Hi folks! Welcome to Fun Problems Issue #5, the newsletter for board game lovers.
This week we have:
Board game design tips from Sara and Peter
An architectural easter egg in 7 Wonders: Duel
Insider, a nuanced social deduction game
Weird history: a 1600-year-old dice tower
Elevator pitch analysis – what they do right and wrong
Hope you like it!
— Peter, Sara, AJ & McKinley
Game Design Tips
Getting better playtesting feedback
Running efficient playtests is a vital part of being a game designer. Knowing how to interpret and implement feedback is a nuanced skill. You can develop it with time and plenty of practice, but there’s one strategy you can implement right away to get better feedback from your players: make creating a safe gaming environment your first priority.
If everyone feels welcome at the table, they’re more likely to invest in your game and stay engaged with the playtesting process. Players are more likely to share their open and honest feedback with you if they’re not scared of your or another player’s reaction.
Here are a few ways you can create a safer gaming environment:
Make it clear players can stop the playtest whenever they want to.
Don’t get defensive when players give you feedback.
Make sure everyone at the table is being kind to each other.
Don’t brush anyone off, and genuinely listen to what your players have to say.
The table’s energy and creativity are always better when everyone is encouraged to participate and be honest with each other.
— Sara Perry & Peter C. Hayward
Board Game Easter Eggs
Essen in 7 Wonders: Duel
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.
Lately we’ve been talking about Essen, the city in Germany that holds the world’s largest board game convention. Essen plays an important role in the board game industry, so it’s no wonder it pops up in all kinds of games! But I think my favourite Essen Easter Egg is this promo card for 7 Wonders: Duel.
The ‘ancient’ building in that image will look very familiar to anyone who has ever been to the Essen Convention Center.
— Peter C. Hayward
Insider: A nuanced social deduction game
Insider mixes the old folk game “20 Questions” with a social deduction game (e.g. Werewolf).
Roles are handed out: the Master is given a secret word, while all the other players – the Commons – have to guess it. One of the Commons players is secretly also given the Insider role.
The Commons ask yes or no questions of the Master, trying to uncover the secret word within a time limit. They have a helping hand though: the Insider. The Insider knows the secret word, and must help the Commons team guess without giving away who they are. They lose with everyone else if the word is not guessed.
Here is where it gets interesting. In the next phase of the game, once the word has been guessed, everyone tries to figure out who the Insider was. So the Insider has to be helpful during the guessing stage, but not so obvious to the group that they get caught.
This is a wonderfully nuanced system, with a great deal more to work off of than most traditional social deduction games. It has you considering who guessed the word, who had minor breakthroughs, how quiet certain friends were, different threads of conversation, who hit dead ends – it’s endless! There is no perfect information to deduce the answer logically; it’s all about emotional intelligence and social skills.
— A.J. Brandon
Ancient Roman dice tower
Dice towers have two main purposes: they stop people scattering meeples all over the map with wild dice throws, and they make it harder to cheat.
The second purpose was probably more important 1600 years ago. That, and people have always loved to buy fancy accoutrements for their hobbies.
Known as the Vettweiss-Froitzheim Dice Tower, it was found between the modern villages of (you guessed it) Vettweiss and Froitzheim. In 400 AD, that was at the frontier between the Roman Empire and Germania.
Those three little slots at the front had bells hanging from them, which the dice would hit on their way out.
The front face of the tower celebrates a Roman victory, reading:
PICTOS VICTOS HOSTIS DELETA LVDITE SECVRI
With the Picts defeated, The enemy has been destroyed, So play in safety.
Around the top of the three remaining faces is the phrase: