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Frencils | Playable Pencils

This will be my personal blog for all thing Battle Pencils, including my experience with The Pitch Project 2020. This publisher event has finally forced me to create a sell sheet for my game. In other blog entries, I will discuss my game's full battle system, why I designed the pencil layout the way I did, suggested set release schedule, etc.

Here is my most current sell sheet submitted to The Pitch Project:


Wow... that actually seems like a COOL introduction

I hope you aren't going out of expense to make that "intro" video! But it definitely seems cool...

In any event, I hope it is not DISTRACTING from the focus which is designing a kid-friendly game which is FUN and relatively SIMPLE to play.

But the point is to have FUN as the designer too... So making videos, writing blogs, and trying variations of rules and such, should be things that keep you involved in the process.

If it's not fun to DESIGN... Well then why do it?! Cheers.

Because it's on the other page, I figured I'd display the Video Link Here:

The Making Of Battle Pencils Intro Video

Was no expense at all, I did it.

Was no expense at all, I did it. I have most of my initial game design done, its just been conveying it to everyone that I have failed to do. Phase 1 of the site is done, phase 2 will be working on the link pages and filling in more content in the battle system section.

Working a Prime pencil (Behemath), where it still falls into my design restrictions but every number is a prime number (ranging from 2-97). Each set will probably have 1-3 special Primes in it.

Just updated the website that

Just updated the website that explains some of the design philosophy behind creating characters and their pencils (its under the second "The Pencils" section).

I like it. I don't have much

I like it.
I don't have much to add in the way of pitching or marketing but good luck.

Great to know that there is MATH behind the design! LOL

I think you took a very important step by describing the nature of the pencils and how they are all different and that even though it is a simple numeric comparison ... There is more thought that has been put into the pencils!

Definitely cool. Like I said, I really think this is the BEST design that you've shared with us over time. You had some other good ideas too... Your designs are very "tight" and cohesive.

But these Pencils... I could really see this in Walmart or Target and sell like HOTCAKES!!! I mean a real and total CRAZE... I think kids care about the kind of pencils they are using. And if they can battle each other ... Then these pencils have more value (not only esthetic) than your normal pencils.

The question is what is the price point for these pencils: is it $5.00 USD for 4 pencils?! Or is this too expensive. Staples has pencils at $4.79 for a 24/pack.

Or is it like 6 for $5.00 USD ($0.83 each). The Staples pencils come out to $0.20 USD each... So 4x the price. I guess your publisher will need to figure out the market better. But having characters and stats on pencils is way cooler and is a "premium" product.

BTW to everyone... You should invest in a couple "Grip 6" belts! They are so amazing. Hopefully will be a great Christmas gifts for the family. With a lifetime warrantee, you just can't go wrong. Cheers!

And back to Battle Pencils. Explaining more about the "design" is KEY! You've got to show that even for the kids it's more than some random numbers... And then maybe you might get someone who is interested in the product.

Cheers and keep up the great work @JewellGames!


I plan for these to be the basic abilities of the initial set. TIEBREAKER and BOOST are battle red since they tied to the battle numbers. REROLL and REVIVE are pencil yellow since they are tied to pencil actions. Do they seem intuitive and fitting for their intended effect?

Hmm... Not sure about that!?

While you may think it's COOL to have abilities on ONE (1) or TWO (2) Values... It's not PRACTICAL. Instead I would make it ONE (1) Ability for ALL VALUES on a given pencil. Why?

Well look at your Tiebreaker ability: It for example takes into effect if you BOTH roll a 50 (example). What are the ODDS between you and your opponent that you both get the SAME EXACT value (of 50)??? Probably very SLIM. This makes this ability as it stands USELESS.

If however you did it for all SIX (6) VALUES... It would mean that his Monster or Character wins ALL TIES. Make sense. Even with six (6) values, it's probably going to be RARE that this ability gets TRIGGERED. But it is POSSIBLE at least.

Do you see what I am saying??? It's NOT at all practical to have ONE (1) VALUE only having the Tiebreaker ability. If however the PENCIL (entire of it) had the Tiebreaker ability... That would make MUCH MORE SENSE...

Think about it... Do some odds calculations if you must... But you'll see that being only on ONE (1) VALUE is pointless... The odds are NOT in a favor of occurring in natural rolls.


Note #1: The rest of your abilities can be on ONE (1) Value only. It's just the passive Tiebreaker which makes no sense to be on ONE VALUE. The rest make sense to be a lucky roll that triggers something...

TIEBREAKER does win all ties

TIEBREAKER does win all ties for all numbers on a pencil. Every ability is shown only on the side of its star cost so you know how many stars it costs to activate, but it applies to the entire pencil.

TIEBREAKER is on the 0 star side because it's a no-cost, always active passive ability. And, even though it applies to all numbers on the pencil, it's still a little weak so it's almost always paired with another ability.

The BOOST 5 ability can be applied anytime regardless of what side you roll. The ability is only shown under the 1 star side because that's its star cost.

The latest pencil anatomy image (on the website) hopefully better explains this:

That's even more convoluted...

So because it's a "0" it's passive and when you ROLL what happens if that "0" passive ability is UNDER the pencil (not visible), HOW are you going to know that there is a PASSIVE ability (if you nor your opponent can see it???)

Instead of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5... Make it the VALUE for that Ability. So revive costs 5 APs(?), you make it on ONE (1) Lucky roll to enable it.

TBH I don't know why the COST of the APs... You're only going to roll once or twice in a couple turns.

I would make them all FREE ... Something that can be TRIGGERED additionally with a lucky roll. Except for the Tiebreaker... That could be on 3 sides or 6 sides whatever you prefer...

Don't overcomplicate the game for some abilities. Make it INTUITIVE: if you ROLL that ability, you can use it (nevermind APs or some kind of point system).

Again this is MY opinion... TBH. I thought you'd need to ROLL the ability to actually use it. That's what I thought. Sorry for the confusion. But the ability needs to be VISIBLE to enable it (or not).

Cheers @JewellGames.

I can only do so much with

I can only do so much with the design space, and trying to balance a streamlined game with some complexity and interesting mechanisms. If I make the game system too shallow with limited room for design space, the gimmick will fade and it'll fizzle.

A prominent game designer of 20+ year of game design and many published games experience told me as much.

I originally had each occurrence of an ability next to the rolled number, but that severely limited design space and had zero strategy or player agency attached to it. The only strategy in the (basic) game is counterplay. Stars/abilities adds another optional layer of strategy.

Like Revive is a cool ability but since its 5x as powerful as Boost, it'd either penalize a pencil's overall power 5x as much, or show up 5x less. And there's a huge difference getting that lucky Revive roll versus not getting it. You feel bad if you don't roll it and the other player feels bad when you do. You could go tens of games never getting to activate Revive.

The star system allows you to spend stars however you want; use them with a lot of low-cost abilities or bank them for a powerful one. You start the game with 1 star, and get one after everyone of your pencils are knocked out in addition to rolling them, so you'll normally get 5-10 stars in a 5-pencil game.

And, there's nothing stopping you from inspecting a pencil before or after a roll. I'd hope after a few plays with a pencil that you'd know what abilities your character has before you pick and roll them. It's definitely less elegant than the above version, but offers much more design space.

Also, if you look at my website, I have basic battle rules that completely ignores stars and abilities and advanced battle rules that uses them. So, for younger players and casual/fast games, you don't even need to reference or use stars and abilities. For experienced players, you can.

Having the stars and abilities (they have their own internal checks and balances system in place that I haven't gone into detail about yet) uncoupled from the battle numbers is really nice and clean.

I assume you haven't seen my advanced rules where you track your stars using the star track with an extra pencil. You can't battle with it, but you can spend stars on its abilities. So, you'll always have access to your active rolled pencil's abilities and that star-tracking pencil's abilities (so there's strategy on what extra pencil you pick to track your stars with).

I’m also testing rules where you track stats and current abilities by writing them down (forcing players to have at least one sharpened pencil and paper.

With all that said, I am still testing how fiddly and frustrating it is and may need to go back to the original (less strategic) version or tweak the current system if concerns like your outweigh the benefits of this star/ability resource system.

BTW I wasn't criticizing... Just was unsure how it was to work!

So whenever you roll a VALUE with a "Star" you earn +1 Points, right?! I think I understood that... That is simple enough. Makes 100% sense and it very easy.

Your six (6th) extra pencil is like a BONUS pencil that has an ability. That is starting to make more sense. But instead of a bonus, I would use this as your "Ability" pencil. Then you can have 2 or more abilities depending on the nature of that pencil.

That's really smart! I like that... Makes much more sense.

That's simple enough even kids can understand: the extra pencil is for Abilities ONLY. And each time you WIN, you gain +1 Star, that could be debatable. I was thinking that next to a VALUE you have a "Star" and when you roll that value, you earn +1 Stars...

Like I saw on one of the images of the pencils. I read your advanced rules just now... Makes perfect sense. But I would propose that the ONLY ability you can USE is the one on the 6th EXTRA Pencil. You get/gain +0 Stars for a victory and earn them by rolling values with the STAR next to it.

Again try things out (experiment)... Definitely sounds a bit more interesting to have 6 Abilities... And each having a unique point value.

Leave stars a bit to chance... But boosting could be of interest too! Spend some stars to outplay a player! i like that too... Makes 100% sense.

You could have a STAR-Heavy pencil which is used to accumulate more stars ... That kind of pencil is also possible too.

Cheers @JewellGames ... Didn't want to bust your balls about the abilities but now that they hinge on an EXTRA pencil ... That makes perfect sense.

Note #1: I would remove Ability #6 (5 Stars) from "Behemath" because he is already very powerful. And great as a 6th (EXTRA) pencil... Just my opinion... But taking more shape and becoming MORE interesting by the minute!

All good, I get it. I always

All good, I get it. I always appreciate feedback and discussion.

It’s definitely not as elegant as the original design, but more interesting. The only negative is the ability pencil is also your star tracking pencil so you can run into the issue of abilities on the bottom opposite of your currently tracked side. You can rotate the pencil and peek while noting your current stars, but still not quite as elegant as desired.

Yeah, you gain stars by rolling them or after loss not win (aka seeing stars). Gives a tiny comeback mechanism to the losing player in addition to their counterplay pick.

I really like the idea of the extra pencil being the only abilities available but that completely bypasses the star / ability balancing.

Let me explain without going into TOO much detail:

The star/ability system is balanced by occurrence of stars on a pencil vs its abilities.

So, a vanilla pencil with no abilities will have 9 stars randomly among its battle numbers.

If I give it an ability, it loses an occurrence of stars equal to the ability’s cost. For example, if a pencil has a 3-cost ability, it’d only have 6 stars among the battle numbers (9 - 3 = 6 stars).

Also, if you add an extra ability (that has a cost), you get a flexibility penalty on top of that. For example, if a pencil has a 1-cost ability and 3-cost ability, it'd only have 3 stars (9 - (1+3) - (2 abilities x 1 star flexibility penalty per costed ability) = 3 stars).

No cost / passive abilities combined with an ability of a cost only applies a penalty to the ability that has the cost. For example, if a pencil has a 0-cost and 2-cost ability, it'd only have 6 stars (9 - (0+2) - (1 ability x 1 star flexibility penalty per costed ability) = 6 stars).

If you only used the extra star-tracking pencil for abilities, this bypasses the star occurrence penalty of the pencils a lot of abilities / strong abilities. You'd never use these pencils to battle with (as star gainers) and only as ability pencils (star spenders) because their star occurrence is lower.

Whereas with the current system, you sacrifice their star gaining potential because you have access to their abilities while theyre your active pencil.

Edit: Thinking on it, If I went with an ability pencil only, I guess all pencils would just have the same amount of stars. It removes some of the flavour and theme of varying powerful strengths and weaknesses but makes for a simpler system.

Had to read this a couple times to be sure I understood

There are others ways you can "balance" the dice (and stars). If we use Behemath as an example which (in your case) has three (3) abilities... Indeed that pencil would have less stars (as per your system). But because it has so many abilities and less stars, most players would use it as their "ability pencil". So far all that makes sense.

But here is the real kicker, Behemath might be generally STRONGER when it comes to battling other pencils! His stats may be higher than the opponents generally speaking but a poor roll can yield a loss as well.

This means that you need to figure out WHEN you will use Behemath to battle. And as I suggested, remove ability #5 from Behemath making him a little less stronger and then with stronger roll values makes for a good pencil to make a come-back with.


Also Behemath doesn't WIN forever either...

The other point to which I eluded to was that EVEN IF Behemath is strong in rolling stats (and has less stars), that pencil can't go on forever as a victorious pencil. Sooner or later, that pencil will be defeated and you also no longer have his as an "Ability Pencil" either... He is GONE, KAPUT, FINIS...!

So even if a pencil wins a couple consecutive games, doesn't mean he will ALWAYS win a battle. And as per your rules, you can't swap out a pencil at any given time when you are using it to battle. Meaning once you put Behemath into your rotation of available pencils (and he is no longer an "Ability Pencil"), you run the risk of losing that particular pencil in a battle.

What is my conclusion? Well my take-away is that NO pencil will win forever. There should be always way to beat an opposing pencil and you have three (3) SYMBOLS. If you use some kind of RPS-3 (Rock-Paper-Scissors) system with the symbols, it means NATURALLY some pencils will be stronger than others. But it's because you've added them and made provisions using an RPS system (as an example) to make decisions of who battles who more predictable and generally speaking more simple to figure out how to knock-out an opposing pencil.

Just a couple extra thoughts...

Almost Ready!

It's been a long road, but these pencils are almost ready for an indie release (local and small sale) ahead of the holiday:


Holding the real thing in your hands must be immensely gratifying, Gregg. I like the look of them a lot, and I think you should be proud of making it happen. :)


Congratulations ... but...

I DON'T like the name "Frencils".

Maybe as your TOPIC title suggests: "PencilPlay" might be a better name.

Or the opposite: "PlayPencils" another option.

Another option is with regards to the TYPE of Pencil: "HB" as the name and could stand for "Hero Battles"... IDK.

I know you've made them already. Just expressing my POV.

Best of luck with "Frencils" (Ugh...)

Cheers Gregg.

Note #1: I really think these will SELL like GOLD BARS! They are very cool and depending on your pricing could sell like "Hot Cakes"... I am hoping you get huge success with these and share with us your JOURNEY after the Launch of these COOL Pencils.


After many focus groups, "battle" anything wasn't quite the right fit for the product since there are other game modes and uses for these (there's a mix of competitive and cooperative games/activities). This name also allows for other product lines and opportunities that a "battle" game may not offer.


Very cool to have your idea come this far. Please post when they are up for sale.
I do agree that Frencils may not be the best name but I've never published anything.
Best of luck.

Naming games is tricky... Why?

Because TradeWorlds was Tradewars. And I honestly preferred Tradewars. But there is an old BBS game called Trade Wars... it's not a board game, so my name was similar but different enough that it was satisfactory. But Mike contacted the developer and he wanted some kind of payment for the use of the name... Which was not necessary...

They have Dove Soap, Dove Shampoo & Body Wash, Dove Cream, Dove Chocolate, etc. Different uses allow for different categories of products to have similar names. Anyhow we settled on TradeWorlds and that was that... mind you I still prefer Tradewars. It is what it is... Sincerely.

Note #1: It seems to me "Tradewars" as the term was more relevant as the USA has been having challenges with Chinese Manufacturing and so that's how that name made sense.

But I guess Mike "Traded Worlds" when he passed away so suddenly in such a very unexpected way I guess "TradeWorlds" is the better title! He traded Earth for the Heavens... Rest In Peace, Mike!

Note #2: Although many of the products using the Dove Brand are owned by Unilever ... Dove Chocolates are owned by the people who make Mars Chocolates. So there you go... Proof that the Branding is permissible in different contexts and in different markets. So Trade Wars in Video Games and Tradewars in Board Games could have been perfectly acceptable and would NOT require any type of royalty or fee for using the name. The proof is in the pudding!

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