Litterateur is a card-drafting, word-building game. You can think of it as a little like Scrabble crossed with Sushi Go.

Litterateur takes place over five rounds - four normal rounds and one special round. For the first four rounds, players draft letter-cards into their hands, taking cards that are useful to them and trying to deny cards to their opponents. After the drafting is finished, players simultaneously try to create the best word possible using both the cards in their hands and a small shared pool of common letters. Each letter has a different point value, and this determines the ranking of the players in each round.

In a normal round, the player who scores the highest word takes three cards that have been played in that round, and places the cards in their score area. The player in second place takes two cards in the same fashion. And the remaining players each take one card each. This is essentially a second phase of drafting because in the fifth round, all the cards that players have managed to score will make up their new hands. If a player has been winning the earlier rounds consistently, they may have up to fifteen cards to use in the final round. And this is important because it is only the score in the final round that determines who wins and who loses.

Litterateur takes between 20 and 30 minutes to play and is suitable for 2 to 6 players.

Litterateur may one day make it to Kickstarter or general release, but for now I'm giving away the black-and-white print-and-play for absolutely nothing. Please go ahead, click this link, and download Litterateur for free. Once you've tried it, I would really appreciate if you could head on over to BoardGameGeek to rate the game and leave your thoughts.

The Graphic Design

Litterateur's graphics are scans of old books courtesy of the British Library online archive. You can find it here - it's incredible. Details on the source of each individual image are here. And a huge thanks to Tiffy Moon, who spent aaages cleaning up the scans with photoshop magic. The full colour set is stunning, but I'm saving that for later.

The Big Playtest

Yesterday was my first visit to a formal playtest event - as opposed to playtesting with friends or mailing out games for blind playtesting. It was a fantastic experience. Nine amateur designers turned up to a cafe in central Dublin and we thrashed out some of our designs.

I'm not going to go into other people's games and how they played out, because I don't know how other designers would feel about me talking about their works in progress, but playthroughs of two of my games, Watermelons and AlphaDraft, were enlightening.


This is my bluffing game where players are daring one another to take cards from a face down deck which may or may not have been "poisoned". Many of the mechanics seem to work fine but two issues became apparent.

  1. There is not enough of an incentive to avoid taking the poisoned melons, because players still score them. The problem may not be as easy as simply making the melons worth zero points, because it removes an aspect of bluffing from the game. Besides, there is an interesting situation that can be created if you have a high scoring, but poisoned melon -- you may want to eat it yourself.
  2. The range of melon points may be too wide. It seems that the high value melons are just too valuable, and this no matter how you bluff, players will always eat them, because even if they are poisoned, they are still 5-points. Furthermore, a couple of random 5s in a stack or hand can send a single player to an almost sure victory.

Changing the range of points on the melon cards from 1-5 to 1-3 may fix both of these problems. I also need to introduce more poison dose cards to alleviate card counting - they work well but come up too infrequently.


This is the letter-drafting, word-building game that I put together recently (which is in dire need of a name change).

AlphaDraft went down very well with the plastest group and had only some minor problems.

A few fringe rules came up that needed clarifying -- for example, what happens if two players draw in a round? Who gets to first choose which cards they score? Secondly, what if all players draw for first place but there are not enough cards in play for them all to score the three cards that they each need?

Also, a few of the individual cards need tweaking for playability. The Z cards, for example, should also be playable as ZZ, so it can be used in a word like "buzz". With only one Z in the deck, I'm limiting some of the interesting possibilities. Same goes for letters like Q, which should stand as both Q or QU. And so on.

I was really happy with how AlphaDraft played out and will be putting together a graphic version of it within the next few days - hopefully in time for another playtest on Tuesday.

Design Diary: AlphaDraft

I'm a big fan of word games and have been itching to design my own for quite some time -- they are interesting to me because they require a very distinct skill, quite different from most tabletop games. This makes them perfect for people who don't normally play board and card games. Some recent plays of Alphabear on iOS, flexing my word game muscles, gave me the final push that I needed to put something together.

AlphaDraft is a word game which uses card drafting as a central mechanic, so players must first build their hand and then use their hand, combined with a central shared pool, to play the most impressive word possible.

One aspect I have tried to incorporate into this game is that their should be many meaningful decisions. Firstly, card drafting is a very powerful mechanic, which allows you to both improve your own lot as well as affect other players around you - do you take the high scoring but difficult letters to deny your opponent, or try to starve them of vowels? It is also occasionally deliciously frustrating!

Next, after each round, the players with the highest scoring words, take a number of cards from the game into their score area. The cards they take will not be available in future rounds, so again, a meaningful decision is presented.

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, the final round is played with the cards which players have scored throughout the game. So players who have won earlier rounds have had the opportunity to lace their final hand with cards that can work well together. But the overall winner is determined only by this final round, so players who have collected cards without much thought will be harshly punished.

I'm quite proud of this design, which has worked well from it's earliest prototype. If you would like to try and print-n-play, just check this link. If you get to play it, please send me your feedback!