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Game Updates

Micro Dojo – Late Pledges

In case you missed the campaign, late pledges are now open at Gamefound where you can order your copy (or copies). These will be sent out with all of the wave 2 shipments, but the late pledges won’t be open for very long. Once Wave 2 fulfilment starts the late pledge option will be removed.

https://gamefound.com/projects/prometheus-game-labs/micro-dojo#/

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Game Updates

Micro Dojo – 24 hours left

Micro Dojo has had an incredible campaign on Kickstarter, but there are just 24 hours left.

Currently over 2800% funded and with thousands of backers, If you’d like to get your copy for only £5 you can click the button below and pledge

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Game Design

Micro Dojo – Advanced Game Mode

In this update, I want to show you the advanced game mode, with a little insight into the development process. The advanced game mode can be thought of as a mini-expansion to the game, as it adds more complexity and a (varied) different ways to play. This fit well with my mission to pack as much value as possible into a small game, and the advanced game mode let me explore some more interesting design space without overwhelming new players. The advanced game mode adds two features:

  • Advanced Movement Abilities
  • Advanced Objectives

Advanced Movement Abilities

When designing buildings for the game, they generally gave you abilities in one of three areas:

  • Gaining resources
  • Controlling movement
  • Gaining points

You might recognise two of the buildings in the game that fall into the movement category – the Stables and the Guard House. However in the early designs there were four more buildings that allowed a player to unlock additional abilities for the Geisha, Sumo, Ninja and Samurai meeples:

These buildings gave more options to the player, but for a less experienced player it wasn’t intuitive that purchasing one of these buildings could be more valuable than something more straightforward like a resource gathering or points scoring building. The biggest problem with these buildings though was that if they didn’t come out during the initial random selection, the characters had no…well…character.

Playing with movement abilities unique to each character was something that I really wanted to include in the game, both as interesting design space and to communicate the theme better. Including these abilities as standard detracted from the tight simplicity of the base game however, and made the game much harder to learn. This made them a perfect candidate for an advanced game mode that offered players that had mastered the standard game a new way to play.

The advanced game mode has two main variants, and a third variant that can be applied with either one.

In Variant 1A the movement abilities of each meeple can be used by paying the cost shown in the rulebook. These are priced at two resources each, which is fairly costly when you think that some of the stronger spaces in game give you 2 resources for a turn. Consequently the movement abilities get used sparingly during the game, but when they are used they can be decisive. You and your opponent now have an extra threat to keep track of if they can be afforded.

In Variant 2A the movement abilities of each meeple are available for free at all times. This adds a lot of extra complexity because of the amount of choice that you and your opponent has, but also leads to fun, powerful and somewhat chaotic games. Because of the overwhelming complexity of choice the game loses some of the chess-like calculation elements, but is generally a quicker and more exciting game.

Finally Variant 1B/2B modifies the other two variants by letting you (randomly) choose which meeples have abilities available for the game. To do this you simply flip the meeple tokens during setup, with the coloured side being active and the grey side being inactive.The legacy of the advanced game mode abilities as buildings lives on, and though the artwork for them didn’t make it into the final game I’m delighted to share it with you my fans.

Advanced Objectives

The other part of the game that is modified with the advanced game mode is the inclusion of advanced objectives, which can be included with the existing 9 objectives during setup.

Three of these objectives are based around positioning, which is not a feature seen in objectives in the base game at all. The Combatant and Spymaster objectives score the active player points if the two meeples adjacent to each other when the objective is triggered, whilst the Organiser objective scores if any three meeples are in a straight line. This encourages players to look at the state of the board not only in terms of what spaces are (or will) be available but also at relative positioning of the meeples. In the standard game with only basic orthogonal movement it was very easy to prevent anyone from scoring these objectives and gameplay stalled, however in combination with the advanced movement abilities a smart player can grab points from these objectives.


The other two objectives are based around what might initially seem counterintuitive play. For a game that wants you to acquire resources, build buildings, and score points, having the least of these things seems at odds with driving the game to a conclusion. These two can lead to some interesting races where one player foregoes the objective points in order to obtain an earlier advantage.

Playing Advanced Mode

The advanced game is recommended for players that have played at least 5 games of the standard mode due to the added complexity. Even if a player only played Micro Dojo 5 times I think it already represents great value for money, but adding the advanced game mode variant (for just a handful of tokens and two panels in the rulebook) was a great way I could pack even more value into the game and give it a long life.


(Note: Credit for the prototype meeple artwork that was used for testing goes to meeplesource.com)

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Game Updates

Micro Dojo – Solo Mode

Thanks to the pandemic, more and more people are playing and enjoying board games solo, and at 20 minutes a game Micro Dojo is perfect for a quick solo game whilst travelling or over coffee. 

Full disclosure – I wasn’t much of a solo board gamer, and when I first started work on Micro Dojo I hadn’t planned on a solo mode. I say I wasn’t much of a solo gamer, because the Solo Board Gamers group on Facebook is a hugely passionate group of gamers that opened my eyes to some really enjoyable games to play solo (including Tainted Grail, It’s a Wonderful World, and Spirit Island). Once I appreciated what a good solo mode for a game could be, I set out to make a great one for Micro Dojo. If you also like solo games you might want to check out the Facebook group too.

As of this update, the solo mode cards are going to be available to all backers as a print-and-play on a single sheet of paper.

When designing the solo mode for Micro Dojo there were some key things I wanted to achieve:

  • Capture the spirit of the two-player game
  • Have minimal rule variations from the two-player game
  • Minimise the overhead for handling the AI player

You can read more about the steps I went through in development of the solo mode below, and watch the How to Play video here:

Development

The first draft of the solo mode simply had 8 tiles, one for each meeple and one for each direction. The meeple would always move in that direction (regardless of daimyo markers) and if it couldn’t then it would activate the space it was on. It was somewhat possible to somewhat predict where the AI would move on the third (and definitely fourth) draw, which was a good thing for capturing the spirit of the game, but the different movement rules for the AI felt quite removed the original game and was more like a race or an optimisation problem for the player. 

The second big change was from tokens to cards. Testing on tabletop simulator let me run a lot of solo mode tests, but the digital environment disguised the fact that picking up, flipping, and shuffling the tiny tokens by hand would quickly become tedious. I chose American Mini sized cards as 10 of them would fit onto the same sized sheet as the token punchboard, making manufacturing and shipping easier.

The final change came thanks to a suggestion from fellow designer Simon Beal. To fit the feel of the two-player game, I considered having the player draw another meeple or movement card if that meeple was blocked, but with a deck of only 4 cards it felt like extra overhead for the player to manage when really I wanted them to be spending their time thinking about their next move. Simon suggested a priority system, and so sequencing the meeples and movement directions on the cards allowed for lots more variation depending on game state, whilst being a simple process to follow.

Then came the variation rules for activating spaces. As much as possible the AI should feel like a real player – gaining resources, buying buildings, and scoring objectives. However the AI is also not as smart as a real player, and can’t make decisions like placing a higher value on certain moves or resources because of the current (and future) game state. To account for that, the AI has a little boost in raw power, such as gaining points on the build space when at 3 buildings (without having to sacrifice one) or scoring points on the Action space if the AI is losing the objective. This acts as a timer for the game, encouraging the player to be efficient in their planning whilst preventing the player from exploiting the AI by stalling the game. As players improve and take on harder difficulty levels, the AI is provided with an increasing head start that drives players to optimise their choices even further.

I’m really happy that the solo mode not only provides an interesting puzzle to solve, but does so without excess overhead on the part of the player. It’s close enough to the original that a player who started with the solo game first could pick up the two-player mode. Solo mode is available to play on the Tabletop Simulator module here. If you want to try it out first and let me know your experience here on in the comments, please do give it a go and I hope you have fun.

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Company Announcements

Micro Dojo Funded in 13 minutes!

Wow, what a start to the project! Already funded in just 13 minutes has blown away my expectations. 

Thank you so so much for being on board so soon, and I’m really looking forward to the rest of this journey with you.

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Game Updates

Micro Dojo – Kickstarter is Live

The Micro Dojo Kickstarter just launched and will be live for 21 days. Click the link below to check out the page

Kickstarter Launch Page

Click me
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Game Updates

Micro Dojo – 48 Hours to Launch

In two days I’ll be hitting the big launch button and the campaign for Micro Dojo will be live. Micro Dojo is complete at launch, which means no long wait for you to get your game. Also, you won’t want to miss out on backing early, as the first 500 copies will be sent as a priority in the month after the campaign closes.

Micro Dojo will launch will be at the following times:

  • Americas: 4-7am (UTC-8 to UTC-5)
  • UK/Europe: 1pm (UTC+1)
  • Middle East: 4pm (UTC+4)
  • East Asia/Oceania: 10pm (UTC+10)

Luckily Kickstarter has a way to notify followers when the campaign launches:

Notify me on Launch

If you haven’t already, then now is a good time to sign up for a Kickstarter account. Signup is simple, and can be linked to a Facebook or Apple account. Not only will it save you some time on the day, but Kickstarter has a couple of cool features to help you and help the campaign be a success:

  • Notify me on launch
  • Your Friend backed…

The first is that big green button you see circled above, where Kickstarter will let you know the second that Micro Dojo launches. The second feature lets your friends on Kickstarter know once you’ve backed the project – they can admire your great taste in games and support the project as well.

Click on the button below to go straight to the launch page for super speedy updates on the big day:

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Company Announcements Game Updates

Press Release – Micro Dojo Launches May 10th

Ben Downton and Prometheus Game Labs is launching Micro Dojo on Kickstarter on May 10th this year. The campaign is running for 21 days, during which backers can pledge funds to support production and in return receive a copy (or multiple copies) of the game. Designed to be small and simple to produce, and perfect for travelling, backers can pledge for a single copy for just £5 plus shipping.

Micro Dojo is complete at launch, meaning there is no long post-campaign development and production cycle. The first 500 copies will be shipped to backers immediately following the campaign, with further copies sent out in a second wave following a second print run.

The game has been playtested hundreds of times, and received high praise from reviewers. This launch is intended to be the first of many, delivering confidence to backers and building an audience for future successful game launches.

About the Game

In Micro Dojo, you are one of two Daimyo—feudal lords of Edo Japan—tasked by the Shogun to bring prosperity to a small town. Carefully manoeuvre the town’s retainers to gather resources, build buildings, complete the Shogun’s tasks, and win favour. The most prosperous Daimyo will be granted the title to the town.

Micro Dojo is a tactical two-player game that fits in your pocket. It is a worker placement game where the shared Ninja, Geisha, Sumo and Samurai are moved around a 3×3 grid to take actions. The chess-like elements of tactical movement and opponent prediction is inspired by games like Onitama and Cerebria, whilst fans of euro games that follow the typical acquire-build-score framework will feel comfortable with Micro Dojo. Overall it is a medium weight game that has simple turns, but a depth of play that allows player to exercise their intelligence.

Number of Players: 2
Game Duration: 15-30min
Age: 14+
Website: prometheusgamelabs.com
Kickstarter: kickstarter.com/projects/prometheus-gamelabs/micro-dojo/

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Game Updates

Micro Dojo – The Story So Far…

With less than 2 months until launch I wanted to share some of the background behind Micro Dojo and how it came to to exist. Some of you been following along since the very first ideas and prototypes, whilst others may be newer to the growing community around the game, so here’s a little bit of background to what Micro Dojo represents.

I was inspired to create a micro game after some advice from Dan Alexander of Lander: The Game – to start with something small and build trust with backers, as well as building some experience of running a campaign, before moving on to something larger. Immediately I thought of Province, a micro game that was given to me as a gift from a friend back in 2015. Province was portable, cheap, shipped inside an envelope on a single punchboard, and delivered a good two player experience in a tiny package. From that point on I had my design criteria (or constraints) to build the mechanics, theme, production and logistics around.

Micro Dojo is the first Kickstarter campaign I’ll be running. Though it’s not the first game I started designing (that honour goes to TwinStick Pirates) it’s the first that has been fully developed and produced. I intend to keep creating and sharing games as Prometheus Game Labs in the future, and so Micro Dojo needs to deliver not just a good play experience but also a good overall experience (more on that next).

The Mission

The more that the Micro Dojo campaign became fully realised, the more I identified some key criteria that I wanted the product to adhere to. I say product here specifically rather than game – whilst the criteria for the game is presented through the play experience, this makes up just a part of the overall experience.

  • A ton of game for a very low price. I wanted to fit as much variability as possible to keep the game fresh after multiple plays rather than a micro game that very quickly becomes ‘solved’. As time has gone on I’ve been able to add even more to the game through advanced game mode variants and development of a solo mode.
  • Immediate fulfilment. One of the downsides of backing a Kickstarter is that you can be waiting months and even years to actually receive the thing you’re so excited to play with! I wanted to cut that time as short as possible by making Micro Dojo complete at launch and ready to send to backers right away. This also means no complicated or overambitious stretch goals that could delay the project – all the work has been done up front.
  • Simple to produce and cheap to ship. Micro Dojo comes on a single sheet of token punchboard. That’s it. No chance for mispacks or lost components. The sheet is sized at 220x150mm, which is just the right size to fit into an envelope and ship with Royal Mail as a ‘Letter’. This is the cheapest shipping category possible to keep costs down for backers – no one wants to pay more than the cost of a game in shipping.
  • Reach as many people as possible. Leading on from the above, this also makes International shipping to anywhere in the world a possibility. Some of the amazing members of our community have also volunteered translations of Micro Dojo into (currently) 8 other languages to make it more accessible to non-native English speaking players.
  • A positive experience from start to finish. Backers (and their friends) enjoying the game is crucial, but so is their experience with the quality of the product, the clarity of information, their experience interacting with other members of the community, timeliness of communication and resolution of issues and so much more. I want to run the campaign in a way that way I would feel respected and valued if I was a backer.

The Future

It’s tempting as a (first time) creator to think of the Kickstarter as the end point. It is after all the largest milestone of a very long build up, and the culmination of a ton of effort. But really a Kickstarter campaign is just that – a kickstart to begin something. For the game this could be something like the beginning of future expansions, mobile app versions, big box compilations and so on. More importantly though this is the beginning of my interactions with hundreds of people across the world that I hope to be a long and happy journey.

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Game Updates

Micro Dojo Puzzle Solution – March

Last week I posted a challenge for you to try and solve – figure out the sequence of moves necessary for a player to win the game. This month’s challenge had a variety of different solutions, all leading to victory, and so I invited you to try and identify the different possible end game scores. I’ve posted the solution below, including an alternate solution (that I hadn’t spotted myself) that one of the game’s fans identified!

Micro Dojo is a pocket sized two-player game of tactical movement and planning. If you’d like to download the 1 page rulebook and free early print-and-play you can register below:

Download Rulebook and Print-and-Play

Solution: Two Food Two Furious

This puzzle relied on you identifying the use of the Stables as Blue Player, but also to account for the varying food values on either players side. Whilst the Shrine and Barracks on Blue Players side were a bit of a trap in this puzzle, one of the game’s fans identified a solution where they can be used to win the game in a slightly longer route. Kudos!

As Green Player goes first. there are three possible moves that they could make:

A – Move the Ninja to the 2 Food space, taking 3 Food (thanks to the Rice Paddy)
Blue Player: Spend 1 Food to move the Sumo to A-A space, then trade 6 Gold for 3 Food and activate the objective. As it is tied (both players have 5 Food) neither player scores, and the game ends 5-4

B – Move the Ninja to the Resource + Build space, taking either 1 Gold or 2 Food and sacrificing a building for 1 Victory Point
Blue Player: Spend 1 Food to move either the Sumo or the Geisha to A-A space, then trade 6 Gold for 3 Food and activate the objective. Blue Player has 5 Food and 0 Gold, versus 4 Food (or 2 Food and 1 Gold) and the game ends 7-5

C – Move the Sumo to the Gold + Food space, taking 1 Gold and 2 Food
Blue Player: Spend 1 Food to move either the Geisha or the Ninja to A-A space, then trade 6 Gold for 3 Food and activate the objective. The game ends 7-4

The alternate solution suggested involved using the Barracks and 3 Gold to obtain just 1 point. The game continues on a little longer after this but in just a few more moves the Blue Player can reach either the single-A space (to use the Barracks for the final point) or a Build space to sacrifice a building and gain 1 VP.