Gamecrafting Landscape – NYC Groups

New York City has a great many weekly gaming events, groups and meet-ups that happen on a regular basis. Last week I went to a few focused on designers who were in the beta and development phases of their designs. It’s always interesting to be around folks in the early stages of an idea.

New York App Festival
One of the many small meets for mobile entrepreneurs, app professionals, app developers, investors and developers to network.

The first event, the New York App Festival, was a gathering for new and as-yet unrealized mobile apps. These small mini-conventions are generally a chance for indie-devs to network and showcase their newest or upcoming releases. Most of these gatherings are dominated by social and financial mobile apps but occasionally you have a few games added to the mix.

While not a true gaming app, one presenter did offer up an interesting idea for an app that passes in close proximity to the world of gaming– or at least, I thought so. Megha’s ( last name withheld?) Toy It Forward, a slight variation on the ‘pay-it-forward’ mantra that surfaced many years ago (even garnering a Hollywood movie by the same name), conceived of the idea for an app where parents can trade used toys with fellow local parents through credits and reviews. (For advertising, Megha directed me towards her Facebook Page: Mommie’s Pickles)

While essentially an E-bay like clone, the idea (the app currently has no developers, or funding) got me to thinking about its application to the world of table-tops: With all those D&D modules, out-of-print rule-books and untold number of indie games out there, instead of searching around on E-bay and Boardgamegeek, why not implement such a localized app for gamers to trade games they have lying around? Just a thought.

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In the world of analog gaming, New York has a number of active Meetup groups where players and designers have a chance to play-test and improve budding creations. You can usually attend a weekly meet where game designers, both experienced and first-timers server up all sorts of interesting games for your gaming pleasure.

One such group, Playcrafting NYC, has weekly events where designers and play-testers can provide each other with some great ideas and feedback. This past week, Noelle Posadas and Jessica Hendrix, both of whom come from a background with educational gaming experience were testing out their latest creation– the stacking card game BiomeBuilder.

Creators Noelle Posadas (left) and Jessica Hendrix play-testing their latest stacking game 'BiomeBuilder'
Creators Noelle Posadas (left) and Jessica Hendrix play-testing their latest creation ‘BiomeBuilder‘ – a stacking card-game where players learn a thing or two about the world around them. Ah, science!

Both creators are part of the team at KillerSnails, a NYC-based company that launched the successful Kickstarter Killer Snails: Assassins of the Sea. The company, which has a host of team-members and collaborators, focuses on scientific and educational games, predominately for young-adults and children.

BiomeBuilder is a stacking game where players compete to collect the most colored sets of cards consisting of herbivores and carnivores belonging to the same biome. Each card has facts about the particular creature pictured and there are special ‘environmental effect’ cards that offer minor quirks to the gameplay. It’s a simple game, with a clear eye towards education and a younger crowd. As one play-tester commented — ‘It’s like Uno, but with animals.’ For what it is, BiomeBuilder plays quickly and is definitely a ‘filler’ game. It definitely fits its genre, quick-play educational, very well. The pair are planing an upcoming Kickstarter, so if you want to be kept in the loop, check out their website, or follow them on Twitter.

BiomeBuilder - An educational stacking game from KillerSnails
BiomeBuilder – An educational stacking game from KillerSnails

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As gaming continues to become more and more mainstream the number of outlets, old and new are capitalizing on the fade, with some well-established institutions like the venerable New York University offering an entire degree around gaming.

NYU’s Game Center, a great place for designers and play-testers of analog and digital games to meet and engage recently had its 2017 End of Year Show. Boasting more than 60 games by student’s in its Game Design program, table-top designs were on full display at the event.

One intriguing idea came from Marisa Ashley, a self-professed game designer who presented her offering at the event– Debutante: A Game of Manners.

Debutantes: A tabletop card game that satirically simulates the socio-economics of the Victorian Era
Debutante: A tabletop card game that satirically simulates the socio-economics of the Victorian Era by Marisa Ashley.

As described, Debutante is a tabletop card game that satirically simulates the socio-economics of the Victorian Era where players are Victorian women fighting to achieve the highest social status. To this end, players must reach a ‘level 20’ status through card plays that either grant you status, or give your opponents ‘spite’. Spite is essentially the game’s currency and conversely, the more spite you have, the more chances you have to gain status. Through granting and spending spite, players climb the Victorian social ladder for success.

One of the snarky cards in Debutante- trading insults to gains status and impart Spite.
One of the snarky cards in Debutante– trading insults to gain status and impart spite.

It’s an interesting concept, with a distinctive and pleasing thematic design.

Cards drawn from a main deck grant players ‘spite’ and status and include snarky, period era slang. For game components, there is the main deck as well as individual Victorian Women cards to help players track their status through a sewing roll. Spite was tracked in this beta version through standard poker chips.

Overall, the theme is great, though like many games where players win by ‘leveling’ (for instance Munchkin), it’s easy to see where the gameplay could be hampered by players simply hoarding cards for quick ‘nova’-rounds: leveling from say 10 to 20 in a single turn.

In addition, the fact that the spite currency is heavily dependent on luck-of-the-draw and other players adequately granting you this currency, and the game’s version of spite could quickly turn to real-world resentments at the table.

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New York City has a ton of interesting gaming events happening all the time. This small sample of upcoming and interesting concepts are just a taste. If you are planning a trip to the city, I definitely recommend checking out as many of these events as you can while your here. It’s sort of your duty as a gamer, you know?

 

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