Hi folks! Welcome to Fun Problems Issue #3, the newsletter for board game lovers.
This week we have:
Board game design tips from Peter and Sara
An easter egg in Pandemic
Dealt!, a ladder-climbing game with a few juicy twists
Weird history: The Egyptian mummy with his own passport
Common mistakes beginner designers often make
Hope you like it!
— Peter, Sara, AJ & McKinley
Game Design Tips
Solve one problem at a time
So, after playtesting your game you’ve found a handful of problems that you need to fix. You probably have ideas for ways to fix those problems. That's good! Buteven if you can think of potential solutions for every problem, don’t try to implement them all at once.
Changing just one aspect of a game will ripple through the entire design. If you change one thing at a time, you can trace the direct outcome of that change in your next playtest. Changing more than one thing at a time makes it almost impossible to identify the effect of a specific adjustment.
After a playtest, list out all the problems your game currently has. Figure out which one is the biggest, and solve it before your next playtest. Afterwards, you can measure the outcome, pick a new biggest problem, and go from there!
— Sara Perry & Peter C. Hayward
Board Game Easter Eggs
Essen from Pandemic
I love it when creators add “easter eggs” to their games. Hidden nods to other things they’ve created, or clever references to media – anything that rewards you when you go hunting.
Essen is the tenth-largest city in Germany. That’s big, but not significant. (The tenth-largest city in the USA: San Jose. In Australia? Wollongong.) So in the board game Pandemic, why is Essen one of the seven cities shown to represent all of Europe?
London, Paris, Madrid, Milan, Istanbul, St Petersburg... Essen. One of these things is not like the other!
Essen holds a special significance to board gamers: it hosts Spiel, the largest board game convention in the world. In the US, the con is just referred to as “Essen”, and a lot of publishers plan their year around it.
When Matt Leacock was putting the Pandemic board together, he decided to give the city a nod, and allow it to be destroyed by a deadly plague.
I’m sure Essen is very grateful.
— Peter C. Hayward
Dealt!: The game where you can't rearrange your hand
Dealt! is a ladder-climbing game (get rid of all the playing cards in your hand by playing a higher-scoring set than the previous player, eg Tichu, President) with a few juicy twists.
The most obvious of these is being unable to rearrange the position of the cards in your hand; they must leave as they’re dealt to you. When you play a set (1–3 consecutive cards, or 1–3 cards of the same kind) you can only use cards that are grouped together. For instance if you had a 5,10,5 you couldn’t play the two 5’s as a pair until you played the 10 on its own.
This leads to some really interesting situations, such as playing a weaker set in order to connect a stronger one. For example: Imagine you’re holding 4,5,6,4. You could play a run of 4,5,6 but then you’ll be stuck with a standalone 4. You could play 5,6 as a run one turn, then a pair of fours on a subsequent turn. And some cards allow you to add cards to your hand: generally you wouldn’t want to do that (remember, the goal is to get rid of all your cards), but you can add them in any position, unlocking some really powerful plays.
— A.J. Brandon
The passport of Ramesses II
(Image is a mock-up created by Heritage Daily. The actual passport is not publicly available, so we don't know what it looks like.)
Ramesses II is widely regarded as the greatest pharoah Ancient Egypt ever had. He was known to the Greeks as Ozymandias, so you might know him via the poem ("Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair"). He died in 1213 BC and was entombed in the Valley of the Kings.
Three thousand years later, in 1974, archaeologists wanted to send his mummified body to Paris – they were worried it had been infected by a fungus, and wanted to keep it from disintegrating.
Since Europeans had a habit of plundering archeological treasures from other countries, Egypt was worried they might not get their mummy back. So, they made sure its paperwork was all in order, and it was clearly designated a citizen of Egypt. Ramesses II was issued an Egyptian passport, with his occupation listed as "King (deceased)".
Fun Problems Podcast
Podcast: More common mistakes new board game designers make
Board game design is a deep and often challenging pursuit. In Fun Problems, A.J. and Peter explore all aspects of game design and the fun problems (and solutions) that come with it.
In this episode, A.J. and Peter continue discussing the most common mistakes they see new designers make. From playtesting to pitching, they cover common pitfalls and pro tips to improve your designs.