Carson City Board Game Cover

Carson City: great atmosphere and story-telling, but too complicated a set-up to get there.

I know the articles I was reading urged designers to work predominantly with Action style, especially if you want to create a really unique experience.  Well when one – like myself – can’t draw even a discernible cube, visual-oriented gets tricky.

Not to say I don’t still fall into it.  I feel like, as I’m working on ideas, I start with an atmosphere or a basic story I want to capture in the game.  Before I even think about how things look, though, I then need to move into how it plays.  With board, games I find I get overwhelmed here, but it makes me think about how visual and action can work together.

Recently I’ve been obsessed with the idea of mystery board games: each player having information the others wish they did.  Clue or Mystery of the Abbey, only more grown up.  I picture how to tell the story of Jonestown, or of the TV show Damages, or the DaVinci Code novel.  But for each of these, things got really complicated really fast.  Whenever I needed more mystery, I added some element to a player.  Until even I couldn’t keep it all straight.

And then I was reminded of a few things some of the designers I met with last spring said: Have one core unique game play idea; start with simply a deck of cards.  And so I’ve started trying to think more action-oriented and simpler.  I think of Poker, which at it’s heart captures the idea I like so much in the stories: everyone knows a bit of the same information, and then a bit of their own information, and has to bet on what everyone else is going to do.

So once I get my head out of Skyrim and movie producing this weekend, I’d like to sit and try working on this atmosphere with just a deck of cards, and see what can come out….