Josh Carlson
1:43 PM

Chip Theory...on Dice

Growing up, dice have played a part in almost every game Adam and I have enjoyed sinking our teeth into. There’s something about that anticipation of a good roll that keeps us coming back! Many may not know this, but originally Adam and I created Hoplo without dice. Why the initial deviation? Well, because early on, I regarded games like chess to be slightly more “strategic” than say, Risk. My original perception of the matter was pretty basic: the less chance a game had - the more a person’s skill was needed to play it. 

Our original aim for Hoplo was a gladiator game based strictly on “skill”. But very quickly in our first stages of playtesting, we found that the lack of all chance seemed to leave a big hole in our game! Not only was there nothing to cheer about on a “good roll”, but there was no opportunity for the “unthinkable” to happen and, in turn, the need for reaction and adaptation. Those first few games of Hoplo once we added dice, solidified something in me that I now hold to quite strongly. “Skill” must always be defined within the confines of the game you are playing. To play a “skillful” game of Risk doesn’t mean there is any less strategy than a game without dice, it just means you must account for a certain amount of chance when executing your moves. I know this realization is probably Chapter 1 in the “Gaming for Dummies” handbook, but it was important for my development as a gamer and game designer. 

After the success of Hoplomachus, Adam and I have strongly desired to push the boundaries of dice-use in a way that is unique, visual, and yes, “skillful”. Most games that use dice, usually have only 1 or 2 dice mechanics at work. This is wise and recommended when the basis of the game involves more than just dice. But dice-only games need more. While I could talk till I’m blue in the face about the advantages or challenges of Dice Pool over Fixed-Die or Step-Die implementations, it all comes down to what you want to do with dice. Are you trying to resolve a situation? Perform a skill check? Do battle? Make a decision? The problem is, beyond rolling and determining success/degree of success, dice are not typically seen as the “strategic” component of a game. Therein lies our challenge - to break the confines current dice games put people in and foster a new breed of "strategic dice rolling gamers", starting with a game that can support such a title. :)

Our newest game, slotted to KickStart in the first quarter of 2015, is a dice-building RPG that is...very ambitious but also quite stunning on multiple levels. We are introducing new race of fantasy creatures with traits and features drawn from both elves and goblins. An interesting and conflicted mix, we know! Yet it has produced a beautiful blend of mis-fit adventurers who are exceptionally agile and have an innate aptitude for technology. This is a dice adventure being played out by 1-4 of these adventures. They are setting out on a time-sensitive and dangerous journey to the north - a place few other races have been able to travel in thousands of years. Each day holds a new encounter that will require skillful selection and use of 16 unique dice and up to 6 base dice...for every character! Each party member has a basic function/aptitude that relates to the group, but can violate that role and build out their character very differently depending on the dynamics of the party or if they are going it alone.

To make a dice game this dynamic it requires multiple layers to each character’s dice management (called “Professions”). These Professions each contain their own mini-dice-mechanics from simple press-your-luck, roll-and-lock, or combination rolling, to more complex choices including dice-as-a-resource, dice quantity vs die improvement, and dice-use-timing (immediate vs reactive and accumulation bonus vs expenditure). This may seem like a LOT to initially grasp but because each person can opt to play a single character and because characters build on themselves, it’s VERY easy to understand the base dice/skills available and then learn and discover the possibilities along the way.

The fun and essence of this game will be its co-op (or solo) play game modes as your party battles further and further north. Group decisions will be plentiful and will first hinge on party encounter decisions and how you choose to navigate them. These are simple choices that, well, aren't so simple. They add an additional randomness to every battle that cannot be predicted but CAN be navigated or even mitigated based on your choices. 

In the below encounter examples you can see choices ranging from simple a risk/reward choice to a decision of delaying a greater disaster or taking on a smaller but immediate threat.

Card Example 1 Card Example 2

Each battle requires dice-use adaptation based on these cards (drawn before the battle), and on the types of enemies you end up facing. The classes your team chooses to play will turn the game in new directions as each particular character reacts to their surroundings differently. Every new profession you unlock can alter map direction, your environment, and battle engagements.

This time around, we are investing heavily in a talented artist to capture the exact feel we want for this rag-tag band of highly technical creatures. We want a comical side to each, without losing believability. It’s a fine but fun line to be toying with.

So yeah, that’s about it for what has been/will be consuming our present creative time. Adam and I are extremely excited for whats coming for Chip Theory Games in 2015! Both with Hoplo and also with our new games! We welcome your questions and feedback! Feel free to post them here on our blog and if you haven't already, please sign up for our monthly newsletter for updates as well! 

Josh and Adam Carlson

Chip Theory Games

Josh Carlson
12:40 AM

December News


So, we want to say thanks to all who have signed up to receive our monthly newsletter! In the past we have used various ways of communicating with our community - through BGG, through our Kickstarter updates, etc. We are trying to bring all of that back to our site. We will of course continue to provide updates through those other places but this will be our first and foremost place to update everyone. We also intend on using our blog gather feedback on certain aspects of our game development, so be watching for opportunities to give input as we would really appreciate it! 

What we've been up to!

Besides our lives and jobs outside of Chip Theory Games, Adam and I have been hard at work on about 4 different games as well as building our fulfillment solution. If you ever met us at GenCon and had the opportunity to play our "Hoplo" plinko to possibly win a free game, you may remember the info cards we had you fill out. On each, we asked a question about different game themes/types you most enjoyed or would like to see CTG work on. We have also asked this question often from those who have purchase Hoplomachus and 3 replies have repeatedly come up.

More Hoplo?

The first, more Hoplo! This makes us chuckle because its a huge compliment! There is plenty we will be doing with Hoplo. From the reenactment packs of famous battles, to an improved Training Grounds, with increasingly harder stages of competitors to face off against in quick battles (very much influenced by our computer gaming backgrounds) as well as a gladiator draft mode. These things get me excited just talking about them but I have to remind myself that we must to narrow our focus to get things produced! Because RoR is still fairly new and selling strong, we have paused new development of the Hoplo line while we turn our attention to our next game.    

Let the dice roll!

The second largest response we had from many was surprisingly, a good dice builder game. We've heard the same comments over and over with both this and our CTG Tower Defense ideas: "If you do it well, CTG style, people will LOVE it. But what is out there right now, is not so good." While we want to be aware that those games that have gone before us have possibly left a negative impression of what "dice building" can be, Adam and I are pretty excited to blow that perception out of the water. Just like Hoplo, our focus is multi-layered, which includes a visually stunning game with components people are proud to hold and use. In addition, we will be building this game around a solid single and co-op player mode, something Hoplo continues to receive high marks for! 

The task is daunting but we are wayyyyy down the road already and are actually getting to the fun parts of character development. We love working with personalities and the bearing they have on profession lines - all within a theme that is dear to us from our "Arcanum" days growing up. To immerse these characters into a realm that's half steampunk and half goblin gadgetry, has been been a very rewarding and challenging experience.

Without revealing too much, this game is about a band of unusual "elves". Cast out of their homes and left to fend for themselves, this band of Aierea or "short ones" must turn to the very thing that labeled them outcasts...their unusual aptitudes for technology. Seeking answers and ultimately reunion with their elven kind, they take their skills and gadgets and head northeast towards a forbidden place that has held the elven race at bay for thousands of years. Below is a peek into the sketch progress that is happening with one of our characters. As you can see, things start very simple. The scrawny look and distinct differences of the house elves (goblin-esque) of Harry Potter were an influence here. But this was just a starting point. Very quickly, we build back strength into each sketch. The last feels maybe a bit too tech heavy and may see a reduction back to a previous version but we've shown a few here so you could see some of the different stages.  

This is NOT simply a game of bigger and better dice. Its about building a band of fighters who must select certain skills they have learned (new dice, purchased dice, temporary dice) and use them differently with each new encounter. Every unit has multiple dice mechanics available to him/her through different profession lines that can be developed. You like the press-your-luck rolling? Great! That's just one of 3-5 profession lines/skills that can be built out in one of our units. This is an adventure of actions and reactions with skills and professions that must be used creatively to defeat the opposition. Each day holds a new battle with harder and more strategic enemies. It's up to you to determine what skills will combine the best with the rest of your party in order to overcome them. 

Feedback from You! 

This month we will asking for feedback on a few game dynamics and we welcome anyone with opinions to post! Thanks again for the interest in our newest direction and we look forward to the next chance we get to show more of our hand for 2015! 

Adam and Josh Carlson

Josh Carlson
9:34 AM

Our Next Game Is Getting Closer! More info to come in December!

In Dec we will be posting more art concepts/renderings, as well as some sneak peeks into the inner workings of our next game! At this point there is still the need to keep many details under wraps, but that won't be the case for too much longer! 

What we CAN tell you now:
  • This game is not Hoplomachus. We LOVE the HOPLO line. With the feedback we've been getting (and the fact that we will be sold out yet again in about 2 months), its something we will ABSOLUTELY be building out! We already have reenactment packs in development along with a gladiator draft mode variation on TG! But being we are still small, we cannot afford to scatter our focus and right now we have :)
  • This game is ambitious. If you are familiar with our Hoplo line, you will know that we don't to anything half...shielded. Prepare yourself for quality components (yes, probably another flippin heavy game!), a visually stunning experience, and our favorite - something you've never quite seen before. 
  • This game has amazing art! We have secured an awesome illustrator to totally take on the world and characters for our new game. This is one of my (Josh) favorite parts and I can't wait to introduce you all to some of the characters we are developing. 

If you have not joined our monthly newsletter, please do so as we are just starting to get that rolling and its another way to get a heads up on what we are actively working on! Catch you all soon!