Sequels happen. The motivation for their creation can be good or bad. If there is a genuine desire to continue a story, or further develop a world – that is largely a good thing. If their intention is to rake in more money following a success – its not such a good thing.
I would like to see more board game sequels. Does that sound like an odd thing to want? Perhaps. Let me explain.
Studios build video games with game engines. Whether in-house or commerically available the developers put time, effort and money building engines. I believe that game designers are doing the same thing when they build board games. Granted, there is a far more analog element to this, but it is an engine non the less.
Video developers benefit from the success of a game by being able to build sequels, often using the same engine. Engines will often be modified to improve upon existing functionality, but a foundation already exists.
Why don’t game designers benefit from the same opportunities?
Take the Assassin’s Creed franchise as an example. Built initially on the Anvil engine, followed by the AnvilNext engine, and most recently the AnvilNext 2.0. The games have gone through numerous iterations. You recognize the inception of many game-play elements in the original title. These have obviously been adapted and refined over the years. Personal opinion of each game aside, the improvement to things like traversal and combat is without question.
So why shouldn’t we apply this same logic to board games? Every game designer is familiar with the importance of iterative design. We change things, we play-test and we repeat the cycle until the game feels ready.
I have never known anyone in any creative industry that would even call something finished. It is a bit of a curse of the creative. I can reach a point where I could say I was happy with something. There are still always improvements I could make if given time. Endless amounts of time!
I think there are already sequels in cardboard form, we just don’t embrace them in the same way as other mediums
Anyone who has read a few of my posts will know I am not shy about my love of Uwe Rosenberg. His games are little boxes of heaven and always find myself wanting to play multiple rounds of every one of his titles that I own.
There are two pairs of games where I think you can identify iterative development between games. Nova Luna and Patchwork are both tile laying games. They are by no means the same game and they have a lot of differences. That being said, there are clear influences in Nova Luna from Patchwork. Tile selection around the turn tracker. The fact that the player can select from the next three options.
These are elements work. They work well in Patchwork, and they work well in Nova Luna. That being the case, of course it makes perfect sense it adapt them into other titles. I appreciate that in these respects, Uwe didn’t feel the need to re-invent the wheel.
So too, with Agricola and Caverna. I was introduced to Caverna by someone telling me it was basically Agricola 2.0. That was easy for me to get behind, and it’s a fair comparison. Caverna builds on Agricola by including several new game elements – principally among these is the ability to go on adventures and mine as well as farm.
The point I want to make here, is that Uwe is indeed doing in many ways what video game developers do. He is taking something that worked as a foundation and building on it as a sort of semi-sequel. Including new game-play, different game-play, or even enhanced game-play.
My question is though – why don’t we have a Patchwork 2 or an Agricola 2? It could simply be that Uwe didn’t want to use the same themes as he already had. Grand, suits me just fine. But what would the reception have been if he had? I bet it would have been different from the reception of hearing about Dark Souls 3, or Uncharted 4?
Trying something different
I am consciously trying to approach my game development from a different angle. This is in part because I intend to Kickstart my next project, and that in itself comes with certain challenges. I also want to become more iterative, and benefit from creating a strong foundation which I can continue to build on.
By challenges that come with Kickstarter mean that I am intentionally making my first project smaller in nature. I’d would love to work on a huge euro game with hundreds of components straight off the bat. I believe however, that any potential backers need the opportunity to buy into my style of game and what I create without having to make a big investment. I understand and respect that. That being the case, I want to start smaller. I want to create something that people will feel more comfortable investing in.
My aim is create a foundation. Build key mechanics into a tight experience. Build that engine and develop from there. I play-test and iterate on a game before I consider it ready, but I want to give myself a chance to build on this foundation even after that first title has been release.