The Board Game Design Course

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Game Design

Game Mechanics: How to create memorable moments in your game

Last week’s article focused on game mechanics intended to incentivize players and get them headed in the right direction. In this last article in this series on game mechanics, we’ll be discussing another important game design topic: How to create memorable moments in your game.

Memorable moments are something you really want to aim for when you’re designing your game. They bring more excitement and can help a publisher see why they would want to sign and publish your game, or in the case of self-publishing, help your audience to understand why they would enjoy your game so much.

There are so many ways to create memorable moments in a game, so I’ll just touch on some of the many helpful examples in this article, along with the game mechanics that really help bring them to life.

Creating Memorable Moments Through Laughter

People will often remember something funny that they heard or that happened to them. That’s why party games can often create these memorable moments.

Telestrations is a great example.

Game Mechanics: How to create memorable moments in your game 1
Telestrations (image: Amazon.ca)

It’s essentially “broken telephone” with drawings. Unlike some drawing games, the worse of an artist you are, the funnier and better the game becomes.

“Remember that time I drew a dog and you thought it was an alligator getting high?” Now that’s a memorable moment!

My family used to play Balderdash every Christmas at my grandma’s house. We always had a great time and a lot of laughs. Years later we still laugh about the time when my cousin defined “Scotophobia” as the fear of my grandpa (whose last name was Scott) taking off his shirt. He had actually done this earlier in the afternoon when he was feeling too hot, so hearing someone come out and say this was hilarious!

Game Mechanics: How to create memorable moments in your game 2
Balderdash (image: Amazon.com)

Or the time that my uncle simply wrote down the definition of some random word as “A buzzard’s udder.” Pretty soon everyone around the table was getting in on the gag and each round after that featured at least one answer involving a Buzzard’s udder.

Those are a few memorable moments that I will always cherish.

Allowing players to use their creativity will end up with unpredictable results, which have the potential to be remembered for many years to come.  

Creating Memorable Moments Through Unbelievable Plays

Games that allow you to push your luck can often create memorable moments as well.

The day before I wrote this article, I played an online prototype of a push your luck pirate game created by my friend AJ Brandon. Every space you sail will either lead you to treasures or more danger. If you go too far you’ll lose it all to your opponent.

I fell way behind in the first round, but then in the second round, I somehow timed my 2 cannonballs at the exact right time to take out the other pirate ships and gain a whopping load of treasure to take a big lead.

This was definitely a memorable moment that we’ll all recall and laugh over later.

I’ve mentioned other push your luck games like Incan Gold and Can’t Stop in a previous article. These types of games allow players to make incredible comebacks if they’re willing to take the risk.

These unbelievable plays can also be achieved through engine building and chaining together different combinations.

Even something as simple as a roll-and-write game can accomplish this. Take Ganz Schon Clever (That’s So Clever) for example.

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Ganz Schon Clever
(image: justpushstart.com)

When you check off certain boxes, this will trigger earning additional rewards which can be placed elsewhere on your board, which when placed at the right time will trigger even more rewards. This is an example of chaining.

Even including the simple luck of the roll in a game like Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) can allow for some big swings and memorable moments.

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D&D (image: gamesradar.com)

People will remember what happened within the context of the game. They won’t say “Remember that time you rolled two 20s in a row?” Instead, they’ll recall that moment and say “Remember when you finished off that dragon with your broken spear when he was just about to scorch our whole party ?”

There are so many ways to create memorable moments in your game. As you’re working on your own game design, watch for those moments when something big and memorable happens. Double down on this. Find ways to bring out these memorable moments even more often.

This has been a really fun series to write! I’ve enjoyed looking over my game collection and thinking back to other games I’ve played in the past and analyzing what made them so great and what game mechanics designers used to achieve this level of greatness.

I hope this series has helped you to think more about the types of game mechanics you can use in your own games to accomplish your goals and achieve your game’s vision.

Next week we’ll be moving on to some other interesting topics in game design…

What is the most memorable moment you’ve experienced in a game?

I’d love to hear your story. Please share this by leaving a comment.

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    I played Catan the other day and I will always remember placing my settlement in the middle of all four sheep hexes, that were placed together, and placing my other settlement next to one of the ship traders that allow you to trade two ship for one resource. at one point I had like eight sheep and built a city, it was fun getting sheep and then other resources though I didn’t win.

    Well, you didn’t win, Silas, but it does sound like a memorable experience!