Tinker Steampunk Meeples 2

Our dear friend Tesh is launching another Kickstarter for metal Steampunk meeples, this time with the Mad Scientist and the Tinkerer. The detail is nice, like the wrench and dagger on the back of the Tinkerer. I am personally more fond of the Mad Scientist, with his lab coat, goggles, and rumpled hair. I have a friend who wants this look IRL, so maybe I well get them some meeples.

And now: steampunk fairies, too.

I enjoy Tesh’s projects, and I encourage you to check it out. Comments are open if you have a crowdfunding project going or want to note exciting ones you’re supporting. (If the spam filter eats your link, please e-mail me, and I will dig through the filter.)

: Zubon

Renowned Explorers: International Society

From the makers of Reus: REIS!

My usual reaction to roguelikes is, “Well that was some BS.” This one I am really enjoying.

The theme of Renowned Explorers is adventure and discovery, under the banner of lighthearded Victorian imperialism. You are gentleman adventurers, heading to darkest Africa, the voodoo islands of the Caribbean, or mysterious lost lands. It plays tropes of the era straight with a joyful lack of modern sensibilities. Occasionally someone tells you off for plundering their cultural treasures, but mostly you are pacifying the natives, making off with the treasures, and working on a good story to tell upon your return. The artwork feeds into all this.

Like Reus, REIS enjoys sets of three. You have a team of three explorers. You can be aggressive, devious, or friendly. Some situations are better solved with charm, others with fisticuffs. There is a rock-paper-scissors relationship among the three, and some enemies will turn that on you. Continue reading Renowned Explorers: International Society

Decks and Pets

Tobold posted about “The Grizzly Bears deck,” which of course reminded me of a Duelist article from 1995. Because you come to this blog for notes on how recent gaming events relate to forgotten gaming history.

The idea is to have some cheap-to-assemble “computer” decks to test your deck against. The variety of them listed in the article give you a range of challenges like you could expect to see in play, although the state of the game has changed a bit since 1995. The two I remembered best were the goldfish and angel decks

The goldfish does nothing, nothing at all. If you cannot beat a deck that does absolutely nothing, quit the game. If you cannot do it in 7-8 turns, fix your deck. (With some exceptions for decks that are doing fancy, slow, safe things.)

The angel decks does nothing for four turns and then gets a free Serra Angel every turn forever. That is your “slow deck” opponent. There are similar decks for defense, weenie hordes, etc.

There is not a lot of point to this post other than to point to history. That is one part “isn’t that neat,” another part that history keeps coming back around. That was an article from 1995 that was mentioned in a Wizards post in 2010, coming up in a variant in 2017. I have several times recommended reading Jessica Mulligan’s archives from Biting the Hand because so many of today’s issues were also yesterday’s issues. We are not just fighting the last war, we are doing so with the strategy that lost the last war.

: Zubon

More Hexcells

I find myself going back to Hexcells lately, so I am going to recommend it again. Hexcells infinite has a random level generator, so it is an endless source of enjoyable puzzles. Random levels do not have the potential to be clever like the hand-made ones, but it is consistently on the level of a good sudoku.

The sound effects are quite soothing.

: Zubon


Shout out to Artipia Games. I backed Fields of Green, their new board game. The Kickstarter closed in September with a December delivery date. That was a few days off, but the boxes did ship from Greece in December and arrived here today. I have other games on my Kickstarter list that are years behind and still sending update notes.

Tabletop game makers seem to be just about done when they launch the Kickstarter, with production money needed rather than design money, although some projects have hit it so big on Kickstarter that they needed extra time just to design everything for all the stretch goals (or to massively scale up production). Video game developers seem to have little idea of time estimates, and they make me see the real value in project management as a discipline. It is invisible when done well but obvious when not.

: Zubon

Big Pharma

I have been playing Big Pharma, a simulation game in which you run a pharmaceutical corporation. That is not as much fun as it sounds. The puzzle of building drugs and assembly lines while watching profits is interesting, but it feels very much like a less interesting version of playing a spreadsheet.

: Zubon

Incentives, Peaks, Valleys

Events add new incentives to games, or sometimes they are just additions to existing rewards like double experience points or gold. For regular players, these are nice boosts, and more players log in for the increased rewards.

And then the weekend is over. The visiting friends are gone. You can run that dungeon again for half the reward without the holiday event buffs.

You are exactly where you were the day before the event, but it sure feels a bit lower.

: Zubon

The Room 2

I previously enjoyed The Room, so I picked up The Room 2 on the Steam Halloween sale. It is what you want from a sequel: more of the same but better. In this case, we are less confined to a puzzle box and instead get to see a variety of puzzle rooms (or is it the same room across several dimensions?). More puzzles, more steampunkish mechanical boxes that whirl, better graphics and art, creepy settings for Halloween. Recommended.

The biggest improvement from the original is the expanded scope. You get puzzle boxes, but you get a seance room, a laboratory, a fallen temple, and more. It’s good. The puzzles are mostly fun, and there is joy in watching it all come together, watching the completed device whir. The use of the eyepiece is significantly improved, with visual indicators that you might want to try it out rather than randomly needing to double-check everything, and the places where you need the eyepiece are more intuitive. The shifting camera does a good job of directing your attention towards the next step.

The flaws of the game remain the same, more or less the flaws of this type of game. Sometimes that shifting attention feels like a trail of breadcrumbs you are following, a very visual non-novel, particularly at the beginning when there are fewer moving pieces (less so by the final room). Sometimes the game operates on old school adventure game logic, i.e. arbitrariness that might have made sense to the designer. Why does putting X in Y make Z open? Why is there a fuse in there? Just keep playing the game, and the illogic is less severe and less common than in the previous game, although some of that might be having learned how the developers think after playing through the first game. The settings of the various rooms lack a unifying theme other than “A.S. was here,” but they are rather nice rooms with variations on “creepy.”

The puzzles are better, the settings are better, the graphics are better. If you liked The Room, you will like The Room 2. If you almost liked The Room, you will probably actually like The Room 2. The game is short, but it is longer than a movie, more interactive, and far cheaper, even before the Halloween sale.

: Zubon


I occasionally use the term “elegant” in reference to design, generally meaning that complexity arises from the interaction of a few simple systems. The Civ V Krepost is one of my favorite examples, one bonus on one building creates three effects that yield Russia.

Definitions are as much about what is excluded as what is included, and our friend Wilhelm has effectively pointed to the opposite of elegance:

Paradox games are deep… as in fall in, founder, and quickly drown levels of deep. There are always lots of moving parts that influence each other that you have to keep track of so that the initial experience for all of there games seems to be getting totally lost in a morass of details thrown at you in rapid succession that quickly leads to overload, exiting the game, and rarely, if ever, returning to it.

This also highlights a reason why elegance in design is desirable. Elegance yields “easy to learn, hard to master.” Inelegance yield confusion and “eh, I’ll get back to it” … and not getting back to it. I never finished the tutorial for Banished because the first one involved multiple actions that each went several layers deep in menus, with little explanation of why would want to do those but a clear implication that these were basic actions that would frequently be necessary. User-oriented design: good interfaces naturally guide you to the action you want to take.

: Zubon