3 Simple Steps of Component-First Design

Watching video reviews for Maharani, Expedition: Northwest Passage, This Town Ain't Big Enough for the 2-4 of Us, I got a bug this morning for some tile-laying. This is a good opportunity for quick unstructured play to knock loose cobwebs in my design process.\

Step 1: Make a few Components

For now, I'm still limiting my components to the standard 2.5"x3.5" card format since that is what I can most easily self-publish. This allows a 2.5"x2.5" square with a .5"x2.5" tab on one end. So I made these three cards really quick loosely based on Maharani's use of half-circles to make "columns."

Step 2: Play with Components and Ask Questions
I started playing around with some simple rules. You can only place squares adjacent to each other if the facing sides are blank or have a circle. If the circle is two colors, what does that mean? If a circle has one color, does that mean something else?

If you make a contiguous area with the tabs, does that mean something? Is it important how the "wall" is oriented relative to a particular player?

And would this be a legal play, since it blocks off one edge that could have had a complete circle? Could I rotate that lower tile...

... in order for it to make a complete pink circle or to have its tab facing me? Is there an advantage to either? At this point, a theme would be useful to make sense of any of these rules.

Step 3: Propose a Theme, but don't get stuck on it
My first thought is that these circles are islands surrounded by vast oceans. But if that's the case, what do the tabs represent? Perhaps these are islands on a flat Earth and the tabs represent the edge of the world.

In which case, what happens if you join two tabs? Does this imply multiple flat worlds? The image of floating continents is certainly evocative and popular. Then perhaps instead of islands, these circles represent settlements on floating landmasses.

It's a start! So try this out at home. Grab some dice or cards and just play with them, the old-fashioned way. Explore their physical properties, see what they can do on the table. How heavy are they? How do they fit together? What combinations are possible?