Wednesday I released the first episode of my podcast series on elegant game design. The series is based on this article I wrote back in 2017 when I decided to be more consistent with writing on this blog. There are 4 episodes in the series and I’ll release one each month. I think the series came out very well and is full of useful information on how to make your games more elegant. And why would you want to make your games more elegant? Because it is one of the judging criteria in the 2019 Board Game Workshop Design Contest of course.
That’s right, I just finished sending back prototypes and feedback and I’m already working on this years contest. I learned a lot of things from last year’s contest and this year will be better for it.
The first improvement is knowing I’m having a contest. Last year I decided to have the contest in August and round one submissions were due in September. It wasn’t much time to get things together. This year I’m starting earlier, giving more time to promote it, and I already have last years list of judges and entrants to start from.
Things that will be staying the same:
Round one is still a 2-minute video and short text description. Some people struggled with the tight restrictions last year, but I feel that it is a valuable part of the contest. It pushes you to be concise and makes it possible for the judges to get to a lot of submissions and give more feedback. I will have more detailed guidelines for the video. These won’t be requirements, just information based on what judges wanted more of from last year. The biggest one was “show your game.” The only requirement for the video will be sticking to the 2-minute limit.
The judging process will be largely the same. Judges get access to the entire list of entries and choose which to judge based on their name and description. Some judges would prefer being given a list of entries to judge. I prefer letting them choose for a few reasons.
It’s much easier for me. Organizing the contest takes a good amount of time and it’s just me managing it all. So it saves me a lot of time and helps things move along instead of judges having to wait fo ra new batch of games from me.
I don’t know the gaming preferences of most of the judges. If I chose what they judged, it would be mostly at random. This can have an affect on the games’ scores. If the judges choose what to judge based on the name and description, that becomes part of the judging process. It’s important to properly describe your game so you attract the right audience.
Last year there seemed to be some fear of the number of judges that viewed a game would affect the score. Some thought having more judges would be a benefit and others thought it would be a detriment. Based on the scores from last years contest there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between average scores and the number of judges. I do try and get a minimum number of judges on each game so that a single judge doesn’t have too strong of an influence on the results.
Last year I was able to get everyone their feedback the same day I announced the winners of each round. If you have been part of design contests before, you know that organizing feedback can be very time consuming. I’m proud of the fact that I could get people their feedback quickly so they can start to make improvements to their games. The entrants seemed to appreciate it as well. So I will stick to the same process, with a few improvements to save me time.
Things that will change:
Last year had cash prizes for the finalists and random prizes for about half of the entrants. This was expensive and time consuming. Based on the contest feedback no one entered for the prizes. Not having to organize the random prizes gives me more time to judge games, and not spending money on prizes lets me spend that money on things to support the contest like feeding the round 3 judges when they put in an entire day of play testing.
If there are no prizes why does it still cost $5? A few reasons. Web hosting, ticket sales, software, and pizza aren’t free. Any money left over after paying for the contest directly helps support the podcast in general. Having a cost helps cut out entrants who are not serious about their submission. If you have to put in some money, you are more invested in the contest and more likely to take it seriously.
Last year had a tighter schedule than I would have liked because I wanted to finish in 2018. With more time to plan a schedule this year should be less stressful on everyone. Judges will have more time to look at more games and entrants that move on to later rounds will have more time to work on their submissions. If it all goes well this will also allow for more in person testing in round three, hopefully at a convention, so there is a larger pool of judges.
Entrants and judges last year all wanted a better idea of what they are expected to do. It being the first year of the contest and my first time running a contest, I didn’t really know and left it very open to personal interpretation. Now I know what the judges like and don’t like and I can give better direction for submissions. I’m also reorganizing the judging criteria. Lats year, each round had separate categories to judge and it was a bit messy in the end. This year each round will be exactly the same as far as judging goes. Hopefully it provides more consistency throughout the contest.
I hope you will consider entering this year’s contest or being a judge. Either way it’s a great experience with a lot of opportunities to improve your designs, meet new people, and have fun.