This past weekend, Protospiel came to Canada with a game designers’ event in Toronto! If you recall from yesterday’s blog, Bill and I were at Mississauga Maker Fest on the Saturday, followed immediately by a zombie-themed party event hosted by our friend Andrew (who is likely responsible for me owning about half of my game collection). So Sunday morning, Bill and I got up and headed downtown to Protospiel North!
It was held at a nice Polish Legion Hall, Beverly Halls SPK. As we approached, I realized that I had seen the place before, and was even kind of familiar with the area, as I had traveled Beverly Street many times before on my way to the University of Toronto St. George campus during my University years. We arrived and set up our games at a couple of open tables and looked around. This was a fairly informal process: set up you games, ask others to play them and collect feedback, and then play theirs and provide feedback. It is quite a friendly and cooperative community amongst game designers.
I started by playing Unstable Re-Action by Clay Holmes of Homeward Games. This was a quick and fun game about mixing chemicals and creating an explosive which then gets passed to the next player. if they are unable to play a card to duck it, send it back, deactivate it, or increase its potency and pass it on, then they explode and lose a card from their hand (we each start with three cards). When a player is out of cards, they are out of the game. But, with the speed that the game goes, it isn’t long before it ends and you can start again.
I enjoyed the pace of this one. Playing red, yellow, blue or green cards until a red is played right before or after a green (and a blue and yellow played beside each other makes a green) creating an explosive gives it a “what’s going to happen next?” tension with each card played, which then ramps up once an explosive is created and gets passed around until someone doesn’t have the right card to deal with it.
Clay said that there are other theme ideas, such as ingredients in a witch’s brew, or as suggested by some university students, a drinking game and the cards are the ingredients to mix the drink. Once the drink is mixed and someone can’t avoid it, they lose cards and have to drink some of the actual drink.
Perhaps to help entice people to his table top play, Clay had a couple bowls of candies in the colours of the cards. I didn’t go for the Jolly Ranchers, but gave an “Extreme Sour” lemon Warhead a go, and regretted it pretty much immediately. There was no false advertising on the package for that one.
After that, I had Clay, and another designer, Tigh Tiefenbach, play our unnamed dice game. They both quite enjoyed it and gave similar feedback o what we’ve been hearing previously: the theme doesn’t need to be fancy, and the rules don’t need to be any more complicated. It just needs a pretty board.
We had a try of Tigh‘s game next, which has the working title “Dice Heist”. Unfortunately, Clay couldn’t join us because he had other business to attend to, but Bill sat with us, as did Joshua Sprung and “Caren with a C”.
In this co-operative game, we are sneaking into a building to pull off some sort of illegal job and then escaping. We have to complete 5 tasks, including the one that lets us escape. At the same time, encounters are building up as we choose a new one each player’s turn. They can be resolved at any time, but if you don’t have the right dice rolls, or can’t modify the dice enough with your abilities or equipment, then the encounter doesn’t get resolved, and if the building gets three unresolved encounters on each floor, then we lose.
There were some neat thematic mechanics, like having to roll low to complete “sneak” or “con” tasks, but high to complete other tasks. You need to roll higher numbers to complete the stage 2 and 3 tasks, and completing the earlier tasks adds more dice to your communal dice pool. Unfortunately, some of the late encounters are “sneak” and “con” encounters which require low rolls. Do the longer you are in the building completing the tasks, the more suspicious and alert the people there are, making it harder to complete some of the encounters.
As fun as it was, we never felt that we were in danger of losing, so Tigh’s going to have a look at more difficult encounters, or less access o the helpful equipment. I like co-operative games, so I’m going to keep an eye out for this one.
I’m pretty sure that it was at this point which we went and got burritos for lunch!
After that, while Bill was showing Mathemagician’s Duel to some other designers, I joined Kevin Carmichael, Joe Slack and Sylvain Plante in playing a game tentatively called Changing Tides, by Brent Wilde.
Brent’s hand-drawn characters were really cute! The idea was that each character moves around dropping tokens of three types, driftwood, pebble and seaweed. We each card cards matching these, and kept them face-down with a marker on top of one of them to indicate which type of token we would score on. On our turn, we could move to an adjacent square and then look at one token there, and then drop one ourselves. We also had the option of changing which type of token we would score on, based on what we saw. We had a bit of trouble remembering what was on the face-down tokens though, and scoring was a bit unwieldy.
This is where it got really interesting. We all had suggestions and feedback, as that’s what playtesting is for, but by the time we the player had finished having our say, the game had some MAJOR changes. Brent listened and made notes, and we played again two more times using the suggested changes, and the game became more and more fun. It’s difficult listening to people making changes to your game, and some people are very resistant, especially to the amount of change we suggested to Brent. But Brent saw great value in the ideas of the other players and was very open to them. This was a great example of how to playtest effectively. I would love to see where this game goes next.
Finally, with time enough to play one more game, we tried Sylvain’s Secret Services. This is a deduction game in which each player has an identity as a member of one of the world’s secret services. One player is the “mole”, who has two identities. Everyone’s goal is to figure out who the mole is, while the mole is attempting to correctly identify which service each of the other agents belong to.
On their turn a player can move tokens to get them into the same space and then interrogate a player. The interrogation involves asking a player if the token of their service is in that space or not. If not, they may say “no”, but if it is, they secretly show the asking player their ID. Players have a card to circle, cross off, or question mark corresponding symbols to narrow down who is what. I’m not usually good at this type of game, because I lost focus and forget stuff, but this was fun and I liked the theme.
And that was the end of the day! It was a good time, and we hope to be able to make it to both days of the weekend next year. A big thanks to Joe and Kevin for all of their work, and also to those we met and gamed with. I look forward to seeing you all in the future!