Indie Dev Club LA Meetup and Grabbag Microgame

Indie Dev Club LA Meetup

One of the folks who've I played with through the Art of Story Through Gaming meetup is Omowale. She's quickly become one of my favorite gamers: curious, open to new games, and most importantly: present (the key ingredient for the best of players!)

She also runs the Indie Dev Club LA meetup, out there for (mostly) computer game developers to meetup, chat, brainstorm, and network. I decided to check it out.

The meetup is currently sponsored at Pivotal Labs in Santa Monica area. They do similar work, they sponsor the meetup location, and free grub! Wale also says they are shy-people friendly, which is a super bonus. What's not to love.

I went with my friend Sonia, who was open to trying a new experience, and we weren't disappointed. Folks were friendly, and food and drink were provided. One member showcased a prospective kickstarter video for a VR (virtual reality) project he's kicking off. He also had a demo version with mini-cardboard viewer. 

Grab Bag: A Microgame

I was quickly able to get people to playtest a micro-game I've been wanting to try. I tried it a few times with my wife and daughter, enough so I had a few hacks as well. Grab Bag is a game put out by Josh Jordan, in conjunction with Stephanie Bryant's Threadbare RPG (a PbtA role playing game I like to summarize as Toy Story in the apocalypse).

Grab Bag involves players taking turns grabbing colored tokens from a bag, in order to determine a winner of the Grab, and a winner (possibly the same, possibly different) of the Bag. The Grab is the person who grabbed the most tokens. The Bag is the player who's most represented in the leftover tokens in the bag at the end of the game. 

The interesting thing is that players will bet on "Grab" or "Bag" at the beginning of the game, which doesn't decide what they will win, but instead decides what they have to give to the winner of the respective game (Grab and Bag). If you bet Grab, you have to provide a favor to the Grab winner. If you bet Bag, you have to provide a secret to the winner of the Bag. Strange, but very cool and thematic as a microgame in a game about toys.

I started by creating a bag of tokens a few days earlier. I have a box of leftover board game tokens, so used this as a starting point. I tried getting similar objects among the various player colors, and mostly succeeded. Each of 5 players (colors) is represented by 9 tokens:

A bag of tokens; 9 tokens in 5 colors

A bag of tokens; 9 tokens in 5 colors

We played only a round, and although the game works for 2-5 players, we didn't get all around the table before we ran out of tokens. Not really a problem, as the game has rules around this, but if you only play the once, someone doesn't get to grab things out of the bag, which is obviously not the best. That said, if you play twice, everyone should get a chance to have some grabbing action.

Also, as I mentioned to Stephanie as feedback, it helped immensely by creating player identifying tokens (poker chips) that matched each player color. This provided two things: 1. It allows easy identification of which player is which color, and 2. You can write "Grab" and "Bag" on the two sides, to easily track what each player has bet on.

Grab Bag showing player poker chips with betting on them, and their respective collected tokens (which shows Red and Green tied as winners of the Grab, with 7 tokens each), and the results in the bag as the leftover tokens (which shows that Red wins the Bag)

Grab Bag showing player poker chips with betting on them, and their respective collected tokens (which shows Red and Green tied as winners of the Grab, with 7 tokens each), and the results in the bag as the leftover tokens (which shows that Red wins the Bag)

Everyone thought it was a cute and quick game.

And out...

From there we moved on to Splendor, and many conversations.

I highly recommend the meetup if you are into game development especially from the perspective of video game development and project management, and are in the general LA area.