The Board Game Design Course

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Game Design

Hooked on a feeling – How focusing on just one thing will make your game better

Clever. Excited. Scared.

There are lots of different feelings that can come from playing a game. When you’re designing your game, it’s great to keep in mind exactly what feeling you want players to have.

If you’re creating a party game, you probably want the experience to be light and fun, causing players to laugh and feel happy.

On the other hand, if your game is about deduction or strategy, you probably want your players to feel clever and intelligent when they pull off a move or figure out something of importance.

It helps the creative process

Once you’ve decided what your game is about and what you want players to feel, you can use your imagination to figure out how to best create this experience.

You’ve got the what, and now it’s up to you to figure out the how.

This will really help guide you in creating an engaging experience, as you know what you’re trying to achieve and just have to figure out how to get there. This can be a lot of fun for you as a game designer because it allows you to explore lots of interesting possibilities that perhaps haven’t been done before.

 Otherwise, the game could go in any direction, which is not necessarily bad, but it could definitely take a lot longer to develop this into a great game.

I talk about how to use restrictions effectively in this article.

Laser focus

If you have a clear goal in mind, then all decisions can be driven by whether or not something enhances the game in this direction.

Think about it this way. When you have a feeling or player experience you’re trying to achieve, you can make decision-making around how to change or improve your game that much easier.

Let’s say you want players to feel a lot of tension in your game.

You can easily look at what aspects of the game are causing tension and which ones are detracting from this. Then you can apply more of what’s working towards this goal and remove what’s not.

If your game is not providing the intended player experience, you can look to implement new mechanics that will help you achieve this goal.

It’s a zoo out there!

When I was playtesting one of my first published games, Zoo Year’s Eve, a bluffing game where you try to be the first to get your team of animals to sneak into a new year’s eve party, I received some really helpful feedback from one of my playtesters.

Without any prompting, he said his favourite moment in the game was when he bluffed when he put down 2 cards he claimed were monkeys (one was an elephant) and someone tried to stop him with a snake. He bluffed again saying he had a lion to stop the snake. The other player believed him and took back the snake, allowing him to pull off a double bluff.

This was exactly the kind of moment I was trying to create in the game.

My intention was for players to feel sneaky and clever when they pulled off a bluff. Trying to get away with something is baked right into the game, and the actions all ensure this happens frequently, especially since there are some animals you are forced to bluff with, as they cannot otherwise escape.

These were very deliberate design choices.

The game also allows for other types of play. Another player was constantly playing a lion on another player whenever he tried to use his last card. He believed her many times before he eventually questioned her. But there are only two lions in the deck, and she admitted after the game that she was bluffing 90% of the time.

This caused some good laughter all around.

I created the game with the intention of allowing players to play many different and interchangeable strategies, all of which would induce feelings of cleverness, sneakiness, and constantly questioning other players.

What feelings do you want players to have when they play your game? How are you going about accomplishing this?

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    I love push your lunch and bluffing games. The game we are designing at called From The Mist has a combat system with 3 rounds. Players take the total power from there respective pieces plus supporting pieces and spred them over the 3 rounds. This happens behind a screen. Players debate if there oponent is placing heavy in round 1 should they do the save to counter it or place in the other rounds knowing their opponent will have less in these rounds. I feel there could be some banter and bluffing but most playtester are quite and secretive before showing and comparing results. Some bluffing has occurred. Looking forward to trying zoo year’s eve.

    Thanks Bill! Mist sounds like a lot of fun. I hope to be able to try it out soon.