TTN: 6-8 November 2022
BGG.CON: 9-13 November 2022
Day 5 – Thursday 10 November
Today was the first day I had booked us a formal slot in the UnPub ProtoAlley, from 10am to 2pm. I didn’t know what to expect, or how long I needed to be on duty, so I came down early and set up my table. My hands were shaking so much that I had to ask George to pop down from the room, where he was working, to help me finish assembling the board.
Once I was set up, nothing much happened for nearly two hours – there was apparently something else on at the same time that most people would have been attending, so it meant that the only people in the UnPub room were a few designers waiting with their games for play-testers to arrive.
My First UnPub
Around midday, people started arriving – and soon, I had a full table, with Alan, Gary, EP, Lucio, Fagner, and Sarah making a full complement of players.
What I wanted to test, but wasn’t going to tell them, was whether it was worth making the Valley play at 6 at all. I like the idea in principle, especially as a hexagon has 6 sides, but I had a feeling that with 6 real people, it would play very differently from how it does when I test it on my own or with George, playing multiple players.
With that in mind, I also wanted to know if I needed as many resources – my feeling was that I didn’t, but I had to prove it.
I also wanted to test a few other minor elements of the game, but not the graphic design, which will be done by a professional company if we can possibly afford it.
The test went really well, overall – the turns took a long time as people learnt how to play, but once they had the hang of it, the main thing that slowed things down was that we were all designers and people had trouble not analysing too much during the game.
The Valley is a game in which I have invested enormous amounts of emotion and effort, so I was far more nervous about showing it to other people than I was about any of my other prototypes (or even all of them combined!). In future, I will schedule that for a time when George can be there, too. He gives me support and keeps me steady, but he is also the developer of the game, and needs to hear the feedback first-hand. The main stress for me was trying to listen to feedback as both designer and developer, while also trying to watch the game play and make my own deductions. My mini camera died early in the test, because the battery just doesn’t last, so I missed out on collecting a lot of the valuable data – but I was able to record the final feedback on my phone, and I will be processing it and writing it up in another post.
After the play-test, I deflated like a balloon and had to put myself to bed, have a good cry, feed myself a late toddler lunch of dried apricots, cheese, and trail mix, and rest until George finished work.
Rules for Conventions – Cat
After having my 3.30pm toddler lunch after my toddler nap (i.e. crying because I am too tired then lying in the dark for a bit refusing to sleep, lol), I realised that I needed to have a word with myself: I have been making my best attempts at self-care but they are not enough.
In future, I must:
take a break after more than 2 games or any game that takes more than 2 hours
consume enough calories to function adequately
take charge of myself like a proper adult and stop expecting my middle-aged body to handle teenaged sleep and food schedules
drink lots of water and accept all hugs (this is the only bit I have been doing already)
The good news was that we forgot about Friday being a day off for George, so he finished work for the weekend and was able to join in with everything a day earlier than we expected, yay!
Once we were ready to rejoin the world, George and I came back down and said happy birthday to Evan, then immediately bumped into William, Eric, EP, and Gary, just in time to be swept out the door for dinner at Ellen’s, a restaurant that offers all-day brunch. I didn’t have the appetite for a big meal, and was hankering for fruit, so I got a salad with strawberries in it, and enjoyed everyone’s meals vicariously.
Although he made it clear that he didn’t mind, I felt bad about making Will get his car and drive me around, so after the first day, I pushed myself to walk to and from the restaurants, which meant my hip was screaming by bedtime every night. The exercise was important, though, so I pushed on through.
The walk back was really nice, getting some fresh air and not having to rush for a change, I felt like it was proof of the advice everyone has given me: get out of the convention building at least once a day.
Once we got back to the convention, Gary showed us two of his prototypes while we waited for the Game Jam to start. The first was Shinjuku, a game about trains and shopping in Tokyo, which is set to be published by a Japanese publisher, and the second seemed like more of a draft – before we got far into it, it was time for the Game Jam to start!
Our First Game Jam
Neither George nor I have ever attended a Game Jam before, although we have heard of them. As well as being a fun way to connect and play with ideas, Game Jams can lead to amazing published games – sometimes, they can help solve problems with existing game ideas, too.
In our case, the Game Jam we attended worked like this:
There were three categories, and the organiser, Ben the Mayor of UnPub, aka Sum Fat Kid, passed a die to three different people and had them roll to see which would apply. The third person was meeeee!
Must include: Circles
Must not include: Timer
Bonus: must also include pieces from ornament craft kits
At first, we brainstormed as a group, but as it sounded like the three mathsier people at the table were heading towards a roll-and-write, I struck off in my own direction, ending up with a game that was inspired by our contributions but came out in a different way.
My first thought was spherical underground cavities that had to be connected somehow; George suggested round vault doors, and Will came up with the idea of magma chambers and vents, and together, based on that, we came up with the idea of a volcano as a setting, then Gary suggested round robots working between the chambers. I had the idea that we were trying to manage the pressure, either to vent it or to cause the volcano to erupt, and direct it in the right direction, and Gary suggested that, rather than trying to prevent the eruption, the robots were trying to make it erupt so it would free them, so that’s the direction their roll-and-write took.
Magma is born
My idea was similar in principle to the group’s, except that rather than being a roll and write, I had 6 valves in each sphere to match the 6 pips on a D6. The idea was to direct the pressure, represented by different discs, so that it gradually grouped together and eventually moved into the main chamber and caused the lava to climb all the way up the throat of the volcano and erupt. As the pressure discs moved from sphere to sphere, if they met other discs, they combined and travelled together from then on, representing the increase in pressure. To guide the movement, I used a dial with 6 points, and later, a hex tile, with a marker token. Start with the marker token on the top or 12 o’clock position, then move it in either direction to match the die roll – for example, you would move 2 spaces clockwise or anti-clockwise – then all the pressure discs move out that valve if they can. There are two reasons they can’t:
1 – it’s at the edge of the board
2 – it’s blocked
Will came up with the idea for the blocks after watching me chasing the pressure discs around the board for a while. You can use one block for each valve, but you have to land on that direction to play it, and it can only go in one place until you land on that direction again and move it. A basic little game, but I found it fun, and thought I might develop it. And I did – it’s currently entered as Magma: Under Pressure in The Game Crafter Lunchtime Game Challenge contest – check it out, and if you like it, please vote for it! You will need a Game Crafter account and Crafter points, which you can earn as per this link.
After the game jam, we played a very spirited negotiation game called either King’s Counsel or King’s Council, by Trey Chambers. I suggested removing the more gendered language, so the name might change, which would be cool! In the meantime, Trey was good enough to refer to the “monarch” during our test, which I appreciated.
The basic concept is that there is a constant power struggle during the reign of an ailing monarch, and the council of nobles are jockeying for position to take over when the throne becomes empty. The thing is, they are trading money, influence, position – and life and death, in the form of cubes. You bid and negotiate to get roles that bring you advantages if the vote goes your way, then you attempt to bribe enough others to make that happen. The vote moves the political climate marker around on a chart which matches your secret goal, so your aim is to influence others to get politics where you need them for when you make your play for power. You can offer money or life cubes, or threaten with death cubes.
It was very entertaining, and likely to be pretty successful once the details are ironed out – I really liked the political map and trying to shift opinion where you wanted it. I didn’t like that, while I was successful in manipulating opinion to land on my highest value goal choice, it didn’t help me, because I was dead from the number of death cubes people gave me during the game. It made sense within the context and was fun for everyone else, but it felt like it wasn’t quite balanced where it should be – if I were truly able to convince that many people to my side, I should also be sufficiently popular not to die, I would have thought? I could definitely see both sides, though, and would probably play a slightly less “come at me, bro” game if I play it again, haha!
My photo of his card is terrible, but make sure you check out Lamarcus’ channel, https://www.youtube.com/@foyoGames – he just did his recap of BGG too, check it out – we get mentioned!
Anyway, that was the end of the night for us, with both George and me dead from both political failure (in King’s Counsel) and general exhaustion, so we hauled ourselves up to bed.