Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sudden Death: Ninja Attack

Sudden Death Ninja Fire Sketches

It was half past midnight when he reached the bridge, stopping to stare up at the moon as an all-too-familiar sensation prickled his consciousness. He was not alone, and whoever was out there was broadcasting the intent to kill. A slow smirk creeped across his face behind his mask, one hand reaching down to select a few smoke bombs from the pouch at his side. A quick flick of the wrist in the direction of his opponent and thick veil of smoke became his only friend -- the fight was on.  (Blurb courtesy of +Jillian McGrath)

 -CJ Andersen

So on Monday, while in the shower, I was struck with a sudden and deadly idea for a game.  Two ninja, locked in stealthy combat, in a back and forth battle which can only have one winner... or none.

So in the next few hours, after Erik and I hashed out some basic rules, Sudden Death: Ninja Attack was born.  We had a prototype of 25 cards the next day and tested it out at our trip to Battleground Games & Hobbies on Wednesday.  Using traps, melee and ranged attacks, each player uses their arsenal of cards, shared from the same deck as their opponent, in an attempt to gain the advantage, and find the one weakness the enemy has no defense for.  We found it works well as a basic game, and flows generally the way we want it to.

We designed the card game to have periods of quiet, preparing your arsenal, circling one another looking for an opening.  Those are followed by quick rounds of attack and counterattack (and counter attacks to your counter attacks) until either one ninja is dead, or a card is played that allows the players to withdraw back into a preparation phase.  Games play out fairly quickly; only a couple of minutes from start to gruesome death.

It's been interesting to figure out how the cards interact in a way that is asymmetrically balanced.  Attacks and counterattacks are based on the ancient art of 両拳 (Rock/Paper/Scissors), with other cards thrown in to make things interesting.  The challenge going forward is to tweak the balance so that there aren't any single cards that act as "I get this, I win" cards, and to add some cards to make the deck slightly larger.  We hope to eventually have this out in a free print-and-play version, as well as real cards you can buy (probably via DriveThroughCards).  Expect more updates on this game soon, with pictures.

UPDATE:  You can now find the rules HERE

Monday, February 25, 2013

Recap from TotalCon XXVII

Volcano destroys battle tanks, Dr. Mechanstein wins
Dr. Mechanstein wins with a Volcanic Eruption!

-Erik McGrath

We may have only made it down for Sunday, but TotalCon in Mansfield, MA is a great event. I learned it's actually the largest pure gaming con in New England which is neat. We will definitely be there next year.

Once there, we set up in the board game room near the door and played Battle Tank: Escape From Giant Robot Island and Chem 101. The gaming highlight was a victory by Dr. Mechanstein due to the volcano erupting and melting a tank that had rushed back to protect a crew that had lost their own vehicle. Alas, poor Stammel, I knew him, Horatio.

The best part was the people we got to talk with and the feedback about our games. The black robots in Battle Tank now have slightly better stats than the grey ones due to the most common question simply being "do the black ones have better stats?" The color coding was originally just so we could separate the units for 4 players but now the black robots are Mechanstein's elites and have thicker front armor than their more numerous, grey counterparts.

Chem 101 is a surprise hit so far with much more interest than I had figured for an educational project. So much so that we have decided to develop the first planned expansion, Basic Ions, concurrently with the Octet Rule basic set. Octet Rule uses only H,C,N,O & F while Basic Ions currently will be adding Na, Ca, Cl & S.

This week Inspired will be at Battleground Games and Hobbies in Abington, MA on Wednesday, February 27th. Being as it's the closest LGS to us, this is looking to become a regular thing. I'm also looking forward to going to their monthly boardgame meet-up on Wednesday, March 13th.

Friday, February 22, 2013

TotalCon Playtest, Goblin Sketches and More

Inspired Press Goblin Junk Yard Knight
-Erik McGrath

The Good

Chem 101 is coming along admirably. Laura's post earlier this week is now our most viewed and the interest has galvanized our design team into making a prototype fit for outside testing. The purpose of the game is for it to be a fun way to help students learn how to make Lewis Dot Structures of molecules and ions. The basic game will include the elements H, C, N, O & F and focus on the importance of the Octet Rule.

We will be at TotalCon this Sunday, February 24th with both Battle Tank and Chem 101 in playable form.  Look for us in the Open Gaming area. We will be happy to answer any Inspired related questions as well as talk about gaming in general.

The 100 Goblins Challenge CJ started is proceeding well.  CJ, Laura and I will each post 100 sketches of goblins in an effort to solidify an art style for future games that will use line art. Only a few of the games we have in process will fit with a cartoon style but we want them to be unified in their style across the lines where possible.

The Bad

Our best quotes for production of Battle Tank are still well out of our price range. It's looking like the price concerns are going to push Battle Tank off the front burner. Without significantly more interest bubbling up around it, it won't ever see full production but there is still some hope as we continue our play testing and marketing efforts.

A very small run of Battle Tank, made basically by hand, is still a possibility.

The Ugly

Board games are my favorite thing to design. I like all the possibilities that the moving parts present, but for a tiny company with no market share the simple cost is a difficult hurdle. Card games are liable to be the immediate future of Inspired Press simply due to the ease of bringing them to market with the abundant Print-On-Demand resources available for card-only games.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chemical Development

-Laura Andersen

Approaching Educational Game Design

Gaming is an important aspect to education in every stage of development.  From social behavior, memory exercises, science & mathematics, to art, storytelling and anything in between, a well-designed game can teach a child so much more richly than just rote memorization alone.  Because of the effectiveness of gaming in education, it is exceedingly important to hold these games to the highest standard so they are as educational as possible, entertaining, and do not come off as patronizing to the audience.  Chem 101, our first educational game at Inspired Press, is proving to be a fantastic challenge in these respects.

In Chem 101, players will build molecular compounds with element and bond cards, following a set of rules that are intrinsic to the subject matter.  Designing this game has required us to not only take a critical look back on what we learned about chemistry in high school, but also to consider how an educator might use this game in the class room most effectively for the students who pick things up more quickly, the more meticulous learners, and the myriad levels of intermediate students.

Approaching the game’s design in this way has led to some very interesting results. In order to convey all the information inherent to an element in such a way so that every student can construct a compound even if they are just beginning to learn chemistry, we had to reexamine the shape of a traditional playing card.  Not only are we now able to fit all of that information in an easy to interpret way, but the new shape also lends itself to lessons in how molecules naturally form.

The Trouble with Points Systems

Developing a point system has also been an interesting challenge. It is exceptionally important in any educational game for the point system to feel organic to those playing.  If not, the players can feel, patronized, overwhelmed, or not engaged at all.  In Chem 101 we are developing a points system based on the complexity and density of the molecule. So far this points system has displayed a tendency for better understanding of the structure and strength of the molecules due to the different type of bonds.

We feel we would be short of the games potential to set its goal to something as simple as “first to 100 points.”  So, the win conditions of the game will be versatile, to keep the players coming back.  Through game development it has become increasingly apparent that there is a chance here to provide a sense of agency for the students while giving the educators an in-depth multilevel teaching tool. It may take more time to fully develop the game, but I for one believe the meticulous development phase of this game will lead to a phenomenal reward for teachers and students alike. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Mark 3 Hex Prototype: Demo Days

Battle Tank Hex Prototype Mark 3 Resin Tokens Robots

-CJ Andersen

With crisp new tiles, 3D tokens, and a need to show these off and get opinions from real players, Erik and I will be taking our new prototype out for a spin.  We need some good feedback from people who don't know us personally, as well as start to show our faces around the local board gaming scene.  So during this weekend and the next we will be demonstrating Battle Tank: Escape From Giant Robot Island in two locations.

This Saturday, February 16th at 2:00pm, Inspired Press will be at Battleground Games & Hobbies in Abington, MA.  If you haven't been there in a while, be aware that they've moved to a new location just down the street.

On Sunday, February 24th at noon, we will be at TotalCon in Mansfield, MA for the day.  We plan to set up in the Open Gaming area to demo the game and answer any questions people may have.  So if you are attending, come by and check us out; online preregistration ends Feb 17th (only $10 for a convention day pass).

Battle Tank Hex Tiles Resin Tanks and Robots

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Spreading the Word

-Erik McGrath

By now you may have seen the pictures and read the rules for Battle Tank. The game has been playable for months now so the work we've been doing is all about improving the experience by making it look better and read more easily. I feel we've been quite successful at that. Here's a side-by-side of the board tiles so you can see clearly what I mean.

                                 Before                                                                After

And after doing all that, I have come to appreciate that it was the easy part. It has taken a long time, sure, but at every stage from conception to now, the tasks have been within our skillsets or close enough that we could expand our abilities and get things done.

No, the hard part isn't making the game, it's getting the word out. None of us at Inspired are marketing professionals though a few of us have some experience. Some experience, as it turns out, isn't really that helpful so it has taken some serious effort to figure out what to do and start doing it right.

We've been fortunate in that CJ has a cousin who is a marketing professional and we've gotten some great feedback and assistance from the people we talk to through social media and in person at our game demos.

Eventually everyone comes up with the same advice: get engaged, post on forums and pound the pavement. So that's what we are doing. We are ramping up our presence on social media, posting in communities and trade groups and of course getting our names out at Boardgamegeek and looking for other forums as well.

The most visible thing that will be happening in the near-term is more blog posts here at  and those will be showcasing the views and contributions of all the members of the team so you can read what someone besides me (and occasionally CJ) think about what we do.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Ongoing Inspiration

-Erik McGrath

We are still working on recovering from the first unsuccessful attempt to publish Battle Tank: Escape From Giant Robot Island, and I feel it is going pretty well.

The big thing now is to make sure we have a crowd from which to crowdsource. Looking back, it's obvious that to make crowdfunding work you would need to make sure enough people who like your idea already know about it. C'est la vie.

So to that effect, Inspired has been branching out to more forums and communities in order to get not just our products out there, but to get ourselves out there so that people can see what we do and who we are. I personally feel that knowing a game's designer is more likely to make me want to know more about the game and it also helps to know what their opinions are on other subjects as well.

And just because our focus is on the final stages of Battle Tank doesn't me we aren't still hard at work on the other ideas we've come up with.  Here's a draft of the board for our Romance of the Three Kingdoms effort currently called Rise of the Warlords.

It's a complete map of China circa 200AD with fifty major cities and dozens of ports and fortified passes. This draft is 24"x36" (approx 60x90cm for our international friends). The one I'm working on now is slightly larger at 30"x40" (75x100cm) and makes the image look less stretched east-to-west as well as being a quad-fold instead of the bi-fold you can see here.

You can also look forward to a new version of Celestial Warriors in the near future with the existing rules tuned up and some more genre-enhancing subsystems as well as more support for multi-fighter combats.