Designer Diary: Origins of Killer Croquet

I picked up board games in college, and when I returned home for the summer, I found my friends had also found board games. The first “real” board game I encountered was Puerto Rico, followed by Last Night on Earth and Betrayal at House on Hill. It wasn’t long before my group of friends had amassed a collection, and played obsessively through the summer.

Almost immediately, I started tinkering around with the idea of designing my own games. The more games I played, the more I saw mechanics in everything I did, and wanted to see these ideas come to fruition.

My first attempt was an unwieldy attempt at creating a asymetric world building game centered around the old Canadian CGI cartoon “Reboot”. The game itself was such a massive thing that it never saw even a initial playtest.

That same Summer I rediscovered my parent’s old croquet set. When we needed to enjoy the beautiful Southern California weather (as mandated by adults) we took to a game of mallets and balls and the hilarious immaturity involved with such a venture. Croquet through the days, board games through the nights.

Thus was birthed my second attempt, the foundation for Killer Croquet. Basic mechanics with a d3, a d6, and a d12, and a ridiculous combat / collision system. This was the first game I trotted out to my friends, with all the fear and terror that such an endeavor entails. True to form, my friends thought the first few prototypes were unplayable garbage (and in many ways they were right). They were less brutal than I expected, though, so I kept on, redesigning and pruning elements of the games until they actually got to enjoying themselves.

I remember one night getting six friends around the board, and laughing uproariously as one friend got poison, and then was obliterated as each of the five other players ran up and hammered him into the dust.

It was then that I really decided that “game design” was a thing I really enjoyed and wanted to do. Dozens of half baked game prototypes came and went, time travel, street fighter analogues, super hero games, party games, and region control. I hit more than a few (if not all) of the pratfalls of new designers, “ooh it could be a CCG”, “it’d be like Magic the Gathering, but on a board”, “monopoly but good!”. And I learned through mistakes, and kept coming back to Killer Croquet, giving it a play with new friends and realizing the mechanics fell pretty squarely within the bounds of “good design”. My then fiancé, now wife, continually encouraged my game design, but pushed Killer Croquet as “the one”.

After getting some really solid feedback after college at the Game Makers Guild on Killer Croquet, ( and after a stint of trying to work a few contracted games through Game Salute, that’s a whole other story) I got some excellent support from my friends to really go for it with Killer Croquet.

The Kickstarter may not have worked out, but I haven’t regretted a minute of it, and I really appreciate my friends encouraging me to take a first stab at making a dream a reality. They’ve really given me the aggressive play testing early on that forced me to really understand what “good game design” means. Rest assured, getting a game to market is just one more hurdle that I’m dedicated to leaping, and I’m thankful to my friends for helping me along this path.

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