My favorite part of designing a new game comes at the very beginning.
For my board game Be A Rockstar, I started with a theme I have a deep knowledge of – music.
All I needed was some inspiration, cardboard, a pencil, sticky notes, index cards, and a good eraser. Handmade games are fun, cheap, and easy to make. The image below is a very early example.
Handmade Game Board and Components
Take your creative spark, the inspiration for the game, and run with it! Jot down a word or two that makes the game sound fun and exciting. The word that conjures up that feeling for me is “rockstar”. Sketch the board, cards, and other components.
Then think about the goal of the game. Will it be last meeple standing or most points or something else?
What game mechanics do you like? Do you prefer the traditional board game where players roll dice and move tokens or miniatures? How about set collector or deck-building card games? Game maps for dungeons?
If the mechanics bog you down, keep it simple.
Sources of Inspiration
The inspiration for a new game can come from anywhere. Think about your favorite place or hobby. Trains and travel were the inspiration for the hit game Ticket to Ride.
There’s no shortage of animal and pet-themed games such as Wingspan which features birds, cat games Calico, Isle of Cats, and Magical Kitties , and dog games (there’s even a new Corgi Butt game coming soon).
I bet you can name several games based on dragons, monsters or aliens, magic and wizards, space travel, and sci-fi themes.
What game or theme inspires you?
Customize and Modify Your Favorite Games
Take an existing game (simpler the better) and play it. Then tweak a rule or two and try the game again. How did game play change? Did it work? Do you like the game better?
As kids, we modified existing games all the time. We customized house rules to Monopoly, used handmade player tokens, and re-imagined game maps for Risk which kept the games fresh and fun.
The image above is a custom, handmade map for Terraforming Mars.
Start with something you know. What games have you played that are now more fun after you changed an element or rule? What games do you already own?
Have fun messing with game rules and test things out. If you start with a card game, try combining rules from two different games into one new game. It could be a glorious disaster and a complete failure of a game, but you’re sure to have fun being creative and you will learn a lot in the process.
I’d love to hear about the board games you have customized and your source of inspiration for a new game.
TOP PHOTO CREDIT: Marge Rosen, Seattle, Washington.