The Story of Ulterior Design
An Eatery Evolves
Ulterior Design started as an abstract card game with numbers and colours. Designer Andy Bell had the idea for overlapping cards which could be played either in your own area or a shared area in order to match patterns and numbers and started trying out ideas with his wife Dannielle. The first few iterations weren't very interesting, but he felt there was something there to be developed. He removed the numbers and made cards with different symbols, and tried different scoring methods and game timers. Once he came up with the idea of an interior design based theme (originally around using decor to attract customers to an eatery) a lot of the mechanics started to click into place, including the scoring system and tie-breaker rule.
He began to play this version of the game (originally with only two types of decor items but up to six per card) with his workmates and friends, and when they started asking to play multiple rounds or to borrow his prototype he decided that it might be worth pitching to a publisher. Andy lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, so he was keen to work with a publisher based in Aotearoa and he connected with Julia at Cheeky Parrot. In April 2022 the pair signed an agreement to work together to develop and publish "Eatery".
A change introduced shortly thereafter was adding in a third decor item, on the suggestion of Julia's son Nicolas, and dropping the total possible number per card to four to combat analysis paralysis. Bookcases joined houseplants and portraits, which were affectionately called Ludwigs. Then Julia thought birdcages would be more on theme with Cheeky Parrot, but eventually, and thankfully before artist Tim Kings-Lynne started churning out the artwork for all the decor permutations, it was decided that lamps were eminently more sensible and on theme with interior decorating.
Prototype decor cards
The name of the game also underwent some changes. Eatery would not do. Julia suggested House Proud, a phrase that wound up in the subtitle to help gamers get a clearer grasp of the theme. Andy eventually came up with Ulterior Design, suggesting it in an email in July.
A final tweak came with the idea of locating the judges, whose appearance triggers scoring, in a separate deck, with the top card to be revealed in between player turns. This proved to be less "clunky" than mixing them in with the decor cards.
The game was now starting to make the rounds of boardgaming events, debuting at the first Cancer Society Games Fair in Auckland and also featuring in a new prototype event at Wellycon. Tester feedback was almost always very positive, with many mentions of the game's speed and simplicity, but also its unique theme, strategic angles, and ability to sabotage opponents. Blind testing with families helped set a lower age limit of 8. Children younger than that are certainly able to play, but usually don't embrace the sabotage element.
Local author and games enthusiast Zirk van den Berg helped whip the directions into shape and Cheeky's Facebook followers got to weigh in on some design options for the box cover. Although they are a rather pricey component, it was decided to include custom golden tokens for players to keep track of their wins. Andy's friend John Davies kindly supplied the needed .stl file and the manufacturer made up some samples.
The manufacturing process has gone smoothly, with the eproof, digital proof, and production proof all approved in turn. The game should hit the New Zealand market in September 2023.