Sunday, May 10, 2015

Design Tip of the Week #28 (How to Make Standees)

Who are you and why are you here?

Yea, I know. I thought I was done too. But I realized people love these how to posts, so I am back with how to make Standees for your game.

What do you need?

Coaster Board ($6)

1 1/4 inch Hole Punch ($9)

3/4 inch Hole Punch (not necessary, but useful anyway so I would get one) ($8)

110 lb paper ($16 for 250 sheets)

Super Glue
Glue Stick
Scissors or Paper Cutter

Do you get money if I buy stuff from your links?

No, I am not that smart. That is just what I use.

I got all this crap, now what?

Print and Cut out the picture you want for you standee. I printed 2 pictures, one for each side. Mine are also mirror images of each other, so if I wanted to cut really close to the outline of the character I could do that. I cut both images out before attaching to the Coaster Board. I did not do this the first time and broke one of my hole punches. The paper reinforcing the board is too much for most things to cut.

Then use your Glue Stick to glue one image to the Coaster Board. Cut the Coaster Board around the outside of the image. Then use the Glue Stick again to paste the mirror image on the back.

Now I have the standee, how do I make it stand?

So here is the real trick. You could just buy stands, but those are awful expensive. If you are making many prototypes, or even a really nice PnP for a game you love you can easily make your own base.

Use the 2 Hole Punches on the Coaster Board to make 1 1/4 inch and 3/4 inch circles. If you didn't buy the 3/4 inch punch it is ok. You can just make two 1 1/4 inch circles.

Now, cut the 3/4 inch circle in half with scissors or your paper cutter to make Stabilizers. This is what you should have:

If you made two 1 1/4 inch circles then you need to cut the ends off one of the circles and just use the ends to make your Stabilizers.

Now use the Super Glue to make a line down the middle with some extra put around the middle for the stabilizers. This is what it looks like:

Now put the standee on the middle line of glue and put the Stabilizers on the outside. Let it dry overnight and you are good to go.

Don't forget the Stabilizers.  These are key to making the standee last over time and duress. I sent 2 packages from Maryland (USA) to Canada and the UK and the standees were still intact.

Wow that standee looks amazing, where did you get the image?

Let the shilling begin. This image was created by an amazing artist names Venessa Kelley for a game called Salvation Road. It can be found here on Board Game Geek:

Also, it had a Kickstarter starting 5/11/2015. Check it out here:

What's next? That's it for this week, next week I am going to talk about how (and why) to make a half moon tracker.  Until then, I am Peter, keep designing great games.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Random Musing #3 (Where to find us now)

Been aweful about keeping up with the blog and I apologize to those of you who really liked it and followed it. Been crazy between designing for things like Unpub, signing contracts and working with a new design partner. I don't want to abandon any of you though so I am getting back to my origional idea for Design Tip of the Week.

It was origionally just a hashtag on twitter that I was putting up monday mornings to inspire or spark creativity. I am going back to that format for now with a longer post from time to time when I am inspired. 

Please follow us on twitter @MVPBoardgames and look for the #DToW for inspiring messages. Also feel free to chat here, or directly at us on Twitter or e-mail at

Until next time, keep designing great games. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Design Tip of the Week #27 (Theme Choice in Game Design)

That's easy, if you are making an Amerithrash game add Orcs, if it is European design add the theme when the game is done.  Right?

Uh, no.  If fact I think we are in a very cool place with game design now where we are blending the streamlined mechanics from traditional "Euro-Games" with cool thematic integration from "American Design".  Theme is very important to design.  If fact I would say that Twilight Struggle wouldn't be #1 on BGG if it weren't for it's unique theme.

Shouldn't you have your theme picked out before you start designing your game?

Absolutely.  This is clearly a preference, and many themes resemble each other, so there is room for movement in theme.  But you should definitely have an idea about theme before you start on the design.  In fact the theme should help inform your design choices.  If you have a more accessible theme you should have a more accessible game.  With more fantasy themes you are probably ok going with more difficult gameplay.  And if you are designing a war game you can have very complex interactions.

Now certainly there are exceptions to these rules.  Classic Dungeon is a great game with a fantasy theme that is very accessible.  I would argue that Agricola has a very accessible theme with some complex mechanics.  Twilight Struggle's goal was to make a more accessible war game.  But in general you have to know the audience that will be attracted to your theme and make the gameplay match their interest.

What made you write about this topic?

As with every week I take my topics from what I am currently working on, or thinking about.  Typically we make very thematic games that focus on some sort of fantasy setting.  It may be post apocalypse, medieval fantasy, etc... But over the Holidays I was playing games with my extended family and realized that these weren't the best examples of things to introduce them to the hobby.  I needed to find a theme they were interested in.

So what did they pick out of the selection I brought to them.  Viticulture.  A game about making wine.  This is no surprise considering how much wine we had to drink throughout the weekend.  As I was teaching them the game it seemed very straightforward to me.  All the mechanics made sense, and were very straight forward.  But as I was describing it to them their heads started to spin.  They asked me how many times I had played it and I explained that I had never played it before, I just looked through the rules once and the board did a good job of explaining what to do.

1 hour in they were still spinning a bit.  My one cousin said I don't really know what my goal is (maybe that is my fault, although my other cousin got it and was doing quite well). I told them we could stop at any time but they wanted to play a bit longer. 

2 hours in they were both had the mechanics down cold, although the one still didn't have a good idea about the strategy even with our help.  We decided we were just going to play one more turn at this point.

3 hours in we had finished the game, and everyone had a blast.  This is not a 3 hour game mind you.  Just with 2 non-gamers it was this time.  Even though the mechanics were difficult for them, they had fun playing the game because of the theme.  Even when they didn't know the goal, they liked figuring out how to make things, then sell them.  They went through a 3 hour tutorial just because they were engrossed in the theme.

So what now, no more "Thematic Games"?

Not at all.  We love designing games with strong theme, but you can make a game with strong theme like Viticulture without it being a Fantasy theme.  We are going to keep making thematic fantasy games as well, but we also decided to dip our toes into more realistic themes as well.  Something we could show our families to help introduce them into the hobby.  The goal is to pick 1-2 mechanics (similar to dominion with deck building) and focus the game around those mechanics.  Provide a great into game to our hobby.  If you like economic engines, see if you can come up with an accessible theme that can support teaching those mechanics.  It is really a good way to get into design.  It will keep you focused and these sorts of games are usually easier to design.  They are also more likely to get picked up by publishers if you keep the component count and complexity down.

Lesson Learned?

If you are a new designer, or even and accomplished one, try making an accessible game that teaches 1-2 new mechanics to a non-gamer.  If we want to grow the industry we have to teach games one concept at a time.  But people won't come in unless they feel comfortable with the subject matter first.  Don't shy away from unusual themes, but make sure you match your theme to the mechanics and complexity of the game.

What's next?
 That's it for this week, next time I am going to talk about my top podcasts for game designers to listen to and why.  Until then, I am Peter, keep designing great games.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Design Tip of the Week #26 (Maintaining Enthusiasm on a Design)

How do you maintain enthusiasm on a design after working on it for months or years?

This is one of the hardest parts of design.  When you have a new project it is easy to work on, but after a while you start hitting walls and the luster wears off a bit.  The "new" mechanics you added to the game aren't new to you anymore.  Sometimes working on a design feels like work.  And most of us aren't doing this for work, this is a passion.  A hobby.

So what do you do?

The easiest thing to do is move on to a new design.  There is no rule saying that you can only work on one project at a time.  Sometimes working on different projects will give you inspiration for your first design.  Even if you don't find a solution, it will give you renewed energy and a fresh perspective when you do go back.

If fact, I wrote a whole article about it in DToW #13.  Here is a link:

What if I have a time limit?

This can definitely happen if you are working with a publisher, or are building toward a convention.  In this case you will have to find inspiration inside.  One of the best ways I have found to do this is to bring it out and show it to someone else.  Preferably someone who hasn't seen the game before.  I find playing our games with new people often gets my enthusiasm up for the game, and sometimes a new perspective will lead to new ideas to get past your design issue.

So what if I don't have people to play with?

I would challenge you to find someone.  I assume if you love this hobby so much that you are getting into designing games, you probably have people you play games with.  Even if you have worn these people out, or they have no interest in helping you playtest, reach outside your normal group to find people.

Don't be afraid to take your design to a local game store.  First off, no one is going to steal your design.  Second, don't be afraid of failure.  You know your game isn't 100% ready.  Make sure you set the expectation to your play testers that it isn't 100% ready.  But there are a lot of people out there that would love to contribute to making a game better.  Sometimes you just have to get out there and set up your game, and wait for people to come by.

There are other places to find play testers like the internet.  There are playtest groups.  You can go to BGG (  There are forums for designers and play testers to meet up.  There are groups on BGG too for people to meet up and play games.  Not everyone will be interested in play testing games, but you will never know who is until you look for them.

Family and friends are another group you can tap into.  Sometimes family won't want to play other games, but if they know they are helping you with a project they will step up.

Still not an option for me.  What else you got?

Consider bringing someone else in on your design.  If you have met people either online through social media, or in person at a convention consider giving them a shot at your project.  You can either send them the files, or just chat online.  Even if they don't become a co-designer, lots of people are very free with their advice or sharing their experience.

I told you I don't know anyone.  Now what?

The easiest thing I find is making small changes.  If the game is too long, figure out one thing that is taking the longest and remove or trim it.  You can always make more changes later, but small changes will make a bigger impact than you think.

If the game is not fun enough, add something small.  Even if the game seems about the correct length and complexity.  If you add something that adds fun you can always trim elsewhere later if you need to.

Any last tips?

Consider playtesting elements of your game.  Not every playtest session has to be a full game.  You can just playtest the beginning, the end, or key elements.  If your endgame is good playtest the beginning over and over.  If the beginning is good, playtest a full game, but at the point you want to make the change save the gamestate.  Write down players positions and then make your changes.  Keep playtesting from that point on.

Lessons Learned.
 Keep your enthusiasm about a game up by:
  • Working on another game.
  • Play it with other people.
  • Work with another designer.
  • Make small changes.
  • Playtest parts of your game, not the whole game.
What's next?

 That's it for this week, next time I am going to talk about theme choice in your game.  Until then, I am Peter, keep designing great games.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Design Tip of the Week #25 (Why Not to Have Custom Dice in Your Game)

Tell me about this series.

The first part of the series was about how to make your own custom dice at home for a fairly cheap price with minimal effort.  You can find it here:

The next part of the series covered a few reasons to add custom dice to your game:

This week we are going to cover why you wouldn't add custom dice to your game.

Take us back.  What was your first negative experience with custom dice?

The first game we ever designed was called Squires.  It has evolved and morphed since then into Bastion, but we have been working on it for years in various forms.  We were so excited about the game and took it to a convention to pitch it to a publisher for the first time.  It had 25 custom dice in 3 different molds.  After looking at the components the publisher didn't even let us get into a pitch.  We turned them off before even getting a chance.  There were too many components, and specifically too many custom components. 

At that time having that many custom dice was just out of the question unless you were Fantasy Flight.  Even now when FFG produced BattleLore they only included 4 custom dice in the box.  If you want 8 more you have to pay $10 for them.  Cost is probably the primary issue when it comes to custom dice.

There are exceptions to every rule though, and Marvel Dice Masters and Castle Dice have shown that you can have lots of different custom dice and still maintain an affordable price.  I think you have to be careful though.  It isn't just the cost of the dice, it is the cost of the dice in addition to everything else you are adding to the game.

So if cost isn't an issue, what else?

Accessibility can be an issue too.  We talked last time about how custom dice can make games simpler, but that isn't always the case.  If you need a result that is randomized between 1 and whatever number, a standard die will work just fine.  You don't need to make something fancier just to have it fancier.  Also, adding symbols could confuse things.  If you symbol represents a 6, then just leave a 6 there.  Sounds simple, but I have seen lots of examples of Cthulhu symbols or whatever else on one side of a die just to make it look cooler.  It can be confusing, and people often need to look at the other side of the die the first few times to figure it out.  Sounds simple, but it could slow your first game experience down.  The first impression could be the only one you get. 

Another thing about accessibility is using symbols people are comfortable with.  If you do choose to use custom dice then don't use a POW symbol as a miss.  Most people associate a POW or Sword symbol as a hit.  Make sure you are familiar with conventions before adding custom dice to your game.

Anything else?

Sometimes standard dice do the job better than a custom die.  If you have changing values for things it may be simpler to use a standard die.  For example in one of our next games we have die that level up as the game goes along.  At first you only hit on a 6.  Later you may add a 4 or a 5 to that type of hit.  Maybe you add another 6, so your 6 results do 2 points of damage.  This would be very hard to do if you used custom dice.  You could have different symbols, but in this situation they would all have to basically mean the same thing. 

Another more common example is monsters in a dungeon crawl, or roleplaying game.  You can have several monsters that behave very differently using the same few die.  This one hits on 3-6 and the other one hits on 5-6.  And you don't have situations like you have in Descent or Star Wars: The Queens Gambit where people are asking "where is that green die again?"

Lessons Learned.

Don't use custom dice in your game if:
  • Cost is an issue - Maybe you already have too many components, or the game is too simple to justify a higher cost
  • It complicates your game - If your game would be easier to understand or play without custom dice, leave them out.
  • Standard dice would do the job better - Sometimes custom dice aren't as flexible as standard dice.  There is a reason so many games use standard dice, they are very versatile.  They could determine your income in one phase and tell you how far to move in the next (not saying to do this in your game, just an example).
What's next?

 That's it for this week, next time I am going to talk about getting through that 100th playtest of your game, and how to keep if fresh.  Until then, I am Peter, keep designing great games.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Design Tip of the Week #24 (Why Have Custom Dice in Your Game, and When to Introduce Them)

Another Series?

Looks like it.  Last week I talked about a simple way to make custom dice for your prototype (or any time you need them).  Here is a link to the post if you missed it:

You may also want to see the discussion over at BGG (BoardGame Geek) for some other cool tips:

So this week you are going to tell us why to make Custom Dice?  Isn't it obvious?  Because they are cool.

That is certainly a factor in why to have custom dice in your game.  But there are some fundamental things that custom dice allow you to do that you can't do with a traditional die. 

Firstly, they allow you to have more information on a die face than just a number.  Look at Quarriors, Dice Masters, or Mice and Mystics for some examples of this.

People often talk about cards having multiple uses, but you can achieve this with dice as well.  In Salvation Road we use the dice for Threat Rolls, Fighting, and Healing.  You don't need to look up what to do with the dice for all these situations, you just count up the hits.

Custom Dice allow you to convey information without having to look up every result on a custom table.  While Dice Masters has a lot of information on their dice, they try to add more depth by introducing rules on the cards too.  I view this as a small failing because not only do you have lots of information you need on the dice, you also have to refer back to the cards.  They developed a cool system, but all the information isn't in one place.  It could be worse, you could have to keep looking back at the rules, but this could lead to bloat as more cards are introduced to the set.

Lesson Learned: Custom Dice are a way to add multiple uses for a single component without a lot of extra looking things up in the rules.

What are some other cool things you can do with Custom Dice?

You can also mess with the odds a bit.  For example, if you want to remove an enemy and take one wound for your hero you could easily put that in the rules.  Or you could roll a die that has 4 hits, 1 miss and 1 double hit.  Now you are still taking 1 Wound on average, but it will be a little swingier. This leads to more tension than just taking 1 Wound.  If you want it more swingy you could move the hits around even more.  You could have a die with 3 hits, 2 hits, 1 hit and 3 sides with misses.  You would still average out to taking that 1 hit, but it will be a lot more swingy.  Half the time nothing will happen to you, but every once in a while you will take a tremendous amount of wounds.

Dead of Winter did this with their Exposure Die.  Your results could be anywhere from no damage, to dying and taking someone else out with you.  Some people love this and some people hate it.  It certainly creates more tension in your game, but it could also create huge swings in luck that drive people away.

Be careful with having too large a swing in your luck.  There is a lot of middle ground between gaining Victory Points and Dying.  Both results probably shouldn't be possible on the same roll.  But it all depends on your game.  The longer your game is the less one roll should matter.  If you are rolling the dice 100 times in your game the luck should probably all balance out.  In a 5 hour game the final result probably shouldn't be determined on one die roll.  Of course there are always exceptions.

Lesson Learned: You can vary the odds in more ways than one.  The average result doesn't always tell the whole story.  If you want more luck in your game, have more variety between the results on the different sides of your dice.

What do they add to your game?

There are two main things I think Custom Dice can add to any game.  The first we have discussed above, but don't think it can be repeated enough is simplicity.  You can simplify your rules by making Custom Dice.  You don't have to have lots of tables or reference sheets to tell you what happens on each die result.

The second main reason to have Custom Dice is theme.  Custom dice are an easy way to add theme to your game.  I would much rather roll a hit symbol and know I did damage than have to look at a table to see that I hit on a 1-4.  Even Dungeon Dice, which wouldn't be any fun at all with normal dice, gets a big buzz because of it's custom dice.  Just looking at the cool symbols is enough for some people to get totally emerged in your game.

Lesson Learned: Custom Dice should simplify your game while emerging people into the theme.

When should I bring them into my prototype?

You should make sure your prototype is a game first.  Your first few playtests will probably be either solo, or with people very close to you.  You don't need your dice to be custom at this point.  You could just have regular dice and look up tables.

Even if your dice are turning out to be very intricate it is better to test them before committing to making dice.  You may find out that you don't even need them at all.  Maybe a more streamlined approach is better for your game.  Maybe you find out you don't like your initial distribution and want something different.  It is much easier to change your table then to remake the dice.

With that being said, once you have a good working prototype and are ready to show it to the world, you should probably put the effort in to make your dice.  If it makes things easier for your playtest group, and speeds the game up then it is the right call.  If you make them and need to change them at this point, it is ok.  Sometimes you will need to change them several times.  That is why it is good to hold off as long as you can, but it is better to put the extra work in before you show it to people than to start getting feedback like:
  • The game is too long
  • There is too much to remember
  • There is too much to look up
  • I couldn't get into the theme
Then you are wondering is it the mechanics, or the components.  That is the toughest part of early playtesting.  Even later prototypes can suffer if your components or graphic design is confusing to playtesters. 

Lesson Learned: Make your Custom Dice when you are convinced your design is solid and are ready to introduce it to people outside your inner circle.

What's next?
 That's it for this week, next week I am going to talk about why not to use Custom Dice in your game.  Until then, I am Peter, keep designing great games.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Design Tip of the Week #23 (How to Make Custom Dice)

Lets get right into it.  What will you need?

For a 16mm D6 (probably the most common die I make) you will need:
  • 16mm Blank Dice (you could use ones with pips too, but I buy blank ones)
  • 1/2 inch Hole Punch
  • Sticker Paper

  • Paper Cutter, or Scissors

The links are only suggestions, you can google these items, or find your own source for them.

Step 1:

Lay out your symbols in a word document (any program will work).  First may a test print on regular printer paper as it is much cheaper if you make a mistake.  You want to look at spacing, quality of the symbols, and size.  Make sure you punch a few out to make sure you aren't overlapping, and that the symbol fills the punched out piece.  You can resize and test again until you get the size and quality you are looking for.  I will often print on the same piece of paper to save cost.

Layout - You want to have several rows on your paper, each with enough symbols for 1-2 dice.  Even if you end up printing more than you need it is ok, you will want to have more later for sending out prototypes.  Here is an example below:

Step 2:

Print on the sticker paper and use your paper cutter or scissors to cut between your rows.  you should now have strips that are ready to punch.

Step 3:

Have your blank dice ready and peel the backing off one strip of your sticker paper.  You will then punch one symbol at a time, placing each symbol on one of the die faces.  While I apply the sticker to the Die, I leave the rest of the strip inside the punch.  It will stick to the punch a little, but should be easy to take off.  I have included a picture below as an example:

Final Results:

As you can see, I left the blank sides blank.  If you want, it would be easy enough to add a blank sticker to them if you are really worried about them being weighted.  Personally I am not that worried for a prototype, but it is easy enough to do.

Anything else?

Nope, it's as easy as that.  I have made custom D8s too.  For those I bought a bag of 100 D8 like those listed above for D6.  The punch I use for D8 is a bit smaller too.  It doesn't have an exact measurement on it, but it is about 8-9 mm.

What's next?

 That's it for this week, next week I am going to talk about the benefits of having custom dice in your game.  Until then, I am Peter, keep designing great games.

More Content...

There is some information about the components I use to make d8s below in the comments.  But here is a picture of what they look like.