Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Cardboard Olympus: Prologue

BoardGameGeek logo
Although Boardgamegeek is not the “be all end all” of gaming, it is an amazingly large community of gamers both passionate about their hobby, and ready to expand their collections. For this simple reason, placing a game in the site’s top ten is desired by both ambitious designers and prudent publishers alike. But how does one include one of their own products in the formidable company that promises prestige and profit?

Designing games is not an exact science and although when it comes to creating and selling the fun-filled cardboard boxes there are some rules one really should follow, sometimes foreseeing a possible smashing success (or a painful failure) is simply impossible. This is why we – the makers, reviewers and players – of games try to constantly learn. As playing a new game is a learning experience, so is the complicated process of designing a playable system and transforming it into a marketable product.

Thus, we try to learn what a good game is and how to create one by making both good and bad decisions, and investigating the choices and circumstances that made other games succeed or fail. And this is exactly what this short series of articles will struggle to perform: I will try to analyze some of the games currently in the BGG’s top ten, hoping to find out what put them there – and what knocked some of the champions of old off their prestigious positions.

Top Ten Board Games on BoardGameGeek sorted by Average Rating

Climbing the Mountain 

In order to embark on such a journey we first need to make some preparations. Specifically, we need to know how a game climbs the BGG ladder to reach the Cardboard Olympus. The rating that puts a game in the top ten (or in any other position of the game ranking) is what is called the Geek Rating. It deviates from a regular average rating in two important aspects.

Firstly, for a game to become eligible to receive a Geek Rating (and be ranked), it needs at least 30 ratings. That means that it is not enough for a designer and a bunch of her friends to give a game a set of tens to suddenly dethrone Through the Ages or Puerto Rico.

Top Ten Board Games on BoardGameGeek sorted by Geek Rating

Secondly, a Geek Rating is also a mix between the actual ratings given by actual BGG users and a number of “dummies”. This effectively makes it impossible for any game to ever reach a perfect ten – and for any designer with a family as vast as Bilbo Baggins himself to actually circumvent the system and seriously influence the ratings of her game.

Top Ten Board Games on BoardGameGeek sorted by Number of Voters

Strife among the Olympians

The list of the top ten games (according to their Geek Rating) fluctuates slowly but constantly. It even seems that the changes are happening faster nowadays than ever before. Five years ago it took a significant amount of time for a newcomer to be welcomed among the Olympians. Now it seems that more and more games enter the top ten and leave it after a year or two, as opposed to the strongest contenders, which have occupied (more or less) their position for the last seven or eight years.

The quickening of the process should not surprise anyone: games are becoming more and more popular. More people play them and, as a consequence, buy them, congregate to discuss them and, finally, rate them, which directly influences the main BGG ranking. And although some perceive it as a negative trend and dismiss the passionate but easily swayed gamers, filing them under the “Cult of the New” label, one thing is certain: we will constantly witness more movement in the Boardgamegeek’s top ten, until the gaming hobby reaches its inevitable decline.

Who are you again?

Since this is the first time I have the pleasure of posting on the NSKN Blog, let me shortly introduce myself. My name is Błażej Kubacki and I am a translator, interpreter and writer by trade. I have also been a keen gamer since the age of nine, which led me to start reviewing games about six years ago, as well as finally trying my hand at game design.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Newsflash: shipping preorders, awards and upcoming gaming conventions

After we took a few days to relax and enjoy Easter with our families, today we're back to work and we have some news which we'd like to share with all of you...

Preorders shipped!
The preorders for Praetor are now closed. As a "thank you" for trusting us and Praetor, we have already started shipping the preorders last week, way ahead of the proposed May 5th deadline. In the next two days we are going to send all the rest of the games. 

Club Fantasci has announced the finalists for their 2013 Board Game Awards and Exodus: Proxima Centauri is nominated under several categories including Most Innovative Game and Best Reprint Game. The designers of NSKN Games were not left out. We are nominated for the Best New Designer and we're so grateful for that.

Club Fantasci 2013 Board Game Awards

We have also confirmed the presence of NSKN Games at TIG-Convention in Cluj-Napoca, Romania at the end of May. This is a special moment for us because it's the first gaming convention we're attending in the country where the company is established and we'll have the chance of meeting many old friends. 

TIG Convention, Romania

Immediately after TIG we'll fly to Birmingham, United Kingdom to attend for the third time the UK Games Expo. But we'll tell you more about our plans in the upcoming gaming conventions in the weeks to come.

Last but not least, starting next week we'll have a new guest writer posting on the NSKN Blog. He's an expert gamer, a very good reviewer and soon to be a game designer. But let's not spoil the surprise just yet...

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Friday, April 18, 2014

The name of the game (part 2)

EDIT: Thank you all for voting, sharing and commenting, we've got everything we needed to make the best decision.

In my previous post I was asking for your help to brainstorm for an appropriate name for the upcoming board game from NSKN Games.

Philosophy - Artwork

We gathered your brilliant ideas on BoardGameGeek, on Facebook and here. In only two days we've got 111 possible names. We chose our top 9 and now we are asking you one more time to provide valuable input.

Thermodynamics - Artwork

Last but not least, we are wishing you all a Happy Easter!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The name of the game

As some of you may already know, we are developing - and I must confess that it's going very well - a card game which we used to call Evolution.

While our game testers have been excited about how the game works and feels, there's a small hick-up on the road to publishing and that's the title of the game. Evolution makes people think of Darwin and species evolving in time, while the game is about the evolution of technology.

And here comes our cry for help - we need a cool title for a cool game. 

Artwork - Bridges
Artwork - Irrigation

Choosing the name is a two-step process. First we'll gather ideas and feedback and we'll select the best 5-7 proposals. Then, we'll create a poll to make the final decision. We want to involve the gaming community in the creation process in our endeavor to deliver only the best products to the hobby market.

We are asking you to reply to this post, on Facebook or on Twitter and propose a new title which would suit this game better than Evolution. The person who proposes the winning idea will be handsomely rewarded.

About the game

Evolution is a card game for 2-5 players. Each player develops technologically one nation from antiquity to the first industrial revolution. The player with the most develop nation wins the game. 

The technologies are divided into three ages:
  • ancient (10000 BCE to 500 CE) - from the invention of the wheel or the development of agriculture
  • medieval (500 - 1450 CE) - from the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and beginning of the migrations 
  • renaissance or early modern (1450 - 1740 CE) - from the invention of the printing press and the formalization of science
They are also divided into three paths or areas:
  • culture - focuses on arts and the development of human behavior and values and contains technologies like Burial, Musical Instruments, Opera, Newspapers or Sociology
  • engineering - covers the most practical discoveries and advancements in human history, such as Masonry, Cast Iron, Paper, the Steam Engine or the Railroad
  • science - focuses on rather abstract developments of humanity, like Mathematics, Astronomy, Cartography, Thermodynamics or Biology
The game play is streamlined, each player take a set number of actions per turn with the ultimate goal in mind, researching technologies to develop his nation and win. The main actions a player may take are:
  • research a technology by paying a cost (resulting in discarding one or more cards) or having one or two prerequisite technologies. Each technlogy comes with a specific benefit, thus enhancing the game play or making a step towards victory
  • developing a technology in time which translates in setting a tech card aside and letting scientists develop it over 4-5 turns
  • draw cards from a common draw deck
Researching a specific technology brings one or more of the following advantages to that player:
  • direct victory points which count towards the total needed for victory 
  • one or two steps up on the three tracks (population, army and prestige) on which players are competing for dominance
  • game play enhancement like having more actions, drawing more cards, discounts for technologies, moving to the next age, etc
Each tech card is used both for development and for paying the cost of a technology. Each player will manage his hand of cards, drawing cards, spending them for research or setting them aside for long term development in a competitive card game which is still missing its most important feature - a title.

If you want to become part of the development process of an interesting table top came, please share your thoughts with us and we will be grateful.

Artwork - Alphabet
Artwork - Education

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Praetor in the making

Praetor is getting ready to hit the shelves of the hobby stores and to give you a hint of how is this happening, we got some images from the factory where everything is taking place. In all honesty, most manufacturers won't allow taking pictures of they most well kept secrets, but this is what we can share...

Massive amounts of soon to be punchboards

... in 7 languages,

printed, cut and glued.

With the final cut they become City Tiles, all on nice linen paper and thick cardboard.

The preorders for Praetor are open until 21st of April and there are still around 100 copies left out of the total of 200.

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