In my spare time I design and develop board games. Board games are among the most interesting objects I know of. Through very simple rules, the allow for new types of social situations to arise, they teach fundamental concepts non-verbally, and also engage us through many senses; through tactility, through visual cues, through social cognition and through the imagination.
On this page I wish to share some of the products that are intermediate to the very creation of a board game, as well as to share the end result.
This game is a work in progress. What inspired me to do this game was to see how terrain formation could be an integral part in the strategy of a game, as well as finding game rules that naturally created landscapes. These islands are meant to lie in the Aegean sea, and the geometric shapes are hoplites of various skill.
As the game goes on one builds the military, economic basis and strategic positioning. All to capture the last city of the enemy! Hoplite will be designed for two to three players.
Skakktafl was the first game I designed. It takes it's inspiration from chess, go and hnefatafl. You control one of two armies, marching against your enemy. Each Piece is a little paper sculpture that must be assembled by the player before starting. Even the game board is a jigsaw puzzle that must be assembled and cut out.
This game is not, in a sense, commercially available. One can only access this game through assembling it oneself. All the instructions are in the manual, along with the rules and a strategy page.
Bastion is my second game. The core of this game is equal pieces, but that work together to form new patterns on the board. The challenge here is the combinatoriality of the pieces. The board is not finalized. The design on the left makes for a defencive game, the one on the right favours offence. The manual can be found here.
Aspects of board game making
Making a star.
I started making games because I was intensely curious about how a few simple rules could combine to make a complex interactive system. I would learn about ancient board games were rules were not as developed, and then get inspired to make small modifications. My first few attempts were simple, but instructive, failures. The first one was a five by 11 grid, were single stones could form lines to propel themselves like cannonballs over enemy lines. Each stone could move one space in any orthogonal direction on a grid of squares. The playing mat was a laminated A3 sheet of paper filles with square grids, over which I drew different board sizes with a sharpie. Several of these games were tried out, but I could not seem to get them to work.
Trial and error.
The experience above is an important first step in a design. It stars with an impetus, a desire, a quriosity. But, after a while, that curiosity must develop into a lasting interest. The way to make a good board game, is to first make a bad board game, then slowly, through testing it yourself, and with friends, add and subtract elements until you have, what? What is a good game? Until you have, what you consider to be a good game. Not all games are fun at all time for all people; or even interesting at every turn. The ebb and flow of enjoyment seems to be like this: You can either have a game that is a pretty good time most of the time, or you can have a game which is thrillingly ecstatically enjoyable and rewarding, at least for one person, sometimes, or; if you are on the loosing end, a miserable time. At the first end of the scale we find games like "Cards Against Humanity", at the other end, poker and slot machines.
Rules as description.
What I mentally do, is to imagine some general way that I want the gameplay to be or to feel. For Skakktafl, I wanted the pieces to feel in one of two ways. They would either be part of making a shield wall, as the vikings would do to stop the initial charge of the enemy, or they would be heroic archetypes that convey a uniqueness. The flow of the gamplay was to be like this; I wanted to have impermanent barriers, like the pawns of chess, but with room for flanking. And I wanted the board to be big enough, and the pieces limited enough, so that there would be distinct areas of combat on the board. Which would force you to swich between thinking globally and locally; preferably nested like this; 3 decisions on the strategic level, 3 decisions on the tactical level. After I knew what I wanted, it was up to me to create a board and rules that created this effect.