June updates from Otherworld Games

Happy Summer!

What a time it’s been. The pandemic has rearranged and marred our lives but it looks like we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel across the globe. Fingers crossed! Here are some updates on what this small design studio. (I mean, really small, since it’s just one person.)

I neglected to give a May update and almost neglected a June one. Apologies for being so absent. Life and other projects sort of took me over for a while there. I’m coming back with some strong updates, though. I’m also working on publishing a book of creative fiction scifi short stories and building out an Etsy store to sell my art prints—but enough about that. Let’s get to it!

Introducing One Last Job, a free print and play game

In an effort to be more active in the board game design community, I decided to enter the 1-card print and play design contest hosted by Board Game Geek. I’ve entered One Last Job, a two-player, rootin’ tootin’ dice recruitin’ game. You face head-to-head against someone, recruiting crewmates—in the form of dice—and rolling them to use their abilities.

Logo for One Last Job

Every aspect of this game, the mechanics, the artwork and design, all of it was made by yours truly. (Remember where I said I was the only person at Otherworld Games?) HOWEVER, this game still wouldn’t be possible without the amazing people who helped me playtest it; one of those being my wife and partner in crime. Thank you!

A photo of me playtesting an earlier build of One Last Job against myself.
Me playtesting an earlier build of One Last Job against myself.

Download the print and play file, print it and play it, then head over to my entry thread and leave a comment in the thread to let me know what you think!

Neat, but what’s going on with Color Space?

I’m still on track to kickstart the Kickstarter for Color Space on Nov 2nd. I’ll be talking the game up a lot more around that time. I’ll need all the support I can get to make Color Space a reality. Mainly money. Right now, I’m trying to settle on physical products for the game, including the game itself. What do I mean by that? I mean I’m trying to figure out how Color Space will physically look. Check out some of these prototypes!

A photo depicting four physical variants of Color Space. Top left: cedar and wax. Top right: acrylic glued in acrylic. Bottom left: epoxy. Bottom right: cedar and epoxy.
Four flavors of Color Space. Top left: cedar and wax. Top right: acrylic glued in acrylic. Bottom left: epoxy. Bottom right: cedar and epoxy.

But I want to play Color Space now!

Good news, everyone—you can do that thing! My lovely wife made a Tabletop Simulator version of Color Space that you can download yesterday. (Or today if your time machine is broken. My point is is that it’s been out for a bit.)

Grab this FREE mod and fire up the old Tabletop Simulator!

That’s all for now! Keep your board games cool out there. You know, so they don’t melt their assets off.

Color Space Game Design

The Many Trials of A Colorful Game

I’ve been heads-down refining the mechanics for A Colorful Game. Here are some of my discoveries from the 10 playtests that I’ve had so far:


Games were way too long. (1+ hour)


I took care of this by minimizing the card count. Put the game at a smooth 30ish minute playtime. That’s the goal!


The game was also far more complex with decisions than I wanted it to be. You have to place AND move a tile—ugh! Too much brain juice to spend on what to do best. (I watched a player’s life flash before their eyes for more than 10 minutes, hoping to glean some forgotten wisdom to help them make a decision.)


This was advice from another designer: Don’t make players have to add a new primary color tile to the play area AND have to move another tile. That’s a lot to deal with during a turn.

Note that doing this also helped to reduce the playtime to around 30 minutes.


Scoring points is just altogether difficult sometimes.


Wild cards and bonus points! I added some cards to the game that let you fill in any blanks with a color of your choice. For example, if you have a contiguous path — orange, orange, green, purple, purple — you could play a wild with that to treat the green as a part of your path.

Also, if you scored with three or more cards, you get a bonus point; four or more and you get three bonus points!

Wild card; but no bonus points for you!

This new format for the game helped shape it into the quick abstract strategy game that I was looking to make. That’s a huge milestone!

I’ve playtested this new version quite a few times and have found some new challenges to work through:

  • Games are a little too short now. It’s difficult for a player that’s behind to see a chance to come back and try to take the win.Idea to test: I’m going to add cards to the point deck or have the discard shuffle back into the deck.
  • With the introduction of wild cards, games feel like they’re not strategic enough (a little too luck of the draw).Idea to test: I’m going to add more wild cards and make them have a greater negative impact on players who use them.
  • Once you score a path, you remove all of the roads that you used to score that path with. That reduces momentum and gives too great an advantage to the first player to score.Idea to test: I think a “pick a color, remove all roads for that color” method can give the right balance of changing the play area in a fun way and not making players feel like they’ve got to start from scratch.
  • I need to work out how the game ends a little more. Right now, the game ends once the point card deck is depleted and neither player can score on their next turns…it just feels like an odd way to end the game.Idea to test: A “first player to x points” win condition should fix this. I just need to test whether this is fun and try to discover what “x points” value is best.

That’s all for now! Until next time…

Game Design

My Promises to My Future Self

I have the corniest reason for selecting this picture of a mountain top as my featured image. I took this photo while backpacking for a couple of days in the North Cascades. This is Colchuck Lake. My wife and I took this trip as a sort of pre-honeymoon, a few weeks before we got married.


When I took the photo, I thought it was neat how the mountain was reflected on the water. I’m using the photo now because it’s sentimental and reminds me of a time when I was granted quiet, peaceful reflection. Mainly, I reflect on how lucky I am to have an amazing wife who supports me and to be surrounded by people who also have an interest in what I’m doing here.

I’m ready to take the next step forward and turn this design thing from a fun hobby into something real.

This is a board games blog, not live journal (is that still a thing?)

I’ve got a few things that I believe I’ve got to change to really get me there. I hope that I don’t lose people during this transition, but I think it’s for the better. Here’s what I’m talking about:

  • I’m working on an official name for the entity that I design games under. It’s not going to be “Under the Tabletop.” I really haven’t cared about an official name so far. My thought process on this is that I should have a game close to ready, something to really show, before I brand my work. Nothing is set in stone yet and as such, I have nothing more to say on that. But I’ll keep everyone informed along the way. I’d rather make this change now than later when I have a game or two being kickstarted and I don’t really know what to call myself.
  • Some time early next year, I’m going to close down Under the Tabletop and redirect all traffic to a new site. I’ll still keep up my development diaries, although they may expand somewhat.
  • I likely may not continue the whole “drink and review” thing. I haven’t written a drink and game pairing review in a while. It was fun, but my time so far has been so consumed with creating things that when I get to play a game with someone, I want to enjoy the moment. The drink and game review began to feel like a chore. At first, I thought it was a great way to show everyone that I’m actively participating in the board game community, but I think I’ve got different ways of showing that now.
  • I’m going to take on at least one smaller project and have it ready for a kickstarter campaign by March 2020. When I mean smaller project, I mean a shorter-paced game that you could likely fit in your wallet or a tin can. I have a few ideas on what that looks like and I’ll definitely keep everyone posted on that.

Thanks to everyone who has followed me thus far and I hope that you’re all there after my vaguely worded changes. (I promise, I’ll have more to come once I settle on a name and set up a C corp.)

Game Design

I got my ass kicked at my first public playtest

Finally! Is that why you haven’t written a post in forever?

I didn’t physically get my ass kicked.

Damn, you need a good whoopin’ though

I played a 1v1 of my latest game build against a volunteer play tester at a local event for board game designers to work out the kinks in their games. I got my ass kicked in two ways:

  1. I lost the game…the game that I made
  2. The play tester had a lot of feedback that has made me completely rethink my game

I think you should scrap making a board game and take up bare knuckle boxing

In terms of most types of testing, you typically want to test multiple times before deciding what needs to be changed. I believe that this play tester, who is an avid board game player and has no reason to pull their punches, had the ability to directly articulate the feedback that my friends and family (some of which aren’t hardcore board game players) have all been trying to provide me in one way or another.

I think the most helpful points of feedback were that they told me what they liked, as opposed to everything that they didn’t like. There were also things that I noticed during the playtest as well that I really wanted to change.

At points during the game, we were having fun and full of banter, at other times — I personally felt arrested. As if I could see every crack, every creaky plank, every squeaky wheel in my game but I had to keep playing.

What are you going to do about it? (Boxing is still on the table here)

Let me just lay out what they liked and what they disliked.

What they liked:

  • The blind auction-like voting
  • The currency and power manipulation
  • The hidden identity and hidden win conditions

What they didn’t like:

  • During the mid game, we both had more currency than we know what to do with
  • The veto mechanic and general power struggle was purely about who has at least one more coin than the other (especially so in a two-player game)
  • The guilds didn’t interact at all with one another
  • Aside form offering different types of tokens for purchase, the guilds weren’t distinct enough in their mechanics or thematic alignment — they mainly just seemed like means to an end
  • Crisis resolving seemed like a huge limiter in the game: Since they were random and the different types of crisis were extremely necessary for players to advance their win conditions, it was frustrating when a player had to wait forever until the next crisis type presented itself
  • The end seemed like a slog, like we were going through the motions
  • A lot of random elements, which lead to a lot of meaningless choices
  • When the play tester won, it was completely anti-climatic (there was an ability that they could easily exploit to win, which I couldn’t stop)

I repeat, what are you going to do about it?

First and foremost, I’m going to focus on what everyone likes. I’m going to remove four of the token types, leaving only four types of tokens in the game. I’m removing a direct monetary currency and replacing it with a far more intricate system of mechanics that involve general wealth, debt, reputation, and education. How players resolve crises will grant them all specific stats, which they can apply in a number of ways or trade in for a different type of stat. What types of stats they have and what guild their in will determine what combinations of tokens they’ll get.

I’m also opening it up such that every type of crisis can be solved in any way, and different outcomes occur depending on which token “wins” the draw.

Lastly, since there will no longer be coins that players spend to buy tokens or veto, I’m adding a four-way “paper, scissors, rock” style mechanic where players can cancel out or completely replace specific tokens during the draw. (Cancelled tokens are discarded, replaced tokens override the token drawn but can be replaced again!)

OK, OK — I get it…get back to work already

A lot of good things underway. My next build will definitely be a huge departure from the current one. But that’s how it should be after a good ass-kicking, right?

Game Design

What I’ve Learned so far About Tabletop Design (Part I)

Full disclosure, I’ve been working on this game for a year and a half at this point and I’m still only about halfway finished. What I’m trying to say is that I’m not an experienced or veteran designer. I do not have the wise wealth of any published games under my belt.

Now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to let my inner critic ask me questions for a multi-part article series as I divulge the major challenges I’ve faced so far as I navigate this odyssey of tabletop game design—take it away!

It’s a war of attrition

This is first and foremost for a reason. When you’re in it, you’re in it for the long haul. Remember up there where I stated that I’ve been working on this game for a year and some change and I’m still only about halfway through? I’m aware (albeit vaguely) of the challenges in store for me and I’m rushing to meet them.

What happens when you feel burnout?

It’s going to happen. It’s happened to me loads of times. It’ll happen to you. The worst that you can do when you feel burnout is feel like you’ve failed. Your mind will flood with harsh statements about your project—

Like that time I told you that your stories are lamer than your game?

Yes, that’s a great example of—

What about the time I said that experienced publishers actually somehow feel physical pain whenever you print a new prototype?

Yeah OK, I think—

Oh, and that time I mentioned that fact that you’re allowed to design a game is proof that there’s no god?

We get it! The point is that you might beat yourself up in order to make yourself hate your current game so that any other idea seems attractive. When that happens, take a short break and then set a time to come back. Make yourself come back to your game no later than two weeks from your break. Even if it’s just to look at your game and playtest.