Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I got an email that said this domain was up for renewal. Reminded me that last November I bought this domain and began the site. At the time, I had no idea what a year it would be and all the things I would do related to this little project. At the time I had one game that was doing alright but was still very rough. Over the course of this last year, that game would become solid enough I was looking to send to a publisher, I’d design another game that has another publisher at least curious, and been to more gaming conventions than I have in my entire life. Here’s a quick look back.
I was signed up for a table at UnPub 7 in March, and knew that I had very little experience pitching or demoing my game to people outside my immediate friends. So when an UnPub Mini in West Virginia came up, I jumped at the chance. I was one of 5 designers, and managed to show and test Astroventure twice. That was a very successful day since the game had a play time of 90-120 minutes at the time. I also managed to get a copy of Fidelitas by Green Couch Games which I had my eye on since a couple months prior. Astroventure took a big change at that point. The large tech trees were adapted to small ones because honestly there weren’t that many real decisions to make anyway with the large ones. Playtime got reduced with the introduction of new end conditions, and the events were largely nixed from the game. More importantly, I got used to teaching the game, answering questions, and reacting to the way people learn. It wasn’t a lot of experience, but it was more than I previously had.
Rachael and I drove off to Baltimore, MD for UnPub 7. This was my first big UnPub and I was nervous. I brought along tons of extra parts and pieces in case things needed changed. I then learned I had brought too much of what I didn’t need and not enough of what I did. But through a lot of on the fly design work and adaptation, the game took shape greatly while I was there. With a lot of feedback and discussion, I ended up with pages of changes to make when I got home, mostly revolving around the fact that the rockets and the planets feel like they’re two different games and they don’t work together. That was the major adjustment that needed to be made. I came home and began to deep dive into gutting whole portions of the game and revising them to make the game a better whole.
Because of the way that Astroventure went at UnPub, I had an idea to make a small card game. I figured the next event I go to, I’m bringing small card games that don’t have a lot of setup involved to quickly get on the table and demo. This idea started as a card based city builder kind of in the vein of Between Two Cities, but quickly became a theme park game now known as Compact Carnival. It came about late in the month, so there isn’t really a lot to say about it in this month.
Origins came around, and this year UnPub was making an appearance, so of course I signed up. I also made contact with some publishers to show off Astroventure and see if anyone would be interested in publishing it. Long story short, no one walked away wanting to publish it from Origins. But that doesn’t mean it’s a failure. I met a lot of friends that I only knew online, and got some good feedback for Astroventure that helped me to refine a few elements of the game, particularly the 2 player dummy player. I also had the opportunity to show off Compact Carnival and got some feedback on it as well. As Rachael and I were walking around the show floor, she pointed out that it’s kind of got the feel of a certain publisher’s style, so I talked to them and set up a meeting to show them the game. They didn’t immediately jump on it to publish, but liked the idea, took a picture for later, and wanted to keep in touch about it’s progress.
July and August
These months were largely not active months. I was hit by some pretty bad burn out. I stayed active in my design Slack group and on Twitter, so design was on my mind, just not my table. I kept my mind active with some ideas, but none of them really came to be. Right at the tail end of the month I began to think more intently about the games I’d designed, but it took effort to get back into the work.
This was kind of a make it or break it moment for me. I did a lot of cram work to get ready to show Astroventure to a publisher at Grand Con in Grand Rapids, MI. It was my first time to that convention, and I sat down to have a play through. They liked it and wanted to get a copy for their holiday party where they’ll decide what games to add to their plate. It was a little let down because I was expecting to get a Yes or No there, but I left feeling good that it was on the right track for publication. I also got to show off the changes I’d made to Compact Carnival to the publisher from Origins and get some more feedback on that. Overall it’s a nice small con that I enjoyed going to. It was my first time in Grand Rapids and it’s a nice city to be in. In both cases, I left with good feedback to improve both games, and a December submission deadline for Astroventure.
This month I went to CinCityCon in Cincinnati, OH. It was their first year and I had no plans of going until Ian Zang asked if anyone wanted to split a hotel room. So I went down for just an overnight and it was one of the better cons I’ve been to. I think if I went with a couple people to just really sit down and play some games we could have had a fantastic time and play through a big pile of games. I bounced around between various groups while with one group always playing a game, and one group was pitching and demoing. I brought my games along just in case, but they never came out while I was there. Still I’m thinking of going back again next year for sure.
This month was my fourth UnPub event of the year, the inaugural UnPub Midwest. I arrived and planned to get the most plays out of Compact Carnival as I could. I thought with Astroventure more or less ready to submit to the publisher, I wanted to get a lot of feedback on CC since I won’t now be able to attend UnPub 8 next year. My plan was to do Compact Carnival the first day, then Astroventure the second since we had to leave earlier than the event was ending. Compact Carnival did well. Thanks to some white out and markers, that same iteration on the fly that happened at UnPub 7 with Astroventure happened again. It made good strides that day to becoming a very good game. However, on Sunday I put out Astroventure, looked at it, and packed it up. I had begun to resent Astroventure in some ways over the past couple of weeks. I didn’t know what feedback I was looking for, and I wasn’t excited to teach it. So I put it away and pulled out Compact Carnival again and began thinking through some ideas to change it. (Keep an eye out for a post on Compact Carnival’s revisions soon.)
This led to my quest to essentially redesign the entire game of Astroventure from scratch keeping only the theme and a few mechanics. It will be extensive, and make the game unrecognizable in some ways. But first I needed a mini revision just to get it ready to send to the publisher as a stop gap design fix. I made those changes last week and we recently tested them. This led to the determination that I no longer care for the game at all in it’s current state. I have no interest in seeing it published as is. So I’ve decided not to send it to the publisher at this point, and save it to redesign one day. It was a hard call because I knew that even if they picked it up, there would be time for us to work on changes, but I didn’t want to put that version of the game out there if I didn’t believe in it. A full post on my disheartening is coming up soon with a sneak peak at the upcoming massive overhaul.
It’s been a wild year. At this point last year when I made this website, I never expected to do as much as I did. Next year will definitely be more quiet. I’m only planning Origins at this point, and maybe CinCityCon depending on how things go. I’m cutting back my efforts to focus only on Compact Carnival at this time. I think some solid time off away from Astroventure will be the plan. I want to focus on small games for now until I get some more experience under my belt before I come back to Astroventure. Either way, I’ve learned a lot, met some great people, been to new places, and have a lot of experience that I haven’t had before. Not bad for only one year.