Cooking with Eighteen

Today's post is about our new "micro-game" called "Stir Fry Eighteen". I'd like to start with a warm hello to you all as this is my first time writing a post for the site. This new 18 card game idea was sparked by a Board Game Geek contest. The stipulations were that designers use 18 cards and a small rule sheet, nothing else. In the end we did not submit the game since we decided to publish it immediately but more on that later.

My initial process was to pull out 18 blank paper proxy cards and sort of just start creating. My Wife and I had been experimenting with cooking our own homemade Asian foods like stir fry, sticky rice, spring rolls, and others. I decided that cooking stir fry was a theme that could be fun and started plotting out what kind of game that would be. Ingredients would be important, and cooking to gain the most points seemed like a good goal. With little real plan beyond this, I started scribbling on cards. 

The first few cards drawn were the vegetables, then the idea of having just a few premium cards sparked the addition of the protein or meat cards like chicken and pork. I set these ingredients in front of me with no text and started to formulate a game in my head. I decided that cooking a certain mix of ingredients could gain points and that certain ingredients would gain bonuses if cooked with others. The next task was to figure out how players would accomplish all of this. 

I started toying with the frequency numbers for each card. The conclusion that noodles would be the baseline for each recipe and were mandatory to cook came at this point. This allowed the design to take shape and the other card frequencies were relatively quickly decided upon. The game still needed interaction, and stipulations, and a way to get these cards into player's hands. The starting hand size was set to three, and then it was decided that players could cook between three and five ingredients per turn. 

The largest hiccup in the design was figuring out how to get players to interact and draw cards. These two problems helped solve each other by offering a mutual opportunity. If players were discarding pairs to draw more cards they could get what they needed. If the "premium" protein or meat cards had a discard value, they could also be discarded to draw more. Just discarding and drawing is incredibly pedestrian and boring however, so players got to discard face down, and are encouraged to bluff. 

The bluffing mechanic and led to the cohesive and fluid game that we eventually printed and are taking to PAX South to debut. It's a really fun and interactive game with a clear goal, cook the best stir fry meals to get the most points. The last thing I'd like to mention is the timeline for design for #SF18. 

I read the article for the board game geek contest after checking emails and having coffee, so early afternoon. The entire design was sketched and written roughly on the cards when my wife came home in the evening. We sat down and it played well after we sorted out some of the bluffing rules. From start to finish the design was essentially complete within eight hours. While I do not recommend trying to build games this way, it fortunately worked out quite well in this case.

The reason we declined to submit it to the contest was after sharing it with the Yanaguana Partners, they immediately decided we needed to print it prior to PAX South. The contest winners would be getting their games printed or kickstarted, so since we have the capacity to do both it felt right to remove our game from the competition. I want to personally thank the folks at Board Game Geek for their inspiring design challenges, this game would not exist without that catalyst.