Thanks for All the Fish!

Thanks for visiting my page!  There won’t be too many updates for now, but here’s what I will update for:

* A big company contacts me about my design and wants to produce the game for the mass market.

* Someone submits enough to make a product or actually buys any product.

* I’ll answer questions about the desgin process, publishing with Game Crafter, advertising mistakes, and what have you.

Any questions can be sent HERE!

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Products, Support and Spoilers!

Hello all!

I’ve written some new pages I’d like to highlight this post:

About This Game

This is where you can read up on why you should play Stomping Grounds and how awesome it is.  It defines the three pillars of the game and how you can get involved.

Demo Deck – Free to Print

I created a PDF you can print multiple times to create any number of decks.  It covers the basic game for free so you can find out if you want to invest in a classy set of cards.

Purchase Stomping Grounds

I’ve put all the products I’ve created so far on this page so you don’t have to dig through The Game Crafter’s robust site to try and figure out which product to by.

Full Spoiler

If you want, you can view all of the 160+ cards currently in the set.  I wanted to provide this to those who want to proxy decks and still play the game.


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The 3rd Devil Strikes Again


It’s Diablo, Lord of Loots!

I’ve still been working on the game.  It’s almost a year old and yet I have only the base game to show for it.  Needless to say, distractions out there have caught my attention.  Diablo 3 is an excellent game and let me connect with my gaming family across the continent, so I’m trying to fit that in with my daughter, wife and job.  Who needs sleep?

The next set I’m getting ready to release is the “Complete Set” product that has 1 of every card in the set.    As  soon as I get my order in, I’ll be posting the link up and deck-builders can buy the complete set this week.  It sells for $21.99, which is pretty reasonable compared to most other living card games out there.  You can just buy one and accent your Starter decks or buy a set of 4 and build any deck you want.

This main set is 122 different cards.  I don’t plan on making too many changes to the set, but the web-site and the box will let you know.  I do have room for 4 new cards, so if you like, you can send me some designs!

Also, I’ve got a “Demo Deck” PDF.  Granted, if you have an old Magic deck in sleeves, you can turn it into a demo version of this game.  Instead of costing a lot of money, you can just print out the cards and sleeve them into your old deck.  If you haven’t tried the game, print it and the rules and give it a shot!

I would love to hear from you if you exist!  I don’t care if you post meaningless gibberish, but say something in the comments below.

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Going To Be At CodCon!

Hey there!

A couple of interesting things has happened.  I’ve been stalled out because my PC’s motherboard decided to not turn on.  By a strange turn of events, it’s taken me a couple of weeks to get it back so I can start working on my game again.  At least the actual game is done!

If you want to purchase it, click here!  It’s just the basics, and I have more content for the site to create, but I’m confident it’s good!  I still need to create videos and get the base set for the draft packs and the constructed set.

If you’re interested in trying out or seeing my game, I’ll be losing… er, playing in the WoW Highlander tournament they’ll be having at CodCon.

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Smooth as a Baby’s Butt

Just to let you all know, it is still alive.  Personally, working 55+ hours a week makes putting even more time at a desk difficult.   However, I have created a super-smooth version of the main core game.  I played a few games with my wife last night and the games were very quick.  I would say that it took no more than 20-30 minutes per game and no weird questions came up.  Needless to say I am extremely proud.

I’m still going to post more, but it’ll be more about how I’m advertising and promoting my game.  The Core Starter will be out shortly after April 7th and then the core set will be out after that; probably around May.  In addition, I hope to start getting submissions and what-not into the game and to develop a media library.

As it sits, here is a semi-beta version of the rules.

Stomping Ground rules

I have the basics all laid out and you can get a glimpse of the rules.  I also plan on putting together a tutorial video of how to play and a promo video to sell it soon.  Exciting things are coming!  Also, the page to submit your ideas and what not actually has working links.  Give it a shot.

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Blind Testing #2

Hey all!

I tried another playtest, this time with a couple that was just one-on-one.  This time, I reordered the instructions and this time it was at least “more” intuitive.  I didn’t have to step in and auto-correct how the game played out.

There were still a few things that were a problem:

The big thing this time was the slowdown that “tutors” in my demo decks brought.  Tutors come from Magic: The Gathering and are cards that let you go get other cards from your deck and play them.  My original designed included them as high luck cards that either do a minor ability or get you an important card for your theme.  What I didn’t account for was that for first-time players, digging through a deck for a type of card means you “should” read through all the cards in the ENTIRE deck and decide what to play.

To combat that, I am going to reduce the copies of cards in each deck to 15 instead of 28.  Having only 60 unique cards and 4 copies of each in the starter should give people a good idea of how the game plays. I plan to add the leftover cards to my base “draft” set so that people can increase the strategy of the basic decks so that work isn’t completely lost.

Also, even though they got it, the game still went on for about an extra hour longer than intended.  I’m going to write up an “example” game (as requested) to go with the rules.  Even though there is a lot of phases to the game turn to accommodate the various options you have while playing, when new players get it, they feel as if they need to read each one before continuing on.  The flow of the game gets much better on subsequent plays.  That way I can show how fast the game should go once everyone knows what to look for during their turn.  I’m also hoping the video I’ll create as a walk-through (and promotional piece) will help show the speed of play as well.

Of course, there were the additional typos, grammar, and detail work that I will be polishing up but that’s kind of boring to mention here.

I’ve also finalized my product line for this thing to encompass every market I can get into easily:

First is the core set.  This is the 4 deck set with the instructions, playmats and example game walkthrough.  This will let you and 3 of your friends try out the game and see if you like it.  Granted, I think it’s fun enough by itself to play without extra sets, but the 4 decks you get are designed to be customized with other products.

Second is the “draft” deck.  This is a set of 60 cards designed to draft with your friends.  It should be playable directly out of the box, but not very efficient.  Instead, each player buys a draft deck and Rochester drafts the cards.  This is a relatively cheap option to upgrade your main decks for Core as well.  This should come out a few weeks after the core set does as I realize I need to fill in a few more holes to make this a good set to play a Limited game with.  (I’ll also include rules for other limited versions like Sealed or League.)

Third is the “constructed” playset.  This is a complete play set of 1 of each card.  Buying 4 of each will let you create any constructed deck you want.  This is my way to make tournament entry into the game more affordable.  Whereas your normal players will probably be happy with the core supplemented with a draft deck every once and a while, the constructed set will allow tournament-style players to get in real cheap.

In comparison to other games: if a 4 full playsets runs you about $200, that’s still much less than collecting a full playset of other games like Magic or WoW where just 4 copies of one card can run you that much.  (I’m looking at Jace from Magic or Edwin from WoW.)

Finally, as I reach my goals of player-submitted content, I’ll release new products in the same pattern of “draft” and “constructed” so that way everyone does not have to buy the same cards over and over again.

Now to reformat the cards and create a final release schedule… again!

Thanks for reading!

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Blind Testing Round #1

The most important part of the game isn’t the board, cards, art.  It’s the instruction book!

I had my first blind test a week or so ago, and I had a lot of good feedback.  A blind test is where you just give your game in it’s mostly finished form with the rules and let them have at it without helping them.  At first, I thought telling people how to start the game is a good point, but people were confused as to what all of those fancy terms meant.  So, I quickly reordered the rulebook pages.  I wrote up a glossary to cover all the basics but I never intended to have it go first.  However, the glossary did the job and I was able to get the players to play the game somewhat as intended.  Never underestimate how much you think your audience knows.  I’m also going to include a play mat to photo-copy for new players.  Pictures are worth a thousand words.

The two big game-play changes is that certain piles play better face up and that the map becomes a lot cooler when people play realms cards the way they want to.

Before, I intended for people to play with their stash and junk cards face down.  That way, it would make counting the cards more “skill intensive” (read: harder) when they’re cycling cards through their decks.  “Skill intensive” isn’t really a factor for a first-time player as they’re just learning the game.  However, players found a different type of skill as they have to decide whether the cards they could see should be drawn or put back.  I liked this and it’s more intuitive so I changed it.

The other thing is that I’ve been teaching people how to play by laying out the realm cards (which create a map) in a grid.  There are never more than one realm on a particular side of the card.   My blind playtesters decided to run through and play the realm cards still edge to edge, but they played them so there was enough room on a side to have two cards per side.  This seems also a lot more intuitive as the map was laid out organically and felt a lot more “natural”.  I’m not going to encourage it yet, but I’m definitely going to see if future playtesters also go for a non-grid map.

I also took into consideration a few complaints.  I upped the burn and stash numbers on a lot of cards to make the game a bit quicker.  I’m hoping it drops the play time to 20-30 minutes instead of the 40-60 minutes it originally took.  I have a feeling I might have to back that off as my experienced players find more efficient aggressive strategies.

Also, the treasure cards were a little underpowered and clunky.  Before you could play them when you drew them for luck, and give a luck bonus to future Treasure cards.  Now, I included text that provides the bonus on the card immediately… if you pay for it.  That actually fits in with how the blind playtesters played it anyway.  Also, I also had a card that provided a huge luck bonus after it was put into your deck.  The wording on the card was very clunky, so now I just made it a one-shot high luck card; paying for it just puts it back on top of your deck.  Basically the same thing, without the clunkyness.

Anyway, those are just my notes so far, got a few more playtests to go.

By the way, next year is the Chinese Year of the Dragon.  Coincidence?

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Design Notes: Terminology and Card Flow

I am (and have been) a huge fan of Decipher’s lines of games.  Star Wars was the only game out of dozens of Star Wars themed games that felt right to me.  It truly captured the feel of Star Wars with the setting, and through the mechanics of the game, it held true to itself and the universe it was set to represent.  The game continued to stack more mechanics from every movie until the crazy game let you do EVERYTHING that was seen in the movies.  That’s also why I think Decipher’s generic WARS game failed: the setting was boring even though the game actually clarified a lot of needlessly complex things.

Along the same lines, Decipher’s Lord of the Rings game was equally superb in its mechanics.  The game’s combination of using terminology to capture the feeling and building it into the mechanics as well as the tug-of-war resource system and risk-taking made it a joy to play.  It was still a little complex, like all Decipher’s products, but any game that goes for 12 expansions covering all the movies can’t be awful.

When designing Stomping Grounds, I really wanted to use the game terms the way Decipher did and incorporate a strong flavor into game.  This is also beneficial because the “flavor text” box might be used as advertisement for artists or promos.  Hence, when you read what the card does, it should suck you in and make you think that you are manipulating a dragon’s horde.

It’s a Verb And A Noun!

There are three piles of cards you manipulate during the game which I lovingly named “stash,” “junk,” and “burn”.  When I was wording cards, they tended to go:

“Put this card in you junk pile.”

While that was sufficient, it ate up a lot of card space.  I was aiming to try to have as many cards under 30 words as possible.  I think at least for any first release, a game shouldn’t be a novel while you play.  Besides, reading this sentence: “Put a card from your burn pile to your junk pile” is just long and boring.  So saying to put a card in a pile was a little redundant.  With the change, the first phrase reads like this:

“Junk this.”

Just like that, you get hit with an easy phrase, and you know exactly what to do with it.  The names I gave my piles are also verbs to which I can give connotations when I’m putting together game phrases.  You have a Junk pile, and you junk cards to that pile.  Easy and efficient.  It also allows you get a bit more complex, like saying “Junk three opposing burned cards.”

I cut down sentences like Paul Bunyan cut down trees.  They were short, sweet, and easy to understand, but they still have some flavor.

A Real Challenge

The challenge cards work a bit differently, as I wanted to let the players know exactly what they were doing there.  If you have a Strength challenge at a random town, that could mean any number of things.  You could be eating the guards, burning down the inn, or killing all of the townsfolk.  Who knows?  So, I set out to add a bit of flavor to the challenges.  Without the flavor, a typical challenge reads like this:

{Strength}5: Burn 3 and this.

To parse it, {Strength} 5 means that it as a Strength challenge, so cards like Fire Breath affect it.  So I added a phrase in bold to tell the player what thing you’re doing.  Now it reads like this:

Smash the Soldiers {Str} 5: Burn 3 and this.

The actual action is a little silly.  And on all the cards, I try to alliterate all the actions.  So you’re smashing the soldiers, burning the buildings, scanning the scrolls, all sorts of stuff.  It just reads well.  When my play-testers were playing, they would actually announce what the action says to do!  It got everyone playing, including me, really into the flavor and feel of the game.

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Design Notes: Path to Victory

Everyone, ultimately, wants to win.  Sure, there are games where there aren’t any rules, and the points do not matter.  I’ll admit that those games are fun, but most card games are about at least trying to win.  Even casual players do not play Spades or Poker just to have fun losing by drawing funny looking hands.

As I playtested Stomping Grounds, I found that there are plenty of strategies that the testers discovered, and I incorporated those into my game.  If you have a playstyle or tactic you like to use, chances are that you can abuse it with a particular type of challenge.

The Path of Dominance

Some players just like to control the board.  They take great pleasure at stopping others and stripping any sort of advantage away from them by force.

Stomping Grounds actually caters to two control strategies so far, the “Outwit” (or White) challenges and the “Arcane” (or Blue) challenges.

White dragons are the schemers and plotters.  When they go to win, it will be because they have a major resource advantage.  All players accumulate a stack of cards called the “stash” and play cards by moving cards out of it.  White dragons are able to successfully stash many more cards than their opponents, and they are able to cause their opponents to stash less.

Normally, card games that use resources like Magic have to be very careful because resource destruction can be a lot less fun.  In Stomping Grounds, you carry over your resources every turn.  In addition to this, you can theoretically win without having any “stash” cards, so White dragons can really go to town on this path.  Eventually, White decks combo out of their stash into a big, game-ending burn of their entire deck.

Blue dragons, on the other hand, have already seen the future and know what you are planning.  Normal decks are usually privy to guessing upcoming luck draws based on the fact that they are weeding out some of their cards throughout the game.   Blue dragons have the added advantage that they can merely look at the top of the deck before they initiate a challenge.  Generally, this means that they know the exact time to attack another dragon for a lot of extra burn, when to hold back and build up their stash cards, or try an easy challenge.

That’s not all!  Blue can also win by attrition using their devoted followers to burn for them.  Since they burn every turn, that puts Blue in range to finish the game with well-timed schemes.  It’s not as combo-centric as the Outwitting White deck, but it may prove to be more consistent.

The Path of Aggression

If control isn’t your style and you want to race to the finish line in a blaze of glory, then you should try the Strength (or Red) challenges, or perhaps gather your treasures.

The strategy for Red dragons is to complete as many challenges as possible.  Generally, you can only attempt two challenges per turn, but with the Red dragons, you can complete more challenges per turn than your opponents.  Red dragons do not have as many control options as the other dragons, and they cannot count on a consistent luck draw until later in the game, but they can try as many times as it takes to succeed.  There’s a great feeling when you rampage across the map completing three challenges and then going to stomp another dragon, all in one turn.

The catch for Red dragons is that this makes it a very luck-dependent style.  Some games you’ll win before your rivals can travel down their own paths of victory; other games you have to make use of your control options before you can start really rolling.

The fourth deck option (focused on the “treasure” cards) in the start has a unique mechanic with its treasure cards.  When you use one for luck, you may immediately play it instead of putting it in your junk.  Usually this gives you a bonus for luck when drawing your treasure cards.  The effect it has on game play is that you snowball into having a consistently higher luck draws than that of your opponents.  Since the difference of luck determines how much you burn during dragon challenges, you can hunt down your opponents mercilessly to both throw them off their plans AND burn them as long as you get a good setup.

Which path will you choose?  Next time: Terminology and Game Flow

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Design Notes: Overview and Basics

The game is in beta; I have placeholder art and now it’s time to describe how I designed it and generate some buzz behind it.

I’m going to start a series of articles to just go over my design thought processes that I will use to help others create their own cards, decks and sets for the game.  I really want one of my three big draws for playing this game is that I’d want to build a community around it instead of just making a card game.  I want theory-crafters and competitive gamers to gravitate towards the open-ended card design that my game offers.  I’d also hope that I’d attract world-builders and artists the opportunity to view the world through the eyes of the arguably the most powerful, iconic characters fantasy has provided.

Imagine, a collectible card game that isn’t just a world that a company or even a single man creates.  Imagine a game, either through errata, new sets or art, all comes from you!

Bear with me, as I do need to go through some of the dorky stuff.  We’ll get to some cooler things as I write.  So here we go!

How A Sample Game Plays

Both players start off laying down two realms and putting their dragons on them.  Each player then usually takes alternate turns going to a town or challenge in play, then building up the map with their hand.  The other turn is taken moving over to a Lair to recharge the stash pile to draw and play more cards.  At some point, usually when the towns tend to open up the dragons start skipping the lairs and going straight for more challenges, or attacking opposing dragons to push them off of challenges they’re going to win.  Late game, when a player has 20 cards or less, the players try to stash as much as they can to “draw out” so when they burn out their main decks and junk, they can just draw their stash and win.

Thankfully, most players do dragon challenges all the time if only to start burning cards.  I love a game with constant player interaction.  Fighting all the time without actually dying gives the feeling of constant rivalry instead of straight warfare like most other games.

Basic Resource Design

In short, the game functions similar to popular card construction games in reverse.  In Ascension and Dominion, players build decks during play to strengthen their future plays.  However, you’re penalized by having weak cards in your deck.  In Stomping Grounds, you start with strong and weak cards in your deck and reduce it down so all you’re using is the powerful cards.  Players do this first by burning or drawing cards, then putting the strongest cards back in during the Reclaim phase.  Usually, this means having high-luck cards or auto-win gifts while leaving the situational or low luck cards out.

When building a deck or a cards, what keeps Constructed players from just filling their decks with 60 of the best cards?  There are three good reasons: luck, the cornerstone cards and the challenge types.

Those familiar with Decipher’s line of Star Wars will be familiar with the way low-luck cards were either very powerful or locations (think realms) while situational cards were higher based on power level.  This game takes the same tact.  If you could play the 60 best cards, they should all have a luck 1 and 2 so you’d never burn anything unless an opponent lets you stash by moving and then playing some cards that let you burn directly.  Clearly, good decks will need to burn without those cards.  There is power in the situational cards with higher luck, too.

Each deck has 2 cards that function as the cornerstones in the game.  There are the “auto-win” cards: Fire Breath, Transformation, Enchantment.  Then there are the “win a challenge” cards: Savageness, Planning, and Charisma.  With the exception of Fire Breath (which is a dragon’s iconic power), you’ll notice that all of these cards are single word names while other cards have more than one word names.  This was done on purpose to easily identify the cards when creating your own.  When you get your copy, you’ll notice that several of the more powerful cards have “Requires X” on them.  I thought these cards both identify the flavors of each challenge and are powerful enough for other players to be excited to play them.

(To keep costs for Constructed players down, I include 8 Cornerstone cards in every starter.  One of the pillars of the product is you don’t have to drop hundreds of dollars like other card games.)

Along the same lines, to limit a card’s use in other decks, I made it so that you have to win certain types of challenges to play them.  For example, there are cards that let you burn down towns by completing only Red challenges.  I was thinking this would keep power gamers on their toes while still promoting flexibility.  If you need to win certain types of challenges, you need to play cards that have synergy with those challenges too.  Synergy should hopefully trump raw power.

Come back next time as I discuss what everyone likes to do: WIN!

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