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How Dave Neale Makes Games


Tell us about yourself – Who are you? What do you do?
I am a writer, thinker and storyteller. I currently work practically full-time designing storytelling and mystery games, and also do some research work with the Centre for Play in Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL) at the University of Cambridge.

If I’ve never played your games before, what’s the first one I should try? 
When it is released, in June 2020, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Baker Street Irregulars would be a good place to start. It was the first game contract I ever got.

One fact that we probably don’t know about you:
In addition to game design I write songs, poems, and once wrote a one-act play that’s been performed worldwide.

What games are you playing most right now?
Right now is the middle of our coronavirus lockdown in the UK, which limits the possibilities! I recently managed to set up Letters from Whitechapel in such a way that it could be played over Zoom, and it worked very well. I’ve also begun dabbling in roleplaying games again recently, after a long hiatus.

What are your all-time favorite games?
Well, an obvious one is Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, which is what drew me into the whole modern gaming scene, and created my career as a designer when I created new cases for it. So that’s got a pretty special place in my affections. Other than that I enjoy hidden movement games (particularly Letters from Whitechapel as I mentioned earlier), games with good theme integration like Village and Alchemists, and anything with a good story.

What draws you to make games?
I find them a fascinating and versatile medium for creative expression and social interaction. I think there is still a great deal of unrealised potential in board games, and I want to explore that.

How did you get started making games? Describe your process (or lack thereof) when making games. How do you reach your final product?
I’ve designed games since I was a child, probably from around age 8 onwards. I didn’t take it up seriously until 2011 when I discovered an old 1980s copy of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective and played through it all in a few months. I made some of my own cases, just for my own enjoyment, but then when I heard it was being republished I sent them to the publisher. Around a year later, they asked me to write a whole set of 10 cases, that added some new mechanisms and served as a good introduction to new players. That set is coming out in June – 8 years after I began creating it! 

 My process when making a game is normally (though not always) to start with a setting and characters, and then work out story and mechanics in tandem, as a combined unit. And sometimes I just start writing a short story in the appropriate style and in the setting, and see what comes out, then work out how that could be reflected in board game mechanisms.

How do you market your games?
By doing interviews like this .I’ve written Designer Diaries, and for my Consulting Detective set I created a letter from Holmes to Watson in 1920, which I posted online. The rest is done by the publishers.

What game-related or game business-related media do you consume on a regular basis?
I regularly browse the BGG website and sometimes Shut Up & Sit Down or Rahdo’s videos.

What are some tool/programs/supplies that you wouldn’t work without?
A printer, a laptop, paper and pens. That’s essentially all I need. I don’t use any particularly fancy software or anything for creating prototypes – just the basic Office programs – and I often draw things by hand.

What’s your playtesting philosophy? How often/early do you playtest? How do you find playtesters?
I playtest as soon as I have something that can be playtested and generate useful feedback. I think for most games the earlier the better, to get a good idea of what is working in general before putting in more effort. However, playtesting does have some differences with storytelling games, one being I sometimes delay playtesting because normally I can only test something once with each group – then they will know the story or solution to the mystery, so they can’t play again. That means I want it to be as close to the final storyline and experience as I can make it.

What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work, and how have you overcome them?Plotting incredibly complex interactive narratives. I tried using software to help with this (Twine) but it can’t cope with the level of variability and multiple-state storylines I’m dealing with in some projects. So for these projects, I tackle the problem by lots of record-keeping and playing the game solo and running through different storylines myself, looking for holes and inconsistencies.

How do you handle life/family/work balance?
I don’t particularly… I mix everything up into “life”. Not sure if that’s healthy but I’m surviving so far.

What one piece of advice would you give aspiring game designers?
Playtest as soon as possible and as much as possible.

Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Probably one of the other designers from my playtesting circle: Matt Dunstan, Brett Gilbert, David Thompson, Trevor Benjamin or Antony Proietti

What’s the best advice about life that you’ve ever received?
Being rich means having more than you need, so there are two ways to become rich: one is to get more, the other is to need less.

Thank you so much for your insight, Dave! You can find his complete profile on Board Game Geek, check out his website, or follow him on Twitter.

If you’re interested in how video games are made as well, check out our designer interviews at Doubtful Games!

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How Ivan Mendez Makes Games

Ivan Mendez.jpg

Tell us about yourself – Who are you? What do you do?
Hi! I’m Ivan Mendez, a 31 year old game designer, born and raised in Mexico City. I have lived, studied and worked in Mexico, the US and South Korea.

If I’ve never played your games before, what’s the first one I should try?
None, as this is the first card/board game I have developed. (Launching soon on Kickstarter!)

One fact that we probably don’t know about you:
I can speak Spanish, English and Korean (intermediate Korean).

What games are you playing most right now?
I actually really enjoy competitive PC games at the moment. I’m playing Tekken 7, Warcraft 3: Reforged and League of Legends.

What are your all-time favorite games?
1. Yume Nikki
2. Carcassonne
3. Warcraft III

What draws you to make games?

Coming up with mechanics is an addictive and enjoyable process for me, but I mostly make games to tell stories. If I have something to say, I do it via a creative medium.

How did you get started making games? Describe your process (or lack thereof) when making games. How do you reach your final product?
As I mentioned before, I start making games when I have something to say, and I usually do it through a narrative. I always start with a story, a world and characters. For the Chronicles of Marlis, I started by creating a 20000 word narrative, describing all three countries and introducing a conflict. From there, coming up with ideas for card names and mechanics becomes a very natural and fun process. It almost feels like I’m continuing to write the narrative through the cards I design.

How do you market your games?
In all ways possible. Telling friends and family. Doing online marketing, spreading the word through forums and social media, etc.

What game-related or game business-related media do you consume on a regular basis?
Twitch, Youtube

What are some tool/programs/supplies that you wouldn’t work without?
Plain paper, Photoshop

What’s your playtesting philosophy? How often/early do you playtest? How do you find playtesters?
As early as you have a prototype, and as much as possible. Start with family and friends, friends of friends, and then move to local game stores.


What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work, and how have you overcome them?
Tackling things you’re not familiar with can be difficult and frustrating. As a one-man team, having to learn marketing, video editing and website building can be overwhelming. But if you believe in what you’re doing, you’ll be fine.

How do you handle life/family/work balance?
Just by setting a strict work schedule/hours and respecting them. 

What one piece of advice would you give aspiring game designers?
Believe in your idea. Don’t feel intimidated by other projects or fear of failure. Just stay the course and don’t look back. After months and months of hard work, you will be proud of your final product.

What’s the best advice about life that you’ve ever received?
If you start something, finish it.

Thank you so much for your insight, Ivan! You can check out his website – Kursed Games or
follow him on
Twitter or Facebook. Sign up to get updates on his Kickstarter launch here!

If you’re interested in how video games are made as well, check out our designer interviews at Doubtful Games!

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How Sina Yeganeh Makes Games


Tell us about yourself – Who are you? What do you do?
Hi! I’m Sina, and I’m the creator of The Imposter Kings. I live in Seattle, WA, and am passionate about games and education (ideally both at the same time)!

For work, I’m a Product Manager for a really cool tech startup called Apptentive. One reason why I bring this up is that Apptentive is all about customer love. For me, ANY feedback is a huge part of game design, and The Imposter Kings was actually a prototype that I started around a year ago. Ever since then, a core aspect of the game design is to test and gather feedback almost nightly, even today!

If I’ve never played your games before, what’s the first one I should try? 
This is my first published game, so I’d be humbled if you try this one :)! There are a couple of other games that I have been working on the side, but I am currently only testing with family and friends at the moment.

That being said, there are print and play prototypes available on the Kickstarter for this game, and if you email me and let me know you read this interview, I’d gladly share with you the full prototype and/or online test versions of the game!

One fact that we probably don’t know about you:
I proposed to my wife by creating an original murder mystery. The first part was a mystery and games, and the second part was scripted. She said yes, only after asking if it was real.

What games are you playing most right now?
My lovely wife, Alissa, and I just finished a game of the new Eclipse (2nd Edition). It was fantastic, as I’ve always loved the design of that game (once you get it set up). There’s just SO much you can do, while still being super streamlined and informative to the player.

Other than that, we still play The Imposter Kings nightly. I can say she continues to beat me at my own game.

What are your all-time favorite games?
Android (board game and netrunner!), Mage Knight, Twilight Struggle, Eclipse, Codenames. I have a lot of respect for Vlaada Chvatil, who made Mage Knight, Codenames, Space Alert, and Galaxy Trucker (what a variety of games!).

What draws you to make games?
There’s an immense passion for undertaking a creative project like making a game. The first game that I designed entirely is called “Blue Sun,” and it’s prompt for me was “Can I make a head to head battle game that is strategic, tactical, and under an hour once you know the rules?” Of course, there are many great war games like Battlelore and Eclipse, but I created my goals, and through prototyping early, I found energy with every playthrough to make it better.

For The Imposter Kings, it was the same process. I made the game prototype in less than three days and stuck with the same principles and prompts, just like my previous projects. Can I do a project that:

1) Minimizes luck, but reward risks

2) Give all players a lot of choices

3) Is Easy to pick up; hard to master

Through constant iteration and these principles, we’ve made a fantastic game that is quick to play and feels impactful regardless of the hand you’re given. My favorite playtest sessions are the ones where we test different scenarios. One example is that we would play a game, then after someone would win, we’d take back the cards and play the exact same game and see if a different decision would change the outcome as a metric of giving players satisfactory choices, no matter their draw.

How did you get started making games? Describe your process (or lack thereof) when making games. How do you reach your final product?
As I mentioned above, it really starts with a prompt. From there, I enter a creative brainstorming mode, where I begin to stay up late at night and just throw together a prototype as quickly as possible. Initially, the game I build is profoundly broken and not well thought out. By prototyping over and over again, and playing with my very patient friends and family, I start ironing out details while staying true to my objectives for the game. It’s a flywheel effect as I keep being more and more excited by what I’ve learned over the playtests, and as new ideas make the game better (or worse, but then they get weeded out later). It’s an enriching process at the end. My favorite quote was from a highly cynical friend who said: “Wow, this is actually really fun… I can’t wait to play it again!”

How do you market your games?
Marketing is extremely tough for me. On the one hand, effective marketing is getting people to notice your game. On the other hand, there are a couple spam tactics and price manipulation that work exceptionally well and hurt the more ethical game designers. It’s hard to be discovered in this world without either knowing a lot of people or using these tactics, and it makes me sad to see extremely talented designers (way more talented than me) not get the recognition they deserve. So it’s a mix of being ethical while getting out there and being noticed by others (radiating passion for your project helps!)

That being said, my favorite form of marketing is actually just going to local game shops and sitting at a table to play a game with a friend. Often, people will come over and check out the game, and my favorite backers are the ones who really enjoyed the game and wanted to be a part of the experience. A couple of local stores have been interested in carrying my games after I reached out to them. Everyone is super supportive if you’re willing to put in the legwork and reach out. My marketing method is mostly networking through friends of friends, rather than using strictly social media. I really like my game, and think others like it too when they play it, so if I can get copies in people’s hands, I’m sure it’ll be successful. During this pandemic with COVID-19, I lost a lot of opportunities to go out and share around. However, thanks to many tools out there, I’m already working on a Tabletop Simulator version, Tabletopia version, and even an app, so people can still play and be connected during these difficult times. Video promos and artwork ads are always great to have, and are rewarding in their own right.

As a funny anecdote, I’ve also been playing some competitive video games like Dota and Rainbow Six Seige. As part of the game, I’m usually paired with four teammates I don’t know, and I often joke around about how if I do well, they should look at my Kickstarter. I have approximately three of my backers as random people I met playing games on the internet. It never hurts to tell the world about your passion!

What game-related or game business-related media do you consume on a regular basis?
Honestly, mostly just Board Game Geek and r/boardgames on Reddit. I don’t consume as much media as I would like, but I am always looking for podcasts in my spare time (other than Critical Role, which is fantastic!)

What are some tool/programs/supplies that you wouldn’t work without?
My paper cutter has done a LOT of work, especially with continuous playtesting and sending prototypes to friends willing to test it out. Other than that, nanDeck and other software can be helpful for cards, a printer always lets me print things out, and other games provide me with components for early prototyping. I think I’ve mentioned prototyping maybe 100 times already, but it really is vital to me as a designer, so these tools help me immensely. Card sleeves are a must when you’re shuffling all day!

What’s your playtesting philosophy? How often/early do you playtest? How do you find playtesters?
I think I’ve touched a lot of on my philosophy. I have a couple different playtest groups. First, I usually try prototypes with close friends and family who are board game friendly. After the first couple of refinements, I then present it to a more diverse group of friends. There are so many game personas, and it’s fun to see how different types of gamers play the game (chaotic/anarchs, rules oriented regardless of me saying it’s just a typo, social gamers, former chess players, etc.). After that phase, I tend to go to local game shops and see if anyone is interested in playing games.

Finally, I ALWAYS set aside a group of board game friends as my “final draft test group.” As I finish the game manual and rules, I give them a prototype and observe them playing (without saying anything or clarifying rules), and see how well the prototype is for people who have never seen the game before. I always recommend you keep a couple of friends in the dark so you can see how much sense your game makes with a fresh pair of eyes. I miss a lot of things I usually wouldn’t catch with my blind test group 



What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work, and how have you overcome them?
When you design a game, there are so many components to think about, and a lot of logistics (finance, production, artwork, fulfillment, etc.). For artwork, I am fortunate that I was able to find the fantastic Michael Hirshon , who has been beyond helpful and fun to work with. For me, having a partner and friends who are willing to validate ideas is extremely important, and a lot of people have stepped in to fill that role. 

How do you handle life/family/work balance?
It’s hard. Passion is immensely important to keep motivation. If you lose love or hope for the game, it’s going to impact your game. For me, thinking about the game’s marketing or finances is not fun. Prototyping and playing the game is fun. So I try to make sure I balance the three things so I can make sure that I’m still passionate and motivated.

What one piece of advice would you give aspiring game designers?
Would it surprise you if I said prototype early and often? I’d also say that creating games is not easy, and the market is super unforgiving. If you can, make it a passion project that you’re in love with. If you’re not in love with it, then it’s going to be hard to take it the entire way.

Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Hmm, probably Vlaada Chvátil or Kevin Wilson. They’ve both amazed me as game designers, and answers to these questions would be amazing to hear from them.

What’s the best advice about life that you’ve ever received?
If you’re not passionate about it, then don’t do it. Life is too short to do something you don’t love. I wouldn’t recommend you immediately quit your job or force yourself to love something, but I think the best thing I heard was to set a goal and figure out how to reach it. It’s ok to step back sometimes or re-assess the goal, but having a goal that you can drive towards gives meaning and purpose to your hobbies and work.

(Meta question: What question did I miss that I should have asked?)
These are great questions! I think the one thing that could’ve been interesting is talking about design philosophy itself. Something like “What is a game that you love for its design, and what makes it good?” (We’ll have to do a Part 2 sometime where we discuss this more, Sina!)

I’d also always love the “Is there anything else you’d like to add,” where I would just simply say – I’m always interested in having conversations about games in general or The Imposter Kings. If anyone has any questions or thoughts, feel free to reach out at

Thank you so much for your insight, Sina! You can find his complete profile on Board Game Geek or
follow him on

If you’re interested in how video games are made as well, check out our designer interviews at Doubtful Games!

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How Jay Cormier Makes Games


-Tell us about yourself – Who are you? What do you do?
Hello! I’m Jay Cormier, a man of many hats! How many hats? Let’s see:
Hat #1: I’m probably best known as a game designer, with numerous games published that some of you might have heard of: Belfort, Akrotiri, Junk Art, D&D: Rock Paper Wizard and many more!

Hat #2: In the game designer world I might be known as the creator of the Fail Faster Playtesting Journal. I created a journal to help designers take notes they need to take in order to become better playtesters!

Hat #3: I might start getting known as a publisher as I just started my own publishing company called Off the Page Games, with our first game, MIND MGMT: The Psychic Espionage “Game” currently on Kickstarter (and doing extremely well, I might add!)


Hat #4: I am known in Vancouver amongst video game design students as an instructor. I teach board game design as part of the Vancouver Film School’s video game design program.

Hat #5: I am known in the corporate training world as someone who brings gamification to events. I have gamified multi-million dollar training events as well as created escape room games that can scale up to hundreds of people for multiple corporate training companies.

Hat #6: Around my house I am known as daddy to two 3-year old twin boys!

-I interviewed you as part of
Bamboozle Brothers team back in 2015 – what big changes have you made with your game designing since then? 
The biggest change is the fact that I’m always trying to change. I don’t like visiting the same well more than once and I love to design games that offer me new challenges. If you look at the games I’ve designed, you can see that there’s no pattern, except for the fact that I’m trying to design as many different types of games as possible. I just had a game that I designed solo get published called Draw Your Own Conclusions. It’s the first drawing game that I’ve had published. Before that I had In the Hall of the Mountain King, which is my first polyomino game (as well as a new mechanic called cascading production). Up next, Sen-Foong Lim and I have our first escape-room-in-a-box game coming out called Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion!

-One fact that we probably don’t know about you:
I was a children’s entertainer for over 20 years! My character’s name was Bertolt and I wasn’t really a clown — more of a storyteller that used magic to tell stories. I performed all across Canada and a bit in the US as well. I performed mostly for corporate gigs, but also did a few years of buskerfests too!

-What games are you playing most right now?
Whatever the next prototype of mine is in the queue! With twin 3-year olds at home, by board game playing time has dwindled for now, but I still have to maintain my playtesting schedule as you can’t design board games without playtesting. Recently I’ve been playtesting a game that’s been signed called Draw the Line (another drawing game – but this one is less a drawing game and more a communication game), and we’re testing a few different ways to give clues.

-What are your all-time favorite games?
I love Dominion, though I haven’t played in awhile. It ushered in the deck building genre and did it very well. I love Amerigo — my favourite Feld game as it has the most theme to it! I love the cube tower as it’s a clever way to randomize actions but keeping it fair from player to player. I will always play Time’s Up: Title Recall at a party as it’s always guaranteed hilarious for everyone. And I’ll never turn down a game of Tichu — the best partner card game of all time!

-What first drew you to making games? Has that driving force changed over time?
I have a background as being a performer and I think for me, the motivations are similar. As a performer I always wanted to make people laugh,and provide them some entertainment. As a game designer, I also want to provide people with entertainment. I find so much satisfaction when people tell me that they’ve played one of my games and that it brought them some joy. Isn’t that a great objective in life? Make things that create more joy in the world?!

-How has your game making process evolved since you first started making games?
It has for sure. I now spend less time than ever making the first prototype so that I can get it to the table as quickly as possible. Early on Sen and I would spend way too much time getting everything balanced before making that first prototype, only to learn that we had no idea where the fun was in the game. Now, we make a minimum viable product to test one aspect of the game to see if there’s something fun in it or not! 

Also, with all my experience, a lot of things become easier as we can make decisions a bit faster, and we can foresee certain obstacles a bit sooner. This is one of the reasons why I always like designing games in new genres because there’s more challenge in that.

-What part of making a game do you most enjoy? What part would you rather delegate to someone else?
I love playtesting and going home and tweaking the prototype because I know what needs to change to improve the game. Sometimes when people have a ‘bad’ playtest, they go home feeling defeated, but not me. While I would love for a game to knock it out of the park, I love it when the game gets amazing feedback from my playtesters because then it means my game will end up being even better that I thought it would be.

I would love to delegate rules writing to someone else. It is a hard skill to have! On top of trying to communicate very clearly and concisely, it also takes a lot of effort to add all the images for each example!

-How do you market your games?
Up until now I haven’t had to as I was ‘just’ the designer, so the publisher had to do all that! Now that I’m a publisher with my first game on Kickstarter, I’ve had to figure this all out. It seems like a simple question but this answer could go on for a long time! 

First, I started by being a somewhat known designer amongst some people. Me running a Kickstarter for a game now is totally different than if I ran a Kickstarter 10 years ago (if Kickstarter existed back then!). Then I ran a Kickstarter for the Fail Faster Playtesting Journal. How is that related? Well it gave me experience in running a Kickstarter and a reputation for running a smooth campaign with some fun engagement. Then I started my actual publishing company 9 months ago. I detailed my progress on a weekly YouTube show called How to Start a Board Game Company. While this niche is small, I got a decent following of people that were in a similar boat that were following what I was doing. The game that I am publishing is based on my favourite comic book for the last 20 years, so that already has some built-in fans. We leveraged the creator, Matt Kindt’s fanbase on social media as well as mine and Sen-Foong Lim. I would post new art as I got it, share it on some big Facebook groups and ask a bunch of questions on the publisher Facebook groups. Participating online goes a long way to people knowing who you are. Then early this year I subscribed to Gleam and ran some contests. I ran 4 contests, week after week where the winners would receive one of the games that Sen and I previously designed. Then I ran a month long contest where the winner would get a deluxe copy of MIND MGMT once published. I helped push those out using Facebook ads. 

I got 15 sample copies of MIND MGMT made and sent them out to the reviewers that I thought would get me the most bang for my buck – and each of those cost money, of course. Then I bought some ad space on Boardgamegeek and finally I partnered with Jellop to help market my game while it’s on Kickstarter. Whew!

-What game-related or game business-related media do you consume on a regular basis?
I visit Boardgamegeek more than once a day. Other than that, nothing on a regular basis. I see all the big reviewers when they’re talking about a game I’m interested in! I’m not much of a podcast listener either. 

-What are some tools/programs/supplies that you wouldn’t work without?
Computer, Printer, Cardstock, cubes, paper cutter, sleeves, Corel Draw. I can make almost any prototype with that! Some games require some specific components for sure (Junk Art!??), but those are the key supplies I need!

-I know you emphasize play testing, even making a play testing journal at
Fail Faster – how do you find play testers?
I’m lucky because I belong to the Game Artisans of Canada. We have chapters all across Canada and one in Vancouver. We meet up every week and playtest each other’s games. We even have people show up that aren’t designers, but like playtesting games! I also love the feedback that comes from other designers too. Often they can see some problems that non-designers can’t see. Other than that, when I moved to a new city, it was really just going to game nights at my local game store. I met a lot of people that way that ended up becoming regular playtesters for me!

Playing Mind MGMT

Playing Mind MGMT

-In our previous interview, you talked about proactively preventing as many work obstacles as possible by focusing on motivation, versatility, and persistence – are those still guiding considerations? What habit(s) do you find most useful for keeping your work on track?
Ah yes, MVP! For sure those are still my key to success. Fortunately, it’s easier to stay motivated right now because I always have 5-8 irons in the fire at any one time. When something is less interesting, I work on something else! I’m also partnering with other people and have 1 published and 1 signed game with 2 totally different designers not named Sen! In the Hall of the Mountain King was co-designed by Graeme Jahns and Draw the Line was co-designed by Chase Disher. Working with new people brings a lot of motivation into it as well. I talked about my desire for versatility, and persistence is still needed, even if you have a bit of a name in the industry. It’s easier to get into some meeting now though! But I still have some games that I am waiting to hear back from publishers!

-How do you handle life/family/work balance?
I am fortunate because my work allowed me to go down to part time. So I work 3 days a week at ‘work’ and then 2 days at home, working on my board game life! The ultimate goal is to quit my day job and work on board games full time! Weekends are mostly family time so I think everything is fairly well balanced!

-Who would you like to see answer these questions?
I’d love to know more about Phil Walker-Harding’s process and behind the curtain stuff!!

-What question did I miss that I should have asked?
What do you have coming up next?!

Oooh, I’m glad you asked! 

With Sen-Foong Lim we have Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion (an escape room in a box type game), plus the reprint of Belfort (and a new expansion) is due out soon

With Sen and Josh Cappel we have WWE: Headlock Paper Scissors (uses the same system as the D&D Rock Paper Wizard, but it’s a whole new game)

With Sen and Ed Bryan we have a 2-player Godzilla card game

With Chase Disher we have Draw the Line, a communication game that involves a bit of drawing

In addition to all that, Graeme and I are working on a card game AND an expansion for In the Hall of the Mountain King. Sen and I are working on our next escape room in a box game. Shad Miller and I are working on 3 projects, one of which was signed, but the publisher has disappeared. Lots going on! 🙂

Thank you so much for your insight, Jay! You can find his complete profile on Board Game Geek or follow him on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook!

If you’re interested in how video games are made as well, check out our designer interviews at Doubtful Games!

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How Cole Wehrle Makes Games


Tell us about yourself – Who are you? What do you do? I’m a full-time game design at Leder Games and the co-founder of Wehrlegig Games which I run with my brother, Drew. In another life I thought I was going to be an academic, and I spent the better part of a decade teaching students of all ages.

If I’ve never played your games before, what’s the first one I should try?  If you like history, play Pax Pamir. Otherwise, Root is probably the best entry point.


One fact that we probably don’t know about you: I’m an avid juggler! I started back in college as a way to relax with a few friends and just kept doing it. 

What games are you playing most right now? My wife and I have been having a blast exploring the Arkham Horror Card game. This is a weird title for me. I don’t care for a lot of FFG stuff, but I’ve found the design to be pretty well considered and I love the way your deck gets both stronger and weaker the further into a campaign you go.

What are your all-time favorite games?
Titan, Diplomacy, the 18xx series. I’d also be happy to play a Splotter or Winsome game any day of the week. 

What draws you to make games?
I think it’s a fantastic storytelling and argumentative framework. 

How did you get started making games? Describe your process (or lack thereof) when making games. How do you reach your final product?
I’ve written and talked about this background extensively. I’d start here:

How do you market your games?
By answering interviews like this one! I also write a lot about my process. Usually by the time a game is done I’ll have written about 20 or 30 thousand words about its design. Those essays have two functions. Most importantly, they force me to put my thoughts into words and help move the design forwards. At the same time, they also spread the word about whatever project I’m working on. 

What game-related or game business-related media do you consume on a regular basis?
Very little. I read a lot of news and a lot of books on a wide range of topics, but I don’t really follow board game media. I do try to play most of the new titles I have access to each year though so I can stay current on the state of game design.

What are some tool/programs/supplies that you wouldn’t work without?
Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and a spreadsheet and word processor are all critical to my process.

What’s your playtesting philosophy? How often/early do you playtest? How do you find playtesters?
I have a group of playtesters that I’ve built over nearly a decade. By now there are about 20 groups and I use them differently for different projects. I start playtesting usually as soon as I have some written rules. I tend to deemphasize post-game analysis in favor of just quietly observing play. 

What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work, and how have you overcome them?
A lot of the designs I work on are extremely resource intensive. They require a lot of discipline to complete. John Company was finished while I was completing a draft of my dissertation and attempting to move my household of four across the country. It was only possible because I had friends who were willing to help me get the game across the finish line and because I had stayed pretty organized through the chaos. 

How do you handle life/family/work balance?
I get up each morning around 6 or just before. I then get my oldest sons off to school and eat breakfast with them. I usually do about an hour of work at home and then hop on a bus or ride my bike to the office and work until about 5 or 6 in the afternoon. IThen I come home and help with dinner and putting the kids to bed. Some evenings I work on projects for a couple hours but mostly I try to relax and get to bed early so I’m not exhausted the next day.

I feel very fortunate to have a full-time job in this industry, and that good luck is reason enough to take my work very seriously. I have a schedule and I stick to it. 

What one piece of advice would you give aspiring game designers?
Be relentless in your self-criticism and don’t be afraid to throw out all of your work and start over. It’s important to become your own best critic, but it takes time to develop that critical voice and you shouldn’t rush it. Spend time thinking about what you like and dislike in the games of other designers.

Who would you like to see answer these questions?
I don’t know. I’ve been asked a lot of these questions before. I guess it’s nice to have all of the answers in one place. 

What’s the best advice about life that you’ve ever received?
Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation. 

Thank you so much for your insight, Cole! At the time of publishing this article, Cole has a second edition of his game, Pax Pamir on Kickstarter . You can also check out his work at, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

If you’re interested in how video games are made as well, check out our designer interviews at Doubtful Games!

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How Dan Letzring Makes Games


Tell us about yourself – Who are you? What do you do? I am Dan Letzring. I own Letiman Games and I co-own Galactic Raptor Games with Carla Kopp of Weird Giraffe Games. I am a co-host on Breaking into Boardames and am a semi infrequent contributor to the Indie Game Report.

If I’ve never played your games before, what’s the first one I should try? That depends on what type of games you’re into! If you like more strategic games then Groves for sure! It is a bag building Worker Placement Game that is really fun! Into family games? Check out Dino Dude Ranch with the Hatchlings Expansion!


One fact that we probably don’t know about you: I grew up in the Boston area and have a deep desire to move back there!

What games are you playing most right now? “Welcome to… “ It is so quick and easy to set up! Such a fun game! Adventure Tactics as we are working on finishing it up and getting it ready to send off to print.

What are your all-time favorite games? Kingsburg, Kings Forge, Seven Wonders Duel, Pandemic Legacy, Blood Rage, Tzolk’in

What draws you to make games? I love creating things. I love bringing creative projects to life and seeing them go from concept to physical creation!

How did you get started making games? Has your creative process evolved significantly since you began? I originally wanted to make a card game that mimicked the agony of going through grad school (which i was experiencing at that time). My concepts of how the industry works has changed but how I approach design and playtesting hasnt changed much!

How do you market your games? Anywhere and everywhere. I do a lot of local cons, facebook ads, continuous presence in the bg community. I also work hard to network and make great contavts within the industry

What game-related or game business-related media do you consume on a regular basis? The many facebook groups!

What are some tools/programs/supplies you wouldn’t work without? Sharpies. Card sleeves.

What’s your playtesting philosophy? How often/early do you playtest? How do you find playtesters? Right away. It is important to me to get somethong to the table ASAP, even if it is just me playing multiple roles. I just need to see how it functions and feels at the table before doing anything else. We have a good sized playtest group in Rochester and I have a lot of different game groups (comprised of both casual and more hardcore hobby gamers) that are all willing to check my stuff out.

What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work, and how have you overcome them? Really just not having the time to do it all. I know many of us have multiple ideas going all at the same time. For me, it is very important that once I pick a game to move forward with, I completely sideline everything else so I can focus on the one most important to me at that time.

How do you handle life/family/work balance? Not sleeping. Haha jk, kind of. I have regular schedules that I stick to. I also have a wife who is very supportive of what I do. She also has her own hobbies so we can easily take time for ourselves to do our own things that we love.

What one piece of advice would you give aspiring game designers? Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Meet people. Show your game early and often. Listen to what your playtesters are saying and dont get defensive. Give back as often as you ask for others to give to you.

What designer(s) would you like to see answer these questions? Steven Aramini

What’s the best advice about life that you’ve ever received? Can I have 2 answers? 1. Don’t be afraid to try for something (like applying for a job/school, trying a creative endeavor), the worst that happens is it doesnt work out and is no different than if you had never tried. But if it succeeds it can change your life. 2. If you embrace the creative lifestyle it can easily cause anxiety stress and burnout. Dont forget to step away, enjoy your life, and have some you time outside of your creative endeavors.

Thank you so much for your insight, Dan! At the time of publishing this article, Dan has an awesome looking new game on Kickstarter – Adventure Tactics. You can also check out his work at, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook!


If you’re interested in how video games are made as well, check out our designer interviews at Doubtful Games!

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How Brett Gilbert Makes Games

Tell us about yourself – Who are you? What do you do?

I’m Brett, and I design games. I’ve done various other things, too, like make books and design websites, but I now consider my earlier career choices as bumps in the road; should have been making games all along.

If I’ve never played your games before, what’s the first one I should try?

The catalogue isn’t vast, so it wouldn’t take you very long to play all of them, but if you were to only play one, I’d suggest that “Divinare” might be a good place to begin. It’s my first published game, and one that I continue to be very, very happy with. Underneath the beautifully baroque costume that Asmodee gave it, is the beating heart of a simple family game, with a very pure idea behind it. It perhaps never found all of the audience Asmodee hoped it would, although it did receive a ‘Spiel des Jahres Recommended’ badge of honour in 2013, which was a real thrill — and something I never stop mentioning to people!


One fact that we probably don’t know about you:

I loved LEGO as a child, and as a grown up I was incredibly fortunate to get to work with the team responsible for LEGO Games, primarily using my editorial skills to write their rules. My favourite sets were the four Heroica games: such a fun product! And my greatest achievement was proposing an alternate board layout for the Waldurk Forest set — a layout that was eventually used to represent the model on the front of the box. I actually helped design a LEGO set!


What tabletop games (including digital board/card games) are you playing most right now?

Prototypes! If there’s an opportunity to play, then playing a prototype takes priority — and there are always several to choose from, and you can simply never playtest enough. Beyond the usual crop of physical prototypes all bristling for my attention, I have (as it happens!) been developing ‘Quarta’, a digital board game for iOS that I have designed with an old friend of mine, the musician Peter Chilvers. In terms of plays logged in the past 12 months, the hundreds and hundreds of plays of Quarta I have under my belt far outstrip any analogue game.

What are your all-time favorite tabletop games?

As children, our favourite by far was “Sorry”: a true classic. If you’ve never played, it’s essentially just Ludo with the dice throws mapped to cards, but those cards give specific movement results special meanings. And that’s actually a really smart and fun idea that lifts it above its ‘roll and move’ heritage — and in the 1920s it would have been positively avant garde.

As an adult, and looking at the modern board game catalogue, there can only be one answer: Carcassonne. I have the base game plus a variety of the expansions, and a curious Darwinian process, over the course of many, many games, has lead to a preferred set of tiles and rules, which is almost certain to have rendered the version of the game I have played most often quite distinct from anyone else’s. Its (original!) simplicity is something to be applauded, but it has something else, something that few games have, something which equips it for both indefinite survival and an effortless devotion: charm.

What draws you to make games?

“In the space between chaos and shape there was another chance.”
― Jeanette Winterson

That might sound altogether too serious and po-faced, but there is more than a grain of truth in it. Game design is absolutely about reconciling those twin opposites, and the playful mission is inevitably intertwined with a personal one.

What are you not naturally good at, that you’ve learned to do for your work? Do you have a team to help with the tasks you’re not so good at?

I am not, to use the corporate terminology of the Belbin test, a “completer finisher”, so if there is one thing I have learned to do, or at least discovered the real value of, it’s collaboration. There are many benefits to designing with other people — assuming you find the right companions! — but one of biggest is that there’s someone else to tell you to “get on with it!”

Describe your process (or lack thereof) when making games. How do you reach your final product?

I’ll go with answer (b): ‘lack thereof’. It’s probably a bit trite to say that ideas can come from anywhere, but it’s true. The next step, however, is to be ready to capture them (and also to give yourself the space to have them in the first place), so I am never without my trusty notebook.

Once there’s an idea to get my teeth into, the ‘process’ is really just one of grinding through prototypes and playtests, there’s no magic formula. Which is to say, that if you don’t actually make something and actually play it (over and over) you can’t know what you have. There will be revelatory moments on that journey, and they are when the really important stuff happens that pushes a game along, but you can’t hope to skip the grind; it’s a necessary evil.


What game design-related media do you consume on a regular basis?

Hardly any, to be honest. There is a lot of good stuff out there: blogs, podcasts, books — but the *really* good stuff comes from people. If you want to learn about game design, ask people to play your games and then get them to tell you what they think as honestly as possible. Some of them, most of the time, probably won’t like what you’ve made, or won’t have fun. That’s not their fault, not even a little bit; it’s yours. So listen up!

What are some tool/programs/supplies that you wouldn’t work without?

Apart from my sketchbook and favourite pen (and it’s worth figuring out what your favourite pen is, and then buying a box of them!), I do rely on my MacBook Pro. I am a long time user of an aging installation of the graphics package Fireworks, and that’s where I go to create mockups of game components and play around with things and see how the pieces fit.

Unlike probably every other right-thinking game designer, I enjoy writing rules, and usually try to do that as comprehensively as possible as early as possible, often even before the first prototype or playtest has hit the table. Of course this means that a lot of the actual words and spaces have to get thrown away, but for me the act of trying to capture in print the game I think I have in my head can be incredibly revealing. The process of abstracting game concepts into the written word forces you to think about those ideas differently.

Rules writing is as much a part of the true process of design as anything else.


What’s your playtesting philosophy? How often/early do you playtest? How do you find playtesters?

Everyone knows that there’s no such thing as ‘too much playtesting’, so any playtesting philosophy that espouses anything else is deeply flawed. Genuinely early playtesting can be risky, in that it has the power to kill off ideas before their time and before they have had the chance to develop into something more viable. But playtesting is risky anyway: after all, it’s an invitation for all those aforementioned people to pin you down and tell you how awful it was! (Even worse: “I don’t care about your game.” — Ouch!)

In terms of actually finding playtesters, I am lucky that the game design community in the UK is strong, and that I have helped foster a weekly Playtest UK meetup in Cambridge at my local pub. Family and friends, however willing, can only take you so far. The company of other designers will help, as will any and all chances to get your prototypes in front of the only constituency that matters: the public!


What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work, and how have you overcome them?

The chasm between the design process and actually getting published can be wide and deep; if you want an obstacle: there it is! If your objective is to design professionally, then connecting with and fostering relationships with publishers is a required art. But what makes this difficult isn’t the culture or people in the industry — which are (in my experience) open and generous — it’s whatever obstacles I build (or indeed dig) for myself. Psychologists have a name for this: ‘impostor syndrome’. I think you can learn to be a better marketer, but any designer born with natural, unassailable chutzpah and self-belief has the potential to go a lot further a lot faster. 


How do you handle life/family/work balance?

I am lucky — or at least, that’s one way of looking at it — that I don’t have the same domestic distractions that I imagine other designers must have; although that begs a different question: if I am so free of care, then why am I not more productive? It’s not clear that not having to fight a little to maintain that balance is really such a good thing. There’s such a thing as having too much time on your hands.


How many hours/week do you generally devote to working on games? How many to other business-related activities?

In terms of hours: it feels like the answer is both too many and not enough. (I can however say that “not enough” is definitely the answer when it comes to the other stuff, which is generally admin and therefore no fun at all.) Part of the trick of it has to be to spend enough time doing anything but designing; which is not to say that if you spend too long trying that it simply becomes work, rather that it eventually becomes impossible, and progress slows to a crawl. That’s the moment to put the prototypes away and go and do something else instead!

Of course, as I write these words and mentally pat myself on the back for making such a wise observation, I know that I am terrible at doing this and so need to find a way to summon enough gumption to actually follow my own advice.

Discipline, as someone once observed, is remembering what you want.


What one piece of advice would you give aspiring game designers?

Throw away the game you’re working on and design another one. Come to think of it, this isn’t terrible advice for the more experienced game designer, either.

Who would you like to see answer these questions?

Andrew Sheerin of TerrorBull Games — his perspective on games as the possible agents of political change is fascinating and unique.

Tony Boydell, designer and bon viveur — his answers would definitely have more jokes than mine!

What’s the best advice about life that you’ve ever received?

Someone once said to me “Go live your life.” Wow; that’s it in a nutshell isn’t it? I haven’t cracked that nut just yet. I’m smart enough to realise that makes me a fool. One day I hope to get smarter still.

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How Hannah Shaffer Makes Games


(Hannah Shaffer’s game 14 Days is on Kickstarter through July 28. Go back it now! –A) 

Tell us about yourself – Who are you? What do you do?

I’m Hannah Shaffer! I’m a game designer and web designer, and the co-founder of a game design coworking space in western Massachusetts ( These days, most of my time is dedicated to game design.


This post has affiliate links, which directly support at no extra cost to you. If you have any questions about anything recommended, let me know. – Andrew


If I’ve never played your games before, what’s the first one I should try?

I guess I’d have to say Questlandia, but that might be a cheap answer, seeing as it’s my only complete game! Even so, I think Questlandia showcases the types of games I enjoy making and the things I like thinking about (world-building, unstable political systems, fantasy & sci-fi as social commentary).


One fact that we probably don’t know about you:

I’m relatively new to roleplaying games. I’ve always loved games, but until just a few years ago my gaming experience was limited to board games and video games. Because tabletop RPGs are such a social experience, and because none of my friends roleplayed, I was just too shy to jump into tabletop RPGs! The RPG community can be a bit opaque from the outside. Now that I’m an active part of it, I’d like to help change that.


What games are you playing most right now?

I’m obsessed with The Yawhg, which is actually a video game! It’s a beautiful story game about the final 6 weeks in a fantasy kingdom leading up to a terrible disaster. The art is wonderful, the writing is funny, and it takes about 15 minutes to play from start to finish. I’ve been playing it over and over again, thinking about how I can translate the design into a tabletop RPG.


What are your all-time favorite games?

RPGs: Shooting the Moon by Emily Care Boss, Microscope by Ben Robbins, and Human Contact by Joshua A.C. Newman. I’m also a huge fan of early point-and-click adventure games, and I return to them often for inspiration: The original Secret of Monkey Island, Loom, King’s Quest VII.


What draws you to make games?

I love the visceral experience of roleplaying games, and I love watching procedural storytelling in action. It’s amazing to see a group of people working together to tell a never-before-told story. I think the emotional experience of a roleplaying game (the laughter, the tension, the feeling of disappointment when something goes wrong for your character) has a lot of therapeutic potential as well. That excites me!


Describe your process (or lack thereof) when making games. How do you reach your final product?

The first step is logging every idea for a game in an easy-to-find place. I keep a long list of game ideas in Todoist. Most of these games will never get made, and some of them *should* never get made, but it’s fun to return to the list when I’m thinking about my next game.


I try to focus on what I hope to accomplish with a game emotionally before thinking about the mechanics. It’s easy to fall into the trap of designing a dice system or conflict resolution mechanic before you know what the goal of your game is supposed to be.


After focusing in on the goal, I’ll draft up some mechanics to go with it. Then, I’ll do a rough playtest to see what’s working and what isn’t. Most things are broken in an early playtest, but I have to see the game in action to figure out how to fix them.


How often/early do you playtest? How do you find playtesters?

I playtest really early on. I’m fortunate enough to have a great community of designers around me, many of whom know what it’s like to playtest a game in a broken, unpleasant, unplayable state. I do some of my earliest playtesting with close friends (usually to hash out little mechanical bits), then a cleaner playtest at the game design coworking space, then I’ll share a draft of the rules online to see who’s willing to playtest without me looking over their shoulder.


How do you handle life/family/work balance?

Because I freelance, it can be really difficult to separate my working hours from my free hours. I try to schedule social stuff in advance so I don’t forget to take breaks. I’m also really firm with web clients about my work hours (no phone calls after a certain hour, no work on weekends), and I try to be pretty strict with myself about limiting social media. Staying connected online can be an important part of this work, but it’s important to know when to hit the off switch. I’m not very good at that part…


What one piece of advice would you give aspiring game designers?

Seek mentors and don’t design in a vacuum. The best way to generate a community of fans is to talk about what you’re working on. Seek out game design events and conventions, especially those that are vocal about working toward inclusivity. An event that aspires to be welcoming and inclusive may not get it right, but aspiring designers are more likely to find support in these spaces.


Who would you like to see answer these questions?

Becky Slitt. Her work with Choice of Games is super inspiring. I don’t know how she finds the time to write LARPs and RPGs in addition to her other work!


What’s the best advice about life that you’ve ever received?

A few days ago, I was overanalzying something that had happened online. I received some really good advice from Ben Robbins, who said, “Don’t focus on the unknowable internet, focus on the wonderful gamers who love your game.”


It’s an important reminder that extends well beyond games. Work in the service of the people who love and support you. You won’t be able to win the approval of everyone, so don’t put your energy into trying to solve that equation. 🙂


(Hannah Shaffer’s game 14 Days is on Kickstarter through July 28. Go back it now! –A) 

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Game Designer Habits Part 2

“My most important habit is writing down notes during play-testing.  I see way too many designers fail to bring paper & pen, and then forget some very valuable feedback.”

–Sarah Reed

“My most important habit is writing. I try to write every single day, mostly in a journal I keep. I’m trying to get back into writing a blog, but it’s hard to find the time! Anthony said his most important habit is procrastination, and he needs to solve that.”

-Nicole Kline

“Prior to doing just about anything each day, I create a prioritized to-do list on a piece of binder paper, arranging things by importance and urgency. Then I do everything I can to hack away at my day in that order. This prevents death-spirals into social media and other seductive entertainment that threatens to pull me off my projects.”

– Matt Leacock


“Get up early!”

– Reiner Knizia


“Jogging.  It’s so boring that it gets my mind wandering and I come up with some of my best ideas.  In fact, many monotonous activities help me to come up with new ideas or refine old ones.  Folding clothes.  Packing boxes.  Sitting at a dull meeting.  I just have to make sure to scribble the idea on paper before it disappears.”

– Ryan Laukat


“I think my most important habit is keeping things available, so when I have small snippets of time, I can do game design. I keep ideas in Google Docs, and photoshop files in DropBox, so whenever I’ve got a moment on my laptop, I can get a little work done. In the physical world, I keep game design books in the bathroom and next to the living room chair. I’m currently reading “Everyone Plays in the Library” and “Reality is Broken” in 2-3 page increments.

I’ve been writing the player profile articles this way. Sometimes only a sentence or a phrase at a time.”

– Chip Beauvais


“Be A Decent Human Being.  Seriously. Negotiate contracts in a way that both you and the other party will succeed, be nice to newbies in the industry, help others out if you can, be nice to the receptionist, donate games (new and used) to the less fortunate… overall realize that you are just one cog in a giant industry and if we all play nice, we’ll all be happier people.”

– Kim Vandenbroucke

“I regularly keep playlists and pin boards dedicated to my games/characters to ensure they always feel right when i further design them. I think this very important for Mahou Shoujo and helps me stay on target.”

– Mila Pokorny


(The next answer is by far the longest. Aerjen told me that he had written a lot and was trying to cut it down, but I told him that we don’t mind! It’s truly an amazing read. –A)

“My most important habit is tenacity. I know you could call this is a personal trait, but I believe it’s an attitude you can cultivate. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck talks about this at length as part of a mindset she calls the “Growth Mindset.”

A growth mindset is one in which a person believes that success is not just an innate ability (like people with a fixed mindset believe) instead success is about doggedness, hard work, learning and training. With this mindset you’ll be more open to learning from failure and more likely to take on more challenging projects. This is a way of life that ultimately leads to experiencing more happiness and success. Honestly, just a couple sentences is waaaaay to little text to explain this properly, so I want to encourage all of you to read up on this interesting theory. Bonus points if you also read up on MIT’s Education Arcade Scot Osterweil’s Four Freedom’s of Play and see how this fits neatly into Carol’s theoretical framework.

If I’m allowed to add a second habit, I’d like to add Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer’s mindfulness to the mix. By the way, I know that for many the term mindfulness evokes the idea of meditation, but her work focuses on mindfulness from a very different (i.e. socio cognitive) perspective. If you read up on her work (e.g. “The power of mindful learning”) you’ll see that there are many other ways to become more (or less) mindful.

Here’s a definition of mindfulness she gave to the Harvard Business Review in a 2014 interview:

“Mindfulness is the process of actively noticing new things. When you do that, it puts you in the present. It makes you more sensitive to context and perspective. It’s the essence of engagement. And it’s energy-begetting, not energy-consuming. The mistake most people make is to assume it’s stressful and exhausting—all this thinking. But what’s stressful is all the mindless negative evaluations we make and the worry that we’ll find problems and not be able to solve them.

We all seek stability. We want to hold things still, thinking that if we do, we can control them. But since everything is always changing, that doesn’t work. Actually, it causes you to lose control.”

Ellen further subdivides mindfulness into four domains: novelty-seeking, novelty production, engagement, and flexibility. These are all important aspects that IMO help make good game designers great. There’s actually an interesting Youtube episode from Gamesoup where he talks about ingenious solutions in video game design. Several of the great game developers tend to use bugs to make a game better instead of fixing them. For example the increasing difficulty in the original Space Invaders was an accident. Metal Gear Solid was supposed to be an action title, but due to processor limitations they made it into a stealth game.

Finally, I believe that by cultivating a growth mindset and being mindful, will not only become a better game designer, but that will find life more enjoyable overall!”

– Aerjen Tamminga


(I hope you enjoyed this roundup! Give it a quick share on Twitter if you don’t mind. Peace – A)

Reiner Knizia, Matt Leacock, Kim Vandenbroucke + more answer “What’s your most important habit?” (Tweet This!)


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Game Designer Habits: a roundup.

I asked a bunch of game designers one question. Today’s answers come from Bruno Faidutti, Jamey Stegmaier,  Mike Fitzgerald, and more!

“What’s your most important habit?”


“My most important habit is to develop at least one of our game projects everyday.”

Chris Renshall


“Reading – but I already said this in my interview. I read a lot of american literature, and my two all times favorite authors are probably Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace.”

– Bruno Faidutti


“My most important habit is keeping all of my game design ideas in one place. I have a giant blank sketchbook that I use to write down ideas, take playtest notes, and think through art concepts. Putting it in a single location like this means I don’t have to hunt for a napkin or scrap of paper. I date and title each page for easy reference later. I also make sure my notebook makes it to cons – since it’s the place I’m most likely to have a bajillion ideas and no time to work on them!”

– Jasmine Davis


“My most important habit as a game designer is constantly playing a game I am working on with myself playing all player roles and assigning a different strategy to each role. This way I make sure the game is playable before introducing to real players for play testing.”

– Mike Fitzgerald


“My most important habit as a game designer is taking tons of notes from observations, questions, and discussions with playtesters, but then waiting a day or two to return to those notes to make changes for the next round of playtesting. That incubation and separation period is really helpful for me, as helps me not dismiss revelations that were counterintuitive to how I pictured the game. I return to those notes with a completely open mind after a few days. This process has evolved over time, and it’s been particularly helpful with Scythe.”

–Jamey Stegmaier


“If “grit” can be a habit, then I’d go with that, but it’s more of a characteristic. I’d say getting the opinions of other people – not necessarily following those opinions, but rather hearing what they have to say, and truly listening to their feedback. It’s really easy to get stuck in your own head (since, as a designer, you’re always there anyway), and listening to others offers perspectives and ideas you may not come up with on your own.”

– Anthony Conta


“A habit I’m cultivating with game design–particularly for freelance work–is to do it yesterday. Fulfilling assignments when they are assigned rather than waiting until time comes around to do them helps relieve me of pressure, and makes colleagues happy. It’s harder getting there for my own work! Especially since there are some projects that have been simmering for years. But I’m finding that there is no better antidote for procrastination than getting it done right now.”

– Emily Boss


“I would say that mine is making lists (almost compulsively).  I find that my brain needs to constantly list things but it really keeps me from forgetting big and little things that I need to work on, tweak or want to try out.”

– Heather O’Neill


“Playtesting, of course. It’s the boring but correct answer.

My second-most-important habit is playing other designers’ prototypes. That keeps me sharp and flexible, and presents me with situations where games can be improved, often with a simple and elegant fix.

My third-most-important habit is playing published games. This keeps my passion up, keeps me informed of what’s happening in the field, and reminds me what I’m doing this all for. :)”

– Gil Hova


“I think that my most important habit is that when I am developing a game, I spend a lot of time talking to myself as if I am describing the rules to a new player.  This “interview” helps me solidly the rules, find places where the rules don’t make sense, and helps me build up the idea.  I do the same thing with RPG scenarios and adventures (for which I don’t like to write notes) but I want to be clear in my head the history or backstory.

Other than that, my best habit is writing down even small ideas in a book, so that I can reference ideas later.”

– Chris O’Neill


“Got a new idea for a theme or mechanic? Write it down, now. Don’t trust that you’ll remember later.”

– Alf Seegert


Come back next Friday for another roundup, featuring Matt Leacock, Reiner Knizia, Ryan Laukat, and more!

In the meantime, spread the word:

“Jamey Stegmaier,  Mike Fitzgerald, Bruno Faidutti + more answer “What’s your most important habit?” (Tweet This!)