Playing Board Games Is a Must For Any Game Designer

Blue Moon board (card) game just arrived to via snail mail and made me think how useful it has been to play and research different board games. In the last summer I’ve bought and played more board games than ever in my life (well, at least bought…). During the summer I read about board games, I studied rules, checked out reviews, bought games and played them.

Board games are good for video game makers because board games grasp the essentials of gameplay in a nice way. In board games, the core mechanism is very visible and can help provide information on why the game is fun (yes, there’s loads of stuff besides the core mechanism that can help make game fun).

In video games the essentials might sometimes be lost under elements that are not necessarily so important (like how the shadows look, or what kind of shaders you use, or what kind of animation one guy should have). Don’t get me wrong: a good video game is sum of its parts and a well done video game has most of the elements done well, but one greatly done character animation isn’t (probably) going to the main reason why players play the game (okay, I admit it’s bloody fun to see characters World of Warcraft of doing stupid dance animations, but I’m sure you see what I mean). Well done gameplay on the other hand might be crucial determining how fun the game is.

The point is: if you are into game design, and if you are into figuring out what makes a game fun, playing and studying board games is a must thing to do. Who knows, maybe you even find some good idea that you can steal borrow from the board games you test.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Stiched: a good point. Board gamers should definitely play video games and learn from them. Real time strategy games for example can provide nice ideas which can be turned into turn based board strategy games.

  2. Or if you are Wizards of the Coast, then you borrow heavily from MMO’s and incorporate them into your table-top game.

    I agree with the sentiment that board games are important for game design. You have a fully self-contained system that’s, hopefully, simple enough to understand and one that anyone can play.

  3. It’s a great idea to play a variety of different games to understand the various mechanics being utilised ie. auction, area defence, set collecting etc.
    It is also interesting to see how the theme of the game is fitted to the game mechanic.

  4. This sounds like good advice. I haven’t played that many board/card games myself but I know other major designers that have done (and still do).

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