Lawrence Township resident Adam Daulton has turned one of his hobbies into a part-time job. Some might even say he’s turned it into a game.
Daulton, 38, designs board games — a virtual lifelong hobby.
“I remember getting Risk from my parents when I was a kid,” Daulton said. “When I was 12 or so, I entered 4-H and did the do-you-own thing and made a board game and won the grand championship.”
Ten years ago, Daulton decided to design a game – Ninja Camp to market to the public. He created it on a print-on-demand website. He raised money through Kickstarter, and the game came out in 2016. It was published by Action Phase Games, which has since been bought by Indy Boards and Cards.
“And then after that, I sort of got hooked and I started a local design group that met once a month,” Daulton said.
Travis Chance, who co-owned Action Phase Games before it was purchased, said Daulton’s games are special.
“Adam is firstly one of the most genuine and kind people I’ve met, period. And yet somehow, he is one of the most competitive gamers I’ve worked with,” Chance said. “He has the ability to make accessible games that allow for higher level strategies, which is a tough thing to accomplish as a designer. You can also tell he’s designing for people like himself with families.”
Chance is now a senior designer for CMON, which stands for Cool Mini or Not. He said it is the second-largest tabletop game publisher after Hasbro.
Since 2016, Daulton has fundraised for his games and had several professionally published. Outside of his hobby, Daulton works for the federal government in human resources, but his passion is playing and designing board games.
“I love that you can sit across from friends and family and have a real-time experience with them not in front of a screen,” Daulton said. “I remember showing my game Ninja Camp to a kid about 8 to 10 years old. This was my first time at (a) convention teaching people to play it, and he won and jumped up and yelled, ‘I’m the best ninja ever!’ with a big smile on his face.
“That is why I design, and that adds something special to this hobby within a hobby.”
Daulton uses an online tabletop simulator to create prototypes and test-play his games with other people from the region. But he said it’s not the same experience as playing a traditional board game.
“You really miss something you do get from board games, sitting across and playing with wood, cardboard and plastic pieces as you laugh and joke and experience real people,” Daulton said.
As for his design process, Daulton said it depends on the game. For example, for his game Fall of the Mountain King, to be published later this year, he started with a theme. But he said every game publisher has changed the themes of his games.
Sometimes, Daulton said the creative process starts with creating the pieces.
“The big process is coming up with the idea,” he said. “I tend to write out an early draft of rules. It helps me think how a player’s turn takes place. Soon after that, I get some prototype made in physical form or on the simulator. I play it myself, solo acting like the different players of the table and immediately find out what parts are broken, or this doesn’t work, or this is not fun.”
Daulton said his favorite game to play – which he did not design – is Blood Rage, where players are Vikings fight wars in Ragnarok.
“It’s a battle-type game with lots of conflicts, but since you want to gain glory, you can often win the game even if you are losing the battles,” Daulton said. “That’s what really draws that one to me.”
On average, Daulton said it can take three to five years to create a game before it is published. His game K’uh Nah took less than two years, but his game Fall of the Mountain King took 6 1/2 years.
As for playing, his shortest game takes only 15 minutes to play, and his longest takes up to four hours.
Daulton and his wife, Krista, have three daughters. The family plays board games together on a regular basis.
Daulton looks forward to having his game Fall of the Mountain King published later this year.
“It’s my personal type of game that I really enjoy,” he said. “It’s a couple of hours long, deep strategy with some conflict, those types of things. It’s a lot of effort.”
Daulton has a blog accessible at boardgamegeek.com.
A breakdown of Adam Daulton’s games
Adam Daulton has two new games coming out this year. He often uses Kickstarter to fundraise for his prototypes before he completes the design and sends it to a publisher. Below is a list of his games.
Ninja Camp, published in 2016 by Action Phase Games: $41,353 on Kickstarter. Ninja Camp is a game where players compete as anamorphic animals learning ninja moves from the sensei.
K’uh Nah, published in 2019 by WizKids (direct to retail): Players build a pyramid of cards as you push their luck to not get cards from the quarry in the center of the table. Players do this by placing jade tokens (kept secret in your hand) on one of the cards in the center or by taking a card in the center with all the jade tokens on it. Players who build the best pyramid usually win.
Fall of the Mountain King, to be published in May or June by Burnt Island Games: $356,263 on Kickstarter. This game is a longer game, more than two hours, where gnomes attack trolls in the mountain. Players compete to become the troll leader who unites the clans to escape the mountain.
Power Plants, to be published in November or December by Kids Table Board Gaming: $105,708 on Kickstarter. A tile-laying game, players grow a magical garden. When players place plant tiles in the garden, the tiles allow players to use move sprites to try and control the garden, and each tile gives a different power depending on what other tiles are around it.