Fun is one of the most often thrown around words when it comes to board games. That makes sense. Fun is why we play games. Of course, this makes the designer in me want to define it so that I can find it so that my games will be it. Fun. (Say that word 10-20 times and it starts to sound funny by the way.)

In one respect, defining fun in relation to board games is easy. I’ll give it a shot.

Fun – the enjoyment or pleasure a player gets from playing a game.

See? Easy.

The daunting aspect of this for me as a new designer is the “a player” part. This is such an individual person to person thing. Simply put, people have different tastes in fun. As easy as that definition was to write it is much harder to quantify fun from player to player. Go look at any highly rated game on BGG and you will find quite a few “1” ratings as well.

Ok, we know that different games will hit different players fun-meter in different ways. We can’t hit them all. The question as designers we have to answer then is, what kind of fun do we want in our game? Then we have to find it.

What do you mean find the fun? Don’t you just design the fun in a game to begin with? Isn’t the fun you planned from the beginning stay the fun for the entire process? Ha!

When I design a game I start the process with ideas that tickle something in me as a gamer and as a designer. I want to play a game that does that, is about that, feels like that. This theme expressed with that mechanic gets me excited. I design towards that fun and in my head the game is amazing.

Then the design hits the table. At terminal velocity.

Usually, there is some kernel of fun there, maybe even something I didn’t expect to find, but I need to start digging and rearranging to uncover it. This serves as a focus for me. It gives me things to emphasize and things to cut or refine.

For example, the fun I was designing towards in Temps was the interesting decisions in using and modifying your temp dice. What I found is that, while that was an interesting part of the game, building your office was more interesting. I hadn’t really focused on that yet so now I had something from a play test on which to focus. I can massage the fun kernel I found in the office building while refining different parts of the game to hook into and emphasize that fun.

A trap that is easy to fall into is wanting the game to have too broad an appeal. It is possible to distil a game so much that it becomes bland. Every game needs flavor but not every flavor will appeal to all players. There are all kinds of tastes in fun.

Some players enjoy interacting with other players (to varying degrees) while some want to do their own thing without others interfering.

Some players have fun playing a serious game while other prefer a more lighthearted affair.

Some players want to throw dice while others want to throw dice out the window.

Some players want to trade in the Mediterranean while others want to blow up the Mediterranean.

Trying to appeal to every gamer is a foolish road to travel. As a designer, I need to accept that there will be those 1 ratings. By designing a game with dice-heavy randomization, I am automatically pushing some gamers away (Sad but true). Some people just don’t like those kinds of games. I need to be ok with that. I can’t please everyone so I don’t need to make that my goal.

I need to design towards fun, then find the fun that naturally exists through play testing, then focus on that fun to give the game its own unique flavor. The fact that every player has their own taste in fun should not daunt me since I am not designing for every player. I am designing a game to be fun. As long as the players who enjoy that particular flavor of fun find it to be fun should be enough for me.

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