When you’re working on a project, chances are you’ll have dozens, if not hundreds, of ideas for pieces of the project. Especially when that project is a board game. It’s easy to come up with ideas for mechanics – it’s not always easy to tell which ideas will work well in play, which ideas will flow with each other and which ideas clash.
In movies or books, its often more challenge to write a good shorter story than a long one. Its easy to ramble on and on with description (And often redundancy) – it’s a lot more challenging to cut out the fat, to build a concise but still clear story in a more limited time or page count.
The same is true of board games. It can be not too challenging to throw a bunch of rules together with pages of explanation as to how they work. It’s a bit more challenging to simplify those rules down but keep them workable and balanced. You have to decide which rules really add to the game, which don’t, and which need to be cut down.
The real trick is, to really end up with the best possible product, you don’t just cut out the bad stuff. Sometimes you have to cut out good ideas, just because they don’t fit with the rest of the game, or they’re too complex, or they just don’t add anything. That’s probably one of the hardest things to do in designing a board game. You tend to get attached to your ideas – especially your good ones. When it comes down to it, though, you have to decide to kill some of those precious little ideas. (Though you can maybe revisit those ideas in your next game design, perhaps).
I think that concept ends up hurting some games when their designers don’t look at every rule and question its value, its purpose, its clarity – relative to the game its in. A good idea can hurt a game if its in the wrong game. And it only takes something small to really break an otherwise strong game. (Mansions of Madness, we’re looking at you.)
I’ve been going through all my rules for Armyland lately, with a significant amount of “delete” key being pressed. It’s tough. Sometimes its sad to see units or rules that I liked head down the drain, but I know in the end it will result in a stronger end product. Still, it sometimes feels like hurting your own children.
But I guess as they say, what doesn’t kill it, only makes it stronger.