If you've never heard of piecepack, you should check it out. A piecepack is a set of boardgame parts that can be used to play a number of games and provides a great platform from which to design new games. Think of it as the open source toolkit for the gaming industry.
There is an increasingly active community of designers of piecepack games, and one approach they are using to promote new game development is a series of on- going design competitions. There were some great games that came out of the History Repeats Itself competition - I've read the rules but haven't played any of them yet.
The current competition is Solitary Confinement, a contest for piecepack solitaire games. This appears to be a great way to take my own shot at game design, and I plan on making at least a couple of submissions. I'm starting off my designing some very derivative games from playing cards, and will work my way into synthesizing my own designs.