The Ruined Blog

Virtually Expo

Circulari on Tabletop Simulator

The original plan was to exhibit at the UK Games Expo’s Birmingham extravaganza for the first time this year. However, the new plan, for obvious reasons (cough cough), is to take to the internet and attend the UK Games Expo’s Virtually Expo instead. An entirely digital event about analogue board games, fit for the pandemic age. The Virtually Expo is entirely free to attend and will hopefully tide you over until physical conventions can reopen. We look forward to welcoming you to our stand in cyberspace on the 21st to 23rd of this month (August).

We’re hard at work preparing Tabletop Simulator and Tabletopia versions of Circulari, ready for you to digitally demo. Here are a few things you can do to get ready too:

  • Make sure you have UK Games Expo and Discord accounts created and linked together. Discord provides a chat platform for communicating with exhibitors and other attendees. You can join the Ruined Sky Games chat server too.
  • Consider purchasing a copy of Tabletop Simulator if you don’t already own it. Tabletop Simulator provides a 3D virtual sandbox for playing board games online. You’ll need this to take part in some games.
  • Create a free Tabletopia account. Tabletopia also provides a 3D virtual sandbox, but is entirely browser based. You’ll need this to take part in some games.
  • Check out our Saturday and Sunday live demo events and add them to your Virtually Expo Schedule so you don’t forget ;-).

We’ll be streaming live demos on our brand new Twitch channel during the Expo. You’re free to just watch, but there will opportunities to play too!

We aim to regularly start a new demo at 15 minutes past the hour. We’ll be playing a truncated version with a point handicap so that, given some time for rules explanations and technology wrangling, we should be able to fit a petite but complete experience into about 45 minutes. A taste of Circulari! Here’s how to take part:

  • Install Tabletop Simulator and/or create a free Tabletopia account.
  • Join our Discord server and check out the #demo-events channel.
  • Sign up to an available time slot by clicking on the green tick icon. Make sure to check whether Tabletop Simulator or Tabletopia will used during that slot.
  • When the appointed time arrives, you’ll be invited to join a Discord voice channel for communication and connect to the game. The game will be streamed live on our Twitch channel.

See you there!

Prototyping Boards

Cutting Mat

Five months ago, the pandemic was still a phenomenon mainly confined to the Chinese mainland. We were busy packing our suitcases ready to visit relatives in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year with only a mild degree of trepidation! Little did we know what the future would hold.

Amidst all this however, I also had something else pressing on my mind. I had a then new process for prototyping dual-layer boards and had been trying to capture all the steps on camera. It’s surprising how much harder it is not just to do something, but to get good take of doing it on camera. Fortunately, I managed to get the last piece of raw footage done before we had to get out of the door, leaving me to enrich my holiday by spending some time recording the voice-overs and editing it all together.

I actually uploaded the resulting video to YouTube in that distant age before the UK entered lock-down. That is to say, I got almost everything done with the exception of writing this blog post and telling people about it. It seems fitting somehow that, as the government tentatively flirts with returning the UK to normal, I should get around to posting this now. Like putting a new battery in a stopped clock, in one sense no time has passed.

It’s only the second video I’ve made and first one to include any speaking. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, although on reflection, successful videos tend to be more exciting or humorous, and less instructional. Still, one must start somewhere.

The process has also improved a bit since I made this video. I have the artwork printed onto thin cardboard now, which is a bit more sturdy, and glue all the layers together at the end rather than trying to cut the mounted artwork. This combined with using more layers of thinner board has made the cutting process a lot less time consuming than it used to be because fewer passes are needed. It only takes one slip for the machine to ruin a board, so it’s better to get through them as quickly as possible, even if more are needed.

Now, onward to the many other things which need doing. The next blog post should be about the either the new artwork or an update on the computer modelling, depending on which materialises first. Until then!

After Action Report

Demo table at Dragonmeet 2019

In the vast gulf of time since the last blog post, we’ve checked two board game events off our to-do list!

The first was Dragonmeet last November, a major London convention with a role-playing focus but which is nevertheless board game friendly. We were joined by an extra pair of hands in Jim from Laserlout Studios who brought his expert demoing skills to the table. He helped us to deploy a new shorter version of the game for demoing which allows people to get a taste of Circulari in 20 minutes or so without having to sit down for a full game. The new demo experience was well received and helped to get more people to give the game a go.

The event itself was busy as always and plenty of people came to look at our stand. We even had enough space to run 2 demos at once when the demand presented itself. Much like buses, when demoing sometimes you’re idle and sometimes everyone turns up as once.

Stand at FBG Con 2020

Next up was FBG Con just last month in February, a new convention based in Stevenage run by review blogger The Friendly Boardgamer. It was a small event to test the waters, but it went well and they’re already planning larger premises for next year. We ran a few demos and in between them I play-tested the latest solo rules for Circulari. While I’m not normally a big solo player, this variant seems to have improved a lot over my earlier attempt and I was enjoying trying to beat my own high score.

We’ve learnt a lot as we’ve attended more events and run more demos. One of the things you get a lot of practice in doing is explaining the rules to people. It’s interesting because when you’re designing a game it can be hard to imagine what that will be like and sometimes I worried it would be too complicated to get across (apart from the times I worried it would be too simple to be fun). There are somethings you can only find out when you make contact with the real world and I’m pleased to say that actually people seem to pick up Circulari very easily and go on to have fun.

Another vital thing that we’ve learnt since our first convention is how hard it can be to read people’s hand written e-mail addresses. That’s why, starting with these events, we’ve replaced our mailing list sign up clipboard with an Android tablet!