Draco Magi started life as a abstract strategy game. It was simple, but took concentration to be successful. I thought it was good to go. That is until designer Richard Launius played it with me.
I'll never forget what he said,"Robert, this is a solid game, but it doesn't feel like dragons fighting".
Yep, I knew he was right.
I was guilty of something I tend to dislike in games I play, a pasted-on theme -- and I knew it. It took a wise comment from the master of sprawling thematic games to make sure I didn't just sweep it under the rug. Richard said he had some ideas, so I gave him a prototype to take home. From that day forward Draco Magi would be designed by both of us. Richard always opting for deep thematic play, while I made sure we did not lose hold of the strategic elements that gave birth to the game.
Richard came back rather quickly with a redesigned game that included dice. Our playtesters loved the dice for the ranged attacks, but there was no "wow factor" during the melee attacks, which took longer to resolve. As a designer, I'm not against dice, but the melee did indeed feel too "random". So it was back to the drawing board.
Richard let me know he had been testing a new battle system with cards, and that it would be perfect for Draco Magi. So a short time later he sent me a prototype and a set of rules in the mail. In this version, players drew from a "battle deck". They would draw cards equal to attack values on the dragons they had in the fight.
This worked much better, and our playtest groups liked it a lot more. But after many plays it was clear the melee battles were not quite there yet. The ranged attacks were fast, and the cards worked perfectly, but the melee battle still didn't have that "spark" designers are looking for.
The melee portion of the cards (bottom half) included, "Claw", "Bite", "Magic", Claw X2" and "Flight". The better you placed your dragons, the better your melee advantage. This was good. Once the battle began you would play a card, and your opponent would have to defend with the same type of card, or a Flight. If you could not defend, you would lose a dragon on the battlefield.
It was clear this had fantastic possibilities, but it needed more.
How could we make the melee feel more like fighting? After thinking on this for a couple weeks I came up with two additions that would end up making the combat system something we were really excited about.
1. Deckbuilding - I asked Richard, "What if we had a third deck of slightly more powerful cards that allowed players to build their battle decks?" He loved the idea and broke the single battle deck into identical player decks, one deck for each side. He also took a first stab at the "advanced battle deck" cards. Players draft a couple cards from the advanced battle deck at the beginning of the game, but would have opportunities to earn more through gameplay. This deck was the hardest to balance, with both Richard and I adding, editing and subtracting cards, and testing every change out with our two different playtesting groups. Once we had the balance right, the feedback was passionate excitement. We were on the right track.
But I had another idea I wanted to try, even though I knew it would mean months more of development and testing.
2. Combos - What if instead of playing just one card per turn during melee, a player could play multiple cards? As we started to fool with this, the dynamic changed, and much more strategy and subtly was introduced during the melee phase. We added symbols (Sun, Moon, Star) to the bottom of the battle cards. You could play as many cards on a single turn as you wished as long as they had matching symbols. Your opponent would need to defend against all of them, or lose a dragon for each attack undefended. But there is a bit of risk here, your opponent could defend your combo attack with a single Flight card. This would mean you just burnt more battle cards than your opponent. Not good for you. The subtle deduction part of this mechanic however, is that each player only starts with two Flight cards, with a possibility to gain up to two more from the advanced battle deck. So as your opponent burns Flight cards, the risk involved with playing a combo drops. This makes for a wonderful cat and mouse battle that is highly thematic.
The combos were awesome, but we have since added more cards that make them even better. We think the balance is just about right.
So the battle cards resolve both ranged and melee combat, enable subtle trickery, require deduction, introduce powerful combos, and players can build their battle decks through drafting and gameplay.
It's a keeper.
We think this is better than dice as players can tailor their decks, and use information to dramatically improve their odds in battle. While the excitement of a random element is still there, it gives players real control over their destinies.
I will be attending the wonderful Dice Tower Con from July 3rd to July 7th in Orlando Florida.
This is the second year for the convention and it's put on by the fine folks at the Dice Tower.
I was lucky to be a guest the first year and am honored to be a guest again this year.
I will be running a kids vs. parents Cartoona tournament, a Gnomes: The Great Sweeping of Ammowan event for little gnome-lovers, and I will also be demoing Battle For Souls which should be hitting store shelves in October if production continues to go well.
In addition, I will be play testing Draco Magi, a new game that I am developing with Richard Launius, as well as a party game I'm working on called, "The Offensive Band Name Generator".
If you're going to the con, please stop by and say hello!
I plan to do some relaxing and play a game or two myself. I'm not picky, so I'll be up for playing almost anything when I have free time!
For this quick post I just wanted to share some data with you from my last project, Battle For Souls, which is about to start manufacture VERY soon (whew!).
Namely, where do pledges come from?
Now of course, every project is different and there are MANY variables that impact where your pledges will come from. But hopefully the numbers from my last project can give you a decent starting point:
The first pie chart above shows the breakdown of pledges that include me having to physically ship a game. As you can see 27% of the shipments will be international. The second chart shows what countries make up that 27%.
And if you want some more granularity, the following countries make up the "Other" category in this 27% piece of the pie:
Mexico Romania Uruguay Switzerland Czech Republic Portugal Austria Russia Greece Luxembourg Italy Poland Estonia
When I include pledges that did NOT include a copy of the game, the international percentage jumps to 30%. This is mainly due to having a $10 pledge level for a Print and Play version of the game. This is a cost effective way for international supporters to get your game for a very reasonable price. This was a popular option for my international backers. But remember, you will have costs in laying out the PNP files, unless you're a graphic designer.
So as you can see, Kickstarter truly is a global phenomenon. And I have noticed a significant uptick in the percentage of international backers from project to project. From my limited point of view, it looks like international support for game projects is growing.
You need to keep this in mind when planning your shipping charges. International shipping can be, well, for lack of a better word, ridiculous.
The second chart shows where I need to ship international packages. As you can see, Australia and Canada are the largest chunks of the international pie. It also just so happens, for the size of the final product, shipping to Australia is very expensive ($35.25 USPS First Class) and shipping to Canada is less so ($24.55 First Class).
Now, if your game can fit into a USPS Small Flat Rate Priority box (8-5/8" x 5-3/8" x 1-5/8") you can save money and have a faster delivery. Larger than this and the shipping cost increases dramatically.
I can't say this enough, "you need to make your best estimate on how much shipping will cost you!" (DON'T FORGET TO INCLUDE PACKING MATERIALS AND LABOR) Make sure you do the estimate BEFORE you price your pledge levels.
It's my philosophy that international backers should get the same deal (or close to the same deal) that US backer get with shipping included.
I hope this data can help prevent you from flubbing your shipping costs. It can be an expensive mistake to make.
Cartoona begins shipping next week, Gnomes: The Great Sweeping of Ammowan is available for purchase, and Battle For Souls is currently taking up 90% of our time as we work to get it to print.
So what's next for Robert Burke Games?
Well, we have secured a license for some of the most amazing dragon artwork I have ever seen by the talented Kerem Beyit. Kerem is a world class artist whose clients include Wizards of the Coast, Paizo Publishing, Blizzard, Disney, Sony, Lucasarts, and many more.
We also have a basic outline of gameplay mechanics, and the over-arching theme. The tentative title is "Draco Magi". I'm designing and developing the game with Richard Launius.
The story goes something like this...
Margus, the powerful and benevolent leader of the Draco Magi has passed into the next world after an extended illness, and the land is now gripped with uncertainty. As the laws of the Draco Magi dictate, only one of his four remaining apprentices can rise to the position of "Dragon King".
Upon Margus' death, the wizard-lock on the succession strongbox of each apprentice completely dissipates in three days time. Inside these boxes each apprentice will find the last piece of knowledge required to become the Dragon King. But only one can claim the title. The rest will remain apprentices. For these Magi, the unofficial title whispered under the breath of the people is "Novitius Eterna" or "Forever a Novice".
Inside each box is a scroll, and each scroll holds a different "Spell of Succession" that may only be executed with the correct combination of five rare gems. These magically imbued gems only appear in sets of three during times of succession and must be collected by dragons at the command of each apprentice. The apprentice that is first to collect the gems needed to complete their Spell of Succession becomes Dragon King.
On each new day, five dragons arrive at the tower of each apprentice waiting for their commands. The first dragon to be commanded by each apprentice must fly low, in plain sight of all. But once this scout dragon locates the three gems, each of the remaining dragons may fly above the clouds, only to reveal themselves at the last moment.
There are 10 types of dragon that may appear at your tower each day:
Four Chromatic Dragons:
Four Metallic Dragons:
Two Special Dragons:
Each type of dragon can defeat one of the other types, but also can be defeated by their specific opposing dragon. Pairs are more powerful, and no more that two dragons may be sent by any single apprentice for any one gem. Battle dragons and Polar dragons are rare and have unique powers that can be helpful if deployed correctly.
Each apprentice may keep the gems they need for succession a secret, or reveal them to the other apprentices to gain a unique and helpful power.
The third game in the Robert Burke Games collection, Battle For Souls, has broken through it's third stretch goal on Kickstarter and is picking up momentum in the last 35 hours of the campaign.
The first stretch goal was reached at $28k and will upgrade the box to extra thick cardboard and a linen finish.
The second stretch goal reached at $30k added two promo cards.
The third stretch goal reached at $31.5k added an additional two promo cards.
The project is now closing in on its fourth stretch goal, which will upgrade all the cards in the game to super high quality blackcore stock and a linen finish.
If the project can reach $40k an expansion will be added for all Kickstarter backers.
Battle For Souls is an epic medieval card and dice game for 1 to 4 people ages 13 and up. The game allows players to choose the side of heaven or hell in a fight over the immortal souls of humankind.
The side of darkness can coax souls to hell by playing Temptation, Sin, Devil and Unholy Relic cards, while the side of light can help souls to heaven by playing Virtue, Intercession, Archangel and Holy Relic cards. Souls are worth victory points and when the last soul is reaped, the player with the most victory points wins.
Battle For Souls features an 8-step turn order, and a unique hand reward system that allows players to influence the moral decisions of man.