Getting the end game right

In which we talk (quite a lot) about how the final level has changed and is still changing.

Hello everyone! If you’re one of our new followers then welcome to our newsletter — and if you’ve been here a while then welcome back! As before, I’m Jess, part of the team and your narrator.

That tricky end game…

It would seem that May is a month of changes. We’ve been doing a lot of playtesting…. seriously, a lot. Library Labyrinth has been to the Virtual Playtesting discord group for a few weeks in a row now, and each time it’s got better. There is nothing like a group of people who know games inside sitting round a table and saying “well, what you actually need is x”. Obviously we won’t agree with all the feedback, not least of all because the feedback doesn’t always agree with itself. Nonetheless, it is really useful.

The part which has changed most is the end game. The first iteration added a competitive element to the game, but that wasn’t quite right. After all, the spirit of Library Labyrinth is about working together, and it seemed strange to throw that out the window when the going got tough. The second iteration had the various horrors popping up in groups, so you needed to fight them all in one go. That seemed to vary too much in difficulty. The current version is one where the movement rules remain the same, but instead of taking books from the shelves, you are picking them from the library trolley…which, of course, you stocked earlier!

We’re also playing around with the objects you might find in the library. Perhaps potions, or a mirror (good for getting Dracula back into his book, I understand), or a musical instrument? We want to keep them, but as yet we’re not 100% sure how and where they’re going to fit in…

Here’s what the board looks like now!

Podcasts!

We’ve also been appearing on many podcasts! Mill and I (Jess) are both on the Who Why What podcast at some point in June, so watch out for that one.

In the meantime, I spoke to Board Again Games, so check out the You Tube video here!

And I’ve also been chatting to the Board Game Community Show here. This was great fun, and I recommend you all go and listen. This one was the most fun to do!

We’ll be at Games Expo!

We’re going to UK Games Expo! It’s in Birmingham from 30 July until 1 August. Mill will be there with prototypes of Library Labyrinth and possibly some free bookmarks to hand out (more about those in the next newsletter) so do give us a shout.

Next steps

Are you a librarian in the UK? Or do you run a bookshop? We are thinking about possibly doing promotional bookmarks, and so we’re looking at places (in the UK) to send them! If you have thoughts about this, please do email us at dissentgames@gmail.com

Could you help us playtest? Please do! We have a Facebook group here.

Also, please do remember to sign up on our pre-launch page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dissentgames/library-labyrinth. Please share as far and wide as you can! We expect to actually launch over the summer.

Setting out the components

In which we show you what the game looks like, and share an online play-through.

Hello everyone! We have so much to share with you from the last month! As before, I’m Jess, part of the team and your narrator.

New artwork

We have been working really hard on the board and layout. Here’s what we think it might look like laid out on the table…

We also have an idea of what some of the cards might look like…

As you can see, we’re still very unsure about font size, boldness, and the size of the symbols….but we’re getting there.

Girls Drinking Wine

Earlier this week Ella and I had a date with Jacqueline and Visioness from Girls Drinking Wine And Playing Board Games. We played Library Labyrinth and streamed it live on Twitch. It was a lot of fun and we really enjoyed the game. Even Tabletop Simulator falling over towards the end couldn’t dent our fun! Unfortunately Twitch and WordPress are not very compatible, so you may need to actually click here to see the video.

Playtesters needed!

Could you help us playtest? Please do! We have a Facebook group here. We’ve recently been playtesting at an online Protospiel, and it was very, very useful.

Next steps

Are you a teacher? Or are you the parent of a teenager? We’re thinking about putting together a teacher’s pack for schools. If you have thoughts about this, please do email us at dissentgames@gmail.com

Also, please do remember to sign up on our pre-launch page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dissentgames/library-labyrinth. Please share as far and wide as you can! We expect to actually launch at the start of July.

International Women’s Day

In which we get ready for pre-launch and make some videos.

Hello everyone! Happy International Women’s Day 2021! We are barrelling along with the artwork for Library Labyrinth, and it is just so exciting! As before, I’m Jess, one fifth of the team and your narrator.

New artwork

We have lots of exciting things to show you! Firstly, here’s Enheduanna, who is the oldest historical character in Library Labyrinth, as she lived in about 2300 BCE.

We also have a couple of horrors available: the portal and the basilisk. Look at these stunning tiles!

Finally, we’ve been refining our name (“title treatment”, use the correct term Jess) and have put some colourful books behind it. We’ll still have the all gold version, but that will be used for those places where the title needs to be so small that the books and text would get lost. The colourful one is what is going to be on the box. However, because we’ll be using in different places, we may need to scale the gold tint on the text up and down. And why have we been looking at different levels of gold, you might ask? Well, it’s because (drumroll, please) we have a pre-launch page on Kickstarter!

A pre-launch page is where people can sign up to be notified when the campaign goes live. Ours is the snappy url https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dissentgames/library-labyrinth. Please share as far and wide as you can! We expect to actually launch at the start of July.

Here’s the artwork on the front of the Kickstarter pre-launch page.

Videos….coming very soon….

The other thing we’ve mainly been doing is shooting videos. Oh yes. This is hugely exciting! Video is a big way that people interact with, you know, stuff, and so it’s important that we have something out there. We’re recording three short videos about the game, and stitching them seemlessly together as Book I, Book II, and Book III. Let’s start at the end and go backward through them….

Book III will be a fairly standard video introducing some of the team. It’ll be about four or five minutes long, and will cover why we’re making the game and how the idea came about. Book II is a quick run through of the components, some of the artwork, and the basic mechanics. And Book I – well, that’s the fun bit! Book I is going to be a zoom call with some of the characters. Oh yes, we’re going to dress up. It turns out that Mill has a proper centurion helmet just lying about.

Playtesters needed!

Could you help us playtest? Please do! We have a Facebook group here, and we are trying to move to public playtesting about once a week.

Next steps

Once we have these videos made, we’ll be sharing them on social media. Please do watch out for them, and try to get as many people as possible to sign up for this newsletter or to follow us. And to click on the Kickstarter pre-launch page, of course!

Flying books and maps on boards

In which we consider the title treatment and the maps on the boards.

Hello everyone! It’s been an exciting few weeks since our last update, and I’m keen to show you our progress. As before, I’m Jess, one fifth of the team and your narrator.

What’s the name going to look like?

Well, this is exciting! I have learnt a new term: “title treatment”. As far as I can tell it’s the style of the title – more than just a logo, including the colour, font, background etc. We’ve been putting together what we think it might look like. Here’s an early draft, first in grayscale, and then with some colour. And then in the bottom right is an alternative thought we had.

The one with the flying books is clearly the best. We asked a lot of people (mainly on Facebook, because that’s the generation most of us are) and it was clear that people liked the energy of that one, but wanted more colour. Just not the colour of the second one. People also wanted the text cleaned up in some way, worrying about how easy it was to read. So, we ended up with the two below: one with books behind it (although it doesn’t have the frantic energy of the first draft) and one with just the glow. We’re not done yet though, and ill continue to work on these….but thought you’d like to have a look now! Do tell us your thoughts.

Mapping out the boards

The other really exciting thing has been considering how the boards might fit together. Right from the start, we have been thinking of modular boards. These make it easy to choose the right map for the group – perhaps a harder map for the first level, then an easier map for the level 3 monsters? And it also means it fits back into the box neatly, which is definitely a plus.

One of the key questions we have about the board set up is to do with stacking. If this is a library, and every board is a room….then maybe every board can also be a floor, and you go down the building to get out. The final showdown board could then be the foyer of the library. Another key question was whether we had boards for the cards too, and if so, where they should be.

We had a go at mocking up some boards, and trying out how they would fit together. Here are the main two options.

If we go for a modular board then players could chose between those two different set ups. We’re still quite a way from having printed prototypes though!

Seeking sensitivity readers

Last month we highlighted that we want this game to be truly, deeply inclusive. We’re therefore asking for sensitivity readers or cultural consultants from both geographical cultures and specific identities. There’s a list of cultures and identities we are looking for on the page about us. We will pay (or donate to charity in your name), and we will pay cultural consultants and sensitivity readers before we pay ourselves.

If you think any of these people could be you, please contact us at dissentgames@gmail.com or find us on Twitter or Facebook.

Playtesters needed!

Could you help us playtest? Please do! We have a Facebook group here, and we are trying to move to public playtesting about once a week.

Next steps

The next few months are sure to be ridiculously busy, and we are working at a fast pace. (Especially fast considering that we all have actual other jobs to do!) International Women’s Day is towards the start of next month, and we’ll have at least one announcement to make then. Please keep following, and recommend us to all of your friends!

Playtesting, playtesting, and yet more playtesting

In which we introduce ourselves properly and ask for playtesting help….

Hello again! I’m writing this wrapped in several blankets, looking out at snow fluttering gently down outside the window…all to the accompaniment of the shouts and screams of two small children. Lockdown is not exactly peaceful in our house.

More about us

I’m Jess, and I’m likely to be the narrator of most of what goes up online. I’m one-fifth of the team.

Aside from me, the team is Amy, Ella, Mill, and Sam. We finally have some short profiles of us online. We’re all in the UK. Three of us are white, two POC. Two of us have young children, which is obviously a huge impact on available time at the moment. Our experience ranges from board games to design to performance to politics to literature to history. At least one of us is currently writing a play.

Working as a team is important, because it means both that the final game will be more polished by being worked on by different hands, and that we have a wider experience to draw from. At the moment we are currently discussing how the board should fit together and whether the cards should be portrait or horizontal. Obviously we all have different ideas, but throwing them around is part of the joy of it.

Playtesting

Oh, we have been playtesting. I have a printed off copy which is getting a fair amount of solo use. Using card sleeves has really helped — we use Component Studio for the prototypes and then just print on normal paper. Many minutes with a pair of scissors later, the backs and fronts can be matched up and slipped into clear plastic sleeves…it’s actually quite relaxing.

Most of our playtests have happened using Tabletop Simulator. I discovered the easy way to rotate a card, which I then promptly forgot again.

Playtesting has also thrown up suggestions about both the overall appearance and the mechanics. We have playtested with five, and it took 20 turns. A sample two-player game took 11 turns. We have a deck of cards which could be used to limit the turns available, but at the moment we have 24 cards in that deck. One of our next moves may be to reduce the size of that deck, meaning that players would have to more more quickly through the library.

Design thoughts

Last month we shared the symbols with you — well, we are still using those symbols, but they now have colour behind them now. It’s all still prototype stuff, as none of this is final design. Basically, the skills on each card are roughly grouped into categories (athletics, knowledge, etc etc) and each category has a colour and a symbol. They are now pretty clear on the cards.

Playtesting with those symbols and colours led to a particularly good suggestion from one of our playtesters. As well as the skills, the cards are also grouped into book categories, which are subject classifications such as Children’s Fiction or Historic Leaders, and these classifications were shown by having a different colour on the back of the card. So one side of the card is the inside of the book where there are skills which have coloured symbols, while the other side of the card is the cover of the book where the general type of book is represented by a coloured book cover. (On our paper prototypes it’s a thin coloured border, while on Tabletop Simulator it’s all full colour.) I’m sure you can see where this is going…one of our playtesters asked, quite sensibly, whether the cover colour matched the skill colour — ie, if you wanted green “knowledge” skills, should you go for the books with the green covers? You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately muggins here had not been quite so smart. I’ve now looked more closely at how the skills inside the books match the book categories, and have aligned them more closely. Now, if you’re looking for a wisdom skill (blue) then your best bet is to pick a Historic Leader (blue cover).

Help needed!

Could you help us playtest? Please do! We have a Facebook group here, and we are trying to move to public playtesting at least once a week.

Next steps

We’re revisiting our timetable, and trying to work out when this year we could feasibly go to Kickstarter. Lockdowns, different working arrangements, and homeschooling have all have an impact on different members of the team, and so time is a little tighter than we had thought. Project planning away!

Skills, boards, and the team

In which we introduce our skill symbols, consider how the board may be constructed, and ask a serious question about building a team.

Hello all, and welcome to our December newsletter! Let’s talk about skill symbols first, and then move on to some of the other exciting things we’ve been doing.

Skills: symbols and categories

Over the last month, we’ve been considering two overlapping categories. The first is the categories of skills, the second the different books contained in our amazing imaginary library. Each character will have a number of different skills — things at which they excel, and which they offer to the team. Pirate Queen Ching Shih brings strength, diplomacy, waterlore, and the ability to use a weapon. Mary Seacole has medicine, science, and resilience. The skills match the monsters — for example, in order to defeat the waterfall the players use waterlore and resilience.

In the very first stages of this game, we matched up the skills on the books and the monsters perfectly. But that made the game too dependent on the luck of drawing exactly the right card. So we grouped the skills together, giving each category a name, and decided that a monster could be defeated either by the exact skill needed or by two other skills from the same category. For example, the skills of stealth, strength, and speed are all part of the athletics category, and so stealth and strength together could be used in place of speed. Thematically it makes sense, because a character who is an expert at one type of athletics is likely to be able to turn their hand to another athletic discipline.

We’ve started on symbols for the skill categories, and are thinking about a tree for knowledge, a heart for healing, a fist for courage, a running figure for athletics, a quill for craft, and a sand timer for wisdom. The skills which fit under each category are:

  • Knowledge: coding, logic, map reading, puzzle solving, science.
  • Healing: kindness, medicine, positivity.
  • Courage: bravery, resilience.
  • Athletics: agility, good shot, keen sight, small size, stealth, strength, speed.
  • Craft: disguise, story telling, waterlore, rope making.
  • Wisdom: diplomacy, judgement, leadership, persuasion, prediction.

Please do let us know what you think, either by email, by commenting on this post, or on Facebook!

Putting together the board

This has been fun! So, this game takes place in a library — a library with different sections. We’re thinking three levels, each with its own set of literary horrors to be overcome. Instead of one large board, the board will be modular, meaning one small board per level.

Having multiple boards opens up a whole range of possibilities. If the boards are double-sided then one side can be more difficult than the other. Expansions can easily slot into the game, or levels taken out. And for those short on table space, it’ll mean that only one level really needs to be out at a time.

It’s likely to also mean easier production. Folding boards can be tricky to make, and it’s possible that small boards might even be able to be made in the UK. Watch this space!

Building a team

We realise that we haven’t put anything up on the “about us” section yet…apologies for that! Jobs/children/life in general is a bit much sometimes.

We’re a small group of women. We’ve deliberately sought to be diverse as a group, and we want to ensure we keep being diverse and inclusive. This game will be the best it can only if our team reflects the different cultures, races, and experiences of our characters. And so, we’d like to know if you would like to get involved! At some point in the process, this game will need input in the following ways:

  • People who can consider and express the cultural sensitivities of using specific literary characters or historical figures
  • People who can comment on what specific characters should look like
  • People with wide knowledge of classic literature around the world
  • People with experience in marketing and promotion, particularly through social media

Two very important things here. Firstly, we are not asking for free work. Even if it’s just one chat on zoom, we’ll ask how we can buy you coffee/cake or whether you’d prefer a small donation to a charity of your choice. If you contribute more, we can work out how many hours and put it in our spreadsheet to ensure you get a fair cut at the end of the process. The game is going to be crowdfunded (probably through Kickstarter) and everyone who works on the game will get a proportion of profit equal to their hours. Secondly, this need not be a huge commitment; it’s just as useful for ten people to each work on two characters as it is for one person to consider twenty characters. It might be that your contribution is just a single conversation, or it might be that it’s much more. In all cases, everyone who contributes will be recognized and compensated!

If you want to get involved — whether in a big way or a small way, now or later — then either let Jess know at dissentgames@gmail.com or contact us on Facebook.

Welcome to Library Labyrinth

Library Labyrinth is a co-operative board game set in a library. Something very strange is going on, and dark and mysterious things are hiding among the shelves. The only way out is to ask the characters in the books for help….

Players call on historical and fictional women for help. Each character has a set of special skills which help defeat the terrible things lurking in the library. The players need to work together to build the right team to find the way through the maze of bookshelves and escape the library.

Coming to Kickstarter in 2021.