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The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  465 ratings  ·  55 reviews
The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design gives you an insider's view on how to make a game that people will want to play again and again. Author Mike Selinker (Betrayal at House on the Hill) has invited some of the world's most talented and experienced game designers to share their secrets on game conception, design, development, and presentation. In these pages, you'll learn ...more
Paperback, 138 pages
Published 2011 by Open Design
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Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic
Welcome, brave reader, to your own intrepid boardgame design adventure-in-a-book-review: The Perilous Path to Publishing Your Own Game!

You are an aspiring board game designer. You dream of creating a great boardgame to rival Catan, Scrabble or Codenames- games that have fervent fans and sell masses of copies.

Many have failed before you, plunging to their financial deaths from the sheer cliffs of bad game mechanics, lost in the tempestuous seas of mediocre design, or devoured by the fearsome Dra
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The best and most provoking book I have read on board game design, which comes from a high bar. The essays in this will get you thinking in ways you wouldn't have before, and whilst not all the topics may be appealing or even important, the remainder are worth checking out. Recommended.
Khanh Cao
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a highly-recommended starter book for people with no background in designing games but have already play an amount of games. What I like about this one is that the book sets a clear line among being a game player, being a game critic and being a game designer.
Though it doesn't provide any in-depth of game designing methods or materials or tools or anything in-depth at all, the book contains a very general view on game designing as a whole: the designer's feelings, the goal of a designer
Nick Carraway LLC
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1) ["The Game is Not the Rules," by James Ernest]
"Now ask yourself, why do I like the games I like? And what kind of emotions do I want to create in my players? Forget about starting with your favorite game mechanic, or your favorite theme. Start with a concise expression of how you want your players to feel. And 'I want them to have fun' doesn’t cut it. There are different kinds of fun.
There is nothing compelling about game mechanics. There is something compelling about games. Games engage play
Eric Kolb
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A great collection of essays on the art and craftsmanship of board game design. If this is something you want to take on as an amateur, you need to read this. It's packed full of relevant and useful advice. Even if you've already heard everything these industry pros have to tell you, it's worth reviewing. Each of the authors (save one*) writes with passion and expertise about their subject.

While reading this book, I frequently found myself looking around the room, asking, "Geez, where'd I'd leav
Jun 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Boardgame design is a long and windy process which definitely needs some guidelines like this book provides. But what I personally am into learning more about is mechanism design and there I was a bit let down content wise.

Some things were good in that respect though. I liked most the chapter "stealing the fun" by Dave Howell since it actually provided useful insight to guide mechanism design.
Tina Christensen
Mar 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Plenty of valuable advice through all steps of game design and development. Recommended!
Margarit (Mark) Ralev
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: board-game
Must read for all who want to design their own game.
Love the writing style and the humour, too.
Bonus: a lot of useful references inside.
May 04, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, game
I have no intention of designing my own board games. I picked up this book from my library for entertainment reasons and gain some insight into how people design games.

The essays were entertaining, for the most part. Some authors were a little drier than others, but many struck right the humorous tone without being too comedic. You can tell these designers are familiar with writing well.

The most insightful essays, from my perspective, were the ones that focused on actual mechanics and game desig
Dan Lewis
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In this short read from game designers and publishers, you will recognize many names. It didn't occur to me that Seattle is a tiny Mecca for board games. Wizards of the Coast is here. Most of the authors featured in this book seem to be from around here. We have a great scene.

I read the White Box essays last year, and I think this book was good in a similar way. It has a lot to teach the budding game designer about the board game industry.

Two dimensions I want to highlight in contrast to the Whi
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a really great read and a book I might just have to buy (got it from the library). It's a collection of essays on all the various stages of creating a board game. I would have liked to get more in-depth about the creation. For example, how exactly do you go about creating "balance" in a game? Is it really just hit and miss that gets smoothed out in playtesting?

Some essayists are better than others but there's at least a nugget I got out of every one of the essays. Highly recommend to an
Chris Aylott
Wide-ranging collection of essays on (mostly) hobby game design. A lot of it is the Usual Advice about generating ideas, refining concepts, and play-testing -- no surprises here -- but it's always fun to hear the thoughts of the people in the industry. It's been almost a decade since this was published, so I'm a bit curious how the their ideas have changed in a world of app integration, crowdfunded production, and online play.
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Knowing that I was approaching a moment of intentional unemployment, I decided I needed a Ben Wyatt hobby to keep me busy and was gifted this book.

The expert advice articles can only be helpful if you’re actually in the process of building a game and have played many games (many Magic references went above my head). An interesting world that I hadn’t known much about before now.
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would rate the core book 3/5, however the Polish appendix (unblocked via crowdfunding campaign) is a +1. The main part of the book is too general imho. I felt like I was listening to a "celebrity" life coach. Polish addition describes the board games industry in more details and with actual numbers, etc. It gives you a better idea how it looks like on this side of the ocean in Europe.
Katherine Bishop
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Much better than the cover suggests, at least. Definitely recommended if you’re interested in designing games or just understanding the process a bit better.

The essays are as brief as the book is slim — this is an approachable starting point.

However, it does lack elements like a references section that might have made this a more valuable selection of essays (admittedly a bit hit or miss).
Jeffrey Bergman
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebook
Definitely will be re-reading this next year when I start designing a game.
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: game-design
Short. Covers a lot of ground in mixed levels of detail. As a board game player, and someone curious about game design, I found it insightful and entertaining.
Eric Plunkett
Dec 27, 2019 rated it liked it
There's some decent advice in here. But, since it's a series of essays, the book lacks cohesion and any larger messages that would more likely stay with me.
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great read full of good information. It might be a little outdated (for all I know), but it seems to me that the core concepts still ring true.
Andrew Pepperstone
Inspiring and humbling

I liked the range of topics covered and the frankness of the authors. I plan to come back to this book again and again over time as an aspiring game developer.
Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, gaming
There's a lot of good stuff in this book if you are an aspiring board game designer. Parts 1 and 2, Concepting and Design, are especially good and applicable in all situations. Parts 3 and 4, Development and Presentation are important as well, but a lot of it is only applicable if you plan on licensing your design to a publisher.

For me personally, the Concepting and Design chapters were mainly just a reinforcement of what I already knew from listening to a lot of game design and review podcasts,
Craig Dube
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Board games are a passion of mine, one that I've recently rekindled. I not only like to play board games, but I'm interested in their themes and mechanics. There seems to be a tremendous amount of innovation that is continually going on with board and card games. After playing a game, I'll often revisit the rules and spend some time thinking about what I would change to improve the experience. Occasionally I'll have my own ideas about what would make for an interesting game and have wondered wha ...more
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rachel by: Michael
A lovely collection of essays on board game design by some big names in the field. I don't plan on professionally publishing a board game anytime soon, but I'm interested in the creative process and how board games are designed. Plus it was cool to hear about how Dominion was tested. Most of the advice comes down to: test your game, change what doesn't work, and make the rules and pieces simple (or spare?) but interesting. Imagine if there were a collection of the best Gamasutra articles about g ...more
Popzara Press
Dec 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Zombies, time travelers, stoners, mobsters, werewolves, penguins, squirrels, rock bands, exploding cows, and competitive sushi chefs have taken over my game shelf, leaving little room for Cthulhu and the warrior mice. They’re all metaphors, of course. If games are “interactive mathematical systems,” as one writer in this essay collection puts it, the metaphor is what turns the math into a story. Whether you’re seeking advice on success from the successful, or just a fan curious to learn how the ...more
Brandon James
May 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Easily one of the best books on design I've ever read. As others have mentioned, this isn't really a "How-To" book and not even specific to board games, but a collection of essays on what to expect during each phase of the development process. The essays by Richard Garfield and Dave Howell are fantastic and Howell, who I had not heard of before, has become a real inspiration. If you're interested in, or are doing any kind of development in the game space (AAA video games, indie games, board game ...more
David Macpherson
Mar 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I don't play board games and I don't have an interest in make board games, but this was a smart collection essays about how to create a product that people will buy and play and want to continue through expansion packs and sequals of the games. A lot of the essays are good for any creative type: how do you make the rules clear, how do you not take game testing personally, how do you make something fun. A lot of it is about respecting the time and intelligence of the audience and that's just inte ...more
Serge Pierro
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: games
The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design is an excellent collection of essays assembled by Mike Selinker. Each essay has an introduction by Selinker, and they are written by a knowledgable member of the gaming industry. Essayists include: Steve Jackson, James Ernest, Richard Garfield, as well as others, including Selinker himself. There's lots of good information contained throughout the book, and would be highly recommended for aspiring game designers!
Demian Katz
Jun 27, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading perspectives on game design from several designers whose work I admire; however, being a practical guide for would-be board game publishers, the book spent a lot of time on issues that weren't of direct interest to me. I recognize that this is probably for the best given the target market of the text, but as a more casual reader I think I would have enjoyed it more with a greater emphasis on the theoretical aspects of game design and less on the business concerns.
Jim Tarsi
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great collection of essays by a who's-who of the gaming industry (Richard Garfield, Steve Jackson, James Ernest, Mike Selinker, Andrew Looney, and many more who I forget right now). Many essays discuss what makes a game good and interesting, so you don't need to be a budding game designer to enjoy the book.
Tom Franklin
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good collection of essays from game designers, editors, and producers on various topics relating to getting your game from Idea to Published. The essays are each short and succinct and written by specialists in that area of game development.

Should be required reading for anyone serious about creating their own game for others to play.
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