Upcoming Conventions and Events

We’re going to be at a few board game conventions and local events over the next few weeks. If you’re in the area, come by, say hello, and get a free button!

March 23, 24 and 25: we’ll be at Unpub 8 in Baltimore.

March 31st: we’ll be South Jersey Geek Fest.

April 6, 7, and 8: we’ll be at PAX East in Boston.

April 18: we’ll be at RedCap’s Corner for International Tabletop Day.

FAZA Button

This is the big box o’ buttons we just got in the mail. 🙂

Inducted into The Game Crafter’s Hall of Fame

Some really cool news I’d like to share with you all. I was inducted into The Game Crafter’s Hall of Fame because a few months ago FAZA won the Big Box Challenge. While there’s still a ton of work left to do for FAZA, I’m feeling excited to reach this milestone and also honored to have the game design work I’ve been doing be recognized by the game community.

The interview questions range from ‘how long have you been designing games’ to ‘where the game idea come from’ to ‘any words of encouragement or advice to all the designers reading this’ and everything in between. Check it out and let me know what you think.


This news was cross posted to my personal blog as well.

FAZA at PAX Unplugged

I’m so glad PAX picked Philly as its city to host PAX Unplugged; the geographic convenience made this my first convention to attend as a game designer.

Exhibiting FAZA over three days, meeting tons of new people and demo’ing was exhilarating and exhausting. The intensity of the entire event has been condensed into a minute and a half in the following video.

After checking out the video (or even before you watch it), please join the waitlist so I can let you know when FAZA’s Kickstarter goes live!

Designing for Fun

Designing, developing, and refining FAZA was a process that involved making many mistakes, slowly noticing them, and then making thousands of small design decisions – eventually accumulating into a cohesive experience that I can finally say is fun. This is the one constant in designing any product, service, or experience: making mistakes. We as designers make a lot of them.  It’s only through testing prototypes that we discover mistakes and have the opportunity to fix them.


The First FAZA

FAZA originally began as a quasi-tower defense game that mashed together a few different game mechanics I enjoyed. The players controlled heroes that would be responsible for saving and defending their camp from the onslaught of FAZA drones, dropped off from motherships.

Faza Prototype

FAZA also incorporated a way to add more tiles to the board as the game unfolded. The prototype was somewhat playable, but I discovered problems with pace due to  board management. Game play was slowed because players had to move too many FAZA pieces while also navigating the board with their avatars.

Faza Prototype


Cutting Rules through Playtesting

Since FAZA is a cooperative game, the players are responsible for managing the foe they’re playing against. The challenge was to reduce the amount of pieces that players had to move around the board, while ensuring the game was challenging. From another perspective, I was also looking to free up more time for players to have dialogue with each other so they could focus on making interesting decisions as a group. The more time they spent managing the board the less time they could engage the core of the game.

At this point, my time was spent playtesting to identify rules I could cut, which was followed by more playtesting to make sure the game was still playable. Cut, playtest, tweak, playtest – it was grueling and required a lot of dedication to get past this hump. The persistence slowly began to manifest, it helped me discover the core of the game. This took me roughly a year to get through.

Faza playtest Faza playtest Playtesting Faza Faza playtest

By cutting away the game mechanics that were too time consuming and less enjoyable the foundation for the game was now set. It was time to invest in the graphical work and illustrations.



Faza prototype with illustrations

Another major step in the design process involved working with an illustrator and solidifying the aesthetic, lore, and backstory to the game. This went a long way to make the game look and feel complete, drawing people in to sit down and play. But it wasn’t enough; the game mechanics were still rough around the edges, the choices presented to players were bland, and the user interface still needed a lot of work.


Player Choices

Faza Faza user interface

The next big step in the design process was accounting for the different choices players were making to battle and defeat the FAZA. I wanted to ensure each decision presented players with trade-offs. If a player chooses A, then they have to give up B. To promote dialogue, I also worked towards a design that forced players to make tough choices while strategizing as a group. These are the kinds of choices tacticians have to make, and this added tension to every player’s experience.

The cards in front of them functioned as their user interface, presenting them with all their options and choices, scaffolding their decision making process. Thinking through and mapping out the available choices for players was the next big hurdle in the game design process. It informed the design of the Player Cards, which are now core to playing FAZA.


Refining the User Interface

Refining FAZA's user interface

Just as important as the other aspects of the design process is visually communicating to players the options they have in front of them. All interfaces have a learning process and carefully observing people struggle to learn the game, noting what they find confusing, and adding visual cues and text reminders went a long way to scaffold their learning process.

FAZA User Interface


Finding FAZA’s Audience

FAZA is not for everyone. The level of strategic thinking, tactical coordination, and cooperative dialogue demanded of players can be a turn off for some people. There have been many times where I’m two minutes into explaining how to play the game and I can see a player’s eyes glaze over. Before people sit down to playtest FAZA, I repeat multiple times we can stop playing the game and they can leave at any time. I think giving players the option to get up and leave ensures I don’t waste their time and they don’t waste mine. Since it’s a 90 minute time investment, I want FAZA to be a fun and enjoyable experience. Discovering FAZA’s audience then involved having conversations with everyone that played the game, learning about what other kinds of games they’re into, other hobbies and activities they engage in, and what drew them to FAZA.


Facilitating Playtesting Sessions

Another vital step in the game design process is facilitating user testing sessions to extract actionable insights. For me, it involved observing people while remaining detached as they struggle to learn to play the game. I would then ask a few prepared questions post-playtest.

While I’ve been designing games only for the past two years, I’ve been doing user experience research and design for about 7 years. One particular strategy I employed from my professional work to get the most out of playtesting is using the think-aloud protocol. As the name implies, think-aloud protocol asks players to verbalize what they’re looking at, what they’re thinking through, and the decisions they want to make. Occasionally, I would interject to probe with a few ‘why’ questions to better understand their thought process and experience. While this particular strategy can quickly reveal many issues, it will greatly increase the play time and you probably won’t get through an entire game. It also requires you to not play your game and instead sit quietly on the sidelines, take notes, and do your best to deflect any questions back to players in order to see if they can find the answer they’re looking for.

I would argue playtesting is the most important aspect of the design process and also the most time intensive. To speed up that process, I started reaching out to local board game stores and  accidentally came in contact with a local board game design group called the Game Makers Guild of Philadelphia. They’re game designers who get together twice a month to playtest each others board games and give each other feedback.

If it were not for the continued playtesting and feedback from friends, family, and the Game Makers Guild of Philadelphia, I don’t think I would have been able to bring FAZA to where it is today.

Questions or Comments?

If you have any questions or comments or want me to write another post going into further detail about any of the points I outlined above, leave a comment below.

FAZA Wins the Big Box Challenge on The Game Crafter

So this is some really great news, FAZA won the Big Box Challenge on The Game Crafter!

Faza wins the game crafter's big box challenge

Alex Coulombe, the judge for the competition, played FAZA with his gaming group multiple times. Check out his detailed document outlining what they loved about FAZA.

He described FAZA as “far and away the most polished and engaging, while also offering the most value on repeat playthroughs, especially across 2, 3, and 4 players.” After playing the game multiple times, they “realized there was no ‘sure-fire’ strategy, and the game forced us to adapt and improvise to changing situations.” He went on to say that “FAZA is the best co-op game we’ve ever played.”

If you get further into the document, he continues listing out the many wonderful aspects of playing FAZA:

  1. “Never have I played a game before that is so thoroughly engaging for all players the entire time. While some co-op games achieve this to a certain degree, the level of strategy and planning for an upcoming Faza round in our games had everyone feeling like brilliant tacticians working together.”
  2. “Great balance with the different roles and their abilities. Everyone felt like were able to pick a role that suited their play style, and they had something meaningful to contribute every turn.”
  3. “The game keeps the pressure on continuously– from the word go we basically always felt like we were about to die (or run out of drones), then felt enormous exhilaration and relief when we managed to stave off our demise.”
  4. “Rules are laid out in such a way that made reading through them easy, which is impressive considering there are some fairly complex elements in this game. The rules are exceptionally well-written with clear graphics and worded with a level of precision that immediately answered nearly every question we had.”
  5. “Great synergy between theme and mechanics. I honestly couldn’t tell you which one the designer likely started with.”
  6. “Average playtime for a game became 1 hr 30 min, which felt like the perfect length. We ended every game on a high of wanting to play again and adjust our strategies and roles to see how it might affect our next playthrough.”


This news was cross posted to my personal blog as well.

FAZA is a finalist in the Big Box Challenge from The Game Crafter

The Big Box Challenge started out with 55 board game submissions, and then the list was whittled down to 20 via a community voting process. Now, the list of games has been further refined to 7, and FAZA is one of them! You can read more about the seven finalists here and also see the scoring sheet provided by the judge Alex Coulombe.

If you start diving into the scoring sheet, you’ll notice that Alex gave FAZA a total score of 42 out of 45. This score is then broken down into three categories: Rules/Mechanics (18 out of 20), Art/Style (15 out of 15), Marketing/Hype (9 out of 10). He then highlights some of the qualities that stood out to him:

“Great cooperative premise and graphics. Like how the play area is laid out, though looks like there’s room for improvement in hierarchy of information. Really glad there’s considerations for ‘if this is your first time playing.’ Rules are super well documented and the examples are helpful. Thrilled to see info for both ‘here’s what to do on your first game’ and ‘here’s how to make the game harder.’ Also nice touch with the considerations made for color blindness.”


This news was cross posted to my personal blog as well.