A few design principles important to me:

  1. Fail faster
    Quickly prototype, try it as soon as possible. Iterate as fast as you can. As the game gets better changes get smaller, but be prepared to throw away big parts of the design if necessary. Playtest as much as possible trying out different features, see how players do.
    An entertaining discussion of this principle by extra credits:
    Fail Faster – A Mantra for Creative Thinkers – Extra Credits
  2. Less is more
    Evaluate each feature according to how much it adds to the experience: does it justify the added complexity and playtime?
    Regardless of whether the feature adds to the game through fluff, strategic thinking, player interaction, immersion or anything else, evaluate it this way. Know whether you are designing a light party game or a heavy war-game, adjust your threshold accordingly.

I will check back after a few more game designs under my belt and see whether these are still my top two.

A few principles specific to Saltlands:

  1. Players must work together just like in a survival situation (think apocalyptic movies, zombies etc.), but it’s not a fully cooperative. There are no fixed teams, players can choose who they work with (or change this) with the flow of the game, as they please. This is achieved by having the first players fulfilling victory conditions at one of the exit points win, regardless of their number.
  2. Keep the game at a medium to low complexity for a thematic game, with a playtime of about 1-2 hours.
  3. Language independence, there is no text on the cards or tiles only in the rulebook and crib sheets. Designing this way poses some challenges, but forces us to to think more about how players understand the game and to keep things simple. This allows us to publish the game in several languages right away, but we wouldn’t stick with it if we felt it was detrimental to the experience.

These are not immutable, in fact design goals have already changed some what during development.

I’d love to hear your take in the comments.