Designing Great Board Games

Identifying & Designing Great Games

I’ve been play testing a lot of games, both ours and others.  It got me thinking about how, or at what point, do I know a game is good or great?

Here are the five things that a good or great game needs to do:

Poses a situation(s) where I don’t know the right answer

Great games place players in situations where there is no absolute correct answer or path.  The game pivots on a decision made by a player.  The game could have turned out differently had the player done something different at any of several points.  A game shouldn’t have one tipping point or climatic event.  It should have a series of them.  Games that do this well normally have high replayability.

If I find myself plotting and planning ahead when it’s not my turn

If I find myself deep in thought when it is not my turn, it is normally the sign that I am playing a great game.  Whether I am plotting what I can do, or trying to run through all my responses to all the possible moves my opponent(s),  If I find myself playing when its not my turn, it’s a good sign that the game has depth and strategy components.

I cared if I won or lost

If I play through a game and had not a care in the world about winning or losing, the game didn’t challenge me or didn’t get my attention.  I went through the motions to finish it.  On the other hand, if winning the game felt good, or losing felt bad(i got unlucky or did myself in), it is normally the sign of a well designed game.  If I can look back and see points where the train jumped the track, or how the path to victory was paved, the game got me invested in playing.

After the game, I thought back to pivotal moments in the game and how I could have played them differently

If i find myself looking back at a game and going through my own move and/or responses to moves, it is a sure sign that it was a good game.  It is also a sign that I want to play the game again and began to see the method in its madness.

I am convinced if/when I play again I can play better

This doesn’t have anything to do with the type of game.  The game could be luck based, but I still feel as if there are things I could correct in my own method of play that would have effected the outcome.  If a game makes you be critical of your own play. especially in victory, then its a sign of a great game.  If you can’t think of ways to improve your play after playing a game a few times, the game probably doesn’t have much depth.

I’m sure there are many other elements and/or traits great games share.  Perhaps enough for a second blog post about it in the near future.  Until then, Happy Gaming!


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