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Board Game Design: A Manifesto

I’ve been designing board games for over five years. My first design was terrible, as were my second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. designs. It has always been something I’ve enjoyed doing, but for a while I was more excited about coming up with a general idea for a game than I was excited to actually do the work of making a worthwhile game. This summer, I signed my first game. It’s called Colorfield, and unlike many of my previous attempts, it is not terrible. It’s actually kind of awesome. The final version of this game is a result of a lot of hard work, and of that swift and elusive mystery of creative inspiration.

Here’s the story.

Picture Me Rolling

Picture Me Rolling is a roll-and-draw party game for 3-7 players. Each round, players will try to draw a word from a card on their 4×4 grid, but may only use the line patterns from 5 custom dice that are rolled at the start of the round. After two minutes, players display their drawings, and try and guess who drew what. Players earn points for guessing correctly and for other players guessing their drawing correctly.

Picture Me Rolling was a 2020 Pitch Project finalist, a 2020 Geekway to the West design contest finalist, and is available for licensing from designer Mondo Davis. For more information, use the contact form on this website or email; mondo@mondodavis.com

Picture Me Rolling Print and Play File

Picture Me Rolling Rulebook:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bJP-4N_F8tMvwrIF4eP9GGUUFYpTItorBAQlAIY_vM0/edit

Redwood

In Redwood, players will use their hand of cards to try and nurture a giant redwood tree to maturity. Each player has a personal deck of 25 cards, and they draw five cards into their hand each round. They must decide whether to use their hand of cards to expand their root system, or as currency to bid on the trunk tiles to grow their redwood tree. After five points, players add up the points from the scoring mechanisms in their root system and the player with the most points wins. Redwood is a card-laying, auction game for 2-4 players and plays in under 30 minutes.

Redwood is available for licensing from designer Mondo Davis. For more information, use the contact form on this website or email; mondo@mondodavis.com

PnP File: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1–goixTLYuco3UNi5dZ3Fcl6oxpjDhnE/view?usp=sharing

Roll With It

In Roll With It, players don their roller skates and try to create the longest rainbow road they can to skate down. Players draft cards using a mechanism called Triangulation, where they place tokens on the draft board and draft cards at the intersection of those tokens. The goal is to acquire the most matching rainbow cards, which score points at the end of the game. Cards that don’t fit into their scoring piles count against the players as they try to choose their cards wisely in this set collection, drafting game.

Roll With It is available for licensing from designer Mondo Davis. For more information, use the contact form on this website or email; mondo@mondodavis.com

Roll With It PnP File

Roll With It TTS Workshop Page

The Curse (aka Smalltown)

In The Curse, players work together to stop a curse that has begun to spread around the quaint village of Smalltown. As Agents of the Light, players use their turns to move from house to house, expelling the curse, raising funds, and bringing in specialists to stave off the growing threat. At the end of each round, a News card is revealed, and may cause the curse to spread from infected houses to their neighbors, along arrows on the House tiles. Players must work together to stop the curse before the end of the final round in this co-operative game for 2-4 players.

The Curse is available for licensing from designer Mondo Davis. For more information, use the contact form on this website or email mondo@mondodavis.com

The Curse TTS Workshop Page

Scoop! There It Is

Scoop! There It Is is a drafting game for 2-7 players who will try to make three high-scoring ice cream cones. Players simultaneously draft one card from their hand and place their drafted card on one of their three ice cream cones. Each card represents a scoop of ice cream, and has a specific way it will score points at the end of the game. After drafting a card, players pass their hand of cards to the next player, and continue the process until all cards have been drafted. After three rounds, players score their ice cream cones and the player with the most points wins. It’s a fun twist on a familiar drafting mechanic where the spatial placement of cards affects the scoring, making the choice of what to draft a tad more exciting.

Scoop! There It Is was a 2020 Pitch Project Finalist as well as a 2020 Geekway to the West design contest selection and is available for licensing from designer Mondo Davis. For more information, use the contact form on this website or email mondo@mondodavis.com

Scoop! There It Is has also been rethemed as Skate City, where players are skateboarders trying to put together the most impressive set of tricks they can.

Scoop! There It Is PnP File

Scoop! There It Is TTS Workshop Page

Atlanta

Atlanta is a card-laying game for 2-5 players who will try to build up the city of Atlanta by drafting cards and playing them to a personal tableau. Each card represents a zoning district, and has a value numbered 1-10. Cards may be placed so they cover one corner of another card already in the tableau, or they may be placed so as to bridge two cards if its value fits between the other two cards. Once four cards have been placed, creating a square, players may draft a scoring tile and place it in that square space. Tiles award points for meeting various parameters. After the Scoring tiles run out, the players with the most points wins.

Atlanta is available for licensing from designer Mondo Davis. If you are interested in learning more, use the contact form on this website or email mondo@mondodavis.com.

Atlanta PnP File

Atlanta TTS Workshop Page

Big Sur

Big Sur is a card-laying game for 2-4 players who work to build their own illustrious stretch of the iconic Pacific Coast Highway. The game takes around 30 minutes to play and uses an innovative double-sided card mechanism where players draft cards and commit to using the card for either its Highway project or its Material, which can be used to build Highway cards from the player’s hand. Scoring occurs at the end of the game and awards points for adjacent Highway cards that share one of the five terrain types. Advanced mode introduces the Landmark Tiles, which are earned by players meeting certain building requirements and are then added either above or below the Highway cards in the player’s tableau. These tiles award the players special abilities or additional ways to score at the end of the game.

Big Sur is available for licensing from Mondo Davis, and if you are interested in learning more, please use the contact link at the bottom of the page, or email mondo@mondodavis.com.

Big Sur PnP File

Big Sur TTS Workshop Page

Board Game Design TikTok

So, after getting sucked into TikTok, I quickly realized that there was a significant lack of content on the platform centered around board game design. I could find accounts creating meaningful content about just about every other area of interest that I have, but the absence of consistent videos about my favorite hobby inspired me to be the change. I’m now proud to say that my account, TikTok.com/@gamesbymondo is live and has been steadily growing for the last month. I post exclusively about BG design, and insight that I’ve gathered throughout my 6 years as a freelance game designer. If that interests you, check it out. My hope is to start conversations and provide support for beginner designers, as I seek to answer the questions that I found myself asking when I was first starting out. It’s been a blast networking with other users and posting videos every day. Even if you’re wary about TikTok, I recommend you check it out.

On Digital Playtesting

Quarantine sucks. It sucks as a friend, father, husband, human. And, it sucks as a gamer. Back in normal times, I had anywhere from one to three gaming events each week. I looked forward to them with a sweet excitement. Not only did I get to play games, but I was able to interact with my friends and family in an analog, face to face, genuine way. Now, of course, those opportunities are nearly non-existent. There are weeks where I barely leave the house. My wife’s willingness to play games with me has dwindled over the years, and I’ll be lucky if I get a game on a table more than once a month. It sucks. I know my experience is not unique, and I feel empathy with both the gaming community and humanity as a whole.

As a game designer, though, it’s had a different effect. I’ve been privileged enough to find several digital playtesting groups online that meet weekly. Through these groups, I am able to sit down virtually and play test my games as often as four days a week. The designers in these groups are talented and committed designers who do tremendous work and provide excellent, thoughtful, and critical feedback. It’s been a pleasure working with these groups, and the development of my game designs has become a primary focus of my process, replacing the spend-my-time-designing-new-games-because-I-couldn’t-find-playtesters-for-my-old-games approach that I was resolved to. Since the pandemic, I’ve seen one of my designs get signed, and one requested by two major publishers. I’ve refined others to a point where I feel confident that they are ready to be signed. The invaluable feedback that I’ve gotten and the designers I’ve worked with have taught me so much about the process; what makes a game good and how to make a good game better. It’s been so incredibly productive, and I’ve gotten closer and closer to my goal of being a “real” game designer. It hasn’t been all that bad

But if I had to choose, I would (of course) let my design career pitter-patter along, with my mediocre games and lack of access to productive playtests. The quarantine has been a dismal affair, and I can’t wait until we return to normalcy. It’s been nice that I’ve been able to find this silver lining as a game designer, and I encourage any other designers to get involved in virtual playtesting. To that end, I will post links to the discord servers I participate in where I do that playtesting. And as we wait for life to resume, perhaps we can keep finding ways to support each other in whatever means we have access to. Here’s to that future.

Remote Playtesting:

https://discord.gg/u4A365

Seattle Tabletop Game Design:

https://discord.gg/24pnUz

Virtual Playtesting:

https://discord.gg/GXK965