Game Design Month 2014

November is National Game Design Month, according to the internet. I wonder if anyone keeps track of these things. Is there a National Fork Day or an International Week of Picking Up Stuff With Only Your Left Hand? Anyway, I’ve participated in NaGaDeMon (worst acronym ever) before, and it’s a great way to get motivated. The idea is to create a playable game in one month, going from concept to a final product that can be shared with others.

Earlier this year, when I was a guest on Boardgames To Go, I had an idea about creating a game that would fit inside a mint tin. I decided to make that part of NaGaDeMon this year, and rather than being a limitation, I think it helped focus my ideas.

My initial concept was to make a tile game where players moved bulldozers along pathways, trying to create parks and gardens from abandoned buildings and parking lots. I played around with this for a while, but found that it seemed to play itself. All of the decisions seemed too evident, and it was just a race to a single end.

Moving cubes on tiles? Brilliant!
Moving cubes on tiles? Brilliant!

I kept the tiles and the renovation concept, but moved the tiles apart to create streets and intersections. The tiles became buildings in an aging downtown and the bulldozers became project managers at a design firm. Players would allocate resources to tiles and eventually score points for participating in the renovation. Players would have to manage their resources (cubes) as they moved them from their hand to the tiles, so I decided to keep it simple and only allow a single action per turn. Players either move their project manager to a location or bring cubes to a location from a reserve tile. Cubes can be moved from a player’s hand to a reserve tile when they move their project manager. This kept the players moving around the city.

Mechanically, this worked pretty well. It was only missing one thing. It wasn’t fun. I decided to add in an auction to make things more interesting. Players could bid to place a cube in an intersection that would score points at the end of the game based on the number of adjacent tiles that had been developed. Initially, it was just a simultaneous blind bid, but one of the playtesters suggested using the tin (thanks Amy!) for the bidding. Players secretly place their bids in the tin and pass it to the next player. It’s fun to shake the tin and try to guess the number of cubes.

All of this fits into a mint tin.
All of this fits into a mint tin.

I’m pretty happy with the results, and as soon as I get some art for the tiles, I will put it up as a print-and-play game on BGG. I will add a link to it, once I get it uploaded. It was a good exercise in design, and it sparked some new ideas for other games. I had some great input from my lovely wife and my friends at the Crazy Squirrel Game Store. Thanks to everyone who helped make the process so enjoyable.

My buddy Joe created a space themed solitaire card game, which turned out great in my opinion. I think it made it easier having a design buddy that helped me stay on track.