Designer Diaries: Mark Tuck

Article

Article
Posted by:
Andrew Birkett
Date Published:
Jun 16, 2019

Hello Fans and Friends of Atheris,

Recently I’ve begun working closely with Quick Simple Fun Games. I’m managing art direction, Kickstarter management and community engagement for most of QSF’s upcoming projects. Last year my favorite game to demo was Squirrelin’ Around. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing the designer of Squirrelin’ Around to learn more about his design process and how the game came to fruition.

Where do you call home?

For over 30 years it was London. But we’ve recently sold up and are in the process of buying a place on the south coast of England.

Most board game designers don’t do this full-time. What is your full-time line of work?

I’m a graphic designer. I spent many years at a brand design consultancy and am now plying my trade freelance.

Has your day job helped you with any of your game designs?

I’ve worked on many brand designs, packaging projects and corporate identities (my main claim to fame being the design of the England Rugby rose) so that obviously stands me in good stead when it comes to the visual look of a game.

Also, doing brand guidelines has helped with writing the rules for games. Both need to be clear, organised and understandable. Structure is important – giving the reader the  right information in the order they need to know it.

What got you started in the board game industry? How long have you been a part of it?

Around 3 years ago, after a session of reminiscing with work colleagues about childhood toys and games that we’d hankered after but never got, I googled a couple of them and landed upon BoardGameGeek.

Browsing the site further, I came across the 18 card Print and Play contest and decided to enter. During my teens I always enjoyed designing and making games – but only for myself or family to play. This was the first time I’d designed for a wider audience.

I was bitten by the PnP bug and have been entering various BGG contests ever since, designing over 20 games in the process, including several that were fortunate enough to be deemed contest winners.

And I’ve been amazed by the helpfulness, knowledge, dedication and creativity shown by everyone involved in the PnP community, from the contest organisers to those who submit, play test and feedback on the games.

How many games do you have signed? What was the first you had signed?

Squirrelin’ Around (or Jellybeanstalk as it was then called) was the first game I had signed. It was created for the 2016 One Page Contest. The game won the ‘Most Innovative Mechanic’ category and, not long afterwards, I was fortunate enough to be contacted by Quick Simple Fun Games.

I’ve also recently had Orchard: a 9 card solitaire game (winner of the 2018 Golden Geek Award for Best Print & Play game) signed by Side Room Games. It’s due to launch on Kickstarter later in the year.

What is your typical game design process?

The process often starts with setting myself a challenge, and that can also be tied in with the component
constraints of the particular contest.

With Squirrelin’ Around it was to create a dexterity game using just a single page of custom printed components and a few dice.

With Orchard it was make a quick, simple and (most importantly) replayable, tile laying game using just 9 cards. A game with that ‘just one more go’ feel.

Once I feel I have something half decent, I tend to create a logo. I find this makes things more ‘real’ and helps me focus, as well as setting the graphical style.

I then do a fair amount of play testing and tweaking before I’m happy to share anything with the wider BGG community for feedback by way of a Work in Progress thread.

Do you design theme first or mechanisms first?

Generally the mechanics come first. The theme will usually arrive soon after, once a little play testing has taken place.

What led you to the decision of working with publishers for your games rather than self-publishing?

I design games purely as a hobby and I never really considered submitting games to publishers or working with them. So it’s great when someone in the industry shows interest in your work and exciting to have the opportunity to get a game ‘out there’ to a wider audience.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to design a game?

For a small/micro game in particular:

Try to focus on the single idea or mechanic that makes your game different. Then build a theme around it that makes sense and is consistent across all aspects of the game. A theme can really bring a game to life, help it stand out and make it more accessible.

Resist adding more stuff to solve an issue – try using the fewer elements more creatively – can the cards be rotated to have multiple uses? Can their backs be put to better use? Can dice be used for something other than rolling?

Enter your idea into a contest. There are always one or two happening at any one time on BGG – 9 card, 18 card, solitaire, 2 player, mint tin…. they’re a great way to expose your idea to a larger audience and get feedback to improve both your game and its rules. And reciprocate by rule reading, playing and commenting on the other participants’ games.

Never take the contest results too seriously. The end of the contest doesn’t need to signal the end of your game’s development. In fact, it could just be the first stage of an exciting journey!

Is pineapple an acceptable pizza topping?

I am half Italian, so the answer would definitely be NO!

What is your favorite movie?

Toy Story 2

Thanks for the interview, Mark! If you’d like more information about Squirrelin’ Around check out the BoardGameGeek page and follow along with the Kickstarter coming June 25th 2019.

Thanks for reading!

Signing off for now,

Andrew

Designer Diaries: Mark Tuck

Designer Diaries: Mark Tuck

Designer Diaries: Mark Tuck

Article

Hello Fans and Friends of Atheris,

Recently I’ve begun working closely with Quick Simple Fun Games. I’m managing art direction, Kickstarter management and community engagement for most of QSF’s upcoming projects. Last year my favorite game to demo was Squirrelin’ Around. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing the designer of Squirrelin’ Around to learn more about his design process and how the game came to fruition.

Where do you call home?

For over 30 years it was London. But we’ve recently sold up and are in the process of buying a place on the south coast of England.

Most board game designers don’t do this full-time. What is your full-time line of work?

I’m a graphic designer. I spent many years at a brand design consultancy and am now plying my trade freelance.

Has your day job helped you with any of your game designs?

I’ve worked on many brand designs, packaging projects and corporate identities (my main claim to fame being the design of the England Rugby rose) so that obviously stands me in good stead when it comes to the visual look of a game.

Also, doing brand guidelines has helped with writing the rules for games. Both need to be clear, organised and understandable. Structure is important – giving the reader the  right information in the order they need to know it.

What got you started in the board game industry? How long have you been a part of it?

Around 3 years ago, after a session of reminiscing with work colleagues about childhood toys and games that we’d hankered after but never got, I googled a couple of them and landed upon BoardGameGeek.

Browsing the site further, I came across the 18 card Print and Play contest and decided to enter. During my teens I always enjoyed designing and making games – but only for myself or family to play. This was the first time I’d designed for a wider audience.

I was bitten by the PnP bug and have been entering various BGG contests ever since, designing over 20 games in the process, including several that were fortunate enough to be deemed contest winners.

And I’ve been amazed by the helpfulness, knowledge, dedication and creativity shown by everyone involved in the PnP community, from the contest organisers to those who submit, play test and feedback on the games.

How many games do you have signed? What was the first you had signed?

Squirrelin’ Around (or Jellybeanstalk as it was then called) was the first game I had signed. It was created for the 2016 One Page Contest. The game won the ‘Most Innovative Mechanic’ category and, not long afterwards, I was fortunate enough to be contacted by Quick Simple Fun Games.

I’ve also recently had Orchard: a 9 card solitaire game (winner of the 2018 Golden Geek Award for Best Print & Play game) signed by Side Room Games. It’s due to launch on Kickstarter later in the year.

What is your typical game design process?

The process often starts with setting myself a challenge, and that can also be tied in with the component
constraints of the particular contest.

With Squirrelin’ Around it was to create a dexterity game using just a single page of custom printed components and a few dice.

With Orchard it was make a quick, simple and (most importantly) replayable, tile laying game using just 9 cards. A game with that ‘just one more go’ feel.

Once I feel I have something half decent, I tend to create a logo. I find this makes things more ‘real’ and helps me focus, as well as setting the graphical style.

I then do a fair amount of play testing and tweaking before I’m happy to share anything with the wider BGG community for feedback by way of a Work in Progress thread.

Do you design theme first or mechanisms first?

Generally the mechanics come first. The theme will usually arrive soon after, once a little play testing has taken place.

What led you to the decision of working with publishers for your games rather than self-publishing?

I design games purely as a hobby and I never really considered submitting games to publishers or working with them. So it’s great when someone in the industry shows interest in your work and exciting to have the opportunity to get a game ‘out there’ to a wider audience.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to design a game?

For a small/micro game in particular:

Try to focus on the single idea or mechanic that makes your game different. Then build a theme around it that makes sense and is consistent across all aspects of the game. A theme can really bring a game to life, help it stand out and make it more accessible.

Resist adding more stuff to solve an issue – try using the fewer elements more creatively – can the cards be rotated to have multiple uses? Can their backs be put to better use? Can dice be used for something other than rolling?

Enter your idea into a contest. There are always one or two happening at any one time on BGG – 9 card, 18 card, solitaire, 2 player, mint tin…. they’re a great way to expose your idea to a larger audience and get feedback to improve both your game and its rules. And reciprocate by rule reading, playing and commenting on the other participants’ games.

Never take the contest results too seriously. The end of the contest doesn’t need to signal the end of your game’s development. In fact, it could just be the first stage of an exciting journey!

Is pineapple an acceptable pizza topping?

I am half Italian, so the answer would definitely be NO!

What is your favorite movie?

Toy Story 2

Thanks for the interview, Mark! If you’d like more information about Squirrelin’ Around check out the BoardGameGeek page and follow along with the Kickstarter coming June 25th 2019.

Thanks for reading!

Signing off for now,

Andrew

Designer Diaries: Mark Tuck

Designer Diaries: Mark Tuck