Tuesday, June 20, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 75: Steven Aramini

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples.



Name:Steven Aramini
Location:Reno, Nevada
Day Job:Creative Director for an ad agency.
Designing:Two to five years.
BGG:stevenaramini
Twitter:@stevenaramini
Find my games at:.) I have a solo word game available on The Game Crafter called “Flipside,” for all others I’d check with the publisher’s site. They could best tell you availability or release date of upcoming stuff.
Today's Interview is with:

Steven Aramini
Interviewed on: 6/14/2017

Steven Aramini is an up and coming designer that's been garnering a bit of attention lately. He's the designer of Yardmaster, has won a few contests, including a few Game Crafter contests and one hosted by ButtonShy Games, and now has a few games published, with more on the way. Right now he has Groves on Kickstarter, co-designed and published by Dan Letzring, who I interviewed just a couple of weeks ago. Read on to learn more about Steven and all the other projects he has in the works. You won't want to miss out on them!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Two to five years.
Why did you start designing tabletop games?
I love creating things and to me games feel like interactive art projects that make you think, have fun and play with others.
What game or games are you currently working on?
The game that I am working most on right now is “Groves” by Letiman Games, which is up on Kickstarter right now. It is a really fun bag-building, worker placement game that I’ve worked on with co-designer Dan Letzring. We’ve been busy updating stretch goals and fine tuning them, including a new 2-player variant and solo rules.
Have you designed any games that have been published?
Yes
What is your day job?
Creative Director for an ad agency.

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
The local game shop has a huge gaming space that is great, and there’s also a gaming tavern that is fun, too.
Who do you normally game with?
I go to several meetups with different groups, but my “regulars” are Danny Devine and Paul Kluka, who incidentally were my co-designers for “Circle the Wagons,” a Button Shy Games title.
If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
We always pick something different. The last time I hosted we played “Roll Player” and “Lords of Waterdeep.” Usually it’s one game that’s a little longer and one a little shorter.
And what snacks would you eat?
Pretzels and chips.
Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yes at home, but no for meetups that are at public places. At home it ranges from classic rock to indie stuff to reggae, we’ll mix it up.
What’s your favorite FLGS?
Games Galore. The owner was really nice and helped me out when I was first trying to break into design and getting games signed. He gave me some good advice.
What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
I am into Cottage Garden right now. It’s my newest game and I have been playing it a lot with my wife. I guess I’d say Machi Koro for a “least favorite that I still enjoy.” A lot of people really don’t seem to like it, but I’ve enjoyed it the couple of times I played it. As for worst, hmm, I do cringe if “Cards Against Humanity” is brought out. Too crass for me.
What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
Worker placement is my favorite. Social deduction is my least favorite, mostly because I’m terrible at it!
What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Porta Nigra, there’s a lot I really love about it and I’ve brought it to several game nights and it never gets played. Gotta get that one back to the table!
What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Other: Miniature Games
Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Card Games (I've yet to design a game with an actual board!)
OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
No

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
I’ve done both. “Barker’s Row” is a game about carnival barkers, and I loved that theme so much so I built mechanics that supported that theme, whereas most of my other games started with mechanics.
Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Yes, I won the Ion Award at SaltCon, the Button Shy Wallet Contest and 2 Game Crafter contests, the Sprue (Minis) Challenge and the Trick Taker Challenge.
Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
I’m a big fan of Ryan Laukat (Red Raven Games), as well as J Alex Kevern, Scott Almes, Wolfgang Kramer and Uwe Rosenberg.
Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
I’m really inspired by nostalgia and art. The old vaudeville/carnival art posters inspired me to make “Barker’s Row” and my fascination with the B-17 Flying Fortress bombers have me making a solo bomb run game.
How do you go about playtesting your games?
I begin with self plays, then branch out to my regular playtesting group, then branch out to my regular playing groups, then other members of the gaming community out there.
Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I love collaborating with others. Of my six games so far, four of them are co-designs.
What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Creating tension and tough decisions is always difficult. Making players feel like they are having fun while also anguishing over whether they are making the right move.
If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s one of my favorite films and just feels like it could make for a cool game experience, too.
What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
Go to more conventions. I really want to branch out and attend conventions, which is a goal of mine going into the future.
What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Try to find others in your area who are into game design and sharing their prototypes. It’s so much more fun and productive to have a group you can feel comfortable sharing ideas in progress.
Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Published games, I have: Yardmaster (Crash Games), Aramini Circus (Iello)
Games that will soon be published are: Barker’s Row (Overworld Games, successfully funded on Kickstarter and in production), Circle the Wagons (Button Shy, successfully funded on Kickstarter and in production)
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: Groves (Letiman Games, funded and currently on Kicsktarter); Coin & Crown (Kickstarter launches June 27); Tricky tides (Gold Seal Games, Kickstarter launches late 2017)
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: Bomber Boys (WWII bomb run solitaire dice game); Iceland (rescue your meeples from the land of fire and ice as a volcano erupts)
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: Manhattan Project Dice Game (Game Crafter contest entry) [GJJ Games] I’m also working on a design for this. Good luck!
Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
None that I’m active with currently.

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Star Wars. Neither, don’t drink soda. VHS!
What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Camping, kayaking, traveling
What is something you learned in the last week?
I learned how to make my own lip balm and soap (with an assist from my wife)
Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
Reggae, Sci-Fi mostly for books and movies, but really any kind if it’s good
What was the last book you read?
“Thick as Thieves” by Peter Spiegelman
Do you play any musical instruments?
No
Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I’m a Type One Diabetic.
Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Burning Man was probably the craziest thing I’ve experienced, such a unique location, art, costumes, people, everything.
Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
That’s a tough one. Maybe retheming “Groves?” Originally it was designed as a western theme but I had just done “Circle the Wagons” with the same theme, so we changed it to a fantasy theme with trees, Fae and Wraiths. It was a great pivot to something new, not sure if I’d call that an accident but that’s the best I’ve got!
Who is your idol?
My Dad.
What would you do if you had a time machine?
Go watch the Rat Pack play a show.
Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Neither. I like it right in the middle.
If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
I like Green Arrow or Hawkeye, the idea of shooting arrows that do amazing things sounds like the most fun.
Have any pets?
Yes, 2 Cocker Spaniels and 2 Siamese Cats
When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
I would want all of the gateway games to survive: Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, Catan, Dominion, Stone Age, stuff like that. They are the foundation of our hobby.
If you’d like to send a shout out to anyone, anyone at all, here’s your chance (I can’t guarantee they’ll read this though):
Big shout out to Dan Letzring, my co-designer of “Groves” and owner of Letiman Games, who is publishing the game. It’s been great to work with him and I think we’ve got a great game that I’m proud of!


Thanks for answering all my crazy questions!




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

People Behind the Meeples - Episode 74: Shannon Kelly

Welcome to People Behind the Meeples, a series of interviews with indie game designers.  Here you'll find out more than you ever wanted to know about the people who make the best games that you may or may not have heard of before.  If you'd like to be featured, head over to http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html and fill out the questionnaire! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples.


Name:Shannon Kelly
Email:shannon@foxtalegames.com
Location:Sydney, Australia
Day Job:As this interview comes out, I will have just left my long-time job in legal publishing to work as a full-time editor in trade publishing.
Designing:Over ten years!
Webpage:www.foxtalegames.com
Blog:www.foxtalegames.com
BGG:Foxtale
Facebook:Fox Tale Games/
Twitter:@foxtalegames
YouTube:Fox Tae Games
Instagram:@foxtalegames
Find my games at:You can play Lucidity: Six-sided Nightmares now on Tabletopia: Lucidity: Six Sided Nightmares

It is on Kickstarter now, then after on my website. You can join my mailing list (through the website or just email me) to get Print and Play files when they become available.
Today's Interview is with:

Shannon Kelly
Interviewed on: 5/14/2017

Yesterday I posted my review of Lucidity Six Sided Nightmares, which launched on Kickstarter today. It's a really fun, somewhat strategic press-your-luck game with a great theme. I had a really great time playtesting and reviewing the game and throughout that process got to meet the designer, Shannon Kelly. Shannon is in Australia, so we often chatted when he was waking up and I was going to bed, or vice versa. If you'd like to learn more about Shannon and the other projects he's working on, read on!

Some Basics
Tell me a bit about yourself.

How long have you been designing tabletop games?
Over ten years!

Why did you start designing tabletop games?

My first game was for a school project in Grade 5 (primary school). My teachers gave us the option to complete an assignment on our solar system by creating a board game. In the end, about ten of us picked that option and we had a whole day where the different classes came through and played all of the games. My parents really helped with the board construction, right down to taking one of those "I'm so excited to be playing this!" photographs that you used to see on 80s game boxes.

I still pull that roll and move trivia game out sometimes, and we laugh at how incredibly unbalanced and unfair it is.

What game or games are you currently working on?
A few right now - as is probably the case for many designers.

Lucidity: Six-sided Nightmares (and its sequel Six-sided Spellbooks) are the most advanced, with 6SN on Kickstarter right now! The sequel is a lot more of a puzzle game, so it takes a lot more testing to get right.

Tempest: Shards of the Gods is sitting on ice at the moment, after 4 years of working on it. It has been through quite a few redesigns already. I'm convinced there is something in it (a game of mythology and history where you can play through those stories to win) but it hasn't quite clicked yet.

Velvet is also being worked on right now. It's a "plush-your-luck" game of stuffed animals and dungeon delving. I'm pretty excited about this one. It's been developed specifically to be given away in showbags at conventions, and it's getting published at PAX Aus this year through the Tabletop Game Designers Australia.

Have you designed any games that have been published?
Lucidity 6SN is my first to be published (fingers crossed).

What is your day job?
As this interview comes out, I will have just left my long-time job in legal publishing to work as a full-time editor in trade publishing.

Your Gaming Tastes
My readers would like to know more about you as a gamer.

Where do you prefer to play games?
With friends, at somebody's house, with music playing and a drink in hand.

Who do you normally game with?
Friends mostly. A weekly designer playtesting group also.

If you were to invite a few friends together for game night tonight, what games would you play?
These days, probably Gloomhaven or Pandemic Legacy. (If you aren't counting Dungeons & Dragons.) It's funny, but those ongoing campaign games are really good at getting us to agree to put life aside to take a day off to play.

And what snacks would you eat?
I'm pretty bad when it comes to snacks at games days. I'm not a big soft drink drinker, or eater of chips, and I usually prefer water or sparkling water. But when we all get together, I cannot resist the siren song of coke and grain waves.

Do you like to have music playing while you play games? If so, what kind?
Yeah! We usually have something thematic going on. Usually something by Hans Zimmer, like the Sherlock Holmes (the Downey Jr one) or the Dark Knight soundtrack.

What’s your favorite FLGS?
I live out in the sticks of Sydney, without a lot of public transport, and getting home quite late. So for me, the idea of converging on an FLGS for gaming has never really been the ideal. If I had to pick, I'd go with Games Empire. They had a store near my university, and then moved to a place closer to my house.

What is your current favorite game? Least favorite that you still enjoy? Worst game you ever played?
Current favourite: Gloomhaven. Fantastic, challenging, Legacy-lite. Just an all-round brilliant game. If you'd asked me that a year ago, I'd have said Android: Netrunner. But I've fallen behind on the meta for that one and can't get back into it.

Least favourite that I still enjoy: It's a toss-up between Vast: The Crystal Caverns and Star Wars Destiny. Vast is such an ambitious game, and really awesome design. The asymmetric gameplay is very cool. But it's an absolute pain to teach, and clunky to play because of all of the interactions. SW Destiny is a really well-designed game, but I get so frustrated by any game that plays like a strategic competitive card game and then relies entirely on a good dice roll.

Worst game I ever played? It's hard to throw shade as a designer, because you know how much work goes into game design. To rephrase the question, the game that clicked the least for me was the Lord of the Rings LCG. That doesn't mean it was the worst (on the contrary, it's really well-designed), but I was expecting the thematic tones that the Arkham Horror LCG gave, and instead got a puzzle game of trying to build a perfect deck/team to overcome a specific obstacle.

What is your favorite game mechanic? How about your least favorite?
I love pool building. Constructing an engine through a game by modifying the tools you use to build it is a brilliant innovation. So whether it is card-crafting, deck-building, dice-forging or tokens in bags, I love it.

My least favourite mechanic is probably "end of game scoring". A lot of Euros do this. The game comes to a conclusion somehow, and you go through one by one, saying, "Okay, now count up your total flags; now your total garbage; who loses points from having more weasels in their garage?" It isn't a tense race to the finish because you have no idea who is winning until the final count-down. When you win (thinking you were losing), it isn't satisfying and feels like you stole victory. When you lose (thinking you were winning), it's disappointing and you feel cheated. And with a quick game like 4 Gods, scoring can sometimes take as long as the game. And so much maths!

By contrast, I love a game like Kingsburg that scores along the way and has very little end of game scoring.

What’s your favorite game that you just can’t ever seem to get to the table?
Android: Netrunner LCG for sure. As I mentioned earlier, I fell out of the meta after the first data cycle. And when that happened, I couldn't get back into it easily. It also didn't catch on with my personal gaming circles, so I ended up being the only one of my friends to play it.

What styles of games do you play?
I like to play Board Games, Card Games, Miniatures Games, RPG Games, Video Games

Do you design different styles of games than what you play?
I like to design Board Games, Card Games

OK, here's a pretty polarizing game. Do you like and play Cards Against Humanity?
Yes. On the one hand, I get what Shut Up and Sit Down criticise it for. It is a mean game that inspires all the negative, taboo "-ism"s to be freely spoken. But it's also a game about reading and knowing your friends. If a friend goes for the dick joke, you play the dick joke. If they go for the clever pun, you would be wasting a dick joke on them. I think any game that enters mainstream and draws players into board gaming (without necessarily representing "this is who we are" to the wider community) is a worthwhile game. Say what you will about idea theft, dick jokes worked where Apples to Apples didn't.

You as a Designer
OK, now the bit that sets you apart from the typical gamer. Let's find out about you as a game designer.

When you design games, do you come up with a theme first and build the mechanics around that? Or do you come up with mechanics and then add a theme? Or something else?
A bit of a mix, I think. I begin with a high mechanics concept like "push-your-luck deckbuilder" or "storytelling CCG" and then look for a broad theme to embody that concept. Then I go back to the mechanics and make something that is fun. All the while, I refer back to the theme and try to fit it into the mechanics, or see if mechanics work thematically.

At the end, I find that I am rewriting the theme at the table, or A/B testing it with different playtesting groups to see what clicks better.

Mechanics are great. Theme is wonderful. But "fun" has to come first.

Have you ever entered or won a game design competition?
Yes! Only just recently though. I am currently in the process of redesigning Velvet (a light game designed to be put in showbags) for PAX Australia 2017.

Do you have a current favorite game designer or idol?
Ryan Laukat is my idol. He does art, design, business... everything. He has a unique art style, a unique design style, and runs his own business. In an interview he did for Tabletopia, he mentioned the design and development for Eight Minute Empire, and how he happened to be ill and unable to go to work one week - so he designed and illustrated the whole game in a week and launched it on Kickstarter the week after. Amazing and inspiring doesn't quite cut it.

Where or when or how do you get your inspiration or come up with your best ideas?
Often I'll let my brain stew on something for a while until pieces fall into place. I'm inspired a lot by video games too.

Orson Scott Card wrote in "How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy" that you need to throw away your first idea, because your brain fits that idea together from scraps in day-to-day life, like a dream. It isn't original. It isn't until you let that idea process and sit in your mind that your brain begins piecing together ideas from your pieced together ideas. And even that isn't truly original. But once your brain scraps those ideas into shards, it has all of these original ideas to draw from and create something new.

How do you go about playtesting your games?
I will often test them in my brain first. I let the idea sit in the back of my mind at work, or over a weekend, playing itself in different iterations. When I think I have something functional, I will put it to paper in MS Word. I also like to do basic graphic design early, to help my brain figure out what will work on paper best.

Then I'll play it with my close friends and see what they think. I focus on what they like, and see where they struggle. I'll let it go back into my head again (for hours, days or sometimes months) until it clicks and I bring it back out for a wider playtest.

I don't think scientifically or logically very well, so a lot of my design is intuitive: What worked? What didn't? I often change things in broad strokes instead of testing minute changes.

Do you like to work alone or as part of a team? Co-designers, artists, etc.?
I love working with artists and graphic designers, because they are so creative, in such a different way to me!

What do you feel is your biggest challenge as a game designer?
Committing to an idea too early and wasting time or money on it.

If you could design a game within any IP, what would it be?
I would want to design something in Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere. A game with shards of long-dead gods, magic systems with specific rules. He writes like a board game designer. I think his worlds deserve more attention.

What do you wish someone had told you a long time ago about designing games?
You don't have to self-publish.

What advice would you like to share about designing games?
Share early and share often. Nobody is going to steal your idea and, if they are, then everyone will know it was yours first.

Would you like to tell my readers what games you're working on and how far along they are?
Games that will soon be published are: 1: "Velvet" (2: "Lucidity: Six-sided Nightmares" as of 18 July 2017 if the KS works)
This is what I have currently crowdfunding: 1: "Lucidity: Six-sided Nightmares" as of today!
Games I feel are in the final development and tweaking stage are: 1: "Lucidity: Six-sided Nightmares"
Games that I'm playtesting are: 2: "Six-sided Spellbooks", "Velvet"
Games that are in the early stages of development and beta testing are: 1: "Tempest: Shards of the Gods"
And games that are still in the very early idea phase are: 2: "Creation", "Tower Trouble"

Are you a member of any Facebook or other design groups? (Game Maker’s Lab, Card and Board Game Developers Guild, etc.)
Tabletop Game Designers Australia, Tabletop Game Publisher's Guild, Card & Board Game Designers Guild

And the oddly personal, but harmless stuff…
OK, enough of the game stuff, let's find out what really makes you tick! These are the questions that I’m sure are on everyone’s minds!

Star Trek or Star Wars? Coke or Pepsi? VHS or Betamax?
Star Wars (fantasy in space), Coke, VHS

What hobbies do you have besides tabletop games?
Books (reading/writing), video games.

What is something you learned in the last week?
You can use the @ in Facebook replies to tag a specific page, not just a specific person.

Favorite type of music? Books? Movies?
A good Bluegrass cover of a pop song.
[GJJ Games] If you like Bluegrass, check out Sweetwater String Band! They’re trying to fund their third album on Kickstarter right now. They just did an interesting cover of Nirvana’s All Apologies

What was the last book you read?
"A Crowdfunder's Strategy Guide" by Jamey Stegmaier. But in the fiction world, "The Daylight War" by Peter V Brett. I also read the online book, "The Gods are Bastards" by DD Webb which I hiiiiighly recommend to any Dungeons & Dragons fans.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I can badly play guitar, violin, piano.

Tell us something about yourself that you think might surprise people.
I actually really like dubstep music.

Tell us about something crazy that you once did.
Got a tattoo. Still waiting on the right picture to get a second one.

Biggest accident that turned out awesome?
Taking two years extra at university. It slowed down my career, but it also strengthened my resolve for what I wanted to do in life, and let me meet my partner.

Who is your idol?
Brandon Sanderson - He puts out book after book of quality content. The man is a writing machine, and a literary professor.

What would you do if you had a time machine?
Not worry about the little things in life.

Are you an extrovert or introvert?
Introvert

If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
Squirrel Girl - She kicks butts and eats nuts. She's beaten Galactus, Dr Doom and others through her wits. And she is currently going to university to learn computer science. Probably the most interesting hero out there.

(Incidentally, my favourite is Invincible. But so much bad stuff happens to him that I wouldn't trade my life for his!)

Have any pets?
One cat named Sprite (she is white as a ghost and we found her under a coke machine).

When the next asteroid hits Earth, causing the Yellowstone caldera to explode, California to fall into the ocean, the sea levels to rise, and the next ice age to set in, what current games or other pastimes do you think (or hope) will survive into the next era of human civilization? What do you hope is underneath that asteroid to be wiped out of the human consciousness forever?
I really hope deckbuilding or poolbuilding survives in some form. I think tokens in a bag is a robust enough mechanic to work in a Horizon: Zero Dawn world.

I hope that asteroid falls specifically on... well, I don't actually hate anything or anyone enough to desire that for them.

If you’d like to send a shout out to anyone, anyone at all, here’s your chance (I can’t guarantee they’ll read this though):
Big thanks to Kim Brebach from Good Games Publishing!

If you're not Australian then you probably don't know this, but Kim volunteers a LOT to help new designers and publishers here in Aus. He dedicates a lot of his time to helping the community, for no real gain on his part. We are all better off for his advice.

Just a Bit More
Thanks for answering all my crazy questions! Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers?

Thanks for taking an interest in this (possibly) lengthy interview! :)

It is always humbling for you to take any interest in me at all. I'll never be too big to feel honoured to be contacted by you, even if just to say hello.




Thank you for reading this People Behind the Meeples indie game designer interview! You can find all the interviews here: People Behind the Meeples and if you'd like to be featured yourself, you can fill out the questionnaire here: http://gjjgames.blogspot.com/p/game-designer-interview-questionnaire.html

Did you like this interview?  Show your support by clicking the heart at Board Game Links , liking GJJ Games on Facebook , or following on Twitter .  And be sure to check out my games on  Tabletop Generation.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Quick Review - Lucidity Six-Sided Nightmares- Kickstarter Preview

Lucidity: Sid-Sided Nightmares
Designer: Shannon Kelly
Publisher: Fox Tale Games
2-4p | 20-30m | 14+
Quick Review - Lucidity Six-Sided Nightmares- Kickstarter Preview
Disclaimer

Throughout history the night has been filled with mystery and fear.  Monsters under the bed, things that go bump in the night, shadows, betrayal, and claustrophobia are all denizens of the darkness.  Nowhere are these more prevalent than in our nightmares.  Night terrors threaten to consume you, unless you can master your dreams.  Learn the tricks to lucid dreaming and you will gain power over the nightmares and keep the darkness at bay.  Fail at this and you will succumb to that which you fear the most.

In Lucidity: Six-Sided Nightmares you are a Dreamer attempting to navigate the unpredictable world of dreams, learning to control your nightmares, and be the first to gain enough power over your dreams to control the nightmares.  Be careful though, if the nightmares become too powerful you will be stuck in a dreamstate and become a Nightmare, feeding off the other Dreamers' fears.

Lucidity: Six-Sided Nightmares is available on Kickstarter starting June 13 for about $29 ($39 AUD), plus shipping.  Lucidity is for two to four players, ages 14 and up (although I played fine with my seven year old), and takes around 30 minutes to play.

Overview:
Lucidity is a press-your-luck dice game with a dash of strategy and an awesome theme.  Games play fairly quickly and usually come down to the last turn before a winner is decided.  There is quite a bit of luck in the game, but also enough ways to mitigate the luck to keep the game interesting and exciting.
Lucidity says it's for ages 14+, but I played with kids as young as 7 with no problems.
Lucidity comes with a bag full of 80 custom, translucent dice in four colors, four large Dreamer cards, four sleep markers, four Nightmare cards, and four reference cards.  All of this packs into a pretty small form factor that will make the game easy to bring to any game night, or just out for fun!
These dice are awesome, and these are just the prototypes!
To set up the game, simply give each player a Dreamer card, sleep marker, and reference card.  Then lay out the four Nightmare cards and set the bag of 80 dice within reach of everyone.  Decide on a starting player (whoever had a bad dream last), and start playing.

On your turn the first thing you'll do is set your level of dream control.  With your sleep marker, choose one of the three sleep tracks.  Each track has three numbers - 3-5-7, 4-6-8, and 5-7-9.  You'll place the sleep marker on the smallest number of the track you choose.  Then draw that many dreams (dice) from the bag.  From these dreams you'll put two back in the bag and then roll any remaining dreams.  E.g., if you chose the 3-5-7 track you'll draw three dreams and only roll one of them, but if you chose the 4-6-8 track you'll draw four and roll two.
Start your dream on the left space of one of the sleep tracks and then grab some dreams from the bag!
After rolling the dream dice you'll resolve them.  Dreams have four different symbols on them: Power, Exhaust, Hunt, and Shadow.  Power are your points and can also be spent to try and control your dreams somewhat.  Exhaust can cause you to end your turn and possibly lose some Power.  Hunt is a rare symbol that is fairly easy to avoid (although dice with the Hunt symbols have the potential to reward a lot of Power), but too many of them can eliminate you from the game.  Shadows trigger Nightmare effects.

Dreams are resolved in a particular order: Power, then Hunt and Exhaust, and finally Shadows.  At any point you can spend a Power to reroll any or all of the unresolved dreams of that color.  The Power spent is then added to that Nightmare's card, if the Nightmare hasn't taken anyone over yet (more on this in a bit), or back in the bag otherwise.
Every step of the way there are meaningful decisions.  It all comes down to the dice,
but you always feel like you have some control.  Kind of like in your dreams!
Each type of dream has a different combination of symbols.  Blue dreams are from the Nightmare of the Depths.  These have three Shadows, two Power, and one Exhaust.  Depths Shadows will cause the Dreamer to pull another dream out of the bag at random and roll it, resolving its effects immediately (Power can still be spent to reroll this new dream, if available).  Green dreams are from the Nightmare of Envy.  These have three Power, two Shadows, and one Exhaust.  Envy Shadows will allow the next player in turn order to choose one of the Dreamer's already resolved dreams (dice already on the Dreamer's card) and have the Dreamer reroll it, resolving any effects immediately.  Yellow dreams are from the Nightmare of Imprisonment.  These have two Shadow, two Power, and two Exhaust.  Imprisonment Shadows cause you to change one already resolved Exhaust dream to its Shadow side.  This doesn't turn the dream into a Shadow, but it does make it harder to clear off your board when you rest (I'll cover resting shortly).  Red dreams are from the Nightmare of Primeval Fear.  These have two Shadows, two Power (one of which is worth two Power and the other is one Power), one Exhaust, and one Hunt.  Primeval Fear dreams are the only dreams with a Hunt side, which can potentially eliminate you from the game, but are also the only dreams with a double Power side.  Primeval Fear Shadows allow you to move any already resolved Shadow to your Hunt row, bringing you closer to elimination, but possibly keeping you from turning into a Nightmare or becoming Exhausted at an inopportune time.
There are 20 of each dream, each with different sides.  Watch out for those beasts though.  They'll hunt you down!
After resolving all your dreams you may have a choice.  If you haven't filled up a Hunt, Exhaust, or Shadow row on your card you can choose to either rest, or dream on.  If you choose to dream on you'll move your sleep marker to the next spot on the sleep track (e.g. from three to five, or from four to six in the above examples) and then repeat your turn.  If you choose to rest you can clear off all of your Exhaust dreams OR one of your Shadow dreams and then the next player takes a turn.  If you are at the end of your sleep track (seven, eight, or nine respectively), you must rest.

However, if you've filled up one of the other rows on your Dreamer card the Nightmares will start to take control.  If you've filled your Hunt row you are eliminated from the game.  This sounds pretty severe, but it actually happens pretty rarely in my experience (it only happened once in the bunch of games I played and it wasn't until the very end of the game, so I didn't actually miss any turns).  Hunt dreams are pretty easy to avoid, but the payoff for choosing Primeval Fear dreams is those double Power dreams you could rack up.  The game ends once someone has 15 Power, so getting two Power on one dream can be a pretty big boost.

If you've filled your Exhaust row you must rest, but since you are exhausted you might lose some of the Power you've built up.  Before clearing dreams off your card, draw one dream from the bag.  Any Power you have that matches the drawn dream's color is returned to the bag, along with that drawn dream, before resting.
When the Exhaust row is filled you're exhausted, but not if you become a nightmare first!
If you've filled up one of the Shadow rows for one of the Nightmares you have been taken over by that Nightmare.  You are no longer a Dreamer, but will play on as a Nightmare.  Take the nightmare card of the color Nightmare you became as well as all the Power that has been added to that Nightmare during the course of the game.  This Power goes into your Power track on your Dreamer card.  All other dreams on your card should go back into the bag.  Nightmares have different abilities and have a different sequence of steps to take on their turn.
Trying to control the nightmares only makes them stronger!
If you become a Nightmare the game isn't over.  In fact, it's just as much fun to play as a Nightmare as it is to play as a Dreamer.  Instead of rolling dreams on your turn you'll have a choice.  Either steal one Power dream in your color from any other Dreamer, or draw two dreams and send one of them to attack another Dreamer, who must roll and resolve it immediately.  This may sound a bit boring, but it's the Nightmare's abilities that make the simple turns very exciting.

Each Nightmare has a special ability that lets that player siphon Power from the other Dreamers and drive them to succumbing to the other Nightmare's quicker.  If you become the Nightmare of the Depths, any time a dreamer resolves a Shadow of the Depths, you'll get to take that Dream as a Power, then draw two dreams and give one to that Dreamer to resolve immediately.  If it's another Shadow of the Depths you can repeat this, gaining more Power and further drowning the Dreamer in Nightmares.

Becoming the Nightmare of Envy lets you steal both Shadows and Exhaust Envy dreams as Power.  Then you can either choose one dream on a Dreamer's card for them to reroll and resolve or choose a Dreamer to reroll any two dreams on their card, however you'll gain any Power they reroll.
The artwork is disturbingly awesome.
The Nightmare of Imprisonment lets you gain Power whenever a Dreamer rolls Shadow or Exhaust dreams.  Then you can move a Shadow from anywhere on that Dreamer's card to their Exhaust row, making it much harder for them to push their luck.

Finally, the Nightmare of Primeval Fear will earn you Power whenever a Dreamer rolls a Shadow or Hunt dream.  Then you can move a Shadow from that Dreamer's card to their Hunt row.  This makes the Nightmare of Primeval Fear a pretty dreadful Nightmare and one the Dreamers will want to avoid.
Primeval Fear and Imprisonment can deal death blows.
The game continues until either one player gains at least 15 Power (then everyone else gets one final turn) or all players become Nightmares (then the game ends immediately).  The player with the most Power is then the winner!
Reaching 15 or more Power ends the game, but doesn't necessarily win.
The player with the most power at the end is the winner!

Final Thoughts:
First, I have to say that I absolutely love the theme and artwork.  The artwork portrays the various nightmares horridly.  When I use horrid here it's a compliment.  The artist, William Webb, captures the spine tingling world of nightmares perfectly.  The struggle to free yourself from the Depths, the claustrophobia of Imprisonment, the beastial terror of the Primeval Fear, and the betrayal of Envy are all brought to life in the nightmare illustrations.  And the eye on the Dreamer boards is beautiful, until you look closely and see the torment there.  This game doesn't have much art, but the art that is there is excellent and, combined with the excellent dice, really brings the theme of dreams and nightmares to life.
Even in black and white the artwork is terrifying.
As we all know, though, beautiful artwork doesn't make a game great, though.  There are plenty of games out there with gorgeous artwork that are just OK, or even bad.  I'm happy to say that Lucidity: Six-Sided Nightmares is definitely not bad.  Playing the game is a joy, not a nightmare at all.  This is definitely a filler game, light enough to pull out at the beginning or end of game night, but there's just enough meat that you feel like you're actually playing a game and not just going through the motions.  I like press-your-luck games that give you options and choices, so you don't feel like you're completely a slave to the dice.
Everyone loves chucking dice, especially when they present you with decisions rather than outcomes!
Games like Zombie Dice have their place - they're good games for a bar or restaurant or even for younger kids (my son wanted Zombie Dice for his fifth birthday and loved it for a good two years before he got tired), but they don't have enough depth to really satisfy you on game night.  Lucidity gives you choices right from the very start and keeps you thinking and second guessing yourself throughout the entire game.  There are ways to mitigate the randomness of the dice, but only a little.  This adds to the tension and desperation that feeds the theme so well.  Just when you think you have control, away it all goes!  Yes, this can be frustrating at times, but it's thematic and the game is light enough where it's actually fun when that happens, whether to you or to another player.
Lucidity is fun for all ages!
When I first played Lucidity there wasn't the option to spend Power to reroll dice.  This is something that was added after I suggested it to the designer and it really moved the game to a completely new level.  It was good before that, but dreamers felt powerless after making the initial decisions on which dreams to roll.  I suggested that power gained should be able to be used to try and control the dreams rolled, since thematically that's what the game was about.  So I tried that, and it worked.  The designer, Shannon tried it, and also liked it.  So after a number of other playtests and a few tweaks to that mechanic, Shannon now has a game that feels much more immersive.  It adds to the decisions you need to make during your turn, and makes those decisions much more important.  Do you deal with getting a few Exhaust and Shadow dice?  Or do you spend your hard earned Power to play the odds and hope you can avoid those nightmares?  But spending your Power only makes the Nightmares stronger in the long run.  It also makes the strategy of purposely becoming a nightmare a critical decision as well.  The Nightmares can be very powerful, but they are much more reliant on the whim of the dice and the decisions of the other players.  If a Nightmare has built up a significant amount of power, maybe it's worth it to purposely become a Nightmare.  But do you succumb now, or hope it gets more powerful and you get another chance before someone else becomes the powerful Nightmare first.  The decisions are gut wrenching at times, and sometimes fate just has other plans for you.
Deciding how to resolve the dice is more strategic than you'll first think.
All the games were close and came down to critical decisions at the very end!
There's also plenty of interaction between players, especially after one or more players become nightmares.  Once you become a nightmare your entire involvement in the game takes on a whole new aspect.  No longer are you trying to control the dice, instead you're hoping and wishing for the downfall of your opponents more than ever, since their failure is your success.  This might not be a feeling for everyone, but if you're game, it's an incredibly fun feeling.  I wouldn't really call it take-that since you're not actively destroying your opponents, at least not much - you can steal some points and you do want to give players dice that you think will hurt them, but you're really just playing the odds and hoping their bad luck will be your good luck.
Even becoming a nightmare on your very first turn can result in an exciting, and close game!
Lucidity: Six-Sided Nightmares definitely brings out the awesome theme in a very unique, and frighteningly gorgeous way.  The game looks beautiful, plays smoothly, is interactive, and tense.  For a press-your-luck game there are a ton of choices to make, and choices that matter.  It's more than just a decision on whether or not to push your luck, these are decisions about probability, and making the best of a bad situation, and which strategy is right for you at any particular time.  There are many layers to Lucidity, and I think you'll have a ton of fun peeling them back to examine the Nightmares inside.
The prototype components were awesome.  The final game should be nothing short of incredible!
If Lucidity: Six-Sided Nightmares sounds like an interesting game, be sure to check it out on Kickstarter.  The game only costs $29 ($39 AUD) and will definitely be one you bring out again and again.  I can't wait to get my copy!  I hope the game is a wild success so that we can maybe see more types of dreams in the future.  I'd love to see the game expanded for more players, or have additional dreams that can be added (like falling, or that panicky feeling that you're back in school for a test and don't know where the class is).  Check out Lucidity on Kickstarter now!

Preliminary Rating: 8/10

This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.


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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends. Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games. Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play). I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game. Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing. Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.