Design Concepts 2017

I have an annual problem come January.  I have no idea what to write about.  I try to keep to a two-posts-a-week schedule, but it’s tough in the early part of the year.  As Spring rolls around, publishers start putting out more information about their new releases, but right now, everyone is still in a post-Christmas haze.  So, here’s my idea: I have a few design ideas that I’d like to pitch here.  If anyone is at all inclined to give me some feedback on them, I’d welcome it.  I won’t promise any of these ideas will ever go anywhere, I just thought I’d throw a couple at the wall and see what sticks.  These ideas are all mostly untested so far.


One of my favorite game mechanisms is role selection, where there are several different characters that give you different benefits if you choose them (Citadels, Puerto Rico, etc).  I also like puns, so if I could interchange ROLE and ROLL, that would be fun.

My working title here is ROLL SELECTION, partly because I have no theme.  But here’s the gist: there is one die per player, plus a special rainbow colored die known as THE TIE DIE (I told you I like puns).  At the start of each round, deal out one role card per player to the center of the table, plus the Tie Card.  One player has the Tie (and, thinking down the road, I would love for this to be an actual tie included in the game that players could take turns wearing).  Whoever has the Tie breaks ties and earns an extra point at the end of the round.

Each round follows a two-phase structure:

  1. ROLL SELECTION: Each player rolls a die (which they collected in the previous round, or just any die at the beginning of the game).  The player with the Tie also rolls the Tie Die and places it on the Tie Card.  Beginning with the player to the left of the player with the Tie, each player then takes one die.  When it gets to the player with the Tie, he can choose the last remaining die or the Tie Die.
  2. ROLE SELECTION: Beginning with the player who took the lowest number (with ties broken beginning with the Tie player and proceeding to the right), each player may take one role card.  This card will activate a different ability based on the die you collected.  So one card might allow you to take a coin from the bank if you claimed it with a 2, or allow you to steal a coin from the player on your left if you claimed it with a 4, or something.  You could also take the Tie Card, which gives you the Tie and the bonus coin at the end of the round (the Tie stays with the player who has it if no one took the Tie Card).  If the Tie Die was unclaimed, then you may only claim the Tie Card with the value shown on the Tie Die.  If the Tie Die was unclaimed, any die can be used to get the Tie.

The game goes until someone gets a certain number of coins, and that player wins.

It’s a very rough idea, but the basic mechanisms are a dice draft followed by a card draft.  Different actions would be used on each role card, and it would be nice to center them on a theme.  I was thinking a post-apocalyptic battle for shiny objects might be fun, but who knows.


This idea is based on Tobago’s inverse deduction system.  If you haven’t played Tobago, you basically play cards to eliminate possible places where the treasure might be until there’s only one possibility left.  This follows that premise, but changes the theme.

My idea for the theme: you’re a cop, working late trying to solve a bunch of different cases.  However, you’ve gotten the eyewitness accounts all mixed up and you need to try to put them back in order while figuring out whodunnit.  Your results may be inaccurate, but making the arrest is the important thing.

So there are a bunch of possible suspects available, plus four cases with their own stack of cubes (as with the different treasures in Tobago).  On your turn, you play an eyewitness account to one of the cases, which will eliminate some of the suspects based on physical features – eyes, hair, body shape, etc.  You’ll always need to eliminate at least one suspect, but you’ll get points based on who is still in the running, so you don’t want to eliminate too quickly.  The person who finds the culprit gets bonus points for making an arrest, and then the case awards points based on the order people contributed (like with treasures in Tobago).  The game continues until all cases have been drawn from the deck, and the player with the most points wins.

It’s another rough idea, but I like the theming on it.  I like Tobago a lot, and I wish there were more games out there that played with the system it created.  This is an attempt at that.


This is a deduction game partly inspired by Level 99’s NOIR and partly by a minor obsession I had a few months ago over masks.  The theme of the game is that you’re attending a masquerade ball and are trying to figure out who other people are.  A square grid (5×5 probably, maybe 6×6) of mask cards is laid out, and each player is dealt two masks that they keep secret.  These masks match masks in the grid.  On your turn, you either maneuver across the dance floor by shifting a row or column one of your masks is in, or UNMASK an adjacent card by asking another player if it’s them.  If you are correct, they flip that mask face up.  If you are incorrect, you flip one of your masks face up.  The last player with a face down mask (or masks) is the winner.

As mentioned, this one really owes a lot to NOIR, though my original concept was to make it more of a social deduction game and having players ask each other questions to to determine what masks they had.  But it was seeming a little too Guess Who? for me.  This one I could pretty easily playtest with NOIR cards.


This is the only one of these ideas I’ve tested at all.  The Dragon of Cribb is a variant of Cribbage (which loyal readers will know is my all-time favorite game).  Usually in Cribbage, it’s a race to see who can be the first to 121 points, but here, players both need to make it to the end without getting eaten by the Dragon.  It plays exactly like regular Cribbage, but instead of trying to hinder your opponent from scoring, you need to try to help each other, throwing points to the crib and generally trying to push each other along.  The Dragon will move along the track, and if it ever catches the player pegs, they are eaten and they lose.  I still need to work out the best movement for the Dragon, but right now, I have him moving thirty spaces after each odd numbered hand (except the first).  That means that after the third hand, he’s at thirty; after the fifth hand, he’s at sixty; after the seventh hand, he’s at ninety; and if you haven’t won by the end of the ninth hand, you lose.

My two tests of this variant have been fun, but I really want to get the Dragon worked out.  I like him moving after both players have had a shot at the crib.  I’ve though about just moving him after the 6th-9th hands instead of every other one, but it still will take some testing.

My dream for this one is not just to have a rule set, but also to produce a Cribbage board that represents the Dragon’s lair, and have customized pegs representing adventurers.  A themed deck of cards would be cool too, but I’d really want to make sure that the board could also be used for regular Cribbage, not just this variant.


The Dragon of Cribb grew out of an idea to do a series of Cribbage variants based in this fantasy world of Cribb.  I’d love to do a full board game where players play Cribbage, but use their scores to explore a map.  There would be different movement costs for different terrains, quests to complete, adventures to be had.  This idea isn’t as fleshed out as some of my other ones, but it’s a thought I’ve had for the future.

Thanks for indulging me in this exercise.  As I said, feedback is welcome on these very rough ideas.  Thanks for reading!



  1. As a long time fan of Cribbage, I found your idea of a cooperative Cribbage variant fascinating. I tried out the Fragon variant and have to say that I really like it! Though super simple in concept and execution, the choice of 30 point increments for the ‘AI’ appears dead on. I played five games following your rules and managed to beat the AI three games to two. I’m very interested to see where you might go with this.

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