Archive for Game Design

Cray Cray Games Video: Rainbow Octopus

If you need a game that is good for kids of varying ages AND won’t bore you to tears if you’re a parent or much older sibling that will play the game as well?

Rainbow Octopus offers a “sliding scale” of difficulty based on player capability and interest in the various features provided.

You can watch a < 5m video on the game play OR read the rules.

Publisher Announcement

It is with great joy and excitement that we would like to announce that our game, currently titled Under Construction, has been signed by Breaking Games®.

We’ll let you all know as we get closer to printing and releasing.

Under Construction is a 2-6 player worker placement game that puts players in the role of general contractor.  You bid against other players for contracts, collect the necessary resources, and build what is required in order to get paid and increase your company’s reputation.

With a modest amount of bluffing, resource management, worker placement and Development Cards–that can help you or harm others–there’s a little something for everyone.

You can read its current rules.

Cats & Caverns Accepted to BFIG!

We are happy to announce that our newest game, Cats & Caverns, has been accepted to the Boston Festival of Indie Games (BFIG).

Find out more about BFIG or our newest game by reading the current version of the rules.

Cray Cray Games Helps Emerson Students with Game Design

Cray Cray Games’ Phil Cartagena spent April and part of May helping Jordan Pailthorpe of the Emerson Engagement Lab and fellow game designer, Sarah Osborn, teach Emerson students the basics of game design as applied to a serious topic.

As part of the First Year Writing Program, Jordan’s class, “Game Design for Social Change,” partnered with Emerson’s Violence Prevention and Response Director, Dr. Melanie Matson, to create games focusing on Bystander Intervention.

Read more

Setting up Adobe InDesign Card Templates

It’s been a while since the last post where I mentioned that this would be the topic of the subsequent post… So, better later than never…

For prototype printing, we’ve been using The Game Crafter (TGC) to print higher-quality prototypes. Adobe InDesign is a good tool that isn’t too difficult to learn if you can get access to it.

If you have an Adobe ID you can download CS2 directly from Adobe.

If you don’t want the outdated version of InDesign, there are equivalent programs (some which are free) and the idea of this post is still relevant for streamlining card design for your games.

I have individual template files for each card size that we’re most likely to use for our games. Right now that’s just the poker size (2.5″ x 3.5″) and mini cards (1.75″ x 2.5″).

The Steps:

  1. Create your Card Template.

  2. Go on and design the card exactly how you want it to look. I won’t be talking about how to come up with good card design as that’s a matter of opinion and highly dependent upon the features, theme, style, etc. of your game.

    Do make sure, however, that your template takes into account the specific details of your printer’s requirements for bleeds, etc. Our template has a 0.125″ bleed on all sides that we export when sending to TGC or hide when printing locally.

  3. Create your Card Data.

  4. Frankly, the order of steps 1 and 2 can be interchangeable. You just need both of these steps complete before attempting the third step. You can set this up in a spreadsheet or you could, like we do, use something like Google Drive’s spreadsheet to store this data.

    One thing to keep in mind about using InDesign is that for fields that will hold image information, the field name needs to begin with an @ sign.

    The data we put together on cards typically tracks the name, description (sometimes broken up by line if we want to restrict printing) and image columns for the main image and any other associated images. We also track things like frequency and other categorical information for when we need to do any modeling on the distribution of attributes and so on, but these aren’t necessary for InDesign.

  5. Use InDesign’s Data Merge Feature

  6. Once you’ve got at least a portion of your card list (from #2) and your template you can start the data merge process. It’s important to test things out early to make sure you’re tracking the right kinds of data while putting the card together and to ensure that your template is showing things as you expected to see them.

    InDesign Card Template

    This step may end up introducing needed changes to either the design template or the way in which you’ve stored/fielded the data for the cards. But it’s best to work through this now while you can export to PDF and look at cards before printing them.

    The image to the right shows our template for Spell Cards used in Find It & Bind It. As you can see the card title (shown as <<Title>>) and the description lines are place holders for the data that is to be merged. The area in the middle is for an image. By putting the path to the image for each card in this field, we can make any number of cards and vary and update them as we have the time to create new imagery, etc.

Prior to using the templates, we’d make multiple pages in a document for each card, copying the format of preceding pages and it was just fine UNTIL we had to make a universal change. Using templates is this way has eliminated almost all of the manual tedium associated with creating cards for the games we’re designing.

And this frees us up to think about good mechanics for games that have superbly-written, easy-to-understand rules. We only wish more game companies focused on that sort of thing. 🙂

If you like what you’ve read and/or have any questions leave us a comment. Thanks.


Game Design Tools and Collaboration

One of the most important things to figure out up front when working with multiple people on anything — even if it’s just two people — is the manner in which you will collaborate.

How are you going to know who’s working on what?  How are you going to manage the editing process?  How will you know when to do what?  Who’s keeping a schedule, etc.?

We’re no different.  As a program manager I work on getting various people to march to a single drum all the time and tried instituting the same things here.


  • We have a low (ok, $0) budget and so want to make use of as many freely available tools as possible.
  • We want to document everything so as not to lose things but don’t want to go cray with the documentation as that’s dull and potentially painful.
  • Josh doesn’t like anything hard or mathy so it shouldn’t be hard or mathy.  (tee hee)


We use a combo of Google Docs/Drive and Dropbox.  We use Dropbox in conjunction with our illustrators so that they have an easy way to share their work with us.

We use GoogleDrive to create and store structured documents.  We have a template for the initial draft of game rules and a spreadsheet template with various sheets to get a game concept we’ve created into a protype-able state as quickly as possible.

The Spreadsheet Template To Rule Them All

  • Project Tab: The spreadsheet has a project plan template in the first sheet so that we can commit to dates on common tasks.  It’s pre-populated with tasks that we ended up putting together while making our first game.It also makes use of conditional formatting rules and some formulae so that if we are approaching (or missing dates) little status fields will change colors and make us feel appropriately bad — or at least remind us that we should follow the dates and/or change them.
  • Player/Character Tab: While not used for all games, this tab has some default columns to track data for the characters in a game.  This tab is also linked to several pivot table tabs and a play tester data collection tab so that I can quickly get a view of the variables associated with characters, those that are played in play test games, the number of times a game is played with Character X, and won, etc.  There’s a lot of information one can get if you take the time to record it.
  • Card Tabs: Our template has several tabs, some of which won’t get used, so that we can fill out the card types and have names, descriptions, comments on art, references to file names, etc.  There’s even some calculation based on the card-size and TheGameCrafter rates so that we can estimate the cost of the prototype while making the game.
  • Other Tabs: We have tab to capture FAQs as we play test our games so that we have something for our website and/or rules documents. We have one to capture Kickstarter reward levels and potential expansion ideas related to the game.

You can have whatever you want in your template. The main point of this post is to ensure that you give yourself a place to capture things.  Figure out the structure and formatting of a document (or template going forward) as you go.  That’s what we did.

And be sure to take some time to update the template if there’s something you’d like not to lose, or just remind yourself during the design of the next game.  As the keeper of the template, when we encounter something that I know isn’t in the template, I’ll go back and add it so that it’s not lost.

Our day jobs have given us proficiency with and access to Adobe’s Creative Suite and in my next post I’ll talk about how we use this template to semi-automate card creation for these games using InDesign and our GoogleDrive spreadsheet template.