult) a successful execution can be and close the episode with a brilliant new game idea from each of our podcasters.

YTN_AvatarWe’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments or via email if you have any topics, questions, or ideas you’d like us to discuss in a future podcast.

The email is: contact@clockworkphoenixgames.com

New-Game Smell (Part 1)

It’s hard to deny the allure of that “new-car smell,” and I’ve seen plenty of folks take a good whiff of a freshly cracked book for that “new-book smell.” You don’t hear nearly as much about “new-game smell,” but when it comes to gameplay, many gamers are looking for fresh and exciting experiences.

A new game can certainly deliver on that promise, but what about existing games? Hobby miniatures games, collectible card games, dungeon crawl board games, and their digital equivalents frequently require a healthy investment of time and money. Their players don’t want to simply move on to the next game but to enjoy their investment for a long time to come.

Three common ways that publishers reinvigorate their games are errataexpansions, and editions. In Part 1 of this series, we’ll look a bit at errata and how it can breathe new life into a game.

Errata (in the physical game world) or dynamic updates (in the video game world) are fairly common. Such updates to how the game functions shake up the balance of the game and create new room for players to explore. When the top tier models, cards, abilities, or what-have-you are rebalanced, players need to rethink the strategies they’ve grown accustomed to using. It allows new armies, decks, and character builds to rise to the top, and it re-creates that “new-game smell” for the players.

Issuing a new errata document or pushing a new dynamic update to the server is reinvigorating. The Warmachine errata update earlier this year and the Hearthstone dynamic update earlier this week showed similar results. Passionate players flew to their twitter feeds, forums, and podcasts to laud or lament the updated models/cards. Established army/deck archetypes were reconsidered in the new ruleset, and players felt that forgotten rush of discovery. What new possibilities would emerge with these changes to the status quo?

From the outside looking in, such updates might seem problematic. Why make changes that provoke so many complaints and cause so many players to second-guess the game’s developers? The adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” comes to mind, here. Some players who had grown a bit bored with the game were upset, and others were excited, but on both sides of the spectrum, those players were engaged with the game. They were enjoying that new-game smell and thinking about what the future of the game would hold.

Before closing, I’d like to briefly address game formats. In many regards, a new format is a type of errata. It changes which game components a player can use and/or changes the path to victory. Regardless, it creates a change to the existing rules of engagement that reinvigorates its gaming community.

The next time you see an errata update, take a quick peek at the community’s response. Whether the words are full of love, hate, or some other emotion altogether, you’re bound to see players who have re-engaged with a game to enjoy that “new-game smell.”

YTN Episode 016

The 16th Episode of Your Turn Next is now available!

Wow, the last few weeks have simply flown by. I’ve been busy with AdeptiCon 2016 and with some game development work, so I’m a little later than I meant to be, but I hope you enjoy this new episode of Your Turn Next. This episode, Ryan and I are joined by Tony, and we kick things off as usual with a brief discussion of what we’ve been up to in the world of gaming.

The second segment covers our featured games, and this episode we feature:

Our topic segment for the episode features free rules. We discuss downloadable and print-n-play rules for board games and card games, and we also discuss downloadable rulebooks and stat cards for hobby miniatures games.

YTN_AvatarWe’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments or via email if you have any topics, questions, or ideas you’d like us to discuss in a future podcast.

The email is: contact@clockworkphoenixgames.com