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What is a Games Jam?

14 November, 2019

A Games Jam is a design challenge to take a brief and create a game from scratch with your own win conditions, mechanics and themes.

On 28th September, Richard Denning (one of the UKGE directors) and Jane Denning who co-owns indie publisher, Medusa Games, attended a Game Jam held at Meeple Mayhem in Birmingham hosted by Simon Edwards, the owner. The event was organised by Richard Buxton who is part of the Birmingham Game designers community.

The Game Jam attracted 4 teams of around 3 designers each to which an expert was added – generally as a published game designer or podcaster.

Experts and Design

Our experts were Simon Milburn of Dranda Games, Emily Pardoe-Billings of ASK Games, Kelsey Munro of ASK Games, Salvo Guastella of StarSeeker Games, James Adey and Richard Buxton.

The day was made possible by Panda Games, who provided the principle resources and some useful reading material for new designers.

The teams were given a task to design a game in 2 hours with a further 30 minutes play-testing around a theme which was read out at the start.

What's in the box?

Teams were invited to open a box of game design elements provided by Panda Games including a nice little panda figure which needed to be used in the game.

Off they went to design. Participants could grab more bits at any time from a pool of components on a table in the café. These included dice and figures, blank shapes and cards.

Gradually games came together. It became apparent that four very different games were emerging.

The Game Concepts:

Save the Panda: Resource Gathering for the Bear

We all know pandas are not particularly interested in staying alive. Players are caretakers of a lttle, daring panda. The goal is to keep the panda alive and healthy till the end of the game, removing any potential danger!

What is the Panda? A Quest.

Gather resources to unlock the secrets of a dying world, using unique powers to succeed in destroying monsters and rescuing survivors. At the end, you must decide who will become the new world.

The Ultimate Panda Seduction: A Game of Romance

Get the panda in the mood for mating (Pandas are notoriously bad at this) and get it back in its enclosure. Avoid distractions! If your panda is too distracted, it will not be able to mate!

Pandademic: Panda Survival game

A game in which a giant panda stalks the land while players attempt to gather resources. The closest to the panda's lair are the most valuable.


After 2 hours the organiser, Richard Buxton called the teams to order and set up a rotation of playtesters from each of the other tables.  

Participants would each visit one of the other games and try it out, give feed back etc.

Jane and Richard also visited each table, listened to the game outlines and rules and observed the game play. They also asked questions to help them understand the games better.

‘Pandademic’ was a game of running around gathering resources before the Panda ate them all!

The first player to reach a target number won, but if the Panda ate a certain number of resources before that, everyone lost.

Team ‘Ultimate Panda Seduction’ was a game about persuading a Panda it was a good day to mate and not to get too distracted!

It scored well on Original Theme as the judges had never come across that idea before.

Save the Panda was a game where you collaborated to make sure the Panda survived the game, despite dangers and hazards.

It had – the judges felt the most creative and – given only 2 hours development time – the most fleshed out mechanics.

‘Theresa and the Chipmunks’ had come up with a Pratchett inspired Fantasy style game where the whole world was a dying Panda and the game was about discovering this and completing quests to get enough knowledge to become the next Giant Panda.

OK maybe you had to be there but it did we feel have the most creative use of the Panda in the game.

MM_Game_Jam_Window playtest.jpg
MM_Game_Jam_Jane explaining.jpg
MM_Game_Jam_Jane in background table pony table man.jpg
MM_Game_Jam_Testing with panda cards.jpg

In the end one game had to be chosen as the winner and Jane explained how we had come to our conclusions.

Winners and Prizes

Finally Save the Panda was chosen as the winner as it not only had robust Mechanics  but a solid Theme and good use of the Panda.

The prize was a copy of Warren Wars by Birmingham based company ASK games.

Congratulations to the winners and thank you for everyone for taking part!

Another Game Jam in the same style is planned for Spring 2020.

Join In

If you are interested in taking part in a Games Jam, Board game Bash or similar events, then keep up to date by checking:

Next events:

Board Game Bashes

Dates: Saturday 9th November 2019 and Saturday 11th January 2020

Time: 12 noon

Venue: Meeple Mayhem

These are events where gamers can play unpublished games and give feedback on them. For designers, they are an opportunity to showcase their best projects and build an audience. They are always looking for new game designers to join in, so please register your interest using this Google doc

Playtest UK playtesting evenings

Dates: every second Wednesday and every last Thursday of the month.

Time: 6pm

Venue: Grange Live Gaming

Playtesting evenings for games in any stage of development following the usual Playtest UK model.

All welcome.