The recent launch of the Chariot Race Kickstarter got me thinking about all the iterations the game has gone through. The earliest sketches I found were dated 2 October 2010, over six years before the game was released.
I typically keep older versions of a game as I work. Doing so helps me design in a more fearless manner – I can try stupid things knowing I can roll back if needed. I also take comfort when I look at these things before I start a new project, because they remind me that games don't start out pretty or balanced.
Chariot Race started as a pub game with wooden boards and pegs. Watch here as the number of spaces on the board gradually shrinks and the chariot boards take on all sorts of different forms:
Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age saw even more iteration. Watch here as the list of developments gradually expands while I continued to experiment with the size and format of the score sheet:
One of the central tensions I needed to resolve in this game was how much information to communicate on the score sheet. I was strongly tempted to go with a minimalist design (so new players wouldn't be scared off by all the text) but it turned out the new players appreciated the reference information most of all. (The last frame here, "LBA," refers to The Late Bronze Age, a print-and-play expansion for the game.)
People often attribute the success of a product to the novelty of its underlying idea. The truth is, the idea (while clear in hindsight) is often only dimly visible when you start out and dozens of iterations are often required before you're able to clear away the fog and arrive at the "obvious" solution.
If you're designing a game of your own, keep this in mind. You'll rarely get it close to right the first time. Much of the quality of a good game comes from its execution – all the little details matter – and the best way to get those right is through continuous iteration.
Interested in the final result? Check out the Chariot Race Kickstarter page.