Skip to Content

Making a FUN board game

23 replies [Last post]
DraconicParagon
DraconicParagon's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/14/2018

I'm stuck right now on all of my board game projects I'm currently working on. I have two games that have been playtested a lot and are fully functional, fully playable... but... they aren't "fun".

My local board game design group (we meet weekly) has helped me refine these games and I've gotten them down to pretty smooth and functional games, but as I said above, they don't give me the same level of fun that I get from other games. And I'm the kind of player who can play almost anything and enjoy myself (I don't win a lot of games but usually just the fact that I'm sitting down with some friends and playing something is enough for me to have fun, as long as the game looks good, and even a few games that don't look the best but are well designed [I'm looking at you Trajan])

My group keeps telling me they have the most fun with board games that gives players interesting decisions, and I agree I enjoy games that do that as well.

I dunno, any thoughts on this?

MAR
MAR's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/23/2017
Well just a quick thought.

Well just a quick thought. Did you have fun at one point with your game? Do others have fun with it? It is possible that you consider your game a chore or work instead of fun. For me, lets say I've been working on a game for a while, I would rather play a different game for fun to mix it up a bit. Just a few thoughts.

Thanks

Austin

Jay103
Jay103's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/23/2018
Can you give some details on

Can you give some details on a game that's not fun?

DraconicParagon
DraconicParagon's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/14/2018
I guess I should clarify... I

I guess I should clarify... I am very passionate about my games and can spend a lot of time working on them and thinking about them and enjoy every bit of time I spend working on them. But when it comes to playtesting them, things work fine, the game plays as I imagined it would, but no one seems to be having fun. And I guess I'm the kind of player who gets a lot of enjoyment from playing a game if everyone is having a good time.

DraconicParagon
DraconicParagon's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/14/2018
Nope. I definitely enjoy

Nope. I definitely enjoy working on my game and am very passionate about my projects. But when it comes to the playtesting it doesn't seem that others are enjoying it. They always give good critiques and suggestions on what to change to improve the gameplay experience and I always try and incorporate what I find to be good feedback, etc.

Maybe I need to playtest with a new group? lol.

DraconicParagon
DraconicParagon's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/14/2018
Jay103 wrote:Can you give

Jay103 wrote:
Can you give some details on a game that's not fun?

Games that take too long between player turns where you have nothing to do. Games that pretty much play themselves (some co-op games where the optimal play is always the best play so why even bother sitting there and play?) Back-stabbing games where players continually get targeted for whatever reason.

Jay103
Jay103's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/23/2018
No, lol, I meant

No, lol, I meant specifically. I think you have a general grasp of things that a game needs, so the question becomes whether or not you have a blind spot for your own games.

Can you post the rulebook for a game that's a problem for you?

Jay103
Jay103's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/23/2018
DraconicParagon wrote:Nope. I

DraconicParagon wrote:
Nope. I definitely enjoy working on my game and am very passionate about my projects. But when it comes to the playtesting it doesn't seem that others are enjoying it. They always give good critiques and suggestions on what to change to improve the gameplay experience and I always try and incorporate what I find to be good feedback, etc.

Maybe I need to playtest with a new group? lol.


Do they seem to enjoy other people's games in the same context? I mean, where they're thinking about giving feedback and so on?

DraconicParagon
DraconicParagon's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/14/2018
Jay103 wrote:No, lol, I meant

Jay103 wrote:
No, lol, I meant specifically. I think you have a general grasp of things that a game needs, so the question becomes whether or not you have a blind spot for your own games.

Can you post the rulebook for a game that's a problem for you?

Sure! Here are the two I think are close to being publishable

Island People - Your clan is not the only one that has begun to settle this isle. With limited space and limited resources, whose clan will build villages quickly enough to control the land and rise to the top?

2 - 4 players, 30 - 45 min.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zthPPj8oAENp3OF0-ogd298FT7qyK1banenr...

Stellar Colony - Select your planet. Choose your gear. Establish your colony.

Survive.

Player with the most Influence at the end of the game is inducted as Commanding Officer and wins. Unless the Colony is destroyed first…

Stellar Colony is a 1 to 4 semi-co-op game with deck building and tower defense-like elements; ages 12 and up.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1s3HskhH7JjMQSGSGvBDqbwEjS7MUiIpfZkjw...

Fertessa
Offline
Joined: 07/18/2018
I've found that I can't

I've found that I can't measure the level of fun my main playtesting group has in comparison to playtesting groups, because we value different types of games as fun. I like over the top dramatics in my version of fun, and look for that when I playtest my game. It took me a while to learn that I may never get that from my main group, because that's just not their style.

To bring it back to your game, first you need to decide if you and your friends have the same definition of fun. And that doesn't mean you enjoy the same games. It means when they are playing a game you enjoy, is their energy level the same as yours? This will tell you that if they enjoy your game, you will be able to tell by their natural reactions.

So if your game is supposed to be the same type of game they enjoy and they don't seem to be having fun, then the fault is in the design, and not the testers. It doesn't hurt to playtest with different people, but also don't use different testers to dodge critiques or reactions to your game. It's really easy to say, well my friend didn't like it, but that person does, so it balances out.(Not to say you would)

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
I get that a LOT!

Surprisingly with my prototypes, I'm always SHELVING them because my OWN playtests reveal them to be "uninteresting". But "shelving" doesn't mean that the design is "dead"... It just means that it goes on the back-burner while I work on another design instead, all the while, thinking about that design in the back of my mind... To see what I can think up which will take that game in a NEW and "exciting" direction.

So yes, this is a "real phenomenon" that occurs: game works but is boring.

I usually have this problem when a game is "TOO SIMPLE". And then injecting more elements to the game proves to be a challenge (What to add???). I've had this with "Battle Card Games" (Duals) where the game didn't have enough content to make it a VIABLE game.

My advice is either: A> continue to work on the design by ADDING more elements to the "core" game OR B> shelve the game for a bit and work on another one of your designs. See if you can get new and fresh ideas for your shelved designs!

Fun is VERY "subjective"... But we ALL know what it is. Even if it is different to each player... Having a game to be "FUN" is essential if you plan on selling the game commercially.

Cheers!

Note #1: BTW you should be able to figure out if your game IS "FUN" during your OWN "playtests". It's like "TradeWorlds": every time I sit down for a playtest, I am amazed how GOOD the game is and how much I ENJOY the game, even if I am playing all 4 Players (depending on what it is I am playtesting).

Same goes with a 1 Player "Adversity AI" game I just played about 1 week ago... I enjoyed the experience, even if I was not 100% certain about the rules... Since the AI was developed by our Developer (Joe Pilkus). Anyway I took it for a spin ... and even if there were some elements that needed clarification, OVERALL I had "FUN" playing against the AI.

Even if "FUN" is subjective, you can pretty much realize when playtesting that hey, "This is enjoyable" or "Haha Take-That" or "Aha this is how this works", etc. You'll find moments which surface something deeper in the strategy of the game.

Note #2: And don't get DISCOURAGED when a design fails to impress. That too happens all the time: an IDEA for a game sounds AMAZING... If you do a QUICK prototype and playtest it and ... it's crap. Happens all the time too! (LOL)

Just give some of your designs time to "mature".

What this means is that from Pool "A" of ideas, wait until you have a Pool "B" of NEW ideas to replace and/or add the old mechanics or elements.

You'll see ... I'll give you an "concrete" example.

Example: I have been working on a "new" design, while I await latest corrections for "TradeWorlds". And this design was supposed to have 2 clear and distinct Phases. The first Phase was supposed to be a "Dungeon Crawler" with "Game Tiles"... So far, so good.

Phase 2 was supposed to be a BATTLE with a Level Monster.

Well my "Game Tiles" just didn't work... How do I choose the letter I need??? Searching a pouch for a Letter ("Game Tile") would be tedious. So I shelved the design for a few months.

Then I started thinking about "Player Boards"... To track points, etc. And that's when the IDEA came to me: Use a Player Board to TRACK the "Game Tiles"!!! This was fantastic because instead of SEARCHING for a "Game Tile" (Think Letter), I just add +1 on the Player Board and it is DONE!

Look for SMALL "Victories" in the design, re-shape it slowly... With NEW ideas that give your game more "depth"...

DraconicParagon
DraconicParagon's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/14/2018
questccg wrote:Surprisingly

questccg wrote:
Surprisingly with my prototypes, I'm always SHELVING them because my OWN playtests reveal them to be "uninteresting". But "shelving" doesn't mean that the design is "dead"... It just means that it goes on the back-burner while I work on another design instead, all the while, thinking about that design in the back of my mind... To see what I can think up which will take that game in a NEW and "exciting" direction.

So yes, this is a "real phenomenon" that occurs: game works but is boring.

I usually have this problem when a game is "TOO SIMPLE". And then injecting more elements to the game proves to be a challenge (What to add???). I've had this with "Battle Card Games" (Duals) where the game didn't have enough content to make it a VIABLE game.

My advice is either: A> continue to work on the design by ADDING more elements to the "core" game OR B> shelve the game for a bit and work on another one of your designs. See if you can get new and fresh ideas for your shelved designs!

Fun is VERY "subjective"... But we ALL know what it is. Even if it is different to each player... Having a game to be "FUN" is essential if you plan on selling the game commercially.

Cheers!

Note #1: BTW you should be able to figure out if your game IS "FUN" during your OWN "playtests". It's like "TradeWorlds": every time I sit down for a playtest, I am amazed how GOOD the game is and how much I ENJOY the game, even if I am playing all 4 Players (depending on what it is I am playtesting).

Same goes with a 1 Player "Adversity AI" game I just played about 1 week ago... I enjoyed the experience, even if I was not 100% certain about the rules... Since the AI was developed by our Developer (Joe Pilkus). Anyway I took it for a spin ... and even if there were some elements that needed clarification, OVERALL I had "FUN" playing against the AI.

Even if "FUN" is subjective, you can pretty much realize when playtesting that hey, "This is enjoyable" or "Haha Take-That" or "Aha this is how this works", etc. You'll find moments which surface something deeper in the strategy of the game.

Note #2: And don't get DISCOURAGED when a design fails to impress. That too happens all the time: an IDEA for a game sounds AMAZING... If you do a QUICK prototype and playtest it and ... it's crap. Happens all the time too! (LOL)

Just give some of your designs time to "mature".

What this means is that from Pool "A" of ideas, wait until you have a Pool "B" of NEW ideas to replace and/or add the old mechanics or elements.

You'll see ... I'll give you an "concrete" example.

Example: I have been working on a "new" design, while I await latest corrections for "TradeWorlds". And this design was supposed to have 2 clear and distinct Phases. The first Phase was supposed to be a "Dungeon Crawler" with "Game Tiles"... So far, so good.

Phase 2 was supposed to be a BATTLE with a Level Monster.

Well my "Game Tiles" just didn't work... How do I choose the letter I need??? Searching a pouch for a Letter ("Game Tile") would be tedious. So I shelved the design for a few months.

Then I started thinking about "Player Boards"... To track points, etc. And that's when the IDEA came to me: Use a Player Board to TRACK the "Game Tiles"!!! This was fantastic because instead of SEARCHING for a "Game Tile" (Think Letter), I just add +1 on the Player Board and it is DONE!

Look for SMALL "Victories" in the design, re-shape it slowly... With NEW ideas that give your game more "depth"...

Thanks! I think this was what I needed to hear. It's always comforting to know 'you're not the only one'. Ya know?

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
You're definitely NOT THE ONLY ONE!

DraconicParagon wrote:
Thanks! I think this was what I needed to hear. It's always comforting to know 'you're not the only one'. Ya know?

That's why I SHELVE stuff... sometimes for years. But still if I want to take a look at that design, I just open up the Excel Spreadsheet or the Text Document, etc.

It's a process... creating a game. Things don't just magically WORK together... You are the Master, it takes time to hone your craft, and in this case a specific DESIGN.

Cheers and again don't be discouraged... Work on something NEW, maybe!

Update: Usually there is one or two GREAT components in a design... Things that are like real good... But somehow the design doesn't work as a whole... This is like SPARE PARTS in a Car Garage... You can try those "Mag Wheels" and see if they fit on this Design and sometimes you can BORROW elements from other designs and make a "mash-up" of several designs together...

I find that some elements are so cool... I expect to use them at some point in the future... On some other design.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Offline
Joined: 02/07/2011
Risk/Urgency

From what I gather in the descriptions, something in my gut tells me that your game(s) lack a sense of urgency, or something at risk.

Do you feel like your players have something to care about in the games?

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
Trying to UNDELETE!

I had an awesome Mini-Mech game ... with five (5) missions. Now while I can find the "mission cards", I can't find the TXT document with the missions or the Cardbacks to the Mission cards. It's really frustrating, because I REMEMBER DELETING the folder... Or what was in it.

And right about now, I would like to take a second look... But like I said, I purposely delete the folder... thinking: "Meh, those are not files that I need!" DAMN IT!

DraconicParagon
DraconicParagon's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/14/2018
let-off studios wrote:From

let-off studios wrote:
From what I gather in the descriptions, something in my gut tells me that your game(s) lack a sense of urgency, or something at risk.

Do you feel like your players have something to care about in the games?

Good questions for sure. I hadn't really thought about this other than trying to tell a story with my games. Maybe I'm focusing too much on narrative?

DraconicParagon
DraconicParagon's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/14/2018
questccg wrote:I had an

questccg wrote:
I had an awesome Mini-Mech game ... with five (5) missions. Now while I can find the "mission cards", I can't find the TXT document with the missions or the Cardbacks to the Mission cards. It's really frustrating, because I REMEMBER DELETING the folder... Or what was in it.

And right about now, I would like to take a second look... But like I said, I purposely delete the folder... thinking: "Meh, those are not files that I need!" DAMN IT!

My computer is littered with folders like this. I can't delete anything, I just put it in a folder labeled "Old" lol

Jay103
Jay103's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/23/2018
DraconicParagon wrote:My

DraconicParagon wrote:
My computer is littered with folders like this. I can't delete anything, I just put it in a folder labeled "Old" lol

I have so so many folders and backups and versions of stuff just for my one game.. I should maybe streamline that a bit.

(I keep the whole thing on a 32gb usb stick.. upgraded from the original 8gb one when I filled it.. Photoshop files are BIG!)

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Offline
Joined: 02/07/2011
Tension, Not Plot

DraconicParagon wrote:
Good questions for sure. I hadn't really thought about this other than trying to tell a story with my games. Maybe I'm focusing too much on narrative?
Well, all stories have a beginning, middle, and end. But the really good ones have tension as the driving force.

I can't tell from your descriptions how the mechanics provide for interaction or competition between players. But there should likely be some way for players to attempt to have more of something than the others, or be more effective at something than the others. If it's a co-op game, then there must be something that prevents players from succeeding at their task and/or overarching goal.

If you're seeing this as an issue, there may also be a lack of tension due to the winner being determined long before the game has ended. If there's no chance for competitors to be in competition against one another, then there's no uncertainty as to the winner of the contest, and therefore no tension. Shorten the length of the game if necessary. Or limit resources of some kind. Or sand-bag the leader. Or find some way for a last-place player to stay competitive (this is called "rubber-banding," as in that player can "bounce back" from distant last place).

Beware "kingmaking," however: the ability for a last-place player to essentially choose who wins a game between the first- and second-place players. That's not seen in a positive light, since the winner ends up losing the victory not because of their closest competitor, but someone not even in the race.

Lack of tension could also be caused by lack of control. If players don't feel like the choices they're making have some kind of impact on their success (or that of other players), then it's as if they just randomly threw the dice, or drew a card from the deck in Candyland.

Maybe you need a time limit. Are players permitted to accept a leisurely pace in the pursuit of their objectives?

Is there progression, maturation, or growth (not just in moving closer to the end of the game)? Do players feel a sense of becoming more powerful, or have more options available, because of their previous actions?

If this line of thinking seems to be heading somewhere, then I recommend you prioritize tension instead of narrative regarding your players and the way they interact.

DraconicParagon
DraconicParagon's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/14/2018
let-off studios

let-off studios wrote:
DraconicParagon wrote:
Good questions for sure. I hadn't really thought about this other than trying to tell a story with my games. Maybe I'm focusing too much on narrative?
Well, all stories have a beginning, middle, and end. But the really good ones have tension as the driving force.

I can't tell from your descriptions how the mechanics provide for interaction or competition between players. But there should likely be some way for players to attempt to have more of something than the others, or be more effective at something than the others. If it's a co-op game, then there must be something that prevents players from succeeding at their task and/or overarching goal.

If you're seeing this as an issue, there may also be a lack of tension due to the winner being determined long before the game has ended. If there's no chance for competitors to be in competition against one another, then there's no uncertainty as to the winner of the contest, and therefore no tension. Shorten the length of the game if necessary. Or limit resources of some kind. Or sand-bag the leader. Or find some way for a last-place player to stay competitive (this is called "rubber-banding," as in that player can "bounce back" from distant last place).

Beware "kingmaking," however: the ability for a last-place player to essentially choose who wins a game between the first- and second-place players. That's not seen in a positive light, since the winner ends up losing the victory not because of their closest competitor, but someone not even in the race.

Lack of tension could also be caused by lack of control. If players don't feel like the choices they're making have some kind of impact on their success (or that of other players), then it's as if they just randomly threw the dice, or drew a card from the deck in Candyland.

Maybe you need a time limit. Are players permitted to accept a leisurely pace in the pursuit of their objectives?

Is there progression, maturation, or growth (not just in moving closer to the end of the game)? Do players feel a sense of becoming more powerful, or have more options available, because of their previous actions?

If this line of thinking seems to be heading somewhere, then I recommend you prioritize tension instead of narrative regarding your players and the way they interact.

Yeah, I'm learning a lot of the terminology from the Board Game Design Lab podcast. I understood the concepts but it's good to know the vernacular as well. I just learned the term kingmaking last week. I definitely need to think about these things in my games. Thank you for the suggestions!

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
Viking Invasion

let-off studios wrote:
From what I gather in the descriptions, something in my gut tells me that your game(s) lack a sense of urgency, or something at risk.

To me, most euros feel like they "lack" in risk/urgency. Your villager game sounds like the a-typical euro. Now we all know that most "island" game end with a fiery volcano or something similar.

Maybe you could make it a bit "different". Like say that Icelandic Villagers populating a small island in the norther seas. Resources are rare during the "Winter Season" (Second Season). During the First Season (Fall Season), players try to "gather" sufficient resources to "survive" the Winter (like the Harvest). With the remaining villagers, you go into a "rebuild" phase (Third Season) during the Spring.

All that to explain that during the "Summer Season", your small island gets INVADED by Viking Hoards and you must protect your island from them.

Win condition: the player with the "most" villagers left is the winner.

let-off studios wrote:
Do you feel like your players have something to care about in the games?

Now each player CARES about his villagers and will do the best to PROTECT them during the summer assaults and as well through the harsh winter.

Again just a idea... You may want to DROP the "Seasons" and ONLY use the "Viking Invasion"... That too could work.

Cheers!

Note #1: This would amount to creating a AI that could handle how the invaders behave where they disembark, etc. It's not easy but will definitely "SPICE UP" your Island Villager game...

Note #2: If you LIKE the "Seasons" idea, well then you don't necessarily NEED the Viking Invasion. You could make the game about surviving a YEAR and the game starts in Spring and continues until Winter arrives... Because of the harsh conditions, you will lose villagers during this season... And you need to wait until the Spring season arrives to determine the winner.

Again the player with the MOST "surviving villagers" is the winner...

Another plausible outcome...

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
Viking Invasion (more)

Sounds to me like the most "probable" addition to your game (to keep it as simple as possible)... Would be the "Viking Invasion". Instead of thinking about a Fijian island, make it an Icelandic Northern island. You can maybe do a bit of re-skinning of the theme (maybe change some of the resources) like "Runic Stone", "Iron", "Coal", "Birch Wood", "Sheep", "Fish", etc.

These are just some ideas.

You could have "points" (think areas) in which the Viking Invaders will make landfall... So players will probably want to build their settlements as far as possible from those areas.

But the problem is that those locations are evenly placed around the island.

I know your game is very "Euro-Feeling". It's kind of just a "build" in a vacuum. No real "conflict" ... The "Viking Invaders" adds a bit of a WRENCH into the building process... It adds a sense of "urgency" like Let-Off (@Stephen) suggested...

I know your game is almost "final"... And adding an element such as an AI invading force... Will "seriously" affect your game. You asked for a more "FUN" game... Some of the BEST games are "Survival" games not just building games...

Food for thought!

Update: I personally like the name "Northern Shore Island". Gives the game a less "tropical" feel ... and something more "hostile", harsher weather conditions ... sets the tone for Viking Invaders! (LOL)

Why "Northern"??? Maybe that's the DIRECTION the Invaders come from... Could be an "angle"... That might help streamline the Invader AI...

DraconicParagon
DraconicParagon's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/14/2018
questccg wrote:Sounds to me

questccg wrote:
Sounds to me like the most "probable" addition to your game (to keep it as simple as possible)... Would be the "Viking Invasion". Instead of thinking about a Fijian island, make it an Icelandic Northern island. You can maybe do a bit of re-skinning of the theme (maybe change some of the resources) like "Runic Stone", "Iron", "Coal", "Birch Wood", "Sheep", "Fish", etc.

These are just some ideas.

You could have "points" (think areas) in which the Viking Invaders will make landfall... So players will probably want to build their settlements as far as possible from those areas.

But the problem is that those locations are evenly placed around the island.

I know your game is very "Euro-Feeling". It's kind of just a "build" in a vacuum. No real "conflict" ... The "Viking Invaders" adds a bit of a WRENCH into the building process... It adds a sense of "urgency" like Let-Off (@Stephen) suggested...

I know your game is almost "final"... And adding an element such as an AI invading force... Will "seriously" affect your game. You asked for a more "FUN" game... Some of the BEST games are "Survival" games not just building games...

Food for thought!

Update: I personally like the name "Northern Shore Island". Gives the game a less "tropical" feel ... and something more "hostile", harsher weather conditions ... sets the tone for Viking Invaders! (LOL)

Why "Northern"??? Maybe that's the DIRECTION the Invaders come from... Could be an "angle"... That might help streamline the Invader AI...

You're officially invited to my place to make all my game ideas better! Lol. These are great suggestions!

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
Glad you liked them. I do try!

DraconicParagon wrote:
You're officially invited to my place to make all my game ideas better! Lol. These are great suggestions!

I'm glad you liked them... I spend HOURS revising and reviewing all kinds of cards from "TradeWorlds". So I'm used to even re-factoring my own designs. I do it for different reasons... Sometime to lower the LUCK factor, other times to BALANCE the game, and in some occasions to ADD more challenge to the game.

That's usually the "toughest" revision... Because you've been working during a straight month to FINALIZE the rulebook... And low and behold... Another change (and a pretty serious one too).

But that's the thing about a game. It ain't final until you can say: "Haha... NOW it's perfect!" And sometimes I throw a "wrench" into my own designs... Just to see if I can make it any BETTER than it is already.

There always seems to be ... "just one more detail..." (LOL)

So you're very welcome with the ideas...

Cheers!

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut