Novice Knights – Chapter 2 “Game Difficulty”


Anyone who has played board games with any regularity will know that there are some games, that while fun, are just an absolute beast to learn and set up. As such, they are found beyond an artificial wall for most players, where the time and effort required to play them are just not something that they are willing to overcome.

The look on a person’s face the first time they play Axis and Allies, when they’ve only ever played Risk is about the same as the look a person gives when they’re learning Chess and they’ve only ever played Checkers.

While there will always be the select few who enjoy the challenge of learning lengthy and obscure rules to lengthy and obscure games, I would like to think that most people do not.

The difficulty I’ve run into while creating Novice Knights is not the age group or balance to the game, but instead the ease of entry when it comes to rules and game play. My overall goal was to create a game that was:

  1. Appropriate for nearly all ages in regards to content
  2. Appropriate for most ages (8 or 10+) in regards to difficulty
  3. Fun for all agesĀ that the game is appropriate for
  4. Able to be learned by all ages that the game is appropriate for

Number 1 was one of the easiest goals to achieve. Originally the game had a section called “The Brothel”. As it was pointed out to me by one of my friends a few months ago, just the terminology of a Brothel and the people who worked there, I would be limiting my audience to probably 16+, but at the very least 13+. Because I want the accessibility of this game to reach all the way down to 8+, the obvious change was made to turn the Brothel into “The Inn”.

Numbers 2-4 were a bit trickier in the development phase, because making something that is able to be learned by an 8 year old, but still fun for a 20 or 40 year old, can be a bit tricky. This is what I have been working on for quite a while now, and I think you’ll like what we did.

We took game style and game play techniques from several of the easiest games there are to learn, and divided them up into sections of the game. For example, we have:

  1. A basic “Roll the Dice and Advance” section of the game
  2. A basic “Tile selection” section of the game
  3. A basic “Card Draw and Set Completion” section of the game

On top of these three sections, we have added an additional mechanic of resource allocation, which is determined at the start of the game when the player decides how many resources to dedicate to each of the three sections above.

What this allows us to do is create what can be played as a complex, fun, advanced game for more experienced players, that is not difficult to learn for beginners. Each section in itself probably takes less than 30-60 seconds to understand the rules, about one or two play-throughs to truly grasp, while allowing more advanced players numerous games before a definitive strategy is developed. You can learn this game in just a couple minutes, but mastering it will take some time, and will be variable depending on the play style of your opponents.

All this being said, there is enough luck built into the game, that while more experienced players will typically win with a more developed strategy, it is not a sure thing, and the more novice players in the game still stand a real chance to be competitive. This of course is tailored specifically for replay-ability among a wide range of skill levels.

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