05 January 2014

What's your number?

Most games are designed with a specific number of players in mind.  These days, tabletop game often advertise a range of supported players, typically 2-4 players, 2-5 players, or in some cases even more, for example, 4-7 (Bang!) or 5-10 (Resistance).  This is marketing.  In reality, there is often a particular number of players that is better supported by the game format and mechanics than others.  Some games don't scale well, so that adding another player adds another 45 minutes to the gameplay time.  Others are hard to balance with certain player counts--indeed many games offer alternate instructions depending on the number of players.

As I dip my big toe into the water of amateur game design with a game I'm calling "Ice Age", I think my sweet spot is 4 players.  Some games that allow for more either take way too long to play or, in an attempt to avoid long playtimes, are oversimplified.  I have played several games recently that worked well with more than 4 players, including Resistance, Samurai Sword, and King of Tokyo.  But for the game experience I am trying to create, my goal is to optimize for 4 players.  

Even with 4 player in mind for the final product, I am finding that I'm building my gameplay and mechanics for 2.  My reasons for doing so are entirely practical--more players means making more cards and finding more people to help test.  Even so, I've got to keep in mind whether the game will become too clunky or cumbersome when I eventually scale up to the 4-player version. 

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