In an idle moment I had an idea for a simple war game simulation. (Really simple - honest!) I'd like to prototype it, just to see if the game mechanic I thought of has any merit. I don't want to spend hours, though.

What it would need is a map (think Ticket to Ride), stackable tiles (eg the tiles in Carcassonne) with half a dozen possible values, and some little figurine-y things.

The simplest way seems to be to draw the map out on a big sheet of paper, and maybe use Scrabble tiles (each letter representing something...) Wondering what other people do in this situation?

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    I personnally use paper for pieces, but your idea of Scrabble tiles is great! I'll use it. It reminds me of a guy I met who did something crazy for the next step. When he had a game that he new was functionnal, he programmed the game with an artificial intelligence to check if it could be easely played. If it was, the next step was to make a prototype...
    – SteeveDroz
    Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 9:38

2 Answers 2


Your instinct is correct. In the first stage you're only interested in seeing if your mechanics are feasible so all you need are some abstract representations of your game components. A game may consist of roads, towns and cities but to test, all you really need are three different things.

You can either:

  1. Repurpose components from other games
  2. Have a collection of generic components in various shapes and colors (Maybe even something like Piecepack)
  3. Do everything on slips of paper or cardboard

Anything beyond that would probably be overkill at this time. I've recently read an article about 3 German game designers (1 aspiring, 1 first-timer and 1 "pro"). Among other things the article described the pro's design room, which had a huge selection of meeples, dice, cubes, chits and other generic game pieces in various colors. Such a selection takes time and money to build but is probably the fastest way to test an idea.

  • Great, thanks. Piecepack looks interesting, but I'm a bit confused by some of the choices (only 4 players? what?) Also, as anything other than a prototyping system, it seems to be missing the key element of beautiful design. Still, definitely interesting to consider making the game "piecepack-compatible". Do you know where to buy these "generic game pieces"? Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 0:58
  • @SteveBennett - No idea about where to get piecepack. I personally never saw the appeal in it so I never checked. I would only consider it as a source of stand in pieces while I figure out the mechanics. After that I'd choose my components based on the theme I'm aiming for.
    – Kempeth
    Commented Oct 24, 2011 at 12:49
  • Another option (variant of repurposed components from other games) - use components from toys (Lego pieces, toy soldiers/dinosaurs/animals/vehicles, jigsaw pieces etc. etc.)
    – G0BLiN
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 21:50

If you have some programming knowledge, you might try to make a computer version of your game. The difficulty and time needed for this task depends heavily on the mechanics of your game; you might be able to program only part of it (in a reasonable time). The advantage of this approach is that once the core program is written, modification of the game mechanics can be implemented and tested quickly.

Testing is made easier and quicker this way. For instance, if your game involves cards, you can easily try dozens of drawing schemes, while shuffling a physical deck takes time.

Drawing maps on a computer also makes it easier to make modifications at a later stage.

There may be a program that can be of assistance in this task, but I do not know of any.

  • Hmm, interesting comment. I do have a programming background, and indeed, have programmed a board game or two back in the day. That was quite a lot of work, but this was well before Flash etc. There's probably libraries and such now. I suspect probably the effort is still too high, but it would depend what you want to experiment with exactly - if quickly generating a few hundred new tiles is important, then it be worthwhile. Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 6:20
  • Welcome to B&CG! Have you done this yourself?
    – Pat Ludwig
    Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 6:22
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    I would recommend against this. Way too time consuming. If you were to go ahead i think Vassal (www.vassalengine.org) is your best bet. It is a no rules implemented game table program.
    – Andrey
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 13:28

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