A GOOD Keyforge Multiplayer variant

I’m pretty into Keyforge right now. A short intro: Keyforge is a cool game by the creator of Magic The Gathering, Richard Garfield, published by Richard Garfield. It’s a dueling card game somewhat like Magic, with the twist of decks being procedurally generated and completely unique in themselves.

It was made as a two player game, but I discovered a variant on Reddit that made a really compelling multiplayer game. I wanted a way to share it easily, so here it is!

Key rules:

  • Default hand size is 5 cards. You’ll see why later.
  • Players select an opponent before starting their turn (including before selecting house or forging keys)
  • Whenever you are selected as an opponent, draw a card.

Additional tweaks:

  • Captured amber always goes to “current opponent” when the creature is removed. This enables looting and amber bouncing around is really fun and interactive, and creates interesting decisions.
  • Effects that affect the opponent are divided into two kinds, active effects are ones that you play. For example, playing Foggify means your current opponent can’t attack in their next turn, and activating Lash of Broken Dreams means your current opponent’s keys cost +3 on their next turn.
  • Passive effects that sit on your table affect whichever player picks you as their opponent. For example, Titan Mechanic will grant whoever picks you as opponent -1 key cost if they pick you as opponent.
  • Global effects like Gateway to Dis will only affect you and your current opponent.
  • Key cost is tweaked by number of players to make the game length reasonable. 3-4 players keys cost 5, 5+ cost 4. I guess I wouldn’t recommend more than 6 players. This does change the strengths of some cards that count amber, so if you really want, you can tweak those numbers by the same amount. But that’s getting too much into the weeds.

Good Game Design!

I really like the design of this variant, some key reasons:

Choosing an opponent each turn limits the scope of weirdness that can happen. Wipes not clearing everyone’s board, for example, prevents the game from entirely sinking into restart-every-turn which can really suck when you’re waiting for multiple players to take their turns.

Additionally, having a chosen opponent creates a funnel of decision making rather than making every decision across the entire board and optimising so much that it feels like cheating. If two players both have captured amber, for example, having to choose which player to pick as the turn’s target at rather than just grabbing them all in one go, makes for a much more interesting decision to be made.

And having the chosen opponent bulking their hand means that even out of turn, players remain engaged and interested in what’s going on. Also it gives someone picked on a possibility to come back in a big way.

This is possibly my preferred way of playing Keyforge now, it breathes so much new life into the game, and changes it from a softcore dueling game to an interesting group game similar to “traditional” boardgames. Has an almost Blood Rage feel to it.

Hope you enjoy it! And if you have any inputs to the variant rules, please shout! 🙂

A game I designed was just released: #DiskiSkills

I completely realise that the headline is a bit unwieldy.

I didn’t release the game, it is not my game.

I didn’t make the whole game, I did the game design (only). It actually feels completely weird to not have anything to do with how a thing I contributed to looks, since I’m so used to playing the art and/or design role.

Simphiwe Xulu, in collaboration with the Johannesburg Goethe Institute, was making a card game that was themed around the local South African one-on-one “Freestyling” soccer culture (also called “Diski”), and also have an app component of showing videos  of how Diski moves looked through AR.

They were having trouble with the game design (their first iterations were basically a version of Top Trumps, remember that from your playground days?), and so they consulted with me to improve on the game design, while keeping the same elements. We went through a process of interrogating what Diski was all about, and ended up with the current game design for #DiskilSkills, where two players take turns attacking with various Diski moves, and where skills were equal, the player with more swag (“style” in the local vernacular) would win the point. “thematic af” was the goal of the design, and I daresay we did pretty well with it.

The game was launched on Oct 27 at the Goethe Institute at an event with actual Freestylers and kids showing off their real #DiskiSkills. I got to watch people play the game without me having to give any input – watching people read your rules and play the game without your help is a really awesome feeling! Further, watching people laughing as they kick each other’s ass, learning to get better at it, was fantastic.

#DiskiSkills game rules
Game rules

Thanks to the Goethe Institute Johannesburg, Simphiwe (Mr Media X) and everyone involved in bringing this to life!

Designing for #EnterAfrica: a pan-African boardgame collaboration spanning 15 countries.

The Goethe Institute has been doing a mega project called EnterAfrica, which has two parts: Part one involves each of the 15 African countries involved creating location-based mobile games in their 15 cities that tell a story about the past and future of their city, and part two is the creation of a mega analogue game (tabletop game) by a collaboration of all 15 countries.

I was fortunate to have experience both in graphic design and tabletop games design, and I was involved in part one of EnterAfrica, and so was serendipitously brought in to help bring this ambitious game design project to life.

It was a tall order: the goal was to synthesise the voices, experiences and cultures of 15 diverse countries to create a united vision and expression as one game. The project was led by Christoph Deeg, a German gamification and digital/analogue strategy specialist, and various members of the Addis Ababa Goethe Institute. We had a one week workshop in Addis Ababa to get to know each other and home in on a game design which will then be crafted and designed further.

And what a week it was! We worked hard, exchanging and talking about everything from the principles of game design to cultural ideas and ideals, to individual and group experiences. I knocked out prototypes in record time and wrote and re-wrote rules. We learned from one another, laughed with one another, and had our eyes on the ball – the culmination of a single game that will represent both the diversity and the unity of the participating group of African countries.

I’m super grateful to the Goethe Institute for such an amazing, ambitious and expansive initiative, not only is the vision for such inclusivity astounding, the sensitivity with which the whole project was handled was inspiring and something I’ve learned a ton from <3

The week-long workshop is over, and we have a game design that’s all about trading resources in order to achieve one’s nation’s goals. The game is far from done yet, but we have the core values and rules that will take it to the finishing line. The game is planned to show in 2019 at A MAZE Berlin and Gamescom, so if you’re gonna be there, look out for the game. And with some luck, maybe I’ll see you there?

Catch-up in the NYE: 2017

It’s January 2018, and I haven’t updated here in over a year.

So let me do a quick catchup of the highlights of some stuff I’ve gotten up to in the last year or so:

4 Boardgames Successfully Kickstarted

Working with the experienced game designer Corné Van Moorsel of Cwali Games in the Netherlands, we have put out four successfully funded Kickstarters.


A Few Rad Game Jams

There’s always the annual Global Game Jam, and the thrice a year Ludum Dares, and I always do them if I possibly can. Jamming often has taught me a bunch of stuff, and of course given me a couple cool prototypes:

Orbito was made for Ludum Dare 40, and I’m working to release this as it was quite well received and it’s also a tiny scope that I can manage by myself.

Battery//Assault was a fun experiment for Ludum Dare 39 from which I learned oodles about animation by physics. It was also well-received, maybe one day I’ll take it to fruition.

Gamejams of note other than Ludum Dares included 2017’s annual Global Game Jam in which I made a skiprope physics sportsball game Wibble:

And I also had a great jam as a part of the Goethe Institute of Johannesburg‘s Game Mixer event, where cool people from all over the world came to Joburg as an exchange of knowledge and experience. I made a pretty little gardening, sun and shadow prototype we called Pumyjeka with Jeff Rusch from Cape Town.

Inktober 2017

I managed to stick to discipline and did the full month of Inktober with one drawing a day! 🙂 You can see them all on my instagram, starting from this guy here:

This guy was my favourite of the lot:

Coming in 2018!

As a summary, this has already gone too long. There are several projects going on right now that should fruit in 2018. I’m really looking forward to those. Enough typing into WordPress. Onwards to more stuff-making!

10 Things About VR – A VR Primer [A MAZE 2016 talk]

I did this talk at the 2016 A MAZE International Game and Playful Media Festival in Johannesburg, as a primer for people getting into VR, because I just got into VR, and I got into VR HARD. Absolutely in love with it. (And yes, this is about 2 months late, sorry!)

Download 10 Things About VR slides in pdf

Unfortunately it wasn’t recorded, but here is a very quick and dirty companion to the slides to explain some stuff that won’t be apparent from looking at them:

  1. Origin Story:
    I got into VR because of the Vive. Nothing else was nearly as good. I spent a few weeks jamming games on Free Lives’ Vive, and made three quick prototypes (one I haven’t put online yet) within my limited time with it.
  2. Things I wish I knew about Vive + VR:
    It’s easier than I thought it would be, it has no Mac support, direct sunlight wrecks the sensors.
  3. Simulation sickness:
    Look up the poison berries theory, try not to get people sick.
  4. Depth:
    Such an important dimension that humans already know but had to unlearn in 2D interfaces. Now we can intuitively access it again!
  5. Presence:
    Different ways of convincing human minds of plausibility of the simulation.
  6. Social VR:
    VR is not anti-social.
  7. Ultimate Display:
    VR is one more step along the continuum of technologies that close the gap between one’s private mind and one’s shared reality.
  8. Storytelling:
    VR brings people back to a less singular vision of stories due to the popularisation of books and film and other single-point-of-view medium
  9. Audio:
    Audio is key to immersion, much more than visual. Remember that!
  10. VR is important because:
    See the slides! It’s bigger than any single person!