Thoughts of a small publisher - Value Add Games

We are a small publishing company from Slovenia. We primarily focus on family and smaller board games in which we are always trying to add some additional value. We also make custom board games for corporate clients, which make great business gifts. We have our own team of game designers, graphic designers and illustrators. This allows us to have complete control of the game design process from the start to the very finish. With this blog, we plan to share our experiences we have picked up in board game and graphic designing, illustrating and publishing. We hope that both newcomers and experts in the industry will find this blog informative and interesting.

Recommend
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Example of playtesting one of the final versions of rules and what went wrong

Value Add Games
Slovenia
Ljubljana
Ljubljana
flag msg tools
publisher
In a previous post we talked about playtesting the rules. One of the important stages of playtesting is making sure that the final rules with graphic design have everything they need. In this post we go through an example of one of the things that almost went wrong when preparing the rules for one of our games, and how playtesting helped us discover it in time to correct it.

Share with us in the comments if you have similar anecdotes

TILES, TILES, WHERE ARE YOU TILES?

In the WolfWalkers - The Board Game players have to place stacks of tiles on each space on the board according to the area (grey area represents Town and green area represents Forest). The text stated that “Evenly distribute the tiles according to the area.” In the last iteration of prototype rules (shown below) this instruction worked well since the image showed stacks of tiles on each space. Playtesters positioned the tiles on each space correctly.

From gallery of ValueAddGames

Prototype version of the rules


When we did the graphic design of the rules we checked it multiple times and thought that everything is ok now (image below). To make sure that everything is clear, we did blind playtesting with players who did not play the game before. One of the groups said that the game works strangely and when going through it step by step, we figured out that the problem lay in the setup. They placed only one tile on each space. When asking them why they did so, they explained that the image showed only one tile on each space (instead of a stack of tiles). With the instruction image that did not clearly show stacks of tiles, and instructions text only instructing players to divide the tiles, instead of telling them how many tiles to place, the players set up the game wrong and the game became unplayable.

From gallery of ValueAddGames

Rules with graphic design


To make sure that players will place the tiles correctly, we changed the image to represent stacks of tiles. We added a clarification regarding the number of tiles in each stack to the written rules too: “Place two town tiles face down in each town area and four forest tiles face down in each forest area as shown on the left.” We learned a valuable lesson that day - something that works in a prototype does not necessarily work when designed and that it is important to playtest at every stage of the development.

From gallery of ValueAddGames

Rules with corrected graphic design and updated instructions


CONCLUSION

When designing a game the rules can seem very clear to us since we know every detail of the game. So it is even more beneficial when someone else looks at it with a fresh perspective without knowing anything about it and plays the game next to us, to see if something was misunderstood. Luckily there are a lot of people who are eager to playtest games and give their precious feedback

-----------

Value Add Games
More about us: https://valueaddgames.com/en/
Our shop: https://shop.valueaddgames.com/en/
WolfWalkers Games and Puzzles Landing page: https://valueaddgames.com/wolfwalkers/
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Fri Oct 29, 2021 3:03 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Playtesting and making sure the rules work

Value Add Games
Slovenia
Ljubljana
Ljubljana
flag msg tools
publisher
Playtesting is an important part of developing a game. When we think of playtesting, usually finding the bugs in the game itself pops to our mind, but we have to playtest the rules and game components thoroughly as well. We talked about prototypes and to some extent about playtesting of game components in one of our previous posts. In this post we will focus on our experience of playtesting the rules and how we tackle that part of a game design.

Let us know in the comments what your experiences playtesting the rules are. We are always looking forward to questions and new tips and tricks - so share them with us and others if you have some!

STAGES OF PLAYTESTING THE RULES

In an ideal world you would have the gameplay completely finished and designed when starting to write the rules, but the reality is that this is an ongoing process, which is going on at the same time as designing / illustrating the game. There are multiple stages to playtesting the rules and we find each of them important on its own.

Stage 1 - Rules in a written form

First we usually have rules written as a plain text - those are just written rules with some sketches and ideas of images included. It is good to test the rules at that stage to see if everything is written out. On the other hand it is hard to get good feedback since images (which are not included yet at that stage) are really important to understand the game.

We usually give this kind of rules to seasoned gamers who already playtested the game and who are used to quick-reading the rules. We have also found it beneficial to have computer programmers as rules playtesters since rules are in a way a program on how to execute a game and programmers are used to looking at abstract representations of things. Programmers can spot “bugs” in rules very quickly. These kinds of testers can quickly spot if something is missing or wrong, even in a draft.

From gallery of ValueAddGames

One of the first versions of rules for WolfWalkers - The Board Game in plain text form.


Stage 2 - Prototype of the rules

When we have a bit more developed version of the game, we prepare a prototype version of the rulebook - the rules do not have full graphic design yet, but we know among other things what size it will be, how many pages it will have, the general layout and what images will be included. The images used are temporary and represent the prototype of the game.

We collaborate with graphic designers for ideas but do not do the full graphic design yet. We do not want to put a lot of work into graphic design just to figure out that, for example, a text is not at the right position, or that images are missing etc. Like with prototypes - one more easily removes, changes or adds something if it is not fully designed yet.

At this stage we give the rules to players who haven’t played the game before, to see if anything is missing and if the images, references etc. are clear. They have to read the rules by themselves and play the game in front of us. Sometimes we ask them to explain the rules to us as well, to see if they understand everything correctly.

From gallery of ValueAddGames

Example of prototype version of the rules for one of our games WolfWalkers - The Board Game.


Stage 3 - Rules with graphic design

When we are confident that the rules are well written and nothing is missing, the rules are proofread. We double-check each proofreading correction, since some grammatical changes can change the meaning of the instructions. Proofreader and game designer have to work hand in hand to make sure everything is clear. When proofreading is done, the graphic designer makes the full design - there are multiple iterations to figure out what works and looks best.

Usually one may feel confident that everything is ok now. But there is an important final stage - test the final form of rules. You have to figure out if the text is readable, if images are ok, if the right things stand out graphically. Maybe the positioning of some texts changed, something had to be smaller because there was not enough space for print, etc. Sometimes things can even get lost in “translation” from the prototype version of rules to the graphic design. Been there, done that (you will find more about it in the next post)

Stage 4 - The final version of rules

Since there might have been some changes to the rules - small or even big ones - the text is proofread again and the final check is done. After many iterations the rules are done and the game is ready to be printed and played!

From gallery of ValueAddGames

Final version of rules for WolfWalkers - The Board Game.


CONCLUSION

After creating an entire game and making sure that it works, playtesting the rules may sometimes seem a less important thing to do. But the rules are actually as important as the game itself, since if the rules are not clear, the game cannot be played properly and a lot of hard work can go to nothing. Even with extensive playtesting, some things can turn out to be unclear after the game is released, but luckily you can post a FAQ with clarification online and make a correction in the next print.

Stay tuned - in the next post we will look at an example of one of the things that almost went wrong when preparing the rules for one of our games, and how playtesting helped us discover it in time to correct it.

-----------

Value Add Games
More about us: https://valueaddgames.com/en/
Our shop: https://shop.valueaddgames.com/en/
WolfWalkers Games and Puzzles Landing page: https://valueaddgames.com/wolfwalkers/
Twitter Facebook
2 Comments
Fri Oct 22, 2021 3:36 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Environmental impact of board games

Value Add Games
Slovenia
Ljubljana
Ljubljana
flag msg tools
publisher
In the light of the latest IPCC climate report it is becoming ever more important to consider the effect we are having on the environment and what we can do to reduce it. While there are many ways one can do this (using public transport, reducing the amount of produced waste etc.) in this blog, we are going to discuss the environmental impact our hobbies can have - especially board games.

The first reaction one would probably have when hearing this would be: “Board games aren’t harmful to the environment! Just look at all these other hobbies that are so much worse!” And they would be right to some extent. Compared to some other free time activities, board games are far from the worst offender. However, environmental impact is rarely black and white. Things are not either environmentally friendly or damaging, but often fall somewhere in between. In this blog, we will take the effect of board games on the environment as they are, without comparing them to other hobbies and we will present to you the steps we can take as customers and steps we have taken as a publisher to minimize the effect on the environment on our end.

Note that this is our current view on the matter based on our experiences and will be glad to get any additional information and hear different perspectives you may offer - we are always happy to learn new things and broaden our views.


Shipping

A hidden impact on the environment that games have that is rarely considered is shipping. Game boxes have to travel from the manufacturer to the distribution centers and then finally to the stores where they are sold. The further the game has to travel, the greater its impact.
When it comes to games, shipping is mostly unavoidable. Even if the manufacturer and distributor are fairly close to one another, people still buy games from all over the world and the game has to reach them. So while this effect on the environment can be somewhat reduced it can never be fully removed from the equation.

To reduce the environmental impact of shipping on our end, we have decided to produce almost all of our games and products in the EU, since we are located here and since we sell most of our products in the EU.


Packaging

This factor is the one people usually notice and consider when it comes to an environmental impact. Board games come covered in a thin plastic layer called shrink wrap to protect the games from moisture and dirt. Again, this factor is mostly unavoidable since if the games didn’t have this wrap, the damage moisture could cause to a shipment of games could be so big that it would require the manufacturer to print a large number of games, just so a sufficient number of games would survive the shipping. But the current trend is trying to get rid of plastic wrapping also, so soon in the future a new solution will need to be found. Where the effect can be reduced is what is inside the box. Some games come with a lot of additional packaging to protect the games’ components. However, these materials are mostly discarded when the game is unpacked. While some of this packaging cannot be avoided it is still possible for the manufacturers to rethink which packaging is absolutely neccesary and where it’s amount can be reduced or replaced for a more environmentally friendly option.

What you can do to minimize the impact of packaging as a customer is to watch an unboxing video of the board game and pay attention to the amount of packaging it has. This way you can inform yourself beforehand and you are able to give priority to the publishers who are considerate of the effects the game has on the environment.

In one of our board games, WolfWalkers - My Story, for example, we have replaced the shrink wrap that usually comes around decks of cards with paper one. While this option was more expensive we deemed it worthy in order to reduce the effect of the game on the environment.

External image

Paper wraps instead of shrink wrap around WolfWalkers - My Story cards


Components

After the game has been unpacked, this is the second factor that people pay attention to when it comes to environmental impact. Board games are made from a variety of materials: paper, cardboard, wood, plastic and occasionally even metal. Some of the materials are more environmentally friendly than others, the best of which being paper, cardboard and wood, since they are biodegredable. Metals can often be recycled if the composition of the component is known. The biggest offender here is plastic since it is not biodegradable and its creation requires non-renewable resources such as crude oil.

However, there is more than just materials that the game is made from. One should also consider what is on those materials - prints and coatings. A lot of components are usually colored and have additional markings on them and can also be coated with various materials to further protect the components from damage and moisture. However, these coatings and colors can use a variety of chemicals which can both be impactful on the environment and make the component non-recyclable.

What you can do on your part as a customer is, again, to watch the unboxing videos of the game beforehand and see the materials present in the game. We also think you can somewhat tolerate the use of plastic components in the game, since games are not a single-use item but will be used for years. However, we still suggest you pay attention to the amount of excessive plastic in-lays.

We also recommend that you pay attention to the FSC symbol on the game, which guarantees that the wood and paper was obtained from a source which is not harmful to the world's forests.

As a publisher we try to manufacture with manufacturers who offer FSC and when designing games we try reduce plastic components as much as possible.

External image

On bottom left: FSC symbol on WolfWalkers - My Story


Discarding games

When we buy games, we do not usually consider how we will throw the game away. We quite often keep games for years even if we don’t play them. We often also trade or give our games away or sell them. However, just throwing the game away rarely comes to anyone's mind. But occasionally, this can be unavoidable. The game can suffer damage (water, fire or mould) which makes it unplayable. While some components can be salvaged, such games are usually thrown away.


While we think throwing a game away is a very rare and drastic occasion, it can still occur. Either due to damage or because we have too many of them. And if it still comes to throwing a game away, it is up to all of usto properly sort the components to correct bins and not just throw the whole game away.

Conclusion

Even when we attempt to minimize the impact that board games can have on the environment, they are still bound to have an effect, even if it is minimal. Compared to other forms of entertainment we can easily sort board games into a low-impact category. However, this still doesn’t mean that we should not pay attention to the impact the production and shipping have. We recommend that you support publishers and those who do pay attention to the effects of their products.

-----------
Value Add Games
More about us: https://valueaddgames.com/en/
Our shop: https://shop.valueaddgames.com/en/
WolfWalkers Games and Puzzles Landing page: https://valueaddgames.com/wolfwalkers/
Twitter Facebook
2 Comments
Fri Oct 15, 2021 7:18 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Degrees of victory

Value Add Games
Slovenia
Ljubljana
Ljubljana
flag msg tools
publisher
Often we have a pretty set idea of how the end of a game should look like: somebody wins and everybody else loses (competitive games) or everybody either wins or loses (cooperative games). In both of these cases, the end state is pretty black and white – you either won or lost and there is no in-between state. And even within these two states there is no variety. Whether you win by an inch or a mile it doesn’t matter to the game – the reward is still the same (Although in the latter case, you do get the privilege to gloat).

In one of our cooperative games, Firebrigade, we tried to introduce a different end game state, where players can check not only if they have won, but how well deserved their victory is.

External image


Difficulty of a cooperative game
Most cooperative board games are notoriously difficult to beat, especially on higher difficulties. This gives replayability to the game and makes it more challenging. A good cooperative game keeps you on your toes and even when defeated gives you a feeling that you could’ve won if only you had one more turn, card, dice roll etc. This way most players are encouraged to try again, putting the experience of the previous games to use.
When we started developing Fire Brigade, an educational game where players take the role of a firefighters squad trying to extinguish fire and save citizens, the situation was a little bit different. We wanted players to have a great feeling at the end of the game and since they take the role of firefighters, losing most of the time did not feel appropriate. However, if the players would be winning often, they would lose the motivation to play the game again. So we had to find a delicate balance between the two.

Modes in Firebrigade
During the setup of the game, players have to make two choices: What mode of the game will they play and what difficulty will it be set to.
The game has two game modes – Normal and expert mode. Normal mode is a bit easier and recommended for first time players and families. It alleviates the players from having to worry about one lose condition – losing a civilian does not immediately end the game (It does greatly reduce the final score though). Expert mode on the other hand is pulling no breaks – if you lose but one civilian, the game is lost.

External image

The two game modes found in the game


Difficulty in Firebrigade
Second choice the players make is what difficulty they wish to play the game at, either easy, medium or hard. The difficulty does two things – it dictates initial conditions (the harder the game, the worse are the starting conditions)

External image

The three difficulties in the game. Information on the cards dictates the setup


Final scoring
The players win the game when every citizen has been rescued. Then, players calculate their final score based on how many buildings are still left and not on fire and how many inferno tokens are left on the board.
And lastly, based on how many points players have gathered, players check their final score. This can range from the lowest – one star, to highest – five stars.
Note that on normal mode which allows for civilian deaths, these don't go by without punishment - for every civilian lost you lose a whole rank (represented by star).

External image

Ranks which are awarded based on the number of points gained


Trying again for a higher score
And now we finally come to the different end game states and what does this mean for the game. In a lot of cooperative games, there is no additional reward regarding how well you have finished the game. In the case of Firebrigade however, you receive a final score alongside your victory.
We added this mechanic to increase its replay value even if players win more than they would usually in cooperative games. By getting a certain score, players are incentivized to try again and reach for a higher and higher score, mastering the game. Which also encourages players to be better and better in their role as firefighters, and, as they learn the strategy, they can progressively choose higher and higher difficulties and challenge themselves even more.

External image

Fire Brigade being played


-----------
Value Add Games
More about us: https://valueaddgames.com/en/
Our shop: https://shop.valueaddgames.com/en/
WolfWalkers Games and Puzzles Landing page: https://valueaddgames.com/wolfwalkers/
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Fri Sep 17, 2021 5:00 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Replayability of a simple game

Value Add Games
Slovenia
Ljubljana
Ljubljana
flag msg tools
publisher
The criteria of what makes a good board game has a lot of variables. First that comes to our mind is fun – is the game even enjoyable to play? After that, there are plenty of other factors that vary in priority among the people – production quality, art, ease of play…
But we think that one of the important factors of what makes the game fun, besides fun, is its replay value.

Shelf life
When one goes to see a movie, they pay a certain amount of money to, hopefully, have fun for the next hour or two. From there, we can calculate how much money is spent per hour of entertainment.
Most board games are more expensive than movie tickets but we also expect that they will entertain us for a longer time. If an expensive game is only played once then it had a very poor ratio of money spent per hour of entertainment.
To those who are new to board games – there is an expression that refers to this, and it is known as shelf life (not the same one you find on food). It refers to how long the game stays relevant on your shelf – how many times it gets picked up and played.
We think that it is quite important that a game has a good replay value. It doesn’t have to be infinite but it has to be large enough so people will consider it a good investment – a good ratio of money spent per hour of entertainment.

Increasing replay value
Sometimes, this can be easy to accomplish, but it can get a lot harder with games for kids and families. Those games usually have simple mechanics that do not offer a lot of variety in strategy, which can make replays of the game feel more or less the same.
With this blog post, we would like to present how we added replay value to one of our family games, WolfWalkers: The Boardgame.

External image

WolfWalkers The Board Game box


WolfWalkers: The Boardgame
In this cooperative game, players take control of the characters from the film and traverse the forest and the city, looking for parts of the wolf soul. The objective of the game is to gather the soul before soldiers make their way through the forest to the wolfs’ lair.
The game is fairly low on the difficulty scale and with a reason – it was created to be a family game. A game that anyone can pick up, quickly learn and play, regardless of age or previous experience.
Therefore we wanted to challenge ourselves to make a game that would stay fresh even after numerous play-throughs.

External image

Set up of the game


Additional game modes
The first thing we added were additional game modes. The base game has simple rules, but the players have the option to play various game modes that include additional mechanics that make the game more complex. While some of these might not be recommended to those who play the game for the first time (and for smaller children) due to their increased complexity, they are perfect for those who already had a few sessions with the game (and for older children) and are looking for something additional.
One of the additional game modes is also a competitive mode. This completely shifts the dynamics of the game, since in its core it is a cooperative game. It allows the players to use the knowledge that they have gained while working together in a fun competition.

External image

Example of two game modes found in the game


Achievement sheet
The second way we added replay value to the game was with an achievement sheet.
A lot of video games these days offer various achievements to the players if they manage to accomplish something difficult. While holding no inherent value, they are given value externally by the player, especially if they are of the completionist nature – a player who wishes to complete every challenge in a given game.
We have included a similar list of achievements in our games that the player can tick off once they accomplish a certain feat. These range from simple ones – just playing all four game modes, to difficult ones – like winning multiple times in a row.

External image

Achievement sheet found in the game rules


Challenges
A third way we added replayability is by including challenges to a game. They are similar to achievements, except they introduce some additional mechanics to the game or limit a certain mechanic previously introduced. For example: In the game, there are some tiles that can help you delay the soldiers that end the game. A challenge mode in the game prevents you from using these tiles.

External image

Examples of two challenges found in the rulebook



To sum it all up, the three ways we added shelf life to our family game were:

Game modes: By including a variety of game modes the game can feel fresh from the very start

Achievements: By completing objectives under certain conditions players get to tick off achievements on a list.

Challenges: By limiting or changing certain mechanics the game can feel different and more difficult.

-----------
Value Add Games
More about us: https://valueaddgames.com/en/
Our shop: https://shop.valueaddgames.com/en/
WolfWalkers Games and Puzzles Landing page: https://valueaddgames.com/wolfwalkers/
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Fri Sep 10, 2021 5:00 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Family game

Value Add Games
Slovenia
Ljubljana
Ljubljana
flag msg tools
publisher
Designing a board game is a challenge in itself. There are a lot of aspects one must consider: Target audience, development costs, interweaving art and game mechanics and of course making a fun game. However, when one designs a family game there are additional aspects one must take into consideration.
In this blog we will describe what we have learned while designing our family game. The game we will use in our example is one of our family games, WolfWalkers: The Board game.

External image


Development process
When we started designing WolfWalkers the Board game we had to keep in mind that the game should be fun for both the kids and the parents. If one or the other party are not having fun playing your game, it will be played way less. It is the same with family movies – they are primarily aimed at children with their themes, but their subtext allows older generations to enjoy it in other ways. Thus, the theme of the game must be appealing to both adults and kids. The game we were working on is based on WolfWalkers, a family animated film about a young apprentice hunter and her father on a mission to wipe out the last wolf pack terrorizing Kilkenny. But her life is changed when she meets a girl in the forest who has the ability to transform into a wolf by night (IMDB).

Taking kids into the account
Second thing that we think should be taken into account is rules complexity. The game must not be too easy for adults and too difficult for kids.
Kids can be really smart and can easily memorize a lot of rules and follow them to the dot. However, they usually have a hard time making a decision in a game that has a lot of choices (e.g. large number of actions).
To address the lack of long-term planning with the kids, we decided that the game should reward good moves on a turn-to-turn basis and not give a huge advantage to a person who develops a long-term strategy in the competitive mode of the game. Our game has a roll to move mechanic. The player does not get to decide what kind of action they will do, since it is decided by a die roll. However, they still have some choices, and in most cases, they only need to choose the best move of those presented.

External image

Movement example from the game’s rulebook.
Roll the die and then move your standee to one of the symbols that match the one
shown on the die. You cannot pass the guards.


Rules for the game
We also had to consider that a lot of parents are not board game enthusiasts and will probably not internalize rules of the game, especially if it is not played on a weekly basis.
Therefore, we think that the rules of a family game should be light in order to reach the largest audience possible. They should include a lot of large images and examples of play and setup in order to minimize the possibility of misinterpretation and to make them easy to reference and remember.

External image

Setup example from the game’s rulebook.


A clear image on how the board should be at the start of the game with arrows pointing at various components, defining and explaining them.
We also think that guidelines from the previous section can be somewhat ignored when it comes to cooperative games because in that case, parents can help their kids with making good moves. However, we still suggest that parents let their kids decide on their own and not become the dreaded “alpha player” who makes decisions for everyone at the table.

Difficulty adjustment
If the family grows accustomed to the rules, we thought there should be an option to make the game more complex. In our game, we have divided the game into various game modes that range from easy, for the youngest players to more complex, which include more complex rules. We’ve also included additional game modes, challenges and achievements to make the game more complex and/or difficult. This way, every family can individually tailor their experience based on their skill level – kids can progressively increase the complexity of the game, while the parents can also explore harder challenges on their own.

External image

Various game modes found in the game’s rulebook.
The number of paws indicates the difficulty of the mode.


Abstraction
Third is abstraction. Up to the age of 12 most kids have troubles with abstract concepts that they cannot see, touch or hear. This is also why certain school subjects are only introduced after this age (like chemistry or physics). For this reason, we thought that our game should include a minimal number of abstract concepts. Actions should be related to simple concepts that can be easily understood. In our case – Collecting runes, Moving the forest and town etc.

Graphic design
Graphic design and art were also taken into consideration. When designing various symbols (actions, currency) the player should have no second thoughts to what the symbol relates to. We believe it isn't just a good practice for family games but board games in general, because a good graphic design can greatly ease even the most difficult rules.

External image

In the rules, there are additional symbols that help you quickly determine what kind of a move you can make on your turn.


Kids are also drawn to colorful images with bright colors. A lot of times it is easier to entice a kid to play a game that has pretty characters and animals. In our game, we had a good head start on this, since the art, which was based on the film, is already beautiful and very engaging. When it comes to components, we have used character stands instead of pawns. This way, kids can pick their favorite character, much like they would in picking a character in Monopoly, where everyone has a favorite.

External image

Character stands found in the game


With Cartoon Saloon we have also worked on creating a custom game board. This was also made to both reduce abstraction (since you can see your character moving through the woods and city) and make the art appealing to both kids and parents.

External image

Only when one looks up close do they see the amount of tiny details, found on the game board


So, to sum it up all of our discoveries during the creation of our family board game:
1. Use a theme to which any generation can relate to
2. Minimize rule complexity, number of choices in a turn and long term planning
3. Add the possibility to adjust the difficulty so the family can tailor their experience to their liking
4. Minimize abstract concepts, ideas, art and graphic design

-----------
Value Add Games
More about us: https://valueaddgames.com/en/
Our shop: https://shop.valueaddgames.com/en/
WolfWalkers Games and Puzzles Landing page: https://valueaddgames.com/wolfwalkers/
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Fri Sep 3, 2021 5:00 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Adapting for the market

Value Add Games
Slovenia
Ljubljana
Ljubljana
flag msg tools
publisher
When you work on a game whose theme is based on anything pre-existing, we believe it is very important not only to study that theme but also to study the target demographic, who will be interested in the game based on its theme. We believe it is especially important what they deem important about the theme.
The experience we will talk about in this blog is based on our development of one of our games – Fire brigade.

External image



Development

When we started with the development of Fire brigade, our goal was to create a game for people who are interested in firefighting and to educate board game enthusiasts about fire safety and firefighting equipment. After creating a suitable prototype we started commissioning art for the game. Our artist took a lot of inspiration from firefighters and fire trucks that you usually see in movies. So a lot of the art was originally based on firefighters that we usually see in the movie.

External image

Original box art and fire fighting equipment, based on a common firefighter visuals


Encounter with the firefighters

After we had made a prototype with art, we took the game to local firefighters and showed it to them. We wanted to make sure the game was a good representation of how firefighters work, so we put a lot of work into it to represent realistic firefighters as closely as possible. To make sure we got everything right we went right to the source. We mainly wanted feedback on the mechanics that try to represent some of the decisions firefighters have to make and information presented in the game like additional informational text on the Event cards.

They were really happy with the game when we presented it to them.They saw it as an excellent opportunity to use the game to promote firefighting to the youth. Everything seemed fine to them, except for one thing. The firefighters took us outside and brought out all of their trucks to show us that Slovenian firefighting equipment looked different from the equipment that was on our art. They really wanted the game to represent local firefighters since they believe that is how the game will attract the locals the most.

They had us take pictures of the firetrucks and their equipment and then went back to work. We had to redraw trucks and equipment not just on the game box, but also on all of the cards that contain any fire fighting equipment.

After the game was released, the firefighters bought a number of copies. This was quite reassuring, since it let us know that the game had accurate information, otherwise it would have been endorsed in such a way.

External image

New box art and fire fighting equipment, based on Slovene fire fighters


Final thoughts

This was a very interesting experience for us. In our day to day lives we are surrounded by so much art from different cultures and nations that it is easy not to notice what is directly before our eyes. Even though firetrucks drive past us so often we never stopped to pay attention to how much they differ from those that we see in movies.

What we have learned from all of this is that even if we are to work on a theme that seems very common, we should still consult the experts on the field and get their confirmation if we are on point. Because if we are to attract a certain demographic, we must submerge ourselves in that theme in order to get everything right to the very detail. Because it is the details that make the players fall in love with the game.



-----------
Value Add Games
More about us: https://valueaddgames.com/en/
Our shop: https://shop.valueaddgames.com/en/
Fire brigade: https://valueaddgames.com/en/fire-brigade/
WolfWalkers Games and Puzzles Landing page: https://valueaddgames.com/wolfwalkers/
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Fri Aug 27, 2021 5:00 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Interview with the game designer of WolfWalkers: My Story, Maja Milavec

Value Add Games
Slovenia
Ljubljana
Ljubljana
flag msg tools
publisher
We have recently released a new card game: WolfWalkers: My story. To give you some insight on the whole development process, we have interviewed the designer of the game Maja Milavec.

External image

On left: CEO of Value Add Games, Urška Hartman, On right: Game designer Maja Milavec


Q: How did it all start?
Maja: Two years ago we started our collaboration with Cartoon Saloon – an animation studio based in Ireland who have been nominated multiple times for both the Oscar and the Golden globes. We have collaborated with them before when we have released our previous game: WolfWalkers the Board game, whose target audience of that game were children and families. For our next project we have wanted to create a game whose target audience would’ve been teenagers and adults who like both the WolfWalkers film and board games. We had a large repertoire of wonderful illustrations provided by Cartoon Saloon and we wanted to use them in our future project. The studio especially wanted us to show the entire specter of illustrations from the movie, not just images of the main characters, since every frame of the film is art in itself. This is a very unique situation since usually when designing games, we have to create the illustrations for the game, but this time we already had the illustrations so we used them as an inspiration.

Q: So the illustrations came first and the mechanics followed?
Maja: Correct. The context of the movie led to the design of the game. This is why, as an example, the themes of Objective cards are not random but are based on the film. Similarly, the icons on Story cards reflect what is on the image. This way the theme of the game is intertwined with its mechanics and it is not something that was just “stapled on”. I like designing games this way, because it is way easier to be inspired when it comes to mechanics. We really wanted to make sure the illustrations are the heart of the game – as you take and place cards you have beautiful scenes from the film right in front of you, which allows us to relive the story.


External image

WolfWalkers: My Story



Q: Did this cause any problems with balancing the game?
Maja: It was a bit harder than usual since the objectives were mostly inspired by the films plot. The only thing we could’ve altered was the value of said objectives. But it was easily tackled with a few days of math and spreadsheets.

Q: The game is for 2 players – Any reason for this?
Maja: If you check BGG, a lot of games these days are from two to four, five or six players, but if you check the recommended amount of people, it is rarely two. I think this is because a lot of those games were primarily made for multiple people and a two-player mode has to have additional rules that sometimes changes the flow of the game. We really wanted to focus on making a very streamlined two player experience, especially for these times, where lockdown has forced a lot of people into their homes and it is hard to find multiple people to play games with.

Q: But there is an option that allows for more players?
Maja: Correct. When we have finished the design of the game, we have entertained the idea of having a higher player count. We tried merging two copies of the game, and with a slight change to the rules, the game can be played with three or four players. Therefore if you want to play with 3 or 4 players you have to use two copies of the game. This made us slightly different from the majority of other games, who usually have extra rules for two-player mode.

External image

Designer Maja Milavec explaining the rules of the game


Q: How did the idea for an expansion, which is included in the game box, come to be?
Maja: As we playtested the game we came up with a lot of ideas on what else would be entertaining if the player had the option to do on their turn. On the other hand, the testers told us that the base game is excellent as is. We had a lot of great ideas but they would have made the base game more complex and in some cases, unbalanced. So we have decided to put most of these variations of rules into an expansion that comes with the game. These cards add a lot of replay value to the game and give it a lot of strategic and tactical depth. Players have the option to randomly pick the cards from the expansion or, if they find a favorite combination of cards, play with them multiple times.

Q: Do you have a favorite card from the expansion?
Maja: I do. It is a card that allows me to change the location of two cards in my grid. I don’t see myself as a very strategic person so this card comes to the rescue quite often.


Q: What mechanics does the game use? Why did you choose these specific mechanics?
Maja: The game has multiple mechanics, one of which is tile placement – or in this case, card placement. The second mechanic is drafting, since players are choosing from six cards in a common pool. With these cards, players are trying to form patterns by placing cards in their personal grid. I really like games where you get to build something of your own and not get punished if you make any mistakes. This is also why there are no negative points in the game if you fail to complete an objective. There is also no direct conflict with the other players, the only thing you can do to stop their plans is take a card that they need. You can find similar mechanics in Kingdomino and Cartographers. Based on the lovely theme of the film on which the game is based on, I didn’t want there to be direct conflict between the players. So I made it more of a competition to build a better story. So even if you lose, there is still a sense of accomplishment for what you have managed to build.

Q: How long did it take to develop and publish the game?
Maja: We have been developing the game for over a year. We started at the end of last spring and we were still finishing testing and graphic design a few months ago. When you follow such a process from start to finish you really gain insight on how the inner workings development process that you didn’t have before. When the game works smoothly, you are probably only a fourth of a way to the finish line.

Q: What is the point where you know that the game is good?
Maja: When your testers ask you where they can buy the game or when they say they want to play one more time. Or when you, despite having a closet full of good games, decide to play your own. Then, you know you are on the right track.

Q: Did Cartoon Saloon cooperate in the development of the game?
Maja: Of course. We were in contact with them all the time. We were discussing which illustrations they wanted us to include. They also told us about their process of making the film, what is important for them to be in the game and they also checked the final product if everything is according to their film. They are very responsive and cooperating with them was a pleasant experience.

External image

Value Add Games WolfWalkers products


Q: What was the hardest step in the development of the game?
Maja: The hardest part is ditching ideas. At the start of the project you have thousands and thousands of ideas, all of which seem very good. It is hard to let them go. But it is important that we streamline the game and we don’t make the game and the rules needlessly complicated. But when it comes to the last stages of development, It is always a challenge to write good rules. The game is fairly simple, one can explain the rules of it in a few minutes. But it can take a couple of weeks to put them in such a format so they are clear, consistent and have everything included but are not too long. After which you must also design the graphics of the rules and test them multiple times and make multiple changes to make sure they are on point.

Q: What did the game prototypes look like?
Maja: We usually make simple prototypes from paper. In early stages, we just made handwritten cards so that they could’ve been tested quickly. This way it is also easier to abandon ideas that do not work. Had we put more work into early prototypes it would have been way harder for us to abandon certain ideas. Only later on we started working on better prototypes – printed cards on harder paper. Although in our case, we already started with very pretty prototypes, since we had illustrations from the start. You can read more about the physical prototypes in our first post in the blog.

External image

People playing the game during the release event in Dobra poteza


Q: We know that last year, when the bulk of the development took place, was very “isolated”. How did you test the game?
Maja: Usually, we prefer to test our games in person, since it gives us a lot of good feedback. A lot of information is gathered from tester’s commentary, but an neglectable amount can also be gathered from non-verbal communication – what seems to frustrate them, how do they handle the components, how hard is it to see the information in front of them, how much table space does the game occupy etc. During the pandemic we had to adapt so we moved the majority of our testing into a virtual environment. We also gave our players print-and-play copies of the game, so they were able to test the game in their homes and give us their feedback later.

Q: Was it difficult to test this way? Did it have any advantages?
Maja: It was actually a way faster way to test the game since it was easier to arrange sessions from the comfort of our homes. We didn’t have to make physical prototypes and any changes to the game were applied with ease. We covered the virtual prototypes experiences in our blog.

Q: Any final thoughts?
Maja: Development and publishing of a board game is a wonderful process in which a lot of people cooperate and everyone brings a small piece to the final mosaic that is a beautiful and an interesting game such as this one. I would like to, in the name of Value Add Games, thank everyone who helped with this project: Cartoon Saloon, designers, testers, text writers, text editors, animators, photographers and manufacturers. Without them, the project would not have been possible, so thank you.

External image

Value Add Games team



-----------
Value Add Games
More about us: https://valueaddgames.com/en/
Our shop: https://shop.valueaddgames.com/en/
WolfWalkers Games and Puzzles Landing page: https://valueaddgames.com/wolfwalkers/
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Fri Aug 20, 2021 5:00 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Prototypes for the game - Part 2

Value Add Games
Slovenia
Ljubljana
Ljubljana
flag msg tools
publisher
Link to part 1: https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/121187/prototypes-game-pa...

Continuing the blog about or prototypes for WolfWalkers: My story, this week we would like to focus on virtual prototypes for the game.

Virtual prototypes

Lockdown due to the pandemic is something we could not escape. However, we still had to playtest. Therefore, even though we prefer testing games face to face, we had to resort to using a virtual environment. We have decided to use Tabletop Simulator since we were already using it as board gamers and we were used to it. The program also has a lot of options when it comes to creating a digital version of a prototype.

Pros
Making a prototype this way has a lot of benefits. With a bit of learning, we were able to dish out a simple prototype in less than an hour and any change to the game was implemented very quickly. It is also cheaper, since there is no need for printing. When it came to playtesting the prototype in late stages, it was also a lot easier to reach a large number of people that were willing to test the prototype.

External image

WolfWalkers My Story in Tabletop Simulator


Cons
However, despite all of the advantages written above, we think that there are still some aspects of a prototype that cannot be properly tested in a virtual environment. If we were playtesting our prototype only in a virtual environment, we would have had no idea how much table space the game demands. The issue we also had was card rotation – how should the cards be rotated and where the player should sit. Should they be opposed to each other like in other 2 player card games, or next to each other, so both players can have the same view of the marketplace? Would the information layout on the cards make sense both on the table and in one’s hand? Questions like these could only be answered with a physical prototype of the game.

External image

Examples: On left are players sitting opposite to each other, while on the right, players are sitting next to each other.


Online tools can help avoid some of these issues, but they cannot be ignored once the game is set up on a table. This is why we think, although greatly appreciating the value of virtual environment for creating prototypes, we find playtesting our games with a physical prototype in various stages of the design necessary.


To sum all of our prototype experiences:

1. Start with a simple and cheap prototype which can be quickly altered
2. Only when the gameplay is satisfactory you should progress to a prototype with more details
3. Virtual tools are great for early prototype stages, since you can alter the prototype quickly
4. Physical copy of a prototype is a must in order to get a proper “table feel” of a game
5. When playtesting with kids it is important to have a polished prototype since they will perceive the game differently regarding graphics

-----------
Value Add Games
More about us: https://valueaddgames.com/en/
Our shop: https://shop.valueaddgames.com/en/
WolfWalkers Games and Puzzles Landing page: https://valueaddgames.com/wolfwalkers/
Twitter Facebook
0 Comments
Fri Aug 13, 2021 5:00 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls
Recommend
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide

Prototypes for the game - Part 1

Value Add Games
Slovenia
Ljubljana
Ljubljana
flag msg tools
publisher
The first stage of any game design is coming up with an idea. And while an idea may seem perfect and coherent in your mind, we are well aware it is not. You can only know how your game will act once you sit down and play it. And to do that, it is necessary to create a prototype.
In this blog post, we will describe our journey of creation of various prototypes for one of our games WolfWalkers: My story, the second WolfWalkers game that we had just published and what we have learned from it.

External image



Our process

When we get an idea for a game and decide that we will start working on it, we try to keep in mind that the finished product will most likely differ from what we have originally planned for it. There will probably be multiple changes: from simple ones like positions and color of certain icons to whole mechanic revisions. This is the reason we try to keep the first prototypes of the game very simplistic. When we use cards and boards, we use only the bare-bone necessities: values, icons and names (or at least placeholders). Instead of detailed tokens and chits, we use regular placeholder tokens (like cubes, buttons etc.) and if the game has custom dice, we just place some masking tape on a regular die and draw symbols on top of it.

External image

Early prototype of the Objective cards (left) and Story cards (right) in the game


Art in prototypes

We recommend that you do not waste time on art and design just yet, since those are what it is most likely to change. Primarily you should focus on creating a fun and enjoyable experience. Only after you are happy with how the game works you should slowly progress with component quality – adding color to board and cards, using thicker cardboard for tiles and focusing on graphic design and layout. Our game was pretty good before we added all of those and it felt even better afterwards.

External image

Prototype changes of Story cards (above) and Objective cards (below)


Keep in mind that this game was sort of an exception to the guideline written above since we already had a lot of beautiful illustrations from the film and icons from our first WolfWalkers game. Therefore even our first prototypes were very well made. Again, this is an exception – in any other case, we wouldn’t have used such detailed illustrations for an early prototype.

External image

Early prototype of the game laid out on the table


Details in a prototype

Not spending a lot of effort on the first few prototypes is not just for the sake of saving time and money, but it is also related to attachment. When creating a prototype for WolfWalkers: My Story, it was a lot easier to ditch cards that we haven’t spent much time working on. Had we worked an hour for every card in the game, it would have been much harder to get rid of it. Instead, we would have probably tried to incorporate it in the game, even though it would have been better to get rid of it in its entirety.
Our first prototype for the game WolfWalkers My Story was very simplistic - Paper cards with black and white symbols, which slowly progressed to colored cards. This was a very important step for this game, since the colored icons added much needed clarity since the mechanic of the game is looking for patterns and colors helped greatly with that.
On the other hand, we learned that when we need kids to playtest our family or kids games, it is really important to have nice components with art, since it is harder for kids to focus just on the mechanics of the game. We try to keep that in mind and prepare a more polished prototype for playtesting with kids.

External image

Playtest session with detailed prototypes


Stay tuned for part 2 next friday, when we will be talking about virtual prototypes!

-----------
Value Add Games
More about us: https://valueaddgames.com/en/
Our shop: https://shop.valueaddgames.com/en/
WolfWalkers Games and Puzzles Landing page: https://valueaddgames.com/wolfwalkers/
Twitter Facebook
2 Comments
Fri Aug 6, 2021 5:00 pm
Post Rolls
  • [+] Dice rolls

Subscribe

Contributors