|Ben Rosset (left) and Stephen Craig clearly enjoying the|
game playing excitement that is "East India Company"
|Stephen's large green Portuguese full-rig has just|
unloaded spice (black-bordered counters), while
Ben's four blue French merchant ships have delighted
Europeans with a variety of goods from overseas
Also significant in this game was Stephen's discovery of the phenomenal profitability of spice, an observation that he put to the ultimate test in the four-player playtest the next day. More on that later.
Breakfast panel with publishers
|(Left to right) A.J. Porfirio, Bryan Fischer, |
Chris Kirkman, and Dan Yarrington
- A.J. Porfirio, Van Ryder Games
- Bryan Fischer, Nevermore Games
- Chris Kirkman, Dice Hate Me Games
- Dan Yarrington, Game Salute
John M. had the whole thing (well, almost the whole thing) video-recorded so that you don't have to rely on my feeble memory for the salient points of the discussion.
SkewphemismsCardboard Edison who were just starting up a session of their parlor game "Skewphemisms." Right away I could tell that this would be a fun party game that my family would like.
The game consists of a large deck of cards, each of which has a common phrase that one player, the "reader," is trying to get all the other players (except one), the "guessers," to guess. (I probably do not have the role names right.) There is also a sand timer that the "reader" and "guessers" have to beat. The only clues that the "reader" is allowed to use are listed on the card. The fewer clues that the "guessers" need before someone gets it right, the more points everyone (except one) gets. The "hook" in the game is that the clues are alliterative phrases that are roughly synonymous or suggestive of the phrase being guessed. For example, "lard leopard" is a clue to the phrase, "fat cat."
I like the way that roles rotate among the players, similar to Apples to Apples. I also like the way that there is a third role, the "stealer," who has one chance to score big if no one else can guess the phrase after the time runs out, similar to Family Feud. In our play-through, when I was the "reader," I could not for the life of me get the other players to guess my card. Clues included, "sacred salmon," "almighty albacore," etc. As soon as the timer ran out, the "stealer," Stephen Craig, said, "holy mackerel." He ended up winning the game handily.
I have no doubt that "Skewphemisms" is a winner and deserves a publisher. The only hang-up is that we usually guessed the phrase quickly and then found ourselves waiting for the 90-second timer to finish emptying so that we could start the next phrase. If Chris and Suzanne can work out this minor item, I think they'll be ready to pitch.
East India Company - Four-player playtest
|(Left to right) Chris Kirkman, Darrell Louder, and|
Darrell's considerably better half, Lesley Louder
(Standing in the background is Katherine Cole,
who helped playtest EIC at WBC in August)
I really enjoyed watching these game-playing minds at work on EIC. The bidding on the start-player marker alone was thrilling to witness. I saw it change hands between T.C. and Darrell several times, and I think Darrell made a profit on it each time. T.C. meanwhile made a point to tariff tea wherever the market opened up, and I think I could see Chris grinding his teeth every time he handed that tea tariff over.
Darrell had won the playtest at Congress of Gamers with what I later called the "Quiet Louder" strategy. At the time, I'd given players the option to start the game with a medium ship and less cash. At CoG, Darrell exercised that option and just sailed back and forth between North America and Europe, shipping tobacco for most of the game. He never took out a loan and never invested in another ship. He ended up winning that game, which made me realize that I needed to adjust the ships to motivate investment and risk-taking. That tactic did not pay out quite so well for Darrell this time.
|T.C. Petty III (left) and Stephen Craig contemplating|
how to dominate the world markets in tea and spice
I was pleased that the game wrapped up in something like an hour and a half. I didn't keep track of how long the game ran, but everybody seemed to feel that the timing was right, that the length was good and it seemed complete. I really think the game duration is tight now.
|Discussing the game with Chris Kirkman (center)|
and Darrell Louder (right). Photo by Scott King
One lingering concern that I have, too, is that every playtest has been "guided," i.e. I've been sitting at the table, explaining things as we go along (but not giving much advice). Fortunately, though, I've found that if I sit on my hands and keep my mouth shut (or get distracted by a side conversation), players keep right on going with enough understanding to continue the game as if I weren't there. The next big step, I think, will be truly blind playtesting, so it's time to make sure that my rules are written well enough for that challenge.
|About Turn 5 of the four-player playtest. Spanish tariffs dominate the tea markets, and cash-laden ships occupy Indian harbors to buy more. A large red English full-rig, having unloaded spices in Europe,|
prepares to return to China for more.