Posts Tagged ‘ Board Game Design ’

Designer on Designer: Jason Slingerland

Sometimes, when you are interested in something a little off-center of mainstream culture, say like board games for instance, it can feel a little lonely. You spend times learning as much as you can about your exciting interest and find that when you get the nerve to share it with someone they aren’t as enthusiastic as you are. (For shame!) But then you find your tribe. The worlds gets smaller through the innovative technology and you begin to find pockets of your people spread across the world-wide-web. And occasionally you find out that some of these kindred spirits live in your own backyard. This is the case for me and my friend, Jason Slingerland. Jason is a cool dude who lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He’s into board games, too. He’s also into designing board games. He even has a cool podcast where he and another Michigander get together to talk about designing board games! As a person who is always on the lookout for opportunities to learn and grow from the experience of others’ I was able to ask Jason a few questions. We talked about his show, Building The Game, and a game he’s self-publishing with the help of Kickstarter called Water Balloon Washout. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen in on our conversation. He’s good people.
Hi Jason, tell me a little bit about yourself. You have a new game up on Kickstarter that you are self-publishing and you are the co-host of a lovely podcast. Tell people about that!

I’ve been playing games my whole life and in the last year and I half, I have really gotten into designing. Around that time I started doing a podcast with Rob Couch called Building the Game. On the show we discuss talk about what we have been playing, discuss mechanics and then we pitch new game ideas each week. The show started as a way to track our progress from being complete newbies at designing to hopefully experienced designers. We try on the podcast to really show the process of design from conception through publication. Some many people feel like game design is inaccessible when really it’s quite the opposite. There are so many people willing to help out new designers.

My new card game, Water Balloon Washout is now on Kickstarter through August 11. It’s a light strategy game for 2-4 players that revolves around kids having a water balloon fight. It’s a simple that only takes a couple of minutes to learn to play but as you move through the game you find that there is a good level of strategy involved and also a lot of replayability.

Here's a shot from our prototype, the artwork here is completed but the layout and backgrounds will be improved once our awesome Graphic Artist gets ahold of it.  In addition our artist is still working on another 40+ images that will be in the game.

Water Balloon Washout Prototype.

So I know in the beginning of the Building the Game Podcast you and Rob set out to document the process of becoming published game designers. How has the podcast been successful to those ends?

We are making good progress towards that goal. I sold a card game design to Hat Trick Games last fall called Gunslingin’ Ramblers and it’s due out next year. That has really given Rob and I some insight into that process of working closely with a publisher. We are constantly getting great feedback from listeners that really encourages us. Our audience has been consistently growing and we really feel like we are making a difference and helping newer designers. In the process, it’s also been very helpful to Rob and I as designers.

Now that you guys are starting to get your games out to the world, how will this change the content/concept of Building the Game?

I think overall it doesn’t change up the show all that much. Maybe having games out there gives us a little more street cred but really we have had very experienced designers telling us from the beginning that our ideas were valid. I think that goes to show how open the community is to new people. I can say for sure that our format won’t change. Just our level of experience.

Let’s talk a little bit about Water Balloon Washout. How did this game come to be? What made you decide to try this one out of all of your ideas to be the one to self-publish with the help of Kickstarter?

This game came to be when I wanted to design a game that captured a neighborhood snowball fight in a way that felt like you were really in the thick of it but still have the game be very simple and easy to learn. Over time the game changed a bit and became Water Balloon Washout. The core was still the same but the theme changed from Winter to Summer. One of the side goals that came about from designing this game was that I realized I had created something that was simple enough kids could play but it had enough strategy baked in, that adults, specifically gamers would find it fun and replayable. This is something I am really proud of about the game because I think that’s a tough thing to do. Having playtested the game with kids and also adult gamers, I have found it equally enjoyable for them yet on very different levels.
As for why I decided to self publish the game… I have always been interested in that model and this game being a 90 card deck in a tuck box seemed like a low risk way to test the waters. Also, it allowed for Rob and I to get that insider experience into publishing via Kickstarter.

What have you learned so far through the process of building a Kickstarter campaign for your game?

I knew there was a lot to be done but I figure I spent about 60 hours just working on my Kickstarter page and laying things out. I couldn’t believe it took that long. I have also learned that waiting for more backers to come on board can be nerve wracking!

I really love getting to talk to other designer’s about the design process. Everybody seems to have their own system or approach. Tell me a little bit about yours.

I am a very theme oriented person, so I generally find myself coming up with a theme and then trying to find mechanics that really mesh well with that theme. I usually take copious notes in an Excel spreadsheet trying to balance the game before making a prototype. Once I make a prototype I have a core group of people that I test with.

You live in my home state, the lovely mitten; Michigan! What is your favorite game shop or gaming event in Michigan?

Game shop is definitely Fanfare in Kalamazoo where I live. As for favorite gaming event, I would be after this year it will be GrandCon.

How about a little more in general; what is your favorite thing about living in Michigan?

Michigan is a beautiful state with 4 full seasons and so many different landscapes to see. I love camping and nature so this is a good place for it.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few questions. I wish you much success with your Kickstarter campaign, the podcast, and your upcoming game Gunslingin’ Ramblers. Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap this up?

Thanks for chatting with me. If anyone would like to contact me about the show or the Kickstarter the best places are @JASlingerland on twitter or email me at

Thanks so much man! This was fun!
You can back Water Balloon Washout on Kickstarter right here!



What a ride! We’re trucking toward 75% of our funding goal as I get this post ready. Thanks so much for your support so far.

In case this idea got lost in the social media mix, I wanted to make it clear that when you pledge at least $25.00 on Kickstarter you will get one of the first copies of The Great Heartland Hauling Co., hot off the production line and shipped to you anywhere in the U.S. or Canada (At $35 you get worldwide shipping!). So we’re not just asking to you to get our game going, you get something in return; a super fun, portable card game that plays with 2-4 players!

If that offer doesn’t whet your whistlein a major way, he are some of the latest links where you can learn more about the game and the process involved in putting the game together before you make your pledge:

Designer Diary on This is a fairly in depth look at how I came up with Heartland Hauling and how the game made its was to Dice Hate Me Games for publication.

Futile Position Interview. I was interviewed by Michael for his site We talked about the game and a little bit about my thoughts on game design in general.

The Green Couch. This is a link to my previous post that has even more link and info about the game, including my podcast appearance on The State of Games!

Here’s the video promoting the Kickstarter Campaign. I’m nervous that folks are missing my stellar acting but skimming past it on Kickstarter:

Heartland Hauling Video

Last but not least, here’s a link to the Kickstarter page where you can pledge your support, and get rewarded in games!!!

Thanks again for your support. There is much more to come if you are willing to hang with us. We’ve got reviews, and other exciting news coming down the pike!


Do you love ideas? I do. Almost to a fault.

When I hear a good idea, see a good film, play a good game, or watch daring dreamers bring something new into existence, I’m in awe. I’m kind of an ideas junkie. I love watching people explore their passion and make something out of it. There are so many ideas out there we don’t even have to think for ourselves if we don’t want to.

At different times in my life, I’ve been a collector. I’ve collected comic books, punk rock records, Star Wars junk, and I currently have a couple cabinets filled with obscure board games. If you’ve ever collected anything, you know that there is so much stuff out there to get into that it could consume your life.

Just out of high school, I worked in a record store. Every two weeks, when I received my paycheck, I would go through the same ritual. Set aside $50 for gas. Set aside $50 for going to shows at the local punk rock club. Spend the rest on the music I’d been saving under the counter at the store, utilizing my employee discount, of course.

Some would say I wasted a lot of money. I’m probably one of those people to some extent. But what I gained was inspiration. I connected with music.  A lot of the times I was just a consumer of others’ ideas. But at some point, inspiration moved me to action. It made me want to create something so that I could express my own ideas and even try on some different identities for a while. Being creative, I learned a little bit about who I was, about what made me feel alive.

I’ve played in bands and released some records (even  sold a few copies, too).  I cared so much about my music that it became the focus of my life.  If I’m honest, I know that the world would have been fine without my contribution but there was something special about putting an idea into action. It made a difference in me. It stretched me outside of the limits of what was comfortable for me. Writing this blog has done the same thing. Other creative endeavors have pushed my limits as well.

My latest creation. A strategy card game.

Creativity is exciting. When ideas come to life it can change the world, even if it is just a little corner of it.  Sometimes, maybe the only change that happens is in the one who is being creative. Other times that inspiration lies dormant and good ideas remain in the realm of the abstract. I think this is where the line is drawn between consumers and creators.

Ideas have to come to life in order to make a difference. Will you be a consumer or a creator (maybe “co-creator” would be a better word)? What’s your idea and what difference will it make?

I don’t want to simply soak up the ideas of others’ in this life. I want to be swept up into movement that brings life.


Alan R. Moon’s career in the hobby gaming industry has quite a history. Beginning in 1979 as the editor of Avalon Hill’s magazine, The General, it wasn’t long before he began to help in the game development department. 30 years later he is one of the most well-known hobby game designers on the scene today. His game series, TICKET TO RIDE (Days of Wonder), has sold over one million copies and is now considered one of the best gateway games for introducing non-gamers to the wonderful world of hobby gaming.  In a recent conversation with, Mr. Moon shared his thoughts about game design, success, and some of his favorite games. Take an inside look at the mind of America’s most prominent game designer.

You started off as an editor/writer and eventually moved into game development, does that writing background play a part in your game design? If so, how?

I don’t think I’ve ever been asked this question before. My initial reaction was to say that I don’t think writing has any part in my game designs. But after thinking about it a little bit, I believe there is a subtle connection. The way I consider ideas for games is the same as the way I considered ideas when I was thinking about writing articles. I start with the key item and then build on the details, till the whole concept, or at least an outline of the whole concept, is clearly in my head.

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