Board games that tell stories

You can follow me on Twitter at @trzewik. This is BGG copy of my blog BoardgamesThatTellStories.com
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Many dates or one marriage? A board gamer torn!

"No ideas of new games? Just cashing in on old titles?" - this is the comment I found after our announcements at Portalcon. In my opinion, the second sentence would benefit from one small 'huh' at the end. "No ideas of new games? Just cashing in on old titles, huh?"

So much better!

***

At Portalcon, we announced The Book of Adventures - a massive, 50+ pages thick collection of old and new scenarios for Robinson. We also announced Rise of the Empire, the revolutionary open-world campaign for Imperial Settlers, the campaign that you can play with different groups of players, and the whole system balances itself and evens out. We additionally announced not only new cases for our best-selling Detective but also a brand new story-driven spy game set in the Cold War era. Vienna Connection takes players to Austria, winter 1977, and puts them against KGB agents.

Three incredibly rich products that provide a dozen of hours of pure joy. All those new ways to die in Robinson, all these new plots and cases that you will have to crack playing CIA agent... It's one of the strongest years for my dev team at Portal Games.

Gamer's perspective?
Just cashing in on old titles, huh?

***

I'd like to ask you to do exercise with me. Play a game of theoretical assumptions and see where we get.

On one end, the common format of game publishing - the company releases a ton of new games, has something new in store for every gamer, every month has something new and exciting. If we can use an example, let it be Renegade Games, they put in 2019 about 20 new products. Something new almost every other weekend. Their dev team always want to surprise players with a unique design. Just this past year, you were trading fantasy equipment in Bargain Quest, you were fighting a monster in Terror Below, you were Power Ranger, and you were Paladin from West Kingdome. That's one epic ongoing phase of discovery and exploration for a gamer. The publisher always has a new game to discover.

Another format would be the opposite. Wizards of the Coast released Magic the Gathering in 1993. Since then, they continue to support this one game. They have new expansions, new play formats, a tournament scene - you know all of that. One great game, lifetime support. If you love Magic the Gathering, you know, you have a friend for life. They have nothing more in-store, no new card games, no new CCG, no new titles - just constant amazing support for this one great game.

Imagine your favorite game; let it be Gloomheaven or Agricola. Let it be Terraforming Mars or Root. Imagine if publishers of these titles instead of running for a new title and developing new games to feed cult of the new would, for the next couple of years, spend all the time and effort bringing you value by supporting these one great game they have.

Would you pick five years of great, dedicated, fully focused support for Terraforming Mars or five years of 20 new games per year?

***

The question I am asking today is simple - is a new game better than an expansion for your beloved title. I don't know. From a designer's perspective, it is exactly the same amount of hard work and poured heart into it.

When designing expansion, am I just cashing on existing titles? Or rather I am giving you lifetime support for your beloved game?

Or, as always, the truth lies in the middle?
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