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Tiny Garden: Let's make a boardgame!

Sam Wong

This was the first time I've ever designed a board game, and as someone who was raised on digital games and spent most of their time making them I didn't quite know what to expect.

Digital games are easy for me to design and prototype. The computer does most of the background job of keeping track of scores, enemies, and enforcing rules; generating new content usually just means changing a few variables here and there. Boardgames, however, requires players to do all of those tasks themselves which poses an interesting design challenge of making rule keeping fun. Not to mention having to write and print out rule books, find materials for pieces, and putting everything together in a nice box.

Most of my ideas at the beginning were very much inspired by current digital games: a spaceship management game, a zombie defense game, a war game with multiple units and factions. In hindsight they're quite boring and cliched, and also way out of scope. I wanted something simple and quick, and also something that wasn't just about management, strategy, or combat. In the end I settled on making a game about planting flowers because I was intrigued by the idea of having players generate a garden through play which was something I had never seen before.

Here are my original goals:

  • Players should see the garden grow bigger and more organic with each placed flower to create an interesting scene.

  • Players should not be too competitive.

  • Players should find components simple and elegant.

  • Players should not be bogged down by too many rules to complicate the game.

  • Players should be able to pull back after the game ends and enjoy the garden that they created.

  • And of course, Players should find the game fun.

Possible issues and solutions:

  • Colourblind players will not be able to play this game. 
    • Solution is to create different flower types for each colour so they can still pair pieces based on shape of flower rather than colour.
  • Game might be too simple and become boring after several games.
    • This could be mitigated if rules allow players to place tiles in many different  after each game no two gardens would look the same.

With these goals and issues in mind I set out to design and prototype my game.