While I love pimping out games, my first foray into altering board games came from the mechanical design side of the hobby.  Cutting my teeth as a young lad on such classic titles as HeroQuest and Battle Masters, it wasn’t long before the little wheels in my head started turning as I yearned to dive deeper into those gaming worlds.


my yellowed copy of one of the first variants I attempted – an expansion module to HeroQuest


25+ years later and my handwriting still hasn’t gotten much better

After all this time, I still have a compelling need to create my own variants for my favorite games.  It’s hard to say which side pushes harder, the desire to improve the functionality and aesthetic appeal of a game or the fun in varying the rules to better suit where I want the game design to go.  Since pimping out a game requires little collaboration, I tend to do it more as I am free to mod and pimp at my leisure but it doesn’t mean that I don’t still jot down notes and variants for most of my games. I don’t think I know how to pimp games without also wanting to create a more personal set of rules.


Looking back through these notes and files, I realized I’ve amassed quite a little collection of variants and so I created a new page on the blog to put them at easy reach.  Like most things, this will be a work-in-progress and updated when I can.  I’ll try to add links or download options for those curious to see these variants in more detail but for now, I want to highlight a particularly obsessive variant I’ve been working on.

It’s no secret I’ve been really getting into Flick ’em Up! by Pretzel Games recently.  At Gen Con, I was able to try out a curious and ultimately fantastic new game by Filip Neduk of Czech Games Edition, called Adrenaline. Adrenaline is a fun resource control game set as old school first-person shooter (FPS) video game where the resource is damage dealt to your enemies.  It has some of the best theme-implemented mechanics I’ve seen for a board game attempting anything like this genre and I was sold almost immediately.


prototype play at Gen Con 2016

Unfortunately, it was released at Spiel in Essen, Germany last month and hasn’t made the trek over the pond quite yet. Even though I definitely want to add this game to my collection, I couldn’t stop thinking about combining all the great damage and scoring mechanics of the game with the dexterity and almost FPS nature of Flick ’em Up! So a couple weekends back, I prototyped enough components to try out this Frankenstein-ian creation and was happy to see that it actually worked quite well.


At a quick glance, it still looks basically like Flick ’em Up!- open table layout with three-dimensional Flick ’em Up! pieces scattered around to make a more dynamic playing area.  However, if you look carefully (at the table, not my friend’s impressive liquor display), you’ll notice I added some cards representing the different weapons the cowboys can acquire and the player board, where most of the new rules interaction comes into play.


Looking at the new player board, it is basically a carbon copy of the player board in Adrenaline, but rethemed to fit Flick ’em Up’s setting.

The board tracks damage from your opponents, points given when you die, action options, and keeps your resources close by.  The points are now represented thematically by money (courtesy of 7 Wonders) and instead of skulls representing kills, I have little tombstones.  Even when messing around with new mechanics, I can’t help but try a little pimping as well.


While I spent a lot of time getting the look of the player boards to a quality we could enjoy, I knew the biggest mechanical hurdle was getting the weapons right.  From experience, I knew these custom weapons would take a lot more effort and will undergo a lot of iterations to test and get right since they will be the biggest marriage between the two systems.

Adrenaline has 21 unique weapons in its game and since the concept of what each weapon does is largely abstract and only defined by how and who all it can hurt, there is a lot of freedom in the variety of each card. Since the way you deal damage in this variant is largely based on the dexterity flicking component of Flick ’em Up!, the weapon powers had to be grounded more in what options were physically available.  Luckily, Flick ’em Up! contains a lot of varied options in weapons and effects so I settled on nine unique weapons.  I actually like the more limited weapons pool as it helps the balance a bit from both a testing side (less variables to test and correct) and a gameplay side as a powerful weapon won’t be unique and others will have access to the same option if it proves too potent.


The test game we ran worked pretty well and I was pleased that the concept worked fully and was enjoyed by the players.  The variant isn’t quite ready yet as the pacing was a little slower than I liked so I’ll go back to the drawing board on the weapon concepts and see what I can do increase the tempo of the game. Then I’ll test again until the game feels more in-line with expectations. After that, I’ll finalize the art for the weapon cards and finish up a general rules document.  Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to host the variant at one of the upcoming game conventions next year.