2 Jul 2015
June 2015 - Blind Tigers, Phase II
tabletopcardsnonviolentspeakeasyprohibitiondesignlayoutanalog

This month's project is fairly straightforward, and comes in two parts. I'm revisiting my game from earlier this year, Blind Tigers, and the first project was further playtesting and refinement of the rules, correcting some issues that showed up in the earlier playtests and clarifying the rules where necessary. Simple enough.

The second part is exactly what you're not supposed to do with a game at this stage - making it pretty. Pretty much anyone who designs games will tell you that until you're well into playtesting and sure that your game should have minimal changes if any in the future, you shouldn't be worrying about design, layout, art, etc., and I'm sure they're right. That said, the whole point of this 1GAM thing is to try new things, so surely it couldn't hurt to spend one month's project time working on creating a more pleasing design and layout for my cards, getting familiar with that process, with the possibility of getting a copy professionally printed just for the experience.

So that, in a nutshell, is Phase II of Blind Tigers

Testing

Not too much to say here, really. Play it. Play it again. Play it some more. Play it a different way. Play it wrong. Try to break it. Look for good strategies. Intentionally use bad strategies. Try to use up all the cards. Try not to use any cards. Play to lose. Ignore a rule and see how that changes things. Go to bed at night playing the game in your head.

You know... playtesting.

Design and Layout

Let's get this part out of the way first - Scribus is a good tool for desktop publishing. I use it often for things like this, it does many things well, and I recommend it if you're looking for some desktop publishing software but can't afford one of the big names. The caveat is, there's a big, big gap between what most free tools can do and what proper, professional DTP software can do, and Scribus right now is still very much in the middle of that range.

I'm far from an expert in these things, but there are some basic features that non-DTP programs are terrible at supporting which Scribus mercifully is good about, like proper support for paragraph/character styles, color profile management, precise control of sizing/positioning, and robust options for margins/gutters/bleeds. That said, Scribus is still young software with some quirks, ranging from the inconvenient (no bottom-align for text blocks makes card layout challenging) to the puzzling (select multiple objects and try to apply a change - some commands will affect only one target, some will affect them all) to the potentially damaging (on my fairly powerful machine, a document with many images regularly causes a 5-15 second freeze and occasionally a crash). Scribus gets a qualified thumbs up for now in the hopes that it will keep improving.

So, I decided to stick with a fairly simple layout, but improve it with some proper textured card backs featuring the logo and deck type indicators in an appropriately art-deco font. Since I have no particular art skills, I stuck with the existing icons, mostly from game-icons.net with a few originals and modifications of my own.

For the card backgrounds, I spent many, many hours searching Wikimedia Commons for period-appropriate public domain photographs, which I then washed out to create watermarks for the background of the cards. Many are specific to one card (Talent), or one type of card (Honest Cop), while others are cycled through for a whole class of card (i.e. Customers). Hopefully it's fairly evocative while still being clear and easy to read at a glance, particularly for the icons since quickly totalling the icons in each stack is one of the core actions involved in play.

Still a work in progress, but it definitely looks more like a real game than it did when I got started with my barebones prototype layouts from Phase I.

Going Forward

The next step would be to print out the new version of the cards and instructions, repeat the playtesting process, and see if the new layouts and design cause any problems or add anything in particular. There are some potential add-ons to some of the cards if the game gets stale too quickly, which I may explore if it looks like they'd add enough enjoyment to justify the increased complexity.

If I decide to move into Phase III, I think that would be an investigation into designing packaging and promotional materials and then looking at getting at least one copy of the game produced by someone like The Game Crafter or DriveThruCards.