The First Prototype

Let’s talk about our first prototype.

As soon as you come up with an idea for a board game and flesh out the mechanics, you’re going to want to make a prototype to start testing the game. Full disclosure, as soon as you finish the prototype, you will immediately see things you want to change. This is part of the process, and something we encountered over and over! For that reason, making simple, early prototypes is key. You’re going to change so many things, so don’t get too attached to your first (second, third, fiftieth) prototype.

Game Board & Tiles

For Grim Tide, we knew early on that the main mechanic would be tile exploration. So we needed a board and tiles.

Chris designed the board and we had it printed at a local FedEx. We used spray glue to glue it to a blank game board, which we ordered here.

We ordered blank hexagon tiles online for our prototype. We used spray glue to stick plain blue craft paper to one side of the tiles, and cut them out with exacto knives. For the face of the hex tiles, we printed an outline of the tiles with their symbols on light blue craft paper, then glued the tiles onto the paper following the outline guides. Then more exacto cutting. We made a few extras in case we made mistakes (spray glue is contentious) or wanted to change things during development (these came in handy later when we tested ideas for other types of tiles).

Grim Tide Prototype
Our first prototype board and tiles.

Player Boards

There’s also a lot of stuff to keep track of in Grim Tide– Renown (the object of the game is to earn Renown by fishing, trading, and fighting monsters, so we need a way to keep track of how much each player has earned), Morale (which represents the physical and psychological health of your captain and crew), how many items each captain is storing in their ship’s hold, etc. So we needed player boards to show information about each captain and keep track of all their stuff.

These were really simple. We printed them at home using our regular color printer and glued them to chipboard.

This is your captain speaking!
Our first prototype player boards.


We also needed cards. Lots of cards. We have events that are drawn every round, items to gather, tattoos, crew members, and encounters. All of those require cards.

We ordered a couple decks of blank playing cards online, and spent several hours drawing each card with a sharpie. This was a lot of fun, and Samantha got way too into drawing the monsters.

Our hand drawn prototype cards.

Tokens & Pieces

We use tokens to designate items, fish, morale, and monsters. Similar to the hex tiles, we printed the token designs on red, blue, and brown craft paper, and used spray glue to stick the printed paper onto chipboard. We spent a lovely Sunday afternoon on the front porch punching them out with a hammer and punch like this.

We ordered a pack of four plastic ship miniatures from here.

Prototype tokens and tiles.


And with that, we had our first prototype! Making an early prototype was definitely worth the work. It let us immediately start testing mechanics and get a feel for the size and shape of all our components. And of course, it’s super exciting to see your ideas take shape into an actual playable game!

Game on!
Chris with our first complete Grim Tide prototype!