Designing a Board Game for Your Casual Friends

Games like Gloomhaven and Mage Knight are great, but what if you want to spend some time with friends who aren’t crazy board game fanatics? Sometimes light-hearted casual games can be super fun and interactive. The most compelling part of playing these games is that there is a very low barrier for entry. So board gamers who aren’t super into board gamers can join in on the fun!

Gavin, designer of the fun and quick card game, Duck, Buck, Moose, was inspired to create this game from a hunting trip. Gavin is an avid board gamer but some of his friends weren’t. He decided to set out to create a game where even his casual friends can have a good time playing. Let’s learn about some of the challenges he encountered and the design decisions he made!

Game Description

In Duck, Buck, Moose you’ll compete with up to 3 of your friends on a hunt for furry woodland creatures in this totally not-serious card game of skill, sabotage and luck.

Journey into the wilderness, collecting licenses and gear and search for that prized buck (or just knock off a few rabbits). Gun jam your opponents or spook their animals to stay in the lead.

During the game players will spend 3 actions on their turn to collect Hunter or License cards, play Action cards and go on hunts in an attempt to score Wildlife points; all while trying to stop others from doing the same.

As the game continues, Wildlife will be scored with new ones taking their place. When the last Wildlife card is revealed, all players will have one more full turn. At the end of the game, players add up their scored Wildlife points minus any unfulfilled Licenses. The player with the most points wins!

Duck, Buck, Moose is still available on Kickstarter. Come support Gavin’s campaign before it is too late!

The making of a card game

I remember reading an article by Richard Garfield that said something like “If you want to be good at making games, you need to play games. A lot of them”. If I had to attribute the success of my first games design (and my growing game library) to one thing, it would be to that quote.

Fast forward to today and it’s been over 3 years since the inception of Duck, Buck, Moose. That sounds like a crazy timeline. And it is. The game isn’t ground breaking, so why the hell did it take me 3 years!? The answer is quite simple. I was playing other games. When I first started on DBM (Duck, Buck, Moose) I had no idea what I was doing. I scribbled ideas on paper, used Bicycle cards rewritten with sharpies and threw some concepts into a set of turns. It was horrible, but I was obsessed with the idea of making my own game. I was more interested in the title of “game designer” than the game itself.

After more than a handful of false starts and frustrating play-tests I put things on pause and decided to dig in to game design a little more. I’d like to say that I picked up some really popular books and studied them from cover to cover. I didn’t. Instead, I played as many games in as many genres as I could and dissected them. I became obsessed with reading rulebooks and would often play entire games by myself, even if they didn’t have a proper “solo variant”. This, in my mind, is a far superior way to learn game design. You quickly glean what fun is (to you), which rulebooks are terrible as well as the meanings behind mechanics like “action point allocation”, “variable phase order” or “automatic resource growth”. It’s liberating in a very nerdy sort of way.

Things I’ve learned

It’s been a ton of fun making a game, and it certainly won’t be my last. In no particular order, here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Play, teach and collect games

As stated above, I think the number one way to get good at making games is to not only play them but also be the one to read the rulebook and teach it to others. Teaching a game you just learned to someone else really forces you to think about the mechanics and carves them deep into your game designer brain. It’ll also help you realize what confuses people. Explaining a confusing rule will help you steer clear of those in your own games, or at least, do a better job of explaining them.

Don’t copy real life

When I first started designing Duck, Buck, Moose I had the idea of each firearm having its own ammo; rifles would require centre fire cartridges, shotguns needed shells and of course bows would use arrows. I also wanted each license to be more realistic in that some would allow you to only hunt a Buck vs a Doe and others would allow both types. The reality is, this added a huge amount of unnecessary cards, rules and confusing “gotchas” for anyone not well versed in the legalities of hunting. I was surprised on how simple something seems in real life can be vastly more complicated in a game. Balancing the odds of a player getting just the right combination of gear, ammo, license AND the wildlife needed be in the field was a nightmare. The game only really started to hit its stride when I stripped away a lot of the minutia of real life, combined things like the different types of ammo into 1 card and simplified the requirements for hunts.

Remove stuff until it breaks

After you’ve come up with a basic concept and play tested a few times, its time to remove stuff until it breaks. What I mean by that is try removing some steps, types of cards, a mechanic you’re not sure of etc. You’ll be surprised on how it can wildly make your game either better or much worse. Bring back the things that are obviously a core mechanic and keep removing the others until you’ve carved a beautiful diamond out of stone. This is your game. Now play-test until your family and friends start to avoid your messages and phone calls. Then force them to play a few more.

People you don’t know are your friends

Friends and family want to be supportive. This is great most of the time. Not so much when trying to get constructive feedback on a game. What you really need is complete strangers willing to play your game, offer feedback and who don’t really care about your feelings. These people are your friends. Listen to them (as hard as it is), ask them questions and invite them to play again after you’ve made some revisions they suggested. Not only does this build a community but it also helps you get out of your own head, which is a dangerous place to stay as a game designer.

Your community will make or break you

If you’re going to be on Kickstarter, your community is key. Everyone knows that but I’d like to just help solidify that common knowledge. We spent 6 months doing nothing but engaging on Instagram and Facebook, liking others posts we found interesting, commenting on games we liked etc. Don’t forget to share your own but make it authentic. Nobody wants to see your ads. Sure we spent a bit of money on Facebook and IG ads during our campaign, but our community accounted for 60% of our funding. Community is key. Put away the Visa. You can’t buy followers.

Web & Social

Follow Gavin and keep up-to-date with his Duck, Buck, Moose adventures!


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