Over the last week, we have been dedicated to making our very own board game! At the moment it won’t win any design prizes but we are super proud of it. As our little winter flower has discovered the world of Glimmies, along with her already established liking for board games, we decided to make our own to combine the two.
We had the main idea that four fairies had been invited to a birthday party at the magical castle and the needed to make their way through four ‘zones’ – we chose four terrains because these are the usual suspects of where magical creatures would live. They would be picking up a birthday present, something to eat or drink, and their invitation along the way.
We then thought about what in the board-game community refers to as ‘mechanics’ – this is means in which a board game progresses, or what challenges present to the players throughout the game. These can range from very simple risk-reward decisions for little ones, all the way through to profile and character-building akin to dungeons and dragons, for those in your household who are a little more…let’s say advanced!
As our game is intended for little ones, our mechanics are relatively simple. Our first ‘zone’ is through the fairies’ forest – a simple 6-step path to the top where they collect one of the aforementioned three things along the way. The easiest of game mechanics here – roll the dice and move the amount of steps!
Next is the Ice land which has a risk-reward mechanic. The players need to navigate to the other side of an iceberg, they can either take the safer but longer route around the iceberg or attempt the shorter but riskier route over it. We went with the classic Ludo-opening – you need to roll a 6 on a dice to move onto the iceberg. You can make this mechanic as severe as you like but it needs to balance well with the other option. There’s no point making the shorter route too easy to achieve because no-one will ever take the longer route, and you want it to be a tricky decision to make.
After this we had the underwater ‘level’ – we had a simple 12-step path to the end but, as we were underwater, we set up 3 points along the path where the players must stop to breath – we represented this in the form of fish that would give the fairies a lift to the surface for some air. The mechanic is very simple – you must stop periodically in order to progress. Again, you can make this more severe if you wish but we decided just a requirement to stop was enough. You could add the earlier mechanic for the iceberg, that you need to roll a certain number to set off again, if you wish.
Lastly, we have the mountain area and we used the mechanic in Snakes and Ladders here. This, along with all of the others, is a luck-based mechanic – you can’t choose to not roll a 5 and therefore end on the snake. We thematically decided the ‘snakes’ would be rivers and the ‘ladders’ are caverns through the mountain.
And there we have it – a very simple, 4-staged board game for little ones. You can make this a competitive game if you wish, in this case, a race – first one to the castle wins! Or a co-operative game where there is no race element and the aim is all about getting to the end together. As your children progress and get older the mechanics of the game can be evolved to be more interactive and decision-based. Perhaps you can introduce an enemy-based system where you have weapons or certain values and enemies will generate at certain points for you to battle. You could also increase the competitive element of the game and allow either bind-draw cards or character abilities to hinder your rivals for example.
Board games come in a wide range of themes but mechanics tend to transfer between them relatively regularly, more commonly than you might expect – but it’s the story, the theme, the skin of the game which keeps us interested and going again for one more game.