DAY 2: Designing The Rules

Since this camp is only a week, we are going to be designing a board game. They’re familiar to just about everyone, and they have a little more solid structure to them. Card games and RPG’s have so many rules and material that need to be constructed that we probably couldn’t get very far in a week. So the first thing to think about is what basic structure do you want your game have: a linear or non-linear board game?

In a linear board game, the players move along a set track typically in just one direction. Think Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, or The Game of Life. This one is best for designers who don’t have a wide breadth of experience when it comes to tabletop gaming. But don’t think that structured means boring. The Doom That Came To Atlantic City is one of my favorite board games, and it is essentially a dressed up Monopoly.

A non-linear board game uses a board but there are multiple movement routes a character can take. King of Tokyo is a great example, as well as Risk or Terror Below.

Which style do you like best? Once you’ve decided, head over to today’s lesson and answer the first question.

But what next? How many types of tabletop games are there? Let’s see how many we can think of. Y’all shout them out, and I’ll write them down.

Now, read the article below. What did we miss?

Settlers of Catan board game gameplay

Board game types explained: a beginner’s guide to tabletop gaming terms

Let’s Write Some Rules

At some point we’ve got to actually start putting rules to paper and testing this thing out. We’re basing our game off of our theme which should help us come up with rules. We’ll start with the basics.


  • We are…
  • Who are…
  • And we’ll do this by…

So, the first place I like to start after this is the win condition. We like to compete, and while games are meant to be fun first, a huge part of that fun comes from getting to gloat (a little) when you win. So…What is the win condition for our game?


Great! Now we need to figure out how we reach this objective. After all, when you’re playing a board game you have to move. So, how do we move? Remember, the theme should inform this. If you’re creating a game about giant robots in a dance competition, then maybe their movement is dance based. Do they roll a dance die that shows a series of moves that the robots must complete in order to advance through the competition? Or do they have cards with dance moves on them that tell them how far they can move?


Things are really “moving along now” (+5 points if you laughed), so now we need to think about what else we can do. For example, it’s cool that the robots are popping-and-locking to the finish line, but that seems a bit rudimentary. Maybe their dance moves power up weapons that they can fire at other players? Or maybe they can enter combat with other robots through dance battles? Can they earn sponsors for extra cash to spend on better robotic dancing shoes?


Man, y’all make this look easy. Now, I want to talk about balance. Think about this: Why do we feel accomplished after playing, or especially winning, a game?


Right! If a game is ALL chance, then you might as well just flip a coin at the beginning and save everyone some time. Players have to have a balance between choice and chance. Maybe my dancing robots could do a string of high-flying dance moves that would advance them along the board really quickly, but that would deplete their shields, leaving them vulnerable to attack. As a player, I have to make a tough choice of whether I want to risk the quick advancement or not.

However, chance is a great way to up the fun factor because it provides excitement. If I know that depleting my shields is guaranteed to get me blown to bits, then why would I do it? But what if attacking me wasn’t a guaranteed thing either? What if it’s success depended on a dice roll? Or on me NOT having the proper counter move? Now it’s worth considering. So, let’s revisit our game and decide which of our rules should force a tough choice and which should be up to chance.

Adding ChoiceAdding Chance
Limited Turn Menu: A character may do some,
but not all, actions from a list of possible actions.
Currency: Players can perform any action that
they have currency (mana, energy, juice, etc.)
to perform.
Card draws
Resource Management: Forces you to balance gathering resources and spending them. In some versions, every
time you spend a resource, your opponent gains one.
Rock, paper, scissors
Press Your Luck: Players can do an action
repeatedly so long as they are successful.
However, failure means they lose everything.
Draw tokens out of a bag
Choice RuleChance Rule

Booooonnuuuusss Challenge!

  1. Immerse us in your world.
    • Draw pictures of characters, write a story set in your world, create a map of some thematic element, a blueprint, one of the character’s grocery lists, anything that makes your theme feel more real.