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Published on December 12, 2022. Last Updated on May 1, 2023.

Hey there,

It’s minus 4 here as I type this in Birmingham, and December in England is… never described as warm… Hoodie and sweatpants time.

Anyway, I’m glad you’re here.

So what is this all about?

As some of you may know, I make games… and I run a publishing company alongside two other rockstars… and I run Tabletop Publishers… and a few other projects.

I’ve had it on my mind to start a newsletter about game design for some time — something that would speak to the experiences gained designing games, working in the board game industry… and yes, to shamelessly promote those projects. For now, look to the footer if you’re curious.

This newsletter is free, and always will be. I might offer up some sort of premium thing in the future, but right now I’m focused on building value and finding a publishing cadence that works. For now, that’s once a week, set to go out to the world every Monday around noon UK time.

Something I learned about game design this week

A new term I’ve been using: functional design.

So when you start to design a game, you might start with a theme, a mechanic, or maybe an experience.

These are all great places to start.

My contest entry (Around the World in 10-15 Minutes) for the Game Crafter’s Lunch Break contest was inspired from a couple of Facebook friends, each of which I’m paraphrasing below:

  • I wish there was a game I could play with my kids while waiting for food at a restaurant. Nothing fancy. It would play in 10-15 minutes and have very simple components…
  • I’d love to find a game I could bring to work and play during our lunch hour. We obviously need to eat, so it’s got to be short. Since my co-workers aren’t gamers, it’s got to be pretty simple.

Functional design begins with the end in mind. You’re looking at the use-case and engineering the game to fit that expectation, or riffing off of it to fit the function better than they described. It can certainly use the themes or mechanics that come to mind, but the overarching principle is that it has to fit that function, whatever that is.

From the initial goal (make a simple game people can play in 10-15 minutes), I chose a theme I love (travel) and a mechanic I haven’t played around with a lot (the ‘follow’ mechanic)… but the ‘functional’ part of the design always had to be there.

What I’ve been working on last week

  • Playtesting and finishing up my two entries to the Game Crafter’s two contest: Around the World in 10-15 Minutes (as already described), and my entry into the Game Crafter’s one-card contest called Talimens.
  • Playtested ‘How Does Your Garden Grow’ (a one-page, play-and-pass game)
  • Pitched a publisher one of my games (getting good vibes here!)
  • Some client work, and got paid for some client work.
  • Some planning for 2023.
  • Bought a domain for a new project (nothing here to mention yet).

What’s coming up this week

  • Hopefully announcing some of the new translations available for Spies.
  • Planning for Nuremberg in February.
  • Make a one-minute sizzle video for a game.
  • Some client work.
  • Remake a physical prototype of Snakes and Ladders 2.0 after some playtesting.

ICYMI

  • The Game Crafter contests – while the one card contest deadline isn’t until January 10th, the Lunch Break contest ends tomorrow (December 13th), so get your entries in soon.
  • What some call Nuremberg (officially the ‘Spielwarenmesse’) is coming up soon from February 1st to 5th. While Essen Spiel is open to the public and for hobby games, Spielwarenmesse is only for people in the industry and primarily for mass market games and toys. I’ve never been before, but am looking forward to it to pitch some of my mass market ideas.

Random picture of the day

Mr. Bean the game

I love visiting the charity shops here in Birmingham. They have just some of the weirdest stuff that’s actually worth buying. The Mr. Bean game (back of the box shown above)? No idea if it’s worth buying, but it sounds a bit like Cranium before Cranium existed…

Thanks for reading the inaugural issue! What would you love to see in future issues? Hit the reply button and let me know =)

Cheers – Chris

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