022 – The one thing you need to know as a Game Designer

Get the companion PDF File for this episode in order to transform this incredible advice into actionable items for your own journey.

In Episode 22 of the Nerdlab podcast, you will be listening to 14 of the greatest game designers of all times. All of them have answered one question:
What is the one thing you wish you had known before you started your journey as a game designer?

Game Designers featured in this episode:

  • Corey Konieczka (Fantasy Flight Games – Rumours, Battlestar Galactica the board game)
  • Bruno Cathala (Cyclades, Five Tribes, Abyss, Kingdomino, Shadows over Camelot)
  • Mike Elliott (Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, Hearthstone; Duelmasters, Battlespirits, Thunerdstone, Dicemasters, Shadowrun Crossfire)
  • Jamey Stegmaier (Viticulture, Charterstone, Euphoria, Scythe)
  • James Wilson (Everdell)
  • Fabian Zimmermann (Tiefe Taschen, Good Critters)
  • Kevin Riley (Aeons End)
  • Eric Reuss (Spirit Island, Fealty, Science or Die)
  • Donald X. Vaccarino (Dominion)
  • Jacob Fryxelius (Terraforming Mars)
  • Reiner Knizia (Lord of the Rings)
  • Richard Garfield (Magic the Gathering, Roborally, King of Tokyo, Keyforge, Artifact)
  • Mike Selinker (Pathfinder ACG, Apocrypha, Betrayal at the House on the Hill)
  • Isaac Childres (Gloomhaven)

These designers have created the best games in the world, sold hundreds of thousands or even millions of copies of their games and are the brains behind the most successful Kickstarter campaigns out there. Their knowledge is unique and their games are my main source of inspiration. Their experience makes them role models for many other designers like you and me. And all of them are going to share their most important advice with you!

Thank you for listening and until next week keep designing awesome games and nerd like a boss.

Important Links:
Get the companion PDF
Join the Nerdlab Community
Nerdlab Website 
Nerdlab Facebook Page
Nerdlab on Twitter
Nerdlab on InstagramJ

Music by Mathew Pablo



  • Hello Marvin,

    Just wanted to say that although I enjoyed listening to the podcast with all the invitees … I’d like if you could discuss your Co-operative Fantasy Card Game. Like what are the mechanics that you are planning to use, what are you doing with regards to “Play area”… We all know that Magic has a loose layout, are you planning something similar? Will go game have a “board” since it is in a way RPG-ish also. You’ve mentioned playtest groups and having tried the game out a couple of times, what was the feedback? Any show-stoppers?? What did they like and dislike???

    In any event, when you find the time, please share with us your progress… You have over 20 videos and from all that I’ve listened to, I have no clue HOW to play YOUR game, nor the various aspects of the design such as theme and setting.

    So please do share with us more about YOUR game… And your journey in the design of it.


    Aka QuestCCG
    Game Designer of “TradeWorlds”
    BGDF Moderator — Publisher List

    • Good Morning Kristopher,

      and thank you for your interest in my game and my journey as a game designer.

      It’s true that one of the reasons to start the podcast was to keep myself accountable and share my progress with you. When I think about it I have never talked about my game from start to finish in one episode. I only touched on some aspects here and there whenever it was relevant for the main topic. Probably because my intention is always to deliver something of value for the listeners. And talking about my game only seems less helpful than my usual content (at least that is my feeling). But you are right. I’ll consider making my game the main topic for one of the next episodes.

      Thanks for your input.

  • Hello Marvin,

    I believe about 1 month ago you were preparing for your FIRST “big playtest” with friends. And that later you said something “general” like “my friends/playtesters had fun…” but you never did go into details about your OWN game. So it would be interesting understanding how your “current” game (because it may change) is played. And then maybe add some of the comments (positive and negative) that your friends/playtesters took away from the session.

    As a game designer myself, I find that I usually start with a “vision” about what I want the “theme” of the game to be about. Then I decide about HOW the game is to be played… And let me tell you, that in this stage I OFTEN “revisit” the design and make fundamental changes … just because the prototype is broken or not fun, etc. The game is fundamentally not at the level I expect it to be… IF I am going to “bring the game to market”.

    And then it comes a question of “time”… Time to reflect, time to analyze, time to “change” the game such that it becomes BETTER than it already is. And for me, this period is rather VAGUE. I work on other designs or other projects that keep me occupied… All the well knowing that I need a “break-thru” with my design. Sometime this phase can last up to several months. So I can understand that if you are in a “reflective” phase, it may be difficult to discuss how you plan to move forwards… Since you might be waiting for inspiration!

    In any event, your IDEA (Co-Op Fantasy Card Game) sounds real cool. And that is why I asked to share more with your listeners about what YOU are working on. Your challenges, the success or failure of various prototypes, iteration on “core” game concepts, etc. Or playtesting sessions: what you learned, what people like and dislike about your game, etc. Just something about telling us what mechanics you are using also… Or maybe plan to use soon or in the future…

    Good stuff Marvin… I can’t wait to hear more about your game!


    Aka QuestCCG
    Game Designer of “TradeWorlds”
    BGDF Moderator — Publisher List

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.