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Question
Hello
I'm a Russian girl, quite obsessed with board games and making one for a Personal Project for an IB school.
And i really need an advice from an expert: What in your opinion should a board game contain to be interesting for teenagers?

Answer
You're not asking a simple question here, but I'll give it a shot.

When you're designing a board game, there are a handful of questions you want to keep in mind. How complicated are the rules? How long does it take to play? How much randomness is in the game? How many players do you want to support? Do you want the game to be card based, board based, dice based, etc...?

Some of these questions are somewhat easy. If the game is aimed for children age 6 and under, you won't want a lot of reading, since that can get frustrating. Similarly, if your game is going to take 4+ hours to play, your audience is going to be somewhat limited. Not everyone is ready to sit for a long game, and certain age groups just don't have the attention span (or willingness to tie up a whole day in a busy schedule) for something of that length.

Let's look at your question, specifically. You seem to be aiming at the teenager age group, so I'm assuming you mean 13-18. Your message says that you live in the UAE and you say that you're Russian. I can't speak to cultural differences, so I encourage you to think about my statements here and ask yourself if the teenagers you're targeting have the same qualities. I can only describe American teenagers, and while I have a 14 year old son myself, I am a bit removed from that age group.

Teenagers who play games tend to prefer games that have very low complexity. In my experience, if it takes more than 5 minutes to explain the game, you're going to lose your audience halfway through the explain, they'll miss rules and get frustrated. Keeping the ruleset simple is a strong advantage.

Take a look at your favorite games, and think about how you'd teach them to a new player. How long would it take you to have someone completely unfamiliar with the game to be ready to sit down and play?

The other interesting point is randomness/luck. Think about Chess and Monopoly. Chess has no luck in it AT ALL. On the positive side, this means that people can talk about the game in a theoretical standpoint and you can progressively get better. The downside is that if you're playing against someone of a significantly different skill level, the game is not as interesting, since the better player will frequently win. Monopoly on the other side is very high in luck. This flattens the playing field and a weak player can occasionally beat a better player, but too many times in Monopoly, a game can be won or lost from the dice, which reduces the tendency to think about/talk about it and so on.

Which way do you want your game to go? A game with lower amounts of luck will find fewer players, since it's harder to get into a game when everyone else is more experienced, but you will find some players who fall in love with it and play it OVER and OVER to learn the nuances and tactics. On the flipside, a game with more luck tends to be adopted more widely since it's more approachable. But, it's more difficult to make a high luck game memorable if there is too much luck in it.

A few specific suggestions... think about your prototypes. Let's say you want to make a card game. Once you put it together, you're going to playtest it and find things that you like, and things that you don't. Going back and changing the cards, or reprinting them or whatever can be somewhat time consuming. I just put together a game of my own for a party I'm holding in a few days, and it took me several hours to do only 60 cards. However, if you're planning on having a board, think about how big the board is and how often you'll want to redo it. If you're going to make something on poster board, you have to ask yourself how feasible it is to redraw the board after your playtests. Think about the process.

But, at the end of the day, I have two STRONG recommendations for you.

First, Do it. I've put together a few prototypes over the years and they are time intensive, but when you put it on the table and proudly say "This is my game", every minute you spent is going to feel worth it.

Second, Be strong. You're going to make your game and you're going to put it in front of friends, family and random strangers. They are going to have comments, suggestions, etc... A short story for you... I had a game I put together that I was pretty excited about. Got it in front of my friends and it was a complete flop. The mechanisms didn't work, the rules had issues, and overall it was beyond repair. I ended up tossing the game out altogether and scavenging some of the rules for other games. Remember that when people give you feedback, their doing it because they want to see you succeed. Listen to what they say.

I don't think I could encourage you more to do this. Every game designer that you've ever heard of (and many you haven't) started somewhere, and sitting down to make that first game is your first major step. Don't give up and good luck!

Feel free to ask me more questions if you need more advice.

Best of luck!
--Dante

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Dante

Expertise

My expertise is fairly broad on board games. I've been collecting board games since I was old enough to count and have over 700 games in my still growing collection. I spend my spare time playing and teaching games, including doing demonstrations at stores. I don't have much experience with wargames, but when it comes to American games and/or most Eurogames, I can offer advice of the concepts in a game, and what kinds of audiences it might appeal to.

Experience

I've been an avid board game player and collector for over 20 years. I own more then 700 board games personally, and spend a significant amount of time both teaching and playing these games.

Education/Credentials
Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science/Math.

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