Category Archives: Civscape

2018 Most-Played Boardgames

My nickels and dimes, for the year, were:

Unpublished Prototype45
Secret Hitler19
One Night Ultimate Werewolf15
Battle Line13
Sid Meier’s Civilization: A New Dawn12
Avignon: A Clash of Popes11
The Golden Ages10
Sushi Go Party!9
Brew Crafters: The Travel Card Game5
Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger5
Covalence: A Molecule Building Game5
Spin Rummy

Last year, like most years, I played unpublished prototypes (my own and my friends’) more than any single published game. (You can download Spin Rummy and Hero’s Arc, two games that I created for contents this year.)

Innovation remains an all-time favorite, always different and therefore endlessly replayable. One memorable session ended with my opponent blasting through the entire draw deck: I had never had that happen before, and I’ve played the game 54 times!

Secret Hitler being played so often reminds me that my game list is a work of collaboration: what games get played is a negotiation, depending in part on what games I can find willing participants for. Since Secret Hitler scales well to high player counts, it made it to the table 5 times, even though I’m not one to suggest it.

Similarly, I play Civilization: A New Dawn because my youngest loves it and wins often at it. It’s fundamentally a race game, but needs more variety in victory conditions to be more replayable.

I’d prefer to play The Golden Ages, my new favorite, but that is harder to get to the table, since the same son hates it.

Add in Civscape, and you can see that four of these top fourteen games are civilization games, which remains my favorite genre.

Even Sushi Go Party! makes the list for civ reasons: I teach it first as an introduction to 7 Wonders, which got just 3 plays last year, as many of my friends have tired of it. (I haven’t!)

Even though I only played 5-Minute Dungeon one evening, I immediately realized it would be perfect for two families, and it became a well-received Christmas gift.

Making a surprise return to the table was Axis & Allies (1986 rules), which my 12-year old fell in love with before growing to hate it (he’s 0-4).

Setting aside the unpublished prototypes, I played 147 different games last year, thanks to the great circle of friends that has grown up around our meetup, Suncoast Gamers.

One resolution: board games that didn’t make it to the table last year I’m going to try and give away this year, to free up some space and to get them to places where they will be better loved.

Happy gaming in 2019!

(Image of Tasty Minstrel Game’s Coin Age – not played this year! – by Daniel Thurot.)

Civscape Now Available from The Game Crafter

My card game, Civscape, is now available from The Game Crafter!

At this point, I’ve played the game over 250 times (3 times today!) and still look forward to the next match. My friends were hoping that I would run a Kickstarter for the game to get the game more widely known but I decided the on-demand capabilities of The Game Crafter were a better fit. Here’s why I didn’t do a Kickstarter:

  • If I were lucky, I’d sell about 400 copies at a $2 profit ($800). After investing maybe a hundred hours in managing a Kickstarter.
  • I don’t have a following in the game design space that I can leverage for Kickstarter. Crowdfunding is a great way to monetize a following – but it can be a hard way to build a following.
  • The game is an oxymoron. By design. I love the civilization theme and was eager for a take-that game with a strong narrative, such as the shifting fortunes of a Mediterranean city state.  But all the reviewers I sent review copies to were taken aback: with the civilization theme, they expected something strategic.

I heard the latter point from many people, but George Jaros put it best:

As a civilization-building game, though, I felt like Civscape really missed the mark. There is too much take-that to really feel like you are ever building anything. I think the game would work much better as an abstracted take-that card game, maybe with a silly theme. It’d need the card text to be much simpler though. To keep the civilization theme (which I love, just not with these mechanics), the game will need to tone down the amount of card cycling that goes on. Player interaction would still be great, just not in such a hostile way. Civilization building should be about planning, technological synergy, outpowering your opponents, and interactions through trade and combat. Instead, Civscape is all about getting lucky with cards that screw your neighbor while you hope to be the first to draw a winning combination.

Independent card games are a niche market, and the reviewers taught me that Civscape was an even narrow niche.

I play the gamut of games, from tactical to strategic, from 5-minute games to 5-hour games. The inspiration for Civscape came February 23, 2012, when one of my best friends and I played cards with three teenagers. It was the first time we played Star Fluxx, and we ended up playing it seven times that night. In a classic moment, which game reviewers would hate, we dealt my son (who had arrived late) into the middle of a game, and he won on his first turn!

As enjoyable as the evening was, with our filler game never giving way to the real game of the night, my frustrations with Fluxx inspired Civscape:

  • I’d rather have players draw cards at the end of their turn than the beginning, to give them time to read them and plan for their next turn.
  • I wanted a sense of progression. In Civscape, the more cards in front of you, the more you can play and the more you can draw. Instead of rule cards like Draw 5 and Play 2, these powers scale with your city-state. Fluxx Rule cards just fluctuate randomly, and some just make the game drag on (Keeper limits and Hand limits, which end up hurting even the current player once their turn ends).
  • The Goal cards (how you win in Fluxx) are useless in and of themselves and most don’t apply to your current situation. In Civscape, you can always discard a Statue, Wonder, or second-generation Technology (play one and meet its criteria to win) to draw 2 new cards instead. And while the Wonders and Techs are like Fluxx’s Goals, typically requiring a pair of cards to win (Keepers in Fluxx, Buildings or Technologies in Civscape), Civscape has Statues, which let you get 4 of a type of card or other kinds of sets to win (e.g., Hannibal wins with 4 Trade cards, Pericles needs one of each type).
  • I didn’t want the game to outstay its welcome: I recall games of Pirate Fluxx and Oz Fluxx that took so long that people helped others to win, just to end it. Typically multiple people will be able to win in rapid progression, thanks to the Statues.
  • Some of the really negative take-that cards (Burn the Library, Sack the City) get memorialized in your city’s Timeline, part of its history (while increasing the number of Buildings you can maintain by one).

To be clear, I love Star Fluxx, and have now played it nearly 50 times. It’s probably my favorite version of Fluxx. Even its shortcomings were inspirational.

Some testimonials for Civscape:

  • “I personally like the fact there are many victory conditions and paths to follow, much like real civilizations. The fact this is done in a card game that can be played quickly is amazing. An added benefit for me is the historical accuracy of the scenarios and cards—which put you in the time period. Even though the game is quick it had deep enough variations and options for multiple replay options.” – Dave Lyons, playtester
  • “I really like the ebb and flow of my civilization. It grows as I expand, then contracts as I deal with calamities, military setbacks, and coups. Yet even my now suddenly smaller civilization can win, if I play my cards right. Diogenes, FTW!” – Jeff Mine, playtester
  • “So many games are won by narrow victories! It’s pretty common for the next player to show how they could have won on their next turn. Which means you want to play again!” – Brad Patton, playtester

If a take-that civilization game resonates with you, the print-and-play version is still free. Or buy the new Game Crafter edition!