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The Story Behind …… Tumbling Towers

September 21, 2014 1 comment

Miss B shows off her creation, along with its custom storage box.

Miss B shows off her creation, along with its custom storage box.


Posted by Miss B…

I made this game at after school club as there was a junk modelling table, so I decided that I’d make a balancing game. At first, Daddy thought that it was a pile of rubbish but I explained that it was a game. When I played it before, it was a pretty good game but we had to change it a bit.

Up, up and a… oops!

September 20, 2014 2 comments

A week or so ago, Miss B returned from After School Club bearing a pile of what, to the untrained eye, might have appeared to be a bagful of junk: small boxes, plastic cups, toilet roll tubes, and so on. This stuff all had a purpose, though, and she spent quite a lot of time explaining how all these objects were part of a game which involved stacking the various items on top of each other.

Testing the Mk2 Tumbling Towers rules.  Even with a broken arm, Miss B is better at this than me!

Testing the Mk2 Tumbling Towers rules. Even with a broken arm, Miss B is better at this than me!

Since then, Miss B has been hard at work developing her idea. She recently broke her writing arm and has it encased in plaster from bicep to hand, which has made everything a lot harder, but some of the development time has been spent painstakingly typing rules into a text editor on my computer.

This evening, though, we had the grand unveiling of the game, Tumbling Towers. The game was set up with an initial base of a cardboard box balanced on top of three toilet roll holders. Players take it in turns to stack seven plastic cups on top of this base, and successfully doing so, with the tower staying for a count of ten, results in scoring one point. Before starting the stack, players roll a die to determine whether or not they have to add an extra bit of card or paper into the tower.

We had a couple of goes at this each and then had a discussion about how to improve things. We agreed that it would be more fun if we took it in turns to add objects to the tower. Miss B had been intending to have a deck of cards indicating what object from her stash should be added to the tower, but hadn’t got around to making them (the broken arm making this difficult) so we came up with a scheme where we put the objects in a row and rolled a die to decide which one was to be used next. We also decided that objects could be stacked on the base any way we liked, as long as the new object didn’t go inside another object.

This proved to be quite a lot of fun. Of course, not all objects are equal and getting a penny or a button made your like a lot easier than if you got a cup or an Altoids tin. I have suggested that this could work really well if we had a selection of different shaped wooden blocks instead. Miss B isn’t sure right now as she likes her box of random junk — and who can blame her?! She says that she would love to get this game published one day. Maybe she will…

Getting into a lava

June 13, 2014 Comments off

I have recently been getting into game design as a hobby, and Miss B has been experimenting herself a little. After our recent visit to UK Games Expo, she has got a bit more fired up on this, partly due to seeing a bunch of new and interesting games, but largely due to the seminar on gaming with kids, where the chairman was encouraging everyone to have a go at inventing games.

Another yellow meeple falls foul of the volcano.

Another yellow meeple falls foul of the volcano.

This week, Miss B has been working very industriously on a new game, based on the idea of trying to escape from an erupting volcano. The inspiration for this came from our play of The Downfall of Pompeii that we both enjoyed at UK Games Expo. We bought a copy, so hopefully there’ll be a write-up on it soonish.

Miss B’s Volcano game is basically a Snakes & Ladders style roll and move game, where you race from the top of the volcano to the base. As you go, you may land on a “question mark” space, in which case you draw a chit from a cup. Some of the chits either move your marker forward or an opponent back, but many are volcano chits, meaning that one of you (selected randomly) loses a life and the other gains a gold coin (yeah, I’m not sure why). When someone gets to the bottom of the volcano (or loses all their lives) you score points by adding the number of the square you reached to the number of gold coins you have, and the highest score wins.

OK, so it’s not sophisticated, but it’s a good attempt to apply a theme to the roll and move mechanic, and it was pretty fun to play.

Later on we played another game that Miss B has been working on: Doctor Who versus Harry Potter. Now, regardless of the quality of the game, it’s awesome that Miss B is getting into this sort of nerdy fangirl mashup. There’s awesome right there.

The game itself gave each of us a small stack of cards that she had made up. On mine were monsters from Doctor Who (Daleks, Cybermen and so on), and on hers were monsters and enemies from the Harry Potter books (dragons, Dementers, etc.). We had a pile of counters each (actually we had little ducks as counters), and had to take it in turn to play cards on each other. In order to defeat a card you had to hand over to the other player enough ducks to cover the strength of the card, and on doing this you score some victory points (which are added to by remaining ducks at the end of the game). This went smoothly, but ended in a victory for the Doctor Who player simply because there were more victory points available on the Harry Potter cards.

I don’t think this worked as well as the volcano game, but it must be said that Miss B was moving away from standard kiddy-game fair here and trying to design something new. I’m not sure how we can make this work properly, but I’m sure there is a way to do it.

We’ll see how we go with both of these games over the coming weeks.

Categories: Making Games Tags: ,

Miss B’s Space Race

October 16, 2013 Comments off

I have a stock of game parts, some purchased as such and others scavenged from old board games, that I use occasionally for either prototyping new games or enhancing existing ones. Miss B gets her own ideas from looking at some of this kit. And so this evening we played “Space Race”, a game of travelling from planet to planet collecting stuff.

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The orange space ship is covering a lot of ground, but blue seems to be doing pretty well at collecting resources.

The board was made of a freeform arrangement of MDF discs that represented planets and were added to as needed when we explored beyond the existing play area. We used little plastic spacecraft for playing pieces and moved them the number of planets shown by a die roll. On arrival at a planet we pulled a number of tiddlywinks from a bag, the colour of the counters indicating whether they were money, water, food or fire. It turns out that the money or fire could be traded for wood, which were worth 1 victory point each, and a combination of a water and a food could be traded for a special cone which was two victory points.

We were to fly around the planets collecting goods and victory points, then come back to the starting point, Earth, at which point victory points would be totted up and recorded. We would then do the whole thing again and whoever had the most points after two rounds would be the winner.

There were also a few other rules that I didn’t understand, including one that involved a giant that took over Earth causing both of us to lose victory points.

Actually, I was quite impressed with this game, despite the fact that it occasionally felt a bit like a boardgame version of Calvinball. That said, Miss B is now experimenting, on a basic level, with the classic Eurogame mechanisms of collecting and exchanging resources. She was very pleased with how things went and couldn’t think of anything that needed improving.

Now I think about it, the whole approach of thinking up rules as they are needed is a very effective way of developing early game prototypes. I should pay more attention to Miss B’s methodologies. As always, she is teaching me at least as much as I am teaching her.

Categories: Making Games Tags: ,

Ready, steady, croak!

May 21, 2013 2 comments

This week Miss B decided that she wanted to create a new game. She decided that it should be about frogs and should be a sort of race game. The next thing I knew she was industriously colouring in bits of paper, cutting up bits of card, and sticking things to other things.

The green frog is definitely doing better at the moment, but the red frog has a heap of bonus counters just out of view...

The green frog is definitely doing better at the moment, but the red frog has a heap of bonus counters just out of view…

By bedtime she had created two small game boards, coloured blue to represent ponds. Each pond had a start space and five numbered lily pads.

The next day we played the prototype. I found some little Lego frogs (from the Frog Rush game) to use as playing pieces and provided (on request) some counters for keeping score and a die. She explained that the game is a race where you each have your own board and you have to roll the number of the next lily pad to move onto it. If you roll a 6 you reroll and use the new result. When you land on the 2, 3 or 4 you get to turn over one of the bonus chits she had made and if it has a number on it you get that many counters as bonus points. The game ends when someone lands on pad 5, at which point your score is the number of the lily pad you are on plus your bonus points.

Of course, this was just an exercise in repeatedly rolling a die until you finally get the result you want. Miss B was fine with that but she felt that the “reroll on a 6” rule was a bit lacking, so she resolved to do something about it.

We took a break, during which she got out some pens and scrounged some blank cards from my prototyping stash and set to work. Half an hour later she had a small pile of cards with “Hop!” (which she had chosen for the game’s name) written on the back and various numbers written on the front. Some also had rain clouds drawn on the front. The numbers, apparently indicated something special that should happen, like moving to the next space or having another go. At my suggestion Miss B added the relevant instructions to the cards as we went along. It also turned out that the rain cloud indicated that you should lose one of your scoring counters. In order to add choice, we had three of the cards each at a time, which lay face down on the table and when we rolled a 6 we chose one to turn over.

This is choice for a six-year-old.

Our second game went much the same way as the first but was slowed down quite a lot by Miss B having to write on the cards. She seemed more satisfied with the experience though and found an old ice cream tub to use as a box to store her game in, writing up a label for the top, which read: “Hop!” a dice game by a 6 year old girl called B—-.

So, we’ll see how this develops. Will Miss B evolve the game any further? We’ll just have to see…

Categories: Making Games Tags: ,

Look out for the socktopus!

December 16, 2012 Comments off

A couple of months or so back, a conversation with Miss B resulted in her deciding that she wanted to make her own pirate game. We brainstormed a bit and came up with some ideas. There was going to be a board for moving ships around on and finding gold, and you would play cards to make things happen. So we set to making some cards by writing on and illustrating some blank cards.

Off to get that gold on island number 1...

Off to get that gold on island number 1…

That was about as far as we got for some time, though Miss B occasionally made a few more cards to add to the set until we had a couple of dozen cards including loads of “sailing” cards for moving your ship, as well as cards for battles, repairs, exploration and going on treasure hunts.

This weekend, however, we finally got a bit further. We drew a load of circles onto a large sheet of paper, with the circles connected with arrows to indicate the prevailing winds. Miss B then illustrated the board by drawing the pirate islands and adding decorative fish and a socktopus (if you need to ask…). We got out some counters, a die and a pile of plastic gold coins, discussed the rules that we would use and gave it a go.

The aim of the game was to collect a certain amount of gold and part way through the game it became apparent that the flow of gold onto the board was way too slow, so we had a bit of a discussion, knocked up a couple of extra cards to improve this, shuffled them into the deck and resumed. A few minutes later Miss B won with me having been unable to collect any gold myself, thus highlighting the dearth of cards allowing you to collect gold. We made another small change to a few cards for use next time, hopefully remedying this.

So far this has been a very positive experience and Miss B is even more enthusiastic about the project than before. At her insistence we spent a little time together afterwards formalising and writing up the rules we had used, which will form a basis for future plays. I think we’ll be making a few more cards and playing a good few more times in the near future.