How I approached iterative designs for Color Space

Color Space has gone through several revisions to get to where it is now. Before it was Color Space, it was called A Colorful Game…

Imagine this folded into a double-sided card. You’d turn to reflect which color was active.

It was a 3×3 grid of cards that you shifted around to make your color, which you randomly drew at the beginning of the game. First player to make ten of their color won. It soon evolved to getting points for making combos of colors. First to score 30 points won. I designed it for one of the Button Shy Game’s 18 card game challenges. Don’t think they gave it more than a glance. They went with games that were far more visually attractive. But I knew I was on to something and I needed to take the board game design process from start to finish. From idea to a fun product that you can buy.

Then, I added hex tiles, representing primary colors, and roads, representing secondary ones. You had a hand of cards and you’d create a path of color combos, then play a card from your hand to collect points. Something wasn’t quite right, so I just removed the cards. You then just needed to create paths. Depending on the path, you could collect a certain number of roads. First player to collect five of each secondary color won. That’s when the game became Color Space.

I’ve been playtesting and working on design iterations of Color Space for a few months now. The game has progressed quite a bit in that time. I’ve changed the design aesthetic a few times, but for the most part it’s been a similar game across the board—no major changes. That’s always a good place to be.

With the trajectory I’m on, I should be able to put this game on Kickstarter this fall (2021). I’ve still got things to do. Videos to make; photos to take. I’ve got to publish ads about the game. Oh, and I’ve got to finalize the designs and make sure that I’m getting a prototype back from the manufacturer I’m working with that has the best quality.

I’ve also got to think of pledge tiers. I think the aesthetics of the logo and box art design are fantastic. I’d like to make some prints and t-shirts for higher tiers. Beyond that, I’ll likely reach out and ask what potential backers want to see.

After all this time, Color Space is almost ready to launch. I couldn’t be more excited. I hope that anyone reading this will be too, especially after seeing some of the gameplay videos.

…Speaking of which, I’m going to go work on that stuff. Until next time!

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:

Issue

Games were way too long. (1+ hour)

Resolution

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

Issue

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.)

Resolution

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.

Issue

Scoring points is just altogether difficult sometimes.

Resolution

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!

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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…

What I’ve Been Playing Lately

The my favorite thing about the holidays is that it brings people together…for board games. Here’s what I’ve been digging this holiday season.

Mysterium

Mysterium is a cooperative murder mystery party game. Psychics conduct a séance to divine how someone died in a mansion. One player plays a spirt that can only communicate to the other players (the psychics) through abstract, surrealist imagery. Players must work together to formulate the suspects, locations, and objects that were involved in the ghost’s demise.

The key challenge to Mysterium is that the ghost is not allowed to speak or signal through expression any indication of the correct answers to the other players. They can only hand abstract and surrealist depictions on cards to the players to help clue them in. (For example, if the school teach is a suspect, the ghost may hand me a card that depicts a mechanical, letter delivering turtle with a helicopter propeller on its shell.

La Mancha

La Mancha is a fun party game—if you were to only invite Lit majors to it. (Which sounds like a dreadful party.) It’s based on the classic Spanish novel penned in 1605, Don Quixote. In La Mancha, everyone plays a self-appointed knight errand that must woo women, gain powerful weapons, ride their trusty steed, and of course: tilt at windmills.

Where La Mancha shines is that there are different types of event cards (Romance cards, Encounter cards, etc.) and the player who draws that card becomes a judge for other players. Other players must use cards in their hand, which have excerpts from the novel, to construct a story or poem depending on the situation that convinces the judge to give them that card or an item card! This leads to an atmosphere of knowing a bit about what makes your fellow players tick. The judge also gets a slight bonus for just being a judge.

Shobu

Shobu is a two player abstract strategy game in the spirit of Go. Players control their own set of stones on four small boards, each board with a 4×4 grid. Your goal is to push all of your opponent’s stones completely off the board.

They must make two moves on their turn, in this precise order:

  1. Passive: Move your stone up to two spaces in any direction without pushing another stone.
  2. Aggressive: Make the same exact move with one of your other stones on another board. (This time you can push your opponent’s stones around.)

This game requires a lot of domino-effect style thinking. Most of the strategy revolves around positioning your opponent in a way that prevents them from making their own aggressive moves.

Happy Playtesting (and Holidays)!

This may come as a shock to anyone reading this, but I play a lot of board games. Gasp! I know. This holiday season, I’ve had the chance to play a lot more board games with my close friends and family. I cherish the holidays. But enough about me, let me talk about how my board game designs are coming along…

Untitled Nation Manipulation Game

I’ve got a solid prototype that I’ve been playtesting with people. It’s balanced enough at this point that I’m going to start long form playtesting. (Playtesting the game at least ten times before weighing any feedback-based changes.)

Why haven’t I done that already? Well, the game wasn’t balanced AND I haven’t had the time to playtest the game that many times as of yet. The game is still lo-fi (image of some cards below for reference) but I’ve got it to a place where I can just bust it out and people can enjoy a long, mostly uninterrupted by rule confusion, session with people.

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Cards! Cards everywhere!

I’m also mostly finished with the one asset that hasn’t dramatically changed in theme during my construction of this game, the War Hero.

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I bet he’ll look good on a card. (Still working through some textures.)

Early this January, I’m going to be finally hitting the playtesting scene hard for this game, and I’m excited for it to get torn a new one by strangers.

A Colorful Game

I made this game for the Button Shy 18 Card Game challenge, originally, but didn’t get picked to be a finalist. I later realized that for the most part, the challenge is based more on pretty designs and less on unique, fun game mechanics. I won’t be participating in another challenge, at least not for a while.

But something good did come out of it. I created a primary/secondary color creation game where you create secondary colors in sequences to score points. Here’s what that looked like for the challenge. (I threw the design together in like 5 minutes, so it’s pretty messy.)

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Primary colors one side of the card and secondary colors on the opposite side. Rotate the card to activate a certain color.

Well, I like the idea of the game but not the idea of it existing in cards like this. So that game evolved into this…

Now in A Colorful Game, you take certain placement or movement actions to generate secondary colors. Each primary color has different rules for how you can place and move it. You create paths of secondary colors through this, and in this, you score points based on the pattern of paths you created.

It’s taken me three weeks to redesign this game from the ground up, but it’s also ready to hit the playtesting circuit more heavily. Funny out that works, my Untitled Nation Manipulation game has taken almost two years to get to where it is right now. So it goes.

 

Prototypes for Days

Here’s a Quick Status Update

Bullet pointed list, activate:

  • I just finished printing a new prototype for my hidden identity, country manipulation game
  • I’m close to a new prototype for my quick tile laying, tactics-based game
  • I’m working on revamping and injecting more fun into an abstract color making game

Here’s a Long Status Update

My latest build is coming along. I got a lot of feedback on game pacing and balance which I’ve incorporated into this version. I haven’t had time to cut out these new assets yet but it’s on my to-do list.

I’m experimenting with different art and graphic styles and I nail down some of my more concrete assets. (None of my final designs are present in the gallery above.)

How do I collect feedback, you ask?

I use a google form and sheets of paper during the playtest. I actually ask people to fill out the google form before providing open feedback. I do this to collect metrics (who won, how many players were there, and what character did everyone play) more than look at what they had to say about the game.

I also collect open feedback at the end of the game. What was fun, what wasn’t, etc etc. That’s what I act on when revising my later builds of the game.

My Other Games in Progress

I have two other games in the pipeline aside from this one. They’re both getting heavy makeovers.

A Colorful Game

This is an abstract color making game. You manipulate primary color cards to form the most of your secondary color on the board. I still have some kinks to work out. Mainly, the game starts in a grid format and I think I can do better. I’m going to convert these cards to square tiles and make it more of a tile laying game.

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Current assets that will soon receive a fabulous makeover—and be converted to tiles

Untitled Tile Laying Tactics Game

This one has been a blast to design but I still have a lot of work to do. I’m going to go full on hexes for this game, add a tile laying aspect (it’s currently set out in a grid) and add combat mechanics. Eventually, I’m going to change the way each element plays the game for some asynchronous strategy. (Although, the game won’t be entirely asynchronous.)

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The four playable elements

That’s all, Folks

Thanks for reading! Until next time…