Board Game Brainstorm: The Cure For Game-Designer’s Block

Really want to compete in Season 5 of CUDO Plays but none of your ideas are quite coming together? Got yourself a bad case of game-designer’s block? Well this blog post is for you!

As anyone who has been to our Board Game Bootcamp events knows, we at CUDO Plays think the best way to get those creative game juices flowing is to pull random game themes and mechanics out of a hat and see what you can make with them. Well, this blog post will let you do just that! You’ll have to use your own game pieces to make your prototype though. Sorry, I can’t upload actual wooden meeples to the blog.

Board Game Bootcamp bits box

How to use this Board Game Brainstorm

The following are three tables for randomly generating game themes, mechanics and win conditions. To make your selections, you’ll need a one hundred sided die (generally folks just use two ten-sided dice for this), one twenty-sided die, and one eight-sided die. Or you can just use the dice links I’ve placed before each table to roll some virtual dice.

Game Themes

For best results, always roll on this table TWICE and combine the themes. If you get the same result twice, keep rollin’ until you get something different. Many of these themes have multiple meanings. For instance, “Space” may mean outer space, or possibly inner space if you want to interpret it that way and make a game about interior decorating.


1 Steampunk 26 Anime 51 Shopping 76 Family
2 Office 27 Woodland Creatures 52 Duel 77 Beauty
3 Math 28 Fantasy 53 Treasure 78 Natural Dissasters
4 Zombies 29 Horror 54 Monsters 79 Sasquatch
5 Space 30 Mystery 55 Emotions 80 Music
6 Industry 31 Art 56 Loud noises 81 Action Movies
7 Cooking 32 Cars 57 Big city 82 Garbage
8 Fashion 33 Wizards 58 Language 83 Merchants
9 Babies 34 Caves 59 Ducks 84 Politics
10 Secret Agent 35 Kittens 60 Sports 85 Insects
11 Farming 36 Spiders 61 High School 86 Crime
12 Construction 37 Computers 62 College 87 Bathroom
13 Inanimate Objects 38 Swords 63 Costumes 88 Hillbilly
14 Sea Creatures 39 Plants 64 Dancing 89 Friendship
15 Ocean 40 The Olympics 65 Hair 90 Dragons
16 Robots 41 Volcano 66 Clothes 91 Rebellion
17 Dinosaurs 42 Celebrities 67 Jewelry 92 History
18 Construction 43 News 68 Guns 93 Aliens
19 The 1920s 44 Gangs 69 Comics 94 Unicorns
20 Books 45 Drugs 70 Science 95 Murder
21 Retro Videogames 46 Religion 71 Superheroes 96 The Moon
22 Smart phones 47 Roller blades 72 Illinois 97 Fairy Tale
23 Romance 48 Holidays 73 Party 98 Television
24 Pirates 49 Flying 74 THE INTERNET 99 War
25 Ninjas 50 Science Fiction 75 Millennials 100 Furniture

Game Mechanics

This next table is of common game mechanics. Some of these are self-explanatory, the rest are pretty heavy gamer jargon, so if you’re confused, make sure to look at the Board Game Geek list of common game mechanics, and also check out CUDO Plays’ helpful document on the subject which both go over these terms and give examples of popular games with each mechanic. One roll on this table may be enough for you, but if you’re into mashing up different mechanics, now’s your chance.


1 Area control / influence 11 Route building / network building
2 Auction / bidding 12 Speed / real time
3 Card drafting / hand management / set collection 13 Dexterity
4 Deckbuilding / whatever-building 14 Action programming
5 Dice rolling 15 Performance (singing/acting/charades etc.)
6 Movement 16 Team-based or asymmetric
7 Memory / pattern recognition 17 Bluffing / hidden role
8 Tile placement 18 Trading / negotiation
9 Worker placement 19 Betting / wagering
10 Press your luck / risk management 20 Simultaneous turns / actions


Win Condition

Without a win condition, your game would never end! We can’t have that. Honestly though, depending on what mechanic(s) you rolled, you may not need a random win condition. Alternately, I recommend sometimes just doing themes and a win condition and then developing mechanics from there. Do whatever works best for your creative brain!


1 Most points / resources
2 Last person standing
3 First to the finish line
4 Use up all assets
5 Popular vote
6 Solve the mystery
7 Collect a set / build a thing
8 Complete quests / assignments


Ponder and Prototype

After you’ve rolled some random stuff from the above tables that you take a liking to, take some time to brainstorm what your game might look and play like. Don’t spend too much time thinking though! Grab whatever is around you and start prototyping or your awesome game will stay trapped in your head FOREVER!

Weekly Rollup: Oct 15th – Oct 21st

CUDO Plays October Game Night – Spoooky Games!

Real big turnout for our October game night. The theme was spooky games and many such games were played — games about ravens and skulls and madness and um… gold prospectors? They can be spooky too! Hope to see some of our new friends next month for game night!


Upcoming Events

Making Workshop – Saturday, October 21st

Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab @ 1:00pm – 4:00pm


We’ll show you community resources to make cheap, awesome looking games, and you’ll learn about laser cutters and 3D printers. This is going to be the workshop that evolves your game from ‘stuff I found in my basement’ to top shelf material. We will have Season 1 winners of our Craft Category walking you through what they did to make their game look like a million dollars. Facebook event

Playtest Convention – Saturday, November 4th

Lincoln Square Mall @ 1:00pm – 5:30pm

Come to the CUDO Plays Playtest Convention for Season 5! This is a day to play the new prototypes and creations of the CUDO Plays teams and to get feedback from the Champaign-Urbana gaming community. Refreshments will be provided, and you will receive invaluable critique from people with years of experience. Teams can bring their games in any condition that they are in and playtest with people from the community. We will provide playtest feedback forms for playtesters to fill out! Facebook event

CUBED November Meeting: Q&A with Matt Leacock – Monday, November 6th

Champaign Public Library @ 7:00pm – 9:00pm

For their November meeting, CUBED will be holding a Q&A with game designer Matt Leacock who will be visiting via Skype. Matt is the designer of games such as Pandemic, Forbidden Desert, Forbidden Island, Thunderbirds, and many more. This meeting will be your chance to get some game design advice from one of the most well known designers in the world! Learn more here.

CUDO Plays Recommends

This week CUDO Plays recommends Nevermore.

This is a card-drafting game in which you build your hand each round, collecting cards you want and poisoning your opponent’s hand by passing along cards you think they can’t use. Whoever holds the most of a given suit, gains the power of that suit to attack, heal, acquire Light or Shadow magicks and score victory points. Winner is the first to six victory points OR the last human left standing (players that reach zero health are transformed into ravens, but still influence the game, and if they have the right cards can return to human form and win).

Weekly Rollup: Oct 7st – Oct 14th

Pitch Night

Pitch Night audience

Season 5 Pitch Night was a big success. 17 games were pitched, 14 pizzas were eaten, and an untold number of conversations were had about exciting new board game ideas. We hope to see all the pitched games in some form at the Playtest Convention!


CUDO Plays @ Heartland Maker Fest

As always, we had a great time at Heartland Maker Fest running our Board Game Blitz for kids and families. Many young designers made games and we met a lot of new people who hadn’t heard about CUDO Plays before!


Upcoming Events

CUBED Open Playtest – Sunday, October 15th

Gopher Mafia Games @ 2:00pm – 4:00pm

CUBED  is the Champaign-Urbana Board Game Design Engineers and Designers, a local tabletop game design group that emphasizes creation, collaboration, and execution of quality board and card games. It is a great place to show new designs and playtest your game with other designers and CUDO Plays veterans.

CUDO Plays October Game Night – Monday, October 16th

Hyatt Place Champaign @ 6:30pm – 9:00pm

The third Monday of every month is CUDO Plays Game Night. Come out and play games with other local gamers. For the month of October game night will focus on spooOOOoky games involving ghosts, skeletons, witches, etc. Feel free to bring any game you’d like to play though!

Making Workshop – Saturday, October 21st

Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab @ 1:00pm – 4:00pm

We’ll show you community resources to make cheap, awesome looking games, and you’ll learn about laser cutters and 3D printers. This is going to be the workshop that evolves your game from ‘stuff I found in my basement’ to top shelf material. We will have Season 1 winners of our Craft Category walking you through what they did to make their game look like a million dollars.

Upcoming Deadlines

October 21st is the last day to register a team! If you would like to compete in CUDO Plays but have not yet registered, do so here. Again, teams of one are perfectly allowed.


CUDO Plays Recommends

This week CUDO Plays recommends, Legend of the Five Rings the Living Card Game.

In this game, two players take on the role of one of the seven Great Clans of Rokugan, vying for military and political control of the land while maintaining Rokugan society’s strict code of honor. Each player commands their forces with two separate decks: A Dynasty Deck fills their provinces with characters and holdings and a Conflict Deck consisting of tactics, maneuvers, followers and attachments that can be used to turn the tide in a struggle for supremacy. During a game, players will engage in conflicts, both political and military based, with the goal of breaking their opponent’s stronghold and winning the game.

This new game from Fantasy Flight is based off of a collectible card game of the same name from the 1990’s. If you’re in the market for a deep card game with a thriving competitive scene, now is a great time to jump on board Legend of the Five Rings.

CUDO Plays at IndieCade 2017

Kaity, Tim, Katie, and Jess at IndieCade

Hello CUDO Plays blog readers, it’s your buddy Jess! Kaity, Katie, Tim, and I went to IndieCade this past weekend to talk about CUDO Plays and I’m here to give you the full recap. 

For those of you who don’t know, IndieCade is an international festival of independent games that takes place each fall in sunny Los Angeles, California. While the majority of the games selected for the festival are video games, there are tabletop games present and some games that defy categorization. There are also talks, and we gave one! We spoke about how to make a board game community, using our experience running CUDO Plays for four seasons, going on five. It was great to meet fellow board gamers on the West Coast, especially those creating their own communities around designing games. 

We were able to submit our CUDO Plays talk to IndieCade because Katie and I submitted a game to IndieCade, Windup War! Alas, Windup War was not selected for the show, but submitting a game this year also allowed us to show the game to Game Tasting. What is Game Tasting you might ask? Well, think about wine tasting. Now instead of wine, replace it with games. That’s it! We were able to show Windup War for two hours in the Game Tasting area surrounded by other awesome games. We made some new friends and also sold a few copies of Windup War while we were at it. 🙂

Several CUDO Plays games have made it into past IndieCades – Heifer Heist, The Most Dangerous Game, and DemocraSea! Another game from Katie and I, Pitch Fight, was also selected last year! IndieCade gives time to showcase tabletop games, and as Heifer Heist was a finalist, we had a table for that whole weekend to show and demo the game! This can be particularly useful during the right time – many games choose to run Kickstarters during IndieCade so they can use the time to advertise. For instance, Someone Has Died was running a Kickstarter at the time, and Visitor in Blackwood Grove had just wrapped up their campaign. For Katie and I, we were able to get the word out about Heifer Heist, Pitch Fight, and now Windup War during IndieCades!

Visitor in Blackwood Grove

There were some great games this year (but there are every year)! I especially enjoyed the installation-type games Busy Work and Fear Sphere. Fear Sphere was an augmented reality escape room for two players – one player is inside an inflated sphere where they can only see what their flashlight projects onto the inside walls, the other player guiding them from the outside with a map. They are pushed onward by the threat of an encroaching Darkness (capital D for extra spooky) – escape before the Darkness catches up with you! I played this with Kaity but alas she was consumed by the Darkness. I’m sure that’s how she wanted to go.

Busy Work is a work simulator for four players – be the Most Productive Worker by smashing your keyboard as fast as possible, answering emails and taking calls! My wrists hurt from constantly mashing the keys for two minutes straight and Katie eventually was crowned most productive and got a raise. I find this result unfair as I clearly answered the most phone calls, but you know, it’s cool. I still get that 3% bonus at the end of the year, right? Anyway, the game takes place in literal cubicles, outfitted with office supplies and little notes to yourself (“don’t forget to pack a lunch!”). The emails and instant message replies you mash out are full of corporate-speak and office frustration – it felt almost like I was really doing Real Business.

While I love attending IndieCade, I would like to see more innovative tabletop games and more board games in general being showcased. I’ve only been to two IndieCades before, I definitely didn’t see as many tabletop games this year. There wasn’t a specific tabletop gaming area for 2017, and it seems like the emphasis on board games was scaled back. I think this should only encourage us to make more games, innovative or otherwise, and submit them to IndieCade. Let’s show them what we got!

It’s always inspiring to see what games are out there. I hope I’ll see your game at IndieCade next year!

Weekly Rollup: Oct 1st – Oct 7th

Board Game Bootcamp

This was our largest Bootcamp ever and it went off without a hitch even though the CUDO Plays Committee was running with a skeleton crew! Lots of great ideas and collaboration as always. We hope at least a few of the Bootcamp games become completed products by the end of the competition.

CUBED October Meeting: Prototyping

CUBED held a very productive discussion on how to make game prototypes cheaply and iterate quickly. Talk focused on making cards, custom dice, and where to get game bits for next to no cash. There was also a demo of Tabletop Simulator which highlighted, among other things, the very important “table flip” and “undo table flip” buttons.

Upcoming Events

Pitch Night – Saturday, October 7th

Back room of Pizza M @ 5:30pm

Need a team or want to recruit more members? Just want to show of your game ideas? Pitch Night will be hosted at Pizza M, for those looking for inspiration and teammates, or just to listen to others.

CUDO Plays @ Heartland Maker Fest – Saturday, October 14th

Lincoln Square Mall @ 9:00am – 2:00pm

As always, CUDO Plays will have a table at Heartland Maker Fest. We’ll be running Board Game Blitz so kids and adults alike can make their own board games. Everyone gets to keep what they make!

CUDO Plays Recommends

This week CUDO Plays recommends, KLASK.

KLASK board

This game is basically mini air hockey, and that might be all you need to know. Players bump a tiny ball around using their posts, which they control from under the board using handles with magnets, in an attempt to get the ball into their opponent’s goal. It’s fast, frantic fun. A great game for basically anyone.