LINEAGE hits the Play Test Hall!

We came, we saw, we played LINEAGE! Indy GEN CON 2013 was amazing. Not only did we get a chance to geek out over the latest and greatest games, we were able to hit the First Exposure Play Test Hall and to play LINEAGE for almost four hours every night! We had seven (count ‘em 7) different groups of four-player games and we got a ton of feedback from our participants.

The response to the game was generally very positive. People were saying, “Original”, “When is the Kickstarter because you already have my money”, “Good mix of strategy and tactics”, “I loved the balance between the players. It seemed like everyone had a chance to win”. We also instituted a new rule thanks to suggestions from players called “Alchemy” where players can exchange two chi of one color for one chi of another color. It has given the game a great new dimension. We are really excited to keep moving forward on the game and inspired to make more!

Almost universally, people wanted the square tiles to look like Town, Temples, and Palaces rather than the simple shapes we have been using (circles, squares, and triangles). We will be looking into new graphics and manufacturing techniques for those pieces right away. Other comments included making the tiles easier to flip and adding simple cheat cards to remind players about the order of actions they need to take. These cards will definitely be included in the next set.

Walking around the convention, we noticed most of the larger publishers using table wraps and player mats made of a mousepad-like material. We will definitely be adopting a similar technique in the future. Now that we’re back in LA, we will be looking for further opportunities to run people through the game. Keep checking back for upcoming events!

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We are headed to GEN CON!

Next week (August 15-18, 2013), Rick and I are headed to Indianapolis, Indiana for an enormous board game convention called GEN CON! We will be showing off LINEAGE in the “First Exposure Play Test Hall” on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 6PM and then at 8PM. Due to time constraints, we are limiting each play test to four players so make sure to sign up as soon as you can if you are going to be there!

Needless to say, we are very excited to check out Indy GEN CON this year. There will be major publishers, manufacturers, indie designers, and tons and tons of board game geeks (in the realm of 40,000). I’m looking forward to seeing the latest development ideas and meeting some of the folks from the community. Hopefully, we’ll also get a few people interested in LINEAGE!

Joining us on our journey will be our friend and fellow gaming enthusiast David Nett. He will be screening Night of the Zombie King some time during the convention. Also, we’ll be checking out Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. Please take a look at all the great programming they offer when you get a chance! They are good friends of the GOLD universe (a universe where Rick, David, and I have characters that are leveling up as you read this).

I have no doubt we’ll return with great stories, new friends, and a fresh perspective on gaming. And fortunately for you, the convention isn’t in Vegas so I can tell you all about it (provided we survive this dungeon crawl). I’ll update the site as soon as I can. In the meantime, check us out on Twitter @graywolfgames if you want to follow our adventure!

#RUGeekie ???

I’ve been scouring the web for new opportunities to put Gray Wolf Games out there and I came across a post from Boyan Radakovich (@thegamesmith) on Twitter. For those of you that don’t know, Boyan’s a pretty interesting figure because he straddles two worlds I find particularly interesting: web television and table top gaming. He’s an associate producer for one of my favorite web shows: Table Top with Wil Wheaton AND he’s one of the judges for the Geekies. Long story short, Boyan called my attention to The Geekie Awards and I submitted our game LINEAGE for the Toys/Games category.

I just received my notice to send in a physical copy of the game. I’m excited to send it off! It will be great to get feedback from professionals in the field and hopefully get a few eyes on LINEAGE before we launch our Kickstarter. I’ll post updates as soon as I have anything new!

New game in the works

Rick and I have been working on a new superhero-themed game! I thought I’d take a moment to whet your appetite. As it stands, there are three phases to the game. Here are the basics:

First off, players will select a card showing opposing SECRET DESTINIES. Completing this destiny isn’t required to win the game but it will certainly help you along the way. Now that we have an inkling about where our character might be going, we move on to the first phase of the game.

During the ORIGIN phase, players are given the opportunity to select power cards, back story cards, ally cards, and item cards. This is done with a simple pick-and-pass method that gives players the opportunity to look at a small subset of available cards, choose one, and pass the rest. This phase of the game is the fastest and most rudimentary.

The next phase is called the ISSUE or DILEMMA phase (bear in mind that this is all still in flux). The idea here is to give players the opportunity to use the cards they picked up in the first phase in a format that resembles a standard comic book issue.

Players select one (1) to four (4) DILEMMA cards from the following dilemma decks: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual/mystical. They place the cards in whatever order they choose with the understanding that each subsequent card will be twice as hard as the last. For example: physical (1), mental (2), physical (4), emotional (8). The player can choose to create an issue with only one, two, or three cards but may have as many as four with a maximum point value of 15 available for any given round. I hope I haven’t lost you here! It’s much easier to explain with cards in front of you.

Now that the types of dilemmas are out there, players must use powers, allies, etc. to buy into the ISSUE. All the cards from the ORIGIN PHASE have corresponding point values for physical, emotional, mental and spiritual/mystical strengths. As soon as we know which players will be involved in this adventure, the cards are flipped over to reveal dilemmas like BANK HEIST, KIDNAPPING, AN ALIEN IS INHABITING MY GIRLFRIEND’S BODY, etc. Players may choose either the PRO or CON side for any particular dilemma garnering rewards, penalties and either hero or villain points.

There are a finite amount of hero and villain points and as soon as one of these piles is gone, the ISSUE PHASE is over. You have now battle-tested your character and determined their signature powers, allies, items, and whether they have heroic or villainous tendencies.

The EVENT PHASE is the final phase of the game (please bear in mind that this is still just a sketch)! Based on the amount of heroes and villains, certain scenarios will be made available. Players will choose one side or the other and will be given certain requirements for victory. Hero and villain points will be used as a type of currency in these scenarios. For example: Let’s say the final phase contains all heroes. We select an EVENT that tells us that a cosmic force is coming to destroy Earth. We have to work together to make sure that doesn’t happen. Within all this camaraderie, there are opportunities for gaining points and winning the game but ultimately no one wins if the world is destroyed. Another example: Let’s say we get half heroes and half villains. This prompts a terrible conflict that can only be resolved when one side or the other is either destroyed or incarcerated. This phase will still use cards but it will also have a map and movement. Each scenario or EVENT will be like its own mini-game within the greater structure of the game at large.

So, that’s the general idea so far. We are very busy working on cards right now. This has definitely been a new experience as far as game design goes because we are having to balance the different decks and make our explanations as elegant and simple as we can (to fit on each card!). In the future, we are hoping to hook up with some good artists to really bring the game to life.

I’m hoping to be able to show off the cards on the site some time soon so you can help us design them! Also, if you have any feedback or you’d like to help us on this project in some way, don’t hesitate to contact us!

In the meantime, we are also working on a prototype for a function on the website that we like to call GAME BELTS. For years now we have been arguing about the identity of the current reining champion of any given game. We’ve always put it in wrestling or prize-fight terms. The winner slaps on a big gold belt (mine often has a pretend spinner on it like the best jewelry often does). Our hope here is to create an elegant archive of every triumph and tribulation in your special gaming group. That way the world will know when a know-it-all game geek has eaten a belt buckle or succumbed to your masterful deception! Anyway, we’ll be playing around with that for a bit but I hope to have something to show folks in the near future!

Maybe next time I’ll coax Rick out of his man-cave and into the light of nerd-vana here in the blog. We’ll see!

Justin Waggle

Inventor, Designer, and Co-Founder of Gray Wolf Games

Have Game Will Travel!

As soon as we put out news about Gray Wolf Games and our latest game Lineage, people started asking to try the game and guess what? The game changed again! I went through and made some changes based on advice from various play testers and I feel confident that we are ready for another go around. If you live in the Los Angeles, CA area and you are interested in hosting a game night, I’d be happy to bring the game and show folks how to play! Here are a few of the places I have recently visited:

I stopped by Emerald Knights and had a great chat with Paul (their resident game guru). For those of you that don’t know, Emerald Knights is a great comic store in Burbank,CA with a huge gaming presence. In fact, we are planning to host a game night there very soon. As soon as we set a date, I will be sending out an invitation to all of our subscribers. Anyway, I showed him the game and he suggested that I add some reference cards to keep the rules handy. I took him up on that and I’m looking forward to showing him the results.

In addition to talking with the folks at Emerald Knights, I’ve started talks with Michael Matsuda at the Martial Arts History Museum (also in Burbank,CA) about hosting an event where we can show off the game in the environment that inspired its creation. The Martial Arts History Museum has been around since 1999 but they just recently moved into their new permanent space. I highly recommend you stop by and check it out. They recently added a wonderful bust of Grandmaster Ark Wong and according to my teacher (Sijo Carl Totton), it’s like having his old teacher in the room. I have to admit, the bust seems to have a life of its own and it’s definitely worth seeing. The animals in Lineage are based on the forms passed down by Grandmaster Ark Wong.

A couple of days ago, I brought Lineage to the Taoist Institute and played with some of my Kung Fu brothers in the same area where we normally train. It was pretty fun to see them getting into it and drawing connections between the game elements and the lessons we are learning in class. A couple of them (Rhett and Hashim) had played an earlier incarnation of the game. That version lasted for hours and never resolved. Ha ha! The newest version is simplified and compact and the most gratifying moments came when multiple players began employing new strategies and nearly running away with the game at several different points. In the end, Rhett (who was also very good at the original version) walked away with victory. I humbly chose to play the Emperor and I was forced to re-examine my strategy for future encounters based on Rhett’s expert schooling of the game’s creator. The fellows suggested that I create some video tutorials to introduce folks to the game so they can get a sense of what they’re getting into before they come to play. I think that’s a great idea and I’ve already started working on them.

It’s been a little while but I do feel compelled to give a shout out to all the folks that have checked out, inspired change, promoted, tested and re-tested the game: Rick Robinson, Ed Robinson, Addie Robinson, James Xavier, Frederick Snyder, David Laughlin, Dan Krieg, Jeff Bazemore, Natasha Harris, Glenn Snellgrose II, E, Hashim Thomas, Rhett Haboush, Alex Esmaili, Gideon Rubin, John Carrick, Sijo Carl Totton, David Nett, Paul and the folks from Emerald Knights, Jeff Waggle, Pat Hodgkin, Cynthia Garrett, John Johnson and his hardcore gamers group, Sarah Johnson, Bill Johnson, Michael Matsuda

Thank you so much for making this game possible and for slogging through some of the roughest patches! It’s been a lot of fun and I have a feeling things are going to get even better from here!

In other news… Rick Robinson and I are busy putting together a Superhero-themed game. It’s definitely an ambitious idea with a lot of great opportunities for player interaction. Fortunately, the amount of comic book and game mechanic knowledge between the two of us is absolutely frightening. We look forward to sharing it with you! Hopefully we’ll have something ready in time to do a short demo at an upcoming Gray Wolf Games event. More on this next time!

Justin Waggle

Inventor, Designer, and Co-Founder of Gray Wolf Games

An idea whose time has come…

Gray Wolf Games was born out of a tight-knit group of gamers with a passion for creative projects. Most of the people in this group not only play games but are active in the theatre and web series communities. We’re a colorful collection of nerds with a variety of skills that we utilize for those dreaded survival jobs. I always had an affinity for board games and role playing games but I never thought I’d be designing one of my own. To say that Lineage (the board game I invented) is a passion project is a bit of an understatement.

Every journey has a beginning and mine began four years ago when I washed up on the shores of a school called the Taoist Institute. They took me in with open arms and started teaching me the mysterious arts of Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and various other disciplines. I was immediately struck by the ordered nature of everything we were doing and in an effort to make sense of this new world, I began cataloguing the common themes between these related disciplines.

Flash forward two years or so and I am still extremely busy absorbing all of this new information. And then one morning I woke up as if hit by a bolt of raw inspiration. As I wiped sleep from my eyes I tried to jot down as much information as I could about some kind of board game I was supposed to develop. Believe me when I say that I had no intention of traveling this path. It just came to me and I felt an obligation to see it through.

All of the lessons I had been absorbing about Shaolin and Taoist martial arts started to come together. I thought about the four directions, the changing seasons, the five elements, the different animal forms and it all started to fit together into a beautiful lattice-work. These concepts are thousands of years old and I know I’m not the first one to draw conclusions about their significance or their interrelated natures but I may be the first one to try and turn them into a board game!

After putting together the basic parameters of the board I quickly spiraled out into a game mechanic quagmire. Everything was precious. I didn’t want to leave any concept out. That’s when I realized that simplicity and conservation of energy were the hallmarks of all of these arts. From that point forward I began cutting away and modifying the game so it became simpler and easier to understand. I think the whole reason this idea came to me in the first place was to offer people an opportunity to understand and embrace the simple beauty I had the fortune to receive in lessons from my martial arts teacher Sijo Carl Totton.

Flash forward another year or so and every precious piece and game mechanic has been tested, adapted, changed, or thrown out. The underlying concepts have settled into a comfortable stillness just beneath the surface and the game art has jumped to the forefront. I’m hoping to talk further on all of these concepts as this blog develops.

My martial arts education continues and I have no doubt that there are lessons buried in this game that have yet to break the surface. I’m hoping that people playing Lineage will have their own unique experiences and get inspired to learn, create, adapt, and share! Above all, I hope the game will give folks an opportunity to become one with the Tao and experience the wonder of effortless action. Until next time!

Justin Waggle
Inventor, Designer, and Co-Founder of Gray Wolf Games