Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

Projects I'm proud of: Potluck

Blaugust is a month-long event that takes place in August each year that focused on blogging and other serialized content. The goal is to stoke the fires of creativity and allow bloggers and other content creators to mingle in a shared community while pushing each other to post more regularly.

This week's theme is Introduce yourself and I decided to do that through sharing a few projects that I've done since I think these stories will share quite a bit about who I am as a human being as well.

When I was a kid, I sucked at drawing and painting and all those arts and crafts. That led me to think of myself as a non-creative throughout my childhood well into my early adulthood. Only once I realized that I can be creative through programming as well as non-fictional, non-prose writing, I started to consider myself a creative. That opened up a lot of mental doors for me.

Graphic design has still always been the thing that's been eluding me. I've tried to learn, I've studied and practiced and even through necessity of building communities, crafted a lot of event posters and similar graphics.

Rather lately, I decided I wanted to learn the type of graphic and information design that would be beneficial to me when creating cards and tokens for tabletop games.

Minimal Travel Table Top Collections

It actually started in 2019 as I was traveling quite a bit and wanted to play board games when I was traveling. I had made so many great friends through board games and generally loved the hobby.

Thus, I built my first Minimal Travel Table Top Game Collection that fitted a few existing board games into a deck of cards. I basically took existing designs and retrofitted or recreated them to fit individual cards. It fit into my backpack so I could take it anywhere on my travels.

Only, the pandemic disagreed on the travel part. For Minimal Travel Table Top Game Collection 2: Social Distancing Edition I took hobbyist-made print-and-play published solo games from BoardGameGeek's forums and created a second set that I could play on my own while stuck at home. Design-wise, this was the least effort as the games were already designed to be printed and played on standard sized cards.

Then I dove deep into research looking into universal game systems. The idea that you have a set of cards, tokens or pieces that are generic enough so they can play dozens, even hundreds of games got me interested. The more I read and researched, the more excited I got.

Minimal Travel Table Top Game Collection 3: Project 108 had the worst name but was the most ambitious of my projects in this domain. It was designed to play a small handful of card games I really enjoyed playing while still having elements that were generic enough that they could be used for much more.

It was good. The world opened up, I got to travel a bit more and made new friends teaching and playing various games with my self-designed cards. But like all first iterations, there were things I wasn't particularly happy about and things that I noticed were useless or a hinderance to gaming. So it was time for a revision.

Minimal Travel Table Top Game Collection IV: Potluck

It was New Year's Eve. I was traveling to see my family and had to stay an extra day as there was no boat going back to Germany. I was sitting in a hotel room and decided, now is the time to start working on the fourth collection.

I named it Potluck as I find it a lovely concept: each part of the cards contribute to a larger, diverse collection of games that can be played.

Potluck is a semi-universal deck that fits into a pocket and plays dozens (actually, at least a good few hundred) of different games.

I took Potluck way more seriously than I had my previous iterations. I wanted the product to look professional and like a real product someone might buy from a game store shelf or online.

I made a few different "posters" like above showcasing different aspects of the cards and I really like how the general brand with dark blue background, faded out game card and D10 and the balance in typography turned out.

I improved on a good handful of features from the previous version: I changed the main font to something where 6 and 9 were distinquished in any rotation, I added running numbering to all cards to top corner, added another 4 suits of traditional cards and cleaned up the presentation.

I also added a ton of games I had learned to enjoy in the between, making the cards more usable and more feature-rich.

I learned a ton about tooling to use to make the process of creating these cards better. The techie in my was excited about that but I wanted to make this project more about learning design and productizing.

I've never been as proud of something physical and tangible I've made than when I got my hands on the finished product last May.

It plays really well and is the current peak of my research and skills when it comes to tabletop products.

My dream is that one day eventually, I'll be able to replace this proud project with a tabletop game that I've designed myself from ground up, including the game design. I'm currently doing a lot of reading and studying from game designers' design stories (I subscribe to Board Game Geek's Design Diaries), existing games and doing small experiments around the information design of cards.


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