Tag Archives: Pocket Universe

The Pocket Universe Print and Play Promotional Plea!

So, it looks like we’re pretty much ready to go with my newest game, Pocket Universe. The game is, in my mind, finished. Playtesting has gone well with teams from around the world checking out my little game of space exploration and general nastiness! Whether it’s people I know or blind test groups, their work has been immeasurably useful taking the game from its early versions through to the final build.


“Pocket Universe is a game for two to four players where they must zip around a newly created (and highly unstable!) area of space collecting valuable resources in order to gain as many points as possible. There are three levels of play ranging from Cadet (perfect for newbies and kids) all the way up to Captain (where everything gets a bit nastier).

Planets will be discovered as the game progresses that yield the precious resources. Will you stash them all back at your base or spend them on scuppering your opponents’ plans? Once twelve planets are revealed, it’s a manic race to drop your final haul or it’s all lost! Games are quick and fast-moving, normally taking between 20 to 30 minutes.

Grab what you can and get out quick! Only the speediest (and sneakiest) will prove victorious in the Pocket Universe!”


Now it’s time to set it out for anyone to try it! I’ve created a low-ink Print and Play version of the game that doesn’t take too long to make up. Just print it up on some decent thickness card, follow the instructions and chop the lot up. If you’re interested in trying it out, even for just one game, I ask only one thing: PLEASE fill out the feedback questionnaire that’s included in the PnP Pack – it’ll make getting the game into production a thousand times faster!

Sprocket Games will be working in association with Game Salute to get Pocket Universe into the hands of gamers as soon as possible. All we need now is your assistance.

If you’d like to try out Pocket Universe, just click on the link below and you’ll be taken to the Dropbox for the game. In there you’ll find everything you need to play as well as the play test form. Whether you play it once or more (and obviously, it’d be great if you played it more!) fill out the form and email it back to michael@littlemetaldog.com


Everyone who playtests will get credited in the final rulebook, and once the game is produced I’ll organise a giveaway of a few copies of the final product! If you’ve got any questions or comments, feel free to email me or give me a shout on Twitter where I’m @idlemichael


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It’s the (second) most wonderful time of the year…

Oh yes indeed – GenCon is nearly here! The USA’s best board games show is approaching once again, kicking off this Thursday for four days of gaming in Indianapolis, Indiana. Once again it’ll be stacked with the usual pile of new releases and exclusive previews as pretty much every major American publisher will be present along with plenty of the larger European names – but what are the big titles people are looking forward to?

Libertalia from Marabunta / Asmodee is one that I think will probably be under many people’s radars but I have a feeling it’s going to end up being one of the year’s best releases. A role selection game at heart with up to six players acting as pirate captains on their way to retirement and looking for a final hurrah, it’s a sneaky extravaganza of treasure hunting and back stabbing with a great level of player interaction. I’ve already managed to get my hands on a copy so expect a review in the very near future. Also, if you get a copy early enough, you’ll get metal doubloons! Who wouldn’t want it?!

Tzolkin: The Mayan Calendar by CGE was available to play in early prototype form at the UK Games Expo, but it looks like a near finished version should be at GenCon. It’s a worker placement extravaganza with a really interesting mechanism where cogs turn and interact with each other on the board. Stay on the board too long and your guys could well end up a wasted placing as they move past the resources that you’re aiming for. CGE’s games are always beautifully produced so you know this will be incredible to behold – there’s no other company out there who I’d trust to make such an involved and creative board concept.

Fantasy Flight will be there with wheelbarrows filled with stuff, of course, but the new versions of Merchant of Venus and Netrunner are both due for release at the show. Early reports say that these two remakes are amazing, managing to capture the brilliance of the original games while giving them a shiny makeover, though MoV will include the rules to play both the old and new versions. Netrunner’s asymmetric gameplay has long been a favourite of mine and I can’t wait to get my hands on this modernised version to see how it compares to Richard Garfield’s classic. Also, there’s the small matter of a little game called X-Wing finally seeing the light of day…

Village, the Kennerspiel des Jahres winner for 2012, has been picked up by Tasty Minstrel Games and looks like it’ll be this year’s go to game for those who want to scratch their Euro itch. Players need to find fame and fortune for their family members in order to keep their name immortalised in the village’s chronicles – make the right moves and your legacy will live on. Screw it up and your future generations will fade into obscurity. It’s a very clever worker placement game and probably the only one I know where death is used to limit a character’s time. This will only be available in very limited amounts – apparently there’ll only be fifty at the show – so if you want a copy, head to TMG’s booth early.

AEG’s Tempest line is also due for its first public viewing at the show with the initial three games in the series getting a release. Courtier, Dominare and Mercante all promise very different playing experiences but the interesting element will be seeing how the public react to the storybuilding aspects of the world. As characters change, further games in the series will reflect these developments – for example, should the story necessitate that a major role needs to be wiped out, later games will reference back to whatever happened. We’re not looking at a Risk Legacy effort here where every person’s game will be different as time goes on; AEG will run the story along the lines of their Legend of the Five Rings property, controlling it from their end with input from players and designers. This could prove a very interesting experiment…

AEG also have the light-as-a-feather but very entertaining Smash Up ready for release at GenCon. The world’s first shufflebuilding game sees players combine two twenty card decks (ninjas with robots, pirates with aliens, that kind of thing) and utilise their joint powers to take over bases in order to score points. It’s a very quick little game but has a surprising level of depth to it as you try and work out which sets work particularly well against your opponents’ selections. I think this one will do pretty well at the show, especially as it clocks in well under that magical 45 minute mark for playtime.

Of course, one of the best things about any gaming convention is the discovery of those releases from smaller companies. 5th Street Games will be showing off their rather splendid Farmageddon while Asmadi should have copies of their very limited Origins hit FlowerFall available too. The new Enhanced Edition of Sentinels of the Multiverse will be selling at the Greater Than Games booth, while Leviathans, the steampunky miniatures air-combat game that I’ve been waiting since the beginning of time for, is finally due – albeit in very limited numbers. Last of all, Morels from Two Lanterns Games will definitely be available and it looks utterly lovely.

Oh yeah. One final thing.

I’m very excited about is the fact that my new game, Pocket Universe, will be on show at the Game Salute booth. I’m finding it very nerve-wracking that it’s being shown at all but it’s even worse when you consider that I’m not actually going to be there. You may well have tried it out yourself by downloading the files from the site (there’s been a few, honest!) but that version is light years away from the one you’ll be able to check out at GenCon. While it’s still in prototype format, the gameplay is 99.99% finished – I’m considering tweaking maybe one or two very tiny elements – so why not have a look at it yourself? Just ask one of the GS team at the Sneak Peeks booth (#2035) and tell them I sent you.

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#NaGaDeMon: The End

And so it comes to its conclusion. Around the world, hundreds of book publishing companies quiver in fear as they await the onslaught of manuscripts from wannabe authors. Bathroom sinks across the country are strewn with the remains of  moustaches as top lips see the sun for the first time in weeks. And on tables everywhere (well, perhaps not everywhere) people who would never normally have dreamed of creating their own game now have something that’s hopefully playable sitting before them. NaGaDeMon 2011 is now finished. So how was it for you?

I’ve got to say I’m pretty happy with my effort, Pocket Universe. It’s been quite the challenge coming up with a game from nothing, getting it built and – probably most important – making sure that it works. If you’d like to check it out for yourself, have a look at the Sprocket Games page here on the site – it’s really rather good. It’s not just me saying that, however! It was really important for me to get as many people as possible to try it so I was very pleased when so many people came forward to playtest it, especially those who weren’t afraid to let me know exactly what they thought of it…

So, the game works and – according to people who’ve played it – it’s actually fun! So what happens next? Well, there’s a couple of options. First, it can stay on the shelf (or here on the site, anyway). Second, I can try to get it published which is easier said than done – however, it’s certainly a possibility. One of the great things about doing Little Metal Dog is that I get to speak to a wide range of people in the industry and several have expressed interest in checking it out, so it’s just a matter of seeing what happens with that. Should nothing come from it, the final step is to self-publish – a big step, admittedly, but one that I’d be more than willing to take.

Before that happens though, I need to decide whether or not Pocket Universe is truly complete. It’s certainly finished, but do I want to add more to it? There’s a couple of things that could be put into the game that would improve it further – perhaps giving the players the option of different ships that will bestow different powers, cargo capacities, that kind of thing?  While it won’t break the game – I’m happy with how it is – it could be interesting to give gamers more things to do in the Pocket Universe. It’s something to think about anyway. For now though, I’m calling my NaGaDeMon adventure a success. Roll on next November, hey?

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#NaGaDeMon Update: Listen Up

The #NaGaDeMon truck rolls on, creative juices continue to boil away and my wee game gets closer to being finished. If you’re unaware of what NaGaDeMon is, here’s the deal: much like NaNoWriMo where people are given the challenge to write a 50,000 word first draft of novel from scratch, this is a month long task through the month of November where those who take part make a brand new game from the ground up. From the original concept to a finished working game in thirty days – and as I’ve found out, this is not as easy as you may think.

In my last update, I talked about the idea I had for a space exploration game involving a stack of double-sided hex tiles and a big ol’ pile of small plastic cylinders. The name of the game is Pocket Universe and players travel around the tiles, revealing more and more of the board as they move about, collecting resources and either stashing them back at their base for points or using them to perform special actions. Since that last post I’ve played it a lot and – in all honesty – reckon that it’s a pretty good game. Of course, I would say that. I’ve designed it. I’m proud of it. The trick is to get other people to try it out and let me know what they think.

Anyone who does anything vaguely creative has to learn one thing very early: how to accept criticism graciously and not let it upset you. Whether it’s writing, making music, painting or – yes – making games, you’ve got to be willing to listen to what people say about your creation. If they like it, great! It’s always lovely to hear them praise what you have made. What you also need to do is give as much time to those who have negative things to say about what you’ve made and, more importantly, act upon their advice. It’s fine to ignore the ones who just say “that’s crap” and offer nothing else, but if people have ideas? Listen.

You don’t have to act on everything but you should always consider what they have to say.

I actually managed to get the files for Pocket Universe out to ten different people and groups to playtest it for me, and the feedback has been great. Yes, it’s been splendid hearing from folks who’ve played it and enjoyed it… but what I’ve found even better is the reports I’ve had back from those who’ve played it and have suggested what can be done to improve the game experience. I want to make the best thing I can, a fun game that offers a level of challenge to all who play it. In particular, I’ve had some great assistance from Newcastle Gamers’ Gareth and Robert who frankly ripped my rules to shreds – but you know… that’s exactly what needs to happen.

Gareth printed out *all* the tiles on thick card stock. It looks... pretty awesome.

In my last update I mentioned that I’m not fantastic at rules. I need them to be looked at so I can go back and fix things, sew up holes, clarify points that need clearing up – nothing is perfect first time around. The game is still essentially the same but the rules are now so much better – streamlined, simplified and (best of all) not fussy. I still don’t think that they’re finished but it’s certainly getting much closer.

What I’ve also done is add a new element to the game, again under suggestion from playtesters. Each player now has a special ability that affects everyone else, such as taking over a wormhole so they can collect a toll from other users or upgrading the resources on a single planet. It just adds an extra level to the game that can give players an advantage – assuming that it’s used at the correct time. I’m still ironing out the kinks with it (especially with how they’re allocated at the start of play) but there’s still time. There’s still ten days left of #NaGaDeMon. I can do this.


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#NaGaDeMon Update: Cut It Out!

So, National Game Design Month (also known as NaGaDeMon) trundles on and the ideas keep on ticking over. If you have no clue what I’m talking about you can get a heads-up here but the shortform version is this; design a brand new game of whatever stripe you please in the month of November, bringing it from concept to a fully playable version in those thirty days. We’re not looking for perfection, just something that works and you’ll happily play with someone else. I’ve heard tales of anything from 2-player dice games to full on RPG systems being created; my idea is kind of pitched halfway between that.

I wanted to create a simple tile based game that is playable in about 30-40 minutes for up to four players. After scribbling a load of notes down for the first couple of days, ideas began to coagulate and come together as I kicked off with some basic concepts of theme and how the game would work. Realising that it would be pretty boring if it was just moving around a board, I came up with a scoring system that seemed pretty solid. Still, the game wasn’t entirely there, but I wanted to get something solid down and began writing the rules.

I have to admit, I’m not the best at rules creation, but this time around seemed to go reasonably well. Even now (after a couple of revisions) I’m not entirely happy with them, but I have faith that it’ll come together. Actually, getting the rules on paper – or on screen at least – helped a lot in getting my mind straight on how things should work. After completing the first draft, I now knew how the engine of the game would run. Players control a small spaceship that flies around a universe made up of two-sided hex tiles, seeking four types of resources that are worth different amounts of points (5, 3, 2 and 1) dependent on their rarity. A set amount of actions per turn let the players move around the board, hopefully revealing new planets for them to raid for resources that they stash back at their bases. Whoever has the highest points total at the end wins (yes, I know, very traditional).

So far, so… OK. It wasn’t “good” yet. I felt there was something missing. I wanted an element of conflict in there – it’s no fun having a bunch of players flying around all happy and lovely, sharing space in a smiley fashion. I needed a backstory, so I came up with a little tale of four races who were looking to keep ahead of the others. Initially working together, they came up with a device called the Pocket Universe Generation System (I’d been looking at videos of boggly-eyed Pugs being odd – amazing where inspiration comes from) and finally I had a name for my little creation: Pocket Universe.

The conflict element came from players being able to spend their collected resources on attacking each other (as well as a bunch of other special abilities that encourage exploration). I still think there’s work to do on this, but a few playtests in and this system seems to work. Sure, people can choose to just race about and collect resources for points, but there’s much more fun in going around shooting people in the butt.

Yes, there has been playtesting. In fact, I’m pretty happy with the first version of the game I’ve made up – a couple of evenings of some highly amateurish Photoshop work and lots of cutting and sticking saw the creation of a set of sixty double-sided tiles and some player boards…

Another fast-paced Saturday evening. The glamorous life of game design!

(Note to future self: Always make sure you have enough glue. Running out with 20 tiles left to make is VERY annoying.)

The following day, I had a full set completed. For resources tokens I raided an old Risk set, grabbing four different colours to represent the precious elements of the Pocket Universe. For playing pieces, four different coloured houses from a Monopoly Junior box will have to do for now until I can find some spaceships in the correct colours!

After playing a few games and seeing what worked (and more importantly, what didn’t) I did another rules revision and asked on Twitter for external playtesters. At this moment I have ten different people and groups signed up, many of whom are providing some excellent feedback – rules are still being replaced and rewritten, the main thing being clarifications of the more vague areas. I honestly think I’m on to something with this game and am thoroughly enjoying the creative process – with a few tweaks I reckon Pocket Universe could be a winner.

The current version of the game, set up for four players to go explorin'.

For now though, it’s more playing, more fixing any issues that come up and more making it perfect. I’ve got a few more ideas of things to bring in to the game – I’d love to bring the four races in there a bit more, for example – but there’s still three weeks of #NaGaDeMon to go. Who knows what will happen between now and the end?

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