Jeff Dehut & Pocket Dungeon Quest

eff points at PDQ at Powell's City of Books

Written by Brandon Stettenbenz

Jeff Dehut is a creative professional living in Louisville who has spent the last four years focusing on game development. His largest project to date has been “Pocket Dungeon Quest” (PDQ) and its first expansion “Don’t Go Alone”. He enjoys games because he believes they’re great for learning life and work skills including communication, social skills, team work, and healthy competition. Despite his success since moving here, Jeff is new to our local community:

“I haven’t been in Louisville for too awful long, so I am still relatively new to this particular scene. [But] gamers who I have met here in Louisville are always eager to talk about games and willing to include anyone who wants to play.”

It was Dehut’s love of games and their impact on people’s lives and friendships that drove him to make his tabletop concept a reality. Jeff had the idea to translate video game concepts to tabletop for a long time, and when he was let go from a job, he seized the opportunity. Beginning with paper and pencil sketches, Jeff translated his idea to a prototype that went through many iterations as the illustrated concepts from his brain became puzzle pieces of a then untitled game.

Pocket Dungeon Quest tiles
Early prototype designs for Pocket Dungeon Quest tiles.

Having just moved to Louisville before starting PDQ, Jeff didn’t have many connections in the local community, but he did meet some people at LVL1 Hackerspace who helped play test early versions of the game. After many revisions of both rules and art, the pieces of his concept eventually formed PDQ:

“I went through many prototypes using a printer, glue and foam core. Play tests included [myself], print & play copies sent to friends, and early prototype group plays. Feedback was collected and modifications were made until everything worked smoothly. The most important thing to me was to make sure Pocket Dungeon Quest was fun to play!”

When he was satisfied with the art and gameplay, Jeff made a final prototype using chipboard and mod podge, which he shipped to reviewers. Having seen the success that other independent tabletop developers had with Kickstarter, Jeff focused on that campaign first:

“Much of the community I interacted with was online. The greatest thing that I noticed about gamers and game developers in general is that everyone is very willing to help and wants to see you succeed. “

Jeff took to Kickstarter where he raised $27,000+ from 839 backers, the majority of which pledged enough to get the physical game. Others were able to download and print their own edition. Completed in 2015, the PDQ campaign met all its original stretch goals (above and beyond the core project), but did not reach an additional goal of $35,000 for development of a mobile app version. During the campaign, Jeff hit the convention circuit with his prototype to generate interest and get the word out about PDQ.

PDQ played on custom mat
PDQ played on custom mat (mat coming soon)

Since the first campaign was such a success, Jeff returned to Kickstarter for Don’t Go Alone, an expansion to PDQ. Don’t Go Alone recently finished its campaign with funds 200% over its original goal totaling $22,000+ and showing that there’s a substantial market for independent games. Now in production with Breaking Games, Jeff says Don’t Go Alone will be available to buy this Fall, 2016.

In addition to sending copies out to campaign pledgers, Jeff has distributed PDQ locally. Squire Greene at Book and Music Exchange in the Highlands said that he’s carried the game for about eight months, and it has sold moderately well. Jeff has plans to distribute both games on a broader scale in the future:

“I am so grateful for the small shops that took the chance to carry a couple copies of my game—[some] quickly found that they needed to come back for reorders. There are more [development and distribution] plans in the works, but those will remain a surprise for the time being!”

Don't Go Alone cover art
Don’t Go Alone cover art

Kickstarter has been a great platform for independent tabletop creators, sporting a healthy community of gamers willing to pledge money to make games. Other locals, including Wet Ink Games who we featured previously, have also succeeded in funding their games through Kickstarter. Jeff said that found great support and good feedback on Kickstarter, and he also learned a lot about marketing games during both campaigns. But he cautions that creators with big dreams should begin small:

“I have spoken with too many indie developers who believe they have created the next Magic: The Gathering. There is nothing wrong with aiming high, but at some point you have to bring your ideas back down to the real world. Games like Magic: The Gathering have had decades to improve, expand and perfect. Your first game will never be the next Magic. Start small, start simple. If that succeeds, then expand it. A good test is to hand your game with instructions to complete strangers. If they can figure it out without you guiding them, then you might be on to something!”

Jeff’s success while living in Louisville has made a positive impression on him. While we weren’t able to reach any local gamers who’ve played PDQ to get their impressions, speaking with Jeff about the game definitely piqued our interest. Although no community that I know of is ultimately large enough to fully support game making, Jeff’s journey with PDQ shows that having the support and feedback of local players is essential. In his words:

“I see the local gaming community embracing more indie games, and welcoming the new developers. I for one certainly appreciate that!”

Check out some additional concept art for Pocket Dungeon Quest and Don’t Go Alone in the gallery below:

All of the photos and graphics above are by Jeff Dehut. He has also published three video games games for iOS, Android and Steam–Draw a Stickman: Epic; Draw a Stickman: Epic 2; and Battlepillars. You can find more about PDQ and Jeff on his personal website.

10 Tabletop Games for Beginners

10 Tabletop Games for Beginners

Written by Squire Greene; Featured photograph by Daniel Parish

Are you tired of playing Cards Against Humanity? Do you wish you could get your non-gamer friends to play more board games with you? Are you new to the hobby and looking for a good starting point for your collection? Don’t worry. I have a semi-redundant, highly opinionated top-ten list for you: 10 Tabletop Games for Beginners!

I do have a few disclaimers:

First, if you don’t own Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassonne, start there. These three games are often considered the pillars of hobby gaming and are a good starting point for most new players. Do you want to learn how to play slots games? discover more.

Second, this list is in no way definitive. I have not played every game out there and there may be some undiscovered treasures I don’t mention. If you know of any games that you think should be on this list, please mention them in the comments.

Third, while this is a top ten list, these game are not ranked in any particular order, just remember that my favorite one is still Hausbautipps. They are my personal favorite games to teach people, and I tried to encompass as many different play mechanics and game types as possible.

King of Tokyo - Tabletop Games for Beginners

King of Tokyo takes the very familiar dice mechanic of Yahtzee and combines it with a Godzilla movie. Players choose a Kaiju-style monster and fight it out in this attractive, well produced game by iEllo. I like teaching this game because many people already understand the concept of locking dice on multiple dice rolls. Even if players have no previous knowledge of this mechanic, its simplicity makes for fairly common-sense play. Put this simple mechanic together with well drawn cartoon monsters and a bright colorful board, and you have a game people want to come back and play time and time again. Plus, who doesn’t love chucking big, chunky dice?

Advanced Choice: King of New York

Alternate Choices: Age of War, Zombie Dice

Forbidden Desert - Tabletop Games for Beginners

Both of these games are very similar in design and playability. I prefer to teach Forbidden Desert mainly because it is the game I have in my personal collection. In both of these games, players work cooperatively to accomplish a goal while the conditions of the board begin to degrade, either by the island sinking or the sandstorm picking up. These games are great for beginners for several reasons. First, there is no player elimination. If someone dies everyone loses. Second, it introduces new players to cooperative play, resource management, and special roles. Third, it is inexpensive but a lot of game for the money.

Alternate Choice: Pandemic

Sushi GO - Tabletop Games for Beginners

Sushi Go! is a cute, little card game, great for beginners and gamers of all ages. It is simple, easy to pick up, and well produced. It introduces players to card drafting, which is a mechanic used in a myriad of other titles. This game is almost too simple for non-gamers, though many people play it just because the theme and artwork are so attractive. It is also inexpensive and can fit in your pocket for gaming on the go.

Advanced Choice: 7 Wonders

Lords of Waterdeep - Tabletop Games for Beginners

This is an interesting choice for this list. Lords of Waterdeep has a Dungeons & Dragons theme, which can be divisive, especially among non-gamers. It’s more complex than a lot of the other entries and has one of the longer play times on this list. However, I keep going back to this game to introduce people to deeper, euro-style games, and I find that it’s one of the more accessible games to introduce players to the worker placement mechanic. The base game is strategically very tight and scales well with any number of players. If you are worried about the theme, I played this with my sister several times before she exclaimed, “Wait! Did you guys trick me into playing D&D?” It is still one of her favorite games.

Advanced Choice: Raiders of the North Sea

Alternate Choice: Alien Frontiers

Tokaido - Tabletop Games for Beginners

People are just drawn to this game. Trust me. Tokaido features gorgeous art and the game just stands out on table. Also, the theme is fun and different. Players become travelers on the ancient road between Tokyo and Kyoto. They’re tasked with having the best vacation. To accomplish this, they stop at hot springs, paint murals, buy souvenirs, and eat the finest food. In addition to the wonderful production value and great theme, the gameplay itself is innovative and fun. The player who is in last place gets to go first every turn, rewarding the players who lag behind and stop at the most attractions. Strategy is surprisingly tight and most games are won by a narrow margin. Players will often block your moves if you are in the lead or getting close to a large scoring play.

The Resistance - Tabletop Games for Beginners

If Forbidden Desert or Pandemic brings friends together, The Resistance tears them apart (in a good way). This game is one of the simplest of the hidden role / traitor genre and lacks the player elimination elements of games like BANG!, Ca$h ‘n Gun$, and Werewolf. Players are randomly dealt a card that pegs them as a loyalist or a traitor. The traitors are then revealed to each other but the loyalists only know their own role for sure. Then, the current leader, which rotates around the table, must choose themselves or other players to go on a mission. Traitors are trying to fail the mission without revealing who they are, and loyalists are trying to root out the spies.

This game is an excellent ice-breaker. I have literally lost my voice convincing people I am loyal and have looked other players dead in the eye and lied to them about being a spy. It is quick, fun, inexpensive, and a great alternative to other party games.

Advanced Choice: Avalon or Resistance + Expansions

Alternate Choice: Good Cop, Bad Cop

Dominion - Tabletop Games for Beginners

This addition to the 10 Tabletop Games for Beginners is kind of a cheat. Dominion is kind of a pillar game in the same vein as the others previously mentioned. Also, I like almost every other deck-building game I have played better than Dominion. However, Dominion has some qualities that set it apart and make it more accessible for new players. I have found that deck-building games are some of the hardest games to teach. This is not because the mechanics are difficult, but rather because games tend to stall as new players have to read every new card that hits the board and assess its value. Often this leads to a lot of neck craning, table bumping, beer spilling, and general discomfort. Dominion has simple iconography, and all of the cards are revealed at the beginning of the game allowing new players to read the cards during setup or while someone explains the rules. These reasons alone make it as my top pick for deck-building newbies.

Advanced Choice: The DC Deck Building Game

Codenames - Tabletop Games for Beginners

The second “party” game on my list is Codenames. This team game is great for new players because it allows them to play a few rounds without feeling pressured to make decisions they don’t quite yet understand. That being said, it is quick to teach, and veterans can assume the integral role of team captain in order to show newbies how the game is played. Alternatively you can check out Board Game Card Sleeves to ensure that you have a platform to showcase your game. However, it won’t be long before the new person wants to sit in the hot seat. Okay. I get it. It is very “cult of the new”, but Codenames has been a runaway hit since it came out in 2015. Copies were scarce until the recent reprint. At $20 MSRP, it is a steal and nothing is more fun than feeding the opposite team false clues. Play this, not Cards Against Humanity.

Alternate Choice: Telestrations

Splendor - Tabletop Games for Beginners

Splendor is an abstract game with a pasted-on theme about mining gems and selling them to nobles. The theme isn’t important; it is a quick playing, high strategy, tableau-builder with high quality components and a tight, competitive feel. Splendor is also easy to teach because players can only perform one action on their turn, much like Ticket to Ride. This is the type of game you would introduce to people that enjoy things like Chess, Checkers, or Go. Players must think ahead, reserve tiles, and build an efficient economy engine.

Advanced Choice: Viceroy

Alternate Choices: Machi Koro or The Duke

Mysterium - Tabletop Games for Beginners

Mysterium is a cooperative game where one player plays a ghost, and the rest of the players play psychics trying to commune with the ghost to uncover the details of a murder. New players will quickly pick up on the Clue-esque elements of the game as they try to determine who the murderer is, where the murder happened, and with which murder weapon. However, the game uses Dixit-style cards as the method of communication between the ghost and the psychics. These cards are as beautiful as they are vague and deceiving. Sometimes players get in sync and run the table and other times players pull their hair out trying to understand the clues. Again, stellar production values and elegantly simple rules make this a hit with new players.

Alternate Choice: Dixit

Honorable Mentions


Coup is a great bluffing game with simple rules. It is usually a hit with new players and simulates a poker-style experience. I would recommend it to people who are comfortable bluffing, enjoy poker, and don’t mind a little “take that” in their games.

Love Letter

Love Letter is also a simple card game that is a hit with new players. This just barely missed my list; mainly, because often the theme feels hard to sell to new players. However, it is a great game that should be in everyone’s library and is only $10. I gave away 15 copies of this game for the Valentine’s Day edition of our board game group, which shows you how much I enjoy this one.

Wanna play these games? 

All of these tabletop games for beginners should be a hit with your gaming group, whether it’s filled with new players or veterans. I recommend buying these games from your friendly, local game shop. Nerd Louisville has a full list of game shops in Louisville (and surrounding areas), if you need advice.

There’s also a number of weekly and monthly meetup groups around Louisville where you can find someone to teach you these games or if you’re just looking for more friends to play with. I run a board game night at Kaiju every Monday from 8 p.m. to midnight.

Nerd Louisville‘s mission is to bring together local nerds, empower them to share their passion, and foster community. We hope to have more articles like this in the future. Have an idea for an article? Reach out to us. Also, please consider donating to our cause using the button below.