Sunday, November 19, 2006

Houston Gamers: prototype of Kevin Nunn's Royal Stables

I went to the Houston Gamers last night. It was a cold, clear night, and the drive up to Enigma's passed quickly.

There were three tables going when I got there, along with a little miniatures game set up on the counter that Will, the owner, was playing with someone. The two Dougs, Tim, and a couple of the other folks had just started Power Grid. A 4-player game of Tigris & Euphrates was winding down slowly, as everyone groused about bad tile draws. Finally, Kevin Nunn, Michael Denman, and Jennifer Curry were playing Desert Bazaar.

I watched things progress, and could tell that Desert Bazaar was going to wrap up first. I perused the sale table, and ended up grabbing 3 games at 50% off: Nobody But Us Chickens, Big Top, and Flowers & Fluxx. The first two were designed by Houston Gamers, and although I've given the games as gifts, I never managed to add them to my collection.

After Desert Bazaar wrapped up, I joined the group and got to play one of Kevin Nunn's prototypes with Michael Denman, Jennifer Curry, a new guy named Rick, and Kevin himself.

It was Rick's first time there, and it was neat to talk to him. He is an air-traffic controller who lives in Spring, and has some Euro-gaming experience, mainly with Puerto Rico. Michael joked, "S'weird because you're not a teacher, computer person, or accountant."

Kevin's prototype: Royal Stables
The prototype is tentatively titled Royal Stables, and centers around a king's desire to have lots of magical animals in his collection. It's a short game, maybe 30 minutes. There's some luck, but the majority of the game centers around tough, skill-based decisions that revolve around cash management. The king's a fickle, fickle punk, and keeps revealing more wants, which makes it tempting to sell off animals, but selling off an animal for cash means you don't get points for it. On the other hand, animals the king doesn't want very much score negative points! The scoring mechanism makes it a tight game - just because you have the most of a good animal doesn't guarantee victory.

Overall, Royal Stables as-is would be a good fit for my current gaming group, and I hope I play again soon.

I also chatted with Kevin about his plans for Nobody But Us Chickens, which is now out of print in the US. The German edition continues to sell well, and the current plan is to wait for that to sell through, then reprint both language versions at the same time, possibly with a deluxe edition including new cards and a deck-building variant.

He also talked about his experiences as a mid-list game designer. He's at the point where publishers are open to talking to him, but he's not so famous that he can write his own ticket. His next game to be published soon, Zhong Shi, is likely to boost his reputation further. Since I've seen some of his other prototypes, I suspect Kevin's got enough good, polished games that after he gets a hit, he can get at least a game a year out after that, for 5 years, minimum.

Gamecount: Individual game sessions played for the year = 176, New game titles played for the year = 36.


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