This month, we’re looking at board games. Loz and I play less than the other half of the team, so a few weeks back we went to a seminar on board game design. The fundamental question they told us to ask is “What makes this fun?” Who is it fun for, and what elements add to that kind of fun? Then one can work out how to make that kind of fun – be that problem solving, storytelling, surreality or whatever.
Not everyone enjoys the same things, so we’ve been thinking about what kind of games we like, as sample gamers, and this will hopefully help us make better games. May be not as technically brilliant, but more fun.
Me, I hate playing anything where the winner is pretty much “whoever owns the game”. I loathe the idea that a new player (especially if it’s me) can make a fundamental error through ignorance and just not stand a chance. I accept that there’s skill to most games, and that strategies develop with time. But it would be nice to think I’m not just fodder for a foregone conclusion. Conversely, I also dislike games where the outcome is totally random. Snakes and Ladders will not be featuring on my top ten anytime soon.
Best example of this ‘newb = loser’ problem is the Serenity boardgame. There is a best winning strategy here, and it basically goes *SPOILERS* get River Tam as fast as possible. I remember one evening playing through the game three times (someone had got it for a birthday and wanted to thoroughly road test it), and by the third one, we had resorted to making up our own stories about the cargo we were carrying, and pretty much ignoring the progress of the board part of the game.
One metric to consider is the “Christmas Day Test” Assuming you got this game for Christmas, how soon after that could you play it? Most boardgames, it should be a couple of hours or less. Wargames take a little longer if you have to paint models. RPGs, you need a group of mates, so that could be variable, but how long does chr gen take once you sit down with the book?
When Ste asked what my favorite mechanic is, I went with “incremental increases, slow build up of power”. I play a lot of RTS on computers, and my standard strategy for those is to fort up. Lots of towers, troops parked at chokepoints, and climb the tech tree. So I kind of like boardgames that have this element. Ticket to Ride, Stone Age and Privateer have all been played multiple times, and still have replayability.. I once played Lords of Waterdeep – and barring that it took ages to set up, that was great fun too.
Oh and in a complete opposite, quick little social games. I boardgame largely because my mates do, and so something a bit silly fits this nicely.. Braggart, In a Pickle and Ninja Burger fall into this category. Oh, and as a side effect of the mates I have, we tend towards words rather than numbers. That may seem odd for a bunch which contains multiple dyslexics – but words have more clues to meaning than numbers.
I guess I’m not a good fit for a boardgame market sample because one of the answers to “what games do you like” is ‘new ones’. That’s why I love the idea of boardgames libraries. Play something different every time!
That’s nice lead-in to giving a shout to our friend over at Dungeons and Flagons, who are doing a day event for Free RPG day on the 16th of June. Hmm, I’d better write something for that!
By the by, anyone who does Empire LRP, I’ll see you in a field this weekend. Hope for some good weather for us.