Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I've Been Diced! episode 70: John Kranz of Consimworld

John Kranz, the founder of the Consimworld wargame community site, joins me for a discussion of the past, present, and future of Consimworld. Our Game Off The Beaten Path is right in time for football season. We also have news about a new serious game, and I talk about Le Vol de l'Aigle, a multi-player, umpired Napoleonic operational game with a lot of friction and fog of war. Copyright (c) 2015 Tom Grant

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I've Been Diced! episode 69: Troy Goodfellow on computer and board games

Troy Goodfellow, founder of the Three Moves Ahead podcast, joins me for a discussion of computer strategy games versus boardgames. What do computer games do well that boardgames don't, and vice-versa? What can the two genres learn from each other? Plus, this episode's Game Off The Beaten Path is W1815, a brilliant little game about the Battle of Waterloo. (c) 2015 Tom Grant

Sunday, July 5, 2015

My game designs

When I was interviewing Randy Lein and Roger Miller a couple of weeks ago, they asked if I had any game designs. I've alluded to them in the podcast, but I've never really said anything about them.

Maybe it's time to unleash them on the world. Actually, I already have, but not in the gaming hobby. I use games quite a bit in my day job, as someone who helps software professionals become better innovators. A lot of it falls into the category of Agile training and coaching, if that means anything to you. If not, don't worry, it's just a way of saying, "There are times when a game can get a point across better than a slideshow." I also use games to help people test out different software innovation strategies, using games as a kind of simulator.

I've also been inspired, on the odd occasion, to design a game that I thought would help the dialog about important public policy issues. Most recently, the sad state of the health care debate inspired me to design a couple of games on the topic, with two goals: (1) educate people a little on the topic; and (2) encourage constructive discussion among people who disagree strongly.

Last but not least in the "serious game" category, my wife and I have worked on a couple of games together, with an eye to using them in psychotherapy. They started as games strictly for fun, but she spotted their potential usefulness in therapeutic situations.

There are also games for fun in this list. Yes, I do know how to have fun.

I'm glad to answer questions about the game, and take any helpful suggestions about them. If you're interested in serious games, here's a handy introduction I put together.


Agile Portfolio Management
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 1
  • Goal: Provide a way for software professionals to assess the impact of going Agile on portfolio management. For many organizations, particularly IT departments, the shift to a team-centric approach opens many questions about managing the flow of projects or products.
  • Status: Designed and playtested. Part of my Agile coaching toolkit, used when needed.

Dice of Debt
  • Type of game: Boardgame with lots of dice.
  • Number of players: 1 (though really designed to be played as a team)
  • Goal: Show the effect that investment in technical debt-reducing measures has on a team's ability to deliver value. Often, teams find it hard to justify making these investments in the face of short-term pressures, even when the long-term benefits are substantial.
  • Status: Designed and playtested. Considering donating it to the Agile Alliance as part of a technical debt working group. Demonstrated at the Cutter Consortium's 2015 Summit. Part of my Agile coaching toolkit, used when needed.

The Planning Fallacy
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 3-5
  • Goal: Show how susceptible we are to over-optimistic estimates. Although the inspiration was helping Agile teams account for the unknown and make more realistic assessments of the impact of overhead, the game could easily apply to any methodology. 
  • Status" Designed and playtested. Part of my Agile coaching toolkit, used when needed.

Business Vs. IT
  • Type of game: Card game
  • Number of players: 2-4
  • Goal: Illustrate the structural sources of friction and failure in corporate IT. Limited information and communications undermine their ability to collaborate. Primarily a 2-player game, with the option of adding two other players as intermediaries (who don't help).
  • Status: In design.

Volcano Island
  • Type of game: Board game
  • Number of players: 2-6
  • Goal: Show how teams can effectively collaborate, even in the face of great unknowns, and still reach their goals. Designed to be a fun way to address a frequent source of anxiety for teams.
  • Status: In design.

  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 1-4
  • Goal: Demonstrate the public effects of private health care choices. Designed to fill an informational void during the debates over health care.
  • Status: Designed and playtested. Looking for a publisher.

Health Care Tug-Of-War
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 4
  • Goal: Describe the tensions in health care policy among insurers, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals. Patients are pawns moved around a grid, representing the current state of health care options. Government actions restrict the players from making some policies.
  • Status: In design.

It's Like This
  • Type of game: Card game
  • Number of players: 2-6
  • Goal: Get more interesting insights into customers, who have to describe their wants and needs in unconventional ways. Designed to be both funny and revealing, as opposed to some market research efforts.
  • Status: In design.

The Old Dark House
  • Type of game: Card game.
  • Number of players: 1-8
  • Goal: Provide an easy, fun way for people to collaborate on a ghost story, with each person adding another character, plot twist, and other story elements. Also useful in psychotherapy as a form of narrative therapy.
  • Status: Designed and playtested. Looking into publication options.

Legends of the Old West
  • Type of game: Card game
  • Number of players: 1-8
  • Goal: The same as The Old, Dark House, but with a Western motif. The genre inspired me to add mechanics that help players flesh out characters more, and deal with the kind of direct conflict that's assumed to be part of Western stories (but can bring them to a rapid end, if you're not careful). Also useful for narrative therapy.
  • Status: Designed and playtested. Looking into publication options.

  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 2-5.
  • Goal: Show a real marriage of the political and military elements of insurgency and counterinsurgency. At its core, it's a 2-player game, pitting the insurgents against the regime. Optional rules allow for additional players, representing different guerrilla factions and the regime's superpower patron. I actually started working on this long before the COIN games appeared, even before Brian Train was the first guest on the podcast.
  • Status: Playtested, making revisions based on feedback and results.

Battle Cry Of Freedom
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 1-5.
  • Goal: A multi-player Civil War battles game.
  • Status: In design. I've tried and rejected a couple of earlier approaches before finally hitting on something that looks like a promising design approach.

Space Opera
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 2-5
  • Goal: Create a space empires game in which the focus is on the epic story. Players compete to finish important story arcs to accomplish the goals of their species (not always through conflict). The experience is less like Master of Orion, more like reading a novel.
  • Status: In design.

Warhammer: Titan
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 2-6
  • Goal: Warhammer 40,000 factions battle over the galaxy. Uses core ideas from the classic boardgame Titan to streamline the 4X mechanics, while also giving each faction a definite personality and toolbox from which to pick units and abilities. Done purely for my own enjoyment, since I imagined publishing options might be limited.
  • Status: Core mechanics drafted.

The Starry Road
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 2-4
  • Goal: Create a science fiction boardgame with a strong emphasis on exploration. Early FTL technology lets humans explore a handful of the nearest stars...And then things start getting interesting.
  • Status: Core mechanics drafted.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

I've Been Diced! episode 68: Randy Lein (Legion Wargames) and Roger Miller (Revolution Games)

Not just one guest, but two! Roger Miller of Revolution Games and Randy Lein of Legion Wargames take time away from Consimworld Expo to talk about life as wargame publishers, muse about the state of the hobby, give us some previews into upcoming games, and give sage advice to anyone interested in submitting a new design to a company like theirs. Plus, I'm not done talking about space empire games, particularly since there are more stories they could be telling than just another cardboard re-creation of Master of Orion. (c) 2015 Tom Grant

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I've Been Diced! episode 67: Mark Herman

Mark Herman stops by to talk about his new grand strategic WWII game, Churchill, plus oh so many other games he has designed over the years. During our whirlwind tour of Mark's career as a wargame designer, we make brief stops at SPI and Victory Games, and even get a peek into professional Pentagon wargaming. And if you're wondering what comes next after Churchill...Well, it's more than just Empire Of The Sun, 2nd edition (though that's pretty interesting, too).  Plus, be sure to listen to the very end of this episode. (c) 2015 Tom Grant

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I've Been Diced! episode 66: Combat systems

Our panel discusses combat systems in games — many of which we like, and a few that we don't like. Air battles that are genuinely exciting, deck-building games that lead to interesting results, the genius of Dune's commitment mechanic, a defense of hex-and-CRT wargames — all these topics, and many more, in the course of our discussion. Plus, a recently-published game off the beaten path that takes traditional wargame mechanics in an interesting direction. (c) 2015 Tom Grant

Monday, March 2, 2015

I've Been Diced! episode 65: Andy Loakes, designer of Toulon 1793

Andy Loakes, designer of Toulon 1793, takes us behind the scenes of his first published wargame. Why hasn't someone done a game on this topic before? Andy and Tom ponder that issue, along with other questions about Napoleonic history and wargaming. Plus, this episode's Game Off The Beaten Path is a little wargame on a major event in military history, previously thought to be ungameable. (c) 2015 Tom Grant

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I've Been Diced! episode 64: Richard Borg

Richard Borg talks about everything from the Command & Colour wargames to the X-Men games from Pressman (with a cameo from Stan Lee). We also discuss the Kickstarter for his new World War I game, Mutant Chronicles: Siege Of The Citadel, and much more. Plus, a game off the beaten path that should have an electronic version, but doesn't, really. © 2015 Tom Grant

Sunday, February 15, 2015

I've Been Diced! episode 63: Sandy Petersen

Sandy Petersen, designer of Cthulhu Wars (among many other games), talks about the origins of the Call of Cthulhu RPG, the early days of Chaosium (which also published the Runequest RPG, the original Arkham Horror, and plenty of other innovative games). Sandy also tells us how Cthulhu Wars was almost his swan song as a game designer, how he slipped Lovecraftian references into video games on which he worked (ever heard of Doom or Age of Empires?), and the upcoming Theomachy game. (c) 2015 Tom Grant

Sunday, February 1, 2015

I've Been Diced! episode 62: Our 2014 in review

Our regular panel looks back on 2014 in gaming — the ups, the downs, the pleasant surprises, the grave disappointments. Where do games like Dead Of Winter, Fire In The Lake, Nations, and The Hunters fit into this picture? Plus, the recent arrival of Cthulhu Wars inspires Tom to muse on the value of our games, and why recent developments in the game market is making it even harder to figure out the relationship between the real value to the owner and the price it costs to buy a game. (c) 2015 Tom Grant