Kickstarter update #7: The end of the beginning

It’s official: the funding campaign for Fire and Flora has come to a close. Although the campaign was financially unsuccessful, it was useful in other ways. During the long process of game design and game development, I’ve been collecting new skills, gaining experience, and building connections. I’m sad that this campaign was financially unsuccessful, but at the same time, I feel like I have a solid foundation for future work. More on that in a minute.

First off, I want to thank everyone who helped support this project and this campaign: friends and family, playtesters of all stripe, my artistic collaborators (MarkMatt, andVISCOM), and the 73 adventurous visionaries who backed the project here on Kickstarter. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that there are others who share my vision of games for good, and who are willing to help me turn that vision into a reality.

Then, there’s bad news and good news. The bad news is that I must now put this project on hold. Perhaps, sometime in the future, I will be able to bring Fire and Flora out to the world. However, for now, I simply don’t have the funds to do that.

The good news is that Fire and Flora was only the beginning. Over the last year, I’ve roughed out ideas for a variety of other serious gaming projects, covering subjects from weather to geology. One of these projects, the Puzzle of Life, is a perfect complement to Fire and Flora.

One of the key features of Fire and Flora is that it was a highly focused outreach tool. Compared to most mainstream board games, it’s relatively complex. On the good side, that complexity means that the game provides an unusually thorough and accurate picture of landscape dynamics. On the other hand, that complexity requires that players be somewhat older (12+), and that they have significant time to both learn and to play. Those age and time requirements limit the range of places where the game is fun and effective.

Where Fire and Flora is complex, with lots of in-game text, and a lengthy rulebook, the Puzzle of Life is simple, and entirely visual. It can almost do without instructions, which means it’s easy to pick up and play. It’s also very flexible. When working with younger kids, or with limited time, you can simply assemble the pieces as with a regular puzzle. However, with older kids, or a longer amount of time, you can use PoL to explore the structure of ecological communities, to tell stories about changing environments, or even extend the scope of the game by creating your own pieces to add to the puzzle. The combination of simplicity and flexibility makes this a game with a much wider potential audience. In turn, that wider audience makes it a better business proposition.

I’ve worked through several playable prototypes, and over the next few months, I’ll be finishing the design for the first edition, and developing a new launch strategy, possibly in partnership with a new friend. In short, rather than using Kickstarter to begin with a bang, we’ll instead take a slower, evolutionary approach. We’ll establish a strong relationship with a quality print-on-demand service, and aim to get a finished product into a single retail outlet. That outlet will provide a small trickle of income and publicity, and we will use that trickle to expand our reach into other outlets, building the trickle into a stream, and then building the stream into something bigger.


Again, thank you all for your support. I’ll be posting regular updates to the Mindful Mammoth blog and on Facebook. Please keep an eye peeled, and keep in touch. Good things are on the way!

We’re now 18 hours in to the Fire and Flora Kickstarter campaign, and according to Kicktraq, we’re on track for success! That doesn’t mean we can lighten up, as there’s still a long way to go. But it does mean we’re off to a good start.

As a first-time parent of a cardboard child, I spent much of yesterday and last night doing the worrywort thing – primping and fussing, and otherwise being a helicopter parent. Today, I feel encouraged that we’ve made good progress on day one, that both friends and strangers have joined in to support this project, and that there’s good word going round on the game review circuit.

Please help me to keep it up! Pass the word, about the campaign, and make sure that we bring this thing to a successful conclusion.


Kickstarter is coming: 2013.07.09

On July 9, I’ll begin my Kickstarter campaign for Fire and Flora. This has been a loooong time coming, and it’s both terribly exciting and terribly stressful.

As of today, I have a solid draft of a campaign package. It’s got all the important pieces, though it still has some typos, and could use a little more polish. I’ve started circulating it among friends and business advisors. I’ve asked them for help in catching errors, and in figuring out where I should focus my time, so that I can make this campaign as successful as possible.

Keep your eyes open! More cool info, coming very soon!


v12 in RL

Today, the first boxed copy of v12 arrived on my doorstep. I continue to be joyed when I see my ideas made solid. Not overjoyed, but properly joyed.

Notice the slick new box art? The professionally printed rulebook? Cool beans.


Sorting through standards

This week, I returned to the FnF website to do some writing. The goal was to sort through curriculum standards, find the high-profile standards that are addressed by FnF, and then describe the connections between the game and the standards in reasonable detail. It’s a big job, as there are a goodly number of state and national standards, and I’m chock-full of ideas.

Way back in the fall, several teachers had suggested that I do this – describe the connections between standards and FnF. While I’d started on the job, I had to put it on hold when more pressing issues came up. Now, with Kickstarter so close, my priority is on creating and distributing information about the game, and so I’m back to working through the standards. It’s still slow going, and I’ll get it done, but the end result will probably be a bit lengthy, simply because I may not have the time to make it shorter.

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

– Mark Twain

Double Rainbow, courtesy of Yosemitebear

r_doublerainbow_12aPaul “Yosemitebear” Vasquez, of Double Rainbow fame, has kindly helped me to redesign the Double Rainbow event card in FnF. He’s allowed me to use one of his photos in the game, and helped me to write the flavor text on the card. I think this is awesome.

While FnF has had a Double Rainbow for months, it’s always been disappointing to me: a pretty picture, but no substance. Now, it’s a pretty picture with substance, and that substance comes from it’s connection to a real place and a real person.

While I talk a lot about wanting to help people connect with nature, my own connection has grown pretty tenuous. Connecting with someone like Bear, who is so intimately involved with the natural world, helps me to keep my own connection to the natural world. I think Bear gets razzed for being outside the mainstream, but I’m glad that he is who he is. It’s a good thing for all of us.

You can connect with him on YouTube and Twitter:

Buildings, Bigguns, and Blocks

I’ve finished the edits for v12, and the noticeable changes fall into three groups: buildings, biggun’s, and blocks. The first two groups mostly address UI and balance issues, and only the third is really significant in terms of gameplay. Here’s the summary:

On Buildings:

Up to now, all land cards have been treated the same, even though there were two distinct types of cards. Some cards were open spaces (which could support plants), while other cards were buildings (which provided useful abilities, but which could not support plants). In v12, I’ve made this distinction official. Every land card is labeled as being either a parcel (= open space) or a building. I’ve also tweaked the rules so that buildings may only be build upon parcels. Thus, building cards are now played on top of parcel cards in the same way that plant cards are played on top of parcel cards.

On Biggun’s:

In v11, the size of a plant had no effect on it’s point value. Thus, a small Sagebrush gave the same number of points as a big Sagebrush. This is no longer true. Instead, big plants are now worth more points than small plants. I think this will be a more realistic and balanced scoring scheme, and that it will also create a more interesting game.

On Blocks:

For some time now, there’s been a potential problem in the late game. Specifically, there were often big swings in point totals, as players collected and played large numbers of resource cards in each turn. Most people enjoyed having epic turns, but then disliked waiting around for other players to take their own epic turns. This balanced out in different ways for different people, such that some folks enjoyed this part of the game, while others did not.

In v12, I’ve added an additional ability to most of the resource cards, allowing players to use some cards to block the effect of other cards (e.g. Water blocks Fire). This should dampen the swings in the late game, and smooth out the growth curve. However, it will also lengthen the gameplay time by a little to a lot, depending the contrariness of the personalities in the game. So I’m not yet sure if the addition of blocks/counters will be a good thing or not. We’ll see.

For a detailed list of changes in v12, check out the changelog here.