Tag Archives: Design

Korea Boardgames 2018 Design Contest


  • Games with special components (no games only using cards, dice and tiles)
  • All themes and genres welcome!

Jury Criteria

  • Elegance (Easy rules that still provide interesting and engaging gameplay)
  • Technical Excellence (Well-rounded rules without loopholes or imbalances)
  • High Replay Value
  • Originality
  • Games with an interesting use of timers will get an advantage in the judge process

Entry Conditions

  • Both new and experienced authors may participate
  • Only original, unpublished games
  • Rules may be sent in English or Korean
  • No submissions by Korea Boardgames employees are allowed

Required Submission Content

  • Complete rules (.pdf, .doc or .ppt)
  • 1-2 Pictures of the game in progress
  • Game Description (not more than one A4-page)
  • Author Information Sheet with (scanned) signature find it here)
  • Prototype (only if selected for the final round)


US$ 1000 + the offer to publish the game at Korea Boardgames with a $1500 royalty down payment

US$ 500

Jury and Selection Process

  • The Jury will consist of the Korea Boardgames Editorial Team.
  • Jury decisions are final and there is no right of appeal.
  • No reason for elimination from the contest will be given.

Special Entry

The 2018 design contest is open to games with special physical devices. Entries with these devices will not need to send prototypes after passing the first round. However, a detailed explanation that clearly explains the device will be necessary.

Other Rules

  • The rights to the games remain with the authors at all times.
  • Submissions should be sent to: go@koreaboardgames.com
  • Korea Boardgames is not to be held liable for any unsolicited mailings
  • Entries that don’t fulfill the requirements outlined in section 3 of these rules will be disqualified
  • In case of fraud by participants, KBG reserves the right to withdraw or reclaim prizes as appropriate


Contest Announcement
February 12th

Submission Period
February 12th to June 1st

Finalist Announcement
July 23rd

Prototype Sending
July 23rd to August 17th

Finalist Testing
Until October 8th

Announcement of Winners
October 8th

Winners of the KBG Design Contest 2017

After many entries, hours of playtesting and a lot of discussion, it’s time to announce the winners of the 2017 Korea Boardgames design contest.

We’d like to thank all those who submitted – and encourage everyone to keep working on their designs, as we’re looking forward to more tabletop treasure in 2018!

Now for the final decisions…


The Age of Discover​ (Joo Bong Hwan)


Grand Museum (Rob Cramer)
Hoon Min Jeong Eum (Park Na la)

What I learned scouting unpublished games

As a newcomer to the tabletop industry, I jumped at the chance to scout for unpublished games at Munich’s Internationale Spieleerfinder-Messe.

As an Australian whose “Deutsche ist nicht sehr gut, entschuldigung,” I was nervous.

Luckily, the community welcomed me across the language barrier with open arms. Dozens of authors were kind enough to walk me through their projects, which stretched the gamut from kinderspiele to hardcore gamer’s games.

As a scout, you’re faced with tons of cardboard and little plastic things and dice by the truckload, and somehow you need to figure out which game is the most interesting.

Here’s the catch: they’re all interesting, because you love board games. Such a crazy situation, right?

But this is daily life for every gamer on the planet. There’s plenty of stuff and it all looks awesome. For that reason, thinking about the humble scout is a good way to think about your market.

These tips are intended for new designers, so we’ll start with something very concrete.

Your game may not need dice

I get it.

Board games and dice are pretty much synonymous (just look at the last two images I’ve used). Dice are a kind of conceptual shorthand. How else do you know when a player’s turn has started? Plus they’re fun to roll! But your game may not need dice.

Your game may not need a lot of things.

Cards, miniatures, variable powers, all the beautiful tools and ideas that tabletop gaming has fostered – each should be carefully scrutinized before letting them into your game.

It’s not about throwing out the rule book, vainly attempting to reinvent the wheel. Get new rule books! Play everything you can, keep stretching those horizons, and you may find your game fits elsewhere in the tabletop universe.

Like, what are you trying to do with this game? Really?

Do that thing. Just do it.

Less is more (unique)

Remember those hundreds of other titles? Your game needs a hook, friend.

One common trap for new designers is to keep adding more features, searching for that point of difference in sheer quantity. This is a common intuition across the arts – look at all this interesting stuff!

In fact, the opposite is often true. By narrowing the focus and throwing out the baggage until nothing but your game remains, you’ll have something more distinctive.

With this approach, it’s possible to not only find that hook, but also sharpen it to a fine point.

Think of it like a Venn Diagram. As the circle of your game expands, the greater likelihood it overlaps the same terrain (solving the same design problems) as other games.

And what if you’re designing a glorious big box game drenched in small details? That’s fantastic – go for it! Just keep that precious, original idea at the beating heart.

You’re onto something

Absolutely every game I saw in Munich had a great idea at its core.

And that idea is rarely a mechanic. It’s often a feeling, a relationship between players, an affection for certain aesthetics – the cardboard and rules are just vehicles. So do you really need those hidden roles, that event deck? And if it’s a distraction, why do you keep reaching for it?

Maybe the ‘twist’ should become your main idea, and it’s time to change everything. This is fine as well.

As a designer, you might spend weeks, months or (sometimes) years getting it just right. You obviously have a lot of faith in the central idea, or you wouldn’t have invested so much time and effort.

So, when it’s time to show your prototype to others, let that idea shine. Make your goals explicit. Help people understand what you want to do.

Because you’re onto something great – you know it.

Life is a point salad

People find joy in a lot of different ways, and we’re not all pursuing the same things.

Some designers want fame and fortune. Some publishers want to painstakingly hand-craft every wooden piece in their own garage. It’s all good.

So what do you want from game design? Think about that. Write it down if possible. Now think about your dream publisher. What do they want?

These goals should at least be compatible – ideally, they’ll be in harmony, each supporting the other. If they aren’t, you may need to reconsider your ideal publisher. That wasn’t your dream after all!

From this point of view, the sting of ‘rejection’ can seem very different.

When a publisher decides this isn’t the game for them, they’re not deciding it’s a bad game. Often it’s simply heading in a different direction, and doesn’t match their own hopes and dreams.

This can feel like a failure, but in reality you’ve dodged a bullet.

Have you ever gone on a bad date? Now imagine that lasting for months and months…

The tide is rising (so pick a ship)

It can be tempting in these situations to feel defensive, to imagine you’re in competition with other creators. But the tide of tabletop gaming is rising, lifting everyone across the industry, and their success is also your success.

And the truth is you’re not competing for some all-powerful gatekeeper to publish your game or condemn it to obscurity.

That kind of gatekeeper is dead.

With the advent of crowdfunding, smaller publishers are more like partners or consultants on the project of your game, with particular areas of expertise and equally particular restraints.

It’s fine to aim your game towards a large company, but there are alternatives! If you make that decision, it’s time to start thinking like a small publisher. What do they want? What are they thinking about?

Spoiler: it’s Kickstarter. Here is a great resource to get you started.

If you have a game you’d like Sweet Lemon Publishing or Korea Boardgames to check out, just send the print & play files via email.

See you in Munich next year!

How To Make Bombs Out Of Farming Animals

In Grazing Lands, players simultaneously play animal cards in different colors, face-down. Depending on the nature of the grazing land (as per the grazing land card of that turn) there is more or less space for a certain color of animals, so when all players’ cards are revealed, some of the animals have to return to the hands of their owners, until the limit is not exceeded anymore. Owners of the remaining animals score points.

In last year’s contest, we found that it was really nice fast-paced card game, that allowed for bluffing, calculation and frequently hilarious outcomes, when the cards were revealed. So we decided to publish it.

As for the gameplay itself, we were already quite happy with it, so not many changes were made to the rules of the game. However, as a part of our long-term strategy, we wanted to try and fit it into one of our existing product lines. One of our more successful

games in Korea is our Boom – Bomb Game:


With our move to this theme, we introduced quite a lot of problems for ourselves. At first we thought, that going over the limit in Grazing Lands would be an event that kind of resembles an explosion. That would make for a good first step to convert the theme. But looking closer, that doesn’t really work. Not all of the Bombs are removed and some remain to be scored. So… a partial explosion ? It looked like we might have to go back to the original theme or find a completely different one… Expanding on our “Boom” theme might be ill-advised anyway, considering that bombs are not something that we would want children to become well acquainted with (even if they are cute…).

We found a variant, that would fit the game way better and also help us with our bad conscience: Our little cute bombs are actually not fond of exploding, at all! Because of that, they want to run away from their armory and go to a peaceful place (might we call it a “bomb shelter”?). During their escape, they have to take care. If too many of them try to run at the same time, the guards of the armory will notice.

We replace the lush grazing lands of the original prototype with evil armory guards and instead of cute animals, we have cute and completely peaceful bombs. This is a little weird, but it also means that our game suddenly has a really nice message, that we are happy to send to our younger customers: Instead of Grazing Lands, they will play Boom – Runaway Bombs. And instead of blowing things up, maybe they will understand that war is not fun, even for the bombs themselves!

We are working on completing our design right now and hopefully we will be ready in time to bring this game to Essen. Below let us show two examples of what our Bombs look like right now (Unfinished – Work in Progress):

Granpa Bomb Tries Digging a Tunnel
Granpa Bomb Tries Digging a Tunnel
Engineer Bomb Escapes Via Jetpack
Engineer Bomb Escapes Via Jetpack

Coconuts Story: Part II

Last time we talked about how we first got to see the game and the things that factored into our decision to try to produce it. After making our minds up, we quickly negotiated contract terms and then immediately started to work on the game. So this week we´d like to discuss the development phase and the final steps to publication.

Step Three: Development

Development for Coconuts began around August 2012. We had many things to consider about the game:

– We needed to define the setting of the game more clearly.
Even going for a generic monkey theme, someone has to define what the monkeys will look like: Are they looking cute and friendly or weird and funny? Are they playing on an island or in a forest ? These kinds of details sound trivial to decide but they are a huge factor when it comes to the success of a game in the mass market, so we didn´t dare to take this lightly.

– We wanted to look for ways to improve the gameplay itself
The game in its original state was a lot of fun but we wanted to at least try to make the gameplay a little more varied.

– As mentioned in part I of this article, we had to make a transition from the original material to something that could be mass-produced, without losing too much of the original charm.

Monkey King Rising:

We spent around three months working on the gameplay and theme of the game.We were thinking about a big variety of monkey/ape-style settings and finally found the “Monkey King”. The Monkey King (or Sun Wukong, Son Ogong, Son Goku) is a famous character from Chinese mythology, that is very well known and beloved in all of Asia. He is a powerful demon spirit that gets imprisoned by Buddha for his arrogance and finally gets freed to accompany a buddhist monk on an important voyage to the west.

In the beginning we were not sure whether we could make this theme work well (because the Monkey King never actually had any business throwing coconuts) but it is such a familiar and well known story in our market that we could not resist trying to paste it on.

At the same time we were trying to improve on the mechanics of the game, constantly playing around with the author´s prototype and testing all kinds of little changes. We introduced a different type of basket, that would grant an additional shot when you hit it, in order to give players something to “fight” for. At the same time we were looking for ways to make the shooting more interesting. The catapults of the original prototype were almost perfectly controllable, so we wanted to give players the possibility to show off their skill with special shots.

At this point, we realized that our greedily chosen popular theme was actually a perfect fit: The Monkey King is able to work powerful magic, that allows him to influence people´s mind, duplicate any kind of object and move quickly over big distances. This lends itself perfectly to be mirrored in the game by special cards that force other players to do the special shots or give the active player additional powers.

That kind of matching story and mechanics is not really usual for a mass-market children´s game and we are quite proud of the result.

Monkey Material :

It quickly became clear that we would have to move away from the original launcher structure completely, so instead of relying on a “bending” catapult, we decided to go for a classic spring-based one. This change had a huge impact on the feeling of the game…

Early version of a spring-based launcher.

We found that our first spring based launchers were just as precise as the original ones, so we were quite happy with continuing to develop those.

However, there was one problem that we underestimated: It proved to be extremely hard to find a fitting replacement for the coconuts themselves. We continued to change the material until extremely late in the development process, which made the testing process a lot harder than it needed to be.

Step Four: Implementation & Production

Finally, it should be stressed, that the most important part  actually comes after the creative work is already done. Printable artwork needs to be created as well as models and actual molds. A manual needs to be written, tested and proofread. Packaging and promotional material must be designed as well.

So when we finished our work on the game and left everything in the hands of the factory, we were extremely happy, but anxious at the same time.

Step Five: Review

It is too early to know whether Coconuts will be a lasting success from a financial perspective. It has certainly been a great learning experience for us. The process was not perfect and we had to make some compromises to be able to realize the game, but overall we are quite proud of our little monkey game.We´d like to finish the article with a short video of the game in action, played by some of the many of the people who helped to create it:

Coconuts Story: Part I

Publishing games is still a very exciting thing for us! Since one of our favorite projects is finally available in Korea now, we thought we might share a little bit about it and the different steps that it had to go through before finally being published. Coconuts is a dexterity game and not a “eurogame”, but it might nevertheless be interesting to read about the whole process that preceded the publication.

Step One: Acquisition

The usual process in the boardgame business is to wait for the games to get to you, via submissions. Then you choose the best one, develop it a bit to remove the rough edges. And voilá you have your “Spiel des Jahres”.

For us, it is a little bit harder. While we are accepting submissions, we are not exactly the most famous board game company in the world (,… yet!). Much less in the beginning of 2012, when we acquired Coconuts. There were some nice submissions, but overall we wanted to see more.  So instead of conveniently sitting in our office, we were scouting for suitable games at the Board Game Author´s Meeting in Goettingen, Germany, and there we found this:

The concept of launching stuff with catapults for fun is almost as old as humanity itself

The game is about launching little coconuts with your monkey catapults. When you hit a cup, you may take it to your player board. Whoever manages to build a full pyramid of 6 cups first, wins.

What we liked about the game was that it featured quite interactive and dynamic gameplay (mostly by players constantly stealing cups from each other) in addition to the appealing, but not very original “catapult-factor”.

So we took it to our offices in Korea, played and discussed it with others in the companies and thought about the possibility of making this game.

By the way, this game was presented to us by an Agency: White Castle Games from Austria. We´re not saying that as an author you should definitely use their service (because you´ll have to pay for that, while you could just as well send your game to us for free instead :)). But we will say that they are efficient professionals and nice guys as well and we very much enjoy working with them.

Step Two: Reality Check

Sure enough, many people in the company liked the game and we felt that it might be a good prospect. So… we think that we have a good and original game on our hands. At this point in time we have to take a step back and try to analyze:

– What is the target group for the game ? Mass Market, Educational or Gamer, Kid, Family or Adult ?
-> Mass Market/Kid+Family

– Do we have a good way to market this game and to reach this target group?
-> Probably, we will have to get it into the big market chains…

– Is this target group big enough in our market to warrant making this game here
Targeting Mass Market, of course the answer is Yes.

– Can we produce this game with an adequate quality, regarding artwork and material, while keeping our consumer price low enough for our target group?
-> Maybe!

– (…)

Some of the answers to these questions seem obvious: A game with little monkeys and catapults and coconuts is definitely more of a kid/family game than an adult game, right? When we look at the last question however, it gets more complicated, especially in the case of Coconuts: The original material (catapults and coconuts) provided by the author, which you can see above, combined two unlikely features: It was both perfectly suitable for the game regarding handling and feeling  and perfectly unsuitable to be reproduced in the mass-market version of the product (Due to price of production, aesthetics and minor issues like flammability).

So we had to choose and make new material that would

fit our price point (to get out with any profits after royalties, discounts and our own running costs, the production cost needs to be a very small fraction of the final consumer price

at the expected sales level
more expected sales = more games produced = lower price per game, but higher risk

for the chosen target group
MSRP of a mass market/kid/family game must of course be lower than that of a game for hardcore gamers.

and still be fun to use in the game
the launcher must be controllable, coconuts must reach all cups comfortably, but not fly too far. Cups shouldn´t fall over when they are hit…

At this early stage of development there is a lot of guesswork that can be hit-or-miss on things that you can´t really accurately predict. Previous sales data of comparable games is of limited help, but mostly this is where it is important to have experience in your market and in making games as well, to put it all together and get to an appraisal of the chances and risks that is as accurate as possible.

While we are certainly the most experienced game company in Korea and we do know our market quite well, this is nevertheless one of the first games we publish ourselves. So for us to go for making this game despite the existing uncertainties might actually not be the most reasonable thing to do. Except that we really wanted to.

We´ll not go into actual numbers, but in the end, after having a thorough reality check, we decided to go ahead and make the game, despite the fact that there was quite some risk involved and despite the fact that we could already see that there would have to be a lot of additional work before we could put the game on the shelves….

That´s it for today!

In the second part of this short article we´ll tell you more about the actual development process of the game and all those other things that still had to happen on the way to publication.

Interview: Carlos Moreno Serrano

As a part of an interview series with last year´s winners, we talked to Carlos Moreno Serrano, designer of the third placed entry Promises, Promises. He told us about his challenges when designing his entry, his disappointment in KBG and lessons he learned when dealing with evil publishers like us.

[You can view a short description of Carlos´ game in our round-up post of last years contest]

The KBG Design Contest 2012

With the submission period of our newest contest running out next sunday, we would like to take a look back at what happened the last time around! Read about the 2012 contest and what happened to the two games that received contract offers from us.

Our View On the Contest

When KBG decided to increase its efforts in publishing, that in itself was already a big step for us. The company was successful in distributing games, but had little experience in creating and developing them. Therefore we looked to the example of the big western publishers, most of which have editorial teams that filter and develop ideas created by external authors.

Consequently, we opened ourselves up to submissions. However, we noticed that it is not as easy as just waiting for the good games to come flying towards us: For western authors we wouldn’t be the first choice (if they had even heard of us), so we would mainly get designs that had basically been rejected by every other option out there. There was also not a big pool of Korean designers -for whom we might have been a more natural option- to draw from.

That’s why we decided to have a contest for both of these audiences, trying to remedy these situations at the same time. We didn’t expect a huge amount of submissions, but we felt that the contest would show western authors that we are a viable alternative (or at least hoped that the passable prize money might convince them) and it would also encourage Korean designers to step it up. At the same time it would be a nice experience for us, working with designs from all over the world and seeing what everyone came up with.

The KBG Design Contest 2012 took place from 9/18/2012 to 11/7/2012. During that time we received more than 80 submissions from all over the world, with about 50% of that number being submissions from Korea. These figures alone already constituted a huge success for us, but they also meant that we had huge logistical problems to accomodate that high number and make sure that we reviewed each individual submission with the appropriate care. We also found that the quality of the entries exceeded our expectations and it became quite hard to eliminate games from the competition. I still feel that another jury might have selected three completely different winners and they’d be just as worthy as the ones we have chosen. Anyways, we ended up having to delay the announcement of the finalists by a bit, but I feel we managed to do a good job overall.

What about the winners ?

Our contest produced 3 winners, Love Means Nothing by Ariel Seoane, Grazing Lands by Christwart Conrad and Promises, Promises by Carlos Moreno Serrano.

Love Means Nothing is our first place winner. It simulates a game of tennis by players shooting and receiving shots in different areas of the field. The catch is, that the number of cards you may play depends on how many you display openly in your “preparation” area. This balance between flexibility and secrecy is quite novel and makes for some interesting decisions. While the rules are easy to understand, the game also features quite a bit of depth: Depending on how many cards are visible, quite a lot -and sometimes too much- calculation is possible. And yet you might get unlucky and lose a whole play (which counts as one “game” of tennis – as opposed to a whole match) due to bad card draws. You can find a full print-and-play version here.

Even though a “tennis” – theme usually is cause enough for an instant rejection, we felt some huge potential here, so we made this game our winner and we made a contract offer to Ariel, which he accepted. The game is currently being developed by us. Working on the game mostly involves trying to find a theme for the game that is anything else but tennis. We will be developing this game for the Korean market, but we are also looking into having a small english edition or making the game bilingual. We are still hoping to make it an Essen 2013 release, but we will have to see whether we can pull it off.

Grazing Land is our second place winner. It is a really fast and fun game, where players simultaneously play cards, trying to stay below a shared limit. We enjoyed the streamlined nature of the game and we offered Christwart a contract, which he accepted. We are currently working out some kinks in the rules. We have decided to produce a version for the Korean market that is based on another IP of ours, changing the theme to something that will probably not be acceptable for western kid’s game audiences. We are in talks about coproducing an international version. This game is well on track to be available in Korea around the time of the Essen fair and we might bring some bilingual copies to Essen, too.

Promises, Promises  is our third place. This game, with a political theme, is arguably the most elegant of our entries. It involves winning “elections” by making promises (in a kind of bidding process) and the winners of the elections having to scramble to meet their promises by negotiating with other players. We really liked this game as gamers and editors, but due to marketing considerations and our limited capacity to produce games, we couldn’t give Carlos an offer this time around.

So, as you can see, we found quite a few gems and we are not only busy to realize them in cardboard form, but are already bringing in the next batch of prospects with our 2013 contest, which will conclude its submission period this sunday. Hopefully we will have a similarly spectacular result as last time – or might we dare hope to even surpass the previous year?