Tiny Epic Battles
One of the cool things about the UnPub ProtoZones is that you get to meet new designers and discover their creations. I met Alf Shadowsong and Kiva Fecteau, who had a couple of prototypes, and the one I got to try is called "Tiny Epic Battles." The way Alf tells it, he designed this little card game as a method to teach tactics to Kiva. The exercise evolved into a stand-alone two-player deck-construction game. Each player starts with an action deck, a resource deck, and three "houses" face up in a tableau that he needs to defend. A player loses if he exhausts either deck or loses all of his "houses."
I played one round against Charlie Hoopes. Then Austin Smokowicz sat down, and we played three games back to back. For the first two, we used pre-constructed decks, but for our third, we constructed our own decks from a supply of action cards. The game is fairly clever, and quite sound for a game that Alf said he had been working on for an incredibly short three weeks. Austin and I both felt that the game has some rough spots that need some polishing with more playtesting, but I was surprised at how well such a new card game held together.
Building the British Royal Navy
I've come to know Ben Rosset over several conventions. I own his published Mars Needs Mechanics (publisher Nevermore Games) and have playtested his prototype "Brew Crafters," which Dice Hate Me Games plans to Kickstart this month. So I was excited to try out his latest design, "Building the British Royal Navy" (whose title, he says, is open for improvement).
Players represent shipyard contractors seeking commissions to build ships for the Royal Navy, starting in the post-Napoleonic period of wooden sailing ships and progressing to the dreadnought era of steel steam-driven ships, turret guns, and torpedoes. Players bid for contracts to construct various warships. Players accumulate resources, research technological advances, and work against a timeline so as not to be left with an unfulfilled contract for an obsolete vessel. Exclusive bonus point privileges can be claimed for delivering ships of specific types or with specific weapons.
We played a four-player round with Mike Mullins, Ben Rosset, and a fellow named Nate whose last name I missed. I picked up the bonus point privileges for both broadside and turret guns, so I made a point of building big multi-gun ships and ignored torpedo ships and submarines. The strategy worked out reasonably well, although I'm sure I could have played better. I placed second, only because in the end-game, Mike and Nate tried to out-bid each other for some of the biggest contracts in the final era of the game and ended up dragging each other's victory point margin down.
I really like "Building the British Royal Navy." I like the theme, I like the competitive bidding for contracts, and I like the overall feel of the game. We discussed the odd way that contracts remained relatively uncontested until the fourth era of the game, when competitive bidding significantly affected the final outcome. There might be some end-game tweaking that Ben needs to do, but he has a really sound game structure here, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he finds a publisher for it in the next year.