A New Type of Board Game?

My name is Bart and I am developing a board game. I was fired from my job as a cabinetmaker eleven days ago. Something about it did not work for me. Maybe it was the fact I am British trying to work in a US workshop (having to use inches instead of millimetres, having to make a totally different style of furniture to which I’m familiar). Maybe it’s the fact that I had to punch in a lot of numbers to automated machines instead of working directly with my hands. More likely it’s the fact that I was making uninspiring fitted furniture for millionaires and I didn’t feel useful.

In any case, I am now unemployed. I’m very lucky that my wife is successful in her career, which puts me in a charmed position where I can noodle around trying to get my teeth into something more hearty. I could, and intend to, design and make my own furniture and other wooden objects. The problem is I don’t really know what to make. My wife would like a shoe cabinet; maybe I’ll start there.

I have always had an interest in designing games. When I was younger I would make snakes and ladders style first-past-the-post board games. I’d make treasure hunts for my family to find their birthday presents. I made a couple of very BASIC games on my Amiga. Since then, I pretty much stopped making games, but the rise of iOS gaming piqued my interest and I’ve long had half an eye on making my own (indeed, a good friend has made a small fortune doing just that). When I was fired, I almost immediately decided to investigate that avenue, looking forward to the challenge of game design and learning to programme. Then I remembered how much I like board games, and a concept quickly began to take shape. I am now seven days in to designing a game that I hope will be fun, funny, challenging, balanced and, as far as I know, original.

My chief concern with the world is that there is so much competition. I feel that competition, on any scale, causes rifts, tribal attitudes and ultimately wars. Board games are perhaps the most innocuous of these competitions, but are competitions nonetheless. I have always been a pretty good loser, but a guilt-ridden winner. Losing makes me feel a little sad. Winning makes me feel a little anxious. What if there were a board game where everyone plays towards a common goal? Maybe there already is, but I don’t know about it. Just as there are coop[erative] game modes on some video games (notably Portal 2 and Journey), I think there could be a cooperative board game.

Christmas cracker jokes are designed to make families groan. They are designed to bring families together against a common enemy, thereby allowing the family to bond. Board games, at least in my family, are divisive. My mum won’t play Monopoly because she doesn’t like the argy bargy. My brother barely plays anything at all because he hates to lose. I just want to enjoy playing a game with lots of cards and dice-rolling and decisions. I aim to win, but I hate the idea of others losing. Perhaps I am not alone.

I am also well aware that many or most people enjoy competitive board games. My game will allow for those players also. The concept I have is to pit players against a common enemy. Hambündan. Hambündan represents fury, pain and perhaps depression. The goal of my game is to deflect his attacks and bring him joy. One player, if they wish, can play as Hambündan. Everyone else must team up against him, with the ultimate goal of saving him from his fiery despair volcano (or something). There is, interestingly or not, the chance that Hambündan could win and all human players could lose. I have to decide whether that’s a good thing. It works in Solitaire. Could it work here?

It has taken me seven days to solidify this concept, with many other gameplay ideas and board designs floating and bursting around in my head and on my desk. There is a long way to go but I’m excited by the road ahead. Join me.

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