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Mystacon

Have you ever designed a tabletop game?

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A couple of months ago I decided I liked the idea of designing a tabletop game. Since then I've thrown down lots of ideas for three different games and have now settled on trying to progress one of them further.

 

I haven't followed any sort of defined process for this, in the first instance I tend to just write down as many cool ideas around a theme as I can (something I like the idea of playing myself), and then slowly refine them and transform them into something that could be played (for example, taking something that we do in the real world and then figuring out how to action/resolve it in gaming terms with dice/cards etc). For all I know, this could be an ill-fated way of approaching things, or maybe there's no hard and fast rule about how you should go about it? Either way, I'm having fun playing with ideas.

 

I'm a digital designer myself, so I do at least have the skills to create artwork and work through user experience issues, so that's a feather in my cap, I also have a friend who's successfully Kickstarted his own boardgame, so he's a really valuable resource for running ideas past.

 

But what I'd really like to know is, have any of you ever designed or thought about designing a tabletop game?

 

Please share your stories and designs, would be great to see some!

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About ten years ago, one of my mates was at a small company that made novelty items. They were approached by a guy who'd designed a fishing board game and wanted them to manufacture and distribute it. He thought it would be something 'fun and educational' that anglers could use to introduce their family to fishing. So he was aiming for a huge market there.

 

The trouble with the game was that it was so, so dull. I'm sure it was accurate, but it was incredibly slow and was full of rolling dice then looking up the results on a variety of tables.

 

I was working as a videogame designer at that time, and my mate knew that I played a lot of board games, so they asked me to make a fun version of the game that they could take back to the client. Not one that they would necessarily make, but something that they could incorporate with his to make it more enjoyable.

 

I only had a couple of days, so I kept the map and core 'roll and move' mechanics, but I replaced the complicated fishing mechanics with three custom dice. They corresponded to the three sizes of fish - larger fish were worth more points but were harder to land.

 

The dice had some faces showing 'play', where you're trying to reel them in. If that showed, you'd have to reroll; that gave a feeling of fighting with the fish, especially if you got a few of those in a row and then the symbol for a line break and the fish escaped.

 

There were other mechanics too: you had to get the right colour of bait for the correct 'pitch' (there was a proper fishing term for that, but I can't remember it), there were cards that you could use to steal fish from your opponents, and there was a time limit - if you didn't get back and bank your fish before the end of the day, they wouldn't count.

 

It was all pretty simple stuff, but I was aiming for a family audience and, as I say, I only had a couple of days.

 

I took the prototype up to my mate's company, we had a couple of playtests and it went down pretty well. The first game had a particularly tense bit of dice-rolling that ended with the company's designer falling to the floor, shouting 'this is the greatest game I've ever played!' :D

 

Naturally, the client didn't like it, saying it was 'like smash and grab fishing', which I thought was a fair assessment, and that's why it was fun. So, they parted ways with my mate's company.

 

Every now and again, I check BoardGameGeek, to see if they ever made the tedious version of the game, but I've never spotted it.

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I met the guy who used to design the Lego boardgames at a Nordic games event several years ago. We played the battle of hoth boardgame with him and I regret now not buying a gazillion boxes of it because I loved it - it was so exquisitely balanced and ort of designed to scale with more boxes.

 

It was very interesting hearing about the balancing of game mechanics against the manufacturing costs.

 

 

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18 hours ago, therearerules said:

Yes, a whole bunch, and one of them has been picked up for publishing later this year ('Whoop whoop!). I'll post the others up later if you're interested.

 

Nice! Are you allowed to talk about it?

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When I was a kid I made game out of graph paper and cardboard that was a cross between Laser Squad and Paradroid. In my head the idea was perfect but sadly it was rather dull. It did work though, which I'm still rather proud of despite only playing it once, against my sister.

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3 hours ago, Mystacon said:

@Lochenvar , great story! You should make it yourself and call it 'Smash 'n' Grab Fishing' :)

 

:) Thanks, but it's in some odd hinterland of rights, as it included elements of the boring fishing game, while the rest probably belonged to my mate's company, which now doesn't exist. Probably easier to just come up with something unconnected.

 

I have been pondering a game about building houses for a few years, but I wouldn't have a clue about getting it made. Although, with the rise of Kickstarter, I think there are easier pathways to that than there were a decade ago. But now, like the app store, the problem is getting yourself noticed. Any game on Kickstarter that has miniatures in seems to get massive funding, while those without often struggle to hit their base goals.

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I made a two player game, Sniper V Spies first, with a load of meeples and a mechanic where you shuffle the card and draw 2 at random, then choose 1 from those left, and these are the people you move. But I don't really play 2-player games, so I reduced the meeple count and developed it into a hidden role game, where there are 7 characters, each with different win conditions and abilities. You choose one at random from a deck, and select the other. These are the two people you move and activate, with the trick being to try and get other people to activate your meeples. It worked to a point- the deck was a bit clunky, and all the different win conditions and abilities were crazily asymmetrical and took too much time explaining (especially when games could be over very quickly). I mean to go back to it, change the cards to dice, simplify everything, and see how it goes. Then I designed a traditional worker placement game, where you build buildings in your town and other people use those buildings to build there's, paying you for the privilege, and so on. At its heart it's an engine builder, and people have enjoyed playing it- always goes down well at the playtest tables, but it's not exactly the bastion of originality. Then I designed a social deductionish game which I'm not going to post about until the media build up :)

 

I've also designed a few games I've made but not playtested, and an expansion for TIME Stories, which has gone down gangbusters (see thread).

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I think about it constantly. All the time I make my figures, I'm desperately trying to avoid the day when I have to decide to properly work out gameplay mechanics of the thing.

 

 

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On 27 January 2017 at 21:24, GMass said:

How about that game where we traded jewels etc and you cheated! :-) 

That was for a competition (didn't get through- they liked the dry-wipe cards, but found the whole thing to chaotic). I've kept the dry-wipe cards for another game I've got in mind (a time travel game done properly).

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Thought this is the best topic to mention this:

 

There is a board game 'study day' in London. I really enjoy board games but more of a game design person so ill skip - but someone here maybe interested.

 

http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/events/game-contemporary-board-games-study-day/

 

Game On: Contemporary Board Games Study Day

Saturday 1 April
10.00-16.30
£20, concessions £15

 

We are entering a golden age of board game design according to Matt Leacock,Pandemic designer. Discover more about this exciting board game renaissance. Hear from games designers, critics and academics; see early treasures from the museum’s collection and join in the board game jam, hosted by PlaytestUK. The day will be chaired by James Wallis games designer and Director of games design consultancy Spaace and will be a playful celebration of all things Table Top!

 

 

 

Confirmed speakers include:

Ian Livingstone CBE, one of the founding fathers of the UK games industry.

Nia Wearn, Senior Lecturer in Computer Games Design, Staffordshire University

Holly Nielsen, Journalist and board games expert.

Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Associate Professor in Games Studies, Staffordshire University.

Quintin Smith, editor of Shut Up & Sit Down, the world’s largest board game review site.

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This is the one that we designed at the Game Jam last year-

 

http://globalgamejam.org/2016/games/witches-brew-0

 

It came out pretty well, considering, but I felt it wasn't really my type of game. Still satisfying to get something finished though. I have also started two game design projects with a friend of mine. The first was WAY too ambitious and we abandoned it (while still keeping the notes and lessons learned from it) and have started work on something smaller. We've been very stop/start with working on it though, so I have no idea when it'll be complete :(

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This is definitely something I've thought about for a while and last year did start actually designing something (with flowcharts and everything!) Hasn't really got much further at this stage, mostly because a) there are some mechanics I'm putting off figuring out, b) every so often I'll go 'why don't I try and make a digital version of this?' and then soon remember that it's a terrible idea at this stage and c) I haven't really decided a strategy on getting people to playtest it yet once it's actually in a playable state.

 

While I am absolutely no expert, here are some things I'm doing:

 

- Bought a massive pack of blank playing cards which can be drawn on/have things stuck to, and coloured pens and labels. Very useful for making quick and easy cards. Making prototypes with physical cards seems by far the quickest and best way to test out a design (and will help you find flaws much sooner).

- Made some basic card designs using Tabletop Simulator's deck editor and then thrown them onto a table. To be honest, I'd recommend saving this until later in hindsight as I spend half the time messing around with the cards instead of actually doing anything useful.

- Read some books. For instance, Kobold Guild to Board Game Design is great. I've read it twice.

 

If anything ever materialises, I'll let you know.

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Honestly I don't know. There's so many podcasts out there, it's getting increasingly hard to convince guests to come on. The only people who do want to do it are shilling Kickstarters (and yes, I know I'm doing the same with Untold!). Combine that with some major depressive episodes and I'm not feeling like there's a place for it any more. I reckon I'm going to focus on getting my mental health back to a good level then work on making video stuff again - not to a schedule, more a "hey, I like this weird thing, let me tell you about it" vibe. 

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Congrats @therearerules !

 

I finally got round to putting a prototype together this week. Still a lot to figure out but I like the idea of doing a bit of a run through and seeing how it goes. No doubt it will break at every turn and need some fundamental changes, but hey-ho, it’s an interesting process.

 

 

0A4D7636-CDE0-48BD-94C8-C56DA473D1E0.jpeg

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1 minute ago, revlob said:

That's a great-looking board for a prototype, @Mystacon. Is it from another game or did you put it together yourself? I thought it was a render for a second, everything is so neatly positioned. :)

 

Ha! Thanks @revlob

I put it together myself so quite chuffed with your comment! Just colour printouts pasted onto some mounting board. 

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Nooo! Are there plans to relaunch?

 

I have to say, compared to other board game Kickstarter campaigns I've been a part of, I saw very little communication from the organisers. It could have done with more of a push. I hope you can use this opportunity to examine how the future campaign can be improved. :)

 

EDIT: Just saw the backer email. So there's hope then! I wasn't aware of any issues surrounding ITB's other campaigns, hopefully taking a step back and re-examining them will help a future relaunch.

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