Game Design Epiphany – Take out the Theme!

I am going to pop in here with some game design epiphanies from time to time. Most likely it will simply be a short paragraph or two describing the epiphany that I had, and then, ideally, it will spark some discussion.

I had a game idea percolating for a long time. I decided yesterday that I would make it a simple card game instead of the massive board game that I had initially envisioned. That in and of itself was truly an epiphany and got me from concept into actual design… really, in my Google Docs folder I moved it from the Brainstorming folder it was in to its own game folder!

However, that isn’t the epiphany that I wanted to write about today. As I sat down to design the cards for this game, I got hung up on the theme. I was trying to come up for names of rooms and names of components and resources, and in the end I didn’t need to. Even though the idea for this game was born from a theme, it can be boiled down to letters or numbers alone. I have cards that require resources. I have  cards that create resources. Those resources don’t need names, they can just be “A” through “E”.

This early in the design process all you should be doing is testing the desired systems to ensure they aren’t broken. Theme, characters, resources and the like can all wait until you  are ready to play-test with a wider audience.


Game Design Blitz #1

Last year at some point I received a Kickstarter project that I had backed in 2016. It is called Gamer Deck 1: Mechanics. A standard deck of playing cards containing a suit, a die, a number and a mechanic on each card. The idea is to use the deck to generate game ideas, and to have the deck to use when others develop games using that deck.

Sadly my game design took a back seat and I really didn’t ever try to utilize Gamer Deck. Now that I am working more on my designs I want to keep the creative juices flowing, so I decided to use Gamer Deck each week for a blog series in which one day a week, I spend my train ride to work by developing a game concept using a card randomly pulled from the Gamer Deck.

And here is this week’s card:

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Game Creation Series – 01: Introduction

I’m in a park in Burbank, CA. It’s a sunny Tuesday and I’m supposed to be collecting field data for work. I’ve got my orange vest on, my clipboard and pencils, pliers that I use to open junction boxes so that I can look at the electric wires that form the nervous system of a traffic signal. But I’m distracted. I look at my phone. A little more to the north, no, now I need to move east… Oops. Too far, back to the west a bit. What’s around here where it could be hiding? Back then I was pretty gung-ho about GeoCaching, a virtual treasure hunt where you use known GPS coordinates to locate little hidden boxes with trinkets inside. When you find it you sign the log, and if you have a trinket to leave behind, you can take a trinket from the box. I found that one, hidden in a magnetic box under one of the park benches. As I sat on that bench thinking about the cache and about the process of following the GPS to find it, I had an epiphany. I could make a game about this!

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Cast Iron Game Review – Azul


As one of the King’s personal artists, your presence in the factory garners attention. Workers rush to show you their best hand-painted ceramic tiles. Color and shape explode from the bins and workbenches scattered through the warehouse. What’s this?! You have specifically asked for a certain number of tiles and they made too many! The extras have nowhere to go in your intricate designs and will end up in the bin. What a waste, and you are sure to get a reprimand from the King upon your return to the palace! You collect the tiles that you need and make your way to the palace to put them in place.

IMG_4388.JPGAzul is a tile-laying game for one-to-four players that allows you, a tile-laying artist the chance to embellish the walls of the Royal Palace of Evora. The artist that is able to make the most complete design while minimizing waste will emerge victorious. Michael Kiesling is the designer of this game published by Plan B Games, with art direction by Philippe Guérin. Azul plays over a variable number of rounds, taking between 30-45 minutes to complete a game.

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Cast Iron Game Review -Kingsport Festival the Card Game

Flickering torchlight reveals the rotting beams, musky earth and dank walls that surround you. Your vision blurs as the squealing wind of the storm outside fades to a soft static. You prepare your mind for the torturous rites you are about to invoke. There is ancient energy here, emanating from the decay of the earth beneath you, the destructive forces above, and the evil that lies beyond the veil. The cavern of Erebus is the perfect place.

You know the incantations, but you remember to be fluid, to be open to altering your plans depending on which type of energy you are able to tap into. You know how to alter that energy into other forms, to bend it to your needs. Your goal is set, the forces that you need are clear in your mind. Fetid energy rises from the decaying life in the earth below, but it isn’t enough, you need more. You focus, pulling from the Nightgaunt and more death flows in. You turn your focus upward to the raging storm outside… this would be agony, but you must succeed. You call on the Flying Polyps and destructive energy flows in, mingling with the darkness inside. A scream built on anguish and rage erupts as your mind begins to buckle. You can’t take much more, but you are almost there, more destruction fulfill the needs of the elder gods. You calm your mind and reach into the chaos. You call on the ancient Mi-Go and feel the mixture of ancient energies swirling around you. You feel evil intermixing with the death and destruction you have already gathered. The God won’t answer an evil summons, it must be pure destruction and death! Your mind can’t take much more, but you have to finish. You invoke Rhan-Tegoth. Your screams rend the air as the cracks in your mind expand to the edge of shatter, but the evil energy inside you merges and becomes one with the destructive energy already there. You recite the final incantation and pour the energy from your soul. You collapse into the foul earth. Shadowy tentacles rise in front of you and pure evil fills the air… you have summoned Cthulhu.

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