Thursday, June 26, 2014

A few thoughts after a successful Kickstarter campaign

Two days ago our first Kickstarter campaign for Progress: Evolution of Technology has ended. The results exceeded our expectations and we would like to thank once again all our supporters - people who trusted us and helped bringing this project to life - as well as Richard Ham and Lance Myxter for reviewing Progress.

We have raised 95,000 dollars reaching an amazing 500% of the funding goal, while unlocking no less than 19 stretch goals.

The messages we received and the comments were overwhelmingly positive and thus the expectations are now very high. We would like to savor this moment just a while longer, but the truth is that we don't have much time for gazing. 

These days the focus is entirely on the production process. Our promised deadline is October 2014, which leaves little room for delays. We want to establish a pattern in living up to our promises, which right now translates into delivering to 1980 backers their rewards on time.

Even though Exodus: Proxima Centauri has undergone a crowd-funding process itself, having a game on Kickstarter was a completely new experience. We have learned a lot, faced a whole palette of new challenges and started a whole new direction for NSKN Games.

Even though most of our upcoming titles will no go through Kickstarter, we've gained the confidence that we can present our most special titles to you directly and gain your support. 

While Progress: Evolution of Technology  has been the focal point for NSKN Games and our fans for the past three week, we're not forgetting about our other titles. Just recently our friends have discovered Praetor in game stores in France and Poland in the largest local network of book stores.

Praetor in Empik

Last but not least, our success on Kickstarter caught the attention of the business magazines in Romania and just today Progress was featured in an article.

Article about Progress: Evolution of Technology in Ziarul Financiar

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Friday, June 13, 2014

The road to Progress

Civilization games… ask any heavy gamer what is their favorite genre and more often than not you’ll hear this answer: “civilization games, of course”. In today’s world, with everyone being busy – and this category includes the aforementioned heavy gamers – many people are looking for short, yet deep empire builders, games which offer the epic feeling and yet they last just a few hours. The civilization game playable in less than one hour has slowly become the fata morgana of the board games world.

As a designer – probably like many others – creating a civilization game is “the jewel of the crown”, the one achievement that I can be most proud of. So, there I was, about two years ago, with a pen in my hand and a piece of paper in front of me, thinking of the perfect civ, one game which would define my career as a designer. Now, let’s fast forward into the future. In November 2012,Agnieszka – co-designer – and I were sitting on the couch, cutting and sleeving no less than 550 cards which made up the first playable prototype of the game we used to call Evolution (of Technology).

The idea

In 2012, everything and everyone at NSKN Games revolved around Exodus: Proxima Centauri. We brought it at several fairs and conventions and, curious as we are, we kept asking people “what do you like the most about this game?” and the most common answer was “the tech tree”.

It was one regular evening, one of our many game nights, when it suddenly happened. After an epic game of Civilization which I lost miserably, I said out loud “I love this game…” and the natural question was “What? Why?”

Indeed, why did I like Civilization, along with many other civ games? Well, it was the tech tree.

I think that now it’s time to state the obvious. The will to design a civilization game was fitting perfectly with the new idea of making a game which is all about the tech tree. So there it was, sitting in front of the eye of the mind, the idea we were looking for, a game about researching technologies, following the path of mankind from the ancient times to the modern days, discovering technologies and shaping the things to come.

The first prototype and the secret plan of our friends

In the beginning it was all about research. We went through the history of technology, the history of inventions and of religious ideas and we selected what we believed to be the most important technological achievements in human history. I keep saying we because Progress: Evolution of Technology was not an undertaking suitable for one man. The amount of information to process was huge and it required team work and since Agnieszka and I had done it before for Exodus, it was supposed to be the perfect team. And so it was…

Back to November 2012… The first tech tree required the entire back side of a one square meter poster and it featured no less than 160 technologies divided into five types (Culture, Engineering, Science, Military and Government) and five ages, staring with the Antiquity and ending up with the creation of BoardGameGeek. This did not discourage us, so we went on to make the first prototype consisting of 550 cards which would all be used in a 5-player game. Agnieszka warned me that the game might be “a little too heavy” but I went on and tested it with a group of good friends.

The first play was epic indeed. Advancing to the third age after 3 hours of play, the table was not large enough to keep almost one hundred technologies. So I decided to end the experiment and ask for feedback. To my surprise, they loved the game but they all said “do not do this to me ever again”. Back then I could still pretend it wasn't my fault and blame Agnieszka, because for all they knew, it could have been her who insisted on allowing all those technologies in the game, not me.
The second group had a slightly different reaction. After a little more than five hours, when they had finally reached the end of the fifth age, I asked for feedback. One of them stood up and said to the others “it’s just the five of us here, no other witnesses, if we kill him now no one will ever know”. As it turns out, they didn't go through with it. On the contrary, they quite like the idea behind the game, the flow of technologies and how it all came together. Progress: Evolution of Technology had an epic feeling and the only major problem was the length of the game.

A friend of mine came with a simple yet enlightened idea. “What you've got here is a game with like… five expansions. Trim it down to… just one game” he said and so we did.

From five ages we cut it down to three, from five technology types we chose three of them which made up the core of the game and went back to review the mathematical model.

So, what is Progress: Evolution of Technology?

The rest of the story is neither that epic nor that funny. We went on playing, designing and revising until we and our testing groups could agree we have a good game in front of us. The final version of Progress: Evolution of Technology features less than 60 technologies and spread over almost 200 cards and the play time is now less than 90 minutes from the original 5+ hours.

The final stage was to dress up the game with illustrations and graphic design.

We think of Progress: Evolution of Technology as a light civilization game, focused solely on technologies and their impact on mankind. In terms of game play, Progress: Evolution of Technology revolves around hand management mechanisms. Each card represents a technology which comes with costs and prerequisites, while it is also the “currency” used to pay for other technologies. Each technology offers game play enhancers (such as larger hand size, extra actions, etc) and means to compete for victory points.

We did not give up on the rest of the original game ideas, the ones which we had to cut out. We kept optimizing and we split the universe into a base game plus several expansions, trying to separate both game mechanisms and historical ages. We went even further and made plan for additional two ages beyond the one already designed with the idea in mind that it’s better to be prepared that otherwise and on the plus side it’s an awesome feeling to play with your imagination and try to anticipate which technologies humanity may develop in the near future.


Is Progress: Evolution of Technology the light civilization game I was talking about in the beginning? We think it is, but we created it, so you don’t have to take our word for it. All I know is that we have both learned a lot of history (and some physics, some anthropology, some… more of everything), we argued, we laughed and we met a lot of awesome people on the way. Designing Progress: Evolution of Technology was an amazing journey.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Progress: Evolution of Technology

Our latest game design, Progress: Evolution of Technology has been on Kickstarter for 5 days and it is already over 200% funded!

We would like to say a big Thank you to all of you who have already supported our project and we promise to keep adding interesting stretch goals!

It's now time to shed some light on the development process of Progress: Evolution of Technology, the path we walked for the past two years which led to the game we're happy to present today.

The first version of Progress was massive, it had more than 500 cards. Each of the three gaming groups which tested it gave the same feedback, with different words, "the game is great, but it's too long. You designed a game and several expansions".

We did not give up and after a few months of polishing the game, we came with a solution which made the game customizable and versatile. We split the Progress universe and its concepts into a base game and several expansions.

The base game covers three technology types - Culture, Engineering and Science - and three ages - the Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The game play is quite fast, averaging 20 minutes per player and the game mechanism are simple without sacrificing the game complexity. The major mechanics are hand management and action selection. The players interact through the discard piles and by competing on the Power tracks for supremacy. 

The Personalities are a mini-expansion which add speed to the game play and one special mechanic - the Heritage system in which a player has the option to choose between a steady small bonus and a one-time larger bonus. 

The second mini-expansion is made out of Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Milestones. These are additional cards featuring significant achievements of humanity. They introduce some more player interaction as players will be able to reach them together (or separately, but through larger effort).

The next expansion we planned was the Industrial Age (IV). This new age will add a few more concepts into the game, mostly related to scoring. 

Age V (Modern Days) continues on the same line, allowing scoring of majorities on types of technologies and on knowledge. Both these expansion of Progress add technologies vertically. 

Another way we expanded the game is horizontally, adding two more technology types - Military and Government. They will bring more player interaction. Players will be able to copy technologies from each other, race towards short term goals, trade abilities for new ones, etc. They will also be new ways to manipulate the draw decks and discard piles.

Of course, we have also prepared the Ages IV and V for Government and Military tree, to have a complete 5 (ages) x 5 (types of technologies) massive civ card game. We are trying to make some of the expansions playable as stand alone games, to still appeal to those of you who want to play a fast game.

There have been rumors about some elusive Ages VI (Near Future) and VII (Far Future). There's a degree of truth in these rumors, we are working on Age VI and dong our research for age VII.

In the spirit of full disclosure, each expansion increases the game time. We are looking for solutions to keep the down time between turns as small as possible and to introduce abilities which trigger on other players' turns. 

We hope that this short peak into the future of the Progress universe satisfied your curiosity and we're here to answer any questions you may have.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Convention report: TIG Convention

From the 22nd to the 25th of May, NSKN Games was proud to attend the first Romanian gaming convention dedicated solely to board games. The event took place in Cluj-Napoca and it lasted 4 days. 

It was an initiative we welcomed and even though the attendance was nowhere near UK Games Expo or Lucca Comics & Games, we've met many dedicated games and families with children and they've all enjoyed the fair in a friendly atmosphere. 

Setting up the booth

Group picture - a few hours before opening time 
Testing Terra Nova (Exodus vol. 2) with Alex of Lex Games and Daniele Tascini

First demo of Praetor

Playing Progress: Evolution of Technology

Always there to provide explanations and support

A 5-player game of Praetor

Quick run through Exodus: Proxima Centauri...

... followed by yet another demo game

Perfect Storm - for the first time in a gaming convention

The learning game took only 50 minutes with 4 players

With Daniele Tascini once again, showing off Tzolk'in and Praetor  ;)

At the very end, a group picture with the organizers and the friends of NSKN Games

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