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.



Quick update: I’ve finally started producing a couple of podcasts. I’ve had lots of podcast ideas, but most have not gotten off the ground because of various setbacks or uncertainty on my part. That said, I’m very happy with how these are coming along.

Both podcasts are about tabletop gaming, with different audiences in mind for each. Details (and links) are below for your perusal.

The Gateway Game Shelf – Jess and I discuss the games that we play with non-gamers to introduce them to the hobby. The intent of this podcast is to be a limited-run series with a focus on a handful (10 or so) core games that really fit the sweet spot for a non- or new-gamer. Release schedule is bi-weekly until we cover the games we have in mind. Currently the “introductions” and “Ticket To Ride” episodes have been released with more to come.

The Game Shelf Campaigns – In this podcast we follow multiple sessions of a campaign-style tabletop game. This is tilted more toward the person who wants to either a) listen to some actual-play of our rather cerebral group’s play-through of Pandemic Legacy, or b) hear our pre/post game thoughts for each playthrough. Release schedule is bi-weekly (off weeks from The Gateway Game Shelf). Currently the “introductions” episode is up, while future episodes will include two recordings each (the audio from the actual play and the between-game discussion).

Stuff & Clutter – Ready for the Garage

It’s been a good few weeks since my last post on my stuff-shedding project. I planned for this hiatus but it’s still a bit of work to get back into the right headspace to write down my thoughts.

I have one main target remaining in the house: the garage. I’m planning a trip to both the recycling facility as well as the hazardous waste facility. Happy Earth Day? It’s not as bad as it may sound, it’s just the appropriate way to get rid of the latex paint that’s been out there for years and isn’t even a color that lives inside our home.

Alongside the shed project is a parallel initiative of limiting the amount of things that come in. It’s the genesis of the shed ratio. Looking back at the numbers, I’m quite happy with the slow pace of things coming “in” to the house. I still intend to get a post out for anyone interested in what qualified for “in” and “out” as it may be useful to someone embarking on this same journey.

Stuff & Clutter: Week 11 Recap

Week 11 is where I have slowed down. I definitely fell short of the weekly targets I’ve been able to maintain. Why, you might ask? My time this week was not my own in the way it typically is. Even in a busy work week I’m typically able to make time for my personal projects. However this week was definitely not the typical case.

I was at Microsoft Convergence, a business conference held in Atlanta, all week. Most of the things that fall into my “self improvement” category took a back seat during the week. Then my priority during the weekend was catching up on things for the upcoming work week, more so than catching up on things to sharpen the saw. Not a habit I want to get (back) into but sometimes it has to be done.

This week’s going to be a doozy as well, unfortunately, but I’m taking measures to make sure the scale isn’t tipped quite so unevenly. One of those measures includes a reprieve from the shed project this upcoming week as well as the following week. The goal during this time will be to target a Net Shed of 0, effectively making sure I don’t undo the work to date, but at the same time recognizing that I’m still well ahead of my original targets and this is a place where I can ease up to get other things in line.

I’m adding a couple of data points to the table below to show a little more of the overall progress, rather than just the weeklies. Looking at the progress below leaves me feeling happy about the journey so far.

Looking Forward

Gross Shed Net Shed
Week 10 Target 28 25
Week 10 Actual 11 11
Week 11 Target 0
Project-to-Date Target 248 211
Project-to-date Actual 307 277
Total in Excess of Target 59 66

Stuff & Clutter: Week 10 Recap

10 weeks down of this project down and still going strong. Wow. I expected the pace to drop off before now but I’m still finding stuff to shed. Not to say it’s as easy as the first couple of weeks, but now that I’m in more of a habit I’m sticking with the pace.

The inaugural chiminea fire comes early this year. You can see stormie's eyes shimmering as she stares at it.

The inaugural chiminea fire comes early this year. You can see stormie’s eyes shimmering as she stares at it.

This whole last week has brought amazing weather. Temperatures in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and for some parts of MN the 70’s! Practically no snow remains. We started out the weekend with a woodfire pizza party (hosted by our longtime friends Dan and Kelly of WildEarth Woodfired). Good times and great pizza as usual. Saturday night we got a fire going in our chiminea. We stayed nice and warm as the sun set and temperatures got down into the 40’s again.

With all of the nice weather, I got out into the garage to get a sense for the upcoming spring projects that await. Some good shedding opportunity. I’m looking at you: paint cans for colors painted over long ago…why are you sitting there so smugly?

We also took the opportunity to walk over to a nearby new-construction house that’s part of the Twin Cities Parade of Homes. We were more impressed than we expected to be. New houses are usually “nice” and all, but the floor plan had some nice variations and it had a great feel to it. The price tag, however, also exceeded what we had expected it to be (not that we’re looking to move).

Looking Forward

Gross Shed Net Shed
Week 10 Target 28 25
Week 10 Actual 28 25
Week 11 Target 28 25

Stuff & Clutter: Week 9 Recap

Week 9 is now in the past and it’s another week on target for the project. This weekend brought some 45 degree weather (maybe higher, the highest I saw on my phone was 45). Great, springlike, walking weather and good golly did our dog enjoy it.

While we were out and about on Saturday, we made a big drop-off of the last few weeks’ shed items at Goodwill. Jess was excited to get it out of our staging area in the basement. The collection down there was getting pretty big and I found out (after we made the donation) that it was starting to stress her out.

This led to a conversation around the difference between simply “getting rid of stuff” and “sending things to where they are more likely to be used.” Plenty of the things that we’re passing along are quality items and very serviceable, and it would be a waste if they were simply sent out with the trash. Hopefully some of our earlier donations have already found good homes.

Looking Forward

Gross Shed Net Shed
Week 9 Target 28 28
Week 9 Actual 28 25
Week 10 Target 28 25

Stuff & Clutter: Week 8 Recap

Exceeded the target this week thanks to Jess’ large contribution. This week marks a couple of notable items departing. One is my original XBOX. Well, actually it was my second XBOX but that’s just being technical. This is the one that I had a high schooler mod back in the mid 2000’s with classic game emulators and the XBMC (XBOX Media Center) platform.

The other is Jess’ original PS2 (her actual original one). We talked about how big it was, especially considering the lack of hard drive inside.

It’s funny, we thought these had already been sold/donated but sure enough they were in a box on a shelf in the basement. They’re “donate” items. The original NES and TurboGrafx16, with games and controllers for each, will be target items to sell here in the coming weeks.

Looking Forward

Gross Shed Net Shed
Week 8 Target 28 25
Week 8 Actual 30 29
Week 9 Target 28 25