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Project Owner & Manager:

- Systems Design

- Content Design

- Writing Rules

- Testing Management

- Working with Licences



SpongeBob SquarePants

Project Description:

Shnibitz! is a card game where players attempt to press their luck by drawing as many cards as possible to score points. The more cards you draw, the more points you can earn, but be careful not to “BUST” by revealing 3 of a kind. Whoever scores the most points after 5 rounds wins.


Shnibitz! came about one day when I was having a rather serious case of designer's block. I needed to develop a child-friendly game we could slap multiple IPs onto without changing any rules or mechanics, but I had nothing. Realizing I needed to clear my head, I attended a board game night at my local comic shop. It was there that someone started up a game of Port Royal by Steve Jackson. I fell in love with the "Press Your Luck" mechanic and desperately wanted to make a game of my own.


The Deconstruction:

Finally, with inspiration, I needed to carefully deconstruct Port Royal. After all, I didn't want to make a rip-off, I just wanted to use the "Press Your Luck" mechanic.

It was through this deconstruction, I decided to focus on the penalty system.

Risk & Reward Design:

The aspects of a "Push Your Luck" game boil down to two points: 1.) Reveal cards to have more options & get more benefits. 2.) If you meet a specific trigger, you receive a penalty. In Port Royal, these points are:


If you didn't bust (see 2nd conditions):

  • Get money from 1 revealed ship card.

  • You may spend your money on buying any of the other revealed cards.

  • Other players then take turns buying what remains from the supply.


If you revealed 2 matching Ship Cards:

  • Get no money

  • Buy no cards

  • End your turn instantly.


This system is fun due to the abilities of the cards you can buy, but it has its own issues.

  • You can only get more money if you don't Bust.

  • Your only reward for revealing more cards is options of what to buy.

  • If you Bust, you get NOTHING. Meaning your set back a ton since you not only get no money but can't even buy any cards to help mitigate that loss.

Since I needed to design a game for younger audiences, the cards couldn't have complicated abilities. Plus, it wanted to avoid making busting become an impossible thing to come back from.

From there I decided on these points for the game:


If you didn't bust (see 2nd conditions):

  • Take 3 of the revealed cards, of your choice.

  • The next player takes 1 card.

  • This repeats till all the cards are gone.

  • If it returns to you, you can take another.


If you revealed 3 matching Cards:

  • Take 1 of the revealed cards, of your choice.

  • This repeats till all the cards are gone.

  • If it returns to you, you can take another.


This way, instead of it being "Do your turn, or Get nothing", the options before "Get a big reward, or Get a small reward". This way, players who bust still have a chance to win even if they bust, so long as they carefully choose which cards they want to take.


Additionally, by having players need to reveal 3 matching cards, rather than 2, it gives players a better idea of the risk of drawing another card.


Once the Risk & Reward system was decided, the scoring system came naturally after.

"Since players want to avoid revealing three matching cards, I should make them need to collect 3 matching cards to score points".


This made the optimal choice, regardless of whose turn it was, less clear. I then sprinkled in some bonus elements like double cards and bonus point symbols, to further the decision-making players could take.

Higher Ups Want Changes:

Originally, the game continued until one player had collected 21 cards, after which cards were scored. Sadly, this led to the complaint that there were too many cards to manage at the end of the game. Thus, we needed to come up with a solution. 


One of the artists recommended having a fixed number of rounds, and scoring cards at the end of each round.  With this in mind, I began running simulations and found the ideal number of rounds to use. From there I designed the basis of the current gameboard.

In this end, this made the game a lot easier to keep track of, and gave the game a much better table presence.

My Mock-up Design

Taking the data points, I made a quick mock-up for the artists to expand on.


On Reflection:

I am very happy with how this game turned out. It is clear, easy to learn, and addictive in its Risk & Reward gameplay. Additionally, the development went smoothly (almost suspiciously so). Still, I learned a lot from its development regardless.

- Don't worry about what license will go on the game, just worry about the limits most licenses have.

- Decide on a name before having the artist work on the game.

- A careful game deconstruction can lead to rapid advancements in new projects.

The Team:

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Me: Jared Ciano
Game Designer
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Luke Humphris 
Art & Component Design
Abstract Linear Background
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Aquarius & NMR
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