Game Design Concepts: post-mortem (although I’m not finished)

So, the Game Design Concepts course officially finished a little over two weeks ago. I followed along for the first half, but dropped the ball when it came to the month-long design project. Playtesting is time consuming, but essential – and finding a bunch of ‘randoms’ to act as testers for blind playtesting is tricky.

Rather than working on my Game Design Concepts project, I instead decided to focus my game development time in August on getting something ready for the “Android Developer Challenge 2“. While I didn’t actually make that deadline (I decided it was not worth submitting something unpolished), it helped to push my uber-secret-Android-project into the realms of playability, and I should be able to release it before the end of the year.

Here’s a summary of my Game Design Concepts project, as it stands.

The game board “pre-prototype”:

Public Transport Commuter Hero board design

“Commuter Hero” board design. Squares are stations, circles are points enroute between stations. Triangles are the destinations (“goals”). Lines are railroads, “roads” are bus routes, dotted lines are walking routes. The “piechart” thing represents the clock, which turns to the next colour each turn (representing 15 minute timesteps, I guess). It’s been rubbed off the whiteboard now, so this photo serves as a record of the design in case I want to reproduce it and continue.

Each player is given three destination cards, which are destinations they must visit during the game, as well as sharing two “shared destination” cards with two other players, which are destinations that each pair must meet at during the game. Once a player visits their five destinations, they win. Players move around the board one step each turn, but sometimes they must wait several turns at a station for a train to arrive (indicated by the “colour clock”). While they are waiting at a station, they must roll to possibly draw an “event card”, which can initiate things like rail strikes, or provide a “taxi ticket” to get them from A to B, pronto. The game forces players to determine the optimal route between their destinations, re-route as events occur, and negotiate their routes to be compatible with the players that they must meet.

I may finish designing this game at some point, including proper playtesting, but I also feel like the basic mechanic is a little tedious and there are not enough “interesting decisions”. I may be better off just scrapping it and starting with something entirely new. Below the fold are the rules as they stand, and my working notes …

Commuter Hero

Number of players: 2 – 6 (maybe more, better with more than two)


  • Game board
  • The clock spinner (may be part of the board)
  • One token per player.
  • Two six sided dice (2d6)
  • A set of 18 destination cards (3 of each destination)
  • A set of event cards.

Setup and starting the game

Shuffle the event cards and the destination cards, put them in separate piles on the the space provided on the board. Players choose their token, and place it in Central Station. The clock starts at 0 o’clock.

Before the game begins, each player takes _three_ destination cards, which are their ‘solo destinations’ that they must visit during the game. The player can keep these cards secret (face down) if they like.

Players also draw a fourth card that is a ‘shared destination’ card. During the game they must meet the player to their right at that spot. These cards are not kept secret, and are placed face up. This means each player will need to actually meet both the player to their left and to their right once in the game.


Players take turns to move (or wait at a station) in an clockwise direction around the table. The youngest player gets to choose who starts.

Traveling around town

Stations are coloured. The ‘color clock’ moves clockwise each turn, cycling through four colored times (0, 15, 30, 45). Trains or buses arrive at the station when the clock reaches the corresponding time/color (this will prevent the annoying task of moving lots of little trains each turn). Players can’t move off a station to travel along the line until the clock matches the time/color of that station or bus stop. Players can always choose to leave a station and travel by foot on a footpath. Once the player has entered a space on the train line or road they must move once space per turn along that line. They cannot change direction, but must travel in the same direction along the route until they hit a station. They can only pass a station on that line if the clock matches the time/color of that station (otherwise they must ‘change trains’ and wait until the clock matches that station before travelling on).

If a player has to wait at a station (eg, they are on a station but the clock doesn’t match the timetabled arrival at that station), they must roll both dice. If they roll a double, they can take an event card.

Certain spaces on bus lines are marked with a ‘bottleneck’. Before moving off these spaces, a player must roll one die. If they roll even then they can move, odd they are delayed in traffic and cannot move in that turn. Trains do not have bottleneck delays.

Event cards

Player draws an event card, but doesn’t disclose what it is for three turns. They place the card face down on the color clock, three segments in advance of the current segment so that everyone remembers this is when the event will be revealed. Once the clock position reaches the card, the card is revealed and the event triggers. (The drawing player hence has inside info that a strike is approaching and can act on it before anyone else). Some cards may also be ‘instants’.

Strikes can close down one form of transport. More likely for trains. Player who drew the card rolls 2d6 each time their turn comes around, as well as moving their piece as usual. If the result of both dice matches (eg, a double), the strike ends immediately (the player can also enter the re-opened transport in that turn).

Any player traveling on a bus or train when a strike is called for that mode of transport must continue traveling on that line but exit the vehicle on at the next station. They cannot re-board until the strike is over, but they can leave the station by foot or another mode of transport.

When a player is moving on a bus (but not at a station), before they move they must roll both dice. If they get a double of any number, the bus is delayed in traffic and they cannot move space in that turn.


Destination cards (three of each for a six player game ?):

  • Butcher (#1)
  • Baker (#2)
  • Candlestick maker (#3)
  • Grocer (#4)
  • Hardware store (#5)
  • Game shop (#6)

Event cards:

  • Secret inside info – Train Strike in three moves ! Once the strike starts, roll 2d6 every turn. A double six to ends the strike.
  • Instant train strike – roll 2d6 every turn. A double six to ends the strike.
  • Delay at Central Station. No one can board there this turn.
  • Taxi Ticket – use this at any time to move from A to B in just one step !
  • All trains delayed – players on trains don’t move this turn.

Possible rules to play test

  • Players have 5 destination cards, but two may be hidden ?
  • Players start with two (or three) destinations, and get given one based on an event during play.
  • Player keeps a drop destination secret. They must drop a token at the destination of their colour. Another player has to pick up a token of a colour, that only they know.
  • Idea: Finite tickets for certain transport, others are free ?
  • Taxi tickets – move to any station on the board.

Board design principles

  • All destinations should be roughly equidistant in steps from central station.
  • All lines and roads must terminate at a station (there can also be stations along a line)
  • All stations must have two types of transport (walk, bus, train) to enter and exit (reduce the probability of getting stuck during a strike)

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