It’s a new year, and I haven’t written much here yet to kick off 2016. The last one was written by Zach, our resident game designer, and I hope you all enjoyed a moment to hear from him (even though I told him he was writing to other game creators and not the general public). We had a little lull in game testing for a week or two, but this last weekend The Heist was played 3 days in a row. It also made its first game night appearance! Oh man, it is starting to sound like our child/baby that we’re bringing around and showing people! But it kind of feels like it, so oh well. I guess that’s what it means to be proud of any creation.
Friday, my sister Ariel brought it to a game night she attended and a few new people were introduced to the game. Then on Saturday, Zach was in his element when he got to talk to a guy who works for a game manufacturer. Zach had a lot of questions answered and got to check out some product elements for what he might choose when he has it professionally made. On Sunday, we had our marriage mentors come over for lunch, and then spent most of the time talking about the game. They even helped us by reading the updated instructions to help us see there were still some tweaks needed but it was more understandable. Then Sunday afternoon, Zach went to St Paul to a friend’s with access to a studio. He sprayed the boxes he made with some acrylic spray to help make it more durable. We are getting great responses on his game box! When he went to our friend’s apartment, another guy had come over and thought it was a game sold in stores. Zach played with the guys and they enjoyed it.
While we continue to get really good feedback, Zach is still waiting to for some upcoming conventions before he starts selling and garnering support for our upcoming Kickstarter campaign (plug for those of you who haven’t signed up to our email list yet – we have 50 but need 500!). This coming weekend (Jan 29-31), Zach is going to Protospielin St Paul, where people come to share their prototypes. Then manufacturers, publishers, and game players all come to check out what’s newly entering the market. We are hopeful to get some feedback here to know our next steps. Next, he is scheduled to go to Con of the North from Feb 12-14 in Minneapolis. Here people come to request a table and bring a game of their choice, and other people sign up to play the game they brought. Many of these games are games sold in the market, but prototypes are welcome too. Maybe we’ll see you there?!?
After 4 months of working on The Heist every single day and 3 months after the creation of the blog, I (Zach) thought I should write my first post. I have learned a lot about board games over the past 1/4 year. I had no idea about so many things that went into the design of a new game. Today we are going to learn about designing a box (well, maybe, many of you reading this might be checking out here).
Every game needs a box. Boxes come in different sizes, shapes, thicknesses, and styles. The past two weeks I have been steadily working on designing a box that will hopefully make consumers want to grab The Heist when they see it on a shelf. I went with a traditional design where there is a top half and a bottom half. The top half covers the bottom when it is put together. The size is smaller than the usual big box, but the game is compact, so it’s a good fit.
What I didn’t realize at first was that each half of the box is designed separately. There are also 5 sides to each half (front face, and 4 sides). Each of these sides must be facing the correct way as the box is designed. After blankly staring at a photoshop document for what felt like hours, I decided I would have to design each side by itself in one document, and then slowly combine the parts into one. Trying to visualize 5 parts coming together at once was just too much of a headache.
After the box “wrap” is designed it must be printed, and then wrapped (glued) to a perfectly sized piece of cardboard (which is another adventure by itself ). In the end you are left with a newly created box to hold all the pieces!
Oh yeah…make sure you make the bottom half of the box is adequately smaller than the top half. Whoops. Looks like I have to assemble another one…
The Heist is becoming a normal name and topic of conversation in our house these days. I guess that happens when you start becoming an entrepreneur of sorts. It is like you’re selling yourself and your brand everywhere you go. But now after being in our 30s and married, at least we have something more interesting to answer the question “so what is new with you?” when making small talk. Zach and I both aren’t preferable to the small talk arena anyway, so this helps to give us something to share and explain with acquaintances and friends.
On New Years Day, we added some more testers to our group. Zach’s brother and two high school friends played for the first time. They were intrigued and hooked right away, and it was interesting to watch a friend of Zach’s have the same initial start that Zach did and think too far ahead in his strategy. He would try new tactics and quickly learn he needed to be more agile and ready to change his strategy. This friend also knew Zach really well, as they had spent countless hours creating a Word game app for Android phones. Their business was called ZubaWing, and they created an app called FastWord, in case you want to check it out.
Lately the focus has been on investigating the process to produce, sell, and distribute the game. Zach has spent long hours researching and reading different avenues. They all take a lot of work, which wasn’t too much of a surprise. However looking ahead at the work it would take was sometimes depressing. I found I was having to be the cheerleader and help Zach keep believing when he was not doing as much of the “fun” part of creating pieces or design.
Fortunately, he got some good news this week. He visited a game store manager we met a couple weeks ago, and he showed him the prototype. The manager spoke highly about it, and gave Zach some helpful feedback. One piece of feedback was that after all the work Zach has done designing everything, and it looks good, he shouldn’t try a publisher first. Instead, he suggested Zach try the kickstarter route and get a company to manufacture the game for us to sell on our own.
To do a kickstarter campaign, we have learned that you need a “following” ready to help you build momentum on the day you start the campaign. So since we have all of you readers of our blog, we’d like to invite you to sign up to our email list. There is no obligation to give us money at any point, but it will give you visibility for progress we make along the way. If you’d like to stay informed, sign up for our Kicskstarter email list HERE.
Over Christmas, we had the chance to play the game multiple times with family. We even had the chance to try it out with my cousin Sarah’s 9-year old daughter, Mara. She enjoyed it a lot, and it confirmed for us that the age range of 8+ is correct. Mara even was able to frustrate Zach and her uncle by her third game, which caught the attention of most of the family in the room.
Another part of our goal recently has been for people to read through the instruction manual to see if someone could figure it out and play it without us being there to explain it. There are definitely a lot of details and different ways people think about words you use. Zach’s done a lot of work on his designs and the manual. We did have a success as our friend, Peter read it and explained the rules to my family to play it. Zach and I had the opportunity to observe, which taught us a lot. If you’re curious what the manual looks like or want to get more familiar with the game, you can find it in the Downloads section of our blog.
As I was reflecting on this journey so far, I remembered one of the first Fridays this fall when Zach had the day off and worked 10 to 12 hours on the game. I came home to find he created a little working station in the living room, and he has spent most weekends stationed there. Now most of the work is just tweaking things as we get feedback, but it is fun to see a product emerging that can be used and played by multiple people. Zach is very talented and has produced all the pieces so far, and designed all the work as well. When he said we should create our own game, I had no idea what would emerge in such a short period of time. I am so proud of the work he has done and the effort he has given to giving this a try! So far it has met our goal of a fun game for us and our family to play. Now to see what else is yet to come.
This past week we played a couple times and pulled out our old versions of the game. It was fun to reminisce a little about where we’ve come. We also had to remind ourselves that it has been a lot of progress in only two months, even though it feels like we have been doing it for longer.
Initially the game involved money as part of the way to gain the $10 million net worth to win. Actually, I think the goal was $10,000 but millions seemed to be bigger and better after those first couple rounds. I remember winning one of my first games with just money cards, and not having to steal any artifacts. We also had a complaint from a friend that she didn’t get to acquire anything in a game (money or artifacts), so Zach made a point that he wanted to make it easier for everyone to at least have one artifact to not discourage anyone.
Another part of the initial game design was to have a different number of cards in the deck depending on how many players were playing. This was difficult because Zach had to find ways to indicate which cards were in for what player count. It started as a number in a corner of the deck. But we quickly learned that was cumbersome and our friends seemed confused by the indicator. We weren’t sure people would understand when we eventually would have a game to send/sell. I thought it would have been interesting, as I don’t remember playing any other game where the deck was variable.
One initial goal was to make a competitive game; one where you played on your own against the other players. Then we would build on it to make it also an option to play a cooperative mode. The cards were then designed to play two ways (top one way, bottom the other). However at this point today, we have decided to only keep it competitive. I just thought it would have been fun to buy a game where depending on the group or my mood, we could determine if we wanted to play cooperatively or against each other. Zach and I have two games now that are cooperative, but most of our other games are competitive. Learning as a new couple, sometimes it was better for us to play cooperative, especially when we were playing with other couples.
One last change we made after the first game play was to add our Black Market. This was an idea from our friend Heather. At first, Zach’s reaction was not positive to the idea, but after a few days, he determined it would work. Now we have a Black Market with its own deck, which provides a way for people to go gather the equipment they need if they can’t get it from the normal action card deck.
Today we are definitely in research and testing mode. If you’re reading this and want to connect with us, feel free to contact us and we’ll play soon!
As we, well, I mean Zach has been preparing the game to be sent to some family and co-workers to test, I was reminded of the first couple times we tried playing the game. Zach had created his first prototype out of 3×5 cards. They were handwritten in small print that was hard to read. For the very first game, Zach played alone.
Now at this point, Zach had been working on it for a little over a week. To say he was feeling confident in his abilities was an understatement. He was gloating to me in his texts during the work day about all the pieces he had put together. To him, he was very pleased with what he had developed. And then he played it…. We had already made plans for that Saturday to play games with some friends, and I told them we had a new one to play. It was Friday night and Zach tried playing it by himself. He acted as 2 players and then 4 players. I still remember him looking at me and saying “it’s not as good as I thought.” It took a little for me to try to build his confidence again because it was still so early in his process. I trusted his abilities and his creativeness. He was just built up in hope that it brought him down a little bit.
Our friends came over for dinner. Being avid game players, they were curious to this new game I had teased them with. Zach was still hesitant but I told them that Zach had created his own game…they were hooked and wanted to know more. So the first time playing commenced. With our cut up 3×5 cards and game pieces from another game, we played two rounds. Because it was the first time playing, we decided to play with the action cards laid out so everyone could view each other’s cards.
After the first game, we already made a change from 4 actions per turn to 3 actions per turn. For awhile, we had a rule that you could only hold 8 cards at a time. If someone saw you had more than 8, you had to give up half. For whatever reason, at that time cards were collected more. More recently, we haven’t noticed people holding as many cards. This might be due to knowing more about how the cards work. Anyway, we got rid of the “only 8 cards” rule.
Special thanks goes to our friends, Bill & Heather for being intrigued and patient to play the very first rounds with us!
Zach has no shortage of ideas, which is one thing I’ve learned about him quickly in our marriage. And when he gets an idea, he puts a lot of time and effort into making it happen. That is how our game started. As we both have been making some changes in our first year of marriage (two singles becoming a couple), we keep talking about things we could do together or separate these days. One day he says I need a hobby and that we should create our own game since we like playing games so much. I agreed that was a good idea and one I could be interested in. Little did I know, he already had an idea on the tip of his tongue/mind. I, on the other hand, thought we’d just noodle on it occasionally from time to time. This was the middle of October 2015. In the next day or two, Zach starts to tell me he has an idea for the game and basically that has been something we discuss almost every day.
The game is centered around each player acting as a thief to steal artifacts from the board. The first player to acquire $10 million wins. We enjoy games that have a different board each game to keep things interesting. In this game, that not only happens at the beginning with the initial set up of the tiles, but the tiles can be moved throughout the game. One minute you’re positioned to make a big move, and then next thing you know, you’re on the whole other side of the board. While a lot of things have changed over the last month, this has been consistent since the idea started. We call it the Heist because of the thieves stealing artifacts. The tiles have one rule to start, each tile must touch at least two sides of other tiles. After that, they have to keep touching one tile and cannot create islands. (see an example of a start in the picture below)
As you can probably guess, Zach has taken this on with a passion. He said he never gets bored, and I can see now why that is the case. He may not be able to bike or be outside as much, now that winter is starting to set in. This game has been his project ever since. I remember driving up to my parents for my birthday on October 23, and Zach was starting to share his idea of the game with me. We tweaked it a little as we talked. Once we were at my parents, Zach stationed himself at the dining room table and started jotting notes all over a small notepad.
Every day I get home from work and often am met with “I thought of some changes to the game. Do you want to hear them?” Zach is the idea man, and I am the editor. I guess we’re a good match!