Designer’s Journal: Desolate

render1Recently I have been quite busy pursuing a few different projects with full steam. These have included the solo-play dungeon crawler Peril, the other more puzzle-like adventure solo-play game Doom Realm, and most recently the space horror solo-play game Desolate. Notice a trend? Yep, I am in the midst of designing three different solo-play games. I did not mean for this to happen, it just sort of did. Each is quite different from one another, but today I will be delving into the latest design Desolate.

In Desolate you take on the role of a rescue soldier. You mission was to investigate a distant moon station that your main base had lost contact with. Moments before your squad landed however, something happened to you ships controls and you crash landed but a hundred meters from the station. You are the sole survivor. <insert creepy and render14dramatic music here> The station is overrun by aliens and everyone is dead. You are tasked with fighting off these intruders while trying to locate five power cells in order to jump-start the escape shuttle. All the while you must monitor your health, ammo, and oxygen. Muhahahahaha!

At the beginning of the game you will receive two equipment items from a total of seven. These include items like a space suit that expand your health meter and give you more starting health, to items like night vision goggles that allow you to reveal both cards during a turn (more on that in a moment). This allows the game to play a bit differently each time through as your character will be quite unique every time you enter the station.


render8The core of the game comes in the form of the exploration deck. This deck contains cards with both locations and conflicts (aliens). Locations are safe rooms that contain particular goods like more ammo or medpacs. Conflicts, when drawn, trigger a combat sequence (more on that in a moment). On your turn you will draw two cards from this deck, keeping them both face-down. You choose one to reveal. Now you must make the decision to either resolve the card you just revealed, or discard it and resolve the other unknown card. This is a nice tension building press-your-luck mechanics that will cause you to make some tough choices as you are trying to avoid aliens, while needing to find those power cells. Discarding an unknown card may be the choice that leads to conflict or another step closer to escaping this deadly place.

render10 You will notice that the bottom portion of the exploration cards are upside down. This portion is only used when a player opens a crate. Alien cards, when defeated, reward the player with a crate (small or large). To open a crate you only need to flip and reveal the next card in the exploration deck. If you are opening a small create, you may choose one item from the two items shown. One has more overall value while the other is lesser, but you must decide which item you think you need more. If you are opening a large crate, you get both items on the card. Stronger enemies give large crates and weaker ones give the smaller variety.


So you have revealed a conflict card in the exploration deck. Now you must draw a card from the combat deck. This is a separate deck of cards that help to randomly generate your foe. The conflict card you first revealed will have a die icon next to the title indicating the initial power of the alien. When you reveal the combat card it will show another die icon with a value. Place a dice on the die icon with the value equal to the one shown face-up. Now place another die on the blank die icon below that equal to the value shown on the exploration card. The sum of both dice is the health/power of your enemy. This can range from 2-12.

render12You will also notice a numeric value with the word “damage” next to it. This is the initial damage you will take. You see the aliens always attack first. Have you ever tried to sneak up on an alien? It cannot be done… Anyways, you must adjust your health tracker accordingly to this initial attack.

Now you must make a very tough decision. How much ammo are you willing to spend on your turn (how long are you willing to hold that trigger down)? Each ammo you spend (adjusted on your character tracker) equates to one die you get to roll in an effort to kill your foe. So spending three ammo will allow you to roll three dice. You then roll and if the sum is equal to or greater than the power/health of your enemy you defeat them and gain whatever items is in their crate. Easy right? Well, if your roll results in a sum less than your enemies power/heath they get to counter-strike. This is done simply be flipping and revealing the next card in the combat deck. The bottom portion of the card indicates counter-strike damage.  You never know exactly what card is up next and how much damage you may take as a result of rolling too low. This makes the decision in regards to ammo pretty tense.

Making it out Alive

render13The other resource you have to keep an eye on is your oxygen level. When you cycle through the exploration deck, you must spend two oxygen. This mechanic mimics time spent in the station. Oxygen can also be spent in the Garrison in order to rest/heal if you happen to draw that card while exploring.

Your mission is to find five power cells. These are located in the engineering room and there are two of these cards in the exploration deck. If at any moment you have 5 power cells, you power up the escape shuttle and blast off, winning the game. However, if you run out of either health or oxygen, you die.

That is the basic overview of the game. More little details to come.

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STEW to launch on Kickstarter in February!


As many of you may already know, Stew was picked up by Button Shy Games a few months ago. Well the Kickstarter for Stew will be launching on Kickstarter in February! Button Shy is famous for their wallet series of games that include such hits as Circle the Wagons, Avignon: A Clash of Popes, and Pretense. Stew will also be a wallet game and will come housed in a cool custom bi-fold wallet that you can easily take with you anywhere!

More details, including the exact launch date to come…


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Root Cellar Print & Play is Here!

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The Print & Play files are now available for my latest design Root Cellar. Root Celler uses the “I split, you choose” mechanic as well as auction mechanic similar to No Thanks and a scoring system like that used for the resources in Above and Below. It is quick to learn and teach and plays in 30 minutes or less. Lots of interesting choices to be made.

As always, this is a work in progress and I would LOVE to get feedback! Changes are likely to happen. Thanks and enjoy!

You will need a copy of the rules and you can choose from either a printer-friendly Black & White or a Color Version of both the Player Boards and the chits.

Root Cellar Rules V1.1





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Button Shy Games to Publish Stew!

logoButton Shy Games has signed my latest design Stew to a publishing contract. Button Shy is well known for their line of Wallet Games which are small card games that come housed in a custom printed little folding wallet that you can easily take with you anywhere!

Stew is an 18 card game that employs press-your-luck, deduction, bluffing and a bit of take-t


hat. You can still download the PnP for Stew on our downloads page for a limited time. EDIT: PnP files are no longer available. Look for the upcoming KS from Button Shy Games!

Look for the Kickstarter for Stew to hit in 2018. Stew will likely be in a KS with at least one other game as Button Shy always bundles their wallet games for their Kickstarters.

I am very excited about this and cannot wait to see the final product!



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STEW Print and Play is now Available!


You may now print and play our latest game STEW for free! Stew is a quick and tension-filled 18 card game. All you need is a printer, a couple friends, and about 20 minutes! Please leave any and all feedback below! Enjoy!

EDIT: The PnP files for STEW are no longer available as there will be a KS upcoming from Button Shy Games! Launch date coming soon!


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Designer’s Journal: Doom Realm

At my core I simply love to create things and I am always up for a challenge that will get those creative juices stirred up. Recently I saw a roll and write game designed by Mark Jindra entitled Pencils & Powers. It was actually an entry into a design contest that both of us had entered. I was intrigued to say the least at a game that played via one 8.5×11″ piece of paper and four standard dice. Oh, and a pencil of course.

21766597_10159499181065691_7508298356610889614_nSo I printed out a copy of Pencils & Powers (Which is free to do and I highest suggest), sharpened a pencil, grabbed some dice, brewed a cup of hot Joe, and sat down and began my first quest. I was immediately hooked and knew right than that I too had to make one of these types of games.

Heavily influenced by P&P, I started at it. I wanted a more dark fantasy theme with zero magic, but that still pulled at the heartstrings of those nostalgic for the original D&D. Lucky for me that my own personal art style reflects that sort of look, though a bit crudely. But that is fine by me. The non-professional look of my art actually brings me back to the early days of xeroxing little adventures back in the 1980s. Not that my art is bad, it just is not exactly top shelf, but in a way I think it makes it perfect for this.

So what is Doom Realm?

Doom Realm will hopefully be a series of free print and play roll and write games. You will need to print out the rules, which I am still working on, and an adventure. The first such adventure is Rise of the Troll King. Each adventure will have you take a new set of heroes on a quest of some sort where you will have to explore a map/dungeon and unlock locations. These locations will have both an encounter/enemy and a treasure associated with them. The goal being to defeat all the enemies and of course take out the boss.

0-Rise of the Troll King v2

How does it work?

Game play is quite simple on the surface. You roll 4 standard 6-sided dice. You then must allocate one dice to each of the four places on the sheet. Repeat this until you unlock and defeat all locations and score as many points as you can along the way. Let’s take a quick look at each of the four places you can allocate a die.

MAP – One die must be used to explore the map. Each side of the die allows the player to shade in a certain shape of hexes on the map. When a number is shaded in in front of location, the player may attempt to battle the enemy there and secure the treasure that resides there.

ENEMY – One die is also used to increase the power of an enemy. You must choose to either make the enemy have more health or deal more damage. So as the game progresses your foes will gain in power, so you need to balance how powerful you want them to get with how big the treasure horde is there.

TREASURE – Another die is used to increase the size of a treasure horde by shading in the next square in the corresponding treasure. All sorts of helpful items can be had including swords, shields, and potions, but sometimes moving down the treasure track will add obstacles like traps or locks.

LOCATION- The fourth and final die is used to increase the power level of a location. This both increases the amount of gold there and the power of the enemy. Whenever a star is shaded in on the location tracker you must shade in a box on the enemy residing there. Scary!

DLAxURtXkAUs7e2That is about it. Testing is ongoing but I am pretty close to releasing the first adventure. My long term plan, though perhaps a bit challenging, is to create a system where you can build your own quests by mixing and matching locations and enemies and allowing you to pick which heroes are used in each quest. This will require cards and perhaps even tokens. But that is down the road. For now the goal is to have a tight and rewarding experience for players that is both enjoyable and challenging.

More to come, so stay tuned….

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The Game Crafter Effect

When it comes to designing a tabletop board or card game there are many aspects in the process. Some of the biggest hurdles can come when you have an idea and you want to turn that idea into something tangible. Something you can actually hold in your hands. As a creative person there are few things grander than holding something you created in your hands.


Some of what you will get if you use the Designer Table Sponsorship.

This is where The Game Crafter comes in. As a Print-on-Demand printer, that specializes in crafting board games, TGC is just what the doctor ordered. They have without question the largest selection of printable products. You merely need to download the template and let your creative juices flow. On top of their printing capabilities, TGC has a ridiculous selection of game components to add to your game. So, whether you are looking for game cards, full-print boxes, boards, tiles, custom dice, pawns, tokens, or much more, TGC is the one-stop-shop. It makes being creative easy!

But this is not the main point of this article. The Game Crafter is also a community in and of itself. The chat-room within TGC is always bustling with creativity. It is a meeting ground for artists, designers, and even a dozen or so publishers. You can share your ideas and get feedback. You can offer help or find someone to read your rules. You can locate an artist or get advise about Kickstarter. You can and will make friends and these friends will support you and your game. I am a curator in the chat and I have personally made a ton of friends and connections via just the chat.


All-new fully custom molded dice!

Beyond the chat you will find that TGC promotes this community with Game Design Contests. There is always at least one design contest running and sometimes multiple contests at once. Winners will typically win some cash, shop credit, and other goodies. It is a fantastic way to sharpen your skills and to meet new people. Most contests are judged by people in the industry like publishers, reviewers, convention officials, and sometimes even the folks at TGC. I have judged two contests myself and it was a great experience.

Another side effect of entering these contests is a thing called success. What do I mean? Well many many games have gone on to get published or on to successful Kickstarters. You do not even have to win the contest either. Quite a few games have been published that simply entered, learned from the feedback, made a few adjustments, and then sought out a publisher. Here is a list of games that were a part of a TGC contest and then went on to either get published or to have success on Kickstarter.

  • Baldrick’s Tomb – 5th Street Games – Kickstarter $24,100
  • City of Gears – Grey Fox Games
  • Jupiter Rescue – Twilight Creations
  • Mob Town – 5th Street Games – Kickstarter $21,017
  • Four Tribes – Grey Gnome Games – Kickstarter $31,452
  • Dig Down Dwarf – Grey Gnome Games – Kickstarter $82,229
  • Village in a Box – The Game Crafter – Kickstarter $39,567
  • Of Dungeons Deep – Grey Gnome Games – Kickstarter $30,960
  • Flip – Mora Games – Kickstarter $5,176
  • Shogun Showdown – Sean Howard – Kickstarter $5,452
  • Landed – Argyle Games – Kickstarter $14,565
  • Oaxaca – Undine Studios – Kickstarter $35,234
  • Coin & Crown – Escape Velocity Games – Kickstarter $36,033
  • Siege of Sunfall – Grey Gnome Games – Kickstarter $21,801
  • Honey Wars – Gold Seal Games – Kickstarter $14,857
  • Starving Artists – Fairway 3 Games – Kickstarter $50,329
  • Underlings of Underwing – The Pericles Group – Kickstarter $32,271
  • Tricky Tides – Gold Seal Games



Designers, Publishers, and Playtesters hard at work at Protospiel.

Now remember that the above list only consists of games from The Game Crafter that were in a contest and I am certain I have missed a few. A host of other games have started out at TGC and been picked up by publishers as well such as the hits The Captain is Dead and Roll For It!. The bottom line is that TGC provides a great place to learn, grow, and succeed as a game designer.

Beyond the aforementioned contests and chat room, TGC also sponsors every Protospiel and supplies a ton of supplies at them for designers to use on the fly to create games. They even host the Madison Protospiel and Craftercon! In addition they will help out individuals looking to setup booths at local gaming conventions by supplying samples of components, table clothes, and money. Find out more about the Designer Table Sponsorship here.


Component table at Protospiel.

As you can see, The Game Crafter is in the thick of the indie board game design scene and a great place to start your journey into design or publishing. It is also a great place for established industry folk to have their prototypes made or even look for designs to publish. I have been a proud member of the community at TGC for about 6 years and felt obligated to write this article as a way to steer people in the right direction.

I have seen a lot of games start at TGC and go on to be on store shelves all over the world. Here are a few games that I am lucky enough to own both the original TGC versions of and the final published versions. How amazing it is to see this sort of success!



The original Roll For It! from TGC next to the special Gencon Edition! Roll For It! is now published by Calliope Games and is sold worldwide and can be found in both Target and Walgreens stores!


Starving Artists is the winner of the Survival Contest that I happened to judge. It went on to have a mega-successful Kickstarter bringing in more than $50k. Pictured is the original (and quite rare) TGC version and the fancy new published version.


Baldrich’s Tomb is one of my favorite quick dungeon-crawlers that plays well with the family. I got to help the designer Ben Haskett a little bit with development. It eventually was published by 5th Street Games. It was also a contest winner.


Honey Wars won the Gamerhole contest and then went on to find success on Kickstarter! I have one of the rare TGC versions!


Here is another Ben Haskett design that Ben self-published via Kickstarter. Pictured is the original TGC version and the pretty final published edition.


Here you will find a rare original copy of Trainmaker (left) with sticker dice and on the right is the version I published with fancy custom molded dice. This is another Chris Leder design. I loved the game and had to sign it!


Here is another contest winner, Siege of Sunfall. I got a chance to play the original at Protospiel Milwaukee and I signed the game to a publishing deal a couple months later. As you can see I changed the theme and wrapped it in all-new beautiful artwork.

In conclusion, I hope that this article was helpful to you in pointing out the many advantages of looking to The Game Crafter for your printing, prototyping, and support needs. So get working on your game and I hope to talk to you in the Game Crafter’s chat room!

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