Skip to Content

Game designs in the pipeline

arthane player prototype a.jpg
sunshine harvest prototype a
the pits new board.jpg
laser bounce cover

This blog entry is to document some game designs I have in the pipeline and just to record some thoughts that can be reflected on later:

i) Laser Bounce [version 2 ready to playtest]: designed for the "1-card game" contest on BGG
I made some big changes to the original design and this is more or less finished now but needs more playtesting (don't they all), especially to figure out the best power output of the laser guns (which is 3 in the current rules). That contest closes July 30.

ii) The Pits [version 1 ready to playtest, version 2 in progress] : this was my first game design and I published it on Instructables:
I'm wondering whether to publish more free PnP games on's not a typical place for board games but then it got a few hundred views, but seems to be more about bling and making something look pretty than creating original game designs. I'm in the process of updating this game after getting some very helpful feedback from Letoff and Questccg. I've redesigned the board which is now 4 sheets that clip together (see image: The Pits new board). The new theme I'm going for is prisoners in an underground prison fighting each other for their freedom (rather than roman gladiators as in the original) I'm still working on the new rules but this is close to finished.

iii) Sunshine Harvest [idea phase with early prototype]: this is a design idea for the "18 card flip and write PnP" contest from Buttonshy Games. It's about growing vegetables over 18 weeks through Spring and Summer. Each week the conditions change like sun and rainfall which determines which plants will put on growth. Also different plants grow and fruit in different shapes so plan the garden to maximize use of space. I made a basic prototype and scribbled on it a bit (see image). I'm hoping they will have this contest again next year and I'll have time to work on this design. The prize is to have your game published as a PnP on their site, which for me would be a big step!

iv) Landbankers [idea phase]: the idea for this one is to have a growing city (imagine Sim City) and for players to buy vacant land and then wait for development of the city which increases the value of their land, then they can sell and use the profits to buy more land and so on. There would also be a town planning element to determine in which way the city expands like what is built and where. Players could also pay bribes to affect city planning decisions in their favour. Just an idea at this stage.

v) Arthane [idea phase with some parts prototyping]: this one is my golden idea - one that could go big (in my dreams)! It's sort of a dungeon crawler like Hero Quest except that instead of dice rolling deciding combat, Arthane uses small action figures instead of static miniatures that actually perform the combat movements. Simultaneous action selection is used by players to determine the moves and each move has a speed that determines the order. Then that round is acted out and resolved. I also want to incorporate a magic system which uses letters or runes to form spells so there are elements of luck (picking out runes randomly from a bag) and skill in forming the spell words.
See image of an early 3D printed prototype for one of the characters. I think I'll fit magnets into the model to hold weapons and shields. The arms rotate laterally so that a weapon can be help to the side (like a fencer) or in front. The hips swing left and right which has the effect of raising or lowering a weapon pointing to the side, in order to simulate high and low attacks. The design is deliberately crude and robust because it's important that it maintains form and doesn't flop around when moved.


I didn't read all the rules ...

But I think your LASER BOUNCE concept is pretty neat. You could MAYBE take it up one NOTCH and use "The Game Crafter" (TGC) Mint Tin, as seen here:

The neat thing about this is that it is COMPACT ... Yet RETRO-feeling. And I think in terms of YOUR components it could work.

I think all of the dice and components could fit into the Mint Tin... I'd check it out as it is a COOL design. Haven't read through all the rules (just the component's section) and thought it would be cool using the Mint Tin!


Also ...

If you want to be FANCY, you could go with Tokens and Stickers:

The tokens come in different colors too... I just chose white for no apparent reason other than I drive a White SUV! Hahaha! Just kidding.

Quarters is less expensive that the Tokens & Stickers ... But admittedly, they will make the game look much more professional.


need to start thinking about aesthetics

It would indeed be much more appealing with the tin and tokens (and better artwork) and it's something I generally need to be thinking more about with my designs, making them look professional and polished. I'll wait to see how it goes in the 1-card contest on BGG and see what sort of ranking it gets and whether it's actually fun. The first version was pretty random and pointless so it may have put people off. Ah, first impressions count!
While checking out the tin and tokens on TGC I came across a tinned game called Doom Machine which looks really cool and it's interesting to see the difference between my prototype PnP game and a finished product complete with eye catching artwork, how-to-play video and all the rest. Something to aim for!

Well I look at it this way:

For "Laser Bounce" (LB), having a Mint Tin, a card, some tokens and stickers is something you can make as an "Improved Upon" Prototype. You know, UP-THE-ANTE. Although it is part of a "contest", if it doesn't get "chosen" by someone (like a Publisher) ... Well you can PERFECT the prototype and see where THAT could lead.

Someone always tell my my "Dual Dice" KS campaign ONLY got 20 Backers "because it was NOT SEXY enough..." And so aesthetics can be important. And if you spend like $50 to $100 on making a real nice prototype or two, no biggie... You might get the opportunity to PRESENT that prototype and being in a compact Mint Tin makes it supper accessible to MAIL and then returned if it's not a match.

You don't have to do this YET for all your ideas. This one is relatively SMALL in terms of "components" and for a 1st Game... That's really EXCELLENT! It's a smart way to go with something relatively "inexpensive" to produce and market.

When I say "market", I mean PITCH to a Publisher... (Normally I won't say this) But the possibility of doing a KS is so remote these days, that it's really not at all worthwhile investing in a KS, knowing that MOST "Indie" projects will NOT succeed. That's the TRUTH of affairs ATM.

Not having a SEXY VIDEO or SEXY IMAGES ... Won't help with KS. Even if you do have this, one designer settled for 273 Backers to get funded. That is 100% completely TERRIBLE and INSULTING. Here take a look at his KS:

Anyways you'll see his KS Page/Video/GIF animation/etc. is all "tricked-out" and this was his 3rd TRY. You can search "Ambal" on KS and you will see all three (3) KS attempts.

Anyhow ... Just preparing you to look for other "avenues" for your games.


Look at what you made me do ;)

I've just ordered a small batch of 16 blank tins as I'm in Australia so the game crafter is out of reach. Also the blank tins are only about $1 US each and I'll have some colourful labels (~$1 for 16) printed locally that I can stick on the front and back of the tins then clear coat over them to seal. A label for the "board" will be stuck on the inside of the tin and the tin walls will actually work well as the reflective mirror walls in the game. Total cost including parts should be under $5 per game.
It'll be nice to properly finish a product and show it off, make a pitch video and try some publishers as you suggested. I'm quite happy starting from the bottom and crafting small runs myself, giving them away to local gamers, getting feedback and just learning more from the experience.
Kickstarter looks like a whole lot of work for little if any financial gain but at least he (Ambal publisher) got his game published and got it out there and for sure he learnt a lot in the process.
Incidentally I've created a poll asking what people's main goal is for designing games: profit, fame, self-satisfaction? I'm guessing it's all three for most designers but what's the main one?

Small print runs...

If you want to build up some "popularity" around your game, I would suggest to visit your FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) and ask if you can host and EVENT. You can bring FREE copies of the game for groups of 4-Players. Make it sort of like a contest: the winner of the 4-Players gets to KEEP the game. You could have multiple games at the same time and make it a Sunday Event for a couple of hours or so...

Usually Sundays are more relaxed at Game Stores ... Also usually a younger crowd too.

You can maybe go with a REGISTRATION SHEET and ask your FLGS if it is acceptable to have customers sign-up for the event. Ask for First Name and E-mail...

This will then allow you to send a REMINDER when the event is to occur.

That's good because you have people interested in addition to the gamers who visit the store on the Sunday (BTW I say Sunday ... You can pick what works best...) Get people PLAYING and help by answering questions and coaching the players a bit too...

With this type of EVENT, you should be able to at least do what MATTERS: introducing players to a game they have FUN playing!


And I'm talking from experience...

I have probably demoed TradeWorlds to about 100 Groups of players. From 2-Players to 4-Players, I've done it to several FLGSs near my area, Comic Cons (several times), a Game Con (In Hamilton), a MANGA Con, online TGC Con ... And I've had a bunch of people play the game from experienced Deck-Building Experts to novice 9-Year olds... And everyone that I've demoed the game to has had FUN. Not one bad review.

Actually it's quite the other way... Several people approached me and ASKED IF they could BUY the game. I had to turn them down, explaining that what they played was a "Prototype" and that I did NOT have retail copies to sell.

The game has seen a lot of "table time" and its "core" has been tested so many times. Admittedly the Expansion Content has seen less playtesting but does include Development and Blind Playtesting ... But that content was part of an expansion that had been PLANNED to be part of the "core". I just saw it fit to remove it and make it an add-on because the "core" game was BIG ENOUGH!

All I'm saying ... Is to get the game out there. Let people play it ... And enjoy watching them have FUN. That's the best you can hope for... From there is always a path to some form of success (whatever you deem important for you!)


For me personally...

I do it because I have different designs to work on... And I move from one to the other trying to keep everything "Fresh". But like in your case where you have like three or four designs, I've got about a dozen or so designs in different stages of design. One in production, two are prototypes, one draft prototype (still needs work), and bunch in early design (ideas and concepts but no prototypes as of yet)...

Like I said for me "personally", I've found what I want to do with my life. I immensely enjoy the process, I also have no problem hosting and moderating, I don't mind volunteering my time either... The real issue is trying to make some kind "of living" from this gig. It's hard. KS used to be an option, but no longer. The Backer expectations are so high nowadays if you don't have a Video you're screwed, if you don't have SEXY enough of a KS Page with all kinds of animations and blinged-out images you're screwed, if you don't have a game that appeal to a lot of people you're screwed...

So while I like what I am doing... I'm being forced to find other ways to make money to pay my living expenses and rent. I wish I could make ends-meet with JUST design... But it's a hard business to scale. And I'll explain why:

If you design ONE (1) Game, you can sell ONE (1) Product. But the deal with this product is that you need sufficient funds to pay Artists/Illustrators to make art for your game, a Graphic Artist to render things like Card Templates and website mock-ups, you need to have monies for inventory and you need to handle all the freight and shipping to the destination of your games.

While this sounds ALL GOOD... There is a DOWN-SIDE: you CAN'T SCALE!

It's not like a Coffee Company that relies on remote farmers to produce more beans and other varieties. See that Coffee Company can SCALE with more farmers and other products. In Publishing, you can take on ANOTHER Customer... But unlike the Farmer that does MOST of the WORK, a Publisher needs to face the biggest hurdles and FINANCE EVERYTHING (From Art to Templates to Rulebooks)... So you're stuck doing ONE (1) Game at a time.

Now think of this: one game could take 8 months to make and 2 months to ship. That's 10 Months for ONE (1) game... This essentially means that you can MAKE and SELL ONE (1) game a YEAR... Again you cannot SCALE.

But you'll say some people manage to do it... Indeed they have. Jamey Stegmaier does it one game at-a-time and used to Publish his OWN Games and now Publishing other people's game he deems worthy. The challenge is VOLUME... Think that some games like Scythe has sold over 500,000 units. Well think that BEFORE Jamey had millions of dollars for inventory, he needed to figure out how he could SELL his games and go from a KS of 18,000 Backers to 50,000 units and now on to more over time. 50,000 x $25 USD = $1.25 Million in seed money. Granted like I said it was over time... Also think that Jamey has a BUNCH of games too... So we're talking about monies for a large overhead.

It's quite the business conundrum ... And it's a tough gig TBH. And the reality is that MOST games won't even sell 5,000 units. So do design knowing that it's something you ENJOY but something that may be hard to help make a living in doing so.


And BTW ...

I don't know Jamey very well... But from my understanding of his business and the games he publishes, my guestimate is that he's probably got about $4 Million USD in Inventory with all the games made and manufactured for stores around the World. This may not be 100% true, it may be lower... But I don't exactly know if Jamey sells more to the US than EU?! This is what I would call an "educated guess".

I don't quite follow

I don't understand why a publisher can't scale, except for financial constraints and cashflow problems. If they produce and sell a run of 1000 games one year and there is still demand or perhaps increased demand then they can do another print run relatively easily because the factory already has everything. They could print another 5000. That's what I think of when I think scaling: increasing the volume of production with relatively little effort.
If they're manufacturing the game themselves with hobby level equipment then that's a constraint on production because there's only so many they can produce in a day.
I'm a bit confused whether you're talking about just the design aspect or the full operation of publishing?

I appreciate your advice on introducing games at my FLGSs. I'll look into that. That's definitely my aim at the moment, to test for the fun factor. If it's not fun then I need to rethink my whole approach and learn more about what (other) people enjoy.

I feel the same way

I'm glad you've found a strong purpose for your life in game design. It's not as frivolous as many people would think. I was chatting with a teacher about games and she said that board games are excellent for brain development (and probably maintenance too) and uses them often in class. That process of trying to understand a new game and work out strategies, analyze data, it's hard work for the brain without feeling like hard work (if it's fun). And apart from stimulating other people's brains it's also a great creative outlet combining visual artwork, story writing as well as designing the actual game and its mechanics, which is enough to keep you happily busy for a life time. So yeah I think I've found my thing too, or at least one them!
It's much easier to make money from a regular job and just keep game design as a fun distracting hobby, and if it feels like you're onto something big (design wise) then cut down 1 or 2 work days and see if you can make it happen - treat it like a real job.

You understood what I meant by "not being able to scale".

gamesomuch wrote:
I don't understand why a publisher can't scale, except for financial constraints and cashflow problems.

You understood me correctly. It's all about making the game(s) available when they are HOT! And if it costs about $15,000 USD to make, produce and ship 1,000 units... You're not really moving very fast (when I say moving I'm talking about selling inventory). And if you're making like $10,000 USD on that inventory over 10 months, you're not really making enough to pay yourself let alone other people... That is why I say it is HARD to make ends meet.

gamesomuch wrote:
If they produce and sell a run of 1000 games one year and there is still demand or perhaps increased demand then they can do another print run relatively easily because the factory already has everything. They could print another 5000.

If financially you have the means (again). 5,000 units is a lot of monies in terms of paying for the inventory and shipping from China (for example). So that's why I am saying it is "difficult" scaling because of the "overhead" involved in producing MORE games (units).

gamesomuch wrote:
I'm a bit confused whether you're talking about just the design aspect or the full operation of publishing?

Also in the Board Game Industry most Publishers accept "unfinished" prototypes and fully develop the game. This means that the Publishers take on the task of rendering the game (paying for the art production, graphic design of cards, layout of the rulebook). You submit a Word document of your rulebook which is enough to explain how to PLAY the game and the Publisher will take that and produce a Professional Looking Rulebook.

Sometime designs are further down-the-line and have art. The fact remains that if the Publisher will need to do more art or edit the current art, they will use their own Artists/Illustrators.

So this means as a Publisher, you are financially bound to producing and completing a semi-finished game and making it look like a REAL Game that has gone through all phases of the rendering.

gamesomuch wrote:
I appreciate your advice on introducing games at my FLGSs. I'll look into that. That's definitely my aim at the moment, to test for the fun factor. If it's not fun then I need to rethink my whole approach and learn more about what (other) people enjoy.

No problem, I'll answer your other comment here and say that I agree the process of designing and developing games is not for everyone. Some might only design one game and be happy with that and move on to other things. Others prefer working and perfecting a particular design itself and try to focus on one (1) design... I agree that for most people Game Design will need to remain a HOBBY some thing they do in their "extra hours" after working a normal job.

Cheers! And I'm glad you've decided to stick around Your designs look to be very interesting and show a lot of promise.

But I agree...

An EXTRA $10,000 USD is something not too insignificant. If it goes towards YOUR bottom line (Yearly income), it's not too bad. But like you said, if it's a question of "cashflow", you'll most likely want to RE-INVEST that $10k and take no income to allow you to produce more inventory (while the game is HOT)!

So I think now you see why it is (when you learn more and do further analysis) hard it is to have a business involved with making games.

That's why I say it is very challenging making games... And even if I do own my own business, while I will attempt to make some sales, at least I am aware of what the figures look like. It's hardly "roses" and I just wanted to share some of my "observations" in terms of learning the HARD WAY what works and what does not...

If anyone would ask me my personal opinion, I would state keep your day job and work on games in the evenings... Earn 4% or 5% per design and get your games out-there and continue to design to your heart's content!


If I could Bankroll 50,000 units and sell all that inventory... That would be totally FANTASTIC. But IF I need to do it over 20 YEARS, hehehe... Well it's not so fantastic after all. Maybe if I could do it over 5 YEARS or 10,000 units a year... I can't Bankroll that either!

Right now it looks like I can Bankroll 1,000 units and if I do this for 5 YEARS, I land up with 5,000 units sold.

This is probably why MOST games don't do more than 5,000 units. The people involved in making the games cannot AFFORD to pay more for a larger inventory of games, EVEN IF they CAN SELL more...

I'm doing it now because I have the time and can put in the effort to do it. But I am fully aware that it's not so exciting in terms of SALES and scaling.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Syndicate content

blog | by Dr. Radut