Game Design From Outer Space

Make a game for yourself, develop it in every form it’s possible to!

Whirling Dervishes by Vladimer Shioshvili

Dervish Derby: First Steps and Future Developments

Dervish Derby: The Birth of an Idea

So, do you remember when I totally fell in love with Erik Svedäng’s Clairvoyance? After that, I took action and I cloned his game! No, I’m joking… I decided to deepen this Roborally and Clairvoyance game mechanic I found (and still find) super smart and do my thing with it, it came out Dervish Derby.

If anybody made an infographic piece about this process of making my thing they would insert the following data:

  • 53 hours spent staring at a screen
  • 1 book read
  • 21 newspaper/magazine articles read
  • 694 whatsapp text written
  • 11 kg of empty beer bottles recycled
  • 28 espresso drank
  • 14 hours spent playing video game
  • 2 hours spent designing the game
  • 4 hours spent messing with pencil and paper

In this experience well described by my imaginary infographic, a nice asynchronous strategy game was born. At first I prototyped it in a physical fashion just to test if the rules where coherent and stuff like that. Then I brought it with me on holiday vacations and played it with some friends and friends of friends to test how people enjoyed it. Dervish Derby managed to actually survive these two tests, and I consider that some sort of miracle: for one idea that makes it to that point, I have an enormous number of others that don’t. Finally, I developed a first digital prototype included in the B*Sides 2010-2014.

The game, as I said, owes a lots to Clairvoyance and Roborally since it takes from them the way turns are pre-programmed by each player and then the action is performed one for each player: the turn is composed by 5 moves per player, and the player must decide all the five moves only by knowing what’s the starting situation and guessing what moves their opponent will plan to perform during their turn. The game is played on a board of 4X4 spinning blocks (the Dervishes), and when you bring one of your balls on the other side of the board (in one of the spot marked by a flag) you score a point. When a block spins, the adjacent balls rotate on the same axis of the block, it’s pretty intuitive. The real paradox is that this spinning the block and rotating the ball mechanic is as intuitive for our mind as it is almost impossible for a physical prototype, and this is the main problem I’m dealing with in these days.

I want to make a nice tabletop prototype as my entry to Premio Archimede, the most important prize we have in Italy for board games. You want to know some more details about this game? Here follows some parts of the rulebook I wrote for the digital version you can find in the B*Sides 2010-2014. I hope somebody will actually read the readme file, I had fun writing it. The rules are very simple but, you know, it’s harder to say than…

Dervish Derby: The Rulebook

Dervish Derby is a two player strategy game you can play with one of your friends in front of your computer and show them your intellectual superiority.

How to Play

If I had to say this in a sentence it would be something like:

Rotate the Dervishes to move each of your balls in order to reach the other side of the board to score a goal, the first player who scores two points wins the game. And don’t forget the importance of the Initiative.

You Won!

In order to win you must bring both of your balls to the other side of the board. If your avatar wears a red hat, than your balls will be the red little ones, and no, if you’re actually wearing a hat when you play nothing changes, except for fezzes: if you wear a fez you can make your moves first (**). Anyway, you must take your balls in one of the two goal spots marked with a flag in the opponent’s side. Even if you won remember that probably it’s your opponent’s fault.

** If both players are wearing a fez then Player1 is the player that can spin around longer before fainting.


A turn is composed by 5 moves per player, and it’s calculated after both players chose their moves:

MOVE 1 of player with Initiative

MOVE 1 of other player

MOVE 2 of player with Initiative

MOVE 2 of other player

MOVE 3 of player with Initiative

MOVE 3 of other player

MOVE 4 of player with Initiative

MOVE 4 of other player

MOVE 5 of player with Initiative

MOVE 5 of other player


The game starts with Initiative belonging to Player1, that’s why I recommend you to buy a Fez now; you’ll see how Initiative can be stolen even not wearing a fez in the next paragraph, but that’s less fun.


You must assign 5 moves for each turn of the game.
Moves can be:

  • Spin one piece of the board 90° clockwise or counterclockwise
  • Take Initiative

Yep, that’s it. One thing you should probably know is that if a ball is next to a face of a board piece, when that board piece spins the cube will follow the adjacent face to its new place, that’s quite useful for actually moving balls toward the goals.

The Rule I Always Forget To Tell People: As a first move you can move a board piece only if next to one of your balls.

Have fun!

Dervish Derby - Digital Prototype

The digital local multiplayer prototype looks like this

Dervish Derby: Perspectives

I’m pretty excited about Dervish Derby, I have fun playing it and I’ve had fun designing it. It’s the first time I make something that is 100% thought for myself, and that’s kind of magic! I plan to prototype a board game version and send it to Premio Archimede, my deadline for that is the end of May 2014. I want to design a clever mechanism to make the game even more intuitive in this physical form and, why not? Amaze you with smart product design solutions, that’s my dream and I’m going to realize it, if everything goes right, at the local FabLab with a nice 3D printer!


Dervish Derby - 3D Print Board Piece

Incredible design solution I found out will never work

In the meanwhile I made a digital prototype for the Urustar B*Sides and I think you’ll see that soon enough if you’re one of our supporters! On the digital side my plan is to try the social game way for many reasons, one among others is that I never made a social game and it could be a good occasion to learn something new. A standalone app for Mac/Win/Linux with both local and online multiplayer modes would be the natural way to develop this game, I’m gonna do it. For these last ideas I still have no deadlines, I’m gonna do it mostly on the spare time so for sure it won’t be super soon.
I hope you’ll try Dervish Derby as soon as possible, give me some feedback, I would greatly appreciate it!