I'm a big Reiner Knizia fan, and his game Prosperity has really flown under the radar. It's sitting just outside the top 2,000, and sort of reminds me of a more puzzley Quadropolis (though it lacks the puzzley tile selection of that game, the placement and management of your city evokes a similar feeling). It's also a different style of game for Knizia: dare I say, less interactive than his usual games?
That said, it's a great game that I just picked up at Miniature Market for a grand total of $15. I have to fault Ystari on the packaging of this one. It just all looks so uninspiring!
I mean, isn't it obvious?
(The only thing that would have made this cornier would have been a $ in place of the S. Also, apparently in the future we all live on Venus, which is the only way I can explain the yellow skies -- that or pollution! )
I have this same beef with Ystari about Spyrium which is another at-least-solid game that is haunted by a brutally uninspiring art direction (I have a redesign for this game in the oven, too). The two games, as published, look like cousins.
A big part of my gaming philosophy is that a pretty package will go a long way in getting people to try a game. Sure, mechanics are important, but especially with the more casual set that frequents our game nights, having a nice coat of paint on the whole affair helps the game go down easier, if you will.
It's far more likely that a pretty, colorful game like Wingspan or Fort will be suggested than The Castles of Burgundy (even if this game is mechanically excellent). I think the industry has responded to this, too, which is why Ian O'Toole is in such high demand, and Stonemaier Games typically does so well. Wingspan will get picked up in Target, while Castles of Burgundy would probably be passed over. Call me shallow, but this is one of the priorities I use for assessing which games stay on my shelf!
So what to target in a redesign of Prosperity? Certainly, a less dour color scheme would go a long way. I started by looking at other city-building-adjacent games I've run across.
Quadropolis has a nice cover, but that actual presentation is not too terribly much better than Prosperity, in my opinion. It's very serviceable, but also feels like '2008-era mobile game' which is not a vibe I really like.
I'm a big fan of the Glory to Rome black box, and I like the handsome, minimal cards:
My very first board game redesign project was redrawing all of Heiko's cards for the black box (available in low-res proofs on the files page), and getting them printed myself at a print-on-demand studio. This is my #1 game of all time, and I only discovered it because I happened to stumble across the gorgeous cards in 2015.
Other minimal games that (indirectly) inspired me would have to be Acquire and Venture (the gamette version). Nothing wrong with that 1960s minimalism that prioritized clear presentation of information!
Though I despised the gameplay, I also liked the cute artwork of Happy City in my few plays on Board Game Arena.
I didn't want to go quite this cute, but the clear iconography is a big plus. Maybe I'm shooting to go cute-adjacent.
Redesign: the components
Prosperity has three key areas of redesign (four, if you count the rulebook, which I usually do):
- The Tiles (this is the big one)
- The Player Boards (tbd)
- The Central Board (tbd)
I started with the tiles, since I've found the tightest constraints usually provoke the best design. The tiles had a decent layout already, and every tile is conveniently listed in the rulebook to boot, so that I could make a start on redesigning before I'd even received my copy of the game.
Here is a closeup of a few tiles:
Like I said, the design is decent. You have Eco (positive or negative) on the right, and Power (positive or negative) on the left. You have a set of scoring icons (Search, Prosperity, or Income) in the middle bottom. You have the side of the board that the tile is laid: blue number on left, or green number on right. The 'theme' behind those numbers is so thin I can't even remember what green and blue stand for, and I've been staring at the game tiles for a week now! Finally, you have the tile color, which is either blue (infrastructure), green (transport), yellow (supply), or pink (power).
So first things first, we need a color scheme. I decided to base the color scheme around those four tile classes. If I could find a scheme that was distinct enough, I think we could get away with not providing a tile type icon on the main tile.
I don't actually have anyone color-blind in my group, but I can't not design for this consideration -- it's been beaten into me so strongly as a web designer that I can't help but at least make a cursory check. This scheme does well: although the blue and the green both appear similar to some people, they have different enough values that the green appears noticeably darker in almost all simulations I conducted.
This leaves us quite clearly with Green for transport, Blue for infrastructure, Red for power (I love this sharp, bold red), and Tan for supply (there are only six supply tiles in the entire game, so though the tan is 'boring' I don't think it will harsh up the vibe of the game too much. That leaves the dark charcoal for accent colors, and I also took the liberty of making some additional greys that are lighter/darker than the grey in the scheme. This left us with the following 'full' color palette in Photoshop:
I extrapolated some additional colors, and also came up with colors for the Prosperity, Search, and Income tiles that coordinated with our main scheme. I also riffed on the blue, green, and red to come up with positive/negative colors, and blue-left/green-right colors. Great! Now let's design some tiles.
My main goals when redesigning the tiles were, again, to inject some color in the game, and also to clarify and improve the iconography of the game. It's a little thing, but adding explicit '+' and '-' symbols to the icons, instead of just relying on color, will make sure that this is playable by the broadest possible audience.
A lot has changed! I relied on iconography for the central card art, just like Glory to Rome. This is from Iconcheese on Noun Project, and I colored in the icon according to our color scheme.
(Unfortunately, while I have a noun project license, I don't believe it releases me to make the files available to others -- and I'd have to get through Ystari too at that point, so I'm not sure if this redesign will be share-able).
I needed to fit up to four power or eco icons, and up to three scoring icons, so this sample tile will accommodate those (there is one tile that has five power, and one tile that has four scoring, but I made an exception on my padding rules to fit both of those in. It didn't seem right to cramp the other tiles because of minor exceptions). We're also making the positive/negative effects explicit, and also using background color and foreground color to reinforce that difference.
There's plenty of room for the background to shine, and there's also a tile name on the tile! For some reason, these tiles are named in the rulebook but not on the actual tiles -- this will help during gameplay because we can call specific tiles out by name.
Finally, I wanted to make the left/right emphasis explicit by adding arrows and not just relying on blue/green and the placement of the number on the tile.
There was one more piece of heavy lifting the tiles had to accomplish, and that was the one-time scoring effects. In the real game, these are noted by a tiny thin border, and we often forgot to note them when playing because they are so easily missed. I wanted to do more here, but couldn't come up with anything that was a slam dunk.
If a power or eco icon scores, it gets a white outer glow and the whole color of the icon changes to white. You can still differentiate positive/negative by the icon, so hopefully this is 'enough' to remind players to score. On the bottom bar, I did something similar by changing the icon to white, and adding an outer glow in the color of the holding shape. 'White icons mean scoring' is what I tried to be consistent with, for ease of explanation during the game
Having worked out the design template, there was nothing left but to hash out some icons!
There are a lot of infrastructure icons. I'm less than halfway through.
Power plants look awesome, though the red background was the hardest to design off of
There aren't many supply tiles but I tried to make them at least sort of interesting!
Yet to do: the rest of the infrastructure tiles, all of the transit tiles, the event tiles, and of course, the tile backs.
I really enjoy working on board game redesign projects because they harmonize my day job with my favorite hobby. It's so relaxing to design something not for work, just for fun, that will have a direct impact on my enjoyment of a game in the future.
Stay tuned for more design work -- I've still got to tackle the boards (those may get significantly redesigned), the rulebook (of course), and maybe even the box, if I get super ambitious.
Thoughts on tabletop gaming and why it matters.
27 Aug 2021
- [+] Dice rolls