Why I make boardgames with my daughter

We drew this with sharpie then added watercolors.
Writing the gameplay sequence down on a mat makes it way easier to learn.
My daughter wanted the first part of the board to be “like a maze.”
Our heroine, parachuting to an archipelago from a downed aircraft.
The game screen.

Making games with kids is amazing

It has creativity

This was made with Sculpey and baked for a while.
The Crayola air-dry clay works well for prototypes too.
Tokens for the Potion Race: A snail (slows you down); a brain (feeds zombies); a flashlight; a grimoire (better potion success); a hat (keeps you warm against frost giants); a staff; a broom; an invisibility cloak.

It forces questions of balance and fairness

It teaches theory of mind

It’s iterative

An hour into their second game.

Some tips to get started

Get materials ready

  • Popsicle sticks (as tokens, inventory, or a way to randomly choose something by drawing one stick from a bundle.)
  • Poker chips, either as currency or tokens.
  • Post-it notes. Great for making corrections on the board.
  • Colored paper to use for playing cards (index cards work well too.)
  • Markers, ideally fresh sharpies; plus watercolor paints for the board.
  • Sculpey or Fimo modeling clay, plus acrylic paints, for game pieces.
  • Sheets of paper taped together, a big roll of paper, or foamcore you can draw on for the board.
  • Ziplock bags to put it all in.

Copy unabashedly

Play early, play often

Mix game mechanics for randomness and strategy

  • Dice for movement around a board.
  • Events when you land on a space, such as fighting a monster or gaining an inventory item.
  • Some form of battle between players (this can be fun stuff like thumb-wrestling, or game-related like rolling dice for combat.)
  • Some form of cooperation/sharing (a trading phase, or a way to gift something to another player.
  • Set-building from cards (getting five of a kind wins; getting the whole armour set gives extra benefits.)
  • Inventory (cards or items you hold that change gameplay.)
  • Story cards or dice where players have to tell a story and earn the approval of other players somehow.
  • Secret tunnels or shortcuts. Everyone likes an advantage.
  • Have a counter for health, or some other progress-meter element. You can do this on a small card or area on the board where players move tokens up and down as they progress, like a health bar in a video game.
  • Ways to send the leader back to the start. If you can introduce an element that lets laggards catch up, this is a great way to help less experienced players win.
These are the cards for the Diamond Quest game.
Things get complicated quickly when you try to improve them.
This turned out surprisingly fun. I need to put the cards into something printable and make more decks.

Make it silly

  • Chased by a jellyfish: Swim around the table screaming
  • Water, water everywhere: Drink a glass of water
  • Sea shanty: Make up a 30 second song about something in the game and sing it.
  • Binoculars: Until someone gets a diamond, you must look through your hands as if they were binoculars.
  • Sloth: Until someone gets a diamond, you can’t use your thumbs. You may want to tape them to your hands.
  • Bitten by a zombie: For the next minute, all you can say is “brains.”
  • Mummy’s curse: Wrap head in toilet paper until next turn

Enjoy the backstory

So many moving parts. Fun, tho.

Scribble rules as you design the game

Let it go




Writer, speaker, accelerant. Intersection of tech & society. Strata, Startupfest, Bitnorth, FWD50. Lean Analytics, Tilt the Windmill, HBS, Just Evil Enough.

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Alistair Croll

Alistair Croll

Writer, speaker, accelerant. Intersection of tech & society. Strata, Startupfest, Bitnorth, FWD50. Lean Analytics, Tilt the Windmill, HBS, Just Evil Enough.

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