Blog Post 3 - Paper Prototype Game
February 18, 2020
When my partner and I began brainstorming ideas of a board game that we could make, we started by talking about the games that we play and are interested in to find common ground we could both relate to. As we chatted, we realized the two of us aren't big on playing board games and most of our game knowledge was with video and computer games such as League of Legends and Apex Legends.
In an attempt to simplify things, we started to chat about games we played when we were kids like Go Fish, Crazy 8s, and more. We then realized most of the games we played as kids were card games - not board games. With a little more brainstorming, we remembered the simple game Dots and Boxes where two players take turns drawing lines between two dots in order to create squares and claim territory.
Inspired by Dots and Boxes, we came up with a game where two players compete to make matches and pairings of cards in order to claim territory on a grid board (see image on the right). This process of claiming masses of territory on the board is called the enclosure mechanic.
In order to start developing our ideas, we first drew the game board with 25 squares. In each square on the board, we wrote down various pairs of cards from a standard 52-card deck. For example, one square read "3 diamonds" while another square read "6, 7, 8."
We wanted to ensure that the card deck continually circulated so that there wouldn't be a shortage of cards, preventing players from making matches. To combat this issue, we decided that there would be a discard pile that would get reshuffled into a draw deck. We then made the first few rules:
Each player will start with 5 cards
Each turn, a player can either claim a square on the board, or discard a card and draw a new one
In order to claim a square on the board, a player must play the cards indicated in each respective square
Only one square could be claimed each turn.
The player who claimed the most adjacent squares (vertically and horizontally, not diagonally) would win.
My partner also suggested that we add an extra element of randomness to each round by making the players roll the dice to see who goes first each round. With these basic guidelines set, we played our first round of the game.
As we played through this first iteration of the game, I noticed that our game pace was incredibly slow. I realized that this was due to the fact that we had not memorized the card combinations written on the board. It also occurred to me that no player would ever memorize the card combinations because this isn't a game of memory.
For the second iteration of our game, we identified the issues we encountered in the first iteration.
it was difficult to look at the board and identify which squares we could claim
we found ourselves trying to memorize the board more than making a game strategy to win
we focused on making pairs to claim squares, but we did not focus on making sure the squares we claimed were adjacent to each other
After analyzing the problems that interrupted our gameplay in the first iteration, we brainstormed ways to combat the issues. One primary problem was that the gameboard was hard to read - not because it was written too messily but rather it was just too many words and too much information at once.
To solve this issue, I proposed that instead of writing out the card faces and the words king, queen, etc., we use symbols instead so that players can rapidly digest the information on the board.
The symbols we used in the second iteration of the game board are circled in the image to the right. With the symbols, the pace of the game increased and we found ourselves playing more strategically
THIRD ITERATION (at-home)
Once I took the game home, I wanted to increase the success that my partner and I found with using symbols on the game board. I wanted to make the game board even easier to read so that players could digest the information more rapidly.
With this in mind, I decided I would create a custom set of cards with color-coded uniquely shaped symbols so that players can easily match cards with squares on the game board either by their shape, color, or both. By having uniquely shaped symbols, I also make my game accessible to those who experience color blindness.
Once I decided on a set of symbols, I drew them out on cards to create a playing deck. I made sure to consider the probability of drawing certain cards and how that would affect gameplay because some pairs would be harder to make than others.
Playing Deck Breakdown
bee cards (5)
frog cards (5)
blue triangle cards (5)
orange cards (5)
heart cards (5)
green apple cards (5)
moon cards (5)
diamond cards (2)
star cards (2)
After I created my playing deck, I drew a smaller game board based on the quantities and probabilities of my custom deck.
In addition to a new game board, I also cut player pieces out of purple cardstock so that once a player claims a square, it can be completely covered by the cardstock and there is no doubt whether or not a square has been claimed.
I changed some gameplay rules so that players would have more agency while playing which would drive players to develop a game strategy. See the explanation of gameplay at the end of this page.
I played 3 rounds of this third iteration of the game with 3 different roommates, and overall I thought the game was successful. I noticed my roommates taking time to contemplate what they would do each turn, and while it is a simple game they still felt that each decision mattered because the game board was so small.
If I were to continue working on this game prototype, I would make better playing cards so that they shuffle better, add more variety to the symbols, and develop a larger, more complex game board.
RULES & HOW TO PLAY
The goal of the game is to claim as much territory on the game board as possible by claiming adjacent squares with touching edges. The game ends once the entire board has filled, and players will count their squares to see who has the most adjacent squares.
Start by distributing 5 cards to each player, and taking 1 of the 2 purple card decks. Put the remaining playing cards (white backing) in the center, this will be the draw pile. The purple cards will be your player pieces, when you make a pair and claim a square on the board, cover the square on the board with one of your purple pieces.
Determine who goes first by rolling a dice or flipping a coin. Once the order has been determined, the game can begin!
At the beginning of each round, each player must look at their hand of cards and choose one card to give to their opponent - choose wisely! Diamond and star cards are the rarest in the deck and are the center squares on the game board.
Once you have chosen a card to forfeit to your opponent, place it in front of your opponent face down. When both players have a face-down card from their opponent placed in front of them, both players may add the card to their hand. No player should have more than 5 cards in their hand at any given time.
After the card exchange, the players may then take their turns. Each turn, a player can make a pair from their hand and claim a square on the board, or do nothing. When you make a pair, discard the cards you used and replenish your hand by drawing cards from the draw pile - you should always have 5 cards in your hand. Once both players have had their turn, the round ends and the next one begins.
Play until every square on the game board has been covered with player pieces. If the draw pile runs out, shuffle the discard pile to use as the draw pile. If for 3 consecutive rounds neither player makes a pair to claim a square on the board, both players must refresh their hand of cards by discarding all 5 cards and drawing 5 new cards each.
Once the board has been filled, identify which player has the most adjacent squares. The player with the highest number of adjacent squares is the winner!