Board games that tell stories

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The one about user experience

I wear two hats. Publisher and designer in one person. This situation has – of course – some advantages and some disadvantages.

Today I will write about advantages of this situation. Our story begins in late 2010.


It was at convention. For the first time I played final production copy of 51st State and I was – let’s face it - devastated. These stupid tokens were too small. I'd need freaking tweezers to pick them from table. Playing that game with these chits was a torture.

When I was play testing the game I was using pieces from other games, I had wooden cubes for resources, I had wooden discs for contact tokens. It was so much better from what actual copy of the game was offering.

I was disappointed and sad. The game was less fun than when I was playing it as a prototype. I blamed small tokens.


With 51st State I learned that you never ever should play test game using components that will differ from the final game's components. Portal Games never made this mistake again.

I learned something more. Much more.

My super bad experience with 51st State was all about experience with components. Too small tokens ruined fun for me. It had nothing to do with rules, engine, game play. It was all about this freaking chits.

I began to analyze this problem and started to learn more about this problem. Soon after it was pretty clear – components of the game are as much important as actual rules of the game. Bad rules can ruin the game. Bad components can ruin the game too.

And one more thing - great components add to the experience. They make experience better. They change medium game into good. Good into very good. Very good into awesome.

Would Euphoria have that much success if not these amazing wooden pieces? Would Imperial Settlers have that much success if not these funky pinky meeples and red apples? Would Qwirkle be super successful worldwide if not these big wooden pieces?

As far as I can tell - nope.

Playing games is not only interacting with rules and engine of the game. It is also interacting with pieces, with physical objects that might add or deduct value to the player’s experience.


Back to my two hats. Advantage of my situation is clear. Designing game I know what user experience I want to create and I can easily convince publisher of the game – that is me again – to provide me components to achieve that.

You’d be really surprised how many different types of dice I was tossing into box of prototype of Rattle Battle to see which will work best. Which are heavy enough to scatter in a right way, which are small enough to fit into box even if we toss many of these. I was using dice from so many different games and I was tossing and tossing and finally I choose the best dice to throw into box. And we produce that particular dice. Crazy? Maybe. You'll tell more when you throw these dice.

You’d be also really surprised how much serious thought might be behind choosing metal coins. I don’t need big coins, but I need coins that stack. So many of you loves to stack coins, huh? I need coins that are heavy because so many of you loves to throw them on the table just to hear this cool clicking sound. Yes, believe me or not but I think that in Rattle, Battle we have best metal coins on the market.

You’d be really surprised hearing me argue with my production team when I wanted bigger and bigger cardboard pieces. ‘We won’t fit two ships on one sheet of cardboard, Ignacy! That makes it so much more expensive!’ I heard over and over. ‘I don’t give a shit. They need to be big. Players will build them and this is crucial for the game. Find savings in other place!’ I replied.

Do buildings in the port have actual shape of building? Yes.
Do loot tokens have different artwork on different tokens? Yes.
Do tokens that players can flip in the game have different artwork on both sides? Yes, yes, yes.

I put tremendous effort designing the game. And I put tremendous effort designing each single component of the game. Because I know. It matters.


My message for you today is simple. Player’s experience is a sum of many elements. Rules are only one of many. When designing game, when publishing game keep that in mind my friends.

Great rules is important… first step.
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