Some ideas, some components

Post by: Grant Rodiek

I'm in a fun brainstorm phase lately that's more or less throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks. Semi-cooked spaghetti, obviously. Uncooked spaghetti just smashes and scatters.

I'm brainstorming to create two games, NorCal, and my new card game for my Skillshare class. I also bought a lot of neat components from a teacher's school supply website. These three things combined have led to some neat ideas I thought I'd write about. Not for any purpose, merely that chatting about design is fun. Perhaps it gives you an idea which you in turn share with me?

Pieces Proof of purchase!

Note: If you're interested in getting the component I talk about, click the section title to be linked to the store!

Fraction Dice


Check out all the amazing dice possibilities at the store! 

The fraction dice spoke to me when I was browsing the catalog. Ideas immediately began filtering into my tiny, tiny brain. A few of my ideas were:

  • The top number is the number of cards you take, with the bottom being the number of cards you draw. Ex: 1/3 means I draw 3 cards and pick one. 
  • Roll a set of them and combine 2 or 3 to create a whole number, or a different fraction. It's a bit mathy, yes, and you'd need to make sure the fractions are compatible.
  • If you had a game with a bunch of cubes, such as an army, or workers, you could roll the dice to see, out of a set of workers (the bottom number), how many you do something with (the top number). This is similar to the cards idea. For example, you roll a set of fraction dice in a battle. If you have a large force, you only lose 1/12. But if you have a smaller force? Attrition is high at 3/4.
  • To take the combination idea further, you could combine dice over the course of multiple turns to see the progress of your crops or a building. You could even allocate them to multiple projects. For example, I'll completely 75% of the building for this farm -- it's a high priority. But, my dockyard only needs 10%. It's a lower priority. This would work somewhat like Alien Frontiers in that you assign the dice, but you're assigning progress, not a binary output. This could work well for NorCal.

What would you do with fraction dice?

Dice Domes


I bought these with the hope they were pop-o-matic dice domes. I secretly knew that wasn't the case, but hoped it would be so. These dice domes ARE convenient for a few reasons.

  • You can roll dice silently because the dice are foam!
  • You can roll a large number of dice without scattering around the table. This could be really useful for a component heavy game when you need to roll more than a single die and don't want to "splash the counters."
  • You can easily add and remove dice by removing the bottom of the container.

Now, that last one could also be done by picking up a certain number of dice into your hand and rolling them. I get that. But, the domes have inspired a few ideas.

  • In a game like NorCal where you're building structures, I thought the domes could represent the structure and the dice the output. For example, you have a tiny farm. You place a green dome on the map with a single die. This adds a layer to the map, is easy to see. When you activate the farm, you pick up the dome and shake it to see the output. If you upgrade the farm, you add more dice. The domes help you easily organize the components based on their location and output. You don't need to worry about dice scattering or constantly rechecking what to roll. 
  • You could remove the dice and instead place cubes to indicate the number of people or items in storage or a city. This dome is a capital. It has N people.
  • You could remove the bottom and the dice and use the domes in a game about terraforming a planet like Mars. You place the domes on top of a token (i.e. cubes) to indicate "these people have air." This could be fun in a Total Recall like situation. "Give theeese people ayur!"


Mechanically the dome hasn't given me too many ideas, but presentation-wise it has my mind spinning. What can you think of for the domes, or domes with dice?


After York, I think of cubes as workers more than anything. In York, your units were your resource, as you needed them to win battles and hold territory. In one case, forts, you also needed them to build. For NorCal I thought about expanding this mechanic. For example, you require a number of cubes or spent cards to build something. A farm might cost 3. If you have 3 cubes at that location, you can place a fort. Or, if you have 1 Cube, but expend a card with the value of 2 (2+1 = 3), you can build. This creates a dynamic of logistics and maneuver (getting guys to the build site) versus spending cards that could be used elsewhere.

Would that be worker placement? Or...worker movement? Probably a stretch of that term as worker placement, to me, is beautifully simple. Place/remove a thing, get an output. This is move guys to do a thing. Maybe?

Have you thought of anything fun to do with cubes lately? Other than eat them, of course.

Eraser Dice


I love these. Holy smokes I love love love these. These dice are big, which is good because I was worried about smudging when I bought them. I think you could make a game with JUST these dice and a marker.

  • You create a dynamic Rory's Story Cubes where you write the history of your story, through images, as you go. It could be about memories. Example, your house caught on fire. When you roll that, you mention something about it. Who knows?
  • You're wizards! As you learn new spells and magic, you draw the symbols on the dice. You could then have cards in front of you to mark what the spells actually do.
  • As you build farms (like with NorCal or something) you add symbols to the dice. Be careful, as you have limited sides! Every player customizes the dice based on his current setup.
  • In the example above, instead of rolling the die, you shift it to a side to the next. So, there's a spatial combo element of putting harvest after plant, otherwise you have inefficient twisting. It's like a rondel in a sense, but based on a cube.
  • As your army grows in power, you write bigger numbers on the die. Oh, you have a great general? Turn that 1 into a 2. You added air support? Write a second 2 on the 2 face, so now you attack 2 Units at a 2 strength.

This is maybe my favorite component ever. After playing a great deal of Saint Malo the ideas are going nuts. I assure you, I'll use these.

What would you do? Hell, what can't you do!

Terrain Modifiers


Remember transparencies and overhead projectors in elementary school? When I saw these shapes, I started thinking about how those could work on a game board.

Imagine if you had shapes in different colors. If you create irrigation infrastructure, you can place a blue transparent shape on top of your farm land to improve its output. If you add a patrol, you can put a yellow one to indicate the effective radius. If bad guys are attacking, you can put a red circle to show the danger region.

These transparent shapes would give you an easy way to add texture and "states" to a game map without too much complexity. It would look cool, as if you were examining a heat map in a game like SimCity or Tropico on the PC (see above).

You could even have color wheel-like matching. For example, mix irrigation (blue) and sunlight (yellow) to naturally create green, which would be super fertile land.

What would you do with transparent shapes?


Final parting note! This collection of old Soviet board game images circulated the social space quite a bit. I love them and think the style would be great for NorCal. It's a similar time period and the propaganda vibe is perfect for someone trying to carve out sanity in a harsh, new world.


The transparent shapes are exciting to me. I love the idea of stacking things on top of each other and still being able to see what's below. My not-so-secret desire for Voyager is to have transparent planet pieces, so when a planet's orbit passes over a map hazard, the hazard still applies in addition to the planet's gravity. Or when two planets are close enough that their gravity wells interact, you can see both without lifting one tile off the other.

I also love the dry-erase dice. Instead of the usual mechanic of being able to turn a die over to increase its value, you can now dynamically change a die and affect all future outcomes.

Very cool stuff.

Mixing and matching the different orbital properties is fantastic.

Really cool! Powerful decisions, yet really simple and elegant. Thanks, I may try to use this somehow.

Drawable dice could be the next deck builder mechanic. So many ideas...

Cool theme and fun component!

Great post; I'm definitely envious of the marker dice, will have to check those out :) As for my own component meets game design inspiration, I recently bought mini popsicle sticks and popsicle sticks of different colors, thinking that they may come in handy one day. Turns out they did, as now I'm going to create a modular game based on cave spelunking, using the popsicle sticks as ropes (mini ones), and bridges :D

Dynamic dice seem really neat. I instantly see the abilities like:
Add +1 to one of your dice faces.
Add +3 to one of your dice faces and -1 to another.

Early vs late stratagies:

-1 from one of your dice faces gain X resource.

Passive effects:
Whenever you would lower the value of a dice face gain X resource.
Whenever you would effect more than 2 dice faces you may add +\- 1 to one of them.