October 1st, 2020

Game Design Contest Win

Occasionally I enter game design contests because they challenge me to work on a deadline, or have a limitation that forces me to think in a different way than I am used to working. Recently the Board Game Bulletin had a contest that required entries to use only a deck of UNO cards to make a new game. I wanted to try and make a worker placement game using just cards. The end result is a game called "Contarlos" which means "Count Them" in Spanish. I worked on this over the course of a couple of days and bounced ideas off my wife who also came up with the name of the game. She also helped greatly in playtesting the game to make sure the rough edges were smoothed out.

The game has a central pool of the special ability cards in the deck. Draw Two, Wild, Skip Reverse and so on. Players can use a card from their hand and place it on the ability cards to use that ability to their advantage. Once the ability card is used in this way they other players cannot use the card. Sort of in the same vein as using a token on a location for worker placement. The goal of the game is to use the cards in your hand to add up the match or beat the high valued cards and keep those cards for the end of the game. After 4 rounds the players count up the high valued cards they have collected and whoever has the most points wins. It is a short 10-25 minute game for 2-4 players.

A few weeks after submitting, I got an email from the Board Game Bulletin letting me know that I won! I was absolutely surprised that my game was picked! I thought the game was fun, but to have other people judge and find games that I have worked on to be fun it is very inspiring. It is a huge confidence booster.

It has been a few months since the issue was released, but I highly recommend you visiting the Board Game Bulletin website and reading through their current and previous issues. They have great photography, in-depth articles and an overall wonderful design and layout. Be sure to check them out and again thank you for picking my game for the UNO contest.

If you want to learn how to play Contarlos, all you need is the print any play instructions and a deck of UNO cards. Feel free to download the PDF and give the game a try. If you do play the game, please let me know what you think of the game.


Contarlos Instructions - PDF

— Dustin

August 17th, 2020

Crew Token Redesign

I recently asked for feedback on the "Board Game Design Lab Community" page on Facebook for the tokens of the game. Many people enjoyed the ships, but the crew tokens were mentioned several times about being very simple.

Crew tokens are assigned to different areas of your ship for faster sailing and attacking other ships or islands. They are also used during combat where you place the crew assigned to combat into a bag with the other side's crew tokens. Whether that be players, the navy, merchant or island crew tokens, the attacking player pulls 3 tokens randomly from the bag to decide the fight. Who ever has the majority of their crew revealed is the winner.

The crux comes from the fact that all of these tokens need to be the exact same, to avoid any chance that the player that pulls the tokens from the bag, will be able to distinguish their tokens from their opponent's tokens. That was the original reason I made the tokens simple.

But with the feedback I received I started revisiting the look of the tokens and I agreed. The tokens were too simple compared to the rest of the game components. So I went back and redesigned them. In the end I came up with two options. The first is a pirate that has no gender identity that I feel represents the players well enough without allowing another player to tell them apart while feeling around in the bag. The second token option I added a beard to the same design. It immediately had that feel of a pirate in my opinion. But it does not represent everyone.

I again went back to the Board Game Design Lab Community to discuss the options. I got an incredible response of over 100 people talking about these tokens. I was amazed by all of the responses and I believe every single one of them were positive and constructive. They are truly an amazing community.

In the end, there were 28 for the beard out of 100. That means the majority either wanted a non-beard or a double-sided crew token that represented a male and female side. Printing different designs on each side will increase the cost of production. I do not know by how much. A quote and prototype are still down the road a bit in this process. So it may be possible to have a token that represents male and female at the end of the day. I will still be exploring that option. However, for now, the crew tokens will be represented by the gender neutral option. I hope it will be the most inclusive. In the end the design should make people happy with the result without generating more questions that pull the players out of the enjoyment of the game. Below are the current renders of the tokens.

The first image shows the crew token as it will move forward. I also tweaked some colors based on colorblindness feedback. That means the other tokens will need some updates. The second image shows the bearded "captain". I have no plans for a captain token for the game at the moment, but that does not mean something might not come to me in the future. One of the original ideas I had for the game was to have each player be a "Bearded" captain (Black Beard, Red Beard, Green Beard, etc.). However, again, inclusion was something that made me back away from that option. Time will tell if the bearded token makes its return.

— Dustin