First review of our upcoming game Akrotiri!

Akrotirifin3finAnd it’s a good one! Adam from The Daily Worker Placement has given an overview and his thoughts on this 2-player Z-Man game from Sen and I. Adam got a chance to play the final art prototype at the Gathering of Friends. A final art prototype is when the publisher takes all the finished art and makes their own version of the game. They even print the box art image and tape it to another box to make it look complete. The only thing that’s usually not final are the components. In this game the temples are wooden houses (but they’ll look more like temples in the final version) and the boats were made out of erasers!! Good idea for a prototype actually! Other than that – the art is 100% final and it’s now being sent off to the printers.

Thanks for the review Adam – can’t wait for you – and others – to get your hands on the final version later this year!

And here’s an interesting development: While we were at the Gathering of Friends – Akrotiri was being played by a bunch of people. One pair had a weird situation where the secret goal card one player picked up after excavating their 5th temple was already accomplished and was worth 13 points! Wow – that’s quite the swing of points so late in the game – though it’s very rare for it to be so dramatic like that. But still, we came up with a solution for those that want even less luck in their game. The main game will still remain as is, but for more advanced players they can flip 4 more Goal Cards face up near the board and any time a player has to take a Goal Card then they must take from one of the face-up Goal Cards. This means players can plan for specific goals and try to excavate easier temples in order to get the goal card they want faster! We added this to the main rule book – so it’s official now!

-Jay Cormier


We want your board game design stories!

whatsyourstoryWelcome to 2014! We’ve been working at designing board games for over 6 years now, and we’ve been writing about how to get published on this site for over 3 years. The goal of this site was to be very transparent and show people how we came to get our board games published. At the time we only had Belfort and Train of Thought being published but now we have six more games coming out this year! While we still have stories and lessons left to tell as we continue to learn new things about getting published, what we’d love to do now is to hear from other designers.

We’re introducing a new segment on our blog called: What’s Your Story?

We’ve already had one guest blogger, Patrick Lysaght, tell us a couple stories about following some of the steps outlined on this site (Pitching at Origins Part 1 and Part 2), and now we’d like to hear from you! Have you used any of the steps outlined in this blog? Have you found success – or even met up with some challenges? Do you have:

  • a story about how you pitched your game to a publisher, or
  • a story about how you make prototypes, or
  • a story about how you play test your games, or
  • a story about contract negotiation, or
  • a story about how you self-published, or
  • a story about how you used Kickstarter, or
  • any story about the design process?

Contact me and we’ll work together to get your story told: jay <at>

-Jay Cormier

The Next Step and Staying Motivated

Sen and I got into game design because we just loved games and thought it would be fun to also create them since we both had a passion for creativity (I did theatre and Sen did DJing/singing). As might be evident to long time readers of this blog, we didn’t know what the heck we were doing at the beginning! We knew the final goal was to get a game published and of course had no idea how to get there. What we did know was the next step.

The next step for a long time was to play the game again, change some rules to fix what didn’t work, then play it again. This part was pretty easy. We didn’t know how to make prototypes at all. We didn’t have fancy equipment or amazing artistic talent (anyone who’s seen our prototypes will attest to that!). We would make it out of bits of card stock and paper – sometimes spending way too much time making it (case in point: one time we actually glued backs on the tiles – AND we hand sanded the fronts so they had a bevel! This would be fine -if not excessive- for a submission of a final prototype, but this was our second version of the game!), and sometimes scrawling on some cue cards.

What’s very interesting to see and learn is that there is no right or correct way to make games. Sure we’ve learned a lot over the years from not only our experiences, but from other designers we have met – especially those that are part of the Game Artisans of Canada. I’d still say that there isn’t one right way to do anything in the game world. There are best practices and things that have worked though.

This isn’t meant to disuade anyone. Quite the opposite in fact. If you are ever get that feeling like you don’t know what to do to get a board game published (or really, anything done), just do the next step. The next step will bring you that much closer to a finish line.

I was happy to see this video of famed game designer Friedemann Friese as he shows off one of his prototypes. It has the same amateur-ish feel to it that our prototypes have. It is purely a design of function. It made me smile to know that while there isn’t a correct way, that other well known designers do some things very similarly!

-Jay Cormier

Belfort Expansion Playtesters Needed

Are you interested in playtesting the upcoming expansion to Belfort? Read on…

Looks like there will be a couple of Belfort expansions coming out this year! The first expansion will be a very small expansion – probably 3 new guilds. It will be super affordable and very accessible. The second one will change things up a bit and add a whole new layer – but actually make the game speed up! Crazy right?!

More good news, we’ve been given the green light to send out the prototype files to people interested in helping us playtest the prototype. There are so many permutations of how this new expansion works as it adds even more dynamic content. Add that to the fact that we have interchangeable guilds and we have a lot of testing to do!

If you are interested then you can send me an email ( and I will send out the files in a week or so.

The expectation if you sign up would be that you do indeed get at least one playtest session in, and that you complete a pretty simple form that will give us feedback about how it went. We couldn’t have any public reviews made about the playtest sessions until we’ve finalized all the rules of course. The file will be simple to print out and play with your existing game of Belfort.

So if you’re interested – send us an email! If you’ve yet to get your copy of Belfort and have wondered if it’s a good game or not…here’s another positive review of the game, this time from a site called Ludocracy!

-Jay Cormier

Adventures in Essen, Part 2: Attending as a Designer

If you’re a Designer and you’re at Essen, it’s for one of two reasons: You’re there to promote a game that’s launching or you’re there to pitch new games to publishers.

Matt Tolman (a fellow Game Artisan of Canada) had his game Undermining, published by Z-Man Games, launch at Essen. He had a few obligations throughout the fair, like demoing the game at the Z-Man booth multiple times and filming a video interview for BGG explaining the game. Even though Belfort just launched as well, our publisher, Tasty Minstrel Games, was not attending the Fair, so my goal at Essen was to pitch new games to publishers and make as many contacts as possible!

Planning for my trip to Essen started a few weeks before going to the actual Fair.  Sen, following our own advice as indicated in Step 17, used the Spiel ’11 GeekList on Boardgamegeek to create a database of all the publishers that might be interested in one or more of our new games.  He found out the contact information for each of them (sometimes much harder than it would seem, especially in foreign languages), prioritized which ones to contact and determined which of our prototypes should be shown to each based on their current product line or their submission guideline.

I then followed Step 18 and proceeded to email each of them explaining who I was and that I’d like to set up a meeting with them at Essen. Since this blog is all about being transparent and letting you see the entire process, here’s an example of an email I sent off to a prospective publisher:

Dear <Publisher>,

I’m going to be attending Essen this year and would like to arrange a time  to show you some of our new prototypes as noted below. Please respond with your preference.

Sen-Foong Lim and I are members of the Game Artisans of Canada and have designed Train of Thought and Belfort which have both been released this year from Tasty Minstrel Games.

We have a few games that we think would fit well with <Publisher>, and a sales sheet for each one is attached:

Bermuda Triangle: A time-travelling, pick-up and deliver, medium weight, strategy game for 2-4 players. Players program their boat’s movement using a unique mechanic in an effort to rescue more trapped explorers than the other players.

: A dice allocation game for 2-5 players. Players play pirates, rolling and assigning their dice to one of the 5 actions. Once all dice are rolled, players resolve the actions in an effort to get more boats or crew or attack each other with cannons in the sea, or with swords on land. We classify this as a medium-weight filler game.

: A party game for 3 or more people. Players must get any other player to guess a common phrase by providing the smallest of clues. On their own, the clues do not offer enough information, but add a couple more clues and it becomes more clear! A new twist on party games that keeps everyone involved at all times.

Lost for Words
: A word creation game that keeps everyone involved at all times with its unique 3×3 tile of letters. As one tile is flipped face up, players race to find the longest word possible in a straight line. Score is determined by subtracting the value of your word with that of the lowest valued word – so players are motivated to find any word to reduce other players’ scores! Fast and fun word finding game that can be played with 2-8 players in under 25 minutes.

We are also looking for international partners that are interested in publishing Train of Thought or Belfort outside of America. I’ll be bringing Train of Thought with me and if I receive my copy of Belfort in time then I’ll be bringing that along as well.

Thanks for your time.

I sent out about 15 emails or so to the publishers that we thought would be a good fit for the prototypes that we had to show. I got responses from most of them and we scheduled our meetings. I’d get a specific contact name, time slot and location (usually the publisher’s booth) and, after juggling a few conflicting, I had a pretty decent schedule with 4 meetings on Thursday, 4 on the Friday and 4 with publishers who said I should just stop by during the Fair at any time.

As indicated in Step 21, I packed my prototypes in individual Ziploc baggies and ensured they were clearly labeled with the game name and our contact information. I carried them in a backpack along with a folder full of 10 sales sheets for each game, as per Step 14, and an extra copy of rules for each game.  The amount of preparation we put into our pitches definitely helps make us look even more professional in the eyes of the publishers.  Many of them commented on how much they appreciated things like the Sales Sheets or how clearly everything was labeled.

I made sure to arrive before each meeting with time to spare because some publishers have multiple booths – if you go to the wrong one a few minutes before your meeting only to find that the meeting is supposed to be in another Hall, you might be out of breath for your meeting from all the running! I went up to the counter and asked a staff member if my contact was available as I had an appointment scheduled. I never had to wait more than 5 minutes and was soon escorted to a small room at the back of the booth – private and away from all of the hustle and bustle.

The publishers (or at least my contacts at the publisher – usually editors) were very nice and considerate – all of them! They all offered me something to drink and made sure I was comfortable. This was really nice as it made me feel more like an equal partner rather than someone who is begging them to publish my games. After a few pleasantries we got down to business.

Up Next: How I pitched games to publishers!

-Jay Cormier

Prototypes vs. Published Games

Just saw this cool thread on boardgamegeek where they showed pictures of prototypes next to pictures of the final published game.  We’ve done that here on this site – comparing Belfort’s prototype to some of the final art that we’ve been seeing – and it’s amazing to see the differences!  Check out the list here to see the humble beginnings of some of your favourite board games.  Here’s one example of the prototype for Pandemic and then the final version by Josh Cappel (the artist who’s doing the art for Belfort!).

-Jay Cormier

Step 11: The most important Commodity: Playtesters

Once you’re confident that your game is working (this might take a few tweaks to your first prototype!), then it’s time to bring it to the masses.

One of our Playtesters, Xavier, enjoying a prototype of Belfort

Now we come to the most precious commodity every game designer needs – playtesters.  To a game designer, playtesters are like gold.  Here is a group of people who are taking time out of their lives to play a game in an unfinished state and provide you feedback to help you make it better.  Here are our Three Rules about playtesters:

Rule 1: Respect your playtesters. Don’t subject your playtesters to a game that isn’t ready.  We learned this the hard way with The Dig, and all it does is tarnish your reputation as a serious game designer.  It will make it even more challenging to recruit these same people to playtest your next game (or your next tweak to this game).

Rule 2: Let them play the game. Don’t spoon-feed them strategies or help them too much.  Eventually this game is going to be played without you there, so as you continue playtesting the same game, back off further and further with how much support you give players.  This is also a great way to see if the game is broken or just how you explained the rules.

Rule 3: Listen. This has two meanings.  Meaning 1: While the game is being played listen and watch to what players are doing.  Are they complaining about something over and over again?  Are they confused about a specific rule a lot?  Are they trying to circumnavigate the rules to make it work for them?  Watching and listening to people play your game will give you a lot of insight into what’s working and what’s not working.

Meaning 2: really listen and be humble when the game is over.  By now you should have an idea already if they genuinely enjoyed the game, but now it’s time to get their actual feedback.  When they share their feedback, do not get defensive at all.  Accept all comments without defending why you did it your way.  Of course you don’t have to take any of their advice, and it’s impossible to take everyone’s advice all the time, it’s silly to ignore feedback, especially if you get the same feedback multiple times.

The one thing that we’ve found out about playtesters is that they usually enjoy being a part of the process, if you’re open to suggestions at the end.  To some people, helping overcome hurdles that a specific playtest might have had is like playing a game in and of itself.  The more times you get the same people to playtest each improved iteration of your game, the more context the feedback will have as they will understand where the game has come from and what changes have been made.  It’s especially rewarding if you have used some of their feedback in the next playtest.

Matt's suggestion of adding Taxes to Belfort

For Belfort we were having some issues with a run-away leader and were brainstorming ideas on how to overcome this with our playtesters after a specific challenge.  One playtester, Matt, suggested some sort of tax that was higher for players in the lead.  We fooled around with some balance but this feature ended up in the final game!  Thanks Matt!

Remember the purpose of getting playtesters to play your game isn’t for them to pat you on your back, it’s so you can get honest feedback on your game.  Treat your platesters like gold!

-Jay Cormier

Oh, “The Dig”…the Bamboozle Brother’s albatross, hanging around our neck like a millstone…But it was a good learning experience for us. It showed us the value in a) playtesting solo and b) having a solid working relationship with our core playtesters, many of whom we count amongst our best friends outside of gaming.

While some designers might have some difficulty accepting that we can get unbiased, constructive feedback from our friends, I would challenge them in that if you follow the rules that Jay has outlined, you can.

Rule 1: Respect your playtesters…

… and they will respect you. This is really the crux of our playtesting experience so far. We try to foster a mutual level of trust and respect between us,m nnn and our main playtesters. We are open so they are open. We are mature enough to know that there is nothing personal if they provide us with seemingly negative feedback so they are mature enough to give us a reality check when we need one or a boost if it’s deserved. They also know how seriously Jay and I take game design and they want to see us succeed. None of them want us to fail and would not blow smoke up our collective ass just to make us feel good. The fact that most of our playtesters are our friends who we already trust and respect is one thing, but we strive to do this with anyone who plays our games whether we’ve known them for 10 years or 10 minutes.

Rule 2: Let them play the game…

… is a hard one to follow because, as the designer, you have a preconceived notion of how the game “should” be played – and of course you should, otherwise you would never have made the game in the first place. And so we sometimes stick our big noses in when we shouldn’t. One thing we most definitely need to get better at doing is doing “blind” playtesting – where the playtesters read the rules and play without any input or interpretation from the designers. This is the true test of how well the rules have been written, how well your graphic design has been done and how well your player aid and board transfer information to the players. The more you allow your playtesters the freedom to interpret what they see with eyes wide open and a clear mind, the better off you will be because the feedback will be untainted by outside interference (i.e. YOU). One thing that is hard to sometimes recognize is that if the players do something unexpected, it is more likely because your explanation of the rules (be they verbal or written) was inadequate than any fault of the players themselves.

Rule 3: Listen…

… and take notes during game play. Accept their feedback. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with it, but you have to respect that their opinion is their opinion and all opinions are valid at this point in the process. I know I often have to stop myself from saying, “We thought of that already…” or ‘No, that won’t work because…” One rule I try to apply to myself when taking feedback is that I will not respond, I will only record. This, again, speaks to respect. For the majority of our serious playtesting, we have serious playtesters – “hardcore” gamers whose opinions we respect, and so we listen. But, for some of our less strategic games, we may have family members and friends who game casually play – does this make the feedback any less relevant? No – sometimes, they have the most realistic view of the game because they do not know common game parlance, memes or conventions and require things to be spelled out clearly. There is no such thing as bad feedback, only bad listeners. Don’t be one of those. Take everything under advisement.

All in all, playtesters are hugely influential in the journey from inspiration to publication. Without playtesters and their feedback, designers would never truly know if a game was worth presenting to a publisher. And no publisher would produce a game without playtesting it. A well-playtested game stands a MUCH better chance of getting published than one that hasn’t been. We’re starting to work with some outside playtesting groups (i.e. not personal friends) so our 3 Cardinal Rules are going to become even more important as Jay and I move forward with our games! I know that just reflecting on this post for the blog has helped Jay and I realize that there’s a lot more we could do to make more efficient use of our most valuable contributors. We’ll definitely have more blind tests. We may have more formalized feedback sheets again (we tried that once or twice), who knows? Maybe we should post them if we can find them…

In closing. I’d just like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt thanks to all of our playtesters to date. We couldn’t have gotten this far without you! You guys and gals rock!

-Sen-Foong Lim

Jam Slam rules Requested by Publisher

Just got word that Gamewright is requesting to see the rules to our Jam Slam game.

This is how it happened.  About 4 years ago, Sen and I invented a game called Jungle Jam (which I’ve written about a couple times already in this blog).  It’s been to see a few publishers already, and has undergone some improvements over the years.  Currently it is in the Great Canadian Game Design Competition and is a semi-finalist.  This is when we found out that the name “Jungle Jam” had been taken by another game and was entangled in some sort of legal dispute with a game called Jungle Speed.  Not to be confused with that game, we changed the title of our game to Jam Slam.  We’re expecting to find out any day now if it made it to the finals!

Concurrently to this, I’ve been invited to participate in a group called the Game Artisans of Canada – a group of game designers whose goal is to work together to provide the world better games and help each other out whenever possible.  Rob, one of the members heard that Gamewright was looking for quality submissions of games that were easy to learn and played in less than 30 minutes.  That described our Jam Slam to a tee!

Rob sent them a quick pitch to them about our game and they just expressed interest to see the rules for the game.  If they like the rules for the game then they’ll ask for a prototype in a few weeks.  One step at a time!

Special call out to Rob from Game Artisans of Canada for the heads up and the connection!

-Jay Cormier

There’s a few really cool things about this “day in our lives” as game designers. It shows:

a) That no matter how old a game is, a good design is timeless. Keeping old designs on the back burner, but ready for showing is critical. We usually only keep the latest physical version of a prototype for space reasons (and to limit our confusion!), but always have the older versions as files on the computer if something we did before is beneficial. If you know your game intimately, you should be able to parlay an older design into something good when an opportunity arises. Jay’s use of “Night of the Dragon” concepts for another game is a good example of a game that was sitting doing nothing on the back burner (we actually have a forum called “The Back Burner” where we stick all of our games that are on hiatus) being used for the good of all mankind by being transformed into a game that is forthcoming for the Piece Pack called “Cream of the Crop”.

b) Versatility is an asset, because you never know when a publisher will say “Well, we like what you’ve just shown us, but we’re really interested in a card game…” If all you make is hardcore gamer games, you might miss out on some things. Of course, don’t make kids games if you don’t like making them, but versatility pays off – that’s all I’m saying.

c) Making games that are not tied to a theme, but can be rethemed easily is a good idea if possible. The name change was minor and it doesn’t change a thing at all about the game, but if it had to be done, “Jungle Jam” (now “Jam Slam!”) could be rethemed to almost anything because of it’s simple mechanics. It has a really good base for being used with a licensed character. Imagine Dora or Diego telling you “I need 3 red grapes!”

d) The Chinese (in the case of Jay and me, I’m talking about me) have the same word for crisis and opportunity – Crisi-tunity. Seriously though, it is said that luck is equal parts opportunity and preparedness. In this case, opportunity presented itself through a colleague telling us about Gamewright and we were able to take advantage because we were prepared – we have sell sheets ready, our prototypes usually ready to ship, and our rules done up for blind playing. In this case, because we have the two prototypes of “Jam Slam” out already for the competition as Jay mentioned, we’ll have to make another copy. But usually, we’re on top of that now that we’ve had a few publishers ask us for multiple copies of a game at once, etc.

e) Collaboration extends past Jay and myself. Now that we’re really delving deeper into the game design/production industry, we’re finding gold at every turn! Through our relationship with Tasty Minstrel Games, we worked with Gavan Brown, the graphic designer for “Train of Thought”. That wonderful working relationship turned into Jay being invited to work with the Game Artisans of Canada. They’ve already been immensely helpful in playing our prototypes and giving awesome, no-holds barred feedback for improving our games. And then, as icing on the cake, they’ve been super great with things like this! Opening up doors for us on several levels – they’ve already helped up get consideration from Amigo Spiel (a well-known German publisher) and now GameWright. How awesome is that? I can only hope that Jay and I can reciprocate in kind!

-Sen-Foong Lim

Step 10: Pretty up your Prototype: Stage 2 – Tools and Supplies part 2

Continuing the list of tools and supplies you’ll need to make a good looking prototype!

Cubes: If you go to a school supply store you should be able to buy a tub of 1cm multi-coloured plastic cubes.  This will cost you around $25-$30 and will be your supply of pieces for over a dozen games.  These cubes can be used as character markers, resources or money.  I also found some 2 cm wooden cubes that came in many colours at a dollar store.  Having cubes in two different sizes has helped in numerous games!

Poker Chips: Poker chips (the cheaper small ones) make for great money in a game, and they usually come in different colours too.  You could use cubes if you don’t need cubes for other things, but if we are using cubes to indicate player markers, then it would be confusing to players if cubes were also used for money – even if they were different colours.

Pawns: Pawns seem to be the hardest thing to come by.  Sure there are plenty of places online to buy them, and I really should dive in and buy a bunch in different colours, but they’re hard to find in stores.  It should be pretty obvious that pawns are needed in a lot of games.  Again you could use cubes (and sometimes we do), but if cubes are already representing something else, then pawns are needed.

Stones: Not mandatory at all, but we have found that using these pretty gem stones add some class to a prototype.  Usually we end up just using cubes, but for Rune Masters the stones seemed to make more sense for one component that we called Rune Stones (why would we use cubes for that!?).

Misc pieces: For our 5th or 6th prototype for Santorini we changed how resources were being shipped and resources had to be placed directly onto ships instead of ‘jumping’ from one island to another.  Up until then our ships were just pawns, so we had to make some ships which we did out of gluing some popsicle sticks together.  It was serendipitous that popsicle sticks are also 1cm wide as that allowed us to even create side ridges on our ships so that the 1cm resource cubes could snugly fit in the ships – very cool!

Tools we bought that we thought we needed but we don’t really:

Corner Rounder: We had a couple games where we thought the professional looking rounded edges of some of the components would take it over the top.  It did make some of the prototypes look pretty sweet, but we just didn’t end up using it that much to make it worthwhile.

Die Cutter: We had one game that we needed to make a bunch of similarly shaped tags out of plastic and cutting them by hand seemed ridiculous, so we got a die cutter.  Yeah, not so great a purchase!  It was fine for that one game, but we never used it again.

Once the game is nearing its final stages of life and is ready to be shown to a publisher, then it’s time to make an amazing prototype!  For now it’s important to understand that you will probably still make 5-20 more prototypes of each game before sending it to a Publisher, so no need to spend too much time.

So how far is too far?  Well, I met one game designer who had a party game designed.  The prototyped looked amazing as each of the cards had a printed front and back to them – and they were all professionally laminated.  I was impressed for sure.  We played the game and gave our feedback and the next time I saw him he had his game again – but this time with a whole new prototype.  All the cards were brand new – but they looked as professional as they did before.  I saw him two more times and both times he had another brand new professionally made prototype.  He must have spent a lot of money getting these prototypes made.  I asked him why he spends so much money on getting them made and his answer was that he always thought that the next prototype was going to be the last prototype.  While we all hope that will be the case for each of us, experience tells me (and hopefully that guy by now!) that there is almost always going to be one more prototype to be made!

For our first game we ever made, Top Shelf, Sen and I spent a lot of time making an amazing looking prototype!  We made the board and affixed it to cardboard so that it folded like a real board!  Then we affixed each tile to matte board and even affixed a backing to each tile so that it had the logo for the game on the back!  Then we even ‘sanded’ down the edges of the tiles so they … hmmm…not sure why we did that!  They looked cooler though!  It was too much of course and when we had to make our next prototype of that game it was much simpler.

-Jay Cormier

(and yes, I realize how silly the title of this blog post is: Step 10, Stage 2, Part 2…!)

If anyone has links to share of part/bit suppliers, please share! I’ll look through mine and post later.

But, to respond/add to this post, here are my additions to the list:


I would say another essential bit of gear is a good “bit box” – something to store all your cubes, dice, etc. in an organized, sorted fashion. Jay and I both use things that were probably intended for hardware (nails and screws, etc.) Mine has a handle and 4 trays that pull out, each with customizable sections. I use them to put everything in one neat cube of game design bits.


We use Sharpies a lot. Also wood stain markers, acrylic paints, spray primer, pencil crayons, etc. Other “must have” drawing tools include a good metal rule, erasers, pencil sharpeners. Some tools we have used on the rare occasion include number and letter stencils or stamps for use on plastic or wooden bits that we can’t print on. Not everything can be loaded in Tray 1 of the laser printer!


Stick glue and spray adhesives are used a lot to make the final prototype. I use that bluetack stuff to cobble pieces together from time to time, to hold tiles to map boards more permanently, etc.


Self-explanatory – we have a plethora of polyhedra dice at our disposal. Like any good game geeks should. Jay and I don’t use a ton of dice, by nature (Jay has diceaphobia, or maybe he’s a dicist, I’m not sure), but it helps to have some methods of randomly generating numbers around!


Helpful for storage as well as randomizing tiles or cubes and keeping them hidden from view. Great for games like “Santorini” to keep resource cubes random or for “Scene of the Crime” to keep the clue tiles hidden from view.


I have a Dremel that I use to cut, grind, and rout wood blocks, mostly – I also have a coping saw for cutting small metal rods/tubes or harder woods and plastics. Both were invaluable for creating “Junkyard”.


Some components are very dependent on the game you’re making – like magnets, push pin flags, etc, – but, like Jay said, we will often find stuff that we think is cool and just grab them in the event that they might come in handy someday! If they come in many different colours (at least the game standards like red/blue/green/yellow), it’s a pretty sure bet, I’ll purchase enough to make a set of 10 of each.


The only other one that comes to mind is my sticker maker.


re: How many prototypes to make…while you will be making maaaaany versions to get to your final, sometimes, you will need to make a few of the final versions, especially if you have an agent who may wish to show your game to a prospective publisher and leave a prototype with them while the agent sets up the next meeting with another publisher. Note that some agents may not show a game to a second publisheruntil the first publisher has exercised their “right of first refusal”, but it’s always good to have an extra prototype versus having to scramble to make a whole other copy at the last minute. Not that we’ve ever had to do that ourselves…

-Sen-Foong Lim

Step 10: Pretty up your Prototype: Stage 2 – Tools and Supplies part 1

Besides a computer, a game designer is going to need a few more tools to help make everything easier.  This post got too big so I separated it into two smaller posts (but they’re both still kind of big!).

Cue Cards: Perfect for making your first prototype.  They’re thick enough to ensure you can’t see too much through them.

card sleevesCard Sleeves: We always have a huge supply of card sleeves at the ready.  Card sleeves allow you to slide your prototype card into it and since they have an opaque backing, you cannot see through them at all. Also they make shuffling really easy!  You can buy these at a hobby or game store (wherever they sell collectible card games). It’s good to have a selection of different colours in case you make a game that has different decks of cards in it. (tip: make sure you print cards to fit inside your sleeves.  Sounds obvious – but there are a couple different sizes of card sleeves, so just make sure you know which size you have before you print your prototype!  (In case it didn’t sound obvious, this is coming from a man who learned this the hard way!)

Card Boxes: Card boxes help keep our games separate and tidy.  It’s not mandatory of course, but if you’re transporting your games all over the place (or even when shipping to a publisher), some sort of card box is handy.  They also come in different colours which helps keep different deck distinguishable even before you open the box.

Colour Laser Printer: Both Sen and I each have a colour laser printer which is pretty mandatory if you plan on designing a lot of games.  Inkjets cost too much and you’re replacing cartridges too often, but lasers give great quality for clipart based printing.

Cardstock: We always print on a thicker card stock as that gives the cards some weight and prevents the cards or even the board from being disrupted by a slight breeze. We also have a supply of multi-coloured cardstock as that helps distinguish between different decks of cards in the same game more easily.  For our game, But Wait, There’s More, the cards are business card sized, for which there are no card sleeves.  Since there isn’t much shuffling in the game, we decided to print on multi-coloured cardstock.  There are 4 different types of cards and each one has a different colour, which makes them easier to sort and easier for players to identify.

Paper Cutter: You are going to be doing a lot of printing and a lot of cutting!  Get a decent paper cutter otherwise you’ll go insane cutting cards with an X-acto knife!  I prefer the sliding paper cutter as opposed to the old fashioned long-arm cutter as the long-arm cutter can often cause paper to be mis-aligned.

X-acto knife, metal ruler and Cutting board: That said, you’re still going to need an X-acto knife, a metal ruler and a cutting board for smaller or irregular shaped pieces.  We don’t use it as often as our paper cutter, but it’s still used enough to make it mandatory.

Matte board: Matte board is great for making games that have small tiles in it.  If you print tiles on cardstock and don’t affix it to matte board then you’re going to find that the tiles will float around on your table because they have no weight.  Matte board can be purchased from any framing store and sometimes they might even give you some for free as they often have no need for the areas they cut away.  The benefits of matte board are that you can get different colours in case you need tiles with different backs, it’s got a good weight without being too thick, and it can be cut by pretty much every paper cutter out there.

One game we made early on called Scene of the Crime involved placing Scrabble sized tiles onto a board.  We printed the page or two of tiles and spray glued these onto matte board, then cut them with a paper cutter.  This made our prototype way more playable and even added to the fun factor (or at least reduced the frustration factor!).

Stay tuned for the next post as it will continue the list of tools of supplies needed to make a prototype.

-Jay Cormier

For those of you who don’t know, matte board is the stuff used in picture frames to provide a border.

My paper cutter is worse than Jay’s because it locks down before each cut – you’d think this would be a benefit, but it’s not! When you’re cutting hundreds of cards, it’s nice to go fast – we put things in the card sleeves anyway, so perfect cuts aren’t as important.

The other nice thing about card sleeves is that they come in myriad colours, so you can keep your decks separated in a multi-deck game – makes for much easier sorting come game end.

I’ll wait to see what else you’re going to post before I add more to the list…I wonder what other designers find essential?

-Sen-Foong Lim