Ladybird Logic: Mushroom Maze

This is one of those games that comes to you in a series of flashes of inspiration, and is very quickly a fully-formed, playable game. Here’s a bit of a story about how I developed a whole game in just over a week!


I was in Craft Warehouse, a locally-owned craft supply company that has almost everything you could want in one big building. There are similar places in New Zealand, but the range is different, and the range as a whole is generally smaller. I was surprised, though to see how much cheaper a lot of things were in NZ compared to here in the USA – that pattern is particularly apparent when it comes to goods probably manufactured in China, which makes sense, given the pandemic and shipping issues, and all that other stuff.

Aaaaanyway, so I was looking for something completely different, but I happened to pass these two items – a bag of wooden ladybirds, and a pack of chipboard mushrooms with holes where the spots would be – and they clicked for me. I knew there was some sort of game there. So I bought them.

My process

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I design from an experience perspective – in other words, when I think about a game, I think about how it feels to play it before the actual gameplay becomes completely clear. That often means that I think about the art, components, and general feeling of a game long before I know exactly how to play it.

About a week after I found the craft supplies, I found myself thinking about the ladybirds and mushrooms again. I had been staring out the window at our daffodils when I suddenly got an idea – what about if the ladybirds had to somehow travel from flower to flower? And the mushroom was some kind of map or target? Then I was looking for something different on The Game Crafter site and saw the “flower” mats, and it all clicked together.

Initial layout

I started playing with a layout that had flowers, tiles, and the idea of rotating on and off the flower petals. I wanted there to be a path for the ladybirds, but also Bad Bugs, the enemies of the ladybird. I did some research and found that there aren’t that many insect predators for ladybirds, which is good, because they are a very helpful insect to have in your garden! I chose the ones I felt like drawing, and also designed patterns for each one.

Clockwise from 12 o’clock: Ants, Assassin bug, Dinocampus coccinellae Wasp, Dragonfly, Praying Mantis, Robber Fly, with a Black and Yellow Garden Spider in the centre.

The idea of moving from petal to petal came to me first, but I wasn’t quite sure how it would work at first. Once I had figured out the Bad Bug designs, I also made some patterns for the “good” petals. The idea is that you match up the two patterns in order to move from one flower to the other, so they need to be different enough from each other – the colours might need a bit of a tweak.

A sample flower with a “friendly flower” pattern on each petal

Once I had everything in place for the flower cards, I needed to incorporate my idea for the Mushroom Mission cards, so I decided that they would have the start card, finish card, pattern match targets, and completion bonus. So basically, you select a card, it tells you which flower to start on, and then every time anyone makes the pattern matches you need, you mark them off on the card. Once all the matches are made, you head for your end card, and if you get there, you also get the aphid bonus. I also scattered aphids throughout the tiles for people to gather as bonus scores.

Proof of Concept

So the best advice I can give anyone who wants to design a game is to get it into the real world asap. It took me less than two days to develop my design to the point where I could print and play it. In general, I wouldn’t recommend doing final art for a first prototype, but because I design from the experience, the art is part of how I figure out what my game is actually like.

So hey – if you just use pieces of paper with scribbled notes on them, that is ABSOLUTELY FINE.

For me, though, there are two things I need to test a board game – at least enough art to “feel” the game, and an actual physical prototype. So, I made a micro version (it really is incredibly small) to use as little paper and ink as possible, but also be able to play it.

So it was obviously pretty fiddly at that scale, but we were able to find out a few things that we might have missed if it was printed to scale – for example, the mushroom card layout is hard to read, the start and end spots are a bit confusing, and the patterns are hard to make out. The Ladybirds and Bad Bugs weren’t represented by a realistic approximation of the tokens, but the actual gameplay worked really well. Managing paper flower cards is difficult, but perhaps the Flower Mats are heavy enough to work IRL.

After the test

Initially, I had those Bad Bugs only able to move from tiles in their own pattern to petals in the same pattern, but we immediately found that in play-testing, this actually meant most of the bugs got stuck pretty quickly. I designed a pattern based on the European “Warning” road sign, which is a red triangle with an exclamation mark, and we have used that as a universal Bad Bug access point to the Flower cards. I decided not to use the triangle in this version, but it might still develop if play-testing requires it.

Flower mat with the “Universal” Bad Bug pattern on the 12 o’clock petal

I also updated my Mushroom cards, and they read so much better already.

Updated Mushroom Mission card design

Ordering my prototype

So now that I had finalised my prototype art and got a solid grip on the rules, it was time to order a prototype! This whole process took me a week from when I started working on it to when I was ready to order it! Normally, I wouldn’t order it this early, but I was making an order anyway, so I decided, why not?

Box design is often really intimidating for me, but again, this one came together really easily! The copy on the bottom obviously isn’t final, but for a first prototype, this is pretty satisfying.

I also pulled together a first draft of the rulebook, if you want to check it out in the photo album below! All my prototypes are due to be delivered sometime TODAY, so I will update once I have them. EXCITING

What do you think? Do you want to play Ladybird Logic: Mushroom Maze?

Published by Drayer Ink

Artist, designer, ideas person

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