Tabletop Game Development

It’s been a year and a half ago since I published my first tabletop game: That’s Mine. It was a fun experience and it’s been cool to see people learn and play it. I’m not setting any game sales records, but that wasn’t exactly my aim. The process of making a game lets me exercise a bunch of creative muscles I don’t often enough get to flex. Balancing the game mechanics, rules, theme, artwork, physical production, project management, marketing, and many other skills is challenging, especially on a project that I’m basically doing “for me” and not because I think I’ll strike it rich.

This is on my mind because I’m in the midst of putting together my next game. It’s a card game that’s about road tripping around the US and putting together the best photo collection from your adventures.

As an example of some of the creative challenges, take something like card design. How often do you look at the details of a card? I mean all of the little wiggly details that make the game feel polished? By no means am I a real artist, but I do find it fun to analyze some cards from games I like, then try to reconstruct an original design using the same kinds of visual interest. Below is the card design I worked on last weekend in several states of development. The cards will represent the notable places on the road trip, with a value, description, and picture.

Card Development

The iterative progression through development

A few things worth calling out in each:

  1. The rough-cut: This was to get my head straight on the basic proportions. I added each element in its own layer so I could replace each of them separately.
  2. The basic outlines: Set outlines for the main text box, number/icon box and picture stack which will frame the main “snapshot” of the location.
  3. Re-work the charm: Following a more traditional playing card layout, I made the charm/number box in the upper-left corner vertically aligned, and gave it transparency for more interest.
  4. More with transparency: I added a subtle collage of the different “charms” behind the semi-transparent red border as well as a US map under the main text box.
  5. Final polish: Added a better color combo for the card name/text box and set the gap where the images will be added in via a batch process later.

The image file has a TON of layers in it, but that will save me time later since there are 5 different card colors (not just red) and some other subtle changes. That’s the fun and creative challenge of the process…making the layout AND making it flexible and as reusable as possible.

I’m sure I’ll be posting more about the game here as I make more progress, but if you’d like an email when I’ve finished it just fill out this quick form.


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