Coming Soon: 5 First Time Game Designers (and Their Games)
Thanks to this blog, I have had the opportunity to connect with a variety of tabletop and boardgame enthusiasts, including those involved in the design and development of new games. There are loads of great creative minds out there working on all sorts of great ideas. Thanks to the internet, crowdfunding, and the popularity the hobby is experiencing, publishing your own game is more accessible than ever before.
To showcase what is out there, I decided to eschew designers with a game or two under their belts and go straight to the first timers. I sat down (virtually) with five developers hard at work on their first games and discussed their games and what drives them to design them. What follows is a summary of our conversations and a look at their games (in no particular order).
Ryan Dalton: Velocity-9
Ryan Dalton, who is also a sci-fi author, is nearing completion on Velocity-9. A spaceship racing game that uses a heavily modified roll and move mechanic and puts Dalton’s sci-fi writing into the factions, abilities and events. Players take control of various factions (space pirates, shady governments, etc) and race to a newly-discovered planet in what Dalton calls “… a fast paced game with no actual combat.”
Players roll a 6-sided die to move, but then modify their rolls with cards to increase their speed or slow their enemies. Turn order also varies throughout the game. Each faction has a pair of advantages and a liability. Players can use their first advantage with no strings attached, but using the second also triggers the liability, adding a bit of press your luck.
Comparing his drive to make games with his passion for writing books, Dalton says “I want to create game experiences that are engaging, that pull you in and give you a full in-depth and super fun experience, and that make you want to share it with others.” The game looks like it will benefit from his writing background, “I’m also working hard to make sure Velocity-9 has a very robust mythology, a galactic story that connects all player factions and beyond, and that it feels like you’re stepping into a real universe.” Dalton explains.
Velocity-9 is winding down play testing and a Kickstarter campaign is being planned for 2018.
Adam Leamey: Spectrum Force
First time game developer Adam Leamey is working on a cooperative card game inspired by sentai shows (if you are unfamiliar with the term like I was, think Power Rangers). In Spectrum Force players use their deck of cards (prebuilt with no acquisition or deck building) to defeat the villains. Villains are operated using an AI deck. Players manage their decks to attack the enemies and assist each other.
The game plays in 2 stages, first players fight an army of grunts and then Leamey explains they “switch over to their robots and the mighty mega robot for the final showdown.” Leamey is developing scenarios to provide story and different challenges for replayability.
When I asked Leamey what prompted him to design Spectrum Force, he shared the following, which serves as a great reminder for everyone: “last year I lost a friend suddenly and it made me think ‘am I going to reach for my dream and make it a reality or keep it as a dream?’ This spurred me to start creating.”
Spectrum Force is undergoing playtesting as Leamey refines the rulebook.
Samuel Carter: Project Powerpunk
The next entry is a tabletop roleplaying game by developer Samuel Carter. In Project Powerpunk, government, organized crime and corporations are in conflict, with superpowered people as pawns in their battles. Players take on the role of superpowered individuals in this setting.
RPG settings are plentiful and as unique as their designers. I asked Carter what made his system and mechanics unique. He explained that rules are modular and scalable, with simple rules that can be expanded on into more advanced material. A significant effort was put into creating and balancing an encyclopedia of superpowers as well.
According to Carter, Project Powerpunk began as a homebrew game enjoyed by him and his group. One day they decided to collect their notes and create and actual game. When I asked him why he chooses to design games he said “I believe the fun of games is in the versatility of storytelling… Through games, we can experience things we can’t or won’t in real life.”
Emelie Van Rodin: State of Wonder
Emelie Van Rodin has been working on game design for years, doing research projects and studying game design. Van Rodin’s first public effort is State of Wonder, a card game where players take on management of a city state and seek the throne through military power or by constructing a wonder.
Cards are played face down a turn in advance, with only the cost known to opponents. This allows for bluffing and deduction as players try to anticipate their opponent’s moves. Combat engages all players at once, reducing downtime. Strategy is critical as all players start with their entire 17 card deck in their hand (or in play).
Van Rodin expressed a love for the pattern solving involved in game design. She learned during her research that randomness in card games led to emotional experiences in players and wanted to design a game that eliminated random card draws.
Sean Fallon: Paths
Our final designer is Sean Fallon who, along with is team, is developing an RPG known as Paths. The setting for Paths is something Fallon has imagined and built upon since he was a teenager.
Paths takes cues from MMORPG video games like World of Warcraft. Players play cards during combat to select their actions and monsters are managed from an AI deck of actions. To further the MMORPG feel, Fallon and his team have implemented “threat and aggro” mechanics to allow players to influence and manipulate the AI’s actions.
As mentioned, Fallon has been creating the world of Paths for quite awhile. As a teenager, influenced by Tolkien, Lewis, and other fantasy authors, Fallon created stories and adventures in this setting. On the benefit of fantasy and fiction he offers, “I think fiction worlds can be very magical and bring a lot into a person’s life. When I was younger, Mr. Rogers was one of the first people to really open up my mind and imagination. I took those ideas, my passion for fiction worlds, and created a place that I would love to always be in. Practically live in for that matter.”
In addition to the RPG, Fallon is working on bringing a dungeon crawler board game set in the world of Paths to Kickstarter.
Hopefully this article has shown just how much variety exists in the tabletop community. For each of these developers there are hundreds more.
A special mention should be made of Brandon Rollins, who doesn’t qualify for this list as he has previously published games. Rollins is currently working on bringing Highways & Byways to Kickstarter. His community of tabletop developers and enthusiasts has been a great source of information for this article.
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