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Thoughts on travel size/small format games

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ckleach
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Hey all,

I just wanted to get some feedback from board gamers and game designers about playing and or designing small format/travel size games with magnetic tops. This query was spurred on by my ongoing interest with pocket-sized versions of full games like Chess, Parcheesi, Chutes & Ladders, etc. I've always liked the idea but found that in long play sessions it gets really annoying. I think there needs to be a time limit to how long 2 people stay hunched over a 6x6 inch board with pieces smaller than a dime.

My game StormGate is a chess variant with a very short time of play. I have a 10x10 inch board with a 6x4 grid pattern. The game uses standard chess pieces; 6 pawns and 1 knight per side. The longest game recorded was about 15mins. Most games are done within 6-10 mins. Now I'm looking to offer a small format/travel size version of this game and I'm doing some homework on interest and implementation. This brings me to the questions at hand;

  1. Do you like or dislike playing on travel magnetic boards?
  2. Do you think there is a time limit factor for any small format/travel size game, barring the issue of space to play?
  3. How much are you willing, or already have paid for a good quality travel magnetic board game?
  4. If you have small format magnetic board game, what is it?
  5. What is more desirable (in general) - Small format wood board and peg game OR Small format plastic board with magnetic top game?

If you have any general feedback, please feel free to share, whether you answer all the questions or not. Thank you in advance for any feedback, folks. This will help me get a better grasp on interest in and perspective on designing small format/travel size game design.

Zanril
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Difficult

When I read this I think "why not just play a game on my Ipod like plants vs zombies or angry birds?"

questccg
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Limited use

Zanril wrote:
When I read this I think "why not just play a game on my Ipod like plants vs zombies or angry birds?"

I think the problem is MOST games that have A BOARD require MORE than just the tiny screen of an iPod or a Mobile Phone.

And I can actually comment on this based on some Development experience: I am working on a Nintendo DS/DSi game.

As you well know the DS/DSi is supposed to be a travel game system. Well the problem is, even with DUAL screens, the unit is still rather small. It's as if I could NOT design the game I wanted to build, instead I had to design a game that would work with the DS/DSi restriction (screen size).

The thing about travel games that I have seen is they are usually for multiple games like Chess/Checkers/Backgammon. I have also seen a version of Connect 4 for travel.

But I haven't seen many other magnetic games. Usually *card games* are great for travel because they maybe come in a tuck box and have a compact rulebook... I would dare to go as far to say "Magic: the Gathering" is a good travel game (once you build your deck) because you can place your cards in a 100 card plastic deck holder. So from that point of view, it's easy to bring such a deck along.

Again there is the question of table space. So maybe in a car, it wouldn't be practical to play a card game.

My conclusion is if you want to design something for a road trip, like being in a car or RV ... I think there isn't a big market for such games. I don't think magnetic games are very popular hits... The applications for it are rather small: car, RV, camping. Once you reach your camp site, most people want to do *outdoor* type of activities like canoe, swim, build a fire, etc.

This leaves only the time to go from point A to B (road trip).

Not sure how big the market is for a game made for travel?!

questccg
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iPad or Tablet PC

I guess the "travel" game industry is going the way of the *iPad* or the *Table PC*!!!

Those two (2) devices have a larger display surface than an iPod, Cellular Phone or mobile gaming system (like the Nintendo 3DS) and I'm thinking these might be the more natural progression for games that require a board.

Obviously games developed for those platforms are going to be good "travel" games. And battery life with the devices is pretty good nowadays - you even have battery chargers for the car.

So if I was a person interested in developing games for "travel" purposes, I would lean towards the iPad or the Table PC.

Again just my opinion!

Machius
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Hope some of this helps. I

Hope some of this helps.

I have to agree with many of the comments about digital board games taking over this market. Even beyond the basic short travel game stuff there are now many good boardgames with iPad etc. versions like Lords of Waterdeep and Pandemic.

But to the questions at hand.

1. I don't particularly enjoy playing on travel magnetic boards but I don't overly dislike it either, it's just something I see as the price for having/playing some portable games.

2. Yes, travel games to my mind need to be relatively short (maybe up to 30 minutes max), if I wanted a 1hr+ board game experience i'd want a large size board with decent quality pieces to go with it.

3. I would probably be willing to pay around $20 for a good quality magnetic board game, maybe $30 if it was an unusual game of excellent quality.

4. I own/have owned magnetic versions of chess, shogi, draughts and chinese checkers.

5. Personally I prefer the feeling and different shaped pieces you can have with a wood board and peg game. But magnetic tends to be harder to damage and easier to play with.

Black Oak Games
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I support tabletop/laptop travel games

First I'm curious about what direction you plan to take StormGate. Do you want to take it to publishers, publish it yourself, or just make a game that's fun for you and some friends to play? Let me warn you that if you're looking for option 1 or 2, a chess variant will be an extremely hard sell - most publishers specifically state on their submission pages that they have no interest in those - and I haven't seen a successful chess variant Kickstarter.

I don't intend to be negative at all, because you may have a great game. And I want to encourage your idea of making travel games, because I think there probably is a market there, however untapped.

While it's true that phones and tablets have taken a lot of that game space, there are still plenty of parents who encourage other formats, and would be happy to find something more interactive for their kids to do in a car... and plenty of adults who would be interested in that as well. One could argue that TVs, computers, and consoles have taken a lot of the tabletop game space, but we're still here, and growing!

Regarding your questions:

1. I don't like travel magnetic boards, but probably because the quality is always so poor that the magnets fall out of the pieces or are simply not strong enough, and the tactile feel of the boards is usually weirdly smooth (this may be showing my age though - haven't played many recently).
2. I think that if a market for these travel games is there or can be created, that market can handle different length games. How many people sit in the back of a car for hours on end? Or travel in a plane for the same length of time? I think short and long games would be good for that market. Rush Hour is a good example of a game already in that market, though it's a single-player puzzle game.
3. I have paid $10-15 for many small magnetic puzzle games for my kids, but they are typically single-player.
4. I've had Shogi and Chess and have several magnetic puzzle books (found in good small toy stores).
5. I personally would prefer a wood and peg game (Roll Through the Ages, Cribbage), and I suspect you could get a nicer inexpensive product that way than trying to get molded plastic pieces unless you had huge quantities. However, you might be able to do something decent with printed and cut magnetic sheets of pieces.

I hope this was helpful, and good luck!

ckleach
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I appreciate the feedback

Thanks, folks, for all the feedback and insight so far, and for answering the questions (if you have). I completely understand that the world is digitizing everything and travel gaming, and to a greater degree gaming in general is going.

I'm not trying to revive a supposedly dying practice but it's something that's been on my mind since I've started to come close to self publishing. It brings me back to a recurring statement that is often posed to me as I'm slaving away at the kitchen table. While cutting, and colouring and writing notes on paper... with a pencil... and drawing... with a pencil... and taping and glueing, "It'd be cool if you made an app for that game!" My nonchalant smile and nod followed by, "Yes, that would be cool" is all I can muster and not be drawn into a discussion. I can go on about this but that's another thread for another day. Probably already out there in BGDF space multiple times.

The flexibility to go beyond the physical restriction of table top gaming is always enticing, and travel games can never really fill that time between bus rides, back seats on trips and laying in bed at night. But then again, that's not who those games are targeting. The more I think about it the more I think pocket sized gaming is going the way of the dinosaurs, but companies like Hasbro (MB and Parker) are STILL releasing mini versions of their games. And all the knock offs of popular games like I had mentioned in my first post are STILL pushing out travel size/small format games.

There is a place and time, and I acknowledge that. The interest may be wavering but the offer of an inexpensive and mobile version of a game still has some draw to it. I don't know whether I'm banking on this or not to save on cost, but its relatively cheaper manufacturing and equally lesser sticker price is why I asked the question.

Interest vs. value vs. quality. Just trying to figure out why you people think and where your head is at regarding the topic. All your insights and explanations are great. Always like doing ground work before I dive into a venture. Especially when that venture incurs time and money with little to no ROI.

larienna
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It's true that Portable

It's true that Portable devices somewhat changed the need for magnetic board game. So they might be outdated.

Quote:
Do you like or dislike playing on travel magnetic boards?

Personally I like it. I remember having a small chess game and playing a lot of game with it. I could bring it anywhere and it was awesome.

Quote:
Do you think there is a time limit factor for any small format/travel size game, barring the issue of space to play?

It depends of your objective. If it's to play a game after lunch at school or at work, then yes a 15 minute time frame is very good. If it is to actually bring on a vacation or a road trip, then longer play time might be better.

Quote:
How much are you willing, or already have paid for a good quality travel magnetic board game?

I bought my magnetic board many years ago. Got rid of them recently. Mine were pretty small, I would have not mind a bit bigger. As a general guidelines, a travel game could cost at least half the real game.

Quote:
If you have small format magnetic board game, what is it?

The games I had were chess, backgammon and Checkers. Chess is probably the only game I played.

Quote:
What is more desirable (in general) - Small format wood board and peg game OR Small format plastic board with magnetic top game?

It depends of your objectives. If you want to be playable on a road trip, magnetic might be a better solution due to the amount of movement and the lack of table space. If not magnetic, you need somewhat to clip in the components or have some storage tray. Take a look at the catan travel game for example (which I currently own, but still not used)

ckleach
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Thanks for the feedback ...

Quote:
It depends of your objectives. If you want to be playable on a road trip, magnetic might be a better solution due to the amount of movement and the lack of table space. If not magnetic, you need somewhat to clip in the components or have some storage tray. Take a look at the catan travel game for example (which I currently own, but still not used)

Catan travel edition is a great example of what I'm getting at. Clip or magnetic fastening is a great way to keep all the board top pieces in place. I was thinking with my game that I can either go magnetic top of peg board style. The game only has 14 total pieces. I'll be using a foldable board so that the components can be stored while traveling.

McTeddy
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I'm not fond of magnetic

I'm not fond of magnetic boards, but I would potentially use them when travelling.

Time limit is always a factor in game design. For a travel game, I would generally expect it to take less time... but realistically... I wouldn't be playing a travel game unless it's a long trip.

I second the "I'd pay half of a normal board game" answer. I probably wouldn't pay more than 10-15 dollars for a game... and even then... it'd have to be very good.

I used to own quite a few. Everything from checkers to a version of monopoly. But, with the advent of electronics I no longer need portable versions of board games.

I'd probably find pegs more desirable for the sole reason that magnets are iffy with the motions of a vehicle. Although, neither choice is that important to me.

- - -

I do have to agree with people that the modern travel game is called an IPad. Electronics solves all of the concerns that come from actual travel games and allows for much more.

Even if there is still a market for small travel games... I think it'd be a money losing venture.

ckleach
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Good to know...

I'm getting a lot of feedback and quite a few personal and general aspects have been raised and rebutted. For the most part though, the general concepts seem to hold consistent for those for and against. I guess my post didn't include the use of iOS/Android gaming as the premise of this forum is for but not limited to analog gaming.

An electronic version of my game is almost a given because of convenience, and some people can't be bothered with a $30 physical copy that is limited to space, timing and company. But for those who enjoy the hands on approach I hope the travel size/small format game has some appeal, even if it's minor.

Thanks McTeddy

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