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Mockup of the box art for the paper edition of A Taste for the King

A Taste for the King – Paper Edition Contest Entry

Posted on October 1, 2021  in A Taste for the King, Game Development, Tabletop Games

For the last few months I have been working on A Taste for the King, a fast paced dish collecting push your luck card game. The Paper Edition has been created as an alternative version of the game, favouring paper and wood parts over plastic and metal for environmental and sustainability considerations. In fact this was the original idea of the game, having been inspired by the prompts and rules from the Small Box Challenge contest on TheGameCrafter. The rules of this contest stated that no plastic or metallic parts could be used and the Small Stout Box and a Medium Booklet had to be used. Excited by the idea of creating a game for the contest I quickly got to work on two ideas. A Taste for the King won out rather quickly as the easier project to develop and produce, however the other is still in development on the back burner.

As time went on I was slightly put off by the costs involved with producing a game specifically to fit the Small Stout Box compared to other variations of the game. It turns out that chits (small punch out tokens) are expensive when printed using a Print on Demand manufacturer. With the game requiring ~6 sets of 28 chits to make the full game, alongside the box and booklet added almost $15 more to the game than other variants I had explored. This cost concern, combined with a general enthusiasm for the game itself, and really wanting to see it through to release, led me to abandon my aspirations for the contest, eventually almost forgetting about the contest entirely as I became somewhat laser focused on improving the game for final release.

Time went on and the game went through several more iterations, largely tweaking balance of mechanics such as how many cards could be discarded and how abilities worked. The chits were replaced by a dry erase pen (approximately 1/10th the cost of the chits), the box changed to a much smaller tuck box and the rules transferred from a booklet to a folded document sheet. All these changes served to lower the initial cost of the game as well as make it more portable and, hopefully, quicker to play. However, as I was preparing the game for final release I was reminded of the imminent conclusion of the contest. Given the work that had been put in to develop the game initially, using the parts already required in the contest, it seemed like a little work could be put in to making a contest-compliant version of the game and the Paper Edition was born. At worst it would push me to finalise some of the remaining parts of the game/marketing material and at best be a good way of doing initial and almost free marketing for the game. At this point there was just under a week until the contest ended.

As I prepared the game for entry, I quickly realised there was more work to do than I had initially thought, from updating the rules to reference the chits rather than the pen and reformat them back into a booklet form, finishing the how to play video I had been working through slowly but surely and updating all the promotional artwork to use the latest version of the card art. However, the work was mostly inline with what needed doing for the production version of the game. As such I saw it more as a slight branch in the tracks that would lead back to the same station of having a completed product.

The path taken to finish the game for the contest

Tokens

In the game, players score their turns by marking off collected dish cards on a menu card. The menu has icons on it that match the art on the cards. In the version targetted for production this is done by marking the card with a dry erase pen. The card is then wiped off at the end of the game, ready for the next. In the Paper Edition (and the original iterations of the game) this is done by placing the chits/tokens over the icons on the menu card. I went through several iterations of artwork for the tokens from having the icons be faded out on the menu and then the tokens be full colour versions of each dish. However, testing in Tabletop Simulator showed trying to keep the tokens in order proved difficult even in a virtual space and it was quickly determined this would be nigh impossible in the real world. Another design I considered were empty plates, which worked thematically but logically placing the plate on the food didn’t make sense.

The initial design of tokens for Tabletop Simulator using the placeholder artwork from the very first draft of the game.

The game will be available as a print and play version and once printed it will be left up to the player whether they want to sleeve their cards and then write on the sleeves with a pen or use tokens. As a result I kept working on the tokens in the background, first trying a happy king with a satisfied tongue sticking out of his mouth, but this didn’t really match the style of the rest of the artwork.

The prototype happy King design of token.

I then considered a similar design but with a bit more detail of a taste tester as inspired by the Wikipedia image below.

For the Paper Edition I decided the most thematically appropriate design would be tokens using the crown icon/motif that had come to represent the game. This crown is present on the box artwork, the back of the cards and even became the symbol for the winner in quick play versions of the rules such as the action reminder card.

Counting the Tokens

One thing that was still causing me problems until quite close to the deadline was how many tokens to provide with the game. Technically the game needs 168 tokens and this can be produced using 6 slugs. The way the chits are produced is each chit is placed on a slug of 28 tokens and each punchout sheet holds 10 slugs for a total of 280 tokens per sheet. The next issue was that the way the game was currently set up, you needed at least one more chit to indicate the first player in the game, just this chit alone pushed the game to 169 which would require 7 slugs, leaving at least 27 spare chits.

My worry was, from my basic understanding of the production method, that any slugs less than a full sheet would be wasted and as such I was considering providing the full set of 280 tokens, leaving plenty of spares in case any were misplaced but potentially confusing and annoying players for the 90% of the time until they had missing tokens. This isn’t even taking into consideration the cost, each token costs about $0.04 to produce as they have to be laser cut from the sheets. This meant that providing the extra chits would increase the price about 9%. However, my concerns were somewhat alleviated by talking to the wonderful TGC community on Discord. They assured me that while the extra slugs would be “wasted” from a technical manufacturing point of view they would in actual fact be recycled or utilised as spares for game developers to use for prototyping games which are often given away at conventions.

This left me with just one decision: Provide 7 slugs to get the extra token required to indicate the first player and leave a few spares or quickly rework the game to work without using a token to indicate the first player and provide only 6 slugs. Luckily this turned out to be a really easy solution. As one of the most recent updates to the game I had added a crown to the menu which would be used to indicate the first player. Due to a slight oversight in thinking how the game would be produced, this was intended to be circled/marked with the pen at the start of the game, however with the additional confines of the Paper Edition it suddenly became clear that I could just make two versions of the menu card, one with no crown and the other with a crown. In hindsight this should have been both really obvious and the initial solution to indicating the first player.

All of this to say that the game has been entered into the contest and is now in the community vote and I await the results with baited breath. The contest starts with the community vote where 20 semi-finalists will be chosen before the judges vote on the finalists and ultimately the winner. You can check out the entry at the link below. https://www.thegamecrafter.com/games/a-taste-for-the-king-paper-edition

I am considering releasing the Paper Edition as a separate version of the game and would love feedback as to whether people would be interested in this version of the game, weighing up the extra cost vs environmental considerations. Come join the Drentsoft Games Discord Server and discuss the game.

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