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McMeeple Gateway to Games Design Contest


This contest is complete, and the winner has been chosen.

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Game Ad Game Name Crafter Point Votes Status
{{}} Winner! Finalist Semi-Finalist

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McMeeple games is located in St. Louis, Gateway to the West. As such we are pleased to host the Gateway to Games Design Contest! With the growing popularity of board games, gateway games have an important job. For many people this is their first introduction to this wonderful hobby. In this contest, you must design a game that would be considered a “gateway game.”

Generally speaking gateway games are considered to be those that get “non-gamers” to play “real” games. They typically offer up widely appealing themes, simple rules and a reasonable game length. Common examples include: Splendor, Ticket to Ride, No Thanks!, Can’t Stop, Codenames, Wits and Wagers and so many more.

Many games that some consider gateway games are more complex than expected. Catan, for example, is a fairly complex game. WIth this in mind the intention of this contest is to create games that can be easily taught. Catan can be quickly taught if you already know the rules. Regarding this contest, the goal is to create games that “expert” gamers can teach in under 10 minutes and can be played in under 60.

You are welcome to use any theme, mechanism, or component you like in your game. However, special consideration is being given to component usage. Table presence and elegant use of components can really draw players into games. This is especially important when trying to draw in non-gamers! The marble element in Potion Explosion, the tree structure of Everdell or the heavy gem tokens in Splendor are all great examples of components enhancing the reception of a game. With this in mind, the judges will be looking for games that make elegant use of components. We are looking for components that fit the theme so well that it feels as though they were custom manufactured for the game, making the print-on-demand nature less obvious. This might include custom acrylic parts, stock wooden bits with stickers applied or even basic cubes used in a perfect harmony with the theme. In one of our own games we were thrilled to use the small white cylinders to represent marshmallows; they just fit so perfectly! This contest has a very generous design budget with the intention that the extra budget will allow you to use the very best component for the job and make a gateway game that looks and feels great.

The contest will be judged by St. Louis based designer Patrick McNeil (McMeeple) and his son Jack age 13 (McMeeple Jr.). Jack being a judge is a real wild card to take note of. He has played hundreds of different games, from Sequence to War of the Ring. In his last 2 player game of Cthulhu Wars he schooled his father in 45 minutes flat; it was brutal. He has participated in many game design events such as Protospiel. Also, he has co-designed multiple games with his father which have been released here on The Game Crafter. Jack knows games well and speaks to them eloquently from a younger perspective. He will be a tough judge to win over. We just want to be sure it’s clear that Jack doesn’t bring an uninformed perspective and that “children's” games are not the goal here.

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To qualify, your game must comply with all of the following rules:

  • The game must be playable with 2 to 4 players. (The range can be wider, but must cover 2-4. Ex, 1-6 would be just fine.)
  • You may use any printables or game pieces, if TGC sells it, you can use it.
  • Play time should be no more than 60 minutes, once you've learned it.
  • Though not explicitly required, a 2-minute overview video is highly encouraged.
  • All artwork must be your own, commissioned by you, licensed to you, or in the public domain. Be sure to attribute your images when required.
  • A PDF rules document must be downloadable from your game's shop page.
  • The total cost of your game must be less than $119.99. The big budget is intended for you to use high quality fancy components without worrying if you're going over budget.
  • The game must be publish-ready (as it relates to our shop, not as it relates to being finished). This means it has a logo, backdrop, shop ad, action shots, description, and cool factors. It must also have all images proofed.
  • This must be a new game created for this contest. It cannot have existed on TGC prior to the start of the contest.
  • All entries must be submitted through TGC's game editor (by clicking on the "Contests" button) no later than Noon UTC (6am US Central) on Jan 14, 2022.
  • Games and their shop page should not be changed after the contest deadline, until the finalists have been announced.
  • Contestants may submit multiple entries to this contest. Each entry will be judged separately.

You retain all rights to your game and are welcome to sell it in the shop during and after the contest, regardless of the outcome of the contest.

The first round of judging is handled by a community voting process. The final two rounds are handled by the judges.

After the community voting process, the judges will score the games looking for 3-7 finalists.

The winner shall receive all of the following prizes:

  • A custom trophy to commemorate your triumph!
  • 1 copy of any game from McMeeple Games (as available on The Game Crafter)
  • 1 copy of Kill Dr. Lucky from Cheapass Games
  • 1 copy of Galactic Strike Force and 1 copy of Diner from Greater Than Games
  • 24 X-Trayz from Gametrayz
  • 1 copy of A Wizard's Shelf from Cassie Friedman of Making Magic Games
  • $250 of shop credit on
  • Automatic Showcase status for their game on
  • The possibility of judging a future contest.
  • Induction into The Game Crafter Hall of Fame.
  • Semi-finalists, finalists, and the winner will all receive accolades for their achievements.

Call for prizes!

We, the judges, are huge fan boys of The Game Crafter and the amazing community of designers that surround it. With that in mind, we would really love to include a prize package that contains as many TGC based designs as possible. Did you create a game using The Game Crafter that you would like to offer as a prize to the winner in this contest? If so, get in touch with Patrick by emailing him at All prizes must be shipped to Patrick before the contest deadline. A single prize package will be mailed to the winner.

  • Appeal (5) - Does the game appeal to both gamers and non-gamers? Will it be easy to get non-gamers to try the game? Is it a gateway game?
  • Components (5) - Does the game make creative, clever and highly effective use of components?
  • Fun Factor (5) - Does the game look fun? Do I want to play it? Does it have a theme and mechanisms that look like a fun experience?
  • Rules Clarity (5) - Do the rules make sense? Are there helpful pictures and examples? Does it look easy to learn?
  • Shop Page (5) - Does the page have a good description? Pictures that draw you in? A helpful video?

Jack and Patrick scored all the games separately and then each picked their top 2. They also left a spreadsheet with more information about how they scored everything.

During the finals round the judges will test the finalist in three settings:

  • The two judges only
  • Adult gaming group consisting of “hard-core” boardgamers (people that game frequently and try upwards of 100+ new games per year)
  • A mixed group of non-gamers and gamers in a family like setting (kids 12+ and a mix of adults that fall into the “non-gamer” category).

The finals will be judged via the rubric contained in this spreadsheet.

Final scoring can be viewed here.

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