Tag Archives: serendipity

a cool coin-cidence


This is an image of a “remarkably rare” gold coin from very short reign of the Roman Emperor Otho, who ruled for only three months in the year 69.

It is part of a collection of  Ancient Roman and Greek coins recently re-discovered in the Library of the University at Buffalo.

As my dear readers already know, I’m putting the finishing touches on a game called LXIX: The Year of Four Emperors. For those of you who don’t know, LXIX is 69 in Roman numerals. Otho is one of the titular Four Emperors in my game!

It gives me a real thrill to see this tiny piece of history surface while I’m working on a game about the very period in which it was minted. Just imagine! A Roman general seizes the throne in one of Rome’s most turbulent years, but only manages to hold onto power for three months before sacrificing his own life to save Rome from a terrible civil war.

Yet this tiny coin, minted in the brief time Otho ruled as emperor, survived for more than nineteen centuries to end up tucked away in a case, deep in the archives of a library in Buffalo, New York, hidden away and forgotten until a curious assistant professor of classics chased down a rumor and brought it to light. Wow!

Just seeing his noble face peering out from the centuries gives me chills.


a cabin in the woods

I’m leaving in the morning for a long weekend of tomfoolery, camaraderie and isolation in the North Woods of Wisconsin. I’m bringing a few games and prototypes, as well as my Chevee Dodd-inspired Idea Box for rapid prototyping while I’m up there.

I mentioned isolation–I’ll have negligible Internet access while I’m up there; I don’t own a smart phone, and there’s no Internet access at the cabin. I’m really looking forward to a few days away from the Internet. My pal John Kovalic has been leaving his smart phone at home when he’s working at his studio. I hope it’ll help me be as productive as he’s been.

I’ve got a brand new game to work on while I’m there, and a couple others to play test. Additionally, this morning I had an idea for a game based on the old Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. I think it’s  a perfect basis for a game, and I want to explore the idea of serendipity in game mechanisms.

Before I go, I want to share this insightful video from one of my favorite YouTube series, Extra Credits. Fascinating stuff.

Snake and Ladders may be one of the oldest and one of the best “Mechanics as Metaphor” games out there.



I’m glad I didn’t get to play test Canardo’s Dungeon last Tuesday.


As I mentioned in an earlier 4P update, I lost an opportunity to play test with some casual gaming friends last week because I took too long making pretty cards.

However, on Monday night I joined more than a dozen other designers from the Madison Game Design Cabal for their monthly play test Meetup at Essen Haus. It was my first time attending this Meetup, though I’ve played with many of the designers at other events. After making introductions, our host JT Smith encouraged me to get my game on the table right away. I sat down with five enthusiastic testers, including Steven and Peter Dast, two sharp designers I’ve play tested with for years.

I warned everyone going in that, though this was a redevelopment of an earlier game, I didn’t have a solid rule set and I wasn’t really sure how it would go. There was a lot of vague hand waving as I tried to explain how to play. My play testers had questions and I was short on answers; it was going to be a bumpy ride.

There was a lot of vague hand waving as I tried to explain how to play.

We groped our way through this rough draft, pausing every round or two to assess progress and make adjustments. By the halfway mark, we’d sussed out some of the major issues and paused for a pre-mortem dissection.

The debate at this point was lively and I could see the wheels churning in my fellow designers’ minds. I gathered and weighed the many suggestions, key among them a novel idea from Peter and crunchy analysis from Steven. From this, I winnowed a set of rules we’d test the last half of the game against.

From there out, the game played exactly as I’d envisioned it. It was charming and fun, with enough surprises to keep the players on their toes. It’s far from a finished gem, but we ground off a lot of the rough edges and exposed some exciting new facets to polish. There’s no way I could have accomplished that much on a first play test with non-designers.

So, I’m glad I didn’t get to play test Canardo’s Dungeon last Tuesday.

It would have been a disaster.

true confession:


When I play tested Roma at The Gathering, I taught it from memory and…I forgot a rule.

Turns out it played better without it, so I got rid of it. #serendipity