In this post, I am telling about the first week of the design and development process of my small-box board game. I also included within the text some quotes on Route Building games from an online source. Just below, you will find the brief of the project.
Create a small-box game with less than 10 minutes play time, rules understandable in maximum 5 minutes, for 2-4 number of players (can be specific); must include clear rules, required components' a game box and the project report/development diary, also to have an informative video on how it works would be nice to have.
Evaluation criteria: clarity of rules, novelty, engagement, respecting the guidelines, aesthetics and design.
Project report: Play-test notes, changes made over the course of time, reflections and critique on the work; in suitable format and >=1000 words; should include research notes from minimum 5 sources and minimum 4 case studies on other games (referenced correctly).
Submission Deadline: Friday, 27 October
I decided to start the project by researching on game design in general. I went through some of the literature in the library, and decided to start reading the books A Theory of Fun for Games Design by Raph Koster and Kobold Guide to Board Game Design and study the "The Design Process" section (pages 11-27) of the book Rules of Play by Salen and Zimmerman. You may find my notes on these texts in the blog.
In addition to conducting research on games design literature, through online search I learned about the rules and mechanics of all the board games that were played in the class and also the board games listed in the course preparation email which was sent by the course leader during the summer break.
On Wednesday, 10 October, after Dr. King's presentation on board game design, I scammed through the common board game mechanics online (from websites Shut up & Sit down and Board Game Geek) and examine the ones which I thought I might like to include in my project. Route/Network building mechanic called my attention, I looked into a few examples in this genre.
"There’s a satisfaction to seeing your route stretch out before you – a long line of wooden sticks, plastic trains or cardboard counters whose colour shows that you are dominating the board. But this is about more than just building your own line – it’s all about getting the best spot first." (Knighton, 2015)
I started the design process by playing with a regular deck of cards. I tried to come up with a system in which the players can build their routes by matching the cards which belong to the same sign. In my first concept, I intended having a high level player interaction by encouraging the players to exchange or barter the cards in between them. Every player would be assigned a sign, and they would try to build their routes matching the cards of their signs. Their goal would be invading a targeted land and then turning back home after invasion. I just did brainstorming and wrote down all the ideas that came up to my mind. Later on, I tried the same concept with colored cards (cards of 4 different color instead of signs) to make the game easier to play for the eyes. To make it more dynamic, I desired to have 2-colored cards, which could be played like Dominoes pieces by joining the sides with matching colors. Therefore, I replaced the colored cards with classic Dominoes pieces to try out and see how would they function in the game-play.
After playing around with the Dominoes pieces for constructing the pattern matching and route building mechanic, I realised that the gameplay was too linear. If I were to decide to use 2-sided colour cards for my board game, then the players would only be able to build a route forwards or backwards, which seemed dull. For that matter, I decided to create 3-sided, 3-coloured tiles. After making the tiles, I was going to see what kind of a building game I could make out of them.
I prepared the tiles superficially by using simple math. In every tile there are 3 different colours, in total there are 7 colours in the mini-game and each colour is used 9 times; meaning there are 21 tiles.
"You can see your coloured roads or tracks spread across the board, and enjoy taking in the scale of what you’ve built. There’s an instinctive pleasure that comes from building something up, from being able to see what’s going on in the game at a glance, and that’s something at which route building games excel." (Knighton, 2015)
I juggled between a few ideas until I could decide on a way to make use of my new colourful Dominoes tiles.
Idea-1: There are 4 players sitting at the 4 sides of a table. Their aim is to reach the middle of the table where the target is located, starting from the sides and building their way to the middle of the table utilising the tiles. During the game, the players should play the tile/s placing them on the table next to a tile with a matching colour. The tiles can be played only by joining the end sides of tiles, as seen in the visuals.
- The players draw the tiles from a closed pile (coloured side of a tile is not visible) taking turns, when it is their turn. OR maybe,
- The tiles are dealt to the players at the beginning of the game, and they bargain in between each other to be able to obtain the tiles they need.
Idea-2: There are 2 players sitting next to each other at one side of the table. They are aiming to reach the target which is located at the opposite side of the table, by building their route forwards. The target is located about 30cm. away from the starting point.
- The player takes a tile from the pile, but this time the tile at the top is open (coloured side is visible to the players), so they may choose to draw a tile from the closed pile or select the one which is open.
Idea-3: There are game characters assigned to each player and they walk on the route to reach the targeted destination. Also, each player is assigned a colour. When the colour of a player is played in the game (which means a tile containing the colour of a player is placed on the table) the game character can progress certain number of squares.
There were problems...
Problem of Idea-2: While the players were building their routes towards the target, the tiles were overlapping each other (a route that a players was building was coming on to another route which was built by another player) because the 3-sided tiles were not generating a linear patter, which was my intention at the beginning. I desired the route of a player to 'connect' with the other routes built in the game, not overlap. Since they were staring from the same side (next to each other) no matter how much I calculated the staring point gap between the players the routes overlapped during gameplay.
Problem of Idea-1: Since they were approaching the target from 4 different sides of the table, there were no overlaps. On the other hand, the gameplay felt too simple and dull. There was almost no interaction between players; every player minded building their own rode, the player who could draw better cards by luck reached the faster. The gameplay wasn't challenging nor interactive enough.
Reflecting on Idea-3: I was happy to have a relation between characters and colours, and I liked the fact that the players were now able to strategise on tiles. They had to be more careful when they were making a decision on which tile to select from the pile and place on the table. They did not want to play the colour of the opponent for not to give them opportunity to progress. This mechanic added an interaction between players, though the dynamics were not functioning well. There wasn't enough motive to move the game character until the end of the game; the player could wait until their route reached the target, then count the time that their colour was played and then replace the character. This situation generated a meaningless game object standing still through out the gameplay.
To be able to deal with all these issues, primarily the issue of the overlapping routes (Idea-2) vs. completely separate routes (Idea-1), I decided to remake the tiles; this time cutting more even shapes to be able to recognise better the patterns that the routes create. Plus, the colours were visible from the back of the tiles; for the next time wanted to make sure they were not. For more effective game testing, I needed a higher quality prototype.
Knighton, A. (2015). Board Game Mechanics: Route Building. [Blog] boardgameprices.com Board Game News. Available at: https://www.boardgameprices.com/articles/board-game-mechanics-route-building [Accessed 17 Oct. 2017].