Hi folks! Welcome to Fun Problems Issue #9, the newsletter for board game lovers.
This week we have:
Board game design tips from Sara and Peter
Gameception in Agricola
Raptor: An asymetric game of outthinking your opponent
An interview with Cartouche designer Jeff Fraser
Cartouche is live on Kickstarter!
Hope you like it!
— Peter, Sara, & AJ
Game Design Tips
Finding the fun
When you’re designing your game systems, focus on the mechanics that players enjoy the most. You can design a core system that functionally works, but that doesn’t mean it’s engaging or exciting. To make your game the best it can be, lean into what’s fun and cut the rest.
I (Sara) was recently working on a game about building a farm. It made sense thematically that players should have to buy seeds, plant them, and then harvest them as actions. However, after a few playtests it was clear that players really enjoyed planning out how to plant their seeds, but weren’t engaged with the other mechanics. So I leaned into the planning aspect and let the other, less-interesting mechanics fall away. Now, instead of ⅓ of the mechanics being engaging, players are excited about the whole game. By leaning into what players were enjoying the most, my game became more streamlined and fun.
— Sara Perry & Peter C. Hayward
Board Game Easter Eggs
Gameception in Agricola
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.
Last month, we found an instance of a game being played within a game: gameception, if you will.
Well, Ice Cool isn’t the only game to contain itself! In Agricola, the inhabitants of one hut are playing...Agricola.
It seems farmers really like their Uwe Rosenberg games. In the newer edition, you can also see games of
Patchwork in progress!
— Peter C. Hayward
Raptor: An asymmetric game of outthinking your opponent
Raptor pits two players against each other in very different roles. On one side, you have the raptor player trying to get their helpless babies out of harm's way and fighting the scientists with the powerful mother raptor. On the other side, we have the scientists who are kidnapping the babies for science.
Both players simultaneously play a card. The lower number uses the card’s ability, and the higher number gets the difference between the two in action points. For example, if the raptor player played a 2 they might get to teleport a baby to the mother, and because the scientists played a 9 they now have 7 action points to move, capture babies, or tranquilize the momma.
The best move is to either play a number just barely below what your opponent does, or MUCH higher than them. This way you get the ability and they only get a few actions, or you get lots of actions. That’s easier said than done, though. You never know exactly what cards your opponent has in hand, and you don’t have access to all of your cards.
Raptor is partially about using your action points and abilities wisely, but also about outthinking your opponent and making surprising plays to catch them off guard!
— A.J. Brandon
Fun Problems Podcast
Podcast: Interview with Jeff Fraser
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.
Join A.J as he chats with designer Jeff Fraser about his experience codesigning Cartouche, rule book writing, the psychology of numbers, and more!
Hatshepsut ruled as one of ancient Egypt’s greatest pharaohs. Her successors tried to erase her from history, threatened by her success as both a woman and a pharaoh. They chiseled her image off stone walls, and her royal name – her cartouche – was removed from the murals.
In Cartouche, you're an archeologist restoring Hatshepsut's legacy. The twist: in this tile-laying game, the spaces you don't cover are just as important as the ones you do. Each round, you'll draft tiles and arrange them to restore murals, complete stories, and earn points.
To win, you'll need to choose where you place your tiles wisely. You'll earn points based on where you place your tiles AND where you don't place them, so to come out on top you'll need to weigh your options carefully.