The Skinny On Agile Game Design – Part 3: The Firefight! Board

In the previous Agile Game Design post we covered how to create a basic Kanban board that could be used for just about any endeavor. This time we’ll take a look at a board used specifically for game design. It’s the one that we use here for Firefight!.

Definition of Done

This version of the Kanban board has something new that we haven’t seen yet, Definition of Done.

Each column has its own definition that items in that step must meet in order to be called done. The definitions not only help to get everyone on the same page but they also act as reminders.  For example don’t worry about formatting and paragraph spacing when working on something in development. That’s not part of Development’s definition and odds are that it will be wasted effort.

The definitions are not meant to be inhibiting. If they are then they have to be changed. They’re there to facilitate getting things done  while protecting product quality.

The Columns


The items stickied in this column are pulled out of the backlog that we manage off-board. In our case we use Circus Ponies Notebook.

Think of Next as a slightly more sophisticated To-Do list where items of higher priority (as compared to those still in the backlog) are staged on the board.


Work In Progress Limit: 2

Items pulled into this column are analyzed to determine if they really are what we think they are.

If an item is too large (too many parts) to flow across the board then this is where it gets split into smaller chunks. Priority chunks are left here (respecting Work In Progress limits) while the rest are moved back to Next.

Next and Analysis function together to minimize wasted effort down the line.

Definition of Done:

  • Goal is clear: The objective is set. The item’s purpose is known.
  • 1st tasks defined: This is about creating momentum. When the item is pulled into Development the developer can get started right away. He doesn’t have to make any guesses.


Work In Progress Limit: 3

This is where you make sketches of ideas and hash them out. The skeleton of ideas get flesh put onto them and are molded according to vision. At the end of this stage they only have to be beautiful ideas not pretty to look at.

Definition of Done:

  • Unambiguous: In context of game design this means that the item or rule can be understood by others.
  • Component is captured: This means that it has been written down or is in an application available to everyone on the team.
  • Integrated and Tested: The item or rule makes logical sense and does not introduce unintended consequences.
  • Ready for Write-Up: The item is ready for the next step.


Here is where the product of development is refined for release.

Work In Progress Limit: 3

Definition of Done:

  • Written for final presentation: The item’s text is ready to be read by the outside world.
  • Retains design intent: Nothing was lost in translation.
  • Ready for acceptance: The item is ready for the big review.


Items pulled into Acceptance are looked at with a discerning eye. If they pass muster then they are given the thumbs up and are moved off the board and logged. If it’s thumbs down then we begin exploring the reasons why so that problems can be addressed.

Definition of Done:

  • Reviewed and given Thumbs-Up.
  • Ready for play.


So there we have it. The Firefight! Kanban board for developing ideas into functional game components fit for use in the field.

But wait a second! Where’s a Play Testing column? Isn’t testing important? Heck yeah it is. Our old board had one when we were doing active play testing. But we’re beyond that now and our board reflects our current workflow. That’s one of the nifty things about Kanban. It fits you.


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