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Scout: New Game Modes!
By: Alex
Posted Monday, Feb 10th 2014 @ 23:58

At residency, I gave a workshop on how clear, meaningful game design philosophies can focus a project and solve problems in the mix. In the workshop, I asked my colleagues and contemporaries to help test a few new game modes for Scout.

When designing Scout, I scrapped a lot of complex systems in favor of clean, simple ones. I wanted to make a game with only the base components. A simple, stable system like Scout has the propensity for greater complexity without compromising balance, because new layers of complexity can be built into its reliable, consistent core mechanics. To test this, I challenged my contemporaries to help create new game modes without introducing any new game components. This is great for you, because you can play the new modes without buying anything new! And, it's great for me because, so can I! Here's what we came up with:

Hard Mode.
Deal 15 cards out of the deck at random. Eliminate these cards from play. Make sure the gumdrop remains in the main deck and shuffle it. Deal the remaining deck into three equal piles, and play. The empty space does not count as a cleared pile.

Legendary Mode.
Deal the entire deck into three equal piles, and play. The empty space does not count as a cleared pile.

Two-Player Mode.
Deal the deck into seven piles. Create a Scout game board with four piles. Create another adjacent game board out of the other three. The two boards will share the central pile.

Choose a player to go first. That player plays as normal until:
a. That player cannot make a legal move, or
b. That player kills a spider

Either resulting game-state passes the turn.

Both players may access the central pile, but otherwise, a player may only scout and clear piles on their side of the game board; with one exception.

The gumdrop, if visible, may be taken into a player's item slot on his or her turn from anywhere, including an opponent's pile or an opponent's item slot.

Have fun.

xoxo (CW) Alex

Release: Galapagos!
By: Alex
Posted Monday, Sep 2nd 2013 @ 22:40

In all the excitement over Scout, I forgot to release Galapagos! Well, never again, I say! Never again. Because the beta is over and Galapagos is now officially released!


I would first like to thank everyone that helped with the beta (This is starting to sound like an awards show, and I'm okay with that). Your feedback was invaluable and I used almost every note I received. Did you know that I sometimes commit typographical errors? It's true!

Well, since this is a release, I suppose I should include some basic information about the game somewhere in this post. Now, let me just ctrl+z...

Galapagos is a resource management game in which players take on the roles of competing species in a rainforest. Each turn, players will harvest genetic material: the currency with which they may buy mutations to change their species or propagate to increase their presence in the ecosystem. Players must balance strategy, tactics, and guile to compete in the pursuit of several unique win conditions; ultimately to ensure the survival of their genetic footprint.

It's hilarious, colorful, mildly informative, and immensely addictive. What more do you need? If you don't want to buy it I understand, though. You're probably just, super into communism or whatever. No, it's cool. No judgement.

Oh, speaking of commies! I'm going to get started on the PDF versions of these within the month so that you can get your print-n-play on. If I forget, just poke me. Unless I'm dead. Don't poke dead people. It's pointless and rude.

xoxo (CW) Alex

Release: Scout
By: Alex
Posted Monday, Aug 26th 2013 @ 22:37

A month ago, I had this idea for a game. In a month's time, I worked diligently on said game. But I did not fret. I did not stress out over deadlines. I did not freak out. Not about the game anyway. Instead, I worked on the game to relieve stress. I rendered to build skill with the pen, and to practice single-tone depth; but mostly because it had a calming effect. In fact, everything about this game has a calming effect. It's a simple, clean, solitaire build. It doesn't have particularly deep strategy or complex interactions. But, sometimes you don't need that. Sometimes, you're on a plane, or at the DMV, and you just want to turn over a few cards and breathe. I don't know exactly what it is, but this game will lower your blood pressure like Cheerios. Oh, I'm going to release it now. Let me just-

Scout: A Little Odyssey

Oh, it's also cheap! I have so much I wanted to drop in this post and there I go talking about process. I'll try to streamline from here out. Unless a tangent surfaces. I'm sometimes self-indulgent on those. And taffy. Good lord. Oh, the post. Let's start with the new cover art:

I simplified it a bit and went with a smaller box. I'm really gung-ho about the DMV thing. In Scout, you take on the role of Andrew: a young ant in search of a new food source for the hive. Find one, and you can expect a hero's welcome and a ticker tape parade. But, should you fail, you will surely disappoint Mother. And that simply won't do.

So there are spiders that you have to kill with needles and scary terrain you have to traverse and also there's some not-so-scary terrain, that you also have to traverse- additionally. Oh, and a gumdrop! I'm usually better at describing things.

So, um, to recap or whatever, Scout is a simple solitaire game with magical calming properties that I can't quite explain. It's not extreme or flavor-blasted, or anything-core. It's not meant to be. Sometimes, you can do more with less.

xoxo (CW) Alex

Cover Art: Scout
By: Alex
Posted Monday, Aug 12th 2013 @ 11:03

So I went a different direction.

I've been engaging in a bit of research on George Maciunas and the Fluxus movement; realizing at every turn that the guy has a lot in common with myself. Here are a few snippets from the wiki:

"Fluxus encouraged a 'do-it-yourself' aesthetic, and valued simplicity over complexity. Like Dada before it, Fluxus included a strong current of anti-commercialism and an anti-art sensibility, disparaging the conventional market-driven art world in favor of an artist-centered creative practice."

"Shared by its sibling art movements Pop Art and minimalism, Fluxus expressed a countercultural sentiment to the value of art and the modes of its experience –distinctly achieved by its commitment to collectivism and to decommodifying and deaestheticizing art."

"By undermining the traditional role of art and artist, its humor is reflective of a goal to bring life back into art..."

"Where many multiple publishers produced signed, numbered objects in limited editions intended for sale at high prices, Maciunas produced open editions at low prices."

"Whilst Maciunas was still alive, no fluxus work was ever signed or numbered, and many weren't even credited to any artist."

So that's cool.

While still determined to experiment in exquisite corpse in the near future, I decided that the art direction for scout should be simple and clean, matching the aesthetic of the gameplay. Simple game, simple art. I wanted to produce it in a style cognisant with the simplicity and elegance of fluxus art. I thought of a poster I had seen in the Oak Room at Goddard. It was a single-color print, using line work to create depth. Yeah, that was the ticket.

The pink was an accident.

xoxo (CW) Alex

Exquisite Corpse: Scout
By: Alex
Posted Monday, Aug 5th 2013 @ 18:44

So, a little update on Galapagos for starters. We're nearing the end of beta and the whole thing looks stable and set. I have a little bit of artwork to upload and a couple of minor tweaks to the rules, but all in all I think we're nearing release time. If you still want it on the cheap, I'd say order up pronto.

Now, it turns out this little game we've been playing at the art table was invented by surrealists and has a sweet name: Exquisite Corpse. The game, in which artists pass work around the table culminating in a single collaborative artwork, was played by the likes of Andre Breton and Marcel Duchamp in its heyday. I'm particularly inspired by two aspects of the exercise: the willingness to let go, and the complete trust in your contemporaries.

I've decided to experiment in the game while producing artwork for two of our upcoming projects: Scout and Prologues. At my first table session back from residency, I drummed up a concept for Andy, the protagonist in Scout. It went from meh to marvelous in no time, and my Art Rangers jumped on it. Here's the initial sketch from my first pass:

Wilson and Holly did some micro-passes in between, working diligently like... um, like some sort of hard-working, diligent species might. A little ink, a little color, a little junk food, and voila. A new challenger has entered the ring.


Update: After the awesome electronic pass made by my art ranger cohorts, I have thrown in a few finishing touches: mainly a lovely logo for the game. Collaborative powers activate! Form of: Poster!

xoxo (CW) Alex

Galapagos action shots!
By: Alex
Posted Monday, Jul 22nd 2013 @ 18:05

So, something arrived in the mail this week. I'll give you a hint: it's my beta copy of Galapagos, and it's glorious. I'm- not that great at hints.

Beta is in full swing and we've had some great games. It's fun (that's good, right?), high-energy, and doesn't feel like a drag in the long game. One of the best news blips I have to report is the fact that there is very little I have to change for the retail release outside of minor rules tweaks and clarifications. There is one big one though: Each player starts with ATCG. This is to say that you can, potentially, buy one of the most powerful cards on turn one. It also means you can TRY to buy one of the most powerful cards and, in effect, ruin the rest of your game. Go ahead. Mess with the gene pool. Maybe your kids will have venom. Maybe they'll have too many limbs.

Another thing I'm mondo jazzed about (because I only know adjectives from the eighties) is that fact that I'm on a seven game losing streak. I designed this game and I can't seem to win it. This is a good thing. It means there aren't any overwhelming balance issues. Not to say the game is balanced, or fair. It wasn't designed to be either. It has wild mood swings. But if the creator can't seem to catch a break, I'd say we're cookin'.

Oh, did you want to see this mug? Let's roll that beautiful bean footage:

Here's the un-boxing in all of its glory. Look at all that loot. God, it looks like candy. I just want to eat it. Especially that strawberry bonbon spider. Okay.

Here's a shot of the hex tiles. Just look at those sweet, sweet baby boys.

And here's a typical setup of a game, angled for marketing goodness. The beta copy is five bucks cheaper than the retail, so, even if you just want to eat it, you're getting your money's worth.

xoxo (CW) Alex

Galapagos is now in beta!
By: Alex
Posted Monday, Jul 8th 2013 @ 16:34

That's right, sports fans, we're in beta! And it's an open beta, so you can grab your copy today and help us finish this thang. Did you want that link?

Here's that link.

So, how can you help us fix it? Well, you'll need a copy first. Then, play the game with your friends and your enemies, and email me with that feedback. There are a few things I need to know specifically, so do tell, if you are so inclined. Activate bulleted list!

-Are there enough hex tiles to make a variety of dynamic game boards? Should I pack in more?

-Is harvesting easy enough to understand?

-Is everything printing clearly enough for your home game area/opium den?

-Are there strategies that seem broken?

-Does it feel like the player that goes first has an advantage? Or maybe a disadvantage?

-Are there enough genetic material cards? Are there too many?

-What's your favorite win condition?

-Should everything be labeled? Or do you like the minimalist approach?

I also want general impressions and the like. I need reports of balance issues of course. And let me know, in a nice way, if some of the art isn't playing.

Happy mutating, everyone.

xoxo (CW) Alex

Happy little mutations.
By: Alex
Posted Monday, Jun 3rd 2013 @ 22:07

In Galapagos, success is determined by your ability to out-compete your opponents for ecological space. Depending on your presence in the forest, you will harvest varying amounts of genetic material each turn. Okay, cool. Now, you have a choice to make. What are you going to spend those sweet, sweet nucleobases on? Here are some options!

a) You can buy adaptations! These are cheap and have known effects when attached to a creature, such as a bonus to fighting or access to the canopy. Now, you must be wondering, "How are you going to punish us for this obviously responsible choice?" Well I'm glad you asked. Dan, our resident caper plotter, designed the handicap for this one, and it's really mean. The stacks of adaptations are ordered with the weakest on top. So, by purchasing one, you are giving your opponents access to a more powerful one. Jeez, Dan, you're so mean! Here are a few mutations I just finished (Canines, Stealth, and Hunter's Instinct):

b) You can spend a little more on a random mutation. These have predictable costs, but are face-down, and you never know exactly which you'll get. That's a high-risk, high-reward endeavor there, partner. You could get Wings, or you could end up with Too Many Legs!

You could get Fancy Plumage (Hey Ladies!), or you could end up with No Bones!

Jellyfish need to drink more milk. Many suffer from severe osteoporosis. Some jellyfish are immortal, though, so there's that. Oh.

c) You can propagate! This is very expensive, but you get another creature, which means more presence in the forest, and you get to harvest more precious, golden-delicious genes. Here is a creature named Angel:

She's hanging out with a dewclaw, which is a random mutation with no function at all. Like a teenager!

It's like Olmec says: "The choices are yours and yours alone." Or, well, they will be. I just have to-

xoxo (CW) Alex

Oh, did you want some templates?
By: Alex
Posted Monday, May 20th 2013 @ 10:04

We are in crunch time, now! So, get excited: this is happening. One of the strange side-effects of tabletop design is that you have to be very conscious of a number of factors you can't control. Cards can print darker than expected, game pieces might not all fit in the box, and, oh so paramount, the cards aren't all going to get cut on the lines. So, if you're designing cards with CCG-style borders, you can either do a large print run (this is expensive), or deal with the drift. Our publisher once told me that clever designers can design around any problem. Challenge accepted.

For Galapagos, I decided to go with a few repeating patterns, and to let them bleed well beyond the card cuts. The patterns are also mildly reminiscent of the diagrams you might encounter in a biology textbook: gene maps, hexagrams, and Punnet squares.

Most of the art is not yet in the templates, but I'm going to share them anyway!

Here's one of the nucleobases, the genetic materical that serves as currency in the game:

Creatures, like Phillip and Francis, will go in these lovely templates:

Mutations, cleverly shaded from the colors of their genetic material costs, will look like this:

Oh, and how about a preview of the back of the cards? Okay, you twisted my arm:

We're going into beta in June. So there's that.

xoxo (CW) Alex.

Layer 40
By: Alex
Posted Monday, Apr 29th 2013 @ 15:06

Question: How do you know when a piece is finished?

Answer: When I'm dead. Then I won't be able to re-open the file and make changes.

Release early and often. It's the mantra of the open source community and a tenet we follow here at W&S. All of the files we upload to suit your entertainment needs are in their latest and greatest forms. But we'll happily release something before it's ready. Then we chat about the work, and, if the need arises, we fix it and override the file. The link stays the same, though; a fact which I find to be rad sauce. This ability enables us to release art with open source ethics, ensuring that the files in the file table are in their final forms.

But it has also been a source of great darkness. The ability to indefinitely change my artwork has become an inadvertent justification to obsess over it: leading to sleepless nights, expensive failed print runs, and file names like "Understory Final 41." What does that even mean? It's not final if it's 41! This isn't really new behavior for me: the final version of Bones (The Rhythm) from the Wishing Well album was bounce #85. But what is new is the pressure to release quality work in short intervals of time. It's entirely self-generated anguish; which makes it my favorite kind.

For this piece, the obsession centered around entrances and exits. For the cubist, trapping color in the confines of geometry is a stronghold of the work. When combined with the stylistic choice of allowing lines to trail off into eternity, determining the nature of the gates, the entrances and exits to reality, can be tricky.

Question: So you spent more than ten hours working on a line?

Answer: Yes.

A quick way to determine how many times I've changed a file is by the layer count. I like to make changes on new layers, so that they're not permanent. Heaven forbid I make a line I don't like, without the ability to obsessively compare it to the old line. Both the Understory and this piece, the Canopy, finished at layer 40.

Layer 40, my old friend. Show them how we've suffered.

xoxo (CW) Alex

By: Alex
Posted Monday, Apr 22nd 2013 @ 9:05

In my coloring of the Galapagos cells, I like to use photographs of various textures as overlay. I was running short on original texture maps, and I needed to take a few more shots. So, last Sunday, when I had finished LeValley’s leads and Wilson had started in on bass for those tracks, I went on a mission to collect textures around the Hummingbird House. I spent about half an hour wandering around the complex, finding interesting surfaces and photographing them.

Arizona, right?

Then I wandered a bit farther into the desert. I was photographing a red, dust-ridden wooden panel when a breeze pushed the old rusty metal chains of the kiln slightly north. They whined and bayed in the hot Arizona air. The kiln. I’ve always felt something ominous about that part of the complex. Something, not quite right. But I was sure I’d find some interesting textures over there, so I pressed in. Junk everywhere. Concrete blocks, curved, riveted surfaces. Nothing particularly photogenic. The wind was really picking up and the chains started to ring louder. A plywood panel. Grotesque, mangled, perfect. It was tucked behind some heavy bricks, so I’d have to lean in for the shot. Off balance, I began to feel a sharp pain in my foot. A cholla spine had begun to draw blood, easily penetrating my moccasin and the flesh beneath. But I hadn’t leaned in far enough yet, and I dared not speak in that wretched place. I bit my lip, leaned in further, feeling the spine delve further into my skin. I got the shot, and a second, for insurance.

As I began to extract the cactus pad I felt a presence. “It’s nothing,” I thought, as I tossed the cut of cactus into a nearby bin. Then my heart leapt as a pigeon scurried away from my face wildly. She had been three inches from me the whole time, blended perfectly with her surroundings. My eye was drawn to her ceramic bowl. An egg cracks open, and her child is born, as I stand speechless. I ran back to the red building. I think that was the last shot.

There will be some desert in the jungles of Galapagos.

xoxo (CW) Alex

Galapagos box art and such!
By: Alex
Posted Monday, Apr 15th 2013 @ 10:56

So I scrapped everything and started over.

"What? Really?" Said all of my friends and confidants, simultaneously, in solemn voices, like in church. "But the work you've done is so bright, and colorful, and friendly," they said. "But, it fits the project so well," they said. "But I really liked that one you did with the butterfly," they said. And they weren't wrong. Phillip J. Fly is the business. But, the game is driven by three flagship pieces of artwork, and I was skipping steps. The floor, understory, and canopy are the hex tiles that make the rainforest itself. If the forest doesn't feel dynamic, if it feels flat, or contrived, the whole game loses the aesthetic I'm looking for. I want people to see Galapagos as a place of beauty and danger. Inviting, yet frightening and bizarre. Further, the forest levels need thematic ties; solidarity, linking each tile through a single stylistic pulse. It wasn't happening.

First, the shots were composed as rectangles, but they're going to print as hex tiles. This was an oversight on par with, um, filling a hot air balloon with jelly beans. Instead of hot air. I mean, people were pleased, but it didn't work as intended. Nobody ever cried about a hot air balloon full of jelly beans. But, you know, if you're trying to make, like, a regular hot air balloon, then hot air is the correct filling option. [/tangent]. I printed maybe 60-70 adjustments in the hex templates, and all of them looked fine. But fine doesn't mean anything to me. So I downed some comfort-bell-grande, played a little piano, and started fresh. Note: I think everyone was afraid that if I started over I'd forget how to make bright colors. And they were right! I went color blind and started listening to speed metal and the whole game is going to look like shelf at Hot Topic. Is the sarcasm playing well? I can never tell in writing.

Okay, art. So I wish I could say I had this grand epiphany and all the angels came down in jelly bean balloons and guided my paintbrush with their divine wisdom. But I can't say that, because I had to sign a non-disclosure-agreement. No, because it didn't happen. I have no memory of anything clicking. I just practiced and got better. It's boring, but it's what happened. I practiced a bunch and I got better. Three sketches penciled. Three sketches inked. And, I mean it this time, I have final designs for the tiles. They look like this:

Also, my water bill. Oh, I have to pay that. Well, I went through the usual process of coloring, and I'm pretty solid on the forest floor for box art. Let's have a look at it on it's own.

Delightful. And, as box art? With a logo and whatnot?

Yeah. that's the one. I'm not having second thoughts or freaking out or anything. Yup, I'm... okay! Oh, and fans love special edition desktop versions, right? Got that covered, too.

xoxo (CW) Alex.

First Look: Galapagos!
By: Alex
Posted Tuesday, Mar 26th 2013 @ 0:55

I want to talk about process, and I want to talk about fear. Oh, and I want to preview our second tabletop game: Galapagos! This image will be your new desktop background until further notice:

That is, if you want cookies. You think I can't back that up. I can. I can bake you cookies and I will.

Galapagos is a resource management game in which players take on the roles of competing species in a rainforest. Each turn, players will harvest genetic material: the currency with which they may buy mutations to change their species or propagate to increase their presence in the ecosystem. Players must balance strategy, tactics, and guile to compete in the pursuit of several unique win conditions; ultimately to ensure the survival of their genetic footprint.

Dan designed the game and I'm taking the lead on the artwork. This is of course incredibly foolish of me, as I have amassed an insurmountable quotient of fear with regards to the completion and release of visual art. And you can't blame me, either. I work with Wilson. If there were an Art Hunger Games he would be in, like, District One. With his stupid perfect hair. So I have to release this thing, soon, and I'm terrified of anyone seeing my artwork. Bit of a conundrum?

Okay, well I do like talking about myself, so I'll start there. With regards to visual art, I am a mixed-media cell illustrator. I work in a Sunday Comics style heavily inspired by the work of Doug TenNapel (Earthworm Jim) and Mike Krahulik (Penny Arcade). I'm somewhat in the process of developing my printmaking process, but I can tell you what it looks like right now. This shot will be a decent start.

Instead of a preliminary sketch, I like to rank ideas on scales of quality and weirdness. On the left, you can see some ideas for the brush. I went with the Mickey-heads-melted-together approach for this piece. Sound. I wanted the brush to look like ribonucleic acids and the trees to look like a double helix. It was the weirdest concept, so I guess it won. I don't have a rubric. To get to the image on the right, the process is as thus: sketch, scan, print, ruin, print again, paint, scan again, ponder, Photoshop tricks. After an additional litany of Photoshop trickery, it ends up looking something like this:

For Galapagos, each creature I create has some genetic trait gone seriously wrong. And a fantastic name. Ask Dan: I'm the business at naming things. The butterfly in the top image is Phillip J. Fly. He's radioactive. Frederick and Francis are today's creations. See if you can spot their mutations.

So I guess the objective here is to overcome my fear of comparison by making this game so unequivocally strange that it elicits no comparison. It's not marketable, but it is mine, and you can't stop me.

xoxo (CW) Alex.

Release: Nostos
By: Wilson
Posted Friday, Mar 1st 2013 @ 22:58

Content Type: Tabletop Game
Artist: Wolfgang & Sons
Original Release: 2012

The gods do not play fair.

Nostos is a deckbuilding card game set in the Aegean after the fall of Troy. You and your opponents are Achaean (Greek) heroes competing to navigate your ships and crew across the Aegean Sea to return home to beloved Greece. This task will not come without hardship. You and your men have angered the gods: desecrating their altars, mutilating the body of Hector, burning the walls of Priam, and ignoring your promised rites. Poseidon, who favored the Trojans, will not let you return without a struggle. You must attain gold, men, and glory, traverse the dreaded islands of Circe, the Lotus Eaters, and the Cyclopes, face the depths of the underworld, and win the favor of the gods to carve a path back home. But be warned: in the eye of Poseidon’s storm, achieving your objectives may set you further adrift than when your journey began.

Nostos uses three forms of currency (gold, men, and glory) to enable players to buy action cards and eventually, relics (the game's win conditions) for their decks. As players buy cards, they determine the character of their decks: which actions and resources they will have access to on future plays. All players buy from the same marketplace, establishing a strong emphasis on player choice. As each form of currency corresponds to specific actions and relics, players can build decks fine-tuned toward acquiring these win conditions. However, players must possess two unique relics to win. This means that strong play in the outset can lead to great struggle when the wind changes; leading to dynamic game states, complex interactions, and strategies that run deep.

Nostos dot PDF: This is a completely free cut-and-print version of Nostos. There's no DRM or user agreement, so if you want to go crazy and print a million copies, go for it! Actually, if you do that, we want to see pictures. We recommend that you print this on nice card stock with your printer set to photo. Then, either run all the cards through again with the "card backs" PDF provided, or put those bad boys in magic sleeves. The card backs are border-less, so you won't be punished if your print heads aren't aligned perfectly, or if you live in a crooked house.

Nostos Directions
Nostos Game Cards
Nostos Card Backs

Nostos dot Pay: Alright, so now you want the professionally printed version in the shiny box with the new-card-smell (See what I did there?). We can do that for you. You can buy the game from our publisher by clicking on this juicy morsel of hypertext:


Warning: Only pay us for our stuff if you are feeling the gusto. If you are not feeling the gusto, and you buy our stuff, please see your doctor immediately, as it could be a side-effect of art-related euphoria.

Want your music/game on Wolfgang and Sons dot com? info@wolfgangandsons.com