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.
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Degrees of victory

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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).

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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.

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Fire Brigade being played

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