Making Prototype Components

- Design Discussion #2 -

Hello my wonderful readers! Last week, I talked about thematic design and my thoughts on how you should and should not begin designing a game and how I went about starting my design process for The Labyrinth of Crete.

This week, as promised, I'm going to primarily just share a whole lot of images of the most major components in my current prototype. Additionally, I'll talk about some of the lessons I've learned from this experience so far (mostly discussing the physical challenges of the components), and what I could have done differently looking back on some of my decisions. Game design is all about thinking outside of the box when it comes to problem-solving.

The Dice

The primary gameplay mechanics (which I promise I'll discuss more in future posts) involve dice allocation and some dice building. As such, a big chunk of my initial prototyping time was spent on crafting these custom dice. I used some simple rounded, blank wooden dice that I was able to purchase from Amazon for relatively cheap and color printed the labels for the dice on removable sticker paper. I then individually cut each of the stickers out and stuck them onto the blank dice.

Currently, I have a total of 70 custom dice with different numerical layouts.

Here's the rundown of each of them:

52 "Experience" Dice:

  • 30 Basic (White) - [0 0 1 1 2 3]

  • 15 Intermediate (Grey) - [0 1 2 3 3 4]

  • 7 Advanced (Black) - [W 1 3 4 5 6]

(Note: I'll talk more about what "W" means in a future blog post. I'm going to continue keeping the gameplay details confined to just my local playtesting sessions for now....)

18 "Skills" Dice:

  • 6 Red (3 - Speed / 3 - Strength) - [0 0 0 7 7 7]

  • 6 Green (3 - Strength / 3 - Intelligence) - [3 3 3 4 4 4]

  • 6 Blue (3 - Intelligence / 3 - Speed) - [2 2 3 4 5 5]

This process was super labor-filled and, looking back, I do wish that I had looked into pre-cut circular stickers or some sort of small hole cutting tool to decrease the amount of time I spent on these. However,considering the pretty small investment I made for sticker paper and wooden dice (only about $30 total), I am pretty happy with the final product. The dice are solid, look well-done, and do the job they need to do. I am even more happy that I likely won't have to do it again, since I made sure to do as much careful balancing of their numbers as I could before crafting the dice.

It's important to note, I think, with both these dice and for the rest of the components I talk about here that these have all been made for my one, early-stage, local play-testing prototype. While it may seem steep for me to spend $30 on just one component for this game, you have to keep in mind that it takes an investment (both in time and money) to design a tabletop game and my strategies for slightly larger scale blind play-testing prototypes (Print N Play, Digital Prototype, etc..) will be very different and substantially cheaper options. But for my purposes, the investment was necessary to make this working prototype.

The Cards

As far as the cards go in my game, I've kept the design as simple as possible, tossing in some filler art and text just to keep the game a bit more thematic and less boring primarily for my own sake. I printed the cards on standard printer paper, cut them out with a paper cutter and sleeved them using some old clear card sleeves I had lying around from one of my previous projects.

The strategy I chose to use for making prototype cards works well and I have been pleasantly surprised at how well they have held up. Even though it is just flimsy printer paper, the card sleeves make the cards study enough for regular use and allow the cards to be easily picked up. Additionally, anytime I need to replace or fix some cards, I can easily just remove the few cards from their sleeves and replace them with newly printed ones. This way, I never have to buy more sleeves.

Overall, I have a total of just over 55 cards (and growing):

  • 26 Item Cards (image above)

  • 10 Obstacle Cards

  • 8 Character Cards

  • 8 Blueprint Cards

  • 5 Reference Cards

However, looking back there are a couple things I might do different about my approach. Printing can be expensive, especially in color. Even on a college campus where, as a college student, I have access to pretty cheap color printing... it adds up. Doing something so simple as printing only the cards that need to be colored in color and the rest in black and white could have knocked several dollars off of my overall printing costs.

Additionally, I very quickly realized early on that I was getting sucked into the trap of picture-searching. I found myself spending way too much time searching for filler art that was not important at all to my prototype. This is time that I could have spent further perfecting the actual mechanics of the game that I wasted, and I've been doing my best to cut down on that wastefulness as i move forward in designing and changing my game's cards.

The Tiles

As you can see above, I've gone with simple color printing on your typical printer paper for the tiles for my prototype. Thes tiles have been a bit more problematic then my other major components, and you can kind of see why in the pictures above. Because they are printed on thin printer paper and because they are pretty heavy on ink, the tiles have a tendency to curl up on the edges and not align with one another quite right. They're still usable, but bit of an annoying distraction at times

Unfortunately, I'm still searching for a solution to this problem. (Do my wonderful readers have any ideas?) Laminating is no good as the tiles are constantly going under revisions. Black and white printing isn't a very viable option either as color is necessary for many of the tiles. I may just have to tough it out, as the curling isn't a huge issue in terms of actual gameplay... But I do wish I could up with a bit better of a solution for my prototype that was a bit more workable but just as easily exchangeable. (I still need to be able to easily replace the tiles with newer versions as the game is edited and changed.)


Instagram - @cameronartgames

I mean... this is kind of a component too?? I'm on Instagram now @cameronartgames!!! I'm planning on posting more behind the scenes pictures of my prototype that I won't be posting on here. So be sure to check it out! I'm also going to be posting pictures and am hoping to facilitate some discussion about other games that I play that I often won't be posting about on my blog. So, again, check it out.

Wrap-Up Questions:

Do have any thoughts on building prototype components?

What game has your favorite components?

Let me know in the comments below!

Click here to read Design Discussion #3 - "About The Endgame"

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