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Balancing Games - Movement Styles

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

As a game designer, I think it's important to at least play other games. For a while I didn't want the influence of other games to impact how I designed games, but you can learn a lot just from playing other games and familiarizing yourself with common concepts. Not only tips and tricks for making your game more relevant, but also, at times, learning what not to do. In the early stages of play testing Pandemonium Estate, one of the reoccurring flaws was that the game just went on far too long. Too long to the point that we would have to stop playing nearly 3 hours in because people were just exhausted and wanted it to end! Not only was this embarrassing, but it was actually a huge eye-opener and made me realize that my game needed some serious overhauls.


Me, during some nights of game design.


I recently played the board game, Last Friday by Ares Games. A game where you play as five campers running away from a maniac machete killer that is controlled by another player. Sounds like a great concept, and I was super excited to play it. But then I quickly realized, after finally getting a chance to play with a decent group, was that the game was greatly unbalanced when it came to movement.

Now I don't write this post to pick apart any particular designer or publisher. These are simply my observations. I got a lot of criticism on Pandemonium Estate when it came to movement. Since Pandemonium Estate is inspired by traditional "Roll & Move" style games, balancing movement is critical, and we definitely had our fair share of problems. In Last Friday, the game board is HUGE. And the killer can sometimes move drastically further than the campers. The campers can only move 1-2 spaces on their turn along the non-numbered circles, and if you look at the picture below, you can see just how short of a distance that is in comparison to the board size.

The killer can move along numbered spaces only, skipping blank white dots.

What I'm driving at is the movement issues in this game significantly slowed down the excitement and made the majority of our turns feel pointless. I raise this point because this is EXACTLY what I encountered during play tests of Pandemonium Estate, and I do not understand how this slipped through the cracks when the designers play tested. Having a game where people just lose interest and feel like they would rather whack themselves with a dead fish instead of finishing the game is a serious red flag that it's probably time to go back to the drawing board!

My advice is this; do not settle. I know that you're eager to get your game finished but trust me...use your noggin and be patient and don't force something to be finished if it's still needing to cook. Let it cook thoroughly! It will be worth the wait. Speaking specifically to movement, what are your favorite ways to "move" or progress through a game? Do you prefer dice movement, having a certain amount of actions per turn, or some other form? Let me know what you think in the comments!

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