Leveling Up Your Passion: How an Alumnus Turned His Hobby Into a Board Game
Josh Horsley ’15 has inspired people to build castles worldwide.
Horsley is the creator of CastleScape, a deck-building board game that challenges players to build the most magnificent castle for the king.
“I was working remotely, and I needed a creative outlet,” said Horsley, who majored in Mechanical Engineering. “I play board games a lot with family and friends, and one day, I decided I wanted to try and make one. I always wanted to play a board game about building a castle, and I took that idea and ran with it.”
By day, Horsley is the leader of electrification new markets software and controls at General Motors, a career he doesn’t plan to leave any time soon.
“It doesn’t pay the bills yet, but it’s a really fun side hobby,” Horsley said about CastleScape. “The hope would be I could eventually turn it into something, but right now, it’s a fun, creative outlet that has some traction.”
He’s sold more than 1,000 games and has about 1,000 more ready to hit the market.
Similar to the Clank! and Dominion board games, CastleScape is easy to learn, Horsley said, adding that a typical game lasts one to two hours. The game takes two to four players and is recommended for players 14 and older.
This labor of love didn’t happen overnight. Horsley began designing the game in December 2016 as a creative outlet. After testing with fellow gamers, he started his business, Praetorian Board Games, in April 2018.
“My company name is the name of an elite Roman guard, Praetorian. I enjoyed a lot of games based on medieval times when I was growing up, and some of my favorites revolved around ancient Rome,” Horsley said. “I want it to be a highly disciplined and finessed company, and the name Praetorian stuck out to me as a representation of that.”
From there, he began assembling a team to design all the materials. He built several game prototypes, starting with materials from home, such as stock paper, stickers and markers and moved on to 3D printing pieces and having other pieces made for more professional prototypes.
In May 2021, he started a Kickstarter campaign to fund the game's production, which was a significant investment on his part.
“These days, you actually need a lot of money to bring something to Kickstarter and be successful unless you can do everything yourself,” Horsley said. “I needed art, graphic design work, advertising, videography and more in order to have effective marketing for CastleScape. Everything to get it to Kickstarter was personally invested from savings.”
By the middle of June, the campaign ended, and had earned more than 200% of the funding request.
“The process has been extremely challenging, but I’ve learned a ton of things, and it’s been extremely rewarding to be a part of something that I’m passionate about,” Horsley said. “I encourage anyone who has a dream to go for it. Even if it doesn’t work out, you still learned, and you still tried. If you never actually try, you won’t know if you could have made it or not.”
The game began production in November 2022. People started receiving their games in March 2023.
“It’s very humbling,” Horsley said. “I did pour a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it, but also, so did a lot of other people. I’ve had over 100 play testers play this game, and many of them poured many hours into play testing, trying to break it, trying to figure out the best way to balance everything to make it fun. It’s exciting and also humbling.”
He credited Kettering with providing the foundational skills to build his board game company.
“It gave me the idea to logically think through things, plan out from A to Z, to design a project, develop it, do the art, organize people, and I think a lot of the lessons I learned at Kettering and also through the co-op program gave me a lot of the skills that I needed to do it,” he said.
Horsley recently returned to Kettering to talk to students about his journey and show them CastleScape.
“It was surreal to come back to Kettering and talk about the journey I’ve been on these last few years,” he said. “I want to inspire people like me to go for that thing they are passionate about and to put in the time and effort to allow it to succeed. I only hope that my being there and talking about my experiences gave some hope and guidance for how to make it happen.”
“I was surprised to see such a young alum having made a board game,” said Ian Bacheldor ‘24. “It inspired me to follow through on my own creative outlets after graduation.”
Kevin Patterson ‘24 said he’d like to see a place on campus where all alumni’s products and innovations are on display.
“I think it’s awesome to see the end of this journey,” he said, “and see someone actually turn a hobby of theirs into a source of income.”
They said the game was fun, engaging and easy to learn.
“The design was competitive,” Bacheldor said. “It reminded me of some of the playing functions of ‘The Settlers of Catan,’ with building resources in order to complete tasks.”
Seeing the students from his alma mater play the game he designed was an “awesome experience,” Horsley said.
“Getting to share something I’ve poured a lot of effort and love into is always a scary experience because you never know how it will be received,” he said. “That being said, being able to play the game with people like me, students who are now sitting where I sat less than a decade ago, is something that will give me motivation moving forward to continue to chase after the things I’m passionate about and to best share those experiences with others.”
Horsley plans to deploy an expansion of CastleScape by releasing additional game pieces and card packs, providing new levels and different ways to play. He said he also has other games in various stages of development, including a 3D-Tetris space-themed product.
“I took the approach for this as if you don’t go for it, you might always wonder what it would have been like if you did. And I think while it has been a very challenging thing—it’s taken a lot of time—through it, I’ve learned an incredible amount, I’ve met thousands of people that have really become a part of my life, and I’ve become a part of their lives as well,” he said. “If you don’t go for it, you’re never going to make it. You can think and talk about an idea all day, every day, but if you never put that pen to paper and start it, it’s never going to happen.”