Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bored Games - 1

This past weekend I invented a new board game.  The idea hit me on Friday night and I ran to the computer to jot it down so I wouldn't forget it.  Much to my wife's chagrin, I became obsessed with it and spent most of the weekend with my sketchpad, doodling designs and ideas for the rules.  On the other hand, she came up with some great ideas to help flesh it out, too - she's a great brain-stormer.  Then I hit the computer with my old copy of Actrix 2000* and worked out the details of the board.  I've since printed out everything and I'm just waiting for a time to test the prototype with my wife and daughter.  I'll tell you more about the game when I've got it nailed down better.

When I started to write fiction last fall, I started reading books differently.  I didn't just read them, but I started to analyze how the authors brought me into the world.  How did they mix action with description?  How much detail was there?  Like my last game (a card game that's sitting in a basket - it wasn't bad, just not great), this game made me think about how other games work.  What makes them good or bad, fun or boring.  I started to think about the pros and cons of various games:
  • Monopoly - one of the best games ever invented.  Pros: Not too complicated, so anyone can play. Strategy matters.  Element of chance makes it unpredictable and exciting.  Cons: Takes forever to play a game.  You need to be in the mood for several hours of game play.
  • Life - Pros: Not too complicated.  Educational for kids.  Cons: Very little unpredictability.  Very little strategy.  Dull for adults.
  • Risk - Pros: Strategy matters.  Element of chance makes it unpredictable and exciting.  Cons: Takes forever to play a game.  Screw up your strategy at the beginning of the game and you play a long, agonizing game where you know you're doomed.
  • Pictionary, Cranium - Pros: Fun for groups.  Even bad artists can play.  Lots of laughs.  Cons:  Need at least four people to play and more is better.
  • Specialized Games with wordplay, etc. - Some are fun, some wear thin after the novelty is gone.  Also, the larger your vocabulary, the better you do, like Scrabble.
  • There are tons more, but you get the idea.
For me, a great game has strategy, a short learning curve, unpredictability, and the chance to mess up your opponents.  It generates laughs.  It doesn't take hours to play a single game and doesn't get boring.  It doesn't require you to buy an expansion pack with more stock questions (think Go to the Head of the Class or Trivial Pursuit (although this is a great, classic game)).  Two of my favorites are Labyrinth (board game) and Rat-a-tat-cat (a card game).  Both are simple, strategic, can be played with 3 people and it's still fun, let you mess with your opponents, don't require any special intelligence or training, generate laughs, and can be played inside of an hour.

I've wasted enough time and money looking for games like this.  I hope my latest one accomplishes these goals.  We'll see.  I'll keep you in the loop.  If you know of any that I haven't found yet, let me know.  I'm always looking.

*Actrix 2000 is a diagramming product I helped develop years ago when I worked for Autodesk.  I still find uses for it and I'm constantly amazed at how good it is for a variety of tasks.

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