For those of you who read my previous blog post, you may have been wondering why we devoted 3 hours each week to playing board games in class.
For these babies:
They might not look like much in their boxes, but they are the result of hours of work by individuals and partners, slaving over rule sets and playtesting sessions to create kick ass board games for our Game Theory Analog class.
The requirements were simple (not really):
- Interesting or unique concept.
- Core mechanics that match the theme.
- Game mechanics that lead to fun and interesting decisions for the target audience.
- Play-test documentation
- Clear, easy to understand and logical rules – with game play examples and images.
- Boxed game with neatly stored components and functional artwork.
- In-Class Presentation of the goal and core mechanisms of the game, as well as the evolution of the game from conception through to final prototype.
- BONUS POINTS for anything that exceeded expectations.
Most of the pictures in this post were all taken on the night of our final presentations. Having play-tested each other’s games, it was interesting to see the changes students had made based on our suggestions. Take for example, Nicha’s game – Cockroach Hunter. I’ve played it twice, and it’s rather delightful.
Originally, Nicha used these little black beads to represent the cockroaches that players must collect – first to 30 wins.
Game prototypes aren’t supposed to look pretty. If you spend too much time perfecting artwork for components in the early stages, when you’re likely to keep changing around what components are and how they’re used, then you end up having to do double the work and wasting time. All components need to be is functional, so that you can test out the game mechanics to see whether they affect gameplay the way you thought they would and if they’re fun.
In Cockroach Hunter, players have hands of 5 cards. Cards can either be weapons that are played to kill cockroaches, or disrupter cards that allow you to stop other players mid-kill. Players can draw new cards from the deck, or swap cards from their hand with any of the 5 cards that constitute the ‘floor’ and are placed face up on the table.
This was Nicha’s first playtest of the game and the deck was immensely unbalanced as she had created too many disrupter cards. This meant players were stopping each other from killing cockroaches, stalling gameplay progress.
Nicha jotted this feedback down on her play-test documentation and for her next iteration of the game, reduced the number of disrupter cards.
Nicha explaining the core mechanics of her game.
Protip: diagrams are SUPER useful, kids. They make explanations way easier to digest, since you don’t have to keep track of all these new ideas in your head and can visually interpret them instead.
Another presentation. This is Jeremy presenting his board game, Sanctuary.
Oh boy did I have fun being the first person to blind play-test his rules (I was playing with Danilo, but he opted to not read the rules… which allowed me to easily beat him. Hehe.)
His rules were about 3 pages too long, the diagrams and explanations of the components were in different parts of the booklet to the set up and general rules (leading to lots of flicking back and forth), the rules lacked flow and were organised into walls of text and as such, it was difficult to understand how to play.
But this happens to everyone when rules are first written. You come up with your game idea and rules, you think it’s brilliant, you scrawl out the structure and guidelines and you feel like it’s perfect. Then you allow another set of eyes to run over it and BOOM. A billion screechy bugs that threaten the fun and playability of your game.
Jeremy, Danilo and I laughed lots about his rulebook and during his presentation, Jeremy said that his rules had become more concise and organised.
Throughout all the presentations, Jay (our Game Theory Analog teacher) asked questions to clarify aspects of the mechanics that hadn’t been fully fleshed out.
We students were encouraged to do the same.
Rafe and Andrew worked together on Restore the City. Andrew used an Uncle Fatih’s pizza box as the container for their game.
Not everyone chose to use powerpoint in their presentations. Like Guerric. His game was called Motivation.
Which makes using hand gestures all the more important.
I didn’t get the chance to play-test Jakobsen’s game, Father’s dead…
And yes. The ellipses are necessary. Says Jakobsen… but look how cool his cards are! Boss Whale is boss.
I LOVE Mulan. She is my idol. I want to BE Mulan.
Reference hint: the verse on the bottom of the card comes from a Mulan song.
Kat and Tim’s game Providence consists of 4 decks – fire, water, air, earth – each controlled by a different player.
When I play-tested their game, I had the air deck. What we discovered by the end of the game was that the air deck was greatly unbalanced as it didn’t offer enough cards for progress in the early game, allowing all the other players to easily bypass me. Furthermore, it limited the actions I was able to do, lessening the amount of fun I had.
Keegan made Rosetta’s Stone, a word puzzle game.
I play-tested his game twice, and each time my concerns mainly revolved around balancing gameplay by reducing uncertainty of outcome and increasing uncertainty of opportunity.
That and his rules needed expanding so that players could clarify what were and weren’t legal moves.
I also didn’t play Semin’s game, but just by looking at it I feel like it’s the most adorable game ever.
I mean come on, it’s called KITTENS!
Adir and Chema made Reactor#4, a post-apocaltypic zombie that starts off as a collaborative game, then transforms into a competitive game in the final stage.
Their game was really fun to play as it was fast-paced, had amusing cards and because the group I played with were purposefully trying to constantly go to all the dangerous areas. This meant more monsters spawned, but it also allowed us to get better items and brought us closer to the team-win condition quicker.
Daniel and Sean made Bad Bad Bullies.
Can you guess the theme?
Game board and playing cards.
Scott and Spencer made Pants on Fire, a cross between Poker and Bulls**t.
In their presentation, they detailed how their game idea originally involved sliding across ice – a far cry from the mostly abstract card game they ended up with. Out of everyone in our class, I think they went through the most game ideas and longest evolution, since they started working on their prototype fairly early.
Nick’s sketch of me in class, snapping away. I passed my camera on to Jakobsen for the next lot of photos.
Because look! It’s Nick and Jaymee!
In Make-a-Mini-Mega-Mutant-Monsterus, you add monster parts to your Monsterus (monster fetus) to create the strongest monster baby by Labour Day! But beware of sicknesses and other obstacles that you and your fellow pregnanteers will inflict on each other’s’ Monsteruses!
I was inspired by Gloom to use transparent cards to layer body parts, sicknesses and their points on the Monsteruses.
Nick did all the super cute artwork.
I initially wanted to make a card game that used fantasy folklore as an analogy for the trials and tribulations of pregnancy, intending it to be educational, but I realised that the more realistic I wanted to make it, the less fun it would be. We also took ideas from one of Nick’s initial board game ideas, Race Cards. The major one was the idea of customisation, which became the core mechanic of our game and the most fun one. Players loved adding dinosaur, tentacle monster, fancy tuxedo etc. parts to their baby – as well as being disruptive other players and removing parts from their Monsterus.
In our first play-test, we quickly realised that we needed to tighten up our rules. It was a blessing to have George and Nicha, two non-native-English speaking classmates play-test our game because it forced us to be particularly clear in our writing.
I really loved creating Make-a-Mini-Mega-Monsterus and I particularly enjoyed working with a partner, because if I’d worked on my own, this game would have turned out a lot different, since Nick was able to pin point holes in my ideas before I’d even implemented them into our game.
We got really great feedback from players who had fun, so I think after we graduate, I’d like to work more on our game and pitch it to publishers.
Jaymee Mak is a VFS Game Design Student and one of our Women in Games Scholarship winners