Pen & Paper…and lots of labor!


In our previous article we ended with a nice little prototype game and a mini rule-book which made our game playable.

Gameplay Rules:

  1. One six sided die (or 1d6 in D&D language) decided who goes first.
  2. The first player always moves one field forward then throws a 1d6
  3. Then, the second player always moves one field forward than throws a 1d6
  4. If players collide they throw a 1d6 to determine who moves forward one field and who doesn’t.

1d6 rules:

  • If player rolled (1-2), player moves one field backward
  • If player rolled (3-4), player doesn’t move
  • If player rolled (5-6), player moves one field forward

We had some more rules, but for now these are the ones we need to focus on because they drive our game.

Firstly when I look at these rules the thing that bothers me is that we roll a 1d6 for too many things. We should associate rolling with one thing. That way players know that they only roll after they move one field forward. So instead rolling to see who goes first we could change the first rule into an even more classic one also known as “coin toss“.

Now we have one roll less in the game!

Another roll we could change is when players collide. Something more complex should happen there…Complex yet simple…something familiar to players, something fun and engaging, something that produces an outcome which always surprises players. Something called “COMBAT!”

Now let’s think about burning knights that ride on their mighty winged steeds carrying…


Ignore your creativity once again and bare with me. We have a combat system on our hands that needs to be done.  So where did we stop before? Aaaahh yes…removing extra die rolls. Yes we need to remove that. How to do it? Lots of things come in mind, but lets work with what we have instead of adding new things to the game. What we have are fields and in our basic notes that I took in the previous article we wrote about having effects!

Now is the time to combine these effects with our combat system! 

To distinguish different effects I added symbols to our fields on the board and painted them with different colors. I don’t know what these symbols mean nor what effects they represent but whatever they are, both players should have a hard time with them or benefit from them equally. That’s why, I horizontally split the board in two and got this:


Now when I look at it I see that the different colors vertically spread along the whole board. These areas are great places to put extra things on the board. Such as cards? Maybe? The upper part of the board holds player’s one cards and the lower part holds player’s two cards.

But we don’t know if we’re going with cards or not? YOU DECIDE!

Cards tend to complicate board games a lot and after we make them, we need a lot of balancing afterwards in order to give players different strategy options yet equal powers. But even before deciding on what cards would do, we need to implement them somehow in our game. So when do we play them?

Strategy in games is usually deeply connected with the player’s ability to make a choice (I choose to bring these armies here so that I surround my enemy and then wait in the forest with my archers.…you get the picture). If you can make multiple choices then your strategy will have your name on it. On the other hand games which are exclusively based on luck become boring quickly. But adding a little bit of luck in a game could make the difference between a fun game and an extremely fun game!

So, big note to self:

Don’t exclude LUCK in this board game

Before going deeper and deeper in the field of strategy and luck let’s go back a bit.

We wanted to resolve the rolling issue when players collide. We’ll do that by saying that both players will play cards instead of rolling. That’s settled! Still something missing?

CHOICE! Well, the best moment to give players the ability to choose is when they feel like they must do something and then you say: “Heeeey! You don’t need to do that, try this!”

What did our players HAD TO DO?  Lots of things really, but what was the thing that looked sort of FORCED? Take another quick glance at our video and try to guess.

I presume the keyword MUST gave it away ha?! That’s right, they both had to move each turn one field forward before rolling 1d6. Now we’ll let them choose:

  • Either move one field forward,
  • Or stay on the current field and put a corresponding symbol card face down(yellow card if player is on a yellow field, blue if on blue and so on).

Why face down? To surprise the opponent. But let’s make it even better! Nobody sees the card. Not until both players collide on a same field (feeling the luck?). Then if both players have cards on either side, they both reveal them. If not, only the player who has one does so.

As you can see, today we’ve improved our board a bit, added &removed some rules, and invented effects through these things called “CARDS” (beings enduring between fingers) without even inventing a single one.

We have a lot of time to do that now when we know WHEN and HOW we play them.

So, stay tuned readers. In our next article WE MAKE CARDS!

…..ooor we don’t, it really depends on you. 🙂 


Pen & Paper. All else LATER!


A finished game is a unity of combined activities (game design, art, programming, management, prototyping, testing, publishing, promotion…) done by lots of people who all know exactly what they’re doing. Before being able to distinguish between all of these elements let’s start from the drawing board (it’s better than getting back to it).

You only know what your game looks like when it’s done.

You’ve probably heard this saying before and while it’s mostly true, there are a few place where you can see your game before you actually SEE it. The first place is your head. It’s the place where all ideas are born and it is imperative to transfer your game from your head to the real world as effectively as possible.

To do this grab the most trustworthy tools of the HUMANS – pen and paper!

It all starts here

It all starts here

Board games, card games, miniature games(even Pen & Paper RPGs) – you can make them all just by investing time. These are the games you should start with. And today we’ll start a series of articles and youtube videos in which we’ll make a simple board game together.

Before we start, I’ll just make some notes here in this article that will guide me:

    • Our game is going to have two players
    • They will play against each other
    • Both move on a same path formed of fields
    • Fields have effects when players step on them
    • Effects could be determined by a six sided die or cards
    • Each player has to reach the opponent’s starting field

Through these six notes I’ve made the basis for our game. At this point it’s really important to continue with actual work rather than letting your creativity get the best of you (don’t think about the story of the game, don’t think about the characters, the theme, the name or anything else that will help you lose your focus).

So let’s start! Two players, two starting points, each player has to reach the starting point of the opponent. Good enough. Time to draw a board (as SIMPLE as we can). Thought about using Gimp or Photoshop right now? Bad move(takes more time, and design is our least priority now).

Sticking with pen & paper I got this:


Having this done we have A LOT! We now know where players start (or where they are summoned if they’re demons from other worlds and now they’re here in the arena of gods to prove who is….NO NO don’t go there! Stay here!) and how many fields they need to walk to reach their goals. Every game has some rules or boundaries in which players play. Board games, card games and pen and paper games usually have turns too. Instinctively we have already made the first rules:

  1. Players start here and here
  2. Players can walk
  3. Players walk only on fields

Let’s focus a bit on the second rule and ask ourselves? How do they walk? Well we could make them walk only in opposite directions, but if we do that and say “Each player can move 1 field on his turn” then they’ll both collide in the middle and then what happens? Are we stuck? No, in game design you’re never stuck, you just need to explore all possible options with the rules you’ve created this far. So let’s write this question down:

What happens when both players are on a same field?

  •  They could both die and re-spawn at their start positions
  •  They could both bounce one field in the opposite direction
  •  The second player that reaches the same field kills the first player on that field (ludo board game)
  •  They both roll a six sided die. The one who rolls less doesn’t move, the other moves one field forward – we’ll use this for now
  •  Nothing happens they both stay on the same field together
  •  Or even something better that you can imagine

So, now we know that players move in opposite sides only(for now) and we have a question about their collision. We’ve chosen one answer for now in order to go on.

Writing everything down Is really important don’t forget that!


Next Stop – Field Effects

The simplest form of making effects for fields is making one effect for all of them. This is good enough to start with. Let’s create a simple rule where a player rolls a die once each turn after he/she moved. Now we have another question? What happens when the dice rolls. Let’s give some options here:

  • From 1-2: Player moves one field backwards
  • From 3-4: Player doesn’t move
  • From 5-6: Player moves one field forward

With what we’ve done by now we are ready to show our prototype game. Yes! It was that fast.

Let’s look at our notes and form a quick rule book out of them polishing our prototype a bit:

What happens in our game:

  1. Both players roll a six sided die to determine who goes first. (this is a classical board or card game rule)
  2. The one who rolled the highest number moves one field forward and rolls.
  3. The player who goes second moves one field forward and rolls the die.
  4. If they happen to be on a same field they both roll a die. The one who rolls the highest number moves one field forward, the other doesn’t move.
  5. The player who reaches the opposite starting position WINS the game.

I hope that through our article and video I gave you some insight into beginner level game design in action! I will continue with these types of articles and with your help we’ll have a basic game in our hands. This is OUR game and we can shape it any way we want. If you have any ideas on how to improve this simple idea, please share your thoughts with me in the comments bellow.