I've been enjoying the words of wisdom of Brett J. Gilbert recently. One of the things he said recently made me think, and it is the starting point for this blog post. At first I thought it was something he had said in one of his two recent blog posts, but on re-reading them I think it must of come from an email he sent me and a few other UK games designers.
What Brett said was:
... when game players (hopefully) say “I want to play that game again!” what they mean is that they want to repeat the *experience* of playing the game, something that is more than simply the sum of the game’s mechanics.
This is something I've considered in the past when discussing Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game. BSG:TBG is a fairly simple game when you get down to the mechanisms involved, but the experience (when played with the right group of people) is much better than the sum of the mechanics. It's a game of paranoia, suspicion and table talk. Everyone is trying to uncover the hidden traitor, except the hidden traitor who is trying to frame someone else without being too obvious. It's a game where a lot of the fun comes from accusing everyone around you of being a "frakking toaster" (the TV show's TV-friendly swear word, and epithet for the TV show's robotic bad guys who are all chromed up - like a toaster). It's a huge amount of fun.
Why bring this up now? I've been sent a submission fairly recently that's tickled my fancy. In the two months since I received it I've played it with a bunch of people, who have all been entertained by it. Those of you who stalk me on the internet will probably know I've been enquiring about artists for it, and looking for North American playtesters for it.
It's different from the other games I've done. It's a pure card game (no components other than cards) and it's a very simple game, strategically very simple. But the experience makes it something more than the mechanisms would have you believe. It's a story-telling game, driven by your handful of cards. There's no deep, overarching strategy: you play the cards you've got. What makes it so entertaining is the cards themselves. Some of them are sensible, some of them are funny by themselves, but when you combine them in one of the 260,000 possible combinations even the straight ones often end up in hilarious stories.
Is this game going to wow fans of deep strategic eurogames? Probably not. But I think it might sell very well, especially in America (where most of my business is), if I can just get the marketing right. It's a silly, funny game, that could potentially appeal to the legions of Munchkin fans in addition to anyone else with a sense of humour.
It's still early days - I've been constructing playtesting copies to send to my playtesters. I need more feedback. Is it really funny? Could it be funnier? Is it too simple? Too complex? More information will help inform my publishing decision. But at the moment I think I'm onto a winner...