Building Better Board games Together

#LessonsFromUnpub4
Jan23

#LessonsFromUnpub4

I think I have finally recovered from the mad gaming extravaganza that was Unpub 4 this past weekend. As I lamented the end of the event, it seemed prudent to capture the tidbits of knowledge that the designers and playtesters still had fresh in their minds. Monday morning I asked the main Unpub twitter account to request that designers and playtesters share thoughts, experiences and photographs using the hashtag: #LessonsFromUnpub4 in order to fuel this post. However, I can’t claim to have come up with the idea on my own. I was inspired to request @TheUnpub to ask people to use the hashtag when I saw a conversation that happened on Monday morning and felt that the insight needed to be shared. I found the chat thanks to a retweet by @CardboardEdison(Chris and Suzanne Zinsli, co-designers of Tessen and Cottage Industry). The conversation was started by Jay Treat, designer of Khyber Station:   The biggest mistake I saw designers (including myself) making at #Unpub4 was defending our choices instead of truly reconsidering them. — Jay Treat (@jtreat3) January 20, 2014   I think this tweet summarizes the Unpub program very well because it contains discussion points for both designers and playtesters. For designers, it is important to consider all feedback. Do not disregard feedback just because it came from a player, be sure you can provide a rationale for your decision, as a player felt that it was necessary to say. For players, it reminds us that is important to ask designers what they are looking for in regards to feedback. A designer may have chosen to limit the design of the game to 54 cards and if after the game, your feedback is add 12 more cards, it may not be helpful for the designer. I’ve seen this in my own play testing where someone will have designed a game with limited player interaction and players will ask for the ability to attack other players. It may not need to be added to the game, but the players want it because that is their play style. I vow to bring a script of questions to ask prior to sitting down to play any game at Unpub 5. The idea of player style is another excellent lesson that was discussed at length on the hashtag. Discussion centered around having playtesters who like heavy euros wear different color badges or other visual identifiers to distinguish them from playtesters interested in lighter games. This would allow designers to recruit the playtesters most likely to enjoy their game. The entire event is based on the synergy between these two groups so it...

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Attending an Unpub Event
Jan16

Attending an Unpub Event

Written by Nathaniel ‘Nat’ Levan. Nat and his wife, Anna, are the brains behind Oak Leaf Games, based in Philadelphia. Nat has been participating in Unpub events for the past 2 years and has always been eager to contribute, as you can tell from the post above. Nat is awesome. —————————————— What do you need in order to attend an Unpub event? The answer depends somewhat on whether you plan to go as a designer or a player, but there are some things that everyone attending needs to do. Do your homework. As a player, research the designers who will attend. See what games they have made, read about what they plan to bring if you can. Designers will appreciate the interest, and everyone will appreciate getting into a game faster. As a designer, prepare your game to be easily played. I have run into problems with this, when I didn’t count the right number of pieces. Make a sale sheet so players and publishers can quickly learn about your game. (How to make a sale sheet will be the topic of a different article.) And learn about the other designers too. Maybe you can get their help. Have a good attitude. You should be courteous, outgoing, and friendly. Designers, remember you’re asking people to help you without giving them anything material in return. Players are there to learn the game from the designer, so you are your first impression people will get of your game, For everyone, minding the host is good manners. You are a guest, so follow their requests. For many designers and players, being outgoing is one of the toughest parts of an event, but a making an effort is worth it. Introduce yourself to get involved, and be your own salesperson, to engage people and bring them to your table. And remember that if you are interested, you are interesting. Bring an open mind, important for both players and designers. Be ready to play something unpolished, and maybe even incomplete. And try something you normally wouldn’t. Feedback from people who wouldn’t normally play a game is frequently more insightful than feedback from fans of the style. Don’t be reluctant to try a game just because the theme wouldn’t normally interest you. It might change completely by the next time you have an opportunity to play it, and if it really doesn’t work for you, let the designer know. As a designer, be ready to receive feedback from players. Part of participating in Unpub as a designer is willingness to change your game. Maybe you have considered everything that is in the feedback and have reasons it...

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Interview with Photographer Scott King
Jan14

Interview with Photographer Scott King

While attending Unpub 4 this year, you might see a photographer milling about, taking photos here and there of gameplay and designs. You may not recognize his face, but you will certainly recognize his work. Scott King, game photographer, might be new to the world of game design, but has written multiple successful books, and has run a successful KickStarter campaign for a 2014 Gaming Calendar featuring beautiful pictures of our favorite games. The Unpub Network is happy to have Scott on board as the official photographer for Unpub 4, but wants those in attendance to know more about his background and talents! So enjoy the little interview we had with Scott, for we sure did! UNPUB: How did you get into photography? Scott: I went to college and grad school for film & electronic media so I’ve always been into the aesthetics of a camera frame, but it wasn’t until I spent three years teaching digital photograph at a college that I really got into it. The niches I gravitated toward were landscape and food photography and then that evolved into game photography.   U: Where did you first hear about Unpub? S: I first heard about Unpub 3 from a podcast where John Moller, the founder of Unpub, was on the show explaining what Unpub was. At the time, I was writing a story that involved a character who wanted to grow up to be a game designer and I decided to attend the convention as research. So a lot of the game design references in my book “Finish the Script!” are derived directly from attending Unpub. There is even a nod to Compounded in it, which was the first game that Lisa, my longterm girlfriend, and I ever kickstarted.   U: Is it true that you dragged Lisa to Unpub on your anniversary? S: Yes, but a little known fact is that she’s way geekier than me. So she was all about it and had an absolute blast last year. Honestly we were just going to stop by Unpub for an hour or two so that I could take some photos and write some notes, but she LOVED it. We ended up staying on Saturday for over 10 hours and then came back again on Sunday. As a players we had an amazing time and I’d recommend the convention to anyone.   U: Do you always carry your camera with you? S: Lisa and I can be very adventurous and as long as long as we aren’t doing something mundane like grocery shopping I normally bring my camera with us. So no matter if we are...

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What can Unpub do for you?
Jan12

What can Unpub do for you?

Written by Nathaniel ‘Nat’ Levan. Nat and his wife, Anna, are the brains behind Oak Leaf Games, based in Philadelphia. Nat has been participating in Unpub events for the past 2 years and has always been eager to contribute, as you can tell from the post above. Nat is awesome. —————————————— Hi, I’m Nat, new game designer and member of the Unpub network for about a year and a half. My first experience was accidentally encountering an Unpub Mini at the local game store. This was a bit of a revelation, that games don’t just get made by pushing ideas around. It comes from pushing cardboard. Many games never make it as far as a playable prototype, and many of those that do never reach a publisher. This is where Unpub comes into play. If you’re reading this, you’re already a member of the Unpub Network, just by knowing about it. It is a network because it includes not just designers, but publishers, store owners, bloggers, podcasters, and especially players. And it is a way to connect all of these people who are passionate about games to advance the hobby. So what can you expect from Unpub? Well, the core of Unpub is the feedback system. Designers design games, players play them and give feedback, and designers take the feedback to improve their games. This sounds like a great system for designers. Have people play our game and tell you how to fix it? I’m in. But the real advantage is that everybody benefits from this system. Lets start with the game design. Designers can use Unpub to meet and talk with other designers, publishers, and players. Designers get a better idea of what they want to make and how to make it. Bringing it to an unpub event means creating a prototype. The prototype gets a designer thinking about manufacturing and components, which not only helps in design, but will help when the game is ready to be published. This sharing of ideas early in the game design process leads to better, more interesting games for players. It also gives players a way to influence the types of games that get made. If there’s something you would like to see, tell someone, and it might become a game. You can watch something grow from seed to a finished product. The next step is playing games. Designers get to see their creations come to life, and they get to see people try things that might not have occurred to them. Finding people outside your family and gaming group to play test your game is absolutely vital for a designer, and Unpub...

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54-Card Game Design Challenge!

Dice Hate Me Games and Unpub want YOU… to design a game! The challenge? Create a fun, engaging game using only 54 cards and then put it in front of a bunch of strangers to see how you fared! Interested? Here are the details! All contest submissions are due by the end of day Jan. 2, 2014. Please submit rules in PDF to chris@dicehateme.com before the due date (I suggest by Dec. 24, 2014)  and request the DHMG HQ address to send physical prototypes. Prototypes can be in any playable form – anything from simple paper cutouts, stickered standard decks of cards, sleeved cards or even decks created using print-on-demand services. These do not have to be fancy – no points will be awarded for slick graphic design. Only one entry per person is allowed. Send us your best! All submitted game entries will be evaluated and judged by a group of local Durham, NC playtesters before Unpub 4 (www.unpub.net) in Dover, Delware on Jan. 18, 2014. The top six games will be played and judged at Unpub 4 by a group of playtesters to be determined. The game submission that garners the highest voting score will receive a FREE designer table at Unpub 5 as well as a publication contract with Dice Hate Me Games, to be included as part of a special Kickstarter campaign in Spring 2014 with two other 54-card games. These games will be produced domestically, and will be limited to 500 units. This will officially introduce the “Rabbit” line of Dice Hate Me Games, and the designer(s) of the best-received game of this group of three will have the option of a further publishing contract withDice Hate Me Games for a larger print run later in 2014. Further guidelines for the project: 1) The game must be comprised of NO MORE than 54 cards. The game can incorporate fewer than 54 cards, but designers should bear in mind that this contest is not necessarily for a “mini-game”; the use of 54 cards offers the chance for a lot of depth-of-play, so design accordingly. 2) Rules should fit on a single 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper. The rules may be double-sided. 3) Cards MAY contain game information on both sides of the cards, essentially creating a 55- to 108-card deck. However, designers should bear in mind both the form and function of their designs – if the game is awkward to play just so you can fit more cards in the deck then it is ultimately not worth the risk. 4) Games should utilize minimal counters or components. Any possible counters or components to be used in the game should be something that...

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Unpub Logo Contest!

Unpub is in dire need of a few new logos, and frankly, no one here at the home office has got the time to put them together. So we put our heads together and came up with a brilliant idea- why not let you do them for us! Here is the deal, we want to have ‘Unpub Designer‘ and ‘Unpub Playtester‘ logos. These would be used for name tags, buttons, the website, emails, possibly shirts, maybe even underpants- you get the picture. We are thinking an emblem kind of thing, but are open to anything. Unless it has a mushroom, as mushrooms are nasty. Without further ado, here are the rules: The logos MUST contain the Unpub logo (provided here). Logos MUST be submitted in full color and 1 color (black, no grey tones). Preferred file types are AI, EPS, and PSD. The logos must ‘match’. As in, look similar so it’s obvious they are the same ‘brand’ but be different enough to tell each other apart. The logos will be placed on blueprint-blue backgrounds, unless you submit something better. Keep the logos kid-friendly (no hidden Little Mermaid ‘Towers’). You do not have to do both logos. Entries should be emailed here (as well as any questions), if they are too large send us a DropBox link to that same address. When submitted your entry(s) please be sure to include your name, mailing address, phone, and email. Also feel free to tell us why you did what you did, what inspired you, etc. Submissions MUST be received by 11:59pm EST, December 31, 2013. Again, you do not have to design both logos. We may choose a different winner for each- or we may choose a single winner who submitted 2 outstanding pieces. Really, it’s up to you. So, to recap maximum of 2 winners, minimum of 1. So that’s it. Though I feel like we’re missing something… umm… hmm. OH! Duh, what’s in it for you! The winner(s) will receive an UNPUb Prize pack, which will include (but may not be limited to) a blog post/highlight of you and your design, design credit on the website, UNPUB shirt, buttons, our eternal respect, and a copy of every game currently released from Dice Hate Me Game (Carnival, Great Heartland hauling, VivaJava, and Compounded) complete with their RARE expansions! Wait… did we just spoil...

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