Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Boardgame explainers

So here’s a thing that’s kept me busy the last couple of evenings, a nice little collaborative project between me and my partner Alex.

Although we’ve worked on things together before, like Unstruck and ongoing Queen illustrations, those projects didn’t actually technically involve us in any way having to communicate with each other. They were basically Alex writing a thing, and me drawing a thing to match (and in the case of Queen, I don’t even actually have to read what Alex has written to do the drawings)

For this project we actually had to talk to each other. :O

Anyone who has been to our house or knows Alex will know that they have quite a thing for boardgames. Their towering collection is threatening to take over our living room entirely.

But as well as playing boardgames, talking about boardgames, thinking about boardgames, organising boardgames and writing about boardgames, Alex also has a passion for explaining boardgames, and the belief that, sometimes, there might be better — or different — ways of doing this than a traditional rulebook.

A chance to test this theory has come up, as they help run the ‘Nine Dice boardgames lounge’ at Nine Worlds geekfest for the second year running, this weekend. This is a great space for attendees of the con to take some time out and play any of a huge range of boardgames being bought along by the group of volunteers running the space, who will bring people together, set up play groups, and explain rules where necessary.

This year there's also an arcade, a chance to try out a whole range of physical and digital games, but there won't be enough people to supervise each one. Alex wanted to create some basic explanation sheets for some of the simpler games, so that the games could look after themselves. They see this as potentially being part of an ongoing larger project to produce these for lots of other games, but for now, we’ve just done it for four: Concept, Dancing Eggs, Click Clack Lumberjack and Zoowaboo (these are mostly children’s games, but all have proven super fun for adults as well)

(Click the images to view larger)

We’ve worked together to try and create something fundamentally different from rule books, as these, even for a simple game can be daunting or complex looking (because the nature of rule books is that they need to cover all situations as well as basic gameplay).

These simple, single sided sheets are designed to sit alongside the rule books as a quick reference, so people new to the games can start playing as soon as possible.

I like their simple aesthetic, accompanied by some custom illustrations (although, for example, in the instance of Dancing Eggs, its mostly just recreating existing symbols created by the very talented Martina Leykamm)

We’ve worked together on these using my layout skills and Alex’s boardgame explaining logic (which is something they’re a lot better at than me!) to try and make these as straightforward as possible, while still including everything a player would need to know to get started, and hopefully play through a full game.

At some point in the future, we're hoping to take on some bigger, more complicated games, and maybe rethink the way people teach and learn games in general, but that's a bigger, tougher job, and not one we can fix before this weekend…

If you’re coming to Nine Worlds, come visit us in the Nine Dice Boardgames lounge to see our work so far in action!

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