Sea Kings cover

 

   
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Welcome

to PulsipherGames.com/Pulsipher.net, a web site for supplementary material and playtesting of games designed by Lewis Pulsipher (Britannia, Dragon Rage, Valley of the Four Winds, Diplomacy variants, Sea Kings, RPG material, etc.), and for teaching about games. 

I started playing games more than 50 years ago. I started designing games more than 45 years ago. My first published (non-commercial) games appeared in the early 1970s, and my first commercial game over 30 years ago, in 1978 (Diplomacy Games & Variants), followed in 1980 by Swords and Wizardry.  Most well-known: Britannia.  Latest: Sea Kings.

News

Sea Kings arrived in Norfolk area August 7.  It should be shipping soon.  Five photos are here.

Conventions

Patreon.  Patreon is something like Kickstarter, but provides continuing support for someone's efforts, rather than one-time support for a project.  In a week or two I'll be using it to look for support for my Game Design channel, which is becoming a burden.

New Web editor.  New computer, old editor doesn't install on it, learning a new Web editor . . .

New courses, one of them FREE:

"Introduction to (Tabletop) Role-playing Game Design"    More than four hours long, but it IS an introduction.
This is $15 on Udemy, with this coupon it's $12:
https://www.udemy.com/intro-to-tabletop-role-playing-game-design/?couponCode=RPG$12

"Introduction to (Tabletop) Role-playing Game Design"    More than four hours long, but it IS an introduction.
This is $15 on Udemy, with this coupon it's $12:
https://www.udemy.com/intro-to-tabletop-role-playing-game-design/?couponCode=RPG$12

Pacific Convoy. Worthington have stated in their newsletter that they will publish my vaguely Stratego-like game Pacific Convoy. It's on a hex board, lots of space, and all pieces can move at least two hexes (straight line only). It's much less hierarchical than Stratego, as well, and two air pieces can move in the same turn. Different victory criteria, as well - you need to get a transport to the other side of the board, no flag or command vessel to hunt dow

Online audiovisual classes by Dr. Pulsipher (FAQ here):

If you're a subscriber to Skillfeed.com or Skillshare.com, you'll find some of my classes there (as well as non-game-design classes).I may spend more time on these courses than on actual game design (if you don't count travel to game testing).

 I've just opened a brief (hour?) online course, "Prospering at Game Conventions and Conferences"
This is officially $5, but FREE to you with this coupon:
https://www.udemy.com/game-conventions-and-conferences/?couponCode=ConventionsFree


$10 off Learning Game Design (actual cost $49).  This is book-length (something like 12-13 hours)
https://www.udemy.com/learning-game-design/?couponCode=LGD%2410offnew

"Introduction to (Tabletop) Role-playing Game Design"    More than four hours long, but it IS an introduction.
This is $15 on Udemy, with this coupon it's $12:
https://www.udemy.com/intro-to-tabletop-role-playing-game-design/?couponCode=RPG$12
 

$4 off How to Design Levels/Adventures for Video and Tabletop Games (actual cost $29)

https://www.udemy.com/how-to-design-levels-and-adventures-for-games/?couponCode=LevDes%244offnew

$4 off How to Write Clear Rules (and game design documents) (actual cost $25)

https://www.udemy.com/how-to-write-clear-rules/?couponCode=WCR%244offOct14

I've increased the price of the next class to $15, but will leave this $9 coupon here a while:

$6 off Brief Introduction to Game Design (actual cost $9)

https://www.udemy.com/brief-free-introduction-to-game-design/?couponCode=BriefIntro%243off

$3 off Get a Job in the Video Game Industry (actual cost $12)
https://www.udemy.com/get-a-job-in-the-video-game-industry/?couponCode=VideoGameJobs20%25Off

"Joys of Game Design" is always discounted to $5 from Udemy's $9, no special discounts here:
https://www.udemy.com/joys-of-game-design/?couponCode=Joys%245

Reviews
If you have found one of my classes worthwhile enough to go through most or all, I'd appreciate you giving the class a Udemy rating/review. While the ratings on Udemy aren't entirely trustworthy - there are several schemes for getting "5s", including one where the instructor pays someone! - some people pay attention to them.

Strategic Wargame Design

This will be my next online class, my second-largest after "Learning Game Design." I find myself adding more and more screencasts as one topic leads further into itself or to other topics (kind of like a game with deep gameplay reveals more of itself as you play further). I keep missing my forecast of when I'll finish the class (I've been working on it a year) so I'll just say, I hope it's in 2015! A book may ultimately come of it, as well.

Interviews

There's an email "interview" with me in rpgreview.net, which is an online magazine.  http://rpgreview.net/node/176

Tom Vasel interviewed me for episode #27 of Boardgame University. Download the MP3 at http://boardgameuniversity.libsyn.com/ I had no idea what he was going to ask me, so my answers are entirely off-the-cuff. 

    Corey Young @C_M_Young says on twitter, "BEST episode yet!" 

So I must have done something right.  And Tom must have asked good questions.

Two "new" Britannia-like games (free in PnP format)

Conquest Europa

Wallace Nicoll has prepared a PDF edition of Roger Heyworth's game Conquest Europa. Roger was the uncredited editor of Britannia for its original publication by H. P. Gibsons in Britain in 1986. He passed away in 2000, unfortunately. Wallace was involved in the testing. http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/99400/conquest-europa-2014

The game covers all of Europe and North Africa, from the fall of the Roman Empire to Tamerlane and beyond. With some 500 pieces, 35 nations, and 106 areas, it lasts 10-12 hours with experienced players.

When I began to think about doing a new edition of Britannia, around 2004, a 1980 all-of-Europe game I had done while developing Britannia. Though not as big as Conquest Europa, it took 12 hours to play the first time, so I set it aside and then completely forgot about it.

One of the first new games I started when I came back into the hobby was an all-Europe game, which was playtested at WBC in 2008. It turned out to be a natural five player rather than four player game. Someday it may see print, perhaps in Against-the-Odds magazine or annual. In the meantime I've devised another all-Europe game that lasts about two hours, and has been played in 1:40.

These games both end with the Mongol invasion, after starting with the fall of the West Roman Empire.

Corsica

I've also seen Corsica, a PnP free download from BGG (rules only in Spanish, unfortunately).   It's a big game strongly derived from Britannia, about Corsican history. Fleets! http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/176804/corsicaBritannia Third Editions


Kickstarter

I expect that the new edition of Britannia (perhaps multiple versions) will show up on Kickstarter sooner or later, as the majority of publishers now use it.


Online Classes

I have spent a great deal of time testing the full Historical Version of the new edition, which is a "more accurate" representation of history than past editions.  The Introductory version of that game is much quicker, a "freeform" version.  But the versions that will likely attract the most people are standalone, separate games, a short (as little as 1:24 in non-solo testing) version and a diceless (2-3 hour) version.  Discussion of testing is at the Eurobrit Yahoo Group.

Dragon Rage

Dragon Rage is now distributed in the USA exclusively by Iello.  It is $69.39 at Amazon, but I understand the print run as a whole is practically exhausted. 

There is some possibility that a Kickstarter will be run to help fund a large reprint that is likely to reduce the price.

Latest review from Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog.

Game Designers Survey results

Results of my game designers' survey are in my blogs, e.g. http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/2013/04/2012-13-game-designer-survey-results.html 

 Game design book

Amazon's current price of the book is $34.20 for paper but just $14.74 for Kindle!  List is $38 for paper.

If you've read this book, I'd appreciate you posting a customer review on Amazon.

Reviews:

Very complimentary review by Jeffro (Jeff Johnson) from late May '14. http://jeffro.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/book-review-game-design-by-lewis-pulsipher/

From ARBA vol 44 p. 16 (final sentence): "Although a single book cannot substitute for education in game creation or practice, this book provides useful tips and resources for game designers and those interested in entering the field."  This is another professional, subscription only journal so I cannot provide a URL (I got a non-convertible PDF from my publisher).

Pages 25 ff in Diplomacy World #121 (April '13) contains Jim Burgess' rather stream-of-consciousness review of the book, as related to the game DiplomacyDiplomacy World has been the flagship magazine of Diplomacy fandom for over 30 years, and recently under editor Doug Kent is a massive quarterly free download at http://www.diplomacyworld.net/.  I was active in the hobby in the 70s, and have designed more published Diplomacy variants than anyone, I think.

From March 2013 Choice Online Reviews:  by A. Chen, Cogswell College:  "Summing up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and two-year technical program students in game design programs and professionals/practitioners."  (An image of this was sent to me by McFarland.  I don't have a URL - I think Choice, a journal for academics, is subscription-only.)

New (7 Feb 13) review by Michael Fox at Little Metal Dog Show (a well-known UK game blog).  "Rather than having someone standing in front of you, telling you what to do to move on, Lewis’ writing feels more like he’s sitting by you, making helpful suggestions on how to get out of sticky design issues and encouraging you to think your way through the stages of your game."

Book review - Game Design by Joe Huber (3 Dec 12).  "So summing it all up, Game Design does an excellent job of providing a path to become an effective game designer."

Review: Lewis Pulsipher’s ‘How to Design Epic Games' by David Bolton.  (Yes, he knows the actual title.)  "If you want to design games, as opposed to just produce them, this is a great book. It hits the ground running, though you’ll need to read it quite a few times for everything to sink in. . ."

From a reader review on Amazon.co.uk: "There is scarcely a spare word in this book, and that's a good thing. You know the author is not wasting your time because he is not wasting his. . . . He gets to the point: "You want to make games, Johnny? The only way to do it is to do it". I know it seems obvious, but sometimes you just need to be told, and it's refreshing not to feel that the author is winking at you like they have a secret which they've promised to share and never do. I did not feel that this author held anything back, and now I have something really extraordinary on my shelf: a textbook that's not only become my go-to reference, but also an inspiration - believe it or not, it's exciting!"

Electronic formats:

The book is available in a "Nook Book" (ebook) edition from Barnes & Noble for $24.99 (used to be $13.74).

The book is available in a Kindle edition for $17.99 (used to be $14.74) (compared to $38.00 for the paperback). Kindle is Amazon's format, but with a free app you can read Kindle books on PCs.

You may know that you can get a free PC program that lets you read (and buy) Kindle books. I don't know if something of the same kind is available for eBooks.

Books-a-Million are offering NookBook copies of my book at $24.99 (used to be $28.65).   eBook is the standard for e-readers other than Amazon's Kindles.  The PDF version is no longer listed. 

I have not seen a copy of either of these formats.  Something to keep in mind for future contracts, getting a copy of the electronic versions.

Table of Contents and excerpts:

PDF Table of contents                HTML Table of Contents

The first 27 pages, and page 268, of my book are readable on Google Books.

Excerpt on GameCareerGuide: A systematic view of game design

Excerpt on GameCareerGuide: What Makes A Game 'Epic' Or Even 'Great'

The book is now being offered by some small sellers for less than the majors are selling it for (paper version).  

It's available in the UK from Amazon UK and Waterstones.com.

Unsolicited Testimonials:

"Dear Mr. Pulsipher,
      Just finished your book on tabletop and video games and it was awesome! I appreciate all the great advice and the realistic expectation level it sets for designers. The supporting website is so helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this book and sharing your knowledge and experience.
 Lori Nelson"

"I found your book to be very useful Lewis because it doesn't have a one size fits all approach. There are a range of issues to consider and solutions offered for a variety of challenges in game design. I was able to check issues I'd come up against in my game design and find either that I had approached things in one of your recommended ways (due to intuition or collective consideration by our game dev group), or you gave me new ideas to try or things to check.

Over all this a great generalist game design book for tabletop games." Kim Brebach  (This is a post on a boardgame site. The book is a video game design book first, tabletop second.)

Use in class

Scott Nicholson wrote recently to let me know that "I've decided to adopt your game design book as my primary text in my 'Transformative Game Design' class I'm teaching in the spring at Syracuse University. I reviewed a wide variety of game design texts, and found yours to be the best for what I need!

Great job!"

Thanks, Scott. The book is "Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish". Dr. Scott Nicholson is an Associate Professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University and the director of the Because Play Matters game lab. He's well known for "Board games with Scott". Transformative games are games intended to change the player in some significant way.

Outside the USA

People outside the USA might consider using Book Depository to order, as they have free shipping to about 50 countries.  I have not used it myself but see references to it.

Twitter

I am using twitter occasionally now.   I am @lewpuls.

New edition of Britannia

After sales of 16,000 the FFG version of Britannia has sold out (though it's still available in some stores, FFG has no more). I've received a notification from FFG that the contract is terminated. So I have been looking for another publisher for a revised edition, and have two strong candidates.

The plan for the new editions of Britannia - don't forget that plans don't always work out - is that there are several versions. The standard version that has been available in the past will be changed more than I anticipated when I started out two months ago, primarily to make it work better as a way of teaching/understanding British history - to make it closer to reality, if you will. In the process the game has changed some, which I also think will be interesting for players. In particular I've eliminated some things that I strongly dislike. First, it won't be possible for the Romans to make a deal with the Welsh, who then submit although never touched. This time, they Will Fight. Second, it won't be possible for a "starving army" to commit virtual suicide by making a bad-odds attack. Its compatriots will have to come along. Third, we won't have the Romano-British scurrying for the hills, abandoning their homes and farms. But they'll be in better shape than in the old game.

It also won't be a Roman walkover with Romans even known to be killing Caledonians. The Roman will have more difficult choices. Unfortunately, players who tend to make a hash of the Romans now, when it IS often a cakewalk for an experienced player, may REALLY make a hash of it in the new version. There's always a problem in games, whether to design for the 99% expert player or the 33% or the 75%. When the 99% expert is going to work a bit, the 33% may just get creamed. Fortunately, the Roman-British are MUCH more prominent in the game - for a while.

 

There's a smaller, diceless version ("Rule Britannia") that uses a new board (21 land areas including Ireland); and a quick, really small (nine nations) "Gateway" version (no set title, tentatively "Britannia Brevis") that also uses a new board (18 land). The Gateway version appeals to people who like Risk and Axis & Allies (but remember, 60-90 minutes) and to video gamers. Rule Britannia should appeal to people who don’t like dice (battle cards, each player has an identical set).  Less than three hours.

There's also an "Ultimate" version that uses the standard board with the addition of Ireland, and will be significantly longer than the standard game (Epic, get it?). But it will be an expansion, not part of the standard package.  Ireland will be on the standard board, even though it won't be used in the standard game.

The standard game (likely called "Epic Britannia") will come with several shorter scenarios (4-9 turns), and a new three player game that I am trying very hard to balance, and a 6-7 turn game that covers the entire period using the same colors/sides, and will take half as long to play.

Game Design Book

My book "Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish" is available. Publisher's web page for the book Amazon.  As you might expect, I make a lot more from a copy ordered through McFarland than through Amazon, but most people use Amazon's free shipping.

It can be ordered from McFarland or from retail book sellers.  Because McFarland's first market is libraries, you have an alternative not practically available for most books: you can request that your library order a copy.  Many public libraries will respond to suggestions/requests, though many of those want more than one person to make the request.

Why would you read a book? While the book is no longer the absolute treasure trove of information that was when I was a kid (see below), it still organizes information in an easily digestible form. But more important, a book can convey the experience of the author to the reader, and if that experience is valuable than this is something the reader won't get anywhere else. A major purpose for me in writing the book is to help beginning game designers avoid the "school of hard knocks" that I had to go through, applying my experience in teaching novice game designers as well.

When I was a kid in the 50s and 60s, if you were lucky you had three television networks to watch instead of two, there was no Internet and consequently no e-mail, no cell phones, no personal computers (or printers), no World Wide Web, no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube. A long distance call of any length cost real money. I first saw color TV in a person's house when I was 10 (trick-or-treat: the people let the kids come in and see their cool color TV). Music was on vinyl LPs and (later) cassette tapes. If you wanted to watch a movie you stayed up after 11 (old movies only on TV) or you went to a theater, there was no way to record a movie other than film. There was no instant replay on sporting events because videotape had not been perfected.

In that era, as for generations before, a book was a treasure trove of information, something to be read carefully and absorbed as much as possible.

Nowadays people are much less impressed by books because there's so many other sources of information, but if you really want to learn about something in depth a good book is the best way to do it other than having an experienced person teach you directly.


***

I was the guest on the Ludology podcast #26 about epic games (tabletop games, not the video game company).  This is the only podcast I listen to, because it's about "the why of games", not about new games and community chit-chat.  I've also converted this to a video that is on my Game Design YouTube channel.

***

My blog is posted, now, in as many as five places, reaching a quite different readership at each place. The blog has existed since 2004 but I "spread out" only in 2011.

The "home" is at: http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/; on Boardgamegeek (and the other geek sites); on boardgame designers forum; on "Fortress: AT" ("Ameritrash").  Some, but not all, of the posts are also on my "expert" blog on Gamasutra, the site for video game professionals.

The sometimes-lively discussions at BGG,  fortress:at, and Gamasutra, where most of the readers are, are usually very different from one another.

Dragon Rage

Dragon Rage is now distributed in the USA exclusively by Iello.  I understand the print run as a whole is practically exhausted. 

There is some possibility that a Kickstarter will be run to help fund a large reprint that is likely to reduce the price.

A very complimentary Dragon Rage video review (in accented English this time) that could be used as a tutorial before people play their first game.  On Youtube.  Also on BGG with comments.

Michael Barnes' review on fortressat.

Boardgamegeek's video about Dragon Rage.

A review of Dragon Rage appeared in a British blog.   Also on BGG

Video review, in German, of Dragon Rage.

A review of Dragon Rage on Opinionated Gamer.   Another review on Opinionated Gamer (scroll down past Rumble in the Dungeon).

Another review, from "Fortress Ameritrash"!  I have to quote this one: "It’s an absolute grab-bag of fun fantasy memes and is certainly the most customisable wargame without miniatures that I’ve ever seen."

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The multi-contributor ETC Press book "Tabletop: Analog Game Design," edited by Greg Costikyan and Drew Davidson, is now available (electronic downloads free). Greg briefly describes it. Downloads here in electronic book and PDF formats.

My piece on "The Three Player Problem" is the first chapter in the book.

Slides and audio recordings of my game design talks at UK Game Expo and Origins are here.


The reissue of Dragon Rage is in print.  The game (published in Belgium) is available in American stores, or direct from GameSalute.  You can order from www.flatlinedgames.com.

The physical components are very impressive (compared with the original microgame), on a par with Britannia.  The hit recording sheets are full-size plasticized cardboard, as opposed to the original notepad.  The board is fully mounted, and has an orc lair on the opposite side, with new scenarios.    You can see from the photo that the pieces are individually cut and have round corners, not like the typical wargame with square-cornered little pieces.

This version includes a second map (of an orc lair area, more or less) and additional scenarios for it, devised by Eric Hanuise.

Dragon Rage pages.

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Welcome to PulsipherGames.com/Pulsipher.net, a web site for supplementary material and playtesting of games designed by Lewis Pulsipher (Britannia, Dragon Rage, Valley of the Four Winds, Diplomacy variants, RPG material, etc.), and for teaching about games. 

I started playing games more than 50 years ago. I started designing games more than 45 years ago. My first published (non-commercial) games appeared in the early 1970s, and my first commercial game over 30 years ago, in 1978 (Diplomacy Games & Variants), followed in 1980 by Swords and Wizardry.

After publication of several commercial games, and after I earned my Ph.D., I took 20 years off from designing games, though I played and made up adventures (which is level design) and refereed lots of Dungeons and Dragons while learning computing, programming, networking, and making a living.  In 2004 I decided to get back into game design rather than write computer textbooks, though my primary profession is college teaching.  I taught my first course in game design in fall 2004, though I did not teach games full time until fall 2007.

I do not run a public Web discussion board on this site, as Boardgamegeek.com serves the purpose very well.  The Eurobrit Yahoo Group is the main location for Britannia discussions.  Fantasy Flight Games also has a discussion board (generally inactive)  at their Britannia site.  Most of my new writing about games is posted on my blog, http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/ or at http://teachgamedesign.blogspot.com/, or on GameCareerGuide.Com.

I am @lewpuls on twitter; I see twitter as of use only for publicity, so I don't post daily.  I do find I tweet than I thought I would.

Dr. P's personal recommendation for those who want to get into the game industry and live in this area (central-eastern North Carolina).

Notice:

Lewis Pulsipher and Pulsiphergames.com do not accept or consider unsolicited submissions, ideas or materials, such as games, game ideas, treatments, books, story ideas, or characters. Any unsolicited materials submitted will be disposed of without review.

Disclaimer: occasionally people send me unsolicited ideas or concepts for games.  Be aware that when you do this you acknowledge that I may use your ideas in any way I wish without legal obligation.  (I'm unlikely to do this, but I may have the same idea already, and I have no desire to be sued by someone who doesn't realize that ideas are not protected by copyright law in any case.)

 Note about video games:

Recently played video games: Gratuitous Space Battles, Angry Birds, and several "social network" games.  I played the latter (all Zynga games) because I was talking with them about the possibility of working as a game designer in Bangalore India.  But the current emphasis in these games is on frustration (to persuade people to spend real money), and that's the opposite of what I want to create.  Further, I suspect Zynga is stuck in the rut they've made, a company so large that they may not be able to risk trying games drastically different from the ones they now support.  I know what kind of social network game I would make, first and foremost to make it truly social, not solitary.

 

More recently I've reconciled myself to using Steam and have bought Civilization V and Skyrim to go along with Portal, but who knows when I'll have time to play them!

I have never designed a published "computer game", largely because I have not known anyone able and willing to do the necessary programming and artwork.   I have never been interested in starving in order to produce a video game.  Nowadays, of course, computer games are the products of teams, not of individuals. Back when one individual could write a game, I was a database programmer, which doesn't help much with computer games, nor do I have a hint of an artist in me.

Why would I want to design electronic games?  I'm better off as is:

1. The "AAA list" electronic games are really designed by committee.  When I design a game, it is almost all MINE.  (The rest is playtesters and publisher.)

2. Video games, until fairly recently, were almost always interactive puzzles, not games.  Games are about people, interactive puzzles are about computers.  I like games, not puzzles.

3. For most of the age of video games, you had to work full time in the industry, yet the pay was poor (per hour worked, that is).  I preferred to help young people as a teacher, get paid at least as well, and have lots of time to design games.

4. The working hours can be bad.  "Crunch time" (unpaid overtime) is common, though designers are not involved in that quite as much as programmers and artists.

5. Fighting with the electronics obscures the purity of design.   You worry about what the computer can do instead of what the players can do.  At worst, you "hide behind the computer".

People become computer game designers after working on computer games for a company in other capacities, especially level designer. Practically no one is hired directly as a computer game designer, though level designers (a subset of game design) may be hired directly from school.  The production costs for "big" off-the-shelf games ($10-100 million) make a person without a track record too much of a risk.

Click here for advice for those who want to get into the game industry.

"Always do right--this will gratify some and astonish the rest." Mark Twain
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."  Antoine de Saint-Exup'ery
"A teacher is never a giver of truth - he is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself. A good teacher is merely a catalyst." (Martial Arts quote)
"We have met the enemy, and he is us."  Pogo (Walt Kelly)                                      "Enjoy the Journey"
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