Fossilis: Designer Diary

Updated: Feb 11, 2020

David Diaz teaches Fossilis at ProtoTO.

Fossilis is coming to Kickstarter on October 15

Board games are rarely designed in a straight line from initial idea to final product hitting the table. There is a process of play testing, trying new ideas, scrapping things that don't work, and finally finding the heart of a game. David Diaz has been working on the design for Fossilis for a year and a half and developing it with the KTBG team for a year. We talked to him about that journey and what he learned from the process on the eve of the Kickstarter launch.

When did you first have the idea for Fossilis?

The idea for Fossilis actually came from my wife Jaime.  One evening she told me how our 4-year-old son had had fun digging up dinosaurs in sand at school. I was already designing Primal Ordnance, a dinosaur combat game, and she suggested that I try and design a family game where they dig for dinosaur fossils.  I think in her mind the game would have actual sand in it but my design brain immediately went to using tiles to simulate digging through layers of terrain.  

How long has the design process taken?

I started the design a little over a year and a half ago.  At Breakout Con the following year, I ended up sitting with Helaina Cappel while we ate some lunch.  She asked me how my design was going. I knew Primal Ordnance wasn't right for KTBG so I decided to pitch her my new idea for a kids' fossil hunting game.  She liked the sound of it and asked to playtest it when it was ready.  During the next few months I would test it at home with my family, at Snakes & Lattes Designer nights, at work with co-workers, and at Fan Expo.  I got it to a place where I was confident to have Helaina test it out.  Proto T.O. 2018 arrived and she and Josh playtested it and really enjoyed it.  On the second day they brought their children to play it as well.  I thought this was the real test! The kids loved it too. A few weeks later the official offer was made and we've been developing it together ever since.  It's been a wonderful experience working with Helaina, Josh, and Sean and they have all had amazing input that led us to the final version of Fossilis.

Early prototype version of Fossilis.

What was the biggest challenge you ran into developing this game?

I think the biggest challenge was creating player interaction throughout the game.  Early on this came in the form of simply blocking other players from getting fossils by covering spaces in the dig site by either ad