Designer Diary – Part Two: The Genesis of Bloodstones

I’ve taken part in many interviews and talks on the process of game design. I’ve said many times that I always start with a theme and then work out the mechanics. Well, what’s the point of having principles if you cannot break them. ‘Bloodstones’ started as a mechanic in search of a theme, which is why it ended up with a fantasy setting. What would we do without fantasy, if it didn’t exist somebody would have to make it up.

I remember clearly the genesis of the idea that became ‘Bloodstones’. This was around twelve years ago when I was still living in the UK. While at my local games club I observed a group setting up the latest Fantasy Flight big mega-production. It was a large box filled with lots of different components: plastic figures, cards, dials, dice, chits, counters, and so on, and on… It struck me that the mere presence of so many different types of things was in itself a barrier to learning the game. It also offended my design sensibilities, it seemed to me a game that had been engineered rather than designed. At that moment in time I resolved to design the anti-FFG game, a game with the fewest possible types of components but with deep, satisfying game play.

I think of my mind as my office. That’s where I go to work. Before setting down ideas on paper I work out as much detail as possible in my head. I’ve been doing this for so long now that I probably have changed the shape of my brain. It’s certainly got to the point where I dream about designing games, including playtesting what I’ve designed in the dream. This means I can be at work while on holiday, and I do remember doing a lot of thinking on this project while on a RV journey from Denver to San Francisco.

A quick diversion here. I know two people with degrees in geography and neither of them can read a map. One of these people is my better half, Julia. I had been invited to a convention in San Francisco. Julia had recently made an online friend in Denver who was helping promote our games. As they are both in America Julia figured they were close to each other and we could take in both cities. I tried to explain they were not that close, hence why we ended up in a RV and taking around three weeks to get to SF.

But back to the game. I knew I wanted plastic tiles. I thought domino-style pieces would look good and have the functionality I was looking for. They are really mini-cards that you can stand on their side. They have enough surface area to represent a reasonable amount of information. I wanted all of the components to be the same shape, so that all you have to play with were tiles. This proved impossible, but we are not at that point in the story yet.

Dragons - early days image

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