To be a published game designer is to be part of an elite group.
Either a manufacturer buys a design and pays royalties, or a designer believes in his or her game enough to have it self-published.
Either way, the opportunity to have a creative work enter the marketplace is exciting. With a popular game, a designer can become part of gaming culture. Ever played Monopoly?
Here in Utah, there is an active game design community. An organization called the Board Game Designer's Guild of Utah is dedicated to helping its members get their board games published. The guild meets twice a month at Game Night Games in Sugar House, 2030 S. 900 East, where there are presentations and lots of play testing.
There is also a yearly game convention called Saltcon, where participants can enter a design competition called the "Ion Award."
So what makes a great board game? Theme, artwork, length of time to play, well-written rules, attractive pieces, game mechanics and fun are all factors.
Board game players can be picky, but some titles seem to stand out among many types of game lovers. The following are five games of note created by Utah designers.
1. Dominion —A unique and addictive card game based on medieval themes with artwork by Utah artist Ryan Laukat. This title is popular among all types of gamers.
2. Pastiche —Players represent artists trying to complete famous works of art by gathering and mixing the right colors. Debuting this month, this title is by local designer Sean MacDonald.
3. Bridge Troll —A game by local designer Alf Seegert places players in the role of a bridge troll. Visitors from across the realm will cross your bridges, and the trolls (players) must collect the best tolls, most valuable travelers and best building materials for their bridges. Seegert also has a new game coming out called Trollhalla.
4. Hagoth: Builder of Ships — A light family game that puts players in the roles of competing shipbuilders sailing to the promised land. Big ships are hard to build and slow, but score more points. Small boats are easy to build and quick to sail, but score fewer points. Designed by Utahn Mike Drysdale and published by Utah-based May Day Games.
5. Food Fight —A family game where players get rid of their food cards by throwing them at other players. The person with the least food on them when the cards run out is the winner. Designed by local designer Scott Nelson.
At the Saltcon convention, typically held in February at the University of Utah, finalists for the Ion Award are chosen in the categories of family and strategy games. Alex Davis, of Bountiful won the family category at the 2011 convention for his dice-based game Snake Eyes, which has an ancient Roman arena combat theme. For the strategy category, brothers Brian and Greg Powers from Napa, Calif., were awarded first prize for their game Pizza Theory, where players try to be the first to get rid of all their toppings by placing them on a shared pizza.
Membership in the Board Game Designer's Guild of Utah is free and more information can be found at www.bgdg.info.