9 things about game-design I wish I knew
Board game design is a fascinating and challenging process, and throughout my journey so far, I've learned a few things I wish I had known when I started. This post is a collection of my personal reflections and insights, and I hope it might trigger some thoughts among those who read it. This is by no means a comprehensive guide, and the advice I offer is purely based on my own experience with Mayab.
1. Know what you want from the game: It's a philosophical question, but I think it's essential too. Take some time to reflect on the type of game you want to create and what kind of experience you want players to have. This will serve as a foundation for your design decisions, will guide the development of your game, and keep it focused.
2. Know your audience: As your game develops, you'll receive conflicting feedback from different people. It's difficult to design a game that everyone will love, but it's essential to understand your target audience. For example, I learned about the distinction between Euro and American-style gameplays, and I realized that my game Mayab is leaning towards American-style. Knowing this has been valuable in guiding my playtests and feedback. 3. Don't overinvest in prototypes: It's easy to fall into the trap of investing too much time and effort into your prototypes, making it difficult to make changes later. Keep in mind that the gameplay value of a mechanic should not be based on the perceived value of the prototype production!
4. Remove mechanics that are rarely triggered: If a mechanic only happens once or twice during a game, it is probably unnecessary and can be removed to streamline the gameplay.
5. Make the game exciting from the start: If the excitement in your game doesn't begin until turn three, consider starting on turn three instead of building up to it. In my case, I made changes to the setup of Mayab to address friction in the opening, and now players can select a few tiles to open around their starting location even before the first round.
6. Make rewards feel earned: Good things happening with players don't feel that good if they feel inevitable anyways. They should feel like they were earned, and the perceived effort that 7. Reward players for narrative progression: Not everyone will be equally invested in the game's narrative, so adding in-game bonuses to reward players for progress narratively can help make the game more enjoyable for everyone.
7. Reward players for narrative progression: Not everyone will be equally invested in the game's narrative, so adding in-game bonuses to reward players for progress narratively can help make the game more enjoyable for everyone.
8. Avoid pushing players towards a particular playstyle: Providing players with too powerful abilities can restrict them to a specific role, leading to a repetitive experience over time.
9. Embrace the worst playtests... but take a break before making changes. Most of this list actually came from exactly those occasions. The trick is to give yourself an emotional space and cool down for a few hours or days, so then the learnings can be absorbed after.
In conclusion, I want to say a big thank you to the wonderful people I've met on this journey, including Matt, Shawn, and many others who have shared their experiences and knowledge with me. As a game designer, I'm still a work in progress, but definitely a slightly better one because of them!