Having a Blast Designing Science Board Games


If you know me or have read this blog before, you know that I recently got into board games something fierce [Here's my Februrary blog post: I need to go to Board Gamers Anonymous].  I started backing new ones on Kickstarter and ordered games on Amazon.  Too many games.  It's cool having a game like Twilight Imperium 4, but it takes on average at least 6 hours to play, so it's basically just sitting on my shelf.  But other games like Codenames and Dead of Winter have gotten more use.  And I've been inspired to design two new games, one with a fellow teacher and the other by myself.   

The one I'm designing alone is The Master Chemist, a game that asks players to acquire compounds, prove they have the appropriate lab skills and use equipment to accomplish different tasks in order to move up the ranks and become The Master Chemist before anyone else.  At the same time, my Chemistry II class has been designing a board game too.  Their end goal is to present their idea via Google Hangout to John Coveyou, a former Chemistry teacher who now teaches game design at the university level and runs Genius Games, a company that exclusively publishes science board games.  John has been very gracious to donate his time to help my students understand the process of developing a game and to judge their designs at the end. The students are responsible for several components: rules, a website, a fake Kickstarter campaign, Twitter marketing, and a sell sheet.  We've had other students in Chemistry I playtest their game and give them constructive criticism.  While the students are not quite as pumped about board game design as I am (because I'm not sure that'd be possible), it's been a great learning experience for them.  My students have been using tools like Canva to develop their sell sheet.  One is already talking about going into graphic design.  You can see why below.  


Learning how to design my own game has been a blast.  There's so many questions a designer has to ask themselves: how long do I want the game to take?  What's my target audience?  What's the central theme?  Are there other games out there like this already?  How many players will play at a time?  What components (board, cards, tokens, etc.) will it have?  If I want to have cards, what's the easiest way to make them?  And on and on.  The good news is that there's tons of awesome resources out there.  Other than regularly bothering John at Genius Games, I've mainly relied on the website Board Game Geek, designer Jamey Stegmaier's videos, and two podcasts: the Board Game Design Lab and Board Game Business.  I eventually figured out that my best bet with the card design was to use Component Studio.  Although it costs $10 a month, this site allows me to design cards that I can send directly to The Game Crafter, and well-known and user-friendly site that you can pay to print off a prototype or multiple copies of your game.

In between developing The Master Chemist, I've also been working with my friend Tony on a space and physics-based game that involves real exoplanets.  I'm excited where that one is heading too and will be sharing more in the future.  

Are you designing a game too or just really into board games?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments.