Building Your Prototype – The Game Board

by Rob Stone

So you’ve got all of the basics of your game design gathered together in some form. Notes, sketches, maybe even some game pieces you’ve accumulated in your Game Designer’s Kit. You think you are ready to put it through the rigors of play testing. So how do you create that first prototype? You have some ideas that involve printing stuff out. Some cutting and pasting (with scissors and glue, rather than a couple of mouse-clicks). But in your mind you consider that this won’t be the first prototype you create for this game; so how do you do it on the cheap and still have a presentable and functional play test copy of your masterpiece in the making?

Well, first of all, forget about all of the fancy art and graphic design for this play test copy. The goal here is to test the game’s mechanics and not to sell the product. Think basic. As basic as you can get and still have a fully functional game to play. Think time. Spend as little time as possible to create this prototype so you can focus on the testing part of the game design process.


Once you’ve figured out the size of your game board, and you are ready to apply your layout to one of the game boards in your kit, you are instantly faced with a decision. Do I glue it on, use clear packaging tape, or laminate? Then the problematic questions. What if I apply too much glue? What if I get lint or dust under the tape? When I am ready to use a new layout, do I paste it over the top of the old one or use a new board? So many questions. So many problems. Why not do none of the above? I tell you this because I’ve already made the mistake of applying too much glue. I’ve already applied my tape with debris under it. I’ve already done this on your behalf. Your new friends are named “self adhesive poly pockets” and “self adhesive poly corners”. Using either will make your job of building that game board a heck of a lot easier. You simply apply one or the other to your new “customizable game board” and you have built something that can be used and re-used with ease.

Instead of applying your layout with glue or tape, you simply slide the pages into the self adhesive poly pockets or corners. When you are ready to use a new layout, you simply slide the old pages out and follow-up by sliding the new pages in. This is kind of a home-brew version of the customizable gamemaster’s screens that have been on the market for the past ten years or so. What has been a great invention for gamemasters is now the inspiration for this new tool you will add to your Game Designer’s Kit.

Next time we will be discussing cards and other components, so get out to your office supply store and pick up those self adhesive poly pockets or corners. You probably won’t need as many as you get in the box, so find a fellow game designer and share the cost. Feel free to tell them it was your idea. I won’t mind.




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