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action9000

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Board Game Discussion!
« on: June 06, 2015, 03:38:50 am »
Hey everyone!

I've been looking more into the inner workings of board games lately. As video games have drifted more towards the online-only world, my friends and I have found ourselves spending more and more time playing board games.

In recent years, I've looked into making board games of my own and my current project has me overthinking (as usual :p) board game design theory. It inspired me to start this discussion!

Long-story-short, the board game development process basically goes like this:

1) Initial idea.
2) Build an early prototype.
3) Play it. See what works and what doesn't.
4) Tweak and repeat until you know what overhauls are necessary.
5) Build second-stage prototype featuring required overhauls.
6) Playtest.
7) Tweak prototype.
8) Repeat steps 6 and 7 until game has been tested to death and is as perfect as it can be.
9) Produce final version. Market and sell if desired.

Naturally, step 8 takes the longest, as it requires hundreds of tests to get things right. You'll find yourself repeating steps 6/7 for months or years before the game is finished.

My game is currently on Step 8 and the "tweaking" aspect is driving me utterly insane! :p This is because of one thing:

Every design decision ultimately equates to:
"Does this decision make the game more random/chaotic or does it make it more strategic/plannable?"


At the end of the day, that is the most fundamental aspect of any board game. Every board game will fit somewhere on the scale:

COMPLETELY RANDOM -------------------------- PURELY STRATEGIC

Even outside of those very fundamental elements, there are really only A Few Dozen Known Mechanics That Exist (BoardGameGeek) for board game development. For a new one to come along is very rare (Dominion 'invented' deck-building mechanics recently, for example). Games are basically just a collection of those mechanics.

I actually drew up an image to help me make sense of this concept in terms of my game compared to other games. It graphs various board games on a variety of scales, including a pair of
"Thematic / Strategic" axes. Here it is:


https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B96eLzW5--...iew?usp=sharing
(The details may be a little off, as this is simply my interpretation after playing said games)


So why does this bug me?
It bugs me because I'm interested in letting my players' choices matter and have an impact on the game, but I also have no interest in making a "strategy game". This game isn't being designed as a strategy game.

Ultimately, board games seem to either get classified as:
Casual games
or
Strategy games.

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My analysis and intuition suggest that it's possible to make an engaging, interesting game where decisions matter without making it a "Strategy game". I'm aiming to do this while also making my game strongly-thematic.

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Does anyone here have much experience playing board games? What sorts of experiences have you had with them? Have you ever considered making your own board games?

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I'm just going crazy with making design tweaks at this point because everything is on such a fine line.
On one hand, I want player decisions to matter. On the other hand, I don't want to design it in such a way that the game is all about "finding the perfect move" on every turn to "maximize" your performance throughout the game. My game is more about diplomacy with other players and adapting your playstyle to the situation at hand. It's more of a tactical and diplomatic game than a strategy game.