Category Archives: Game design

Writing my first RPG adventure

Although I’ve run homebrew RPG adventures, I’ve never created a definitively finished thing. I have a proven track record of not finishing anything. So when I heard that the Storytelling Collective were running a workshop to help folks write their first adventure I thought I’d give it a go.

It’s designed to help you write, produce and publish a one-shot adventure over the course of a month. Hopefully it’s just what I need to help me get over the start line, never mind the finish line. Fingers crossed!

It’s day 1. So far, so good.

If you’re interested, you can find all the info here:

Franco-Prussian War VASSAL/TPW project

After a week of work on my VASSAL module to play the Franco-Prussian War using The Portable Wargame, I’m nearly at a suitable place to catch my breath. I probably could’ve finished it by now but I succumbed to feature creep and implemented a battle start time generator and day/time turn tracker inspired by Donald Featherstone’s “War Games“.

I’ve also created some Day / Twilight (as shown above) / Night visual effects so that the turn time could be used to affect play. And finally I’ve made it easy to deploy Fieldworks + Fortifications (also shown above).

If I behave myself and don’t add any more bells & whistles, I should be able to finish version 1.0 this week and get it play-tested with a live opponent.

Claymore PP win!

I’m delighted to report that the East Neuk Irregulars won best public participation game at Claymore wargames show in Edinburgh at the weekend. We’re well chuffed!

It was a Rhodesian Bush War game featuring Rhodesian Light Infantry and Selous Scouts vs ZANLA irregulars, which we ran using a modified version of the Crossfire WWII rules by Arty Conliffe. We devised rules for K-car air support amongst other things. You can just see the Alouette K-car and G-car in the top piccy. Against all odds, ZANLA even managed to RPG them out of the sky on the odd occasion. Oh well, these things happen πŸ™‚

There were only two of us able to be there to run the game, and as a result I almost lost my voice by lunchtime. Cooncil juice to the rescue!

Carronade 2017 public participation game winners!

Carronade 2017

Oops we did it again!

Our local wargaming group, the East Neuk Irregulars, won Best Public Participation Game at Carronade 2017! HUZZAH πŸ™‚

I managed to sneak off table duty for a bitty and snaffle some 20mm WWII + Modern miniatures that I’ve been after for yonks. Only to return and find there was a trophy on our table!

Forgot to take any piccies though (shame on me) as we were pretty busy all day. But take it from me, it was a great show, and we’re all chuffed to bits!


Game Design Thinktank

Da Vinci Tank

Spent yesterday afternoon bashing on with some much-needed game design. We managed to sort out a lot of ideas and plans for Jailbreak Jam and a couple of variant games. The time just flew by!

  • Playtested and tweaked a new game inspired by Jailbreak Jam
  • Planned possible expansions to fit the various deck sizes of playing card manufacturers
  • Future proofing the base game so it can work with possible expansions

We’ve got a lot on the go at the mo, but the benefit of that is, we’re finding ideas and mechanisms that can be transferred between different games.

It was great to be able to bounce ideas around again! If you’re looking to get in to game design I’d definitely recommend hooking up with like-minded gamers or going along to a local game design group. If you’re stuck, try reaching out on social media to a group like the Card & Boardgame Designers Guild.

Happy gaming!

East Fife Males!

The story of our success at the recent Moray Game Jam is featured in this week’s East Fife Mail, our local newspaper. GET IN! πŸ™‚
East Fife Mail 05/04/17

edit: Martin has since informed me that he’s actually from Cellardyke. Apologies, but I can’t keep track of all these details… I’ve got games to design! πŸ˜‰

Playtesting Tips

Jailbreak Jam playtesting

At the Moray Game Jam we saw the benefits of playtesting a game that’s in development. Not only do you get to see the game come alive (which can buoy you up and be entertaining to boot), but it can give you invaluable insight into how to improve the game. We’re in the fortunate position that we’re members of a local games group so *fingers crossed* we’ll have more opportunities to playtest future versions of our game.

Here’s what we’ve learned about playtesting so far:

Playtesting Tip #1

Whatever information you verbally explain to new players before you start a game, should be in the rules. It’s a no brainer really, but we forgot to do it. Oops!

Playtesting Tip #2

Situations will arise in playtesting that you hadn’t foreseen. Game mechanisms may interact in unusual ways, or ‘desire lines’ may become apparent (that is, players’ natural ways of doing things). Make a quick note of them during play and address them afterwards. You may need to clarify or adjust a rule or possibly even include or drop a sub-game.

Playtesting Tip #3

It is highly likely that blind playtest groups (that is those folks who are learning how to play the game by themselves) will interpret your rules literally. So don’t waste everybody’s time! Read your rules as literally as you can first. Make the instructions as clear as possible so that there is no room for misinterpretation before you hand them out.

Playtesting Tip #4

Keep some kind of record of playtest data (duration, player count, feedback etc). Be prepared for negative feedback and try not to take it personally. Your mission is to gather data, not trying to convert people to your way of thinking. Discuss any feedback with your fellow game designers later.

Happy playtesting!

Moray Game Jam 2017

Moray Game Jam

Our 2-man team from our local games club, East Neuk Tabletop Games, won Best Board Game designed at the Moray Game Jam 2017 with our game ‘Jailbreak Jam’. To say I’m delighted is my understatement of the year so far! πŸ™‚

The theme this year was “If at first you don’t succeed”. At first, we were a little surprised with the openness of this. There were so many ways you could explore the theme! But turned into a blessing as we were able to brainstorm our way through half a dozen ideas before settling on one which sounded achievable in 48 hours, and most importantly, fun!

We set ourselves some rough targets to pace ourselves through the weekend. Ideally we wanted a prototype that we could playtest by Saturday lunchtime. This would give us the rest of Saturday to tweak the rules and have it ready for the competition close at 12 noon on Sunday.

We liked the idea of a group of players repeatedly trying to escape from a prison using whatever objects they can snaffle, whilst avoiding the guards and contending with the potential dishonesty of the other inmates. The game lended itself to a fun and snappy experience with a healthy helping of schadenfreude whenever rival prisoners’ plans failed.

Firstly we planned as much of the game out on paper as we could – the titles of cards, their powers, the quantites present and their distribution across various locations in the game. In order to get a prototype up and running quickly, the first version was quite skeletal and needed a reference sheet explaining card interaction. But even this version of the game was quick and fun to play. We streamlined and edited all the cards whenever we felt it was necessary to improve the playability. Using card sleeves helped a lot because we could hotswop card details quickly.

Some gameplay elements, like trading, came and went and then came back again. We saw through playtesting that the abilility to trade cards between the players facilitated a fun experience and helped set the scene for potentially dodgy dealings behind bars.

Allies were cards that helped you out of a jam. These changed in nature across playtesting from permanent powerups to one-use only cards. This helped the game become less randomly unbalanced, and reinforced the idea of calling in a favour from your friends.

We had lots of other ideas, such as playing characters who had special abilities, but there wasn’t time to implement and test them all. So on Saturday night we locked the design down. We had an improved, playable game that was fast and fun. The final push was to write up the rules so that other people could understand them and play the game without us demonstrating how it worked.

The last thing that we had to decide was the name of the game. During the weekend there were several workshops on various aspects of game desgin. Phil Harris (Senior Narrative Designer at Bigpoint GmbH) gave a very interesting talk on ‘Engaging Play’ and at the end I asked him for his thoughts on how to come up with a great name. He suggested using the ‘Word Palace’ technique, through which you build up a list of words and phrases that are associated with the theme of your game. He said that good names often feature two words, but sometimes one word can work if it’s a compound word or a play on words. For the purposes of the competition we settled on Jailbreak Jam as it was unique and it had a nice left-right-left feel to it. However we will no doubt revisit our burgeoning Word Palace before too long!

We were over the moon when the judges announced that Jailbreak Jam was the winner of the Boardgame category of this year’s Moray Game Jam. Although Martin and I are both interested in game design, we never expected to win. I guess playing hundreds of different games over the last couple of years at our local games club probably helped to finetune our gameplay-fu!

On the drive home on Sunday we were totally buzzing with ideas. Both for refinements to the game and for other variants. The central gameplay mechanic certainly seemed to lend itself to different versions. But that’s a project for another day.

We’ll be taking our winning prototype game (and our trophy of course) to East Neuk Tabletop Games this weekend to do some blind playtesting. Hopefully the ENTs will humour us with more playtesting duties in the months to come as the game evolves into its final form!

If you’re interested in board games design but have never quite got round to it yet, then I’d definitely recommend going to a gamejam event. It’s totally fired me up!

And I have to say the Moray Game Jam was a fab experience. The venue, support and staff were 2nd to none! I’m looking forward to the next one already!

Link: Moray Game Jam website

Targe 2016 participation table winners!


Well who’da thunk it? My local wargaming group, the East Neuk Irregulars, won best participation table at Targe 2016 Wargames Show in Kirriemuir on the weekend. WOOHOO! πŸ™‚

Our game was “Britain’s Secret War” and featured the SAS in Indonesia (1962-66), trekking through the jungle to a landing zone after completing a mission… or is it just beginning?

We created our own rules for the game and it allowed players to get straight in to the action and get a game played within 15 minutes. Every game was different and there were some great dramatic moments! I wish I could tell you more but it’s all incredibly hush hush you understand.

Targe was hosted by Kirriemuir Wargames Club and was a great day out. Many thanks to all the players who “stepped up to the table” in more ways than one.

Bye for now, I best get back to my hot tub and champagne! πŸ™‚

Figures by Commando Miniatures and Copplestone Castings, animals by Ral Partha. With special thanks to Tony of 2nd City Games.