Guild Playtest Meetings
Discord and the Guild
The BGDG of Utah’s Discord is a great way to get to know those in the guild and discuss all things game design! If you’ve not joined yet, we’d love to have you come and participate with us!
BGDG of Utah Social Media
ProtoCON 2024: In Person Event
ProtoCON is scheduled for January 26-27 at the Valley Fair Mall in their event hall! This will be a great location that will allow ProtoCON to continue to grow in the coming years! You can pick up your badge here.
What does it cost to attend ProtoCON?
|Playtest access to all events
|Designer Triple Session
|Three 3-hour prototype slots
|Designer Double Session
|Two 3-hour prototype slots
|Designer Single Session
|One 3-hour prototype slot
|Open Gaming Designer
|Playtest During Open Gaming
|Youth Designer Badge
|1.5 hour session
|Media and/or Sponsor
Below are our current sponsors! Thanks to all of you who are willing to support ProtoCON and provide support!
Below are a few of the success stories we are aware of regarding past participants of ProtoCON and/or ProtoCON Online. We are excited to see the success of games that have participated in ProtoCON and are happy to shout out additional success stories as we learn about them! If you know of an example of a success story from ProtoCON, online or the in person event, please let us know and we will add it to the list!
- Gempire: Zarmund’s Demands, designed by Paul Elpers, 2023 Ion Award winner
- Gnome Hollow, designed by Ammon Anderson, 2023 Ion Award finalist, published by The Op Games
- Septet, designed by Dustin Dowdle, 2021 Ion Award finalist
- Oros, designed by Brandt Brinkerhoff, 2020 Ion Award winner and successful Kickstarter campaign, published by Aesc Games and Lucky Duck Games.
- Isle of Night (previously Wizard Stones), designed by Dustin Dowdle, published by Red Raven Games (will debut at SaltCON Spring 2024).
- T.A.C.O., designed by Ammon Anderson, successful Kickstarter campaign, published by Levity Games.
- Intrepid, designed by Jeff Beck, successful Kickstarter campaign, published by Uproarious Games.
- Burgle Bros 2, designed by Tim Fowers, successful Kickstarter campaign, published by Fowers Games.
- Don’t Try this at Home, designed by Shauna Peterson, game is available for pre-order and published by Shiny Button Games.
- Arcvale, designed by Jaron Frost, game is available for download and published by Fridgecrisis Games.
Current Design Contests
|Cardboard Edison Award Contest
|43rd Boulogne-Billancourt board game designer’s international Contest
|One Pound Challenge
|The Game Crafter
|1lb or less
|Two Player Print and Play Contest
|2024 9-Card Nanogame Print and Play Contest
|9 cards and a few bits
|2024 Children & Family Game Design Contest
|Children and family games
|2024 War Game Print and Play Contest
Guild Related Videos, Games and Podcasts
Isle of Night
Designed by Dustin Dowdle and published by Red Raven Games (will debut at SaltCON Spring 2024)
Utah Business Arcanist’s Armory LLC’s Sharik L Peck II is interviewed about the upcoming Magi-Nation Kickstarter. Though he’s not a guild member, he’s a local supporter of the gaming community.
Game Design Highlights
Interview with Jay Cormier
What’s your backstory? Tell us about yourself and how you got into game design.
I have been designing games all my life, but seriously since 2005. I love games and I’m creative, so it led me and my best friend, Sen-Foong Lim to naturally try our hand at designing our own games. We failed miserably. Honestly! We made a game and it sucked. We knew it sucked and we didn’t have the skills to know what to do to make it better. So we stopped. Then fast forward a couple years to 2005 when I had to move to the other side of the country and Sen and I decided to try making board games again – as a way of staying in touch with each other. From that point on – we were designers!! We designed about 6 games and back then we didn’t know what to do with them. I ended up going to a game convention in Vegas called GAMA and cold pitched our games to publishers. Each game had interest from at least one publisher, but they were all rejected. The next year I went back, and from that we got Belfort signed!
Can you walk us through your design process? Do you start with specific themes in mind or want to utilize certain mechanisms?
It really varies! Here are some examples:
Theme first: Another game design partner of mine, Shad Miller told me about a vacation he had about castle hunting. That immediately felt like a game so we started coming up with a concept for what that would be about. Through iterating, we followed the fun and the game morphed into a combat skirmishes game and the castle hunting was left by the side. So it was interesting that we were motivated and inspired by a theme to start making a game, but it ended up turning into something entirely different. This game ended up becoming Harrow County.
Mechanic first: Sen had a neat way to have dice that all shared the same icons, but on each die the icons had different values. That’s all we had to start and it was interesting as we started to make a game around that mechanic. It ended up becoming Tortuga.
Title first: In one thread Sen said “oh here’s a weird train of thought (ha, that’s a cool name for a game)…” and I read that and started thinking about it – even though this thread was about a totally different game. So we brainstormed what a game called Train of Thought could be and we made it and it got signed!
Component first: We thought it would be cool where the main component was your fingers/hands. It quickly became about casting spells and turned into Rock Paper Wizard!
Song first: It’s true – another design partner, Graeme Jahns, said he’d like to make a game with me based on the song, In the Hall of the Mountain King, and I said that was my favourite song of all time!!! The thing I wanted to ensure was that since the song starts off slow and then gets louder and bigger – the game should mirror this. That was our guiding principle and what gave us the idea to do the cascading pyramid of trolls!
Experience first: When designing MIND MGMT, we actually went through 5 different prototypes, and none were working for us. They had the elements of MIND MGMT, but it didn’t feel like MIND MGMT! Then we identified the experience we wanted players to have – that of being paranoid and second guessing each other. That led us to a hidden movement game mechanic and we never looked back as it created that experience we were looking for!
If you could pick 3 games that every designer should have to play, as a sort of game design curriculum, what would you choose?
Well I do teach game design, so this is easy to answer! In my course we get everyone to play these three games:
Sushi Go – it’s the most concise version of a drafting game that is full of fun decisions and is easy to teach.
Resistance – it’s one of the best social deduction games that requires no moderator, and no one ‘dies’. This really shows how you can get into people’s heads with very little components.
Catan – it’s a classic, and even though I don’t play it any more, there are so many things it does right that I use as examples in future classes when teaching other game design concepts.
Game Related Questions
Tell us about any current gaming projects you’re working on that you are able to talk about!
My next game is called Corps of Discovery, which is a co-operative, deduction game where Lewis and Clark must explore America…and kill monsters! Sen and I designed it, and I’m publishing it under my company, Off the Page Games (where my first game was MIND MGMT, and my second game was Harrow County). The game has a contraption with 49 holes in a 7×7 grid. You start by filling them all in with tokens, then sliding a map into the contraption. Players take turns removing a token to explore, and gaining resources or finding monsters! There is a reference board that has a rule on how each terrain can be found, so using these rules, you need to also acquire the resources needed to solve challenge cards that are randomly dealt up to you. If you lose too much water you all die, and if you can’t eat at the end of the day, you all die! The core game has 2 chapters in it: Fauna and Flora, and each one has unique components and objectives to accomplish. The game will launch with up to 4 expansions as well!! Looking to hit Kickstarter in March 2024!
What design challenges have you faced when designing games?
All of them?? Well, at least a lot of them! Everything is a challenge – and I mean that in a wonderful way, not a frustrating way. When it’s challenging, it’s fun – just like a board game. The biggest hurdle designers (including me) have is playtesting. I get a game ready to test, then test it and I go home and make the changes almost immediately, but then I have to wait until whenever my next test is to see how it will perform. Sometimes that’s a week away, and that really slows down the process if you can only make progress once per week. Fortunately I have multiple playtest groups and can get multiple tests done per week. I don’t mean to state this as some sort of watermark that other designers need to hit. This is because I’m on a schedule with trying to get this current game ready for Kickstarter. When I was starting out I’d have playtest sessions once or twice per month!
Do you have any advice for others when it comes to game design?
Tons of advice! In fact I made numerous courses collecting them all over at www.failfaster.ca. It’s a game design program I created to help guide designers towards making games. The first course is called What Kind of Game Designer Are You and it’s free! The next one is called Intro to Game Design and guides you to design your own Roll and Write game. Then we have the Advanced Game Design Program where you’ll learn about all the tools you need to understand to design any board game, and finally the How to Pitch to Publishers course that will get you ready to pitch your game!
As for free advice: LOVE your playtesters. Listen to them and know that they are trying to make your game better. Never be defensive and always appreciate their time and feedback, even if you don’t end up using it.
Not all the projects you’ve worked on have been games. Tell us more about your Fail Faster Playtesting Journal and how that came to be!
I needed to get many of my games ready to pitch at a convention that was in a couple weeks, and it happened to be close to my birthday, so I rented out a room and had a birthday playtest party! I had all sorts of people come and playtest games all day. It was awesome! I thought it would be cute if I handed out a loot bag when people left – like they do at kids parties, but I was wondering what other designers would like in a loot bag. Dice? Meeples? Cubes? Then I thought about the class I teach at Vancouver Film School and how I give them a sheet to keep track of their playtests. I made a basic version of this with some neat bells and whistles and printed it up at Staples. Everyone seemed to like it – and people that couldn’t make it asked if they could have one, and then soon after some were saying their book was full and asked if they could have another one! I thought, “is this a thing?” And so I hired a graphic designer and made it look all professional and did a Kickstarter for it. I had a target of $7k and it made $38k! Sweet! It’s still for sale at Gamecrafter (https://www.thegamecrafter.com/parts/fail-faster-playtesting-journal) or you can get the pdf only version here: https://gamefound.com/en/projects/jay-cormier/failfasterplaytestingjournal
I’ve been trying to grow this brand with the game design course (www.failfaster.ca) and a new product coming out next year that is a fiction story book, with games throughout – but the games are broken and the reader has to redesign the games to make them better games. It’s called Design Your Destiny: Running Out of Time.
Final Wrap up Questions
How did you come to be involved with ProtoCON?
I usually am involved as a sponsor with my Fail Faster brand. I like to donate copies of the Fail Faster Playtesting Journal or some codes for discounts on the course!
Do you participate in any game design guilds or playtest groups?
I playtest with the Vancouver Playtest Group, as well as some local designer friends.
If people wanted to contact you or follow your game designs or other projects how should they go about that?
You can sign up to newsletters at www.offthepagegames.com or www.failfaster.ca, or follow me on various social media channels. On Twitter / X I’m bamboozlebros, and Insta is offthepagegames and failfasterjay.