Long time no blog!

I’ve recently been working on an entry for a boardgame design contest! Woo! Maid in Sherwood is my entry into the Game Crafter Hidden Movement Game Design Contest which ran for 2 months (up until October 23rd 2017). If you haven’t heard of The Game Crafter before, it’s a sort of self-publishing/print-on-demand site for tabletop games.

This post is going to cover:

  • Brief summary of the game itself
  • Findings during the design/testing process
  • General takeaways regarding the contest itself


Maid in Sherwood is a game of hidden movement, special roles and trickery for 2-5 players.

One player will take on the role of the nerfarious Maid Marian, hiding and moving stealthily through Sherwood forest, attempting to outwit their pursuers and capture the wagons of wealthy merchants on their way to the City of Nottingham. The other player – or players – will take on the roles of numerous Guardsmen employed by the tyrannical Sheriff of Nottingham to hunt down and eliminate Marian’s men. They must use foresight, teamwork and an arsenal of special skills to protect the merchants.

Rules: free .pdf download:
Maid in Sherwood Rulebook

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 16.20.05


  • 1 folding game board
  • 4 Guard character cards
  • 32 forest tokens
  • 3 Merry Men tokens
  • 1 Maid Marian token
  • 4 guard pawns (red, white, black, blue)
  • 5 merchant pawns (yellow)
  • 1 yellow merchant die




Initial Design Objectives:

Overall my personal objectives for Maid in Sherwood were to:

  • First and foremost, to make a complete, playable game that people liked and which looked reasonably cool.
  • Make a hidden movement game in which no paper/pencil was needed to track hidden player position.

1: First Prototype








Here’s the first prototype. The path is deliberately 12 “moves” long, and the river is there as an optional element to maybe add a bit of complexity to the guard’s decisions later on (I initially told testers it was just for decoration).

My initial findings were that the outside of the board didn’t really get used much by either of my Robins, and that they also found it difficult to keep track of where they’d hidden their troops. I had to work out whether the “memory game” aspect of this role was just part of the gameplay, or an unnecessary annoyance. However, it did introduce a further element of potential bluffing around their reactions to seeing the bottoms of tokens they’d picked up. I also wondered if the samey, hexagonal geography of the forest itself might be part of the problem.

2: Introducing More Asymmetry, Getting Closer

The unique guard powers were present in the earlier iterations, and I was pretty pleased with the table-talk that these generated. The Guard players were allowed to determine their own turn order, and this alone seemed to make them feel like they were collectively owning their strategy, rather than – as in some co-op games – waiting for their set turn to come around and then being told what to do.

The Blue player was, at this point, the “Stablehand” – who could – like the Dispatcher in Pandemic – move other Player’s pawns about for them during their turn. I think I wanged this particular special ability in there purely because it was quickly recognisable to my player group. I don’t know why (I hate the Dispatcher – the Dispatcher should be banned!) Safe to say this special ability was later taken out and replaced with a “you get more actions but can’t capture” Guard (called the Squire).

3: Hexagons Begone!

By the time I got to redesigning the board I had well and truly run out of time to play-test and needed to make some reasonably drastic tweaks to get the game into the state I wanted before the deadline. The final iteration of the board included:

  • A much more organic asymmetrical play-space which is quicker to move across, and where either side has the advantage in different spots
  • 3 possible paths for the 5 merchants to come down in any given game (marked as Lincoln, York and Derby in vaguely geographically-correct points of the map, and randomised by a D6)
  • No rivers, but “black paths” included to create a special shortcuts usable only by the black pawn – the Scout.


For this bit of design, I used an Diagramming/Flowchart app called Shapes, which is really useful if you want to connect a bunch of nodes by bendy lines and then move the nodes around and have the lines move with them.

4: In Which The Board Looks Sexy But I Leave Writing the Rules Til the Last Minute

A long night of coffee, Photoshop and public domain medieval maps later, and I ended up here with it:


I also made the decision to illustrate the player role cards using animals from (public domain) medieval heraldry. This just looked a little sleeker than any of my other attempts to hack together images of actual people:

Although I’d liked to have given this last iteration a few more tests before submitting, the final hurdle I really struggled with the rulebook – or a lack thereof. Throughout the design process I’d kept notes on how various parts of the game were meant to work, but I’d never really committed them to a single, ordered document for blind testing or anything like that. In future I’ll probably be more aware that this is something I avoid and try to pay more conscious attention to it.