31st July 2020 - Board Game Dev Diary - The Cardboard Designer

31st July 2020

Board game design - tile making with the cat

Wherein my board game design ramps up as I talk a little bit about a big game. I also ask you to accept my apology as I accept my failing intelligence in the technology department.


A day, that is how long I had given myself to shift my site over and kick it off again. Plenty of time I thought, to write my next lesson and even throw in a dev diary or two.

As it turned out, it took me the better part of a week to get this new tabletop haven live!. I even ended up having to pay someone to move the domain and things over for me. I briefly caught my reflection in the mirror as I tried in vain to rectify the situation – all I could see was my dad asking me, “how does that Facebook thing work?” Dark times friends.

I am also very sorry the game design lesson isn’t up yet. I promise it will be up tomorrow – assuming I don’t have to buy a walking stick and stair lift to go along with my technical skill degradation.


So, the big news! Project Factory (working title) is ready to move beyond playtesting and I can start to work on with my artist. You’ll have seen his awesome work dotted around posts I’ve made. Mostly in the form of cards from the last game we did together.

Project Factory

With the ever present assistance of my cats and beautiful wife. I was able to smooth out the last few snags in terms of game design.

I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of the game here as that will be left up to some blogs in the future written with more than a little excitement.

The game itself is part worker placement, part tile placement, part puzzle game. It’s Euro-game in style in so far as there is no direct competition between players. The player experience is primarily about being the architect of your own factory. About using your wits to build the most efficient factory you can within the confines of your floor space.

Solving The Scoring

The big problem that I successfully solved was around scoring. Before I made changes, the game relied on all scoring at the end. This was both arduous and gave you no idea of how you were doing comparative to your rivals. There was no incentive to change strategy part way though as you had no yard stick on your current worth.

I added a “Production Phase” where tiles could score several times through the game meaning we could see how we were doing vs others. It also meant that not all of your scoring had to wait until the very end of the game, which sped things up a lot. After a dozen or so game to check the balance hadn’t been compromised, I was really happy with the result!

We Need A Bigger Board

Once we’d played a few games using the 9×9 grids that were borrowed from Patchwork it became clear that a larger board was necessary. One thing that make players feel warm and fuzzy inside, is seeing the fruits of their labor at the end of a game. Building up things is one rewarding way to see this hard work – and it’s something we all enjoy. You might end up losing, but you feel you’ve accomplished something. I wanted to make sure the players experienced that same feeling at the end of Project Factory.

By using a larger board of 12×8 we could get more satisfaction at the end of the game. We could probably go even larger, but I think there is a nice payoff between play time and size at the moment. I’m conscious of keeping it under an hour for 4 players. I also don’t want the boxes to be too large.

What Comes Next?

Well, at this point, things both slow down and speed up all at the same time.

  • Play the game with Pat, my artist. We start to hash out the artwork that’s needed.
  • Get a landing page drawn up so people can sign up for news letters and to help with feedback
  • Make a few copies for friends who can play is while we are still fighting Covid-19
  • Work on a rule book!

The rulebook is always the hardest thing to get right for me where board game design is concerned. I don’t think I’m alone there as I see so many games these days have a video tutorial highlighted. Even if there are going to be further tweaks and changes. I’d rather get the game down on paper now so people can start iterate with me. Using the right language can really make the difference between a confusing mess – and a enjoyable experience.

As there is no artwork at the moment, getting the landing page together is going to take time. It’s why I mentioned that things slow down a little bit. I would love to get everything up tomorrow but sadly, artwork takes time 🙁

What I can do is get some spare copies out there and get people playing and testing the game without my supervision. At this point, everyone I meet will be asked if they fancy a quick game!

In terms of the artwork, I try to give Pat as much leeway as possible. I trust him a lot, I love his artwork and we are good friends. His input will often shape the games direction. His creative mind takes things in directions i could never imagine!

In the coming days I will share more details on the specifics of the game, and I hope you can join me in this journey 🙂

–Tom

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