Deliberating on Decisions

Welcome Assassins. In my last blog I wrote about the “Plus, Minus, Times, Divide” tool that I have found useful. This time I would like to build on this and talk about another thought process.

As always this is just something that I have found helpful and I hope that you get something out of this. What I would like to focus on today is decisions.

All games that I have enjoyed have made me make interesting decisions. Without decisions, a game is at best a story and at worst a process. As I start designing something I start thinking about:-

  • What decisions am I asking players to make?

  • What is the goal of the game and what decisions can a player make to influence the goal being achieved?

  • What are the potential consequences of a player's decision?

Take for instance the obvious example; Snakes and Ladders. There isn't a single decision a player is asked to make during the game as such it could be argued that as the player can not influence the game in any way, this isn't a game.

Applying the thought experiment what decisions can I provide to the player could make this simple game more interesting. Breaking it down to the core of Snakes and ladders there are:-

  • An X by X grid where players start at the bottom and aim to get to the top (the goal).

  • Dice rolled to move.

  • Snakes which when landed on makes a player go backwards on the grid.

  • Ladders – the opposite of a snake.

Simply adding a new rule that forces a player to make a decision would would make this a game. Examples could include:-

  • What if a player rolled two dice and move a snake / ladder the result of the extra die roll? This would allow for decisions on trap making, creating a clear path for you, stopping the lead player etc.

  • Could a player choose to forfeit their turn to add/remove a snake to the board? Decisions are now available on long term vs. short term gains.

  • Could players start with a trump card/token which could be spent to modify a die roll (either that player's or an opponent's? Perhaps some could be placed on the board to pick up or a player gains one after going down a snake as a catch up mechanism? This creates decisions for players on when/how to use their resources.

The importance of decisions is not something that I have always truly appreciated and it was a learning experience when I first sent Temp Worker off for its first review. In the original version Gain 1 was just gain the top card of the stationery supply deck. I originally thought that the game would be fun to just get new cards and the player had to figure out when and how to use them. This left a lot to luck and players chances of winning could be advantaged or weakened by the random cards they were given.

A simple yet effective change that was suggested during play testing was to always have the top 4 Stationery cards face up and when a player gains a card they can choose which of the four they want. This minor set up change dramatically improved the game as now players were able to plan specific strategics and more importantly their success was down to how they played the game not what the luck a player had.

I would like to add that just having decisions is not simply enough to make a game and it is possible to add too many leading to decision paralysis.

As always I hope you enjoyed this brief insight to the game design process.

A brief update on how things are progressing, the reviewer copies have been printed and sent off. Three reviews have come back in and it is nice that they have been positive. If you would like to have a look they are on the videos section of the website.

Dave

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