Boardgame Bud

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About a year ago, I decided to start designing boardgames…

 

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Been meaning to start prototyping an auction/drafting card game idea for a while now, but there are always a million reasons not to do what you dream about. That doubtful attitude only provides lazy comfort and inevitable frustration. 🎲✏🏆 I'm just going to start. Embrace the amateur, stumble onwards, and pick up the rest on the road. Can't truly learn unless you fail, and can't fail until you at least try. Would be great to one day give back to the incredible boardgame community too. 🎲✏🏆 #boardgames #boardgame #games #gaming #cards #deckofcards #tabletopgames #boardgamedesign #gamedesign #auction #prototype #desk #anxiety #comfortzone #motivation #fun #dream #aspiration #creative #design #amateur #project #whynot #community #boardgamegeek #bgg

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Since then, it’s been a wild ride of designing quirky games and watching BoardgameBud grow from a hobby to a passion, and hopefully to a career – one day.

 

I’m very lucky to have all the support the Instagram tabletop gaming community has showered me with since starting out.

I’m so grateful for it, and it’s what has helped push me on into this somewhat niche vocation.

 

If you’ve ever left a like, comment, message, or follow – thank you so very much!

To those who encouraged me to keep making games, double thank you!

 

Everything you see below has been made with your support in mind, and hopefully, I can give something back to other fledgeling designers by showing what I’ve been making over the past year.

 

📌 SIDE NOTE

Before we start, if we want to be totally accurate, I actually started making games way back when I was 14.

Assuming you can call this a game, and not a total abomination (I won’t hold it against ya)…

 

What a catchy tagline!

 

It’s pretty crazy though; I’d totally forgot about it until I unearthed these pictures from an old memory stick.

 

Honestly, I can’t decipher how you play – and I’ve actually read the rulebook!

 

Ya boi was clearly an MS Paint master back then…

 

If only I knew where it was; perhaps it’ll be recovered as a rare Earth artefact by some space-faring advanced race in a far flung future.

 

More likely; it’s ended up in landfill, though…

 

💡 IDEAS & PROTOTYPES

I’ve brought a bunch of games to various stages of completion.

Everything from ideas scribbled on scrap paper, to a finished (but not produced) contest winner.

 

I keep all my ideas either jotted down in a notebook I carry or on various pieces of paper filed in a binder.

 

My office whiteboard gets covered in mechanics and ideas regularly. If they’re interesting enough, I make sure to get a paper note down somewhere.

 

I make and keep a lot of prototypes, too.

The more I practice making prototypes for game systems I want to test, the better, faster, and more creative they become. It’s like any other skill really…

 

 

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Plus, going from floating idea to basic prototype is one of the most rewarding parts of game design for me.

 

Lastly on prototypes; regardless of how far they get finished, it’s really fun to test systems and use them in other projects.

If you’ve spent quality time working something good out, it’s a great idea to recycle for future games!

 

So, with all that in mind, let’s take a look at what I’ve been up to over the past year…

 

🎲 MY GAMES

THAT’S YOUR LOT

2-5 Players // Storage Hunter Auction Game

One of the first attempts at game design, here’s my Storage Hunter style auction game where players make and bid on different lots of items.

 

 

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I’m still keen on the idea of this one, just auction games are a pain in the butt to playtest!

 

BALLOONATICS

2-5 Players // Turn Programming Water Balloon Fight

The first game I took all the way to full prototype; this had you playing kids running around a garden, pelting water balloons at one another.

 

 

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After programming in turns, players would have their actions modified by the area of the garden they occupied.

 

Though there was work left to do to make the end-game more engaging, it was great fun figuring out how to make this work fluidly, and I was pleased with the result.

 

 

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After adding a tad too much complexity, and having the prototype ruined by a spilt drink during a beta playtest, I realised I had more interesting ideas I wanted to pursue.

Thus, the prototype was shelved, and a key lesson was learned – not every game needs to be completed.

 

It had served its purpose.

 

Balloonatics still had a big influence on my other games, however –  I reused a lot of the mechanics developed here.

Working on this game was a critical learning experience taking my first game to a late prototype though; a kind of rite of passage.

 

INCOMPETENT COMPLIMENTS

3-6 Players // Party Game of Terrible Compliments

This game never made it past simple notes, but the idea is a fun one.

One player is the judge and recipient of greeting cards from all the other players. The other players have to make and give the most insensitive, rude, and/or ignorant greeting card for the occasion.

 

Is the judge going to have surgery on their leg? Give them a ‘Get Well Soon’ card that says ‘Break a leg’ in it!

 

HEIRLOOM

1-3 Players // RPG Adventure Game

After watching a video on Blockchain, and how it could be used in MMORPGs to give items history, I thought up Heirloom.

 

It’s an RPG style adventure game where you play a long lineage of adventurers, passing on a progressively stronger heirloom each time.

 

 

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I loved developing this game, though it got a bit too bloated in the end.

 

I took it to the Mythic Takeover at Warboar games and got one hell of a treat; the opportunity to sit down and playtest Heirloom with Game Designer Jake Thornton and Community Manager Az Drummond.

Jake patiently listened to where I wanted to take the game and offered a key piece of advice, paraphrased thus:

 

“Anyone can add all the bells and whistles to a game – a good designer knows when to take things out”

 

It’s solid advice for any designer worth their salt, making me go back and look at the core of the game again. Turns out, I’d fallen into the common trap of adding and adding stuff, and it totally over-seasoned the flavour of a good game.

 

 

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It was around this time that I hit my first burnout from working waaay too hard on these game designs and overcomplicating them.

 

At this point, I made the correct decision to back off from the project and regroup, taking time to relax and let other, simpler ideas take the spotlight for a bit.

 

HOLI

2-5 Players // Festival of Colour Reskin for Balloonatics

Though not fully prototyped, Holi is a promising remake of Ballonatics, where the objective is to get covered in a selection of coloured paints.

 

It stemmed from the idea that positioning in Balloonatics could be improved.

It also added an interesting element where sometimes you want to get hit by an opponent, rather than always avoiding them.

 

DICE-TRIBUTION

1+ Players // Roll & Write Logistics Puzzle

A neat little roll’n’write game I made from a unique mechanic I developed up for another game.

 

 

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I think if you’re a new game designer, you can’t go wrong with making a roll’n’write.

It’s resource light, and you can really do so much with it!

 

I’d just been introduced to Yahtzee at this point, and the way you make hands in that game heavily inspired different shipping orders required to fulfil.

 

 

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One of the few games I fully finished, the game itself was fun. Mainly, however, it’s mechanics are what inspired a long lineage of games to come…

 

PACK IT TIN

1 Player // Luggage Packing Dice Drafter

My baby – this is the game that made me comfortable calling myself a game designer.

 

 

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After deciding to enter a Mint Tin Design Contest over on Boardgame Geek, I came up with a simple brief; what about a game that takes seconds to set up, and is already packed away when you finish playing?

 

This brief first fit to a way of simplifying Dice-tribution into just one hangar, but then fit nicely into the luggage packing theme it is now.

 

 

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It ended up winning the contest, and I’m so proud of this project.

Taking a game all the way to completion (including rulebook, marketing, and all the bits inbetween) allowed me to up my game with other projects.

 

 

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The genuine interest from the public has been excellent, and hopefully, I’ll bring this one to market at some point.

 

VILIFY

2-4 Players // Unique Twist on a Smear Campaign

In Vilify, players take on the roles of evil villains running for president of a secret evil villain cohort.

 

After seeing how political campaigns aim to smear their opponents, I thought it would be funny to make a game using the same mechanic.

In Vilify, however, you trash other villains by complimenting them on good deeds, making them appear too ‘soft’ for the position of head villain.

 

TILT

1 Player // Deck Building Pinball Game

This was a fun little project that ultimately gave me the mechanics I needed to crack on with the FTL-like space game I’m currently developing.

 

 

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The idea was to try to cycle through the deck of pinball features, triggering them to score points. Scoring them removes them from the deck, however, so choosing when the remove something useful to score its points is key.

 

It was also really fun making a card and dice game feel like a pinball machine.

 

Funnily enough, it originally came from my friends joking I’d make a game out of anything, and suggesting the idea of a pinball boardgame! I accepted their jests as a challenge and got to work (6 months later).

 

WILD WEST

1 Player // Red Dead Redemption Style RPG

Shelved for the newest game I’m working on, I wanted to see how much rpg replayability I could squish in one mint tin.

Given the time for this project, I think it would be great fun to produce.

 

I’m just busy on other projects at the moment…

 

WAVE DEFENSE

1-2 Players // Wave Defense Game

In many attempts, I thought how cool would it be to make a game where you cast spells with different properties depending on how you cast them.

 

First draft your mana and place it on the grid…

 

This idea still hasn’t left my sphere of thought, and this wave defence game included a unique mechanic to make that possible.

 

Using the Dice-tribution game system worked well here – if a little confusing at first.

 

Then slide your mana into the spell slots you want to use!

 

It allows spells to have different properties depending on which ‘lanes’ are filled, and allowed ability cooldowns by sliding the card over the lanes afterwards.

 

BATTLE ROYALE

1-4 Players // PUBG Style Coop Battle Royale

Creating a game that mimicked the brilliant battle royale mechanics helped me develop a whole load of tools I used in many, many other games.

 

 

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Another tip for design beginners I can’t recommend enough; choose a video game you like and simplify its systems into a tabletop game.

 

It taught me how to abstract mechanics into something more manageable – imperative for game designers.

 

CAMPING

1-2 Players // Campsite Puzzle Team Game

Cooperative resource management puzzle game, where you pitch a tent in various weather conditions.

Players try to make the most comfortable stay while performing minigames to assemble their tent.

 

Sticky notes on old Trivial Pursuit cards, how crafty!

 

The mechanics are borrowed from Robinson Crusoe, but the inspiration for this one came from a very real situation.

We arrived at a campsite around 10.30pm, in a full-on deluge, so pitched our tent in horrible conditions.

 

It really brought out the teamwork in us though!

 

TINPORT EXPORT

1 Player // Dice Drafting Puzzle Game about Running a Port

Another off-shoot for Pack It Tin, I really like the additions to the core game I’ve made here.

It’s basically Pack It Tin, just containers rather than suitcases, and involved moving workers around your dock to gain bonuses.

 

Fill enough containers with the right stuff to earn points and revenue for your next haul.

 

TINDERBLOX

1-6 Players // Campfire Building Dexterity Game

Here we have the most recent complete product. I’m hoping to get this in the hands of publishers at UKGE this year.

 

 

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Funnily enough, I developed this game in about two days, and it hasn’t changed much since.

You can expect a longer blog post on this one in the future, as I unveil the mechanics!

 

MECHA-TIN

2 Players // Battle Mech Combat

Another theory-craft, this one builds on the dice rolling mechanics of Pack It Tin.

Instead of packing a case, however, you’re programming in actions, and then drafting dice to perform those actions as best you can.

 

I used to love Mech-Warrior, and this game I’d be aiming to get a similar feeling.

 

POCKET STOCKS

1-4 Players // Stock Market Bidding and Set Collection

I’d like to develop this further.

So far, it’s a mint tin game where players will be buying sets of stocks from different sectors.

 

Different events trigger stocks to fluctuate.

 

At the end of the game, the value of those stocks will determine the winner – just be careful, buying too aggressively can plummet the value of your stocks.

 

DIRTY LAUNDRY

2 Players // Clothes Hanging Dexterity Game

Sometimes game ideas come from finding cool resources to inspire you. I found a bunch of multicoloured miniature crafts pegs, and the laundry idea came to mind.

One player wears an eye-mask and has to find and hold certain clothing, determined by a die roll.

The other player has to guide the blind player to hold the clothing near the clothes line, and then place a peg in the right place on the clothing.

 

After a first prototype and play with Liana, we had a blast.

When I get more time (and learn how to make a little clothes line), I’ll pick this one up again.

 

TINY TRAWLERS

2 Players // Push-Your-Luck Fishing Game

Players take on the roles of trawler fishermen, raking vast amounts of fish from the oceans below.

 

So many fishies!

 

Collect your bounty of fish, deliver them to the port, and upgrade your ship and gear.

Overfish, however, and you could be in for a bad surprise when your permit gets revoked.

 

EXTINCT

1-2 Players // Network Building Evolution Game

I like games where you try to build a network.

What about one where your network routinely gets interrupted by cataclysmic events?

 

This naturally led to the idea of an evolutionary web, where monumental disasters can make a lot of the animals you evolve into extinction (unless you prepare).

 

FTL

1 Player // Space Exploration and Ship Management Game

Finally, this is the big boi I’ve been working on for a while (and probably will be for much, much longer).

If you’ve played the popular space game FTL (Faster Than Light), then you’ll understand my angle with this game.

 

I’m keeping details for this one low key while I develop the rules, but here’s a sneak peek photo of me playing it on a coach up to London.

 

You know me and dice games!

 

There are a bunch of new mechanics I’m introducing here; building upon the drafting mechanics from Pack It Tin (I’ve got a lot of mileage out of that game, evidently).

 

Once I’m able to clear some of the work getting Tinderblox in front of publishers, it will be taking up the majority of my time.

 

 

🔧 MY TOOLS

As I got further and further into making games, I acquired a lot of tools to help me produce better prototypes, faster.

Considering I was starting from scratch, each of the following tools offered a huge productivity boon when I first got them.

 

You can’t knock good ol’ pencil and paper!

You obviously only really need a pencil, paper, and a bit of creativity to really get started though – don’t let not having the ‘right’ gear stop you from starting!

Physical

  • Cheap Printer with 6 months ‘Instant Ink‘ trial – I kept my subscription after, as it’s pretty good).
  • Mechanical Pencils.
  • 30mm Ruler / 15mm Ruler / 10mm Ruler with stencils cut into it (honestly, this is my most used piece of kit).
  • Various stencil sets.
  • Paper Guillotine – a time-saver to the max.
  • Craft knife and cutting mat.
  • Selection of Mint tins and magnets – A brilliant Christmas gift from Liana, I now have the ability to make loads of game prototypes.
  • Various paper and card – Mainly white, lots of different colours too.
  • A few dot matrix notebooks – Dot matrix ones are the best, as you can make neat notes, while easily sketch out designs, tables, and whatnot.
  • Organiser – I use a folio folder to slot in my paper notes and prototypes.
  • Glue / Double sided tape.
  • Loads of multi-coloured dot stickers.
  • Sharpies – 28 different colours

 

Digital

  • Bohemian Sketch – I use this for all my digital designs. It’s pretty easy to get to grips with, and as a graphic designer, I use it in my job a lot.
  • Photoshop / Pixelmator – Very rarely, I’ll need some tools from these design systems. Usually, I stick to Sketch, though.
  • Google Docs / Sheets – You can’t knock a good ol’ office suite online. Useful when you want others to check your work every now and then.
  • Trello – This is how I organise my game design projects these days if I think they need to be properly organised.
  • Scorepal – Nifty little app that lets you track scores on the games you play. I started out using it with my gaming group, but now I mainly use it for recording playtests.
  • Phone Notepad – I keep a few notes on my native notes app on my phone. Useful for when inspiration strikes, but a pen and paper is nowhere to be seen!

 

Me using Sketch in a Cafe.

 

Wishlist

  • Laminator – To prevent some prototypes from getting ruined by another spillage accident!
  • Laser printer that can print double-sided.
  • Business card printer – useful for rapid prototyping cards.
  • Printable labels.
  • More storage space!
  • A career in game design – Anyone wanna collaborate with/hire this fine fellow? 😉

 

🗣️ FINAL ADVICE

I thought I’d worked on a lot of game ideas in this past year, but writing them down has really highlighted to me how busy I’ve been!

 

It’s clear to me now that no game was a waste of time.

Each one took me further and further into my other ideas, even if I never finished them.

 

So after all that, I stand by the original advice I posted way back when I first started developing games a year ago:

 

Get your ideas from here 🧠, to here 🖐️, so they can eventually get out here 🌍.

 

How else are we going to get to share in the amazing experiences your creative games could offer?

 

 

Thanks for reading this very special post on my One Year in Game Design. If you read through all of this, I hope I’ve sparked a little confidence and creativity for you to go and make your own ideas a reality.

Feel free to drop any questions or cool things to share at [email protected] or on my Instagram. I hope to play some of your games one day!

 

Until then, here’s to another week of tabletop titillation.

 

– Rob Sparks (@boardgamebud)

📌💡🎲🔧🗣️