Thursday, July 24, 2008

Personal Impressions (NOT a review) of China: The Middle Kingdom

Personal Impressions (NOT a review) of China: The Middle Kingdom (Decision Games, designed by Tani Chen)

This is not a review because I have not, and likely will never, play this game (I only play my own unpublished games these days). You can't review a game without playing it several times. So these are impressions and comments.

As the box says, this is based on the Britannia system, old-school Britannia right down to half victory points and half increase points, and "Highlands" instead of "Difficult Terrain". As the designer of Britannia I'm especially interested in such games, and of course I hope they are well received, since I'm working on lord knows how many more of this type.

I'm especially interested because I've used my reduced-scale "gateway" system recently for Chinese history, and because I have one of the few copies extant of the original China Britannia, The Dragon & the Pearl (now out of print), which covers about 200-1300. I am by no means an expert on Chinese history, though I have in fact read something as obscure as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, so I'll have some comments on the historical aspects of the game.

(By the way, it irks me when I see it phrased "Avalon Hill's Britannia", as it is here. As Avalon Hill rejected the game initially ("games of that era don't sell"), and H. P. Gibsons published it first (and provided the board and piece artwork to AH), and AH's main contribution to the game was to screw it up a bit, you can understand why I'm a little annoyed by the phrase. Why not "Lew Pulsipher's Britannia"? Meh.)

But most of my games now go toward simpler and shorter (1 hour 40 minutes for one played recently), not to larger, and this game is Larger. There are 46 countries and 24 turns (12 in each of the half-games). Time to play is listed on the box as 4-10 hours, which sounds about right from my experience (4 would be a quick half-game). It's the number of countries more than the turns that lengthen the game, which is why I try to keep the number of nations (as I prefer to call them) low in my shorter games, as well as down to 6 or 8 turns.

The game ambitiously covers Chinese history from 404 BC to 1949. I don't think the Britannia system suits the age of gunpowder--it was made to reflect gradual barbarian migrations--but only playing the game can reveal how well it works with European intervention and 20th century realities.

The unmounted 34" by 22" map strikes me as slightly garish. There are 46 areas, though 18 are "foreign" areas that only serve as jump-off points for invaders (for comparison, Britannia has 37 areas, more than this game's 28 in regular play). It is colored like a map in an atlas, with several different colors scattered about for areas (think of a map of US states), rather than like a map for a game, where each terrain is a different color. It's not a big deal, but seems a little odd, and contributes to a slightly cartoony or artificial look to the map as a whole.

Apparently the designer, who I'm told is a Chinese graduate of MIT, now a lawyer, decided to use only areas of modern China as in-play areas of the game. There are "foreign" areas along the borders, where invaders start, but they must leave those areas and get into China during their turn. This decision doesn't make sense historically. It means Taiwan and Tibet are in play, though for most of ancient and medieval times they were not part of China, but Vietnam and Korea are not in play, even though the former was held by the Chinese for many centuries, and the latter played a big part in the fall of the Sui and Tang--as it stands, no unit can enter Korea. Either all the adjacent areas should be "in play", or all (including Xinjiang, rarely occupied by the Chinese but part of China in the game) should not be. My solution in my game has been to use the heart of China (including Vietnam and Korea) and show a small part of Tibet and Xinjiang "in play". The other published China Britannia game, Dragon & the Pearl, shows the larger geographic area of this game, but all of it is "in play".

The 456 cardboard pieces are bigger than standard "wargame ghetto" half inch counters, perhaps two-thirds of an inch square. They are thinner than Britannia pieces, but fairly substantial. The wording on the counters is fairly hard to read, unfortunately, but there is a big colored banner with a number on most of the pieces that helps differentiate them. Everyone prefers larger pieces, but there are so many here that pieces the size of the new Britannia edition aren't practical.

The nation cards are very nice, five inches tall and three inches wide. If I were to use nation cards (I have a different system now), I'd like them to be this size and shape. They list appearance, movement order, sequence within the color, and point scoring. My wife observed that the thin font, over a light red background symbol, is difficult to read. There are 50 nation cards (four nations have two players controlling them, one after the other on the same turn), four special cards, and a sequence of play card.

The special cards need to be cut in half to provide two cards for each player. They are usable once per game. One card gives a +1 in one battle, the other causes a battle to be refought. These are like the cards I've used in Epic Britannia, Britannia Brevis (expansions that FFG is not interested in printing, at last report), and especially Frankia. They are tied to a color in Frankia, as they are in this game, whereas in the other two they're tied to a nation.

There are minor production glitches. Zhuge Liang, a famous general of the Three Kingdoms, is referred to thus in the historical booklet, but on the cards and in the rules he is incorrectly shown as Zhu Geliang. The Grand Canal, said to be red in the rules, is actually blue. And there's one place close to a 'four corners' where the map is clearly wrong in its connectivity compared with the rules (Henan-Jiungsu). I assume the rules prevail.

In general, the rules are easy to read (both in flow and in font size) and appear to be comprehensive, but that's always hard to tell until you actually play, isn't it?

A 15 page historical article (evidently from S&T magazine) by the game designer is a generally good introduction to Chinese history. I haven't figured out the author's assertion that the country has never been entirely ruled by foreign powers. I count both the Mongols and the Manchu as foreign powers, and if there was any part of the country not under their rule I can only think of Formosa (referred to by the modern name of Taiwan in the rules), though at one point it says at least one of these invaders controlled Formosa. Until fairly recent times I wouldn't even count this as part of China, and of course from 1895 until present it has been Japanese or Nationalist Chinese (Taiwanese), not part of mainland China despite the claims of the communists. There are no comments about the style or weapons of warfare, other than a sidebar about gunpowder. There are a few other inconsistencies in the historical notes. For example, the author says "the [Han] Chinese military was not powerful enough at that time to deal with the raiders because of the rebellion against the Qin dynasty and later due to government corruption", but from what I've read, the Han did more to crush steppe opposition than most empires, penetrating deep into the north on several occasions and reducing the powerful Xiong-Nu to tributaries for most of the Han period. The normal relationship was "Chinese bribe barbarians with tribute", but the Han reversed that.

The game uses the relatively new Pinyin translation of Chinese to English, rather than the older Wade-Giles. This is why "Peking" became "Beijing". I dislike Pinyin, because it isn't naturally pronounceable for an English person (I wonder if it was made for French?). Chiang Kai-shek becomes Jiang Jieshi in the new system! Tsao Tsao (which is pronounced with a ts sound) becomes Cao Cao in the new system. Bah. But I suppose use of Pinyin is inevitable. Modern names of provinces have been used in most cases.

The game is arranged very much like Britannia. There are very few starting armies for some nations, as few as two. It appears that there will be a lot of attacking, since many nations score for killing others, and since the attacker has the advantage. And a lot of nations may disappear quickly. Ten of the nations have an army maximum of 10 or more. 16 nations have a max of four or less. Five European nations do not get Increase, and four of them have no more than 3 armies. But these hit on a 3+ and are hit only on a 6.

Combat resembles standard Britannia except that attackers have one better chance of hitting than defenders. Highlands reduce chances by TWO. Europeans and Mongols (during the invasion) hit on a 3 and are only hit on a 6, and Mongols can overrun at 1:1 during the invasion instead of 2:1.

Increase of Population is the same as Britannia. There is no stacking limit as such, but overpopulation is applied by area, three for clear, two for highlands, after combat, any excess dying. This is the brake against huge stacks.

There are a few double moves (including a second Increase, however), and one triple move, the Mongol invasion.

Leaders are called "emperors" (which include Mao and Chiang), and there are only ten in the game. Unlike Brit, leaders cause the enemy to attack at -1, as well as the other usual leader effects on combat and movement.

One of the problems I've had in my China game is how to reflect the rapid fall of a major dynasty, possibly followed by fragmentation, possibly by another dynasty. This game uses a clever method for rebellions that is unfortunately rather random. I think it reflects history pretty well, but might be frustrating for players because of the dice rolling involved. A rebellion starts in one or more areas, determined by regional dice rolls (each of the areas of the main part of China is numbered for the rolls). Then adjacent areas roll to see if they join the rebellion, with the major dynasties having a "power factor" of 5, which means on any roll but a 6 the adjacent area joins the rebels!

This power factor is also the number of points scored if you wipe out a nation, and the number of armies you get as reinforcements. So this becomes very important, and is also an incentive for nations to wipe out other nations and so avoid the "Belgae survive all game in Lindsey" syndrome of Britannia. With 46 nations this might be needed. Clever.

There is no indication of the typical score for the game, so I can't judge how important the points for eliminating a nation may be compared with other ways of scoring. Scoring, by the way, is every third turn, except for such things as kill points (which are common). A scoresheet is provided.

Uprisings, not the same as rebellions, occur in empty provinces. But the rules don't appear to say what happens if there are no empty provinces.

The Three Kingdoms nations, successors to the Han, are all depicted, something I could not do in my smaller-scale games with relatively few nations. Yet the Mongol invasion is all in one turn, rather than in two turns! (The Mongols finished the Jin, in northern China, in 1234 seven years after Genghis' death; they conquered the southern Song 45 years later.) Insofar as I think it's important to show that the Mongols were not invincible or unstoppable, I'm puzzled by this choice.

Another oddity is the Great Wall. Any attack over the wall FROM EITHER SIDE gives an advantage to the defender. The Great Wall was a turf wall, like Hadrian's Wall in Britain, until the stone fortifications built in the 17th century. There are actually fortifications like this all over Europe. I have a map that shows the ones in Britain (Offa's Dyke is the obvious one after Hadrian's and the Antonine walls), and I've seen them marked southeast of the Caspian Sea! These walls were too long to be fully manned (even Hadrian's, far shorter than the Great Wall, only had a garrison at intervals). They were more a discouragement for cattle rustlers and the like: "how do I get the cattle back home with this wall in the way"? In China, the question was "how do I get my horse over this wall", even though armed men could get over fairly easily. Against a real invasion, the walls weren't worth much. Giving a +1 doesn't make sense historically (especially to those going from south to north!), but it's a way to emphasize one of the most famous man-made landmarks in the world.

I was puzzled by some of the nations included and not included. The Tungus, who I thought might be Tanguts of Xi Xia, turn out to be (Wikipedia) "Evenks", a nation I have never heard of but which is included in the game for 517 and on. They start with a very substantial five armies in Kazakhstan. I thought these might represent Celestial or Blue Turks. Well, no the Tujue (another name I didn't recognize, but which Wikipedia says is the name in Chinese sources) are in fact the GokTurks (another name Celestial/Blue Turks). They are in the game from 557, and are one army weaker than the puzzling Tungus, whereas in fact the GokTurks had a huge Central Asian empire that at one time dominated the area north of China.

The Nan Zhao (usually shown the old way on maps, as Nan Chao) are a Thai people who later migrated into Thailand. For some reason they start in Vietnam instead of Thailand or Myanmar. (By the way, why use this recently-adopted ethnic name instead of Burma or Pyu or another older name? I think using modern names for a sweep of history games is a poor choice.)

The Xiong-Nu are called Huns in the game, which I think is a disservice to players. Scholarly opinion has fluctuated on this question, beginning with the incorrect notion that there is considerable similarity in the two names (this is primarily in the transliterations). Similarities between Hun and Xiong-Nu culture can be found. There are no written records for these peoples, and we know virtually nothing about their languages. No one knows for sure, any more than we can know that the Rouran became the western Avars.

Finally, here's a very interesting note: playtesters are listed separately for the author and for the publisher. The author lists two [sic] playtesters, so do we conclude that he had three people including himself to playtest a four player game? The publisher lists seven playtesters. Perhaps they only listed the major players?

I'll be interested to hear how the game plays. After all, that's what counts in the end. Game balance is very difficult to achieve in these games, and harder here in the two smaller versions of the game, yet experienced players can provide the "invisible hand" that results in balance because they know what imbalances need to be rectified. I'd like a dime for every person who says Britannia is imbalanced, yet the current results database shows virtually perfect balance. You certainly cannot play these kinds of games once or twice and think you understand all the strategy or balance. Another reason why this is NOT a review.

It would be really interesting to hear comments from someone who has played both this game and Dragon & The Pearl, but the latter had a very limited distribution and is not, as far as I know, in print. (See

(Note for completists: there was also a very, very large Brit-like China game, Mandate of Heaven (120 BC-1949), being playtested by mail through a Yahoo Group: Members only, and judging from the number of messages, the game is over.)

Lew Pulsipher

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

4D&D Impressions

4th Edition D&D is out, and I've read some of the Player's Handbook.

First Edition (second was not much different, so I discount it) let you play "wargame D&D" or "story D&D" as you liked--D&D as a competition or as an entertainment. Family games tend to be entertainments. Party games, ditto. Euro games, often. Wargames, they're usually competitions.

As Desslock, the well-known PC Gamer reviewer of RPGs says, recent versions of D&D were too "Crunchy", that is, the barriers to entry are too high because generating and understanding a character takes so long. In First Edition you could get players going in 10 minutes, if you needed to. And there are barriers in the play, as well, which tends to become too complex for many. In 3.0 or 3.5 it takes closer to an hour. It is also much more "fiddly" to devise adventures. I've played 3.0, and refereed from modules, but I never made up a 3/3.5 adventure owing to those fiddly barriers (primarily the skills, feats, and ability modifications).

I've always treated D&D as a wargame that's entertaining--we ALWAYS have used a square grid board. 3/3.5 emphasized wargame and (at least insofar as it's "Crunchy") lost track of the entertainment. 4th edition appears to have recast D&D as an entertainment--something like a movie--rather than as a strategic game, by eliminating most of the more difficult decisions such as when to use a very limited set of spells.

First Edition is long gone. Hackmaster revived First Edition, but with its own complications and an annoyingly foolish notion that the referee and the players are actually competing with one another. (Any referee who can't kill off players EASILY, if he wants to, is incompetent.) Castles and Crusades seems to be the spiritual descendant of First Edition D&D.

4th edition appears to be an attempt to go back to the simplicity and non-crunchiness of First Edition. But the uniformity of it is very striking, and I wonder how that will affect long-term enjoyment. There are not prestige classes and skills and feats galore to unbalance the game, nor does it appear that this is wanted. Instead, every class has several powers (at-will, once per encounter, once per day). And the powers tend to read with a remarkable sameness regardless of the class. Even the wizard is no different, in melee, though at other times he is more likely to use rituals (equivalent of spells that take longer than a round to cast).

Some commentators have remarked that this edition is an attempt to turn D&D into WOW. I don't know about that, but when characters always have something they can do, can heal themselves many times, when characters rise in level rapidly, there is more WOW than in any other version of D&D. It is intended to be easy to play and easy to succeed at, I think, which also characterizes WOW, an entertainment, a "grind-fest for noobs" is how I've heard WOW described. What appears to have happened is that the competitive aspect of D&D, which was too much emphasized in 3/3.5, has been quashed in favor of the entertainment aspect. First Edition balanced the two, those who wanted to play it "competitively", more or less as a wargame, could do so, while those who wanted entertainment, as though the game were a story, can do that. 3/3.5 was almost all wargame. 4 appears to be almost all entertainment. (I should clarify here that when I say "competitive" I'm talking about players against the monsters with the referee as neutral; it is still a cooperative game where the players are concerned, one of its greatest attractions, I think.)

Competitions require planning and difficult choices, whereas entertainments reduce the number of choices to several plausible ones, and tend not to require planning. Family/party games are at the extreme of entertainment. 3/3.5 was aptly described by one speaker at Origins as "Fantasy Squad Leader", at the other end of the spectrum where wargames live. It was designed to cater to players who wanted to find the most powerful combination of rules and skills and feats, and worse, it was designed so that vast numbers of additional skills, feats, and prestige classes became available to players, so that it wasn't even a self-contained wargame but an evolving one, kind of like a collectible card game where the rules must be broken every year so that the best combinations change over time.

I remember advising First Edition referees that players do all they can to find unearned advantages, and the referee's role was to quash that. But 3/3.5 enthroned it as a virtue. There is little of that extreme min-maxing in 4th edition, and that should be an improvement for most players.

But I need to read a lot more of the Player Handbook before I can say these things definitively. At present it appears it would be an interesting game to try, but I wouldn't referee it. And while it's a fantasy role-playing game, and might be a good one, it isn't D&D any more.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Origins 2008 unscientific survey

While at Origins I try to keep an eye on the age, gender, and race of the attendees. My impression this year was that there were more women than in the past, and more young people, and about as few blacks as usual (very few). Now given that I don't ordinarily notice the color/race of folks in a crowd, I once again did my unscientific survey, sitting in the same very wide connecting corridor I did in 2006 (I didn't count in 2007 for some reason), and about the same time of day, but on Friday rather than Sunday, and counted people who passed by. I didn't try to count Hispanics as I can't reliably recognize all Hispanics just from looking, but I saw few if any that were "obviously" Hispanic. Nor did I try to judge age, of course.

There were 6 black amongst :
127 male
42 female
for a total of 169:

3.5% black
24.8% female

This compares with zero percent black in 2006, and 28.5% female. So it seems the numbers of females weren't actually higher than two years ago (which is why I count), and I have no figures for last year.

Comments at Boardgame News

Boardgame News posted a notice/link about my "What's Important" post a few days ago, that elicited a few comments (one an ad hominem attack, my thanks to Christopher Dearlove for answering that better than I could have).

I do not have a $25 per year membership to BGN, so cannot post any response there to the following:

"And I’ll disagree with one of his statements. DO design for yourself. Not only do you have to take enjoyment in testing the thing to death, but you have to beleive in your own product if you are going to attempt to sell it."

Posted by Jeff Allers

I understand Jeff's point of view. However, to respond to it I'll resort to a designer more well-known than anyone in boardgames: Sid Meier (Civilization, Pirates, etc.) in Gameinformer 182, June 2008, he is quoted:

"...there's a danger with some of the newer designers, a tendency to design the game you like to play. That game has already been designed--we need new games. There's a loss of a little bit of that "sky's the limit, anything's possible" approach we had in the early days. We have these genres--we have first-person shooters, we have real-time strategy. If you've played games all your life you've gotten these certain styles really beaten into you. To get people to think out of
the box is a little harder these days."

Granted he's talking about videogame designers, and it certainly applies strongly to video game design students, but the point applies to non-electronic game designers as well, I think.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Initial impressions, Origins Game Fair

Last week I attended Origins in Columbus Ohio for the fourth or fifth time in a row.

Origins changed their name to Origins Game Fair, a very good idea intended to attract a more general clientele. They also instituted a weekend-only $10 admission so that "the unwashed" could come into the exhibit halls and buy something, and watch all the gaming. But the attendance in the vendor hall, except on Saturday, was significantly less than in the past. Even in the gaming halls there seemed to be considerably less going on, despite the Pokemon National Tournament and a record number of events. Last year there were something like 15,000 unique attendees, likely fewer this year.

It's easy to attribute the attendance dropoff to the price of gas. What concerns publishers is whether people will buy fewer games because of gas prices and general uncertainty. Conventional wisdom is that when the economy is poor, people steer their entertainment dollars toward the less expensive (per hour) forms of entertainment, which includes games (especially non-electronic games). One vendor pointed out that games are now cheaper, in comparison with gas and other necessities such as food, than they used to be. But another worried that when it came time to buy a game, a person would need the money for gas.

I go with the conventional wisdom. The people who came to the convention were willing to spend money, it's just that there weren't as many people as in the past.

Nor were there as many exhibitors--or maybe I should say, the exhibits occupied less space--especially the huge exhibits we used to see. Why? Let's speculate.

At a remainder vendor I ran across a box of 12 starter sets (30 chips in each) of Clout Fantasy. Clout was heavily hyped at last year's convention, originated by a company involving Peter Adkison, founder of Wizards of the Coast and owner of GenCon. It is a collectible throwing game. You throw the equivalent of high quality poker chips with color illustrations on them into an area, and rules plus measurements govern what happens. I confess last year I didn't think it would appeal to many people, and this box may well confirm that. Clout starter sets were $14.95 at Thought Hammer (knocked down to $8.97). So my $8 box retailed for $180 at one time. The principal publisher, AEG, used to have enormous layouts at Origins, but had a tiny booth this year.

But this was not as striking as the absence of WizKids for the second year running, after they had brought enormous setups to past Origins. Wizkids made their fame with Mage Knight, HeroClix, and the like. Mage Knight figures were at the same remainder vendor, as well as Navia (chesslike game using collectible figures, also pushed heavily at the convention in the past). I couldn't resist, and bought a dwarven steam behemoth (a tank, more or less) for $4 (original price $34.95 in 2001). There were even some D&D miniatures sets in the lot.

Of course, another vendor had literally thousands of RPG books at $5 apiece. This only confirms what we all knew, that the RPG market is in the pits, though the advent of 4th Edition D&D (which renders all the D20 Third Edition stuff obsolete) may have had something to do with this particular display.

RPG market: Andy Hopp, a guest of honor artist who works in the RPG industry, gave another illustration of the collapse of the RPG market. When he started about seven years ago, he could get around $80 for a black and white illustration in an RPG book. He doesn't work in that segment now, but understands people are lucky to get $10 for the same thing. That's because, outside of the main vendors such as Wizards of the Coast, companies can's sell much RPG material, so they can't pay much for art.

I didn't notice Wizards of the Coast, whether they were there or not.

We had the usual contingent, perhaps more than usual, of little companies with a few new self-published games pushing them at Origins, companies we won't see back next year, as usual, because it won't have been worth the cost/effort. But hope springs eternal in the human breast, as they say.

I didn't investigate, but a game that caught my eye was a spiral array printed on black cloth, with two different colors of dice (not d6) layed out on it. As a result I'm thinking about using dice as pieces for a game, but D6, not the more expensive stuff.

The little companies, the boardgame companies, that have been around for a long time were still there (most of them), but the big companies were not as much in evidence. Perhaps WizKids and Wizards of the Coast will be at GenCon, which is more fantasy-oriented than Origins.

According to the organizers there were 4,527 events at Origins--tournaments, role-playing/miniatures/bardgaming sessions, seminars. One of the oddities of Origins is that you pay quite a hefty fee to get in--up to $70--and then you're charged to play the games, and even some of the seminars that you attend. (This in contrast to WBC, where you pay one fee and then can play in any tournaments, and play anything else.) At Origins there's even a fee for playing in the open boardgaming area. But the result is LOTS of events. I did my usual two free seminars, how to get your game published and how to design a game. (Slides and MP3 recordings here, including also Ian Schreiber's "Game Design for Teachers", I had more than 25 at each session despite choosing slightly odd times (9 AM and 3 PM Saturday). As seminars go, this is very good attendance. Listening to myself, I seem to have been in good form, and I'll use the recordings to help me write the book.

Why did I buy the Clout set? For pieces for prototypes, I get outstandingly made "poker" chips in four colors for two+ cents each, and can ignore the illustrations. But I realized after I'd bought, I can use these for game design "challenges" in class. I'll give student groups a starter set or two, tell them to use one of the three sets of numbers on the chips, and make up a game (most likely with a square board, but that's up to them). Unfortunately, the other set was gone when I thought of this and wanted to buy it as well!

(Oops: added the URL)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

What's important in breaking into the (non-electronic) game industry?

Sometimes I try to summarize the most important things about some topic or question in one page--a useful exercise. Here's the latest:

Don't think you're going to make a lot of money. Very likely, you'll spend a great deal of time for little return. Non-electronic gaming is "small potatoes", not a big source of money. "How do you make a small fortune in the game industry? Start with a big fortune."

Publishers want games, not ideas. Ideas are cheap, a dime a dozen; recognize that your "great idea" is not that great, not that original, not that interesting to others. That's reality. (How often do we get a really extraordinary new idea? D&D, Magic:the Gathering, maybe Mage Knight?)

You have to DO something to give yourself some credibility, before publishers are likely to look at your game. If you're a complete unknown, why would publishers deal with you?
● Volunteer at cons
● Write articles
● Make variants/mods and publish them
● have a decent Web site
● GM at conventions

Sorry, folks, while you're really important to yourself and your family, you're nobody to any publisher.

Don't design games for yourself, design for others. They’re the ones who must enjoy it, your enjoyment in playing is unimportant! But don’t design something you expect you’ll dislike.

If you're only working on one game, or a few, you're not likely to end up with a good one, AND you identify yourself as a dilettante, an amateur. Pros are working on many, many games.

Patience is a virtue. Britannia existed in fully playable form in 1980. It was first published in 1986. In 2008, one publisher told me, "it's a good thing you're immortal, because it's going to take a long time" to evaluate and publish one of my games.

So if you're the "instant gratification" type, recognize your instant gratification will be in seeing people play your prototype, not in the published game.

Self-publishing is practical, if you don't mind losing a lot of money. Moreover, at some point you become a publisher/marketer, not a designer. What do you want to do?

Playtesting is sovereign. You have to playtest your game until you're sick of looking at it, until you want to throw the damn thing away. Then maybe you'll have something. But you have to be willing to change the game again and again: listen to the playtesters, watch how they react, recognize your game isn’t perfect and won’t be even when (if) it’s published.

When your game is rejected, there’s a good chance the rejection had nothing to do with the game’s quality. Be persistent.