Designing Women: Alice Davis

I met Alice Davis across a board game table – specifically Thieves Den, which would go on to highly a successful Kickstarter run a few months later. At the same event I also happened to get a copy of her first game, Kitten Klash, and it quickly became one of the kids’ new favorites.

Additionally, her laid back, completely open writing style is dynamic (her Twitter feed is one of the most honest and hysterical slice-of-life views of game design and parenting I’ve ever read). With her latest game, Dinos Not Assembled, scheduled to hit Kickstarter next week, we caught up on what she’s been up to in the last year.

What got you started playing board games? 

I started playing traditional Milton Bradly/Parker Brother games as a kid. I did not get in to games that much until my partner Matt Jacobs and I got together 5 years ago. He and I both enjoyed playing games and now we just play a ton of games, which is super awesome.

And what Inspired you to try design?

I started getting into game design when I saw Matt designing a game and I kinda picked it up from him. One of his best friends, Levi Mote, is a published game designer as well. I thought I would give it a try. They were my inspiration and my cheerleaders, as well as my local group of friends. Once I started designing, it was like it was meant to be. I enjoyed every aspect – the designing, the number crunching, the play testing.

What are your favorite parts of the design/playtesting process? Least favorite?

The game design process is fun, I like when ideas come together from something random. I like working backwards. When I start my projects I limit myself to a certain number of components, cards etc. Then I make the game with those restrictions. I dislike when it does not come together as I planned, but that’s what play testing is for. When I play test it allows me to figure out the broken chunks and fix them, or just throw them out completely.

When designing, what do you start with?

I usually start with a theme. I then randomly go down a list of mechanics and play it in my head and see if it feels right there first. If something triggers, I would prototype and play. While I prototype I limit myself to certain number of cards and resources based on how much the game should cost to produce. I set limits for myself. 

Do you find the community supportive?

I am finding the community very supportive. The board game community in the Pacific Northwest is very inclusive and I can always find support here! 

Any challenges as a woman game designer?

Sometimes at big events, people pass my game, I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a female or not. I’m just going to assume it’s because I’m new to the industry and not well known yet, so they would rather play a known designers prototypes. It gets frustrating at times. I would not say I have a problem because I was born with a vagina, it’s simply due to the fact I’m still new. Over all the board game community as a whole has been welcoming to female designers in my experiences.

Whats your favorite game?

My favorite small game is Oh My Goods, and my favorite large game is Twilight Imperium 4th Edition.

What advice would you offer someone just getting started in design? 

If you have an idea get it to the table as quick as possible. Just plain paper and pencil works. Playtesting is key to find out if it works at all. If something needs changed, change one thing at a time and then test.  Don’t be afraid to play a two, or even a 3 player game by your self. 

What have you been up to since we met last year?

Since Unpub 8 I have had a successful kickstarter of 60k-ish for Thieves Den, I’ve been to ECCC, UNPUB, Gamestorm, Origins, Dragonflight, PaxWest, Geek Girl Con, ETX. I have been running what’s called The Mystery Box Game Design Challenge at conventions such as ETX, PaxWest, GeekGirlCon and ECCC. I’m hoping to do this at as many conventions and currently building an information Facebook page for it. During the contest , players get in to teams and open a random box of components and get one hour to make a game. Then three other people in the game industry and my self judge and give out prizes. Judges in the past : Matt Jacobs, Paul Peterson, Bebo, Tony Miller, Nichole Jekich, and Brandon Neal.

In March 20th, Dino’s Not Assembled will go on Kickstarter with Thing 12 Games. This is a game I designed with my 9year old son, he was 6 at the time we designed it. I’m also helping work on a Roll and Write anthology.

This year I plan on being at ECCC, UNPUB 9, Gamestorm, Stumptown Game summit, Origins, GenCon, Dragonflight, PaxWest, Rose City Comic Con, and Geek Girl Con.

You can follow Alice on Twitter and Instagram!