Focusing On Fun When Adapting Gameplay

I'm sure you are aware that The Ancient Game of the River was based heavily on the second oldest board game known to mankind. However, while we were working on The Ancient Game of the River, we weren't afraid to take liberties with the rules where I felt that it would make the game more fun and enjoyable. For example, the five rosettes spread around the board, which give the player an extra turn, and (in the case of the center rosette) provide protection to the piece occupying it. They are very powerful, and encourage the players to fight over who gets to control the central rosette. This was one of the aspects of the original game that made it so appealing to me, since it added lots of strategy and texture to the board.

However, the protection provided by the rosette also caused problems. Since any piece that was on the rosette was given unlimited protection, a very common strategy in playtesting was simply to race for the center, and whoever got to the center would sit there for most of the game, and then jump out in the final moments, when it was safe(ish). This took away a lot of the potential the rosette provided, since the benefit provided to the player while they were sitting on the rosette was actually fairly limited, and whoever got the monopoly (which could sway the game in their favour) was determined mostly by luck.

This bothered me for months, but I decided to try out a different approach to the rosette - I added a timer that would count down every time a player moved a piece. Once the timer reached zero, the rosette would fade away, and the piece could be captured. This encouraged the player to move their piece off the rosette, which meant that there would be several races for the rosette throughout a single game, allowing the players to strategize about when to jump off the rosette - ideally you would want to move when you have pieces ready to claim the spot again, and if you capture an enemy piece, that's great. Thus, the rosette ended up affecting who won the game not just by who won the initial race for the center, but by who could most effectively take advantage of the nature of the rosette throughout the match.

This is just one example of how as a game designer, I tweaked the rules to make the game more fun and exciting, but there are plenty more tweaks made to the game that I might share in future posts. But for now, I've got other things to take care of.

Until next time -

Mikkel R P Wilson