[Engle Matrix Game] Thunder Hamsters and the Temple of Cheese

Started by MatrixGamer, June 30, 2009, 06:35:12 PM

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My big release for Gen Con is Thunder Hamsters - a hybrid Engle Matrix Game/Board Game. In the game hamster heroes run into the temple of cheese looking for... cheese. They grab whatever the find and run out. Along the way they have to evade guards and traps, win duels and rescue fellow hamsters from prison.

This is a board game so there is a 15x20 inch board with wooden counters for heroes and encounters. All the rules of the game are on the board so the players never need to read to rules. Players take turns moving their hero and "tusseling" with encounters. Tusseling has the player make up what happens in the encounter. This includes making up what the magic items they find do so players are literally writing game rules as they play. The player picks another player to be their referee. The ref sets what the player has to roll and the player rolls. The players also have 10 coins that they can use to interrupt the order of play to make unexpected things happen.

Oh, and one more thing. Because the heroes are hamsters they get to pee on things...

I ran the game seven times at Origins Game Fair. Each session lasted two hours and ranged from two to ten players. The mix of players was interesting. I had parents playing with their sons and daughters as well as the teenage players. The youngest player was an eight or nine year old girl, and in the last run I had a mother and her 12 year old daughter playing. These are demographics that I'm very pleased to have because it makes for fun family entertainment. It is not edgy or dark (remember these are hamsters who can pee on one another!) What it does do though is get people's creativity running very high. Players were routinely coming up with things I had never thought of before.

Some of the cool things that happened over the seven runs were:

The player who "magically" reshuffled where all the encounters were in the temple - which totally changed who could win.

The player who stole two cheese from another player at the gate of the temple only to have them stolen back by the first player who also got the thief's one cheese so the first player won.

The player who used the magic key to turn a slide into an esculator back ot the surface.

Another player who made the key burn open locks rather than unlock them.

The player who ate three of the five cheeses in the temple taking them out of play rather than let anyone else have them.

The magic wand that carried two cheeses through enchantment.

The encounters between ninja and pirate hamsters.

And the over all good nature of play.

The player took the Matrix Game rule of making up actions each turn and used them to great effect. Action are not automatic so they play also got to play with one another with both fair and blatantly unfair rulings. I can't say the game created much in the way of story - it is a competitive board game at the end of the day - but it did teach the players the core Matrix Game rule that can be used to do that. I'm very hopeful that I can sell a bunch of copies of this game at Gen Con.

The other event that occurred at the show was meeting with game store owners. I spent a lot of time in the Dealer's Lounge. I showed some of my other games and got feedback on imporvements. Mainly though I was just trying to have a freindly face to face time. I'm using an Artist/Craftsmen business model now so I make all my games myself. There are lots of improvements to be made but I did get one store order so I'm hopeful more will come as I do more of this networking. It helps that my games are 95% there in terms of quality. It's now all down to the tweaking.

I'm open to any feedback or questions. I'm mainly posting here just to let people know what I've done.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press
Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games

Ron Edwards

Hi Chris,

I am fascinated by the interactions of boardgame logic and role-playing logic. In your game, to what extent does position on the board play a role in what can or cannot be narrated, or more generally, what can or cannot happen? I'm also interested in how well it works as a boardgame period, more-or-less independently of the various fictional events.

Best, Ron


Thunder Hamsters as a board game is pretty straight forward. You run into the temple to rooms with wooden counters in them. Flip them over to find out what the encoutner is. Carry out the treasures to get victory points. There are lots of games that do things like this so it's pretty well trodden ground. The flaw of this type of game is that once you know all the items it is no longer fun to play unless there are strategies you can work. TH gets around this by having the players define what the magic treasures do so the game can play very differently each time.

As to narration rights - There are three types of actions that can happen in the game. In each case players pick another player to be their referee to set waht they have to roll for it to happen. Players get to "tussle" with an encounter in the room they are in. So they can say what a magic ring does, how they pick of a big wheel fo cheese, or avoid falling in a hole. When players are in the same area they may challenge one another to duels. When this happens every player in the area describes an action about what happens in the duel and who wins. Which one happens is settled by a dice-rolling contest. The players also have ten coins with which they can interrupt the game at any time and make an "unexpected event" happen. They might use them to do counter-arguments to other player actions (so players do not have to be in the same area to interact).

Unlike my story games TH doesn't tell a story. I guess players could but I've not seen it happen. Instead they make mechanical moves to help them win the game. Players do have to self censor their actions to make them appeal to the other players because one of them is the referee. I find that this makes the players think about one another and thus collaborate more.

TH does have a number of set rules for what various encounters do but they are subject to change based on the player's actions. In one game at Origins I had a player use a coin to say that all the encoutners were magically moved around in the temple. POOF! The game was reset and we didn't know where the last cheese was. Players become invissible, fly, can walk through walls, etc. It really is a self amending game. It's kind of cool but does mean I have to make th4e base game very simple so it doesn't get too complicated once changes start happening.

The story games work differently regarding board game versus role playing logic. The board is a prop to help players visualize movement and setting up scenes but the real aciton happens in what players say. The effect of the board is to let referees know if a given player is actually at the scene. If they arn't that greatly weakens the chance of an action happening.

It's after Gen Con now and I had a good number of people play the game and sold some copies. It generally got good responce but my sales were not as strong this year. People were thinking harder about $40 purchases. Also some people said they would have trouble getting people back home to play a story game. TH would be easier to find players fo becuase it is a lot more structured.

I've got a lot to mull over. Like getting my web page up to date and starting to talk to stores. At least I have my production technique down.

Chris Engle
Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games