Game School: Gaido public play test

journey 2aaa


Medieval Japan has so much to offer in the way of scenery! Mountains, quaint villages, hidden shrines and more. The real treasures however are those that jump and fly – the rare brown squirrels, cranes, egrets and eagles who make their homes in remote locations. These hard to find creatures are the ultimate destination of any tour of the countryside.

In Gaido, players take on the role of guides and travelers journeying through the countryside of medieval Japan. Guide duties are shared, with each player taking the responsibility for one day of their journey. The guide directs the group of players through the Japanese landscape, to their journey’s end. Only the current guide can decide when a journey is over.

DTC-Journeys End 2

Download the Print and Play prototype

Gaido is a simple game of guides and journeys with some interesting mechanics and a deeper underlying strategy than may first be apparent. It’s also now available as a public play test, which you can try out by downloading the 9 page PDF.  All you’ll need to play is this PDF, a pair of scissors and 24 pennies or other counters.


There are four animals the group are trying to spot. Squirrels, cranes, egrets and eagles. These animals are found in four different locations. On the play table, players will create four stacks of cards, called Journeys. These stacks represent the different paths to the four animals.

Every Journey card has a series of arrows on it which indicates how many points each player will receive when that stack is scored. Cards can be played facing any direction. There are sixteen Journey cards.

There are also four Journey’s End cards which, when played on one of the four journeys will immediately end that journey and score that stack of cards.

Gaido offers, I think, some very interesting play choices, with a strategy that’s deeper than it first appears and a simple play style. Only 20 cards and 24 counters in size, it’s played over three rounds and takes an average of 15-20 minutes to complete an entire game.

I talk about my rational for designing this in the previous Game School Article. Unfortunately I also show a bit of the goofy initial play test PnP artwork as well. Play testing has been fast and furious and the game is shaping up to look pretty good. Now I need eyes on it that are willing to be much more critical. So go ahead and try it out!

How I design a play test prototype

For those interested in my process for designing and playing a prototype – I first wrote down all of my ideas in a Gdrive document. That’s where I’ve ended up doing most of my work these days in just about any game development.

After I had the rules written up in very rough form, I created the quick and dirty (and awful) print and play cards shown in the previous article. I printed out a few sets of these, ended up grabbing some paper clips at work and pennies at home and I started playing against myself.

journey 3aWhen I had determined that the mechanics were solid enough with a few tweaks and one change about how the Journey stacks were scored, I invited in a few other folks I know to play test. Some co-workers helped out and some family members and I got a fair number (over 20) full games in. This pointed out some further tweaks that either went into the rules (lots of working changes to make more sense, and I’m still not there) and will go into the finished components. For instance, of the 24 cubes, they’ll be 12 green and 12 blue to help better pick and put aside Reward cubes as opposed to cubes that will remain in play for the rest of the game.

Now that I had that done, It was time to do some art. I have all of my artwork in one folder, and narrowed it down to the art I wanted to use for the box art/card backing, and each of the four Journeys and four Journey’s End cards.

From there, I had to create the only text on the cards – initially they were going to be some pretty fantastic Japanese symbology, but in game play it proved to be to hard to figure out. So I settled for a few < and > in a fancy psuedo-japanese font. Putting it all together in GIMP, I re-sized the artwork so it would match up with DriveThruCard’s 2.75″ by 3.75″ template. This included making sure nothing important like the arrows or the chop on the images fell off through the bleed and was chopped out of the cards.

We’ll see how I did in a few weeks as I’ve already ordered a prototype from DTC.

To set up the Print and Play portion of this, I went through all of the game play directions I had and did my best to sift and sort, cut and change until I have the least amount of text with the most and easiest description.  I’m not there yet, but I’ve gotten it down from 5 pages of text to 4 pages with images, so I’m making good progress!

I also imported all of the card images into a Word document, gave each image a solid white border to space it out and then combined the two documents, the instructions and the cards into one PDF. Saved as a reduced size PDF it’s about 1.1 MB in size and 9 pages long.

Now that you’ve read all this, I’d really love it if you’d go read about the game itself, and perhaps give it a whirl! Let me know what you think!

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