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Why do a board game?

This is a question I get asked by a lot of people I talk about our project with. Most of our team comes from video games. Our first successful kickstarter (also beset by difficulties) was for a video game. The company I originally founded (Cliffhanger Productions) does video games and I spent the better part of my 25 years in games doing video games. So why a board game?

Well, first of all both types of games are closely related and a lot of the Great Old Ones (a.k.a. Board Game Designers of the last twenty years) I had the pleasure of knowing started out in board games or RPGs such as Jordan Weisman or Shane Hensley or Sandy Petersen, moved into video games and came (partially) back. There is something about the physical presence of a board game that is just a very different way of satisfying than a video game.

But this concrete project evolved out of a prototype we were doing for another video game project and in fact almost every one of the games we did (AErena, Shadowrun Chronicles) were extensively paper-prototyped, which means nothing else than that we invented them as boardgames before we made them into video games. In fact AErena is so much a boardgame even as a video game, that people often asked us to do a physical version of it.

Both Marko (the lead designer) and me have our backgrounds in tabletop games and remain (as many others in the industry) avid board gamers, still dreaming of doing one of those ourselves. In a recent talk with a couple of the heads of the largest German development studios for video games, we found out that ALL of us played RPGs (and some still do) and that they are an excellent way to learn to be creative and provide unparalleled freedom of imagination, compared to the technical restraints of video game development. So there is a board gamer inside most video game developers it seems.

So, when the prototype was really fun to play and had a number of elements we really enjoyed, but which didn't translate into the video game flow well, we said: This should really be a board game...and then we looked at one another and said: Why not try to make it one? Now obviously we needed funding and it appeared that board games were doing well (and still are) compared to video games, so we thought we had a real shot at it. And so a dream was born...

This was almost a year ago and since then we have been developing and testing the game in our spare time and began to plan for the kickstarter. Looking at the complexity of video game production, the design process for a boardgame is fairly straightforward with much fewer people involved, so this seemed a great advantage to us. Until we started looking at production, of the physical game, that is....but more on that in another post.

For now, we have extensive playtesting and the game evolves with each one. It is exciting because we can directly test things when we change rules, as opposed to the long waiting times on a video game. The immediate effect makes for a much more fun and interesting process and that is something we currently enjoy immensely. I hope we can give you the first sneak peeks at what we are doing soon.

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