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Designer Diary: Influentia, or The Art of Losing the Best Trick

Miguel Bruque
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Microbadge: 5 Year Geek VeteranMicrobadge: I am a wily old fox, I am...Microbadge: EurogamerMicrobadge: Constantly thinking about game design
Board Game: Influentia
In 2015, I published my first game, and my head was full of new ideas that I wanted to develop.

One of my goals was to take a classic game and add a twist that would give the game a completely different sensation while playing. I always played classic Spanish trick-taking games with my family, such as "la brisca" or "el tute", and I started to think of a new way to give the same importance to winning as to losing the trick...

What if the card you played, or lost, triggered an effect? What if this effect could be better than winning the trick? I started to think of the side effects that could fit with this idea. I took a Spanish deck of cards and drew icons on them, then brought the game to my fellow testers and played a couple of rounds.

The seed was sown, the idea was clear, and with a couple of retouches it would be playable.

At that point, I worked on the whole concept, selected a theme to give it some flavor (the Italian Renaissance), developed the triggering effects, and created another deck where each card had a value that you would want to win to score points at the end of each round. This deck had the locations of the most important cities in Italy. You had to play (trick) resources to control these locations in order to make your family the most influential in the city.

BOOM! The lore was written, and it merged perfectly with the mechanisms and the feeling of the game.

Board Game: Influentia

Board Game: Influentia

After many sessions of playtesting and making adjustments, I decided to present the game at the Jugar x Jugar Games Creation Contest in 2016. Influentia was named the winner out of more than eighty other games presented.

It was a great joy to win the contest. This showed me that the game had a strong core. People particularly enjoyed the constant difficulty of decision making, round by round, to decide whether they would rather win, take the location, and score points — or lose the trick and trigger an effect.

Board Game Designer: Miguel Bruque

But something was still niggling at me. The contest tested only two-player games, and the game really shined with three players, so I decided to rebuild a couple of effects, rethink some scoring phases, and test, test, test...

Later, I had the opportunity to present the game to Ludonova, where the guys decided to keep the later core mechanisms and give the last twist — and a brilliant twist, I think — to the lore. They gave a darker look to the Italian Renaissance, placing it in a cyberpunk dystopia.

I'm really happy with the final changes of the game. I reached my goal with the twisted trick-taking and Ludonova nailed the lore — what more could I ask for?

Miguel Bruque

Board Game: Influentia
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