If you're looking to start your first game design, or even if you've been designing for years, it never hurts to take a look at what's out there and what's available to help you in your efforts. From tips and insights to the pieces that make up your game, here are 12 sites, podcasts and shops we recommend to help in designing your next game.
Have a game idea? Think you have an idea but not sure if it's good? Want to make game but have no idea where to start? These sites offer pages upon pages of insights about game design theory, opportunities for critiques, along with tips for every step of the design process. No designer should go without giving each of these sites a look.
Board Game Design Forum - Commonly shortened to BGDF, this site is entirely dedicated to game design as opposed to buying, playing or Kickstarting games. The site features a monthly contest called the game design showdown, which usually just has pride on the line, but publishers will sometimes sponsor a contest as well. Whether you want to know about game theory, pitch a concept or get tips on prototyping and playtesting, this is an excellent resource.
BoardGameGeek’s Game Design Subforum - While not a dedicated design site, BoardGameGeek has a well-trafficked forum for game designers as well. This forum also includes areas to pitch ideas, ask questions and participate in design competitions.
Ludology (Podcast) - Designer Geoff Engelstein and podcaster Ryan Sturm spend about an hour every two weeks discussing different topics related to game design or interviewing designers from around the hobby. This is a great way to get an in-depth look at a mechanic, analyze player actions or just learn more about the design process.
Cardboard Edison - This blog doesn’t come out with unique content, but instead compiles game design-related articles, quotes and videos from around the Internet every day. If you can only visit one site for game design insights, this might be it.
Many games rely on iconography for quick, at-a-glance rules during play. Good icons can help trim down the amount of text you need and can even help immerse your players in the game. Nothing helps give you the sense of a pile of lumber like a bunch of cards with logs on them, right?)
Game-Icons.net - This is a repository of game-related icons including imagery for player actions, resources and more. As of this article posting, they have over 1300 icons, all free-to-use and available in a variety of sizes.
The Noun Project - While not gaming-specific, The Noun Project is another immense library, with icons and full icon sets for just about every topic you can imagine. Some icons will cost money if you want to use them in published copies of your game, but almost every icon on the site has some sort of Creative Commons license for non-commercial use.
While art and aesthetics are not your main concerns in an early game design, using a good header font can help set the mood without dumping hours of time into graphic design. Here are a few site we recommend.
DaFont and 1001Fonts - These are two sites featuring hundreds of free-to-use fonts. You may need to search a bit to find one that is legible enough and meets your needs, but chances are, you can find one here.
Lost Type - If you’re looking for a particular look and feel, Lost Type has a few dozen well-polished fonts in retro and futuristic styles that can really make a design pop. Most of their fonts are pay-what-you-want, at least while you’re using them for non-commercial purposes.
Bits & Prototyping
Index cards and paper in sleeves are great for early game prototypes, but eventually, you may want something a little more polished, or at least cards that hold up to shuffling a little better. In addition, your design may need cubes, pawns or some other component you don’t have lying around the house. It’s good to know where you can find them.
The Game Crafter - A combination printing service, game shop and parts seller, The Game Crafter can technically make a finished game for you. Even better, though, you can find hundreds of different kinds of meeples, pawns, dice and other game components. You can also get custom cards and boards printed if you need them.
Print and Play Productions - This site was built more with the intention of providing bits for players who wanted to make copies of print and play games they found online. With that said, they also do a lot of business in helping designers prototype games. They offer a wide selection of very reasonably priced cubes, dice and pawns, along with prototyping and printing services.
500 Centimeter Cubes - This one is weirdly specific but something that probably every designer should have in their toolkit. Whether you’re using them as pawns, markers or resources, cubes are almost as prevalent in games as cards and dice. Wooden cubes can be a little expensive depending on where you get them, but you can find lots of 500 or 1000 of these plastic centimeter cubes for around $20 online. They are a little bigger than typical 8mm wooden cubes, which could affect a spatially oriented game, but in general, these are a great way to get a lot of cubes in 10 or more different colors.