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Subject: Most common mistakes in board game design? rss

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kaspir Hvaad
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I wonder if there are any typical mistakes in board game design that I should stay clear off?

I can mention one:

I typically spend weeks finetuning the visuals, before I have even playtested the first prototype. This is a mistake all right. I did it again with a game I have to have ready for a public playtest event this Monday. Tight deadline! But limits the time I can waste on playing with the visuals.
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Eric Brosius
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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Inadequate playtesting.
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Misha Nosiara
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1. Inadequate playtesting, especially with no explanation other than handing over a rule book.
2. See 1.
3. See 2.



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Reiji Kobayashi
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I'll add: no blind playtesting of the rulebook.
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Tim Relph
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Using card sizes that don't fit sleeves.
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Corsaire
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1. Having randomness that invalidates strategic and tactical efforts
2. Allowing edge cases to proliferate
3. Not thinking about fun
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Adrian Pillai
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I'll add: asking the wrong questions at feedback.

We all wanna ask the big question immediately, "so what do you think of this game?" (I'm so smart aren't I?)

Bad question since, you don't really need validation as a designer. What you need is feedback about your game. It's also bad since most people need time to analyze how they feel, so give them a little time.

"So what do you really think about the game?" (It sucks, doesn't it?)

It's hard for most people to accurately nail how they feel, positively or negatively. It's rare someone feels 100% one way or other, feelings are nuanced and hard to contextualize or verbalize.

I found this out the hard way.

"So what do I ask?"

No exact answer, but I found starting wide and general then homing in on aspects warms people up to talk. Let them get up to speed and they'll find it easier to express their feelings.

I usually start with,

"When you hear `title` what do you imagine?"

"From 'game genre (mechanic or theme)' what do you expect to do?"

If they give examples, great. If not, ask for any examples. "What's your favorite game of that genre?"

"Why (not what) do you like that game (in genre)?" - do your homework later as to what in that game works. Ask them why they like it now.

Hopefully they'll reveal something either your game does better, does worse or doesn't do, or does the same. It's helpful.

"How did 'title' (your game) make you feel playing it?" - I address my work by title so people can create disconnect between me and it, and give better feedback. If you remind them you did it, some people will only say nice things.

Most of all, if they are talking, don't interrupt with secondary questions. Keep the question for after they stop (if they haven't answered it already).

Hope this helps.
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Jessey
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I also purchased this and do not know what to do with it!
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I purchased this and do not know what to do with it!
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elfboy wrote:

"How did 'title' (your game) make you feel playing it?" - I address my work by title so people can create disconnect between me and it, and give better feedback. If you remind them you did it, some people will only say nice things.

Most of all, if they are talking, don't interrupt with secondary questions. Keep the question for after they stop (if they haven't answered it already).

Hope this helps.


I second this advice. I ask players more pointed questions about the experience, but for the same reasons you outline. My go-to question to get conversation rolling is:

"What was the most exciting, memorable, or significant moment of the game for you? How did that moment make you feel?"

I find getting people to talk about their emotional experience to be far more insightful than anything else I get at a playtest. Feedback and ideas for mechanics usually are not helpful to me (unless the playtesters are developers or designers with lots of experience, in which case batting around mechanical ideas can be very productive - but that's a special case).

And I second the suggestion not to talk or interrupt. DEFINITELY don't defend your game. If people ask, explain why you made a rule or what reason you had for a mechanic, but don't offer that up as it comes off as defensive and can shut down further critical feedback. My most useful feedback sessions have been those that I didn't say a word during and just took notes.
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Ian Allen
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Candi wrote:
"What was the most exciting, memorable, or significant moment of the game for you? How did that moment make you feel?"


And remember, this is for posterity, so be honest.
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Ηaralampos Tsakiris
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Only by having a goal (or more) for your game (target group, thematic hue, feeling of the player etc etc) then these advice will help you.
If not try to make more than one games that follow the above "cardinal" rule.

Stating...

1. Make an excel sheet with all mathematics that include the game, and for each part of the game dedicate some lines into how this part will work, like a part of the rulebook in each excel sheet. (Excel or Google sheets)


2. Playtest it yourself to find out the annoying details, correct them and come back to play it again to find there is nothing more that you cannot see going wrong.

3. Playtest it with a group of close friends or a specific group just to crash test, and get to the point where its a decent game with decent mechanisms but according to your vision and not the opinions of your initial playtesters.

4. Now playtesting it with a variety of people and now its time to listen more to these people that the initial playtesting group. Playtest it with people in your target group, so you can determine wheather it a good and fun game or its just like the others.

5. Do not be afraid to kill your child. Reiterate, change it brom the bottom. That is how you get to strip down all the mechanism or thematic chains that bind it to the ground.

6. Do not make a big game from the start of your journey. Start with small ones, and make many little games.

7. Play a lot of board games and analyse what they did right, why you liked it.

8. Nothing can prepare you for blind spots, so its always nice to start or find in your design journey designer buddies so you can work on projects together. 2 minds an achieve more and faster. Find the one that you and the other designer feel the right person to cooperate, and be a good communicator and set goals...

9. Playtesting is a process of refinement but it can drag you down if you do not find new people especially for blind testing. Find out in you regular playtestings as well as in your blind playtestings about your game by filming them with a mobile phone, your or someone elses.
Its a huge deal to see the people playing your game. Its gonna give you clues that will NEVER appear in your questionaire.

10. Have fun during the process but sldo try to be (or to find out how to be) a proffessional about it. At the end you want your product - your design to be publishable.
Do the work on playtesting with a lot of people, also online via tabletopia or tabletop simulator.
Find companies that you can pitch it, listen to their feedback, gather 3-4-5 feedback and start reworking your game if it isn;t published by then...


All these are gathered by some personal experience, experience from game designer friends that hae published more games than me and from bg companies that i have worked in the past or heard advice.

Also not all advice will be customed tailored for you, keep the principles,go forward and enjoy the ride...
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A B
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Underneath every game is a mathematical mechanic

The job of the designer is to disguise that fact

it helps if you can seperate the 'theme' from the mechanics



99% of game mechanics have allready been invented, perhaps find a game with a similiar mechanic to yours and play test 'your theme' with a proven set of mechanics.

Ultimatley your building a human operated computer, the humans in question need to enjoy the journey that your rowing boat computer facilitates...after all its thier hand on your deck (Scuse da pun)

For Galactica Magnifica the first thing i did was watch a dozen reviews and playthroughs of twilight imperium, a similiar type of game, I then purchased a copy of TI4, i used the components in that as a play test device for Galactica Magnifica. Having a physical approximation to hand really helps.

Different designers have a different aproach, my computing/math background allows me to seperate the mechanics from the theme, the other KEY aspect is to wear a 3rd hat, learn to see the game from an uninformed players perspective....its all to easy to get bogged down when you just wear one hat most of the time, the game will ultimatly suffer as a result.

Be a multi hat designer and the process will flow!







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Pelle Nilsson
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Corsaire wrote:
1. Having randomness that invalidates strategic and tactical efforts
2. Allowing edge cases to proliferate
3. Not thinking about fun


Sometimes 1 and 3 conflicts badly though.
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Gavin Kenny
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I think the number one mistake is to keep adding complexity to a game, when in fact most games need complexity removed from them. This causes several other issues with a design.

1) Making the game longer than it needs to be
2) Making the game harder to learn
3) Making niche case decisions that 99% of the time don't really matter
4) Making a game more likely to suffer from AP

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Chris Robbins
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I would guess that the most common mistake is assuming anyone will buy it.
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Matthew Proper-Lee
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Based on Kickstarter campaigns created, I'd say "I can make a game that is similar to Monopoly or Cards against Humanity and it'll be an easy success with just 4-6 months of work while I'm in school/working".
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Sight Reader
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pelni wrote:
Corsaire wrote:
1. Having randomness that invalidates strategic and tactical efforts
2. Allowing edge cases to proliferate
3. Not thinking about fun


Sometimes 1 and 3 conflicts badly though.

Which, of course, is where the elegance and art come in...
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Aitor
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Trying to fit too much stuff into your design. Too many variables, too many resources... Development often increases the complexity of your game as you add rules for fixing problems or for making improvements. So, if the scope of your game was too big from the start, you often end with a bloated mess of a game.

Thinking too much about the chrome (special powers, spells, and other cool stuff) before having a working base system.

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Gláucio Reis
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gavken wrote:
I think the number one mistake is to keep adding complexity to a game, when in fact most games need complexity removed from them.

This. One thousand times this. You can often recognize first-time designers by the unnecessary complexity of their games. It's extremely common on Kickstarter.
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marc lecours
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GSReis wrote:
gavken wrote:
I think the number one mistake is to keep adding complexity to a game, when in fact most games need complexity removed from them.

This. One thousand times this. You can often recognize first-time designers by the unnecessary complexity of their games. It's extremely common on Kickstarter.


Absolutely agree. I just wanted to emphasize this even more.

The fun part of game design is thinking up all the things you can add to your game. But unfortunately that does not make a good game. The trick of brilliant game designers is how to add realism and thematic flavour without adding complexity and game length.
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Sarah Trice
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Corsaire wrote:
1. Having randomness that invalidates strategic and tactical efforts
2. Allowing edge cases to proliferate
3. Not thinking about fun


Your #3 is subjective, what even is fun? Fun can be different things to different people. It is still a valid point though.

They likely confused interesting or intriguing or intellectual with fun.


Not listening to feedback when there is clear evidence that some part of the game isn't working

I like to ask my playtesters to answer the question "What are you trying to fix?" if they are offering advice on how to fix the game.
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Eric Brosius
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My favorite 18xx game for six players is two games of 1846 with three players each.
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cardgamedesign1 wrote:
I like to ask my playtesters to answer the question "What are you trying to fix?" if they are offering advice on how to fix the game.

Tom Lehmann says that playtesters are much better at finding problems than they are at finding solutions to those problems. What you describe is focusing the playtesters on where they can add the most value.
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Pelle Nilsson
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cardgamedesign1 wrote:
Corsaire wrote:
1. Having randomness that invalidates strategic and tactical efforts
2. Allowing edge cases to proliferate
3. Not thinking about fun


Your #3 is subjective, what even is fun? Fun can be different things to different people. It is still a valid point though.


The fun is usually the only thing that matters in the end (with some rare exceptions like if your game is made to make some political point or be educational etc...).

Possibly most common mistake: Ignore how fun the game is to play, and instead design only based on some dogmatic checklist of what a game must be like to be "elegant" or "modern". You might impress fellow well-educated game designers, but if play(test)ers are falling asleep at the table that is no excuse.
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Laura Creighton
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rubberchicken wrote:
GSReis wrote:
gavken wrote:
I think the number one mistake is to keep adding complexity to a game, when in fact most games need complexity removed from them.

This. One thousand times this. You can often recognize first-time designers by the unnecessary complexity of their games. It's extremely common on Kickstarter.


Absolutely agree. I just wanted to emphasize this even more.

The fun part of game design is thinking up all the things you can add to your game. But unfortunately that does not make a good game. The trick of brilliant game designers is how to add realism and thematic flavour without adding complexity and game length.


The real lesson here is to know the audience you are trying to sell to. So, if rubberchicken, GSReis and gavken are representative of the market you are trying to sell to, then by all means look for ways to shorten and simplify your game. These sorts of customers really like it when you do. But if you are making a economic sim, or a wargame, then you have a different target audience, who mostly want their games longer and not all that streamlined -- more realism! is the cry here.
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Ian Allen
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Not having a clear set of fundamental design goals before you start. What do you want the players to do in your game and how do you want to define a winner? What design constraints do you want to emphasise? Having a clear understanding of what you want to create and what you don't want to create will help you achieve many of the secondary goals, like matching your target audience, finding elegant solutions, and avoiding bloat.
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Sven Obermaier
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Not knowing why you work on a board game (design) is possibly the one thing that creates most uncertainties hence mistakes (and waste). Understand your drivers and who you are doing this for.

For example, I just wanted an idea of a board game professionally produced to have it for myself. That drove nearly all decisions and when to do what.
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