Queens Court development diary

posted 10 Oct 2014, 12:28 by Aaron Billingham

This Monday I learned to ask two questions: does the feel of the game you've designed match the theme you started with and do you need a piece for that?

I’d managed to get a working game together for this month’s designers meet – rather than just testing mechanics – and people gave me good constructive criticism and advice for moving it on. However, I couldn't help but notice something bigger: I’m trying to develop an easy-fun game that plays in under an hour but what I've currently got is heavier strategy, where people were deeply considering each move, considering each move in relation to their whole round’s set of moves even.

So, I have a game but it doesn't match my wanted theme… What to do, what to do? Easy: keep the ideas written down for another theme, another higher-strategy game, and simplify here for this game – always keeping an eye on previous lessons below of course: Perhaps this new idea is the one worth chasing and the original idea should be dropped…? In this case I’m going for the former, as I think there’s still a theme to capture and room to simplify, as ‘do I need a piece for that?’

I've currently got three cards that players choose from each round to show how they intend to move. I’m trying not to have a round-the-table turn order (because it doesn't suit my theme), going instead for a way of having everyone making their move choice at once and then revealing together by turning over their cards. I’d thought that this would make for a faster game, with everyone involved more of the time – less downtime at any given point. However, the simultaneous reveal just means that there needs to be a defined order for the players’ moves to resolve in and a way of resolving ties if any players pick the same card.

…But  again comes the idea of reversing the idea in the search for simplicity: If there needs to be a way of resolving turn order then really all I should have done is use that instead of a round-the-table turn order. Keeping it simple: I didn't need cards for the movement at all, as if I run the new turn order then the player movement choice could just be made at the point of their turn. As long as their move choice is quick, clean and simple the players turns won’t be too long… I hope.

Edinburgh games designers meet (BoardGameGeek):

 - - -  Aaron - - -

Queen's Court development

posted 4 Sep 2014, 14:31 by Aaron Billingham   [ updated 4 Sep 2014, 14:31 ]

So, we've almost started meeting every fortnight (designers meeting). It's proved very useful: I think I've now finally settled on a working base mechanic and can build the game around it - hopefully at the next play test I can try a few turns of a full game. 

During the play test though, I notice that people were more interested in seeing a fuller game than another go at a mechanic (perhaps that's obvious). However, I've been quite insistent on sorting out my foundation before going on. I wonder now: I'm trying to follow my own advice but is it the best policy to play test your base mechanic first or should you be trying out your 'wow factor' first and then try and put a mechanic to it? 

 - - - Aaron - - - 

Queen's Court development

posted 19 Aug 2014, 11:45 by Aaron Billingham

The whole 'fresh pair of eyes' thing is my latest lesson of the day. I think my favourite take on it being Big Bang Theory's Sheldon throwing his white board out his apartment window.

I still find it difficult even though I've actually applied it a few times already - I'm on development version 3 of Queen's Court. The trick appears to be in applying it at all levels. I've been down the road of applying it top level: I've abandoned - no moved on from - two previous versions that just weren't working. The first I discarded because I failed to take my own previous advice. The second because the game was close to working but was practically difficult: The basic play idea was fine but in practice it lead to so much accounting it had become a strategy game, which was far from my original design idea of a quicker, easier card game. 

So, despite being able to see problems at that level and being able to see problems with the game as a whole I found I could still get hung up on smaller, individual details - a play mechanic. Last night at the designers meeting (mid-month for reasons) someone made the suggestion: instead of seeking to play a card matching the symbol in front of you, why not have it so you draw the card of the type matching the symbol in front of you - a simple reversal. Genius! Why couldn't I see it? Wood for the trees and all that. 

Next designers meeting will be arranged in the Edinburgh Gamers Guild on BoardGameGeek:

 - - -  Aaron - - - 

Queen's Court

posted 27 Jul 2014, 04:54 by Aaron Billingham

So after a long time away I picked up Queen's Court again. 

I've been wondering if designing a second game would be easier because of the experience of doing it before. Of course I learned that it still involves the same amount of work but I did find that I'm able to organise myself better. Not sure if my findings could be useful to other people starting out with designing like me but I'll put up a few notes here just in case there's something of value to pass on. 

My most recent lesson was in following my own advice. At the newly reawakened Edinburgh designers meeting I advised someone to write out two lists of characteristics in the early phase of design: 'must haves' and 'like to haves'. (I then discovered of course that I needed to follow my own advice and do this for Queen's Court.) The idea being that you've so many ideas of things you could include in your game, how can you possibly play test them all in all their combinations? So, either considering theme or preferred mechanic perhaps, list out the characteristics you really want (and be brutal - really want) and just make a basic version of a game to play test: Does the basic mechanic play well enough? Is the basic game fun enough? The details and complexities you'll add on later. 

The Edinburgh designers meeting is currently held in the Bellevue bar on Broughton Street on the first Monday of every month. Queens Court development version 3 will be at the next one. 

 - - -  Aaron - - - 

After the con

posted 1 Jun 2013, 02:38 by Aaron Billingham

UK Games Expo was truly excellent. It was my first time there; I enjoyed all of it.
Legacy did well too. Thanks to all who played and of course to those that bought a copy - I hope you get some great games out of it. I have some confidence that you'll not have any trouble with the game but please get in touch if you need anything and if you have any feedback.

UK Games Expo

posted 18 May 2013, 09:33 by Aaron Billingham

...subtitle: "Another convention!"
So I'll be at UK Games expo next weekend (25th and 26th May) to demo and sell Legacy. I'll be in the King's Suite at booth K8 with a couple of other companies in sort of a gaming alliance.
If you've never been check out the convention website:


posted 5 Apr 2013, 04:30 by Aaron Billingham

We'll be at Edinburgh's Conpulsion 2013 the weekend after this one - April 13th and 14th.
Legacy will be demo-ing (how do you spell that, I can never work it out?) on Saturday afternoon in the board games area and available to play on both days.
Just for fun too, I (Aaron) will be running an RPG on Saturday morning too, set in Ilyenashae, as part of me developing the backgound of the game for future projects. I'll be using the Silhouette system, as it's nice and easy for new comers and old hands alike, and will have the characters being merchant lords from Elhirishae venturing into the strange new world of the Zjudrek Kingdoms that have just opened their borders for a trade pact.
Here's the game description:
"You will play courtier-merchants sent to complete negotiations for a trade treaty with a strange foreign land that has recently opened its borders for the first time. You will also be charged with secretly discovering the truth behind the foreigners’ reports that your original ambassador committed suicide in a violent rage. Should you outshine your fellow courtiers to the glory of your own trade house on either mission then yours will be the greater reward."

Download, assemble and play

posted 21 Jan 2013, 05:45 by Aaron Billingham

Check out the new section on the left (download and play). It contains a copy of Legacy that you can download and make up yourself to see what you think.
It's a cheap and cheerful copy of course, but it is free and it is the whole game - as long as you don't mind putting in a little of the ol' Blue Peter spirit to get it going.
So enjoy! Our is of course that you like it well enough that you might go on and buy a full shiny. However, in the words of Wreck-Gar: "Hurry, hurry, hurry, sale must end. Rush right on down and test-drive latest model with no obligation."

Game designers meet

posted 10 Nov 2012, 07:41 by Aaron Billingham

So we're back from Essen. Ken wholeheartedly embraced the new 3-game set that is Tempest (from AEG): 3 board games all set in the same background...
I confess that I did buy Love Letter, which is a card game in the same Tempest background but that only uses a 16-card deck. It's quite a fun little game to open the night with: draw 1, play 1; last-man-standing win condition.
The game of the con for both of us was Article 27: a pure negotiation game that can be played in under an hour - ... I know! Up to 6 players gather in the UN debating hall and get one turn each to propose a motion that all will vote on. Everyone has secret agendas to try and get into the motion whilst making sure their opponents don't get their agendas in. Both of us heartily recommend it; it's one of few games I give a 10 score to on BGG.
In local news, the next local game designers meeting is on this Monday 12th November and the Games Hub, Edinburgh. Both our new games will be their for development testing.

Essen! Amongst other things...

posted 17 Oct 2012, 13:12 by Aaron Billingham

All being well, Ken and I will be at Essen Friday to Sunday. We'll be bringing a couple of copies of Legacy with us and will be trying as many other new games as we can no doubt.
As a side note, we're still attending the fornightly designers meetings that Iain (of the Giant Brain) runs at Edinburgh's Games Hub - the next meeting is Monday 29th October. We've got the Shibon Land's Queen's Court moving with reasonable mechanic now and have found a hook for the Thinkers game that we hope to build a mechanic on to.
Also, look out for a video play through of Legacy coming soon to a YouTube near you...

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