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Open source board/card/dice game design

Oct 31, 2013

I’ve come to the wonderful world of board and card gaming fairly late in life. While many people were spending days and nights playing Axis & Allies or Egyptian Ratscrew during their formative years I spent my time either building little computer games, riding my skateboard or reading. Growing up I rarely, if ever played board and card games. In fact, I don’t think that my family owned a single one. That’s not to say that I didn’t “game” per se, in fact I was deep into Dungeons and Dragons 1 for about 10 years — until I went to college. There were many people at my college who gamed, and I was probably invited to sessions2 dozens of times, but for one reason or another I found myself hiding away in the hidden Linux lab deep in the dungeons of the Physics building or just hanging with good friends chatting all night. Interestingly, my previous company Relevance (now Cognitect) had a very strong gaming culture and I never took advantage of that fact — silly me.

Recently however, my son discovered the joys of board games through his after-school program and developed a passion for playing Chess 3 and Fluxx. 4 The interesting part of his budding passion is that along the way I too have falling in love with playing games. More to the point, the exquisite beauty of a well-designed tabletop game is something that I can appreciate not only as a player, but also as a creator.

Therefore, I’ve decided to try my hand at creating some games to try and exercise a mental muscle that I haven’t used in ages — telling a good story and designing elaborate traps. 5 Since I am enamored by the open-source coding model I’ve decided to create a few games in public, eliciting feedback and contributions along the way. 6 I have a few humble ideas already, 7 so once I have a few spare cycles I’ll put down some rules and post about my ideas.

Thanks for reading. Game on.


  1. Second edition for ever y’all! 

  2. One game that I did indulge in during my undergraduate years was Cosmic Wimpout — a fun dice game. 

  3. Chess is one of the few board games that I did play as a child, but had abandoned for the most part for close to 20 years. 

  4. Fluxx, if you’ve never played it, can be summarized as chaos in a card deck. It’s great fun, has multiple-themes and is a great price. 

  5. For what it’s worth, I was the DM for my local DND group growing up, but those creative muscles, I fear, have long-since atrophied. 

  6. The idea of open-source game design is in no way original. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of budding game designers out there creating amazing games in public. My personal favorite site for such adventures is one devoted to Icehouse games. My few initial game ideas are centered around Icehouse parts. Also look at

  7. My family has been so kind as to listen to my rambling ideas and even play-test a few small sessions. 

4 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Curious- are you strictly sticking with board/card/dice games? Or making computer games too?

    I ask, as someone who has made a card game, and currently makes computer games (albeit, on Ludum Dare only… though I’m in the middle of onegameamonth, the only games I submitted were for LD).

    I think board/card/dice game are fantastic- I’ve been playing “hardcore” Euro-style games for the past 10-11 years…

    That said, I think prototyping on the computer can be a lot faster (depending on the game / mechanics).

  2. @David

    The games mentioned in the post would be physical games rather than computer games, BUT I plan to (and have to some degree) mock them up on electrons first. Probably some combination of Clojure, my Zeder toolkit and Excel for prototyping.

  3. You’ve caused me to go through some old notes. Four years ago I attended a lecture, given as part of WPI’s IMGD program (Interactive Media and Game Development), by a board-game tester for one of the big companies. Some excerpts from my notes: * kids under 8 can’t bluff * number of players can completely change the math, and therefore the nature, of the game; it may work but be a different game with different numbers of players. (I think he cited the examples of Clue and Monopoly). * who goes first can be an opportunity for some fun. * 9 out of 10 board games aren’t good, though they may have good features. * board games are “togetherness in a box”. * make other player’s turns interesting.

  4. @JohnShutt

    Pure gold. Thanks!

    P.S. Thank you for Kernel.

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