Board Game Vs Video Game Design

What are the differences between board games and video games? Well… there are plenty of differences that are obvious to us. But I want to know, what is the difference between board game design and video game design? They are games but in a different medium. I’m sure there are some game design philosophies that can be shared between the two.

I had the chance to connect with Jeremy, veteran video game designer, who was very active during the Flash Games era between the years 2005 and 2010, who has recently designed a board game, Duels of Cartisora. I, being very interested in learning people’s game design philosophies, naturally wanted to get more insight regarding board game design vs video game design. In this article Jeremy shares his experiences and thoughts about the matter.

Game Description

Choose your warrior from 6 available, then pit your battle skills and cunning against your opponent’s warrior in an asymmetrical and deeply psychological contest of wits and counter tactics. Duels of Cartisora consists of 6 themed warrior card decks, each with a reference card, so that an opponent can evaluate the fighting style and abilities of your chosen warrior, with a view to overcoming their unique skills with their own key abilities. This is a quick shotgun card game played in rounds that takes many hours and contests to master.

Board Game & Video Game Designer Introduction

Jeremy is a veteran video game designer, who was very active during the Flash Games era between the years 2005 and 2010. He created popular games such as Kawairun, Black Bow and Eternal Quest. He is currently working as a video game designer at Secret Location, a subsidiary of Hasbro and Entertainment One.

His interest and passion for games has led him to delving into the world of board game design. He has built several board game prototypes. Duels of Cartisora is the first card game of his that is being published.

Differences in Board Game Design and Video Game Design

Prototyping

Video Games take a long time to go from conception to a prototype, and require specialized programming skills in addition to game design skills, as opposed to board games where you can get a prototype ready to play within minutes.

This was very refreshing for me, because in video games you usually hold on to an idea in your head for some time, while it is being conceived. You need to work on some mockups or examples in alternate mediums before getting a prototype together. In board game design, once you have an idea you can go straight to testing extremely quickly.

When I first went to a board game design meetup, I was blown away by the raw creativity that seemed to ooze out of every person there.

Automation

Video games automate a lot of the game, making them able to automatically do what could be considered tedious. In board games, you need to find a way to make everything fun — including tedious things like dealing cards or scoring the game. Scoring is a great example of something that can have a high engagement in a board game, but is most often automated in video games. For example, 7 Wonders has a complicated scoring mechanic that is actually engaging for all players — being able to look at the board, look at your opponents and analyze each other’s playstyles as you score. A digital adaptation of 7 wonders is far less engaging precisely because the scoring mechanics are automated — reducing this whole phase to just looking at numbers in a table.

Complexity

Video games have a higher computational power, meaning rules, stats and mechanics can be made more complex. This allows for a greater degree of control, especially when balancing a game. Humans have less computational power, meaning all the rules, stats and mechanics must be kept as simple as possible. A game like Final Fantasy, where stats number in the hundreds and damage numbers in the thousands would be unmanageable in a 1-for-1 board game adaptation. Most units in Warhammer have only 1 health, which is far too simplistic for any 1-for-1 video game adaptation.

Governing the Rules

Video games have very strict rules to the game that are not open to interpretation; you can’t stray from the rules. Board games rely on human understanding of the rules.

Video designers have the advantage of dictating what goes on during a game and how it should be played. However, though, board game designers cannot do the same, they benefit from players being able to adapt and change the rules depending on their understanding. You hear the term “house rules” all the time, which wouldn’t be possible for the video game medium.

Pacing

Video games must have strict phases and pacing in order to make things manageable, while Board Games can have a more organic pacing. Think about games like Monopoly, Risk or Catan that have a strong social component. Video game adaptations have controlled pacing that takes away from the organic feel when playing these games in person — you can’t have a 10 minute argument about how much stone you’ll give for sheep. Think about games like Magic the Gathering where there’s a complex reaction system. In person you can set your own pace by shouting “Wait I’m doing something!” instead of having timers in a digital adaptation. Hearthstone, a digital card game, gets around this by removing the concept of a reaction from the game, in order to stick with strict turn pacing.

How has Duels of Cartisora utilized the benefits of being a board game?

Duels of Cartisora is heavily bluff based making reading your opponent a huge part of the game — which is something that doesn’t translate well to the digital realm. Video Games have a lot more sensory components — a lot of images, animations and audio that help bring the theme to life. In Board games, one has to rely on limited text and images as well as the players’ imaginations to fill in the blanks.

Game mechanics

Duels of Cartisora embraces the personal connection you get with a heavily bluff-based game, where reading your opponent is important — something you can’t do so well in a video game.

Duels of Cartisora uses an organic game flow, where Reactions and Maneuvers are types of cards that exist outside of play. It also makes it very easy to adapt to variants of the game, such as tournament drafts, combining character decks or even experimenting with a 4 player tag-team variant

Story Telling

The story is told through the art of the game and names and mechanics of the cards, to give each character deck a personality. The unique mechanics of each character is what brings them to life most of all.

Balancing

Balancing is challenging in both video games and board games, but you can’t patch a board game in a month if the numbers don’t work (unless you’re Wizards of the Coast and you can release official tournament bans). Duels of Cartisora was refined and balanced over dozens of playtests, observing hundreds of games.

In video games, strict balance is a requirement. In board games, unless you’re designing a game intended for tournament play, the illusion of balance is more important than actual balance… does each player feel like they could have won?

What can board gamers learn from video game design to aid in board game design?

On the whole, board gamers understand their medium very well. There is a lot of overlap in what makes a good, fun game in both worlds and general advice applies to both. What is crucially important for board game design, however, is embracing the strengths of the medium.

As a board game designer, it is important to make sure every aspect of your design is fun and streamlined. You don’t want a game with rules that is overly complex and confusing, where you lose the players’ engagement. Find a way to make the tedious parts of your game fun and interesting, especially setup, distributing resources and scoring.

Don’t just focus on the rules and the game, but understand how people interact with your game in order to support a natural flow. Negotiating, bluffing, and communicating strategies, are just a couple of areas of game play that are not built inherently into the game. But it exists and board gamers should use these areas to their advantage.

Embrace the quick iteration time of your game; get it playtested early and often! Got an interesting idea? Throw it in there and playtest. This is not only fun but it helps get ideas flowing and allows you to toss away old ideas to move on to other possible ideas.

Social Media

If you are interested in Duels of Cartisora and want to know the new updates, please give them a visit on Kickstarter and Facebook!

Kickstarter — Duels of Cartisora
Facebook Page — @AnalogGameStudios

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