Essen! Reviews! and more...

Hi there,

If you're new to the site then you probably met us at Essen we were there for the largest board game convention in Europe (possibly the world). It was an amazing and tiring experience. I'm going to give a run down of how things went.

A review!

Before I get into it, while in Germany we had the first review come in for Nothing To Declare, courtesy of the Bearded Meeple, you can check it out below.

The review copies are out so a few more reviews should be coming in soon-ish, watch this space!



If you're familiar with the wonderful world of hobby board games you might have heard of Spiel or as it tends to be referred to Essen. It takes place in a giant convention centre in Germany, Essen, unsurprisingly. It's a bit like the Milton Keynes of Germany. 

The plan, to promote the heck out of Nothing To Declare ahead of the Kickstarter. We arrived on Wednesday to set up. 

the place is massive

the place is massive

We had to walk through 3 different halls to get to our booth, hidden at the back. After a dash trip to IKEA we got all set up.

Tim was very happy at this point

Tim was very happy at this point

I should probably point out there are no pictures of me as I took all the pictures. I was accompanied by my equally card board obsessed friend Tim (T-Dog) and my 'never wants to see a board game again' girlfriend Natalie. Both of whom were amazing and made no complaints despite hours and hours of demos and run-throughs. 

As you can see we had 3 different stations set up and basically commandeered anyone who looked in our direction for too long. Although having said that often we didn't have to, people actually wanted to play the game! 

I think this was taken Friday morning

I think this was taken Friday morning

Over 4 days we explained Nothing To Declare what felt like a thousand times and played countless games. It was a lot of fun and by the Sunday night we were totally knackered. 

It was an incredible experience, we met some awesome people, queued for way too long for the toilet and most importantly got some amazing feedback. Seeing people laugh and enjoy the game was the most rewarding thing. It really makes me happy to have created something that gives other people joy. 


New Friends

I want to give a special shout out to some of the amazing people that we met. They have some great games that I cannot recommend enough.

Seize The Bean

These guys are working on a game about opening up your own Coffee Shop in Berlin. The artwork looks amazing and they have some awesome components they're working on. They also gave us free coffee and hung out with us to play Nothing To Declare.

Crossroads of Heroes

We were lucky enough to be Neighbours with Pat Piper and his beautiful looking game Crossroads of Heroes. You take on the role of an aspiring hero, choosing from one of the different clans available. What I love about this is that you can decide to become evil at which point you flip your character card and your objective becomes trying to kill everyone. 

Inside Up Games

Our other neighbours, Inside Up had a successful campaign earlier in the year for their game Summit, it's a game about mountain climbing, I think they are still taking late pledges so get involved. Their fearless leader Conor was always cheerful and super encouraging to us, which we definitely needed for the last day. 

London Board Games Co

I was introduced to Mark a few weeks ago thanks to a networking event for UK tabletop peoples. He's currently midway through his first Kickstarter for The Football Game, him and his team (see: family) were smashing it everyday with demo after demo. They are so nice I cannot praise them enough.


Modiphius are one of those guys who do lots of stuff you wouldn't realise that was them. Achtung! Cthulhu, that was them. The Thunderbirds board game, that was them. The new Siege of the Citadel Kickstarter, you guessed it, that was them. They are incredibly supportive the gaming community and if it wasn't for their events I wouldn't know half the people I do.

These people really made Essen a special experience for me and for that I cannot thank them enough. I should also give a special shout out to Inside The Box and Brain Crack for stopping by and pulling faces at me pretty much everyday. Not to mention having dinner and ice cream with us on the first day. It's always nice to have a familiar face when you're in an unfamiliar place.  


What makes a good game good...

It's been a few weeks since I did a blog post. I've been busy preparing for Essen, ordering posters, flyers, t-shirts etc. 

Not to mention finalising the Kickstarter page. Sending out review copies. Filming the Kickstarter video. 


But enough of that what I wanted to talk about today is what makes a good game. This weekend I was visted by a friend from uni and her husband, naturally we played a bunch of boardgames. And whilst making our selection different games were mooted and poo pooed for varying reasons. This got me thinking what makes a good game good?  

If there's one thing I've learned about board game hobbyists it's that they can be a critical bunch. I dare you to go talk about how much you love cards against humanity on the board game geek forums. 

Trying to decipher what makes a good game is an impossible task because it's so subjective. What might be your favourite game is someone else's worst. And that's ok. People have different tastes. I love social deduction games, I'm not good at them, but I like them.

So a somewhat misleading blog title. I don't have the magic formula to make hit game after hit game. But what I can do is tell you what makes a good game for me and ultimately what the values of apauling games are.

For me it's a combination of three simple things. Fun, engaging and inclusive. I want to make games that are unashamedly popular. 

But what is fun? Fun means different things for different people. Some people love a good puzzle, I love player interactions. That's not saying I'm only going to make games that focus on player interactions, but what I do care about is engagement. 

Creating engaging experiences, whether it's an engrossing narrative or player interaction, I want it to be at the heart of what we do. For me the mark of a truly great game is one where you come away talking and discussing what just happened. Going over the decisions made, those hilarious moments that can only be generated by the interactions the game has forced you to have.

And when I say inclusive I don't just mean for all ages. I mean games that make no bones about being culturally and ethnically diverse. It will never be something we explicitly state - other than here - but something we implicitly do.

We won't ever limit ourselves to making one type of game but we will make sure that the games we make are based on the foundations set out above.

Preview Copies...

Hi there!

In this weeks post I'm going to talk about what's been happening and what I've been up to over the past few weeks and the weeks ahead. It's a very exciting/nerve wracking time right now.

Preview Copies

Firstly, all the artwork was completed for the game and I now have proper looking, real life copies of Nothing To Declare! (HURRAH)

I had these printed by Print & Play Games they're owned by AdMagic who do the printing for Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens. I went with them as I've previously used their services before when working on my Dune: The Dice Game print and play. Jeremy is very quick at responding and very helpful at pointing out my mistakes. In this instance I messed up the bleed on the faces of some of the cards, resulting in a bit of a border on some. 

Having something nicely printed really makes the game feel real and is a massive improvement on what I previously had (cards printed and cut from by little inkjet printer). 


Too Eager

Since January I've been trying to spread the word for Nothing To Declare get people interested and just be open about the process I've gone through to make this game. Back in June I reached out to a number of reviewers/bloggers in the board game world. In honesty I think I was a bit preemptive with this as I didn't really have much to show. I was in a rush to get it out there which meant showing some stuff that doesn't really represent the game in it's best light or final form (just look at the awful Essen preview picture I have on BGG). I hope this doesn't negatively impact the game but I know I need to work hard to get this stuff updated and changed.

Not good

Not good

Much better

Much better


Despite my own ineptness there have been some very kind people who have offered to preview Nothing To Declare ahead of the Kickstarter launch. This is one of the last and possibly most important pieces of the collage that is the Kickstarter page. Having some independent people take a look and give their honest opinion is scary but I made this game for people so it doesn't make much sense to keep it to myself. I've sent out 7 preview copies to various people across the globe, and now I wait.


Updated print and play

Now that the art is complete I thought it was worth updating the print and play files. These now contain the artwork from the preview copies (minus the card backs), along with the most recent changes to the rules. You can check it out here.



And finally, I can't remember if I've mentioned this in a previous blog post, but I really should have. I'll be attending Essen to promote Nothing To Declare and build momentum ahead of the Kickstarter campaign. So if you're going be sure to stop by, were I'll be demoing like mad all day every day. I now need to get flyers, posters, t-shirts and all that jazz prepped and ready to go as it's only a few weeks away! You can find us at:

Hall 6 Booth E114

Games I'm excited about...

This week I thought I'd share my list of the games I'm most excited to play. These are listed in no particular order and are all due out soon or recently released.

Let me know what you think of my list. Do you agree? Is there something I've missed? What games are you most excited about? Tweet me your thoughts.


Cry Havoc

Cry Havoc Box Art

what is it?

Cry Havoc is a tactical area-control game with card driven combat. Players take control of one of four races, each with unique abilities and their own strengths and weaknesses. Players battle it out to gain control of an alien planet.  For 2-4 players, plays in under 2 hours.

why am I excited?

Look at the box. It looks like a Power Ranger got an upgrade by Tony Stark. It screams Sci-Fi. I love Sci-Fi. There is a Sci-Fi shaped hole in my board game collection. I love the theme and the idea that there is a native race pushing you back. Plus the combat is simple, but with so many options, there are cards to play with different abilities (similar to Game of Thrones). But instead of just killing enemy troops you can choose a different strategy like capturing the enemy. For me this offers something different from a regular war game and doesn't take all day to get through. 



Scythe Box Art

what is it?

If you're familiar with the world of hobby games then you'll have heard of Scythe. For the uninitiated Scythe is the latest game from Jamey Stegmaier from Stonemaier games. It had a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign with something like 17,000 backers. 

The game itself has each player is what's referred to as a 4X game. That means explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. Each player has their own little board that tracks their factions upgrades and shows what they can do on their turn. Each player is trying to achieve a number of different goals to score victory points. 

why am I excited?

This is definitely a case of fomo. I didn't back the initial Kickstarter, I was hesitant that this game wasn't quite for me. Now that it's out I need to make sure, it's had a very positive reception and all the hype surrounding it definitely makes me want to play it. I do really like the art style and a game that offers multiple ways to score points rather than being focused on combat appeals to me. 



SeaFall Box Art

what is it?

If you read last weeks blog about Legacy games (and if you didn't shame on you, luckily you can read it here), you'll know that SeaFall is Rob Daviau's latest Legacy game, built from the ground up. In it players take to the high seas, setting sale across basically a blank board. As you play you'll stick islands on the board, built up your character and open lots of exciting packages.

why am I excited?

Honestly the fact that the actual board is basically blank excites me so much! I love the idea that the game will be completely unique to you and your group. I've been playing Risk Legacy and it's one of the funnest game experiences I've had and I don't even like Risk. My expectations for this game are pretty high, but I'm sure it will live up it, after all it's not Risk.


Captain Sonar

Captain Sonar Box Art

what is it?

Essentially it's multiplayer battleships in real time. Two teams of four take on different roles of a submarine crew as they try to sink each other. Each team member has a specific job they must complete, with their own player board in front of them. Between each team is a massive screen stopping you peaking but not from listening. This game is all about team work.

why am I excited?

To me this is exactly what I look for in games and what I love. It's a game focused on player interaction, it's about experiences and most importantly it's fun. Whilst finding 8 people to play might be tricky, it does support fewer players. It's the kind of game that's more for gamers than a party game but isn't built on complex systems, it's intuitive, easy to learn difficult to master.


Ticket To Ride - Rails and Sails

Ticket To Ride - Rails and Sails Box Art

what is it?

Ticket to Ride is a now classic game of building train tracks. only this time it's across the globe! 

why am I excited?

This is a bit of a safe game. I've played a few of the different versions of Ticket to Ride and never felt the need to own it. Mostly because it's so readily available. What makes this one different is the scale. The simple fact of being a world map with the addition of boats is enough for me to be on board. 


Rising Sun

Rising Sun Box Art

what is it?

Rising Sun is a beautiful looking game by designer Eric Lang published by Cool Mini or Not. CMON are known for their exquisite miniatures and this game looks to be no exception. Billed as the spiritual sequel to Blood Rage (the Viking themed game of trying to impress the Gods, mostly by killing everything). I don't know too much about Rising Sun, details are hard to come by at this time, but what I do know is that it seems to be focused on honour.  

why am I excited?

I liked Blood Rage but I didn't love it. I'm hoping Rising Sun takes out some of the randomness of the card drafting. Plus there aren't many games that are set in feudal Japan.  


That's it for now, I might do another post with some other games I'm excited for in a couple of weeks. 

Until next time... keep it funky!

Legacy games...

I've been meaning to write this post for little while now. But I've been sidetracked by working through all my Kickstarter prep. 

I have a brief moment, and to give you dear reader a break, from my constant talking about Nothing to Declare (did I mention that there's a print and play version here and you can sign up to get notified when the Kickstarter goes live here). 

Ok so let's get into it.


What is a Legacy game?

With pretty much every game you play, when you set up the board you're essentially hitting the reset button. It's a clean slate, pieces are put back in their starting positions, resources replenished, cards reshuffled.

But what if they weren't?

That is the whole premise that a Legacy game is built on. Legacy games were the brain child of designer Rob Daviau, as he explains in an interview with Eurogamer;

 "In a brainstorm for Cluedo we were talking, and I made the comment of 'I dunno why they keep inviting these people to dinner, they're all mass murderers... And it was this moment where I went 'Oh yeah!' The game kind of starts over like the movie groundhog day. But the players don't start over." 

The oracle that is Board Game Geek offers this definition;

Legacy games are board games that change over time based on the outcome of each game and the various choices made by players. Players will often make physical changes to the board game by marking the board/cards and placing stickers over the board as well as often destroy components. The changes made in a Legacy game are always permanent, so what is done can not be undone.

I think this is the most important thing about Legacy games, your actions have a lasting impact. It's what makes it so unique and personal.


Risk Legacy

At the time Rob was working at Hasbro, so the first game he decided to try this new concept out on was Risk. And so Risk Legacy the first 'Legacy' game was born, as Rob explains it;

"The first Legacy game, Risk: Legacyis actually a mashup of episodic television, role-playing and video games,"

Risk Legacy has you doing things in board games that are not normal. You tear up cards. Open packs, stick stickers, change the rules! And the most important thing is that these changes don't get wiped away at the end of the game. The next time you play these elements are now part of your game!

In all honesty I do not like Risk, I think it is a dull game. It goes on way to long, it requires player elimination to win and someone always just holds Australia. With that said, I have I cannot emphasis enough how much I have loved playing Risk Legacy. The first game does play every much like standard Risk, however once you've got that out the way, you start adding and changing the board. Permanently. 

I've been posting pictures to every time my group has a game of Risk Legacy, so if you're interested be sure to check it out, but be warned!

consider yourself warned

consider yourself warned

I must confess that Risk Legacy is the only Legacy game I have played. Having said that I am totally sold on this concept. I have had the most fun playing this game, and yes that's partly due to my gaming group and yes it is a pain to organise regular games, but it is so worth it!


Is there a downside to Legacy games?

The one criticism you can level at a Legacy game is that they are specifically designed to be played a certain number of times, in the case of Risk Legacy it's 15, for Pandemic Legacy it's 12. This gives you two issues, the game has a limit, once you've finished those 12 games, it's done, you've seen all the game has to offer. The flip side is also a problem, do you have a group willing to commit to playing 12 games with you?  

In my experience this isn't a bad thing. The average person probably plays a board game they own 5-6 times, maybe once a year, at Christmas. Getting people to commit shouldn't be too much of a problem after the first game.

Due to the nature of Legacy games the limit actually encourages/compels you to keep playing. More importantly if you were to play the game with another group you would more than likely have a completely different experience. Legacy games require a commitment but it's one that is utterly rewarding for the shared experience it gives you and your friends. Your actions are etched on the board for all to see. 


So is it worth getting a Legacy game?

Yes. There's a reason Pandemic Legacy is currently ranked number 1 on Board Game Geek.


How many Legacy games are there?

Of games that actually use the term 'Legacy' there are two, Risk and Pandemic.

But that doesn't mean they're the only games that make use of this mechanism. Granted most games that would be referred to as Legacy have some relationship with Rob Daviau, but he doesn't hold a patent on putting stickers on card.

That means there are plenty more games on the horizon that borrow heavily from his ideas. Luckily for us Board Game Geek provides an up to date list that you can check out here.

I am super excited at the prospect of Werewolf Legacy!


I think that covers most things, I'd love to hear about your experiences with Legacy games tweet me or leave a comment on !

We're going to Essen!

Spiel '16

If you're not familiar Spiel is one if not THE largest board game convention in the world. The other being Gen Con in the US that took place last week. Spiel takes place in October, Essen, Germany. It's a time for big publishers to announce and show off new games, as well as giving the public a chance to try out these games and of course buy all the things!


Why are we going? 

We're going to promote Nothing To Declare ahead of the Kickstarter campaign. The plan is to get as many people as possible to play the game, get feedback and importantly sign up to get notified when the Kickstarter goes live.

Which you can do here if you haven't already ;)

We'll also have on offer some goodies and limited edition stuff available.


Where will you be?

Booth 6 E114

Come say hi!

Development of a card design...

So things are starting to get real for us with Nothing To Declare!

I've been working on the Kickstarter page, Dan has been cranking out the artwork, and fingers crossed we've got a graphic designer on board to help with the card design. 

Incase you missed my recent posts on or , here's how things have progressed so far.

version 1

version 1

Very basic layout just to convey the essential information. Explain the action in a clear font with minimal words. The blue is to tie-in with the card backs, this helps to create a unified design. This was the first version to feature artwork, but no back image.


version 2

version 2

This is just my attempt to try to create something more thematic. The icons at the bottom are to show what you do on your turn. I realised this isn't really needed as I'll be including player aid cards with the turn order. The text is bold and clear but other than having a plane on it it doesn't really add much to bring out the theme.


version 3

version 3

The colours here work much better, think I've got the right tone of blue. The icons at the bottom were to represent those you'd find on a real boarding pass. Problem with this is it doesn't help with playing the game. The icons might be distracting and confusing to players. The card title has received some slight changes, putting it in to italics and a yellow shadow. I think it's important to keep the colours consistent, thematic and bold. 


version 4

version 4

Version 4 is what happens when you get a real graphic designer on board. The idea is that the text box should look something like a boarding pass, with an icon to represent the action. There will be a background image to come once Dan has some spare time.  Already you can see the massive difference in quality and style.

My only concern is whether or not information about seat numbers etc. are distracting to players as that information isn't relevant to the actual gameplay. Still looks great! Tell me what you think!


Kickstarter progress 

Once I have a semi decent version of the Kickstarter page I'll the link to get people's feedback. But until then you can sign up to get notified when the Kickstarter goes live by entering your email address here

Finally a massive shout out to Peter from Inside The Box Games, he's been super helpful and supportive with everything from logistics to morale!

Development Diary...

If you've been here before you'll know that I've been working on my first 'proper' game since about November last year, he's a quick run down of the development process so far. It's a simple card game that combines memory with take that elements. 

The premise is that you are trying to smuggle the strangest things through customs to impress you're family. This is the first time I've properly mapped out how the game game together so apologies for it being a bit of a long post. 


Nov 2015

Had the idea for the game - basically trying to combine two of my favourite games at the time, Exploding Kittens and Sheriff of Nottingham.

Made a prototype and play-tested with my Kittens Krew - it was a disaster - the game was made of 3 decks at the time, Actions, Roles and Baggage. The game was crazy chaotic. Initially a lot of the premise for success was based on the order you were trying to get through customs, each role had an objective, plus each player had a random selection of action cards, plus baggage. 

It was very confusing, so I went back to the drawing board.


Dec 2015

I tried a few different ideas out, using a Citadels drafting system for roles, which made it play way too similar to Citadels and slowed down the game. I decided to combine actions and roles. Simplifying the game and removing the clutter. 

I had another big play-testing session. Feedback was really positive but the game was wildly unbalanced. At this point the game had become about trying to collect as many baggage cards as possible. 

Roles included passengers and airport security. Passengers allowed you to gain cards while airport security let you take other peoples cards. There was one prevailing tactic of targeting the player with the most cards. 

Because of the mix of roles it was kind of hard to explain the premise of the game although it worked it wasn't as streamlined as it should have been.


Jan 2016

I'm a regular backer of games on Kickstarter, over the festive period I saw something that caught my eye, a mechanic my game hinted at but didn't make much use of. Over my festive play-testing I realised that people were trying to remember what baggage cards other players had. This was something I hadn't considered as a game play mechanic. 

I made two fundamental changes in January which helped double down the strengths of the game and focus on making it simpler. 

1 - Restrict the max number of baggage to 6 cards
2 - Remove the airport security cards from the roles and put them into the baggage deck

This solved many problems with the game and really brought it into focus. With airport security in the baggage players had a risk/reward in taking baggage cards. Restricting the number of baggage really helped reinforce the memory element. 


Feb - April 2016

Lots of play-testing - a few things becoming more refined. Players do 3 things on their turn;

Reveal or Conceal a baggage card,
Play a role card (now renamed passenger cards),
Baggage claim - draw a baggage card


June 2016

First lot of artwork -

UK Games Expo - my first convention, I signed up with and got a couple of slots over the weekend. Feedback was really positive and I was introduced to a bunch of cool people. 

I attended a couple of London meetups for playtesting - made further refinements.


July 2016

Which brings me to now.

I'm really happy with the mechanics and theme of the game. I think the game is well balanced, there's still an amount of luck but the game is fun and light enough for this to not be a big issue. 

One of the things I didn't mention that changed was the baggage cards themselves. Initially there was legal and illegal items (a la Sheriff of Nottingham) but in the game I'd created I wasn't making use of this and it wasn't adding anything. So I decided to drop it, now items are unique and actually real items people have tried to smuggle through customs. 
Getting rid of the legal v illegal aspect also helped make the game more family friendly and clean up the theme (why would a smuggler want a snow globe?)

The cards currently look like this;

The current version of the rules are available here

Coming soon...

When I first started this site I had one ambition to launch a Kickstarter by the end of the year.

After months of development I'm confident - albeit a bit terrified to say - that we will launch our Kickstarter campaign for Nothing to Declare in November!

Working on Nothing to Declare has really been a labour of love for me. I've learnt so much and still have so much to learn. From the first shambles of a play test to hosting a play testing party at the end of the month, I've iterated and iterated, taking criticism and feedback, making cuts and redesigns. 

I've stayed true to my original vision of a simple, light game, that's quick to play, set up and accommodates a good number of players. 

Above is my high-level project timeline. It's a tight timeline but one I know we can deliver on, this month I'll be contacting reviewers and bloggers. So if you're interested in having a chat and playing the game get in touch!

If you're interested in the project management side of things I'm using Meister Task to manage tasks. Due to the small size of the team this makes it easy to see what's in-progress and what's left to do. My goals for this month are to reach out to bloggers and reviews as well as getting manufacturing quotes. I've found a lot of helpful blogs and a very supportive community in board gaming. 

My next big challenge is to immerse myself in the world of Board Game Geek. Which at this point I find more intimidating than reddit. I've been active for some time but not to the degree I need to be to help build support. I'm going to do some research and get stuck in, wish me luck!

I have some fun ideas for backer levels and stretch goals (don't worry if those terms make no-sense, I'll explain nearer the time). Just know that I want to make a Kickstarter game that will be the best it can be!

Until next time!


As I've play tested more and more, I've become more happy and secure with my design choices. So when you have a group of hardened designers tear it apart it kind of sucks.

That's what happened to me the other week and yes it was initially deflating, but my game is better and stronger because of it. It's something all designers will probably have to go through at some stage. 

I think the important thing with all play testing and play testers is that everyone's opinion is valid. What you, as a designer, have to be conscious of, is what was the experience of the player giving feedback? Why do they feel like they do? Did they have the experience you wanted them to have?

For example, if someone feels frustrated, is it because they were losing and they knew there was no way for them to win?

So let me be specific about the feedback I got and what I've done about it.

I played a usual game of Nothing to Declare with 6 players. What that means is 3 blind baggage cards a hand of 5 passenger cards. The usual antics of concealing and revealing baggage cards, inspection cards. 

The interactions that players had with each other was exactly what I wanted and has been happening with the game. People going tit-for-tat, having fun picking on the person with the most baggage. 

What happened, which was unusual, was that one person had a hand of 3 of the same passenger card. This meant that their options were considerably limited. They didn't have a fun time, which honestly is what upset me the most.

Players wanted to know why they couldn't have cards that allowed them to inspect other people, why there weren't more variety of passengers, why there weren't baggage items worth more points. 

After digesting this, rolling the thoughts and ideas around in my head I realised what they were questioning was the central conceit of the game. When I initially devised the game it was meant to be a culmination of Sheriff of Nottingham and Exploding Kittens. A simple, smuggling things through customs game with a take-that element. 

Something I was always unsure about, and something that was muddled in earlier development, was around the theme of the game. Are you a smuggler? If you are why would you be smuggling utterly useless things? I wanted to keep the game family friendly and these two bits didn't hang together well. 

Then it hit me, perhaps from an off-hand comment someone made. You're just coming back from your holiday trying to sneak the weirdest things through customs in order to impress your family. 

It's a simple and elegant set up that makes sense and works. I've made some other amendments too. I tried adding some higher point value cards, but all this did was devalue the lower point cards. I made all the baggage items unique, this makes it fun just to see what weird things people have. 

Not only that but I doubled down on the strengths of the game, it's not a party game but it's not a heavy euro either. It's a light memory game with strong take-that elements. I reduced the player count to 6, an 8 player game took too long and burned through all the cards. I tweaked the numbers of cards, reducing the overall number of cards. This helped balance the game play and help reinforce the hand-management element. 

The game isn't done. I'm on version 10 and fully expect to me on version 20 by the time the game is done. 

What I've learnt is that feedback and criticism always comes from a place of wanting to make the game better, whether intentionally or not. What you do with that feedback and criticism as a designer is up to you. If it makes you question the fundamentals of your game that's okay, just be sure to do it sooner rather than later. In fact do it as soon as possible, before you get locked into something that you want to protect. 

Ask yourself what you want to achieve, ask yourself what your design philosophy is. Do you want to make hugely complex and ambitious games or games that focus on social interactions?

I'm really happy with how the game is turning out and think I've nailed the mechanics now. I'll keep working on it, pushing for that Kickstarter goal line. In the meantime I have more games to work on!

Until next time!


my first convention...

Last weekend I attended the UK Games Expo at the NEC in Birmingham. It's the largest board gaming convention in the UK with a host of tournaments, retailers and game makers.

My primary reason for going was initially to just pick up some great games and spend too much money.

mission accomplished

mission accomplished

The event itself takes place over 3 days, I only attended the weekend so missed out on the Friday, which I hear is much quieter, so I'll definitely be going on the Friday next year to make sure I get chance to try out more stuff.

I spent the Saturday looking around everything, getting my bearings so I could work out what I wanted to spend more time with on the Sunday. I knew there were a few small independent game designers I wanted to check out as a first port of call.

British Briefs - who have a Kickstarter running at the moment

Inside The Box - who are re-launching Statecraft soon on Kickstarter

Lab Wars - Kickstarter just launched

Tickerbot Games - who had a successful Kickstarter earlier in the year

Clearly there is a theme here. They're all a bit ahead of me, which is why I wanted to get the chance to talk to the people I'd been following on for awhile and probe them for any tips and advice. I got chance to play and chat to all of these guys which was great. I also got chance to check out some other stuff I'd not seen before, not to mention giant versions of games - which was super cool.

After the main exhibition hall closed, we headed over to the Hilton to sit in on Shut Up & Sit Down recording a podcast. It was loads of fun, that ended with a massive game of audience cat and mouse. 

After some much needed air, food and cool down we grabbed a space in one of the gaming rooms and played our first game of Heroes Wanted. It was a great end to a great day. 

Sunday I wanted to pick up a few more games I'd heard good things about and hopefully get chance to play some more things. I got to do both of those things, it was a much more chilled day with less people and plenty of time to soak it all in. 

All in all a super enjoyable experience, everyone was really approachable and nice. I'm always amazed at the number of people working games and then I'm always impressed with how willing they are to share their knowledge and give constructive feedback. 


play testing

My second reason for attending the Expo was to attempt to get some people to try out the game I've been working on Nothing to Declare. In my head I imagined I'd just grab people and convince them to play my game.

In reality have a great presence at the Expo and have a section reserved for play testing prototype games. I hadn't heard of them before but found through the links on the Expo site that they run regular meetups across the country. 

All I had to do was sign up, book a slot and rock up on the day. I tried to plug my slot as much as possible through my own avenues, tweeting out and creating a event. I knew I had some friends going to the Expo that I could rely on, but getting people that had never heard of me or my game was the real goal. 

I'd booked a slot for Saturday afternoon - thinking that would be the busiest time. I wasn't wrong.

first game of the day

first game of the day

We managed to play a couple of four player games and a seven player game in the 90 minutes I had. Everyone got to fill out feedback forms and I secured a slot Sunday morning for another round of play testing that afternoon. 

I'm proud to say that Nothing to Declare was really well received, everyone liked the theme and the game play. I know that I still have some balancing to do but mechanically the game is there and artwork is coming along nicely. 

feedback forms

feedback forms

Results from the feedback were collated and over the eight categories these are the averages;

Clarity of rules - 8.9
Game-flow - 9
Balance - 7.8
Length - 9.4
Integration - 9.1
Theme - 9.5
Fun - 9.1
Clarity of gameplay - 9.4

It feels great to know that people I don't know think my game doesn't suck! A massive thank you to everyone that spent their time playing my game.

See you next year!

Get on board...

In my last post I shared some of the games I think work best with non-gamers. Now, just because you're well armed to start converting your friends to the way of the board doesn't necessarily mean they'll be convinced. So here are my top tips to ensure you and your friends have the best time playing your new favourite game.

this picture is great, I didn't take it.

this picture is great, I didn't take it.


Pick the right game

It might seem easy but gauging your group, the mood and the level of enthusiasm is going to have a big impact on the game you end up playing, and it's something I've got wrong on more than one occasion. I'm going to break this down to help give a bit more guidance.

Yes I backed the TMNT game on Kickstarter. Yes I will play it dressed as Leo.

Yes I backed the TMNT game on Kickstarter. Yes I will play it dressed as Leo.


A games theme can go a long way to selling it with your group. If it's a game built on an existing franchise that they might be familiar with, like Game of Thrones or Battlestar Galactica, your friends might be on board with no further convincing needed. If that's not the case go for something that's easy to explain and grasp. Some board games don't help themselves by having seemingly boring themes, despite you knowing the game might be the best thing they've never played, chances are your friends might be a bit put off. 



Again it might seem obvious, but if you've been playing games for awhile, I think your brain kind of switches into gears, and you end up being able to understand and pick up the mechanics of different games quite easily. This might not be true for your friends. Choose something that your least familiar player is comfortable with. You can always build up to something more complex.



Be realistic, not everyone in your group is going to want to sit down for 4 or 6 hours. Let people know what they're in for, often games that are about an hour are better for something more casual. You're going to have to decide if you want to commit to one big game or a few smaller games.



People get hungry and don't pay attention.


Explain the Rules

The most boring bit of playing a board game is learning how to play it. If you're introducing a game to your group that you're familiar with brush up on the rules before you go in. That way they can dive right in with your guidance. If the whole group is new to it, nothing kills the fun that sitting and reading the rule book for 20 minutes, instead use the internet. Chances are there's a good video out their that will explain how to play your chosen game. 



Rather than only giving your group one choice, present them with a good breadth of options and see what they seem interested in. You don't want to be that guy that forced everyone to play a game they all hated. 

following Jackie Chan on   is the best decision I ever made.

following Jackie Chan on is the best decision I ever made.


Don't Stress

Games are meant to be fun, try not to take it seriously or personally. If someone is cutting off your ships from King's Landing it doesn't mean they hate you, they just don't want you to win (probably). Don't hold a grudge and if you're not having fun say so. Chances are if one person isn't enjoying it someone else won't be and it might be worth ending it and choosing something else.   

wise words

wise words

Gateway games...

I play a lot of games with people that don't play a lot of games.

Over the years I've become  a bit of an evangelist for board games and as such,  I think I've got a bit better at recommending games to people that don't consider themselves big fans of board games. 

There are a few games, that I think, have just the right level of depth and accessibility, that they can act as a gateway to more board games and a solid introduction to the hobby (because it definitely is a weird little niche). 

So, if you're only exposure to board games is Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble and Monopoly. Here are my top recommendations. Many of the games I've listed are considered classics of somewhat, and with good reason!

They're in no particular order,  but I've given them a bit of an explanation as to what they're about and why they make it in this list. I've also tried to include different types/styles of games, the idea being that each game is different enough you won't feel like you've played something similar and that each is worth owning on it's own merit. 

Having said that if there's one thing these games all share it's that they have a good blend of luck and strategy. Meaning you have just as much chance of winning the first time you play them or the hundredth.



Players: 2-5

Play Time: 30-45 minutes 

Carcassonne is a delightfully simple game of tile laying. Essentially you're making the board as you go, matching each piece to a piece already on the table. This makes the game sort of like a puzzle that's different every time you play it. It also introduced meeples! Little wooden pieces in the shape of a person. 

Get it because it's really easy to grasp regardless of age or ability. There's also pretty much zero set up involved. 


Settlers of Catan

Players: 3-4

Play Time: 1 hour

Catan is a classic. It has a similar look to Carcassonne but pre-dates it by a few years. It's a game about scoring points by trading in cards, which you get based on what the dice rolls, to build towns, roads and cities. 

But what really sets it is the trading. You can trade your cards between players on your turn, this really brings out a cut-throat element. As you try to work out what your opponent needs, how you can stop them, whilst also trying to get the cards you need.

You should get it because once you've figured out how the game works you can mess with the board set-up making it more challenging and creative. Plus wheeling and dealing is loads of fun. 


Ticket to Ride

Players: 2-5

Play Time: 1 hour

Ticket to Ride is the game that I find appeals to most people. I think it has something to do with how easy it is to explain the premise. You're building train lines. Catan and Carcassonne are a bit more abstract in their theme and art style.

Ticket to Ride has you collecting cards to trade in to complete a train lines. You'll select some cards at the start which will determine the overall routes you're trying to complete, the more routes you complete the more points, simple.  

You should get it because it's such a passive aggressive game. Once you've played a few games you'll be able to work out what routes people are going for. In doing so you can try to ruin them, at the risk of costing yourself points. 


One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Players: 3-10

Play Time: 5 minutes  

Games like werewolf have been around for absolute ages, you've probably played something like mafia in drama class. It's a game of secret identities and bluffing.

In truth you can play this without needing the game but what makes it so good is the app. The app explains everything you need to know to play the game, which works especially well when you're playing with a large group, and honestly the bigger the group you play with the better. 

Get it because it lasts 5 minutes and is perfect for parties and the more games you play the better it gets. 


Camel Up

Players: 2 - 8

Play Time: 30-45 minutes

Camel Up is one of the newest games on the list but makes it in by virtue of being such a fun game that works well with small and large groups. 

In Camel Up you're betting on a camel race, both the overall winner/loser and each leg that the game is broken down into. The game is dice based with a great looking pyramid that you shake up to choose dice. The camels will piggyback on each other which looks great and can have some shocking upsets. 

Get it because gambling is fun. Shocking upsets and turnaround victories make this truly enjoyable. 



Players: 2-4

Play Time: 45 minutes

What makes Pandemic so special is that it's co-operative. It's you and your friends against the game. You're trying to find the cure to four diseases infecting the world. Each player takes on a different role with a special ability. You'll have to work together using your skill to your advantage while you try to do damage control as best you can.

Get it because not all your friends are competitive. Plus you can modify the difficulty once you're comfortable with it and the game does such a good job of creating tension and escalation. 


Exploding Kittens

Players: 2-5

Play Time: 20 minutes

Exploding Kittens was a bit of a phenomenon when it Kickstarter back in 2015, since then it's gone on to sell over a million copies and now has an app. Exploding Kittens is a card game that's about trying to survive. 

You have some cards that do cool stuff but other times your options might be limited. The key is to avoid drawing the exploding kitten card. If you do you're out, unless you can defuse it.

Get it because you love screwing your friends over. I introduced this game to a group of friends at work when it first came out. Since then they've played it pretty much every lunch time and all own copies of it. 


So there you go, that's my list. Let me know what you think, whether you agree or what games you've introduced to your friends that have gone down a storm. 

Paulie Macpaulnis...

Hi internet,

Next year I am 30 years old. To celebrate I want to combine all the things I love, board games, drinking and friends. 

I figured the best way to do this would be to play my favourite fictional game, Chardee Macdennis. If you're unfamiliar with this game it's featured in Season 7 Episode 7 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Season 11 Episode 1. 

Here's the trailer for when they try to pitch the game to give you a bit of an understanding.

One of the main draws of Chardee Macdennis is the ridiculous nature of the questions, puzzles, challenges, rules, well everything! It's ridiculous, dangerous and stupid. Basically all my favourite things. 

So the plan is to create my own version of the game. To help do this I'm crowd sourcing the game. Everyone has the opportunity to enter a question that will be made into a card or a rule to enter into the rule book. 

To help collate everything I've created a Google Form which is available here

You can come back and fill out the form as many times as you like and I'll compile the results.

Just to note, I will not be mainlining wine and there will be no Level 4. This is original Chardee Macdennis. Although I do like the idea of flags. 

I'll be sure to keep everyone updated on the progress and results.

Until next time...

The spice must flow...

It's been a few weeks since I've posted, but rest assured that doesn't mean I haven't been busy. 

You may remember a while back I posted about Dune the Dice Game, winner of Board Game Geek's best print and play game of the year. Largely because of the difficulties involved in getting/owning the game I decided to make it. 

When I say difficulties I mostly mean effort. But rather than just printing out the pieces I wanted something that looked professional. I did some digging and found that for a short time the game was available via printplay games, an admagic company. By the time I'd found out about the game it was unavailable. However, they have the facilities to make my dreams come true. 

So, I spent some time arranging the appropriate files and ordered a box, a board and the components required for the game. Last week it arrived. 

What's in the box

What's in the box

You'll see in the picture I also got some dice. As the name would suggest, Dune the Dice Game, requires some dice. When printplay did their short production run, the game was actually called 'the dice must flow', for that run they had custom made dice. Fortunately for me they still had some left. 

The next stage for me was to create the player boards and other small components. I ordered some 2mm backing card from ebay and some self-adhesive vinyl stickers I could print on. 



hankfully my printer held up and they came out great. I cut them and the boards to size and I'm pretty happy with the results. 

Player boards

Player boards



But that's not to say that there weren't a few hiccups. I hadn't ordered all of the correct components and most annoyingly the markers I ordered were way too small. I should have paid more attention to the sizes.  

Yellow is missing 8 cubes

Yellow is missing 8 cubes

Too small

Too small

The discs are meant to represent the leaders, however they're not big enough. I've since ordered larger clyinders and discs to help differentiate between round markers, players leaders and the sandstorm token. A couple of the small tokens will still come in use as 'spice trackers' for some of the factions player boards.  

There's also a mini expansion for the game which I've included in my set. Essentially it's a few more smaller tokens. 

My work on this is about 90% done. I'm just waiting on the new components then I'll get to play it. The game supports 2-8 players which is quite impressive. I'm interested to see how it plays. And I'll be sure to update once I've had chance. 

Current contents

Current contents

For more info and updates be sure to like and follow us on , and . Links on the right hand side. 

I'll have more news next week about playtesting Nothing to Declare and hopefully where you'll be able to come find us at the UK Game Expo. 

You can't please everyone...

This week I had a pretty successful 6 player play test of Nothing to Declare. The core is definitely there now. It's just about refining and balancing. One of my friends came up with a helpful mantra of what to do on your turn. 

Reveal. Play. Draw. 

6 players

6 players


I really like this. It's simple and memorable. It's also the largest group I've had to play test with so far so it's nice to see how the game works with more players.

To that end I'm excited to announce that I've signed up to have my game play tested at the UK Game Expo in June. More details as and when they arrive. 


In other news I've placed my order for my passion project Dune the Dice Game. All the components are order. Now we wait. 

While I wait I started working on a new prototype. Picture below, details to follow. 


Until next time. 

a bit obsessed...

I think it's fair to say I've become obsessed with games. More specifically I get very hung up on the things I can't have or that are hard to get. Case in point the winner of the golden geek award for print and play game, Dune the Dice Game.

People have gone and made their own versions of this, well it is a print and play game so that's kind of a prerequisite. What I mean is some people have had these professionally made;



This just ticks all my boxes, the iconography, the colour palette, the components. Everything just sits together so well. The designer behind this game has done some fantastic work in redesigning, sometimes just graphically, existing games. 

I'm going to have to make this myself. I will catalogue my progress as I get things underway. My first step will be to source some components. 

In the meantime I have been playing a lot of games and play testing my major work in progress Nothing to Declare. 

Whilst I've now got the core of the gameplay working, now comes the refining and finessing. Making sure there is the right balance of cards to keep things interesting. Whilst I'm doing this I have some lovely friends who believe in the game enough to start working on some artwork. 

Recently, I also finished the Banner Saga video game. The game ended somewhat abruptly for my liking but I'm happy to know that the sequel comes out at the end of April and more importantly I backed the board game through Kickstarter which just makes me super excited for it all over again. 

I LOVE GAMES! I did a count and this year, from Kickstarter alone I will receive around 20 games. That is more board games than most people will ever own. EVER.

Games are fun. This weekend we played Space Team, a crazy game from the designer of Exploding Kittens. I also picked up Codenames, which I have yet to play but am very excited about and Arctic Scavengers a game which intimidates somewhat but that's what youtube videos are for. 

Hopefully next week I should have some more prototyping to run through and less ranting. 

Until next time...

Finding balance...

The world of board games, like many things, is a bit of a rabbit hole. The deeper you go the more complex it gets.

Most people's experience of board games will be the annual family fallout over Monopoly, Risk, probably Chess, definitely Scrabble. 

I don't like Monopoly. I don't like Risk. They go on too long. They both have the same lazy end game of - play until no one else is left playing. There is nothing fun about a 5 hour game that you're only in for 2. 

Over the last few years I have become obsessed with boardgames. It upsets me that people would choose to play Monopoly over Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne or Settlers of Catan. These are infinitely better games. Fundamentally they are more fun to play. 

But as I've burrowed deeper into the rabbit hole of boardgames I've found that much of the hobby game world is made of games with seemingly purposefully uninteresting themes. How about a game where you're a medieval farmer, and your job is to get the most yeild out of your land,  whilst fending it off from attack by dragons and orcs. Because, I don't know why! Heck that sounds too interesting, how about a game about wine making! That exists! It's meant to be good! 

But really, your average person is going to take one look at this and just say no. The plethora of medieval fantasy games just turns a lot of people off. And yes, these games aren't made for everyone. And yes, there are good games made for mass market.

What I'm trying to get at is there a lot of games that sell a lot but aren't necessarily that good. These are like Nickleback songs. You can't escape them even if you tried. You have one in your cupboard. It came with the house. It will be there when you leave. 

There are those games that get made that are like a Radiohead album. Everyone wants to make Kid A. Not everyone is capable of making Kid A. 

I want to be Taylor Swift. I want to make games that appeal to me, that come from a personal place, but can be understood and appeal to a wide audience. That's ambitious I know, but I don't mean be like Taylor Swift and make all the money. I want to make games that don't rely on fantasy themes to sell.

This isn't a new idea, taking a theme that people are more familiar with and gaming it up. Or taking a real world thing and making it into something fun.  Just look at games like Pandemic, Tomorrow or Burger Up. 

I hope that Nothing to Declare will be my first forary into this world and a valid contribution. It's about finding balance and ultimately what is fun for people to play. 

Rant over. 

Something to Declare...

Today's post is an update on the game that got apauling games started, Nothing to Declare. The game started with the idea if trying to combine a bunch of ideas from games I love into one game. 


There are a few simple design goals. A card only game. Playable with up to 8. Quick set up. A contemporary theme. 

This was partly inspired by trying to refine 'Sheriff of Nottingham' to a card only game. The first prototype consisted of 3 different decks, role cards, action cards and baggage cards. When it came to playtesting the mish-mash of ideas was a disaster. There was way too much going on. I'd taken the hidden roles from 'Werewolf' , action cards from 'Munchkin' and on top of that tried to add in the hidden cards from 'Sheriff of Nottingham'. The game just didn't work. 


So I went back to the drawing board. I incorporated the character drafting from 'Citadels', but this slowed things down too much and because of there was no real advantage to choosing characters, there was little to incentivise character selection. 

Next, I tried playing around with baggage selection, creating two different decks to draw from. But this only led to confusion. 

Strategy was only driven by attacking players with the most baggage. There wasn't much differentiation between legal and illegal baggage. 

This has led me down the road to the latest iteration. The game now incorporates a strong memory element, with more risk reward and push your luck mechanics. 


The game is now ready for some art. I'm going to be playtesting heavily and ironing out some of the rough edges to have the game ready for the UK Game Expo. 

Until next time.