My friend Lanz Singbeil and I have been mentoring a 10 year old in board game design for the past seven weeks. We talked about different ways designers come up with ideas, design constraints, mechanics, systems, emergent gameplay and more. We always made sure to teach concepts that could be directly applied to the game project. It is rather amazing how quickly he picked up on the game design concepts we taught him. His family plays a lot of great board games including many euro-style games, which was extremely helpful when talking about game design. Besides designing board games, he also creates iPhone games using GameSalad, although I don’t think any have been released yet.
The initial idea for the board game was a cooperative game similar to Castle Ravenloft but with a mecha theme. He came up with the idea on his own before the mentorship started so all we had to do was help him refine the design. At one point it was more complicated than Castle Ravenloft so we scaled back but it is still quite complex. There is a crafting system for weapons and armour and a card based combat system similar to Cosmic Encounter. Here is a picture of a recent playtest on a small board with a “collect the artefacts” scenario.