Greg's Design Blog

A collection of posts by game designer Gregory Carslaw, including mirrors of all of his blogs maintained for particular projects. A complete index of posts can be found here:
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"Where the hell have you been?" I hear the regulars ask.

This has been my longest break without updates in some time, but I've been working on something. Having written 342 entries for this blog I've found it impossible to pull up specific ones I want to reference in discussions or in other blog posts. It's also tricky to remember which subjects I've already covered.

So I re-read and indexed them all! It's taken a little while.

This index covers all of my game design articles to date. There are hundreds of them covering a whole host of different topics. I've excluded ones that were only a couple of lines long, but have kept everything else, including ones that I look back on and cringe. Even one that was written while seriously ill and somewhat delirious.

Within a topic the articles are arranged chronologically, so the ones closer to the bottom of each list will tend to have a little more experience behind them. I know that I'll find this useful, hopefully it'll make it easier for you to pick out the things that you most care about too.

If anyone knows if there's a way to pin a post to the top of your BGG blog let me know - as far as I can tell this is going to sink rapidly and only be accessible to people with the link, which is unfortunate.

---Philosophy of Game Design---

The relationship between board games and culture
Elegant Design
The essence of strategy and why I make games
Reflections on the desire to offer extras and the nature of them
Honour in presenting prototypes
How should game designers be organised and paid?
An example of what we're up against in fixing gaming culture
Morality and board games
How awesome other people in the board games industry are
Games as metaophors for life
Games, cultural impact and thresholds
What is a game designer?
Innovation in Board Game Design (Yes you can!)
Gratitude and Honesty
Realism is a crappy excuse
Linguistics, Game Design and Social Engineering

---Designing a Game---

My General Process of Game Design
On the process of writing an Introduction to Game Design

Key Design Decisions

When should the game take its turn?
When should a game start?
When should a game end? Part 1
When should a game end? Part 2
What is losing like? How can it be made fun?
What choices are restricted, how and what is gained by that?
How many players does it have?

Properties of Games

Incomparables (abilities that are not similar to each other)
Emergent Properties (complex properties coming out of simple rules)
Emergent Play
Emergent Stupidity (How sensible rules and rational players can generate frustrating gameplay)
How to make friends by setting yourself on fire (or daft emergent traits)
Differences in Kind
Analysing the weight of a game
First Impressions (part 1)
First Impressions (part 2)
Start and End States
Game length: Making games shorter
(Absence of) Victory Conditions
Tone (Repeated in Trillions)
Modifier Precision

Mechanics Discussion

Critical success or failure
Traitor Mechanics
Using the player's capacity to lie
Using a player's capacity to cheat
Playing with ideas around deckbuilders
Real Time Mechanics
Stealth Mechanics (part 1)
Stealth Mechanics (part 2)
Choose your own adventure (blog post is presented in the style of a choose your own adventure game)
Action Programming
Various Initiative Systems
Distinct 'setup' and 'go' phases
Hidden Objectives
Asymmetric Difficulty (part 1)
Asymmetric Difficulty (part 2)
Allowing players to make up a rule
Trading Mechanics
Secret Identities
Dexterity Games
Mechanics for generating mystery
Combo Play
Social Deduction
Self Defeating Moves
Creating Standoffs
Designing abilities for cooperative games.
Resource Asymmetry
Social Deduction for Introverts
Dollar Auctions
Metapowers (Powers that affect powers) (Crossposted to Genesis)
The Paradox of Catch Up Mechanics
The unhelpful hand of fate: Choose the worst outcome


Games that's themes successfully imbued them with meaning
Storytelling vs Mechanics
Theme-Mechanic interactions in Card Games (duplicated in SatW section)
Thematic Dice Rolls


Using piggybacking to create emotional responses
How depth and complexity are experienced emotionally rather than rationally
Feeling of balance vs reality of balance (cross posted in balance section)
The nebulous concept of fun
Emotional investment (or getting players to "buy in")
How players feel about carrots and sticks
Communicating Intended Emotional Load
Tapping a players outside of game identity

Gamer Motivations

In Game Achievement Systems
Impact of player expectations on play part 1
Impact of player expectations on play part 2
Narrative Gaming
Why people rules lawyer (and why that's not a precise enough group)
Different sorts of gamers (A guide for non-gamers)
Redefining the victory conditions mid game
Mechanics for Imperfect Players
Players Playing for the Journey
Motivations for Gaming (Discussing Quantics model)


When people mispercieve probability, why and how to use it
Visual Search Research (and game design applications)
Psychological tools for pushing players towards suboptimal play
Reducing cognitive load for small repetitive tasks
Encouraging good table behaviour through good design
Reward schedules and feelings of mastery
Effective use of tropes
People will try to win, so make that fun
Signalling design priorities through graphic design
Designing for players with different motivations
Probability Delusions (and applications for game design)
Are players a source of randomness?

Interesting Decisions

Understanding and Choice
Resource Management
Interesting Decisions and Multidimensionality
Players personal philosophies and their impact on meaningful choice
Recognising Situational Value
One card Two choices
Choice Timeframes

Chance and Control

Cumulative Probability
Different types of randomness
Cards and Randomness
Action Cards
Randomisation Timing
Player Count vs Controlled Interactivity
Chance to Win (The impact of retroactive calculation)
Fixed Hands vs Random Hands
Dice rolls totals and pools (mathematical analysis)
Cards as randomisers
Removing all luck from a game
Consequences of Precise Probabilities


Self balancing games
Feeling of balance vs reality of balance (cross posted in emotion section)
Articulating Game Balance
Balancing environment difficulty to player progression
Balancing is Impossible and Boring
Balancing Spending Options
Dealing with power creep
An Intentionally Unfair Game
Double It

AI for Boardgames

Cardboard AI
How should the AI cheat
Hidden AI Goals

Writing Rules

Use of Terminology
Use of Iconography
Writing deliberately obscure rules as a means to generate gameplay
Writing for Skim Readers
The practicalities of obfuscating rules (This is as much game design as rules writing, but I'll put it here for now)
Writing Simpler Rules
Writing for Brevity, Fidelity and Precision (and why you can't have all three)
Tips for Interface Design
Effective use of Summaries
Graphical Rules Expressions
Examples of things that make a good or bad rules example
Mathematically Equivalent Rules (Repeated in Genesis)

Common Problems

Kingmaking and Virtual Elimination
Hidden Trackable Information
Calculation Burden
Simplifying Designs
Game Length (too short)
Controlling Information Release
Overcoming complexity through making it optional
Runaway Leader Effects in Skirmish Games
Overcoming all or nothing Situations
Uncluttering designs
Knowing what not to do

Learning from other Genres of Game

Differences between board games and live action games
LARP and Boardgames
2.8 Hours Later (Analysis of live action game)
Turn Based Strategy
The mighty sport of 'face ball throw'
Design lessons from my first big LARP battle (part 1)
Design lessons from my first big LARP battle (part 2)
Game design lessons from a big scavenger hunt (no really)
Four Card Blind (Magic the gathering format)
Twitch plays Pokemon
MOBA Boardgame Design
Boardgames of Yesteryear
Are board games boring? (reaction to 'Video games are boring')
Space Food Truck (Learning from a deckbuilding computer game)


Cool technology and board games
Use of paper at the table
How much can you do with a die?
The cost of miniatures
Mobile Phone Apps and Gaming
Fire as a Board Game Component
How the physical nature of cards impacts design
Board Design
How many cards does a card deck have?
Small Boxes and Efficient Components
Designing for Art Requirements


Finding Value in the Design of Monopoly
Quickfire design analysis
Designing deliberately misleading games
Educational Games
Modular Design
The Use of Humour in Game Design
Bloat and Refine Technique
Designing for Injured Players
Adult content in games (Different to the specific post about SatW)
Designing at 90mph
History of Games
Finding the minimum viable game


Lessons from AJs success indicator model (Essentially the notion that with longer games how much a person thinks about the game once it's done is more relevant than whether they immediately want to play again)
Focusing on problems rather than solutions
Tabletop Simulator as a Prototyping and Testing Tool
The Impact of Venues on Playtesting
When to break or rewrite something that works
Playtesting graphic design
Solo Playtesting (and pseudoAIs to play any game against)
Local Maxima and When to Burn Everything
Remote Playtester Feedback Forms
Getting the most out of Playtests
Tutorial: Creating a tabletop simulator mod for testing

---Publishing a Game---


Use of Promotional Cards and Elements
How working for a small business (not focused on games) skews decisions
Setting the player count (It may seem odd this is in publishing not design, but it's about displaying possible vs optimal)


Working with artists (And other people who are experts in things that you are not)
Art Styles
The magic of textures
The Artists Brief


Balancing retailer needs with Kickstarter needs
Making my first Kickstarter Video (part 1)
Making my first Kickstarter Video (part 2)
Analysing impacts on the 404 Kickstarter (at the halfway point)
Setting a pledge level price
Business Models and Kickstarter
The Evolution of Kickstarter
A comparison of two approaches to video creation
Designing a KS Page
Getting ready for a KS launch
How to get your Kickstarter Game First
How to get the word out about your Kickstarter
Behind the curtain: Custom game component rewards


Reviewer-Designer Relationships (not that kind)
The process of contacting reviewers
How to avoid driving reviewers away from Kickstarter


Getting on to Tabletop Simulator
Phoning Game Shops

---Project History---


My first day as a game designer

Scandinavia and the World A game about country spirits made manifest. Based on an awesome webcomic.
BGG Entry
The Webcomic
Announcement and Overview
Adult Content
How card quality varies by context
Divisive Cards
Theme-Mechanic interactions in Card Games (duplicated in theme section)
A few card mechanic design lessons from this game
A little bit about attending comics conventions as a board game designer

Wizard's Academy About incompetent wizards. My highest rated game on BGG!

BGG Entry
Introduction to Wizard's Academy
Early Playtester Feedback
Updating WA Events (Edition one was so much harder!)
Decision to publish WA over M:TV and Assassins
Applying elegance philosophy to fire in WA
WA Components (early version)
WA Setup (early version)
WA Rules (early version)
A game of WA expressed in graph form
Calculating how many games it takes to no longer be surprised
Emergent Properties in Wizard's Academy
Character Design
First Draft Character Art
Badly written pulp fiction
Introducing the Miniatures
WA Kickstarter Launch

Wizard's Academy Puzzles Early in the development of WA I wrote puzzles, similar to chess puzzles.

Abridged Rules for Puzzles
The Firefighter
Firefighter Solution
The Exterminator
Perfect Victory
Dimensional Sciences
Commentary on Perfect Victory Solution and how it influenced design
Dimensional Sciences Solution
Development Hiatus
Analysis of Spell Design
Adding New Scenarios During the Campaign

Escape the Nightmare A party game about trading cards and trying not to ruin everything for everyone by trading the wrong thing at the wrong moment. My third 3DTotal game.

BGG Entry
SNAFU (A Kickstarter I backed for a dollar that planted the seed of EtN - I'd forgotten all about it before writing this index)
Meet the Games (EtN, Cheats and Genesis)
Kickstarter predictions and projections
Mistakes in the post-campaign period

404: Law Not Found The first game of mine that got made! Early posts refer to it as "Monkeygame" or "Space, Cannibalism and Monkeys" because we didn't settle on a name for ages.

BGG Entry
Introducing Monkeygame!
Decision to publish monkeygame
How to play Monkeygame (early version)
The invention of chips!
The addition of anomalies
Analysing the difficulty of different objectives
Picking a name for Monkeygame (Spoiler: It wound up called 404 Law Not Found)
Picking the highlight for the KS video
The timing of human death events
A peek at the art for 404
First game jitters
Setting Stretch Goals
Adding the Ferret Anomaly
The Organise Breathing Objective
The Explore Breathing Objective
The Timing Chip
Directive Difficulty (part 1)
Directive Difficulty (part 2)

Shenanigans: The Musical A quick social deduction game that I wrote for The People's Orchestra

BGG Entry
The three options for the TPO game
The best game splits into two design threads
Orchestral Stereotypes
Shenanigans Expansions
Development Jun-Jul
Setting Victory Conditions
Development Jul-Aug
Graphic Design Decisions
Stretch Goals and Breaking Rules
Multigame Scoring
Degenerate Games
Developing Outside the Boardgames Bubble
Shenanigans pre-launch Overview

Room Wars A silly game I released via PnP that has lots of potential. I should consider a small print release of this sometime!

Room Wars

Trillions An unfair asymmetric game about holding the world to ransom.

Tone (Repeated above)

Cheats A bluffing game that was soundly rejected in comparison to Escape the Nightmare and Genesis. It may see retheme and release in the near future.

Meet the Games (EtN, Cheats and Genesis) (repeated in those sections)

Dauntless Hunters A free skirmish wargame featuring many vs one gameplay. Presently on hold, I'm not sure it'll see further development.
Early playtesting and the impact of facing
The monster hunter theme
Slime trails and rules writing
Wizards vs Demons
Wizards, minions and the luck mechanic
Planning Out the Project to Account for Absence or Illness
Halfway Point
Rage Mode (to overcome runaway leaders)
The effects of the rage update
Unit card design
Monster Card Design
Rules Refinement
Version 0.3
Pack Tactics for Monsters
Legendary Monsters
Improving Legendary Monsters
Faction Building
Custom Warbands
Story Based Warband Building
Project Pause (and a teaser for another project)

Infinite Legacy The first game I'm considering as an alternative to Dauntless Hunters. A true sandbox game.

Introducing Infinite Legacy
Early components
Negative Buildings
First Infinite Legacy Prototype
Initial Complexity: The first play of the new prototype
Improvements based on that experience (lots of advice for complexity reduction.)
Interconnectedness and Playtesting (short)

Assassins A deckbuilding stealth game. I hope to finish and publish this one.

Early Playtester Feedback
Character Design
Decision to publish WA over M:TV and Assassins

Genesis A shufflebuildy bluffing card battling game about forging a world in your image. I would really like to do more with this one.

Icons, boundaries and revisions
Meet the Games (EtN, Cheats and Genesis) (repeated in those sections)
Third order balancing in Genesis
Mathematically Equivalent Rules (Repeated in writing rules)
Metapowers (Powers that affect powers) (Repeated in mechanics discussion)

Arena A small scale arena fighting game. It had some promise but at the moment it's unlikely that I'll ever go back to it.

Introducing Arena
Decision to publish monkeygame

Murder:TV Game about a reality show based on battle royale. This one is abandoned.

Introduction to Murder:TV
Early Playtester Feedback
Item Design
Decision to publish WA over M:TV and Assassins

Escher Step A prototype game about sprinting and teleportation. It might go somewhere, it might not.


Lies and Lightning A two player battle game that was pretty DOA, a few interesting lessons to take from it.

Introducing...nevermind it's terrible

Project: Deathmatch A live game played as a fight to the death in a park with hidden weapons. May see a resurgence due to a new venue opened in Birmingham.

Initial Notion
Introduction to Project Deathmatch


Joking about the Emperor's New Clothes KS
Comments on the expanding board game market in 2013
Thoughts from my sickbed
The Player of Games (Iain M Banks passing away)
A little light market research on what 3DTotal's 3DArtists play and like
Lessons from Wench
UK Games Expo 2014
Artists for Game Designers
Responses to iSlayTheDragon Interview
Why I design games that I do not enjoy
UK Games Expo 2015 (My first stand)
Starting work for The People's Orchestra
Delerious writings while really quite ill
Looking back on delirious writings while fine
Tabletop Simulator vs Tabletopia
UK Games Expo 2016
Mental Battles in Game Design
Game design 2017
What's wrong with me?

---Reviews (My reviews of other's games)---

Review: Stack and Attack
Review: Risk Legacy
Review: In a Bind
Mr Game

---Interviews (My interviews of other people)---

Interview: Luca Caltabanio
Interview: Jason Washburn

---Guest Posts (by me on others blogs)---

Unboxed (Aka the one with the voices in my head)
Funding the Dream

Also here's a link to the public post of this index so I can find it for updating. Stupid me posting it twice.
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