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Tuesday
Nov192013

Pandante Kickstarter (Reboot)

Pandante is back! The new kickstarter is up right now. It features the same great gameplay as before, this time with much less expensive poker chips. The chips are now clay, and the deluxe set costs $100 rather than $300.

There's also a travel version of the game now, as well as the print-and-play version. And there's kickstarter-exclusive cards, a $5 savings off MSRP for the standard version, and stretch goals that unlock more free stuff. You can even unlock FREE Blivand Yomi decks of the characters "Panda" and "G.Panda" if we raise enough. So please share the kickstarter with your friends to make that happen.

Pandante Gameplay

We've all heard about gambling Pandas, but I didn't realize how much fun their games were until I saw them myself. They play this game called Pandante that's sort of like Human Poker, but it's a lot more about lying. You lie about what's in your hand and you lie about which abilities you have access too. (There's only a few abilities and they're pretty simple.)

Everyone pretty much knows that tons of lying is going on, so that adds quite a bit of fun factor. And there's not much folding in Pandante, at least not nearly as much as in Human Poker. There's also no Panda elimination. I found that all of that has great synergy because it means everyone is participating most of the time, so that's more opportunities to lie about stuff (and laugh about it). That said, it's also playable as a really serious gambling game for real money. I really liked that it could be a really social game as well as a highly competitive one, so I decided to bring it over from the Pandalands for everyone here.

I hope you enjoy the game as much as these kids. :)

Head on over to the kickstarter page for lots more pics, video, and info about the game and components!

Wednesday
Nov132013

Yomi Beta Decks

Some physical Yomi beta decks are available right now in small quantity. The print-and-play versions of those same characters are also available at that same link. This is a small, print-on-demand run so note that the cardstock is different from other Yomi cards, but it's still fine. These decks have all the real art and are in a polished state of balance. If any balance changes happen later on, the good news is that it's easy to make just the changed cards available because of the print-on-demand nature of this run.

The expansion characters available right now are Quince, Onimaru, BBB, and Troq. Also, there are updated versions of Grave, Jaina, Midori, and Setsuki available. All characters have cooler looking character cards now, a new stat summary card, and all abilities now have a timing tag like "draw phase" that lets you quickly see when the ability can trigger.

All these characters are also playable free online. If you'd like to learn more about the new characters, here are some articles by Thelo (programmer Yomi online):

Quince article
Onimaru article
BBB article

Keep in mind that you get free shipping within the US on any order over $25 at sirlingames.com. So you can get just one deck, but if you combine that with some other items then you'll be able to reach the free shipping threshold. Enjoy the new decks!

Monday
Nov112013

High Level Chess

There's a feature article on businessinsider.com about Chess 2. Well actually it's about original chess, but it sort of reads like an ad for Chess 2. It explains how in original chess that draws are more and more of a problem and that high level play is becoming less and less interesting.

This quote is especially distressing:

So Anand encountered a "mild surprise" in the opening moves that left him "flying blind" (meaning the board was in a position with which he had not previously studied) and because of that he decided to not keep pursuing the game. He just engineered a draw.

Most real people are "flying blind" after the first couple moves of the game, and it's the challenge of trying to solve a puzzle against a live opponent (who is also flying blind) that makes the game so fun. At the highest levels, Grandmasters go very deep into the game in positions they have studied exhaustively, and then the moment they feel uncomfortable they search for the emergency brake, and consider themselves happy to escape with half a point.

Intuitive understanding of the game and moments of brilliant improvisation are the most exciting aspects, and yet memorized lines of play are so deeply entrenched now that when a top player encounters anything outside of memorized, studied lines he heads directly for the draw. It's really the opposite of what you'd hope.

Another unfortunate quote:

They have several games yet to go where they can produce some fireworks. But if these first two games are indicative of future play, then this match won't do anything for the world of chess. Instead it will do the opposite of promoting the game. It will be a reminder that at the highest levels, chess is a bore that you don't need to pay attention to.

Oh well, at least there's an alternative coming.

Saturday
Oct262013

$50 Holiday Gift on Pandante Kickstarter

From update #6 on Pandante's Kickstater:

Ready for a holiday gift? Many of you asked for a way to get other Sirlin Games in some sort of bundle with Pandante. There are so many logistical issues with that that it would make your head spin. I’ll do you one better:

If we reach $50k in funding, everyone who pledged for a luxury Pandante set will also get a discount code for $50 off anything at sirlingames.com.

You’ll get that $50 code shortly after the kickstarter ends which means there’s still plenty of time use it for a holiday gift for a friend or for yourself. Here’s a reminder of things you could spend it on, as well as announcement of a new thing:

Yomi: Complete First Edition
Puzzle Strike base set
Puzzle Strike Shadows
Puzzle Strike extras pack (including the great strategy guide)
Flash Duel

In addition to all that, there are currently two new items available:
Yomi: Quince deck (beta) print-and-play
Yomi: Onimaru deck (beta) print-and-play

Those decks have all real art (no placeholder) and are in a polished state of balance. In the coming weeks, more decks will be available in this form, and some will also be available in physical form in a limited run from a print-on-demand printer. If any balance changes happen, the print-and-play versions will get free updates and the physical versions will have a way to buy just the few changed cards (that’s an advantage of doing small print-on-demand runs).

Anyway, the point is that these new Yomi decks are just one more thing you could put your holiday gift money towards, if you like. It’s a way to get a hold of some new Yomi stuff many, many months before any kind of full release is possible. Or you could use your $50 to give Puzzle Strike or Flash Duel to a friend for Christmas.

So tell a friend about Pandante on kickstarter and let’s make this happen!

Monday
Oct212013

Blivand Design

I explained the concept of Blivand design in this kickstarter update. Here's a repost:

Pandante is a traditional classic in the Pandalands. Because it’s so timeless, I wanted the graphic design of the human version to be pretty classy. James Bond should feel comfortable playing with the poker chips, for example. I thought Hectóre Blivand would be an excellent choice for this, and it turns out I was right. I want to share with you what I learned from him. Blivand usually works in high fashion, so I’ll pass on to you what he taught me.

Minimalism

Blivand focuses on “minimalism.” There’s more to minimalism than I realized though. In all the graphic design I’ve done, when I remove elements to simplify something the main question is always “can this be done without hurting the functionality?” Blivand’s main question is totally different though: “would removing this element make it feel cheap?”

At first I didn’t get it. Removing an element generally does not make a thing seem cheap, so why is that such a concern? Then I realized that Blivand is in a whole different ballpark when it comes to removing. His starting point is way more minimal than is even reasonable, so when he removes something from *that*, there almost isn’t anything left.

He says for fashion design, at least his kind, that when an object looks very detailed and complicated, even if it looks great and cool by most standards, that it’s bad. This was another thing that took some work to wrap my mind around. If it’s great and cool by most standards, isn’t it by definition not bad? He said he means bad as a fashionable object. He said to imagine the millionaire lounging on his yacht with his golden statues of geese (what?), and then ask how he would see an object. The millionaire looks down on graphics that try too hard. It’s like they aren’t worth much, but have to show off to increase their value, Blivand says. A truly valuable object knows it’s valuable and does not show off.

Flat Colors

Blivand says he uses these graphic design elements as little as possible: drop shadows, gradients, bevels, glows, and sparkles. The various Fantasy Strike graphic design I’ve done uses tons of all that stuff, and I think it looks good, but Blivand says for a classy and timeless look, he doesn’t like any of those techniques. He starts by using literally none of them, then only uses any of them in a special case where he feels breaking the rule is justified. That’s why Pandante is almost all flat colors. The only gradient anywhere is on the joker artwork (a special card) and the diamond chip (a special chip).

Fashion is Pain

The most important concept I learned from Blivand was about how “fashion is about pain.” He says fashion has to hurt a little bit, or it’s not fashionable enough. I’m so used to thinking about how to make graphics clear enough to be useful, so his “fashion is pain” approach was quite a shock. He says you have to remove all the elements you can without hurting functionality, then remove some more. To educate me, he showed me some pictures of very expensive fashion items.

A checkerboard. Not much to remove on a checkerboard. How about instead of black and white squares, we make the colors brown and barely-different-brown? That way it’s less functional than usual. And that’s why it’s so expensive.

 

A clock. Usually analog clocks have 12 numbers, one for each hour. Could we hurt the functionality a bit somehow? How about removing all the numbers except the 5.

 

Blivand himself made a similar clock too, based on his Pandante work:

 

A map. Blivand made this one for Americans (to be printed in America too), saying that Americans didn’t really need much more than this anyway. Anyone can buy some cheap map, but only the truly elite buy this:

 

Posters. You can see that same influence here:

So we can think of a spectrum of minimalism. On one end, we have normal stuff that isn’t “minimal.” Then as we remove more and more, we get down to the bare minimum. Then if we remove a bit more from that, we get fashion (which is about pain), and if we remove more than THAT, then we get “cheapy.”

For example, a poker chip that is completely blank is not high fashion anymore. It’s good that it removed all it could then removed some more, but if it’s literally blank then it looks like some factory mindlessly churned them out. They wouldn’t look designed.

In Pandante, I can see this in Blivand’s choice to not have edge spots on the chips. There is some reason to have them (functionality), but removing them is more his style. Same goes for the pips on all the Pandante cards. There could have been different pips for each suit, but sticking with just one bamboo symbol was a way to remove elements that were slightly needed. Blivand says when you have that style of design—something analogous to the brown and barely-other-brown checkerboard—that the millionaire with golden geese knows he is getting something very special. Something that is above the common man.

Something austere, crepunctious, and blivand.

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Support the Pandante kickstarter and get those high end poker chips while you still can. :)

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