Are Board Games Boring?

So there’s this lovely article going around at the moment: Video games are boring. It’s worth a read, but I’ll summarise: The author is a video game designer who’s been excited by the recent boon in people playing games, only to find that her favourite games fell flat with her friends. However in some instances they had limited but amazing experiences with them. Her conclusion is that video game development has been driven by video gamers for a very long time and has failed to break outside of a mould preferred by that group. It could be a much more vibrant field if it had more voices from a different backgrounds. It could be more if it had games that keyed more with the experiences most people are having in their lives. Games can and should be more than they are. So my question for the day is: Are the same things true of board games?


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Motivations for Gaming

One of the advantages of pulling an index of all of my games writing together was that it means I can see the gaps. I’ve hinted before that there are several different motivations for playing games, but never really dug into the idea. I was first persuaded of the notion in an Extra Credits episode. The computer games industry is light years ahead of the board games industry in terms of deep research into why people play their games. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise since the amounts of money being thrown around are so much larger, there’s more to gain from that sort of study. We can use their findings.


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How not to waste playtests

Getting playtesters together is hard work. It gets harder if a game is long or if you’re past testing with friends and are looking for more input from strangers. Playtesting is the most critical part of making your game any good, it’s not somewhere that you can cut corners. Playtests are a valuable opportunity so it’s important not to waste any of them.


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Expressing Rules

There are some really awful rule books out there, many are mediocre and there are a few exceptional ones that clearly show how to play the game. Most gamers can agree with that sort of statement. What they can’t agree on is which of the rulebooks are the good ones – people seem to learn in very different ways which dramatically affects their enjoyment of games. Long time readers of this blog may remember this:


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Relics of the Beforetimes

Last weekend I met with a few friends to play games and for whatever reason we decided to play Wizards. It took us six hours to play and it has many of the rough edges that are typically smoothed over in modern game design. We had someone on the edge of victory who then lost all of their progress to a random encounter. We had someone get “Roll D6 take that many extra turns” while in the process of executing their five bonus turns which they’d acquired during a bonus turn. The game is roll and move for crying out loud!


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Mental Battles in Game Design

A lot of game design is winning mental battles with yourself. Your brain is a sneaky beast that tries to sabotage you in one of two ways. Either “This game is horrible, your playtesters are bored, it’ll never succeed and you should drop the project” or “This game is wonderful, anyone who says otherwise can’t see your vision, ignore feedback and release it immediately!” Unfortunately there’s no simple trick to overcoming it, since these situations require opposite responses.


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Here for the Journey

Following on from last week’s discussion of gaming linguistics I got sent a link to a thread which had some interesting emerging terminology. Having the attention span of a magpie I immediately noticed this post by Deathworks that I thought was really interesting:

“To be honest, besides the solarity, the other thing that makes me a bit uncomfortable with SoloPlay‘s designs is the design goal of being challenging. While I like Mage Knight, in general, I am not really looking for a challenge when playing games. I like the stories that develop.”


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Linguistics, Game Design and Social Engineering

Recently I’ve had an interesting conversation with Morten that’s got me thinking about how linguistics shapes game design. Once you have a term for something, it becomes easier to think about – this is a relatively reliable finding across cultures and situations. So when someone comes to understand a phrase like “runaway leader problem” then they tend to get better at doing things to avoid their game having that sort of problem.


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Calling Game Shops

So a while back I had a chat with Bez (who’s fantastic btw) and was asking how he’s done so well with In a Bind. Generally I was interested, but also I knew I was releasing Escape the Nightmare soon and wanted it to go well. There are some similarities between the games, they’re both party style games, they both try to do something interesting to break the mould, they’re both averaging a respectable 7.3 on BGG (and both having a lower ranking due to having few ratings). Among the things he mentioned that fell into the category of “Stuff Bez did that I did not do for my previous games” was that he’d personally called a lot of shops in the UK and asked them to stock the game. I figured I’d give that a go, so this post is about what went well and what went wrong.

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