Skip to Content

Barriers: Player recruiting/retention

8 replies [Last post]
Joined: 02/16/2010

Hi guys, I just recently posted and thought I would share some of my current work and see what thoughts you folks may have to contribute.

So a short backdrop to why the question presented below is so valuable to me. Recently I looked for ways to decompress from school. I am undertaking a titanic work load and no longer get to leave the house much or even see my wife. With both of us hard at work and so many goals waiting to be met I returned to game design as a method of relaxation.

As I am sure many of you that have been doing this for years, or decades, most assuredly have observed breaks alter or enhance perspective. When a break of a few days or months is taken perspectives change and the scope of a project can become far more digestible. I ended my long absence from design after only 4 months but I assure you it seemed like an eternity.

The QUESTION then. While I am more than happy with my knowledge about design and mechanics concerning my particular flavor of games I am always looking for new ways to research "solutions" in game design. The topic I have dedicated myself to for the next few months is "Barriers"

Specific Definition: The barriers that prevent players from returning to a game after playing or becoming familiar with it. The barriers that prevent players from playing a game when given an initial chance (assume the conditions were favorable..say...bored..perky..well fed..and no distractions).

While there are a HOST of common or obvious answers (and indeed books devoted to those more mundane reasons). I am more interested in YOUR personal insights.

This is a VERY broad topic so do yourself a favor and read the posts of others. It will prevent repetition and contribute greatly to the overall value of this topic.

On my own I have come up with some fairly interesting thoughts on the idea of player recruiting/retention but I'm absolutely certain you folks have insights into the matter I have not yet considered.

Please, share, and thank you.


Word Nerd
Word Nerd's picture
Joined: 02/02/2012
Why I Won't Play It Again

(1) I don't like cheaters. I won't play a game again if cheating is accepted as a winning strategy.
(2) I like variablility. A game that plays the same way every time (e.g. Snakes & Ladders) is not interesting to me; I like a game that gives me alternatives to explore (e.g. Chess).
(3) I like a challenge. I won't play a game again if it's too simple or easy.
(4) I like to play for fun, not so much to win. I like Scrabble, for example (difficult to cheat, has variability, highly challenging), but there are some people I will not play with again (e.g. Sandy) because they take thirty minutes or longer to take a turn. I'd rather play two or three quick games than one very long game where I spend most of my time waiting for someone else to complete their turn.
(5) I don't like games with lots of fiddly bits that are easily lost or damaged (or swallowed by pets). A game with pieces missing has become unreplayable.
(6) I don't like to be eliminated. Games like Monopoly, which require players to be eliminated to determine a winner, are not very interesting once you're out of contention. After investing an hour or more in a game, I'm not keen to wait around and watch the last two players see-saw back and forth for another hour to determine a winner. Yawn.

Joined: 10/13/2011
Barriers to return /

Barriers to return / replay...
Availability of other players, lack of connection with the theme art or mechanics, strategy exploit that unbalances game, unfamiliar game group with many house rules for said game, mood

Barriers to trying / demo...
Current playtesters don't look happy/enaged, person demonstrating the game is holding the rulebook, not appealing (either game type or overall theme), quality of finished product is not up to expectations (i.e. I expect PnP games to be printed on paper with uneven cuts; I expect Mayfair games to be printed on sturdy cardstock, etc.), obvious attempt to slap a popular theme on a poor game mechanic

Joined: 04/23/2012
Retention and Recruiting

Things that keep me playing:
1. Challenging games (Arkham Horror, with expansions)
2. Strategic games, or games with little to no randomness (Agricola with card drafting)
3. Fun or good art, this is not a deal breaker if gameplay is good but it definitely helps keep me interested.
4. Variation. Nothing keeps me playing more than a game that never setups the same or playing out the same way.

Things that make me want to STOP playing:
1. Too much randomness (Catan)
2. 4+ hrs long, this is okay when teaching a new game though can still make new players disinterested. There are some long games I enjoy, but they have to have enough positive traits for me to continue playing them.
3. Open ended rules, opening up the game for ridiculous strategies, unless it works into the theme of the game. (Munchkin) House rules can also alleviate some of these issues, but if you have to have way too many house rules to balance a game, then something is wrong.
4. One of the biggest things that stops me from playing games (including video games) is repetition. If I'm playing a game, I want it to be somewhat different every time or things change throughout the game as you're playing. If a game is repetitive, I get bored insanely fast.

This is just a small list and I could expand on it, but nothing else is coming to mind at the moment. Plus I'm at work.

Joined: 04/13/2010
Don't wanna play again if: 1.

Don't wanna play again if:
1. Only one path to victory - same strategy every time
2. Too random - "oh, you rolled a 6 you are out of the game"
3. Too not-random - the same player who knows the game win every time.
4. Locked Strategies - if you start of with one strategy but then have to change (because too many other players compete within that strategy or events change the playingfield) this should be possible and still lead to victory. The first few rounds should not lock your strategy for the rest of the game.
5. Too little player interaction - some of the traditional deck builders suffers from this in my mind.
6. Too rule-intense - not fun to have to pick up the rulebook all the time
7. Too much downtime - not fun to sit around waiting for other players to act.
8. Boring theme - but this may be overcome by good game mechanics


Joined: 02/16/2010
A good pint to expand on

dabuel "Boring theme - but this may be overcome by good game mechanics."

Could you present us with some instances of this? Perhaps one example and why you felt this way? I don't want to distract from the main question here but that is an excellent point and hotly contended amongst designers. There is no right or wrong answer here. I am just interested on your thoughts on the matter.

I.E.: Some would claim that the THEME, artwork and game materials, is the key to success. Others claim that nifty rules and reflexive game play are the core of any good game.



Joined: 11/24/2009
It's not always the game itself.

The other posts address the game itself, but I think personality conflicts, busy lives, and differing ideas of what is fun play a major factor into how well a group holds together. We've had a small steady core in my gaming group but it seems to have been taken over by "collectors": people who seem to enjoy owning, perhaps even over playing. Most conversations on my BGG guild "clearwater boardgamers" revolve around buying something new.

I think there is a great degree of narrow-mindedness in a collector group against things that aren't a finished product. Play-testing is something I can ask one other person in my group to participate in every time, and everyone else I try to give it in small doses.

Joined: 04/13/2010
Lofwyr wrote:dabuel "Boring

Lofwyr wrote:
dabuel "Boring theme - but this may be overcome by good game mechanics."

I am not particularly interested in the theme in "Hive" (, but it is fun to play as a filler!

Joined: 12/07/2011
Some of these have already been said, but . . .

For components, I think setup times can be prohibitive, but that's usually a result of the complexity of setup rather than the number of pieces, per say. Whats most important is that players easily understand what they need out of the box and where it goes.

Player elimination is a huge negative for me. I usually play with a group of 4-6 friends, and it's never fun to be eliminated and sit around and you wait for everyone else to finish. It's never fun when someone throws in the towel on the second turn because they've been statistically eliminated, so we tend to play games which allow as many people as possible have a relatively competitive chance to win for as much of the playtime as possible.

I typically like games where chance is an equalizer, but not a determinant. I want to feel like my actions and strategy had the largest impact on the outcome of the game while the game allowed people of different skill levels to be competitive. Maybe the die roll doesn't go my way in the end, but I want to feel like my decisions influenced the odds of that roll work in my favor.

Interestingly, I find that some games which push the boundary between luck-determined and strategy-determined can be incredibly addicting. If I feel like I had a great strategy and would have won if things had gone just a little bit differently, I usually want to play it again so I can prove my strategy (or a variation of it) is viable. Sure, it always sucks to lose that way, but I'm obsessed with trying to figure out how to tweak my strategy afterwards, I'm hooked. Usually, you think of people replaying games because of their positive experience, but sometimes the right kind of frustration can be a powerful way to get people immersed in your game. The best thing a game can do is make me incessantly ask, "What's the best path to victory?" and leave me with many intriguing possibilities but no definitive answers.

I like intense competition (both direct and indirect), but "mean" games usually suck (in my opinion). When the competition is so aggressive and direct that it becomes abrasive and personal, it usually stops being fun (and this can be a tone/theme issue as much as a mechanics one). More fundamentally, games where players compete to see who is the most brutal and ruthlessness rather than who has the most wit and creativity end up being a dull and predictable race to the bottom.

Syndicate content

forum | by Dr. Radut