Designing Women: Laura Erwin

“… always be asking questions, and seeking advice.” ~ Laura Erwin

NY based design Laura Erwin is using her graphic design background to guide her game design!

What got you started playing board games? 

I’ve always played family board games, however I really got into the tabletop hobby during college, when I started going to game stores and working at a board game cafe.I really love the social aspect of tabletop, playing games is a great excuse to gather with old friends or make new friends.  

What inspired Potions Please?

Potions Please was inspired after a failed deck building game I made. It had 400 cards and was really complex, I really didn’t know how to design mechanics for a game. So I decided to give myself until a local game convention, around a month and a half to come up with a playable prototype. I researched classic games like Go Fish!, and built Potions Please around that. Within a month and a half, I had a really fun and playable game with distinct art. After getting feedback at the local convention, I tweaked the game until July, when I decided it was time to try and launch my first game.

Are there any games that you’ve played that make you think about design in a different way?

I really love games with simple mechanics but that do something interesting with gameplay. Star Realms is an incredibly simple deck builder, but the way its cards work, its simplicity and its combat oriented gameplay, really helps it stand out from other deck builders. Mostly getting into game design has changed the way I think about games. I tend to question why decisions were made and if it leads to effective gameplay. 

What do you like most about the design process?

The art really guides my design. When I start a project I get a vision in my head for how it will look on the table. From there I come up with an aesthetic and style of game and I really let that help design the mechanics. It’s definitely not the fastest or best way to do things, but I’ve found it effective in creating games with a strong visual identity. 

Are you finding the community supportive? 

I have been incredibly lucky with the game designer community. I thought it would be like game stores where its really competitive and gatekeeper-y, however I found an amazing group of designers to playtest with on a weekly basis. I’m really surprised with how open everyone is about sharing ideas and giving advice, the online and local game designer community has really given me a lot of confidence and an education in how to pursue game design. 

Tell us more about the Potions Please activity book! 

I really love the world of Potions Please and my witch characters, so I created a 20 page activity book with bios, information about the world the witches live in, quizzes, crafts, recipes, coloring book pages, games, and a set of 4 paper dolls with 24 clothing and accessory options. It’s really exciting to develop the world a little bit, and maybe it could lead to an expansion! 

Whats been your biggest challenge to date?

My biggest challenge to date has to be figuring out when a game is finished. There are always things you can tweak, or add to your game, but when it comes down to it, you have to decide when it’s done and put it out into the world. 

Whats your favorite game?

I would say my favorite game has to be Star Realms. I have such good memories playing that with my friends it’s so easy to pick up and play. It was also the first game I participated in a tournament for and I won so that felt really good!

What advice would you give aspiring designers?

My advice to aspiring game designers would be to always be asking questions, and seeking advice. There aren’t really schools for tabletop board game design so your education is in your hands. I found a couple mentors through Facebook gaming groups and they were incredibly helpful in developing my art and marketing my game. Also! Don’t be afraid to put your game away for a bit, taking a break can help you explore new ideas and look at your game with a new fresh perspective. 

You can keep up with Laura and Facebook and Twitter!