December 21, 2015
Here’s the link to that article in the New York Times on the Star Wars fans that are going to camp out in front of their movie theater.
Hope everyone has a safe and happy Holiday season, and enjoy Star Wars!
See you in 2016!
September 6, 2012
“Well, we’re on our way.” – FDR upon learning that American troops had set sail for the invasion of North Africa
So here we are. After months of feverish activity, lots of late nights, and gallons of leaded coffee, our Kickstarter campaign for Specimen is now up and running. I would like to say that I’m relieved, but that just ain’t true. To paraphrase the tag line for Specimen, “When the Kickstarter starts, the terror begins.”
At least I had some semblance of control while we were preparing everything. Now, it’s up to you guys. Oh sure, Joe and I will be furiously tweeting, blogging, and posting on Facebook, basically doing everything we can to get people interested. But really, a board game like Specimen will either appeal to you or it won’t.
So, now begins 30 days of prodding, poking, and cajoling to everyone and anyone I can find to support this project.
That being said, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/toxicbag/specimen-board-game to donate to the kickstarter.
Please, take a minute to check out the rewards we have for pledging at different levels. And if you think the project is as cool as we think it is, please consider pledging a few bucks. You can be part of the Specimen Community and help send this great, fun game out into the world!
Every little bit helps, and Joe and I will be very grateful.
Finally, I can’t express enough how proud I am of all the hard work and contributions I’ve gotten from everyone involved with Specimen. You guys listened to the crazy ramblings of wide eyed, obviously mentally impaired or over-medicated bald guy and somehow turned them into a really cool, slick looking game. And for that, I will be eternally grateful, whatever Specimen’s end.
YOU GUYS ROCK!
And so far in the first day, we’ve raised over one thousand dollars!
Well, we’re on our way!
Now, if we can just raise a million bucks…
‘Course, what do I know?
August 28, 2012
This past Saturday I had the pleasure (read ‘sheer terror’) to have my first board game design, “Specimen”, put through a blind playtest. What exactly is a blind playtest, you ask? A blind playtest is where the players play the game using just the rule book. There is no instruction from an experienced player. This type of playtest is actually a critical step on the path to releasing the game. Since I’m not planning on sending myself along with every copy of the game to teach people how to play, making sure that the rules are complete and make sense with minimal confusion is a really good idea. I should point out that I have never written an instruction manual before this, so while everything in it makes sense to me, to others, probably not so much.
Thanks to Eric Van Tassel (“Specimen’s” plucky Science Officer Franklin), we had two very experienced gamers arrive at Stately Cullom Manor at 11:30 AM. After brief introductions and a tour of my fanboy abode, I sat Alex Hunt and Jonathon Hagedorn down at the table with the board, several piles of counters, cards, dice and two copies of the rules and let them have at it. The three of us agreed that I wouldn’t tell them anything and they wouldn’t ask me any questions unless they were completely flummoxed.
Here is where the ‘pleasure’ began in earnest (mostly in my living room, but definitely earnest too). Alex and Jonathon began by reading the rule book cover to cover. Both were armed with post-it notes and pens and very quickly (Like page freaking one!) they began to make notes. It’s quite an experience to watch something you’ve spent basically the last three years of your life working on being picked apart and being powerless to intervene. It’s all for the greater good (the greater good), I kept telling myself. The game will only get better with this. So I sucked it up and went with it. I decided to try and distract myself from the vivisection going on at the table by watching the blu-ray of “The Thing” (the new version, not the Carpenter one.)
By the time the film came to its happy, upbeat conclusion, Jonathon and Alex were well into actually playing the game. Now I got the pleasure of hearing little snippets of their conversation as they confer on game play and rules. “I believe that attempting to damage the ship costs 2 action points, right?” and things like that. Of course, it seems to me that the only bits of the conversation that I can make out clearly are ones that indicate that my rule-writing skills hover somewhere between ‘awful’ and ‘second grader.’ I’m fairly certain that not once did I catch the phrase “This is brilliant. Whoever wrote it is clearly a genius and should be standing in some sort of sun-god robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at him” (Why am I the only one who has that dream?).
As this torture rolled on, I became convinced that at any moment the guys were going to announce that the rules are a mess, the game is a failure and my sense of home decor is questionable at best.
Fortunately the whole affair ends quite well. They both enjoyed the game. The rules as I wrote them are serviceable. Jonathon and Alex both put forth a lot of good suggestions for improvement and a few GREAT ones. Several sections can be combined. Several should be expanded. And several new ones should be added.
So, I think that we’ve passed that step. Or at least, didn’t trip and break our freaking necks on it. I’m now in the process of implementing their suggestions, and hope to have a new draft of the rules soon.
After that, I guess I’ll take a serious look at my home decor…
‘Course, what do I know?
August 7, 2012
I have a confession to make. I am a faux-trailer maker. There, I said it. I admit it. What exactly is a faux-trailer maker, you ask? It’s a person who makes trailers for movies that don’t technically exist. And I’m one of them. I know, weird, right? What kind of a weirdo would spend the time, effort, and money to make a trailer for a movie that was never made?
This kind, I guess…
Anyway, it all started back in April when Joe and I released the “Ghost in the Graveyard” soundtrack. I got the crazy idea to cut together a trailer for the imaginary film that the soundtrack was written for. I thought it could allow the customer to hear the music used in a horror setting. Sooo, we called up an actor friend and put together a shot list and off we went. We shot the trailer, nobody got hurt (despite the bloody wound seen in the trailer!) and I had a blast.
I thought that it would be a one-time thing. I was just experimenting, you know, pushing my boundries. But I enjoyed the feeling. After we finished, I started to miss it. Then in May we did our big photo shoot for our new board game “Specimen.” I saw my chance. As we were running through our setups for the new card images, I had Joe shoot some video clips of our cast looking scared and what not. We’re currently putting the finishing touches on the trailer. The photo up above is me working on some state-of-the-art special effects for it. We should get it posted real soon.
So that will be two trailers and counting. I know, I know, I should stop. This can’t be healthy for me. If anybody knows about any support groups out there, please forward me the contact information. But I got to tell you, it’s so much fun, I don’t think I can stop. And I’m not sure I want too.
Gotta go, I just had a cool idea for a trailer for “The Girl with the Dagon Tattoo” project. It will be epic.
‘Course, what do I know?
-Editors note. Steve is currently ‘resting’ in the Miskatonic Home for Wayward Trailer Makers. He is making excellent progress and hopes to be rejoin society and enjoy watching real movies, and the trailers that advertise them very soon.
July 23, 2012
For the past few months we’ve been working feverishly to enhance the look of our new game, Specimen. Armed with gigabytes of new images from our photo shoot, we’re updating the graphics and design of every aspect of the game. Recently I’ve taken on the challenge of redoing the Attribute cards. Out of all the materials of our prototype, the Attribute cards were in the most dire need of a re-boot. Plain and un-imaginative, these cards were whipped out to be purely functional.
The original prototype version of an Attribute card
Since our specimen is part of Doctor Viktor’s research, it made sense to me that the attributes would be his findings. So I designed a display screen that has all the pertinent game info but also included some other cool window dressing as well.
First draft of the new look attribute card
I think that this new look is a step in the right direction.
What do you think?
The Specimen project moving on. You guys have been asking a lot of questions about the game and how it works. So, I decided to give you guys more of a feel for what this game is about, Enjoy! – Steve
Toxic Bag: Tell us about the new look for Specimen.
Steve: I have always conceived of the game as a film. I was actually imagining scenes from an imaginary sci-fi film as I was coming up with the game events. So I decided early on that instead of having artwork done for the events and characters, I wanted live actors posed with costumes and props. Once playtesting had progressed to a point that I was happy with the game design, Joe and I hired a costume director, a photographer, and six actors, and started building props. The end result was a nine-hour photo shoot that produced some amazing pictures. Joe and I are now in the process of manipulating the photos and we hope to start releasing them in the next few weeks. I’m very excited about how they’re coming out! Now if I can only find a place to store that flamethrower prop…
The Crew of the TCS Brown searches for the Specimen
Toxic Bag: How long does it generally take to play Specimen?
Steve: It was really important to me to make a game that can be played in one sitting. So far in play testing we’ve found that the game can be played as quickly as two hours, but three and a half hours seems to be the norm.
Toxic Bag: Is this a two-player game only? Can more than two people play?
Steve: I’ve been asked that question a lot during our open play tests. The current version of the game is for two players. I’ve explored optional rules that would make the game for 8 players (one person would control each crew member and the monster.) The biggest obstacles are distributing the cards and the fragile nature of the crew. I haven’t worked out a system that would give every crewmember a card or two to play each turn that I like. Also, crewmembers die very easily, and I’m not sure how excited I would be if my character died 15 minutes into a 3 and half hour game…
Toxic Bag: Could you compare this game to some of the other Card-driven games on the market?
Steve: I would say that Specimen uses a hybrid version of the CDG game systems that are out there. The biggest difference is game scale. Most of the other CDG games that I have seen are historical/strategic games that cover an entire campaign or war involving millions of men and equipment. Specimen focuses on the events taking place on one spaceship. There are seven astronauts and one monster. That’s it.
Since there are no reinforcements, each side has to be very careful not to waste the crew’s lives or Specimen’s wounds. I think that this limitation makes the game more intense in the mid to late stages. The players have to decide whether to play OPS and move or have an event happen. And that decision gets tougher when either the Crew is split up and alone or the Specimen only has one or two wounds left.
Toxic Bag: Please explain the Specimen attributes for us as well as how a player ‘builds’ their monster.
Steve: The current version of the game has 24 attributes to choose from. The Attributes can be broken down into three categories: offensive, defensive and special. Offensive attributes can be anything from a spikey tail (which gives a bonus die in combat) to razor-sharp talons (a +1drm for combat rolls). Defensive attributes help the monster negate the Crew attacks. Things like an armored exoskeleton (a -1drm for Crew combat rolls) to toxic blood (if wounded, there is a chance that the creature’s blood will get on the Crew and potentially kill them! The Special attributes are just that; special. Faster evolution (the monster gets bigger, quicker) and embryo implanter (the monster can reproduce!) are just a couple of examples.
Each attribute also has a point cost associated to it of zero to three points. The Specimen player has three points to spend on attributes and must take three attributes. So, whichever trio of cards they take, the total point cost can’t be more than three.
The rule of thumb is the higher the cost, the better the attribute. However, you can build a very nasty creature with three 0 or 1 point attributes.
Toxic Bag: I see that some of the crewmembers are officers. How does rank affect the game?
Steve: I wanted to make the crew makeup realistic. So it was obvious that there’d be a Captain of the ship. After that, I decided to have a first and second officer. One of my goals was to make this game have a horror flavor to it, and so rank only really enters play later in the game when the monster attacks. As the crew dwindles, the chances increase that the survivors will panic when the monster attacks. Having an officer present helps the rest of the Crew with their panic checks. ‘Course, that means you have to keep the officers alive too. (Laughs)
Toxic Bag: This is a CDG, so how important is hand management?
Steve: Like any CDG, there are certain cards that really should be played as the event. Specimen is no different. Crew events like the flamethrowers and the trackers are really important events and skipping them can be adverse to the Crew’s health. As for the monster, not playing the Air vent movement event really puts the monster in a bad spot. But for the most part, I tried to design the card events as things that you want to have happen, but you could probably win without. That’s where hand management comes in. Holding a card or two, waiting hand after hand to draw that one specific card to work out a sequence is not a winning strategy. You have to play the hand you’re dealt, not the hand you wanted.
Toxic Bag: How do you see the strategy challenge for a player in Specimen?
Steve: Both sides face big challenges in the game. The Crew holds the advantage in the early turns, but they have several choices facing them. Do they hunt down the monster while it’s tiny and weak or do they fix the ship so they don’t explode? Maybe they split up (always a great idea in horror!) and try to do both? The monster has to be careful in the beginning, this is when it is at its weakest. During the middle turns, things even out as the Monster evolves and gets stronger, and the Crew fatalities start to increase. The situation flips during the later turns when the monster has the advantage. But the Crew isn’t totally helpless, as they will be better armed (guns and flamethrowers) and can always abandon the ship.
October 1, 2011
Result: Major Space Monster Victory
15 Space Monster Victories
6 Crew Victories
Play Tester Game Playing Level: High
Note – Italics indicate that a card was played as an event.
Turn 1 saw the engineers, Milton and Britt, complaining about their contract and refusing to work, while the rest of the Crew moved to normal duty stations. The Monster unsuccessfully attempted to evolve and the Crew decided to build the motion trackers. The monster moved about the ship and unsuccessfully attempted to damage it. The end of the turn saw machines repair the damaged cargo hold.
Turn 2 had new damage detected in Corridor One. Both engineers moved to the damaged section, but were unable to repair it. The rest of the Crew built the high-strength nets.
At the beginning of turn 3, the Monster damaged the now-vacant Engine Room, and Cinder discovered that the Monster was going to be harder to kill (One of the Monster Attributes). The Crew then constructed the electrical prods; Britt was told to go to corridor one to take care of something. All by himself, Britt was attacked and killed by the monster. While the rest of the Crew attempted to find it, the Monster again tried to evolve, but failed. The end of this turn would see the player decks expand to 40 cards.
Turn 4 began with the Crew learning that the Monster was strong and smart and out to kill them. This resulted in the Monster drawing an extra card for its next hand. Realizing this, the Crew decided to construct 2 incinerators. Both Cargo Holds suddenly exploded, causing light damage in each. Machines quickly repaired one of the holds. The Monster appeared in the Crew Mess and although it received a wound, it killed Navigator Hamm. The Captain came up with a plan and the Crew attempted to find the monster. The Monster evolved to Stage One at the end of the turn.
Turn 5 had the Crew arguing amongst themselves, costing them a card for next turn’s hand. Cinder and SISTER then turned up something useful to use against the Monster, resulting in the Monster losing a card from next turn’s hand. Smith, the ship’s cat, got loose, making it more difficult for the Crew to track the Monster. The rest of the turn saw the Crew trying to repair the damaged sections and the Monster healing its wound.
Turn 6 saw the Captain activate SISTER and ask for advice, gaining an extra die in combat. The lights on C deck suddenly went out, making it much harder for the Crew to search.
Turn 7 began with the Crew discovering that the Monster was using the vents to move around the ship more quickly. New Damage was detected in the Engine Room, but was quickly repaired by machine. Engineer Milton was attacked by the Space Monster in Corridor Two. When the rest of the Crew got there…he was gone. The rest of the Crew spent the rest of the turn trying to fix the damaged sections.
Turn 8 had the Monster appear out of the shadows and attack the Crew. Although wounded twice, it succeeded in killing the Captain and Executive Officer Abel, the latter by emitting a sonic screech (one of the Monster Attributes). To protect themselves from this new deadly attack, the rest of the Crew donned EVA suits. The Monster evolved to Stage Two at the end of turn.
Turn 9 began with the Monster quickly evolving to Stage Three. The surviving Crew members quickly assembled on the Bridge and decided that they were gonna kill the Monster, rather than attempt to abandon the ship. The Airlock depressurized, making it inaccessible for the turn. The highly evolved Monster attacked and killed Cinder on the bridge. This left Palance alone to fight the Monster.
Turn 10 saw Palance decide to make a last stand in the Computer room. She activated SISTER and would receive an extra card for the next turn…assuming there would be one. The Monster didn’t attack and instead attempted to damage the ship.
Turn 11 had the Monster attack Palance in the Computer Room. In the first two rounds of Combat, Palance succeeded in wounding the Monster. With only one wound left, the Monster attacked again and succeeded. With her dying breath, Palance fired a harpoon gun. If it hit (by rolling a 1), the Monster would be killed, resulting in a draw. But the die came up with a 4. Palance was dead, and the Monster had won the game.
Another exciting game; this one ending with both players having a chance to win the game. We got to see the Sonic Screech attribute used successfully. The Search mechanic is still not working right. I’m also thinking that the bowels of the ship area – a safe haven for the Monster – will have to be adjusted as well. The Crew player needs something to even the odds. But again, the overall experience was positive!
September 22, 2011
Oct 14 will see the release of another remake of the Thing.
You can view the new redband trailer here.
I’m not sure what to think of this. It appears that it’s a prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing with this story concerning the Norwegians’ first discovery of the alien life form. It would be fun to finally see how the base that MacReady and Copper discover got torched. And who the guy was who slit his wrists and neck and then froze to death in the chair. I hope that this group of filmmakers have a sense of continuity.
Looks like a lot of CGI, but it could be fun!
What do you guys think?