Building a Better Sell Sheet Pt. 2

After all the discussion about sell sheets (and Luke Laurie’s awesome post about sell sheets on League of Gamemakers), I got inspired to redo old sell sheets and make nice new ones for the new games (Knight Shift & Rocket Cats). As I did each one, I think I got a little better (and learned some new Inkscape tricks).

SMALL cool table ss

Here, you can see that I’ve figured out text blocking a little bit, and tried to add some less-random flair with the top and bottom borders. It’s not fantastic, but I think it’s good enough. If I’d had time, I would have redone the logo with a transparent background (with all the files from the last year, I can’t find the original SVG logo files!).

SMALL Knight Shift sell sheet

Next up is Knight Shift. This one was a little easier because we already had some graphics pieces in place, so it was more a matter of arranging elements in a fun way. Originally, I’d planned to make the Knights more prominent, but I liked the way the hand of cards looked (and we don’t have any in-play pics of the current prototypes).

SMALL rocket cats sell sheet

Finally is Rocket Cats. This was the last one I did, and it has the least information. I started from a design this time, rather than from text, and I think it shows. It helps that this is the simplest game of the lot. I also went horizontal, rather than vertical, both for something a little different, and to fit all the planets.

“Universe” Games?

I’ve been lightly considering a design for some time that features kawaii breakfast food. I thought it would be fun to do a “cute” deckbuilder, akin to Tanto Cuore, but without the boobs, though the idea changed over time. Then, I found a little game called Sushi Go. It’s incredibly adorable…and is also incredibly close to what I’d envisioned for my game. In fact, they even solved some of the mechanical stuff, and using the drafting mechanic wound up being exactly what I needed.

But now, there’s a game out there with similar mechanics AND similar theming. So I started thinking of other ways to theme it, and I realized that it could totally fit into the Cool Table “universe”. Instead of trying to match breakfasts with hungry patrons, you’re trying to match foods with hungry teenagers. It works so well, but I have one hesitation.

I’m not sure how I feel about games where everything takes places in the same universe (and I’m not talking about IP games, like games based on a TV show “universe”). While I think it’s clever, it always gives me a little whiff of cheesiness, and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I guess it depends. For something like Tiny Epic Kingdoms, it did so well that it makes sense to revisit it, and even though the second game is “in-universe”, it’s more about component similarity and creating another tiny game.

Alderac’s Tempest setting is another one that comes to mind. While Love Letter is cute, the idea that these games are all set in the same universe actually kind of turns me off a little bit. Do I absolutely have to play all of them? Will I be missing some key part of the experience if I don’t? etc etc.

You can see a bunch more thoughts here, once you get past the Cthulu references.

Maybe this is something that doesn’t even register to people who, say, grew up playing RPGs (because different campaigns/settings still fall under the same banner of the same “universe”)? Or perhaps I’m being too sensitive to this? I just worry that Cool Table: The Card Game would have to do well in spite of the theme.

On the plus side? I’d be able to use some of the same art and characters.

Writing and writing about writing

8 – 10 hours a day spent staring at a computer screen makes it very challenging to want to do it more – which is especially hard when you’re both designing a board game and trying to blog more.

JFDI

A couple of weeks ago, a guest article I wrote went live over on Games & Grub. The piece of it that seemed to really resonate with people was “Just decide”, so I thought I’d expand on what that means for me.

Learning to decide was honestly the hardest part of the game design process for me. Before the Tabletop Deathmatch came up, I’d had the idea for Cool Table for about a year – the theme, the name, everything. It’s not something I actively thought about, though, because it was missing mechanics. Or rather, I had some vague ideas, but because I didn’t know the details, I hesitated to actually get started. And yes, I’d playtested it before I entered the contest, but even those were lackluster, since I didn’t know what to do to fix it.

I kept waiting for inspiration to strike. I figured that if I just thought really hard about it, the rules would come to me fully-formed. Okay, so that’s not exactly true, but it’s close enough. Is a four-card hand not enough? Is a six-card hand too much? Should I build the economy based on trading, and then, how exactly would that work? HOW WOULD YOU EVEN KNOW?

I know, based on feedback I got, that I’m not the only one who had or has trouble with this. I have a few theories for why this is a stumbling block:

  • It’s easier to keep it locked up inside your head than to deal with actually playtesting your game
  • Deciding a zillion things is super-hard
  • I mean, what if you’re WRONG? 

Turns out, the solution is (relatively) easy. All you have to do is make a decision. Then, make another decision. Write your decisions down. Playtest them. Change your mind about some of them, and keep others. Start making decisions and write down your rules, as complete as you can get them. 

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No, you haven’t tested them yet, and that’s okay. Simply thinking about your ideas really hard isn’t going to lead to a solution. Putting your ideas on index cards and shoving them in front of people (ones who really care about you – this process isn’t always pretty) or even playing yourself is going to lead to a solution.

So go out there, write stuff down, and JFDI – just fudgin’ decide it!

 

My journey into game design

Cool Table gameI’ve only recently gotten into board games, at least in the grand scheme of things. It was only about three years ago, fresh out of college, that I discovered the whole huge world of board games. The first game I ever purchased and owned was Carcassonne. I was combing Amazon, looking for a birthday gift for the Boyfriend That Never Should Have Been. He was notoriously hard to shop for, but I remembered playing Ticket to Ride with his family, and I thought he might appreciate a weird copy of Monopoly or something.

Sifting through the “related products”, I came across Carcassonne. It was totally different from any other game I’d ever seen. I read everything about it that I could get my hands on. I learned about the Euro game “phenomenon”. I learned what a “meeple” was, and how a tile-laying game worked. Most importantly, I learned that there was a whole world of board games beyond Monopoly or more recent family games like Ticket to Ride.

Never one to half-ass things, I bought the Carcassonne Big Box. It cost an exorbitant amount of money – by far the most I had ever spent on a gift for somebody else. I waited in the mail for the game. 10 days later, it showed up in the mail. The Boyfriend That Never Should Have Been dumped me the day it arrived. I kept the game.

I didn’t actually play the game until perhaps three months later. My good friend – let’s call him Josh – had broken his jaw, and he couldn’t eat or do much of anything. He asked if I wanted to come over and run stuff through his juicer. I grabbed all the dubious produce in my fridge, along with Carcassonne, and walked over to his house. It was the beginning of an era.

Josh had invited his other friend, Mick, over. It sparked three straight months of hanging out every day, making juice and playing board games. We played Carcassonne and all the expansions several times over. I bought Fluxx and Zombie Fluxx. Josh bought Talisman. We even played a little Pathfinder – the thing that eventually broke up our friendship. I was – and I mean this totally literally – threatened with an actual, real-life axe.

Desperately in need of somebody to share my newfound hobby with, I took myself down to a gaming group I’d found online, Obscure Games. My first night there, I met my friend and eventual partner-in-game-design-crime, Stentor. It was about a year later that Stentor debuted a creation of his – a Monopoly mod that added dinosaurs. He called it “Dinosaur Hunter Monopoly”. I playtested it and was amazed. He’d turned Monopoly into a completely different game, beyond even the craziest of house rules. I came up with ideas for other games in the Dinosaur Hunter line. Stentor and I started working together on a “dinosaur mod pack” that people could buy to instantly double their collection of household games. Of course, now there are dozens of these, but we had no idea. We were excited just to create.

Eventually, Stentor and I branched out into unique designs. He did it first, with a super fun game called Who’s Your Heavenly Father? I started coming up with my own ideas – a game about stacking things! A game where the board shifts around! A game about exploring the moon! – and even designing them. I never really got past the idea stage. I had a few crappy prototypes and not much else.

Stentor and I founded Pittsburgh Game Designers to provide a better place for people to playtest their own creations. By that point, we’d met several other people who also designed games. We were part of the inaugural class of the Game Engine, an awesome design project/collective dreamed up by Connor Sites-Bowen. On a whim, I decided to submit my most heavily-themed game, Cool Table, to the Tabletop Deathmatch competition. At that point, I was working with three different games and not getting very far ahead with any of them. Each game was stalled in a different way.

Then came the Tabletop Deathmatch. I’m going to write about it, just not here – I penned a post for Games & Grub about the actual Deathmatch experience. You can find it here.

Oh, and check out this recap that Team Weasel wrote about their Deathmatch experience. It’s a great look at the contest!

Gen Con Highs and Lows

Gen Con Highs:

  • Getting Corey Young to sign my copy of Gravwell.
  • Buying way too many sets of dice even though I’m an RPG newbie.
  • Pitching Cool Table as part of the Tabletop Deathmatch.

Gen Con Low:

  • A guy wearing a shirt that said, “Will buy drinks for sex.” I have never seen such a literal embodiment of that guy

Gen Con Mediums:

  • Trains. I really wanted it to be better than it was.

[Insert requisite photos of all the things that other people also took pictures of here.]

The Pros and Cons of 2am Crafting

So folks who know me for-reals know that I’m crafty. They also know that I’m busy as all getout. My work schedule leaves a lot to be desired (even if you really, really like your three jobs, they can sometimes be draining) and yes, I have a social life. But sometimes, in the midst of all that busy-ness, it’s someone’s birthday or my fingers just itch to do something weird and crafty. This time around, it was definitely the birthday thing.

A quick aside – I’m going to have to be as vague as possible, since I’ve shared this blog with all of five people, and one of them is having a birthday soon, and I don’t want that person to know what I’m making. So let’s just pretend it’s papier mache.

When you’re both busy, and crafty, and under a deadline, starting a new project at 2am seems perfectly reasonable. This is absolutely the wrong choice to make. You’ll have all your newspaper strips and glue and balloons (you use balloons in papier mache, right?)

Pros:

    • You’ll come across the following comment on a Martha Stewart tutorial and find it both compelling and hilarious:

Dear Martha Stewart, I just wanted to know if there is a maximum height you can achieve with papier mache?
Thank you,
Sincerely, in Christ Jesus the Lord,
KS

  • Glitter becomes less of a stylistic choice and more of a personal religion.
  • Challenging the maximum height of papier mache is suddenly an all-consuming task.

Cons:

  • Inhaling glitter seriously hurts.
  • You’d be surprised at how quickly a project can go from “Pinterest-ready” to “small but easily manageable house fire” (there’s fire in papier mache, right?)
  • Not even Jesus Christ the Lord can help the epic disaster scene you’ve left in the kitchen. Maybe Martha could.

Pro tip: Don’t fall asleep anywhere near an open container of Mod Podge if you like having hair.

Writing About Writing About Improv

One thing I do when I’m not working, running game nights, being awesome, or snuggling kittens is take improv classes. I was also the Official Level 1 Class Blogger, for a time, a gig I tried to extend out to Level 2. It was pretty awesome, except.

Writing about improv feels…wrong. Should you edit your work? Should you include every-single-thought you’re having, even if most of them are about snuggling kittens or being awesome? What about formatting? Left-hand-aligned says “Gosh, I’m so boring.” Right-hand says “Look at me, I’m so quirky and probably also left handed!” Justified: “Gosh, I’m so boring and probably also always wear gray suits.” Centered: “Probably high right now.” Lawful Evil: “Hey, you can’t actually format text that way.”

Anyway. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes of writing about improv. But much like improv itself, you can have all the ideas in the world, but they’re not all going to come out on stage, and probably not like you thought. A little message from me to you: Don’t overthink it. Not in improv, and not in writing.

One Step at a Time

Did you know there are lots of things you need to do to start a blog? You have to:

  • img_1Design a totes bitchin’ theme
  • Write like, three months of posts and backdate them so you look prolific
  • Come up with a bajillion topics
  • Have something super, duper interesting to say
  • Take fantastic pictures and know how to edit them
  • Make like, ten Internet BFFs so you can interview them on your blog

I’ve started and stopped and done half of half of these steps a million and one times. I could count on both hands and probably some toes the number of blogs I’ve started, written in one time, and immediately abandoned. There was the fashion blog, the social media blog, the personal and realistic “gritty real life” blog, and even the blog where I methodically calculated (just one time) all of the items in my purse.

img_2There are a few things that kept me from going. The main one, the thing I still battle, is that running a blog feels a lot like vanity. “Me, me, ME!” they seem to scream. “Pay attention to my life! I have something INTERESTING to say!”

I don’t want to do that. Talking about how I feel so many feels seems overwhelmingly self-indulgent. But blogging, as well I know, is about more than that. It’s about solving problems, helping people, building relationships, networking – and sure, showing off a few pictures of your OMGsocute new shoes.

A Bit of Background

img_3I’ve been a professional blogger for several years now. Yes, I get paid to write blogs. I can take your list of keywords and make them sound legitimate and more than that, interesting. I’ve been spicing up corporate communiques and written thousands of words on how, exactly, grant funding in Australia can help you achieve your highest goals, all with a healthy sprinkling of SEO goodness.

Until I got my most recent job, I lived the keyboard-for-hire existence and learned the hard way that writing isn’t always about having something fascinating to say or knowing exactly how to structure your words. This is the Internet. You’re not trying to write Moby Dick. Sometimes, putting your butt in a chair,  opening your laptop, and typing 120-words-a-minute for two hours is what you’ve gotta do.

So Why Now? 

img_4I realized that I’ve had this WordPress registered for damn near two years. It’s kind of sad that you can sit on something that awesome for that long without actually taking steps to make it happen. Why have this teeny, tiny dream in the back of your head and never act on it?

The first step is the hardest. The first draft is always the most painful. The first cupcake tastes the worst. Sometimes it sucks to do the things you most want to do. But if you don’t lace up your shoes, open your laptop or buy the stand mixer, you’ll never be a runner/blogger/cupcake genius.

So now, with a few hundred thousand words of corporate blogging under my belt, I’ve finally decided to take the first step into running my very own, for-realsies-this-time-I-mean-it-you-guys blog.

You’re Not Very Interesting So Far

Excellent point, Internet.

What in the Ever Loving Hell Are You Going to Write About?

Oh man, Internet, you are really on the ball today. In the past, I think my online ventures have failed because I tried to focus too hard. So instead, I present to you a melange of things that I’m interested in:

It’s time to write about things that are interesting to me instead of to some corporate audience out there that I’m not entirely sure exists. If you like it too, hooray! Welcome to the club.

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