Thursday, May 31, 2012

UK Games Expo - conclusions

Last Sunday was the second (and last) day of the UK Games Expo, an event that I will remember for a long time. It is for sure much less crowded than Essen, but it compensated through people's passion and experience in gaming. 


Glad to have a copy of Warriors & Traders

Warriors & Traders continued stealing the spotlight, we had two sessions with fairly inexperienced gamers and one with people who already knew the game and, to my surprise, they managed to finish the game much faster that it's written on the box.


Sunday session one - concentrated

Sunday session one - view from the top

Wild Fun West had its share of attention on Sunday, with the demo games, both finalized and good feedback. People were asking us what is the plan with this game, do we plan to crowd fund it through Kickstarter or a similar website? The truth is that we haven't yet made our final decision, but were getting much closer now, after seeing the interest of English gamers for this game.


I finally got to explain a game and people seemed to enjoy it

5 minutes later, same smiles, no more explanations. It's that easy to learn!


Playing games, presenting them and talking to people all day long weren't the only things we've done. We have also made new friends or had a chance to catch up with old ones. We got a few visit from those who spotted us at Spiel '11 Essen (where we launched Warriors & Traders) and we talked to some of the VIPs from the community of reviewers.


I got to talk again to Paco and Mark from G*M*S Magazine, a nice face-to-face meeting after having spoken only through Skype, we also met Mr Michael Fox - who said that calling him "Mr" made him sound so important :) - from the Little Metal Dog and I got to see a bit from their first release, called Ace of Spies. Their game is interesting, easy to learn, it was just the limited time and other people at their table that stopped me from playing it.


After a brief discussion online, I also met and had a nice chat with Paul and Quinns from Shut Up & Sit Down. They had just enough time to have a quick demo of Warriors & Traders with Vlad, then I took over and showed them Exodus: Proxima Centauri and Wild Fun West. They are definitely going up on my must watch reviews list.


Last but not least, I had a chance to speak to Sam and his gang from the Purple Pawn. It has been a while since I am reading their website, with a lot of cool info from all over the board games map and now I met them in person. 


For the rest, we met all kinds of star troopers, clones, Jedi knights, some friendly, some willing to shoot anyone crossing their path. Around 4:30, half an hour after closing time, we started packing our things while the last group was still playing Warriors & Traders.


Shooting...

Right after closing time, Warriors & Traders was still going

NSKN Legendary Games - 3 out of 4

Packing after a great weekend

After a long drive through England and France and another 2-hour ferry drive, we finally got back to Brussels, right after sun rise, very tired, but ready to get back to work... a few days later.
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Saturday, May 26, 2012

UK Games Expo - day 1

I lost my voice! Not so much due to the cold water, but because there were just too many interesting people I could talk to.

A picture of someone taking a picture of a group playing Warriors & Traders


The morning started with a quick demo of Warriors & Traders, followed by a slightly longer one and quite impressive, group that finished a 4-player game in less than 90 minutes. We also got to demo Exodus: Proxima Centauri and introduce a few families to Wild Fun West.


Warriors & Traders at the first table
Exodus at the second table
Speaking just for myself, I had an amazing time making a short video with Paco from GMS Magazine, I enjoyed explaning our new games to people who got everything in a split of second and I met so many nice and interesting people that I even forgot how tired I was. I even got to say "this technology is so bitching cool" or to ask people "so, do you know how the romulans were cloaking their ships in Star Trek?"

I was just asking the Star Trek question
Some people got scared :)
It was a busy day and only in the end we also had a chance to look around a spot a few games for ourselves. Tomorrow we are hoping for the same amazing weather which will bring in more people who want to see the latest in the gaming world.

Some things that drew our attention

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UK Games Expo - day 0

After an early morning trip from Brussels to Calais and a 2-hour ferry joyride with lots of sun and warm wind, we arrived in England. 

Four more hours later - driving on the "wrong"side is difficult - we arrived in Birmingham, a lovely town which will be the world capital of gaming for the next two days. Our very friendly hosts from the UK Games Expo showed us around and helped us get settled.



We setup the stand, preparing the gaming tables, the games and finally looking for new game to play and buy.

Tomorrow  - big day - playing Warriors & Traders and introducing Wild Fun West and Exodus: Proxima Centauri to gamers for the very first time!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The story of Wild Fun West

No matter what others are saying, I believe that behind each game invention there is some personal reason, why that particular way was chosen as a solution to solve mechanics problems, theme etc. The main idea behind Wild Fun West was back stabbing! Well, this is not a personal input for this game, but... just hang on for a while to this thought.  In the circle of events, you are influenced by one person and in that second by all means you feel that there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it. Frustrating, isn't it? But what if I tell you that there is a way? 

IDEA

One day Vlad said he want to have a game in which he will back-stab you and you will not be able to retaliate! Well, I believe that Vlad meant this for gaming purposes only and soon we witnessed how from idea we went all the way to the game. The first version of Wild Fun West (at that time it was called The City We Built) was just a handmade prototype with Vlad's MS Paint drawings nicely colored by me and my pencils.


Building Card (v0.5)
Profession Card (v0.5)

MASHED POTATOES

After we prepared the first deck of cards, we discovered that the game is pretty flat. You bid for the cards out in open or secretly... but the cards were missing something. The first deck contained more than 100 Objective cards, and 50 Professions and way too many Buildings. The game did not work the way we wanted it to. There was no incentive in the game to bid for anything, the only way to win was to really badly hurt a player on your left, as his income depended on your cards. The only way to influence your income, hence the amount of money you could bid, was to influence a chain of all players, in a circle - to the left, to the left, and the next person on the left, etc. You had to use your negotiation skills and any other skill you may find useful to get through X number of players, until the final one, who is sitting on your right. There was of course much more to it, for example if you did not like influencing and/or manipulating people, you could always try to make a deal with your the guy on your right by helping him in building a Building of his choice. Ha! And here was the trick, as we had an amount of objectives easily covering a 20-player game, there was a thin chance that you would have the same objective as the player on your right. Then why would you even consider helping your opponent winning the game? 

Objective Card (v0.5)
Just in case, not many of you know why you need Buildings and why they are written on the Objective cards, a few words of explanation is needed. To win Wild Fun West you have to build in the town 4 out of 6 objectives which are listed on the Objective Card. The objective cards from the first version wary from the one you will find in the final box. But I will talk about that changes a little bit later.

Keeping this thought in mind, we had to come up with another option to 'influence' the other players,making it easier to influence players who were not sitting on your left. I call the version 0.5 of the Wild Fun West "MASHED POTATOES" as it was kind of a mess. Of course we play-tested it anyway, and even worse things happened. One of the players had been left empty handed. He was simply excluded from the game because of lack of any income. This was the moment when we were seriously considering abandoning the idea of the back stabbing game of Wild West. I will be honest with you, after several months of scratching our brains with hope it will increase our imagination and creativity, we found ourselves in the same point. As many people, as many ideas, unfortunately none of them was successful at that moment.

ALMOST "THERE"

Brain storming was the only hope. There is a saying that "two heads are better than one". Can you imagine how much better eight heads are? The result of the brain storming was incredible! We came up with lots of minor changes and on major one. This is the moment when we decided to implement the synergies between cards. Thanks to all the players around the globe who played-tested the game, we gather an amazing feedback on which we based our changes to Wild Fun West.

We were hoping that version 0.6 (I have to mention here that our V0.5 got to V0.5.11) of Wild Fun West will be the final one. O! We were so naive! Let me tell you what were the major changes we've implemented in V0.6.

First, we changed the name from The City We Built to Wild Wild West. Of course we were so focused and excited on the theme that we forgot about possible financial and legal consequences, after all we were using this famous (or infamous) movie title. The Board Game Geek community made us understand and convinced us to re-think our choice for the name. Of course, the decision came really fast, we went for Wild Fun West, as we wanted to keep an Old American West theme and emphasize even more what type of the game players will have on their gaming table.

Building Card (v0.6/0.7)
The second change was pretty difficult to implement. We had to find a different, balanced way of mixing the objectives on the Objective Cards. One thing was sure, we had to have common objectives between players. Well, in Wild Fun West V0.6 we decreased the number of Objective Cards, what made us also to taking out some of the Buildings Cards. We also changed the victory conditions, a player had to build 3 out of 5 buildings from his objectives to win. Now we know that our way of thinking was correct, however we missed one thing, which is the different number of players.

The third change was made after we played a few times in three. We all agreed that the Wild Fun West is not so fun anymore in less than 4 players. To keep the replay-ability and the 'happiness' coefficient high we increased the number of players, from a minimum of 4 to maximum of 8. I would love to make this game for even more than 8 players. I am the one who believes in crowds - the more, the merrier!

The fourth and one of the biggest changes was taking out the minimum cost of buildings. This small but  highly influential change really sped up the game and opened a new door for bluffing and bidding even more.


Profession Card (v0.7)
Profession Card (v0.7)
Let's not forget about implementing synergies between cards. From now, all the Profession cards had  special abilities. We can count  forbidding other Professions from being in the play, doubling their bid on a specific Building or getting additional income from other Buildings or Professions.

SPRING

I will jump now a little bit in the future, by leaving version 0.7 without discussing it. What would you say if I told you that now, in the version 0.8 of Wild Fun West we added one more thing. For the sake of the conversation let's assume that the version 0.7 was just a re-painted version 0.6. Now, in the latest Wild Fun West, we added Character Cards. You can choose who you want to play, from a wide range of characters like Buffalo Bill, Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickok or Belle Star. There are 12 Character Cards in Wild Fun West. Each of them will provide players with his/her default income per turn.


You're probably wondering why did we choose an American Old West theme. Let me tell you why I cannot think of any other theme for this game. When I was 8 years old, every Sunday there was a Western movie on TV. In those times, when there were only two TV channels in Poland, watching a good movie was a real challenge. Especially when you are just 8, you're parents will make sure you do not watch any violence or blood on TV. Western movies were the only exception. My sister and I were waiting all week for Sunday to come and watch Western movies. At that time, my sister and I were calling Sundays - Bonanza. So, every Bonanza we were rushing with our dinner and bath, just to be ready to watch Rio Bravo with John Wayne, Star in the Dust with Clint Eastwood and many more. Amazing memories! I think you can see how much I am in love with the Old American West. Now I can put this childish flashes of memory into beautiful card game design and hope that whoever will play it will start gathering their own wonderful memories.

Here it comes!

And now I will share with you the logo design for Wild Fun West. This is just the draft, but it will give you an idea how the final game logo will looks like. I would love to hear your opinions, what do you think and like about it. Leave a comment and be part of the creation of Wild Fun West. The fun starts right here, right now! :)


Wild Fun West logo (draft)

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Monday, May 21, 2012

1 year of madness

More and more people are asking me lately how did I start making board games and why. Most of them end up saying the same few words in the end, "dude, you're crazy..."


So, why did I give up a well paid job to start an adventure, against all advice from friends and family? You see, I've been asking myself the same question over and over again, almost every time something unexpected happens, every time things get so hard that all I want to do is quit and start over, just do anything but my own business. And yet, here I am, I keep designing games, writing, complaining of how unfair the world is and then thanking the world for being the way it is.

Like any other business, designing and publishing board games is a difficult start-up. Not because of the board game "detail", but because it is a start-up. It is not my first attempt to put together a business, but it is my first adult one. Every time I want to give up and admit defeat, I tell myself that any start-up need at least 3 years to start being a business and cease being just a game. Until then, it is a game, but one with very high stakes, one of them being my future and the future of those around me.

If I learned anything in life, it is not to quit in the middle. There is always the possibility of going beyond the line of no return, a threshold below which it does not make sense anymore to continue, but that is not the case. The day to day stress, the amount of work and the overall degree of risk in the gaming industry are the things to factor in when I ask myself "what I am doing here?"

It has been roughly 1 year since NSKN is "alive" and somewhere along the way I expected things to get easier. Somehow, they didn't. After putting first game on the market, I expected that the learning curve will flatten and with organizing the company and better distributing tasks and responsibilities, everything will be simpler and less stressful. Obviously, I was wrong! The learning probably will never end, but for now it is still exponential.

I take pride in not repeating the same mistakes - this does not always apply in the day-to-day life, but it does when it come to business. Nevertheless, I seem to be able to always find new mistakes, new traps I fall into, new things to struggle with. Like in any other industry, experience is the key and enthusiasm can only take one so far... the rest is the know-how which we are slowly accumulating.

It is still hard, sometimes harder than in the beginning because now we know what awaits us. Yes, I was crazy to give up a career to start making board games, but I do not regret it for a second! I gave up being safe financially and I gained the satisfaction of doing something I love and I can take pride for.
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Italy map

Just two pictures with the real thing.
This is the map of the Warriors & Traders: Italia expansion!
1. the map
2. the same map, folded 




And now, Ladies and Gentlemen...
a quality check done by the NSKN Legendary Games Agni, Andrei and Florin. The property of Vlad was used in the upcoming pictures, we do not intend to do this amazing quality check on more Warriors & Traders: Italia expansions than this one. 

Do not try it at home. If you will do it anyway, use "Silk" settings on you iron. Nobody and nothing posing for the pictures below has been destroyed, damaged or hurt. And now please: SMILE! 



NSKN approved! 

What are you doing with you board games? We would love to hear your stories. Hmm... Really? No, it cannot be so bad - share with us! :)
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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Alexis Tsipras and the price of board games

I don't know about you, but I try to follow the world politics. Not because I like it, but because it influences my day-to-day life in ways sometimes very hard to predict. I usually try to avoid discussing it, but today I found a very interesting connection between Alexis Tsipras, the leader of a Greek party and the price of board games in Europe.

A few weeks ago, there were general elections in Greece. The purpose was to have a new stable government to guide Greece out of its debt crisis and implement the agreement with the IMF and European Union. The outcome was quite unexpected, the previously small party SYRIZA won the second place in the elections with more than 16%. By now, you must be wondering how will I get to board games... just bear with me a little longer.

After the election, since no party had majority in Greece, the leaders of the most representative parties received a mandate from the president to form a coalition government. The first attempt was an epic failure. So were the second one and the third one. Now, Greece went down the path of a new round of elections. The main 'contributor' to this situation is Alexis Tsipras, the leader of SYRIZA, a radical left-wing party, previously not influential at all, who believes that a new round of elections will bring his party even more votes, making him the great winner. So, Mr Tsipras refused the talks to form a coalition with either right-hand or left-hand parties. Yesterday, the final attempt to form a government failed and a now round of elections is certain.

This whole series of events threw the stock markets off track and created panic among politicians, investors, or bankers, causing the euro to fall against the US dollar. Still no connection with board games? A bit more patience, please.

Maybe the Europeans are not aware of this, but outside Europe, pretty much everywhere else in the world, the currency for international business is the US dollar. Now, most of you know or assume that board games, like any other product that requires a manufacture process without state of the art technology, are produces mainly in China. Of course, there are a few European companies in this industry, but the largest quantities are made in China. The prices for manufacturing and shipping these games are all denominated in dollars. With the new wave of panic and the euro dropping almost every day with half a cent against the dollar, the overall price in euro to manufacture and transport a game from China to Europe has increased with 3.5% only in the past 5 days, not counting today. So, if the trend continues, it is possible that the retail price for the board games produces after these events in Greece will increase on the European market.

I am not passionate about politics and I am not trying to blame Mr Tsipras for all that is happening in the world today, I just wanted to point out that one man's will has the potential to affect all our lives in ways that we can expect the least.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Sold out!


I started developing this expansion after the special request from Stefano, my friends from La Tana dei Goblin. I must confess now that I had my doubts that this will sell very well, considering the constraints NSKN had for producing a very limited number of copies. We had to make a few compromises to reach the target price, we used all of our negotiation skills and, at the end of the day, it was worth all the effort.

Yesterday evening we had to turn down someone who requested a creation of ours for the first time in the history of NSKN. I must say that it made me feel proud and it also made me consider seriously to make another expansion for Spiel '12 Essen.

I won't brag anymore about this... or maybe just a little bit. I will say this much, even though we made very few copies of this Warriors & Traders expansion, its success shows me that Warriors & Traders is building a fan base and it is our duty to serve them well. This means more expansions!

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

The NSKN Boardgames Magazine



Yes, we made it and it's pretty awesome. If you don't believe me, check it out here.




How did we come up with this? Well, I had Scoop.it bookmarked in my "to check how it works list" for a couple of months now. And I also had an ideea that I did not know how to implement. And at some point, these two things met in what I called "academic hipster" which is a page about tools, tips and tricks for young academics writing their thesis (yeah, I am one of those dudes). After this, the ideea of building a NSKN Magazine on Scoop.it came natural.


I love boardgames and Warriors & Traders has been since the begining my beloved nephew (given that Ag&An are it's parents :P ). And you know how aunties are, always braging around about how smart and cute their nephew is :) Therefore, our scoop.it page will be my new playground. Enjoy it and feel free to come up with suggestions.


Auntie Al.
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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

UK Games Expo

There are less than three weeks left before the UK Games Expo in Birmingham and the whole NSKN team is focused on preparations. We are trying to bring together the not-so-old Warriors & Traders with our new games Exodus: Proxima Centauri and Wild Wild West.

For Warriors & Traders there are no big surprises, or...are there? We are bringing to show and to give away a piece of the last prototype, the one used for the last test before production. I am talking about the map of the game from version 0.15. We will announce a contest and the winner will go home with the signed copy of this unique piece.

For Wild Wild West, we are still hoping we will be able to bring the at least some of the cads with the final graphics, but for sure the expo visitors will have a chance to see the final prototype at work.

We've been also working on Exodus. After the extensive tests from Romania and Poland, we made quite some modifications. One of them is the hexes composing the map, the latest version in in the picture below. We are also refining the interactions between players and we are improving the ergonomics of the game. Everything is on track for our first official demo of Exodus: Proxima Centauri, at the UK Games Expo.


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Friday, May 4, 2012

The expansion in pictures

Ladies and Gentlemen,


As I promised just a few days ago, we are now presenting the first images with the expansion for Warriors & Traders. There are the new info cards in Italian, the new country cards and most of all, the new Map!

I will let the images speak for themselves...


The map of Italy

Genova country card

Rome country card

Siciliy country card

Venice country card

Turn structure info card

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

An expansion for Warriors & Traders

You have been asking for a long time if we were planning an expansion for Warriors & Traders. Today we can finally give a positive answer!

Warriors & Traders has a quite powerful and vocal community of fans in Italy and they were asking for an expansion built especially for them. Since we are starting to build a tradition, going for La Tana Dei Goblin conventions every time there is one, they also got our special attention. This year we will attend LAGNA - best described as a large gathering of people who are friends and play board games together - where we will bring a gift, an expansion designed especially for Italy.

This expansion will contain player aids in Italian, a map of Italy on which Venice, Rome, Sicily or Naples will fight for supremacy and the updated rules translated by Stefano Carluccio.

As soon as the final design will be ready, we will come back with more details and pictures.

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