Digital Proofs

Well hello there, I hope you are well. 

I've returned from a holiday break with some news. Our manufacturer WinGo has provided me with the digital proofs (these are the print files that be used for production). 

I've reviewed these and made a few amendments, which they will incorporate. Once that's good everything should kick in to full swing. 


Our friends at Braincrack games have just launched a massive game, if you're looking for a strategy war game with some new twists I suggest you check it out;

New stuff

As I mentioned I've started working on some new projects, I've been posting about these over on my facebook page and instagram. Be sure to check 'em out, they're very different from Nothing To Declare but maintain my core values, to be accessible and contemporary. 

Until next time... 

What's left to do

Hi there,

I think I've mentioned this before but I wanted to give you an update on where we are and what the plan is. The plan is/was to get all the remaining pieces completed by early February. The game is being manufactured in China, which means the factory will shut down for a large part of February while they celebrate Chinese New Year. This is our window. 

The objective is to have all the files prepared so that when the factory starts up again they can jump straight on it. Here's a run down of what's left to do;

  • 14 pieces of art
  • The box
  • The rules sheet
  • finishing touches to the cards and playmat

We're on track to get this finished. But one thing I didn't take into account was the length of time samples take. We're still on track to get the games to you by July, but I'd rather let you know now that there's a chance of delay than get to that point and have to apologise. I could not get the samples, but I'd rather make sure everything is up to scratch before giving the go-ahead and something going horribly wrong. 

It's my birthday next month

This is off topic so feel free to skip this part, but for those of you still reading, in February I turn 30. To celebrate I want to make my own version of Chardee MacDennis the game featured in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I'm crowd sourcing questions for the game so if you'd like to contribute please head here -

Until next time...

Kickstarter Success and pre-orders now live

I'll do a much more detailed post on the running of the Kickstarter campaign in a postmortem, but for now if this is the first time coming here just know I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for my game Nothing To Declare. Also know that pre-orders are now live and you can access them here.


If you'd like to know more about the Kickstarter check out the campaign and the updates here. Going forward I'll cross post any updates to the blog here.

To the next step!

We did it

Thank you so so so much! This has been incredible! Over 400 people, that's definitely more than my own Facebook friends.

I'm currently watching some tennis with my cousin and uncle so I apologise for not giving more details. I will when I have some time.

I am truly blown away by your support. Although we didn't quite hit the 10K. I'll see what I can do ;)

Love Paul xxx

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 instagram 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 facebook!

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 Instagram or Facebook, 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 Twitter 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 facebook 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 facebook is the best decision I ever made.

following Jackie Chan on facebook 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