Hello! Welcome to my Designer Diary series for Bug Council of Backyardia! Bug Council of Backyardia (which will henceforth be called BCoB, to preserve my typing fingers) is a game I codesigned and it’s going to be launching on Kickstarter on August 3rd. If at the time of reading this it’s live, check it out here!: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/engrogames/bug-council-of-backyardia
I figured it might be fun to peel back the curtain a bit and recount the history of the game. I couldn’t find a film crew in time to make a feature length documentary, so I figured I’d write some designer diaries. Oh well, maybe next Kickstarter.
In this first post, I’ll be going over the genesis of the game’s initial ideas and the various inspirations I drew from to create the game’s foundation. Grab your picnic blanket and citronella candles and let’s dive in!
The idea to BCoB came to me while I was doing what I love most: sleeping. I was awoken by my girlfriend early one morning as she was leaving for work and as I drifted back into my slumber, I saw it through the groggy haze: a trick taking game with a mancala mechanism. I envisioned tiles with cubes, representing how strong the suits were and the mancala would dynamically shift those cubes and suit strengths around. A voice in my head screamed at me to not forget this idea and I pinned it to the back of my brain as I fell back asleep for good.
(Fun fact: Keith Richards came up with the riff to (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction in his sleep. He immediately picked up a guitar and recorded it so he wouldn’t forget before promptly falling back sleep. So, I guess my point is the next time you have a choice between waking up and sleeping in, always sleep in. You never know what you’ll come up with.)
When I awoke, I thankfully had the idea still implanted in my mind. I immediately started to draft up a Word document with the basic ideas that I half dreamt as well as new ones I was creating to supplement those. As I wrote the document, I began to see various inspirations bubbling to the top: the ever changing suit hierarchy reminded me of Maskmen, one of my favorite Oink games; a mechanism in which you gained points for a card you kept at the end of the round brought to mind Startups, (another Oink game) and Nokosu Dice, two games in which unplayed cards/dice provide bonuses; being able to activate the mancala by playing the lowest on suit card had shades of Tricky Tides, a unique trick taking and pick up deliver game in which playing the lowest on suit card allows you to control a sea monster.
Whether these inspirations were purposeful or had come to me on a subconcious level, I wasn’t quite sure. But what I did know was that they were creating a Frankenstein monster of mechanisms in a way that got me more excited for this prospective design than I had ever been for one of my own game ideas. I knew I just had to send this idea to my buddy Patrick Engro, one of my best friends who had been my main board gaming partner before he moved from the States to Japan.
Little did I know the journey this would begin.
That’ll do it for Part One of this Designer Diary! In Part Two, I’ll answer the burning question on everybody’s mind: why the hell did I choose bugs??