Designing a Board Game, Pt. 1

One of the first classes I took in my Simulation and Game Development program was Design I. Our final project in that class was to design a board game. The idea was, use the design principles we’ve learned all semester and put together a prototype that works as a board game. This is much harder than it sounds.

My choice was to develop a board game based on the Pokemon video games for the Nintendo Gameboy/DS. My oldest watched the very first season of Pokemon, and despite their disparate ages, all three of my kids have fallen in love with the anime and the games. My two girls are still the biggest experts I know.

I didn’t have any illusions about the market potential for my game–I just wanted to make something my kids would find fun, and that I could use in a portfolio. But I kind of ran out of time toward the end and didn’t finish all the pieces, let alone take time to playtest it. I still got a decent grade based on the design and mechanics. But I knew it needed more work.

Enter my 9 year old. While I was cleaning out stuff and reorganizing things, she saw the game and remembered when I was working on it. She’s been whining a bit that I don’t do anything fun with her, so when she saw it she grabbed the box and said, “Let’s play this.”

Here is what I discovered right away:

  • If you have a rule that says “You can’t pass this space until you beat X” and you have no game pieces or information for X objective, you pretty much can’t play the game.
  • My 9 year old is a wellspring of great ideas for how to make my game better.
  • There are a LOT of pieces missing from my game, and I will need to make them before it is even playable. And I can’t test the mechanics/rules and make them better if it isn’t even playable.

I will be working on this project this week, in between my graphic design stuff. I’ll post some pictures later this week also. Stay tuned!


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