Update Posted by Jonathan Liu, Designer
Meet the Artists: Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier
Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier are a husband-and-wife duo who have each worked on some very cool comics.
Dave contributed to Teen Boat! with another of our artists John Green, and has written for a lot of different comics including X-Men and The Last Airbender. But he's not just a writer—he also illustrated his own comic book Astronaut Academy, a fun book about kiiiiids iiiin spaaaaace, and things aren't always as they appear. Book 2 is now being serialized online at astronautacademy.com and is due out in dead-tree form in May. You can find out more about Dave at his website, yaytime.com.
Raina's comics are often about adolescence, feeling awkward and out of place. Smile is an autobiographical account of getting her front teeth knocked out and dealing with braces and all of that—during middle school. Drama is fiction, but is also set in middle school, this time centering on a school musical: and there's definitely a lot of drama both onstage and off. One of Raina's talents is the expressiveness of her characters, something I hope translates to Emperor's New Clothes as well. For more about Raina, her website is goraina.com.
Stretch Goal: ROOS-free Bits
I've been hearing a lot of people talk about using Emperor's New Clothes as a prototyping kit for game makers, a box of bits that you can use for your own games. I can't say that it hadn't occurred to me—after all, I've often cannibalized other games for bits while working on my own games. Granted, you won't be able to do much with the printed materials like the cards and the board without defacing the art we've shown you, but the wooden bits and dice could certainly be put to use in developing your own games.
Now, as a game designer obviously I hope that you'll play the game I created. But, hey, if you bought the game, you can do whatever you want with it, I guess. At the request of those who are just buying this for the bits, I'm caving in and giving you the option of ROOS-colored wooden bits or traditionally-colored bits. (The printed materials and the custom dice will all still have the ROOS on them because it would cost too much to do half ROOS and half conventionally-printed.)
You don't need to change your pledge or anything; when the Kickstarter campaign closes, you'll get a survey that asks for whether you want the ROOS bits or the ROOS-free bits. Personally I like the ROOS bits that are pictured on the home page because they really fit the theme, but it may not make sense for your game.
The resource cubes will come in yellow (gold), white (dignity), and black (dupe). The scoring discs will be green, orange, purple, and blue for the 4-player version. The 6-player version will add red and yellow. The 8-player version will add black and white. The first-person pawn will be white, just like the ROOS version.
We'll unlock the ROOS-free bits at $11,000!
Designer Diary: Matthew vs. Mark
I've been reading a book called Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It's all about competition and how different people respond to it. I've only read the first few chapters but it's already been pretty fascinating: I'm already seeing applications for it both in how I raise my kids and in how I think about board games. Early in the book the authors mention the "Matthew Effect" and the "Mark Effect," and they put into words things I'd observed but hadn't realized had names.
The Matthew Effect is when early leaders get further ahead. In games it's often referred to as the "runaway leader" problem: one player has gotten better resources, whether through luck or strategy, which then leads to better options or more expensive cards or what have you, and then that player is able to steamroll everyone else. It's certainly realistic because this happens in real life. People who do well early on get more support, making them even better, making it even harder to catch up. It happens on Kickstarter itself: getting a lot of backers tends to move you up the list on the Kickstarter page, which gets you more backers—and a project that launches and doesn't shoot up the charts has a hard time catching up. The Matthew Effect is named after a quote from the Gospel of Matthew: "For to everyone who has, more will be given; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away."
The Mark Effect is the opposite: it's what we call the "catch-up mechanic," or "rubber-banding" in racing games. It's from a quote from the Gospel of Mark: "The first will be last, and the last will be first." Many Euro-style games have these built-in, some more subtly than others, but the basic idea is to keep all the players in the game. Everyone still has a chance to win, so that the player in last place doesn't feel like the game is inevitable but still has to sit through an hour of play. When it works well, you end up with an engaging game where the competition always feels tight. When it doesn't, you end up feeling like the leader is just being unfairly punished for winning, and the game can drag on because there's always a way to shoot down the person in the lead.
Although it's not universally true, one of the things that distinguishes older American board games from the newer European (and Euro-style) games is whether you get more of a Matthew Effect or a Mark Effect. (I wrote about this last year in a post titled Lessons Learned From Risk Legacy.) In a game like Risk, for instance, the player with the most territories will also get the most extra armies, which then leads to more territories. At some point defeat becomes inevitable for the other players—it's just how long you feel you need to carry out the exercise. On the other hand, in a game like Settlers of Catan, the Robber strikes people who have too many cards in their hand—and the more settlements and cities you have, the more likely you are to have too many cards. Now, there is still some element of Matthew Effect even there, because you'll better be able to afford losing those cards, but at least it means that those who have fewer resources don't lose anything.
In designing Emperor's New Clothes, I wanted a game in which everyone's in the game until the end. Yep, I'm a Mark, not a Matthew. I don't just mean that in terms of player elimination (which is something else that I don't really like in games), but that you don't know for sure who's the winner until the game actually ends. Now, that doesn't mean that the person who's ahead doesn't have a better chance of winning the game—of course they should, or else you have a game in which EVERYTHING depends on the last turn. In that case, you might as well just play that last turn and get it over with. When you're playing this game, you should feel that there's always a chance of victory, however slim.
Part of what makes this possible is the variable role selection. You're not stuck playing one particular character the whole time. Somebody who is the Swindler in the first round may be the Emperor in the next, and the Child at the end. Because of this ability to take on different roles (and thus have different motivations), you can select a role that offers you the best chance of scoring big on your next turn—or that allows you to affect somebody else's score, as long as you can guess what their plan is.
So, what do you think: do you prefer the Matthew Effect or the Mark Effect in your games?