“The Boardgame” and Thoughts on Themes

There is a whole question of where people start from when designing games, mechanics, style, innovative ideas and theme all work as starting points for games. One of the things I find myself doing if I don’t start from a theme point of view is to simply bolt on generic fantasy/medieval theme and then get on with the business of fleshing out the design. I have two in progress games at the moment, one a board game based around manipulating the board and moving pieces across it which is in prototype stage, the other a card game that is still forming in my mind. Both have been working so far with the fantasy theme. However both are ripe for alternative themes. So lets have a think though for the board game.

The board game (labouring under that name at the moment due to the lack of strong theme) is a fairly simple affair, move your pieces from one side of the board to the other, during the game the layout of the board is manipulated by drawn cards. The original starting point was reading this http://www.squidi.net/three/entry.php?id=38 from the wonderful 300 game mechanics series. From there changes were made and rules applied. I ended up with three types of character, a wizard, a thief and a fighter, generic fantasy characters. The terrain became lava, forests and cliffs, each of which has a flip side card that is the traversal of that terrain, bridge for lava, clearing for forest, steps for cliffs (yeah… I know). Let us have a look at what other choices we could make for theme.

It might be a nice exercise for a designer to have a their own list of themes that they can consider their games against to see if there is mileage in re-theming to make something a bit more stand out. So I’ll draw up a little list here, Military, Gangs, Spooky, Animals and Abstract. Hardly an exhaustive list, and frankly not really all my taste, but it serves as a nice thought exercise. Let’s go.


So this is another very popular theme in board games, it comes inherently with conflict built in, which is useful for a vs. type game, and assets are fairly easy to come by as well. Seeing as we have two sides obviously we’ll make one Allied and one Axis powers. So the sides are clearly distinguished, which is already something better than the fantasy version I had set up.

Characters : Artillery, Grenadier, Tank. Within the rules of the game there is a circle of destruction so each unit should be able to destroy the one to their right.
Terrain elements : Trench/Bridge, Forest/Clearing, Minefield/Crops. The terrain elements also make sense.

This is a fairly easy set of changes to make and would suitably re-theme the game, but I’d argue that military is somewhat more overdone than a fantasy setting.

Conflict is obvious and built in here, we can go for old Capone era gangsters, or modern era Bloods and Crips. However whilst considering this all I had in my mind for a gang trying to get from one side of the board to the other was The Warriors … Can you dig it?

Characters : Fighter, Thief, Leader. Well those look familiar, so they slide into the same positions as the ones in the original game, with the leader replacing the wizard. Sides could be made up from different styles of gangs, although everyone would argue over who got to play the Baseball Furies (obviously). This does lead on to an interesting idea where different gangs can have different abilities which may create and different dynamic within the game.

Terrain elements : Police/Distraction, Subway Closed/Subway Open, Building Fire/Short Cut. This is where it all started to fall apart a bit. In an urban setting you’d have thought there would be suitable obstacles for gangs crossing a city, whilst that side of things was true, the flip sides became tricky, it revolves around distraction or things not really related to barriers. Maybe this is enough to keep the theme, and it could be a very groovy theme, if you want to come out and play.

Haunted houses seem like a fun theme, particularly for something with a changeable play area as its core idea. One side can play the ghosts and the other people trapped in the house trying to get out.

Characters : Poltergeist, Spectre, Ghost vs. Scientist, Priest, Ghostbuster(!?). Okay these get a bit tenuous but suitably themed card art would make it work I think.

Terrain elements : False wall/Secret Corridor, Dead end/Secret Door, Locked door/Open door. There should be more than this, but it is all I can think of, which is a good excuse to watch a load of Scooby Doo. However that having been said the theme works well for the work area and has a load of potential for further ideas.


Boardgames aren’t all about adult themes, in fact from a purely commercial point of view a child friendly game is a could be a good choice. So animals seems like a good family friendly option.

Characters : Dog, Sheep, Cow. I’m not sure really how the different character types impact on each other exactly, but I’m sure it is enough explanation to say they do. From a graphical point of view you can run with some very cool designs for the animals, and stock art is easy enough to find for prototype.

Terrain elements : Fence/Hole, Ditch/Bridge, Gate/Open. These are a little simpler and could make for a nice farm yard escape theme. Again artwork is relatively available.

Even if you don’t go down the route of building an abstract game it is a good way to strip back your game to the mechanics to find if they work. It is possible that the delightful theme is pulling you through a less than perfect game, which is legitimate but it would be even better to have a great theme and some suitable mechanics. In abstract the game can sit on a grid, all of the blocking tiles can be colours, with white on the flip side, all of the character pieces end up as shape/colour combinations. If the game still functions with a circle moving past a square, rather than a wizard beating a thief, then it should only be improved by additional theme and flavour.


So where does this leave “The Boardgame”, I’m not exactly sure, I do know that I don’t want to use a fantasy theme for it now.  I’d really like to use the stylised gang theme, or maybe another alternative that I’ve not thought of yet.

Pantheon production and pictures

I looked around at a lot of options to get my card game from being scrawled on a set of small pieces of paper then stuck in card protectors to being playable by other people.  My test print and play version used some free online clip art and was very functional rather than pretty.  It served it’s purpose and let me discover how the game needed to be improved, but it was in no way a print and play possibility. I had a think about how I could go from where I was to where I needed to be, I needed better game art for a start, a change to the graphic design of the card, some way to print the whole lot and a way to package them up and send them out.

Art was always going to be the hardest thing to source, I didn’t have the money to pay up front and with seventeen cards needing matching artwork it became something of an impossible task.  I asked a few artist friends what they would recommend and one of them suggested I find someone with a good quality concept art portfolio for a personal project, maybe we could work together to theme the game after their personal project.  Whilst this isn’t the exact result it was how I ended up exchanging emails and artwork with the fantastically talented Calum Watt.  The plan was always to get a first version done, get it out, see if people like it and maybe pay Calum to do some more specific artwork.

I’ll be honest at this point, I let the project slide for over a year and a half, I had plenty of other stuff on and as is the habit of games designers I got a bit distracted by new ideas.  I never stopped wanting to make Pantheon a reality, it just seemed that without perfectly complimentary artwork to my original card names it wasn’t going to be correct.  I managed to get over this little hump by taking a step back, revisiting the artwork and having a think about possible renaming of cards without adjusting function.  Suddenly it all came together, sure there are cards that I’d want some slightly different artwork for, but literal beggars can’t be choosers.

For printing the game I looked at a lot of options, from self-printing and constructing the card sets myself, through print and play options, commercial bulk printing and numerous print on demand services.  Print and Play was a strong option for a while, until I realised I’d never actually made someone else’s print and play game myself.  Print on Demand was the most viable financial options, given that I didn’t have the time to print up and package myself.  With numerous services out there I just chose one, for no reason other than it was the one I had open at the time that I realised I just need to piss or get off the pot I ended up using The Game Crafter.  I’ll go through a full experience of putting together a game for The Game Crafter at some point so people know what to expect, there were a few gotchas as I went through it.  I made my deck in an afternoon and ordered it straight away, here is what The Game Crafter sent me:





So from here I need to work out what I’m doing with the container for the game, do I get a flat packed card box sent with the game, or do I accept that this is a small, lightweight card game on its first print run, so perhaps the baggy is enough?  I also need to work out what to do with the rules, I think I can fit them on to two or three cards which can go in with the game cards, or I can maybe do a small rules insert piece of paper, or I can put them on this website.  I’ll figure these things out over the next couple of days and then look at making Pantheon a publicly available game.

Once I’ve got all this production work out the way I plan to write up an entry on the game design process and thoughts on Pantheon for anyone that is interested.

What are we working on?

So let us tell you what we are currently up to and the state of the projects.

Pantheon Guard

A Pantheon card called Guard

Pantheon – 2 player card game

This will be our first release.  Will you rise from mere mortal to the Pantheon of gods?  Bring followers to your cause  and attempt to slow your rival.  A card game of hard choices from a shared pool of cards.
Current State: Soon to be available on The Game Crafter.


Untitled Board Game – 2 player board game
A strategy board game where you manipulate the field of play in order to vex your opponent and benefit your own side.  A simple journey from one side of the a featureless waste to the other becomes a trial of lava, cliffs and dense forest, with deadly opponents to maneuver around, and week opponents to take advantage of.
Current State: Considering a change of theme before building the final product.

Untitled Card Game – 2 player card game
This is very much our current work in progress.  The basis for the game is pretty solid but there is much work to be done and many decisions to be made.  The games design articles in this blog will certainly have been triggered by thoughts around this game and may well use it as a case study.
Current State: Very early stages.

We are also considering taking Pantheon and re-themeing it, maybe via a kickstarter as a way to be able to afford a license for a currently published mythology.  If we go down this route we’ll be blogging about this experience too.

Once we have Pantheon back from first print we’ll be showing that off.  We’re very excited to be at this stage of development on this game.  We’re also very much looking forward to getting our teeth into our current board game and get it moving forwards.

Welcome to the world of Get Dan Games

Hello and welcome to the site for Get Dan Games, purveyors of fine boardgames to thrill and delight.

This is also the home of our blog where we will be discussing our work, game design, games playing and all that good stuff.

So stick around and let us show you what we are doing and thinking. Good times