Organizing Your Game Design Space

One aspect of game design that doesn’t get talked about a lot is organization. It’s possible that this has heightened importance since I live in a space-starved home in Vancouver, but I think all designers need to have a certain amount of organization. When you first start out making games, you purchase (or find!) the components you need for that game. But as you start to accumulate bits and pieces, you quickly realize that you need some sort of place to keep your components.

Often designers start out by using tool boxes or craft storage boxes as they both have many compartments to help you keep your differently shaped pieces separate. This makes it quite a bit easier when you need specific pieces – you can just go to that compartment and get what you need. These boxes also have another benefit – portability. If you find that you’re often going to other places to design games, then portability is going to be important to you. I only design at my home, and I’ve found that since we’re designing more and more games, my need to keep my components accessible has increased. So let’s take a look at the various ways I keep my stuff in order!

We’ll start with card sleeves. This is probable the most used component in all of game design for me. Often after a playtest that didn’t work, we have to totally change an entire card set – and instead of de-sleeving and re-sleeving, I have found that I have just made a new deck with new sleeves. This means that I get a pile-up of old prototypes that no longer work but are still consuming my sleeves. So every once in awhile I spend an hour or so de-sleeving all my old prototypes.

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Here are all the garbage old prototype cards that no longer need sleeves! You can see our prototype of Akrotiri and Orphan Black in here!

So then where do I put the sleeves? Well, I use a regular cardboard card organizer that one would use for Magic cards. I sort everything by colour which makes it easy to get what I want. One thing I do wish – I wish I only ever bought one brand of card sleeves. You can see that in some colours that there are many different groups. That’s because even though they’re all BLACK – they’re all a different BLACK! So I couldn’t use them in the same deck.

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Next up is all my bits! I’m pretty lucky because I found this amazing piece of furniture at a store that was closing down. It’s looks beautiful and it’s amazingly functional for my needs.

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Each drawer holds some amazing goodies for a game designer. Let’s take a look at each row of drawers.

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The top left drawer is for coloured wooden discs and coloured wooden cubes. My supply of wooden cubes is ridiculously low. I’ll have to go get some more! They are very useful when you need to make your own dice for a prototype!

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The top right drawer is for bags (like dice or chit bags) and trays.

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The next row I have a small drawer just for sand timers and then a large but thin drawer for dice!

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The next row I have an empty drawer on the left due to my clean-out yesterday (so I’ve put what I always use as money in games…actual money!). The middle drawer is all my sharpies and other markers. The right drawer is all my cutting and glueing supplies.

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The left drawer is all plastic pieces like pawns, standees, gems and other plastic doodads. The middle drawer is wood! Large coloured wooden cubes, small cubes, square wooden tokens, circle wooden tokens. And the right drawer is colour sorted wooden bits. In here there are 6 separate containers – one for each colour – full of similarly shaped wooden bits that I got from Fantasy Flight. Then I stuffed a bag of wooden cubes in there as well.

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Cubes! Probably my second most used prototyping tool I use – coloured plastic cubes. I find it imperative that these cubes be sorted based on colour. It makes prototyping so much easier. Often I’ll be leaving for a game night and forget that I need X number of a specific colour – and I can quickly grab what I need. I change the size of the compartments based on how many cubes of each colour that I have.

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The small leftmost drawer is just for elastics! The middle drawer is for tools I use – like the Crop-o-dile that makes rivets so you can make dials. The right drawer is my meeple drawer – again sorted by colour.

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This is the hardest drawer to keep clean. This is my baggie drawer. Right now it’s perfect! I put baggies of the same size in a another baggie of that size – so it’s easy to grab the size you want. But it gets super messy when I put baggies back as I’m not often as diligent in putting them back in the baggie they came from!

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There are still more drawers? Yep! The one on the left is a bit of a mishmash of things. Some wooden bits and some plastic. Couldn’t find a more thematic place to fit these bits. The drawer on the right are all coloured sticks.

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OK this is the last drawer – I promise! The one on the left is all flat, round tokens. The one on the right is another mishmash of things.

So there you have it! That’s one way of keeping your bits organized. My drawers don’t always look this tidy as I just did a clean-out yesterday. It feels great to have all of these components at the ready. Makes prototyping a lot easier if I don’t have to leave my house to get a specific piece. The danger is that you start to buy components just because they’re cool and you think you’ll use them -for sure- in an upcoming game. There’s a fine balance to owning what you need and being prepared for the next game you’re going to make. I know I have a lot of things that I bought that I thought were cool – but I have never opened the package. I think I’ve settled down now though and am comfortable in how many components I have!

The third thing we have to keep organized is our prototypes. If you’re only working on one or two games at a time, then this isn’t as much of an issue. But Sen and I are often working on many games at one time – so we need a system. This is my system:

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I bought this drawer system from Ikea. The top three drawers are a bit thinner than the bottom three. Here’s how I use them:

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The top 2 drawers are full of games that are ready to be play tested right now. I could grab any of these and take out to test. Once things have been tested, then the second drawer is the on-deck drawer if the prototype needs some tweaking before being tested again. Right now I haven’t been to a test night for awhile due to summer vacations and my teaching schedule so both the top two drawers are full of games ready for testing!!

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The third drawer is for games that are broken and need some more attention. We’re not too sure how to fix these ones – but they seemed close at one point!

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The next drawer is full of prototypes of games that have been signed or are being assessed by publishers right now. I keep them here until they come out because you never know if you will be asked to test another aspect of the game.

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The bottom two drawers are for games that we have currently abandoned. Some are super old but we have some games in here that are worth re-visiting from time to time. Often a game gets dumped in here if we can’t figure out how to make the game special and different. We have dug games out of these drawers and changed them up to make a totally new game later on! Never throw away a prototype!

So how do you keep your bits and pieces organized? Let me know in the comments below!

-Jay Cormier

Hey – a review for Orphan Black: The Card Game? Yay!

orphanblackcoverOne game that Sen and I designed that kind of came and went a bit too quickly was our first game released based on an IP: Orphan Black! We both loved the show and were excited to make a social deduction game set in this world. But alas, the game has flown under the radar for quite awhile even though it has received great reviews by Tom Vasel of the Dice Tower and Joel Eddy of Drive Thru Reviews.

So it’s always a pleasure when a new review pops up…especially when they also like the game!🙂 Christopher Richter from Boardgaming For The Win wrote up a nice rules summary and offered his thoughts on the game as well. Some quotes that stood out to me:

“If you are a fan of games that deal with intrigue then you will love the Orphan Black: The Card Game.”

“The game is very easy to pick up & learn. After the first round of play the game just gets progressively faster.”

“I recommend picking up this one.”

Thanks Christopher! Glad you enjoyed it! Read the entire review here.

-Jay Cormier

Shut Up and Sit Down video review of Junk Art

Here’s a fantastic video review of our new game, Junk Art by Shut Up and Sit Down. He really loved the game and had many wonderful things to say about it. Here are a few of my favourite quotes:

“It’s more wonderful than you might first think it is.”

“It’s a terrific surprise waiting to burst out of the box!”

“It is, absolutely, hands-down the very best game you can get that’s about putting things on top of other things.”

“Shut Up and Sit Down thoroughly recommends Junk Art!”

“It is silly and slapstick but also quite clever and nuanced.”

“It’s going to take pride and place in my collection.”

Wow – what a great review! Thanks Paul – and thanks Shut Up and Sit Down!!

-Jay

Opinionated Gamers review Junk Art!

Screen shot 2012-01-16 at 10.21.04 PMWe’re very pleased to report that those very opinionated gamers from Opinionated Gamer love Junk Art! Finally we’ve made a game that they all can enjoy! You can read all their glorious words of praise here, but here are some of my favourite quotes:

junkartThis is one of those games that I have loved from first sight.

the variety of goals and gameplay offered in the different city cards makes this one stand out from the genre

I’ve played this a couple of different ways, and every play has been simple, laugh-out-loud fun

This is an inventive entry into the dexterity games space with a great, almost obvious theme and really well-done components

Thanks for playing!!

-Jay Cormier

Positive Video Review of Junk Art!

The Board Game Kaptain has posted a rules summary and a review of our new game, Junk Art…and he loved it!He even had his wife chime in with a second opinion and she loved it even more than he did! Some things that stood out:

“Even though I was dreading this game, I think this game is a lot of fun!”

“If you like high quality games that are going to last you years and years and years, buy this game.”

“If you like light-hearted dexterity games that have spontaneous bouts of laughter, buy this game!”

Wow – awesome! Thanks for all the kind words and for taking the time to make this video.

Jump to 12:15 to watch the review part if you’d like.

-Jay Cormier

Rock Paper Wizard Announcement from WizKids!

A brand new game from not only Sen-Foong Lim and myself, but also co-designed (and graphically designed) by Josh Cappel has just been announced! Check out this brief synopsis of our upcoming social game, Rock Paper Wizard, set in the Dungeons and Dragons world! We’re super excited to be able to contribute to this world – and we’re excited to design a game with our Bamboozle Cousin, Josh! Expect to see the game in January 2017.

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-Jay Cormier

Orphan Black Catches the Eye of Boardgaming For The Win

As our first published venture into the realm of Intellectual Properties (though we’ve been working on Godzilla for much longer) and the first social deduction game we’ve made, Orphan Black holds a special place in my heart.  BBC America’s amazing show (starring the stunningly talented Tatiana Maslany – a fellow Canadian), which is further chronicled in IDW’s equally excellent comic adaptation, is one of my favourite series of the past few years eclipsed only by the recent rash of Netflix awesomeness.  But I still have much love for the Clone Club. And so does Christopher Richter, who posted an insightful review of the game, its rules, plus his gameplay impressions here:

Orphan Black Card Game

https://boardgamingftw.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/orphan-black-the-card-game/

For those of you who are fans of the show and haven’t picked up the game, give it a shot!  For those of you who are fans of games, but haven’t seen the show, check it out!    You’ll be amazed at how many boardgames are prominently featured in the show.  It’s as if the showrunners were gamers or something…

 

Jay and Sen Talk Teamwork on the Ludology Podcast Episode 134

There is no “I” in team.  It’s true.  So we have the next best thing – a Jay!  On our first night at Gen Con 2016, we hightailed it from the airport to the convention centre to seek out the illustrious Geoff Engelstein for an interview about how Jay and I work together so well.  It was great talking to Geoff and Mike Fitzgerald (one of my favourite card game designers of all time) about a topic that is near and dear to our hearts.

For us, it comes fairly naturally as we’ve been friends for more than half our lives.   We’ve lived together for several years and our lives are intertwined one several levels.  So maybe we have it easy.  But we were also able to talk about how to get over the rough patches that inevitably crop up in relationships and how to work on interpersonal communication for the betterment of the team.

I think we might have even convinced Mike to collaborate with someone in the future!  Maybe he’ll pick me!

To listen in, check out:

http://ludology.libsyn.com/ludology-episode-134-theres-no-i-in-team

~ Sen

Gen Con 2016 Wrap Up

Our second time being at Gen Con was full of hectic fun! I flew in on Wednesday night and got picked up by Sen, Jesse and Scott at the Indianapolis airport. We grabbed a bite to eat and then Sen and I got interviewed for Ludology! We were able to get our badges late in the evening since the check in was open 24 hours – smart!

IMG_4816Every day we spent one hour at the Pretzel booth demoing Junk Art and one hour at the IDWGames booth demoing our new Godfather: A New Don game. While we’re extremely proud of both games, the presence of Junk Art was very impressive! They had a huge booth with 3 tables dedicated to demoing the game. All 3 tables had extra large versions of the game which certainly drew crowds throughout the entire 4 days. It was great demoing Godfather: A New Don as well as it reminded us how cool of a game it is!🙂

One of our nights was spent with IDW Games where we were finally able to show them our Powers game. The game played very well and Nate from IDW caught me because I was too greedy!🙂 We spent the rest of the night pitching other games to IDW Games with many of them generating interest!

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Matt Kindt winning at Junk Art! Years of illustrating comics must have given him a steady hand!

Another one of our nights was spent with our comic book hero – Matt Kindt! I love his Super Spy comic a ton as well as his Mind MGMT and we played Knit Wit and Imhoptep together and then spent a few hours brainstorming a project that we’re collaborating on together! So fun!

The rest of our waking hours was spent meeting with publishers and pitching them games. Here’s a high level summary of what went down:

Breaking Games – they had a mock up of our Clunatics game but we all want to tweak it a bit so we chatted about a game plan.

USAopoly – Daryl Andrews and I were working on a game that we specifically were making for them. It was still in development so it was just a sneak peek! They also liked a game I designed with Shad Miller called Skirmishes. 

They were also interested in a party game that I came up with – the day before leaving for Gen Con! Crazy story! I came up with a game on Monday night in bed, then Tuesday I made the prototype and was able to test it Tuesday night. I had time left to tweak the prototype and then take it with me to Gen Con! Every publisher I showed it to expressed interest in this game! Grey Fox, Bellwether Games, Renegade Games and CSE Games all liked the game and one of them currently is looking into pricing and sourcing!

Pretzel Games already has our Junk Art but maybe they want more Bamboozle Brother love? We showed them our outdoor game, SimpliCITY and Rack Your Brain – and he expressed varied levels of interest for each of them.

Renegade Games is hot right now with Lanterns selling tons and Lotus looking to repeat that success. We have a game coming from them next year but we also really wanted them to check out our SimpliCITY. He took a prototype with him!

Marbles was there – not in a booth, but as a happy wanderer – and we were able to meet up with Tanya. She really liked our game, Lost For Words and showed a bit of interest in a game by Shad and me called Rack Your Brain. Then we showed her an alpha prototype of a single player game that would fit in the same kind of line of games like those Rush Hour games where you’re trying to slide cars around to get one of them out. Tanya was really taken by that game idea and she took a video of us demoing it. That has a high priority for us!

CSE Games was a lot of fun! Fabio has had a lot of success with the games he’s chosen to publish and we’ve only heard good things about working with him. He seemed genuinely excited by 4 of our games. Rack Your Brain seemed to be the most interesting since it would fit in with his high-selling Quartex line of games. He also liked Lost for Words, Word Bird and Draw Your Own Conclusions. 

Repos Production is a publisher we’d really love to partner with as they always have high production quality and seem to really support their games a lot. He expressed interest in Skirmishes, as long as we can support a team play – which we know we can!

Bellwether Games liked Draw Your Own Conclusions and SimpliCITY – as well as Rack Your Brain. We’ve sent him rules for SimpliCITY.

On our way out we almost got to meet with Haba, but we couldn’t align schedules. We did get to meet with Upper Deck for 10 minutes and learned about the kind of games they’re looking for! Win!

So all in all, a fantastic time and very much worth going for me. While we know many of these publishers and could send them any game in the mail, the opportunity to pitch it live in person is 10 times more effective. If you’re a board game designer who’s starting to get into game design and has a couple of games ready to pitch, then attending a live convention like Gen Con is highly recommended. Remember to follow our steps for optimal success!

-Jay Cormier