Updated: Mar 14
Written by: Enlil.
I have been designing board games (without knowing it) since I was a child. My beginnings were playing chess and classic dominoes with my parents. And my great revelation was when I discovered in 1996 the wonderful world of MTG. From that moment on I didn't know anything else since I didn't have any link that brought me closer to that world, but as soon as I graduated from the university I discovered that there are a great number of board games, from that moment on I dedicated myself to investigate and try a LOT of new game mechanics, from there I got the feeling of wanting to design games.
I discovered "Deckbuilding" games in 2014, which opened up a whole new world of game design for me. Since then I've designed a game from start to finish (DOXA), and I've also played a lot of games, especially in the last few years.
Despite that history, I've learned more about game design in 2016 than in all the other years combined. That's not to say I'm a good designer, just that I learned and know more now and am a more game design-aware person than in the past. I will tell you a bit about the trajectory I have had and what motivated me to want to continue on this path full of emotions of all kinds but I ALWAYS learned something, that's why I want to share with you in this simple blog post everything I have been able to learn and apply.
In 2016 we founded Doxa Entertainment and it really was the best teacher I could have had, in that period I launched a Kickstarter, and fortunately, it was fully funded in 1 day and a half which for me was incredible, I thought everything was solved and that it would be easy, but I WAS MORE WRONG than ever! I learned about design, manufacturing, sales, suppliers, marketing, statistics and probability, art, creating community, creation processes, etc. It was crazy and a huge learning experience. And thanks to that was my time to pause, assimilate and evolve to what is now Lighthouse Games, with more focus and purpose.
Here are 12 key points that I think can help you a lot to learn maybe a little faster but more effective your process. Every designer is different, so these points are not a holy grail or anything like that. I repeat, it is a base that will work VERY well for you.
1.-Everything should be FUN. Really have that as a basis in your design. That's what we play for, isn't it? It's the most important thing in game design: every aspect of the game should maximize fun.
2.-What's the focus. Do you want to create a game to teach? to just have fun? just for fun? Whatever your approach is, respect your idea, do not constantly change your ideas, it may not be very healthy for your design or for you personally, it is good to know from the beginning what you want to achieve.
3.-Play many different types of games. It is important that as a designer you have in mind many game mechanics and you can have a wider panorama and range and how to implement new and novel game mechanics.
4.- The first game matters. This is a lesson I am still learning. We usually hear that first impressions count, and this couldn't be closer to reality. Your design has to be fun, engaging, and exciting. An analogy could be that if you go to a restaurant if you like it from the beginning, you are likely to come back even with your friends and family. So work on a good presentation, brief and concise of all the points you are going to explain and the experience you want to create.
5.-You know how to accept frustration and negative advice. This may seem obvious: of course, you don't want players to talk bad about your game. There will never be a perfect game for everyone in the world, it is very important to keep that in mind when designing, learn to listen, and take strength and new ideas from the feedback you receive.
6.-Balance your design. Take some probability exercises and play with variables in your design, do not do it randomly or start from scratch, have a solid base where your game generates emotions and acceptance (depending on your audience).
The key is to make the player always feel lucky when he/she does some action in his/her turn.
7.-Keep it simple, don't complicate your design at all. If you already have a mechanic or theme, DON'T overcomplicates it, many times when you want to change something in your game or add expansions at the same time you take out your base design it can't be very functional. In terms of time, it is very time-consuming and you may not be able to achieve your main goal. Think about it and apply what is more viable in your design.
8.-Create a connection between the mechanics and the theme. Simple as this; if the theme matches the mechanics, the game will be easier to learn and easier to remember. Therefore, the more you can connect the mechanics with the theme, the better.
9.-The rulebook is the most interesting and complicated part. Writing an instructive can be the most overwhelming challenge, but if you have it clear, try to explain ALL your mechanics, if you as a designer find it difficult to explain yourself, the more difficult it will be for your potential buyers. Work and polish your instructions well and if you have the opportunity to have an expert formatting and proofreading your rules, it will be even better.
10.- Test your design BLIND. DO IT. A very harsh but true reality is that people care the least about what you feel. You will learn a LOT OR EVERYTHING that they don't have you there to explain the game: this is really the only way to find areas of opportunity in your rules.
11.-Simplify. Always try not to let your game get stuck or generate paralysis analysis if it doesn't require it, that can be a shot in the foot. Think well about what you want to create around your game.
12.-Keep a diary. Always keep a record of the number of playtesting you had, positive and negative observations, dates of work. Respect and keep a healthy calendar and it will be much easier for you to create your design.
I really hope these have been good and positive points for you, I wish you the best of success. What have you learned about designing YOUR games? Lighthouse Games. Boardgame studio.