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Avengers: Infinity War and Medieval Fantasy Sieges Inspire Games Designed By Scouts At Bill Hart Spring 18 Merit Badge Midway

Several times a year I volunteer at local merit badge midways to run workshops for the Game Design Merit Badge that I helped to create for the Boy Scouts of America. On Saturday I led a three-hour workshop at the Bill Hart Merit Badge Midway in Santa Clarita, and as with every time I’ve run these workshops, I was impressed with the wide variety of games these young men designed.

My workshops always begin with a Socratic-dialog-heavy talk about the various elements that comprise a game, the different ways we can describe a game’s play value (what makes it fun to play), and how intellectual property rights apply to games. I then do an exercise with the boys in making changes to game rules to see what effects those have on players, using set of Spider-Man tic-tac-toe sets.  (You’d be amazed at the number of variations on tic-tac-toe the scouts have come up with over the past couple of years).  With each of these topics, the scouts satisfy various merit badge requirements.

The more advanced (and most fun) requirements involve the scouts proposing a game concept, and once I approve it, prototyping their game and playtesting it with other scouts.

Here are some of the games the scouts designed last weekend.

 

 

Race For The Stones!
by Ryan H, Troop 484

ace For The StonesThis trivia game was inspired by the upcoming Movie Avengers: Infinity War. If you’re a Marvel fan who has seen all the movies, this is a game for you! What impressed me about this game was the amount of details and thought that Ryan put into his game rules.

Vision Statement: Race for the Stones is a 2-4-player Marvel trivia game where you collect and battle for Infinity Stones as you move around the board answering trivia questions.

Play Value: A competitive race for the Infinity stones, the challenge of answer trivia questions, and building your ream of heroes to battle for victory.

Set-Up: 2-4 people can play.

  • Each player chooses a character tile  (Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, or Thanos).
  • Players put their player token on the Character Card space in front of them.
  • Divide character cards into two piles – Hero and Villain.
  • Place character cards face down on the board.
  • Place the 6 Infinity Stones on their matching Location spaces on the board
  • Shuffle and place the trivia cards face down on the board.
  • To determine who goes first, each player rolls the dice, lowest roll goes first.
  • Play goes counter-clockwise.

Progression:  Player rolls the dice and moves the corresponding number of spaces in any direction along the path. Players can turn corners, but cannot reverse direction on one roll of the dice.

Landing On Open Space

  • Draw the top card from the Trivia Card pile.
  • The player to the current player’s left reads the question.
  • If the question is answered correctly, the player keeps the trivia card in front of them.
  • Trivia cards are used as “points” toward obtaining Infinity Stones.
  • If the question is not answered correctly, the card is put in the discard pile and is not used again in the game
  • Multiple players can share a single space.

Land On Rainbow Bridge Space

  • If the player lands on a Rainbow Bridge Space, by exact count, they can move to any space on the board and act on that space.

Land On Character Card Space

  • You do not have to land on a Character Card Space by exact count.
  • You can stop movement on a Character Card without using the full role of the dice.
  • Player takes the top card off the pile. This is the end of your turn.
  • There is no maximum # of character cards a player can collect.

Using Character Cards:

  • Character cards form your “team” and are used to battle other players for Infinity Stones.
  • Each Character Card has a point value (1-5) used in battle.
  • Players keep character cards face down in front of them.
  • Hero Characters (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor) can only pick Hero Character Cards; The Villain character (Thanos) can only pick Villain Character Cards.

Infinity Stones/Location Squares

  • You must land on Infinity Stones/Location space by exact count or by coming from a Rainbow Bridge space.
  • To get an Infinity Stones, place 3 trivia cards from your pile on the discard pile.
  • Place the Infinity Stone face up in front of you.
  • If a player lands on an Infinity Stone/Location space they do not have to ‘buy’ a Stone.
  • If the stone from that location has already been collected, a player may challenge the stone’s owner for the stone. (See Battle Rules)
  • Once you declare a challenge, you cannot back out.

Battle Rules

  • Each character has a battle value from 1-5.
  • Both players, (Owner and Challenger) select up to three cards from their cards.
    • If the Owner being challenged has fewer than three cards, they play the cards the have in the battle.
  • Players call out “3-2-1!” and place their cards down face-up.
  • The player with the higher point total wins the battle.
    • If the stone’s owner wins, they keep the stone.
    • If the challenger wins, they take the stone.
  • If there is a tie, battling players take turns rolling the 6-sided dice, challenger goes first. The 1st player to roll a three (3), wins the battle.
  • The winner keeps one of the cards put into play during the battle that matches their character, hero or villain.
  • The remaining five cards are returned to the bottom of their respective piles (Heroes go back to the Hero Pile, Villains return to the Villain pile.
  • The winner of the Infinity Stone places it face up in front of them.

Resolution: The first player to collect four Infinity Stones wins, or the player with the most stones at the end of agreed upon play time.

Resources: 

  • 1 six-sided die
  • Game Board
  • 369 ± Trivia Questions. Each card has the related movie, the question and answer, and question # (for editing purposes) printed on one side of the card.
  • 30 Hero Character Cards (Labeled “Character Cards”
  • 30 Villain Character Cards (Labeled “CC” for the prototype)
  • 6 Infinity Stone markers
  • 4 player tokens

 

 

Stick Man Kingdom
by Russell R, Troop 484

Stick Man KingdomRussell was a little light on his rules but went all out on his board design. I especially liked his catapults!

Vision Statement: Stick Man Kingdom is a free-for-all board game for 2 to 4 players in which characters have exciting battles in the 4 turgs of Stick Men Kingdom to be the first to reach the end of the path.

Play Value: This board game has excitement with the challenge of battling enemies.

Set-Up: Each player chooses a character to play: a dwarf, a wizard, a knight, or a warrior, each having their own powers and weaknesses.

Progression:  Players take turns:Pick the top card from the deck to know how many spaces you can move and attack.

  • When you land on a space, it will give you instructions for what to do:
    • Ø means there is an enemy blocking the way
    • Ξ means you can battle an opponent
    • ↑ means you can level up
    • δ means that you get damaged on that space.

Resolution: The first player to reach the end of the path wins.

Resources: 

  • Player Avatars
  • Playing Card Deck
  • Catapults

 

 

Spin The Coin
by Diego T, Troop 2

Spin The CoinA game doesn’t need to have elaborate game board or rules. I think that scouts at the workshop had the most fun with this very simple party game.

Vision Statement: Spin The Coin is a cooperative team vs. team party game in a competition to get the lowest score.

Play Value: The cooperation of team effort and the competitiveness of trying to beat the other team.

Set-Up: Players divide into pairs. Each team gets a quarter and decides who will spin it.

Progression:  The game is played in 10 rounds.

  • One person on each team spins the quarter on a table.
  • The other person on each team tries to stop their team’s quarter from spinning.
  • The first team to catch their team gets 1 point, the next 2 points, and so on.

Resolution: The team to get the lowest total points at the end of 10 rounds wins the game.

Resources: A quarter for each team.

As always, the scouts were very inventive, given the limited resources and time they had available. Even better, they were not only proud of the games they made, they really enjoyed playing other scout’s games. After all, as I explained to them, creating fun experiences for others to enjoy is what game design is all about.

 

 

Fortune Challenge
by Mack B, Troop 582

Fortune ChallengeThis game also needed more development of its rules, particularly in making the game more replayable, but I liked the paper fortune-teller used in the game, since I used to make these when I was a boy.

Vision Statement: Fortune Challenge is a party game in which teams use a paper fortune teller to receive randomly assigned challenges, trying to be the first team to win 10 of them.

Play Value: The surprise of the challenges to perform.

Set-Up: Players divide into pairs. Each team receives a paper fortune teller that has been constructed beforehand with challenges inside.  Half are the mental challenge of answering a trivial question, the rest are physical challenges such as winning an arm-wrestling competition.

Progression:  The game is played in rounds.

  • One person on each team holds the fortune telling device.
  • The other person on the team chooses one of the four letters written on the outer folds of the fortune teller.  The first player then opens the fortune teller alternately left/right or forward/back based on the named letter’s position in the alphabet (A=1, B=2, and so on.)
  • The other person then chooses one of the numbers revealed inside the inner fold. The first player then opens the fortune teller alternately left/right and forward/back based on the number chosen by the other player.
  • The players then open one of the exposed flaps and performs the challenge written underneath.
  • If the players succeed in the challenge, that team gets a point.

Resolution: The team to first earn 10 points wins the game.

Resources: Paper fortune teller.

 

 

As always, the scouts were very inventive, given the limited resources and time they had available. Even better, they were not only proud of the games they made, they really enjoyed playing other scout’s games. After all, as I explained to them, creating fun experiences for others to enjoy is what game design is all about.

 

 

 

 

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Teaching Game Design Virtually At The National Boy Scout Jamboree

If you follow my blog, you know that I was part of the team that created the Game Design Merit Badge for the Boy Scouts of America. It became the scouting organization’s 131st merit badge, each of which introduces scouts to such hobbies and occupations as archeology, chemistry, stamp collecting, and robotics, as well as such scouting skills as camping and orienteering. Several years ago, two scouters and game enthusiasts, Tom Miller and David Radue, proposed that the Boy Scouts introduce a merit badge for game design, and after a year of studies to gauge interest and two years of development from a team that included myself, the new merit badge was unveiled at the 2013 South by Southwest conference.

To earn the badge, a scout must analyze different types of games; describe play value, content, and theme; and understand the significance of intellectual property as it relates to the game industry. However, analyzing a game is only the first step. A scout must then propose three rule changes to an existing game and observe how the players’ action and emotional experiences are affected by the rule changes. After that,scouts then design, build, and blind test a game of their own design. The Game Design merit badge is not limited to video games; scouts can also choose to develop board, card, and pen-and-paper role-playing games too.

Since helping to create the requirements and instruction manual for this merit badge, I’ve stayed involved with it by serving as a merit badge counsellor to assist scouts with the requirements, and I also run game design workshops at local merit badge midways. However, right now I am counseling scouts at even bigger event that’s thousands of miles from my home. The National Boy Scout Jamboree is a gathering of over 40,000 Scouts held at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia to do activities like zip-lining, scuba diving, BMX biking, patch trading, whitewater rafting…. and game design.

Game Design Merit Badge Team leader Tom Miller is stationed at a tent for assisting scouts to earn the Game Design merit badge, and he asked me to assist him by allowing scouts to interview me about my work in game design to fulfill one of the merit badge requirements about careers in the game industry. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the trip to West Virginia this year, so I’ve been attending virtually via Google Hangouts.  While the acoustics in the tent weren’t the greatest due to all the scouts having fun making and playing games, we managed to communicate via a combination of gestures, texting, and shouting.

I did attend a Boy Scout National Jamboree in person many years ago. In 1985, my business partner, Pam Pollack, and I were there to demonstrate our company’s wilderness survival simulation, Wilderness: A Survival Adventure. We had been in discussions with the Boy Scouts of America’s National Office about allowing scouts to use our game to satisfy one of the requirements of the Wilderness Survival merit badge, and the BSA invited us up be in the Apple Computer booth. Although we were never successful to get the BSA’s endorsement of our game (they were rightly concerned that the technology would become obsolete too quickly), we had a great time at the Jamboree, meeting all the scouts.

Never would I have imagine that I’d return some three decades later, but do so through technology I would not have imagined possible back then. So this year, I’ve been talking to scouts in groups of three about careers in game development. I’ve often done virtual lectures to school classrooms located throughout the country, but I have to say, the scouts ask the best questions. Instead of “Did you work on Game X or Y?”, the scouts have asked me, “What hands-on education do you need to supplement your college courses to get into game development?”, “What is the process for balancing a game?”, and “How does your average workday change from prep-roduction to post-production?”

So far, the scouts haven’t stumped me. And as long as they don’t ask me to remember how to tie two half-hitches for a game involving knot tying, I should make it through the week just fine.