My favorite review of ’inkadia

Johathan Lavallee reviewed every Game Chef 2012 entry, giving each game four paragraphs about “the good”, “the bad”, “the other” and “would I play it”.

He said this about ’inkadia:

The Good: *stares at the work in shock, jaw on the floor* This is art imitating game.

The Bad: *stares at the work in shock, jaw on the floor* This is at times avant guard art imitating a game.

The Other: *stares at the work in shock, jaw on the floor* This is a dinner party, right? Also, moderately price game for a one time thing.

Would I play it? *stares at the work in shock, jaw on the floor*

I reply:
Totally nailed it.


My entry into Game Chef 2012 is ’inkadia. It’s about creating a post-apocalyptic setting by destroying an idyllic work of art by the late Thomas Kinkade.

My four random ingredients were not much help to me (even after they stopped returning 503 errors):

In any case, the “Last Chance” theme is what really triggered the design of the game. It immediately said to me “make a game with materials that get destroyed as you use them”. This then clicked with a thought I had when Thomas Kinkade died about using his images for a game.

I seriously doubt anyone will ever actually play this game, including me; however, as mentioned in the rules, post your final images here if you do.

Update: ’inkadia squeaked in as a last minute runner-up.


ExodusI tried to give Game Chef a go this year. Unfortunately, my efforts are not among the final entries, as I didn’t finish in time. Part of this was being a bit too ambitious with what I wanted to do in the one-week timeframe. The other, more serious, part of it is that I’m not really sure the game I was building would have worked. I can make it work eventually, but what’s in my head right now might not. There is a little smoke there, but not much fire.

Still, the whole point of Game Chef is not to win, or even enter, really. It is to go through the effort of actually building a game. So, in that spirit, I thought I’d release what I have so far. I’m unlikely to take it much further unless interest seems there. I’m releasing what I have under a “do pretty much anything you want with it”, so feel free to hack it, reuse it, whatever.

The task was to build a game in one week with a theme of “Journey”, using three of the ingredients “edge”, “skin”, “desert” or “city”. You can see what I tried to do with these here:

If you are interested in the probability at work in Exodus, you can see its distribution on AnyDice.

One thing I wanted to find out making this game (and one reason why the actual game isn’t better) is how to use a single InDesign setup to export both a PDF and an EPUB version of the book, without compromising the layout in either, assuming that is possible. I’m fairly pleased at the result, though I’ve only tried the EPUB version on an iPad and the Mac version of Calibre. I haven’t tried using other readers (if you do, please comment below). I will probably have more to say about the technical bits of this in another post (if you have questions you’d like answered on such a topic, please ask them below).

If you have suggestions for Exodus, please leave them below. And, check out the real Game Chef entries. Since the winner will be the game that gets played the most often over the next few weeks, try playing one that sounds interesting, and let people know about it. I may try to run Danger Mountain! and/or The Chaos Lords and the Desert of Death, myself.

Little Game Chef 2010: Valence

ValenceThe Little Game Chef competition offers a theme each year, giving two weeks to design a roleplaying game to that theme, using a handful of “ingredients”. This year, the theme was comedy, using the ingredients “bond”, “holiday”, “starfish” and “recall”. Somewhat obsessed with the notion of “bond” as meaning “chemical bond”, I tried to create a story game using molecular models as game elements.

The resulting game, Valence, is… not good. As currently written, it’s about an eighth of a semi-interesting idea. Eero Tuovinen, one of the contest’s judges, summarized the game’s most glaring flaw, saying “the fiction does not breathe, for the game is much too concerned with making the novelty equipment work.”

Another bit of spot-on criticism comes from judge Graham Walmsley, who said “I can’t work out what a story would be like.” Part of the reason for this is that I totally failed to describe what “the Design” is or how it works. A more important part of the reason is that I’m not entirely sure what “the Design” is or how it works. What was in my head when writing it was a realm based around a sort of “dream logic”. That is, something sort of real, but where form is mutable and extremely odd events are just taken in stride, a bit like the oldest game of all from the “A Hope in Hell” issue of Sandman. Thinking about it now, the game might be better served by pitching the Design as a world of cartoon logic, where it is not out of place to, say, pull a big mallet out of thin air. Or something. If I ever figure this out, I’ll probably write a new version of the game.

I’m not sure yet if there is really a good game hidden somewhere in Valence. If there is, I suspect it will be a good deal longer. I had the definite sense when writing it that I was building an “abridged” version of what was in my head, in order to avoid violating the contest’s “make it short” directive (and, even then, the result was too long).

Of the (many) ideas in my head that I totally failed to explain in the game, one is the idea that the chemical world treats the notion of “identity” as much more fluid than the real world does. Part of the point of bonding with another atom is that you “infect” the atom with your personality and agenda, and vice versa.

One thing I thought of a bit too late was how to use the models to coerce the players into interacting with each other. If you read the game, you’ll see a lot of stuff about atomic bonds, but the game carefully avoids having the players (who all play carbon atoms) bonding to each other. Instead, maybe such bonding should be the center point of the game. This notion, combined with the “infection” mentioned above, could be fairly rich, but also runs the risk of deprotagonizing and asshattery.

A bit of criticism that I don’t totally agree with concerns the quantity of moving “props” in the game (molecular models, cards, Post-its, sheets, etc.). There certainly are quite a lot of fiddly bits; however, I’m not entirely sure that’s bad. It seems to me that the type of person who would even be attracted to playing a game that revolves around manipulating molecular models is probably exactly the type of person who actually likes a lot of fiddly bits. (I know I do.) Conversely, a person who doesn’t like fiddly bits is probably not going to like a game that requires them to mess with molecular models. Still, there is such a thing as too many fiddly bits. Food for thought.

I may have more to say about Valence in the future. It’s also totally possible that I won’t. Meanwhile, I’m releasing Valence under a liberal Creative Commons license, if you should happen to want to turn it into something playable.