With our first post, we thought it prudent to share with you the origin story for the game mechanics of our inaugural board game Novice Knights (which also happens to be the name of our Board Game Division). We could share with you the thousands of little details that have gone into this game, and over time, we’re sure we will, but for now, let’s focus on the actual reason that Novice Knights was designed the way it was.
To understand Novice Knights, first you have to understand my personal history with board games.
My name is Jim, and I love board games. Understanding my love of board games goes all the way back to when I never won a single board game. Back in the dark ages known as. . . My childhood!
When I was young, my family used to play board games on a semi-regular basis. Not every night, but often enough that it is one of my fondest memories as a child. When I was younger, games often went unfinished, and I almost certainly never won. The middle child and only boy in the family, most often my mother would win, and here’s why: My father never cared about winning.
To this day, I still have no idea if he actually enjoyed playing board games. Regardless, I know that he did not care in the least about winning. How did I know this as a young child you might ask? Because games were played and won the same way every single time. We would start by choosing a game, typically Classic Risk. Once the game was all set up and ready to go, we would begin, just like any other family, except within a turn or two, the same thing would happen every single time.
- I would attack my father
- My older sister would attack me
- My younger sister would be bored and stop playing
- My father and my mother would make an alliance
These things happened in no particular order, but all four of them would happen without exception. What followed next would also always happen, without exception.
- I would over commit to attacking my father or revenge against my older sister
- Younger sister wasn’t really playing to begin with (She was usually teamed up with someone else), but she would exit the game completely, usually falling asleep.
- My older sister would attempt late game diplomacy
- My father would hold sacred the alliance he formed with my mother
- My mother would equally attack my older sister and I
At this point, the weakest player was typically myself or my old sister. The alliance that my mother and father formed would team up to eliminate one of us. Typically me. Once one of us was eliminated, this is when things would get interesting.
If my father was strong, which he usually wasn’t due to my persistent attacks, my mother would continue the alliance, and destroy the other child. If my father was weak, which he typically was at this point, my mother would prematurely break the truce and destroy my father. She would collect his cards and reap the mid/late game benefit of cashing in for all those glorious armies. The remaining child would usually forfeit at this point.
So why did we allow this to happen?
- I was too stupid and pigheaded at the age of 12 to realize there was an alternative.
- My older sister was attempting to play like my mother, but she wasn’t as skilled.
- My younger sister didn’t care much for games at this point.
- My father kept his alliances, regardless of the consequences.
- My mother actually enjoyed playing games and winning.
When I think about board games, I always think back on these relationships and how they are effective, and how they aren’t. In order to have a competitive game, you need to have a combination of all types of players. In order to have a truly competitive game, you have to have games that vary by nature, and players that by nature vary their play style. Otherwise, you will keep on playing the same game and you will keep on having the same outcome.
So how does this affect the Origins of Novice Knights?
Well Novice Knights appeals to all different types of players. From the hardcore player who loves nothing more than the 30 minutes it takes just to set up Axis and Allies, to the little sister who is bored 20 minutes into the game. The mechanics of Novice Knights allows for a distribution of wins among skilled and unskilled players alike.
While the lion’s share of the wins will always go to the more skilled and cunning players, the mechanics of the game are not built in such a way that my mother will always win.