Game Updates

Update: It’s About Time…

Drew, one of the community members that contributed a lot to the design of this game, reminded me recently that it was about time (get it?) I did something with the development of our community game. Thanks to the design work that Matt did I’ve been itching to do ‘something’ just because it’s so pretty that I want to play with it, but hadn’t had any great ideas for the actual game play.

Well thanks to Drew’s prompting I started thinking more about the game and how it might play. The first step to implementing that was to turn Matt’s work into a nice reusable template that could be used to create a bunch of different cards. Below you’ll see the outcome of that, which is a very complicated pile of different layers and groups in Adobe Illustrator. This makes it super easy to create and tune card variants simply by enabling the layers for that card and exporting the result.

I’m looking forward to my next playtest session with Drew!

Card template in Adobe Illustrator
Sample card with certain layers enabled

Game Design

BGDL Community Design Sprint – Wrapup

After two weeks the BGDL Community Design Sprint is wrapping up. Did we create a working prototype in two weeks? Categorically yes. Is it any good? We’ll see….

The dangers of designing anything by committee are well known, but the group came up with a really solid brief that would be the foundation. for the game. Week 2 was when most of the hard design work began, and I want to particularly thank Drew Richards, Chris Backe, and Matt Wilson who together turned the game from just an idea to some beautiful prototypes, some cool mechanics ideas, and some interesting playtest sessions.

What did we learn?

It’s dangerous to go alone. As a community design it might be obvious that success depends on the input from others, but where the game really took huge leaps forward was when the concept grabbed a few people who invested more time and work into it. More than that, as a designer having other enthusiastic people around can keep your own momentum going. Towards the middle of the second week I knew we had a flawed prototype but no impetus to start refining it – a push from the team to get some playtests done kept things moving where it would have stalled (and possible never been looked at again) had I been going it alone.

Briefs and Prototypes are easy. Too easy. Creating the brief was surprisingly simple, and through a series of polls we had a pretty clear theme and gameplay direction. I expect the first prototype(s) to be broken and unplayable. What I didn’t expect was that out of those first playtests we would come up with ideas for potentially 5+ different approaches for the game, which means designing and playtesting 5+ more things, before settling (or finding 5+ more…). The exponential growth of possibilities from prototype playtests really showed how much work is required in the prototype stages.

Engage by giving people control. Engagement during the Facebook polls was very high, with dozens of people voting and submitting ideas. It was also a good way to gauge popularity for ideas. Once we had the brief nailed down and there were no simple poll questions to ask it was much harder to get community engagement, but thankfully a few members really got inspired by the challenge. This makes sense – everyone is busy with their own designs, and a click on a poll is a low investment, whereas investing time in designing and playtesting an idea takes significant effort. In this however is a great lesson for an oft cited concern – this is why no one is going to steal your game idea.


Creating a game in two-weeks was simultaneously very easy and very hard. Coming up with a solid theme, some mechanics, and ultimately a brief was simple to do. Creating a first prototype was also very simple, made easier by limiting the game to a two-player micro game.

However, the next step after the prototype wasn’t just to tune and tweak a few things, but to brainstorm ideas and nail down what the game would look like. This is where the potential for the game really exploded and whilst we do have a game we are still honing in on the game.

If our head-to-head micro game about time lords trying to capture a fugitive by trapping them in a paradox becomes a published game then it’s thanks to the community effort to create something really cool. If it never sees the light of day, as most games won’t, then I’m still grateful for the lessons learned during this exercise, the time spent getting to know some more of our community, and hopefully some seeds of inspiration planted in myself and others.

It’s about time.

Game Design

BGDL Community Design Sprint – Stalling

Getting towards the end of the two-week sprint, and the as yet to be named game (working title: It’s About Time) has started to stall a little. This is where we need some more community support to play and iterate!

The early playtests had the fundamentals of a playable game and with a few balancing and ability tweaks to improve it suggested. It also inspired some other ideas that showed we might not end up just creating 1 game, but 4 or 5 different alternatives to build and test before settling on one.

As a graphic designer first (or should that be second, and gamer first?) Matt Wilson sketched out some beautiful examples of cards to be used for the game. This also inspired a second major change – cards can be double sided (which is an efficient use of space in a micro game) and played for either their ability or used as a basic connecting path.

With just a few days left we’ve definitely fulfilled the initial requirement of going from nothing to a prototype in under 2 weeks, but I’m certain with a few more tests we can go from a workable prototype to a fun one!


BGDL Community Design Sprint – Prototype

Right on schedule today we’re ready for playtesting! I’ve developed a prototype of our community designed game where I’ve tried to incorporate the mechanics suggested into an 18 card game hidden movement game for two players, themed around time travel (draft story below if you want to read more) .

So today we need playtesters! Just two of you can load up the mod and see how it plays. Consider this at the concept testing stage: the game may well be broken, unbalanced, and possibly unfun, so what we’re looking for is to see whether there is a nugget of a game here that we can develop further. If not then we have the rest of the week to go back to the drawing board!

It’s About Time

After the singularity, the civilization of man began to crumble. The only way to save it was for a group of technologists, now called the Time Lords, to manipulate events that allow for the best chance of survival.

The Time Lords now control every birth, every death, and every major event (for good or ill) to keep the human race intact. Mankind persists, but what is a life without freedom of choice?

The Cabal are resistance fighters, preferring to take their chances on an unknown future for the sake of freedom. Coming out of hiding to make their final stand, they have prepared their best agent (and a clone) to sow chaos in the timeline. Even the Time Lords cannot predict the impact of this butterfly effect, breaking their control.


BGDL Community Sprint – Mechanics Refinement

Day 6 and the final day to set all of our choices in place to create the brief, as next up we’ll need to start fleshing out the game for a prototype playtest on Sunday! Drew Richards and Chris Backe both came up with some cool details for the mechanics, with Drew even sketching out his ideas for the first prototype! You can find details by searching the hashtag above, and I think we can combine both of them into a single game!

Drew’s sketch suggested a board layout, but we could also randomise the connections in time using the table space. A fixed game area to layout tokens or cards in a specific manner, with two tracks for both hunter and hunted would fit the brief of the micro game. Chris’s idea of having time being unwound (with the fugitive escaping if they cause enough chaos) adds time pressure to the hidden movement mechanic similar to the murders in Letters from Whitechapel.

So how do we recreate that in micro game format?


BGDL Community Design Sprint – Mechanics

Day 5. MOAR MECHANICS! It was a close call, but we’ve collectively decided to base our game around hidden movement. To summarise we now have a brief for a two payer micro game, with hidden movement mechanics chasing a fugitive through time!

This next refinement has no poll. Instead, add your comments below with your 2-4 line summary of the game mechanics and the most likes will be developed further.

This doesn’t have to finalised, but how do you imagine this game playing out based on the brief above? Are players secretly choosing to travel points on a map like Scotland Yard? Do we have variable actions where players must second guess each others choices? Is it a cooperative game where players are trying to work together to beat the game and capture the fugitive?


BGDL Community Design Sprint – Theme

It looks like we’re creating a 2 player micro game about time travel, where the thematic hook is that we take on the role of a bounty hunter chasing a fugitive through time (is it cooperative, or are you hunting player two?…)

Onto mechanics. First let’s choose the format of our game! Remember the brief of being a micro (small format) game, but that could take many forms.


BGDL Community Design Sprint – Day 2

We had a ton of great theme ideas, but you’ve chosen your favourite (suggested by Clay Dreslough) as Time Travel!

With our overarching theme of making a 2 player micro game about time travel we pnow need a hook for our theme. What are our players trying to do? Are they cooperatively fixing holes in the space time contiuum? Is one player trying to hunt the other through ever complex time hops? Is it an educational tour through historic events?


BGDL Community Design Sprint – Day 1 Results

34 people have already made their contributions to the design process, and voted in favour of us starting out with choosing theme first (Daniel must have been more convincing than me in Theme First or Mechanics First?).

So the next poll will be looking at choosing our major overarching theme. This could be as high-level as ‘fantasy’ or ‘pirates’ (a personal favourite), or a little more specific when reflecting a well known activity such as ‘hot air ballooning’. After choosing our general theme, the next day will be where we create our unique hook.

Cast your votes and add your choices.

Game Design

The Board Game Design Lab (BGDL) Community Design Sprint

A few weeks ago I put out a poll to the Board Game Design Lab Facebook group to see if we could develop a game from nothing to a working prototype in just over 2 weeks. Thanks to an overwhelming positive result (and no recounts) I’ll be starting this up on November 19th.

I’ll be documenting the results of the polls and game updates here. Follow along and add your contributions as the days go on, or join the BGDL Facebook Group and vote directly.

Here’s a rough timeline of events, from concept to prototype.