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While I don’t claim to be an artist or designer, there’s a lot of art and design work needed to create Gay Sauna the Board Game. For all of the “real artwork” and finalised designs, I’m working with two designers for, but in the meantime there’s a host of prototype versions that need to be created and in order to make this possible, I’ve had to learn how to do this myself.
Without anyone paying for my software, it’s not viable for me to be using Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign – the subscription models just don’t make sense for me. So I’ve had to find the right alternatives for me. To make everything I’m creating at the moment, I use a combination of GIMP and Graphic.
GIMP is a free, open source image editor that packs a real punch. I’ve been using GIMP for many years for basic things like creating transparent backgrounds on existing images, but now my needs have grown and it’s great that this free app has been able to cover a lot of my new found requirements. The only drawback to GIMP is the lack of native CYMK and Vector image capabilities. While there are some ways to resolve these using plugins and community contributions, I always found them cumbersome and a little lacking. So, as I started to print the things I was producing, it became necessary for me to find something to help me where GIMP couldn’t.
In walked Graphic. Native to Mac, Graphic is a vector editing program that seems to be designed for people creating publishing work – whether that’s digital or print, it’s got me covered. While it lacks the extensive functionality of both GIMP and the Adobe suite, Graphic more than makes up for it with its simplistic approach and easy to use GUI. There have only been a couple of times that Graphic has not been able to meet my needs and thankfully GIMP was fully capable of filling this gap. The biggest drawback is the lack of full layer masking capabilities – so specific edits I need to make to images I now do in GIMP and then move over the finalised edit to Graphic for layouts and finalisation. Graphic isn’t a free program, but the lifetime license only costs $30 and I feel it has been more than worth the investment at a fraction of the cost of even part of the Adobe suite.
I’d never thought I’d ever be spending so much of my time manipulating and creating images, but it truly is a rewarding activity with a tangible outcome at the end. It’s been a challenging learning process too, as it’s not just the methods I need to learn, the wider concepts of graphic design are pretty much entirely new for me. I didn’t even know what a layer mask was 12 months ago and now I’m finding out all the ways in which they can be useful within my creations as well as finding alternatives when the software is lacking.
I doubt I’ll ever work as a graphic designer professionally, but I’m sure having a lot of fun playing as one for the time being.
For as long as the game isn’t being printed by the manufacturer, it’s in development and I’ll continue to be changing and improving where needed. This continuous cycle of modifications is a challenging process as so many of the elements are connected together and while some things seem to be very much in flux – such as the Action cards, others, like the dice results, have been consistent for a very long time.
One thing that has been in visual design flux for a long time is the board; however it’s been some time since I made any non-cosmetic changes to the board. I have a huge array of balancing formulas and calculations that I use to determine the impact of some changes on key aspects of gameplay, and the consistency of the board has been really useful in keeping this workload manageable.
Based on recent feedback though, I’ve been through a long process to look at the impact of reducing the overall size of the board and I am overjoyed with the result of this investigation and resulting design process. I present to you, the new Gay Sauna the Board Game playing board:
This latest version has some dramatic changes applied. With the removal of the Bar area, and the reduction in the size of the Dark Room, not only has the board shrunken from a massive 90x60cm to still a large 72x52cm, but also now has dedicated space for the placement of the 3 card decks in the game and their respective discard piles.
The rules have been shuffled around a little as well as the removal of the barriers to entry for each of the rooms that goes hand-in-hand with a complete rewrite of the game rules as a whole that returns gameplay on a single player round and focuses attention on improving the action and pace of the game.
All of this will be wrapped up in the launch of the 9th full version of the game that I’m hoping will be finalised in the coming week or two, when the next playtesting sessions will be planned in and I’ll get to try this all out with a real audience of players.
It’s nerve wracking making such big changes to the game, but I really hope that this all is worth it. I guess I’ll find out real soon.