One of the most important lessons I had reinforced when working at Playniac was the value of a good paper testing kit. Any game designer worth their salt will know that if it’s possible to prototype an idea with physical materials*, doing so can be a very useful way to identify early hurdles. It’s a great way to feel out the mechanics, free of the distractions which can accompany a digital build. You may even find yourself having to defend your original decision to make the game on digital platforms – some simply work better on a tabletop.
* Some games simply can’t be represented this way, which is fine!
Drawing paper game environments, substituting computations for dice rolls… I’ve used these techniques for a number of years, developing game and level design ideas with whatever I can get my hands on. Indeed, when I submitted to the Gamestorm project on Tumblr a few years ago, I put forward a level I’d made in university – constructed out of paper, lever arch folders and an empty tube of Pritt Stick:
Now that I’ve ‘gone indie’ in Sweden though, I’ve felt the need to mature my prototype kit somewhat. Because my partner and I came to the country with only what we could carry in suitcases, I had to leave a lot of my ‘bits and bobs’ behind – going spartan with only a pencil case and an A5 sketchbook. This suffices for a while, but I’ve found that few things compare to actually being able to handle playing cards and dice – especially if I want to develop tabletop ideas as well.
So it is that I’ve assembled the following shopping list of game design supplies. I thought I would share it in case anyone else is assembling a prototype kit – but there’s a hidden motive! I’m also interested to know if you feel anything is missing. Have you found a particular token or tool which really helps your process? I’d love to get some wisdom flowing in the comments section.
- Poly dice set (d4, d6, d8, etc.)
- Blank d6s [16mm]
- White, square, self-adhesive labels [10mm]
- Spot d6s [16mm]
- Dice bag
- Blank playing cards [57mm x 88mm]
- Coloured sets of ball pawns
- Coloured counters [16mm]
Let it be known that I am always open to recommendations for good pens, too – for use on paper and plastics. You can use self-adhesive labels to decorate blank dice, but drawing directly on them will always yield fairer results!