The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design

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Pull up a chair and see how the world's top game designers roll.

You want your games to be many things: Creative. Innovative. Playable. Fun. If you're a designer, add "published" to that list.

The 144-page Kobold Guide to Board Game Design gives you an insider's view on how to make a game that people will want to play again and again. Author Mike Selinker (Betrayal at House on the Hill) has invited some of the world's most talented and experienced game designers to share their secrets on game conception, design, development, and presentation. In these pages, you'll learn about storyboarding, balancing, prototyping, and playtesting from the best in the business.

Featuring a cover and interior art by John Kovalic, the book’s 15 contributors include:

  • Richard Garfield (Magic: The Gathering)
  • Steve Jackson (Munchkin)
  • Dale Yu (Dominion)
  • James Ernest (Kill Doctor Lucky)
  • Lisa Steenson (Redneck Life)

Whether you're a game enthusiast who wants a deeper understanding of the hobby, an aspiring designer looking to break into the industry, or a seasoned pro who knows there's always more to learn, there's something for you in the Kobold Guide to Board Game Design.

Winner of the Origins 2012 award for Best Game-Related Publication!

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Great Book To Learn From


I own the epub/mobi version and this book gets 5* for the articles that are in it, but it gains -4* because it's missing 2 essays that are in the print edition.

Don't just PLAY games, UNDERSTAND them too!


Open Design products normally focus on Role Playing games, so at first glance a guide to board game design seems somehow misplaced. However, after reading The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design, it is obvious even to an amateur such as myself that both types of games are built on exactly the same principals. In other words, good design is good design. So the first important point of this review is: Don’t bypass this book just because it doesn’t have “Role Playing” in the title.

Exactly what is in The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design? It contains twenty essays from fifteen successful game designers. Note the most important word in that last sentence: “successful”. Probably the two most famous names on the list are Steve Jackson, founder of Steve Jackson Games, and Richard Garfield, creator of Magic: The Gathering. However, each essay is followed by a brief listing of that author’s gaming credentials, and it’s a good bet that in every case you will recognize one or more of the author’s works even if you don’t recognize the author’s name. So the second point of this review is: This book is packed with information from people that really do know what they are talking about.

Physically, The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design (hereafter referred to simply as KGBGD) is about 140 pages long. Which, by the way, is longer than the 1st edition AD&D Player’s Handbook! The KGBGD is divided into four parts: Concepting, Design, Development, and Presentation. These four sections will take you all the way from “I have an idea” to “I have a marketed product”.

In these twenty essays you will learn how the works of Aristotle influence modern game design. You will discover that Monopoly, one of the most successful board games of modern times, violates several important principles of modern game design (and, if you think like me, you’ll wonder what redeeming features modern game designers have overlooked in Monopoly, since it has been in print continuously for so very many years).

There are marvelous bits of bizarre game development history contained in these pages. Like the way the Catholic Church jossed its own bishop-approved game, rendering it worthless. There is also a hand-drawn flowchart depicting Andrew Looney’s game design process, filled with wonderfully esoteric instructions like “Get Defensive and Brood”. Yes, he does explain most of these later in the text, including the best way to brood.

Along with all the fun, you’ll also learn a few extremely technical things, like the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Formula. Don’t be scared, it’s easier than is sounds.

After reading KGBGD, you may find that you are even looking at toy commercials in a new way. Legos and Play-Doh obviously have an astronomically high replay value, which no doubt is why they have been around for decades. But what about that weird new toy that’s being advertised on the Spongebob Squarepants show… Will it still be on the shelves a year from now?

All this brings me to my third and final important point: KGBGD is a rollicking good read that will not only entertain you, but will also expand your horizons.

So, to summarize:
1) This book has direct value to the role-playing community, even though it is not specifically about role-playing.
2) This book is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to create a game and see it published.
3) Regardless of your gaming aspirations, this book is a fun read which both entertains and enlightens.

‘Nuff said.


The Exchange Kobold Press

Thank you, Dawn and Sasha, for insightful reviews!

I am quite thrilled to publish this book, with how-to advice from designers whose games I grew up playing, as well as some of the new Young Turks of game design (I'm looking at Dale Yu, designer of Dominion, in particular).

You're welcome, sir.
By the way Dawn and Dark Sasha are the same person. :)

The Exchange Kobold Press

Doh! I should have said, Dawn and Megan.

Liberty's Edge

You're welcome, Wolfgang.

Hugs from the reviewer who isn't 'Dark Sasha' or 'Dawn'... :)

The Exchange Kobold Press

1 person marked this as a favorite.

And in related news, this is now also available for the Kindle on Amazon. And it is ranked #8 on the Board Games bestseller list!

Since I normally tend to focus pretty narrowly on RPG's, I probably would never have given this book a second glance if I hadn't been sent a review copy by KQ.

And oh my, what I would have missed!

I enjoyed this book every bit as much as I enjoy Open Design’s regular RPG publications - maybe even a little more!

I tried to write my review, as much as possible, to target others who might have been as narrow-minded as I was; to tantalize and coerce them into taking a second look. I made sure to include things in my review that I would have found enticing had I read them in someone else's review.

Also, this book has given me a new hobby: Toy companies are already starting their annual advertising run-up to Christmas. I've noticed that, since reading this book, I now can't resist "grading" the toys I see in the commercials. How simple or complex is it to play with? Does it have the possibility of different levels of play? Does it follow a solitary or interactive model? Does it have replay value? So far I haven't spotted any new toys that look like real winners, but I have noticed a few that I think are going to be real losers.

If anyone reading this post is still undecided about purchasing The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design, let me say this: Stop hesitating and buy it.

The Exchange Kobold Press

Thanks for the review, Charles!

And yeah, I may need to start grading toy companies Christmas offerings during TV commercials...

The Exchange Kobold Press

And it's sold out in print!

There's still some copies at the KQ Store, and we'll be looking to bring it back to Paizo as soon as possible.

The Exchange Kobold Press

Back in stock at Paizo!

Dark Archive

It was a interesting read but really way outside my normal reading zone. I honestly am at a loss on how to review it. I mean it is good I think, Or at least it makes sense to me.

Scarab Sages

LOL @ Flowchart for Jenga.

Sidenote: I've been a fan of Daviau's work for years now, but I had no idea he was so eloquent in his writing. I may have a man crush.


ePub & MOBI version added!

The Exchange Kobold Press

Thanks, Liz! We're very happy to offer this book in both ePub (iPad) and Mobi (Kindle) formats.

The Exchange Kobold Press

1 person marked this as a favorite.

It's official: This book won the 2012 Origins Award as best game-related publication!

Given the stellar competition in its category, this could be considered quite an upset.

Huge huge HUGE congrats to Mike Selinker, Richard Garfield, Steve Jackson, Dale Yu, Matt Forbeck, Teeuwynn Woodruff, Paul Peterson, Rob Daviau, James Ernest, Dave Howell, Richard C. Levy, Andrew Looney, Michelle Nephew, Lisa Steenson, and Jeff Tidball! Not to mention cover artist John Kovalic!

Wow. This is such a wonderful surprise.


Wolfgang Baur wrote:
It's official: This book won the 2012 Origins Award as best game-related publication!

Added to product description. Congrats!

Grand Lodge

Finally got around to reading this and I noticed that in the Table of Contents there is an article titled "Life's a Pitch" by Richard C. Levy but it is no where in the ePub or Mobi file.

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