Diary #51 – Magpie

The art of designing a game about art when you are unable to produce said art.

“It’s Codenames meets Dixit but it’s a dungeon crawler.”

I was worried I would have to commit an act of sacrilege and chop up cards from existing games. Instead I used magazines with previews of published games in them. I’m sure there are some purists in the gaming community who would disapprove of such methods and really I should credit each of the games and artists on the prototype itself. I’ll content myself with crediting the magazines at the bottom of this diary entry, with the exception of Catherine Hamilton’s artwork for Evolution, which is simply stunning (click here).

I set to work one quiet evening with my scissors, magazines and card sleeves. I put on Gareth Coker’s sound track to Ori and the Blind Forest (click here), which turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to the genesis of an infinite number of stories. I learnt a little about game artwork too: have you noticed, for instance, that the most eye-catching pieces usually show characters? This was not ideal for me, though, when I was looking for a river, or a book! Turning some dystopian graffiti into a genuine horned angel and chopping the words “of” and “the” out of a big gold ring were particular highlights.

Fox and Stuart were happy to give the game its first playtest and we complemented the artwork with Dixit cards and some original drawings. We took turns imagining scenes, resolving them then comparing the result to the hidden objective card (which only the “storyteller” could look at). That description doesn’t really do the mechanic justice, but it doesn’t need to: what matters is that we created a great little story about a young elemental attempting to buy the perfect gift for her wayward niece (expect many more “write ups” of playtests moving forward).

The feedback was generally positive and we identified a clear improvement: it would be easier to construct each scene from two cards rather than three. Stuart said that he simplified the storytelling by combining elements of two cards into one plot point. Fox, meanwhile, liked the fact that three cards could fit into the classic storytelling structure of setting, goal and obstacle. The challenge? I want both to be right. I want the nature of the stories to vary between groups and playthroughs. I want the players to develop a consensus as the scenes progress. I want competitive and collaborative game modes. I want players to include characters from other games, or to design their own. I want… I want…

FREEDOM. I’ve scrawled that word on my plan for this diary entry, right on top of “art”, “mechanic” and “house rule”. Who needs maths and logic when the human imagination is so powerful? And yet. Calm down. If I’m seriously going to attempt to self-publish this I have much more practical questions to answer. Is Dixit the right start point for any artwork I (eventually) commission, and what size of card would show it off best? Can I follow Tom’s example in planning for a specific box size from early on (click here)? How many cards, I wonder, does it take to tell a story?


As promised, here are the “credits”:

Senet Magazine

Tabletop Gaming Magazine

Oakbound Studios

All About History bookazine

Game-icons.net (coming to my rescue once again!)

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