Board Game Design Day at GDC | February 28, 2017 | San Francisco, California


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Board Game Design Bootcamp is a one-day deep dive into the art and science of designing non-electronic board (and card) games. Featuring multiple notable speakers from the world of board game design, this is an opportunity to get deep into the design mechanics behind innovative and popular board games, and hear about the design ethos that has shaped standouts in the resurgent world of board game development.




Board Game Design Day: The Making of 'Pandemic Legacy'
Rob Daviau (Independent)
Matt Leacock (Matt Leacock Games)
'Pandemic Legacy' was an experiment to push the boundaries of what a board game could do. The game incorporates stickers, object permanence, a carefully sorted deck, five evil advent calendars, writing on the board, torn cards, and an 18-game connected narrative usually found only in video games or role-playing games. In this talk, 'Pandemic Legacy' creators Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau will walk through the thought process of creating this game, looking at the design challenges (and solutions), where the team behind Pandemic went right and where they went wrong. (NOTE: there are mild spoilers in the talk. Because somehow a board game can have spoilers now.)
Board Game Design Day: Secret Hitler - Designing Conflict & High-Tension Moments
Mike Boxleiter (Wolf & Cabbage LLC)
The card game 'Secret Hitler' has been a massive success on Kickstarter, with nearly 35,000 backers. It is a hidden role, social deduction game which requires players to take on the roles of German parliamentarians in the 1930s Weimar Republic. The German government system is simulated in a very abstract way to create tension and suspicion as all players are aware that fascists have secretly infiltrated their ranks, but none of the liberal players know where the other players' loyalties lie. This design postmortem from 'Secret Hitler' co-designer Mike Boxleiter will go over the initial design process, pitfalls and dead ends which were avoided in the iteration process and the final marketing push on Kickstarter.
Board Game Design Day: Creating 'Burgle Bros' - the Fantasy of the Heist
Tim Fowers (Fowers Games)
In this talk, 'Burgle Bros' creator Tim Fowers goes in-depth into his acclaimed co-operative board game about a heist. It was designed to capture the fantasy of the heist: planning, coordinating and adapting when things go south. Fowers will talk about how making a cooperative game involves creating a system that can create challenges ramping up dramatic conflict, and how he used rogue-like mechanics to make unique emergent stories. In particular relevance to this day, Fowers will also cover how 'Burgle Bros' started as a video game, but evolved into a board game through a series of hybrid digital/analog experiments.
Board Game Design Day: Board Game Design and the Psychology of Loss Aversion
Geoffrey Engelstein (Mind Bullet Games)
Loss aversion is a core effect in human psychology. Simply stated, losses make people feel worse than gains make them feel better. In other words, the negative emotions from losing $100 are stronger than the positive emotions from gaining $100; about twice as strong according to a variety of experiments. The fundamental aspect of loss aversion to human psychology is very deep, and touches a wide variety of phenomenon, most of which are directly relevant to game design. This talk from veteran tabletop game designer Geoff Engelstein ('Space Cadets') examines board games and other relevant game-like experiences to explore framing, regret, competence, and other effects, and their relation to players' relationship with the game experience.
Board Game Design Day: 'Puzzle Strike'- a Design Diary
David Sirlin (Sirlin Games)
'Puzzle Strike' is a tabletop deck-building game in the vein of 'Dominion', based on an unusual comeback mechanism found in the video game 'Puzzle Fighter'. This session covers the design process behind 'Puzzle Strike'. What were its design goals? How did it go about achieving them? 'Puzzle Strike' tackled problems such as eliminating lame duck (players still in the game who can't win anymore), reducing pre-game collusion of doubling up on opponents, building exciting moments into the system, and more. It was unusually difficult to balance, even as asymmetric games go, because its systems are so overlapping and interconnected. It took years to discover some changes that were needed to its core systems, but you can learn all that in just 30 minutes.


Simon Carless
Simon is currently an Executive Vice-President at UBM Technology, a division of UK-headquartered FTSE 250 company UBM. He oversees strategy for the folks running the Game Developers Conference shows worldwide, plus the major Black Hat set of information security events and other properties including Gamasutra & more.

He's also Chairman Emeritus of the Independent Games Festival, which holds its awards at GDC yearly, & co-founder of the Independent Games Summit, and co-runner of seminal video game database MobyGames, which he helped rescue a couple of years back. From 1996 to 2003, he spent most of his time as a full-time video game designer in the UK and Silicon Valley on titles like 'Looney Tunes Racing' (PlayStation) & 'Terracide' (PC).
Soren Johnson
Soren Johnson is the founder and CEO of Mohawk Games, where he applies years of experience developing strategy games as both lead designer and gameplay programmer. Mohawk released its debut game, the economic RTS Offworld Trading Company, in 2016. While at Firaxis, Johnson designed Civilization IV, a fan favorite that remains one of the highest-rated strategy games of all time. Johnson is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and was a design columnist for Game Developer Magazine. Johnson's other development credits include 'Civilization III', 'Spore', and 'Dragon Age Legends'. He holds a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in computer science from Stanford University. His thoughts on game design can be found at
Rob Daviau
Rob Daviau is an award-winning game designer whose games have been sold world-wide. He is the co-designer of 'Pandemic Legacy' (Season 1), the highest-rated game on Since 1998, he has designed and published over 70 games from children's games to family games to party games to more in-depth games for the hobby market. Rob has largely designed tabletop games but has also done work with hybrid physical-digital games and some work with digital games. Rob is a writer as well as a designer, having spent much of his 20s as an advertising copywriter. He also wrote a chapter in Kobold Design's Guide to Game Design, was a contributor to DRAGON magazine, and has written various articles on game design. Rob has spoken at game conventions, participated in dozens of radio interviews, performed live TV segments, and contributed live color commentary for ESPN during the 2009 Monopoly World Tournaments. He has guest lectured at MIT, Carnegie-Mellon University, and NYU on game design. He was an adjunct professor of game design at NYU in 2013 and was a visiting professor of game design at Hampshire College in the fall of 2016. He is the Chief Restoration Officer at Restoration Games, a company that brings back great out of print board games.