Category: Wasteland Wednesdays


Posted on / by Molly Wardlaw / in Wasteland Express Delivery Service, Wasteland Wednesdays, Wasteland Wednesdays / 2

Wasteland Wednesday – Gone Gold

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It’s been a while since a Wasteland Wednesday, primarily because there has been a lot going on in Pandasaurus Land that you’ll all be hearing about very soon.  And secondarily because Wasteland hit a point of nitty gritty detail work that was not as sexy to show as some of the earlier artwork that had been finished.

So, today we have the final! Rulebook (sans the story mode so you don’t all going spoiling yourselves before the game is out), and we have final production dice and miniatures.  Those will be at the bottom of this post, if you don’t want to keep reading, but I suggest you do!

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Today I want to talk about production design on a game.  Most of the time when you get a game back from a designer or design team there are lots of paths you can choose.  Some of these seem rather obvious like:  Do I include wood in the game?  Does it need miniatures?  Should that player board be punchboard or cardstock?  Should we put flavor text on the cards or not?  Should all the cards have unique artwork?  Does the art on the board need to look like a map or like a birds eye view of the world?  Does the player board need art on it or just boxes to make your action selection on?

We wound up answering in the most complex (and expensive) way we could on all of these questions.  We also added a few more like:  should we include custom gametrayz that will fit all of the pieces, not just as a storage method but as an integrated part of the gameplay experience?  Should we model all of the goods cubes?  Should we have them nest in the back of player trucks?  Should we hire a super talented famous comic book artist to illustrate the game?  Should we chuck the cardboard action selection and turn them into amazing 3d modeled cogs?

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This has led Wasteland Express to be the most overproduced game I have ever been involved with.  Overproduced does not mean we made the wrong decision.  We just made the expensive decision that added a lot of complexity (and time) to the production process.   The production budget (art, 3d modeling, etc) is probably equal to every other game that we have put out combined.   I know for a fact that it is higher than lots of very big games from publishers that all of you love because this industry has super friendly people who have told me our budget is way North of theirs.   This might mean that I am a big dummy and should not have spent as much or put as much into this game as we did.

But I also know one very important thing:  This game is really special.  I’ve had an inkling ever since I first saw the prototype and got the elevator pitch.  I knew it for a fact the first time I ever played it.  I doubly knew it was true when my brother in law asked if he could play it again after his first playtest of the game.  I believe this is one of the best board games I have ever played, and I knew that if we nurtured it just right we could have a game that is something extra special for players.  Jon, Matt and Ben trusted us to handle a world and a game that could be one of the best of the year, and we wanted to do it justice.

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Now that we have gone gold and I look at what we have put together, I am confident that we accomplished what we set out to.  From the insane amount of effort put into the story.  To the number of eyeballs we put on the rulebook (and the number of tiny revisions before everyone was happy with it).  To the work that Noah is still doing on getting the Tray inserts just right.  I am really, really proud to put our logo on the front of the box of this game, and I think you will all be extremely happy with the results.

So, that leads us to where are we now?  The miniatures and dice are fully and completely ready to ship.  The printed components are being finalized now.  Once the white-core PPC copy (a white game that punches out with no artwork) is to Noah at Gametrayz (www.gametrayz.com) he will finalize the tray design and those will be injection molded and added to the game.

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So, when you get your Wasteland box early next year you are going to notice something strange.  The lid of an already very large box (Descent size for reference) is not going to close.  The cardboard punch will rest above the box bottom and be shrink wrapped shut.  Once you have punched all of the components and slotted them into the Trayz where they go the lid will shut exactly as designed and you’ll have a snugly packed box of plastic tray inserts.   You’ll also never have to separate any components to play the game or messy up the table with piles of cardboard since the trayz will be used during gameplay to keep everything tidy on the table.

Your next Wasteland Wednesday will be a way off.  Probably when we have a production copy or a cool update on the trayz.  But for now, the game has gone gold and I couldn’t be happier.  We’re gonna keep pre-orders open for a little longer because there is no real reason not to at this point, to feel free and pre-order WEDS here:  PRE-ORDER WASTELAND EXPRESS TODAY!

Wasteland Express Delivery Service Rulebook

 

Posted on / by Nathan McNair / in Wasteland Express Delivery Service, Wasteland Wednesdays, Wasteland Wednesdays / 1

Wasteland Wednesday – All the Rest

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Short update today.  Mostly odds and ends we haven’t shown you yet.  Character standees and the Not Welcome standees (these represent where you last sold goods, and where you are not welcome for a while because you were a jerk).    We also have the market price/Artifact price board.  Market price adjusts based on the demand from cities for various goods, so you’ll have food, water and weapon sculpts moving around the price wheel.  The artifacts are a constantly increasing price.  So as players buy artifacts, the price will only ever go up.  Also showing off the trailer, which Jason did a fantastic job of looking like a post-it note that someone took a sharpie to in order to make it “match” the dashboard.  Lots of fun little details in the game that really make the world feel very lived in.

Other than that, lots of cards in their final layout.

Next up is the rulebook.  Well, most of the rulebook 🙂  We’re gonna keep the campaign mode secret.  We’ve had 5 different rulebook editors plus the design team and Pandasaurus pour over the text of the rulebook and are finishing up the layout now.  Then it’s box back and we’re off to the races 🙂  We’re gonna keep pre-orders open for a little longer because there is no real reason not to at this point, to feel free and pre-order WEDS here:  PRE-ORDER WASTELAND EXPRESS TODAY!

 

Posted on / by Nathan McNair / in Wasteland Express Delivery Service, Wasteland Wednesdays, Wasteland Wednesdays

Wasteland Wednesday – All of the Raiders and Allys

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Hey everyone!  This week we are showing off a gallery of a ton of Riccardo’s artwork.  This is most of the Raiders and Ally deck of cards, though not 100%.  I also wanted to give you a rough look at the card layout for the Raiders so you get an idea of how these guys are going to work in the context of the final product.

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Oh, and a potato phone image of some custom dice!

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Next up is the rest of the board and and the rulebook.  We’re gonna keep pre-orders open for a little longer because there is no real reason not to at this point, to feel free and pre-order WEDS here:  PRE-ORDER WASTELAND EXPRESS TODAY!

 

Posted on / by Nathan McNair / in Wasteland Express Delivery Service, Wasteland Wednesdays, Wasteland Wednesdays / 3

Wasteland Wednesday – The One with Mini Tooling Masters

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Hey guys, it’s been a few weeks of much needed vacation for team Pandasaurus, and a long overdue Wasteland Wednesday that is coming at you one day late because we were hoping to get these boss miniature proofs in.  Obviously the colors are not the actual color and these dudes are made out of resin.  I also tried to take some good photos, but my lense is probably not exactly the right one for these dudes.

Next week, we’ll share the rest of Riccardo’s artwork, and after that the rulebook.  We’re gonna keep pre-orders open for a little longer because there is no real reason not to at this point, to feel free and pre-order WEDS here:  PRE-ORDER WASTELAND EXPRESS TODAY!

 

Posted on / by Nathan McNair / in Wasteland Express Delivery Service, Wasteland Wednesdays, Wasteland Wednesdays

Wasteland Express – The one about economies, cities and picking things up and delivering them.

Wasteland Web Header

Hey everyone!  Next week we will have some *very* big WEDS related news.  And the Wednesday after that we will have our pre-GEN CON kickoff for WEDS where we will talk more about what we are planning on having at the show.

But today, I want to talk about the economies of Wasteland Express Delivery Service and how they work.  WEDS is at its absolute core a pick-up and deliver game.  If you aren’t familiar with pick-up and deliver mechanics, they are probably most frequently associated with train games.  They involve moving your character pawn to one section of a map that has a good for sale.  You buy that good, and you move to another part of the map that has a demand for said good and you drop it off and sell it.  Generally, you should be selling for more than you are buying and thus you make money.

It’s something of a criminally under represented mechanic in games, especially because it is so tactile and fun.  Now, WEDS has a lot of other mechanics layered on this core economy.  There is an action point allowance system (which was covered in the movement blog post a few weeks back), there is a tableau building element (which we will cover next week!) where you get to upgrade your truck and customize it to suit your playstyle.  There is also a battle element and missions and objectives that have you doing things completely separate from any picking up and delivering in the game.

Wasteland Board

This is where I think WEDS really shines as a pick-up and deliver game.  Most pick-up and deliver games are squarely in the Euro-game realm.  Which means the winner is the player with the most VP at the end of the game.  Even in games where that isn’t the case the winner is the person with the most money at the end of the game.  WEDS is a curious game where the pick-up and deliver mechanic will not ever win you the game.  Well, that’s not completely fair.  There are a few end-game missions that involve delivering goods about the board so in that sense it could help you to win the game.  But generally speaking, the picking up and delivering is a means to money.  Which is a means to upgrading your truck.  Which is how you gear up to take on some of the really tough end-game missions to win the game.

I really like this as a system for games in general, and really like when games find a unique way to end.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, most of my collection of games end in VP counting.  Hell, a huge chunk of the games we have published end in VP counting.  But I am happy when a game doesn’t end in VP counting at the same time.  Especially a more thematic game that is trying to put you into the world in which you live.  Because nothing says Post Apocalypic game where the winner has the most prestige points at the end…..  (also, publishers everywhere just stop.  They are VPs.  Naming them Prestige Points or Fame Points or whatever you come up with does not in fact make them more thematic.  They are still Victory Points [checks all of our rulebooks real quick to see if we ever did this]).

So, how does one go about picking up and delivering in WEDS?  Well, let’s start by looking at a couple of cities.

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Cities in WEDS have a couple of core functions.  1) You can drive through them and not stop.  2) You can stop at them and take an action.   Some cities let you buy upgrades for your truck, repair damage (Oh boy, we’re going to finally get to combat next week!).  Some let you take on missions for factions (the capitals of the three factions).  Some let you hire Riders for your truck (more on them at a future date).

The other thing that cities do is either produce goods (production cities) or want goods (demand cities).  You can see the production cities with the white square box on them, and the demand with the Red and Yellow rhombus thing that I’m sure someone in the comments will tell me what it is actual called.

Producing cities will produce a good and the price that they are selling it at currently.  You drive over to the city you want to buy from, pay the money ($crap in WEDS) you want and buy as much of that good as you can hold.

:INSERT ZACK MORRIS TIME FREEZE:

Ok, so I just used the words “as much of that good as you can hold”, and I’m going to be talking about your truck upgrades next week.  But, I am going to let you know something from next weeks post (welcome to the future).  Your truck has a limit to slots to put things.  One of those things you can buy is a hold.  A generic hold can hold 1 food or water.  A special hold can hold 1 weapon crate.

:now Elizabeth Berkley can stop holding her breath in the background:

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So, now you know how you get goods and how you determine the price that you will pay.  You can also get goods by fighting Raiders.  We’ll get to the combat in the future, but when you successfully fight a Raider you get the goods they are carrying for free.  (MORAL AMBIGUITY!)  If you successfully Raid an Raider Enclave you get goods they have for free. (What, you are a post-apocalyptic truck driver, and besides they are jerks.  They had it coming).

Selling goods is also pretty simple.  You drive to the city that wants what you’ve got and you sell it to them.  If they have multiple goods in demand (some chits will show 2 goods) you have to sell them at least 1 of each good.  So if they want food and water, you have to sell them at least 1 food and 1 water.  You can sell them 2 food and 8 waters in some magically fairy land where you are a water czar.

They will pay you the market price for those goods.  Market Price is super duper simple.  The current price is the base value of the good (which will be printed on the market board) + the number of cities that have that good in demand.  The base value of food is 2 $crap.  If 4 cities are demanding food than the current market value of food is 6 $crap.

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Once you have met the demand of the city you will remove the demand counter from that city and draw a new one, adjusting the market prices of the 3 goods accordingly.  It’s very possible for the market price to move a fair amount between turns.  If other players are all delivering the same good that you are planning on and they start meeting the demand, it’s possible to have the market drop out from under you on a good.  Which means you are now hauling something worth a lot less than you were planning on selling it for when you bought it.  This also means if you see someone loading up on a good it might be a good time for other players to deliver this good type and stick the other driver with a truck full of less valuable stuff.

So, now you have money.  That wasn’t so hard was it (well, other than the Rad zones and Raiders you had to dodge to get it there).   We’ve already established getting $crap doesn’t win you the game.  So, what do you do with the money and why the heck would you bother making $crap if it doesn’t win you the game?  Well, I’ll see you next week when we touch on truck upgrades.

Also, enjoy 3 pencils of some of Riccardo’s Hired Guns.  These are allies that you can hire to join you in your truck.  Meet Dead Eye, Armastice (the daughter of The Grand Lord Emperor Torque and sister to a couple of the Raiders you’ve already met) and Bonesaw.  These will be relevant for your interests next week 🙂

Riders

Posted on / by Nathan McNair / in Wasteland Express Delivery Service, Wasteland Wednesdays, Wasteland Wednesdays / 1

Wasteland Express Delivery Service – Graphic Design

Wasteland Web Header

Here is a secret that anyone who has ever playtested a game can tell you.  Games on white scraps of paper are not very fun.  I mean, they can be fun, and when they are fun you know a game is really actually great.  Because fighting over a super awesome Eurasian continent with Steam Punk inspired Mechs is super fun.  Fighting over White Hexagon #18 is less so.

When you are playing a game without art, you are generally fighting over the honor of White Hexagon #18.  Sometimes White Hexagon #18 will have a name or some text in it.  More likely some text that has been scrawled on top of and written over because whatever it used to say wasn’t balanced.

Wasteland with the design team
Still Fun, but I mean.  So white.  So much white.

Wasteland is such a game that is actually fun to play without art.  It’s a sign of a really good game.  Because even good games are usually moderately fun without art.  Design of player pieces and boards is much more about simplicity than it is about fun.  And when I say simplicity, I mean simplicity to create.  It takes really good graphic design to make the game easy to follow.  Turn order, reminders of what goes where, how to play, what the cost of going on a space, what the space gives you.  This is all graphic design.  This is what simplifies a game and makes it both fun and easier to play.

Before we get to the challenges of Wasteland Express specifically lets talk about a game that everyone is familiar with.  Carcassonne.  Carcassonne is a very very good game.  It’s also an evil mean despicable battle over fields and Castles if you are playing the game right.  Now imagine playing a version of Carcassonne where the castle walls were little squiggles, and the fields were just green solid colors.  Now you aren’t fighting over fields and castles, or long roads or Cloisters.  You are just fighting to follow rules of some colored piece and getting the most of that colored piece there.  Carcassonne is not a terribly thematic game, but it’s more thematic than a pure abstract would be.  It’s also pretty easy to memorize how you score the different sorts of pieces because they seem to have their own character and graphics that give it to them (ok, once Dragons and Tower and Catapults start showing up it gets a bit harder to remember everything…).

Enter Wasteland Express.

Wasteland Express has a fantastic mix of elements that really drive the game.  The Raider cards, the board, the Mod Shop, The Temp Mod Shop, The Marketplace and The player board.  The player board is where we are going to spend some time today.  We spoke about how player actions work two weeks ago.  Today we are going to show you all a work in progress version of Tweeks player board.

A prototype player board. This is what all board games would look like if designers were the artists. Just remember that the next time you see a board game artist.

See, the game as was had a relatively workable board.  You take cubes, you put them on the action you want to select (Drive, Sell, Buy, Combat, etc) If you drive twice in a row you move a bit faster than the time before that.  If you move into a spot where you can take another action following a drive action you can immediately move that action selection into one of the other slots (but lose your momentum).

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Enter a graphic designer.  Here we have the dashboard of Tweeks Tractor Trailer.  Suddenly blank squares become buttons.  We have some hand-drawn arrows showing the movement of your action selection (and the one space where your cube can’t move to after movement hiding off on it’s own as a sad reminder of what you cant do).  This, is good graphic design. Obviously I am less than impartial here, but this makes you feel like you are in the game world.  You aren’t just moving cubes around blank white squares.  You are upgrading your truck via a busted old-world HUD.  You are using controls on your dashboard to take actions.  And it helps the gameplay by making it much easier to understand your action selection mechanics.

Now, lets look at some city tiles.  These are much more of the “well that looks cool” variety of graphic design.  They need to convey some information.  The name of the city can be important.  The faction they are aligned with can be really important information.  Some cities produce goods.  Some have demand for goods.  Some may have special actions you can take at them (such as going to the Mod Shop).  White squares with boring logos are not very fun.  Awesome birds eye views of burning cities made out of random old world junk with cool bullet holed up signs are very fun.

Same with the world tiles themselves.  No one ever said “man, I wish someone made a game about driving across white octogons and delivering cubes for money”.  Driving across a desolate hellscape after the world has come to an end to scratch out a living?  Sign me up.

Wasteland Board

 

Now, a slight side-step about Chrome vs. Thematic Design.  These are two VERY different beasts.  Reiner Knizia is a great designer, and one of my favorites.  Ra.  Battle Line.  Modern Art.  Lost Cities.  Sign me the hell up for all of the above.  These games have very nice art.  These games are not thematic.  These are basically abstract games that have been chromed up to make them look super cool.  But they are ultimately basically abstract games about bidding for sets or winning tricks.  Wasteland is a different beast here.  It has a Euro soul, but the gameplay is thematic.   You are driving across the Wasteland, picking up goods and delivering them.  You are completing missions for factions.  You are fighting Raiders and digging up artifacts.  This is a thematic game.  I say that only because I don’t want anyone to get the impression that graphic design makes a game thematic.  Games that are thematic are thematic all the way back when they are scribbles on a white sheet of paper.  Wasteland feels like you are a truck driver driving across the desert right now, even when that desert is a white field.  I imagine very much so that War of the Ring felt a lot like a Lord of the Rings game before they ever put any artwork to it.  Descent a PNP RPG well before there were minis.   Arkham Horror was probably deeply disturbing before FFG started making it pretty.  So, the point of this rambling entry is not to say that art = theme.   But I know Descent is a whole lot more fun with a pile of minis and those amazing dungeon tiles.

My hope as a publisher is we’ve done our part along with some very very talented artists in making an already great game more fun with the work we’ve contributed.

Oh, and have some Raider Art.  This is Carrion.  I’m expecting her to stir a bit of controversy, but we’re both totally 100% fine with her.  Without getting all SJWy on you, we feel that she is about as non-sexualized as an almost totally naked woman can be, and is definitely not drawn with the male gaze in mind.  Given that we were ok with Bean Man and his bolted on nipple clamps, we’re also totally fine with Carrion here.

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Posted on / by Nathan McNair / in Wasteland Express Delivery Service, Wasteland Wednesdays

Wasteland Wednesday – The one about rulebooks

Wasteland Web Header

Today, Nathan is going to have a vent session.  A vent session about Rulebooks. I should preface this by saying we are not posting our rulebook just yet, but will share a picture of a player character we have yet to show off.

I was on Reddit last week and someone started a thread about why rulebooks in the board game industry are still routinely so bad.  This is something that I generally agree with.  Rulebooks in this industry are often not good.

Common issues with Rulebooks:

  • Super unclear writing and use of non-technical language for the game.
  • Missing Rules
  • Text from an older version of the rules that references things no longer in the game
  • Important rules that are glossed over or only exist in a sidebar or sample text
  • Rules that do a horrible job of explaining gameflow and goals and get too in the weeds with process
  • Bad or no visual samples.

Now, lets be very clear before I get started.  You can find examples of all of these in some of our rulebooks, especially old ones.  Especially old ones that I wrote mostly by myself when the company was tiny and didn’t have money to pay for editors to help.

So, let’s talk about why this happens, and in good faith and in all fairness I will be throwing myself under the bus with all sorts of examples of where things went wrong.  And I will finish with what we are doing to fix this, and why Wasteland Wednesday will have a great rulebook if it kills me.

Unclear writing. The first thing you need to understand about rulebooks is that they are technical manuals.  They have more in common with a procedure book at your job than anything fun.  Rulebooks are the dry boring necessary event that stands between you and fun.  The rulebook is a means to an end.  The rulebook is written in a way that most people never ever speak.  I worked in financial compliance for a long time, so I have some experience writing in dry boring legal-ease when dealing with regulatory inquiries.  I do not like to write in this style.  I like free form conversational speech.  Like this.  Where I can write crappy half sentences and make snarky remarks in mid-sentence about how much I think about Gilmour Girls (its great and on Netflix!) when I write an e-mail to Jon.  See?  That was fun, and that is a horrible way to write a manual.  Conversational text, long paragraphs, using multiple words to mean the same thing.  This is how we are all taught to write in school.  This is not how you write a rulebook.

These are things that destroy rulebooks.  I’ve certainly been guilty of this on games like Lost Valley where I wanted fun little asides to make the game feel really thematic.  Which I might have succeeded in, but then had to rewrite the entire manual and publish it again on BGG because people unfamiliar with the game had a hell of a time slogging through it.

Missing Rules.  Missing Rules happen for a number of reasons.  The nightmare scenario is a half-finished text document that gets put into publication before it’s ready to go through either laziness, deadlines or people with a lack of experience being involved.  We’ve all backed Kickstarters before that literally don’t tell you what spots on the board are for.  It happens.  It shouldn’t.  That is an absolutely inexcusable condition that I am thankful to say I have never been guilty of.

The more innocuous form of missing rules is simply one of familiarity.  The game designer knows how to play the game.  The publisher knows how to play the game.  The play testers know how to play the game.  The people at Cons who sit through demos know how to play the game.  Then 2,000 copies hit stores and a bunch of people who don’t know how to play the game look at the rulebook and have no idea how to play the game.  See, logical leaps and missing rules (especially edge cases) often get left out because everyone involved in the games development knows what goes in that blank space.    Mcuh liek tihs snntetce can be raed by yuor biran rgiht now.  If you know the answer to the puzzle already, your brain fails to recognize gaps in the rules.

The solution to this is to find a team of awesome gamers out there who will proof read rules for you.  Gamers who have never seen your game before who are really good at tearing a game apart.  Games don’t get released without blind playtesting (ok, well, games shouldn’t be released without blind playtesting), rulebooks shouldn’t be released without blind proofreaders.  We have 5! That we use for our games now.

Old Text This is one that I am super guilty of at times. We have an unannounced game coming out called StarFall.  I guess it is now technically announced.  It is awesome.  We will be sharing more before GenCon and at GenCon about it.  StarFall came with cubes that represented a currency called Stardust.  We changed those cubes to awesome wooden starburst pieces.  The entire rulebook calls them cubes.  Black and white cubes to be exact and we changed them to orange and white custom wood chits.  Until last night the rulebook kept referencing the wrong color cubes.  Oh, and also it kept saying the word cubes when no cubes were to be found.  This is a thing that happens and shouldn’t.  This is also why blind editors are important because they can stare at the component list in the game and scream “there are no cubes in this rulebook.  What the hell are you talking about”.

 Rules hidden in the sidebar. OH GOD NO.    DO NOT DO THIS.  THE RULES GO IN THE RULES, THE EXAMPLES GO IN THE SIDEBAR.  DO NOT ONLY MENTION I AM LIMITED TO 2 SELL ACTIONS OFF ON THE SIDE IN TEXT I AM UNLIKELY TO EVER READ.  JUST NO.  NOOO.  DON’T DO THIS.  I have done this before, and a lot with Lost Valley.  I try real hard not to do this.  I am super sorry, and will not let it happen again.

 Rules with bad gameflow. I was playing a game last week that will not be named. The rulebook spent 10+ pages explaining where I put my pieces, how much I had to spend to use a space, where that money went.  What that space got me.  What this space did.  How I could score a card.  And never once told me why I was doing any of it.  At the very very end it said “hey, you need 10 points to win”.  Oh, those are points.  I did not realize that those were points.  Now I know how to win.  Oh crap, I forgot how to do anything because it was all mush in my brain without context.  The game could have said “Hey bro, you need 10 points to win.  There are 4 ways to get a point.  Here is how you get those points.” And then spent the next 10 pages explaining how everything works and all the rules.  Then those details would have filled in missing gaps of a story I already mostly understood.  Instead of me staring at a page and going insane trying to make heads or tails of why the hell I would put a worker on spot Y and how I ever got more cards.

The new FFG edition of Merchant of Venus does a good job of explaining things for the most part.  You do some of 4 things on your turn.  You move.  You buy/sell.  You build a space station.  You maybe discover a new planet. “Oh hey, this game is easy”.  Here are 30 more pages of why it’s not easy.  “Ok, yeah, this is harder than I thought, but it makes sense because I know what I am trying to do in the first place and this is all just color added to what I already knew”.

Bad or no visual examples. Do not wall of text a rulebook (I know, irony given this wall of text blog).  Please don’t.  I get it, layout is hard.  The digital assets you need for the visual examples aren’t ready yet and backers on Kickstarter want a rulebook.  So, you wall of text me.  Don’t wall of text me bro.    Just show me.  Pictures are worth 1,000 words.  If you are telling me what I do in a game, you should follow that up with showing me what it looks like.  Then I can look at the board, look at the visual sample and my brain can process what I just read and go “ok, that makes sense”.  If you give me a block of text only now I have to look at the board, try and parse what you said and translate that text into action.  I might screw that translation up and play your game wrong.

Similarly, to the “missing rules” or “rules in the sidebar” issue, your visual should show me what you have already explained.  It should not be used as a crutch to not explain the rules.  The rules should not say “look at that dashed arrow and moving dude.  Move like that”.  You need the visual example to be just that.  Not a crutch for your inability to articulate a rule with text.  They go together.

The above game that won’t be named in sample 4 also suffered from this.  “Place your worker on the spot for the build action.  Then place a cube on the spot named something super esoteric.  On a subsequent turn other players may not do this other esoteric thing that is similarly named.  Good luck figuring that out jerko”.  Then I played the game wrong, hated it because it seemed way too punishing.  So I went on BGG to see if other people had voiced similar dislike (being a publisher means my dislike is privately shared with friends, or publicly shared with everyone if I’ve had 2 beers after a convention).  Then I read that I had (like many others) not gotten the rule right and the game is actually super awesome.

What we are doing about this.  So, now I’ve gone over the most common pitfalls.  How do we avoid them and what the hell is this guy going to do now that I’ve put a big giant target on my back as the guy who hates bad rulebooks.

Pandasaurus Games is changing the way we do lots of things.  How we get artwork, how we do QC checks on our games, how we layout game boards for maximum clarity, how we ensure gamers are getting good value in their box and how we take care of rulebooks.  We are going to have no less than 5 eyes that have never seen a game before read a rulebook.  Proof readers, technical writers, hardcore gamers, less hardcore gamers.  We are going to make sure that everyone gets it.  That things are clear, that they are properly numbered.  I have created for myself a 37 point inspection guide to proofs and rulebooks to check personally that everything is there and clear.  And we have outside parties who do not have any knowledge of the game do the same.

Rulebooks are often the last thing to be finalized in a game.  You are waiting on art assets for visuals, costing of components and all kinds of other things that are flashier and more exciting (like that artwork I promised you!).  This means the rulebook is often the final hurdle between your game going to the printers, and taking time on it means delays in release and delays in revenue and delays in gamers playing this super awesome game you’ve spent the last two years working on.  So, the rulebook usually gets a “good enough for government work” treatment.  Especially from small publishers.

I am not promising you we will never have a grammar problem or never have an unclear rule in a rulebook.  But we are taking steps and we will go above and beyond to ensure that we have the absolute best rulebooks in the industry.  Plaid Hat and more recent FFG games are sort of the gold standard of quality.  Which is not to say they are problem free, but they are really really really close.  That is where we are going to be from now on.  Starting with StarFall and Wasteland Express.

Now, I’ll get off my soap box and show you a cool Player character.  Meet the Fallen.  She’s awesome.  She drives a schoolbus, and we’ll have a lot more to say about her soon.

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Posted on / by Nathan McNair / in Wasteland Express Delivery Service, Wasteland Wednesdays / 1

Wasteland Wednesday – The one about player actions and videos from Origins!

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Hey guys,

I’m getting ready to hop in a car to San Antonio so this is going to be a shorter Wasteland Wednesday.  Well, shorter for me and longer for you because we have a couple videos of the guys sitting down with BGG and Dice Tower at Origins talking about the game.

I also wanted to take a moment to share with you the action selection mechanism of the game and talk to you a bit about what you will be doing on your turn in Wasteland.  So, I think it’s reasonably clear what a player is trying to accomplish in Wasteland Express, but a quick refresher.

At the beginning of the game, 3 shared goal cards will come out.  These can be random or as part of the campaign mode will be a set part of the story progression.   When a player completes the objective on one of these cards they will place a standee with their character art on the card to signify that they have finished that mission.  Once all 3 of your standees are on an objective card the game ends and the person who completed all 3 wins.   These missions will totally and completely change the way you play the game however.

As a sample of three of my favorite missions in the game:

  • The Oracle – Each character will be given their own unique vision from the Oracle who will send them on a hidden set of 3 sub-quests (deliveries, donations of money, etc) across the map. So in this case no one knows what you are trying to accomplish and will have a harder time slowing you down as you achieve your goals.  Lots of deliveries will require you to add on a bunch of storage and probably a trailer to store more goods to complete her questline.
  • The Grand Lord Emperor Torque – This big bad hangs out in a Raider Enclave (and so much more in the campaign mode) and you have to go kill him. He takes a lot of damage.  More damage than you will normally be capable of doing in the game.  This means you will probably have to load your truck up with a bunch of guns, one time use missiles and a few gunners/allies to help you deal with this guy.
  • The irradiated artifact. This mission requires you to purchase a special cargo hold for storing irradiated goods.  You then have to drive your truck into a Raider enclave, attack the Raiders living there.  Steal the artifact and drive it across the map.  Driving it across the map is not going to prove very easy however as a Raider war party will be chasing you and attacking you every time you move into a new Octagon.  Speed, defense and maybe some offensive firepower are the names of the game.

These are just a small sample of some of the missions that you’ll be going on.  There are missions that require you to procure a ton of money, and missions that require you to donate a ton of goods without accepting payment to outposts in need, objectives that require you to destroy all of the Raider enclaves and all sorts of really cool and interesting different mission types.  If you’ve played an open world game or RPG in the last 30 years a lot of the sorts of missions you can go on will probably feel familiar enough.

There are also going to me objective cards within the various faction decks that you can acquire, so it’s not just the three public goals that can win you the game, you can also complete some of these individual objectives to win.  And of course, the campaign mode is going to really screw with the ways you win the game and change stuff up a good deal.  With a random set up of the missions every game it will ensure no two games will ever play the same, and will force you to really change up your strategy from game to game, and even within a single game as you embark on missions from the three factions.

So, now that the high level what you are doing is out of the way, let’s get to the how.

A prototype player board. This is what all board games would look like if designers were the artists. Just remember that the next time you see a board game artist.

Here is a prototype of a player truck board (we are saving the real deal back for a few weeks because it looks awesome and we have to keep y’all coming back for something, right? :p)

Each player will have 5 action points to spend on a round.  A player turn is super simple.  You will take an action marker and move it from your unused pool onto an action you want to take.  For example, if you select “drive” you will move up to 3 spaces (well, the player power here is to start at a movement of 4, but imagine a movement of 3) and leave your action marker on the “movement” space and play will move to the next player.  When it comes back around to your turn and you choose to drive again you will be able to move 4 spaces.   This is what we call the momentum based movement engine.  Which is a fancy way of saying the longer you move in a row, the faster you will move across the map.  If you ever do something other than “movement” all of your movement actions will slide over into the “Pass” spot and any future movement will be back to 3 spaces. (again, imagination time since this truck starts at 4 movement).

If you end your movement space in an area that allows you to take a different action (say a city tile or tile with a Raider truck) you can slide your movement action into the appropriate spot.  So for example if you want to attack a Raider (again, to be explained later because we have to keep you coming back for more) you would slide that movement action into the Combat space.  If you successfully perform an attack that action marker would move into the “Pillaged” space.  You would take whatever goods the Raider is carrying into your cargo hold (if you have room) and play would move to the next player.  So, if you plan your moves smartly you can get a 2 for 1 action for almost anything except “Bonus Action” which are the only thing you can do on your turn (more on those later…  we can’t give away all the goods today…)  So, buying goods, selling goods, using the outpost bonus when you are in a city (say it with me now..  more on all that later) can be a “free” action at the end of your movement if you are efficient in your movement.

Meet Zed. He's an Ally. We'll talk about them more later. I've been rambling too much and felt y'all needed a cool image.
Meet Zed. He’s an Ally. We’ll talk about them more later. I’ve been rambling too much and felt y’all needed a cool image.

Now..   the last thing you might notice.  There are a certain number of spaces for a lot of these actions.  That’s because you can only do certain actions once a round.  So, you can buy goods once.  You can sell goods twice.  You can attack as much as you want, but you can only pillage (steal goods after a successful attack) once.  You can take an outpost bonus once.  Once everyone has taken all 5 of their actions the round ends (Exciting things happen at a round end..  again, to be shared later) play passes clockwise and you return all of your action tokens to the unused spot.  This means your momentum resets on movement, but you can once again take all those actions.

The end result of this is a super simple action point system.  So, unlike Tikal (I love Tikal, no one yell at me) you don’t have to count to remember how many Action Points you used because the markers take care of that.  Movement is not random, and there is the ability to minmax (This is why the guys call it EuroThrash) your action selection and careful planning are needed..  but it’s really straightforward turn.  You do one thing on your turn.  Move into an outpost and sell goods.  Move and stop to keep momentum going.  Move into a space with a Raider Truck and attack.  Short, fast turns.  Very little downtime, and as the turns go on more limited choices to make.  So your choices really matter.  If you take an outpost bonus early in a round you might come to regret it if you realize you actually wanted to drive to the Library and ask the head Archivist for a mission.

Oh god, this was supposed to be short.

Well, till next time kids.  Oh, and enjoy these videos of Matt and Ben talking at the screen in a lot more detail about the game (pull forward to the 3h, 5 minute and 40 second mark of the Dice Tower Vid)

 

Posted on / by Nathan McNair / in Wasteland Express Delivery Service, Wasteland Wednesdays / 1

Wasteland Wednesday – The One about Origins

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Hey everyone,

The team just got back from Origins and are still recuperating.  Before we get into Wasteland Express stuff, I want to take a short second to thank everyone who came out at Origins.  We had a blast hanging out with a ton of great designers, artists and other publishers.  There is a lot of very cool stuff coming out in the next 12 months that you should all be really happy about.  Our little hobby is starting to grow up and the game designs I’m seeing are astounding.   I also wanted to thank our amazing booth volunteers headed up by designer Ian Zhang who basically made our hanging out with designers possible.  And of course, all of the fans who stopped by the booth to check out Wasteland Express Delivery Service and our other titles.

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So, on to Wasteland.  It’s time for a confession.  I have not played Wasteland Express in about 3 months.  This is pretty typical of the life of a publisher.  You play the hell out of a game when you are deciding if it’s a fit.  You then continue to play the hell out of it while giving design notes to the design team.  You then make a decision on art direction and start working with artists..  and by this point you have more or less moved on to playing the next game or games and the next time you will play the game is right before it goes to final production to make sure that everything came together the way you want it.  That isn’t to say that you aren’t super involved in a project, it just means the “playing the game” several times a week phase is over.

Halfway through a game of Wasteland on Thursday night at Origins, I leaned over to Molly (who had just returned with a growler of IPA with Mr. Gilmour) and whispered in her ear “good news, the game is still f*&^*&^ng awesome”.  See, I had this memory that the game was great, but I hadn’t actually experienced that greatness in a while.   Similar to how I can say matter of factly that NiGHTS into Dreams is my favorite video game of all time, even if I only dust of the Sega Saturn once a year to actually boot it up.  Then I remember how much I wanted to by a Nightmaren when I was in High School.  As you can tell, I was suuuuper cool in high school.

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So it was with Wasteland Express.  Even though we were playing a whiteboard copy without art I was immediately transported to a world where I was driving through abandoned highways in search of food and water so that I could buy a bunch of missiles and go kill the Grand Lord Emperor Torque (who we have not shown off yet, but will at the end of this post).   There are games out there that are good, but fiddly.  And there are games out there that are fun but sort of broken in some fundamental way.  Then there is a class of game that just works perfectly in its design.  The game doesn’t feel too abstracted, but still balanced.  The decisions you make are thematically sound, but still exude fun without ever feeling like one choice is obvious.

It was also nice playing the game with designers who I trust (in that we are publishing their games) that are not involved in Wasteland Express, and getting good feedback from them on the game as well.  Guys, strap in.  It’s going to be so much damned fun.

The rest of the con was also great.  We hung out at Pikachu’s butt (long story).  Hung out with Matt, Ben and Jon more than they probably wanted to.  Handed out some hats and showed the game off to The Dice Tower and BGG on their live streams (as soon as they chunk up those videos we will blast them out as part of Wasteland Wednesdays).  We’ve also got a lot of art in on the game in the past few days and are expecting a ton more as we march towards the finish line for Wasteland Express.

Without further ado, I present to you the leader of the Raiders.  The Lord Grand Emperor Torque.  His body is a car and he is really damned hard to kill.  This guy will show up randomly in certain games, and will show up in ways that you would really prefer him not to in the narrative game.  He is a car/man who is to be both feared and can lead to a super cool path to glory.

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Our game actually ended in a race between one player attempting to outrun a pack of Raiders he had just stolen an artifact from as they moved it across the map while another player loaded up 4 one-use RPGs to take out the Lord Grand Emperor Torque.  It was a super tense moment as player A was flying across the desert trying to kill off the Raiders attacking him, while the other player unloaded all of the goods and upgrades they had made to their truck all game long to add RPG launchers and go kill the big boss.

Wasteland with the design team
Wasteland with the design team

It’s these sorts of decisions that make Wasteland both really fun.  You can choose to load up and go big on deliveries early in the game, knowing that you are particularly vulnerable to Raider attacks.  Or you can arm yourself to the hilt knowing that you are going to wipe out lots of Raiders but won’t have much room on your Rig for storage.  Or you can switch your strategy mid game if one or the other isn’t working for you, or try and strike a balance between the two.  The best part is because the game winning conditions will be different each time you play, your method of play is going to vary wildly from game to game.  In our case we had two win conditions that required pretty heavy weaponry (Kill the Lord Grand Emperor Torque and the steal an artifact and drive it across the desert while fighting off Raiders) and one that was more economy based (deliver one of each type of good to a particular city).  It really made me change up my baseline strategy for the game and pick up some weaponry in order to compete as best we could.

You can also pick up private game-end conditions (the game ends when someone meets three such conditions) through the faction decks.  So, it’s also possible to totally ignore the publicly available end game conditions and heavily focus on making one (or all) of the three factions happy with you.  These missions are gained either by driving your rig to the capital of one of the factions (draw three missions, keep 1), or by heading to the Depot (the HQ for the Wasteland Express Delivery Service) where you can draw 1 job from any faction.  I wound up actually going hard after this strategy and came within 1 point of winning.  At the end of the 4 player game, pretty much everyone was within a turn or two of either completing or having a good shot at completing their 3rd end game condition.  So, super close game with 3 first time players that took less than 90 minutes including set up, talking about World of Warcraft, Rule Explanation and Growler delivery.

Setting up a booth
The amazing design team

We’ll have a lot more to share with you over the next few weeks, and a lot more to talk about regarding GenCon and what we will have to show there.  But for now, enjoy some photos of all of us hanging at Origins.

Posted on / by Nathan McNair / in Wasteland Express Delivery Service, Wasteland Wednesdays / 5

Wasteland Wednesday – Prototyping, Printings and how to win a dope hat.

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Hey everyone!

First off, there won’t be a Wasteland Wednesday next week.  We’ll be at Origins meeting up with Jon, Matt and Ben.  We’ll have a prototype of the game at the show (more on that to come), along with some Wasteland Express hats (more on that to come).  So, hopefully you enjoy this (rambling) post about how games are printed, and how game prototypes get made.  We also have some sweet photos of the Wasteland Prototype.  So, please share this on the interwebs as you see fit to people who might enjoy it, and be sure you are following us on social media so you don’t miss anything from Origins next week.

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Today’s Wasteland Wednesday is going to be all about prototyping and the printing process.  One of the things that a lot of people don’t know is that you generally speaking are not able to get a high quality prototype of a game until very, very late in the process.  The games that you are used to playing on are created in a factory as part of a mass production process called “going on press”.  You will normally get a printer to run a handful of proof copies of a game before moving into full production, but at that point the final forms of all of a games are finished.

When a game is printed there are a number of items that are used.  There are giant printing machines that can run huge numbers of cards, box covers and punch tokens.  Then there is a tool that cuts these into the game pieces that you are used to seeing.  So, getting things like high quality punch tokens requires the game to have been tooled already.  These tools cost thousands of dollars and you don’t want to pay for a tool to find out you forgot about a piece of cardboard you needed in the game and have to redo the entire process again.  Boxes are folded by folding machines, punches are perforated by machines that perforate, cards are collated and shrink wrapped by machines that do that.  Which is all to say, the final form of a game comes together right before a game is ready to enter mass production.

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Then there are the pieces that are “buy outs”.  Generally the printer that I interface with is exactly that.  A printer.  They don’t make wooden tokens, dice, miniatures, plastic stands, metal coins, plastic insert trays or any of that fun stuff that makes games really stand out.  They generally are working with another manufacturer to acquire those items.  Some things are off the shelf parts that are relatively easy to get a hold of.  Dragon’s Gold uses some awesome plastic pieces for gems that are pre-produced by a plastic factory and can be had easily.  Same goes with wooden cubes.  Standard meeples can often be off the shelf purchased, custom meeples require tooling.  I was playing Viticulture the other day and saw the clear acrylic pieces used to mark your wine production and excitedly exclaimed “oh, these cost [insert amount of money here]” and realized I’m a weirdo.

You can save money in the production process of a game by interfacing with these other factories directly.  Printers are businesses and if they are taking time out of their day to send 3d models to another printer, or time to order dice or wooden cubes they are going to mark up the cost of those items.  This is super fair.  I don’t expect a company to do work for free.  But, a fair number of printers will allow you to directly purchase those pieces yourself and have them sent to the printer to be packed out and charge a nominal packing fee (for counting, sorting, bagging, dropping in game boxes, etc).  The trick here is, you can screw this up.  The other factory may not speak English as well as the printer that is accustomed to interfacing with English speaking publishers and mistakes can be made.  It also means that a delay or logistical issue can cause a chain reaction that you are now on the hook for.  Printers don’t like to store containers worth of games in their warehouse for very long.  And if they are finished and your dice producing factory didn’t deliver on time, you are on the hook for that.  Generally, I have always let our printer handle all of the logistics for these exact headaches.  We have occasionally gotten our hands dirty for miniature production for quality control reasons, but that isn’t the norm.

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This brings us to another issue I want to touch on briefly.  Quality Control.  QC is super tricky.  I am not in China.  Or Germany.  Or Korea.  Or any of the countries that our games are printed in (US printers and pricing is another post for another day).  Normally we get a number of pre-production copies and a number of games that come off the line during the final process.  We check these super thoroughly for errors, which should yield the big problems.  Like when Lost Valley had two pieces that didn’t separate that really needed to.

What this isn’t going to catch is the 200 copies where the ink ran low on the printer and the cards looked faded.  Or the 100 copies where the machine that picks up cards left a mark (if you have a copy of the Game that has this issue, shoot us an e-mail, we’ve got replacement cards on the way from Germany).  Or the odd copy here or there where the printed material wasn’t aligned correctly on the form and the cut marks were off center.  Or the copy here or there where the pack out dropped in two bags of green meeples but no blue.  These are the kind of errors that are unfortunately out of the hands of pretty much all publishers that work on the hobby side of board gaming because none of us own our own manufacturing centers.  This is where the old e-mail and send replacement parts comes into play, and believe me it is as frustrating for us as it is for you, but there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it other than avoiding printers that seem to have more problems than others and making sure you take care of customers that got a copy of the game with a production issue.

Ok, back on message now.  So, all of this is to say.  We will have a nice set-up copy of Wasteland Express at Origins!  Because this guy made it by hand using a home printer, some stuff ordered from Office Max, a box cutter and a lot of lost brain cells from using Elmer’s Glue to adhere things to each other.  Also, I need a new copy of 7 Wonders because I used those as the base for the cards we are bringing to Origins, and used the box top from Fire and Axe to wrap the printed box art on top of.  What we won’t have are our miniatures because while the models are all complete and in the tooling process, they aren’t done just yet.  We also won’t have the punchboard or finished player boards because that art isn’t set to be finished for a week or two and I won’t have time to get it together.

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So, if you want to play Wasteland Express, you’ll have to track down the design team at some point and play it off of a whiteboard copy without art, because that is the most playable version of the game right now.  But, we will have a nice foam board mock-up to check out that is going to look super sweet and give you a really good idea of what the final version will look like on your table.  So, come check it out, say hi and you can get a look at our sweet Wasteland Express Delivery Service trucker hats.

There are 100 of these in existence.  We own them all.  We will be giving them away on social over the next few months through nebulous means.  People who share stuff on social, people who dress up as a Raider or Rider at GenCon (for real, if you Cosplay our characters at a Con we will give you a hat and a free copy of the game, and maybe one of our three dogs).  So, make sure you hashtag #WEDS on social and drop us a line (games@pandasaurusgames.com) if you do something insane to promote Wasteland Express that we should know about.  Don’t do anything that might hurt you (like strapping yourself to the back of a truck to play sweet guitar riffs), but be creative, have fun and you can get yourself one of these super dope hats.

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