Till next time
So, I've hit a major milestone on my first published game -- Bullfrogs. It's finally reaching the hands of my Kickstarter backers. So, that's super exciting. Folks are tweeting pictures of gameplay. I'm getting some requests for replacement pieces (which happens with any game production). I'm fixing orders that were lost, etc... Honestly, it's a crazy feeling. The game is no longer mine anymore, in many ways. It has it's own life and it's being experienced by players all over the world. CRAZY! So just wanted to share some of the cool images I've seen on Twitter in the last few days.
Till next time
So, I started this blog a year ago. I was active for quite a while, but have been silent for too long. Time to try to fix that.
So, when I started this game company a few years ago, my initial plan was to do one game a year. It seemed like a fair goal, and still does to some degree. The publishing process on Bullfrogs has been a huge learning process for me, and I think I ended up backing away from that goal, at least for the next project. Maybe 1 game every 1.5 years. :)
So, what's next for Thunderworks Games after Bullfrogs? I had no idea for a long time. I'd been working on some of my own prototypes (both new and old) throughout the year and I wasn't getting super pumped about any of them.
I ended up going to Protospiel in Madison this fall looking for a game or two from other designers that I might want to publish. I did find 4-5 interesting games that I'm pursuing that I hope to tell you guys about sometime, but the big takeaway was a spark of inspiration.
I've feverishly been working on a new game that popped into my head while I was there. I've been playtesting nearly everyday. Making big changes at first, and now making small changes. I think it's settling down to be the close to its final version and I think it's going to be awesome. I can't wait to tell you more about it.
For now, the name is "Roll Player". It's a game about building a RPG character. There's some more info on it on BGG here. Check out some images from recent playtesting below. :)
When establishing the art style of Bullfrogs, I told John I wanted something "colorful, but something that doesn't specifically read as a kid's game." For the cover, I wanted to see "a strong central figure or 2 in the foreground. Make sure there are some lily pads being fought over." Check out the various stages of development as the cover artwork for Bullfrogs evolved.
I really enjoyed the back and forth during this process. It took about 2 weeks go get a finished piece. John was sending me images daily to start with. I was always excited to see the latest update.
Till next time.
The cards in Bullfrogs are the central component of the game. Players hold them. They play them. They make up the board. They give players points to win. So, yeah. It was kind of important to get them looking good and functioning well. I'm going to step through the various stages of their existence and discuss the changes at each stage. Below is an example of the "2 action" card.
There are 3 important pieces of information on the card. 1) The number of actions. 2) The number of spaces and 3) The color of the card. So, card #1 is what I started with.
After some play testing, I found players didn't like counting up the number of spaces to determine how many points the card was worth at the end of the game. So with #2, I included that number on the bottom portion of the card. I also added a random symbol on the card to help color blind players and also help people see the differences a little easier. I'm up to 4 elements to read/understand on each card.
I playtested with #2's card design for a long time. It's actually the design I released as the print and play version. I still didn't have a theme yet. I was considering keeping it themeless and #3 here is my attempt at making something "cool" yet themeless with various clipart. This version got very little play. I only have one copy of that version and by the time I went to playtest it, I had decided on the frog theme and had artwork coming in from John Ariosa.
I tested with #4 for quite a while as well. This used John's illustration, but I hadn't signed Luis up to do the graphic design yet.
#5 is the final layout. I worked with Luis Francisco for many weeks to settle on this. The design goals included minimizing the components, maximizing the clarity, and highlighting the illustration as much as possible. Each army's faction symbol, color and the spaces were all combined together into the spaces. The action number is differentiated into a symbol instead of a number, so it wouldn't be confused with the victory point number.
I think it hits all the goals we set out to accomplish, and Luis did a great job. It's surprising to me that the core design of the cards from day 1 didn't change much by the time we finalized them.
Till next time.
I swear, everywhere I look, there are enthusiastic aspiring game designers. It's awesome! In Madison, there are a ton of board and card game designers. Some published. Some pending publication. Some just starting to get their ideas out. I wanted to share some of the cool games people I know are in the publishing pipeline or have had published. There's a lot of talent in this town. See for yourself.
Who are some of your local designers?
Till next time.
So, when I finally decided on a theme for the upcoming Bullfrogs game, I started thinking about art. Should it be more cartoony/stylized? Should it be more realistic? Who should the artwork appeal to?
I collected ideas on the web and found an image that I thought was perfect (left). Fun and whimsical, but not too "kiddy". I tried to contact the artist who created it on deviantart.com with no success.
After a few days of thinking, it hit me. JOHN ARISOSA! He did some AWESOME work depicting warrior mice and rats for a game (that I highly recommend) called Mice & Mystics. He did some really cool animals doing battle stuff for Tooth & Nail for Small Box Games. Look at this stuff! I would love to work with him!
It seemed like a pipe dream, but what the heck. I found him on the internet, fired off an email and thought nothing more of it. I assumed that would be the end of the story. But, a few days later, I get an enthusiastic response from him. After lots of back and forth over the next couple weeks, we had a cover for Bullfrogs (below). I absolutely love it. I hope you do too.
Till next time.
The theme is the "story" of the game. Theme helps players remember mechanics and helps engage the players in the game experience.
When designing a game, sometimes the designer has a clear theme in mind which helps guide design decisions. This was not the case for Bullfrogs. I designed this game entirely without a theme.
After I got it to a good spot design-wise and was happy with the mechanics, I quickly started trying to figure out what the theme should be. After each playtest, I asked testers what they “felt” like when they were playing it. Testers used words like "pop" and "jump" and "attack" when referring to cards and cubes moving around on a table. I listened closely and started brainstorming.
My requirements: Family friendly, something fairly unique, nothing that screams "kid's game", and something that meshes well with the mechanics of the game.
So, I started tracked all the ideas that I had come up with and testers had provided. I also solicited the opinions of the design community over at BGG here.
I got some great suggestions. From hipsters changing fashions to pirate traffic jams. In the end, my wife's idea of frogs fighting over lily pads on a pond was the obvious choice. I think it's a fun theme and I hope players find it entertaining as well.
Try out the Print and Play version of Bullfrogs under the "Games" tab, and imagine one of the other themes on the tracking list linked above. What would you have picked?
Till next time.
Once I knew I wanted to jump into boardgame publishing, the first tough hurdle to get over, surprisingly, was deciding on a name! I tossed around different names for over a year until I finally decided on one. Here's the story and what it means to me.
I have a son. He's 2. On the 4th of July this year, we went to the fireworks show with my wife and mother in northern Wisconsin. We let my son stay up late to see it, but were nervous he might be scared of the loud booms. We set up our blanket on the grass and found just the right spot to watch the display. As the first colorful explosions light up the sky, my son looked up in awe and says "Oooh. Thunderworks!". I heard that and thought it would be a cool name for a game company. So, it came to pass.
To me, fireworks mean something that's beautiful, fun, surprising and awe-inspiring. Fireworks are also enjoyed with groups of people as a community as well as in groups of friends and family. Games are enjoyed the same way, and I'd love it if people found my productions beautiful, fun, surprising and awesome. :) I also love that my company is named after something my son came up with.
So, keep an eye out for Thunderworks Games info coming soon. I have a snazzy new logo coming from the talented Luis Francisco, who is also working on a new version of Coup for the Brazil market. It's looking pretty awesome as well.
Till next time.
Hey readers. So, I decided to start a blog. I wanted an opportunity to have place to share my thoughts on this new game publishing venture. Thanks for finding me and thanks for reading.
This all started with a game. I had been working on a few game designs and had been play testing them over a year or so. I hoped to publish some day or maybe self-publish, but hadn't really committed to any of it.
I had just gotten home from my usual Tuesday night gaming. Near the end of the night, I had played a game of Reiner Knizia's Battle line that night with a good friend. I hadn't played it in a long time and was reminded how cool and simple the gameplay was, while still having interesting decisions. I has this classic "Play a Card then Draw a Card" mechanic. It's an older game that I still find really interesting after many many plays.
So, there was a design convention coming up in a few days called protospiel. It's a great convention for designers to get together and give feedback to each other. I had purchased tickets for the Milwaukee event and it was a few days till the event, but I hadn't given the convention much thought.
Anyway, playing Battle Line had me thinking about the protospiel event. I decided I wanted to bring a new design instead of bringing the one I brought last time. I grabbed a deck of cards and some bits. Could I come up with something interesting using just cards, a few bits and a simple "play a card / draw a card" mechanic? I wanted something multiplayer, whereas Battle Line is 2 players only. I scribbled on some cards and pushed bits things around and in about 30 minutes I had a playable game. I played it against myself 2-3 times. It was a game, true. It didn't seem broken. Was it fun? Probably not yet. :)
I launched straight into play testing mode. I got a few playtests in the next day, reworked a couple of the main mechanics and then I was off to Protospiel.
I got to protospiel early and it was the first game played that day!
I got lots of great feedback that day from various designers. I ended up getting it play tested another two more times that day. I'd recommend protospiel to any designers out there. It's a great opportunity to get honest feedback from really design-minded folks as well as a cool way to meet other game designers.
Overall, the feedback was positive. It wasn't perfect. There was lots of refining that needed to be done, but the basic idea was there. People liked it. For this, I was stoked.
Again, thanks for reading. Till next time.
Hi! My name's Keith Matejka. I'm the founder of Thunderworks Games. I'm a designer and "one man" publishing company. Thanks for stopping by!