Robert Hornbek

Game Development & Exploration

Posts Tagged ‘Table Top Game’

The Island: First Look

Posted by rHornbek on January 5, 2012

An image pulled from the How to Play manual.

For those of you who would like to learn more about my boardgame The Island – formally titled Hill – please feel free to view or download the current rule sheet here —> How to Play The Island

Please keep in mind this document is a work in progress.  Many of the images are placeholder and the text is full of misspellings, grammatical errors and inconsistent terminology.

Needless to say, any and all feedback is welcome.  Cheers!


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Iron Synapse: Once was ‘Synaps’

Posted by rHornbek on December 12, 2011

A lot has been going on since I last touched on our Synaps project, which has now been officially titled Iron Synapse.  This change is greatly due to the overall change of theme for the game.  Fundamentally the game is still greatly based on the classic Chinese strategy game GO, but instead of the sleek web 2.0 style we have chosen to go with a more industrial appearance.  This has been greatly influenced by the character designs which I shared in my last blog entry.

Example of the Iron Synapse Main menu. 80% of actual size.

For the last week and a half I have been working on updated all of the ingame art, excluding the characters.  This includes all of the interface, logos, buttons, bars, counters, timers etc.  While it has been a daunting task, it has been a fun and educational one!   Most of the content I have created is not all that interesting individually but I am excited to share it as whole in future updates.

Example portions of the playing board, called the Map.

Included in all of this work I updated the Map tiles; two point Elbo tiles for the corners, three point Tee tiles for the sides and four point cross tiles for everything in between.  Using procedural generation we can create any Map size using these three different tiles, which reduces the amount of content we have to create as well as the amount of content that the client/user has to load before playing.

You will also notice in the sample of the Map alphabetic and numerical coordinates on the top on left side of the image.  These coordinates will be shown on all four sides of the complete map which is common in most strategy games like Go and Chess etc.  To utilize a unique Font and glow effects, these tiles had to each be created by hand.  There are 21 numerical tiles and 21 alphabetical tiles.

Latest Node & Power Node artwork.

Creating each of the coordinate tiles was daunting, but I also had the pleasure of updating the Node and Power Nodes art as shown above.  Starting from the left side you will see the red and blue Nodes, or Basic Node.  These Nodes make up most of the game and will be seen throughout the entire game.  Each of the other Nodes are Power Nodes which have unique functions.  Starting from the left is the Strong Node, which can never be captured making them a great way to secure sections of your wall.  The next Power Node type is a Spiked Node, which will subtract points from your opponent if they capture it, detouring them from doing so.  The Power Nodes with the Golden rims are called Rich Nodes which grant the controlling or capturing User additional points.  Lastly is the Power Node without a color, this is called the Hollow Node.  This Node can be played directly over the top of opposing Node to immediately capture them turning them into a Node of User.

While we slowly complete and add the remaining features we are ramping up greatly on or content development and my hopes are that we can begin sharing the revised and cleaned up version of the characters really soon, as well as actual ingame screen captures with the new art.

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FanCon Battle: Update & Setback

Posted by rHornbek on April 25, 2011

Please check out some updated images for FanCon Battle; a collectible card game based on Anime, Internet and Convention culture!

Concept cards in each of the five FanCan Battle suits; Clovers, Spades, Moons, Diamonds and Hearts!

An example of a FanCon Battle card based on MineCraft's Creeper & details that break down the card.

All these updates to the game mean we have been busy working on it!  However FanCon Battle’s development has been put on hold due to time issues.  Our goal was to complete the game for Fanime 2011 but due to uncontrollable circumstances we are going to have to put the game off until a later date!

On the other hand we now have more time to refine the game by getting a lot more play-testing in as well as collecting a lot more original art that we have, and need, at the moment.  Also, if you are interesting in seeing this game through to completion, please like the official FanCon Battle page on FaceBook.

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Killer Bunnies

Posted by rHornbek on July 11, 2010

I had heard about this game a few times before.  I had seen it recommended on and it even popped up as a recommended item on my account.

The concept is pretty simple: collect magical carrots and bunnies while killing your opponents bunnies!

Needless to say I thought this was a game worth checking out, however I could not find a store locally or online that had it in stock.  This past weekend my girlfriend (Sonja) and I were in Santa Barbara and we came across a boardgames store that had one of the starter boxes.  With my positive reenforcement and her passion for cute things she just had to buy it.

We found that only one of the bunnies was all that "killer".

It wasn’t until much later that night that we managed to play the game.  However, before then, on the car ride home, Sonja opened the box and began reading the rules.

At first it sounded pretty straight forward: buy carrots, collect bunnies and kill other bunnies with weapons.  Then there was Cabbage and Water which you could buy with “Kaballa Dallas” which were also called “Bunny Money” to feed your hungry bunnies.  Then the rule book began describing Special cards and Very Special cards that could be played from your hand or played in your Run Stack.  But if you played the Special card from your Run Stack you could also choose to save it for later, but if it was an Aggressive card you couldn’t play it without a bunny…

Once we were done reading the FIRST rule book we began reading the second which described in greater detail how many of the cards worked and under what conditions they did not.  To complicate things even more there was a section at the end of the second book that was titled “Serious Rules for Serious Players”, we stopped reading at that point.

Once we actually started playing the game things became a little more clear, until we read some of the cards.  On many occasions we had to refer back to the rule book simply to clarify what half of the cards really did, simply because the text printed on them made no sense.  One card literally said the following:

“Allows a player to choose and roll either the Orange or twelve-sided die…”

The game came with six dice, each a different colors including orange, however they were all twelve-sided dice!  I don’t know if they were just trying to be funny, or if they really have no idea what they are doing.

We felt by the end of the game what Killer Bunnies really needed was about three or four LESS rules and mechanic.  As I mentioned above there were these things called Run Stacks.  See when you play cards you play them at the bottom of the Run Stack and at the beginning of your turn you can only reveal the card on the top of the Run Stack.  This means cards only work two turns after they are played.  As I also pointed out, there are some cards you cannot play unless you have a bunny, but if the bunny is killed before that card is played it must be discarded instead.  I personally had two bunnies the entire game who both got killed almost immediately.  The rest of the time I was just discarding cards waiting for a bunny which never happened.

We aim to play the game one more time now that we are familiar with the rules.  If it still feels like a pile of crap, we think amending many of the rules may actually make it interesting and fun to play.  There is something about the game that is oddly fun that we want to try and bring out by cutting some of the fat.

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Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online

Posted by rHornbek on June 17, 2010

If you know me then it wont come as a surprise that I am thrilled that this game was announce.  Aside from wanting a science fiction MMO that wasn’t EVE I had always imagined one that took place in the Warhammer 40k universe.  That aside lets touch on a few of the things we see in the video.

So at first glance, like most highly anticipated games, it looks pretty cool!  It appears that what we are seeing is ingame graphics and possible encounters, but very little is actually being explained about gameplay.  I managed to pull a screen cap from a portion of the game that I feel says quite a bit about the gameplay.  For now of course.

If unfamiliar with the 40k universe one could confuse this for World of StarCraft!

The first thing I notice are the 3rd person shooter elements, which feel like a solid move.  Then I discover how little they deviated from World of WarCraft’s HUD layout.  I guess it has become the standard since its success, but there are a lot of improvements that could be made.  Hopefully they take a few queues from popular mods.

I plan on keeping an eye on this game.  I am trying not to get my hopes up too much, but someone is bound to make a decent MMO eventually.  These are some of the concerns I have for the game…

  • Faction Options: I am a huge fan of the Tyranids, but it is safe to assume they will not be a playable race.  I am not suggesting they could never be playable, but rather feel they will be passed over by more easily implemented factions.
  • Power By Numbers: one aspect of the Warhammer table top games that greatly differentiated the factions were the numbers of units each army contained at any one time.  While Space Marine squads consisted of 5 or 6 marines, Ork units could have as many as 8 or 12.  This said, single character battles would feel inappropriate.
  • Character Progression: while there are a fair number of weapons and utilities you can give individual characters in the table top game it does not add up nearly to the amount of items present in most MMOs.  Of course if they can avoid the classic item grind I would be happy.

I look forward to learning more about this game in the months to come!

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Posted by rHornbek on November 18, 2009

I was having a discussion about a concept for a card game when I first heard about Fluxx.  In my concept there would only be two rules, on your turn you must draw a card and play a card.  Cards, as they are played, would add additional rules and objectives to the game.  Even the objective for winning the game would change as users played cards.  Ultimately every aspect of the game would change as cards are played and removed from the table.  Interestingly enough I learned from one of my friends that just such a card game exists.  I immediately looked Fluxx up online and not long after purchased it.

"The card game with ever-changing rules!"

Fluxx is a card game that should be played with at least three people for the most enjoyment.  Users are dealt three cards at the beginning of the game and the rest of the deck is placed in the center of the table to be drawn from.  There are five different card types…

Rule Cards

When a rule card is played it will change how the game operates.  In most cases a rule card will define how many cards you must draw or play on your turn.  Some rule cards will even restrict the number of cards you have in your hand.  There are different types of rule cards that will replace rule cards of the same type when they are played.  For example, if a draw rule is played the existing draw rule must be discarded etc.

Action Cards

Action cards are played from your hand and immediately discarded.  The effect of an action card takes effect immediately.  Some action cards allow the user to draw additional cards, take cards from other users and in some cases change the rules.

Keeper Cards

Keeper cards are generally part of the game’s conditions for winning.  Played keeper cards will not change how the game operates but may bring a user closer to winning.  Each keeper card is themed differently such as the Brain card, the Rocket card and the Dream card etc.  In most cases users are trying to get a combination of two keeper cards to win the game, but none of the users will know which two those are until a goal card is played.

Just a few examples of cards and their types.

Goal Card

As mentioned above, goal cards define the condition a user must meet to win the game.  There can only ever be a single goal in plat at one time, and when a new goal is played the previous goal is discarded.  In most cases goals will say something like “The player with the Rocket and the Brain wins the game.”  If at any time, while this goal is in play, a user meets these conditions they win the game.

Creeper Cards

Creeper cards must be played from your hand immediately and placed in front of the user for all other users to see.  Creepers will typically prevent a user from winning the game as long as they have it in front of them.  Each creeper card can be discarded or moved to another user in some way.  In the case of the Radioactive Potato, each time a new goal card is played the Radioactive Potato is passed to the user on their right.  Some goal cards will actually require a creeper card to win the game.

I had the pleasure to play the game multiple times with multiple people and it was received rather well.  At first the game felt rather slow, because most of us had to read all the cards in our hand and in play on each of our turns.  Once we become familiar with the cards the game began to move much quicker.

One of the things I really liked about the game was how quickly someone could go from close to winning to being the furthest from it.  It is not always easy to collect a lot of keeper cards, but it typically only takes two to win the game.  However if the goal changes before you get the second keeper you will have to start all over.  A side effect of this mechanic is that users don’t tend to win until the last minute.  To be clear, this means that you rarely build up to victory it just sort of happens all at once.

I really enjoyed the way the game’s rules would change as users played cards.  However it became a little disappointing when I learned that most of the rules that are changed only effect the number of cards you draw, play and hold in your hand.  There are some rule cards that deviate from this some, such as a card that requires you to let the person on your left to play the first card of your turn at random from your hand.

I currently own version 4.0 which is in full color and comes in a nicer box

So far the game has been enjoyable each time I’ve played it, but it has lost some excitement.  In the last game I played my brother, on his first turn, ended up getting just the right cards in his hand to allow him to draw and play what felt like 15 cards.  By the end of his turn all the rules were changed, which wasn’t terrible, but everyone else playing who hadn’t even taken a turn had no cards in their hand.  The biggest problem I had with this was the way the game practically played itself on my brother’s turn.  The time spent doing this was far too long and it really didn’t progress the game in any interesting ways.

I am actually pleased to learn that a card game almost exactly like my concept actually exists.  While I have a few other ways I would execute the game I decided to take the concept of “ever changing rules” and apply it to a video game.  There is a lot of work still to do just to round out the concept, but I plan on sharing those thoughts as soon as I get them down pat.

What is this you ask? Read on to find out!

I highly recommend Fluxx to anyone, for it is a fun and relatively simple game to learn and play.  You may be pleased to know there are expansion packs for Fluxx that apparently takes the game to whole other levels.  The first expansion pack I plan on getting is the Fluxx Zombie pack, and when I do I will make sure to review it as well.

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