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Paper Treehouse - July 1st, 2009

Hello party people,

A few weeks ago I decided to try my hand at designing a board game, inspired by Brenda Braithwaite and Ian Schreiber’s book Challenges for Game Designers. The lovely Sande Chen then invited me to write about the process here at her blog, Game Design Aspect of the Month. It’s a game about building treehouses in a post-apocalyptic city, which hopefully will make the following images a bit more sensical.

The game’s tileset, tokens, and characters. I had originally wanted to incorporate character-specific bonuses, but they ended up making the game too unbalanced.

Edit: By popular request (and because I can’t say no to Jason Rohrer : ), here are

Specs: 2-4 players, turn-based gameplay, playing time 20-30 minutes

Objective: earn the most victory points by building treehouses

Setup: Shuffle the 56 game tiles and place them facedown in a 7 x 8 grid. Players may choose which edge tile to start the game from when their turn comes.

1) At the start of the game, players select one of four female avatars. Play proceeds in a clockwise manner, highest roll goes first.

2) Each player has three “movement points” at the start of his or her turn. Each action in the game costs a certain number of movement points. To turn over a tile and move there costs one movement point (Note: players must move to the tile they turn over). To search a building costs two movement points. Building a treehouse costs three movement points.

3) Players may only move to adjacent tiles (no diagonal movement). They can also travel over tiles that have already been overturned; moving one tile costs one movement point.

4) Treehouses cost five wood to build. Players collect wood by searching buildings, and a die roll determines how much wood is found. Buildings may only be searched once, and they can be searched from the ground level or from the rooftop.

5) Treehouses built on ground-level trees are worth one “victory point,” while those built on trees on top of buildings are worth two victory points.

6) To climb up to a rooftop, players must first move to a “ruins” tile, which acts as a staircase. To climb down from the top of the building, players must return to the ruins tile. If two buildings are adjacent to one another, players may travel from rooftop to rooftop. However, players cannot search adjacent tiles from a rooftop, and must return to the ground first. Note: not all rooftops will be accessible, as ruins tiles are distributed randomly.

7) Certain tiles have special meaning, as illustrated above.

8) The game is over when the last tile is overturned, and the player with the most victory points wins.

Get ready for pictures of the game in action!


The illustrious newton64 considers his next move.


Me and Freckle chart a course to victory.


Funfact: that “Beer Doctor 1979″ pin in the background is actually from 1979. Props, newton.


Twee and Spider in an epic battle royale to the death.


Overturned tokens denote searched buildings. Eventually we switched those out for coins, which held down the tiles. Also, there’s an OCD bonus: the treehouse tokens actually align with the tree art.


Pradeep watches anxiously as I go mad with power.

If you’re feeling bored, or feeling like celebrating Canada Day by cutting out a bunch of little paper shapes, a pdf of the game is available here. If you happen to play it, don’t hesitate to let me know what you thought, party people.

5 Responses to “Paper Treehouse”

  1. newton64 Says:

    I am indeed the illustriest.

    Nice chapeau.

  2. activationensues Says:

    I am going to play the heck out of this game tonight… tomorrow… sometime soon. ASSEMBLE TECHIE TEAM ALPHA!

  3. Ivy Says:

    @activationensues: I hope you enjoy it! One thing I don’t think I mentioned anywhere is that once you’ve climbed to the roof of a building, you can hop to any adjacent buildings as well. You’ll still need to go back to the ruins (basically a ladder) to climb down though.

    And, what else…you can search buildings from ground level, and you never move diagonally in this game. Let me know if any other issues come up! A lot of this stuff, I had to resolve on the fly.

    And @newton64: It is indeed un bon chapeau. It is the bonnest.

  4. sfllaw Says:

    I feel a little silly asking, but where are the rules?

  5. Ivy Says:

    Boogie on over to the link in the first paragraph. I think it covers everything you need to know. I should probably type something up though.

    Edit: Rules added to post, check ‘em on out.