Designer Journal: UnderQuest #3



Well, there has been a few changes since the last post. The biggest change has been to the character tiles. Actually, they are no longer character tiles. There are a few reasons I moved away from the tile format. One, I heard from a few fellow designers and friends that the tiles looked a bit too much like the tiles from Above and Below from Red Raven Games, and I obviously want to separate myself from that. I have instead decided to use a bridge-sized card. This brings my second reason into the light. Using cards allows me to implement a deck-building mechanic to deal with the characters.

00000gjgjgjWith tiles, players simply started the round with characters equal to the number they were able to rest. Injured characters were paced face-down until they were either healed or they waited an extra wound to rest them. With deck-building in the mix now, players will draw cards, at the beginning of the round, equal to the number of characters they are able to house (which is four to start the game). If characters are injured during questing, they are placed face-up and a token in placed on them to show they are hurt. Other spent characters simply go into a discard pile. Injured characters need to be healed to be placed into the discard pile.

One more nice thing about using cards is that they are about four times larger which leaves room for much larger artwork and some flavor text.

Okay, that is enough about the characters for now. I really wanted to touch on encounters and buildings.


000prormnronronOne of the actions that a player may take on their turn is to build a new building. Each player starts with one building which is a shelter that allows them to rest four characters and also lets them earn an income of one gold per round. Add more buildings and structures to your base, allows you to build and engine that will influence your characters, gain you more income, earn fame, and more.

The plan is to have about 40-50 building cards, with of them being unique. Some will simply be a wigwam that will allow you to rest an additional character (basically allowing you to draw an extra card per round). This will equate to a lot of one of a kind artwork. There will be very few duplicate images in this game.

One path to victory will be to focus on building a lot of buildings, but you will also have to do other things to have a shot at winning. Buildings will likely be the source of about 1/4 of your fame points at the end of the game. Yes, I am leaning towards using the term “fame points” instead of “victory points”. Time will tell if that term sticks…


000promo131313Another change is that I have dropped the term “Dungeon Deck” and am now using “Encounter Deck”. I have done this for a couple reasons. First of all, so many games use Dungeon Decks and it sort of pins me into a corner, by making all encounters occur in a dungeon. Secondly, I sort of want the questing/exploration to happen outside in a deep forest valley. Dungeons have been done to death.

Another big change is the monsters themselves. I am ditching the traditional enemies you see in most fantasy games like goblins, trolls, and dragons. Those do hold a place in my heart, but I wanted UnderQuest to take players someplace new. Someplace a bit darker, but also odd and strange. Maybe a hint of horror without scaring kids away from the table.

So I have decided to create all-new monsters for this game that are a bit abstract and out-of-this-world in appearance. Perhaps a bit alien in nature. I hope you like them.

Well that is it for this time around. I am hoping to be able to discuss the treasure deck and entertaining in the next entry. Thanks for reading!

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Designer Journal: UnderQuest #2


Since the last time I wrote about UnderQuest a few things have changed, but I want to focus on the characters in the game that players will be hiring throughout the course of the game.


Here is the progression in design of the character tiles, with the one on the right being the newest.

Each player will start with three characters. These three will be statistically the same as those of other players, but each will have unique artwork, but no names. I want players to build stories for the characters themselves.

In the original design that I playtested, players rolled two six sided dice (2d6) when questing. Players would reveal one card at a time from the dungeon deck and decide when they wanted to stop. They would then roll two dice and modify their roll with any applicable special powers. Each dungeon card has a value and their sum must be met or exceeded by the players roll. If the player succeeds, they gain any and all treasure and rewards indicated on the dungeon cards. If they fail, they get nothing and are all injured. More on injuries later.

We had issues right away in that players could never get more then two or three cards revealed before busting. The mechanic is quite similar to that of blackjack. What we tried next was allowing for on die per character sent on the quest. This worked better, but two new issues arose.

  1. The randomness of rolling three or more dice became an issue. A player could roll four dice and score only four. Or they may roll a sum of twenty-four! The swing in this value was to unpredictable. I thought the bell curve of rolling multiple dice would help, but in the end the randomness was more than I could stand and I like luck-based games from time to time.
  2. Analysis paralysis also was seen as players tried to calculate both the probability of their potential rolls and their bonuses gained from their special powers. This level of uncertainty could be stressful.

I sneak peek at one of the dungeon cards.

The solution was to use static values for each character. Now starting characters each have a set value of three. There is no guessing and players can be busy planning their turn while waiting on others to finish theirs. One could easily predict their outcomes and only really had to consider their special powers and their modifiers.

So as it stands the game has twelve starting characters and sixteen more that can be hired by players and added to their guild for future questing. Each has a static value and  power. Some have two powers. Let’s take a look at the ten powers that characters may have one or more of.

  • Agility Bonus – Character gains +1 to rolls against dungeon cards that are prone to agility and they gain a bonus while gambling at the inn.
  • Brawn Bonus – Character gains +1 to rolls against dungeon cards that are prone to brawn and building additions cost one less gold.
  • Cunning Bonus – Character gains +1 to rolls against dungeon cards that are prone to cunning and hiring new characters from the inn cost one less gold.
  • Heal – If a group of characters fail while questing, the player may choose any one character and place them back in the guild hall uninjured.
  • + Gold – If a group of characters succeed while questing, you gain an additional gold.
  • + Market Item – If a group of characters succeed while questing, you gain the item with the lowest value in the market.
  • Random Value – This character rolls a single die for their value while questing. Fr those that do like a bit more randomness.
  • Restless – Character does not require a bed to rest and is available to use at the beginning of every turn unless they are injured. If injured they must be healed or wait a turn to be healed like other characters.
  • Vision – Once while questing, this character may look at the next card in the dungeon deck and choose to either reveal it or put it back.
  • Bonus VP – This character is worth extra victory points at the end of the game.

That is all I have for now. Next time I hope to discuss some of the things you can do in the Market and the Inn.

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Kickstarter Discussion Panal at CrafterCon

Here is the video from the Kickstarter Discussion Panel at CrafterCon. Video includes Jeff King (All Us Geeks Podcast), James Mathe (Minion Games), Richard Bliss (Funding the Dream Podcast), and myself. I think it does a great job of answering many of today’s questions in regards to Kickstarter and I wanted to share it. Thanks to The Game Crafter crew for filming it. If you are interested in running your own Kickstarter, this nearly 2 hour video has a lot of good info!

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Designer Journal: UnderQuest #1


UnderQuest is a design that has been floating around in the back of my head for a while. I have written notes every once and while when I felt I had figured out an important element to the game. Of course the design as a whole has changed quite a bit in my head over the past months, but I have finally committed to putting it down on paper.

The Concept 

The idea is that each player controls a small group of characters. Right now I am leaning towards a medieval fantasy theme for a few reasons. Each player would start with three characters that are unique from one another, but every player would start with characters with the same abilities. The player controls a guild within a small town on the outskirts of a huge and infamous dungeon. You are trying to gain fame by building up your guild hall, recruiting more members, and of course retrieving treasures from the dungeon.


The Mechanics

The three main mechanics that make this design run are worker-placement, press-your-luck, and engine-building. I thought I would discuss a little bit about each.


On your turn you will choose one member of your guild (or more if entering the dungeon) to undertake an action. These actions include:

  • Quest into the dungeon (2 or more guild members required)
  • Hiring a new recruit
  • Entertain at the inn
  • Contract an addition to your hall
  • Purchase from the market

Once you use a member to perform a task, your turn is over and it passes to the next player.


When you enter the dungeon you choose the level you want to adventure and this will give you some goals and if you reach those goals you will gain fame. Once you have declared this you flip the top card from the dungeon deck. You continue to reveal cards until you decide to take the delve. Cards will contain monsters, traps, and treasures, but all will have a difficulty value indicated on them. You get to roll two six-sided dice and add up their sum. If you meet of exceed the total difficulty of all the cards revealed, you succeed! In this way you have some control on the luck factor.

If you succeed you gain any treasure indicated on the cards, but if you fail all your characters are injured. Each character can take one piece of equipment with them in the dungeon and these items give you bonuses and special abilities (shields, cloaks, axes, etc.). You also have excess to any items you bought from the market. Market items are one-time-use items but work in the same way as equipment (healing potions, torches, etc.).


One of your actions is to contract an addition to your hall. These additions include a barracks for sleeping more characters, a Libraries to gain bonuses in the cunning skill, an Infirmary to heal injured characters quicker, and many, many more. These additions also can simply gain you victory points. As you expand your guild your characters will benefit and will be better equipped to venture back into the dungeon.


Well, that about covers the basics. I think the combination of these mechanics combined with the theme and some whimsical artwork should work well. Now I just need to find some time to build a first draft prototype. I hope to have something ready for Protospiel Chicago.


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Dig Down Dwarf Funds in Less Than 12 Hours!

Dig Down Dwarf launched on Kickstarter last night and it funded early this morning! It was the quickest game to fund in the history of Grey Gnome Games. I am very excited about it as you can likely tell!

The Kickstarter will be live until July 29th, so please go check it out!



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Dig Down Dwarf Second Edition Tutorial

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The Dwarves are Coming!

I am happy to announce that the second edition of Dig Down Dwarf will be launching on Kickstarter Monday July 11th. That is this Monday! So I thought I would discuss a few of the new features of the game that make it stand out from its predecessor. I also want to talk about reasons to back the game on Kickstarter and not waiting until release.


So What is New?

cdcdcdcObjective Cards – This new edition will come with 18 Objective Cards. Players will randomly draw 3 at the beginning of the game and these will become a way to score bonus points at the games end. Players decide, as a group, if the objectives are be kept secret or placed up for all to see.

New Artwork – Second Edition comes with clean new graphic design work and artwork throughout. You will still recognize some of the icons and fonts, but the new design is meant to convey a sense of nostalgia.

More Gems – Second Edition comes with 20% more of the shiny gems that made the First Edition such a smash hit!

Six Player Support – With the addition of extra gems and other components, Dig Down Dwarf Second Edition can host up to six players.

New Dwarf Power Cards – These new cards utilize acrylic cubes to track the dwarven skills you have unlocked during the course of the game, instead of rotating the card like you had to do in the older version.

shinyNew Dice Colors – Like the new Dwarf Power Cards, we have listened to the feedback over the course of hundreds of plays since the first Kickstarter over two years ago. One thing I noticed was players not noticing that they triggered a dwarf power, because each dice was a different color and it was too much to keep track of for many. A very simple solution has been implemented. You now roll three black dice and one red die on your turn. The red die activates everyone’s dwarven powers.

New Gem Colors – Another complaint we got was that some of the gems looked alike in color. We made sure to make that a non-issue this time around. Star gems are now really yellow and we are now able to manufacture the gems in black for the cursite (fossilized dragon dung) which further helps distinguish each gem type.

Why Back the Project of Kickstarter?

000000winnerAward Winning Gameplay! Dig Down Dwarf was the winner of the Micro Game Challenge and has since been reviewed and loved by critics and players alike all over the world!

MEGA Discounts! By backing Dig Down Dwarf you will get your copy at a deep discount. The MSRP for Dig Down Dwarf will be $22, plus you are getting a $5 shipping credit (Shipping Included within the U.S.). That means that by pledging now, you will save more than 30%.

Exclusive Content! Some of the stretch goals will add Kickstarter exclusive items!

Stretch Goals! By backing Dig Down Dwarf you will actually alter the outcome of the final game. The more we raise, the more that can be approved or added.

Backers First! We have made it a priority in the past, and will continue to in the future, to ship games to our backers before we open up sales to the public. It is only fair that those that helped make the game happen get their copies first!

Hope to see you all Monday!

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