Friday, July 25, 2014


This blog is really two blogs in one.  It's my personal blog about game design, and as such will cover a wide range of topics -- everything from my personal musings on fragments of game ideas to practical experiences with publishing to reviews of existing games.  It's also the Your Move Games blog, so I'll be writing about issues that are relevant to that business or our products and I'll invite people who have designed games or products for us to blog here about their own creative experience as well as what motivated them to design in the first place.

Your Move Games has changed a lot over the years.  It started as a collaboration between Robert Dougherty and me, with two full-time staff (designer/developer Darwin Kastle and graphic designer Kaile Dutton) and some ambitious plans.  We did a lot of what we wanted to do creatively, but the old joke applies -- it's easy to make a small fortune in game publishing; just start with a large fortune.  Battleground and Hill 218 have been lasting successful products but weren't enough to sustain a full-time business.

Robert went his own way and has published a trading card game (Epic) and recently completed a successful Kickstarter for Star Realms, raising over fifty thousand dollars (2.5x his goal) for this standalone deckbuilding game.  I stayed at the helm of YMG and have been overseeing its transition from a conventional company to one whose engine is our player community.

A lot of companies say their customers are the heart of the company but with us they're also the legs and arms -- and, arguably, the brains.  Your Move Games is about to launch three new Battleground factions -- Wuxing for the fantasy world and Alexander vs. Persia for historical players.  Each of them, like the Dark Elves (our last release) was designed, developed and tested by individual players with me playing a grandfather role.

This hasn't always been easy but it's only been possible at all because of the great community of gamers that came together around, in particular, Battleground.  They started sharing thoughts and ideas at a Yahoo group created by a fan and then migrated over to our company forums when those opened up.  There, they have shared session reports, discussed scenarios and, inevitably, began proposing ideas for new factions.

Battleground has a powerful tool at its foundation -- a spreadsheet that generates the point value for a unit based on its stats and a host of special abilities.  This means that once you've thought of a unit and described it in terms of stats, special abilities, hit points, etc., you can get its cost very quickly.  I decided to share this formula with a number of core players so they could put together complete factions and the results were great.  Factions from Gnomes of the Jade Forest to Kobolds to a futuristic modern warfare-style set have been generated and discussed.  Wuxing was the first of these factions to move into production, but it won't be the last.

We're also excited to publish Battle for Sector 219, a sequel to Darwin Kastle's excellent Battle for Hill 218.  Darwin first invented 218 almost ten years ago and in addition to selling out two print runs it's become its own iOS application and has sold thousands of copies.  It took a long time for him to find a sequel that created that same sense of having to play just one more game (over and over again) but he finally found it.  (We'll have more details on that later.)

Our players aren't just designing games.  They're organizing tournaments (such as the annual championship sponsored and put together by Kevin Block-Schwenk), helping reinvent our website

What else is in store for YMG?  I may be spending most of my time on bringing a whole different type of gaming to Boston, but I'm still working on some game designs of my own.  I'm particularly excited about Space Flick, a dexterity-based game of spaceship combat and adventure.  I'm also almost obsessed with ideas coming from a mechanic invented by Andrew Gross called the JADE system.  I'll be blogging more about that in days to come but for now I'll just say that I think it's one of the best mechanics I've ever seen and that years from now it will be a staple in two-player (and possibly multi-player) games.

One thing is certain.  With our love of games and the fantastic players supporting us, we're going to be here for a long time to come...and we're going to have a lot of fun.