In my Video Game Design class, we had to settle into a randomly assigned groups and create a board game based on the, also randomly assigned, prompt that was given to our groups. My partner and I were in Group 18.
After meeting up with each other, my teammate and I were sufficiently perplexed with what do do with our game. Our prompt designated that are game was to be: Genre = Creativity – Sticks & Mud, Genders = All, Age Range = Elementary, Interests = Gadgets. So, we had to create a board game for elementary students of both genders with interests in gadgets with the genre of creative sticks and mud…
Our first meeting was mostly us trying to think of how we could great a fun, simple game for elementary students. After two hours of brainstorming, we created a skeleton for our game. We decided to take a literal approach when creating the game according to the genre chosen for us.
We decided to keep our game simple due to the target age range, so we ended up going for a more traditional “CandyLand” board style. Players would move throughout the board through movement cards, with the cards deciding how much the player moves and whether they move forwards or backwards. We decided that our players should begin at the same point and then the players can decide from two paths to two different points where the players can retrieve the stick.
To keep in our “Sticks and Mud” genre, we incorporated Stick Spaces and retrieving Sticks as the goal of the game. We also created mud spaces. These mud spaces had “mud powers,” wherein players would land on these spaces and receive a “mud ball.” These “mud balls” had different “mud powers” depending on how many you had. We also had event spaces, and about 3 events a player could get from these. And then, we had bridge spaces that if a player landed on, the player had to move across the bridge. With these mechanics, we were able to summarize and name our game.
Get Stick!!! is a game where players compete against each other to reach the goal first. Players will play as dogs who are trying to retrieve a stick and bring it back to Home Base. The player who is able to bring back 2 sticks from the Stick Spaces to the Home Base wins! Players can land on Event Spaces, these will either greatly help the player or mess with their chances to win. Players can use special “mud powers” to achieve great advantages.
Our first playtest was an eye opening experience. The feedback we received from other students playtesting our game was invaluable. The playtest for our game was overall negative. We had a large amount of issues with the game mechanics and board design, and my teammate and I realized we had to do a large overhaul of our game. Luckily, our playtesters were very honest with us about the problems with our game, and gave us many ideas for improving.
The changes we made to our game after our first playtest were:
- Players disliked moving backwards -> We cut movement cards out altogether and used a 6 sided dice for moving forwards instead
- Players did not feel like “mud powers” mattered -> We cut out “mud powers” and instead changed it so mud spaces would make a player “stuck” and unable to move for a turn
- Players players wished events were touched on more -> We changed the total of events to 10 different events, and staggered their rarity depending on the event
- Players pointed out the board was not even -> I measured out all of the spaces in our next draft of the board and made sure they were even on both sides
- Players thought the bridges were confusing -> We changed the bridges from being able to go both ways to bridges going only one way
These changes were able to be implemented because my teammate and I had very good communication. We spent hours meeting up and brainstorming ideas. We were very honest with each other when one of our ideas for the game was either very good or wasn’t working well.
As the Board Designer in my group, I payed special attention to the criticism about the board. I decided to pull inspiration from a game from my childhood. I decided to play through Mario Party 1 and 2 to see how the game designers of those games created their boards. I thought these games would be good in particular because due to their age, the games themselves were very simple, ergo the board designs would be simple.
From observing the board styles in these games, I saw how the maps were precisely random. What I mean is, even though the different spaces and such seemed randomly placed, every space is put down for a reason and there was a lot of care put in to creating a balanced and even board, while looking fun and random. I realized that’s what I had to try to show in our board.
I started incorporating a bit of math into the design. While drafting, I kept marking divisions every 10 Spaces. In those 10 Spaces, I put 3 Event Spaces and 2 Mud Spaces. In my draft, I had it take 40 Spaces to get to the Stick Space and 30 Spaces from the Stick Space to reach Home Space.
For the final board design, I had 30 Spaces to reach the Stick Space, then 20 Spaces from the Stick Space to reach Home Base. In the 30 Spaces to reach the Stick Space, I put in 5 Event Spaces and 5 Mud Spaces. Conversely, in the 20 Spaces to reach Home Base, I put in 3 Event Spaces and 2 Mud Spaces. I also made Bridge Spaces easier to understand for players, by making them one way.
Our 2nd playtest went tremendously well! Our playtesters admitted that our game was very simple, but understandably so due to our target audience (elementary students). Playtesters said that the multitude of different events and obstacles were fun, and the game was relatively fast paced. Overall, it seems that our changes were very well received.
Going forward, I would try to playtest more with my teammate before playtesting with other people. I’d also experiment and try to play more board games. I would also try harder to make a more complete game before a playtest so that way there is more to receive feedback on. Overall, I’m still very happy with how this turned out and am very satisfied with the teamwork and level of communication I had with my partner.