Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Gratitude: Dancing Queen

My journey with Dancing Queen started in January 2021, more than 2 years ago. At the time I had started exploring game design a little more seriously. I came across a game design contest on BoardGameGeek.com, and the premise intrigued me - contestants could only use 9 cards to design a game. I am a big fan of Love Letter, and this 9-card challenge was a good opportunity to test myself. Dancing Queen went on to win the Best Overall Game in June. It was a huge encouragement for me. 

After winning the competition, I approached a few publishers which do card games and microgames. Unfortunately I didn't get any interest. I had been considering game publishing, even before Dancing Queen. I hadn't intended to make Dancing Queen my first published game, because it is in an unusual niche. It is a microgame, but a thinky one. Not really something for casual gamers or non-gamers. In Malaysia, light and casual games will probably do better. It was the first placing in the contest that changed my mind. I knew I would be looking at a niche market, but I wanted to make a game that I am confident about. 

So in early 2022 I started working on self-publishing Dancing Queen. Now I was new in game design (in fact, I still am), but I was even newer in game publishing. There was much more I needed to learn. I ran into many difficulties, despite the game being just 25 cards in a tiny box. Yet the journey was a joyous and fulfilling one. Dancing Queen was released at the end of 2022. 

Now I sell the game at my own website - Cili Padi Games. I sell it through local Malaysian retailers too. Wai Yan from BoardGameCafe.biz regularly helps me promote Dancing Queen, and I am immensely grateful for that. She often takes photos with the customers who buy my game. It is a wonderful feeling seeing complete strangers holding a copy of my game in their hands. As a creator, what is most rewarding is bringing smiles to people. Thank you for your support! 

Friday, 26 May 2023

Beethoven vs Newton in 5th place


I submitted my design Beethoven vs Newton to the BoardGameGeek 2023 2-player print-and-play game design contest. The results came out recently and it placed fifth under the Overall Best Game category. This is a design I have spent a fair bit of time on, going through many iterations and playtests. I'm glad it is being appreciated. It won placements under a number of other categories too, ranging from 7th to 20th, e.g. for Best Rulebook, Best Mechanism, Best Date Night Game, Best Gateway Game. It did not do as well in the specialised categories, but I'm pleased it did best in the Best Overall Game category. It means a lot to me because that means as an overall package it is well liked. 

Results in full: link 

Game details, downloadable rules and print-and-play components: link

Monday, 22 May 2023

Oriental Daily Interview

The Malaysian Oriental Daily published an interview (in Chinese) of me on Sun 21 May 2023. The journalist contacted me a few weeks ago and wanted to interview me about game design. I showed her quite a number of my prototypes. I didn't know they were going to publish a video too, and I spoke my very local Mandarin. Had I known, I would have switched to a more proper Mandarin. Well, I guess I can say I am being authentic.  

Friday, 19 May 2023

boardgaming in photos: Race for the Galaxy, Machi Koro, Star Realms


Younger daughter Chen Rui once saw me play Race for the Galaxy on my iPad and expressed interest. Since then I kept reminding myself to find an opportunity to teach her the game. By now she probably isn't all that keen. She was just curious then. I was just looking for an excuse to get her to play games with me. 

My copy of Race for the Galaxy includes three expansions, so the card deck is huge. In order to teach Chen Rui to play, I removed all cards from the expansions. The base game already has many cards, many more than the average card game. It is complicated enough. Better not overwhelm her. I had not played the physical game for a long time. I used to play this regularly with my wife Michelle when the children were young. That was before they went to primary school, ages ago. Now that I played the physical game again, it was full of nostalgia. Nowadays I play Race for the Galaxy only on the iPad, against AI's. 

I let Chen Rui use the light blue player cards. In Race for the Galaxy every player gets a set of player cards. I use green. Michelle used to play red. 

Playing the physical copy feels different from playing the digital version. On the iPad, the tempo is fast, and I am often lazy to think too much. I don't spend much effort to analyse and to think. I must admit I'm a little sloppy. The tempo in the physical game is slower, and I get to smell the roses a bit more. I am a bit more relaxed and take more time to consider my options. It is a nice change of pace. 

Race for the Galaxy has a second and a third expansion arc. Expansions from different arcs cannot be mixed. I bought expansions in the second arc, but not the third. By the time I got to the second arc, Michelle and I no longer played the game regularly. We did play the second arc, and based on those games we played, I liked the first arc better. When the third arc came out, I read about it but never bought it. If it ever gets released in the digital version I would buy it and give it a go. 

The digital version is pretty good. When I play, I normally play two AI opponents. My iPad is old and if I add a third AI, it can't handle the additional computing and often crashes. When I boot up the game on the iPad, I can play 7 or 8 games in one breath, and it takes maybe 45 minutes or so. I learned a few tricks from the AI's. 

Chen Rui suggested Machi Koro. When my daughters were younger, the three of us often played Machi Koro. We all liked it. It had been a while since we played. Chen Rui and I tried playing just the base game, but using the market mechanism introduced in the expansions. I prefer having the market mechanism, but had not tried it with the base game. I wasn't sure whether it would work well. After trying it out, we concluded that it worked just fine. 

In the base game we only needed to build four landmarks. That felt rather short. I was too used to needing to build six landmarks. 

In the base game, normally all the buildings are sorted and laid out, and made available to everyone at all times. This is just like Dominion. If you have in mind a particular strategy, you can keep at it and buy as many of the buildings needed as you want. The only thing stopping you is other players buying what you want. So in the base game it is easier to execute planned strategies. 

With the market mechanism, there will only be 10 types of buildings available at any time. Buildings are drawn from a facedown deck. During set up you draw them and add them to the market until you have 10 types. If you draw a building which already exists, you group the similar cards. Whenever anyone buys the last one of any particular building, you draw a new building from the deck, until you reach 10 types. When using this market mechanism, there may be only one copy of a particular building you want. It becomes much harder to execute any perfect strategy. You need to adapt to the situation in the market. At the same time you need to react to your opponents' strategies. 

I bought many convenience stores (green #4 building). If I rolled a 4 I would make $12. I would stick to rolling one die for a while. Chen Rui was starting to roll two dice, so my mines (blue #9) could help me. Blue buildings activate on all players' rolls. 

Later Chen Rui and I asked elder daughter Shee Yun whether she wanted to join us. We played with the first expansion, which has boats. I asked them to pose for a photo, to reenact one taken seven years ago.  

April 2023

June 2016

We hear this all the time - "kids grow up so quickly!"  Now both my children have completed secondary school. The three of us don't game together as much as we used to, but it is still great fun when we have our sessions. 

This particular game of Star Realms was rather extreme. My life points (actually it's called Authority) went all the way to 109. Normally players start with 50, and your goal is to reduce your opponent's life points to 0. I more than doubled my life points because I had many blue cards in my deck. 

I am still regularly playing Star Realms and Ascension on my phone, more or less daily. I have almost all the expansions. I have played Ascension for more than 10 years, and Star Realms more than 8 years. 1500+ plays of Ascension, and 1100+ for Star Realms. I should promote them a bit since they've given me so much joy. Go buy them! 

Friday, 12 May 2023


The Game

SCOUT is a game from Japan, designed by Kei Kajino. The first edition was released in 2019. In 2022 it was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres, the German Game of the Year. It is a card game. Most people would categorise it as a climbing game. However it is quite different from the typical climbing game. I find it highly innovative and it would be a shame to imagine it as just another climbing game. 

The game has a couple of unusual twists. I have read about it before, but at the time wasn't particularly interested in giving it a go. One twist is cards have two ends and they are different (hey, just like Dancing Queen!) You can choose which end you want to use. A second twist is you cannot rearrange your hand, just like in Bohnanza. Most people who review the game mention these two quirks, but by only explaining these two, it is far from sufficient to give an idea of what the game is like. 

A game is played over several rounds. Each round you will score or lose points. After a certain number of rounds, the final scores are tallied and the highest scorer wins. A round ends in two ways. Either one player plays all her cards, or she plays a combo which no one else is able to top. The former is just like most climbing games, but the latter is something very different. Typically in a climbing game if no one can top you, you just become the start player for the next run. You get to decide which kind of combo to play, and everyone must play that kind. It is an important advantage to become start player. SCOUT takes this further. If no one beats your combo, you immediately win the round. The stakes and the sense of urgency are much higher here. 

When a round starts, all cards are dealt out. When you examine your hand of cards, you already cannot rearrange them. The only choice you have at this point is whether to turn your hand of cards upside down. You don't get to make that decision for individual cards. It's all or nothing. In a sense you are getting two different starting hands and you must pick one. 

The combos in the game are simple. You have only singles, straights and same kinds. There is no concept of suit. The colours on the cards don't mean suits. When you play combos, you are not restricted to the combo type or the number of cards. As long as you can play something stronger, you're good. If the start player plays pairs, you are not restricted to play only pairs. 

Here's how the combos compare in terms of strength. Firstly, the more cards there are, the stronger the combo. Secondly, same kinds are stronger than straights. Lastly, larger numbers are stronger than smaller numbers. So 1-2-3-4 is stronger than 9-9-9. 4-4-4-4 is stronger than 1-2-3-4. 5-5-5 is stronger than 2-2-2. This feel familiar, but the fact that you can play a combo with more cards than the previous one defies tradition. 

To play cards from your hand, you can take them from anywhere, but they must be adjacent, and you cannot rearrange them. A 9-7-8-6 is not a straight, because the numbers are not in the right order. Using this photo above as an example, I can't play 5-5-5 because one of the 5's is separate from the other two. I will need to play the 7 and the 9 before these three 5's would "meet", and then I would be able to play 5-5-5. 

Playing a combo means you are beating the previous player's combo. In this case you claim all cards in her combo and put them in front of you. You will score 1 point each for these cards. If you are unable to play a combo, or decide not to, you must take one card from the previous player's combo and put it into your hand. After you select the card, you may turn it upside down before putting it into your hand. Also you may choose any position to insert it. Now this can be a very powerful move, helping you create good combos. If anyone takes a card from your combo, you will score 1 point. This is another way points are scored. 

At the start of a round everyone gets a car. This represents a single-use power. When you activate the car, you perform two actions on your turn. You first take a card from the previous player's combo, and you then play your own combo. Normally you only get to perform one action per turn. The car can be a life-saver. Whenever a player is unable to play a combo and is forced to take a card from the previous player's combo, she is effectively also weaking the combo still in play. Fewer cards = weaker. Normally when you take a card, that's already the end of your turn, so you can't immediately play a combo to beat the current combo. The car lets you do this. 

Usually when I introduce games, I don't like going into rules details. I would be regurgitating the rulebook. In the case of SCOUT, I find it necessary to explain this many aspects of the game because it really takes this much understanding of the details to be able to appreciate what it's like. Or so I hope. You might still be clueless what playing the game feels like. I encourage you to experience it yourself. 

And I'm not even done yet with explaining the game mechanisms. Just one more okay. When a round ends, everyone who is still holding cards loses 1 point per card. This is except for the winner of the round, if she wins by playing a combo no one can top. She may still have cards in hand. They cause no penalty.  

The Play

SCOUT is a combination of several unusual rules, and it is difficult to imagine what it's like without actually playing. One key difference from typical climbing games is your hand of cards can grow and can be improved. In games like Big 2 and Fight the Landlord, you have to live with what you are dealt. You plan around that from the beginning. You try to use the strong combos you can make to help you get rid of the weak cards and combos. In SCOUT you can't reorganise your hands, but you can take other players' cards and add them to your hand. 

We did a 3-player game, and the game is tense! Your power combo only needs to survive two opponent turns for you to win a round. Let's say I play 1-2-3-4-5-6. If my first opponent can't top that, he'd take one card, let's say the 6, and turn my combo to 1-2-3-4-5. That's still pretty strong, and my second opponent might not be able to top that. If the second opponent uses his car and further weakens my combo to 1-2-3-4 (taking the 5), a straight with four cards is still decent and might not be easily beaten. In SCOUT it is desirable to build strong combos and hope for winning by being undefeated. However if everyone is thinking the same, you might get into a situation of one seemingly strong combo being surprise-beaten by another even stronger combo. Sometimes you get that anxiety of how strong is strong enough. It is highly satisfying to create powerful combos. 

The need to keep beating opponents' combos is an ongoing threat. If everyone at the table collectively fails to stop one player, that ambitious combo you are building in your hand just becomes many points you have to lose. It is important to watch the number of cards your opponents have remaining. Like typical climbing games, if they have fewer cards than a combo you are about to play, you know they can't beat you. 

If I play the three 1's, and then that 6 on the left, I will end up with the straight 9-8-7-6. 

The tokens in the first row are: start player marker, car marker (once-a-round special power) and point token for other players taking cards from your combo. The numbered counters are for keeping score. 

This photo and the next are from the same game round. You can compare them. 

I played the 9-8 on the right, and then took and inserted a 4, so that I now had a combo of 3-4-5-6. If I played 7-8-9 later, I would be able to link up the 2, making a combo of 2-3-4-5-6. 

The Thoughts

There aren't many highly innovative games. I'm glad that SCOUT was nominated for the SdJ. I think innovation in game design should be encouraged. The last time I played a game which gave me a pleasant surprise like this was Regicide. That's a card game too. SCOUT is the kind of game you can play all night over snacks and drinks while chatting. It comes in a small box so it's great for trips with friends. Highly recommended! 

Monday, 1 May 2023

Dancing Queen on The Opinionated Gamers

The Opinionated Gamers (OG) is a blog I have been following for many years, since their inception in 2011. The team at OG was already writing for BoardGameGeek.com well before the OG blog started. They are old timers and long-time contributors to the hobby. 

A few months ago I contacted the founder and chief editor Dale Yu, and asked whether he was interested to give Dancing Queen a go. I sent a review copy to him in the US. This is what he thought of the game: link. He calls it a "super neat 2P card game". I must say I am thrilled. It is surreal to see my own game featured at a website I have been a reader of for so many years. 

Friday, 28 April 2023

Horseless Carriage


The Game

Horseless Carriage (2023) is the latest game from Splotter. I am a big fan of their games, and by now I have reached the stage I can confidently buy-before-try. They are the only game designer team I can say that for. Their previous title was Food Chain Magnate (2015), which was 8 years ago. These guys take their time. 

Horseless Carriage is about the early days of the automobile industry. Cars are a new product on the market. As car manufacturers, you need to work out what exactly your customers want, so that you can develop the right products. At the same time, you are also shaping what the market perceives to be important features. Car buyers are fickle, and tastes regularly change. You need to be able to handle the ever increasing customer expectations while at the same time competing with your opponents to sell cars. The richest player at the end of the game wins. 

The most important part of the game board is the 8x8 grid on the left. This represents the car market in an abstract way. The X and Y axes represent two different types of requirements of car buyers, e.g. safety, speed and range. Buyers at the lower left corner have no expectations, while those at the top right corner expect many features to be available in your cars. Naturally those who have high expectations are also willing to pay more. 

The rest of the board are various tracks, including for turn order, scores and production capacities. 

You have your own player board, which is your car factory. This is the most important part of the game - how you place various tiles in your factory. I think of the player board as not just a factory. It is a representation of your car company. In addition to your production lines, you also place your dealerships, marketing departments, research departments and planning departments here. 

This is a countdown timer track. You play at most 7 rounds in a game. However some actions trigger this timer. If the timer hits zero before you complete 7 rounds, the game ends early. If the game ending early is beneficial to you, you can deliberately manipulate the timer. This also means sometimes you need to think twice before performing certain actions, because your action may cause the game to end earlier than you prefer. 

Cars placed on the board represent buyers, i.e. market demand. Purple cars are regular cars (sedans), the golden ones are trucks, and the blue sports cars. There are black squares along the X and Y axes. They represent how many features of a specific category that the buyer expects to see in your car. For example the Y axis is currently associated with safety features (light brown). Near the top left there is a truck in the row marked with two black squares. This means this particular buyer who is looking to buy a truck wants a truck with at least two safety features. 

These frames represent the reach of your dealerships. The more marketing departments you have attached to a dealership, the bigger the frame you can use. Bigger frames let you reach out to more customer segments. 

When selling cars, you place the frames on the board like this. Your dealership must fulfill the requirements of customers in all segments covered by the frame. When players' frames overlap, it means they will be competing for the same customers. Turn order for selling cars becomes crucial.  

This is a factory, i.e. player board. The tiles with cars are the mainlines. They are the hubs for producing cars. They must be connected to dealerships - those white tiles with cubes. Cubes on dealerships represent how many features and in what types the cars sold here have. The four sides of a mainline are in white and three different shades of grey. These four sides allow the mainline to be connected to up to four separate assembly lines, which I'll call sublines. Let's take the orange truck mainline as an example. On the A (white) subline, there is a workstation producing doors. All tiles in the A subline must have the same white background and must be eventually connected back to the A side of the mainline. There is a purple arrow pointing at the door workstation. This indicates that the workstation is producing a purple, i.e. design, feature. This allows you to place a purple cube on the connected dealership. 

On the B subline (light grey) there are two workstations. The interesting one is on the right. It has two arrows pointing at it, green and red. This means it is producing two features, a green range feature and a red speed feature. These allow the green and red cubes to be placed on the dealership. Notice that this B subline is at the same time serving the other mainline making purple sedans. If you can get separate mainlines to share some sublines, you will save much space and heartache. 

My truck mainline has no D (dark grey) subline, because I have no space for it. I have no option to use any dark grey workstations. Tiles once placed on your factory floor can never be removed or shifted. This is very much a Splotter design philosophy. You have to plan carefully and know what you are doing. An early mistake can ruin your game. 

You will place more are more cubes on your dealerships, meaning your cars will support more and more features, in order to meet customer expectations. 

These are the tech tracks. There are five of them in total. Two will be placed next to the main board, to represent the two types of features buyers want most this round. The other three which are off board are still important and you need to pay attention to them. At the end of every round, one of the tech tracks at the main board will be replaced with one of these three off board. What buyers expect will change every round. The white bars on the three off board tech tracks represent the minimum requirements of the market. You must fulfil all minimum requirements to be able to sell your cars, and not just those two types on the main board. 

The player markers on the tech tracks represent your research level. Research level grants you access to specific workstations as shown on the tech tracks. One important rule is if your turn order is ahead of other players, you can use their techs as if you own them. This is called using their patents. It is difficult to develop all techs by yourself, so turn order is an important element to pay attention to. 

Players' research levels influence which types of features will be demanded by buyers. The more you research a tech, the more it will get prioritised to be moved to the main board next. If you want to manipulate which tech goes next and which doesn't, this is how. 

Every round you get to develop new market segments. By doing this you generate regular new demand on the main board. This particular card will create demand for four sedan cars from now until the end of the game. 

When you develop new demand, you place those tiny square tiles. Every round these square tiles generate new customers (i.e. car pieces). This is predictable and you can plan how you want to compete and which customers you want to serve. 

The Play

Horseless Carriage is a 3 to 5 player game. Han, Allen and I did a 3-player game. We were all new to the game. My gut feeling is it will be more interesting with more players, because competition will be more intense. 

Han and I had read the rules, and we both agreed that it was hard to imagine how the game worked. The rules were not that complicated. As veteran gamers, normally by reading the rulebook we can more or less figure out how a game works and what the general strategies will be. With Horseless Carriage, we felt lost and had little idea what we should be doing. It feels like having read a sentence, and despite knowing every word in it, I still don't understand what that sentence means. We had to sit down to play to start learning how the game actually works. 

The core of the game is laying tiles in your factory. It's all about planning. You start with a large factory floor. Every round after placing as many tiles as you want, you get to expand your factory floor in preparation for the next round. You will be doing this six times. By the seventh round when the expansion tiles run out, it is time for the game to end. All those tiles you get to place on your factory floor are free! The mainlines, the workstations, the dealerships, the planning departs. All free. If this game were designed by someone else, each department and function may have a different cost, and you have to make money and save up to buy them. In the end it becomes complexity for the sake of complexity. In Horseless Carriage, the designers had decided that these aspects were not the core of the game, and did away with them. I admire that. 

Every tile on your factory floor, once placed, can never be removed or shifted. This is very much in the spirit of other Splotter games. You'd better know what you're doing. This is not the kind of game that you can happily do random things and explore at your leisure and expect to be able to steadily work things out and catch up by game end. This is an unforgiving game. An early and bad mistake can doom you for the rest of the game. This is the kind of game that Splotter makes. They don't give you child guards. No catch-up mechanisms. No protection from doing stupid things. If you are going to play a Splotter game, you have to remind yourself you are an adult now and you will take responsibility of your own actions. 

By Round 2, Han, Allen and I were already stunned staring at our factory floors and repeating oh crap oh crap oh crap in our minds. Mistakes in the first round already started haunting us. It was like having dropped a pound of salt into the broth and now we had to think how to save the mess. It was disaster management. We needed to work out how to not further screw ourselves. It was funny to have three grown men brooding over a table muttering what am I doing. 

The ever increasing customer expectations are a constant source of pressure. We needed to plan ahead and predict what the market would want, and then design our factories accordingly. We had to allocate space for workstations which would help us fulfil customer expectations. There were five different types of requirements, and customer priorities changed every round. It was challenging to keep up. This is a game about long-term planning. While working towards meeting market expectations, we were also competing among ourselves. 

We didn't compete too directly in the factory building aspect. We couldn't mess with one another's factories. However the quantities of the workstations were limited. If one particular type ran out, it would be bad news for anyone who still needed that type. We still needed to watch closely how others were designing their factories, so that we could plan how to compete on the main board. You gotta know your enemies. 

More direct competition came from selling cars. If our car features were about the same, we would be competing for the same customers. Players have some control over generating market demand. If you know there are certain expectations which only you can meet and no one else, you'd want to create such customers. You would monopolise that segment. With three players, the game board felt rather spacious. However we often couldn't serve many of the customers. So maybe the game does need that big a board. Or maybe we were just horrible at playing. 

I was the only person making trucks (the golden pieces). I thought having a monopoly would mean big bucks coming in all the time, but that didn't exactly happen. Most of the time I didn't manage to produce trucks with many of the desired features, so I mostly sold to low-end customers who had little or no expectations. I only had myself to blame. Allen and Had did consider competing with me, but the truck mainline was a large piece, and they already had enough trouble managing their factory floors. They didn't want another major project to have migraine over. 

Being able to expand assembly lines from the mainline tiles is of utmost importance. This is how you keep up with customer expectations. Ideally you want to keep your options open for all four sublines A, B, C and D, but that's difficult to do. This is very much a spatial game. If you are producing two types of cars, it is best if they can share some sublines and workstations. That's going to save you a lot of pain. 

We only played 5 rounds. By then, the result was clear. Han produced sports cars, and he managed to create a group of high-end buyers which only he managed to sell to. His sports cars had many features and round after round he focused on selling expensive toys to these rich boys. Sports cars themselves were already more profitable than regular cars. Being able to serve the high requirement segment meant even more profit for Han. Allen's sports cars couldn't compete, and I didn't make sports cars at all. By Round 5 we knew it was impossible to catch up to Han. 

The Thoughts

Horseless Carriage did not disappoint. It is a heavy Euro strategy game, very much in the Splotter style. This is the kind of game hardcore gamers like. I like that the game doesn't rely on too many rules or too complicated rules to create a rich and interesting strategy space. It is not minimalistic. It uses just enough to make the game work. Some simple and seemingly innocent rules have much tactical consideration behind them. No doubt this is a heavy game, so it is not for players new to the hobby. 

Designing and expanding your factory is a spatial challenge. It is the bulk of the game. It reminds me of Uwe Rosenberg's polyomino games. That's essentially what you're doing right? But here the gameplay is much more complicated. It is not just about filling spaces and leaving as few holes as possible. There is much more you need to consider. Horseless Carriage also reminds me of Martin Wallace's Automobile. They share the same setting. The mechanisms are vastly different. Automobile is less complex, but not by any means a light game. I like them both. Horseless Carriage made me itch to play Automobile again. 

Some of the earlier Splotter games like Antiquity and Indonesia get complaints about being fiddly. Indeed they have some components which are tedious to manage during play. I am not too bothered, as the enjoyment is worth the trouble. The fiddly part of Horseless Carriage would be those flimsy plastic frames. When we played, if we could tell apart our dealership ranges easily, we didn't bother to place the frames. Only when we had overlaps, and thus direct competition, then we used those frames. They are still a useful visual tool, just a bit difficult to handle. 

I thought about whether Horseless Carriage has enough player interaction. You can't mess with your opponents' factories, so that part of the game, which is the most important part, feels a little like multiplayer solitaire. In our game, Han cornered the billionaires sports car market, and there was squat Allen and I could do. Eventually I concluded that there is plenty of player interaction. You do have to be acutely aware of what your opponents are doing, and you have to think about what they are planning to do. You have to decide where to compete and where to concede. In our game, there were parts I felt helpless about, but it wasn't due to a lack of player interaction. I had already missed the opportunities to do something well before I got to the helpless situation. Horseless Carriage can be a brutal game, and I love that. It has both a rich strategic layer and a complex execution layer. You can't neglect either one. I like how important the strategic layer is. If you fare poorly at that level, no amount of good execution will save you. 

This is the way. 

Saturday, 22 April 2023

Beethoven vs Newton voting ends soon


Voting for the BoardGameGeek 2023 Two Player Game Design Contest ends at the end of April. My submission is Beethoven vs Newton. The last time I participated in a game design contest on BoardGameGeek it was a 9-card dame design contest. The main restriction was we could only use at most 9 cards. There was no restriction about the number of players, but my submission then - Dancing Queen - happened to be a pure 2-player game. Beethoven vs Newton is a pure 2-player game too. The contest this time allows entries which support more than 2 players, as long as 2 players is a valid player count. I see quite a few entries which support 2 to 4 or 2 to 5 players. In my case I went for a game that is specifically designed for two. 

Beethoven vs Newton is a microgame. You only need 18 cards. Download for free here

After younger daughter Chen Rui drew the cartoon versions of the scientists and artists for me, I had an urge to do funny captains for them all. For example: 

Chopin (thinking) "What a retarded question"

Marie Curie (thinking) "God I'm explaining this for the third time and you still don't get it. Did you even graduate from primary school? " 

Schumann (thinking) "What? Never seen handsome before? " 

I just realised Chen Rui had secretly added Squidward to the background. How did this get past me? 

What caption would you add to these characters? Submission are welcome. They will be considered for the physical game if I get to the publishing stage. 

My playtest copy is still an older version using artwork I Googled. 

Scientists are blue

Game in progress

Beethoven and Newton

Voting period ends 30 Apr 2023. Please come support my game. 

Game details, including links to download the rulebook and game components: link

Contest details: link

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Friday, 21 April 2023



The Game

9upper is a party game from Hong Kong, and it is in Traditional Chinese. Initially I didn't understand the name and I wondered whether it was supposed to be a variation of the word supper. Only after I learned that it is from Hong Kong that I understood the humour behind the English name. It is based on the Cantonese phrase "9-up" which a colloquial way of saying "talk rubbish". BS, if you will. 

9upper is nominally a trivia game, because there is trivia in the game, but more accurately speaking it is a lying game. If you happen to know the obscure trivia in the game, you will have an advantage, but the game may not be fun. Here's how the game works. 

The cards in the game have a term or phrase on the card back, and a description of what the team means on the front. The game comes with a huge stack of cards will all sorts of obscure facts, related to history, arts, geography, politics, biology. Every round, one player takes the role of the judge, and the judge's identity is open information. The identities of the others must be kept secret. Among them one plays the genuine and the rest are liars. 

Only one card will be used each round. Everyone except the judge takes a turn to pick up the card and read the description. The genuine player simply reads the passage as is, but the liars must say something else. They must pretend to read and try to convince the judge that they are actually reading from the card. After all the reading is done, the judge tries to pick who is genuine. If the correct person is picked, both judge and genuine score points. If a liar is picked, that liar scores points. If the judge is positive that certain players are liars, he can do a side bet, condemning these liars. If he turns out to be right, these condemned liars lose points. However if he is wrong about one of them who turns out to be genuine, he himself suffers a stiff penalty. 

You play a number of rounds depending on the number of players. Once done, the highest scorer wins. 

The Play

This is a game with high player interaction. It challenges you to speak like you know stuff when you don't know anything. How good a liar, or con-sultant, are you? This can be hilarious when people conjure very convincing stories. This is not actually a trivia game. If the judge knows the obscure term for the round, the game doesn't actually work. He will easily make the right judgement based on his knowledge. That's no fun and that's missing the point. What this means is there is a lifespan to the game. Once you've played it enough times and know most of the terms, it doesn't quite work anymore. That's why you need 9upper 2 and 9upper 3

In the group I played with, we discussed the problem of how difficult it is for liars to lie. They have to pretend to read the card by moving their eyeballs line by line while at the same time spewing nonsense which sounds sensible. That's hard! Eventually we played using a different procedure. Before a round started, we closed our eyes for 20 seconds so that the genuine player could take a look at the card. When the round started, we didn't pass the card around. We just took turns to explain the term on the card. This made it a little easier for the liars. 

The Thoughts

This is the rowdy type of game, a party game. It works well at boardgame cafes. This is more of an extrovert's game. It helps when you are good at talking and making things up on the spot. If you are an introvert this may be challenging. But it may be just the kind of game that'll be helpful to you. It certainly trains you to be more outspoken and creative. 9upper is a good ice-breaker. The variety of topics can trigger interesting discussions.