Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Sunday, 10 November 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Board Games to Create and Play

Book: Board Games to Create and Play

Publisher: Pavilion Books

Author:  Kevan Davies & Viviane Schwartz

Year: 2019
I imagine there's a lot of board gamers who dream of designing their own board game. I know a number of people who have prototypes they're working on, but it's not something we've ever taken the plunge into doing. The closest we get is a game design discussion on a long car journey, or a dream about a game design, both of which we swiftly forget.

I don't think there is a board game design in me, but this book certainly made me turn over a few rocks to see whether my very limited imagination could come up with something good. Board Games to Create and Play leads you through a step-by-step process of designing increasing complex games. It also provides you with charming artwork and ideas to inspire you along the way.

What's It All About?

Board Games to Create and Play starts with a tutorial of sorts, Setting you off with a simple snakes and ladders style roll and move game, before moving onto a slightly more complex game where you'll be collecting tokens before you can head to that final space. While the book will guide you through the creation of the first few games it encourages you to let you imagination go wild. Making vague suggestions like you should make ~10-15 spaces have actions if you land on them and perhaps doing a doodle of a trap on the medieval game might make it pop more.

Once you are nice and comfortable with making some basic games it encourages you to be a bit more open, giving you free reign to the 20 different board designs (which are simply art backdrops with spaces printed on them) to create your designs on. This is what the first 2/3rds of the book is. The latter third is a list of rules suggestions and ideas. These aren't just simple rules like roll and move and collecting tokens. You'll find some advanced board game ideas such as spending fuel resources to move faster, individual player powers and victory point tracks.


All the games are meant to be created by a process called "Snaddering". This process encourages a group to tear out a map, grab some pencils, pick a couple of rules and then start doodling and filling in squares. Grab a couple of meeple and tokens from other games you own (or even use the cut out components at the back of the book). Within minutes you can have a game, of course after your first game you'll want to refine and improve on it, or perhaps scrap the game and make another! Each of the eye-catching boards is included twice in the book, so you get a couple of chances to improve.


Amy’s Final Thoughts


There is no doubt that Board Games to Create and Play manages to achieve its core goal: getting people to create board games. And, it achieves this in a fun and interesting way. We created some pretty terrible games with this book. But we enjoyed making them. The book made us actually sit down and create something, which is the first step to creating something good. Do I think the next Gloomhaven or Scythe is going to emerge from this book? No! But could a great game come from someone who started with this book? Quite possibly.


Adult gamers will likely soon feel limited in what the book offers, after all all the boards feature traditional spaces for pawns to be placed on. We all know that games can be so much more. But for a younger audience, or for parents to create games with their children, this book is a fantastic starting place to encourage creative thinking. The great thing is you'd have to work hard to get this book off the shelf and not create something. Even if you are completely stuck for ideas there are suggested rules combinations near the back which should be enough to get a game formed.

It has to be said that there is something incredible about creating something and then getting to experience it. Board Games to Create and Play makes this process so incredibly easy that it makes you wonder why you never have before. Sure you wouldn't bring these games to your local game group, but you will have fun making and playing them, even if they weren't actually fantastic. The book even has some advice on how to tune the game to correct some errors you may have made. Overall I don't think that Board Games to Create and Play succeeds in getting people to create a great game. But it does succeed in planting that seed, and watering it. I'm certain that one day a designer will look back at the day they first opened this book and smile!

Fi’s Final Thoughts

I was initially skeptical of Board Games to Create and Play. I have very little imagination and forced creativity was something I was loathe to try. However, we pulled out our box of spare board game components, grabbed a couple of pencils and set to work scribbling all over the lovely boards that the game provides. I was surprised - it was actually fun! We have a whole library of board game experiences to draw upon, so I imagine that our first games were slightly more advanced than many who try out this book, but that definitely doesn't mean they were good!


The best game we designed was a cooperative game about trying to escape a sinking island. You needed to pick up resources to build bridges and dice rolls determined you movement and which area of the board got submerged each turn. Of course our game was full of luck and ultimately didn't really work, but the book offers loads of advice on what you might be able to do if you feel like your game failed for particular reasons. It really is a pretty in depth tool if you want to iterate and analyse the game you have created.

If you're feeling less creative, the book is full of  ideas for themes, as well as introducing many modern board game mechanisms, that might be brand new and exiting for families who come across the book. Ultimately, Board Games to Create and Play actually provides an education about the breadth of board game mechanisms, as well as a very expansive creative opportunity. I can see it being played by families or used in schools as an educational and creative exercise. I'm not sure you'll ever design the next hot board game on BoardGameGeek using the simple ideas in this book ,but it might inspire a young person into making a hobby or even a career out of board game  design, and that's awesome!


You Might Like...
  • The back few pages of the book is stacked full of idea to improve upon a snakes and ladders type game - movement cards, roles cards, ideas for cooperative or even worker placement games.
  • The book really fuels creativity, for even the least imaginative people.
  • As a family activity, Board Games to Create and Play can really be a spin off of a creative craft-like project.
You Might Not Like...
  • You'll only ever make variants on the roll and move game using this book, due to the limitations of the board, but you might learn some interesting things along the way.
  • There's multiple copies of each board, but the book will eventually be all used up.

The Verdict
Board Games to Create and Play is a really great guide to spark creativity in board game design for families. For those not familiar with modern board games it will be really eye-opening to see what interesting tricks yo can bring into a simple game to make it more fun. We haven't designed anything even remotely good, but we've had a lot of fun being silly and creative with this book.



Board Games to Create and Play was a review copy kindly provided to us by Pavilion Books.

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