rules, rules, rules

4 months... that seems about right.

The last of the 6.1 revisions are finished.

More importantly I have a 2nd draft of the rules. So once it gets warm enough to spray mount things out side (no garage at the new house - boo!) I can not only put together new playlets sets, but i can send them out to people without having to sit down and teach them how to play it. Theoretically.

new character cards

Turns out it takes a long time to write and illustrate a decent set of rules. 

I've been working on the rules for a couple of months now, because they are difficult, and because I have a day job. And also because I keep revising everything as I go along. Case in point the newest revisions to the character cards:


This version is similar to the Gen Con character cards except that there is a base attack dice table. One of the few major revisions since Gen Con is that I have done away with the Character Points system. The character points and story chips did exactly the same thing, allowing the player to buy extra dice for attacks. The nature of extra dice also changed making the character point system kind of redundant. The character points replenished every turn and there was always an optimal way to purchase dice. It became a system that added nothing and slowed down play. So it got cut.

Now there is a set number of bonus dice at each chapter that indicates the character's advancement. The characters' bonus dice from equipment and character abilities (now called class hooks) differentiate the classes. Story chips are now the only way to buy bonus dice out right, as a part of the narration. I hope it works as well as it sounds.

gen con 2014 playtest

I finally figured out the printing problems I was having and finished a new play test set. Which is a good thing, because I'm heading off to Gen Con for another round of play testing. 

As I did last year I headed off to Modern Myths in New York to do a shakedown test before the main event.  All in all it went off pretty well. We landed the plain, as it were, and I now know that three people can complete a game of Chronicle in just over two hours. Hopefully experienced players can bring that number down a little bit.

I think the villain/ complication deck bifurcation worked out well too, though there is still some balancing that needs to be done, in this particular game there were a lot of instances of drawing high level monsters early in the game. That might have been okay, except the item/ story chip economy was not firing. Items cost too much, and we didn't get many story chips. This has been a problem before, but I thought I had fixed it. Looks like I still have some work to do.

If you happen to be at Gen Con look me up in the First Exposure Playtest Hall. 

16 hours in a car

Technically I suppose it was 14 hours in the car and another 2 hours eating and making pit stops, but you get the idea.

Gen Con was great! The First Exposure Playtest Hall was run excellently by the indomitable folks from Double Exposure. My playtesters were all exceptionally helpful and I wanted to take a quick moment to thank them publicly. They made the game better. So much better.

I'm still working on assimilating all of my notes, but for the most part all of the changes I need to make are small changes. Making things less complex.

But one change was more major and made a world of difference.There used to be a dice replacement mechanic in the game. When a character went into combat the player put together a pool of white, black, and red three sided dice (1,2,and 3 repeated on two sides of a six sided die). You could replaced low scoring black and red dice with higher scoring white dice. It sounds simple when you see it in print, but when you are actually trying to sum a bunch of dice the replacement slows the whole game down.

I had two groups in a row call this mechanic out as problematic. I decided that if I simply changed the numbers on the dice I could still have the three colors of dice, but with a numerical spread that made some dice more likely to roll 1's and other dice more likely to roll 3's. White dice were changed to have three faces with a 1, two faces with a 2, and only one face with a 3. The red dice, on the other hand, have 3 on three sides, 2 on two sides, and 1 one one side. No more replacement, simply roll all of the dice in your pool and add them all together. It made all of the difference in the world to how smoothly the game was played.

More as I make edits to pick up other changes.

Thanks again playtesters!

the only thing constant is change

It's been a couple months since my last post. A busy couple of months. It's surprising how much time moving an entire household across town can consume...

There have also been some major changes to the game mechanics, and those changes have me going through yet another revision to the encounter cards.

I was thinking about the episodic nature of comic books and sic-fi tv shows because if Chronicle is successful i'd like to use the same engine to make storytelling games for different genres. Specifically I would like to make a comic book version and a space opera version.

While meditating on the A story - B story construction of shows like Star Trek it occurred to me that I could change the single encounter deck format I'm using in Chronicle to a two deck system. A two deck system could consist of a threat deck and a complication deck. With the two deck system you would always have a threat (the equivalent of a monster, or say a Klingon captain with a grudge against the federation) with conditional complications (a warp core coolant leak, an alien impersonating your first officer, etc.).  Using this type of system means you you have something that tests your abilities as a starship captain every turn, but you could also end up needing fix your ship, negotiate a peace treaty, etc., which makes the threat more difficult.

And then it occurred to me that this same system could fix one of the last problems with my encounter deck. No one wants to get that red dragon on their first turn and get blown out of the water, but no one really wants to get the market day event on their first turn either. So I'll have two decks: a monster deck and a complication deck. This way you fight a round of combat every turn. Is your level higher than the monster's? Draw a complication. Did you decide to go into the inner ring of tiles? Draw a complication. Did you decide to land on the standing stones tile instead of the hills tile? Draw a complication.

Each complication is it's own thing: an event (the plague), a plot (the missing princess), or even another monster. But each complication also adds dice to the Monster's attack. Suddenly you have a lot more control over how hard a monster is to beat.

the (hopefully) last corner tile post

As a basis for discussion here is the what the corner tiles looked like at the end of version 4:


And this is what the same tile looked like after the first round of version 5 changes:


Over all the changes are very minor. The roll needed to move along the inner ring has been changed from a numerical value (2+) to a symbolic one (the die showing 2 pips). The text under the tile name has been simplified and enlarged. The tile encounter text has been simplified and enlarged.

The problem is the tile encounter text. It is too simplified. Losing the drop caps takes the storybook flavor away from the text design, and the encounter itself is so minimal that it is only mechanical.

The current (5.1) revision of the card looks like this:


The image has been compressed to match the aspect of the regular tiles, with the tile name and text being compressed to fit. I'm not happy that I had to change the tile name to fit the format. With the extra real estate I was able to return the tile encounter text to its former glory.  

merry christmakawanzicah

Three months. Life is funny like that: you're rolling right along and then BAM! You won't work on your game for three months because life. All I can say is that I was working on a super top secret project. I could tell you more but then my wife would have to kill me.

Anyway, I did manage to get the revisions to the board finished. I kept the drop caps. In fact I doubled down on them. I reduced the size of the art on the card to give me additional space for encounter text. I am celebrating the holidays with family at the moment but when I get home I will upload some pics.

For the two or three of you that show up on a weekly basis, thanks for reminding me I need to post more often. Have a happy (insert midwinter holiday of your choice).

slow going

I've finally been able to start making some revisions.

One of the great things about the first exposure playtest hall was the ringer that the Double Exposure folks brought in. The ringer looks at a game from the perspective of how easy it is to understand visually, especially by someone who's vision is severely compromised. I'm happy to say that most of the feedback I got was positive. The font and size of text was okay through out and the contrast of components was good. 

Aside from the color of the coins on the gold track (a relatively easy fix) the text on the tiles that make up the board was really the only problem I had. The tile text is problematic because the tiles can't really be held up close to the eyes, and the text that described special tile effects and encounters was a little on the small side.  

For the rectangular tiles solving the text problem was relatively easy (assuming I have, in fact, solved it.) I simplified the special tile effects into a single line so that I could use a larger font, with more white space around it. 

The corner tiles are proving to be a little more difficult. The tile encounters currently have three lines of small text with a drop cap describing more complex interactions. In order to increase the text size I will need to simplify the encounters significantly, and remove the drop caps.

I really liked the drop caps. 

still alive...


August was rough. 

Gen con can only be described as a success. I got some really good playtest feedback, which means I've already started a new revision. The good news is that the last set of revisions seems to have fixed most of the issues I was still having with gold, advancement, etc. From here on in it looks like the revisions will be small things, balancing and reinforcing theme. Which is a good place to be.

Also marketing and awareness. I need to drive traffic to Facebook. I kickstart at 500 followers. That's doable. 


Like us on Facebook!  

first exposure playtest hall at gen con

Its on the front page, but it bears repeating:

I have my time slots for the First Exposure Playtest Hall at Gen Con.

  • Thursday, August 15th from 2 - 4 PM
  • Thursday, August 15th from 10 - 12 midnight
  • Friday, August 16th from 8 - 10 AM
  • Friday, August 16th from 2 - 4 PM
  • Friday, August 16th from 10 - 12 midnight
  • Saturday, August 17th from 10 - 12 noon
  • Saturday, August 17th from 2 - 4 PM
  • Saturday, August 17th from 10 - 12 Midnight

Come to the First Exposure hall and check out Chronicle and other games in development. In the unlikely event you can't get a into at one my playtest times hit the contact page and send me an email, I'm sure we can work something out.

fewer moving parts

I recently finished the latest round of revisions to the character cards. When I had my last playtest outing the players seemed overwhelmed by all the knobs and buttons. This was especially true of the character cards. I mean, look at these things...


If you've been role playing for 25 years (and I have) you can kind of see what's going on here, but otherwise its a bit intimidating. The idea behind a complex character card was to have a number of skills and abilities that made each character truly unique. But a large number of very incremental benefits doesn't work very well. The special abilities were overwhelming as well, to the extent that no one really used them.  

So I determined to get out of the players' way. I started by unifying the basic dice mechanic. Then unifying the character point mechanic. And finally by paring down the character card to a few really useful skills and abilities. 

Here is the new character card: 


The numeric bonus are gone. All bonuses com in the form of dice now. The number of skills dropped to 3 out of a pool of 6, but your character is going to be pretty good at those 3 skills. Your skills and your special abilities can inform how you play the character without being overwhelming. 


Looking back on the playtest the thing that worked against me the hardest was the number of moving parts. I got out the shears and started cutting. 

First on the chopping block was the experience track. Levels went right along it. In its place there is a chapter track. Each turn is one chapter in your character's chronicle. Character advancement becomes a function of chapter. Chapter functions like experience and levels but with fewer moving parts. 

Since Chronicle is now a board game in 10 chapters it narrows the total number of cards each player will interact with during the game. By pulling some of the cards out of the encounter deck and tying them to specific chapters I get to make sure some types of cards are part of each chronicle. 

Now I need to revise the the companion cards (chapter 3), the villain cards (chapter 5), and the stronghold cards (chapter 7). 

Special thanks to Travis Holyfield for pointing out that tracking experience was counter productive in a board game. 

wow. that was rough

I’d like to thank Modern Myths Mamaroneck for hosting the playtest tonight. There were a lot of people there playing a lot of board games. Very cool.

Unfortunately the playtest, aside form being very instructional, was not particularly successful. At some point having too many features becomes a bug and the game collapsed under its own weight.

On a happier note people were generally interested in the game and my playtest group thought there was a game in there somewhere that they’d be interested in playing again.

So its time to revise.

first public playtest (for reals)

I will be in Mamaroneck, NY Saturday june 29th to playtest Chronicle at Modern Myths. Saturday night is board game night and they have graciously allowed me to set up shop and con people into playing my game.

I was going to do this a month or so ago and it completely fell apart at the last second, so here's hoping the second time is the charm. I have a new game engine that needs testing badly, so I hope to see you there.

Board game night starts at 7 and I'm staying until they throw me out.  


changing game engines?

A couple of weeks ago I was working on the first module supplement for Chronicle, and thinking about the first exposure play test hall at Gen Con. I was statting out the mini bosses and thinking that at higher levels the attack roll was going to become meaningless and combat was always going to be decided by damage rolls, so what was really the point of armor.

That led me to thinking about how attack rolls work in the d20 system, because up till now Chronicle has used a light version of d20. But what works for a roll playing game is a little unsatisfying for a board game. For one thing it's a two step step process: roll to hit; roll for damage. If you flatten the attack bonus and armor class progressions, you also have to give characters a way to add bonuses back in to hit the really high level monsters...


Then I started thinking about armor and weapons. Armor, instead of being something to test against, could have a direct effect on the ability of weapons to do damage.  If I switched from the d20 mechanic to a dice pool mechanic weapons could add dice to a general attack pool and armor could remove dice.

I had already settled on three sided dice (six sided dice with 1-3 on two sides each) as a way of randomizing bonuses of special abilities. Now I was looking at using the same dice, but as part of a pool instead of as a bonus. By capping the entire dice pool to 8 dice I could make the rolling manageable and by capping the dice that are kept to 4 I could make the math manageable. The new system becomes about managing probability, which is kind of what combat is all about. Plus you get to roll a handful of dice.   

Dice codes were going to be a problem, writing things like 'roll 2 keep 1' is pretty inelegant, and probably confusing to non gamers. I already had white d3s and black d3s. In the old system the d3s were bonus dice, one color for characters and the other for monsters. Now black dice would be be used for weapons and armor: weapons add black dice and armor subtracts them. Black dice you keep. White dice are for skill, you can replace black dice with higher rolling white dice. 'Roll 2 keep 1' becomes roll 2 black and one white, or a black square with the number 2 and a white square with the number 1.


Then I added in red dice for magic. You keep red dice, but armor (black dice) can't take away red dice. 

So in the new Fist Full of Dice Engine (TM) you max out at 12d3, of which you keep a maximum of 8.  The combat roll is a direct comparison between your roll and your opponent's roll with the higher roll winning and the difference between the two rolls becoming the damage that the loser takes.

I've been converting all of the characters and cards to the new mechanic.  

iterations and revisions

I'm getting the first playtesting data back from the seattle crew. They were having a hard time figuring out exactly how the corner tiles were supposed to work. The corner tiles have two separate pieces of encounter text: a standard block of encounter text and a tile encounter. A player always has a chance to draw an encounter card on a corner tile, but sometimes a player may, and sometimes must, take the additional tile encounter. 

The Public House, for instance, provides a standard encounter allowing the player to draw a single encounter card to resolve, but it also has the Rumors tile encounter.  Originally all of the tile encounters were optional and replaced encounter cards. But over time that changed. Now a number of the the tile encounters are optional and can be taken in addition to drawing an encounter card. Which is obvious if you wrote the thing, but less so if you were playing. 

the old version

the old version

Or was less so. I hope. Here is the revised version. The tile encounters are all on the "left" side of the corner now and the two blocks of text are connected by a handy conjunction!  So the corners read: tile encounter and regular encounter or tile encounter or regular encounter. 

the new hotness

the new hotness

What do you think?