Hi folks! Welcome to Fun Problems Issue #4, the newsletter for board game lovers.
This week we have:
Board game design tips from Peter and Sara
A shared easter egg in Dominion and Ticket to Ride: Europe
Air, Land & Sea, a 2-player tactical game with a strategic withdrawal mechanic
Weird history: the origins and legacy of the word “check”
Your game's design space
Hope you like it!
— Peter, Sara, AJ & McKinley
Game Design Tips
Cull your components to make your game more appealing to publishers
If you’re designing your game with the intention of pitching it to publishers, you should be paying attention to your game’s components.
While publishers do genuinely enjoy playing games, they’re also running a business, and your game’s manufacturing cost influences their decision on whether or not to publish it.
Components cost money. The more cost-effective your game is to produce, the more appealing it is to publishers. Before you pitch your game, see if there are any components you can reduce, combine, or get rid of entirely.
Do you have a big cardboard standee that’s just there for aesthetics? Get rid of it.
Do you have two different types of currency tokens? See if you can combine the mechanics so you only have one type of currency.
Not only does this reduce the price of your game and make it more appealing to publishers, but designing with restricted components in mind can often lead to interesting and unique game mechanics.
— Sara Perry & Peter C. Hayward
Board Game Easter Eggs
Essen: The easter egg city
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 talked about Essen, the city in Germany that holds the world’s largest board game convention. Despite barely being one of the fifty largest cities on the continent, it appears on the Pandemic map as one of the seven that represent all of Europe. But that’s not the only board game Essen makes a cameo appearance in!
Here it is on the Crossroads card in Dominion:
Most games that feature Europe will show Essen on the map in place of larger cities in the same area, such as in Ticket to Ride: Europe (below).
— Peter C. Hayward
Air, Land & Sea: The tactical 2-player game
Air, Land & Sea delivers a remarkably deep game for two players using only 18 cards. Each round, 6 cards are dealt to each player, and the remaining 6 are left unused. You will know the deck pretty well after only a couple of plays, but the unused cards mean you never know for sure what your opponent could have in any game.
Each turn you play a card to one of the three theatres of war (the titular air, land or sea) or, if you don’t think you can win the round, you can concede it.
The earlier you concede, the fewer points you give your opponent. If things aren’t going your way or you get dealt a rough hand, it’s best to strategically withdraw before you’ve played too many cards.
This game feels a little like poker. Every card you play is raising the pot, and you can intimidate an opponent into conceding or slow roll a good hand to get more points. Layered on top of that is a tight tactical game where careful use of your cards can turn a weak hand into a winning one.
— A.J. Brandon
Every single use of the word “check” traces back to chess
Whether you’re checking your luggage, signing a cheque, or checking yourself before you wreck yourself, your actions go back to chess, where “checking” the king means stopping his free movement. See also “checks and balances” as limits on political power.
The word’s spread is convoluted, but one way to limit someone is to stop them and examine what they’re doing carefully. So check = examine.
And if you want to prevent someone from stealing your coat, you would be given a token at a coat check. A token that represents your rightful ownership is how we get cheque/check in the money sense.
But how did “check” come to be used in chess in the first place? Well, it’s the move before the king is defeated, “check mate”. And “check mate” is a mispronunciation of the Persian phrase “shah mat” – “the king is dead.”