If you know me at all, you know that I’m really random about when I get inspired to actually do things, such that I jump from project to project all the time. The other day I got inspired to revive my project to do an iRiff of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, which in turn led me to get some better recording gear, which in turn inspired me to get back into podcasting. This first new episode is a recap of what I’ve been up to in terms of my own game design and translation projects. There’s quite a bit to cover. I started using Audacity (which is quite good), and didn’t feel like messing around trying to get the music in this time around, so for better or for worse this episode is an hour of just my voice.
I now have a few playtests of Channel A under my belt, and I’ve made a few refinements. The biggest and quickest of these was letting the Producer draw a hand of 5 Premise Cards and pick two. After that, I’ve got a lot of things where I have a ton of options and it’s hard to discern which is the best.
One rather interesting thing I found out recently was the story of The Big Idea, a game originally from Cheapass Games that Funforge later re-released. Not unlike Channel A, a major part of the game is putting cards with words together to make something, in the case of TBI a silly invention. I’d played the Cheapass Games version with my brother-in-law (the one who has a wall of board games), and I hadn’t known that the newer version, along with non-cheapass production values, simplified the rules considerably. The game originally had an “investment” phase where players put currency towards different inventions, rolled dice, and got dividends if the investment/die roll worked out. The new version cuts out the investment phase entirely, making it into even more of a party game. (Is there a term specifically for card/board games that revolve around using the components to springboard into saying stuff?) It has an extra set of scoring cards, so that each player has blank cards and a medal card to hand out, face down, and that’s the extent of the evaluation/scoring mechanism.
The article also mentions that Apples to Apples was more complex before its publication, and I think that’s a good lesson to take working on this game. It’s easy and tempting to add more complexity to Channel A, say a thing where you see how your series fares on TV, but I’m increasingly sure that what I need to do is refine the core of the gameplay I already have. Aside from expanding and refining the decks, the big thing I’m considering is whether to stick with the Producer setup or make what I currently have as the “Anime by Committee” variant rule (which coincidentally is closer to The Big Idea) into the default. I made a set of Voting Cards to try out the TBI method, though on paper it strikes me as a little cumbersome. I’ve updated the rules with that and some other ideas, and there’s a PDF below. I have entirely too many ideas for new Title Cards and Premise Cards, but I’ll get into that stuff later.
My friend Suichi made a rather interesting observation about me as a designer, which is that where he thinks in terms of numbers and hard mechanics, I tend to think more in terms of the human interactions and how they shape the game. It’s why I came up with a game like Channel A where he never would have. I think I play RPGs for the interaction and in-the-moment creativity as given a springboard by the rules, which goes a long way towards explaining why the card games I really like, and the one I’m designing, are basically just vehicles for that.
Last week I got together with some friends for what turned out to be an afternoon of board gaming. We played Cards Against Humanity, playtested Channel A, and then played 7 Wonders. It was really, really strange playing a Euro board game on the heels of CAH and CA, since we went from “Make an anime about vampires racing!” to “So I need to spend 2 Gold to buy lumber from Aaron.” It was very much the polar opposite, a thoroughly mechanistic if incredibly well-designed game, and in the Ewen/Suichi dichotomy definitely more of a Suichi type game.
There’s also the possibility of later reskinning the game to have it be for video games or American cartoons, though I don’t know of anything with titles quite as over the top as anime.
To say that I’ve been inspired lately would be an understatement. The day after I posted up my Cards Against Humanity expansions, I thought about what I would do in the way of a friendlier original card game in the same general “using cards to make jokes” kind of style. The premise that resulted is a game I’m tentatively calling “Channel A” where you assemble cards to make titles of anime series.
One player is the Producer, and he or she plays two Premise Cards, with things like “School Romance” and “Giant Robots Fighting.” The other players each have 10 Title Cards, which have bits of anime titles like Perfect, EX, Penguin, Galaxy, etc. Each player tries to assemble an anime title from the cards and give a brief pitch for a series with that title that fits the Producer’s premise. The Producer picks a winner for that round, and then you rotate Producers and keep going.
It’s admittedly a bit derivative–it came from this fury of inspiration from CAH and there’s some of The Big Idea in there too–but I’m okay with that for my first attempt at card game design ever. I don’t know if I’ll make a habit out of it, but I’m definitely jazzed about this particular game.
For the initial prototype print and play version I used 2″x2″ cards like CAH, mostly because printing 20 cards per page makes life easier. Yesterday I roped some friends into a playtest with just the Title Cards (on account of I hadn’t finished the Premise Cards), and it was a lot of fun. I’m also tempted to start recording sessions to preserve some of the nifty ideas it produces.
If you want to make a deck, get the PDF printed on heavy cardstock and carefully cut out the cards. You can get a clear plastic box to keep them in at places like The Container Store or Tap Plastics. I’m looking for feedback both on how it plays and on elements to include in the cards (and the cards’ contents are just the sort of thing where I expect plenty of people to have opinions on what I’ve left out).