Octopus’ Garden at FallCon

Last weekend Jethro and I travelled to Calgary for FallCon, a great boardgame and miniatures convention in its 24th year.  There were over 300 people over the course of the weekend, all there to get their game on.  It was awesome, seeing so many folks bent over game boards, reading rules, laughing and chatting.

The weekend had a few highlights for me, and the biggest was seeing the advance copy of Octopus’ Garden in person.  This game is gorgeous.  I know it’s my baby, but seriously, it’s one of the prettiest boardgames ever made.  Panda Game Manufacturers and Valley Games (look for Octopus’ Garden to be added to their site within a week or two) did a fantastic job bringing my vision to life, and the game is exactly what I had hoped.  Lots of people admired it, played it, and some even pre-ordered it, as Valley had an early shipment earmarked for FallCon get trapped in customs about a kilometre away from the convention centre.  I won’t get my designer copies for a while yet, so I’m a bit jealous of the lucky folks who will be getting their copies in the next week.

Other highlights included cheering as fellow GAC member Matt Tolman won the second annual Canadian Game Design of the Year award, winning some awesome games in the 200-games-in-2-hours auction, and meeting a game designer from Regina (I think) whose game, Whisky Traders, is a thing of beauty.

Sherwood Showdown update

So while most news surrounding Sherwood Showdown is being posted to the blog on Whimsy Games‘ website, I thought that I’d do an update here as well.  The games have arrived and are now available for sale.  Shamus Young has posted a lovely little article and is running a giveaway on his blog which is generating a nice bit of buzz, and I think that when that is finished I may run another giveaway on the Whimsy Games site.  Today, we sold our first overseas copy, which made me very happy- it’s really neat to imagine people all over the globe enjoying my game.

So far, feedback from players has been very positive.  Kids and adults alike are enjoying the game, and parents are commenting on the math skills that the game has their kids exercising.

The game includes 4 blank cards- 2 outlaw blanks and 2 leader or weapon blanks, and I’m very interested in seeing what ideas people (especially kids) come up with for these.  My nephew suggested that the game needs a superhero with a strength of 100!

We made a video showing how to play the game- enjoy!

Sherwood Showdown is nearing production…

So after working on this game for 18 months, and working on the graphic design steadily for the last 6 weeks, I’m really excited to be able to say that we’ve sent all the files to the factory in China, where the game will be printed.  We should have the proofs in our hands in about a month, at which time we expect to also have approximate finished delivery dates, which means we’ll know when you can get your hands on your very own copy of Sherwood Showdown!

In the meantime, here’s a mock-up of the box- we’re so happy with the work done by our amazing artist, Heather Young, and love how this has turned out!


*cross-posted at whimsygames.ca/blog/


Sherwood Showdown coming soon!

Sample card: Giant

I am terribly excited to announce that my husband and I are venturing into the strange new land of game publishing with the upcoming release of Sherwood Showdown. Jethro has been doing all of the actual logistical work, while I’ve been refining the game and ruleset, and editing the graphic files.  What a lot to learn!

Sherwood Showdown is an original design for 2 players.  Players use identical decks of outlaw cards to duel over travellers passing through Sherwood forest, vying to win more gold to give to the poor.  Characters in the game include Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Friar Tuck and many more.

Sherwood Showdown began its life as a traditional card game, designed for a contest on the Boardgame Geek website.  It originally used a 72 card tarot deck (basically a regular deck of cards, with an additional face card in each suit and 21 trumps, ranked 1 to 21).  The game has grown and changed a great deal since its inception.  It has become more approachable and somewhat more lighthearted.  It has gained new characters as well as weapons, and the rules have been tweaked, tested, and streamlined to make play more fun.

To bring Sherwood Showdown to life, we’ve partnered with an amazing artist named Heather Young, who has created lovely watercolour illustrations for all of the cards.  Drawing inspiration from classic re-imaginings of medieval legend, she has created warm, gentle, inviting images with an appealing whimsy, and we hope that everyone who purchases the game loves them as much as we do.

If all goes well, we should have copies of Sherwood Showdown available for purchase within 3 months.  As soon as I have the first sample copies I’ll post photos, pricing info and ordering details, so watch this space!

Quantum Physics and Game Design

I’m not sure how anyone who is interested in boardgame design could not know about Brett Gilbert, but if you’ve somehow missed him until now, he just posted a great article on the disconnect between designer intent and player experience.

Designing a game creates only the potential for a play experience that matches the designer’s intent. The designer builds a world, but can only ever give players a map of that world, not the world itself. And once you place your game in the hands of prospective players then you relinquish not only your ability to influence how it is played, but also your right to do so.

I’m in the middle of rules writing, and you can be sure I’ll be taking a lot of Brett’s wisdom to heart as I try to look at my rules document from a player perspective.

Octopus’ Garden wins design Award

I am really really excited to share that my game, ‘Octopus’ Garden‘, won FallCon’s first annual ‘Canadian Game Design of the Year’ award.  The award was announced at FallCon in October, and of the 4 finalists, ‘Octopus’ Garden’ took the prize of $200 and was offered a publishing contract by Alberta publisher Valley Games.  I was over the moon excited, and so honoured.  I have only been designing games for about 18 months, so to be successful in this way already is very cool.  I have not yet signed a contract with Valley, but I hope to have an announcement soon.

FallCon was a blast, and I would have been glad I had travelled out for it even if I hadn’t won.  There were a lot of the Alberta Game Artisans there, and we played all sorts of prototypes, Rob Bartel’s new game, ‘Two by Two‘, and some new-to-me titles, several of which I have subsequently sought out and purchased.

A huge shout-out to all of the Game Artisans, for their incredible encouragement, kindness, and overall awesomeness.  These guys are the most professional, creative, and fun group of people I have ever had the privilege of working with, and I wouldn’t have had the confidence to submit ‘Octopus’ Garden’ without their encouragement.

Canadian Game Award

Miscellany, mainly games.

So, I’ve not been idle the past while, although Deep Blue Sea is still awaiting a few more cards.  Aside from family things, a trip, and putting what passes for a garden in, I’ve also been doing a lot of game design.

I have a lovely family game (probably age 10+) set under the sea in an Octopus’ Garden finished and submitted to a national competition.  It was a designers dream, coming together from an idea to a finished game nearly overnight, and I’m very happy with it.


I’ve also got a handful of other games in the partially completed pile.  This is a lot more typical of how I seem to work (not than I can really generalize after only a few months of doing this somewhat full-time).  An idea simmers for a while, then I move it through to a working game, but something’s missing, something isn’t right.  After a week or so of focus, games like this cycle to the bottom of the pile, because often a bit of distance helps me see the problem more clearly.

While we were away recently, I was finally able to meet with both the Vancouver and Edmonton Game Artisans of Canada groups for some playtesting.  These guys are great, and so very helpful.  Even a partial play of a game yielded a huge pile of notes, ideas, and suggestions.  I am really thrilled to be part of such a positive and professional group- if I get anything published, it’ll only be due to their support.

And finally, my family have been learning to playtest with me with great patience.  They are kind about sharing their time, and are very helpful in trying to break the game, asking great questions, and giving focused feedback.  I am so blessed.

Deep Blue Sea sneak peek

Way back in August or September, when I was stressed to near breaking by work, a BGG user announced a design contest.  I am a sucker for those, and this one was to design a rummy style game.  I don’t know that I’ve ever played plain old rummy, so I went to pagat.com and researched my subject.  Then I brainstormed while we drove to Cache Creek, and what emerged was a rummy-style game where players compete to build the most valuable sets of animals from the deep blue sea.

The game play is nothing ground breaking, but I love nice art.  I love it so much that my stubborn desire to do nice art caused me to miss the deadline entirely, but the game is still worth finishing, if only so I can see my pretty cards printed out.  I suspect that this game will see limited personal release among friends and family, and perhaps be uploaded to BGG as a print-and-play.  I have only got a few fish (the ugly ones of course) a few mythical beasts, and some diving equipment left to do.  A month or two maybe :)

Here’s a sample card, minus a few usability tweaks, in case you’re interested:


Back, maybe…

A lot has happened in the last 6 months, and somehow blogging fell to the wayside, even though I’ve kept one somewhat regularly and in various locations for nearly 5 years now.

I have made the transition from technology coordinator for a school district to full-time wife, mother, and sometimes boardgame designer.  I have also done a lot of lace knitting (knitters can find me on ravelry as rtaylor), some sewing, much baking, and the occasional housework.  Oh, and learned how to feed a Celiac.

And so I thought that it was time that I picked this habit back up.  Any remaining readers from days of yore should know that this blog will no longer have any specific focus, and may ramble on about game design theory, directional decreases in lace knitting, interesting underwater creatures, or even baking with or without wheat.  Welcome back to my corner of the internet.