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The Primary - An Election Game [Work In Progress]

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MountaintopGames
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This post can also be found on our website at http://mountaintop.games/blog/designer-diary/ along with other information about us and game design resources

Welcome to our first Designer Diary entry! This series will focus on our experiences during the game design process. Today we’ll be writing about our new game, The Primary.

Background

The Primary is a light, election-themed game where each player is a candidate during a United States presidential primary election. Over the course of the game, players campaign across the country – gaining influence, running advertisements, lobbying to Super PACs, and more, all in the hopes of winning delegates. Simultaneous action, area control, and action programming mechanics keep each round exciting until the very end!

Status

We feel that there is currently a solid base to the game, with some fun mechanics and lots of positive feedback from local playtesters (so far 21 playtests with 11 different playtesters)

With the hopes to get some blind playtesting done, we just released a Print and Play version of The Primary. If you are interested, click here to sign up!

We also just recorded a podcast this week with Chris Anderson at The Board Game Workshop! It was a lot of fun and a really good learning experience for us. It was great to be able to chat about The Primary and navigating the game design process. Make sure to check out The Board Game Workshop on iTunes and you can also find them on Twitter – @TheBGWorkshop

Issues

We’re currently working to incorporate some new concepts to the “basic” version of the rules. The idea is to have a basic set of rules for new players and those looking for a lighter experience, and an advanced set of rules for those who have played The Primary before or want more complex gameplay.

Our concern is that the current basic set of rules may not provide enough depth or complexity for more serious board game players. Additionally, we feel that we can provide higher replay value with some of the new concepts and mechanics.

Next Steps

We have done two playtests adding some new ideas using variable player powers, objectives, and random event cards. So far they seems to accomplish what we’re hoping to do, but can definitely use some more thought and tweaking.

Thanks for reading our first Designer Diary entry! What else would you like to hear about? What did you find boring? Feel free to share your thoughts and comment below!

JohnBrieger
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Think we're both on BG Workshop coming up

Saw you tweet a pic of your prototype as well after this weeks interviews! Definitely include pics in your designer diaries as they are fun (and I thought it was a nice, clean-looking prototype)

One of the things I'm interested in is how you decided to divide up the US!

Obviously 50 states is too many, but what led you to the # of groups and to the specific ones you ended up making?

And + to everyone on BGDF for Chris @BGWorkshop.

MountaintopGames
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Hey John

Yeah, I was hoping to add a picture or two to this designer diary... but couldn't figure it out yet haha.

We kind of just did it by gut feel - at we followed the actual 2016 delegate count of the Republican party (they had ~2,000 delegates compared to ~4,000 for the Democrats.) From there, we wanted the regions to be about the same geographical size, with roughly the same delegate size (obviously with some variation, to keep it interesting) Honestly, the regions came out pretty well from our initial design. We haven't yet tried moving around states from one region to another.

To make the math simpler, we eventually scaled the delegate count from 2,413 to 240 and made each region have an even number of delegates (to help with the case of tied votes)

Also, another shout out to Chris Anderson of The Board Game Workshop podcast! I think what he is doing is great, and I hope it finds success.

MountaintopGames
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Designer Diary #2

This post can also be found on our website at http://mountaintop.games/blog/designer-diary/ along with other information about us and game design resources

Thanks for checking out the second entry in our Designer Diary! We will to continue to share some insight into the development of our new game, The Primary.

Status

In our last Designer Diary entry, we discussed our new Print and Play version of The Primary for remote playtesting purposes. So far we have had a pretty good turnout – seven people have signed up, two have requested prototype pieces, and one has already played and given feedback! (Shout out to govmiller on BGG – you can read his feedback here) If you are interested in playtesting, please click here to sign up!

Last week, we had a good local playtest with Kirk from PieceKeeper Games and Keith from Thunderworks Games. There was a lot of great discussion and plenty of new concepts to try out. Those guys always provide really useful feedback and ideas, and I would highly recommend you try out their games.

In addition to design and development work, we have also begun to reach out to a few manufacturers for preliminary quotes. It has been an interesting process so far and requires some patience, but it’s really exciting! It definitely makes it feel like we are getting a step closer to publishing!

Issues

We are currently working through playtest feedback and prioritizing new ideas to try out. Some trouble areas include large hand sizes, fiddly periods of time between rounds, adding more depth, and balancing overall complexity. It’s a slow, iterative process to work through kinks and try out new ideas, but at least we still enjoy playtesting the game!

Next Steps

Looking forward, we will continue to seek out additional remote playtesters (sign up here) and analyze their feedback in depth for new ideas to help improve the game.

We’ll also continue our research on various manufacturers and start to plan some of the more technical details of The Primary on the back burner.

Thanks for reading our Designer Diary! What else would you like to hear about? What did you find boring? Feel free to share your thoughts and comment below!

MountaintopGames
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Designer Diary #3

This post can also be found on our website at http://mountaintop.games/blog/designer-diary/ along with other information about us and game design resources

Here is the third entry in our Designer Diary! Read on to learn about our experience with Adobe InDesign, Tabletop Simulator, and creating a solo variant of The Primary.

Status

I have recently discovered Adobe InDesign and wanted to just give it a few words of praise. I’ve only used it for the Data Merge feature, but this alone is tremendously valuable and helps save a ton of time when prototyping cards. In a nutshell, you can import data from a spreadsheet and automatically populate a card template, to then print out an entire deck of cards. I’ll be writing up a quick tutorial on this in the future.

Over the last week, I have also toyed around with Tabletop Simulator a little bit. It seems like a neat way to digitize a game and may be a good way to get a different form of playtesting for The Primary. Like InDesign, I’m not terribly familiar with the software but it seems like a powerful resource.

A recent podcast from the Board Game Design Lab featured Morten Pedersen and was focused on creating a solo variant for board games. I found the discussion very interesting and it inspired me to follow Morten’s design methodology for The Primary. I created a deck of cards that a solo players uses to determine actions of a dummy player / bot. The focus was to keep the central elements of the game that are fun and create tension, while simplifying and streamlining the experience for a solo player.

Issues

In playtesting the new solo variant of The Primary, I found lots and lots of things to tweak. It amazes me how well something can seem to work in your mind, but once on the table, it falls apart. I’m excited to update the rules and cards and try it out again!

Next Steps

The solo variant of The Primary will take a lot of tweaking, so I anticipate lots of playtesting. Thankfully, playtesting a solo variant is much easier the multiplayer game!

The playtesting grind will continue – we keep getting great feedback and have lots of things to test and tweak. Hopefully we can get some more remote playtesters to play and provide feedback. It’s one thing to guide players in person during playtests, but you can get very different feedback from players who are only following the rulebook. If you are interested in playtesting, please click here to sign up!

Thanks for reading our Designer Diary! What else would you like to hear about? What did you find boring? Feel free to share your thoughts and comment below!

MountaintopGames
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Designer Diary #4

This post can also be found on our website at http://mountaintop.games/blog/designer-diary/ along with other information about us and game design resources

Thanks for checking out the fourth entry in our Designer Diary! Read on to learn about our progress with the solo variant and freelance development for our game, The Primary.

Status

We have been continuing to tweak the new solo variant for The Primary. There is a fine line to balance between the original multiplayer game and accommodations made for the solo variant. We don’t necessarily want to sacrifice the experience of the multiplayer game to allow for a solo variant. It’s also challenging to balance the overall difficulty of the solo variant. Finalizing a target for how often the solo player wins should help with this. We have seen feedback that solo players should lose at least half the time. There is some good news, though. The solo variant keeps some key elements from the original multiplayer game and can be a fun experience.

A couple weeks ago, Board Game Design Lab released a podcast with Coalition Games, that discussed remote playtesting and the freelance development services they offer. Due to low participation in our remote playtesting efforts (see below) we have decided to partner with Coalition Games for some development work and playtesting. Things are just now getting underway, and we are very excited to get their input on The Primary and playtesting feedback!

Issues

Remote playtesting continues to prove difficult. Over the course of 4 weeks, we have had 31 people sign up or show interest in remote playtesting and we have mailed pieces to 7 potential playtesters. So far, we have only received playtest feedback from 1 playtester (a big shout out to govmiller on BGG for playtesting and providing great input.) We are very grateful for all the interest so far, but are struggling to get feedback from remote playtests.

Next Steps

We will continue to reach out for remote playtesters, and in parallel, work with Coalition Games to get more professional feedback.

Thanks for reading our Designer Diary! What else would you like to hear about? What did you find boring? Feel free to share your thoughts and comment below!

MountaintopGames
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Designer Diary #5: The Primary - Printers and Quoting

This post can also be found on our website at http://mountaintop.games/blog/designer-diary/ along with other information about us and game design resources

Thanks for checking out the fifth entry in our Designer Diary! This post has been way overdue and there is a lot to cover, but today I will focus on printers and quoting for our game, The Primary.

Status

A lot has happened since my last Designer Diary entry and I'm not even sure where to begin. The game has been continually refined and the solo variant has undergone a lot of changes. Playtesting has continued to provide useful feedback, and a couple more people have provided some good remote playtests. I have done a few "rulebook swaps" with other board game designers, and that has proved very useful! A shout out to John Brieger (@dasbrieger) for the great idea!

So onto today's topic: printers and quoting. I have been doing a lot of follow up work with a number of printers as the game design gets refined and components get added and removed from the game. I initially started out using James Mathe's "Hitchhiker's Guide to Manufacturing" to reach out to printers. From there, I provided the same exact RFQ (request for quotation) to each. The hope was to compare relative costing and here is what I found:

This was very eye-opening for a couple reasons. First, there was quite a difference in cost between the various printers. Second, it was interesting to see the exponential nature of the game cost vs quantity printed. Finally, it is important to note that some printers had different capabilities and components available - so the above chart is not a 100% apples to apples comparison. For example, most printers said plastic cubes were cheaper, but one claimed wood cubes were cheaper for them!

Issues

I'm sure this will sound like a broken record, but remote playtesting has continued to be a struggle. We get a few new playtesters signing up online via our website or Twitter every now and then, and even send some components to help out the setup, but the response rate on actual remote playtests continues to be very low. Does anyone have advice on how to get better remote playtesting engagement?

Next Steps

Protospiel Chicago is this weekend and I am rushing to finish up some last-minute prototyping and preparations. This is only my second protospiel, and this time, I'll try to be there for all three days. I'm hoping to playtest some cool games and hopefully get some good feedback on The Primary.

Thanks for reading our Designer Diary! What else would you like to hear about? What did you find boring? Feel free to share your thoughts and comment below!

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