Pitch Tag

This is a creativity game for two or more players inspired by word association exercises and writer jam sessions. You can play this game over any communication medium, including in-person, but I find it works best over email, forum or comment.

Stuff You Need:
2 or more players
If face-to-face, a pencil and paper.
If online, any email, forum or shared document.

Setup: Players agree on what they'll be pitching, whether it be story ideas, character ideas, plots, or inventions. Fred Hicks and I like to use Pitch Tag to generate ideas for new games.

Step 1: Come up with a title. When Fred and I play, we'll assume these will be the title of a new game.

Step 2: The next player pitches a thing with that title. When Fred and I play, we pitch games. We can describe the game as deeply as we prefer, whether it's mechanics, story, or influences. The point is to just generate ideas rapidly.

Step 3 and on...: That player then tosses back another title to the first player. Play continues in this way, with each player pitching games and then challenging the next player with a new title. Keep playing as long as you like. Here's an example of a Pitch Tag session between Fred Hicks and I as we generate new ideas for games.


Small Wages

Small Wages
An InSpectres hack. Budget mercenaries for hire. Consistently win contracts because they're the lowest bidder, but are woefully inadequate for any mission. Nevertheless, they manage to succeed despite themselves. Game mechanics involve bidding to win contracts, but then trying not to go overbudget due to property damages, casualties, etc.

Your next challenge: Christmas Bonus

Christmas Bonus
Board game. Players take on the roles of elves in Santa's sweat/workshop, engaging in a festive, holiday-themed cutthroat corporate melodrama in order to be the top elf and win the most coveted prize of all, the Christmas Bonus: a day off. Players can win by building the most toys, building the most complicated toy, and other ways besides; but watch out for the time-suck that is Reindeer Stable Duty -- and the reversals your coworkers will try to heap on you as they climb to victory. In this game of Christmas mayhem, it's all naughty -- no nice!

Your next challenge: There's No Time

There's No Time
An RPG adaptation of the film In Time. Players are rebels against a nigh-immortal oligarchy directly control the economy of citizens' expected lifespans. The rebels must coordinate and plan as best they can to use the time they have available. As mortality ticks away, there is the looming temptation to turn on each other for just a few more moments of life.

Your next challenge: Rafters

In the world of competitive raft-racing, it's not just about finishing first -- it's about finishing at all! A board game that follows the rough-and-tumble white-water rapids race-course through a canyon, each team is played by two or more players and must coordinate their actions (without communicating) to steer their rafts into the fastest, clearest currents to make it through the course and past the finish line at Camp Kanook. But watch out for the random hazard deck, which can drop trees, rocks, and waterfalls into your path with little warning!

Your next challenge: Gift Horse

[Hot damn. I can definitely design that as a streamlined, all-ages adaptation of Space Hulk Death Angel.]

Gift Horse
An Apples to Apples reskin. The big annual farm festival is coming soon. The horses trot around the ranch trying to figure out what to give all the other farm animals. Each player takes turns being a farm animal while the others take the roles of horses. The farm animal reveals an adjective card that describes the kind of gifts he wants (sweet, healthy, fun, etc.) The horses each have a hand of gift cards (carrots, sugar, toys, etc.) and secretly give one to the farm animal. The farm animal shuffles the gifts, reveals them and chooses one as his favorite. The horse whose gift was chosen gets the adjective card. The first horse to get five adjective cards wins.

Your next challenge: Jasmine Tea

Jasmine Tea
A card game. Jasmine Tea is the name of the owner of a detective agency/fortune-teller business. You play her employees; clients come in, and you opt either to read their tea leaves or solve their case (all clients are looking for both). This divides the players into two teams (always two; you can't all do just one thing). Each team must work together to solve the mystery (match a set of symbols on the customer card from cards in their hands) or tell the fortune (reveal what cards the customer card is hiding underneath). Points scored are divided up among team members. The first to score ten points becomes employee of the month!

Your next challenge: OMG WTF BBQ

Cooking competition card game. It's time for the craziest barbecue competition ever! You and the other players compete to grill up the craziest meats for hordes of picky eaters. Choose from a wide variety of meats and put together your best plate. Everything from beef to buffalo, frog legs to chicken gizzards. If it comes from an animal, it's going on a plate at the OMG WTF BBQ!

Your next challenge: Baba Yoga

Baba Yoga
Baba Yoga is the twisted game of knotty witches. Each player has a set of cards showing various witch body parts contorted into odd positions -- positions achievable only by magic! Each round, a new position card is revealed and the race is on to put your cards together so that your witch matches the picture on the position card. Can you find the right contorted configuration in time? The quickest witch-twister wins!

Your next challenge: Are You My Boo?

Are You My Boo?
You're a ghost trying to scare away the tenants from a room of a haunted hotel. Build up the right combination of scary phenomena and chase away as many tenants as you can. Careful! Some phenomena actually attract thrill-seeking tenants! This is a card-and-dice game. The dice have different scary symbols on them. Each card depicts a different tenant and the things that scare or attract them. Play begins with each player having five tenants in front of them. Tenants move to the left or right each turn, depending on dice rolls. Players try to be the first to clear their room of all tenants.

Your next challenge: Peace Against Force

Peace Against Force
A cooperative team-building game where the players try to overthrow a corrupt, militant regime through peaceful protest and activism. Plays a bit like Shadows Over Camelot: the "clock" moves forward inexorably, and your activism can't succeed in garnering the necessary media attention and/or sociopolitical change on every front, but if you pick your "battles" carefully, you can prevail. Instead of a "traitor", you instead have a temptation: the "radical activism" deck -- gets you cheap-at-first boosts on various fronts, but runs the risk of legal entanglements, compromised ideals, and more.

Your next challenge: So Much For That!

So Much For That!
Card game about building a road system. Each card has a road that either bends, branches, ends or goes in a straight line. Some roads have special features like inns, homes or shops. Players try to complete the most valuable roads and claim points. Cards can be played in an organic arrangement, not necessarily in a grid, so long as the road grows. As roads grow, you might get special sets of features on that road, like two inns or four shops. Roads with two- three- or four-of-a-kind are worth a lot of points to whoever can complete it. Any other feature on that road reduces its value. So, if you have four inns on a road and then place a shop there, the value of that road only counts as if you had three inns. In this way, you often have situations where you just say "So Much For That!" when a high-value road suddenly tanks. [Phew! That was a stretch.]

Your next challenge: The Double-Clicks

The Double-Clicks
A family game. The Double-Clicks (originally Don Double and Cathy Clicks before their marriage, now plus kids Mouse and Pointer) are a family of browsers with a lot of shopping needs for the holidays and not a lot of time! Each round the family members draw a random set of shopping list items and must navigate the World Wide Web (represented as a board) to get it all ordered so it will be delivered in time for festivus. If you use too many moves to hit all your shopping goals, those gifts show up late, deducting points from your score. Who will be the season's swiftest shopper?

Your next challenge: Culture Shock

Culture Shock
Board game, looks like a giant petri dish. Components are assorted blob tokens in a variety of colors. Players try to form a line of their blobs from one edge of the petri dish to the other. If blobs of two colors ever come in contact, they get shocked and any contiguous groups are removed from the board. Players only score points for lines of blobs touching two sides of the petri dish. Players score one point for every blob in that contiguous group. That group is now shock-proof, so other blob tokens can now be placed on top of it without harm. That also means the group of tokens is out of play for the remainder of the game.

Your next challenge: Cloud City Urada

Cloud City Urada
Cloud City Urada! Home to untold riches and hidden terrors. Each player takes on the role of a sky-pirate captain with a small fleet on the outskirts of Urada. You must evade your competitors (and the city's automated patrols) while sending scavenger parties into the city to return with plunder -- if they manage to return at all. Don't run out of crew, and don't get blown out of the sky, and you just might make it home to live like a king! Styled like an anime-that-never-was, of course.

Your next challenge: Designer Drug

Designer Drug
A card-drafting game a la 7 Wonders. Cards have a different ingredient on each one with indicated uses and possible side effects. Chemists compete to file new drug patents to win government contract. Each contract has a typographic themed code name. Contract: Helvetica asks you to create a drug that treats symptoms X, Y, Z without causing side effects A, B, C. Contract: Minion must treat symptoms J, K, L without causing side effects D, E, G. Several contracts are available at any one time. File a simple patent and claim an easy contract right away or try to build up a super-drug that covers multiple contracts at once.

Your next challenge: In Her Majesty's Psychic Service

In Her Majesty's Psychic Service
A tight, focused-scenario, plays in a couple hours story-game a la Fiasco. Her Majesty has only one psychic spy in her service. Triple Naught. It's 000's job to ferret out the thought crime, the conspiratorial intent, the absence of respect, and exert a modicum of corrective pressure to the situation. But to do this, 000 has to get close to the problem. Go deep. Go dark. Triple Naught is so secret, even 000 doesn't know who he -- or she -- is. And there we have our scenario: a conspiracy, infiltrated by 000. And our question: who's the crown's inside man? It won't come out until the endgame, when every thought is compromised, when the knives are out...

Your next challenge: Good Gravy


As of this post, this particular session is still ongoing. As you can see, it takes you in unexpected directions and forces you to create in an unfamiliar space. I can easily pull two or three games out of this short session alone, which will occupy my design schedule for a month or two. It's a great exercise.


  1. This is fascinating. Thanks for posting it; I was intrigued after your tweet yesterday (unless my memory has really encountered a fatal error and giving me garbage).

  2. Any time! It's hardly a new idea, but this particular form has been very useful for Fred and I.

  3. What I like most about this process is how it forces me to pitch games that operate in a space that I probably wouldn't have selected. And often, I'm throwing titles at you where I know what *I* might do with it, but I'm more interested in seeing what *you'd* do with it. It works on a lot of levels.

  4. Yeah, I have the same experience. I often get a title and am baffled for a long time. It'll take a couple hours, coffee and/or a long walk to really get anything useful. The key thing I've noticed is that it's more important to keep up the momentum than to linger trying to come up with a fully formed concept.

  5. I find it amusing the number of 'incubating' game ideas that I have minimal notes on that parallel some of the ones that you've discussed. I have notes in my iPod Touch (formerly on my Palm Pilot) to scribble down of ideas dictated into my digital voice recorder as I drive.

  6. You're not alone. There are more ideas than stars in the sky, but only one has life around it. It's searching for that life that's the tough part. :P

    In my case, I think I can do good stuff for Boo?, So Much For That, Rafters, possibly Designer Drug. Culture Shock, BBQ, and Gift Horse are less likely candidates.

  7. Wow. That looks like fun. I need to play.


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