SG Got Game: Board game guru's top 3 tips to designing your own game
There are not many who can say they have made a career in designing tabletop games.
Games guru Dominic Huang, 33, has done just that.
He runs Medieval Lords and his first board game, Hitman Holiday, where players "assassinate" each other, came out in 2015.
His new card game, Queen of the Hill, was funded on Kickstarter in March and is expected to launch in October.
Mr Huang has also worked for board game giants Hasbro and Fantasy Flight Games.
He now teaches game design part-time at game design school MAGES Institute of Excellence, located in Orchard Central.
He is also working on a card game based on tennis, Sweet Spot, which will be launched on Kickstarter in August.
In an interview with The New Paper, Mr Huang shares three main tips for aspiring designers.
Anime artwork for the Pirate card in Queen of the Hill. Artwork courtesy of Mr Dominic Huang
TIP 1: HARMONISE MECHANISM AND THEME
There are two ways to start designing a game: with a good game mechanism, or a strong theme.
Good games need a harmony of both.
"Sometimes, you come across a very good game mechanism. Then you have to build a theme on it," he said.
"But if the theme fails, and the mechanism are inherently good, then you can just switch the theme out."
He cited his own Queen of the Hill.
His first Kickstarter campaign for the game failed.
He then realised that anime theme may not appeal to a mass market.
Anime artwork for the Musician card in Queen of the Hill. Artwork courtesy of Mr Dominic Huang
So for his second Kickstarter, he launched two versions of the same game concurrently: one anime and one with cute monsters.
It proved to be a success.
It can also work in reverse - by coming up with a great story before working out how the game works.
TIP 2: DON'T LET PLAYERS DIE
"Never allow player elimination," said Mr Huang, referring to the way some players can "die" and have to sit out until the game is over.
Classic games - such as Risk - may include player elimination.
When players are eliminated from the game, they may have to sit around, bored, waiting for the others to finish.
Not a good experience.
But, Mr Huang makes an exception for short games.
"As long as they aren't left out for too long," he said.
TIP 3: DON'T PUNISH YOUR PLAYERS
Games shouldn't make you feel as if you were pushed into a corner.
Or, too much "take that", as board game fans call it.
And this can be caused by having abilities that allow players to attack players of their choice.
It can lead to participants ganging up on one player with no chance for them to retaliate.
In his own game, Mr Huang has safeguards.
"Some cards attack your opponent's cards," he said.
"So we made a system to dampen its impact."
Players have to wait a turn before they are able to use attack cards.
"The hand limit of five cards helps to reduce the player's options too," added Mr Huang.