Shields Up! Reviews!

The reviews for Shields Up! are coming in and it really is fantastic to see the response. As a designer the most gratifying thing is to see that the reviewers are interpreting the game exactly as I had intended.

One detail about the game that I really enjoy is that late in the game there can be a lot of cards tied up in hands, shields and equipment on the table. This leaves very few cards for the draw/discard pile. This can lead to a mini variation of the game each time as the contents of the draw pile can be really slim. This means players will repeatedly abuse those same cards to some end. The result of all this is that the end game dynamics can be very different in each game. Ultimately, there is always a way to win though, its all about spotting the chance first. I was really pleased to see that this review by Everything Board Games picked up on that.

Everything Board Games review of Shields Up!:

In this video review by Boardgames and Bourbon its fantastic to hear how much they loved this little game. I believe that much of the success of the design is due to the rapid refinement it received at Protospiel Madison.

There is still pleanty of time to get in the Kickstarter. You can get just Shields Up! for $10, including shipping. Or for $24 you can get Shields Up! plus two other great 18 card mirco games! Again, shipping included!

Shields Up! On Kickstarter now!

I am so excited to say that the Kickstarter for Shields Up! has been up and running for a few days. It is actually being featured as a bundle of 3 micro games, all containing 18 cards. I can’t wait to get this game out into the world. Even more so, I am eager to see the stretch goals we have planed come to life. I have been testing out some extra cards that add even more layers to this already fun game.

Please check out the Kickstarter campaign! You can get Shields Up! for $10 (shipping included) or all three games for $24 (shipping included)!

Here are the cards from the game:


Emotion Focused Game Design

This session could, in my opinion, be titled Emotion Focused Game Design. In it the speaker talks about the different elements of the board game Burgle Bros and how he consider emotions as it relates to each element of the game. It is interesting to see how he considered the story arc, how emotion played in and how this was worked into the elements of the game. Really thought provoking.

A Crash Course in Graphic Design for Board Game Designers

I am really excited to be presenting at CrafterCon 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin! I have spoken at many events over the years, but I must say that I am more excited about this one then any previously. I have posted my presentation to SlideShare because it makes it easy to view.

If you prefer, just download the PDF here (~150mb file) or a compressed version here (12 mb).

Rule making game mechanic in Visitor


I recently backed a game on Kickstarter called Visitor. This relatively simple game has an interesting mechanic where one person creates a rule, and the goal of the other players is to figure the rule out. The article linked to below is a write up from the designers about the process of shaping this game. I have fond memories of the game Mastermind, and it was very interesting to see how it fit into their analysis.

Unique Mechanics of Visitor

12 Tenets of Board Game Design

As many aspiring game designers likely do I have been trolling numerous game companies online. With so many possible directions to go in game design it is really easy to design a bad game. When I stumbled upon Stonemaier Games list of design tenets I was really challenged in my thinking. I am sure other companies have similar principles, even if they aren’t in writing. But to so visibly see the exact guidelines they use to assess games and select them for production was insightful. And although these might not be exactly the rules I want to live by, they are really great list for consideration. In fact they are so solid in my opinion that at this moment I don’t see anything I would change. For now, this will be my go-to checklist.

And here they are, 12 tenets of board game design at Stonemaier Games (source link):

  1. Quick beginning and organic end: Streamlined setup with (at most) minimal pre-game choices, and an organic end-game trigger (we’re generally not drawn to games with a set number of rounds).
  2. Ability to plan ahead before taking your turn (you shouldn’t have to wait for the previous player to complete their turn to be able to decide what you’re doing on your turn).
  3. Limited analysis paralysis with choices displayed on player mats, game board, etc. This also manifests in a reasonable amount of information on display, not dozens of cards and tiles with detailed text that players need to read from across the table.
  4. Tension, not hostility. We like to limit the potential for spite while still encouraging various forms of interaction.
  5. Interesting choices are better than luck. If there are elements of randomness, players should be able to make decisions based on random input (instead of, say, rolling dice to determine the outcome). Agency is very important; it means that players have control over their fate.
  6. Rewards and forward momentum, not punishment and backwards movement. Players should feel like they’ve progressed during the game to a superior position than at the beginning, and the mechanisms should support this (i.e., engine building).
  7. Very, very few rules exceptions.
  8. Strong connection between theme and mechanisms. Mechanisms should be designed to keep players immersed in the game instead of reminding them they’re playing a game. Two key examples of mechanisms that don’t do this are phases and action checklists. There are much better, thematic ways of showing players what they can do on their turn.
  9. The potential for dramatic, memorable moments in a game is difficult to achieve, but it’s a huge plus when the game allows and encourages them to happen.
  10. Board games are tactile experiences. We love games with some type of appealing, exciting component. It can be as simply as the cardboard Tetris-style pieces in Patchwork or as complex (yet important) wheels in Tzolk’in.
  11. Variable factors to create replayability–you can’t play the same exact game twice, even if you try.
  12. Multiple paths to victory. Various game subsystems should be equal in their ability to reach the winning criteria.