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  • Writer's pictureAaron Hodgin

A Game About Boba Tea (Design Journal Entry 4)

Updated: May 2

I recently got a new wave of inspiration for the colors-and-circles game I’ve been blogging about (see Design Blog 1, Design Blog 2, and Design Blog 3). The inspiration came from a new idea for a theme, but it also led to a number of mechanical changes. The central puzzle mechanic and the way players interact with it are essentially the same, but most of the stuff surrounding it has changed.

So far, I only have the rules for a solo mode. I'm working on rules for multiplayer modes, but I know the solo mode works well.

The Rules

Here's the rulebook- it's written in kinda technical language, but I was trying to be as clear and concise as possible.

Here's a Print-and-Play PDF, including the Order Cards and Puzzle Tiles.

(Note: It's a colorblindness-accessibility nightmare at this point in prototyping- my apologies.)

What's Changed?

More Variables

The variables on each node are the biggest difference between this iteration and older ones. The older versions used primary and secondary colors and were purely abstract. There were only 3 possible nodes in the old version- purple, green, and orange. This version has 16 possible nodes:

Green Tea Sweet, No Toppings

Black Tea Sweet, No Toppings

Green Tea Unsweet, No Toppings

Black Tea Unsweet, No Toppings

Green Tea Sweet with Boba

Black Tea Sweet with Boba

Green Tea Unsweet with Boba

Black Tea Unsweet with Boba

Green Tea Sweet with Jelly

Black Tea Sweet with Jelly

Green Tea Unsweet with Jelly

Black Tea Unsweet with Jelly

Green Tea Sweet with Red Beans

Black Tea Sweet with Red Beans

Green Tea Unsweet with Red Beans

Black Tea Unsweet with Red Beans

You could increase or decrease the number of variables, though that would certainly increase the difficulty. I don't want to push the variety without playtesting it at this level. The initial learning curve is still pretty steep, and I have ideas about ways to do a "training session" to teach players how to think about the puzzle.

Order Cards

At first, I thought having more variables would make it too difficult to complete circles, but I think the new Order Card system fixes that. Instead of focusing on completing circles in a specific orientation like the last iteration, players focus on what needs to be included for a specific order. Since players are focusing on a specific goal, they don't have to worry much about long-term strategy. The restrictions of the card limit the possibilities and guide the players' thinking.

Larger Puzzle

Even though I only have the one-player ruleset finished for now, I'm also thinking about multiplayer. One issue that was raised a few times in playtesting earlier iterations of this game was that it was basically impossible to plan on off-turns. A 3x3 grid only has four central scoring circles, and the board changed drastically with almost every move. I added another column to the tile grid to hopefully mitigate that issue. With more scoring spaces, each move has a smaller effect on the board overall, allowing other players to plan ahead.

Moving Forward

This game has been pretty polarizing in playtesting so far. On the one hand, when I'm explaining the puzzle, I've heard people exclaim, "Oh, this is perfect for my brain! This is fun!" On the other hand, players who have trouble picking up the strategy tend to disengage almost immediately.

Honestly- I can't think of a better place to be. Game design sage Mark Rosewater has said, "If everyone likes your game, but nobody loves it, it will fail." I've gotten strong positive reactions and strong negatives reactions, and all I can do is hope the people who like it love it.

Another comment I've heard several times is that it feels like it should be a mobile game. I can totally see that- maybe that will happen down the road.

For now, I'll be playtesting the multiplayer rules and asking people to try out the solo mode. Here's the print-and-play PDF again- I'll try to update this post with a feedback form at some point, but for now, reach out to me at if you have any feedback!

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