Why Boardgame?

My Final Major Project is based on one of my key interests: Board Games. Since my childhood, I used to like them very much. At first, of course, the most accessible games to play: throw the dice, move the chip, then I advanced to “Monopoly”. After that, I saved up to from my school lunch to buy “Cluedo”, my daydream. The game I literally bought to play alone after school, because none of my friends at that time really wanted to play board games. I ended up learning to play a lot of games alone. Boxes clearly said “2-4 players”, but I was eager enough to play for different people.

a picture from one of DnD sessions
I have never played “Cluedo” with real people because I grew up and stopped loving the game. When I found friends who love board games, they introduced me to a million different directions in which this activity can go. And I still sometimes buy games to play just with myself, long, complicated, time-consuming games, which require a lot of thinking and hours of preparation.

Now that I am on my final year in BHSAD,
I thought that it might be interesting to make a board game myself. Something that will accumulate my favourite characteristics of board games, something that will be “my dream game”. And that was my starting point: a game which I would like to play, a game which will meet my demands both with mechanics and aesthetics.

scans of what I found
Also already after I’ve started my FMP, I found an old printed version of a game I’ve tried to make for my friends and me around 6 years ago. It was horrible and we never actually played it. Still, the fact that I’ve wanted to make games before was both surprising and reassuring.
Since the beginning of the course, I’ve been trying to do some work, which will be interactive. My Place Project was an interactive illustration, both of my Size Matters were aiming for interactiveness, our Odyssey performance was involving the viewers. It seems just logical to do a game for FMP now.

Field Research:
Dive into the boardgame world

The first and the longest step of my research was watching the lectures on board game design, mechanics and player experience.These lectures helped me to gain more knowledge in the spheres of game design. I learnt about types of mechanics, designing the rules, annoying rules, psychology in game design and structures used by designers.
I have also watched some lectures on computer game design because they were relevant in terms of visual, mechanics or approach.
Most of the lectures contained crucial information for the future development of my project. Information from those lectures was consciously and unconsciously used in the creation of the game.

Some of the key notes:

  • variable winning strategies are essential, as is the future replayability of the game;
  • types of components (cards, chips, board) should be limited to not more than 2-3;
  • apples to apples types of games are boring;
  • turn-taking is vital for socialising during the session;
  • is balance important for your game?
  • pattern completion: players remember the rules better if they form a more comfortable pattern;
  • locations you know might be a good source of inspiration for game locations;
  • ritual building inside the game: same to pattern completion;
  • exceptions in rules and mechanics are helping people to cheat within the rules, which raises the interest;
  • games, provoking the dialogue are harder to learn but more enjoyable to play;
  • the core interest of mine is social deduction games;

List of Best Lectures:
GDC: Building a Paper Prototype For Your Narrative Design GDC: Secret Hitler: Designing Conflict & High-Tension Moments
GDC: Death to the Three Act Structure! Toward a Unique Structure for Game Narratives
GDC:  Board Game Design Day: Board Game Design and the Psychology of Loss Aversion
GDC: How Board Games Matter

GDC: Magic: the Gathering: Twenty Years, Twenty Lessons Learned
GDC: Storytelling Tools to Boost Your Indie Game’s Narrative and Gameplay
GDC: How to Make and Self-Publish a Game in 12 Months
GDC: The Art of Firewatch
GDC: Nuke Possum Springs: A Night in the Woods Design Postmortem
GDC: The State & Future of Board Game Design

GDC: Creating Strong Video Game Characters

GDC: No Time, No Budget, No Problem: Finishing The First Tree

PAX: Mastering Game Mechanics

PAX: Designing Game Rules - PAX South 2016
PAX South 2018 – Balance in Game Design

PAX: Game Mechanics and Mechanism Design

PAX: Beyond Dungeons & Dragons

PAX: PAX West 2016 - The Grind - Full Panel

Geek Nights: Indie RPG Spotlight - Shock: Social Science Fiction

MAGFest: Rare Game Mechanics
MAGFest: Tabletop Game Mastery: Beyond Candyland - MAGFest 1TED: How video games turn players into storytellers | David Cage
TED: What Can Storytelling Teach Us About Creating Connection? | Doug Lipman | TEDxWilmingtonSalon


As from the beginning of Level 6, I had a slight idea that I will do a board game as my FMP, I’ve tried to plan and do some research before the beginning of the project. On top of the lectures I’ve watched online, I went to a board game convention in Moscow.
Igrocon is a yearly festival dedicated to board games, the last time I went, there was around four years ago. This year I’ve decided to go to research for my future FMP. 

It is a three-day convention, where most of the boardgame publishers present their new games, sell them and organise playing areas for people to try new games or enjoy the ones they already love. There are also some independent small game publishers, people selling their handmade game accessories or some wild hand-crafted games. The last time I went there, it was a small convention, crowded, but still a more underground event. This year it seemed enormous, there were so many people that we had to stay in line to get a table and play. Of course, it is not like ComicCon or even 1/4 of it, but it was much bigger than I expected.

custom game storage boxes
crazy setups of minis from war-gamescrazy set up with minis from war games
I visited a couple of lectures there, but most of them were sadly useless. The most useful of the whole convention was some random dialogues with people in line and game of Carcassonne we’ve played with the game technician. The games played on the tables were mostly famous games translated from other languages, sadly, the Russian market is still small. Though Cosmodrome Games presented some of their new games there and there was a couple of tables for Spyfall, a game made by Ukrainian publisher. Though this game is quite old and been on the market for at least 6 years.

Game Sessions

When I understood that I am making a board game for my FMP, I’ve started thinking, that for my research I need not only to watch lectures and read articles but also try and go playing board games with others.
Although most of my friends are as passionate about board games as I am, it’s been a problem to find some time to play. Thouth I did finally manage to involve them in my research.

One of the games I’ve picked to play was Munchkin, we ended up playing it for about 7 hours in a row, with short tea and cigarette breaks. We’ve tried altering the rules, cheating and so much more. Some of my observations proved the important psychological points from the lectures I’ve watched. One of them was about breaking the rules. However, the other one was about rules and rule explanations, because even though we’ve played for 7 hours, there still was a friend, who refused to join because of the complicated mechanic.

munchkin session

Munchkin is a card game, and it does let the players cheat, exchange cards, help each other in-game fights, even bargain for real things (offer your real cookie in exchange for help in the game). Its mechanic is quite flexible, and it gives the players a lot to speak and argue about. This is a valuable quality for my future game.

Secret Hitler
Another game that we’ve played was Secret Hitler. It is one of my primary FMP references both as a good mechanic and beautiful design. A separate page of this project log will be dedicated to that game, so I won’t go into details.

 preparing the print and play
The way we played it with my friends though was quite illustrative. So, as this game is quite complicated, I had to read the rules out loud and be a moderator of the game session. I was not participating in the game, and the role of a moderator was not signified in the rules. However, I knew that for such complex games with lots of different rules and variations, sometimes for a couple of first sessions one player has to be watching and helping others play.
It is a board game club which organises weekly board game sessions, they also do Warhammer, DnD and Magic the Gathering. I took part in a couple of their Board Game sessions. Among the most important notes, I’ve made was that game with storytelling or social aspects to them have a much higher entry barrier. However, after the game, people are more willing to talk to each other and spend quite a lot of time discussing the game. And after simpler card games or games with strict rules, that don’t require much communication, players socialise with each other less.
It was quite obvious even before I went to sessions, thought it was good to have evidence.

Mechanic Research

I did a lot of writing in the previous sections describing my personal experience. I won’t do this in later sections, but it seems relevant for the research.There are so many types of game mechanics that instead of retyping all of them or copypasting them here I made screenshots of the examples presented on BoardGameGeek.com

And because it was unrealistic to try and research all of the mechanics, I took ones that interest me (based on lectures I have watched and games I have played) and examined them closer.

The list of mechanics I am interested in (with examples of games):
  1. Acting (Charades);
  2. Communication Limits (Codenames);
  3. Deck, Bag and Pull Building (Munchkin);
  4. Action Timer (Boom!);
  5. Hidden Roles (Mafia);
  6. Hidden Victory Points (Puerto Rico);
  7. Legacy (Gloomhaven);
  8. Cooperative (Arkham Horror);
  9. Narrative Choice (Tales of the Arabian Nights);
  10. Negotiation (Dimpomacy);
  11. Role-Playing (Dungeons&Dragons);
  12. Storytelling (Time Stories);
  13. Voting (AndThen…);
  14. Prisoner’s Dilemma (Diplomacy);

And some explanations for the more complicated terms (also copypaste from BGG+some of my notes). 
  1. Legacy
    A multi-session game in which permanent and irreversible changes to the game state carry over to future plays.
  2. Cooperative
    Players coordinate their actions to achieve a common win condition or conditions. Players all win or lose the game together.
  3. Narrative Choice Multiple action options are presented to the players via a narrative format.
    A simplified version of DnD, very similar to the next mechanic: Storytelling. 
  4. Storytelling
    In storytelling games, players are provided with conceptual, written, or pictorial stimuli which must be incorporated into a story of the players' creation.
  5. Prisoner’s Dilemma
    Each player has a choice between Cooperating or Defecting. Total payoff is maximized if both players Cooperate, but if one Defects and the other Cooperates, the Defector will score more individual points.
    It might be hard to understand until you play a game with this mechanic or watch a video of people playing.