Don’t start play-testing until you’ve completed these ten steps

Board game design, like many things, is an iterative process. That means your speed of design is determined by how long it takes you to complete a cycle and how many cycles you have. In the diagram above, I’ve simplified this process to show that, by far, play-testing will be the majority of your development time. Although the “Pre-play-testing” time and “Post-play-testing” time can also be iterative, they aren’t nearly as dependent on external forces outside your control (play-testers) and therefore aren’t going to be as unpredictable or slow.

I should also say that since play-testers are usually unpaid volunteers (family and friends to start out with), you should do your best to honor their time by presenting them with something that already has some wrinkles ironed out. Not to mention that first impressions matter — you’re going to want them to WANT to play-test your game repeatedly because they had fun the FIRST TIME.

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How do you pay people to help you with your game if you have no money?

If I could afford to pay you, why would I be starting a company?

Creating a game can easily lead to starting a new company. Once you’re talking about that, how do you decide how much of that company belongs to you, any partners you have, and any workers you can’t afford to pay?

This a summary of the book, “Slicing Pie”, by Mike Moyer. I was intrigued by this book since it is promised to help with the complicated process of splitting up the equity of your new company.

The problem, according to the book, is that when you try to split your company by percentage, it almost always leads to resentment. How do you value the person who does most of the work versus the person whose house you work at versus the person who invests most of the money?

Mike Moyer’s solution is to “slice the pie”. Here’s some of the key concepts that explain what’s involved with that:

  • Ideas are worthless by themselves. Not until work has begun does it start to have some value.
  • Before you have investors, each person gets a dollar-based portion of the company, depending on their contribution.
  • Each person is “paid” (with equity) for the work they do according to a mutually agreed upon hourly rate. As a rule of thumb, that pay will be twice as much (2x) as they’d get if they were paid with cash. This makes up for the risk they are taking that, should the company fail, that work will remain unpaid.
  • Each person is paid the market value for typical equipment, supplies, and rental space used for the business. If it’s something that you could get anywhere, the value is just 1x.
  • Cash investments are paid at 4x since that is money that could be lost. However, loans that must be repaid with cash do not get any equity, they are just repaid at regular interest.
  • Percentage ownership of the company can be computed at any time by using the above rules of thumb. That could mean that one month one partner could own a majority and then next month a minority, based on participation and investment.
  • The book also has great tips on how to handle partners leaving for various reasons and other complex situations.

Look for Mike Moyer’s “Slicing Pie” at your favorite bookseller.

Steal more ideas

Stealing, copying, inspiration…. whatever.

It has been famously quoted, “bad artists copy; good artists steal”, meaning that a good artist can truly make a work that inspires them their own. I would argue you don’t even have to be that talented to steal — as long as you have the passion and put in the effort to steal something thoroughly, it will become yours.

I have long experience in graphic design, especially with t-shirts. When I started, I was reluctant to to do anything that showed I was inspired by another artist. But once I got more experience and realized the work that inspired me was originally inspired by other works by other artists, I stole more freely.

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Rules for Witches’ Brew (HABA contest entry)

The game plays with 4 cats, 3 green witches, 2 yellow witches, and a single red witch. Here I’m showing the back of one of each color to show the type of dice rolls expected.

It’s a little known fact that witches are not brewing potions and poisons in their enormous vats but root beer. Unfortunately, they’re not very good at it. Can you help? Brew up the best batch and win the witch as an enthusiastic fan of your great brew!

Objective: Attract the most witches to your yummy brews.

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HABA contest entry

Here’s an overview of the game I’m working on for my HABA contest entry. My goal was to make something simple that young children could easily understand but that kept adults interested as well. I also wanted to stick to using the existing pieces with as little additional components as possible. Here’s an overview of the internal pieces I used and what I added:

  • 6 witch meeples (3 green, 2 yellow, 1 red)
  • 4 orange cat meeples
  • 10 red frog meeples
  • 4 sets of 6 dice — one set for each player

The objective of the game is to lure witches (or the cats which are just witches in disguise) to your perfect root beer brews, using magic to help things out along the way. Here’s a list of game features:

  • Simultaneous turns — no waiting
  • Dice rolling with no paperwork
  • 100% language-free components so all you need is rules in each language
  • Fast 20 minute game play

Next post is my first pass at the rules!

HABA contest

My HABA haul

The children’s toy and game company, HABA, has a game design contest. For $5.00, you buy a collection of leftover pieces and make a game from the ones that inspire you. It’s likely still sold out although they’ve promised to put more up for sale. Check it out for yourself.

Here’s the rules. The gist is you send back a working game and they award a winner with a bunch of HABA products with the chance that your game may be published someday. With such a vague commitment on their part, they ask for no commitment from you that the game be exclusive to them after the contest ends. For myself, I thought it would be a good exercise and something I could work on with my son.

You can see my selection of HABA pieces above. The quantity was impressive but I was hoping for some unique dice. Also, it felt like all my pieces skewed on the younger side of kids’ game pieces. I have some ideas so I’ll be posting my game updates soon.

Are you participating in the HABA contest? What are you working on?