The Board Game Design Course

Where great games begin

Game Design

Are you up for a challenge

As a game designer, it can be easy to fall into the trap of creating a game that is similar to your last project, or at least one that uses a lot of same mechanics.

It’s important to challenge yourself to try new things, including making a game that you might not otherwise think to create.

There are so many different genres and styles of games. Even if the game you create doesn’t amount to anything and never gets published, you’ll still be learning something valuable.

So, this week I challenge you to come up with a new game based on one of the following suggestions.


18-card game

An 18-card game, if you haven’t played or designed one yet, is exactly as it sounds: it is a game that uses just 18 cards. Sometimes exceptions are made for a few other minor components to be included, but otherwise your game will revolve around just 18 cards.

By limiting yourself to such a confined space, you’ll learn how to strip down a

game to its core elements and make use of what little wiggle room you have available.

You’ll find ways to pack a lot onto a single card by using corners, both sides, and all available space to the max.

It’s also very quick and easy to iterate as well as playtest a small game with so few components.

When I challenged myself to create an 18-card game, it developed into a quick, fun bluffing game that very quickly ended up in the hands of a publisher.

While they decided to increase the number of cards to 22 in order to increase the player count from 2-4 up to 2-6 players, that doesn’t matter. What did matter was I challenged myself to do something different and work within some severe restraints, resulting in something fun, and ultimately very publishable.


Roll and write

Another genre that’s easy to tweak and playtest rapidly are roll and write games.

Yahtzee is the classic roll and write, but there are so many other popular ones now, including Ganz Schon Clever (That’s Really Clever), and Welcome To (even though it’s technically a flip card and write!).

All you really need to get started is a piece of paper and a handful of dice. Generally speaking, players roll the dice and choose how to allocate them on their page, which is made up of different areas they can score their rolls.

In some games, players are allowed to re-roll or manipulate some of the dice, and/or choose which ones to keep and which ones will be available for other players.

There are also many opportunities to branch out from the conventional. I’ve seen prototypes that involve rolling and making words with letters or even flicking to determine what you write (maybe flick and write will be the next big thing!).

I’ve played around with some roll and write ideas, but nothing much has come from this. Yet. That doesn’t mean I won’t revisit my ideas again or try a new approach in the future.

If you haven’t made a roll and write game, it’s well worth trying to create one.


Trick taking game

If you grew up playing cards like I did, then you’ll be very familiar with trick taking card games, such as Euchre and Hearts.

There are many conventions that are typical in trick taking games, such as the highest card wins, trump beats other suits, and the winner of the trick starts the next round. You can stray from these to an extent, but moving too far away may cause confusion for people who are very used to this style.

The “trick” to making a fresh trick-taking game is coming up with something new and innovative, without being too different.

I have a trick taking game called Playing Chicken. The twist in my game is that the highest card may win, but if all players play too high, the lowest card will win. The result is based on the combination of player’s cards rather than each player’s card.

It’s a change that’s small, but it makes this card game much different than the others.

Play around with different card counts, values, and maybe even what’s included on the card. You never know what you might create.


Dexterity game

If Jenga is the only game that comes to mind when you think of dexterity games, you still have a whole world left to explore.

Junk Art, Animal Upon Animal, and Hamsterolle are just a few games that have taken the stacking element to a new level.

Then there are flicking games like Catacombs and Flip Ships. Not to mention the classic flicking game, Crokinole.

So, grab some components and start stacking, flicking, or trying out something entirely new that no one has done before!


So, what new design challenge will you take on next?


I’d love to hear what you come up with. Just hit reply to this email and let me know what you’re working on!

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