- Action / Movement Programming
- Action Point Allowance System
- Action Queue
- Action Selection
- Area Control
- Area Enclosure
- Area Majority/ Influence
- Area Movement
- Bag Building
- Card Drafting
- Card Placement
- Chit-Pull System
- Command Cards
- Commodity Speculation
- Communication Limits
- Cooperative Play
- Crayon Rail System
- Cube tower
- Deck Building
- Deck Constructing
- Dice Building
- Dice Movement
- Dice Rolling
- Dutch Auction
- Engine Building
- Grid Movement
- Hand Management
- Hand-Eye Coordination
- Hex and Counter
- Hexagon Grid
- Hidden Movement
- Hidden Objective
- Hidden Traitor
- I Split, You Take
- Line Drawing
- Modular Board
- Narrative Choice
- Network and Route Building
- Once per game ability
- Order Fulfillment
- Paper and Pencil
- Pattern Building
- Pattern Recognition
- Pick-up and Deliver
- Player Elimination
- Point to Point Movement
- Pool Building
- Press Your Luck
- Real Time
- Resource Gathering
- Role Playing
- Role Selection
- Roles with Asymmetric Information
- Roll / Spin and Move
- Roll and Write
- Secret Unit Deployment
- Set Collection
- Simultaneous Play
- Simultaneous action selection
- Social Deduction
- Stock Holding
- Tableau Building
- Take That
- Tile Placement
- Time Track
- Tower Defense
- Variable Phase Order
- Variable Player Powers
- Worker Placement
- Worker Placement with Dice Workers
Popular Grid Movement Board Games (Mechanic)
From an idea to the table, the process of creating a board game can be vast and intimidating at first glance. Every piece on the board, every card, the board itself, the rule book, the box, even the little baggies are all deliberate in their design, material, and function. The process is definitely more complex than starting a Kickstarter page and hoping for the best, but when it is laid out step by step in detail, the journey starts to feel more tangible. All you need is an inspired idea, the perseverance to face challenges head on, and lots of luck. This series of articles will walk through the steps designers take to turn a simple thought into an experience that is shared with potentially thousands of people.
So let's start from the very beginning. The first piece of knowledge I will share with you is:
The beginning can be the hardest part.
However, Phil Walker-Harding, the designer of games such as Sushi Go!, Gizmos, and Imhotep, has given us some advice which can help guide you as you take these first steps.
Why are you making this game. What kind of game do you want to make. What experience do you want to take players on? What innovative game mechanic do you want to share? A good game is built on a solid core foundation. If you don't have an idea that you think other people would genuinely enjoy or find interesting, it will be much more difficult to create, pitch, and market in the future. If you don't think it sounds fun, other people probably won't either.
It may be hard to come up with an awesome game concept out of thin air, so finding inspiration from outside of your own brain can be helpful. When asked, where do you find inspiration for the games you design? Where have been some places you have found inspiration for games you have designed in the past, Phil Walker-Harding answered:"The most common inspiration for me comes from playing other games. Finding something in a game that is fresh or exciting often gets my brain going in new directions. Sometimes something I don’t like in a game can be the trigger. I will ask myself, how could that have been better? Or what could fix that element of the game? In terms of themes, I try to pick settings for my games that are things I really enjoy and know a little bit about - whether that be sushi or Egyptology!"
It may sound simple, but through playing a wide variety of board games with different themes and game mechanics, you can discover new aspects that you can incorporate into your own games. Through playing other games you also can get a grasp on what has already been done and make sure your great ideas haven't already been created. It also gives you the opportunity to observe how different player counts affects games and can help you find what type of games you personally like playing and why. If you know what makes games fun, it'll be easier for you to make a fun game yourself.
In terms of starting the game design process, we asked Phil, When brainstorming, what exactly is the first thing you try to come up with? In short, what is the first goal of your brainstorming process? He told us:"My main goal at this early stage of design is to get the game to a first playable prototype, so my early brainstorming is usually about figuring out whatever details are required to get to that point. I like to write and draw out ideas in a notebook when I begin work on a new game concept. I might sketch some components, write out a possible turn structure, things like that. I guess I am trying to visualize how the game might play out in various ways to put the idea through its first paces. Sometimes the concept can fall apart right here - it already seems too derivative or uninteresting. If not, then when I have the details of a first version mapped out on paper I will use these notes to make the first prototype."
Finding a Core
Board games usually stem from a central idea of either a theme or game mechanics. In his article, Themes and Mechanics 1.0 that was originally published in the Des Jeux Sur un Plateau magazine in 2005, French historian and sociologist Bruno Faidutti explores the difference in the games where designers start with themes or mechanics.
When designers start with a theme, the rules, game mechanics, look, setting, and almost every aspect of the game is created to reflect the theme with the "purpose of reproducing (sometimes with maniacal detail) a historic or literary situation." For example, if you wanted to make a game with the theme of baking pies (I'm hungry), the goal of the game could possibly be collecting the necessary ingredients to bake the most pies or as many different pies as you can or to score different combos with certain types of pies. Mechanically, the game probably wouldn't involve grid movement or or area control (though it could!) because people don't usually think of a games like Risk or Zombicide when baking a pie (or they could! I don't know). Instead, the game could use mechanics that can easily incorporate baking, such as card drafting or hand management. As Faidutti phrases it, "the theme is not only the starting point, but is also firmly imbedded in the centers of the play."
However, when games are centered around mechanics, "the theme is almost a decorative element." The focus is put more on how the game is played, rather than how it feels. "Their success relies upon the simplicity of the game rules and the internal coherence of their mechanisms." For example, games like Munchkin and Exploding Kittens rely heavily on the different effects on each of their cards, and if every cards' name and art were changed, the games would work basically the same way. Since Munchkin's mechanics can work in so many different contexts, the game has created a wide range of different variants and expansions, such as Munchkin Fu, Munchkin Cthulhu, Munchkin Steampunk, and Munchkin: Harry Potter.
We asked Phil, there seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to what the core of board games should be: Theme or mechanics. When you design games, do you find yourself leaning more towards one over the other? Do you see one having more benefits than the other? He answered:"Because most of my games are relatively simple and low on mechanical detail, multiple themes can usually work to present the gameplay. For example, the prototype for Bärenpark was actually about building an amusement park. So the choice of theme is usually a bit less crucial for me than for someone designing multiple-hour narrative-driven games. I think both theme or mechanism can be the starting point for developing a game idea. Usually, it is a novel mechanism that gets me inspired, although more and more I find myself thinking about player experience as a first broad step, and then finding both mechanisms and a theme that can generate that."
As Phil and Bruno Faidutti pointed out, a good game is able to "create a synergy between theme and mechanics, whose universe sticks to its rules, and whose rules stick to its universe." If a game has interesting mechanics, but the theme seems last minute and awkwardly stuck on, the players' immersion can be ruined and the game can lose its effect. If the game has a super interesting world and concept, but isn't fun to play, it will just stay on people's shelves and look pretty. Games should feel like the rules and gameplay make sense in the context of a compelling and interesting theme.
Once you have the core and the beginnings to a game, Phil tell us:"Once I have the initial idea for a game I usually start writing about it in a notebook. I’ll jot down possible mechanisms as they pop into my head, sketch out ideas for cards or pieces, and write out how I want the players to feel or react to certain things. The few times I have collaborated with other designers discussion plays a similar role. Bouncing ideas around to see what sticks."
So once you have the core idea in mind, it's time to come up with how the game actually works. This process will be different for each individual game, but the knowledge of other games you have played before can provide points of reference. If your game is based on a mechanic, come up with the factors that mediates the mechanic. You will need to come up with basic information, such as playtime and number of players, and test what works best with your game. Some materials that may be helpful are a blank deck of cards (if your game includes cards), sharpies (the fat ones so you are forced to write less and be more concise), and cardboard (if your game includes a board). We asked Phil if there are materials that are absolutely essential for him when creating prototypes for games and if he had any suggestions for people who have no idea how to make a prototype. He said:"I think first prototypes should be as simple as possible so you can figure out quickly if the core idea of the game is going to work. So I often use 200 gsm card stock which I cut up, and thick colored markers. If there’s more complexity to the components I’ll mock up something quickly on the computer and print it out. You can use a basic word processor to make simple cards and a board without too much know-how. And then of course I have a stash of wooden cubes and other components ready to use. But my advice would be to just get something to the table and worry about making it attractive later on in the process."
One method by which to start turning an idea into a prototype that Jamey Stegmaier, the designer of games such as Viticulture, Euphoria, and Scythe, suggests is rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping is a process where you create as many variants of your game as you can and playtest them right away. It is a good idea to playtest these early prototypes against yourself so you can understand both sides of the gameplay and not have to ask anyone to play half thought out possibilities. Through going through countless variations of rules and game styles you can start to understand how you want your game to work as well as the different limitations and rules you have to set to keep the game balanced and well paced. Writing out all the rules for these prototypes can help you check if everything actually makes sense or if anything is overly complicated.
After going through early prototypes until you find a set of rules and mechanics that are actually fun and you feel comfortable with, invite other humans that are close to you to playtest it with you. The advice of other people is the most valuable thing you can receive as you continue to refine your prototype. They may discover flaws in the rules that you have overlooked, suggest ways to make the game more interesting, or let you know if things do not make sense. It's a good idea to start out with people who you trust and care about you so that their advice is with your best interests in mind. Through playing the game with these people, receiving their feedback, and adjusting the game accordingly, the next step is to create a more refined prototype that includes how the game will look visually and how every aspect comes together. You don't need to worry about art yet, but you should start thinking about how you want the game to look graphically. If cards are involved, how are they formatted? What about the board? Once this prototype gets to the point where you are willing to show strangers...show strangers.
The last part of prototyping should be seeking out blind playtesters. Blind playtesters are complete strangers who you have just met or never met before who are not afraid to hurt your feelings and give you honest criticism. They are the most valuable source of feedback because they are essentially the real world consumers you are making the game for in the first place. If they don't understand your game or find it fun, that's the tough reality. It is beneficial to let the rule book teach them the game, as in don't explain the game to them at all. This will allow you to identify any flaws in the way the rules are written and refine them until new players can understand the game by reading them alone. To make the game better and better, have as many people as you can playtest your game and address every issue or problem players report. There are many places to find strangers, a few being college campuses, libraries, and online on websites like Board Game Geek and the board game subreddit. College campuses are great because there are a multitude of students who are bored and would enjoy taking a break from studying (I can attest), coffee shops may let you put up posters asking if people would like to play a new board game, and community centers, such as churches, are also places you can find people to ask.
How can you translate gameplay to improvements? We asked Phil, when observing people playtest your prototypes, what are the things you are looking for and paying attention to? How do you translate these observations into revisions? His answer was:"I usually get more out of watching people play rather than the discussion after. For example, you can usually tell how engaged someone is by watching their body language and how excited they are to take each of their turns. Which parts of the game are frustrating the players is also usually pretty clear to see. This usually doesn’t result in specific revisions, but more a sense of where more work needs to be done, or where the system just isn’t generating the response you intended. Of course, sometimes playtesters have specific suggestions too. These are obviously much easier to action, but it is a good skill to learn which suggestions are worth testing. I think over time you develop a gut instinct about whether a new proposal might solve a problem, or if the playtester hasn’t quite grasped something about the overall design."
As Phil said, the most valuable information you can receive from playtesters is their body language and their first reaction to the game. However, it is also a good idea to ask questions and have a discussion afterwards. You should try to be absolutely silent throughout the playtesters' whole entire gaming experience, whether they play with a wrong understanding of the rules or not, so after they finish is a good time to have conversations. A few questions that can help guide these discussions are:
- Did you have fun?
- What did you enjoy about the game? What didn't you like about the game?
- How many stars would you rate this game on Amazon?
- How difficult was the setup?
- Were you able to navigate and understand the rule book easily?
- Is this a game you see yourself playing frequently? Why or why not?
- To what extent did you feel like you were in control of the outcome of the game?
- Would you pay $XX to buy this game right now?
Keep playtesting the game until almost everyone who plays it has a good time. Keep refining the rules until they are concise and understandable, keep modifying different aspects until every part of the game feels balanced, and keep asking for as much feedback as you can. Basically, the more you playtest, the more problems you can solve about the game which will in turn make your game better and better.
So you have a refined prototype you are proud of and has been playtested thousands of times. Now, the obstacle you face is how you are going to turn this simple prototype into a beautiful final project that consumers will insta-buy on Amazon. How you ask? Stay tuned for the next article in this series!
Lead Your Faction to Victory in an Intergalactic War
If you combine the gameplay of Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering, the grid movement of Zombicide and the world-building of Starcraft all together into one game of epic proportions, you would get Orbita Victaris. This skill-based science fiction card game is set within a space war of five different races that are all fighting for survival and victory.
The gameplay involves two resource system, similar to the mana system of Magic: The Gathering, which you use to control unit cards and command cards that give various power ups. The game is played on a shared board where 2 or 4 players place cards within tiles of a 3x3 grid in an attempt to destroy their opponent's base. Orbita Victaris also does not produce any booster packs, but instead includes all available cards for you to build your 50 card deck.
Take dominion over the galaxy for only €35 ($39.20) with the Core Box that includes 304 cards and €60 ($67.19) with the Expansion Box that contains an additional 304 cards. Check it out before the campaign ends on September 4th, 2019.
About the Game
More on Kickstarter
See more about the game on the Kickstarter page! Check it out before it ends on September 4th, 2019!
"Gaming Unplugged Since 2000." Founded by Scott Alden and Derk Solko, the website Board Game Geek continues to offer the largest database of board games today. The website does not only feature board games, but genres such as dice games, card games, tile-laying games, economic games, puzzle games, strategy games, war games, party games, and more. With a lifetime of over 19 years, the website maintains its position as the center of the board gaming community and is second to none when it comes to the shear amount of information and discussion it hosts everyday. The website passed 2 million registered users in February 2019 and it only continues to grow.
But let's face it: the website is intimidating. When the front page looks like this in 2019...
...it can be easy to scare people away. At first glance, it may be hard to see what the website can even be used for (other than giving you a headache and feeling like you're back in the '90s), but if you get past a few of its layers, you'll find many features that are valuable for both experienced and new board gamers alike. Like ogres. And by relation, onions.
So as your guide to this huge, digital, onion of a website, let's start peeling back layers and try not to cry together.
An Unrivaled Database at Your Fingertips
Over 19 years the website has grown to host over 108,000 games, each with their own dedicated page full of a variety of information. If you are curious about that new game all your friends are taking about or want clarification on rules of a game you lost the rule book for, all you need to do is use the trusty search bar at the top of the page. These game pages are a great tool to use before deciding to buy a game, as they provide images of boards and cards, videos of game play, in-depth reviews, forums full of discussion, and downloadable files for rule books and game manuals (so you can finally settle deputes over rules in a civilized manner).
These pages are also a way to discover new games that are similar to games you enjoy through the "Fans Also Like" section and the "Classification" section on the right side of each page. This section includes each games' "type," "category," "mechanisms," and "family". "Type" includes Strategy Games, Party Games, and Family Games, "Category" includes Fantasy, Animals, and Economic, "Mechanisms" include Dice Rolling, Hand Management, and Grid Movement, and "Family" includes the games' origins and base game. Games can be explored by each of these classifications, making it very easy to find new games to play.
The Largest Board Gaming Community in the World
Every piece of information on the website has been voluntarily entered by users just like yourself, which highlights the website's culture and dependence on collaboration. The website's Forum is one of its most valuable features, providing answers to thousands of questions and discussions on topics ranging from specific games, announcements, gaming in general, and the website itself. If there's something about board games you want to talk about, there's probably a Board Game Geek forum for it. You can also stay updating with forums by subscribing to them. There is also a "Game Groups" section of the forum where users can find group in the US, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and South America that they can play with. This section can help people who are new to the hobby get involved with their local gaming community and make new friends.
The website also hosts smaller discussion groups called "guilds" for more specified or exclusive discussion. There are guilds for different gaming conventions or events, clubs, stores, fan bases, languages, regions, and even occupations. These groups act almost like subreddits and are a great way to find people who have the same hyper-specific interests as you, as well as discuss games you particularly enjoy.
Along with its forums, "GeekLists" provide a place for users to discuss lists of games with commentary that others can comment on. These lists allow users to discuss games of particular subsets or types, such as the top played games on the website, recommended games, or games people have played at different conventions. Geeklists are also used to facilitate game trades.
A Worldwide Online Marketplace
Board Game Geek is a place where users can trade, as well as purchase, used games. There are a few ways to trade board games using the website including person-to-person trades and multi-cornered trades. Person-to-person trades are relatively simple and can be accessed on the page of the game you want to trade for under the "Community Stats." Here you can view how many copies are available for trade and propose trades. You can also select games you want to trade with or for in your profile and the "Trade Finder" under the Bazaar section at the top of the page can find potential direct matches for you.
Multi-cornered trades are slightly more complex, but aren't too bad once you get the hang of them. The most common form of this type of trading is "Math Trades," or "mathematical no-risk trade lists." These trades begin when a user, the moderator for the trade, starts a trade GeekList. People post games they wish trade onto this list until enough people have submitted games. The list is then closed, and the moderator give a list of all valid items represented with a word and number (for example "Atlas17"). Each participant then lists the games they want to trade for in order of preference after their own game (for example "Atlas 17, Atlas72, Atlas89," etc.). The moderator then takes these lists and uses an algorithm to decide who gets what game and the traders are notified, contact one another, and exchange games as they would in a person-to-person trade.
Users can also put their used games up for sale on the website's "Geek Market." Most popular games can be found here and it is a great place to buy games at a discounted price. There is a possibility for a few dents or dings, though many games are usually specified as "very good" or even "like new." Buyers can see all the feedback given to each seller as well as the country where they are located. This amount of information on sellers can hopefully offer some reassurance for those scared of buying games used. If you are interested in other ways you can save money on your board game purchases, feel free to check out this article.
A Personal Profile of Your Own
Each registered Board Game Geek user has their own personal page called "MyGeek" that includes information like what games you've played, your online friends, and your contributions to the website. This is where you can specify the games you own and games you want to trade for.
This is also where your "plays" are recorded, which are how many times you play different games and the dates you played them on. Plays can be logged on the game's specific game page or on games you have in your profile's collection. Different users have different reasons to log their plays, but a few examples are to keep track of which games they aren't playing in their collection (to see if it might be time to trade those games), to keep track of wins and losses (to gloat probably), to track the different strategies you've used throughout your time playing the games, and to view all kinds of statistics given at sites such as Extended Stats by Board Game Geek user Friendless. Logging plays can also act as a diary that you can look back on if you ever want to feel a little nostalgic.
To Finish Up
I hope that this short walk-through of the website can give you a little more confidence in tackling its contents. But before I go I want to give you some tip on how you can actually use the front page. Stick with me here. Did you know that the front page is customizable for users with registered accounts? Yes, you have the ability to move around and even remove all 19 of the modules into the layout that you want. If you don't want to put in that much effort, another option is simply clicking the [-] on the top left corners of modules you don't use to minimize them and give more space for the information you care about. If you look at the top right corer of the page, there is a section called the "Quickbar" with a bunch of [+] signs. This section basically acts as a bookmark bar for links that you constantly use, which can help you travel faster around the site.
Though not always aesthetically pleasing, Board Game Geek can be easier to use than it looks. Honestly, all it takes is taking the time to explore the website's different content locations and using the site for yourself. From its over 108,000 game pages, forum of 2 million registered users, and countless daily exchanges and purchases, the website offers itself as a seemingly limitless resource for anyone who enjoys playing games that are played with a board or on a table.
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