Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Paper Craft Games

Our house has become something of a paper craft design centre.

My kids have started making board games full of 3D elements. I think they like making the games more than playing the games. 

This is a recent example. It's a roll-and-move game with no title. The goal is to get home (the little house in the corner) and it's full of exception rules that aren't known when we start playing. 

"You need the sword to do that."

"If you land here you pick up a card."

"You have to roll the exact number to land on the house."

Like I said, I didn't know any of these rules when we started playing. They just come up in play.

That's what it feels like playing some games with adults too. Some games have a few core rules that are easy to convey to new players, and then are followed up with truckloads of exceptions and addenda.

"But if you have the gem card and your team mate is in the blue sector, then you can't launch the missiles."

Honestly, I feel like I've played that game before. It's probably some nine hour board game with dice, cards, and a cult following. 

What's all this about? Why am I talking about the games that junior school children make? I'm making a plea to game developers. Don't make your game opaque. People want to play your game. If it's complex, fine, but find a way to communicate the exceptional nature of the rules to players. 

I guess there's also a responsibility for people explaining games to new players. Don't surprise them with rules exceptions. It's bewildering. I accept it from my kids because they're in junior school and still figuring things out. I don't want to accept it from adults. 

Ok, enough preaching. The other outcome from all this was my kids' first dungeon crawl. They seemed keen on playing something with a dragon and swords so I hastily cobbled something together.

I sketched a map, made some quick rules, and they made the scenery. Ok, so it was just the cage for the dragon. 

Anyway, they were two heroes - a wizard and a warrior - who were going to rescue their friend the dragon. I geared it around the typical crescendo model. First encounters are small with a reward that can be used later. Later encounters are tough boss fights. 

All the rules were written (fairly sparsely) on two pages, with a map on the third. See, I'm taking my own medicine about rules clarity.

And after all that, they enjoyed it! One of them tried hard not to smile. The other one asked to play it again straight away. 

"It's better than all the other games we made today, dad!"

Achievement unlocked. 

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