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Designer/Developer Diary: Red Glove Grows, or Building a Team for a New Line of Games

marco valtriani
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Board Game Publisher: Red Glove
The last year has been quite intense. I started to work for Red Glove as lead designer, so I found myself working both on my games — Vudù (with Francesco Giovo) and GodZ (with Diego Cerreti) — and on the development of other games, mostly prototypes from other designers, usually novices or even first-time designers. Some of these new designers were from the community of Board Game Designers Italia, a small community led by Diego and me that focuses on the training and education of new designers via seminars, tutorials and contests.

While I was designing Super Fantasy: Night of the Badly Dead, the second chapter of the Super Fantasy series, the company decided that it wanted to release nine pocket-sized games across three Red Glove product lines (Junior, Family and Fun). Since I was too busy to handle the whole thing by myself, we decided to build a team of developers to design the nine games.

I immediately contacted Diego Cerreti as we work together often, and I knew he had the mindset and the expertise to handle this kind of work. He always has a lot of smart ideas and good cultural luggage about game studies and theory, he works really quickly, and above all he always cares a lot about every project.

Erik Burigo was the next one I contacted. He is a really active member of the community, and also I know the way he works because he was developing a race game for Red Glove. Moreover, he had presented a wonderful children's game in a Board Game Designers Italia contest some months before that would be a great fit for the pocket line. Perseverance, good working method, and a well-fitting idea — what more could I want?

Then, after a short selection, I added Ilenia Nacci to the team. I had the chance to see her in action during the last Global Game Jam and I thought she was perfect for the job. While working on the first games, another contest of Board Game Designers Italia was held in Rome, and a couple of designers — Danilo Lollio and Giulio Raiola — presented a cool game about sea and vacations, perfect for the pocket games line. The team was ready.

From gallery of Izraphael
Ghiotto di Ghiande prototype

Board Game: Circus Express
Board Game: Ghiotto di Ghiande
Board Game: Tutti al Mare
Diego presented almost immediately Circus Express, a simple but tricky pattern-building game while I wrote Ghiotto di Ghiande, a children's tile game that mixes set collection with simple but challenging choices about "greed". They're really easy games, and the first playtests were encouraging. We sent them to production in a short time.

Meanwhile, Erik, Danilo and Giulio worked on their games. By chance, the games were both about sealife. Polpastrelli and Tutti al Mare were both developed by their respective designers, following my directives but with a good amount of freedom, as the ideas behind their games were just fine when I saw them for the first time.

I first asked Giulio and Danilo to reduce the number of tiles for Tutti al Mare. They did so, but then there was no way to keep the game running for six players, which was one of the main goals for that game, so we changed from the original "tile game" to "card game", starting again from a previous back-up and focusing on all the little tweaks that a tiles-to-cards conversion entails. The guys worked well, and the game — a nice set collection Eurostyle filler — was ready shortly.

Polpastrelli also needed some work. It's a dexterity game, and since the game is intended for children as young as four, the way that players play is simple and nice, with them using a hand as an octopus to catch fish-tiles — but the game needed some tuning on the scoring system. It's not easy to have a way to score points that's both easy and challenging, so we brainstormed a lot and we tested a lot of solutions, ending with a huge amount of ideas. As published, the game has two scoring systems: a streamlined one that's perfect to learn how to play and for youngest children, and a slightly deeper one for experienced players.

From gallery of Izraphael
Merry Yard prototype

Board Game: Polpastrelli
Board Game: Merry Yard
Board Game: Pizzeria Italia
As I said, we decided to have nine games with nine different kinds of gameplay, with three of them based only on cards. The first card game was Tutti al Mare, while the second one was a total restyle of a old design of mine, Merry Yard, a game about animals and their sounds.

My original home-made, bad-looking, self-published game from 2008 has been entirely redeveloped and wonderfully illustrated by Guido Favaro, the artist of every Red Glove game. We changed the effects of the cards, we deleted useless rules, we fixed minor bugs, and so on. It was so exciting to see an old, "unripe" attempt transformed into a new and far more enjoyable game.

From gallery of Izraphael

Ilenia, who also helped a lot with most playtests, designed the last card game, Pizzeria Italia. We worked together on the concept, then she built the prototype. She insisted on having a face-up draft instead of the face-down one I suggested, and in retrospect I must say that she was right: The game as it is runs smoothly and is so engaging!

From gallery of W Eric Martin
Pizzeria Italia prototype

Board Game: Dogsitter
Board Game: Mostrilli
Board Game: Magikaboom
Time was running out, so Diego and I took on the remaining games. I took care of Dogsitter, a simple dexterity game with an easy "tile throwing" mechanism, while he focused on Mostrilli, a tile placement game with a neat scoring system based on rows and columns, which are — at the end of the game — half face-up, half face-down. You may know some of the face-down tiles, so there's a nice mix of planning, memory, and (if you want) a bit of luck. The game also has a nice setting about "monster team-building" — perhaps Diego had nightmares from the whole teamwork experience!

For the last game, the dice one, we needed a "press your luck" system, so I designed MagiKaboom, a dice game based — as many dice games are — on pushing your luck across multiple re-rolls; rolling the dice again activates each time some special effects. I initially had problems with this one; the game is about exploding potions, but they used to explode too much, or too little! After many playtests I think we managed to find the best "balance" between taking risks and getting the blasting "magikabooms" roll!

The whole project was stimulating as I worked with different people on different games and at different levels: Some focused mostly on their "personal" game; some worked with me on games from other designers or helped me with playtests and brainstorming; and other designers and partners of Red Glove participated through meetings. For me, it was a great experience, a big opportunity to grow professionally and to see promising designers at work. Believe me, I'm sure that you will hear some of their names again soon...

Marco Valtriani
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