2014 Year in Review: Part 2

Post by: The Design and Publishing Community!

I asked the community to tell me about how their year went. What did they learn? Where did they succeed? Where did they fail? Hopefully their stories below are interesting, insightful, and fun. Tell us what you think below. You can read Part 1 here.

Editor’s Note: I took some liberties to edit a few of these posts down. I tried my best to preserve content, but many of the submissions were about twice as long as I expected. 

Gil Hova

2014 was the most insane year I’ve ever had as a designer. In January, I initiated the 4P challenge. It’s a response to National Game Design Month, which I think is well-meaning but does not help designers as much as it could. I successfully play tested one game four times in a month, which started to get me into a rhythm where I expected to test my games much more frequently than before.

In April, I attended my first Gathering of Friends, after three years of trying to get in. I attended all 10 days and play tested The Game Formerly Known as Prime Time 12 times. It was absolutely amazing.

In August, my girlfriend’s father, a copywriter for Big Pharma, offhandedly mentioned that a fun party game could have players trying to advertise crazy drugs. The germ of an idea didn’t leave my head, and pretty soon, I was testing a new party game, Bad Medicine. It was around then that I made the crazy decision to self-publish Bad Medicine. It’s going to be an incredible amount of work. I can’t wait.

Credit Debbie Ridpath Ohi, ©2014

In September, my second published game, Battle Merchants, was released by Minion Games. It looks beautiful. I started frenetically demoing the game everywhere I could.

This month, I will finally start working on making a mobile version of my first published game, the word game Prolix. It’s a project I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve finally cleared up enough time for it.

I’ve also started co-designing a non-sighted game with Richard Gibbs of 64 Oz Games. I’m averaging about one play test per week. And I might even have time left over to put together my game for next year’s 4P project…

  • On the web at http://gil.hova.net
  • On Twitter at @gilhova

Joshua Buergel

My 2014 was a year of restarting. I got into game design seriously around 2000, developing a couple games for GMT, developing and publishing a friend’s design, completing a batch of card game designs, and getting a handful of others into late prototype stages. However, in 2003, a stretch of unemployment brought me up short with that hobby, and in 2007, my first child arrived. While I never stopped playing and buying games regularly, and never stopped thinking about design, I didn’t really do anything for many years. At the end of 2013, a conversation with our estimable host here about a Dice Hate Me game design contest led me to start thinking more seriously. A germ of a design had appeared in my head, and it wouldn’t go away.

I still didn’t do that much with it right away, but it did keep percolating. There was more to come, though. In February, Grant reached out to me to take a look at a game he was calling “Wizard Poker”. I’d been helpful with comments on his contest entry, and he was curious what I thought. I made comments. I made more comments. I edited. It wasn’t long before I was developing then game, then co-designing. After a long fallow period of no design activity of significance, I suddenly found myself seriously working on a game, which became Hocus Poker. The flood gates were open again.

In addition to Hocus Poker, featured in many articles on this blog, I started and got quite far with Killing Monsters and Taking Their Stuff. I created a game originally intended as a companion game for Hocus Poker and also got it into a playable prototype, called Wiccage. I cleaned up and finally released an old design called Foresight, available now via Drive Thru Cards. I also have an ambitious project under way with Grant which we haven’t been talking about too much, and even restarted my blog. I got involved on Twitter. I ended up with a design partner that I work well with, which is quite fun.

Basically, I completely restarted the design side of the hobby in 2014, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I hope to publish multiple designs in 2015, and with luck, start a few more. Why, I just had one come to me the other day…

  • Online at http://houseofslack.com/
  • On Twitter at @JoshuaBuergel

Matt Worden

Right off the bat, I need to say “Thank you!” again (and never able to say it enough) to everyone in the gaming community that sent well-wishes, prayers and gifts in my direction while I was dealing with my medical issues for the first three-quarters of the year. The support was overwhelming and I will never forget it. Now that I’m on the good side of all that went down, I am even more excited to be part of what goes on among these people.

As for actual game-related accomplishments this year …

Dicey Curves, Deluxe Edition: In March, I was able to re-package Dicey Curves and its DANGER! Expansion into a single box as the Deluxe Edition. Part of the process included changing the artwork on the cards (much better now) and re-doing the expansion to use bits on the track instead of just cards.


Aether Magic: After signing my game “For Goods in Honor” with upstart publisher, Happy Mitten Games, during the back half of last year, the development process of the game — including a full theme and title shift to “Aether Magic” — has been an interesting creative challenge. The changes have led to a more robust game with a bigger commercial potential. Jeff, Kyle, and Lee are good folks and are really prepping this to be a success. At this point, the first sets of artwork are being finalized and the sneak-peeks I’ve gotten look really good.


Protospiel-Michigan: In July, I was able to make the single game-related trip of my year, as I road-tripped to Protospiel in Michigan. Along the way, I picked up Jeff King (from All Us Geeks), Jason Glover (from Grey Gnome Games) and David Sheppard (known to all as “Sheppy”). Without any hint at sarcasm, I can truly say that the conversations on the car ride were both entertaining and educational. The knowledge and creative energy I was able to glean were incredible.

While at the spiel, I was able to get my Abbottsville prototype to the table, which led to a long-legged series of inside jokes about punching pumas. I was also able to see a ton of interesting games, talk with a ton of creative and interesting folks, and take part in the mutual help in advancing game designs that are the hallmark of these sorts of get-togethers.

I say this all the time, and will take a moment to say it here too. If you are a tabletop game designer, please make it a priority to attend a Protospiel/Unpub type event. You will gain from being there, and others will gain from you being there too.

As we get close to the end of the year, I am excited to be getting ready for a couple of big releases next year under my MWG logo, one set in the Land of Danger, and one having to do with Jump Gate. And no more unexpected medical issues. Right?

Chris Roberge

By far what I’ll remember most about 2014 will be all the great people that I’ve been fortunate enough to meet. I’ve been a gamer to some degree or another for as long as I can remember, but until recently my gaming circle had been mostly limited to family members and players I would see at occasional Meet ups. This year, I started to participate in local Protospiel and Unpub events, attended the regional conventions of KublaCon and CelestiCon, and travelled to the Origins Game Fair. Before being exposed to all of this, I had certainly heard or read stories about the enthusiasm and friendliness of gamers, but experiencing it first-hand has been truly fantastic.

Grant was the first person I met with any kind of direct connection into gaming as a business, and within a few minutes after introductions he was already becoming a guide, an advocate, and a sounding board. I soon found out that he wasn’t unique, though, as all of the players and professionals I would meet were eager to talk about their passion for games and how they could share it with others. Some of these people were designers of finalists for the Spiel des Jahres, publishers of products that had sold more than a million copies, podcasters and bloggers I had followed for years, but without exception they had no hesitation in sharing their time, advice, feedback, and encouragement. At the beginning of the year, I considered myself lucky to find time to get a few games to the table every month or so.

Now at year’s end, I have three designs of my own currently being evaluated by different publishers. Even if none of those games move beyond that step, I feel like the really important accomplishment for me has been entering into an entirely new level of enjoyment and participation within the hobby and the industry. Thanks to all my new friends, I’ve experienced what it’s like to be more involved in this great community, and I can’t imagine ever going back.

  • On Twitter @BGGChris
  • Online at https://sites.google.com/site/craneandmoondesignsgames/home

Dave Chalker

At the end of 2013, around when I was sending in my last recap, I was on a streak of really focusing on tabletop games, after a lot of my other game-making commitments had tapered off. I think it really paid off to be able to focus on that, and at the same time, I decided to try and attend more public game design events to get my works more out there. I’m happy with my output and situation for the most part, but the road certainly hasn’t been a smooth one!

To start with real quick updates from last year’s set of games:

Heat, my newest game coming in 2014, was one of the two games I was showing off at Unpub 4 to pretty good reactions. I ended up signing a contract for publication while at the convention after one play. However, once the publisher got it home, they changed their mind, and after a series of email discussions, I took the rights back. While lamenting that online, my friend Chris of Asmadi Games asked to see it, and liked what he saw. He’s been great to work with, and really helped develop it into a great final product. Heat Kickstarted in June, and should be in people’s hands in the next month or so.

Spell Dice I renamed to Village Dice, since the fantasy theme was proving problematic, and also moving to a more traditional Euro theme made naming the resources and buildings easier. It was the other game I brought to Unpub 4, and reactions were very polarized on it. Most people loved the core of the game but had been expecting a lighter, less downtime game because of the colorful dice. I made some major tweaks to the buildings themselves, while keeping the core the same, changed the name to Market Square, and brought it to an Unpub Mini event. Reactions were much more positive there, and I ended up signing it to a publisher shortly thereafter.

Inside Joke was done before 2014, I was just debating what path to go with it. Party games are challenging to get picked up by another publisher nowadays. I focused on pitching it to more companies that I thought would be good fits. It’s in the hands of a publisher now who likes it, and we’ll see if that turns into a contract or if I’ll be back thinking about self-publication in some manner.

Now, onto newer games:

Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal is a game that popped into my head based on the title alone. It took a number of major changes before it became a compelling game. I was then invited to pitch to a specific game company, so I tuned the game in the direction of the kind of game they publish. It’s in their hands now, and waiting for a decision about it.

15 Minute Illuminati: I’ve been playing a ton of One Night Werewolf, and its game DNA kind of mixed with a conspiracy theme I’ve always enjoyed, while thinking about the parts of predecessor games I wanted to try and do something different with. This game has really come together quickly. The question becomes who do I pitch it to since it does come from these other games, will the theme have to change, can I make a game where you play as Chemtrails, etc. At least I feel like the game design is done.

I might have a really busy year of publications next year: possibly upwards of four new games in production, if absolutely everything fell into place suddenly. It’s an exciting time for me, but the life of being a freelance designer means you’re always pitching and scheming for the next thing.

  • Heat Kickstarter
  • Online at http://www.critical-hits.com/dave/

Teale Fristoe

Greetings from Nothing Sacred Games! 2014 was a big year because it marked the beginning of a serious commitment to ramping up how often I release games.

The biggest accomplishment was completing Shadow Throne. This drafting, hand management game of Machiavellian intrigue had a solid foundation at the beginning of the year, so most of the work on it in 2014 was development, fundraising, and final production. The Kickstarter, which ran in June, was successful, the game looks beautiful, and I’m very excited to share the final product with the world early next year!


My next game, Birds of a Feather, also improved by leaps and bounds this year. Honestly, much of the design work has just been slighting changing the number of cards and suits. I’ve also experimented with special rules, but they’ve almost all been scrapped. The core game is unique, accessible, and really fun, so it doesn’t need extra frills. I’m really proud of this one. Ping me if you’d like to try a print and play!

Next year, I’m hoping to release Birds of a Feather and Shifting Shadows, a stand-alone expansion to Shadow Throne. But I’ve worked on a couple additional designs this year to keep the pipeline full for the long term.

The first is a re-skin of a game I dropped when I started working on Shadow Throne. The original theme was fungus, which was controversial to say the least. The new theme is wizards trying to write the most influential book on magic. I think the new theme is a huge improvement, but the game has a long way to go. I wasted a lot of time coming up with thematic special rules before the basic structure of the game was ready, an amateur mistake. The next step for this game will be to greatly simplify the cards and try to pin down a solid foundation before I flesh it out with theme.

The second early game is one currently themed as tech startups trying to balance making money with being cool to attract talent. While the game still has a long way to go, I’m happy with how I’ve been handling the early stages of design, keeping an open mind and exploring many different core systems before committing a lot of time and energy to any one.

I’m happy with how 2014 went and hope to continue the trend next year!

  • Nothing Sacred Games: http://nothingsacredgames.com
  • Shadow Throne: http://shadowthronegame.com
  • Birds of a Feather: http://birdsofafeathergame.com
  • Twitter: @fristoe, @nothingsacredg

Chris and Suzanne Zinsli (Cardboard Edison)

For us, 2014 was a year of endings and new beginnings. The spring of 2014 saw the release of our first game, Tessen! It took a little over two years from initial concept, one year from signing with a publisher, and six months from the Kickstarter campaign funding. Seeing pictures of our game on store shelves and reading about people playing and enjoying it has been a highlight of our nascent design careers.

For most of the rest of the year, we put design on the back burner to focus on some family concerns. Then in July we welcomed the newest member of Cardboard Edison, our daughter Hana! Though we kept our own design work to a minimum, we still maintained our tips blog for other designers.

We’ve gotten back into the swing of things in recent months. Our design for Cottage Industry has undergone some major changes — most notably that it’s no longer Cottage Industry! We split the design in two, and re-themed the core mechanisms as Dubai. The new theme and tight mechanics makes Dubai a modern city-building game that is getting great feedback.

We plan to spend the next few months polishing Dubai and getting a couple of smaller designs in shape for Unpub in February.

We also have big plans in the works for Cardboard Edison. We recently asked the community for their thoughts on the future of Cardboard Edison, and we now have a solid grasp on how we can best serve the gaming and design community. Details to come soon!

  • Online at www.cardboardedison.com
  • On Twitter @CardboardEdison
  • The Cardboard Edison Patreon Campaign

Corey Young

Anyone who follows me on Twitter is no doubt sick of me going on about Gravwell, so I’ll just touch on the highlights and surprises I encountered during the first year of its publication.


I didn’t anticipate the creative energy of tabletop players and fans. One player in Columbus, unable to get a copy of the game, made his own based on the images he found online, including a beautiful alternative board. He presented a copy of his handiwork to me when we met at Columbus Ohio’s Kingmaker’s game café.  A crazy clever Minecraft expert, @Adlington, built an automated Gravwell game. I definitely didn’t expect Gravwell to receive the awards and recognition that it did. Most notably, Dice Hate Me Games and Scott King each named it Game of the Year for 2013. Nothing had prepared me for the afternoon in late April when I saw in my Twitter feed that Gravwell was named a 2014 Mensa Select game. I really can’t imagine ever being that excited again.

Another big change was when Gravwell changed hands from Cryptozoic to Renegade Games. I’ll always be thankful to Cryptozoic for giving me my start in the industry, but I’m so happy with the direction Renegade is taking with the game. New art, a huge new print run and a fantastic new marketing push. We’re working on a much-requested 5-6 player expansion and some other expansions and variations.

My second game, Santorini, languished much of the year. I signed with a publisher during Protospiel 2013, but progress on it wasn’t what we were hoping. In September of 2014, I got the rights to game back. It’s now under consideration by another publisher.

Today, I’m busily working on One Way Out. This is my great white whale. It’s the biggest game I’ve done so far. I’ve been working on it for 4 years. It’s a 3-4 player “boardless” board game in which you play a timeless hero jumping from world to world every 15 minutes, racing through a pirate warf, then jumping to a crashing alien ship, then fighting your way out of a kaiju’s abdomen. One Way Out was with a major publisher several years ago, but it had crashed and burned in blind playtest. The endgame just wasn’t satisfying. It ended with a fizzle instead of a bang.

At Protospiel 2014, I was helping another designer with a similar problem. I came up with a solution that might work for his game, and in the process came up with what may be the solution to my own problem. Events like Protospiel and UnPub are invaluable. These kind of breakthroughs happen all the time when designers help each other.

Grant Rodiek (Hyperbole Games)

2014 once again reminded me that the road to success is long. I had a busy personal life. I became engaged to Beth, met my niece shortly after she was born, shipped The Sims 4 (I’m on the development team), and was a few miles away from the epicenter of the biggest earthquake since the big one in 1989.

I have three board gaming events of extreme significance to me. In January, after 4 months of consideration, Ignacy Trzewiczek of Portal Games signed Dawn Sector. Ignacy and his team make some of my favorite games. To receive feedback from Ignacy, Michal Oracz, or Michal Walczak (the lead developer on Dawn Sector and Legacy: Testament of Duke de Crecy) is awesome.

I’ve loved working with the Portal team. Ignacy has kept me involved with design. I can’t wait to move into a balance phase and see final graphic design and art. And Ignacy’s doing minis, his first step in plastics, for the game. Holy crap!

Shortly after this, I began working on Wizard Poker (now Hocus Poker). Because of it, I have a design partner in Joshua Buergel. Not just on this, but on a 2015 (tentative) project/experiment called Landfall and whatever else we cook up. Josh is incredibly cool and I hope to show up in Seattle for beer and an intense lesson on music in 2015.

Last month (November), I was about ready to quit Hocus Poker. We’ve tested it well over 100 times, run blind tests on previous versions, and we just seemed to be spinning. Then we tried a few changes and the game is quite fun. Pfew. The highlight was my family legitimately loving it over Thanksgiving. They don’t normally like my games. We wouldn’t mind finding a publisher for Hocus Poker, but honestly, we wouldn’t mind doing it ourselves. It’s a weird game.

Thirdly, I finally formed an LLC. I don’t see publishing as a job or a source of income. But, I’ve been making video games professionally for 9 years. I have this entrepreneurial itch and I want to see if I can do things right. I want to do things on my term, even if it’s only with 90 card games. Landfall will definitely be something we self-publish. Maybe Hocus. We’ll see what I learn.

I created no fewer than 5 prototypes that were horrible and burned. If you aren’t doing this, you aren’t experimenting enough. I do this every year and it’s good for me. I also made huge progress on Sol Rising, including completing the design of the entire persistent campaign. It was a great deal of work. Now, I’m in the hunt to work with a great publisher. We’ll see how that fares in 2015.

Daniel Solis (Smart Play Games)

Two years ago, I resigned from my day job so I could focus on freelancing and developing my game design catalog. In 2013, despite my best efforts, I didn’t release as many games as I would have liked. I had at least a dozen of 95% finished games laying around, but I couldn’t stick to a schedule to get them all to 100%. Also, there was the whole matter of paying the bills.

In January, I began a challenge to my own productivity. I decided I would polish up and release a new game each month this year on DriveThruCards, a print-on-demand card game printer and online store. My goal was simply to increase my catalog, build name recognition, and collect actual sales performance for my games to support traditional publisher pitches in 2015. It may not earn bajillions of dollars like a crowdfunding campaign, but it would also be way lower commitment.

When I first started selling games on DriveThruCards, my products shot up to the top of the seller hot list. But the site was new, so I had no context for what would be considered an objective “hit.” I figured any new designers coming to the site wouldn’t have much context either. So I bit the bullet and released my monthly sales numbers to the public. I was honest and transparent about my margins on each product and how much I earned. Folks seemed to respond well to that transparency and I saw small sales boosts after each report. Here are my averages for the entire year:

  • Monthly Gross Avg: $861.41
  • Monthly Earnings Avg: $261.75
  • Monthly Sales Avg: 103

I set my own margins for each product, meaning I can earn quite a bit from each sale even at a modest retail price, even during promotional discounts. However, POD has very limited reach at the moment since it’s too expensive to do traditional marketing or retail distribution. (Reasonably priced high quality POD tuck boxes are more difficult to get than you’d think.) Still, the most surprising successes came from overseas.

That plan about pitching to traditional publishers in 2015? Yeah, that kind of got sidetracked this Summer when Chinese publisher Joy Pie licensed Koi Pond. Shortly thereafter, Brazilian publisher Funbox licensed Suspense and Light Rail. Since then, I re-evaluated my whole model. (If you can call this experiment a model.)

I’ll still pitch in 2015, but I want to expand the offerings on DriveThruCards so I have more competition on their top seller list. If more top-level designers are on the site, it raises the credibility for my own products. I’m even going so far as to explore becoming a licensor myself, so I can give those games as much of a push as I’ve given my own. We’ll see how that turns out!

John du Bois

2014 was a weird year for me design-wise. Between my daughter arriving in February and major job issues in July and August, I didn’t feel like I got much done design-wise. And yet, I seemed to get work done on four games:

Something Old: Bread and Circuses is a social negotiation game was rejected by a potential publisher in 2013 due to lacking player interaction, and spent most of 2014 gathering dust on the back burner. However, I’m now working on a possible re-theme as well as adding “sabotage” cards (a la Cutthroat Kitchen) to the game to increase player options and interaction. Look for this game at UnPub 5, probably after hours.

Something New: Avignon is the only truly new game I’ve worked on in 2014, and it’s also the game I’ve learned most about game design from. In its journey, I’ve learned about the interaction between mechanics and theme, avoiding using too much card text, avoiding using too little card text, component cost, the average person’s ability to use spatial relations without a guide, and much, much, more. At the end, I had a 5-10 minute 2-player abstract with a Dark Ages Catholicism theme that uses “tug-of-war” as its primary mechanism. You’ll be able to see this game at UnPub 5.

Something Borrowed: Scapegoat is a social negotiation/storytelling game that I initially designed using components from Clue for Grant’s Classic Game Remix contest. In early 2014, it ended up being a finalist (but not a winner). Afterward, I tweaked the rules set to work as a game in Jason Tagmire’s Storyteller Cards: Fantasy. I’m still working on a way to get this to work as a game in its own right, because the game’s core story – the players worked together on a crime of some kind and have to give someone up to the police/mob/Illuminati so everyone else can get away with it – is just too fun to let die.

Something Blue (one of the socks in the game is blue, I promise): Odd Socks, a 2-4 player deduction microgame, started out my 2014 on a positive note when it was chosen as a finalist in the Dice Hate Me 54-Card Challenge. While it didn’t win, it was my first major validation that I’m working on games people want to play. I also took it to the Publisher/Designer Speed Dating event at GenCon, and I had a couple nibbles from publishers, but no sales. This year, it’s gone through various tweaks and modifications to strengthen the mechanics, and I’ve managed to make it small enough that I feel comfortable calling it a microgame – 18 cards is a microgame, right? I’ve got the newest iteration of the game ready to go to UnPub 5.

J. Alex Kevern


This year started on a good note, as I found of Easy Breezy Travel Agency was going to be part of the Rabbit line from Dice Hate Me games. This was my second signed game and my first one to hit Kickstarter, so that was an interesting and rewarding experience. It will be shipping to backers within the next few weeks, so I am looking forward to those unique ‘in the wild’ moments.

Within a few weeks after signing Easy Breezy, I also received word that TMG would be signing Gold West. It’s been an great experience working with Seth and Michael, and Adam has done an incredible job bringing the game to life through his art and design. We’re working on some ‘businessy’ things behind the scenes, but look for it in the first half of 2015.

Daxu will be coming soon from White Goblin Games — there have been some production delays, but in 2014 this was the first game of mine that I was able to see with finished art. That was a special and surreal moment for me, and I’m really grateful Klemens Franz (Agicola, Le Havre) agreed to work on it. I can’t share images yet, but I can’t wait for everyone to see how it turned out.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate this year. And there are more games on the way! I’m looking forward to UnPub in February and some more announcements coming soon.

Jason Tagmire

Looking back at 2014, I feel like it was a defining year for me, but in a mostly subtle, behind-the-scenes way. I had 2 main releases, but it was much different than last year where both debuted at Gen Con. This year, 5 Pixel Lincoln mini-expansions shipped to backers in September just missing the all-important Gen Con window, and just last week Maximum Throwdown: Overload (a standalone expansion to my card throwing battle game, Maximum Throwdown) was part of the super-secret AEG Black Friday Box. Having a secret game release was really interesting. You can’t hype it beforehand, so I just had to sit and wait with my lips zipped. And finally, the original Maximum Throwdown also ended up at Barnes and Noble, which is a wonderful accomplishment.

As for new stuff, Seven 7s was signed to Eagle Gryphon in January/February and should be out in 2015, 60 Seconds To Save The World has been signed but not announced so I’ll leave that up to the publisher, and secret licensed project that I’m co-designing with Jeff Quick is coming along very well. Those games have eaten up a good chunk of my year, but won’t be a factor until 2015.


On the publishing side, I’ve Kickstarted, fulfilled and released Storyteller Cards: Fantasy and Alex Strang’s Movie Plotz, expanding my Button Shy catalog quite a bit. In both of those projects I experienced working with other designers. With Storyteller Cards: Fantasy we made a manual with 20 games from amazing designers, and I worked closely with Alex in converting Movie Plotz into a tiny, little wallet game. Just having other people in the mix, took me outside of my self-publishing bubble and into a new world of ideas and opinions.

What have I learned? Well, I gained some confidence and feel like I can pitch and sell my games a little better than before. I HATE being a salesperson, but it’s a necessary evil of working in this business. I just learned to be myself and be honest and it goes a long way. I also worked on my first big co-design, which is very different than going solo. It’s great to see another side of things and try them out DURING the design process, instead of much later during playtesting. I think if you can get the right fit, where you share common goals, principles, and schedules (being local makes it a little easier too), co-designing is definitely a shot.

And what’s next for me? 2013 was all about getting myself out there. 2014 was all about getting my games out there. 2015 is about getting serious. Seriously pushing things from the publishing side, and studying the other sides of the business that happen before, during and after the game is designed. Just designing a game isn’t enough today. It’s just as much about who designed it and what they are doing to support it.

2014 Year in Review: Part 1


Post by: The Design and Publishing Community!

I asked the community to tell me about how their year went. What did they learn? Where did they succeed? Where did they fail? Hopefully their stories below are interesting, insightful, and fun. Tell us what you think below. You can read Part 2 here.

Editor’s Note: I took some liberties to edit a few of these posts down. I tried my best to preserve content, but many of the submissions were about twice as long as I expected. 

Paul Imboden (Split Second Games)

2014 was rough. I didn’t expect end-of-year accolades for Quicksilver.  Consequently, in some ways there’s been pressure to avoid a sophomore slump, and in others there’s been pressure simply to make ourselves known.  We planned for a Summer 2014 Kickstarter campaign for Paradox, which as you can see has come and gone with no campaign.

Split Second Games is essentially a two-man operation until it can afford to be a three-person operation.  Between a recurring injury and a day job that created more stress than cash this year, other things stole necessary focus in my life.  In addition, Randy started a fantastic day-job which will be launching shortly before Christmas.  Finally, gathering art from professional artists on the cheap means playing on their schedules.  So we played the waiting game for a lot of 2014.  On one hand, it allowed us to get more play testing and exposure; on the other, it hurts to miss a milestone.

Every project is constrained by fast or cheap or good. You get to pick two. We’re locked on cheap, and we won’t settle for less than good.  Therefore, fast suffers. It sucks, but the alternatives suck harder.

At the same time that we’ve been developing Paradox with Brian Suhre, three other game designs have been in development hell.  I had a “Eureka!” moment this month with Minimum Wage Gorilla courtesy of Ignacy and I’m planning to tweak away at a fourth major revision as soon as Paradox is locked.  I still have faith in Clandestine as a deckbuilder, just not in its current design, which will require another from-the-bottom-up rewrite.  Crokball will absolutely have to wait.

Having multiple projects in play is a double-edged sword.  It’s nice to have another target when you get blocked on Project A, but when you’re blocked on all of them it’s the worst; every insecurity you feel about one design exponentially increases for all of them.  It also fosters a pattern of never actually finishing a design, which is an awful pattern to develop.  The only thing that keeps you sane is the knowledge that you’ve done this once before, so you know it’s possible.

Hitting those developmental walls felt like hitting a workout or weight-loss plateau: fine for the first few weeks, but depressing by month 12. There’s that thing in life where folks consistently judge themselves on their internal process (which is messy and imperfect) while they judge others on their external output (which is high-gloss and perfect), and it absolutely applies to game design if you are me. You question yourself, your commitment, your reasons for doing this ridiculous thing.  Fortunately, more designers are being more transparent with their development process, and seeing the same sentiments in others, including the drive to stay true to their vision, is a second-wind generator.

Ignacy’s book was one of my few “must-buy”s from GenCon 2014, and it has already paid for itself in valuable insights. I highly recommend it.   RPG designer friends in 2014 also showed the same doubts, the same process, and the same path to resilience.  Faith is a hard thing to keep in a fickle industry that doesn’t pay much.  After a year of stasis and churning, I have faith in the future.

I wish there was something sexier to talk about than battling self-doubt, accepting the constraints in play, and appreciating the path I’m on and where I stand on it.  But that was my 2014.  Everything is difficult until it becomes easy.  I have faith in 2015.

AJ Porfirio (Van Ryder Games)

The big things that happened for Van Ryder this year are as follows.  First, we signed 2 games for publication. Salvation Road from Michael Kelley and Peter Gousis is a highly thematic co-op game set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Gunslingin’ Ramblers from Jason Slingerland is all about drinkin’, gamblin’ and shootin’ in the wild wild west.

Our second published game, Tessen, was released in March. It has been well received by gamers as a great 2 player game and we are pleased to have it as part of the VRG Library.

Finally, we had our most successful Kickstarter yet with Hostage Negotiator, our engaging solitaire game with a unique twist on deck building. Look for Hostage Negotiator in Spring of 2015.

Ed Marriott (Moon Yeti Games)


2014 was an amazing year for me. The highlight was that Scoville, my first published game, ran a highly successful Kickstarter. Tasty Minstrel Games has been a joy to work with. Joshua Cappel, who did all of Scoville’s art and graphic design, did an amazing job. I got to see and play a final production copy at Gen Con. It looked fantastic and I can’t wait for all the Kickstarter backers to receive the game!

The other main highlight is that my friends and I have chosen to start a publishing company of our own called Moon Yeti Games. We gave away about 100 copies of our micro-game, Mutiny, at Gen Con. The response to that has been very positive. And we’ve currently got a few games behind the scenes that we are tweaking and modifying as we are searching for our first big game.

  • @EdPMarriott and @MoonYeti on Twitter
  • Mutiny BGG Entry
  • Scoville BGG Entry
  • Tasty Minstrel Games on Twitter 
  • Moon Yeti website

Todd Edwards

The big news for 2014 is that I got a freelance board game writing gig with Nerdland Games for an upcoming Kickstarter project. I wrote some fiction to set the stage for their game, as well as character bios and flavor text for cards. I had a lot of fun doing the project, and I’m actively seeking more freelance game writing. If you have some work or know someone looking, you can contact me through twitter or my website.

I also took two big strides forward in my career as a game designer. First, I entered into a collaboration with a designer I respect deeply. It’s a secret project, but I will say that I enjoy working with an expert, and I’m learning a ton from the brainstorming and feedback. Seeing how other people design games is very educational. I highly recommend it.

Second, I remembered how useful it was to have a regular critique group back when I wrote novels. A local designer and I have started meeting regularly to critique each other’s works-in-progress. It is super useful to get early feedback on my projects. Also, helping someone else shape their designs to fit their vision trains you to spot problems that you are blind to in your own designs.

Jeff Large (Happy Mitten Games)

2014 was a roller coaster. For anyone who follows the podcast or the happenings of Happy Mitten, you know we’ve been working on Aether Magic. We signed the game from designer Matt Worden late Q3 of 2013, planned on a quick re-theme and hoped for a Kickstarter campaign Q4 of 2014.

Holy moly was our timeline off! Here are 2 of our major takeaways:

Re-theming a game is much harder than you think. If a game is solid, the mechanics and theme will complement each other well. A change to one will most likely affect the other. This was the case with Aether Magic. The theme switch to competing magi left a desire for more out of the mechanics. After some critical feedback from Origins, we worked with Matt to make a few significant mechanic changes and we’ve spent the past several months at GenCon, Protospiel, GrandCon, and local play testing sessions smoothing out all the development hiccups. Finally, in quarter 4, we can confidently say we have a stellar, complete, and well-developed game.

Do your research, but don’t forget to act. We’ve found it’s a balance. Despite interviewing over 40 board game industry greats, collaborating with other designers and publishers, and putting in hours of our own research, we continue to encounter questions. That said, as a publisher we have to move to be profitable and some things you can’t learn without acting on them. For example, we originally submitted an art proposal to Brett Bean after doing a lot of research of what to include. For reasons like scheduling, it didn’t work out but one mistake we did make was including too much information. We had 3 variants of the art we wanted and looking back on it now it was probably overwhelming for Brett. We took what we learned and applied it to the art proposal we gave to Jacqui Davis, our now signed artist. She gave us very positive feedback for having such a clear and concise art asset list.

As of December, we’re syncing up for a Q1 Kickstarter launch. Kyle is organizing international selling/shipping and the budget, while Lee and I focus on building the Kickstarter page and marketing. The game is complete and we have all of the necessary art finished. It’s really exciting to see this move closer to a reality and we are definitely equipped to streamline this process for the future.

Watch out 2015. We’re gunning for you.

Christopher Chung

In January I was introduced into the Game Artisans of Canada (GAC) as a Journeyman. The GAC is a collective of experienced designers and those with potential all across Canada. Not only have I joined quite an established group to share my prototypes with, I had a mentor in Joshua Cappel. I’ve also wanted to become an Artisan quite quickly, and in June, I did with the help of Blossom. This was my flower-themed, tile-laying prototype I had shown around to multiple publishers with no success.

I finished my degree in the spring, and I was concurrently working on a game called Full Metal Contact. Essentially it was an arcade fighter wrapped up in a board game. Real-time dice rolling, card-driven combat, and robots with huge weapons. That sounded awesome to me, and it became my primary game of this year.

I quickly prototyped it and with lots of input got it ready for Gen Con. I agreed to help out a publisher there in return for my Gen Con attendance. During my play testing period, I had posted the PnP files on Twitter, and I found an eager play tester in Randy Hoyt of Foxtrot Games. He gave me feedback from a designer’s point of view, and really enjoyed it with his son, but offered to look at other prototypes I had from a publisher’s point of view. I sent him Blossom, which he eventually offered to sign. With my network of friends in GAC, they helped me solidify the deal, and I finally had my first game signed.

Randy and I had a few ideas on how to change the game because he was not sold on it being a game about flowers – he had played it without a theme with playtesters. Once he suggested Lanterns, I was sold, and Lanterns: The Harvest Festival was born.

During Gen Con I entered the Publisher Speed Dating event hosted by James Mathe of Minion Games, and I must have shown Full Metal Contact to 15 or so different publishers. I had a couple of interested people, but it wasn’t until a few weeks or so after Gen Con that I had a publisher contact me based off my sell-sheet. I sent them a physical copy and am waiting to hear back from them.

I met Randy in person during Gen Con after the countless emails and video chats we’ve had leading up to it, and that made it all real for me. He was demoing Lanterns at the prototype hall, and the genuine reactions of play testers gave me goose bumps. People I’ve never met before really liked my game, and that was awesome to see.

After Gen Con, Randy had launched the Kickstarter campaign for the game, and I’ve never felt more accomplished as a designer, seeing all the excitement from backers. The campaign went amazingly, reaching the goal in less than a week, and reaching all stretch goals during the final days. Lanterns is going to be the best it can be, and I couldn’t have been happier when it was all over.

To summarize my epic year, the things I’ve learned were:

  • Be proactive with your social media and network. I would’ve never found my first publisher without Twitter. It’s sometimes not about what you know, but who you know too.
  • Be open to experiences. I wasn’t planning on going to Gen Con. Had I not, I never would’ve met Randy in person  and I would’ve never found the interested party in Full Metal Contact.
  • Be open to change. Your game will be better for it. I would’ve never thought of Lanterns as a theme for a game, but I’m glad it worked out so well.
  • Finally, be ready for the crash. After my success with Lanterns and hopefully my success with Full Metal Contact, there was a period where I could not think of any games I wanted to work on. I knew I wasn’t done as a designer, but it was tough to stomach my inactivity. I took a break from designing to refocus, and now I’m working on a few new prototypes that will hopefully take shape.

Randy Hoyt (Foxtrot Games)


I released my first game (Relic Expedition) to retail, as both the designer and the publisher. I also signed and raised funding for my second game as a publisher (Lanterns: The Harvest Festival). I learned a lot about making a game into a product for the marketplace, particularly in understanding your target market’s expectations for complexity, depth, playtime, theme, components, and cost. I learned how much joy it brings you when people you don’t know pay money for something you created and love it. I also learned that you can’t please everyone and that you have to have a thick skin if you want to make entertainment products for people you don’t know.

From a game design perspective, I learned how important and difficult it can be to design the end of a game correctly. It’s not primarily about length, though length is a factor. A game’s ending needs to fit with the game as a whole, evoking the same feel and motivating players to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Any weird end-game conditions that incentivize players to stall the flow or engage in a jarring game of chicken can pull people out of the experience — unless of course those fit the theme and the rest of the game play.

  • On Twitter @randyhoyt
  • Relic Expedition
  • Lanterns

Richard Durham

Back in January I started to design a quick game about detectives. Let’s call it, “Gumshoe.” It was the kind of game that went from zero to prototype in about 15 minutes. Hey, and it worked! But I wasn’t happy. I got all existential on the thing, and started asking questions. Gumshoe lived a short life. Probably about an hour. And you know what? That’s a-ok.

A month or two later, I had another prototype for a bluffing game. It got to where I could test it and it was good! Players enjoyed it, I mean. They wanted to give it another shot.

But I wasn’t happy. Another bluffing game? What was this adding to the bluffing game genre? That’s important to me, but it doesn’t need to be. It was perfectly fine the way it was. It was tight; it was full of layers; it made players scratch their chins. But here I was, wondering why I wasn’t happy yet.


I found out why I was designing. If I had known that I wanted to explore new states of play beforehand, I could have saved myself a lot of angst over the game.

Eventually this game lost the overt lying and morphed into a game where players did a bit of deduction, but where you could do just as well reading player’s intentions and behaviors. In other words, you could mislead opponents, without actually lying.

Themes are important. To keep focused on the play, I had used the generic theme of “royal court.” Talk about over-done. Hey, wait, this was a game with deduction and misdirection…obvious fit for that detectives theme I had used months before! If you’re not keeping a bank or database or drawer with papers sticking out if it, you probably should be. It helps, since I recycled more than just the theme. Elements from that initial detective game worked their way into this new one, you know, as they do.

All it took then was months and months of playing, tweaking, playing, tweaking, etc. It got to be such a small game – only 8 cards – that any change dramatically altered the way the game played out. Finding that happy place took a lot of playing from willing folks, some who ended with a different opinion of the game than I wanted. Not everyone liked it.

I came to accept this reality: It was a polarizing game, and that’s okay. The mechanics were tough to grasp at first. The cards had subtleties that didn’t come out until repeated plays. Partners were encouraged to share their information, which confused and even angered some players who thought detective partners should collaborate in silence. I’ll never figure out that one.

In the end I got a game that not only am I happy about, but I’m happy to share. I like to see the light bulbs go off when a player realizes that they could play that game completely differently and not only enjoy it more, but win — or at least not lose as badly.

This game became known as Dirty Little Secrets. It’s one I’m sharing now with the public for blind-testing, and eventually for the cheapest distribution methods I can use. If you’d like to give it a go, there’s a Print and Play version of it available in the cloud and soon on Board Game Geek. Please, if you like competitive games with partners, give Dirty Little Secrets a try. I’d love to hear what you think.

  • My email: richdurham at gmail dot com
  • @richdurham on Twitter
  • PnP files: located here On BOX

Entries Wanted: 2014 in Review


We’re in the final months of 2014, which means it’s a good time for reflection. In the past I’ve hosted community articles about the upcoming year, as well as ones about the recently completed year. This post is seeking submissions for the latter.

What did you accomplish in 2014? What did you learn? Where did you stumble, and how will you address it? What did you learn from failure? I’d love to compile a collection of these tidbits from our design community to share, enjoy, and reflect.

Here are some details about joining this post!

  • Deadline: November 30, 2014. That gives you a few weeks plus BGG Con to think on this and wrap things up. Of course, sooner is always appreciated.
  • How: Email me your submission to grant at hyperbolegames dot com. Bonus Points for putting “Community Feature” in the subject line.
  • What: Try to keep submissions to a reasonable length. I may have 5, 10, or 25 people participate. If we have 25, well, I’ll make it a week long feature. Ultimately, if you have a lot to say because a lot happened, and it’s interesting, then write it. But, be concise and aware that it’s a community post.
  • Additional Materials: A photo or two are encouraged! If you have a picture of a slick proto or a published game, share it.
  • Links: If you want me to link to your Twitter or Website or BGG entry, please include that. You’ll save me a lot of time chasing it down.

As a final note, keep tone in mind. I’d love for this to be more of an honest story to share. Please don’t send me a press release or sales pitch. Naturally, I’ll work with you as editor if anything seems off, but speak from the heart and share your story. Don’t worry, you’ll get some nice promotion just for being in the article.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns, use the email above or comments below to get a hold of me. Tell your friends about this – the more the merrier.

I look forward to your noble tales of triumph and failure. I know I have mine!

Eureka Moments

Post by: The Design Community!

I asked a handful of designers about eureka moments they’ve experienced in designing a game. Something that really opened their eyes to how things could work in their designs, or a way to solve their current problem in a magnificent fashion. Some of the examples seem specific to an individual game, but if you read into them, you’ll see broader themes that can apply to you. And in case you miss it, I break out some of these at the very end.

Note: To avoid a resume-like list, I simply introduced each participant with a single item. If you want me to mention another of your projects, just email me!

Ignacy Trzewiczek: Publisher at Portal Games and designer of Imperial Settlers

Let’s face it – I don’t believe in Eureka moments. I don’t believe that I will ever have this brilliant idea, that moment of enlightenment that will let me invent something that awesome like Worker Placement mechanism (William Attia in Caylus), Deckbuilding mechanism (Donald X. Vaccarino in Dominion) or Pay With Cards mechanism (Tom Lehman in San Juan). It won’t happen. I just sit on my ass and work hard trying to use already invented tools and mechanism to build something fun and entertaining. I have not had many Eureka moments in my life, and yet, I managed to design couple of fun games. So my advice for you is – don’t wait for Eureka moment. Just sit on your ass and work as hard as you can. That’s all you need.

Corey Young: Designer of Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension

Santorini resulted from a chain of eureka moments. The first came while I was playing around with some 1-inch lasercut hexagons I’d picked up at a game convention. It occurred to me that when I split one into 3 sections that each became an isometric block.


I started fiddling around with these, playing with M.C. Escher-like artwork. While I liked the mind-twisting aspect, it didn’t feel grounded in reality. My primary concern was that each tile had 6 possible orientations. I considered marking the top or bottom corner to indicate “up,” but all the markings were ugly.


Then, while doodling in my design notebook, I drew an elongated hexagon. BAM! That solved it. The hexes still interlocked, but now there were only 2 possible orientations. With minor visual cues, “up” would be obvious. In some cases, the tiles work in either orientation. The wider format also made the overall image feel less vertically stretched.


The last eureka moment came when I was trying to come up with a way of getting the tiles to stay together in the right orientation. My original prototypes were simply tiles situated on a tabletop. The inspiration for the inclined board came from a music stand.

Geoff Engelstein: Co-Host of Ludology and designer of Space Cadets

Notable Eureka moment: Making losing fun in Space Cadets. That was by far the last big feature to be added. We had played for years where to win you had this climactic ‘Jump’ attempt, with much yelling and screaming. But you lost just by taking too much damage, which usually simply came down to a die roll. Yeah, it could be a tense die roll, but it just wasn’t the same.

One time I ran back-to-back playtests with different groups. The first won, with much cheering as they jumped successfully. The second lost the game, and it just was like air going out of a balloon.  And the thought just popped up in my brain – “Losing needs to be just as exciting. There needs to be a minigame about losing.”  Very quickly we sketched out the criteria:

  • Needed to involve the whole team
  • Needed to be thematic
  • Needed to help save you from losing.

So you always had one last shot for redemption, and you had to pull together as a team to do it.

It took lots of tries to get something that worked, but ultimately the ‘Core Breach’ mechanic became my absolutely favorite part of the game. I think we really did make losing just as dramatic as winning, and it perhaps creates more stories than anything else in the game.

Joshua Buergel: Designer of Foresight (Coming Soon)

One of my favorite eureka moments came on Foresight. I’m a huge fan of Uwe Rosenberg, especially his early card games. One of the things I enjoyed about them was the unexpected ways he used them. Things like not being able to sort your hand in Bohnanza, or the rotating hands in Space Beans. At the same time, I read an article by James Ernest about creating games that break implicit rules, the things everybody knows about games and game components. I think it was written about the extra turn mechanic in Spree, but I thought it was interesting. Since I’ve been a lover of traditional card games all my life, I decided to see if I could apply those principles, unexpected use of cards and breaking implicit rules, to a traditional pack of cards. It hit me in the shower one day, finally. The implicit rule I should break would be that all cards in a poker deck have the same back. If I broke that rule, what could I do? From there, the idea of putting suit information on the back of the cards came about very quickly, and I had my deck of cards in essentially its finished form.

Gil Hova: Designer of Battle Merchants

My journey so far has been a bunch of smaller eureka moments. I’ll highlight two that stand out, though.

The first came relatively early. My first few designs were simple bluffing games. At some point, I realized that I hated playing bluffing games! I was still new to board games in general, and it was a big shock when I realized that the games I liked the most were not always the games that everyone else liked.

We all play games, but the kinds of games we enjoy are all so different. They offer experiences ranging from contemplative thought to cutthroat bitterness. Not every game is going to appeal to every player. Once I realized my favorite games were deep economic Euros, I was able to focus my designs to what I liked best in games: making interesting plans and executing them around other player’s plans.

The second came much later. I was chatting with another designer over Twitter a few weeks ago, and we discussed the traps our early designs fell into. His fell into the “this card forces you to discard your hand, the next card forces you to lose your next turn” trap. Mine fell into the “roll dice to see how many dice you roll” trap.

Both traps use gaudy mechanisms to obscure player interaction. They seem like they add interesting and meaningful gameplay at first, but in practice, they actually obscure it. It took me a long time to learn how opacity and transparency affect game design. They’re both useful tools, but as a new designer, I tended to toss opaque mechanisms in just because they sounded cool, without realizing how much they pulled players out of the game.

I was lucky enough to fall into the NYC-Playtest group, who repeatedly urged me to cut useless mechanisms and to not be afraid to make radical changes. Prolix, my first published game, had an awful, clunky letter movement mechanism that didn’t actually add any value to the gameplay. Once I followed my playtesters’ advice and cut it out, the game started to really sing.

AJ Porfirio: Publisher at Van Ryder Games and designer of Hostage Negotiator

It was realizing that my game could not be all things for all people. There will always be someone who doesn’t like your game. When I started out, it was painful to hear the tough criticism and sometimes very harsh remarks. Over time, I’ve come to realize that it is ok that everyone does not like a design or publication of mine. What is important is that the target audience DOES enjoy it. So in a nutshell, know who your audience is and make design decisions with them in mind!

Todd Edwards: Writer of the Nerni children’s books and designer of Streets and Sidewalks

There I was, working on a solo combat game to take with me when I traveled. That meant the enemy AI needed enough attack variety so that I wouldn’t be able to predict what was coming, you know, to make it more like playing against a person. So I added cards and added cards until I had 120 or more. The game got too big to fit in the small travel box, which defeated the original purpose. Then I remembered my brief brush with combinatorial chemistry back in grad school. What if each card had two bits of info, and you drew two cards for each attack? Then you can have a much bigger variety with a small amount of cards. Then each enemy got five cards. Not only did that make the game portable again, but it let the AI build combos with the attack from one unit and the modifier from another. The AI felt more like a human opponent and the game turned out better than I’d hoped!

Daniel Solis: Publisher at Smart Play Games and designer of Light Rail

I was testing a bluffing/deduction game inspired by Liar’s Dice, where if you lost a wager you’d lose one card from your hand limit. If you ran out, you were eliminated. The last player standing was the winner.

Unfortunately, this led to runaway losers because a smaller hand size made it that much more difficult to make educated guesses about the overall game state. The game was too long and un-fun.

The Eureka moment came when a playtester suggested flipping the win/lose condition on its head. Instead, running out of cards is a good thing that you’re trying to achieve. This makes a natural catch-up mechanism as the player furthest in the lead has the least information to work with.

Since then, I’ve always kept an open mind about victory conditions when I hit designer’s block. Instead of wanting the most X, maybe you want the fewest? Instead of the tallest building at the end of the game, you want it tallest in the middle and then tear it down as quickly as possible? Sometimes there is a juicy design space in “shoot the moon” mechanisms, too.

Ed Marriott: Co-Publisher at Moon Yeti Games and designer of Scoville

My eureka moments are few and far between. But one moment of note was when I realized you could buy 1000 assorted cubes from EAI Education for around $20. That made my prototyping so much faster. I use the cubes all the time. It’s funny to me that sourcing components is my eureka moment so I’ll give another eureka moment.

When designing Scoville, I fumbled over the grid design for a while with how best to have it operate. When I stopped thinking about it and just chose the simplest method everything in the game fell into place. Sometimes it’s easier to just go with something and test it rather than toil over numerous design iterations in your head. Get your games on the table! You might be amazed at the results.

Kyle Hendricks: Co-Designer of Bountytown

When design started on Bountytown, it was originally supposed to be a Touch of Evil re-theme. My eureka moment was sitting in a meeting room at my day job, thinking about the core conceits of the game, and it hit me hard. The “spaghetti west” is always misrepresented as super white and male. Bountytown then took a MAJOR shift as the main goal was to provide a voice for often under represented folk. Because of that, we took huge changes with mechanics and breaking from our other “formulas” which made it what it is today!

Jay Treat: Designer of Legacy of the Slayer

For Cahoots!, the big eureka moment was realizing that instead of having one suit per player and fiddling with a formula for sharing points with opponents, I could have one suit per player pairing and the scoring would just work automatically. By challenging a core assumption about trick-taking games (that there are always four suits) and by considering my goal for the game rather than my current solution for it, I was able to simplify and innovate at the same time.

Legacy of the Slayer’s genesis was in the eureka of combining two solutions to problems I had with existing story games: Cards to focus the narrative on characters and their development, and a system to ensure that loose ends get addressed before the game ends. It’s important as a game designer to find what bothers you in the games people are playing and imagine solutions; That’s vital practice in developing the problem-solving skills you need, but also one of the better sources of inspiration. When a solution is so compelling you want to build a game around it—even better, when you realize you have multiple solutions that would fit the same game—the end result is likely to be a product that innovates in a way people enjoy (as opposed to innovation for its own sake which is often a dead-end).

Ben Rosset: Designer of Brew Crafters

I was taking a brewery tour at Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton Delaware and the owner, Sam, was so passionately describing how he grew the brewery into a thriving business in such a short amount of time, and talking about all the new equipment they were installing that year and about the new recipes they were researching, and then suddenly it hit me: this would make an amazing game! I went home and immediately got to work on what would become “Brew Crafters”.

Chevee Dodd: Designer of Pull!

I’ve always wanted to design a trick taking game. I love games with a “problem solving” aspect, and trying to deduce players’ hands to figure out the perfect play really excites me. So, I designed a trick taking game PULL! and that’s exactly what it was. A game where playing perfectly was a requirement.

The problem is, that’s not fun for most people. There’s a reason why Bridge isn’t heavily talked about with excitement among gamers… but Tichu is. So, during my weekly gaming sessions I started paying more attention to what makes Tichu “fun” for us. I found the answer during a particularly close game when one player was trying to go out first while setting up his partner. An opponent, who hadn’t done much the entire hand, suddenly throws out a bomb, which wrecked the brilliant play of the other. This happens a lot when playing Tichu, and it’s neat, but that wasn’t the moment.

Shortly after his bomb, the opponents threw out a bomb of their own. BAM! Eat that. Nope. Quiet guy calmly looks at his hand, and throws the rest down. He had an Ace high straight bomb! Just like that he went out, totally destroying his opponents and the table burst into laughter and mocking.

That’s what PULL! needed: an injection of coy little plays that could totally turn the game upside down. That’s when I went to work to make the game “fun.”

Grant Rodiek: Designer of Farmageddon

Early in Farmageddon’s life I was having difficulty solving the tuning of the Crop and Compost cards. You needed Crop cards to plant and Compost cards to harvest the Crop cards. I couldn’t get the distribution right! Players always had too many crops or too few compost, or vice versa. The thought occurred: why not let Crops be used as either? This solves the distribution entirely. In fact, it removes the problem. It also adds a nice little choice: how do I use this crop card?

Multi-use cards have since become a favorite tool of mine. They feature prominently in York, LF, and surely more to come. But, they are also a key element of my favorite games, including Race for the Galaxy, 7 Wonders, and Summoner Wars.

Secondly, and most importantly … I worked on York for years. The core mechanics didn’t change much, but I was constantly polishing barbs and imperfections. Smoothening and removing bumps. A friend noted I was going to strip the screw, so to speak. Over time, it became clear that I had sanded the game into a foundation. I had sought elegance at the expense of fun. Since then, I haven’t feared inelegance or “fat” as I think of it. As long as it makes sense, and increases the fun, I leave it. You can see these changes in Sol, which is full of fun items, Hocus, and LF.

Some highlights, in my opinion.

  • Don’t wait, but get busy on creating fun. The magic will happen as you work.
  • Losing should be fun too!
  • Don’t worry about making games for everyone. Make a great game for someone. Make the games YOU want to make.
  • New mechanisms can be found by breaking current rules and expectations. Break core assumptions to innovate.
  • Take inspiration from the world around you, be it flavors, sights, or key moments in your life.
  • The best doesn’t always have to be the biggest or most. You can win with the fewest or another less obvious fashion.

If you want to contribute your eureka moment, , or share in the comments below!

Looking Back on 2013


Post by: The Design Community

Early in 2013 I hosted a preview for 2013, a note of things (hopefully) to come. Now, as I wrote here, it’s time to reflect and reminisce on 2013. Scroll below and read updates from some of your favorite personalities in our community. If you want to join in, email me!

Happy Mitten Games // Jeff Large

Leandra, Kyle, and I have been friends, family, and gamers for a long time. The 3 of us have always had an entrepreneurial itch and have kicked around many possible ideas. Talks of starting a board game publishing company began in early 2012 and after almost a year of research and planning we officially launched the company in spring 2013.

It’s been crazy to see the progress we’ve made since then. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to give back before we asked for anything.  Thus, we consistently release a blog post or podcast episode sharing the knowledge we’ve gained and the insights from many other amazing people in the industry. In particular, our podcast has been very well received. We’ve interviewed a plethora of excellent people and in the past month, we joined the Dice Tower Network.

Along with giving back to the community, we knew building relationships would be essential to our progress and success. We have spent a lot of time meeting people on Twitter, via email, and at events like Gen Con, Origins, Protospiel, and GrandCon.

Finally, we’ve been working hard at finding games that embody our vision. We’ve had the privilege to evaluate many submissions and we’re happy to announce that we signed our first design (Details soon!). Along with this first game, we have a few other prototypes that are still being highly considered. Ideally, we would like to sign 2 or 3 games for our initial line up.

Although we feel really blessed with how things are going so far, we know there is still a long way to go. We’re excited for the work ahead and we look forward to continue earning your trust and respect.

Dave Chalker

At the time of the preview, I was working on two games, both for the possibility of self-publication depending on how it went.

The first, “Criminals,” was a co-design between my friend Kory Heath and myself, and continues to be a game I feel really strongly about. We made some tweaks since the 2007 version to address some concerns, and I paid for professional graphic design from Chris Yates, hoping to recoup the costs of the whole thing via DriveThruCards. I discussed in a blog post that didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped, and while writing that blog post lead to about 20 more sales, I’m still sufficiently in the hole and game sales are so inconsistent that I’m ready to say I need to do something else with it. As mentioned during the preview, I had hoped this would allow the game to be picked up for wider release. The game is now in the hands of publishers for review, and that process is slow yet ongoing.


Inside Joke

My party game “Inside Joke” was potentially going to be my self-published followup to “Criminals.” Since the money didn’t work out there, and since there’s a good chance “Inside Joke” would require lots more art and thus be even more expensive to produce, I’ve shelved that idea for now. I’ve pitched the game to my favorite party game publisher where it didn’t really hit. Since then, thanks to a game design retreat in June run by friends, I’ve radically simplified and made the game much more smooth and quick to play. Of course, you only get one chance to make a good first impression, so I might have missed my window with that publisher. I’ve also found it difficult to pitch party games, since I don’t have as many connections there versus more “gamer game” companies (and so many party games are designed in-house in the first place). I think the game is done: I just don’t know where to go next with it. “Inside Joke” and “Criminals” both I’m pretty sure would Kickstart well if I decided to go that direction. However, that’s a bigger deal.

Spell Dice

Spell Dice

During all this pitching, I’ve developed two new games: one whose terrible working title is “Spell Dice” featuring a unique drafting mechanism with dice, which is in for review at a publisher. And recently, I’ve designed a microgame I’m calling “Heat” that may be a better POD game, because of how few cards and components it uses.



Of course, I’m very fortunate that “Get Bit!” continues to be popular, and this year saw the release of the “Deluxe” edition with pirate stickers and a very nice metal tin (even if it can get damaged in shipping!) It continues to be a consistent seller, as ICv2 notes, and it might lead to even bigger things. The pressure is on for some kind of follow up, which I’ve tinkered with on and off, but I won’t release a substandard game and slap a shark on it, so that may be a while.

Ed Marriott // BoardsandBarley.com

Entering the year I had made it my goal to develop a solid game with the intention of pitching the game at GenCon. At the time I only had Scoville. So naturally I focused on that. During January and February I designed and tested it about 20 times. It tested well, but all my testers were friends. I sort of wanted to “validate” their feedback so I took Scoville to Protospiel-Milwaukee in March, where it was very well received. After Protospiel I was super pumped to have received the positive feedback and I felt confident that I could spend the summer balancing, prepping, and beautifying the prototype to get it ready to pitch at GenCon.

Enter Tasty Minstrel Games. I had previously met the guys at TMG and they asked about the game. I sent a prototype and things have been rolling along nicely. We signed a contract and the game will be on Kickstarter in November, to coincide with BGG.con. I couldn’t be more excited and I hope you’ll check it out!

In January I started my game design blog, Boards & Barley, where I discuss homebrewing and game design. I’ve enjoyed the response from the readers as they share their design experiences and stories. I’ve been amazed at the game design community and how awesome it is. You people are so cool! If you’ve read my blog, thank you very much!

Logo Revision Example 3
Quantum Orcas: This is a game that I designed on the fly for a “Design Me” article that I posted on my blog. It’s since taken on a personality all its own. Within 24 hours of designing the game it already had four playtests under its belt. Since then, I have been developing the artwork and playtesting the game. It is a 2 player game that takes about 10 minutes to play. It is light and quick while presenting enough strategy to keep people interested. My goal is to post this to The Game Crafter for POD service sometime in the next three months.

conclave-logo-v1-070213 Conclave: On the game front I designed a game called Conclave. In Conclave you are one of the preferiti, the Cardinals who are preferred to take the papacy. Your objective in the game is to manipulate the college of cardinals such that they elect you as the next pope. The game revolves around an area control mechanic where the control of different tables of cardinals is constantly changing. The downside to the design is that there is currently no build up in the game that allows you to do more things and take more awesome actions. I’ve had a plan for that since GenCon and I’m hoping to get to it in the near future. But before I do I am working on my current favorite design…

Brooklyn Bridge: My very first game design was a worker placement game about brewing beer. I never really did the design justice and it sits in my basement. Unfortunately now with Brew Crafters and the European Piwne Imperium out there I’m afraid my game, Brewmaster, will never go anywhere. So I decided to bring back the worker placement mechanic and design a game around the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a fascinating feat of engineering and discovery that I think people will enjoy as a game. In the game you represent a crew of workers and it is your job to be the best crew. The best is determined by who has earned the most money at the end of construction. Money is earned by sending workers to work on different parts of the bridge. If you send them below the waterline to work in the caisson they’ll earn more but the run the risk of being out of commission if they get caisson’s disease. Sending them to work on the towers has low income, but it’s income you can count on. The big part of the game is the materials office where you are competing to get the best goods possible. I’m very excited to see where this design goes and I think it has potential.

I think 2014 is gonna be a great year! I’ve been able to make tons of great connections with fellow gamers and designers and it’s an honor to even be a part of this article. Thanks, Grant, for putting this together!

Corey Young: Corey told a story for his. Basically, you’ll see his “chapter highlights” in bold, with details following. Enjoy this great tale! 

I signed a deal with Cryptozoic in the fall of 2012 to have my first game, Gravwell, published.

I pitched Gravwell to Cryptozoic at Gen Con 2013. One week later, they told me that they wanted to publish it. Other than signing the contract, not much occurred during 2012. The first few months of 2013 were pretty quiet. Matt Hyra, the Cryptozoic game developer responsible for refining Gravwell, did extensive playtesting, corresponding with me throughout.

In April, I started getting some updates showing the board, the ships, the cards and eventually the box. I was happy with everything I saw. The only change I recommended was adding infographic back to the board.

I got to meet up with a lot of great game designers around the country. I met Ben Rosset (via our mutual friend, David Miller) in DC, Ed Marriott, Brett Myers and John Kovalic in Madison, and Christopher Chung at Snakes & Lattes in Toronto.

One of the few perks of my all-travel-all-the-time job is that I get to meet my Twitter friends in person. Chatting with other game designers one-on-one is so invigorating.

Leading up to Gen Con, it did not look like Gravwell would be available for sale in time for the show.

The good folks at Cryptozoic told me early on that getting the game together in time for GenCon would be a stretch. They were confident that they could get a few copies ahead of schedule for demonstrations, but most likely not enough to actually sell them at the show.

I showed the first version of Santorini at an UnPub event.

On March 30th, Epic Loot Games hosted an UnPub event as part of their Tabletop Day celebration. I worked with John Moller and the UnPub folks to organize the event. I was there mostly as the organizer, ensuring that all the designers had enough players. The event was a great success. I got to play several promising games.

As the event was winding down, I brought out Santorini. I wasn’t sure that I would because I didn’t feel it was ready. I was mostly right. The early version still got good reactions for its visual appeal, but the game play, and my foam-core tiles, just didn’t work. I went back to the drawing board on the rules.

I also reached out to Chris Urinko for some new laser cut tiles and playing boards. I’m very glad that I did. The new components were ideal.

In July, I sold another game. This time at Protospiel.

I brought the new, simpler version of Santorini to Protospiel 2013 in Ann Arbor. There, I ran into two friends (and fellow game designers) Kevin Nunn and Mike Sullivan. They kindly sat down to try it out. Their suggestions from that first play pushed Santorini to the next level. We played again, and it really clicked. More people started watching. And queuing up to play. I was getting excited.

Then Uwe Eickert from Academy Games came by, put his hand on my shoulder, and said “I want to play that game.” A few minutes later, he was playing against another designer. As the game was winding up, Uwe said simply, “I want to make this game.”

Two weeks before GenCon, I got word that Cryptozoic would have copies of Gravwell for sale.

I hadn’t “happy danced” so hard since I got the initial “Let’s do this” email from Cryptozoic. Not only was my game going to be available at GenCon, but I would be there in the Cryptozoic booth, next to my friend John Kovalic (with his hilarious ROFL! Game), demonstrating and signing copies.

I got my advance copy of the game about the same time. I will always cherish the moment, sitting around our dining room table with my wife and kids, cutting the shrink wrap.

Best. GenCon. Ever.

As much fun as Gen Con is for a board gaming fan boy like me, it’s absolutely glorious when you attend as a published designer.

Of course, nobody knows you’re published, so it’s not at all about how anyone treats you. It simply changes how you look at everything. For starters, most of the pressure is off.  I was so happy to have no prototypes in my backpack. I could just wander the floor, chatting with my growing circle of game designer friends.

When I first wandered up to the Cryptozoic booth, I saw that one of their demonstrators was showing Gravwell to some players. I looked on quietly next to my GenCon wingman, Liam Harn. I was doing my best to play it cool, but the goose bumps were coming in waves. I must have looked like a fool with a broad, toothy grin on my face.

Cryptozoic had only asked me to demonstrate for a few hours on Friday afternoon. I just couldn’t keep away. Starting Thursday morning, I orbited the booth like a dog trying to get its master’s attention. Their demonstrators did an outstanding job. I’d jump in from time to time. I was happy to show the game to several podcasters and reviewers.

And I signed some games. Damn. That’s a great feeling. I tweeted during the con that if you found me, I would mod your rules to make them say that you go first. Eight people took me up on that.

I helped out during James Mathe’s Publisher Speed Dating event at Gen Con.

On Thursday evening, I helped James Mathe conduct the first ever Publisher Speed Dating event. It was four hours of designers pitching games to publishers. My job was to bark the time and keep things moving. I was so glad that Liam was with me because by the final hour, I was out of soundage.

I broke Twitter with all my Gravwell-related tweets.

In the weeks following GenCon, I polluted Twitter with links to all the kind things people were saying about Gravwell. I won’t repeat them here. I can’t promise that I won’t start that up again once the game is released to distribution. Cryptozoic is still reporting Q4 of 2014 for that.

Jay Treat

When I showed Intrigue off at Origins, a major publisher never quite got the game, and so I recreated it as The Art of War to simplify it a bit, and to make the schemes reinforce the subtle strategies of the game rather than add variance/complexity/interest. While I don’t enjoy that version as much, I do expect it’s a better game in the sense that it will appeal to more people. I also figured out how to expand the game from 3-4 to 3-5, which is a nice get.

Unfortunately, the feedback I gleaned from GenCon was that the game has no marketable hook. It plays differently from everything else out there, but how do you convince players who know nothing about the game that from the packaging? As such, this game is going into my pocket until a publisher who trusts me is looking for a card game.

Assault on Khyber Station is currently under consideration by a small publisher, but I recently tried reinventing it to see what I could improve. I learned why certain choices have to be the way they are, but I also found a few new options that make for a more thematic game. There’s more competition for aliens-on-a-space-station games than you might expect right now, but I think Khyber Station is good enough and different enough to stand out on its own. I’m building a big Lego version of Khyber Station. It should be functional in two weeks.


Apart from figuring out that The Last Planet could be a game of coral reefs competing for the bottom of the ocean over thousands of years instead of a tactical StarCraft tile game, I’ve made no progress. I only have so much time to devote to game design and I’ve prioritized projects that are further along and are easier to iterate on. I will get there, though. The concept is too good not to.The games I’ve been meaning to get to for over a year now, Black Hills & Hollywood Disaster, still haven’t been prototyped. On the plus side, I’ve been collaborating with Cardboard Edison on Rickety Bridge & Dino Alley. Whether either of those games go anywhere or not, the shared-design experience has been rewarding. I also have two games, Possibilities & Freudian Knot in Jason Tagmire’s recently successful Storyteller Cards manual.

Oh, and I almost forgot my untitled DBRPG. I haven’t tested it yet, but I’m signed up for two sessions at Metatopia next weekend, so hopefully I’ll see if it has potential or not then. Overall, I didn’t have as much success with publishers as I imagined I finally would, and I didn’t complete all the games I would’ve liked to, but 2013 was still a year of progress, learning and making connections, so I’ll take it.

Christopher Chung

The Bad: I talked about Bucket List as my newest design for 2013, and I was very excited to work on it since it used a theme that could invoke player emotions by wanting to accomplish the various tasks on the cards throughout the game. Although I did like the theme and the mechanic of drawing cubes from a bag, the game did not work well during playtests and I will most likely incorporate the mechanic in a future game.

The Good: I worked on several titles that I will be pushing hard in early 2014.

Polar Profits is a 2-5 player game where each player is a business tycoon trying to make money in the unlikeliest of places: The North and South Poles. Invest in companies run by animals and speculate on commodities like popsicles and ice cream. I will be looking for a publisher during the spring after more playtesting.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing is a 2 player game where each player is a sheep farmer trying to herd sheep while avoiding a hungry wolf. This game will be a chance for me to try out self-publishing for friends and family.



Blossom is a 2-4 player game, where each player is a gardener attempting to plant flower beds in order to pick flowers for bouquets in an effort to win a flower competition. (picture included) This game is the most polished and enjoyed by my playtesters, so I am currently approaching publishers with this game.

Chris & Suzanne Zinsli – Cardboard Edison (@CardboardEdison)

2013 has been a big year for Cardboard Edison. In January, we took our real-time card game Tessen to Unpub 3, where it was played by dozens of other designers and players–and a publisher. That publisher was A.J. Porfirio from Van Ryder Games, and he liked Tessen so much that a few days later he made us an offer to print the game!


We spent the spring and summer developing Tessen with A.J. Working with him is a real pleasure, and we’re a bit worried that he’s given us unrealistic expectations for future publishers! At the end of the summer, Tessen completed a successful Kickstarter campaign. If all goes according to plan, the game should be in stores in just a few months.


Since the Tessen Kickstarter ended, we’ve focused heavily on a new design called Cottage Industry. The game is about fairytale contractors who build up a magical kingdom while working within the kingdom’s strict regulations. It uses a few interesting mechanisms, like a storybook that changes the course of the game, and a version of worker placement that we’re calling “worker displacement.”

We’re bringing Cottage Industry to Metatopia in a few days, so we’ve spent nearly all of our spare time over the past month playtesting and tweaking. It’s a much bigger design than anything we’ve attempted so far, and we’re extremely pleased with how it’s developing.

We’ve put Skewphemisms on the back burner for the time being, until we’re able to make some contacts at mass-market publishers. This year we’ve also met so many great people, and we’ve been honored to play a lot of our fellow designers’ games. We’re excited to see what 2014 brings for Cardboard Edison and the entire gaming industry.

Nigel Pyne // Maverick Muse

At the beginning of the year I had one game I was intent on bringing to market – Of Shot & Blade. Of Shot & Blade is an adventure board game where two teams go head-to-head in a game full of action, magic and adventure. That’s the intention anyway.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself. As way of introduction, I’m Nigel Pyne, co-designer of War for Edath that was released in 2008, and I had been working on Of Shot & Blade for over a year with my brother – Lloyd ‘Ash’ Pyne – wearing the hat of Game Editor. Ash and I also created a different fantasy setting for the game – one that you can get to know as you play. And with him being our resident artist, and my wife, Debs, being an excellent Creative Director, we make up the Maverick Muse design studio (plus Mr Jones, the Schnauzer and Lieutenant Ripley, the Welsh Terrier).

Anyway, we began the year with the intention of conducting some final beta testing and then launching Of Shot & Blade on Kickstarter. And all was going to plan when, mid-year, the solution to a game design challenge I had set myself came into actuality. The challenge was to see if I could create a card game that could be played out of the hand with no surface required – think Top Trumps – but would have enough game and challenge to appeal to youngling and olderling gamers alike. I developed my design into a full-fledged game – Oddball Aeronauts.


In Oddball Aeronauts you go head-to-head in a game of high-jinks, airship dogfights in an oddball fantasy world. The oddball fantasy setting comes from the slightly off-beat mind of Ash who has also brought the world to life with his art. This game – being composed solely of cards – is a more appropriate game as our first Kickstarter launch and so we shifted focus to getting Oddball Aeronauts – and us – ready for Kickstarter.

Oddball Aeronauts is in the final beta testing stages (a page exists for it on BGG – the rules are there) and a free P&P is available for the curious, adventurous, downright nosey or just anyone really. Email if you’re interested – .

Meanwhile, in the mysterious mind of me, several other game designs have begun to form. Whereas at the beginning of the year I had but one design I was pursuing, as of now I have eleven (excluding Of Shot & Blade and Oddball Aeronauts) and it would appear that as a game design studio we are bringing our vision into fruition. We love creating original worlds and we love games with adventure so we’re bringing the two together.


I have developed another two ‘out-of-the-hand’ card games. Once Oddball Aeronauts has taken off (fingers crossed) we will see a line of such games coming into being. A common design element I seem to be fond of for our ‘bigger’ games is team-based gaming – two teams of one to three players going head-to-head. Curious! But it seems to be an under-explored area of board games so maybe I can carve out a niche here? Or does anyone have any idea why this type of game isn’t developed much?

In summary, 2013 has been a year of planning, progression, panoply – no, not related to Monopoly – and play testing. As for 2014? Well, I hope to contribute to Grant’s 2014 preview if he’ll have me back.

David Chott

Lagoon continues to be the only game I’m actively developing, as I prepare it for a Kickstarter launch in early 2014. It will be published by my own Three Hares Games. Here’s a current description of the game:

“Players explore the fantasy world of Lagoon with their druids by drawing and placing hex tiles that represent enchanted lands. Each site is inhabited by one of three ancient spirits that confer a unique magic power to druids in the site. Players shape the ever-changing selection of magic in the world by choosing which new sites to add, and which sites to remove by magically unraveling them. But every move alters the balance of power between the spirits, in their struggle for control of Lagoon’s destiny. In the end, one spirit will achieve primacy in the world, and the victor will be the player most responsible for bending destiny in favor of that spirit!”

I’ve run about 70 play tests of Lagoon to date, and the game system has not changed since intensive testing at GenCon in August. The core is solid. But there’s been a huge amount of experimentation with the magic abilities each site offers druids. Most of my efforts have focused on simplifying the action set. My goal is to make the game as easy to learn and play as possible, while preserving the most interesting choices the game presents players. But I’ve learned that determining a game’s target audience is equally important in this process so you don’t wander too far away from it.

I’ve learned a lesson about prototype iteration as well. Lagoon uses 24 double-sided hexagon tiles, so making prototypes is laborious. This led me to iterate less frequently than I needed to, until I realized paper-only prototypes worked almost as well as pasting the sites on rigid tiles every time. It really taught me the importance of removing barriers to rapid prototype iteration, since that’s critical to getting new changes on the table and testing them.

Two developments have been the most exciting for me. The first is that a good number of players really like Lagoon! It ranked number 3 on one reviewer’s top 10 games of GenCon, and a remote play tester I gained at GenCon recently told me it’s one of his favorite games. Second, I recently quit my job and switched to part-time consulting work so I can focus most of my time and energy on developing Lagoon and building Three Hares Games.

Michael Iachini

Chaos and Alchemy

Where things stood at the beginning of the year: Chaos & Alchemy had been signed for publication by Game Salute, and they were starting to prep for a Kickstarter campaign.

I had recently abandoned my National Game Design Month project, Gods & Champions, since it ended up exploring a concept that wasn’t as much fun as I had hoped.

I had an idea for a “worker movement” game that I began designing on January 1. I was hoping that this would turn into something fun, but I hadn’t actually done any design yet.

Looking back on the year so far: While the Chaos & Alchemy Kickstarter campaign from Game Salute ended up launching several months later than I was expected, it was a huge hit! The game raised over $40,000 with over 1,000 backers. The art is looking fantastic, and I’m excited to see the finished products in game stores and gamers’ hands next year.

Alchemy Bazaar Setup v0.62c

The worker movement game turned into Alchemy Bazaar. The design time on this one has been much longer than the ultra-quick process I went through for Chaos & Alchemy in 2012, but I think it’s going to be worth it. I pitched the game to several publishers at GenCon 2013, and I have three publishers who are interested (with a pretty good idea of which one is most likely to pick it up).

I also started a new design in March 2013 for a quick, light, cooperative game themed around mountain climbing, which I’m calling Everest. I pitched this to game publishers at GenCon as well, and I have one publisher who is deep into the evaluation process (they’ve paid to have some nice prototypes created via The Game Crafter, and those are currently with play testers), so there’s a real possibility I’ll end up with another publication soon!

Everest Board

Beyond that, I’ve done some design work on a game involving robots battling in an area (cleverly titled Robo Battle for now) and super-early design work on a game about building ridiculous mansions. I have a notion in my head for an adorable game for kids, but that one is just in the “in my head” stages for now. So, 2013 has been fantastic for me and for Clay Crucible Games!

Grant Rodiek // Hyperbole Games

2013 was a very challenging year for me, but it was the year where I figured out what I want to be when I grow up, so to speak. I believe the work I put into 2013 and the lessons learned will be things from which I draw for years to come.


At the start of 2013 I had high hopes for York, which was with a publisher. It was rejected, then again, and is now with its third and final publisher. I had a fantastic pitch at GenCon, so even if it fails, that moment was thrilling.

If this publisher says no, I will re-factor the game for a POD release. I spent money on the art, which I love, and have some ideas for how to make it affordable and appealing for those interested. A hint, if you’re curious, is that it’ll be a 2 player game.

I learned so much in the way of graphic design building York. My prototypes generally look better, faster, and are easier to learn as a result of better graphics.

I also had some delightful failures. I still couldn’t figure out Poor AbbyHelix was instantly amazing then instantly the worst thing ever, Extra Extra was never built, Drafty Dungeon was neat, but derivative, and so forth. But, the lesson was to constantly be creating. In 2013 I was always trying new things and experimenting and that has led to delightful fruit. I also learned to work on multiple projects at once, which means my brain is always firing in different ways.

I continued to network and develop relationships that I hope pay off, both in the way of friendship, and in potential game partnerships as I improve my craft and design better games. One really important realization I had around GenCon was that I very honestly realized who I want to work with, and who I don’t.


My greatest successes of 2013 have been Mars Rising (previously Blockade) and Flipped.

Mars began as a simple tactics game (somewhat as a response to the complexity of York), and has blossomed into this accessible yet complex, highly thematic, story driven tactical experience. I’ve gone through so many iterations and I really love where it’s at. I don’t intend to change the mechanics much, but instead, focus on scenario development. I have the first 3 written and in testing and will create as many as I need to tell the first campaign (of hopefully many). A publisher approached me over the summer, mostly liked the version I sent, and is waiting on my next iteration. I hope I’m up to the task.


Finally, there’s Flipped. I feel like this is my capstone project that combines so many things that I’ve learned in the way of tuning, design, balancing, graphics, and more. This is my first euro and it’s come together so quickly as I’ve focused on what makes it unique and what the game needs. I’m crunching to get this game to a publisher. We’ll see where it goes.

I hope you enjoyed this community post! I want to thank all of the designers who emailed me to participate. Share your thoughts on what excites you, or what you found interesting above, down in the comments. 

Looking Back on ’13, a Primer

Post by: Grant Rodiek

Throughout the year, as is warranted, I like to host community group posts. Today, I was thinking back on my 2013, what’s left of it, and what’s in my near future. I was curious how others’ year went. No, the year doesn’t end until midnight on December 31, but the Essen releases are about to be on shelves and things are winding down.

So, the question is, How was your 2013? If you recall, as a community we wrote this 2013 Design Community Preview, filled with our hopes and dreams. Now, I want you to fill us all in on the results. Whether you contributed to the preview linked above or not, I want to hear from you. Share your story with the community.

I’d like to post this article in a week or so, which means I’d love to have your submission in my inbox by Sunday, October 27. But, I’m super flexible. If submissions are still coming in, I’ll wait. My typical rule is to post it when it seems folks are good and ready.

A few had questions on what their entry should entail, so here goes. First, click the 2013 preview and give it a quick scan for reference. I’m going to reference my entry, which is at the very bottom. Go on, I’ll wait.

I’m going to write about York, which may or may not be published. I’ll briefly discuss its year and its variable future. I’ll talk about those terrible other prototypes I mentioned and their fates, as well as the fates of my other failures. These won’t be long notes, but I’ll try to note why they died and what I learned.

Then I’m going to write a little about Blockade/Mars Rising, which has just grown into something really special. And I’ll write about Flipped, which just thrills me.

To summarize: If you contributed to the original article, write about how things went.

  • Reminds us of your preview content (write this post as if people haven’t read the prequel)
  • Did you finish those games?
  • Were they published (or signed)?
  • What surprised you and came about during the year?
  • What are you working on now? What’s next?

In general, try to be succinct. Where things are interesting, feel free to elaborate. If you’re too long, I’ll work with you, so don’t worry too much. Feel free to provide prototype pictures or a web link if you have a blog to share.

If you DIDN’T contribute to the blog, fill us in on where you started and update us. More or less, act as if you did write, just fill in the blanks for us.

Does this all make sense? Email me entries at grant at hyperbolegames dot com. Send me the images and be sure to include links. If you’re running late, feel free to email me (I’ll wait!) or feel free to join the article after it’s posted. Email any questions to the same address.

Enjoy memory lane!

2013 Designer Community Preview!

Post by: The Design Community!

The question “what are you up to?” is often asked, but folks are busy, secretive, or just not quite ready to share. On a whim, I bugged the community a few times to send me blurbs about their 2013 projects: current hopes, great prototypes, and random inklings. The response was surprisingly large. Read or skim below to find out some of the cool things your peers are designing. 

Some quick notes! If you see text in Italics, those are my editorial notes. Click on the designer’s name for their Twitter link. Follow and join the community. Also keep in mind that I set the loosest requirements for submissions, so every designer’s “blurb” will differ. Questions? Contact me or comment below. 

Dave Chalker // Critical-Hits.com 

Dave is the designer of the incredibly popular Get Bit! Look for one, perhaps both of these games via DriveThruCards.com this year. Dave hopes to find a publisher for these games to attain wider release.

Criminals is a psychological game in the style of Mafia/Werewolf and The Resistance. Everyone is secretly guilty of a different crime, so players try to determine who committed which crime, while also disguising their own. Players can win individually or as a group depending on their ability to find criminals. Criminals supports a wide range of players, anywhere from 3 to 9, with no need for a moderator, and is quick-playing.

Inside Joke is a party game where players try to get one specific other person to guess a hidden word before anyone else does, while everyone is shouting answers. Inside Joke works for groups who know each other by making obscure references, or for groups who want to know each other better by having a conversation about what kind of references they would have in common.

Corey Young

I’ll be pitching Fiarrr! to publishers in the mainstream market. It’s a pirate-themed, 2-player board game for ages 8 and up. Players take turns blasting each others’ ships as they gradually pass each other in the classic broadsides tradition. I’d love to see Gamewright pick it up as the next entry in the Loot and Scallywags dynasty.

Santorini will be my first tile game, as well as my first “artisan” game. Inspired by the beautiful architecture and scenery of the Greek island region, the game will feature a nearly vertical playing board representing a growing tourist city. Players will play hexagonal tiles on the inclined playing board, building up from the waters’ edge to the windmills at the peaks of the caldera. Players compete to locate their hotels such that they have the most beautiful view of the blue domes and fountains below. I’m focusing on the game mechanisms, but the art is going to be key to this game’s success.

One Way Out (or 1WO) is getting a complete overhaul, so I don’t think I’ll have it ready to pitch in time for convention season. Primarily a racing and blocking game, the theme is time/space jumping, with each level being a different location and genre. The hooks for this game are its novel real-time level creation mechanism and its variety of themes. The core game will come with 3 level/worlds which can be played in any order. New worlds (expansions) will be sold as simple decks of cards.

Jay Treat

Completed Projects Seeking Publication

Intrigue - A trick-taking card game for 3-4 scheming spymasters. Deploy agents from different factions such as the Templars or the Shadowmen. Success will require working with your opponents, because every player shares one agenda in common with another. Can you manipulate enemy agents into advancing your own cause? The plot thickens when players plan secret schemes that can mess with the even the best-laid plans.

Assault on Khyber Station - A tense co-op for 1-4 players escaping from aliens on a failing space station. Your sleepy outpost among the stars has just been torn apart in a surprise attack. With blast doors slamming shut all around you and ravenous aliens teeming after you, can your team coordinate their unique skills to navigate the wreckage and find the escape teleporter in time to warn Earth?

Read more about Assault on Khyber Station here

Projects in Development

The Last Planet - A quick, tile-laying war game inspired by StarCraft. Three races vie for dominance on the last inhabitable planet in their war-torn galaxy. Establish your presence, claim valuable resources, and build your war machine before the others can wipe you out. The Last Planet features innovative tile placement for intuitive and quick play.

On the Horizon

Black Hills - A shared deck building game for aspiring chieftains of a demon-plagued village. The passing of your father, the chief of the village, has left you all vulnerable to the demons at the gates. Work together to save the village from disaster and hope that none of your siblings take the dark path when they realize only the most successful among you will win your father’s headdress.

Hollywood Disaster: Who can turn this mess of a film into something successful? Players compete to improve a random bad movie by re-writing, re-casting, re-shooting and editing the scenes to create more matching plot and theme symbols.

Brett Myers

“There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.”

-Napoleon Bonaparte

One of the games I’m most excited about for 2013 is a compact tactical battle game I’m calling Sword & Spirit: Little Corporals. As you might guess from the quote, Sword & Spirit: Little Corporals is set in the Napoleonic Era. It tackles warfare in this period using a novel combat system that captures the positional tactics and volleying of the era, while encouraging dramatic action and swings of fortune. My goal in the physical design of Sword & Spirit is a compact size: it packs the punch of similar blocks-on-a-board tactical games in half the table space, and folds into a box about 8 inches square.

AJ Porfirio // Van Ryder Games

Note the images are placeholder art. 

Hostage Negotiator is a solo game where YOU take on the role of the Hostage Negotiator conversing with some unscrupulous terrorist or hostage taker hell bent on having his demands met. Your goal is, of course, to negotiate the release of the hostages and buy time for your crisis commander to hatch a plan to kill or capture the terrorist.

Game play features a mechanic I call Hand-Building (think deck building without the deck). The game encompasses the conversations that you have with the Terrorist. Conversation Cards are played to influence the Terrorist. The player faces difficult choices such as what cards to take and which to play and when. There is dice rolling to resolve cards, so there is some luck involved as well, but proper card choice and tactical reaction will separate the rookie negotiators from the veteran ones!

Players may take multiple paths to victory: do you concentrate on lowering the Threat level of the terrorist, which convinces him to release hostages and ultimately surrender, or do you concentrate on buying more powerful Conversation Cards to save hostages and eliminate the Terrorist? Or do you try a combination of both?

Hostage Negotiator plays quickly, in 15-30 minutes, and is one of those games you want to play again as soon as it is over.

Check out the Rules here. If you’re interested in playtesting the beta, email AJ at .

Chevee Dodd // CheveeDodd.com

I’m working on two projects that I expect to have completed early in 2013.  I plan on seeking publication for both games, but one will be made available on The Game Crafter while I seek out publishers.

Leathernecks ’43 is a simple dice game for 2-6 players.  It started as a game I designed for my daughters, Princess Dice.  There is significant difficulty in finding publishers for a girl-themed dice game, so I am in the process of re-theming it for a more gamer-centric audience.  The game is the first of a series I am preliminary calling Assault Dice. The system revolves around seven total dice of 4 unique designs.  Three of the designs represent members of the players’ squad: the Officer, Sergeant, and Radio Operator.  Rolling these symbols may allow you to advance those units, but suppressing fire from the enemy may hold you back.  The player may collect and use Smoke Grenades, however, to move through the fire.  Once one player’s unit reaches the bunker, the game ends and the player with the most Advancement Points wins the game.  There are no mechanics changes from Princess Dice to this game and you can read about the development at my website.

This game will be available on The Game Crafter in early January.

Hedeby is a card driven dice game (isn’t it usually the other way around?) where the players roll dice to gain goods, and use those goods to purchase workers from an available market.  Once workers have been secured by the player, they may use them to build buildings which give them benefits as well as victory points.  It is based on the Viking city of Hedeby that formed around 800BC after a nearby Slavic trading center was sacked.  The city formed up very quickly as the craftsman and traders moved in. I will be seeking publication for this game as well and doubt that I will make it available on The Game Crafter due to costs.  I have made the game available as a Print and Play at my website for anyone that wants to test it.

I have a lot of playtesting to get through before the game is ready to show to publishers because the unique buildings need to be balanced and re-balanced.  To help with my playtesting needs, I also developed a VASSAL module for online play.  It’s available at my website as well!

Jason Tagmire // Champion Land

Maximum Throwdown is a light, 2-6 player card-throwing battle game. Each player has a deck of cards in their specific color / faction that they will throw onto the table one after another. Cards feature icons that will provide the player with points or special abilities, but only if an opponent doesn’t cover the icons with their cards. The dexterity is key, as cards must be touching each other when thrown, but you don’t want to cover your own cards.

The game is in its very early stages. I originally created it as part of an internal creative game jam at Island Officials (the video game development company that is making Pixel Lincoln, the video game, and now branching out into the awesome world of tabletop games), and I’ve been tinkering with it ever since. After a few intense discussions, Alex Strang came on board to help take it to the next level. That’s about where we are now.

My goal for Maximum Throwdown is to debut it at Unpub, get feedback, tighten, test, and tighten some more. As for publishing, it could be a fairly inexpensive game to produce, but let’s see what people think first!

John DuBois

I’ve got two games I’m hoping to complete significant work on in 2013:

Bread and Circuses: A 4-10 player bluffing/negotiation game in which the players act as Roman nobles trying to manipulate events and their fellow nobles to achieve their secret objectives and make the greatest profit from a revolting peasant population.

In 2013, I’m hoping to finish a TGC prototype in January for the PPP, pitch to publishers in the first half of the year (Protospiel at the latest), and investigate self-publishing if there isn’t other interest.

Microbrew is a 2-5 player light economic game in which the players are investors in a craft brewery, supplying ingredients to brew the recipes that give them the greatest return on investment. This game’s a little rougher at this point, and my goal for 2013 is to do further playtesting and determine whether or not the game is viable in the first quarter of 2013. If it’s viable, I’m hoping to pitch to publishers at GenCon.

And of course, I’m sure to have some crazy ideas during the year to chase.

Charles Beauvais

Charles intends to pitch these to publishers in 2013.

Standing In Line: 15-minute betting game, designed to be played while standing in line. This game is also a member of the PPP. Click here for more detailed information.

Chroma Cubes: A strategy dice game in which players color in puzzles with crayons.  Players race to complete figures in their puzzle before their opponents.

How does it work? Each turn has three steps, which all players do simultaneously.

  1. Roll: Players roll all their dice on the first turn. On subsequent turns, only roll the dice you’ve used.
  2. Color: Use sets of dice to complete sections of the puzzle.
  3. Score: When you complete an entire figure, you get the highest remaining score. Players who finish later score fewer points.

Click here for more information.

Mission Control: A map-building game with a space exploration theme. Click here for a walkthrough of the game.

Christopher Chung // Flash Forward Games

The main title I’m working on is called Bucket List.

  • 2-4 players
  • Ages 12+
  • About 45-130 minutes
  • Resource Management game.

The synopsis of it is that your Doctor has given you one calendar year to live because of your terminal disease, so you go want to go out with a bang and complete as many tasks on your Bucket List as possible. Each task, ranging from visiting the Mona Lisa in Paris or Base jumping in Machu Pichu carries its own Legacy, Thrill, and Fatality Levels, so you must allocate your Money, Sanity, and Vitality to as many tasks as possible before your time is up. You have control over what you put into your “IV Bag,” but what comes out of it is entirely random. Score the most Victory Points by the end of the year through completing Plans or scoring Counters at the end of each month and you win.

I’m working on balancing the prototype right now, and deciding if I want to introduce a cap on turns; rather than endless play, give each player 12 turns (one for each month) and see what they can do with them. I hope to playtest this at game designer meet ups, create some sell sheets, and then see where it takes me.

Daniel Baneson // Fishagon

Solar is a fast-paced deck building/dice fighting card game developed by Fishagon.

The game comes with 24 cards each being of a different “class” such as Knight, Pyromancer, Assassin, etc. It’s a 2 player game where players decide who picks first and then enter a draft with each player choosing 1 card each “turn” until both players have a 12 card deck. Then they will proceed to drawing 3 cards a turn using 1 and putting 2 back at the bottom of their decks. Players then proceed to battle with a series of offensive and defensive stages using 2 die and the class skills for combat. The victor of 5 battles will win the game!

The artwork shown is concept art by our newly hired artist “Kaorien” for the Pyromancer class. The game is scheduled for release around March 2013 after a hopefully successful Kickstarter campaign!

Chris and Suzanne Zinsli // Cardboard Edison

Cardboard Edison has one of my favorite feeds on Twitter. He collects interesting advice from board game designers and publishers and shares it. Follow them!


  • 4+ players
  • 30-45 minutes

The first game from Cardboard Edison, Skewphemisms is a party game built on alliteration. Guess the everyday expression suggested by a series of alliterative clues.

We’re debuting Skewphemisms at Cartrunk Entertainment’s Unpub 3 event in Delaware in January. Because it’s a mass-market game with lots of opportunities for expansion, our goal for 2013 is to find a publisher with wide distribution to get the game into as many word-lovers’ hands as possible!


  • 2 players
  • 30 minutes

A real-time card game from Cardboard Edison, Tessen pits two players against each other in ancient Japan. To win, players will have to move fast and think even faster. Tessen uses set collection and hand management mechanics. The game rewards players who can keep track of their opponent’s movements as well as their own on the fly.

Tessen also will be at Unpub in January. In 2013, we plan to settle on a publishing plan for the game. We might self-publish, seek out a young publisher who specializes in quick, light games, or offer it through a print-on-demand service.

Jeremiah Lee

Zombie House Blitz from Stupid Awesome Games. Zombie House Blitz is a 2-6 player speed card game. Players race to get their family out of the house and safely into an escape car before the cars are full. Will be on Kickstarter in March.

Zombie in Your Pocket from Valley Games. Zombie in Your Pocket is a 1-4 player cooperative game of survival. Players are survivors trapped in zombie infested houses, malls, and game conventions. Find your friends, kill the zombies, and don’t let the bats poop in your eyes. This is a new cooperative game based on the popular Zombie in my Pocket print and play solo game.

Patrick Nickell // Crash Games

When I found out Patrick signed Tory Niemann’s new game, I immediately began bugging him for information. If Pay Dirt is as good as Alien Frontiers, this could be Crash’s break out hit.

Pay Dirt

  • 2-4 Players
  • 75-90 Minutes (Probably 2 hours on 1st play)
  • Worker Placement, Auction/Bidding
  • Industrial/Environment Theme

The inspiration for Pay Dirt came to Tory because he is a fan of the show Gold Rush and thought it would make a pretty cool board game. Tory just won a Golden Geek Award for Alien Frontiers:Factions and this would be his second published game and the follow up to the smash hit Alien Frontiers.

In Pay Dirt, a gold excavation game set in Alaska, players must manage and grow their entire mining outfit, from workers and personnel to equipment and gear. The Alaskan Yukon is an inhospitable environment, so players will face hardships that affect their entire outfit – not to mention the ever-dropping temperature that will eventually shut down their operation. The player with the most gold at the end of the game is the winner but this will be especially challenging since players have to sell gold in order to upgrade their equipment, gear and personnel.

On a personal note I have great hopes for Pay Dirt and I really feel that it will be my marque publication if it is successful on Kickstarter. I really love playing the game and I feel that it provides a unique and different approach to worker placement games. I feel the game plays very thematically and I have high hopes for the art.

I am planning on having the art completely done before the project launches on Kickstarter in September and I will be showing it off at UnPub3, Origins, GenCon and then launching it on Kickstarter in September.

Daniel Solis // Smart Play Games

Belle of the Ball: After a year of intense development, I’m ready to call Belle of the Ball a fully baked game. It’s the kind of game that apparently gets people to laugh out loud in bars and do impromptu interpretive dance. My plan is to put the current prototype up on a POD online store, build buzz, and pitch to publishers. Whether I DIY it or license to a publisher, I expect Kickstarter to be involved somehow, too. My hope is to have Belle of the Ball be my first published box title by the end of 2013. Ambitious, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

Diverse Testing! A few months ago, I noticed I had something like forty playtesters, but only five women. So, I actively put out a call for more women testers. It’s been a blast getting their feedback in the development and this is something I hope to continue in the new year. I’m going to highly recommend to all new game designers that they improve the gender balance of playtest pool.

My Measure of Success for 2013: I want the number of person-hours playing one of my games to exceed the number of person-hours I spent designing it.

Paul Imboden & Randy Field // Split Second Games

As designers, we’re in initial playtests for a trick-taking, everyone-for-themselves card game with changing contracts — possibly with a gangster theme, but virtually any theme would work, including none.

We’re rebooting Minimum Wage Gorilla, a blind-bid area-control game set in a zoo.  9 turns total, averaging 60-90 min with 4 players.  We’re excited about this one, and we hope it’s back into playtest mode.

And if we can find a way to not be utterly derivative, I’d love to take a crack at a modern-day ghost-hunting cooperative game.

As publishers, we’re also looking to import and/or seek out a few card games next year, as well as at least one dexterity game.  The Merchant of Venus fiasco has put us in “measure three times, measure once more” mode in terms of ownership, however, so expect us to call our shots VERY carefully.  This might mean pushing back to 2014… but rather that than the dual-ownership headache.

Also, this will not be the year we stop using Kickstarter.  We hope to rely on it less and less as Split Second Games becomes a known commodity, but we’re just not there yet.  Expect some offering(s) from us in 2013.

Marc Specter // GrandCon

Marc isn’t a designer, but he’s deeply connected to the community and is putting on a convention, GrandCon. He asked if he could share this info and I heartily agreed.

GrandCon features tabletop gaming in all its forms, as well as comic books and the creators behind them. We provide an atmosphere that will allow gamers and comic book fans to mingle and appreciate their shared interests.

Come to play or chat your heart out with fellow enthusiasts in a community that understands your passions.  Get lost in the adventure of your favorite role-playing game.  Admire costumes and art from vendors and attendees. Meet the creators behind your favorite mainstream and independent games and comic books. Check out unpublished games and sneak a peek at things to come.

Feel free to check out our Facebook page and website.

Michael Coe // Gamelyn Games

I’m currently working on 3 game designs to watch for.

1st being Lords, Ladies & Lizards. It’s a one-of-a-kind role playing adventure set in a medieval fantasy world threatened by an all powerful Dragon! Up to six Players get a chance to create and develop Characters through a complex journey that involves strategy, economics, politics and war! Players are able to play as either a Lord, a Lady or a Lizard, each with unique properties and leveling bonuses. Over the span of many game years, players will face personal struggles with jealousy and greed, deceit and rage! They will travel across three continents by land, by sea and by air, clearing the way of treacherous monsters. But there will only be one winner and that is the one who defeats the Dragon! Do YOU have what it takes to defeat the Dragon!?

2nd being Icefall. Players take on the role of ice climbers risking it all on the world’s most dangerous icefall! With a modular game board players will be adding to the top of the board as they climb and must stay away from the bottom of the board as it is removed periodically.

Every round players face the challenges of ice climbing by revealing tiles they are approaching. These tiles will present varying degrees of ice thickness, how slippery the surfaces are, the moraine gradings, crevasses, boulders and more! Each tile requires a different response from the player. Do you dig in and keep climbing? Do you swing to another location (tile)? Or, do you bust out the ice screw and hook in? Either way, you better decide fast, because every time the sand-glass runs out the lowest portion of the mountain crumbles into an avalanche. The players’ positioning on the board (mountain) will determine if they become part of the avalanche or live to make another tough decision.

The goal of the game is to reach the summit, where a rescue helicopter is waiting. The game incorporates press your luck elements with time control and quick decision making. Co-op games involve a steeper challenge requiring extensive team work including rope systems, leading and belaying.

Lastly, King’s Town. A 2-4 Player Civ Building Card Game. More about this one coming soon.

Matthew O’Mally // Black Oak Games

Knot Dice and Crossing Swords will be presented at UnPub 3, and I am discussing both games with publishers and considering self-publishing as well.

Knot Dice – Knot Dice is a box full of games, puzzles, and art. The dice themselves are custom Celtic knot pieces that can be put together like tile-laying games or into more traditional knot designs.

There are 40 dice in the box along with a two-sided game board and a scoring board. The game rules included are:

  • Kells – a cooperative game for 2-6 players, in which you try to form a closed design using as many dice as possible
  • Celtic Cross – a competitive game for 2 players, which feels somewhat similar to Scrabble
  • Speed Knots – a competitive game for 2-4 players, in which you try to form a closed design with your dice as quickly as possible
  • Hill Fort – a competitive game for 2-4 players, in which you try to form closed designs on a verticals space
  • Gordian Knot – a competitive game for 2 players, in which you try to form closed designs that wrap around all of the sides of the dice in a 3-dimensional space
  • Osbox – a competitive game for 2 or 4 players, which feels somewhat similar to Tetris, designed by Cameron Browne (used with permission)

I’ve come up with some other game ideas that won’t go into the game box, but will be posted on the web along with player-contributed games that I hope players will come up with once they have the dice in their hands.

Finally, there are a number of puzzles to be worked, solo or with 2-4 players, and plenty of designs to create and enjoy using one or more sets of the dice.

Crossing Swords – This is a sword-fighting card game in the fencing era (think musketeers, pirates, all those great sword-fighting movies). The idea was to come up with something that approximated the feel of a film sword fight, including both speed and strategy. I’m still working on some of the gameplay, so I hope to do a lot of playtesting at UnPub.

Unnamed – Lastly, I’m starting work on a worker-placement game. This is the kind of game I actually spend the most time playing, but it’s taken me a while to come up with something that I feel is good enough to pursue. I’ll post more on my blog as the game develops.

Grant Rodiek // Hyperbole Games

Ready to Go?

Empire: This is my big hope for 2013 and has been submitted to a publisher. Pending their input, it’ll hopefully be developed and published, or I’ll revise it for the Con season and new pitches. Empire is a medium heft area control Euro/war game for 2-4 players in about an hour. The game features four unique factions and entirely card driven gameplay for a low-luck game of strategy. The cards are simple and provide one key piece of decision tension: Do you play the card for Reinforcements, or combine it with others for a powerful Tactic? Read more, check the rules, or get the PNP here.

Livestocked and Loaded: This is the expansion to Farmageddon and will be published by 5th Street Games. The game adds Animals, Weather, and new Action cards to the mix. The game still needs testing time for polish and balance. The game will be put into circulation in the PPP soon and should be out sometime in 2013.

In Development

Insurrection: I’m on my fourth significant design revision for this game. It is now a 2 player tactics game broken into two distinct layers. Firstly, you have the high level game, where players play powerful cards to position their fleets and put Units in place. Actions take place on a 3×3 grid of cards with “orbiting” fleets on the outskirts. The key is positioning to strike when it is most advantageous.

Then, when a battle takes place, players bust out the dice and meeples and quickly battle through a simple skirmish game that incorporates cover, suppression, and flanking tactics. You can read about some of the earlier ideas for this here. My hope is to enter Insurrection into the TGC Map Builder Design Challenge. We’ll see where it goes afterwards.

Extra! Extra!: This is a silly game where I’m trying to take some of the laughter of a party game and mix it with some light strategy. 3-5 players are newspaper reporters trying to gather and write the best stories for the deadline. Players will build stories out of Who, What, and Why cards. The key is playing the cards to the right story at the right time. This game is set to test early next year.

Poor Abby Farnsworth: This witchy game might make a return. Maybe. As something completely new.

Have a great and fortuitous 2013 guys and gals!