Game Pile: Straight Outta Tucson

Desert Bus was last week! It’s a cool event that raises money for the Childs Play charity, by playing the game Desert Bus. The more you donate to the event, the longer the event runs, and that means they have to play the game longer and if you weren’t aware, Desert Bus is a shockingly boring game.

What this means is that the whole streaming event is someone playing a dreadfully boring game and doing anything they can to be less bored – with their friends in the room. It’s a festival of events of busking, comedy performances, dramatic readings, a few D&D games, quiz games and also kinda a long-reaching slow-rolling combination of a con and a podcast. And mixed in amongst that there’s other events, including a game jam!

And I submitted a game to it this year!

The game is called Straight Outta Tucson, and it’s a simple little affair; it’s completely free to download and play, and we may be seeing about putting it up on some print-on-demand services as a cost-and-shipping-only option if you want a professionally made copy.

And I wanted to talk a little bit about what was involved in making it.

First things first, we had a concept for it: The Anti-Bus. I took notes on that as follows:

Day 1



  • social deduction game trying to work out who on the shift is trying to sabotage it based on who has a shift at the wheel. Look at secret hitler with a timer.
  • a deck deconstructor where you’re trying to empty out a bus of last year’s memes so it’s good to go.
  • A 18 card microgame of trying to push a crash onto another shift
  • a social communication game about trying to score points on the bus while avoiding The Prophecy of an Anti-Bus

And then:

Okay, homogenous plaay form. Single deck, you shuffle it up and go.

Each player looks at the top two cards and picks one to keep and one to give to ANY OTHER PLAYER.

Cards have a suit (shift)

cards have values that determine how good they are

At the end of your turn you can flip a card face up and have its effect. You can do this once per turn, so no barrage of cards.

suits have some standard effects (Arrive at destination, splat, and ‘driving time’).

  • arrive at destination is a great big reward
  • you can only score one arrive per hand, unless you have a driving time that matches the suit
  • crash cards cancel driving time cards
  • there’s an Anti Bus card that means you can’t win, so you always want to pass it off
  • at least one card, rotate the cushions, lets you swap a card away

Day 2

real ugly Q&D blocking out of the zones. Using the existing desert bus overlay vibe for how the cards should look, with the shift banners indicating suits. This whole thing may be only 45 cards or so to make p&p easy

Day 3

now I’m at the ‘fill out cards’ stage of things to make the game work. The plan is to make so that each suit has a specific vibe.

My notes at this point get sketchy. But I know the next thing I did after getting the card faces roughly dialed in, I made a paper prototype, with an ordinary deck of playing cards. As I played and decided the shifts needed to be important, I resolved to make the shifts more distinct, and give them unique traits.

At that point I had the structure, and thanks to having a structure i could turn to Fox for the most valuable, time-saving help: She built a scribus file that could output that structure. I put a spreadsheet in, and I got a pdf out. This is an amazing help and the thing is, that tool now means I can push my other designs a step ahead. Very cool.

From there, what we did was watched VST clips, reviewed the current Desert Bus, and, knowing a timetable was closing in on us, we put a bunch of memes and jokes in the cards to try and give us mechanics to work with…

… and then that was it. A simple little diary. And now you can check out the game product, for free!

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