November was slightly quieter than September or October – it couldn’t not be – but, once again, overall progress moved substantially forward; especially in enhancing Magnate’s gameplay and recruiting new team members.
New boxart sketch
This one has been a long time coming. I am glad to say we’re finally making good progress on the cover art. I’ve always liked the placeholder art we have, but there’s something a rather old fashioned about it. It’s not as dynamic as it needs to be and I don’t know it captures the feel of the game sufficiently either.
I am very glad to say we finally have a sketch of what the new art will look like. There’s still a lot do do, but its a great start. One of the things I’ve always thought would be really cool is having some of the buildings you can construct in the game pictured on the box. I always remember as a child being so excited when you could actually play with something on the cover and I don’t think I (or anyone else) ever grows completely out of that feeling.
So here, in all its glory, is the preliminary sketch. Can you spot all the playable buildings?
There’s a few things we wanted to convey here. In Magnate, you’re building the small city pictured in the foreground. By virtue of your efforts it will grow into a mini-metropolis, sprawling on in the distance; limited only by your skill and ambition. The base game is fun, light (not too childish though) and human scale. Meanwhile, in the background a huge, darker city looms: symbolising the inevitably of the market crash and hinting at an expansion where you can build the really monumental structures. This is the ‘First City’ after all… not the last you’ll build!
New development team member: Jaya Baldwin
Jaya was introduced to me by Magnate’s original fan, first playtester and number one supporter, Tom Black. A friend of Tom’s via the theatre, Jaya did an excellent job teaching Magnate at Essen and getting people engaged with its dramatic crash mechanics. Jaya is, however, possibly even more of a boardgame fiend than Tom. With a keen eye for how mechanics create experience (which we are ALL about here at Naylor Games), he’s got a great knack for feeling out what does and doesn’t work. So I felt I had no choice but bring him onto the team as a developer.
Jaya is already doing lots of great work on the game as well as supporting me in some other tasks. As his first blog shows, he really knows his stuff.
Game design progress
Having Jaya on the team has let me accelerate a few things on the design side of the project; an area which sometimes gets overshadowed by all the other work involved in publishing a game.
Since Magnate is already working very well and so many people are already really enjoying it, we’re not screwing with the core game. But there’s clearly still room for potential improvements that optimise the game experience: improving accessibility, reducing set-up time, and removing clear traps for first time players. Having someone working on these parts with me has meant we are developing and testing changes much quicker than before.
So far we have: started making the crash easier to grok for new players, removed a potential trap where players can’t fill industrial buildings they have constructed and sped set-up by reducing the number of components needed at the opening of the game. There’s also some interesting developments in progress that will give players the opportunity to guarantee the move of a limited number of tenants into properties at key moments in the game: a potential solution to the “feel bad” people got from failing their first attract tenants roll (even if it never actually strategically held them back to any significant degree).
Another convention on the Magnate tour: Dragonmeet
While *technically* in December (the 1st!), it would seem a little silly to disqualify this one, especially as it turned out to be such a successful event.
We had two demo tables running all day, and until about 5.30 we didn’t get a *single* lull in people keen to play the game: I had to ask demoees to stay put just to make time for a loo break and to restock on water! Several people had heard about Magnate beforehand and were specifically seeking it out. The rest were grabbed by the game’s components. I know I would say it, bu it really does have table presence – which is very handy when you’re trying to stand out amongst so many other games and publishing companies. You have to do a good job when you are visually competing with the style and flair of Bez at a convention!
I found the convention to be one of the most friendly and energetic I’ve been to yet. People lapped up the game, threw themselves in and signed-up for our Kickstarter alert at a similar daily rate to Essen, which is 190 times the size. That’s a great return on investment.
I am also beginning to wonder if cons in the 500-2000 weight class (like Tabletop Scotland – still my overall favourite) are the ones I enjoy most. They’re small enough that they’re dense with enthusiasts, easy to get around and you can do a little of everything on offer if you choose. But they’re also big enough to have trade, demo, playtest and open gaming areas and permit a little anonymity if you’re feeling somewhat drained and want to just disengage a little bit. I also wonder if energy levels were particularly high here because it’s just a one day event. If you don’t have to pace yourself through four days of gaming and window shopping, it’s probably much easier to be “always on” throughout.